Chocolate and Gold Bliss

It wasn’t until I was smearing Estee Lauder’s “Chocolate Bliss” eyeshadow all over my eyes that I realized I have a thing for chocolate.

Riad Dixneuf la ksour’s courtyard in Marrakech | Hand painted ceramics: diaNoche Home | diaNoche Living photo: Sahara Sunset | Brown hue aficionado Chloe | Harbor Breeze Caribbean Brass Ceiling Fan

I couldn’t help obsess over Logue’s studio in The King’s Speech and the sense of calm it gave me despite the tense scenes that were shot in the loft.  I was relieved when they decided to practice there rather in the Royal Palace where boring pastels clashed with garish primary colors in overly ornate distracting rooms.

Logue's therapeutic wall

No, I’d rather learn and live in a place surrounded by the comfort and elegance of the color brown.  It doesn’t demand your attention (it doesn’t need to) and it plays nicely with other colors including black.

diaNoche's "Medina" shirt

Z Gallerie's Pierre Mirror. This decadent art deco inspired mirror has added so much life to our living room without being overbearing

Harmonious Palette: Wheat, caramel, chocolate, blue/grey & pale turquoise

Riad Dixneuf la Ksour's sitting room | Knights in Cordoba t-shirt in onyx

Perfection: Nezami Rug from Restoration Hardware

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diaNoche Launches Its Website & Online Store

I’m thrilled to announce diaNoche launches its site, dnstyle.com, today!  The site contains apparel with accessories and home decor soon to follow.

The apparel’s current small and exclusive collection of shirts was inspired by arabesque architecture, regal chess knights and the intricate silver details discovered in Rabat’s 17th century Medina.  Creating the site was by no means easy, but I was lucky and blessed to pull it off with Lauren Liess, an inspiring and talented friend I went to high school with.  It was one of those projects which you work hours on end and you feel like you haven’t even scratched the surface.  All of a sudden those detailed pieces fall into place and before you know it, you’ve arrived.  Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the photo shoot:

Perfect Lighting: Trying our best to use every precious second of the sun without cracking up every 5 seconds

"A Sleepy Golden Storm": This was taken towards the end of the shoot; I'm truly enamored with the contrast of the rough wood and cold silver with the cascade of warm gold

Star Gazing: Taking a mini break with Christian to enjoy the view

After Hours: Ending the day with a little bit of evening glamour

I can’t wait for what’s to come … handwoven scarves, trays embellished with mother of pearl, ceramics and silver… who knows?  As always, thank you for visiting.

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From Rabat to the Sahara

“A Horse With No Name”

My first day of 2011 was spent in the Sahara.  Before I tell you about the destination,  I have to tell you about the journey itself and the differences between what I had expected to find and what I actually saw.

I never realized how diverse Morocco’s terrain is.  Within the 6 hour drive, we passed rolling hills bright green from this past year’s much needed rain, tall cedar forests with monkeys swinging from the trees, flat, endless, grey terrain and Road Runner-style landscapes.  I watched as the Atlas mountains morphed from smooth Georgia O’Keefe watercolor strokes to snow powdered barren mountains.


…But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s get back to the monkeys.  My husband had mentioned to me that we could stop along the way to have a picnic in a place where monkeys go to hang out to get food from passing by travelers.  I entered into my thought bubble world where I would sit at the picnic table and have lunch with a couple of monkeys.  I was besides myself with excitement.

What actually happened is this:  we arrived, a suspicious monkey (see below) immediately sat down at our table and waited for Hedeer’s aunt, Atared, to finish unpacking the food until choosing a box full of kabobs to steal.  The hairy little thief nearly got away with it had it not been for Atared’s English husband and his surprising sprinting abilities.

Our next stop was at a stunning oasis where I purchased a few beautiful bone and silver necklaces for work.  Again, a very different picture from what I had imagined.  I often imagine in cartoon style and what’s more classic than the cartoon oasis you see on TV when you’re a child?  A small lush green nook with a delicate spring and a camel relaxing under a large palm tree.

Ain Zerqa, "The Blue Spring", oasis

For starters, oases do have springs and are green and fertile but in reality they are much larger and indescribably beautiful.  As a result of their size and abundances, small to large communities live and thrive off the land which changes the illusion of them being intimate or isolated locations.  Oh, and the camels are not necessarily guaranteed to be present just because it’s an oasis.

