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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Danish Modernist Transplants to Florida

A Homage to Danish Furniture Designers

Kim and Olga Nielsen have furnished their couplet of Siesta Key homes with chairs, tables, sofas, and other designs in nothing less than the designs of their fellow Scandinavians. Walking through the main and the guest houses feels like walking beside Arne Jacobsen, Nanna Ditzel, and Poul Kjaerholm, while the architecture envelopes the experience in Sarasota School of Architecture style.
Poul Kjaerholm image from

One piece most revered by the couple, who own a Scandinavian furniture store in Sarasota, is an Indian Summer red Egg sofa by Arne Jacobsen.
Photo credit: Modern Design
Hickory and other light woods used on the floors and baseboards soften the austerity of the furniture, 11-foot ceilings and an open floor plan expand the interior dimensions, and walls of sliders and French doors encapsulate views of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Read more.
Originally published in Housetrends magazine, Sarasota edition, Jan/Feb 2007 issue.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Catchup on blog: Writing and Peruvian Culture

Yes, there has been a lag time in my blogging as of late. It's time to search again for writing that pays, to consider ceasing writing altogether to simply go teach English as a Second Language, to improve my Internet savvy. Actually, while I am doing those things, I've been working on some things for this very blog.
A notice will appear in the near future.
Host family mother, Ingrid
Meanwhile I'm going shopping at Wong, a major Chinese grocery chain here in Lima, with my host family mother, Ingrid. Tamales and tilapia are on the shopping list. She has also told me, in Spanish of course because she has no English, that Wong carries soy products. Veg food, here I come!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Architecture & Real Estate in Bohemian Lima, Peru

I still find myself pondering my recent visit to Paséo Sáenz Peña in the district of Barranco, Lima, Peru.
Whilst sitting in the covered bench area, overlooking the Pacific, I saw a sign that I instantly dismissed. It was a harbinger that all too frequently happens to artistic neighborhoods: a forthcoming luxury apartment development. This one touts itself as Entre el Cielo y el Mar (between the sky and the sea).
With signs like that some could say it’s a return to Barranco’s finer days. Others might eschew this as gentrification.
Consider these facts about the area, a formerly favored vacation area for wealthy locals: a small handful of ambassadors live in the area; famous Peruvian artists and writers are said to as well. Signs adhered haphazardly around the area, akin to “Missing Cat” notices, advertise roommates or landlords who only want foreign roommates. I saw no prices on these signs, so I can’t speak to the cost of rent, though Lonely Planet literally refers to Barranco as the “tony” area of Lima.
I’ve been to the tony places at night, and concede that it’s true. However, my new free-spirited friends who sell handmade jewelry to tourists on stone promenades over the Pacific also live there.
Flipping through some real estate prices reveal that some of the casonas reach US $1.4 million and higher. Judging by the fact that Barranco has evidently won design awards for its rehab efforts of several century-old mansions, I’m connecting more and more the gentrification word and the elevated real estate prices.

Many of the tall, two-story buildings along the street are well-maintained former casonas (mansions) that now house commercial and nonprofit establishments. For instance, in optimistic colors ubiquitous to Lima is Aposento Los Girasoles Hospedaje (an upscale hostel). Its quaint, grassy outer courtyard offers enough privacy for two travelers to unwind over tea.

The Casa de Leeuw apartment building speaks through elegant architecture detail such as Romeo and Juliet balconies, a cupola bearing an oriel window, and muted hues that enhance designerly dimensions. Built in the early 20th century, this former vacation house for the wealthy now contains four exclusive, fully furnished apartments.

One casona seems anomalous. The large Victorian stands out not only because the architectural style isn’t common in Peru, but also because it’s in pitiful need of some care, unlike the others. It’s adoringly complete with an apropos hue of faded lemon yellow, yet it exudes the air of a haunted house. (Perhaps that’s simply because it’s empty.)

Lima already has exclusive communities such as Miraflores and San Isidro. Let’s let the artists have at least one of their own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vlog of Urbanism in Peru

This video blog marks's foray into vlogging. Look for new media and other upcoming changes the blog.

Barranco is better known for its nightlife than its diurnal activities, and my two social outings there have proven that reputation correct. But today's journey is an exploration of what I hadn't witnessed and a return for photos of what I already had. I had a cab drop me off at La Avenida Sáenz Peña before one of the many narrow median parkways fulfilled its purpose as a quiet public space. At its end a somewhat sheltered area serves up benches from which to view the Pacific-- like all good city planners should do-- and though the day's drizzly and hovering around 70 degrees--common for Limean winters-- the desire to smoke a fag whilst taking it all in proves compelling. I sit for a while, watching surfers make their way to their heaven, and enjoy the ocean air smell and the humidity moistening my cheeks. Then it's time to peruse nearby museums such as the Galería Lucía de la Puente, (Sáenz Peña 206, The lackluster paintings that smack of Pop Art aren't enough to warrant my lengthy interest, though I do lollygag over the interior architecture of the two-story casona (mansion). It's worth it to stay a few minutes more at the Punto de Cafe for an Illy espresso (S/. 4) and a torte de chocolate (S/. 6) or some lightly fried yucca sticks (S/. 6.5). 
I stroll through the rest of the park, trying not to chase the cooing pigeons, only to stumble upon La Casa Cultural Mocha Graña (Sáenz Peña 107), which isn't in my Lonely Planet travel guide.  it's the lovely Latina donning an exquisite red dress for a forthcoming flamenco presentation that settles it. Not only does it have a wonderfully spacious and clean bathroom, which I've discovered is de rigeuer in Lima, it marks a cultural lesson on its own. Sitting in a quaint cafe to spend some time on the Interwebs, rhythmic thuds of dance steps carry from what are surely wood floors on the second story of the building-- likely another historic casona-- down to the main floor. An employee of the avant-garde theatre and dance center speaks entertainingly with cafe employees, seemingly family members, and hustles theatre equipment around. Pollo (chicken) empañadas, other finger foods, and desserts are available for S/. 4 or 5, though I don't partake as I see no vegetarian options.
An hour or so later, I depart to browse the PPPP design gallery at the end of Sáenz Peña (Avenida Grau 810). Again interior architecture takes hold and I'm staring at the ceiling, embellished by square cupolas with operable ribbon glass and the floors of colorful hand-lain tile designs. The gallery space is well curated and comfortable furniture absolutely insists I sit on it, letting my eyes linger horizontally. It's a good time to ponder the owner couple's pieces: rugs of Andean hand-weaving tradition and Italian architectural design accessories.
Finally it's time to explore the part of Barranco more frequently discussed, heading south on Grau for a brisk six blocks. I pass musicians, architectural students and professionals, and some free spirits along the way, knowing I've finally located the bohemian center I longed for. What would Hemingway do?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing from Bohemian Lima

After inadvertently discovering a romantic little spot where couples come to kiss during siesta, I've located a tiny cafe located within a theatre and dance building. Posters of plays performed here adorn the lime green and watermelon pink walls. The building on Paseo Saentz Pena stands across from a poorly maintained yet still surprising Victorian house. Groups of women, solo students and older men park themselves for hours at a time on the benches in the park that forms the median of Saentz Pena. The neighborhood, called Barranco, has so far lived up to its reputation as the bohemian area of Lima; artists, musicians, and creative students race down the perpendicular street, Avenida Grau.