Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Back to Nature

Outdoor bathrooms are becoming more and more popular these days. A lot of my clients now ask for this to be included into the planning of their homes, and if you have the space for it, it really is a great idea. 

I think outdoor bathrooms are becoming increasingly popular because life is so stressful and chaotic, that we try to surround ourselves with nature as much as we can, and what could be more relaxing than these spaces.   Another reason I think that this concept is so popular is because, while most of us may not be exhibitionists, there is a sort of a tantalizingly naughty and fun element to bathing under the open sky while being ensconced behind the privacy of screening walls and lush green shrubbery. 

Here are a few outdoor bathing spaces that I find  really inspiring.

[I have credited wherever possible. If I've missed you out, please drop me a line and I'll be happy to add it in]

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Don't you just love lazy Sundays? Waking up late, lolling around in your jammies, reading the newspapers and catching up on Pinterest and Facebook. This Sunday was one of those Sundays. With nothing to do and nowhere to go (and we were really grateful for this since temperatures in Delhi have hovered around 45 degrees Celsius all week), the hubby and I just lazed around at home. While he read the newspapers, I caught up on some  of my favorite blogs and managed to do a little cleaning (something I strangely enough find very relaxing). 

For me lazy Sundays also mean baking and experimenting in the kitchen, and this Sunday it was chocolate chip cookies. Before I go ahead, I should warn you that this story is going to sound a lot like that Friends episode when Monica tried to make chocolate chip cookies just like how Phoebe's grandmother did when she was a kid.  For those of you who are Friends aficionados, you will remember she went on a baking spree and made several batches to arrive at a recipe that was 'the perfect cookie'. Well, when I was a kid a family friend, a lovely American lady by the name of Joanie, made me a batch of chocolate chip cookies and, I have never tasted cookies quite like that, ever again. And I've eaten a lot of cookies! For those of you who don't know me too well, my close friends say I am another Monica and I can be quite obsessive about something once it comes into my head. So, over the years I have been experimenting and tinkering with chocolate chip cookie recipes in order to come up with something that is remotely close to that yummy cookie I tasted so many years ago. 

I still haven't managed to turn out a cookie quite so delicious, but I came quite close a few days ago. I sent some of these cookies to the hubby's office. That evening he came home and reported that they were wolfed down and a few people had even requested the recipe. So I decided to put it up on the blog and this Sunday was the perfect time to improve on a few things and get the measurements right.

So here goes... my own chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Here's what you need...

1/3 cup oats
1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup plain flour (maida)
1/4 cup corn flour
1/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/2 cup butter (chopped into small cubes)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1 egg 
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp cream

Here's what you do...

Mix all the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips and nuts in a bowl.  Add the butter and lightly rub the flour and butter with your fingers till the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Next add in the nuts and the chocolate chips. In a small bowl lightly beat the egg with the milk and cream and add to the dry mixture. Knead very lightly with your hands till the dough just comes together. Don't over knead as the butter will melt and the cookie will be hard and dense. Cover the dough and place in the fridge to cool for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime preheat your oven to about 180 degrees Celsius. 

Once the dough has cooled, make rough, one inch diameter balls and lightly press into discs that are about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Place on a lined cookie tray and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes till they just start to color slightly and the base is golden brown. 

Once the cookies are cooled, they will crisp up, but will still have a slight chewiness in the center. These cookies are great with a nice cold glass of milk or some hot chocolate.

Here's how they turned out...

[Images- Shalini Pereira]


Friday, 24 May 2013

How Do You Like Your Bricks?

When it comes to exposed brick, I am a bit undecided. I admit that it does add a sense of character and also an interesting textural element. There are times when I positively hate it, and others, when it looks simply divine! 

Maybe it all depends on how it is used and treated in an interior space. A lot of people hate the warm, rustic red tones of untouched exposed brick. I try and keep an open mind, however I do tend to dislike it when there is an excess of it, probably because it gives a space a dated,almost rustic look which is not to my personal taste. For me, if exposed brick  is going to be used in its original form, then it needs to be accented with some really contemporary decor. That's why I love exposed brick in lofts. The industrial setting offsets the brick beautifully.

In the debate between exposed brick and painted brick, I lean towards painted. And there is no better color than white! I feel it adds a sense of lightness and lends an aspect of the contemporary to the space in which its used. 

However exposed brick is used, untouched or painted, the rule I generally follow is - great in small does, don't over do it. Here are some images of spaces where I just love the way brick has been incorporated into interior spaces.

How do you like your brick work? Untouched, painted or plastered and no where in sight?

