Hommemaker Guide to Nice, France

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Dear Travel Diary,

It’s kind of impossible to talk about my beautiful trip to Nice without talking about the mass murders on Bastille Day.

Edouard and I went to Nice only a few weeks after the tragic/disgusting/outraging attack on July 14th that killed eighty-six people. We went back and forth as to whether we should go to a place that so recently suffered such an overwhelming tragedy. Was it safe? Was it appropriate? But we ended up erring on the side of not allowing murderers to determine where we go and what we see. Edouard is from Paris, and I get the sense that, with the overwhelming number of attacks the have occurred in Europe in the past few years, nowhere there truly feels safe anymore. His hometown has changed.

We flew into Nice at night, on one of the most incredible flights I’ve ever been on. Nice is in the South of France, proximal to Cannes, Antibes, and the world’s most glamorous beach designation, Saint-Tropez. So as we descended, there were fireworks above Cannes, scattered ferris wheels and small seaside carnivals illuminated by blinking lights, and the cities’ reflections in the water. To be honest, I’m not a big traveler for two reasons. I’ve always preferred going to places where someone I know has a personal connection (where they grew up, where they used to visit grandma, etc). And in my twenties I could barely afford my rent, let alone to travel anywhere, so it was never a priority. So ending up traveling to one of the most luxurious coastal destinations on earth was never a goal of mine and never something I thought I’d do. Because of this, our trip felt like such a privilege and a treat. So in sharing it with you I’m not trying to be like “hey look what I did” but rather “these were some beautiful things I was lucky enough to encounter, and I’d like to share them with you.” Talking about travel can be fraught with classism and oneupsmanship so I’d like this to be more a discussion about the beautiful things I saw, less a “these are the see-and-be-seen-places to go” type thing.

Of the destinations in the South of France we visited, Nice was the most economical. So if you’re interested in visiting the Côte d’Azur, Nice is a good place to start because it’s far more approachable than Saint-Tropez or Cannes (Our flights were around $1000 and the hotel we stayed at in Nice was about $200 a night). We were in Nice in mid-August, which is the height of Europe’s tourist season, so it was actually quite crowded while we where there, even though locals told us the tourism was down about 30% (I can’t imagine how crowded it normally is if what we saw was the less crowded version).

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We stayed at the Hotel Suisse, which was by no means fancy and has the world’s tiniest elevator, but was absolutely lovely due to its proximity to the water. This was the view from our room’s window:

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Nice used to be part of Italy, so the city feels a bit un-French. We got in around eleven PM and the only thing we could find to eat was pizza. The world’s most delicious pizza. But seriously everywhere that was open only had pizza. It was at this moment that I knew I was destined to become enormous on this trip. European vacations are great for a lot of things. But mostly good for becoming the fattest person on earth. The food is delicious. AND LITERALLY NONE OF IT IS HEALTHY. I’m from California, the land of fresh salads, lean meats, and fresh squeezed juices. My body is used to those things, so it’s initial response to delicious, rich French/Italian food is to become obese immediately. It’s literally that scene from “The Little Mermaid” where Fake Ariel is marrying Eric and then she explodes and becomes Ursula and everyone is terrified.

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My favorite design discovery in Nice was the lovely shade of blush pink on so many buildings. It’s such a warm, beautiful color and perfect for a city on the coast, contrasting the incredibly vibrant color of the ocean waters.

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If you’re on the hunt for that lovely blush pink, the Plaza Masséna is a great place to start. The contrast of that soft pink with the beautiful, graphic black-and-white tiles makes for a totally sophisticated public square.

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But that’s not the only pink you’ll find in Nice. I love pink, so I had my eye out for it. But it felt like every block had a gorgeous pink building on it.

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The giant historic outdoor marketplace Cours Saleya was right next to our hotel and filled with delicious cafes (and, obviously, tons of pizza). They have an antiques/flea market here every Monday. We definitely ogled all the goods but I didn’t buy anything because I wasn’t sure how I’d get everything home (I tend to be too lazy to take things to the post office and mail them home so usually I’m just lugging huge bags with me through airports and hating myself for buying all that pottery).

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We went to Nice before we ventured to Saint-Tropez and Menorca (two very beach-centric places) so we decided to forgo the beach in there. However, there are a ton of very wonderful beach clubs all over the coast where you can rent a lounge chair for around $15. Europe seems to have the beach figured out better than the U.S. You can rent towels, order drinks, buy food pretty much everywhere. You don’t have to rent a chair if you don’t want to, but the option is there if you don’t feel like lugging your junk around with you all day (or you’re a tourist and you don’t have a chair). Also, they have way better umbrellas than we do. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? WHY CAN’T WE HAVE CUTE UMBRELLAS AND DRINK SERVICE ON THE BEACH???

