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Vintage style in the heart of Colombo
In 1987, when Shanth Fernando – already a known quantity in international style circles for his elegant marriages of Dutch-Colonial design and contemporary Sri Lankan craftsmanship – opened his first retail outlet on Colombo’s Flower Road, it took months for locals to come in and buy. Now, 35 years later, the housewares and accessories emporium Paradise Road (long since transposed to a grand old colonial building on Dharmapala Mawatha) is an institution. The warren of rooms across its two floors constitutes the best kind of treasure hunt, piled high as they are with porcelain and pottery, table linens and candlesticks, lanterns and vases and picture frames. There are notebooks bound in batik and silk dupioni, and cotton sarongs in all tones and patterns (for a more extensive – and super-chic – fashion and resort edit, hit PR, opened by Fernando’s daughter Annika, who has designed much of what’s on offer, in 2013).
STAY: The Fernando experience extends to Paradise Road Tintagel, a 10-suite heritage residence-turned-luxe hotel. Each space is unique and curated with art, antiques, and textiles. It sits right up there with Blakes, Amsterdam’s Seven One Seven and the Hotel Montefiore in Tel Aviv on our list of true originals. From about £140, paradiseroadhotels.com
Souk it up in Sydney
Jewellery and fashion designer Lucy Folk and interior designer Tamsin Johnson have been friends for years. Though they both originally hail from Melbourne, collectively they’ve defined a style that is quintessential Sydney – refined but unstudied, wide-ranging in their chosen influences, invariably in dialogue with natural-world shapes, textures and tones. It makes sense, then, that Folk’s new Sydney flagship, which opened in November, should be not just designed by Johnson, but cosied right up next to Johnson’s store on William Street, which in recent years has supplanted Glenmore Road as the primary lifestyle artery in Paddington. If you’re a fan of Folk’s Greek-inspired towelling dresses and kaftans, or her collaborations with the likes of Luke Edward Hall and leather worker Corto Moltedo, it’ll be a – ahem – gold mine for you. Johnson has lined the shop’s ceilings in Tuareg mats, clad walls in soft buttery render, and hand-worked wood cabinetry with heavy texture, creating a sort of shophouse-souk feel that’s entirely in keeping with Folk’s aesthetic. Upstairs is a bespoke jewellery-design studio and there’s also a medina-esque courtyard for tea or lounging, with its own Folk-curated library. If you like the ceramic light fixtures or the early 20th-century French chairs, there are more like them in Johnson’s place next door.
STAY: We’ve long thought the Hotel Ravesis had the potential to be one of the most sweetly stylish little places in town; with rooms newly renovated in ice cream shades and scads of rattan and block-printed textiles, it now is. From about £190, hotelravesis.com
Art and design in the Marrakech medina
It’s difficult to tap a single address in Marrakech as the one that merits the travel for the visit (it’s certainly bold to try). But in a place that’s evolved so much over the last two decades, one relative newcomer to the scene has struck a perfect balance of salon, atelier, art gallery and reposeful duck-in from the happy pandemonium of the medina. Philomena Schurer Merckoll, owner of seven-room Riad Mena, opened The Pink Door in a three-room space adjacent to the riad in late 2019. The idea was both to cultivate local talents to create exclusive designs and works of art, and invite others from further afield to interpret their impressions of Morocco through ceramics, fashion, photography and more (Schurer Merckoll was one of the very first to showcase the embroidered khayamiya tapestries of the brilliant French artist Louis Barthélemy). You can sit by the fountain and sip champagne while you admire the edit of vintage and new art monographs (most of those are quietly for sale too).
STAY: Right next door – the two-storey riad has a mint location in the medina’s Derb J’Did quarter, a wide lush courtyard, a rooftop lounge, and some of the chicest rooms in town. From €150, riadmenaandbeyond.com
Knitwear worth yakking about
Yak khullu. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If not, it should be on your radar – this ultra-fine wool from yaks, those long-lost cousins of bison and buffalo, is as soft as the softest cashmere, but far warmer – and 100 per cent sustainable and animal cruelty-free. For more than a decade, Kim and Dechen Yeshi have made the fair-trade purchase and production of khullu their mission in Ritoma, a remote village on the northeast Tibetan plateau. It’s where they established the Norlha Atelier, which now produces arguably the only prestige yak cashmere in the world. The end product is sold to, among others in the luxury-world pantheon, Louis Vuitton and Hermès; the enterprise employs more than 100 local artisans, most of them women.
Two years ago they opened a retail boutique in Lhasa, showcasing their own designs – not just the shawls and scarves that first brought them international attention, but also mens-, womens- and kids wear designs that play as well on Marylebone High Street as they do on the high tundra. The shop sits on the Barkhor, in Old Lhasa; circling the city’s famed main temple, Tsuklhakhang, it’s traditionally where traders and pilgrims from points near and far convened to barter goods. With low ornately beamed ceilings and walls alternating pine plank and deep oxblood paint, the shop is spare and cosy, and puts the extraordinary Norlha goods, and story, at the centre of the show. norlha.com
STAY: The Songtsam collection of hotels in Tibet offers a small, thoughtful alternative to the big names. With a hillside view of Potala Palace, Songtsam Lhasa Linka’s 45 rooms are a beautiful, colourful articulation of local artisan traditions, from woodwork to textiles (and come equipped with oxygen concentrators, to relieve acute mountain sickness). From about £115, songtsam.com