Cochin: Furnishings Found

Yesterday’s post about Crafters in Cochin shows fantastic items to be had there, but those items are eye candy for us now and not for the apartment. We bought a few things. Not many now, because we’re still a ways from fully furnishing the India pied-à-terre. And even then, it will be minimally furnished because it’s not a full-time home. But we could not pass up a few items.

They are a mix of styles but that is what I like, a global blend.

This lounge chair will rest before big balcony doors, thrown open on breezy days. Its undulating waves offer natural lumbar and knee support. So comfortable. The weave breathes on hot days. I’ve been waiting for a decade to get this chair! Since I first saw one on my first trip to India. It will be tough knowing I’ll need a plane ticket to sit in this chair:

Buddha hands as drawer/cabinet pulls. We got two to go on cabinets hiding the washer/dryer — why not make everything special:

We got one of these lanterns to add electrical and hang from the ceiling in the alcove.

The lantern will cast beautiful shadows as I’ve blogged about that inspiration before.

And this table for a coffee table. We liked the shape of the legs and how it is not too heavy visually. I like how it’s light but yet feels strong, masculine.

This table is older. Crafters also has shinier new ones. This old one needs repair in some spots, as you can see, but I like the patina on old pieces. We will set glass into it to make an even table surface. Here are more (shinier) tables available at Crafters:

Finally I just had to grab a Singer sewing machine base, because I sew home decor items enough that on the next trip here (whenever that is) I’ve already planned to bring my sewing machine to work here. The Singer base can double as a guest room nightstand. Right now it has a cheap wood top that can easily be painted or replaced:

Singer stands are pricey in vintage stores at home in the U.S. (unless you can score one on Craig’s List) but common here in India as they’re still in service everywhere.

The chair, table, Singer base and lantern are being shipped from Cochin to Chennai. They may arrive on Friday. Or they may not arrive on Friday. Whether they do or do not arrive on Friday, I leave to return to Chicago on Saturday morning. I may see these in the India pied-à-terre during this trip, or I may have to wait until the next trip. Such as it is! I’ve learned to accept the pace  in India as I alone cannot change it.

However I did pick up some smaller pieces at Crafters that can fit in a suitcase and will make a blog appearance when I get back to Chicago.

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Cochin: Crafters, Filled to the Rafters

While construction is in final stages in the Chennai apartment, we escaped to find beautiful things. We set aside three days to shop for furnishings and accessories in Cochin. We decided to focus on the Crafters stores and not try to comparison shop everywhere. For ease and consolidation of purchases and shipping. Because we’ve become tired pretty quickly this trip. We now seek paths of least resistance.

We toured all the Crafters stores and warehouses. They’ve grown a lot since we visited a decade ago. Here are some sights seen there …

These are colorful and fantastical. Imagine if this place was like the movie Night at the Museum and these things came to life:

What if we kept foods today in containers such as these below. Jars in the first photo were used to hold pickles in India. Wouldn’t they mix well with containers from Greece, Tuscany or Provence.

Some of these are enormous. They’re all heavy. Why can’t practical objects also be sculptural and beautiful.

These are often repurposed with glass tops for coffee tables, or filled with upholstered cushions for low seating or ottomans:

Crafters has countless styles of old columns:

They have thousands of intricate old and new carved wood pieces, like this old window already outfitted with a mirror behind the shutters:

Hindu deities, Shiva and Parvathi:


A bride’s dowry chest from Punjab. If this is just the chest, can you imagine the treasures within!?

Rusted door locks and chippy paint can be beautiful:

In the next post, I will show the items we considered and purchased for the India pied-a-terre.

(By the way, all these photos were taken with the iPhone 4S with only minor edits in Photoshop. The camera is decent enough when you want the convenience of pulling out a small device to shoot pics.)

You might also like:

Cochin: The Ones That Got Away

Cochin: Furnishings Found

Living Room Furnishings Found in Chennai

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Where to Shop in Chennai??? Ideas?

That headline is a really stupid question, if you’d seen us shop-till-we-drop during travels elsewhere! But we travel to India differently than we travel elsewhere. Because family is in Chennai. When I get back to the U.S., excited people ask …

“Where did you go?”

