Let Us Be Inspired by Las Pircas


I am getting tired of most “designed” houses looking the same. They are beautiful, it is true: the white walls, the mid-century furniture, the fig tree (which I have in my house, too)… it is all part of the plan, but lately I have been craving something different (I read this same sentiment in this blog the other day).

I am starting to appreciate more and more when somebody adds their own signature to a space. Something that is personal and uncommon. Something unexpected that fosters the soul of a room. Sometimes these places are not what I would do in my own place, but I still admire the boldness and care. I like when people dare to be themselves, instead of what a magazine is telling them to be (though I still like those white rooms, people!)

When I was in Costa Rica, I visited such a place, the house of my friend’s aunt: Las Pircas. It was a sweet house; full of details and decorations that Toya, the owner, has been collecting throughout the years. Every corner had a detail of her own: stained glass (created by her), cement work, vintage findings, etc. I felt I was in a house that was fearlessly curated from her guts (and heart).

We stayed here on our last day in Costa Rica, and I had 45 minutes to take pictures of Las Pircas before heading to the airport. Here is what I saw, if you care to see:jestcafe.com-casa-de-toya40 jestcafe.com-casa-de-toya42jestcafe.com-casa-de-toya38 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya35 She loves El Quixote.jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya34 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya33 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya32 So many cool findings on every wall!jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya31 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya30 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya37jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya26The owner: Toya, created this stained glass. The girl is supposed to represent one of her daughters.jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya27 A triangle window… genius!jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya36 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya25 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya24 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya23 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya4 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya1jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya5Teal…jestcafe.com-casa-de-toya39Toya created this stained glass, too. jestcafe.com-casa-de-toya43jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya22jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya2The garden was big and full of statues and random artifacts. It was a magic place: you would never know where the next surprise could be. Also, each statue has a meaning and a reason to be there. jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya12jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya8The house was constructed on the grounds of an old church. Can you spot the crosses in the photo above?jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya3jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya11 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya14This fairy is so cute. Not more than 5 inches tall, but a lot of personality. jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya18 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya17 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya16 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya15 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya20 jestcafe.com-las pircas 13 This statue of the man with the square head is my favorite. Toya bought it for her husband after an argument, and it represents the lack of flexibility (and empathy) that men have when seeing the world and women. Did I mention Toya is a feminist? jestcafe.com-las pircas19jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya10 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya9 jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya7jestcafe.com-Casa-de-la-Toya21

Hope you liked this small tour, and I hope it inspires you to see decoration as an expression of YOUR soul, not the soul of others – this is a lesson I need to apply to my life, too.

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Design Inspiration From A Church In Costa Rica


We just came back from an amazing vacation in Costa Rica. I will write more about it next week, but today I want to share some pictures of a small treasure we found along the way.

One day we were driving from Carrillo beach to Punta Islitas beach in the Pacific Ocean when we got lost. We took a wrong turn and, luckily, stumbled into a gorgeous church in the middle of nowhere.

The purple and white exterior spoke to me right away, so we stopped to take some photos,. Little did I know that the real surprise was going to be inside. It was a small, rural, humble building with yellow, white and teal floors, and white walls with purple accents. It also had the most gorgeous wooden ceiling you have ever seen.

The building was full of light, which I loved, and it had almost no decorations… it was so simple and beautiful. One of those unknown gems that you find while staying outside of the tourist path. Here are some pictures:

jestcafe.com---Costa-Rican-church-11jestcafe.com---Costa-Rican-church-21 jestcafe.com---Costa-Rican-church-20 jestcafe.com---Costa-Rican-church-19 Look at the messy floor pattern and amazing colors:jestcafe.com---Costa-Rican-church-18What about this gorgeous wooden ceiling I mentioned earlier. I want it in my house, don’t you?
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I loved this church so much, that I went back to take more pictures another day. Simplicity is beautiful, and I was reminded of that on this vacation.

Have a wonderful day!

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A Photography Workshop With Joel Sartore


One of my 2016 goals is to learn more about photography and, hopefully, get better at it. Now that I am accountable to the millions of people that read this blog, I decided to attend a photography workshop in January and start the year on the right track.

On Saturday, I took a photography workshop with Joel Sartore at the LA Zoo. He is a national geographic photographer that is the author of, among other things, the Photo Ark, a photograph project is trying to help animals in extinction.

Goals: attend a photography workshop, done; join a book club, done (I will write more about this later); exercise at least one time this year, NOT DONE. I need encouragement, people! I can’t get it together. Can somebody create a day with 60 hours, please? 20 of which should be dedicated to reading a book or binge watching Netflix’s series like “Master of None,” which is HILARIOUS, in case you are wondering what to watch next.

Back to the real topic of this post: as you might imagine, photographing animals requires a lens with a good zoom. I don’t have a lens with a good zoom. The closest I have to a zoom is a lens that shoots 50mm, which is the same perspective that humans see through their eyeballs.  Bad news, right?

The good news is that at the beginning of the workshop we got to photograph animals that were really close to us, so I had no problem doing that (see below), but the animals that came afterwards were a different story.

With this challenge in mind, I realized that I needed to be creative about how to take my pictures, and, as I am a people person anyway, I decided to take pictures of the people taking pictures. I am SOcreative (and SO humble), am I not? Cuek.

Here are some of the results:

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The workshop was a delight. I enjoyed being surrounded by people that had my same interests. Conversations flowed easily and I learned a lot by looking at the work of others. Joel Sartore was very nice and approachable, and the whole experience was a great way of spending a Saturday afternoon. New 2016 goal: sign up for another photography workshop.

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Let Us Be Inspired By Ettore Sottsass

Because this is a design blog, among other things, let’s look at some pictures of Ettore Sottsass’ designs for inspiration, shall we?

