Merci, Paris!

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I finally saw Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’ Centre Pompidou – it’s always a fan-girl moment when I get to walk into a masterpiece that we studied in university. I saw a lot of other historic architecture, too, but the Pompidou was a major highlight. I would have loved to also see Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton, but it kept raining, and I had read at the Louis Vuitton store on Champs Elysee that you have to approach Gehry’s futuristic ‘ship’ from the gardens. Maybe Paris and I have a ‘next time’.

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What I really want to write about Paris, however, is…

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This line, spoken by Fanny Ardant’s character in the 1995 version of the movie Sabrina, has always spoken to me:

“Illusions are dangerous people. They have no flaws. I came here from Provence, alone and uneducated. For eight months — no, more than that: a year, I sat in a cafe, I drank my coffee and wrote nonsense in a journal. And then somehow it was not nonsense. I went for long walks and met myself in Paris.”

And so, as I restlessly wriggled in my aisle seat on the flight to Paris last month, I recited those words and thought of pretending to be that character, hoping to meet a renewed version of myself in Paris.

The moment I stepped out of Charles de Gaulle airport, however, a very different line from a very different movie (the animated Anastasia) washed over me:

“Forget where you’re from, you’re in France, children come! I’ll show you that French joie de vivre! Paris holds the key to your heart, and all of Paris plays a part.”

And so, while Paris had never been on the top of my to-do list, I walked into it with a fresh sense of adventure. And I overdosed on museums. And I walked a lot, a lot. And I learned to make croissants. And I walked some more. And I did meet a different me, a stronger me, while walking in Paris.

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To be chronological about photos, I’m using my instagram posts as reference:

My friend’s apartment was a 15-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, so after freshening up after landing, I was off to explore the Arc and Champs Elysee immediately.

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On my first full day, it was a pilgrimage to the Louvre…to see furniture, from Louis XV and XVI pieces to Napoleon’s rooms transplanted from Versailles. Yes, I did not make a beeline to see the Mona Lisa 🙂

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To end the day, a visit to Shakespeare & Company.

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The next day, I went to see the Pompidou (squee!).

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After the Pompidou, we took a river boat tour on the Seine.

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The day after Pompidou, we went to Versailles.

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I had to rent Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola the next day, because of the Versailles commentary about the rooms – I wanted to see how faithful the film sets were to the real thing!

It was raining the day after Versailles, so it was perfect to be inside Musee D’Orsay the entire day.

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Of course, I spent more time at the furniture exhibits.

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Because I bought the Musee D’Orsay and L’Orangerie ticket duo, and the following day was again raining, I made my way to L’Orangerie, carefully stomping around the Tuileries gardens.

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The day after my L’Orangerie adventure, I went to see the interior design feast that is Palais Garner, also known as the Paris Opera.

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We had a late lunch at Bouillon Chartier, where I had the most amazing duck confit.

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The following day, I had a croissant-making class scheduled in the afternoon. The sun was out, so we went to see the Eiffel Tower in the morning – how can you not, on your first trip to the City of Lights, visit the most-lit tower in the city?

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Our instructor was a charming English chef named Frances Madeleine, who laughingly narrated that her parents unwittingly named her to run away from home to be a pastry chef in France. She also showed us how utterly French a croissant is because its shape begins as the Eiffel Tower.

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On my last full day, it was again raining, but I had the most amazing coffee date with an old university friend who happened to fly into Paris that day. We hadn’t seen each other since graduation!

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(Before seeing her, went to see the Palais Royal)

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And that was Paris.

Hej Sweden

Last week I went to my version of Disneyland (aka the happiest place on earth): IKEA town in Almhult, Sweden. 

We were part of an international media group that was there to witness Democratic Design Day. Flying from Singapore to Stockholm with a 2.5-hour layover in Bangkok, we went on a train ride through the countryside to finally arrive in Almhult, where all the magic happens — design development, product testing, producing the catalogue, even warehousing. 

