The Stars among us

All around us are beautiful people who bring light into this world. They don’t make the loudest noise though so I thought I would find them and bring them to you. Naturally inspiring, kind people – who the world needs a lot more of.

Today I bring you Sofia.

1DSC_2485

It all started when she made me Kombucha.  I went to her home to fetch it and she invited me in. I had to stop myself from gasping in awe at her sanctuary she calls home. In all my years of visiting my friends, family, and acquaintances, I have very seldom been greeted with such pure visual peace, harmony and beauty. Her neutral tones provide the perfect background to her family and memories.

I practically begged her for an interview and we met shortly after this brief interaction for lunch at my new favourite restaurant: Be Cafe. I came to learn many precious things about this remarkable lady over lunch and I’m truly thankful that she agreed to have me back in her home to photograph and showcase her incredibly well put together home and furniture pieces. This woman has remarkable style and elegance.

Sofia has always had her heart in art and creating, and has a strong fashion background. She moved to Kuwait about 10 years ago where she worked at Villa Moda as a fashion stylist, working only with leading high-end brands. She works and lives by the principle that beauty is all around us, and why would we wear or buy anything that is not beautiful?!

(I briefly cast my thoughts to my own wardrobe… cough, clear throat awkwardly…)  

She surrounds herself with beauty all the time. Famous for cooking in her gown on a Monday evening. Living the belief that beautiful things should be used and not simply stored away just for special occasions.

(Yes, I like where this is going!)

I stalked her on Instagram before our lunch so I could be better informed and more familiar with her work. And oh my goodness, one of the most beautiful Instagram accounts (Stories By Sofia) I have ever seen. While she finds Instagram intimidating, it certainly doesn’t show in her squares. “If you’re commercial you can grow your account very quickly but when you are true to yourself it is slower to take off”. Creative evolution is apart of the journey with her, her fans are more than happy to come along for the inspirational ride of all things wholesome and beautiful, as she searches for her artistic landing space.

1DSC_25441DSC_2539

I marvel at the furniture that she makes locally, with imported materials. She embraces her Swedish culture and she loves to name her pieces. Her round marble tables for example are called “Full Moon” tables, in bright white and shades of spot colours, and lovely long veins for contrast and pattern.  Her vintage fabrics are all imported and are of the highest quality.

Her latest piece is a lamp where the base is from Sweden and the shells that make up the lamp shade are literally from beaches all over the world.

Nothing is without consideration. Even the lighting in her home has been carefully designed. The atmospheric lighting is able to change according to the time of day, or even mood and event. And when it came to the large hanging lights that unwittingly came with the apartment, she found a way to hide that too in a natural, cool, unapologetic way.

What I can’t get over is that kids live here too. Two beautiful little girls. I asked her what they think of it and how they are able to keep it clean, and she simply replied that they are taught to look after things. Seems simple enough!

(I’m still working on this one in my household). 

She lives a private life and is protective of her ideas, her beauty and her refined world and for these reasons I am so thankful that she opened up to me and let me showcase what makes her so remarkable. Her works are amazing and deserve to be seen and appreciated. A beautiful shining light in our every day walk.

Sofia, thank you for sharing your private space with me and with our readers.

Her work is available at Dar Nur.

Rose daybed/bench
Solid Teakwood with natural teak oil finish. Vintage Sanderson fabric.

(One day when I’m a famous artist I’m going to own this table)

“Sad things can shape you in life too. I am a calm person. Be kind, do the right thing, be thankful don’t just say thank you. And this is something we need to teach our kids too. It all blends in with creativity. Its about being in balance. But its difficult to find.” – S

1DSC_2613

And if you open your organic cafe combining healthy food with art and fashion. I will be the first in line. It has been a privilege to capture this season of life for you and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Cheers

la

My Favourite Turkish Restaurant

My husband and I are simply loving our new place and it’s more central location. About a week ago we got a babysitter and went out for dinner to a wonderful little Turkish place that we stumbled upon. Bazaar Gurme – Kuwait.

