Monday, August 17, 2015

The Great Aalayam Rendezvous!

Hello Dear Readers!
Today, we bring to you a special summer treat. The much awaited rendezvous of the dynamic Aalayam duo, replete with brainstorming, creative sketching and glamorous posing (of course). 
Deepa and I are delighted to bring this special edition to our dear readers. Hope you enjoy perusing through this post, because let me tell you, we sure enjoyed putting it together!

It was serendipity at best, after 3 years of working together bringing our brainchild – Aalayam to life, it was quite a joy to plan a trip to meet Deepa. Two style and design stalwarts meeting face to face could only mean one thing – more Aalayam awesomeness.  And awesome it was, starting with planning for what accessories and goodies to take on the trip, to helping plan the minute design details of the party Deepa was hosting, up in her home town for her gal pals. It was turning out to be a girlie vacation for me as I was traveling alone, without the husband and the kids. And I planned to maximize it. 

You see, when I go on family vacations, I barely get a couple of minutes to slap the makeup on my face and pull the first outfit that's accessible in my closet (it’s the same story when I go to work every day), but girlie vacations…ah..they are a treat. Cos, that’s when I get to apply the mascara and style my hair…and not pretend that my messy bun is a style trick! And the biggest decision I have to make that day is what to wear! And I wanted to take full advantage of this girlie trip for that very reason. And just thinking of all the photo opportunities we’d get..thanks to the magic lens and creative photography of UJ, had gotten me sartorially prepped!

The trip was sublime. I rarely say this about my air travel. I am one of the unlucky few who always get stranded at airports, lose their luggage or get rerouted for unfathomable reasons. But this trip to Ohio was relaxed, with no nasty surprises, and chockablock with pretzels and tomato juice. The flight even landed early at my final destination! 

See, I had a feeling this trip was going to be awesome. 

When Deepa and I finally met, it was like no time had passed since our last conversation. 
It became easy to understand why we worked so well together, respecting our creative differences, giving each other artistic latitude, yet believing in the common ethos of perfection and detail oriented dedication. It’s hard to run into someone who understands your neuroses like that! And when you do, you hold on to them! J

The first few hours were a flurry of "oohs" and "aahs" over accessories, carefully thought out gifts for each other, plans for the weekend, party planning details, catching up on the local news (who’s doing what these days!) and of course lots of pictures! 

Walking through Deepa’s home was like traversing through a well loved, and familiar terrain of design delight. Most of her rooms have been featured on Aalayam and other design mags, so seeing these rooms in live splendor was delightful. 

We got to work right away, planning our upcoming line up, tweaking our authoring strategy, working through our repertoire of topics and brainstorming on how we could make the content more meaningful, the format more engaging and the outcome more creative.

We talked through the work life balance conundrum that we both were facing – with  both of us being superlatively busy career women with full families to take care of, but both with compelling visions for what our stamp on life had to look like. 

Through Aalayam, we realized, we’d reached that common ground of evocation, or leaving a lasting footprint in this fleeting world (even though we had 48 other things to do most days before finishing the blog post we were working on!)

But we could not work for long, as scenic vistas had to be explored, and party fun had to be had! So off we went to don our ensembles, and meet the other gorgeous divas from all over the world, dressed to the nines in pastels (you know who you are!) for garden party extravaganza!

It was sensational partying during the day, and even more fun hitting the Ohio party scene as dusk approached! 

And just when we thought we were done with playing dress up, we decided to treat ourselves (and our readers)  by dressing up (again) in our favorite wardrobe choice and all its glorious accouterments – the Saree! 

The rustle of the silks, accompanied by the clink of the bangles, the heady perfumes in combination with the brilliant Ohio weather, transported us back home to an Indian wedding, where damsels flamboyantly don the Saree and give the celebrity red carpeters a run for their money!

In all seriousness, this trip was long overdue. And it was total paisa vasool! Stay tuned for the exciting line up of posts coming up – ranging the spectrum of cultural inconveniences, fashion choices done right, culinary shortcuts and parenting woes..we are going to continue to write about topics that speak to us, and resonate with you...and give us something to leave behind for our kids.

After that whirlwind weekend, we bring to you this post - fun, festive and forward looking post! And with this post, Deepa and I both want to take a moment to thank you, dear readers for all the love, support and patronage you have given us for the last 3 years, and anticipate that you will continue to stand by us, as we continue this creative journey.

Lots of love,

Supriya and Deepa

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mid-summer reflections

Hello, hello!  How is your summer shaping up?

the rain-soaked trees in our backyard

 It has been an unusual summer in the Midwest with several back-to-back rainy days but the sun is finally shining and we are not complaining. 

Nothing says summer like chilled lemonade!

