Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eat-in Central! (My Kitchen tour)

The definition of the word "kitchen" has evolved with the modern day needs and lifestyle. It has matured into a versatile space that functions as the epi-center of the family’s activities. It’s not only a place where family and friends gather to cook, share, connect and eat but also serves as a mirror, reflecting how families live today. 
Day’s activities are planned here, bills get paid, homework gets done, playtime and crafting happens here and happy delicious memories get created along with a big batch of fresh chocolate-chip cookies. My kitchen is no different! It is constantly bustling with activity and works hard to nourish my family's mind, body and soul. 
While looking to buy a new home, one of the requirements on our list of must-haves was an open floor plan kitchen with an abundance of sunlight flooding the space. We loved the fact that this kitchen had all this and more. It was beautifully integrated with the sunroom and the informal dining. An advantage when your entertaining and need to keep a watchful eye on the playful eight-year- old mischief-maker.
Informal dining room

Since the building was in its nascent stage, we were lucky enough to work with the builder and get exactly what we wanted. And that means we got to choose the options such as the cabinets, counter tops, appliance and flooring. We kept things simple and went for warm wood tones, dark granite for the counter-tops and a light colored back splash to brighten things up. When it came to the decision about floors, we finalized on hard wood floors for visual continuity and to keep things cohesive with the rest of the space. Boy am I glad! Firstly, it is great in winter as it’s not as cold on the feet as the tile floors. Second, it adds an instant factor of warmth and looks great!
We made sure of the fact that the areas for prepping, cooking, cleanup as well as storage flowed gracefully from one to the other i.e. keeping in sync with the "work triangle" rule. The island being the visual centerpiece, double duty’s as my prep surface, on-the-go breakfast stop and a welcoming perch for family and friends with the addition of the vintage style metal bar stools. 
With the basics in place, we then tackled the fun part - accessorizing the kitchen. As fun as it is I personally think that decorating a kitchen is one of the most difficult tasks. I first started with narrowing down on the colors to use in the space. Since it is an open floor plan, we had to pick our color cues from the sunroom and informal dining space. That way, color is the unifying factor that seamlessly blends the different zones. Shades of orange, green and a touch of teal make their presence felt in the kitchen.  

Sharing a few tips and tricks that I used for accessorizing my kitchen:
  • Display a few favorite pieces from your collection of colorful tea cups, crockery and cookware.
  • A touch of whimsy is never out of place like the teapot shaped chalk board. I love writing happy messages on it or for letting my hubby know what teabags we have in stock:)  

  • Put your favorite cook books out where you can see them. When in doubt what to serve for dinner next time, you know help is within arms reach.
  • Colorful Indian spice boxes are not only functional but also help bring in color and pattern to the kitchen decor. 

  • Flowers and potted herbs/plants help bring the place alive. 
  • Use nature’s bounty such as seasonal fruits and vegetables to your advantage. 
  • Floor Runners that echo the color scheme can not only add texture but have the added benefit of swapping them out often as per seasons or moods and creating a whole new look every single time.
  • Bring in inexpensive artwork like this "Put the Kettle On" print that I scored at a yard sale. 
  • Use bright and cheerful kitchen/dish towels (Drying off dishes is a task that cannot be avoided, so why not do it in style?).
  • Make creative use of patterns to add an element of visual appeal - shop for teacups, tea storage containers, spice boxes etc that mimic the color scheme of your kitchen with interesting pattern-play on them.
  • DIY skills can also come to your rescue. For instance, take the ceramic containers with a few indoor plants adorning my window sill. Simple Oradd ceramic plant pots from IKEA, were jazzed up with some chevron patterned scrap booking paper and modge-podge to match the chevron pattern on my rug. 
Another important factor to make your kitchen work efficiently is "Organisation". It is imperative that you have all your things organized. Here is a peek into my not so large pantry. However, I make it work as I have everything that I need labelled and use color coded storage containers and baskets to help me stay on track.   
Finally, I can safely claim that I’ve tackled the three main elements of kitchen design being function, efficiency and style with panache. I'd love to hear what you have to say, so don't forget to drop me a line....

You have a great day and stay inspired! 

Images: Clicked by Sruthi Singh. Please do not use without prior written permission. 
Images are the property of Sruthi Singh and subject to copyright.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Engrave (Website and Product Review)

If you are on the lookout for personalized gifts and unique lifestyle products then “Engrave” is the place for you. An India-based, e-commerce design collective, the company specializes in personalized gifts and souvenirs. As the name suggests, Engrave undertakes customized engraving mainly on wood. Their most sought after in this category are the laser engraved plaques and name plates. Another popular category is the range of canvas prints that bring beautiful images to life and makes for wonderful wall decor. 