Sottsass’ designs are easy to identify. His furniture designs, for example, are full of color, strange angles, and laminated plastic. His works are a trademark of the 1980s. In this decade, Sottsass was one of the founders and the leading figure of Memphis, the Milan design group famous for brightly colored postmodern furniture, lighting and ceramics. He wanted to bring joy and a sense of surprise to people through design and architecture. What I love the most about him is his use of colors. He thought every color has a history, and, with this in mind, he chose specific hues to give deeper meanings to his designs.

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Ettore Sottsass gave a lot of interviews during his lifetime. I found a couple of interviews he gave at the end of his life and career that I thought are especially interesting. I learned not only about his profession, but his view on life. I like listening/reading to what older people have to say about their successes, failures and evolution through life. There is so much to learn from wisdom, as I have said before. I found these interviews here and here. I chose some of the answers I liked the most to share with you. Hope you like them and his designs.

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describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.

I truly believe that our duty as an architect or a designer is to design things which attract luck, rooms which protect people…

I don’t design things in any style, even less so in any fashion style,

I design things for life states.



from ‘poltronova’ to ‘olivetti’ to ‘memphis’ to your latest works with sottass associati, can you give us an idea of the evolution of your philosophy?

at the beginning, when I was young, full of presumption, theoretical, very aggressive, I was very tied to turn of the century functionalism, to the idea of functional style. but gradually I left that behind, because I found a new source of inspiration. from then on I began to try to figure out what I could be in terms of this society, the people, the necessity which surrounded me. ‘memphis’ was a sort of exercise in design, so was ‘olivetti’. they asked me to set up the design of the electronics division. at that time, electronics meant big closets… it was impossible to understand. besides the functionality, which i am still interested in, there was this mystery of electronics. I wanted to show that electronics were mysterious, that is the relationship between design and functionality, a more extensive functionality… a description of a certain conception of existence. this relationship has been and still is central in my work.

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Is there any architect or designer from past you appreciate a lot?

le corbusier. the idea of functionalism with a mediterranean touch

(a swiss who discovers the mediterranean): the walls are slightly sensorial, you can touch them (you can intervene), they are not like gropius’ german ones where you can’t do anything with them. he put toilets in bedrooms, you could see them, he understood that functionality was not only ergonomics, not only rationality, but something which went beyond them. it was functional to be a human being and to live. and then there’s also aldo rossi, certainly one of the most interesting architects. have strange angled and bright colors in laminated plastic, striped, polka-dotted and leopard-skinne. Memphis was launched in a Milan gallery in September 1981, in a near riot of 2,000 people (amazing that furniture can arouse such passions). Its original pieces now sell in auction houses for prodigious sums.

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HUO: Let’s examine the importance of fluidity and circulation between separate disciplines.
ES: However you look at it, I feel the task of the designer or the architect is to design the artificial environment, from objects to architecture, spaces, and so on. Each design corresponds directly or indirectly to an idea one has of life, of society, of the relations between the individual and society. It corresponds to the form of the weltanschauung [or worldview]; it remains the basic cultural background. And this happens in whatever you do. Whether I design a vase or design architecture, there is always this background, this basic cultural background. The difference, then, is only technical. It’s clear that if I’m designing architecture, I need to know things that are not the same as what I have to know to design a glass vase, and to design a glass vase you need to know things that are not the same as what you need to take a photograph. But apart from these technical differences — which are certainly important because they have an effect on what I can design and condition — there still remains, deep down, what I think of life, why I do things, what I imagine happens when I design something. So I don’t see the point of any clear-cut distinction between disciplines.

Take the Renaissance. It was hardly an accident that the Renaissance was a period when many artists imagined, above all, a new kind of life. They imagined a new society, a new vision of the world, a new, say, interpretation of the potential of life. They didn’t make a major distinction between Brunelleschi’s dome and the design of, say, some other work of architecture. They tackled the technical differences that might influence the way they used these different vocabularies, but nothing more.

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HUO: It’s also interesting to see what’s happening in Asia. There are a lot of Westerners, planners, who tell the politicians, “You’ve got to prevent the kind of problems we already have from taking root here.”
ES: That’s inevitable. It would be like telling someone who lives by the sea not to go out in a boat, not to go fishing, or someone who falls in the water and can’t swim not to drown. True, there’s a life jacket, but that’s not the solution. That’s why we increasingly talk about humdrum, everyday things, about private peace and quiet.

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HUO: About a micro-utopia.
ES: Yes, I think so. Andrea Branzi sent me a text where he says that we can only work on the micro-situations. That’s why I think the Dalai Lama enjoys a certain success. [Laughs] It’s got nothing to do with it, really, but classical Buddhism, not the institutional kind, had this idea of working on our micro-existence, on micro-gestures, micro-events.

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Let Us Be Inspired By – David Hicks

I like to look at the work of old designers and discover the beauty of their details and point of view. David Hicks’ taste is probably over the top for some people today but his influence is everywhere. So much boldness in one room!

A couple of facts: David Hicks was one of the top interior designers of the 60’s and 70’s. He was known for his use of clashing colors, geometrical patterns, and the mix of old and new pieces. I will pay you $1,000 if you find a floral pattern in his work. He would choose a hue for a room and then choose wall color, rugs, and fabrics based on it. The results are bold and urban. There was nothing humble about Hicks.

In the first two pictures, you can see modern spaces using his classic honeycomb pattern and his classic vase wallpaper. Nowadays, you regularly find his honeycomb pattern influence in many rugs, fabrics, and wallpapers. Also, his own vase wallpaper can be found in many different colors, look at how it transforms the space below. The rest of the pictures show spaces that Hicks decorated himself.

Lesson learned, David Hicks!








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