[We stopped by to take photos and drink tea overlooking this large valley oasis]

We continued farther and farther on our merry way leaving a trail of dust on the increasingly hot and flat terrain.  In a distance you begin to see the golden slopes which mark the beginning of the Sahara.

For some reason I imagined the desert to begin more abruptly; as if you run the risk of accidentally ending up stranded in the middle of nowhere.  This by no means, is true.  What is true, however, is that this land is special, spiritual and impossible to describe unless you’ve experienced and breathed its warm dry air for yourself.  We arrived just in time for the beginning of dusk and for our second photo shoot in Morocco but I’ll have to tell you about that next time … good company, scrabble and homemade french fries await me.

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Orange (& pink) Crush

A tune from Amelie

My brother-in-law and I took this and the last photo of the front of the house yesterday. Standing close to the house feels like standing under an orange blossom water fall. . Our little friend in this picture couldn't decide if he wanted to be in the photographs until he posed patiently for this one.

Photo: Sheer El-Showk

I’ve been going through this intense orange and pink phase and like anything you’ve developed a love affair with; your surroundings become a constant reminder.

I’m not sure how the infatuation started but what I do know is that this sorbet duo makes me unbelievably happy and eager for spring to arrive.  It was no surprise, then, when I went straight to the flower section of the grocery store and purchased a bouquet of magenta carnations.  I love carnations for their beauty and simplicity but at times they can almost be too simple which makes arranging them a pain.  After filling a large vase I was left with some stragglers and an awkward lonely looking arrangement…. excellent.  I opened the cabinet looking for a solution and there it was, the versatile mason jar. Perfect.  I filled it up with the remaining carnations and placed the two arrangements side by side making them fuller without drawing attention away from the intense color.

I realize this is by no means an occasion to be nominated for an award but it was one of those moments where you’re overwhelmed with the urge to give yourself a high five.

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A bucket of paint and a monkey named Rob

A lot of things happen in your 20s and it’s strange how your furniture documents each change.

Phase I: The Move

Moving to NY was my first place away from home so I packed the following into the truck:

  • Dishes (2 plastic bowls and 2 dishes to be exact)
  • Dish soap and laundry detergent (because these and dishes are hard to find in NY….. just kidding, it’s still not really clear why I bought those in Virginia)
  • Our little stuffed monkey named Rob (jk again, he rode upfront with us)
  • Clothes/shoes

Hedeer’s things:

  • Basic kitchen supplies that included 1 pan, a French press and several passed down mismatched espresso cups from his family (the humble beginning of the International Man of Mystery as my sister likes to call him)
  • 2 Rugs we had recently purchased
  • A fold up love seat from World Market to use until we buy a full size mattress
  • A few shirts and 1 pair of jeans
  • … and not enough bookcases to store the
  • Hundreds and hundreds of books

The move shouldn’t have been rough except the boxes and boxes and boxes of books proved to be the ultimate Olympian style strength challenge up the five flight of stairs in late August.  We finally cleared the truck, unpacked and took a long look around our new little tree house.  Mismatch bookcases, check, a 2 foot wide futon for us to sleep on, check, a plastic box as a coffee table / dining table, double check.

{Our “On a budget stage”.  I used to tell Hedeer I felt like we were on the stage of a cheap play and the futon was our one prop}

Phase II: Finding Functional & Relatively Attractive  Furniture without hive-inducing price tags AKA Ikea

You’re not swimming in money – you’ll probably move several times within the next few years – you probably think you have a style, but you don’t – and more importantly you need furniture to function on a daily basis – phase.

This is perhaps the most annoying phase because you feel like you’re being forced at gunpoint to purchase something you hate but you really really need and you know you’ll get rid of in a couple of years.  However, the torture doesn’t end when you finally make the purchase.  The real torture begins after the purchase when you stare at it every day scheming the victorious moment when you replace it with something you actually like.

Attractive? Debatable. Functional? As long as you keep your stuff away from falling over the edge into the toilet, yes.

Your lifesaver becomes a bucket of paint; the poor man’s interior design bread and butter.  It becomes an obsession and it’s amazing because it’s a way to be daring without making a huge commitment and emptying your wallet.  Best of all you’re in your 20s and if it turns out to be a flop it doesn’t matter since people don’t expect much out of you anyway.  For example….

