Saturday, 31 August 2013

Moving into a New Apartment or House?

Opportunity Knocks - Answer the call to design your own space!

You now have the opportunity to invent yourself or really to reinvent your style. Whether you're leaving the nest for school or for good and you're moving into your own 'first apartment' or house, this is an opportunity. An opportunity to figure out your style and show it off in your own space. Here are some tips to get you on your way!

10 tips to help you get started
  1. Budget, budget, budget! You don't have to do everything at once BUT you do need to know how much you are willing to spend on your interior and exterior per month or overall. This way you can prioritize and decide what you can do when.
  2. Measure your space! You need to know what can at least fit through your doorway! You don't want to purchase that new sofa and can't get it past your door or it's too long for the tiny room you thought had more space, but it doesn't and you would know if you measured the room 0_0
  3. Figure out what brings a smile to your face or gives you that nice feeling inside when you see it and include photos or artwork depicting these things in interesting ways can help jazz up your space and your life; nature, family, pets...
  4. Try collections: empty bottles of varying shapes and sizes (that's me), vintage clocks and radios (i'm right there with ya!), pictures, illustrations and statuettes of girls with umbrellas
    1. If you or your parents have old mismatched china that you/they never use you can incorporate these into a wall art piece in your dining space.
    2. Group odd numbers of these similar items into a collection on your credenza, side table or entry consol or dresser.
    3. Grouping items of the same or similar hue (colour) gives a clean, modern look to your decor.
  5. Shop at your parents house FIRST. Be eco-conscious. Your family definitely has stuff they don't use, don't want-but-it's-just-piled-up-or-hidden in a barrel, closet or boxes in the basement, guest room or garage. See, you know EXACTLY what I mean. They were saving these wonderful heirloom pieces just for you and your move, wink, wink.
  6. Garage Sale & Yard Sale shop after you've completed shopping at your parents home shopping network. Garage sales always have furniture pieces you think you don't need like large armoires or storage items. Snap them up! You can convert an armoire into a nifty home office, laundry area, or even a pantry.
  7. Try freebies and bargains at Craigslist, Ebay, Etsy just to name a few. 
  8. Rummage through design and decorating websites to get some ideas of what you like and don't like and figure out your design style. You'll also get some helpful tips along the way.
  9. Have fun with it!
  10. If you're really too afraid to venture out into the diy world on your own, hire a designer or decorator to help you get the cohesive, stylish pad you've been dreaming of.
Now for the decorating...

Monday, 29 July 2013

Emancipation Day Celebrations: Trinidad and Tobago - The Lidj Yasu Omowale Village

The 1st August, 2013 marks about 179 years celebrating the freedom of African slaves in Trinidad and Tobago from the physical shackles of slavery (unofficially and 28 years officially). The Emancipation Support Committee (Trinidad and Tobago) commemorates this occasion with the usual celebrations at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Village, Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. For those of you who have never attended the 'Emancipation Village' or 'D Village' celebrations, as it is fondly called, we bring you a visual taste of the treats you can find there. D Village is a celebration of the culture of the African patrimony, through the afro-Trinidadian people on the island: art, poetry, food, dress and lots more. The village runs from 26th July to 1st August, 2013. I visited on the Sunday 28th July, 2013, "Youth Pan Day" & "Youth Unity Concert",  just to get you these highlights but take a look at the event calendar at the end of the post for help on deciding which days best suit your discerning tastes!

The Heart of the D Village
Despite the earlier heavy rains patrons came out to get in on the shopping, art and entertainment at D Village on Sunday 28th July, 2013.
D Village consists of several distinct sections - clothing, food, miscellaneous and several others. 

Art, Interior Decor/Household Items & Accessories, Clothing & Accessories
At D Village you are sure to find artwork from various local artists in a range of media: acrylic, oils and pastels to copper, bronze and wood.

The Art of B. Holder ranges from acrylic to oil pastels,
canvas to Tshirts.

B. Holder also holds his own with these old-time houses.

Ken's Copper Collections
showcases Copper Wall art & jewelry.

