Monday, April 23, 2012

Maputo, Mozambique: In Africa

Photobucket This Christmas (their summer) I was in Maputo, Mozambique. In some ways, Mozambique is what many people think of when they think of Africa: there are wild animals, the direst poverty, great wealth, jungles, and great beauty as well as people living in all sorts of circumstances. My friend's stepfather, long ago, once told me, 95% of the world goes barefoot. I had to think about that, and frankly, I didn't really believe him, this man who had grown up in a rather elite atmosphere, gone to Harvard, and who had had a chauffeur. But now, after traveling everywhere from India, Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, and Africa, I know that he knew what he was talking about.  Mozambique,  a country whose civil war ended in 1992 after a war for liberation from the Portuguese who had colonized the area (Angola was also a Portuguese colony) is a country that probably reflects the 95% rule closely. During the war over one million people died of starvation and conflict, and as you can imagine, there are still many problems today.  Mozambique lies on the southeastern coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean.  The country is naturally beautiful. The city of Maputo, in the southern tip of the country, rises up from the sea so that houses built here have a beautiful sea vista.  Needless to say, most of these homes are quite nice.

Photobucket Photobucket
The nicest hotel in Maputo is the Polana, seen in the pictures above and below.
Photobucket Photobucket
Most of the nice houses in Maputo have high walls around them, or at least high fences. Robbery is a problem because poverty is a problem, and many people have guards outside their homes 24 hours.  The Mozambiqans are generally shy and friendly; robbery is more of a problem than violence. Mozambique imports almost all of its food and the government has to subsidize it all for anyone to be able to afford it. Protests occurred last year when the government lowered the subsidies. Although there appears to be good farmland, apparently ownership is questionable and lack of equipment and knowledge are probably also problems.Photobucket Below is the old train station in Maputo, designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame.
Photobucket Photobucket Below is a cathedral in Maputo which resembles a giant juicer.
Photobucket Photobucket Above is an apartment building working people live in. Below, here is how the majority of the population of Maputo live. The picture directly below shows what is a community garden; other places are not as lucky.
  When it rains (and there is a rainy season), the dirt turns to mud, the streets flood and are often underwater.  Potholes are everywhere throughout the city.
Photobucket Photobucket   Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket    Litter is everywhere. I don't think there is actually a sanitation system city-wide.Photobucket Photobucket What these pictures don't show is hunger, disease (malaria is very common in Mozambique and even the city of Maputo; AIDS is a big problem), and the despair that comes from poor education, lack of any work, and physical problems. On Sunday afternoons and evenings however, families will cluster along the beach and the main road that runs along the waterfront of Maputo, cooking out, visiting, laughing - the old, young -whole families all together - everyone. Traffic almost comes to a standstill and the mood is joyful and relaxed.
  I showed these pictures of poverty because there are so many pictures of beautiful rooms and homes on the internet that people here in the US begin to think that their own homes need to be redecorated, that they look terrible. I am sometimes one of those people, so I wanted a reminder that just because our own homes don't look like the covers of House Beautiful, we are still some of the luckiest people in the world. And 30 years later, the majority of the world still goes barefoot.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

French Room Decor: Real French Dining Rooms

Today, here is a look at beautiful French dining rooms, breakfast rooms, and eat-in kitchens.  From the French country dining room to the elegant French city rooms with their crystal chandeliers, French dining rooms are a gathering place in French homes where families and friends spend their time enjoying delicious food, conversation, and the elegant table appointments.
  Above, this dining room is in France although it reminds me of many breakfast rooms I've been in in Portugal and Brazil with the lovely blue and white decor and white walls above the wainscote.
Dining room decorating ideas
Above, pretty wallpaper, linen curtains and bay windows make this French country dining room especially beautiful. Imagine breakfasting here!
 Below, the love of French colour manifests itself in this dining room with green walls and accents of deep pink.
Decorating French Country

French country dining room
Above, a gallery wall adds interest to this dining room with modern elements like a concrete floor and industrial style table.
 Below, look at the wall and molding colours!  The elegant chandelier hangs over an oval table and formal French style chairs. Look at the gorgeous chevron-style floor.
Dining room decorating ideas
Below, this French country dining room uses the bright yellow and red tile floors of Provence, but  adds modern elements such as the lighting fixtures.  The fireplace is wonderful.
French country dining room
Below, one of my favorite mixes of formal French elements such as the chairs and elegant china within a rustic setting. The walls look ancient (and most likely are) while wire baskets are against one wall and an elegant tapestry screen stands in the corner.
French Style Decor

French Country Dining Room
If you really want a French flavor in your own home, check out the unfinished looking French floors in so many French rooms whether formal or casual.
Below, look at the wonderful coral wall!
French Country Dining Room

