Traveling through North Zealand part of Denmark felt like discovering one of the biggest secrets of Instagram. So this is how people get to take these perfectly moody blue/gray photos! Of course, before Instagram this was called the painters’ light, as my Danish friend Sussi reminded me when we pulled up to a particularly stunning vista.
Our day started in Hundested, a small, coastal town northwest of Copenhagen. Then, onto Torup, and heading towards the sea, I encountered my first Danish fairytale village. It was 10 in the morning, as we meandered through the village’s country lanes, only greeted by a lone dog walker. No cars, no crowds, the only commotion caused by chickens running through the veggie patches.
The coast was getting steeper and wilder as we headed towards Tisvildeleje strand. It was a windy day in May, but you could imagine the summer folk flocking to the area’s as far as the eye can see beaches, framed by sand dunes.
Soon, it was time for a bakery stop. A sourdough, a pumpernickel, and a meringue later, we were ready to find a lunch spot. I could not help noticing that even the store facades sport the blue -gray paint, as if to match the sky.
Our break came in Hornbaek, where we found a retro cafe inside a second hand shop Albi’s Kaffebar. The owner graciously allowed me to roam the floor and photograph while we waited for coffee and homemade cookies. We took them outside to the garden, and joined a laid back gathering of other guests.
Inevitably, there were castles in our way. First, Fredensborg Castle, Queen’s summer residence with a splendid location atop of a hill. The afternoon was sleepy and buzzing with almost summer heat, we looked at a long walk through the perfectly tree-lined alley, and talked ourselves out of it. After all, there was another castle in our path. On cue, came along Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod. Exuberantly baroque, with its own moat, a lake, and a formal garden, the castle now houses a museum. I was mesmerized by the courtyard fountains and took to photographing them. I first learned the technique last year in Trastevere, Rome from Signe Bay. Here, finally there was a fountain worth the challenge! The light, the sparkle of the water, the sheer size of them. And then, just me and my 50mm lens, not so easy.
Just like all roads lead to Rome for some, all roads lead to backyards for me, it seems. Sussi and I set out to prepare a morning breakfast scene the next day to style and photograph some of her upcoming block printed linen collection. We held off as long as we could, before finally diving into our lovely morning scene of coffee and some of the local bread. The website for the linen is coming soon, I will be sure to update this post! Stay tuned.
The story starts in a restaurant with a drawing of a greenhouse in its logo. Instantly smitten, right? I went to Väkst (Danish for ‘growth’) with my Danish friend Sussi to celebrate my birthday. I was not taking any chances. Only few hours after arriving in Copenhagen, I stood at the door right at the opening time, bright eyed, bushy tailed, and giddy with anticipation. Since we were so early, I was able to take photos before the place filled up. But when the food started arriving, I put my camera down to enjoy the red sorrel until the last tiny leaf, and the sourdough bread until the last crumb…And that was just the beginning.
I “maximized” my time in Copenhagen by booking the hotel in the same building, Hotel SP34. It was at the top of my list for a while now, I have seen countless photos on blogs and it did not disappoint. Comfy lobby with a daily wine hour, and a quiet room with great reading light and leather head rest (swoon!) and city views. I just kept recording the Danish bicycle rush hour for Carl on my iPhone!
There was no time for jet lag. Mornings were spent at the bakery 5 minutes from the hotel, Sankt Peders Bageri. A small cappuccino and a raisin brioche bun, with unlimited people watching (and photo taking!) made for great mornings. They also serve lunch sandwiches to go – salmon and cottage cheese was superb.
The neighborhood is great for exploring on foot. Churches with moody courtyards (Sankt Petri), the Copenhagen Cathedral with its restrained but beautiful ceiling, small cafes and then there is Christiansborg, which happens to be the setting for Borgen. Pardon my TV reference here, but this is the only series we ever nearly binge watched and which briefly made me consider learning Danish. Not to mention, I am still searching for the handbag like the one Birgitte Nyborg had in the last season.
Just few minutes walk from the hotel in the opposite direction is Torvehallerne Market, where flowers and coffee were unquestionable delight…
If you have your walking shoes on, head to Nørrebro. My favorite street was Jaegersborggade, filled with small stores, coffee shops, and plenty of space for an afternoon break among the loveliest of the green spaces filled with history – Assistens Cemetery – just around the corner.
