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Monday, November 10, 2014


One of the most prominent features of mid century Sri Lankan architecture is the use of breeze blocks, or concrete masonry blocks that allow for airflow. These were used to make outer walls that formed a barrier for the home but allowed breezes to cool the home in the tropical heat.

During the 1950s and '60s, Sri Lankan breeze blocks came in wonderful "atomic" style patterns that are both striking and beautiful even today. Like these, from one of the outer walls of our brother-in-law's home in the Colombo suburbs:

This "starburst" pattern was very popular in '50s Ceylon, when this home was built. Today, you can see a motor mechanics' shop courtyard on the other side of the wall. It goes to show that everywhere in the world, nothing quite said "1950s" like the starburst!

Another popular mid century breeze block came in a sort of "inverted diamond" pattern, like this one found in my great-aunt's home along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. This breeze block wall was built on the side of a more old-fashioned, colonial-style home, so you can see both the traditional architecture of 19th-early 20th century Ceylon right next the modernist wall! I found this fascinating: 

Seeing all the beautiful breeze block patterns made me long for a wall made of them in our own home in California! If we have a home in Sri Lanka one day, it will definitely be a must. These mid century walls brought back so many memories of my childhood, when they were everywhere! What a shame you don't see them in Sri Lankan homes built these days.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


How was your Halloween? Ours was much better than last year because our son understood what was going on a lot better and had a blast at both our school Halloween party and trick-or-treating! Yes, we did get to go trick-or-treating when the rain let up a bit for the evening! Lots of neighborhood children came by too. It was wonderful!

Some memories from Halloween 2014:

Our little guy trick-or-treating - his expression pretty much sums it up!

We decorated our Lane cedar chest for Halloween. The jack-o-lantern is a lovely hand painted gourd I found at a local thrift store!

The glass vase is mid century, as is the "California Pottery" tray with the faux Fall gourds. The flowerpot is vintage glazed pottery, and the candle stand and little pottery bowl are also vintage.  All were thrift finds!

Did you decorate for Halloween? Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Friday, October 31, 2014


Happy Halloween peeps! It's cold and raining here, so I don't know whether we'll go trick-or-treating (especially since D's recovering from a cold) ... but we had a great time at the school Halloween party this morning! Hope you all have a wonderful spooky fun day too!


Thursday, October 23, 2014


I just loved seeing all the little mid century details in Sri Lankan homes! They were everywhere, like little whispers from the past. 

Here, the hexagon-shaped metal window grills in my sister-in-law's home. These are invaluable for letting the breezes in while keeping intruders out:

Details from an adorable mid century-print tablecloth that used to belong to my mother-in-law:

A "hairpin" balcony on a storefront near my sister-in-law's home (I remember so many of these from my childhood): 

I also loved the striking circular tilework on the walls of a house near the place we stayed during our holiday: 

There were so many other amazing mid century details we saw everywhere. Alas, I just couldn't get photos of them (traveling with a toddler doesn't allow for many photo-ops, unfortunately). But next time we go to Sri Lanka I'm determined to take those pics. Can't wait to share them, but until then I have a lot more mid century goodness to show you in the days to come.  :-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Unlike Americans, Sri Lankans tend to hold on to antiques passed down from family or friends. Thus, it's not uncommon to see modern homes with 19th century furniture! There are no thrift stores or charity shops in Sri Lanka, probably because people never donate their possessions for public sale. They may pass them on to family or donate them to their local Buddhist temple instead.

However, in the 20th century people began to build their own homes when they got married and started families, and needed new furniture because the old family furniture remained with their parents. Or the old furniture may have not survived the passage of time. Hence, you can find a lot of mid century homes with matching furniture from that era. 

One such house is the ancestral home of my husband's brother-in-law, who inherited his parents' 1950s furniture because he was their only child. I was thrilled to see these pieces because they were built of solid wood in a wonderful '50s style!

Here, their living room set, recently reupholstered. In contrast is the traditional brass oil lamp that stands at the entrances of many Sri Lankan homes. 

The sofa and loveseat are arranged around the television, and in this pic you can better see the curving "atomic" lines of the chairs:

 Another view of the armchair:

My favorite chairs from their home are these graceful canework chairs at the front entrance. Note too the mid century style geometric metal grills on the windows. These were present in most houses to keep out intruders. This home, especially, is right on the very busy main road so that's a needed precaution.

Seeing this home brought back many fond memories of my grandfather's 1950s home, where I grew up, and made me realize why I'm so obsessed with mid century decor! It's a great example of how well-built and beautiful (not to mention stylish!) Sri Lankan furniture from that era was ... and still is!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


You can't talk about mid century architecture in Sri Lanka without mentioning the magnificent Sri Lanka Planeterium in the heart of Colombo, the beautiful and lovely colonial neighborhood of Cinnamon Gardens, or Colombo 7. I'm very fond of this area because it's where I was born and grew up! The Planetarium was one of my all-time favorite sights when I was a little girl, and it remains so to this day.

It was built in 1965, and was designed by architect Pani Tennakoon. The inspiration for the innovative and elegant structure was the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, England.

Although we passed the Planetarium almost every day during our stay in Sri Lanka, I was not able to take photos, so these are ones I found online. 

Here's the entrance to the Planetarium building:

A closer look at the triangular structure and the walkway around it:

 The view from the triangles!

 The little "moat"-like waterway around the structure:

The Planetarium is to undergo major renovations in 2015, and I'm really excited to see how that will turn out! I can't wait to take our son to visit this amazing place, and hope he will love it as much as I did at his age.


Traveling around Colombo, the former capitol of Sri Lanka (and also its biggest city), you can see what a vibrant, modern and exciting metropolis it is. But it's also a historical place, known to travelers for thousands of years. If you explore the far-reaching neighborhoods of Colombo, you can see all kinds of historical sites and architecture, from places of worship (Buddhist and Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches) to the canals built by the Dutch in the 16th century, as well as quite a few British colonial era buildings.

You can also see a lot of amazing mid century architecture throughout Colombo and its suburbs, from government buildings to private homes. I wanted to get pictures of these buildings, but it was not easy to stop for photo breaks when traveling with a rambunctious toddler! However, I did manage to capture (and find) some. On our next trip to Sri Lanka I'm going to try and get many more pics of Sri Lanka's mid century architectural heritage, but for now here are some of the images I captured (or found).

First, the walls of St. Anthony's nursery school in Borella, Colombo's largest suburb. This little school was established in 1942 as part of the ministries of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Sri Lanka:

I took these photos from a moving car, so my apologies for the not-so-good images

Here's a photo from the school's Facebook page, where you can see the beautiful curving mid century architecture behind the staff: 

I hope we can see more of this school on our next trip!