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The water in the Côte d’Azur is the most insane color of aquamarine (which, duh, is where it gets it’s name). The water looked so delicious I wanted to drink it.

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Despite the recent horrors, Nice feels incredibly safe to walk around in at night. The city is one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been. Edouard and I took a walk up the (giant) hill behind our hotel to Parc de la Colline du Château, which was buzzing with people and had some of the most incredible views I’d ever seen. It’s maybe not the best place for a walk in the middle of the night, but at dusk it’s totally doable and not scary.nice_edit_7

One of the problems with our trip to Europe this year is that everywhere we went we were like “I definitely need to come back here.” So basically the more we travel the more we want to go back to everywhere we already went because we love it so much. Nice is very much a place I’d like to see again. I think if I returned I’d go in the early autumn or spring to avoid the (what I thought of as) hoards of people. There are some European holidays around the 15th of August, so we were visiting during the literal height of tourist season. So if you’re not a crowd person (i.e. you’re an old grandpa like me who hate yelling in restaurants), I’d avoid that time of year. Flights to Europe can range dramatically depending on time of year and how far you book in advance, so if you’re looking to do a South of France vacay on the cheap, I’d just keep checking sites like Kayak until a cheap flight comes available (that’s what we did). There are places to stay there that aren’t crazy expensive and since there are so many delicious casual dining opportunities there, you can get by not spending a ton on food. I’m not trying to pretend like traveling to Europe is doable for everyone, I know it’s a huge luxury, but I was a bit surprised at how accessible it was (I expected everything to cost a million dollars so was pleasantly surprised).

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Also, yes there has been a lot of terrorism in France over the past few years. I don’t wanna be all “If you don’t vacation the terrorists win.” But kinda yeah, if you don’t travel, the terrorists have impeded you from having a beautiful experience. An airplane could fall from the sky and kill you this very moment. Life is terrifying. You kinda just gotta do your thing and hope for the best.

The loss of those eighty-six people was definitely on my mind as Edouard and I wandered around Nice. I guess it felt a bit weird to be on vacation in a place where so many people had lost their lives. But being there was also affirmative. These people lost their lives at a festival in one of the most beautiful places on earth, while doing celebrating and being joyful. Appreciating a place these people knew and loved felt like a small way of honoring them and affirming that their lives matter. Knowing and loving something they knew and loved.

OH MY GOD I TOTALLY JUST LET THE TERRORISTS WIN BY JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR SO LONG RIGHT NOW. Sorry.

So, yeah. This is kind of a weird travel guide. It feels weird to write it because I want to be respectful of those lost and mourn their lives. But I also want to encourage you to visit this incredible place and support the community that has already experienced so much loss.

Love,
Orlando

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Resources: (1) Benjamin Moore Love & Happiness, (2) Benjamin Moore Water Drops, (3) Turkish Bath Towel, (4) Shaun’s Tortoise Sunglasses, (5) Mar y Sol Tote, (6) Saint James Boat Neck, (7) Soludos, (8) Ghurka Bag, (9) Brass Lantern, (10) Henri Matisse, (11) Greek Key Umbrella, (12) Chaise Lounge Chair, (13) Charles Dudouyt Credenza

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In The Studio: Goula Figuera

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Dear Design Diary,

I’m not exactly sure how I came across the sublime work of Goula/Figuera. Maybe it was Instagram. Maybe it was somewhere online. But I remember immediately losing my mind over it. The Barcelona-based team of Álvaro Goula and Pablo Figuera are doing something that I think is unprecendented and unparalleled in today’s world of lighting. They’re making works of art that have a functional illuminating purpose. Their pieces are playful and sophisticated at once and it’s impossible for me to look at them without thinking of one of my favorite artists, Joan Miró. Their work isn’t derivative, it has a sensibility and physicality that has very much to do with contemporary life, but it’s undeniable that modern art had a huge influence on the distinctive geometry and color of these gorgeous lamps.n

I took my first trip to Barcelona in August (I’ll be doing a little write up about it in the coming weeks). The second I booked my flight, I knew I wanted to meet the creative geniuses behind Goula/Figuera. So, like the creepy weirdo I am, I reached out via Instagram direct messaging and got a response. Then I basically invited myself to their studio to check out their work in person and ask them about their process. Unfortunately Pablo Figuera was out of town, but Álvaro Goula showed me around and chatted with me about their process. It was the most exciting day in all of our lives.