Founded by Nimish Adani (a graduate of IIM- Lucknow), Engrave was conceived almost 4 years ago when he came across an iPod with a name engraved on it. He loved the idea of how it brought about a bespoke quality to an otherwise clone that was produced in millions. Having realized that the concept of engraving wasn’t popular in India, he decided to start a company that would help create more meaningful and personalized gifts.

Over the years, Engrave has branched out and evolved to be a marketing platform for Indian artists and craftsmen showcasing a range of products with a soul. This endeavor was undertaken by Nimish Adani with the single minded objective to make Indian craftsmen into independent entrepreneurs. As of today, they have artists like Abhinav Kafare, Mukesh Jain and Bulbul Sarkar (only to name a few) to their list of talented artists they promote.

The Engrave team reached out to me to review their products and website. I chose the mortar and pestle and wooden serving spoons from “The Acacia collection” by Bulbul Sarkar. What’s wonderful about this piece is that this kitchen gadget combines style and the utilitarian aspect artistically. Crafted out of domestically sourced Acacia wood, this piece brings texture and rustic charm to one’s kitchen. 
Now for the review:
  • Web Design and Navigation convenience - The website has well labelled tabs that make navigating through their many products an easy task. In the case of products that need customization such as plaques and name plates, it is an easy three-step process before you place your order.
  • Competitive pricing - Customers of Engrave enjoy the benefit of reasonably and competitively priced products as Engrave does not incur the huge real estate costs of a traditional retail outlet. Further, their in-house production and design facility helps them to offer high quality products at low-costs & pass on the benefit to their customers.
  • Convenient Payment Options - Payment Options like Credit Card / Debit Card / Netbanking, Bank Transfer, Cheque/DD, Cash on Delivery (at an extra charge), gives you the ease to choose the payment option that is convenient and right for you. (However, do make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully and before you proceed to confirm the order.) 
  • Online Customer Assistance - They have an efficient online customer assistance in place to answer any queries that you might have while shopping. In my case, I did have a few questions about the product and left a mail enquiry with my email address. They promptly got back to me with the answers within 24 hours. 
  • Product Delivery - Engrave ships to all major cities and towns in India only. The product is ensured to reach you in 7 business days. I received mine (here in Virginia) within 3 business days of ordering and was thoroughly impressed with their quick and efficient shipping process.
  • Product Quality - I’ve used the products on a number of occasions and love them. They are sturdy and serve their purpose well. 
I enjoyed my shopping experience with Engrave and would definitely bookmark them for future reference. To see more from their wonderful collection, click here

Up next, a tour of my very own kitchen :) Have a great day!

Image Copyright/Credit: Collage 1,2, & 4 images by Engrave, 3 - Sruthi Singh

(Disclosure: Engrave sent me the products to review free of charge. The views and opinions in this post are solely mine.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Color Inspiration for a Cheery Summer Tablescape

When my family and I are entertaining and have a huge gathering of people, we try and keep things simple by serving food the buffet style. But any chance to organize a formal sit down dinner and no one gets as excited as me. I love setting the table and playing the good hostess. But that being said, I like tablescapes that look like a lot of effort went into creating them but the actual down time to create them is minimal. Today, I'm sharing a few frames of one such dinner party that we hosted recently. 
I opted for a color combination of pinks and ochers. With a salmon colored brocaded tablecloth as the base, peach colored roses mixed in with the wild mustard growing in my back yard and some dried lavender (sprays I had dried from the last season) seemed to make a pretty mix. Little bouquets of this combination in brass and copper antique containers were scattered through out the table. 
Since it was a dinner party, some pretty flickering frames would be a wonderful addition to the scene. Colored glass votive holders in shades of pink and yellow tie in the color scheme together.
I almost always try to use what I have and mix things up. You've seen most of these pieces as part of my other tablescapes like here and here. By getting a little creative and adventurous when it comes to color, you can get a whole new look every single time! 

You'll have an awesome day and don't forget to stop by the wonderful gallery of Studio Coppre's Instagram. I'm guest-gramming for Coppre this week and would love to see you there!

