Let’s do brunch in… London

Oh, London… so near, yet so far. London is one of those major destinations that I wonder if I’ll ever get to visit while living in Europe. Though it’s just 45 minutes from Amsterdam by plane, getting a UK visa entails a trip to Dusseldorf (yes, in Germany!)… which is an even bigger hassle than applying for a visa to the US.

So, until the visa process gets easier (which, for a Philippine passport holder, will be… never) or I have a compelling reason to go, I satisfy my wanderlust for London through the sharp, discerning eyes of one Tina Bernstein, who blogs at Colourliving. A property curator living in London, Tina’s passion for the city, for creativity and for cosmopolitan living (and of course, for color!) shines through loud and clear in her blog.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tina at The Hive Berlin last May; since then, I turn to Colourliving when I want a break from the precious, pretty, pastel and perfectly styled imagery that sometimes floods the blogosphere. This week, she takes us to London for brunch—and in true Tina style, chooses a spot that’s refreshingly real and full of urban character.

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House hunt: Choosing a neighborhood

Buying an apartment in Amsterdam has given Marlon and myself a lot to think about. I’d like to think we know much more about life here than when when we first went house-hunting, nearly two years ago. Plus, buying is so much more complex than renting. So I decided that before showing you some of the places we’ve seen, I’d share some of the peculiarities of house hunting in Amsterdam to give you an insight into life here.

The first thing I wanted to share is, to me, the most striking difference in looking for an apartment here versus the two cities I lived in previously. And that is how much impact choosing a neighborhood has on your decision.

In Manila, your neighborhood is determined pretty much determined for you by budget and commute time. For example, as a prospective Pasig resident, you might love the feel of Valle Verde… but only really have the budget for Barangay Bagong Ilog (lol). Reducing the amount of time you spend sitting in traffic is also a major concern, so proximity to a school or workplace usually seals the deal.

In Singapore, the neighborhood hardly matters as everything feels so.. alike. With very few exceptions, you will find the same HDB flats and condos, the same malls with the same shops, the same infrastructure everywhere. That’s why it’s so easy to just settle in. The sameness eliminates the guesswork about what is the right or wrong neighborhood.

Even people I know who lived in Geylang (the “red light district”) had a cushy condo just minutes from an MRT station. The area you live in hardly comes into play unless you’re trying to get your kids into a certain school or achieve a certain status. When we were looking for a condo in Singapore, our decisions never hinged on how Yio Chu Kang “felt” versus, say, Novena. Character is just not a factor.

In Amsterdam, the first question I’m usually asked by friends I’ve told about our decision to buy is, “Where are you looking?”

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IJburg: A different Amsterdam

Inside Design Amsterdam was held in IJburg, which I’ve always wanted to explore. As far as Amsterdam neighborhoods go, IJburg is completely different from anything in the city.

For starters, IJburg is the only neighborhood that sits in a lake, the IJmeer (eye-meer), and was constructed atop reclaimed land—on six man-made islands of dredged-up sand, to be exact. More importantly, and what makes it unique in a city with medieval roots, IJburg is new. Bright, shiny and new. This neighborhood came to life when the first buildings were completed in 2001, and construction is still ongoing on its second phase.

I first visited IJburg to investigate the city beach known as Blijburg… and was sorely disappointed. That experience didn’t endear IJburg to me at all. But Inside Design Amsterdam (with the help of sunshine and blue skies) changed that. Suddenly, IJburg looked… appealing.

Steigereiland apartments

Stepping into this part of Steigereiland felt like finding myself in an architectural rendering.

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Inside Design Amsterdam: Kids on Roof

It should probably come as no surprise that my absolute favorite find from Inside Design Amsterdam was a kids’ brand. Yep, those hormones are kicking in all right. It was love at first sight for me and Kids on Roof, a Dutch company that makes colorful toys with a modern, architectural but still very playful feel.

I wanted to buy everything! A flock of swallows to hang over a crib, a playfully modern cardboard city to build and populate

a white cardboard house to decorate, a little tent for the back yard…

… and a rocket ship to reach for the stars.

Can you tell that I am already so excited for this baby? Little Mango has yet to grow proper toenails and bones, and here I am already dreaming of all the colors we’ll paint, the stories we’ll make up, the places we’ll go, the nights I will sing him to sleep under the stars.

Since Little Mango has a long, long way to go before he can start his astronaut training or camp in the back yard, I was able to resist my hormonal impulses to ransack Kids on Roof’s room at Inside Design Amsterdam. I also let out a little steam by buying this irresistible People of the World coloring book.

I love how the simple line art allows kids to create their own features, clothing, and details instead of just coloring them in. How fun is that?

I will just have to hang on to this until Little Mango’s fingers are ready to grasp crayons and start drawing. Let’s hope I can resist the urge to break out the crayons and beat her to it!

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Inside Design Amsterdam

Last week, I entered a contest on Petite Passport for tickets to Inside Design Amsterdam (IDA 2012), Elle Decoration’s annual showcase of Dutch design. I never win these things, so I was thrilled when I did win! Filipinos believe pregnant women are lucky, and in this case the superstition proved true.

Marlon and I spent an enjoyable (but cold) Saturday afternoon exploring the IDA 2012 route on IJburg, one of Amsterdam’s newest, most unique and design-friendly districts. The products, exhibits, even the neighborhood itself was designed and styled so appealingly, I must have taken over a hundred photos. It was difficult, but I managed to whittle down my favorites from IDA 2012 to a manageable list of 10… well, except one that just deserves a separate post.

Here are my top 10 favorites from Inside Design Amsterdam, starting with the one I actually took home:

This necklace by Yvon Visser, made of concrete and wooden beads, felt like a perfect token to commemorate our house hunt. Hopefully this is a sign that we’ll find our own little house soon.

House necklace Yvon Visser

When we do, I will think of the perfect spot to hang this clever paper pendant light: the Helix by Marc de Groot.

Helix pendant light Marc de Groot

These ABC necklaces by Sandra Turina were so cute, and so cleverly displayed.

ABC necklaces Sandra Turina

I have baby brain at the moment, so I couldn’t help thinking about how fun it would be to create an alphabet with found objects and unusual words to hang in the nursery. Filing the idea away for future use…

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