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Each Goula/Figuera sculpture is handmade by craftsmen in Barcelona. The intersecting lines are hand-welded onto the pre-made hoops and then the whole thing is sanded and powder coated. The result is something that looks like an exquisite doodle come to life.

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I love nothing more than looking into artists’ sketchbooks to see what ideas lead to their final product. Álvaro was kind enough to let me peep around their studio like a nosy mom who smelled marijuana in her teenage son’s bedroom. COME ON MOM ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT!

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I’d buy each and every one of these concept sketches as a lamp. And then I’d take one of the lamps to the Academy Awards as my date when I win best actor and everyone on the red carpet will be all “Lamp! Lamp! Who are you wearing!”

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Goula/Figuera’s studio was under construction while we were there. They’ve just moved from a more warehousey part of Barcelona to a fancy district that is quiet where they were able to find a beautiful studio space for cheaper than in the more artist-dense area (I guess it’s getting too trendy or something).

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In addition to beautiful/magical/enthralling lighting, Goula/Figuera also design furniture. I loved leafing through their sketchbook, admiring their concepts for chairs, benches, and other furnishings.

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I had never been to Barcelona before and was in love with the adventurous spirit of design there. Unlike other older European cities like Paris, the architecture isn’t uniform and conformist. The buildings are all different and distinct, covered in architectural flourishes, pattern, and bizarre geometry. The innovation behind Goula/Figuera’s work seems directly linked to the city’s history of non-conformist creativity. This is, after all, the city where Gaudí got famous.

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These light sculptures can be hung individually or grouped together. I’m sourcing some for a client right now and we’re using a couple because we want to cover more horizontal space but they also look great by themselves in more contained spaces.

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You might be wondering where the bulbs are, but these are actually LED and the bulb is hidden within the black canopy at the bottom.

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Álvaro Goula, one half of Goula/Figuera.

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More sketches and inspiration. Every little scratch in this sketchbook reflected the strong perspective that comes through in the lighting. If I lived in a cartoon world, I’d definitely have Goula/Figuera draw all my furniture, accessories, and lighting.

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More of Goula/Figuera’s incredible work can be seen on their website and is available for purchase in their shop. To follow them obsessively on Instagram, click here. Bye now!

Love,
Orlando

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A Dining Room Makeover for Gray Malin

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Dear Lovers of Gorgeous Colorful Photography (i.e. Gray Malin’s gorgeous work),

I met Gray Malin a few years ago when we worked on his living room and outdoor space. He and his husband Jeff were a joy to work with, so I was excited when they called me up to re-imagine their dining room, which they’d never been stoked about. Previously, it was filled with furniture they had from their previous homes. As is often the case when adjusting old furnishings to a new space, the pieces in the room didn’t feel quite cohesive. The size, finish, and style of their furniture didn’t match with the traditional East Coast design of the rest of the house.

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Studio Tour: The Ethereal Paintings of Beth Winterburn

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Dear People With Naked Walls,

I was wandering around a big box store yesterday, eyeing all the new stuff they have, really enjoying myself, when I came across something that irked me a little bit. Giant, gross photographic prints stretched onto canvases and sold as filler art. You see this type of filler art everywhere, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. There are definitely great online resources for beautiful reproductions by real artists (Minted Art is one of my favorites). But there’s also a lot of junk out there. So when I saw these nasty fake art reproductions yesterday all I could think to myself was “JUST GO OUT AND MEET AN ARTIST AND ASK THEM TO MAKE YOU SOMETHING INSTEAD OF BUYING THIS GARBAGEART.”

But it’s not always easy to meet artists. They’re aloof, they’re all off sitting somewhere wearing berets, smoking cigarettes, pondering their destinies. So I’m going to make a point to introduce you to as many artists as I can. Today, we’re waddling around in the Memphis, Tennessee studio of Beth Winterburn, who creates beautiful atmospheric paintings that’ll send you into a dream state. So put down that full-sized whole chicken you’re eating and follow me as we ogle some artwork.

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The Modern Furniture I Need for Fall

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Dear The End of Summer,

Even though it hasn’t rained in LA since 2007, it’s been cloudy and romantic here all week. Most people would find this depressing. For me, it’s the greatest blessing I could ever hope for. Since I live in a land that hasn’t had weather in years, where it feels like we’ve been living on the edge of apocalypse as long as I can remember, I love anything even remotely resembling atmospheric drama. What’s so great about cold, rainy weather, you ask? Well mostly I like it because it forces you to stay indoors. And what’s so great about staying inside? YOU GET TO STARE AT FURNITURE ALL DAY.