Images: Clicked by Sruthi Singh. Please do not use without prior written permission. 
Images are the property of Sruthi Singh and subject to copyright.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Longwood Gardens through my Lenses

The sprawling 1000+acres of "Longwood Gardens" (Pennsylvania) are known for their expertly manicured gardens, rare collection of plant life, majestic fountains and captivating seasonal displays of vibrant blooms. This Mother’s day my son and husband surprised me with a wonderful day at these magnificent gardens. Founded in 1906 by Pierre S. du Pont (an industrialist), the Longwood Gardens started as a small family farm with Pierre’s objective being to save a collection of historic trees. But since then it has matured into a horticultural showpiece that draws over a million visitors annually! This post is going to be a photo essay of sorts and that means I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking for me.

With over 25 outdoor garden displays to explore and a 4 acre indoor conservatory, the botanical masterpiece takes over 5 hours to tour. If you are visiting these splendid gardens make sure to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and load up on sunscreen and water. So let's get started, shall we?

"Idea Garden" - The whole purpose of the Idea garden is to encourage experimentation and sample artistic new combinations of flower pairings. At this time of the year, flower beds teeming with over 75,000 tulips made for some breathtaking scenes.

I thought I had seen it all when it came to tulips, apparently not! Look at the deep colors and do take notice of those frayed edges of the petals....aren't they exotic?
"Flower Garden Walk" - Sweeps of pretty sunshine hues along a brick walk guide you through one of the original gardens laid down by Pierre himself. I've been told that "The mix of flowering plants changes with the seasons and progresses from cool lavenders and blues to fresh pinks, reds, oranges, and warm yellows".

"Square Fountain" - Bursts of colorful Poppies cradle the square fountain and makes for a delightful setting.
"Forest Walk" - the meandering paths of the forest walk takes one back in time.....Experience Pennsylvania’s virgin forests like it was in the past! With spring being the season incharge, colorful carpets of blooms flank either side of the walkway making the experience at Longwood an unforgettable one.
"Large and small lake" - makes for an ideal resting spot to relax those tired legs. Look around and take in the beauty of the spring-fed lakes and the kaleidoscope of colors marking the banks of these water bodies. Another ideal season to explore Longwood gardens is Fall. With colorful foliage making for a scenic backdrop, the photo opportunities are endless.
"Topiary Garden" - is a work of art with sculptural shapes in verdant hues delighting visitors of all ages.
"Wisteria Garden" - The timing was perfect as these beauties bloom in the month of May. Knotty branches of these striking flowers are pruned and trained into three-tiered forms drawing bees and visitors alike with their gentle fragrance!
"Orangery" - Is the most impressive greenhouse that I've seen till date! Part of the 4 acre conservatory, it features an ever-changing display of flowers and foliage. 

"Bonsia Display" - Trained meticulously, each bonsai is nothing less than a piece of art. Some of the bonsai's date back to the early 1900s!
Silver garden : houses plants mostly succulent variety from the Mediterranean and desert regions.
"Peirce-du Pont House" - Constructed in 1730, the house has experienced a sea of change over the centuries. The house now contains the Longwood Heritage Exhibit that showcases "a collection of historic photos, artifacts, home movies, and video that tells the story of the stewards of the land who preserved and developed the property".
 I love how the Japanese Wisteria outlines the architecture of the Peirce-du Pont House!
With that we come to the end of the virtual tour of Longwood Gardens. I do hope you enjoyed the tour of these premier gardens and explosion of color through my lenses. If you live in driving distance to these magnificent gardens, don't miss out on the opportunity to experience them up close and personal.
Have a wonderful day!

Images: Clicked by Sruthi Singh. Please do not use without prior written permission. 
Images are the property of Sruthi Singh and subject to copyright.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Urban Oasis Envy

Come summer time and outdoor spaces become an extension of our homes – patios are abuzz with alfresco soirees, terrace spaces encourage one to stretch out and view the constellations in the clear summer skies, the porches furnished with rocking chairs make for the perfect spot to rock oneself to sleep in the gentle evening breeze and the garden landscape studded with glorious color makes for a perfect setting for an afternoon tea party! Whatever may be the reason, my heart refuses to stay indoors and looks for every possible excuse to enjoy what the outdoors has to offer. I recently spotted these two gorgeous spaces on Elle Décor that had me smitten at the very first glance. Part of a sprawling Florida home, the simplicity of design just stole my heart. The only thing missing in the patio setting that features the antique Spanish lanterns and the custom made banquette sporting comfy cushions is some wonderful margaritas!
Look at this view! The terrace of the home overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. Absolutely love the global vibe to this space - Syrian bone-inlaid furniture and colorful Suzanis and kilims infuse the space with the right amount of color and pattern. To take a tour of the entire home click here.

