If the city is called Casablanca (White House), creating an all-white interior for a restaurant there isn’t a major creative break-through. But Christophe Pillet, the designer of the Maison Blanche (White House), reflected the omnipresent white back on itself with smoked mirrors, and created a vertigo-inducing vessel-of-a-space that forces us to look again.
The 600 square-meter (approx. 6500 sq.ft.) restaurant and bar, opened in July 2012 at La Place Mohamed Abdou and La Rue du Commandant Lamy, facing the Parc de la Ligue Arave. Maison Blanche Casablanca is the baby sister of Maison Blanche Fes, opened in 2009.
Maison Blanche Casablanca feels like a container, a bottle, or a jewellery box where the guest will appear as the filling, the jewel, the berry, or the decoration. Chef Thierry Vaissière’s cuisine will likely bring the guests back again for another look at themselves and their chic friends.
Our first landing into Casablanca many years ago offered an aerial view of a beautiful white city, but the actual on-the-street experience was a disappointing drag through an exhausted, dilapidated city whose vitality and lifeblood was sadly missing.
Maison Blanche and many other businesses like it are suggesting we should visit more often and give the white beauty another reason to charm us. - Tuija Seipell
It is tough to describe our six glorious days at Castello Di Reschio in Umbria, Italy, without resorting to clichés and big words that sound like overstatements. Awesome. Amazing. Surreal. Idyllic. Exquisite.
But when we review our images, videos and stories from Di Reschio, the one thing that has become even clearer over time is the feeling that we were transported to some unspecified luxurious time period between ancient history and tomorrow. A perfect “time is standing still” moment, offering relaxation and pampering, yet managing to surprise and delight at every turn.
With the estate itself a testament to how beautifully structures can age, combined with the extraordinary attention to detail in the restoration, and topped with every modern amenity one could wish for, it all appeared – and still does – almost too beautiful and perfect to be true.
We kept thinking that it resembled a movie set, yet there wasn’t a single fake or pretentious item in the place. Everything felt that it belonged here, and somehow always had belonged, even if reality proved otherwise.
The back story of this incredible estate and the family that runs it, is just as unbelievable and romantic as any fantasy we could conjure up. In 1994, Count Antonio Bolza and his wife, Angelika, purchased Castello di Reschio, a 2,700-acre estate in the hills of Umbria, Italy. They set out to restore and renovate the disused farmhouses on the estate that dates back to 1202.
Over time, the Count’s son Benedickt Bolza (now known as Count Bolza) graduated from architecture school and joined the family operation, taking over the planning, design and renovation.
He met his future wife, Nencia (of the princely Corsini family of Florence), at Castello di Reschio where she was hired by his parents in 1998 to paint decorative trompe l’oeil murals.
Eventually, the couple took over the estate’s largest castle as the home for themselves and their now five children. It was the most challenging to renovate, says Count Bolza, but it is beyond amazing. The couple has no regrets about the painstaking work they’ve done on it and offer tours for the guests.
So far, they have renovated about 25 villas on the estate, catering to an international elite client base of buyers and renters.
We stayed at the Palazzo that sleeps 10. The staircase in the centre of the house alone took our breath away. And the attention to detail in absolutely everything on the entire estate. From custom-design (by Count Bolza) furniture to incredible amenities including Ortiga Sicilia toiletries that we completely fell in love with.
On arrival, at lunchtime, our house was bustling with cooking and soon a delicious lunch was served at the huge table. This was a precursor to the astonishing mealtimes we were to enjoy throughout our stay.
Swimming pools, gyms, tennis, cooking lessons at your own house, and eating, of course, eating. Everything as fresh as can be and everything produced locally.
As we were focusing on doing as little as possible, we were delighted to be spectators at Conte Bolza’s Tuesday evening dressage performance. As he and his white horse moved elegantly around the paddock, we were seated under a maharaja tent, and served Italian hors d’oeuvres and wine.
The entire setup felt like we were witnessing an old-world European aristocratic tradition, and we were probably not too far wrong. Dressage does have deep European roots dating back to before Renaissance, and horses have played a vital role in this former frontier fief situated on the border between the former Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
And within a five-minute drive from our Palazzo was the estate’s restaurant, Osteria – that’s how large the estate is – where chef Marco Pellegrini creates the Di Reschio cuisine.
Unpretentious, delicious, fresher than fresh. Italian. Perfect bright-red vine ripened tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, pasta, gazpacho, bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and chilli, and wine. You get the idea. We think we have found our heaven on earth and it is called Castello Di Reschio.
A short video we produced on the most extraordinary place we experienced last summer - Castello Di Reschio in Umbria, Italy. - Bill Tikos
We like this 130 square meter (1,400 sq.ft.) office for its crisp simplicity.
It is a expansion project by Alain Wong of Comodo for his company’s own office space located in Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Wong calls the project Landscape in Bustling City, a fitting name for an office located in the middle of the busy city in an area that used to be lush gardens.
Comodo’s earlier office was predominantly black and white, as is the new one, except for the natural wood used to create platforms, partitions and furnishings.
The extensive use of unfinished raw wood board creates a nice balance of function and whimsy, and brings a sense of the outdoors inside. Natural light streams into much of the space through glass partitions. - Tuija Seipell.
As far as nightlife goes, in Porto, Portugal, it is all happening downtown. A local company, Baixa (baixa is Portuguese for downtown), has recently added another downtown nightclub to its roster that already includes the Baixa bar.
The new nightclub, Instalação (installation), was designed by José Carlos Cruz Arquitecto, the same team responsible for the design of Baixa bar as well as the Farmacia Lordelo we have featured earlier.
The space for Instalação, opened in March, was in essence a long, narrow corridor with two dividing structural arches that support the building itself.