Speaking of staring at furniture, I’ve been having a moment with modern furnishings lately. AND BEFORE ANYONE STARTS YELLING AT ME THAT I’M CONFUSING ‘MODERN’ WITH ‘CONTEMPORARY’ LET ME EXPLAIN MYSELF. So yes, “modern” technically means furniture designed in the first half of the twentieth century. And “contemporary” means what is being designed right now. But when I think of contemporary it makes me want to barf. I think it probably has something to do with coming into consciousness in the 90s, when contemporary design was at its worst (think big fluffy chairs and beige walls). So sometimes when I am describing a contemporary piece I’ll call it modern. You might consider this using language wrong. I consider this using language in a way that prevents me from creating a barf river that would end the California drought.

I can’t believe we’re STILL talking about this. The whole reason I brought all of you together today is to chat about a new site/resource/shopping situation I happened upon recently called Tictail. It’s a super fun app/site that allows you to follow makers and designers and create your own profile (you can see mine here). They have clothes, accessories, art, and homewares (today is all about furniture). It’s kind of like Pinterest, kind of a like a fun registry of things you can buy for yourself or guilt other people into buying for you. And they have a huge selection of modern (contemporary) furniture. The following are a selection of some pieces that made me want to claw my eyeballs out (in a good way).

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Orlando’s Obsessions: Grand Dining Tables

Photo by Ana Kamin courtesy Homepolish

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Dear Dinner Partiers,

Dinner at home with friends is one of my very favorite things on earth. I just love the intimacy, the laughter, and not having to compete to get a table in an excruciatingly loud restaurant where I can’t hear anything and spend the whole dinner just nodding and smiling so it looks like I know what is going on. For this reason, the first place I look in a home tour is the dining room. I just love an inviting dining room with a big table that seats at least 8. Because I’ve decided 8 is the perfect number.

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This Week At Homepolish

Photography Courtesy Homepolish

https://www.homepolish.com/mag/a-young-couples-industrial-brooklyn-home

Dear Homepolishers,

Each week (for the most part, unless I’m traveling, which has been a lot lately I’M SORRY OK?) I sift through the amazing projects Homepolish completes in cities across the U.S. and highlight some of my favorites. This week’s pics are filled with gems, from beautiful cozy Hollywood homes to exciting New York start up offices. So follow along with me as I show you what’s up at Homepolish!

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Epic Everyday: Dinner and Movie at Home

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Dear Urban Apartment Dwellers,

Having people over for dinner is one of my favorite things on earth. I’m becoming a crochety old man you can’t take anywhere. Every new restaurant I try out seems to be louder and more sceney than the last. Also, if I go to one more tapas or shared plate restaurant I’m going to scream. If I wanted to serve things myself or try to split one meatball seven ways I would just do that at home. Thank you.

As you may have seen on my Instagram, I’ve teamed up with American Express to share ideas on how you can take the normal stuff you do regularly and make it more fun and exciting, adding a bit more epic to your everyday. So for this post, I thought to myself, “How could I make a dinner party even more fun?”

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A Midsummer Night’s Color Scheme

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Dear Summer,

I always kind of think of summer as June, July, and August, but over my years in LA I’ve come to understand that summer starts in May and ends in October. For this reason, I’ve realized there’s still time to up my outdoor hosting game before the season ends. IT’S NOT TOO LATE YOU GUYS! So I’ve decided to share some of my favorite summer hosting items with you.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

Three of my favorite trends of the year are blush pink, metallic finishes, and indigo blue. I know what you’re thinking, trends are stupid and lame and people who talk about trends are desperate and obnoxious, trying their hardest to cling to some sense that they have any understanding of what is going on in the world when really everything is just spinning out of control. HOWEVER, when scrolling through summer wares from my favorite retailers, it was impossible not to notice these three themes coming from every retailer. Metallics have been in forever, and they’re not going away. For this reason I think it’s not a bad idea to invest in that set of brass-finish cutlery you’ve been eyeing, or to install copper pulls in your kitchen. Indigo blue is big, partially because everyone finally woke up to the fact that shibori is awesome. And blush pink is hot, because why not? Pink is just an overall enthralling, warm color that should be splashed all over everything.

So come on in and let’s chat about the hosting items I’m coveting this summer.

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One Painting, Three Ways with Saatchi Art

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