Have a wonderful day!

Image Courtesy : Elle Decor

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The "Aaraa By Avantika" Studio Tour !

Splashes of happy color, intoxicating fragrance of the Rajnigandha, soulful music, delightful art adorning the walls and a gorgeous lady pouring over her worktable and creating breathtaking jewelry……You’re likely to encounter all of the above on entering jewelry and lifestyle accessories designer “Avantika Kumar Agrawal’s” quaint studio!
Based in Pune (India), the studio is the creative and business headquarters’ for her label “Aaraa by Avantika”. An Alumni of the National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad), Avantika established the label ‘Aaraa’ (an Arabic word being synonymous with “adornment and embellishment”). Reinterpreting traditional designs for the urban woman, brand Aaraa draws heavily from nature and Avantika’s strong desi roots. 
A roundup of some of my favorites from her various collections : 
However, with today’s post I wish to shine the spotlight on another facet of Avantika. She’s as adept at creating a beautiful workspace as she is at crafting stunning designs for her jewelry line. Avantika’s approach to designing her workspace has been a keen understanding of what she needs in order to get her work done efficiently. While for some of us it is the creative chaos of a messy worktable that does the trick, for Avantika it is a well-organized and functional artistic space that preserves her creative flow. As you can tell, the space is a beautiful collage of textures, colors and all things that Avantika truly cherishes......
TECD: Hello and welcome to TECD! We are truly delighted to have you here with us and unveil your wonderful studio on TECD. Let us start by asking you how different is Avantika the person from Avantika the designer ?

Avantika : “Well, Avantika the jewelery designer is not much different than Avantika the person. My work is a reflection of what I am. I am a person driven by creativity and inspirations. Design is my way of living. Reading, music, traveling, photography and painting are few of the things that have a great influence on me, which at the same time are one of the most fulfilling experiences for me. Collecting pieces of Indian handicraft and art while traveling just adds to my list of doing blissful things. So this is me in a nutshell!”

TECD: Tell us more about your inspirations and your design style ?
Avantika : “My roots, my culture and my country are by far one of the biggest inspirations for me. My sense of style has evolved over the period of time when I got to work closely with the Indian craftsmen and kaarigars at the grassroot level. While pursuing my post graduation at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad (NID) I got an opportunity to work hands on with the craftsmen from all over the country right from the leather to the jewelry, glass and textile industry (to name a few). This experience got me closer to our Indian history and culture from where most of our age-old crafts and craft techniques have originated. My design style is thus an extension of this learning, which is derived from my Indian roots with contemporary nuances. You can see that the style of jewelry and studio setup echoing the similar thought.”
Deliciously colored cushions line the couch and create a comfortable ambiance for the clients to take their time and decide on which one of the magnificient Aaraa creations they want to take home with them! 
Absolutely adore, how Avantika has created a point of visual interest for every corner!
TECD: As a designer, how vital was it to your creative process  to have a distinct work zone? How long did the entire process take for you to set up your studio?
Avantika : “As a designer I always had it in the back of my mind to develop and set up a space that I could call my own, which would speak volumes about the kind of work that I do and at the same time would be the place where I find my solace. Realizing this dream into reality took about quite some time and years. I always knew how the studio would look so I have been collecting artifacts, vintage pieces, various pieces of craft and art since many years. Most of the things that you spot in the studio pictures have been bought from all over the country during my travels. 
After leasing out the space for the studio it took me about 2-3 months to get the place running as it was in shambles and required quite an effort to bring new life to this space.
As learning and creating is an endless process for me, there will always be something more to design and experiment with the decor of the studio. So I would say that the design process of setting up my studio was not just a project but has been and still is a very intuitive journey that I cherish the most.”
TECD: Inspiration is most certainly a very visual aspect for me. Is this something that you relate to and if so what are your must haves in the studio to keep your creative juices flowing?
Avantika: “Personally I need to be in a place that is highly motivating and elevating to churn out creativity. Hence having a workplace that is filled with inspiration is of utmost importance to me and one of my top expectations form a space that I would chose to work in. Colors and creative visuals are a form of great impetus to me. One will find a lot of artwork in my studio space. While taking a break or thinking in silence, I do not like staring at empty walls. Thus one would find a mélange of beautiful pieces of art adorned on the wall and around the studio. Music is something that helps me loosen up, let go off my inhibitions and makes me think abstractly while designing. I love all kinds of music and never restrict myself to a particular genre, as one never knows when a chord strikes and one comes up with innovative ideas!
Melodious music, cup of lemon and honey green tea are my accompaniments while I work and one of the few things that I cannot do without :) :)” 
TECD: What is your favorite corner of the studio?
Avantika: “My worktable is the space where I drown myself in deep thoughts and my own world of imagination. Each and everything placed on the worktable is my favorite, right from the bunch of my color pencils, the peacock feathers to the strings of beads and gemstones. I can spend hours together working here and many a times remind myself that I have to get back home :) The soft board above the table carries small doodles and baubles that I have created and collected over the period of time. It also carries the moodboards for my upcoming signature line of adornments that is inspired by lotus. Lotus is one of them most inspiring elements for me. You will find it incorporated in the Aaraa by Avantika logo as well as other artworks and decor of the studio.”
TECD: I spot Dithi Mukherjee's artwork and a few others on the walls of the studio….You said you take delight in painting, are the other artworks on display a result of such painting exploits?
Avantika: “Yes you are absolutely right, Sruthi! I have been following Dithi Mukherjee's work for a while now and had been longing to own few of her creations. I just didn't know when and how this would happen. It was only after I happened to finalize on my studio space that got me into the jet-set-go mode to order her beautiful and enchanting creations. I am in absolute love with her artistic sensibilities and if given a chance could probably end up owning each and every artwork of her's. I love her use of colors and thoughtful detailing but what moves me the most is the deep thinking behind each one of them."
Dithi's artwork has been inventively combined with other brass artifacts to create a one-of-a-kind wall display!
"The other pieces of artwork that you see are from yours truly! :D
Apart from creating jewelry, painting and working with mixed media excites me a lot. You will also find some of the artworks that are created using leather and handmade felt. Calligraphy is another form of art that I am passionate about. The 'Aum' artwork is one of the creations that came into being while exploring the Devanagari script in calligraphic form. As 'Aum' is one of the most powerful mantra and symbol of absolute, I chose it as the subject for exploration through calligraphy. "
A closer look at the "Aum" artwork that graces the wall above the couch.
"Apart from this I also like trying my hand on digital art. Studying the history of jewelry was very insightful and made me understand how deeply it connects to our language, clothing, cultural and religious symbols. I thus created digital artworks symbolizing this, using a fusion of various visual references.”