Island Stuff Originals displays their wooden wall art by Edrian Moore.
Wooden dishware and kitchen tools from Arthur's Novelties.

Cryscelin's showcases their household items, bags and accessories.
Thousand Curls and Roannta Dalrymple display their art, jewelry &
hair accessories.

Rastarebellion Tshirts on sale.

A shopper learns more about the clothing and accessories at
D'Caribbean Culture Shack Ltd.
This client learns several ties for her pair of Sandalias Sandals at
D'Caribbean Culture Shack Ltd.
Charisma Fashion Ltd (Ghana) showcases their Ghanian clothing &

Mr. King engages the audience on Sunday night at Youth Unity Concert
at D Village.

Buzz Rock gives a spirited performance on Sunday night at the D Village.

Angelique Kidjo will perform on Wednesday 31st July, 2013.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Design Tour - Ajoupa Garden Cottage

View from outdoor deck (Photo courtesy
 Nestled in the hills of  Upper Carapichaima, Chickland Village in Central Trinidad lies a quiet retreat for artists and writers to be inspired, surrounded by lush vegetation and rolling terrain. The quaint 19th century ajoupa styled cottage, characterized by its gable roof and wooden fa├žade (some versions employ mud/brick) sits on a four acre property and is run by Bunty and Rory O'Connor of Ajoupa Pottery. The former estate house (gingerbread style) is the couple's main abode, while the one bedroom cottage is the retreat, your home away from home.
Turning off the main road you're met with a beautiful tree lined entry which signifies what lies ahead. On entering this hidden pathway you understand that you are entering something special, you get a sense of the exquisiteness that lies ahead. Nature lovers beware, you will fall in love with the place. There are no photos of this pathway, they don't do it justice so, you'll just have to experience the majestic quality yourself!

On your arrival to Ajoupa Gardens there seem to be several pathways to treats beyond. One such, is the pathway to the cottage retreat below.
Pathway and entry to Ajoupa Garden Retreat  (Photo courtesy
The brightly coloured exterior reflects the warmth of this tropical paradise and that of the owners. This warmth and relaxation will seep into your soul and fill you with peace and serenity.
With Love...(Photo courtesy 
Downstairs-Main Living/Dining Area
Open Plan Kitchen/Dining allows views of the rolling plains beyond
 (Photo courtesy
The lattice work on the Eastern wall offers views to the exterior garden and the entry of North-Easterly prevailing winds. Throughout the morning, this decorative pattern provides an interesting play of light and shadow on the floor and walls. The cottage uses various species of recycled lumber including cedar, olivier and fiddle wood (locally called bois fidele) from one of the old cocoa houses that existed on the estate.
Bright and cherry kitchen (Photo courtesy
The Eastern wall of the cottage uses hurricane shutter windows which allow the cool tropical breezes in during the day and can be lowered to protect guests from the early morning sun or driving rain. The tropical foliage also provides a good measure of shading.
Wooden Shutters and streaked olivier wood graces the Eastern wall
(Photo courtesy

The Western wall seen below, is the original end of the cottage but this was amended in 1990 when an annex was constructed to accomodate a growing family. This included the addition of a writing room downstairs, which doubles as sleeping quarters for two small children or adults and an upstairs bedroom with lookout deck. This once family abode, now welcomes guests from around the world. The old Western wall contains built-in storage which displays Ajoupa pottery work, knick knacks and books.

Built-in storage displays pottery and books
Terracotta Sconce designed and made by Bunty O'Connor
Writing Room (Photo courtesy
The vibrant blue that weaves throughout the main living area
makes its way onto a folding accent chair.
Upstairs-Main Sleeping Area
The main sleeping area is located on the upper floor of the annex and looks out to the surrounding gardens below. The space is equipped with a few pieces of exquisite antique furniture collected at garage and estate sales over the years.

