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Today various cities and countries all over the world are celebrating Bastille Day (or La Fête Nationale, as it’s formally called). In France the sky is often lit up with fireworks, and the streets are filled with parades, festivities and celebrations from dusk ’til dawn. What I would give to be in Paris during the Bastille Day Military Parade. But no matter where you are, from Baltimore to San Francisco, you can most certainly find a way to celebrate this occasion even if it means throwing a Bastille Day party of your own. All you need is a little blue, white and red … and food, of course.

bastille day macaronsCannelle et Vanille: Raspberry + Pink Peppercorn Macarons

bastille day french cookiesSweetopia: French-Inspired Cookies

See More French-Inspired Entertaining Ideas

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During the last quarter, HGTV’s Home Studio interns, Diana Stercula and Monica Blair from the University of Cincinnati, have been working on various design projects in and outside the building, including HGTV Headquarters’ newest interactive vignette: East Meets West. The Home Studio university co-op program allows up-and-coming designers, like Monica and Diana, to work closely with design experts to offer unique and educational takes on interior design elements. For this globally-inspired vignette, Monica and Diana worked with Vern Yip and other HGTV professionals to create a one-of-a-kind concept, living right here at our offices. I recently talked to the designers about their piece. See what they had to say:

hgtv home studio interns displayEast Meets West: Spiritually-inspired designs of the East merge harmoniously with styles of the West.


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One of the best things about being a blogger is hearing from those who read the AphroChic blog and my posts here on Design Happens. Every now and then a wonderful reader will send me a link to a site they think I’ll like. That happened earlier this week, when a reader sent me a link to KMP furniture in Miami (a city I still need to make a trip to).  He must have known how much I love suzani prints, and how much I would love this site filled with suzani-upholstered seating. Oh, it’s just fantastic!

Evita Chair

From deep and cozy side chairs to egg chairs, these pieces are truly one-of-a-kind, featuring 18th-century fabric designs on modern furniture silhouettes.

Ecko Chair

The variety of pattern and color makes these chairs remarkable statement pieces.

Apollo Chair

In classic styles like this wingback chair, these furnishings can also fit into the most traditional of spaces. I could see a set of these in a sitting room. Wouldn’t they look incredible?

Malia Chair

And for something a little unconventional, how about this embroidered swan-style chair? It’s the perfect mix of modern and traditional. It’s fantastic to see old-school design made new again.

For more suzani inspiration, check out my Oh Suzani post featuring some gorgeous textiles.

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Through the process of researching our September Color of the Month and compiling inspiring interiors and decor in this shade, I came across some pretty interesting online debates that verged on hostile. Apparently, defining this color can stir up some heat. Surprising for such a peaceful color. (You’d think we’d picked fire engine red.) Is it possible that a greater internal struggle surfaces not when asking “To be or not to be” but rather…


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Are you looking for towels that are modern, featuring bright colors or bold stripes…and that feel incredible? That’s exactly what I found on a trip to the Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. My sister and I came across the Bath Style booth, and they specialize in Turkish bath towels, or peshtemals. I could not get over their beauty. I knew I absolutely had to learn more about these hand-woven pieces and what other incredible designs are coming of Turkey. After a bit of digging, I came across some beautiful Turkish designs that range from bath towels to rugs, pillows and even ceramics. My four picks offer perfect ways to infuse culture, color and one-of-a-kind design in your home.

While Turkish bath towels can’t be found everywhere just yet, the Etsy shop Bath Style has an incredible array in stock. Peshtemals are known for their absorbency and unique styles, which are representative of different regions in the country. I think these towels are so appealing, why limit their use just to a bathroom? They would make gorgeous table cloths or throws for a casual living room.

Yastik, based in Istanbul, presents a new collection of Turkish pillows every season. “Yastik” is the Turkish word for cushions, and these cushions are absolute works of art. The colors and attention to detail in each one is breathtaking. I’d love to have an entire collection at home.


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When developing a new collection, part of my job as a designer is doing research. If that sounds boring to you, trust me, it’s not. To create a new print, I examine both the latest trends and the history of a certain pattern or detail. My husband, the scholar in our family (he is currently working on his Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies), recently gave me a book — African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design by Ron Eglash. (For you Ph.D. types, Eglash traveled to Africa for his research on the intersection of fractal mathematics and African architecture, art and culture.)

At its core, the book is about the creation of African patterns, something I love and have incorporated into my own designs. I look to the past and then impose a modern twist. The Beat pillow from AphroChic does just that, using an African kuba print in a large, oversized scale, and in mod colors like cerulean and coral. Here’s no-math-required look at my finds for incorporating African print and pattern in your home decor from stores that have included them in their collections.


One of the things I love about African prints is that they incorporate a variety of colors into each pattern. This Dutch Wax Ottoman has a beautiful color palette of green, blue and yellow. It’s the perfect starting point for a colorful room.


The Etsy shop Amani At Home offers some beautiful African batik pillows. Each design features bright and bold hues. One or two would make the perfect accent piece on a neutral sofa.

And how about these adorable seats from Artifort? They are called African Swamps and come in a variety of lush colors like hot pink, lemon yellow and teal. I definitely would like one of these as a pouf for my living room. So cute!