IMG_1072

I just fell in love with this little restaurant. The design and decor has been so wonderfully thought through and deeply considered. They take attention to detail to a new level, and the best way for me to sum up my experience there would be to say that they absolutely took me into the heart of Turkey, into someone’s house, and their sweet grandmother cooked me an authentic Turkish meal.

They are located in The Arabella Complex just off the Gulf road facing street side. They offer a gorgeous outdoor area as well which we didn’t get to enjoy due to dusty weather, but clearly just as magical as inside.

One stand out feature for me was the roof. It’s not often that people look up and consider the roof of a place, but I did, and so did they. They carefully placed the vents to fit in with the designs as well. Then of course there is the beautiful coloured lanterns that hang proudly. You see, extra attention to details. It is a beautifully put together Turkish experience and I highly recommend it.

IMG_1063IMG_1062IMG_1060

Yes, I’m slightly obsessed with this roof and it’s glorious lanterns.

To anyone living in Kuwait or visiting this Arab country soon, I really hope you get to try out Bazaar Gurme. Seriously though, even their Instagram account is pretty to look at!

Cheers.

la

 

A morning at Egaila Beach

I must have jinxed myself in my New Years resolution post where I set a goal to be super healthy and reduce my medication. I have had a really tough 6 weeks with my health and it overflows into other areas of the life. I’m tired. So very tired.

As I find my way back to good health, I am so thankful for the encouragement of friends. Jillian suggested that we head out to Egaila beach, here in Kuwait, for an early morning photography exploration walkabout and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Here is a little video clip and a few photos of the morning out. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me, and I encourage you to get out and explore your surroundings too. Sometimes all we need to get us up and on our feet again is a little love and encouragement and I hope this post can be that for you.

egaila 16egaila 13egaila 12egaila 1egaila 15egaila 4egaila 7egaila 10egaila 11

Cheers.

la

There’s no place like home

House – ‘a building for human habitation, especially one that consists of a ground floor and one or more upper storeys.’

Home – ‘a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.’

I think as an expat this is something we need to process a little more deeply, especially an expat living in a country where you cannot legally own property. You need to be able to make a house a home yet mentally somehow stay detached as you know it will never be yours. And this adds to the confusion when house hunting in a foreign land.

But house hunting here has been an interesting experience. I have always been taken back by the variety of architectural influences one finds in this travellers region. This makes sense given that most of the country, Kuwaitis included, go on vacation to other countries over the summer months, so naturally they would bring back ideas, shapes, colours, lines, materials, art work, etc from these other countries and incorporate them into their Kuwaiti lives and homes. Just take a look at my photos below and you will see immediately what I mean by this. Now please go easy on my very basic surveillance photography skills! Its not my strength, I was not meant to spy on people and secretly photograph their houses. I was way too shy to get out the car and do these buildings justice and what you get now is my very best ‘drive by shooting’. But it’s simply wonderful to be witness to this amount of diversity. It does make house hunting interesting. My heart looks and longs for lots of natural light, bright open living areas with outdoor space for the kids to run and play. A tough ask in a desert land, but I know it’s out there.

This just adds to our colour world after all!

Cheers,

la

11 years in the desert

sunset

It was 11 years ago today that I landed in this desert land. It has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience. It has been the best and the hardest season of my life. I came here at the tender age of 25 years. I left my family, friends and my little dog Gizmo to take on, what I thought at the time to be, a two year adventure in the Middle East. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting here 11 years later writing this post, on a blog that I started with my dear American friend who now lives in Tel Aviv. Wow, what a mouth full. I thought it would be fun to share some of my very first Kuwait memories with you, so here goes:

This was my first apartment –

viewroomkitchen

I will never forget the day that I came home from Ikea (my first experience with Ikea at that) and I started to build my very basic essential furniture. I was very proudly using my pink screwdriver that I had bought earlier from the local supermarket when I reached a point in assembling my wardrobe where I need to “get a friend to hold one side while you bla bla bla the other”. I remember the sense of helplessness that I felt when I fell to the floor in tears thinking “well, that would be great if only I had one!”