Colourful accents liven up the upstairs space
Antique storage piece
Bedroom balcony looks out into the garden below
You can book your spot at the Ajoupa Garden Cottage by contacting Bunty at or visit her at ajoupa garden cottage at to view more beautiful photos of the space and surrounding garden.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

DIY-Indoor Tin Can Planter

Unfortunately for us in Trinidad and Tobago, there isn't much of a drive to recycle anything. Carib Glassworks is doing their bit for glass, Recycle in Motion, Plastikeep, Piranha International and Secure Recycling Limited for plastics but where are our tin cans going at the end of the day? Into the landfills where they take 150-200 years to degrade. My planter is in no way a solution for the lack of aluminum recycling in our country but it's a way for you and me to reduce some of our personal trash reaching the already overflowing landfills. Using tin cans you can create your own indoor herb garden without much effort or money. You can also use old pots and pans in a similar way to create a suspended flower garden.

Here's what you'll need:
  1. Tin cans
  2. 1 Nail
  3. Hammer
  4. A white ceramic/glass/clay tray or an old saucer or plate is fine
  5. Herbs for planting
  6. Soil
  7. Clear nail polish/lacquer
  • Spray Paint
A. Tin Can Prep

  1. Remove the labels from the cans. This way you have uniformed, neutral coloured cans. If you wish you can spray paint your cans. I would opt for a mettalic colour or white.
  2. Create drainage holes or you'll rot the roots of your plants. Using the nail and hammer, punch 4-5 evenly spaced holes at the bottom of the cans.
  3. Using the nail lacquer brush paint lacquer all over the bottom of  the can and on the side/circumference of the can up to about 1/4 inch (to prevent rusting).  
B. Prep cans for Plants
  1. Add a layer of gravel or small stones/pebbles to the can.
  2. Add soil
C. Adding Plants

  1. Make a small hole in the soil and place the roots and part of the stem of the selected plant in the hole and cover area with additional soil.
  2. Using your fingers gently press down the soil around the stem of the plant to secure the plant from falling over. Be careful not to compact the soil too much.
D. Planter base
Here I used a black decorative dish I usually place fruits in for display. A white rectangular ceramic tray would look really nice in this project especially if the cans are lined up along the longest part of the tray.

  1. Fill your chosen base with river rocks or pebbles or place tin can with plant in base then fill with river rocks or pebbles. You may place the tin cans on top of the stones and allow water to drain to the base to be evaporated during the day or opt to not use the river stones at all.
  2. Place planter in an area on your counter that receives sunlight during the day. Do not put the planter ontop of your microwave. If using seedlings like I did with most of the herbs here, allow them to flourish a bit before using them for seasoning your masterpieces.

 This tin can garden is particularly useful for people living in apartments with little or no gardening space. You can also use this technique with seedlings until they are ready to be planted in a garden.

You can can get crazy with it 0_0 Here's a sample of my tiny container garden complete with 1/2 a 'Crix tin' planting on the far right.


Friday, 29 March 2013

People/Places in Spotlight-Bunty O'Connor: Ajoupa Pottery

Bunty works on "Mother & Daughter", inspired by Pat Bishop (photo courtesy
Bunty tours the garden barefoot, staying connected to the earth.
Google the name Bunty O'Connor or Ajoupa Pottery and you're met with a slew of articles, blog posts and imagery of the artist's work in clay. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Bunty, the artist behind Ajoupa Pottery; she is an elegant, insightful, free spirited, nature enthusiast who just happens to be an amazing artist. Bunty has experimented with different types of media from fabric to watercolour and glass but I'm inclined to believe that clay is her favourite. Ajoupa Pottery opened for business in 1987 as a workshop located in the hills of Carapichima, Central, Trinidad and Tobago run by Bunty and her husband Rory O'Connor.  The main focus was on experimenting and creating beautiful thrown, pressed and handmade terracotta wares and ornaments for sale. That particular workshop is no more but Ajoupa Pottery has been invigorated with new life and a new vision. 

Bunty and Rory sit in their home surrounded by Bunty's beautiful art.
In experimenting for over 20 years with Trinidad and Tobago's local terracotta Bunty discovered that the fragility and consistency of the clay only allowed for mosaics and smaller pottery such as urns, bowls, vases etc. Not one to be bound by limitations in her art, she expanded to internationally sourced clay which allows for the creation of larger figures. These variations in form and material can be found throughout the interior on every wall and floor of the O'Connor home and in the exterior on walls, floors and dappled throughout the garden as sculpture. 
Bunty's work gracefully adorns their abode, floor tiles, mosaic tables, ornaments and sculptures.