I originally didn’t like how this came out but I ended up loving it.  I just painted the window sill so even though the color is super bright it wasn’t overwhelming.  I added halogen lights to bring out the colors even more and it was such a warm and happy welcoming when you walked into the apartment.

Our little monkey, Rob, shown above with a lantern from Morocco.  Everything I paint is done with at least 2 different colors.  I’ve been hooked with the technique ever since I fell in love with a paint job my friend, Lauren, did with 2 tone beiges.  Aside from the vintage look, it gives the color depth and warmth.  After I started doing this I began to realize why I love old European walls so much.

Phase III: Sifting through the rubble.

This is where you start learning patience and it pays off.  Slowly you start getting rid of the things you don’t need and keeping those things that you truly love.  Almost all of these come into your life unexpectedly and I cherish them everyday.

.. a tea set you bought in the market in Morocco on a hot day that makes you laugh when you remember what you put your mother-in-law through to get a good deal…  An offbeat and unique bowl made out of gold painted fruit that could only be a gift from a friend as offbeat, unique and beautiful as the bowl itself.  I could go on for hours but I’ll stop before I bore you to death..

Phase IV: I have grown up things but I’m not a grown up; the monkey seems to agree with me.

We moved back to VA to an ultra modern apartment; stainless steel, high ceilings huge floor to ceiling windows, etc.  Decorating small spaces in NY was a challenge but this was a totally different league.  I’ll never forget unpacking those plastic dishes that I mentioned earlier.  They looked silly and out of place; but I loved them and all of a sudden I felt this alarming pressure to get my life in order.  I can’t keep buying plastic and crappy furniture, I need to grow up!  How am I going to decorate this gigantic amount of space? (coming from NY this one-bedroom looked like a mansion) and in what style?  I stopped myself right there because it’s never ending; just how you never stop growing.  So you might as well be patient and enjoy the ride.  I constantly want to change things and Hedeer begs me not to.  Finally he asked me, ‘why do you always have to change something?’  I didn’t know how to answer him because I didn’t have an answer to give him.  Maybe it’s because it makes me happy and excites me to reinvent our home because after all, it’s a small reflection of who you are and I’m not done growing up.

Our first dining table. I found it in an antique store and it was love at first sight.

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

This was perhaps one of the most memorable Thanksgiving weekends I’ve ever had.  For starters, we had our 10 year high school reunion.  Originally I wasn’t planning on attending.  My reasoning was, I’ve already kept in touch with my friends and especially with facebook, the element of surprise is gone… so, what’s the point?

The real reason is that I was scared and nauseatingly nervous about going.  What if the entire night is awkward?  What if I’m awkward and forget basic communication skills such as talking and not nervously laughing when nothing funny is said?  What should I wear?  What do I look like and seem to others after so many years?  I did a quick memory scan of the random sloppy mix of photos posted on facebook… what kind of story do they tell?  I felt ridiculous for even having these thoughts and caring enough to have them in the first place but regardless, they were very much present.  In high school I was shyer then most people knew and I often hid behind my extremely outgoing friends, Alissa and Lauren.

An old photo of the Three Musketeers

Only problem is that I was down one man due to a little city called Paris (Ugh, damnit Alissa with her passion for life and horrible timing!)  I decided to go for it after a conversation with Hedeer (and a genius named Jess) that made me see how silly it would be to miss out on a potentially great night.  Next step, pick out an outfit.  I decided on something that was comfortable and wearable instead of venturing out with a new outfit that I’d most likely realize too late as an uncomfortable and consequently unflattering train-wreck… we’ve all be there.  Here’s what I went with: a fitted open back mini dress with 3/4 length sleeves (H&M), navy velvet blazer (Zara),  black boots with black tights.   I finished it off with one of my favorite pieces; a handmade scarf I was given by the artisan who had woven it in Morocco.

We arrived into a cramped space, a good call on the school’s behalf since that sort of space gives an intimate feel (whether you like it or not) filled with very familiar yet very different nervous faces; of course my temporary and wrong prescription contact lenses didn’t help. Observe later, order a drink now. The first half hour was incredibly awkward but after a couple merciful stiff drinks from the sympathetic bartenders I was having a truly incredible time catching up with people that I hadn’t realized I missed or just simply lost touch with.