It’s tough adulting I tell you!

Those who know me will also know that I’m a little shy in nature. The fact that I jumped from my comfort zone of home and landed in this strange land to begin with is nothing short of a miraculous leap of Faith. But jump I did. I slowly grew braver and through the advertising agency I was working for at the time and a few good flat mates, I started to make some friends, got out and did things I that would ultimately change the very core of my being. I grew up, FAST!

My first trip out to the quad bikes in the desert –

mirror selfiequad bikingdesertinside tent

During my time here I lost my mom and more recently my grandfather, and I had to shelve my preconceived ideas of what the ‘right’ career path was for me. I got married, and had three very cool little people. And since then I have been able to reinvent myself, reignite my love for art and art history.  I explored my photography interests and became accredited through the NYIP (New York Institute of Photography) in the United States. I’m now also studying Interior Design. I have been Blessed with abundant travel opportunities. When I was working, I got to film TV commercials in Romania, Beirut, Dubai, Barcelona and Kuwait. I got to watch the Grand Prix in Bahrain. I went to Cannes, France for the Cannes Advertising Awards. I went to romantic Paris, and loved travelling the Rome and Florence with my better half.  I got diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (Google it – better yet, don’t Google it. Scary). I went vegan. We had our first family holiday to Portugal, Lisbon and Madeira. I learnt a new Language. I found God.

Top 11 things I have learned in these 11 year. 

1 – Life is short.

2 – If you can’t find the joy in life, BE the joy in life.

3 – Practise tolerance, the world is made up of so many different cultures and beliefs.

4 – If you’re not happy, make a change. If you stay in your unhappiness you will only bring people down with you.

5 – Tell people you love, that you love them. You never know when will be the last time you speak to them.

6 – If you’re toying with the idea of going from 2 kids to 3, go for 3.

7 – The food that you put inside your body REALLY does effect the way you feel.

8 – Listen to your body. It speaks to you.

9 – Love those who are difficult to love, that is when you can really make a difference.

10 – Write letters.

11 – Pray – there will always be an answer. It may not always be the answer you’re looking for, but there will be one nonetheless.

I have no idea where the next 11 years will take me. I may very well still be here and will report back then with another recap.

I have met so many very interesting people here, and from each person I have met, I have taken something, and learned something new about myself in the process. I have also learned to look back at my beloved home country with fresh perspective and new appreciation.

Cheers

la

Note: These photo were taken 11yrs ago on a very basic camera.

Manifesto 13

1DSC_9534

Having an art brain child, I always wondered how best to nurture her interest and whether I was enough to guide her and help her grow in this field. I was so happy and relieved when I came across Manifesto 13. This is a beautiful art studio, here in Kuwait, that offers long term courses with in depth hands on tutoring of styles and subjects through fine art. It’s more than just an environment where someone gets to practise their hobby. It’s truly an art education for kids (and adults), a safe place where a self expression and critical thinking coming together.

To hear my 7yr old come home and talk about Piet Modrian with the same level of interest that I had when I was 17, is so exciting. I feel so thankful that I found this school for her.  Each course runs over a few weeks, usually similar in length to a school term, and at the end, we as parents get invited to an art exhibition where we get to ‘oooooo’ and ‘aaaahhh’ over art created by our precious little pumpkins.  And I love it.

1DSC_9574

If you too have an art brain child and are within the desert walls of Kuwait, then I highly recommend Manifesto 13.

For more information – Tel: (+965) 226-50335 – Mob: (+965) 656-52524 info@manifesto13.com

Cheers,

la

STING in Kuwait 2017

Guest post by: Kerry Apsey

la-et-ms-sting-review-20161117

A few years ago I saw Sting in Hyde Park on a glorious summer evening. The skies slowly deepened behind the London skyline and the crowd of thousands danced furiously and sang the well loved classics uncurbed. The stars came out as the opening sound of Desert Rose brought the loud appreciative swell of a thousand voices. It was a magnificent evening.