From this 250 square-meter (2,690 sq.ft.) space the designers created a golden wire tunnel where the main materials are concrete, brass and polished aluminum.
Inspired by various works of Olafur Eliasson,the team created a glowing, floating lighting program that helps expand the space visually and draws the attention to reflections and illumination, away from the narrow framework of the room.
Andy Warhol’s Factory inspired some of the ideas for the smaller VIP room, and Anish Kapoor’s ideas gave suggestions for the beautifully textured concrete ceiling – our favourite part of the entire project.
Apart from the Tom Dixon lighting fixture above the concrete bar counter, all furnishings and fixtures were design by José Carlos Cruz Arquitecto. - Tuija Seipell.
Photos by Fernando Guerra FG+SG.
Not only is this Bernardo Bader designed private home beautiful and elegant in its deceptive simplicity, it is also a great example of how to use resources to their fullest. Haus am Moor is a private residence with an attached studio, located in Krumbach area of Lower Austria.
For some of us, the exterior of the house brings back images of Scandinavian barns in their hulking, windowless, untreated beauty that weathers perfectly in the harsh climate till the barns appear to be part of the landscape.
Bader took some of his cues from the traditional stone-and-wood –structured Bregenzerwald house that also speak a minimalist visual language and use local materials beautifully.
For Haus am Moor Bader and his team used a concrete core and wood from the owner’s own forest. Every part of the the 60 spruce, fir and elm trees was used to construct walls, floors, ceilings, doors and furniture. During the construction, the building team unearthed clay in the depth of one meter. This clay was pressed to form bricks that were air dried on-site and used for the floor structure under the wood slats.
The house is heated with the central wood-burning hearth, and with geothermal heat pump.
Of course, we love the overall minimalist approach evident throughout the house both inside and out. But what we love specifically is the way daylight plays among the wooden slats, and the way the lit windows glow at night. Beautiful. Tuija Seipell
Tropea, Calabria, Southern Italy.
The garden of Saiho Ji in Kyoto, Japan.
Atlantic Ocean Rd, Norway
The Dunes of Lencois, Brazil
Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California
La Grotta Cove, Corfu Island, Greece
Vintgar Gorge, Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Qikeng Don in Wulong, China
Valloires Abbey Garden, France
Blanket Bay Lodge, New Zealand
Tulip Fields, Amsterdam
View the previous listings on our Amazing Places page here
We love the global cool design sensibility of Casamidy products. It is firm that combines that design sensibility with a deep respect for traditional craftsmanship. All products are designed by the founders, husband-and-wife team Anne-Marie Midy and Jorge Almada, and manufactured by more than 40 artisans, artists and craftspeople in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico.
The materials – iron, leather, tin, blown glass, wood – are turned into timeless and distinctive furniture and furnishings- seating, tables, shelving, lighting, headboards, mirrors and other accessories. The team has created customized pieces for numerous interior design firms in Europe and the U.S.
Midy is a French born graphic designer who worked for Martha Stewart Living. She met the Mexican-born Almada when both were studying design in the U.S. They moved to San Miguel De Allende and established Casamidy in 1998. They currently reside in Brussels where they also have a showroom for Casamidy with weekly deliveries to London and Paris. - Tuija Seipell.
High Tea at fancy hotels has long been a favourite of not just the Royals and the ladies who lunch, but even tourists glamming it up and gladly handing out their credit cards for a bit of high-brow fabulousness.
Wine Tastings and High Coffee came next, served and imbibed in various degrees of decadence and glamour.
But the stakes are getting higher and the temptations harder to resist. The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong is now serving a L900 Jimmy Choo package but only till early May. It includes afternoon tea for two at the MO Bar where the expected fare is served: cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, the Mandarin's famous ginger scones and clotted cream, and macaroons in a multitude of flavours, but it is all meticulously handcrafted in exquisite shoe and handbag shapes. Jimmy Choo, of course. And after the tea, you can check into the Mandarin 9200 square-foot L900 Suite for a night and select a pair from Jimmy Choo's new 24:7 capsule collection. Price tag for the splurge? Approximately $1,500 US. - Tuija Seipell
Not your typical weekend cottage, LM Guest House in Dutchess County, New York, is a study in minimalist elegance. The 2,000 square-foot (approx. 187 Square meter) house was designed by New York-based Desai/Chia Architects on the private client’s working farm that had no existing buildings.
What must have been a rather sizeable budget gave Desai/Chia Architects’ founders, husband and wife Arjun Desai and Katherine Chia, an opportunity to create an updated interpretation of the iconic Farnsworth House, that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1951 in Illinois.
Although Farnsworth House was considered by some at the time to be cold and characterless, an aquarium or a pavilion rather than a dwelling, it has held its place steadily as a superior example of understated sophistication and as a timeless expression of van der Rohe’s desire to create balance and discourse between the indoors and the outdoors.
Similarly, the LM Guest House allows the residents an expansive view of the landscape by framing it with the triple-pane glass windows that are 20 feet wide and more than 10 feet high.
And although the LM Guest House is deceptively simple in appearance, it is a marvel of engineering and sustainable features. Geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floors, natural ventilation, motorized solar shades, photovoltaic panels and rainwater harvesting for irrigation, are just some of the examples of how this modern retreat attempts to fit in with the surrounding nature rather than conquer or harm it.
The property’s landscaping follows the same philosophy. Native plants frame the views and provide privacy while also managing storm water run-off. The bluestone slabs excavated from the site are used in the outdoor seating, pathways and terrace. Indoors, in addition to glass, the main materials include American white oak that is used for sliding panels, floors, ceilings and built-in furniture. - Tuija Seipell