I am currently on a break and in between jobs and that means I get to spend a little more time with my boy and that is always precious and super fun! My husband and I also decided to indulge in some home improvement projects and 3 months into it (I know!), we’ve finally managed to turn the last remaining unfinished portion of our basement into a gym+ closet (I know- strange combination that!) but it is exactly what we needed. We have also  (finally!) customized our master closet to suit our needs.  We’ve had contractors in the house for 3 months now and it was starting to get a bit tiring but the projects were long overdue and so we stuck it out! So, yeah after running at 100 miles an hr. for the first 6 months of the year, I am finally slowing down although temporarily.

Time to soak up some sun and enjoy the outdoors!

But enough about me! What have you all been up to this summer? I realized that we’ve never really done a summer post and this is after all such a gorgeous season – one that deserves to be celebrated!
I have always sired a passion for hosting and entertaining and the mid-western summers are ideal for a convivial summer gathering. It's always fun to take the party outdoors!

Purple velvet cake - recipe and inspiration from the sweetapolita, baked and styled by moi!

Hope you all are soaking up the sun and celebrating this cheerful season with inspired festive fetes of your own – outdoor barbecues, summer soirees, backyard bonfires and such? 

Uj works the grill!

Well, if you haven’t – no sweat! We still have over a month of warm weather and I hope these images will inspire you to plan your own li’l summer shindig and encourage you to entertain with confidence! Thinking about the food and the ambiance and making it all come together to create something memorable is something I enjoy.

We celebrated my sweet li'l tween's b'day this weekend and I wanted to capture his sugary sweet innocence as well as the impending transition to adolescence in a cool way and an image I had seen on Style me pretty living (a while back) was the inspiration.  So, a decadent chocolate and ice cream filled party served on my husband's convertible was my way of capturing this pre-teen to teen transition phase! I will perhaps do a full post on this sugary sweet b'day later but for now, I leave you with this image.

We hope you will allow us here at Aalayam to inspire your own celebrations. Sit back and enjoy these images  as we fill our glasses, crank up the speakers and get the party going!
A dressed up strawberry-banana smoothie for an afternoon date with my son!

I am often complimented for my ability to stylize things but never made much of that. However, with Aalayam and my creative pursuits and the regular feedback I am now able to recognize it as strength and have begun to enjoy sharing ideas and inspirations with friends who ask.

A simple parfait - another mid-week summer indulgence!

Even simple home made food and treats served in style can make you look like the hostess with the mostess – so don’t be afraid to glam things up! Paper doilies, pinwheels, pennant banners, chalkboard sign tags and of course fresh flowers are simple and easy ways to up the style-ante! Impromptu summer hosting implies you can go shopping around the house and reuse what you have to create stylish food vignettes! And don’t forget to cool things down on a sizzling summer day with some chilled favorites – desi style spicy buttermilk, a fresh fruit smoothie or even a no-fuss parfait!

Spiced up and cooled down - desi buttermilk, a summer staple!

Or if you’d rather take the celebration entirely outdoors- how about an old fashioned picnic? 

Our merry backyard blooms also seem to like the sun!

Remember this post I did a while back on a spring picnic? It’s time to revisit that if you are planning on an alfresco affair!

Hope the season and this post inspire you to eat, live, laugh, surround yourself with prettiness and be merry!

Don't let the sumer rains dampen your spirit - enjoy a plated street style snack!

At our end Supriya, me and a few other friends have been excitedly and rather (secretively) planning a (nother) summer gala (this time for a special reason) and boy are we determined! Supriya is visiting me next month and that can only mean good things for Aalayam! But shshshsh, we can’t talk about our party just yet. I promise, we will share it with the Aalayam family soon enough but for now we are keeping it under wraps!


p.s: all pics in this post are from my home and taken by my husband and may not be used without permission

Monday, July 13, 2015

Swagatham, Suswagatham - A Bengalooru style home in Virginia!

Hospitality is second nature to any Indian, as I am sure the Aalayam culture aficionados will agree. Hospitality reigns supreme in this sublime South Indian abode, nestled in suburban Virginia, USA. 

With cheer and vitality sparkling in every corner, this home resonates with the warm welcome  (Swagatham) of namma Bengalooru.  Hence, the title of this post - "Swagatham, Suswagatham" : a glorious welcome to the Aalayam readers into this gorgeous Kannada mane, resplendent in ethnic glory. 