I love these guys

The night reminded me that there is so much life has to offer outside of our precious comfort zones; it’s not always going to come out good but at least it’s worth a shot.

Posted in Fashion, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Judging a suitcase by its cover

I don’t care how sexy this piece of luggage looks to you.  I too was mesmerized by it’s sleek lines, pewter studs and its rich black leather straps.  I instantly imagined myself on a 1940s London train wearing a brilliantly tailored suit, rich red lipstick and sky-high maryjanes.

Sean Combs & Natalia Vodianova: Photograph taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue magazine

[This is such a stunning photograph. I like the contrast of her white dress and how they mixed warm and cool colors.]

At the time I was practically living out of my suitcase so I decided to go for it and splurged $700 at Samsonite’s Black Label boutique on Madison Avenue.  My expectations were a far cry from what I had imagined:

For starters, the thing weighs like a mule (17 lbs. empty) and despite its state of the art wheels, the stubborn thing will only roll on perfectly smooth and even floors.  Unless I was walking on marble I was forced to drag it everywhere (the only thing I was missing was a pancho). Carpet floors felt like walking on sand, the mere sight of cobble stones made me shudder and I nearly dislocated my shoulder hauling it on a train to Geneva.  Sweating, panting and cursing was definitely not what I had in mind.  This wasn’t luxury; it was torture.  Why hadn’t anyone warned me you should never judge a suitcase by its cover?  (Technically my husband did, but that’s not the point ..)

As for the “resilient” hard shell, it had huge cracks only after a couple transatlantic flights which defeated my pathetic attempt to use it as decoration:

I’ve made some bad purchases in the past (who hasn’t?) but this was that defining rock bottom moment that turned my defeat into an obsessive goal: find a functional suitcase; not beautiful and designer… Functional.  After a few months, I found it.  It was sitting there waiting patiently and randomly (at the Container Store) for me.  I immediately liked its orange crush color and cursed myself for digressing back to my old habits.  It’s not about the color or how pretty it is, remember?  So, I picked it up and found it was light as a feather.  I opened it and found a large, simple and practical interior.  I did it!  It only cost me $700 dollars, hundreds in overweight fees and a couple pinched nerves to find it.. but whatever, I did it!

Eagle Creek Duffel

With a standard 50 lb. weight limit for flights; I have no problem traveling with my new 7 lb. suitcase.  My only tiny complaint is that it could have been made a little deeper to take advantage of all the extra weight it allows you but I’m honestly in love with how practical it is.  The perfectly located handles are soft and the outside is actually resilient (unlike that overpriced impostor)  and for less than $260; what’s there to complain about?  Oh, and it’s pretty; who says you can’t have it all?
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Indigo Linen & Champagne on Crosby Street

I couldn’t make it last week to Derek Lam’s spring/summer preview party in NY; however, my trusty sidekick and husband, Hedeer, was able to attend and had the opportunity of meeting him (adding insult to injury) and notified me with a text that said, “You’re going to kill me..”  I’ve taken the liberty to summarize his encounter with this amazingly talented designer: ‘he was really chill and down to earth”.  Oh, Hedeer…

Hedeer El-Showk with Derek Lam

I’m really excited about this collection because it draws us a little bit away from the hard 80s silhouettes we’ve seen so much these past couple of years to a softer feminine 70s feel.  Lam still managed to remain true to his modern style with clean tailoring and flattering angles.

Here’s a perfect example; a feminine frock with a plunging neckline paired with a flattering tailcoat (you can’t go wrong with a smaller waist) and the jacket’s shoulder straps give her a strong and contrasting masculine look.

I’m in love with this outfit!   For those of you who’d like to capture this look without spending thousands you might have luck finding something similar in Zara:

And if you’d like to fall somewhere in the middle between high fashion and mainstream, I suggest you snag a pair of Made in Heaven’s “Marrakesh” jeans.  The are unbelievably flattering and the beautiful embroidered gold from the company’s logo in the back makes it an even better reason to add to your wardrobe.

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Does this helmet come in an Aperol color?

One thing for certain Italy has in common with the US is essentially the best part of the day, happy hour.  That special part of the day when you can relax and reward yourself for the hard work you’ve accomplished by having a drink or 3 (I consider 3+ a night out) with your friends and colleagues.

