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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!

Friday, October 10, 2014


This past summer we finally went on holiday to Sri Lanka, our native country. Both my husband and I had not been back for years, and our son had never been there. We went with my mother, who had also not been back in years. At first, the prospect of going on a 20+ hour international flight (with a 20+ hour layover in Singapore) was terrifying because our 3 year-old had never been on a plane. Plus, he'd be facing an atmosphere and surroundings that were totally foreign to him!

But we shouldn't have worried. It was an absolutely wonderful trip! Our little one took to Sri Lanka like a fish to water! He loved meeting all his family members and other people, and going to all kinds of new places. It was so good for him that I'm now seriously considering relocating there once he starts talking fluently (he is still in speech therapy for his language delay, though it's improving nicely). We're already making plans to go back next summer!

I also got to see some amazing mid century architecture and furnishings while we were there. It made me realize why I'm so obsessed with the look of that era - I was surrounded by it growing up! Many Sri Lankans still live in multi-generational families in ancestral homes (a few dating back hundreds of years). Also, they tend not to replace their furnishings and home decor regularly the way Americans do, so chances are the furniture of their parents and/or other elders from back in the day is what still remains in the house. As a result, I got to see lots of gorgeous original items from the 1950s and '60s!

Here are some photos from our trip, to show the beauty of Sri Lanka:

The walkway leading to my husband's uncle's home:

 Polhena lagoon and beach, near the southern coastal city of Matara:

Me at the temple where my grandmother's memorial service was held:

L-R: my husband, son and my husband's elder brother:

L-R: my aunt, son, and mother (my aunt's the youngest sister and my mother's the eldest!):

Fishing boats along the southern coast, near the city of Galle:

More photos to come of Sri Lankan mid century decor ... stay tuned!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


When I was growing up in our family home in California, there was a beautiful old tree in the front garden, right outside my window. I loved watching the change of seasons played out in its leaves, and the little birds who built nests in its branches. It was there when we moved into the house in the early 80s, and since it was so old we thought it must have been around since the house was built in 1947.

Sadly, a couple of years ago it just died, and came crashing down in a bad winter storm:

My mother paid a neighbor to cut it down. I wanted to save it, so I asked for it to be sawed into stumps that we could use in our own home, one day (we had not bought our house at that time).

Since I don't have any DIY experience, I looked online for tutorials for making a tree stump into a side table. I found the best one here, on The Art of Doing Stuff blog. It was wonderful: very detailed and didn't look too hard!

First, we let the stump dry out for over a year in the hot summer sun. Then, we pried off the bark with a prybar:

With the bark off, it looked like this:

Then we sanded it with an electric sander. You can do this by hand, but since our stump had so many bumps we just didn't have the time to do that.

When sanded, it looked like this:

Then, we decided to fill in a big gash running down the stump with wood filler. We could have left it alone, but worried about bugs coming out of it one day. I wasn't thrilled with the filled-in effect, but in the end it wasn't too bad:

Even though it was a pale shade of filler, it still stood out a bit:

Then, we sanded down the filled-in gaps:

Afterwards, it looked like this:

Then, we sealed the entire stump with several coats of Minwax "Polyshades", or stain-and-polyurethane in one can. This took over a week since you have to let the stain dry out for at least a day before applying another coat.

Finally, we decided to paint the top since the filler was so prominent there. First, a coat of primer:


Followed by some leftover paint, and voila, here's the finished tree stump (side without the gash):

And here's the side with the filled-in gash. Though it's visible, it doesn't look bad:

It stands next to our mid-century rocking armchair: 

I adore this little stump table, and am so thankful that the tree that stood outside my window will now be with us forever. It's more than a piece of furniture -- it's an old friend.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I've always been fascinated with cedar hope chests, even though they seem  quaint and kind of anti-feminist. But I'm a feminist and I think they're awesome! Just because they were marketed to women back in the day doesn't mean they're not useful and beautiful pieces of furniture for anyone.

In the 1950s and '60s, ads for cedar chests were aimed at women in different stages of life. Here, for example, is one for graduates:

Of course, the underlying message is not "buy a cedar chest to keep your stuff when you're in college and studying Astrophysics", but to store things for your future marriage and home life. 

In fact, many of the ads were specifically targeted to newly-engaged women and brides:

And since I'm assuming $49.95 wasn't exactly small change back then, it makes sense that not everyone could afford to give a girl a gift of a cedar chest. No problem! Here's an ad for hope chests for middle-aged mothers:

Since I'm a middle-aged mother, this sounds like a fabulous idea, hahaha! So when I found this amazing mid-century Lane cedar chest at a thrift store, I got it right away. It cost only $69, and it's so unique and beautiful it's amazing! Our 3 year-old loved it too, and promptly climbed on it:

Its Danish Modern style and curving wood grain are just gorgeous! And there are only a few surface scratches and a bit of damage to the edges, which shouldn't be too hard to cover up.

I hope that whoever owned it before us will somehow know that their hope chest has been saved and loved by another family for another generation. ^_^