My Copenhagen story comes full circle and it ends, for now at least, where it started many years ago. As a child, growing up in Poland, I was given my own illustrated copy of H.C. Andersen’s fairytales. 3 tome collection, which I read over and over. One story, with all consuming drama of a skull in a flower pot and a fragrant jasmine, stayed in my imagination, but I could not recall the title. Just after Copenhagen, I visited my family and my childhood home, and after re-reading several of the stories I came across the one I was searching for. The Rose Elf.
2016 has brought me to places that I dreamed of since childhood, like English country (albeit no heather covered hills – yet), places I should have visited long time ago, like Rome, and (twice!) place that can pull strings I did not know existed. After all those years…It is all in one home away from home, and an adventure, and a mystery of medieval cellars, inner city courtyards, and yes, you guessed it: cafes. Here is my pick of those that speak to me most. Happy travels in 2017, everyone!
Charlotte – plac Szczepański 2
Nowa Prowincja – Bracka 3-5
Camelot – Świętego Tomasza 17
Bunkier Cafe- pl. Szczepański 3a
Singer – Estery 20
Dwa Okna – Józefa 40
Mleczarnia – Beera Meiselsa 20
It is about time that I share a slightly bigger glimpse of our home on the blog. I might have a bit of an agenda hidden here. With looming bathroom renovation (salmon and green need to make way for new colors), it works miracles for motivation, to open the doors wide open, bring some flowers in, and just step back and think: yup, we did it! These first few weeks of June mark 4 years since our offer was accepted. After year and a half of intense search, defying the statistics and trends (“you will never find a single family house in Cambridge, MA in your budget that is not a fixer upper”), we did find it. Like many things in life that follow a long wait, it was quite…uneventful. I almost remember better the pick-your-own strawberry fields we drove to after placing the offer, and saying “no, thank you” to a brewing bidding war…
Fast forward to September that year, with keys in hand, at 11am in the morning I was pulling the carpet off in the living room, bare hands and all. (Yes, I did pick up proper contractor habits later). After all, the first gallon of Farrow & Ball Down Pipe paint that would transform white living room walls was already waiting. So were the beautiful reclaimed maple floor boards from Long Leaf Lumber that I would later finish myself with tung oil.
That was the beginning, and the enthusiasm has not worn off. The house interior has been completely repainted with F&B Down Pipe (living room and home studio) and London Clay (kitchen and bedroom). The dark, jewel-like tones brought cosiness that we were craving so much, and feel so much more grounding. The kitchen has shed the towering upper and lower cabinets and got a white glossy lower cabinets from IKEA and open shelves. Add dedicated espresso station (yes, we do use it every day!) and DIY tile backsplash, and the kitchen is a very soothing spot to start day, despite being rather dark in the morning. What we really love about the house is the open plan on 1st floor, where you can catch a continuous view of the living room, kitchen and sunroom and the trees beyond. Great runway for cat chases and occasional birds fly-by (we have a cockatiel and blue quaker parrot). Despite dating to late 19th century, the house was renovated in the eighties and the open plan was created then. I suppose, this is the moment to mention the baroque style gold wallpaper on entire staircase and upstairs landing that is also the eighties leftover. Yes, we kept it, and had to protect it fiercely during the move in, as it is irreplaceable. What a conversation piece it is though, when we have people over, anything ranging from polite raised eyebrow to “this rocks!”. Truthfully, this summarizes our home, bit quirky, bit unexpected, occasionally clinging to old world vibe and trying to be posh like an English library, sometimes little edgy with vinyl records blasting, but always very honest.
We have few and far between high end “treasures”, but maybe this is what makes them feel even more so? There is a hand-me-down vintage Saarinen table with chipped marble top and set of tulip chairs, a small Tufenkian hand woven wool rug picked up severely discounted at $100 because people hated the lavender+raspberry color combo, and another vintage kilim that belonged to my grandmother in Poland. Over years, I transported quite a few things in a suitcase from my visits home to Poland: books, blankets, linens and ceramics. We are yet to master the art of organizing and displaying our collections, but we will never tuck them away and store in boxes. The records are there to be listened to, the stacks of fabrics are there to stir the creative energy and become the next sewing project, the ceramics are to be used for cooking and serving during gatherings with friends.
Come along, and take a look!