Of course we stayed at the IKEA Hotel (and ate IKEA food!).

 When we checked in the day was almost 2/3 done, but after a warm Swedish meal and a shower, we were off to Sjostugans Camping for dinner, where the golden hour stretched from five to eight pm.

  
On Day 1, Democratic Design Day, our hosts took us to see IKEA Communications, where the catalogue is conceptualised, photographed, laid out and put together, and the Test Lab, where new designs are tested. After lunch we were ushered into the old IKEA store, which is being transformed to become a bigger IKEA museum, for the Democratic Design presentation by the big guns. The day ended with a Swedish smorgasborg party.

On Day 2, we visited the IKEA museum, located in the basement of IKEA Tilsammans, and the distribution center that services Europe, before we were whisked off to do our interviews.

  
   
  
After the interviews, we had a lovely dinner at Brasserie Goaroije.

  
 We took the train back to Stockholm, and I had to leave the group a day early…but was able to explore the city for a couple of hours before my flight. 

Juxtaposing rural Sweden on the left, and urban Sweden on the right in this montage:  

And I stumbled upon City Hall and the new cultural center on my short walk.

  
   

     

  
  
Here are a couple of photos taken by one of our hosts, Nuch, and the cameraman from the Thai TV crew, Edwin.

 

  
  

Hello, I’m still here

First post for 2015! Oh my poor, neglected design blog. But this is about to change.

Anyway.

A couple of days ago, the newspapers reported that Scotts Square was looking quite empty, with tenants not renewing their leases and spaces remaining unoccupied. Pop-up curatorial space K+ is putting two such spaces to good use; we saw K+ featuring Floral Obsession, a garden-y art installation on the ground floor.









 On the third floor was K+ featuring Sokkuan’s newest project, Sadako’s Unfashionable Fashion Diary. 









I couldn’t resist buying the book she made; I got a signed, numbered copy of “Sadako’s diary” that Sokkuan had worked on for the past three years. I remember interviewing her a few years ago, when she designed a mirror celebrating the Bloody Mary for Absolut Vodka. She brought her alter ego doll, Sophie Black, to the photo shoot, which was a hoot. And now I have one of her works, yay!





Find out more about K+ here and Sokkuan here.

So Pantone announced the 2015 Color of the Year…

And it’s “Marsala”, so-named after the sweet Sicilian fortified wine. It did appear in their Spring 2015 palette, but it was way down the numbering — and looked so much like a neutral that I totally glossed over it.

I was betting on Lucite Green, especially because Dulux’s forecast for 2015 Color of the Year was Copper Crush, and the color experts from the two companies have always seemed to pick contrasting hues.

Marsala looks like a very muted oxblood. And I really like oxblood…but Marsala kind of looks blah. I wonder if Pantone is losing it? 2014’s Radiant Orchid (aka, mauve, in my opinion) turned a lot of people off, unlike the past years’ Cerulean, Mimosa, and even Tangerine Tango.

But ok…with a name like Marsala, and all that it is supposed to evoke (Sicilian summers, sweet wine, mouthwatering chicken, alcoholic desserts), I could give it a go.

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Images from Pantone

What do you think of Marsala?

Think pink

Before this month ends and I completely forget (it’s a busy, busy month!), can I tell you about the coolest design initiative by Xtra?

They’ve put together a collection of fun, lighthearted furniture and accessories in the color of breast cancer awareness (because that’s what this month is).

First up, Ron Arad’s Voido rocking chair for Magis: it’s been ‘transformed’ into the Infinity chair in this lovely hot pink. The Magis Puppy also comes in two shades of confetti-print pink (so tempting to buy a sister for my black Puppy, but where do I put them?). There are a few other items on the collection, like notebooks, but what I’d like to highlight is my friend Erricson’s marble-base lamp. In the sweetest shade of pink (that may or may not be intentionally shaped like an implant), he says it’s inspired by the feminine form and “invites the beholder to caress the lamp with boss hands”.

