Havelis – Old Merchant Mansions of Shekhawati


Can I share a secret? I have new obsession… On my last trip to India I discovered a world of beautiful crumbling mansions and faded frescoes. The only problem is they are hours away from the closest airport and a harrowing drive across the Rajasthan desert.


The grand havelis of Shekhawati were owned by the merchant princes of Rajasthan (who are now some of the most successful business families in India). Located in Jaipur state, Shekhawati mansions are found in the districts of Jhunjhunu, Chur and Sikar. Many of these buildings have been left abandoned to the harsh desert climate by familes who have migrated to the modern commercial hubs of India.


The word haveli comes from Iran, and means “enclosed space”. In Mughal India it was known as a home for the wealthy and powerful.


Built by the business-minded Marwari, these mansions are a testament to past business successes and remain beautiful examples of Indian artistry from the early 1800s to the beginning of the 20th century.


Haveli architecture exemplifies Rajput and Islamic building forms, as well as occasional European influences. The richly painted frescoes reflect both the religious and folk art of Rajasthan, combined with the colonial influence of “Company School” style painting.



As in most of India, havelis housed extended familes. Havelis often consist of two courtyards – a semi public meeting place for the men called a “mardana” and a private “zenana” for women (who stayed out of public view).


Havelis were built inward facing which functioned as both a mechanism of privacy as well as protection from the desert and invaders. The traditional Indian courtyard home is built on the principles of Vastu Shastra, which state that all spaces emerge from the center of the house. All activities revolve around the center, which has a divine power and energy associated with it. 



Ornate haveli doors were built to reflect the family’s status and wealth. Covered in wood carvings,hammered metal and elaborate murals, these grand entrances only suggested the splendors inside.



We had the opportunity to tour two beautiful restored havelis in the Shekhawati region. First stop was French artist Nadine Le Prince’s gorgeous old haveli in Fatehpur.


She has been lovingly restoring it over the past 15 years and has maintained it’s original artwork and features. A labor of love and definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area. For more info on tours and hotel reservations, go here.






Further down the road we stopped in Ramgarh, Shekhawati where we spent a wonderful night at Ramgarh Fresco. It is owned by Raghvendra & Priya Rathore, who are from a prominent Rajasthani family.




We were woken early by the sounds of traditional village life – cows mooing and the local Hindu temple bells clanging.



If you get a chance to visit Rajasthan, it’s well worth a trip off the tourist triangle to visit these elaborate desert mansions. One can only hope that some day this region will be recognized as a World Heritage Site and given the restoration and attention it deserves.


Peacock Pavilions: Marrakesh Global Design Oasis

IMG_4959If you’re a fan of global design, you’re probably familiar with My Marrakesh, the blog about Moroccan living by designer, hotelier and humanitarian Maryam Montague. She’s become quite the phenomenon over the last few years. Not only the writer of a drool worthy design blog set in North Africa, she’s the author of the recently published “Marrakesh by Design” – a guide to fabulous Moroccan design.IMG_4594

Oh, and there was the article in Elle Decor… So when my husband and I decided to travel to Morocco for our 10 year wedding anniversary, a stay at Peacock Pavilions was a must.


Designed by Montague and her architect husband Chris Redecke, Peacock Pavilions consists of a main house and two stand alone villas. We stayed for 3 nights and were lucky to have the Atlas Villa all to ourselves. IMG_4584

Peacock Pavilions is filled to the brim with Montague’s objets trouvés. Everywhere you look there are tassels, sequins, pottery, embroidery, feathers, carved wood, intricate tile work, and elaborate stencil designs. It is a veritable trove of Aladdin’s treasures. I was lucky enough to peak behind the doors, camera in hIMG_4984and…IMG_4567

Below is the gorgeous Golden Gazelles room we stayed in. J’adore the French poster and the luxurious stenciling behind the bed (based on a screen Maryam saw in a Christie’s catalog). Moroccan embroidered pillows and a vintage Kantha blanket make the bed pop while the African mud cloth fabric on the wood chairs are a nice contemporary accent. By keeping with the black and gold color theme, the different cultures and styles blend beautifully.