A few weeks ago I was in the right place and in the right conversation with some dear friends who happened to have heard about the upcoming Sting concert in Kuwait. There was so little advertisement of this, surely it couldn’t really be him, surely the tickets would be outrageously expensive, if we could even get them?

But, like so many experiences in Kuwait, I went in completely unsure of what to expect and I was gobsmacked by the whole evening.

The Opera House is wonderful. Exquisite lines and finishes and details from the moment you approach the magnificent building. I felt as though I wanted to run my hands across the beautiful surfaces but restrained myself. We were ushered into a theatre and sank into luxurious chairs. There were so many empty rows of seats, I almost didn’t quite believe the real Gordon Sumner was going to walk on stage. Part of the fantastic design of the theatre was that despite having the cheapest seats money could buy, we were close enough to see every expression on the mega rock star’s face as he strolled onto stage.

Initially I wasn’t at all sure what to make about the subdued atmosphere. I couldn’t quite believe the rigidity of the stewards armed with laser pointers shaming any cellphones daring to take pictures or anyone trying to stand up and dance.

It seemed at odds with the tumultuous rock music at times.

But the formality of the setting would only allow us to sit and respect the music and the artistry of the experience.

Even still, it was incredible.

What a privilege to have an intimate show. The sound was perfect and Sting’s sublime voice covering the dancing fingers of the phenomenal guitarists was an awesome thing to behold.

There were no masses surrounding us to get lost in and not much on stage to distract from the minimal band. Sting held up beyond expectation under the intense scrutiny. It was just the beauty of his poetry and the artistry of the music under the lights.

Towards the end every one got caught up in the wild joy of the music, and jumped up ignoring the angry red laser dots reprimanding them, for a little while at least. And after that he took us back down, “to go home thoughtfully,” he said, with a last breathtaking ballad.

We walked out smiling at each other in disbelief at the hidden treasure the evening had been.

Kuwait keeps on surprising me.

LA & KDG

A building worth touring – The Arab Fund

3DSC_9501

Ahhhh, my creative soul has been filled again. I have recently felt myself running low on creative juices, but yesterday morning I had the opportunity to visit The Arab organisations Headquarters Building, also known as the Arab Fund Building, in Shuwaik.

Ok, so I agree the name needs a little work, but the building is truly quite remarkable. A piece of art. An administration building created by craftsman, designers, and materials from the likes of Italy, Morocco, Syria, and yes, even South African Yellow Wood can be found within it’s walls.

2DSC_94812DSC_9438

According to their website,

The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building, situated outside Kuwait City in Shuwaik, blends modern architectural techniques with traditional artisan crafts. Completed in 1994, it is home to four major Arab organizations: the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company.”

And I suppose big fancy meetings do take place there with really important people but…

…according to me,

“It’s an exquisite collection of art, antiques, and ideas – collected and bartered for – for the viewing pleasure of anyone willing to appreciate it.”

And appreciate it we did.

Our tour started with a sense of contrast. We were 3 housewives, with quite an artistic flare (think ‘almost cool’ Gypsies) combined with 3 middle aged men in black suits who probably held important titles and regularly used terms like; “not withstanding” and “including, but not limited to”.

1DSC_9524

Anyway, it was a treat for us all.

This building took 2 years to design and only 3.5 years to build. The attention to detail is unrivalled. It’s so very beautiful.

An absolute treasure of a find for a photographer like me, who has a passion for history and culture.

2DSC_9520

2DSC_9522

May these images from today inspire you as much capturing them did me. In this world filled with contrasts, details, and distractions, sometimes to find the most beautiful side of something, all we need to do is look up.