Welcome to the home of Gowri and Vikram, whose sweet story has fascinatingly lent itself to making their living space, one to remember!
I met Gowri and Vikram at the local Indian store. Many Indians living abroad will agree that the Indian store, and the local temple is the best place to run into fellow desis living in the vides. :)
The conversation picked up simultaneously with the connection, with our language, our home town, our customs and the fact that we had Twins!! drawing us closer with each passing meeting. It only took one visit to Gowri and Vikrams' home for me to realize that I HAD TO FEATURE IT IN THE AALAYAM HOME TOUR SECTION!!

Gowri and Vikram graciously agreed to get featured and let me stomp around with my SLR taking pictures of their home's beautiful nooks and crannies. And as usual, I had to pester them for their life story. Here's a synopsis of the tete-a-tete !
Tell us a little bit of your story - how did you meet? how did you imagine your home is going to be when you "grew up"?
            My husband and I, we are childhood sweethearts and we know each other since we were 10 years old. He was my next door neighbor and we grew up together as best friends. Our friendship grew into something special and before we knew we were in love. 

As teenagers and in our early adulthood we both loved going for long drives and exploring nature. One more interesting and relaxing past time for both of us was looking for beautiful houses, architecture and landscaping. So we explored various neighborhoods for hours driving around and appreciating all the beautiful ideas and creations. 

We always talked about having a dream house of our own one day and thanks to my dear hubby he brought me to a foreign country which is an amazing land of opportunity, where we could lead a dream life and also bring harmony by balancing Indian culture and American ways.

What makes your home "your home"?
            When we move into a house it’s just a house. For us a house becomes a home when we start a new beginning, bring in new life, capture beautiful memories, joy and laughter, treasure moments, decorate each wall, each corner and each room with our presence in our home. Our best ideas and creations has flown into our house making it our home.

 Does the decor in your home fit the bill for any one particular style - if so, what drove you to that style?
                              I grew up back home with lovable and caring parents who showed me the righteous path of leading a beautiful life. I have brought those family values into a foreign land and put it into use. I am my parent’s reflection, emitting love, following tradition and bringing value systems into my family and into our beautiful home. 

Every artifact and décor in our home is fulfilling my childhood dreams and my beautiful Indian culture. As I started to bring closer those pieces, my vision of completing the puzzle in each room came together as a fusion of Indian culture and American blend.

 How does your personal decor style influence your personality or the other way around? 
                              Our personality has influenced all the décor pieces and styles in our home. We love to collect very unique artifacts for different places. I must say when it comes to choosing a décor for our home my husband and I have a unique quality of visualizing our home with that décor in it. 

All those beautiful pieces which we hand picked together over a period of time and each one of those unique collection reminds us the beautiful memories of our love together in this journey of life thus imprinting memories of different time zones.

 What are your favorite places to shop for your home? Are you budget savvy or would you rather own pieces that truly strike a chord with you even if they are expensive? 
            There is no one particular places that we shop at, we have collected artifacts from different parts of the world. Budget was never a big issue and I must thank my husband for that. Sometimes we might go overboard but at the end of the day we enjoy and relive the beautiful moment we captured into our lives which makes it totally worth the experiences.    

 Where do you draw your online inspirations from - any favorite resources that you can share?
            Speaking frankly and openly I am not a much of an online shopper or a browser. I am old school; I love to window shop and like to visualize that article in our home. 

I want to share one of my wonderful memories here, as I was growing up along with the love of my life. We loved shopping together; he wanted to buy me jewelry for a special occasion. We  went out shopping and I  liked a piece in the first jewelry shop we walked into but guess what? we didn’t decide on it and buy it until  we both visited another 13 more  jewelry places and then coming back to the first one and then brought it. 

Why I wanted to share this with the reader is to express our meticulous search of something which we both agree upon and confirm in our hearts that THIS IS THE ONE…
 Are there influences from your home state  (Karnataka/ Bangalore) in your décor? How do you balance the modern, clean convenience of the western decor to the intricacy of Indian decor? 
            Yes, to some extent our décor reflects our home town, Bangalore. We both call it the melting pot of modern lifestyle and also traditional living. Lots of our décor as been collected from various exhibitions, some exclusive handicraft shops in and around Bangalore. 

The famous Channapatna Gombe (wooden toys) was introduced to our twins to give them a flavor of Karnataka heritage. We have also displayed many heirloom objects in our home to depict our family legacy. 

We have collected relics not just from our home town but also from different states of India. We have furnished our formal living room with traditional Indian furniture giving our ethnicity and warmth for the people how walk into our home. 

We also wanted to bring in western décor and nice even blend with our India décor. 

We have furniture depicting a long deep Amish culture in American history, these Amish craftsmen bring in lineage of tradition into present times. 

Live wood end tables, warm leather couch and excellent choices of wood with detailed craftsmanship used in our dinner room set, and again our fusion of merging American furniture with traditional Amish furniture gave us a taste of rich sophisticated American culture.