IMG_4533This is the view from the bed. What a marvelous fireplace! I could imagine cuddling up in this bed on a cold winter night. So romantic.IMG_4546This is the view from the rooftop patio above our bedroom. Throughout the day you can hear the call to prayer from the local mosque. Olive orchards surround the property and we enjoyed the delicious olive oil they produce from the trees each year.IMG_4745Here are some pictures from the main building. You enter Peacock Pavilions through these amazing rooms. I could spend hours looking at all the lovely and eclectic pieces (Egyptian driving glasses and Coptic crosses) in this collection.IMG_4578 IMG_4583 IMG_4586Maryam sells her treasures through the website Red Thread Souk. Here are some of the gorgeous Moroccan rugs on offer…IMG_4588If I had room in my suitcase I would have snapped a couple up. Morocco is frustrating in that way – too many beautiful pieces and not enough weight allowance in your luggage. But Maryam does ship internationally, so I may still buy one yet…IMG_4949And here are more lovely room shots…IMG_4974IMG_4596 IMG_4934IMG_4950 IMG_4963Drooling yet? Peacock Pavilions is all about the details. Inlaid antique door furniture, old Moroccan posters and French newspapers, jewelry hung as art… IMG_4975How about this tasseled saddle, old djellaba cape or hanging tasseled hoods? Have you noticed there are a lot of tassels at Peacock Pavilions?IMG_4923 IMG_4951Don’t you love the beautiful stenciled stairs and tile work on the floors of this kitchen?IMG_4970 IMG_4972The color and pattern mix at Peacock Pavilions is never overdone or too matchy-matchy which makes the decor feel fresh and not theatrical. The combined effect is totally inspiring. I came home and immediately started re-organizing my own travel collections. Isn’t that what travel does? Open your eyes to new possibilities?IMG_4572 IMG_4960 IMG_4967We hope you enjoyed our virtual Moroccan postcard and are inspired to new heights in global design chic. And if you get a chance, you really should visit…

Go to www.peacockpavilions.com


The Society Inc – Sibella Court’s Sydney Shop

IMG_6368In honor of Sibella Court’s new book “Gypsy: A World of Colors and Interiors” which came out on the 15th, I’m finally posting the pictures from my visit to The Society, Inc. – stylist and designer, Sibella Court’s adorable shop in the Paddington neighborhood of Sydney. IMG_6362Sibella is well known for her series of design books and her work with clothing retailer Anthropologie. She has an eclectic, global design aesthetic that’s followed closely by avid devotees such as myself.

IMG_6363 Sibella re-designs her shop about four times a year, with different themes, colors and collections. IMG_6371 An eclectic mix of accessories, home goods, hardwares and whimsical art pieces, Sibella’s magic is how she arranges objects in interesting and unusual ways. IMG_6375While in Sydney, I was super excited to get an autographed copy of “The Life of a Bowerbird: Creating Beautiful Interiors with the Things You Collect”. I was hoping to meet the author, but unfortunately she wasn’t in the shop that day.

IMG_6376 Sibella also designs a line of paints for Murobond, which she often features in the store’s themes.IMG_6379In her latest book “Gypsy” she travels to the Galápagos, Ecuador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Turkey, Scotland, and Romania—featuring local trends, architecture, color schemes and crafts.  IMG_6384If you happen to be in Sydney, enjoy a leisurely afternoon browsing the curiosities and collections Sibella’s collected from home and abroad. You won’t be able to resist buying a piece or two…

The Society Inc. 18 Stewart St Paddington 2021
Open Wed-Sat 11am-5pm
Telephone 02 9331 1592

Travel Diary: Doris Duke’s Islamic Art Inspired Shangri La Home

Doris Duke's pool at Shangri La.
Doris Duke’s pool at Shangri La.

It’s been a crazy couple months and I’ve been remiss in posting. So let’s do some catching up! At the end of August my husband and I spent a week in Oahu. I finally got a chance to visit Doris Duke’s mythical Shangri La home. A regular feature on design blogs like Style Court Doris Duke’s house seamlessly blends architectural traditions from India, Iran, Morocco and Syria as wells as 1930’s modernist architecture. And oh what a beauty it is!

When Duke died she left almost a billion dollars. Her will stipulated the funding of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art which owns and manages the site. Our tour guide was super informative and taught us a great deal about Turkish and Persian tile work, and pointed out recurring motifs in Islamic artwork.


The setting is stunning – right on the beach near Diamond Head overlooking Oahu’s rocky coastline on the Pacific Ocean. For over 60 years, Duke commissioned new pieces and continued to add to her artwork collection. A total of 3,500 art pieces are on display.

The only child of a tobacco magnet, Doris Duke inherited a great deal of wealth upon her father’s death when she was only 12 years old. Duke’s love of Islamic art began on her honeymoon in 1935 when she traveled to Egypt, India, Indonesia, China and Japan. The trip ended in Honolulu. The marriage didn’t last, but her passion for Islamic art was ignited.