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When the heat is as overwhelming as it’s been for the past few weeks, I can’t help but pine for France. I was lucky enough to spend an entire summer there when the breeze was constant and cool. Now, all I can do is stare at old photos and think of the gorgeous places I visited. (All the glowing buzz I’ve been hearing about Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris isn’t helping either.) While a Louis chair might be what pops into your head, here’s what comes to mind for me when I hear the words “French” and “design” — toile, bistros and Provence. Take a tour with me, and I’ll explain.

Toile Rooms

TOILE: When I was a child, my mom—she’s absolutely obsessed with anything French—introduced me to toile. Drapes, pillows, comforters, you name it, our home had it…in toile. Later when I toured Versailles, I experienced toile on a whole new level. One of the best things about decorating with toile is that it can go ornate or country French, Marie Antoinette or urban chic. Using it throughout a room can give any space a hotel feel like the guest room from HGTV’s guide to Global Design. The bedding and wallpaper match perfectly with the rich, warm tones in the wooden headboard and nightstand breaking up the busyness of the pattern. You can also use toile as an accent piece like in this transitional kitchen in a modern home in Sweden. (I’m seriously considering clearing out my kitchen and starting from scratch simply so I can include a toile accent wall.)

Parisian Cafe Table

BISTROS: One thing I learned while living in Paris is that, just like in the movies, from one street to the next, there’s always a cafe in sight. Recreate this Parisian cafe-style nook by designer/stylist Cheri Messerli on a small balcony or terrace patio, and you’ll be set from morn’ until eve’ (especially if you come across vintage fabric like that). In the morning, enjoy some coffee and croissants while talking with your beloved, in person or on Skype. Later in the day, wipe away any remaining crumbs and use the table for some craft projects or a reading break. Then at night, pull out the h’ors doeurves and candles, pour a glass of wine and relax with friends and family for a perfectly Parisian evening.

Provincal Kitchen

PROVENCE: Touring the French countryside with my mom, I fell in love with the authenticity of the locals’ homes that we visited, some of which were hundreds of years old. If you like rustic, then think Provence. This dining area I found on the blog Decor de Provence is a beautiful take on provincial style. I love the weathered and worn finishes on the furniture and pantry doors. To top it off, the purple flowers in tall glass vases add the perfect touch of country French. (I picture a jovial family get-together here. Maybe something like Russell Crowe’s friends and family at the end of A Good Year.)

To explore more French-inspired design, check out HGTV’s guide to global style influences. But first, what do you like best about France or French design?

Tell us in the comment area below.

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Years ago, I landed upon one of the most beautiful blogs, My Marrakesh, and developed an online friendship with author Maryam Montague. She introduced me to Moroccan wedding blankets (I bought a gorgeous one from her years ago) and to the beauty of the Moroccan riad. In fact, it is her very own Peacock Pavilions that I want to introduce you to today. An amazing boutique hotel and home built by Maryam and her husband, Peacock Pavilions has the perfect blend of traditional Moroccan style and modern touches that make it a true gem. I hope you enjoy this house tour and from it takeaway ideas for incorporating Moroccan design in your own spaces.

The Grand Salon in the Atlas Pavilion

In the salon, pierced lanterns hang above and traditional poufs sit next to glossy Ikea chairs for a modern twist.

The Grand Salon in the Medina Pavilion

The arched entryways and tiled fireplace are standouts among the beautiful features in this living space.

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I have a funny connection to The Smurfs. In 2009 while living in Swansea, UK, I (along with more than 2,500 other people) broke a Guinness World Record for “the most people dressed as Smurfs.” I kid you not. For one night, the tiny town of Swansea was bombarded with people doused in blue body paint and white Smurf/Smurfette costumes. It was an insanely surreal experience to see your favorite childhood cartoon come to life — literally. Two years later, it looks like smurf blue has taken over another unsuspecting city.

The-Smurfs-Movie-Sony-Pictures-Juzcar-SpainImages (top left, bottom right): Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images; Images (top right, both images bottom left): AP Photo/Sergio Torres

Sony Pictures chose the tiny Spanish town of Juzcar to promote and host the premiere of The Smurfs 3D by turning the town into a life-size Smurf Village. More than 1,000 gallons of blue paint and a dozen painters transformed the distressed white buildings of Juzcar into bright blue beauties. Nestled in the Ronda highlands with an estimated population of 205 people, Juzcar has gained instant worldwide popularity. And even though Sony plans to return the structures to their original color come September, many of the residents surprisingly prefer the Smurf-blue hue and may just leave it that way.

From your travels, what is your favorite city that proudly breaks away from traditional exterior colors and has boldly splashed their homes and buildings with a rainbow of colors?

Tell us in the comments below.

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San Francisco designer Audrey Brandt is an artist and international traveler at heart. She began her professional career in residential interior design in Tokyo of all places and currently designs homes with an international range of styles and motifs, including recent projects in Australia, France and Japan. She details her travels and international design projects on her blog, Destination Design.

Audrey Brandt Dining Room View

Audrey walks us though her family’s vacation home in Paris for our monthly designer house tour. This stunning duplex apartment borders the Seine on the Left Bank of Paris and boasts spectacular views of Notre Dame Cathedral, Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint Louis. Housed on the third and fourth floors of a beautiful 18th-century building, Audrey totally renovated, refurbished and decorated it to stunning results. The level of craftsmanship and the design work are superb.

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