After the couple decided to close Ajoupa Pottery's main door Bunty's classes moved to a portion of her garage. While the artist enjoyed making other people's visions come to life she is now at a stage in her life where she needs to share her own visions with the world. Her pieces are inspired by her spirituality, connection to the natural environment and her sense of the history which abounds in it. She creates art at her leisure and hosts open houses at her home for sale of her pieces (by appointment) throughout the year.

Bunty has fine tuned the process for a new clay with which she has been
experimenting and is ready to hold classes with this particular material.

The kiln for firing the pottery and work in progress
Conservationists at Heart
The O'Connors practice responsible, environmentally conscious living: recycling, reusing, composting and conserving wherever they can. Greywater is collected and reused for garden irrigation and rainwater is collected for household use during the dry season. As often as possible laundry is dried 'en plein air' conserving electricity, lengthening the lifespan of clothing and bedding and naturally killing large amounts of bacteria through the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Line drying laundry conserves electricity and more.
A large cistern collects and stores rainwater for use.
Salvaged antique doors from an old building
find a home in the new studio.

New Studio (in progress)
The new design studio, its storage and workspaces are being constructed by Rory, using salvaged and local materials and in some cases cedar wood from their own backyard.  
The new studio comes complete with slab roller and large workspaces.
Storage solutions above and around the sink

Rolling storage housing paints, glazes, moulds etc
The Ajoupa Pottery studio offers classes in ceramics, glass fusing and slumping and the Japanese technique of Raku ware.

Raku Kiln and Cooling Bin filled with sawdust.
Raku Method - followed in Bunty's classes
  1. Bunty takes the participants through an exercise with the clay that releases them from preconceived ideas about what they want to make. They have to work spontaneously and quickly.
  2. After this the pieces are made left to dry over 3 or 4 days.
  3. In between the 2 weekends the clay is fired and then...
  4. On the 2nd day, participants glaze and do as many firings as necessary. In the case of raku, each firing takes about 2 hours.
  5. The soot from the fire is then scrubbed off and the fabulous artwork revealed. This is the point that Bunty describes as the "OOO and aaah moments"

    The process is an exciting one which seems to be in demand and loved by all who attend these workshops. The process of removing the glowing form from the kiln surrounded by flames and heat then swiftly but precisely dropping it into a sawdust filled drum, to the sounds of crackles, smoke and more flames must be thoroughly gratifying. Sign up for Bunty's classes and let me know how it goes!
Ajoupa Pottery's Class Schedule for the remainder of 2013
  • Apr 7, 14, 21 Making Ceramic Mosaic, start to finish
  • Jun 9, 16 Glass Fusing and Slumping
  • Jul 7, 14, 21 Making and Using moulds for Ceramics
For further information on classes, give Bunty a call at 868 673 0605 or email her at

The couple's love of animals and nature is evidenced by their environment and the variation of domesticated animals on the estate. During my visit, I saw a chicken that lays on a table in the garage, another hen with several chicks following at her feet, several cocks parading about the place, a cat sprawled lazily at the top of a flight of stairs in the main house and I heard anecdotes about two squirrels that had been rescued as pups, that now believed that the dog Dingo is a larger version of themselves. I was very fortunate to make the acquaintance of Dingo, a friendly, beautiful dog with the most amazing coat I have ever seen. I must admit I was smitten by her wonderful disposition the first moment she bounded in my direction. She stayed at Bunty's side throughout the majority of my visit with the O'Connors, ensuring their safety and affirming her position as a worthy companion to the couple.
Dingo keeps Bunty and Rory company at every turn.
If you're a nature lover, a lover of fresh air, cool breezes and a good view or simply a lover of art and good people you should make your way to Ajoupa Pottery for some good ole relaxation and rejuvenation. In that one visit, I left feeling revived and ready to take on the world!