“What did you see?”

“Do you have photos?”

Um, I went to living rooms? I saw living rooms? I have photos of living rooms??

Truly, that is much of what we do — visit and be visited.

I do have these photos from Chennai:

  • Shopping for saris and textiles at Nalli in Ponagal Park
  • Standing around drinking Pepsi in the heat. Hmm, I now see why we suddenly needed Pepsi.
  • Gardens my father-in-law helped build around T Nagar
  • A grocery store conveyer belt at Nilgiri (forgive me, I was astounded to see a grocery store conveyer belt in India back in 2002 so it was photo-worthy, yes)
  • PSBB grounds in Chennai where my husband went to school
  • Banana leaf from the backyard
  • Shiny new cars in a shiny new dealership when my sister-in-law bought a car
  • My sister-in-law learning to drive a manual transmission — while we were in the car! :)
  • The beach not long after the tsunami hit
  • My husband’s fast food nemesis — KFC — yes there’s an inside joke there
  • And people who asked to get their picture taken with me!

Plus video of about 10 blind people holding onto each other and crossing through the crazy traffic at a busy intersection! Unbelievable!

That’s about it. That’s where we go in Chennai. When people ask where to shop in Chennai, I can offer Nalli, Sundari Silks, and Citi Center mall with Lifestyle.

But now we have an apartment in Chennai. An empty apartment. We don’t even have a lamp! Nothing to sit on!

So where do we shop in Chennai for home goods? And find Christmas goodies for family back home in the U.S.? Ideas please!!

Here’s what I have so far:

This is way too short a list — surely there are more places to visit and give some visibility to them here. Please share in comments any Chennai shops or shopping districts you recommend!

I’m not afraid to tread through difficult places. Someday I’ll post video of the claustrophobic aisles of Chinatown and Indian shopping areas in Bangkok. It’s an adventure to go to off-the-beaten-tourist-path places. Unfortunately other cities have better documentation for visitors than Chennai.

So, help! Please recommend where to shop for things, for anything, because we need nearly everything. Thank you!

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Book: The Treasures and Pleasures of India

This book’s authors are a couple who love to travel and shop. They’ve written guides about traveling and shopping for treasures in many countries including Thailand, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Australia,Turkey, France, Italy, Mexico. And there’s more … they’ve been everywhere. Just imagine the life!

When we’ve traveled to Thailand, I’ve used the The Treasures and Pleasures of Thailand book to supplement Nancy Chandler Bangkok and Chiang Mai maps, Frommers, Lonely Planet and DK Books. For us, the value of the book was confirming and building on what we already knew from previous trips about “how things work” when shopping in Thailand. Thus we rented a car and drove ourselves rather than have anyone drive us when we needed to do serious furniture shopping around Chiang Mai. We wanted to go where we wanted to go, not where someone else wanted to take us. The book did suggest new places to shop for quality goods. I’d caution the preference of these authors is pricey. I prefer to look in the pricey shops and learn about style and hallmarks of quality. Then I go to other places and try to get the best of what I can find for less. For example we browsed the upscale antiques stores around The Oriental in Bangkok (it’s a hotel that won’t let you in the door if you’re without reservations and wearing a T-shirt and a backpack, ask me how I know!), then got reproductions for far less at Baan Tawai near Chiang Mai.

Until now, I haven’t yet had occasion to use our Treasures and Pleasures of India book. It covers Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Hyderabad and Chennai.

In Chennai they recommend shopping for:

  • Textiles, especially silks like Kanchipuram silks
  • Gold and silver jewelry
  • Old furniture from South India and Sri Lanka
  • Paintings, sculptures and other art forms made by Chennai artists
  • Bronze figurines, wood carvings and terra cotta

Much shopping of interest to tourists seems to be near the Taj Coromandel, Sheraton Chola and other larger upscale hotels.

They write some about shopping near Panagal Park, which is great because our apartment is in T Nagar near there. Panagal Park and Pondy Bazaar are busy-busy-busy — here are street scenes from The Hindu newspaper:

But as this photo from PixMonk shows, there’s enough for everybody:

I like visiting best at night, when it’s cooler, there’s energy among the people, and the views are much better:

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