Anyway, make your way to Xtra at Park Mall to see these lovely pieces till the end of this month…and hopefully you’ll like them, too, and pick something up in support of breast cancer awareness.

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Design Day Out

Singapore Architecture Week came and went, as did the World Architecture Festival…quietly. Whereas October would be bustling with both locally and internationally organized design events in Singapore, this year seemed to have just fizzled out. And it’s only the second week of the month.

Thankfully, Singapore InDesign (SID) is back after a one-year hiatus (the design day out was held in Hong Kong last year), so design aficionados had something. On the other hand, the well-oiled machine turned up quieter than its past two iterations.

These were the destinations our little band of ex-teammates went to. We started at Xtra, of course, where SID used to begin and end, after breakfast at Kith at Park Mall.
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Next we took the SID shuttle over to Liang Court to see Sand, the children’s furniture collection by Hong Kong-based Italian designer Silvia Marlia, at OM.

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We hopped over to APS Gallery to visit Romanez, which was showing off its Christian Lacroix for Designers Guild collection, and the APS kitchen showroom, which served a custom-designed cocktail by Nuevo Vino, called the Smurf Cocktail.

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We took a breather and lunched at the chi-chi PS Cafe Petit next door to APS before moving on to the Red Dot Museum. The biggest thing to see there was The Tree by laminate company EDL and Formwerkz Architects. Although its steel skeleton was solidly screwed, all the laminate members were attached by a tongue-and-groove design.

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Our favorite stop was Dream Interiors. Maybe because we all wanted the furniture here; maybe because the showroom was just so beautifully put together…we spent the most time just caressing the pieces and photographing the settings here. And also, a shoutout to Shawn and Ivee, who are always warm and welcoming, and helpfully informative. Ivee explained the Charlotte Periand chaise longue inside the EDL-laminate structure as being one of seven limited edition pieces of the iconic piece covered in Louis Vuitton leather, available in Singapore.

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We went to W. Atelier from Dream to see the new Fritz Hansen showroom, Novamobili and Toto. Fritz Hansen had an Egg chair in its finishing stages of hand-stitching. We were told that the master craftsman who accompanied the raw materials from Denmark had only started the stitching that morning. It takes eight hours to hand stitch a fabric Egg chair. This special fabric, for this one of a kind and very special chair, was designed by Raf Simons for Christian Dior. It is the only chair in this fabric hand-stitched in Singapore, and should now be available on auction, starting at S$30,000. The entire amount it ends up raising will go to a charity for children with Down Syndrome.

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We ended our day at the newly opened Janus et Cie showroom. While the furniture on highlight here was the woven-faux wicker resort-style designs, it was the lighting and one-off pieces that I found most interesting. And the kir imperial that they served.

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Friday Night Lights

The Singapore Night Festival got rained on tonight; luckily a lot of the performances and installations were indoors (in the National Museum and the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), for example, and even inside the Armenian Church).

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We started the evening with Follies For É Birds (that use of “é” to replace “the” here is such a major pet peeve that I almost skipped this performance-exhibit thing, but I’m glad I didn’t) at the National Museum. Highlights of the dance included these adorable children playing at feeding time, and the dance number with them in colorful bowlers and ties.

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Divine Trees, the Night Lights installation projected onto trees on the lawn in between the National Museum and the Singapore Management University was eerily lovely, as was Dresses of Memory at the Armenian Church.

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On our way there we caught William Close play Beethoven’s Fifth on the Earth Harp outside the National Museum.

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The Night Lights show on the facade of SAM, Spirits of Nature drew a crowd, too, but it wasn’t as spectacular as previous years’.

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There’s more to see at the School of the Arts and the National Design Centre, but the rain got the better of me…but Singapore Night Festival has one more night tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t get rained on again!