We live in Virginia Beach and enjoy beautiful weather and sunny beaches. Our sun room gives us the feeling of coastal living stirring our heart and cleansing our thoughts with its serenity & peace.

 Finally, what is your favorite place in your home to relax, recharge and rejuvenate?
            There is no one specific favorite place in our home. If I had a pick one I would pick them all because every room is filled with beautiful memories as to how all the things came together. When I walk through each room they talk to me and remind me what a cherishing and a blissful journey it has been for me and my family. 

Reminds us about all our hardship in life and also how we, has a team over came that and remolded to make it magnificent memory. Life is beautiful and we as a family live it to the fullest.

Hard not to adore them and their home right? 

Thank you Gowri and Vikram for letting us into your homes, your hearts and your cozy living corners. Aalayam readers and I will forever be grateful!

Lots of love,

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Designing a feminine office space - Deepa's home office!

Welcome to my newly decorated home office – a space that will also double up as Aalayam headquarters at my end! 

 Warning! This post is definitely not for the faint of the heart - it is COLOR HEAVY!

This is also the next stop on my home tour. I have already featured our family room, guest room, my son's room and our basement den on Aalayam previously and if you are a home décor enthusiast, take a few minutes to browse through those spaces as well- I would love to hear your thoughts on our painted home!

Now, sit back and enjoy as I narrate the story of how my very own functional and feminine space came about.

But first, apologies for the long hiatus!  2015 is turning out to be something else! Unexpected things seem to be cropping up from every corner faster than I can make them go away and frequently distract me from the blog and I am painfully aware of this but rather helpless. So, thank you for your patience as we struggle to get back to regular paced programming.  

I hope you enjoy this colorfully decadent post in the meanwhile.

So, we decided to re-purpose an odd shaped extra bedroom into a female office space. I began with a few basic requirements for this space – it had to be a place of my own to stay organized and be inspired. That, coupled with my husband’s encouragement and enthusiasm, enabled me to turn this room into a chic and glamorous space- if I may say so myself.

“If you love something, it will work. That’s the only real rule”- Bunny Williams

I think this room is an absolute testament to that!

I started by creating a mood board of all things that inspire me – a little bit of France, a little bit of Morocco and lots of color and I think the visual magic happened on its own! I went bold – with the colors on the wall, the upholstery and the fabrics. 

And the end result as you can see is dark and dramatic! I love it! This canvas will provide the necessary sensory overload to inspire my work for Aalayam.

For someone like me, who is constantly on the go – this space is ideal to relax, unwind, plan, organize, do something creative and catch up on professional reading. 
The large windows make this small space bright and airy by day and the cool light fixtures allow for ample lighting by night. I also chose my furniture pieces with great care – they had to be budget friendly, style savvy and functional for this small space and to meet this wish list was no easy task and took a great deal of patience!

A gallery wall filled with some of my husband’s best work, a global vibe added via French inspired décor, a Suzani bedspread and Moroccan lanterns and a touch of whimsy incorporated through a hanging birdcage and metallic accent pieces define this space. 

The bejeweled flush mount fixture draws your eye up to the ceiling while the cowhide rug grounds the space and pulls everything together.

I am sure this will space will evolve as time passes but for now I am happy that it is a merry mix of style and function and I can see myself enjoying many quiet afternoons reading or hand -writing letters or simply drawing inspiration from books or the nature outside my windows.

So, did you enjoy my little office filled with Parisian panache and Moroccan magic? Tell me what you think an ideal feminine office space should look like - do you think I have hit all the right notes? 

So, here's my take on creating a fun space that oozes style -
1) Take your time finding pieces that will work - after all Rome was not built in a day!
2) Don't be afraid to marry styles - French aesthetics and Moroccan must-haves share space happily in  this boudoir!
3) Small spaces can make a big impact too -don't shy away from using bright colors and bold patterns just because it is a small space.
4) Add a little romance - a few hanging lanterns, a birdcage and splashes of pink spell 
R-O-M-A-N-C-E, no?
5) Every room needs a few splurge elements  ($$$!) The campaign style desk, the rustic-finish twin bed, the brass book shelf and end table were my splurge items. But, but, but - I had to have those!
6) Who would've thought! - black and white are great accent colors!
7) Step outside your comfort zone. My husband forced me to try the cowhide rug and I am so glad I listened!

A big welcome to our new readers! The Aalayam family is now 400 members strong and we are so humbled! Supriya and I love to bring you posts that are visually and intellectually stimulating and although we have slowed down our pace a bit, we believe the quality of our content has never been better.
So, stay tuned dear readers....


p.s: All images in this post are from my home and may not be used or reproduced wihout permission