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Sunday, January 11, 2015


Or as Sri Lankans like to call it, the "sitting room"! This is where guests are received and entertained, so it's usually the best-kept room in the house. In fact, in poorer and/or smaller households the living/sitting room is pretty much all guests will see when they visit, the back rooms of the kitchen, bedrooms, etc. being closed off from company for the most part. Unless, of course, a closer relationship is eventually established, which is when Sri Lankans let their guard down and visitors get to see the rest of the home. 

The Balagalla living room is one of my all-time favorite rooms in Sri Lanka! The mid century furniture takes center stage:


We can't wait to go back and visit our family here and see this beautiful home again! Our memories of it are still fresh in my mind. What a beautiful afternoon that was!

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Even though most Sri Lankans eat at a kitchen table, like the one I showed before, in large estate homes like this there's usually a large, formal dining table too. This is where important guests or outside (non-family) visitors are served meals. Dining is a very important ritual when guests come to visit in Sri Lanka, so households try to keep a good-sized table for the purpose, no matter how small their homes might be.

This is the only truly mid century style dining table I've ever seen in Sri Lanka! It's even more magnificent in real life:

At the other end of the table stands the little display cupboard with all the important family photos, including my husband's uncle's 1950s wedding photo!

When we visited, we ate lunch at the kitchen table (shown in the previous post), which was much more cozy and convivial, but I can just imagine being served a huge formal meal at this table - truly a treat!

Friday, January 9, 2015


Here are some photos of one of the many bedrooms in my husband's uncle's estate house in Balagalla. I was just over-the-moon to see the beautiful atomic-era lines of the furniture here!

Here's an adorable vanity table (still in use today):

Detail of the distinctive '50s lines ... superb!

To the side was a little desk. You can also see a part of the bed. All are mid century pieces, made in what was then Ceylon:

A view from one of the bedroom windows into the grounds of the estate beyond! I love the fabulous '50s metal grill!

This was pretty much a dream room for me! I love the openness and airy feel of mid century Sri Lankan homes, with their many wide windows. Of course, this was a necessity those days because there was no air conditioning in private homes, and the open windows let the breezes cool the homes, which were also surrounded by trees and gardens (even in the cities). In fact, to this day there are no air conditioners at Balagalla: on the day we visited, the continuous flow of air throughout the house made it very comfortable.


My husband's late mother's family hails from Balagalla, a tiny village near the town of Divulapitiya on the southwest of Sri Lanka. Last summer, we went there to visit the estate of his uncle, who was recovering from a minor fall at the home he built in the late 1950s.

I could not quite believe what an amazing mid century time capsule of a home it was! Everything was pretty much left as-is since the '50s, and it was beyond marvelous! To start, here are some photos of the informal dining area and overhead lighting:

In Sri Lanka, such beautiful home decor, with its sleek modernist lines, would probably be considered "old stuff" and not the gorgeous treasures they are. They were all either made in Sri Lanka, copying European and American mid century masterpieces, or sometimes the smaller items like lights were imported from abroad. I took many photos of the Balagalla house, and will post them in groups, so stay tuned!

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.

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!