[I have credited wherever possible. If I've missed you out, please drop me a line and I'll be happy to add it in]

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Astley Castle, Warwickshire, England

I know my blog mostly focuses on the modern and the contemporary, but I must admit that I do have a soft spot for historical buildings. Its probably because I'm a bit of a romantic at heart. I would hazard a guess that (and I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this) it stems from all the historical romances I read in my teens. It really disturbs me when I see historic buildings allowed to go to ruins, something that sadly happens too often  here in India. These buildings have so much charm and tell us so much about our own history and culture.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing an old building being reused and reinvented. Breathing  new life into an old, decrepit structure is no mean task, I imagine, but to me its well worth the effort. So I was delighted when I chanced upon this lovely story, the amazing renovation of Astley Castle in Warwickshire, England, on Designboom

Astley Castle was originally the royal family's fortified manor, until it was turned into a hotel in world war two. It had been in a state of ruin for years, until the Landmark Trust stepped in 
and proposed to renovate it.  I was completely charmed by the finished product, carried out by Witherford Watson Mann Architects. They have breathed life into the ancient structure, while also celebrating the story of its ruin. I love they way the new brick construction merges with the original masonry elements so subtly and yet also manages to pay homage to the old structure. Another plus is the contemporary styled decor. It adds a sort of lightness and provides the perfect contrast to the medieval surroundings. Take a look.

Here's the before....

Here's the after...

[All Images from Designboom]

Monday, 20 May 2013

Real Del Mar House by Gracia Studio

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”-  Leonardo da Vinci

It often seems like a never ending struggle to convince clients to keep things simple. They always seem to be worried about things looking too plain. As a designer, I find this one of the most frustrating things! 

Here is a great example of simplicity in architecture. Love the massing and the form of this structure by Gracia Studio, a firm based out of Mexico. I love the combination of wood, concrete and plaster, and the way this contemporary structure seems to sit so well in its desert surroundings. 

[Images via Gracia Studio]

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Longing for Goa

Its May, school's out and its time for summer vacations. But I'm stuck here because of work commitments, and I feel like I'm wilting in the sweltering heat of Gurgaon. I have to admit that I am exhausted and I really need a break. In fact I would have been on a nice break right now, except for the fact that the painter on my site in Noida has made it his life's mission to frustrate the heck out of me and deny me any sort of a break! So, with an almost sadistic determination, he goes about his work without a care in the world and gives both me and the client sleepless nights and indigestion.

Did I mention I need a holiday?!

The hubby and I were planning a trip to Turkey and Egypt around the end of the month, but that's now been put off till October for reasons already mentioned. So instead we were planning to just get away for a long weekend. But if I were to be honest, there is a place I want to be right now, more than any other place in the world, and that's Goa. My Goan DNA is pulling me back to my roots and all I want to do is hop on a plane and head off to the sandy beaches and the lazy, relaxed life of South Goa. The urge is so strong- I can almost smell the sea and taste the salty air.

What could be better than days spent lazing on the beach, under the shade of an umbrella, looking out over the ocean, sipping on cold Kingfisher beer and listening to Bob Marley accompanied perfectly by the sound of waves lapping the shore. Then a nice lunch of fried fish and prawn curry and since we are in Goa, an afternoon siesta. Evenings would be spent out on a cool veranda with the sea breeze bringing with it the smell of the ocean. Ah, what bliss... if only...a Goa holiday would be the perfect balm for the both of us.

Ages ago, while on a family vacation in Goa I had taken these pictures, and I've been longingly looking at them for the last few days. Not as good as the real thing, but they make me feel a little closer to Goa.

[Images by Shalini Pereira]

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Contemporary Home in the land of the Mayans

Its funny how sometimes you're looking for something with a single minded determination, and you chance upon something entirely different, and that something, takes you along a new and expected path. 

Sometimes it may as trivial as looking for a new recipe for ice cream and coming across inspiration for a bedroom or a living room. Or it could be something as life changing as doing research for one of my sites, discovering the world of blogging quite by chance, and getting hooked! Life is quiet funny that way...

Anyway enough of me being philosophical. Here is a beautiful house that I chanced upon while looking for something entirely different- inspiration for a site I'm working on. I was in a bit of a design rut and decided to do some internet research. I wound up finding this lovely home that is so beautifully simple and inspiring. So I'm sharing...

Located in Acanceh,  in Yucatan, Mexico, Hacienda Sac Chich was constructed by Reyes Ríos + Larraín Arquitectos in 2010. The architects seemed to draw inspiration from this region, that is home  to an ancient Mayan archaeological site. 

I love architecture like this- architecture that is simple and uncomplicated and seems to just belong. Architecture that is contextual, elegant, very contemporary and bold in its simplicity.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did. 

[Images - Home Dsgn & CIIWA ]

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