Cheers

la

Side Note: Please make the effort to visit the website, it is filled with many interesting behind the scenes imagery and extra details of each piece of art within the building itself. To book your tour, email adnang@earthlink.net.

 

The Mirror House – Kuwait

1DSC_9140Lets just say, if my husband came home from a business trip abroad and found me on the floor with broken pieces of glass and plastering all over the wall, I think he would have had me committed. Thankfully this was not in the case of the lovely Lady Lidia.

1DSC_9121

For what started out as a small mirror mosaic project to cover her daughters writings on the wall, turned into her greatest life long work, her pride and joy, The Mirror House of Kuwait. We were greeted by this tiny, Italian woman, with years of life knowledge and life experience under her belt. Yet somehow she maintained her zest and passion for life and she couldn’t wait to share it with us.

We started with a lesson on mosaics and the story of her beginning, but we were quickly whisked away and literally taken on a once in a lifetime journey through what can only really be explained as living surrealism. 

She met a young Kuwaiti man in the UK and he stole her heart. She then moved to Kuwait in the 50s, settled down, got married, had a family, lived life, survived wars, survived parenting, and found comfort in creating.

1DSC_91461DSC_9149

Her story is a cherished love story. Her husband, Khalifa Qattan, was a very well known and respected pioneer in the Arab art world.  Yet, he very rarely called her Lidia, he preferred to call her lady, even up until his last days on this earth. Swoon! She brags that when she arrived in Kuwait, most of the houses were still built of clay. Yes, she has seen Kuwait change over the years there is no doubt of this. I asked her what the biggest change she witnessed was, expecting to hear the standard, “oh we used to be able to drink and now we can’t” or, “we could wear short skirts back then and no one bothered us about it” but no, to my surprise, she said the greatest change came from within the family unit.

The family unit has changed.

When she first moved to Kuwait she testifies how most children were being raised by their parents, both moms and dads were raising their kids. She shares that in today’s times children are being raised by nannies. It’s quantity over quality of children that has become important. There is a whole generation of children being raised by nannies and no longer by their parents. And you see it filter over into the Western culture within Kuwait too. All too often it’s the nannies with the kids at birthday parties or afternoon activities, very often alongside the parents, even then parents take more and more of a back seat.

1DSC_9159
Her symbol piece for the family unit.

Anyway, getting back to the tour. What a ride. She took us into every room where different themes are represented, from the earth to outer space. Her birds were my personal favourites. On the top floor we even got to appreciate her husbands works. a dedicated gallery to his finest pieces. I loved this part. He was a visual communicator for sure. The statements he made with his art were honest, bold and unapologetic. He loved being Kuwaiti and was so proud of that, but he was despising what the nation was becoming, the changes that the country was going through and he used his art as his voice. It still speaks volumes today. I definitely learnt a lot about the history of Kuwait on this tour, It was interesting for sure.

In the rooms next to his gallery are works of her own. It was fascinating to see these two worlds showcased on one floor. Two very different minds with similar view points being expressed in two very different ways. It was remarkable.

My favourite piece belonging to Lady Lidia was the piece with the two keys. These represent the keys to a woman’s heart (men, pay attention).

They are:

1 – Respect

2 – Generosity (not as in things or money, but rather time and affection). If you get these two things right her heart will be forever yours.

Her art therapy rooms are quite something, too. Darkness, with colour of lights and lights of colour.

Admittedly, I spent an hour on my bed in the afternoon with a warm cup of tea processing the experience. Trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. I was most certainly over stimulated for the better part of the afternoon. And wonderfully so. I will never forget this morning at The House of Mirrors. For anyone living in Kuwait, you need to move this to the top of your ‘to do before you leave’ list. This experience has the backing of both Trip Adviser and Lonely Planet.

I left informed and inspired.

If you have a House of Mirrors experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Special note: One thing that makes this experience even more unique is that you become a part of the visual experience. With the mosaics being mirrors, your reflections are integrated. Thus making everyone’s experience unique to them. 

1DSC_9162

Cheers,

la