Doris Duke and then-husband James Cromwell at Shangri La, 1935 (photograph by Martin Munkacsi)
Doris Duke and then-husband James Cromwell at Shangri La, 1935          (photograph by Martin Munkacsi)

Duke’s collection includes a wide variety of pieces including Persian and Turkish (from Iznik) luster pottery and tiles, Spanish lusterware, Syrian inlaid wood furniture, Syrian pierced brass lamps, and colored glass bottles from Iran. Interestingly enough, she left very little in the form of memoir regarding her collection choices but her commitment to Islamic art is evident in the mission statement of her foundation: “promote the study and understanding of Middle Eastern art and culture”.

The master bathroom at Shangri La. David Franzen 1999. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.) Damascus Room East wall of the Damascus Room. On display in the historic wall vitrine are examples of Syrian, European, Iranian and Turkish works of art from the DDFIA collection. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.) General view of the ceiling. The four hanging lamps were purchased with the room from Asfar & Sarkis. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's ceiling. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's ceiling. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.)   Historical Images of This Area The Damascus Room was originally built as a guest room, July 31, 1937. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Because of its Moorish-European—especially Spanish—furnishings, the guest room was sometimes referred to as the Spanish Room. July–August 1946. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Photograph taken in Damascus in c. August 1954 of Georges Asfar seated in the retrofitted interior purchased by Doris Duke in 1952-53. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Photograph taken in Damascus in c. August 1954 of the retrofitted interior. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The east (Koko Head) wall of the Damascus Room during Duke’s lifetime, no earlier than 1962. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Damascus Room, 1999. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 1999.)    Damascus Room, 1999. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 1999.)
Damascus Room – Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.     (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.)

During the tour we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so I’ve included some images I found online. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed into Duke’s Mughal Suite which was inspired by the Taj Mahal. Duke commissioned inlaid marble works from Agra, using the finest pure white Makrana marble. Her outdoor Mughal Garden is also an homage to the garden and water works in front of the Taj Mahal.

Mughal Garden at Shangri La.
Mughal Garden at Shangri La.

When you walk through Duke’s home and gardens you can’t help but appreciate her love of beauty and art. I highly recommend this book: “Doris Duke’s Shangri La A House in Paradise”. The tour has inspired my own further study into Islamic art motifs which I’ve seen on our trips to India and want to delve into further.

DorisDukeShangriLa_cover_FINALTours must be book in advance with the Honolulu Art Museum. For more info check out the website here. If you’re coming for vacation, book before your leave because the tours sell out quickly.

Marrakesh by Design – Moroccan Design Inspiration

I just received my copy of Maryam Montague’s Marrakesh by Design book in the mail, and I’m ready to sell everything and move to Morocco (especially since Portland is so drizzly right now). I’ve been a huge fan of Maryam’s blog: My Marrakesh for several years and it’s a thrill to read her gorgeous new book.

Peacock Pavilions (photo from website)

Ms. Montague is a human rights specialist who recently built a gorgeous boutique hotel – Peacock Pavilions – in Marrakesh, with her architect husband.  The book features her hotel as well as other inspiring Moroccan interiors.

Marayam Montague & Chris Redecke (Image by Elle Decor.)
Image: Holly Becker for decor8
Stenciled stairs. Image: Holly Becker for decor8

The book is broken down into three sections – Discovering/Living/Sourcing Moroccan design. It has several informative DIY guides on how to bring a Moroccan aesthetic into your home. There are great instructions on stenciling (floors and ceilings), as well as pointers on where to find the kinds of items that will add North African glamor to your home.

Image: Elle Decor
Image: Elle Decor

Montague does a great job of combining traditional Moroccan elements with modern design, and then tosses in eclectic pieces from her travels to mix things up. From Ikea pieces to gorgeous Moroccan wedding blankets, her design is fun, fresh, exotic and now! Get a copy of the book and prepare to be inspired.

Image: Holly Becker for decor8.
Image: Holly Becker for decor8
Image: Holly Becker for decor8
Photo: Lonny Magazine

Marrakesh by Design” by Maryam Montague, Artisan Books, $29.95 hardcover; 264 pages

Rock & Roll Pillows from Bangkok

Root Pillow - Granite

I was recently in Bangkok and found these cool pillows at the Chatuchak Market. Chatuchak Market is a sprawling indoor/outdoor market that sells everything from antique Buddhas to puppies.