A lady after my own heart, flowers are an integral part of Avantika's decor style. This is what she had to say about the fragrant beauties that keep her company in the studio - “To work with an imaginative thought process, it is important to stimulate the senses positively and flower blossoms do just that for me. Having flowers of different hues and fragrances not only charges up the ambiance but also helps me conserve my balance of being sparked to conceptualize newer ideas without having to stress myself out. It's a feeling of exhilarating calm, as I like to call it.”

TECD:  Avantika, Thank you for taking the time to give us a tour of your wonderful studio! I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best in your creative endeavor. 
Avantika : "It is a great pleasure to be featured on a platform such as this and showcase what I have to offer as well as open up so closely about the process that drove me to bring to life the Aaraa by Avantika studio. I would also like to add that while setting up the Aaraa by Avantika studio, The East Coast Desi Blog was one of my sources for inspiration. One will be able to relate to it once they see the studio photos. I happened to stumbled upon it recently and one look and a read later I was completely hooked on to what Sruthi has to offer. Her keen sense and eye for detailing as well as photography is one of the things that I love the most!" 

Thank you Avantika for your very generous compliments and am truly happy to have played a catalyst in the design process of your wonderful studio! If you are inspired to create a look similar to Avantika's Studio, we have a shopping guide in place for you :
(I)Soft furnishing:
-Buddha cushion and the Red-Pink cushions have been bought from the lifestyle store Address Home, Pune
- The purple and neon pink floral ones were ordered online from the brand Indiacircus.
- Others purchased from and the furniture store @Home, Pune.
@Home (Pune), Home Centre (Pune), Sanskriti Furniture and Lifestyle Store (Pune), Pepperfry,  iTokri
-Dastkar Fair, New Delhi, held annually for 15 days during the month of January
- Different craft exhibitions and the local markets of: Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bidar, Pushkar, Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra, New Delhi, Kolkata, Pune etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed putting this post together and hope that you too enjoyed the tour:) To connect with Aaraa by Avantika and keep abreast with their latest collections and updates, click here. Leaving you with these images of Avantika's newest lust-worthy collection  "Maurya"!
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Image Copyright/Credit : Avantika Kumar Agrawal (The images may not be reproduced without the written permission of the owner).