Traveling gives such creative inspiration but also a lovely opportunity to explore a different culture. Of course, there is the added bonus — we tend to learn more about ourselves as we venture new grounds — there are spiritual discoveries, emotional breakthroughs, I could go on and on but if you travel you must know what I mean…
One small but interesting fact that I learned about myself in both Marrakesh and Istanbul is the kind of shop environment that I enjoy the most. I found shops of all shapes, styles and sizes — kiosks, carts on the street, ladies with handmade goods displayed on blankets in the park, men selling bread that they carried on their heads, souks, bazaars, flea markets, you name it I shopped it. But what I found fascinating was that in each country I was easily lured in by the shops (and flea market tables) that had a more western sense of merchandising – where displays were carefully thought out, merchandise curated, and the selection being moderate — not too much of a single item but more of a mix of things to discover as I shopped. When products were shown in ways that got my creative juices flowing, I had no problem buying them. In stores where I found thousands of the same item, or things just tossed randomly in baskets or pinned to walls, or stores with aggressive sellers, I shopped very little and found them to be a bit depressing and ho hum.
I also found the more western sales style much more inviting than having to barter when it comes to pricing. I prefer items with tags on them, so I know where I stand, and I like to be told a little about a product but then left on my own. That way, I could see an item and have the mental space (and quiet) to imagine this or that piece in my home, where, how I would use it, etc.
When bartering is involved well that is also fine to a point but if I say, “No, thank you” I really don’t want the reply to be, “But lady look at this, I can give you a better price” followed by more and more of the same… I also don’t like to have a seller tugging on my arm, and I don’t like shop owners chasing me after I leave their shop trying to offer me the same goods at half the price. That is one thing that I found very annoying when I shopped the souks in Marrakesh, after the first day the excitement of bartering really became stressful and draining because most of the souk sellers are in your face the minute you enter the medina and you have little to no physical or mental space as you shop — it’s just one after another coming up to you trying to lure you into their shop and some even pull you in — grab you — and this was not enjoyable after the “new” wore off.
I found Istanbul a much more delightful place to shop because the Grand Bazaar wasn’t nearly as intense as the souks in Morocco when it came to the sales approach, also more stores had a fixed price. Some of the bazaar shop owners were also be a bit intense (mostly the young guys), but they seemed to know when to back off and let you have your fun, go your way, etc. And I loved how hospitable they were — always offering us tea and if we purchased something, closing the deal with tea and conversation. I could really think when I shopped in Istanbul — I could take time to imagine, create and design things in my head as I walked around and browsed each shop in the Grand Bazaar and in the Spice Market — this made the trip very special to me. Istanbul is more expensive compared to Morocco though, so I guess you have to decide what matters most to you, price or peace! :) Though I’m first to admit, if invited back to Morocco I’d go in a heartbeat because I loved it there, too. :)
In addition to the 4,000 + shops in the Grand Bazaar, you also have many small privately-owned shops peppered around in the same neighborhood. One such shop, shown in the photos above and below, is Tulu located in the old part of the city called Sultanahment. Tulu is owned by American textile dealer, Elizabeth Hewitt, and has three floors of gorgeous items for the home as well as fashion accessories that I highly recommend. I left with only a few things, though my husband purchased a beautiful rug from Tulu for his office. We both will go back to Tulu when we visit Istanbul in the future.
I first discovered Tulu online in October 2009 and blogged about it here (thanks to Raina’s tip), so I’ve been wanting to visit for a year now and so walking in and seeing it was quite exciting for me and certainly did not disappoint. The selection ranged from Turkish finds to gorgeous Indian textiles and the shop was loaded with pattern and color — I have to vote Tulu as one of my top five favorite stores in Istanbul and a definite must-see if you ever travel there. You can find bags, bracelets, fabrics by the meter, rugs (mostly vintage), pillows, tin heart mirrors, hand-painted boxes, ceramics, plates, journals, so many beautiful things that your eyes won’t know where to look first. And their staff is so helpful and lovely — and no pressure — they offer help and then let you alone to wander and imagine. I love that.
And good news for you if you’re not traveling to Istanbul anytime soon… You can buy Tulu goods at select stores in the US, like Layla in Brooklyn (another favorite shop of mine) and Nest in San Francisco.
A special thank you to Azmi for being such a great help in this shop!
I hope you enjoyed my photos — I took them at night so forgive the exposure… I did my best! :)
(images: holly becker for decor8)
Australian textiles designer, Nicola Cerini, contacted me this morning to share her line of products and textiles and so I thought I’d share the link to her site and a quick peek of her gorgeous fabrics (and rugs). I put her fabrics together in an inspiring mosaic below, can’t you see how well so many of these prints and patterns could live together in a single room? I spot a few that would look great together, especially the pinks and blacks on a patio or guest bedroom. I also think the folk print with the orange and pink would be fantastic in a mid century style living room or even a kid’s room. Lovely!
Nicola Cerini Australia was established 15 years ago by textile designer Nicola Cerini. She is dedicated to Australian design and textiles and built her brand using high quality eco-friendly materials that reflect her natural surroundings — Australia’s flora and wildlife. She produces a range of rugs, fashion, handbags, accessories and designer homewares but also many prints are also available to purchase by the meter for a home decorating project so email them if you see anything above that you like!
P.S. I am obsessed with floor rugs lately! What are you obsessed with?
(images: nicola cerini)
For Virginia Johnson fans you will be happy to learn about her new line of colorful bedding. It’s been block-printed in India and is now available online to pre-order. Virginia has designed duvet covers, quilts, baby sets and much more. Here is a peek…
So lovely! Congratulations Virginia and much success on your new line!
(images: virginia johnson)
Soojin Yum is a Korean designer who lives in Seattle where she makes silk-screened pillow covers and totes under the name Soraam (Korean for “Please have a look with a smile”). That is such a sweet shop name, don’t you think? I like the white bow pillows and totes…
“Pillow covers are 18″x18″ and silk screened on pre-washed cotton and have a zipper closure along the bottom edge or some with an envelope closure. Tote bags are made of pre-washed black canvas with kona cotton lining.”
Soojjin wrote such a delightful email to me saying that decor8 has, “So many beautiful designs featured — it has been the biggest source for my inspiration. Now I started my own design business, I’m hoping my work can motivate someone to just start creating something. Starting out was the hardest part.” I thought that was really sincere and so true. Often just getting started, taking that first step, can be terrifying! But I believe that if you have passion, talent and courage that success will follow.
Congratulations Soojin on your exciting new business!