I had a set of my Instagram photos printed recently, for the third time, to tell the truth. I was holding off for a long time, mostly just because I did not believe they would look good on paper. I was concerned about the resolution, but also the type and quality of paper. Then, Artifact Uprising phone app and myself found each other, it was meant to be! The paper is matte, thick cardstock, can also stand on its own just held with a binder clip. Since, I turned some of my printed photos into thank you and greeting cards, but what also ended up being lots of fun – changeable wall collage in my home studio. All you need is washi tape, which is never lacking in this household. But that is a subject for another post…
Part 2 of my favorite finds this year, this time for the studio and home office. For a second year in a row, I will be using Muji calendar. My favorite type has a page of graph paper for each week, which I love for quick drawings. The set of notebooks with red binding has the best smooth, blank paper for sketches.
This year I have also purchased the best leather pouches, that I hope will last me years. They are a collaboration product between Cuyana and Garance Dore, just cannot get more stylish than that for all your art bits and pieces!
This year, I started early. Back in November, I checked out Remodelista’s market in South End held over the weekend at Lekker. Bonus – I got my worn out Remodelista book signed by Julie Carlson! But I also met great local vendors, and was really smitten with super friendly Salt Cellar Shop. Left with hand salve and balm. The ingredients list alone can make you fall in love with. Hand salve travelled to my gardener Mom in Poland, but the rosehip balm stayed with me.Next stop was a local shop Loyal Supply, which just opened in the neighborhood recently. After candle (Carl) and washi tape (me) I stocked up for family. All gifts have already made it to their recipients for St. Nicholas Day, when we were in Poland recently, so I am not giving away any secrets… For my Dad, handcrafted shaving soap, he has been faithful to soaps for years.
For my sister-in-law it was Ashware Geoplanter, made in Brooklyn.
Coming up next: best finds for your home office and studio.
This year has been my year of all things and people Australian. Finally made it to Australia in June (see earlier post) after hearing for years from our friend Jamie about the Aussie way of life, and Brisbane and Byron Bay especially. The Design Files have been filling in my interior design craving blanks for years. I also subscribe now to Real Living and Peppermint (discovered this one at Brisbane airport for the first time). And now, as of last week, I can also say I learned from the most inspired and well known Australian stylist! I signed up for the class with The School within 10 minutes of seeing the posting on Instagram. Yes, it is my personal Instagram related e-commerce record. Fast forward 3 months, and I headed to New York City for a 6 hour master class “Science of Styling” with Megan Morton.
We covered a lot during the class, with very pointed and specific advice:
- shooting angles (every prop has the best side – look at Limoges cup!)
- how to practice diversion (one of my favorites, and a true eye-opener)
- on mixing “old” with even “older”
- on mixing cheap (and a lot of it) with fine (and just little bit of it)
- vignettes and why we all love them (how about that ledge in Kara Roselund’s bathroom!)
- flowers that always steel the show (but how too much flower styling can signal you are running thin on ideas!)
I truly appreciated the thoughts on the business aspect of styling:
- on finding a muse
- on accepting assignments outside your comfort zone
- on practicing knowing what you are selling
- how to push yourself, so faffing does not stay just that…faffing forever
I loved the quote Megan had mentioned: “Beauty wants to replicate itself”. So true, and we were in a great place to hear that. Our class was held at Chandelier Creative, full of books, art objects and filled with gorgeous light. The lunch break brought us a little slice of Australia too. It was prepared by Sarah Glover, with her signature think-outside-the-box food combos. Add Pana Chocolate, heavy handed negronies at the end and you almost could be forgiven for thinking that styling is all about pretty pictures, draping a blanket here and there and throwing a flower in the mix. But it is a business, demanding outmost creativity, flexibility, and savvy business skills. Just the way Megan described it in her class…
This past weekend reminded me that I still have not posted my favorites from Brisbane visit this summer. I guess, I needed a cooler weather to truly capture the feel of the city that seems to have perfected all season indoor-outdoor living. Where the doors are always open (or gone altogether), where you warm up quickly by the fireplace in the morning with your flat white, before heading out on the porch to eat. As I watched my Sunday evening guests huddle around the grill trying to warm up hands (yes, I made everyone stay out as long as I reasonably could!), I thought about Brisbane…
Then, there is flat white…the best coffee, yet simple. This is all you need to say, and finally, I could forget about stressing over what to order. No need to worry is it latte or is it cappuccino, or americano maybe, when frankly, the only difference most of the time here in the US is the style and skill of the person making it. In my opinion. Australian flat white is never lukewarm either!
Pastels usually make appearance on my table only once a year, around Easter, and for those few days they are delightful. This year I had fun staging them with wallpaper backdrop and candy colored flowers. Today is back to the basement, and white returns to our table.