September 29, 2013 in food styling
They grow in abundance in our garden in Croatia. There are several trees hanging with so many fruit that we eat them straight from the trees everyday, as soon as they become ripe. My children have fun looking for the oozing honey drop that says “I’m ripe, eat me quickly!” We always make the most of them while we’re there as they don’t travel home well, and they taste completely different to the supermarket ones here in London. So fresh, sweet and juicy.
A branch of them brought inside added a lush splash of colour in a corner of our holiday house. Placed on an old stool purchased in an antique market in Zadar and an old bucket used through the generations, it made a happy little scene.
I bought the homemade fig cake from a stall at the fruit and vegetable market in Zadar, where each little stall sells things they have grown themselves or made, like olive oil and local honey. I have brought it home with me to remind me of the delicious fruit. I’m saving it for the right occasion and think it would taste perfect with cheese and crackers after dinner, as an alternative to quince jelly.
I will have to make some fig jam while we’re there next year so we can bring home the taste of holiday once again.
Having worked as a textile designer, one of my great loves is embroidery, either by hand or on the machine. It was when my mother was renovating her little house by the sea on the Dalmatian coast that we discovered these beautiful embroideries. We were looking for interesting decorative elements to add character to the holiday house and at the local antique bazaar in Zadar we found two of these hand-stitched embroideries and a bright rug amongst a pile of folded old fabrics.
They have so much Slavic character and charm in a simple, understated way. I am not sure what they were used for, (we use them as hangings between doors) but we bought one each. I rarely see them for sale in the markets or in piles of vintage fabrics and embroideries, so I count myself very lucky to have one. My mother’s hanging has embroidered writing on both sides and mine is plain at the top. The script translates as “Look, my darling, at these red roses, they’ll be yours when you come to fetch me.”
The colours are bright and bold, the traditional Croatian deep red and white combined with interesting combinations like peach and turquoise. The burgundy colour acts as a neutral to the other brighter colours.
The other side translates as “Long live the joyful Anica Speht” (a lady’s name). Perhaps it was made as a gift for a loved one or she is simply congratulating herself on her accomplishment at finishing the embroidery.
I photographed them alongside the simple furniture I had available, flowers from the garden and fruit bought from the village market to give a cacophony of pattern and colour.
September 13, 2013 in inspiring places
We visit our little holiday house by the sea that my grandfather built every year. It is part of my childhood memory and now is part of my children’s too. The old walled city of Zadar on mainland Croatia has many beautiful buildings in different states of repair and is laced with Roman and Venetian history.
On the one rainy day of our holiday we visited the city and popped in to see an art exhibition, where the entrance fees contribute to the on-going restoration. They are in the process of returning it to its former glory but I just loved the faded colours, the grand stairways and the layers of paint and textures of different building materials that had been revealed – and by chance my daughter’s clothes were of a similar tone. Elsewhere there are beautiful un-restored stone balconies and carved stonework amid the modernity, that bring joy to everyday life.
Ancient Catholic churches and towers remain, and one of my favourite things – the flagstone-paved streets, polished smooth over time by thousands of local feet.
We will have to revisit next year and see how much progress they have made.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a contributing stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for 16 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
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