Puppies for Sale
Wood Rings Pillow - Cream

There are a lot of really talented young Thai designers, and the Chatuchak Market is great place to find new styles.

Pebble Pillow - Rudy

Made from super soft recycled cotton (like from a well-worn sweatshirt), these pillows are great looking and feeling!  The pillows are filled with down inserts, and easily unzip.  Throw these pillows on chair or sofa to add a bit of rock and roll to your room.

To see all the pillow styles go here or Wanderloot.com.

Nomad by Sibella Court – A global design inspiration

“Who I am… I am a treasure hunter, beachcomber, and bowerbird.”
Sibella Court

Stylist Sibella Court’s upcoming publication of “Nomad” follows her previous books – “The Stylist’s Guide to NYC” and “Etcetera“. I first saw her on “Man Shops Globe” when Keith Johnson was in Australia sourcing product for Anthropologie. She has a studio/shop in Sydney called “The Society Inc.” which she totally transforms with the seasons.

"Japan" shot from "Nomad" via theinteriorsaddict.com

Sibella’s style is global, quirky, bohemian, and undeniably feminine. In her new book “Nomad” she demonstrates how her travels have inspired her eclectic interiors. The book is divided into sections by country – Italy, India, Syria and Mexico.

"Mexico" shot from "Nomad" via theinteriorsaddict.com

Here are some great take away tips:
-Play with/mix textures.
-Don’t be concerned about colors and patterns – make your own fort and display remnants and quilts picked up on your travels.
-Styling your home doesn’t have to be expensive-reuse, add, subtract, combine- to create new eye-catching combinations of stuff you already own.

The book is a great inspiration on how to incorporate found objects into a cohesive interior design theme. Available only from Anthropologie.com at the moment (US release Nov. 23rd.)

Check out Sibella’s trip to Japan here:

Japan – Nomad from Sibella Court – The Society inc. on Vimeo.

Global Style – Eames House, Pacific Palisades

I just picked up this wonderful new book: “Handcrafted Modern” by Leslie Williamson. Rarely has “old” looked so new in this book of mid-century modern interiors. In fact, the Eames house in Pasadena looks like it could be a chic new interior designed by Commune.

Also known as Case Study House No. 8, the “democratic mix of tribal and native art and textiles testifies to the Eameses’ omnivorous love of all design.” Williamson goes on to say “When I looked at the different patterns and colors of the numerous rugs, blankets and pillows, I could never have imagined that they would sit so harmoniously together.” Love that. Have no fear! Mix it up. If you like it, you can find a way to make it work in your home. I may be biased, but our kilim pillows would look great here too!

International Tile Style – Hoi An and Cartagena

Buddhist Temple - Hoi An, Vietnam

I was just going through some of my vacation pictures and recognized a recurring theme… I love taking pictures of mosaic tile! Our offices are near Ann Sack’s warehouse in Portland and I always fantasize about breaking in and wandering around. Tile is practical (especially in wet, humid climates) but it can also be beautiful.

Below are some pictures I took in Hoi An and Cartagena. How great are these patterns?  Maybe one day I’ll have some on the floor of my beach house in SE Asia. A girl can always dream…

Elegant marble checkerboard in a museum in Cartagena, Colombia.
Floor of a courtyard townhouse in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Interesting circle tiles in a cafe in Cartagena, Colombia.
Another old tile floor in a townhouse in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Graphic floor of a restaurant in Cartagena, Colombia. The coconut rice was great too!

Ethiopian Crosses in Feb/Mar Elle Decor

Ethiopian Crosses in Liza Bruce’s Home – Marrakech, Morocco
I just got my copy of Elle Decor and I’m drooling over Liza Bruce’s home in Marrakech. This is apparently one of several places the fashion designer and her husband, artist Nicholas Alvis Vega, have around the world. Check out the Ethiopian crosses (also called “Coptic” crosses) on the mantle. I thought the way they’re displayed as a pair, look great.

Their pleasure palace (Vega’s words) is filled with gorgeous tribal accents and a riot of beautiful colors – pink, purple and green walls. This is my dream home, but my husband would kill me. I get in trouble for picking up all kinds of strange, but beautiful pieces (my recent find – a Burmese tribal hat with boar tusks – caused a big fight). Oh well. A girl can dream…

If you’re interesting in bringing a bit this high-style nomad vibe into your home, check out the crosses we have for sale on Wanderloot.com.
Ethiopian "Gondor" Cross
Ethiopian "Lalibela" Cross
Ethiopian "Lalibela" Cross

To read about our trip to Ethiopia, go here.