French Room Decor
Below, one of my favorite eat-in kitchens in the French style. The deep peachy walls are gorgeous with the tile in back of the stove and blue-grey cabinets.  In many older French kitchens you will see fabric used to cover the lower cabinets which do not have doors.
French Kitchen Decor

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Look at Some Real French Bedrooms

Peach bedroom French
Having been a Francophile for as long as I can remember (at least the third grade) and having grown up with a real Frenchwoman living next door, I knew a bit about French style before I had ever been to France.  I loved French style before it was really popular.  I loved it in the '70s, the '80s, the '90s, and yes, I still love it today.  What I suppose bugs me a bit is what is popularly being called French style today - burlap bags, rough pillows with stenciling on them, every room completely white.   The French generally use colour in their homes, and quite a bit of it.  The images you see here were taken from French magazines on decorating and real French homes.
  Above, the French like peach and pink. They do use grey and have for many years (grey paneling is especially beautiful). Touches of gold are common, even in rustic looking rooms.The bedroom room above is about as simply as it gets, yet you can see that the bed is comfortable and the room is pleasant.
Below is a girl's room done in a pink.  The wonderful corona is very French as is the use of toile, of course.
French girls bedroom French-English style
 Above,  what! An all-white room (almost).  I chuckled when I read this because the magazine mentioned that this bedroom had been decorated "in the English manner" - note the florals on the armoire and pillow.  Below, these magnificent curtains made from a fairly heavy formal damask are quite French. You see rustic and some whimsical touches, but no burlap. There is a sense of faded grandeur that is typical of many French rooms and houses.
French bedroom  
Oooo, the kind of bedroom that made me originally fall in love with all things French when I was just a little girl. As romantic as can be, and yes, I would be happy with this room today!Photobucket  
Simplicity in the bedroom. But comfort is oh so important.  Look at the whimisical antique lamps (I believe that they used to be oil or kerosene).   Underneath the pillows, you can just see the bolster that is often on French beds.
  Toile reigns in the deep, deep pink bedroom below. French bedroom French bedroom

Below, while there are some rustic touches, such as the chair we see to the right here, there are almost always formal elements.  Note the pretty headboard, that amazing parquet floor, the elegant curtain holdbacks, and the crystal and ormulu candlelabras.Photobucket

Monday, April 02, 2012

English Decorating II

Whether contemporary or traditional, English style has certain common traits.  Above, the contemporary looking dining set is in a traditional style flat (c. 1820).  Look at that wonderful ceiling! Curtains are in a floral pattern and you can see the books to the lower left.  In the English style, books find a place all over the home, not just in a designated library.
Below, a living room full of books with the painting attached, English style, to the bookcase.
Photobucket Photobucket Above,the English are known for their beautiful draperies.  These curtains are layered and embellished with fringe and fringed tiebacks.  The ruffles at the top are both feminine and formal although the room, with its books stacked on a bench, flowers and patterned wallpaper, is very cosy and welcoming.
english-drawing-room Above, a standout coral colour  is echoed in the Persian rugs and pillows.  Multiple pictures are on the wall, shelves are full of books, and a cosy throw lies over the arm of the sofa. Crystal light fixtures add a grand touch.
Below, look at the molding! This room gets a special dollop of style from symmetrical arrangements: the mirrours, the chairs on either side of the fireplace, the mantle elements, even the arrangement on the coffee table.  Look at the far left for the touch of crystal.
english-drawing-room Photobucket Photobucket
Dining rooms are a must in the English home.  They may serve a dual purpose, but there is almost always a separate room with a table that will seat at least 6 for dinner.   Whatever the colour scheme, there are often books around somewhere, crystal lighting in some form, and chairs with cushions that are comfortable for sitting around the table long after dinner is over.
Below, a beautiful Murano candelabra is the centerpiece for the round table. Note the comfortable looking cushions.
Photobucket Photobucket
Above,  no matter what style, some things remain the same: books, comfortable seating, overhead chandelier.
Below, the most comfortable bedrooms in the world may be in the English style.  You will almost always see a chaise or a bench at the end of the bed.  If a bench, it is often stacked with reading material. A chaise almost always has a comfy throw for a quick nap.
More bedrooms:look at that gorgeous headboard!  Good lighting, wallpaper, and layered linens make this room apetitizing.
Photobucket Photobucket
Above,the canopy bed is elaborately dressed with cottons, silk, and matelasse. The curtains have two layers as well as fabric shade.  Blue and white is a colour the English use often.
Below, another English favorite bedroom colour is yellow (probably because of all those grey English days).  This time the bed has a half tester which matches the curtains.  A padded headboard has a matching dust ruffle. Both bed curtains and window curtains have a heavy fringe.
english decor Another yellow bedroom an added rope cord used to emphasize the lines of the room.  Plenty of pictures, pillows, family photos, and layered bed linens add to the warmth of the room.