So I was more than delighted when my brother-in-law, Craig, suggested we ride the bikes to one of their town’s local bars.  Awesome, I thought, efficient means of transportation while preemptively burning those cocktail calories; why hadn’t I thought about this before?

My friend, Sarah getting geared up

 

Craig works at a US military post and while we are getting ready he complains about their strict bicycling rules; “So, they tell all the Americans to blend in.. right?  So what do they do?  Enforce bicycle helmets!  I’ve never seen a single Italian wear one!

 

Taken along Lake Garda

Apparently nothing screams more American than a safety helmet.  Who knew?  Once we were out however, what Craig had been ranting about became very clear.  I was surprised not so much by how many people ride their bikes (literally everywhere: grocery shopping, picking up the kids from school, to and from work, happy hour…) but more importantly by how good they look riding them.  A wide range of ages passed us, all stylish, all riding effortlessly.  I would see girls wearing dresses and skirts while holding their cell phones in one hand and the handle in the other.  How does she do it?, I’d wonder as I slowly and awkwardly swerved from over correcting.  I would look at her in admiration until a woman in her 80s would ride by just as gracefully.

I look like a natural right?

Maybe bicycling is the secret to a long and healthy life perhaps?  …Or, maybe it’s those Aperol Prosecco cocktail blends they enjoy so much that time of day (you be the judge; the truth is usually somewhere in the middle).

At first I was a bit turned off by the bitterness of Aperol but then I started enjoying the subtle tart and fresh flavors that lingered.  Here’s a professional description of the liqueur thanks to K&L Wine Merchants:

“Aperol’s unique flavor and color is achieved through a subtle blend of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and an array of herbs and roots–using a secret recipe that has been unchanged since its first creation in 1919.”

Sold!  For you adventurous folk out there, I hope you get a chance to steal an hour for yourself and enjoy this in good company with those you love.  And for the rest of you…..

jk; beer can also be just as delicious, I’m on my way to have one now.

  • 2 parts Aperol
  • 3 parts prosecco
  • Splash of seltzer water
  • Slice of orange

Playing with the bar's puppy

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Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

As an artist, you’re always on the lookout for something that will be your inspiration.  Whether you find it in a friend, walking down a random street or an unexpected pattern you come across; you instantly recognize it.

I walked by this painted on a wall in Vicenza and it reminded me of  the gold used in Gustav Klimt’s paintings.

One of my inspiration boards in my old office in NY

Sometimes I feel like a cartoon with the little light bulb over my head, “Eureka!” I mentally squeal with delight.  It’s truly a moment of clarity and passion.  Learning how to put it to use may not come as easily, however, the challenge itself can be fun and exciting (Tetris anyone?)

A wedding gift from our friend in Cyprus. I Love the contrast in texture between the stone and wood.

I'm obsessed with taking snapshots from TV & films. The way they paired the gold and green background with her hair and outfit is Amazing!

This couldn’t be more true than the photo shoot I took with an old friend at her house.  I really wish we had someone following us around with a camera because it was an amusing mix of serious intense moments followed by fits of laughter that reminded me of when we were in high school.  We started off with a cold cider (to get the creative juices flowing) while trying to figure out the lighting.

Every time we had a new setup for a different shirt it was the same thing: “Ok…. let’s try this…” followed by, “yikes, no!”, followed by, “wait a minute… how about this?”

"Veronica! HOW on earth do you walk in these?!!"

Eventually we’d get into a rhythm and we’d feed off each other’s energy and ideas (of course it doesn’t hurt to work with an amazingly talented interior designer) and when the ideas started coming, the challenge became how to slow them down.  Suddenly, textures, colors and shapes came into play; forming a life of their own.  Before we knew it, there was a story and a feeling that just felt right.  The girl in the scene became a real person; strong, complex, intelligent, charming and beautiful in her own right; very much like the model herself.

We ended the day exhausted, exhilarated and starving.  The next morning felt like Christmas day or that feeling you get the following day when you kissed a crush in high school.  Did that really happen?  Is this real?… Yes, I have an Incredible collection of pictures!!  I’ll have to keep you guys in suspense though because you know how it is; it’s all about timing and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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