Join Lisa on her trip to Luang Prabang, Laos

During my bi-annual trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, I took a 5 day detour to Luang Prubang, Laos. Luang Prabang is located in Northern Laos and sits on the banks of the Mekong River.


It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. Much of its French Colonial roots are still visible in the country, including its architecture and food. Though quaint and charming, it is still one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Laos is known as the “The Land of a Million Bombs”.  More bombs were dropped on this tiny country during the Vietnam War, than the total of bombs dropped during all of World War II. Sadly, most of the victims of these unexploded bombs are children. About one third of the land in Laos is still contaminated with these unexploded bombs. Therefore, many of the night markets sell items made from the metal of the bombs.

My first morning in Luang Prabang was an early one. At 5:30 am, local monks from all of the surrounding temples descend on the town to gather alms. Gathering alms means that each monk carries a small wooden bowl around his neck, and passes by locals lined up on the streets.  Each person gives the monk a small donation of food. The monks then take this food back to the temple where it is combined and distributed to feed the entire temple. I will never forget the site I witnessed that morning. I arose at 5:00 am and waited on the street. I was about 20 minutes into my wait on a hot and steamy morning; the haze and moisture hung heavy over the city. Nevertheless, hundreds of monks came out of what seemed like nowhere and from all different directions. They lined up in single file, and descended on the town. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. At this moment, I felt like I was in a National Geographic episode. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, one which I will never forget.


Laos is also home to many hill tribes including the Yaun, Hmong, Lahu and Akha.  Each tribe arrives at the town every evening for the night market. Many of these tribes are known for their different kinds of handcrafts.  Most handicrafts include weaving with hand spun cotton, natural dyes like indigo, and intricate embroideries. Each tribe also wears a very distinctive “costume” (although most traditional dress is disappearing in favor of western style clothing). I was lucky enough to come across a Hmong women selling beautiful clutches made out of authentic Hmong costumes.


The workmanship that goes into these handcafts are amazing. I couldn’t pass up the scarves, bags and table runners which were made from hand spun cotton ,and dyed in the traditional blue and white indigo. A day trip down the Mekong, on a long boat, brought me to a unique weaving village that also happens to specialize in Cobra whiskey. I purchased many beautiful scarves for the store, but passed on the Cobra whiskey.  



Last but not least, a trip to Luang Prabang would not be complete without a visit to the Pak Ou Caves. These limestone caves are one of the most respected holy sites in Laos. The site contains over 4,000 miniature Budhhas figures that date back thousands of years.


It’s a 2 hour boat ride up the Mekong, but it is worth it. This is an incredible expedition, one that results in stunning home made goods and astonishing memories. 

Trip to Cambodia, Myanmar and Bangkok

How special is Cambodia to me?
It becomes readily apparent when I approach the passport control desk in Siem Reap. The officer turns the pages of my passport and responds “welcome home Mrs. Duffy”.
It’s my 10
th visit in 6 years and I’m excited to see the
28 Cambodian girls who affectionately call me “Mom”.

It’s late at night when I arrive with my daughter and husband but, it’s clear word has gotten out amongst the girls about my pending arrival. My IM account starts beeping upon arrival in Siem Reap and I know the girls are anxious to see us. They know it will be a fun and exciting week and a welcome break from their daily routine of chores and studying. I come bearing goodies of all kinds including Trader Joe’s chocolate cookie dough spread. 10 jars and many bags of pretzels later and it’s gone in minutes. They don’t get chocolate often if ever. The heat and the expense make it prohibitive.

Arts and crafts are always on our agenda. This is something most Cambodians have never experienced at home or at school. What teenage girl doesn’t love arts and crafts? T-shirt decorating, mirror painting and collage making kick off the start of the week. To watch the smiles and laughter when the girls start to paint is just such a great feeling. So little brings so much joy!

For the first time ever we attempt an ice cream party. To watch us transporting ice cream and toppings, in plastic wash tubs filled with ice, in an open air Tuc Tuc, in 100 degree heat, was hysterical. But we pulled it off!

Each afternoon, when we would leave the girls' house, we would start planning our nightly activities for another group of girls. These are the girls who once resided at the PAGE house but have since graduated and are now working and going to school. Many of these graduates still live in the area and they are also anxious to see us. Years ago, I started taking some of the recent graduates to dinner every evening. That has now transformed into a nightly reservation for 18-20. We seemed to have expanded beyond just the girls to boyfriends, husbands, friends and family. Other than the PAGE graduates most of the other attendees don’t even speak English! It's funny to look around the table and see Uncle Sarem staring back at you smiling and not knowing one word of Khmer. All kidding aside,It is so much fun to see how these girls are transforming into young women before my eyes. For the most part they are managing through some of the most difficult situations and trying to stay focused on completing their education but, it clearly is no easy task. Working full time and going to school ,while still having to send money to their families, is a lot of pressure for someone just entering adulthood. My visit always culminates with a party and a couple of pinatas. It’s so much fun but, always so bittersweet to know it will be some time before we see each other again. “It’s not goodbye but see you later” I say to the girls. 

Before I depart I manage to visit my favorite village for ceramics. Each piece is handmade and unique to each artist. The owner recognizes me immediately and says he will now offer me a discount he only saves for his best customers. I also know that it is low season and he is anxious for some sales. 

I also stop in another village to check in with my some weavers who are working on more placemats and napkins for the store. Handmade products, small artisianal workshops and and age old craftsmanship are something I can’t get enough of. 

Before I leave Cambodia I make one last stop at Ta Prohmn
Temple. In all the times I have been to Cambodia,I have never visited this site. 

This is the temple made famous by Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raiders. It’s in much of the same condition in which it was found: a combination of trees growing out of the ruins deep in the jungle. It’s quite a site and I would recommend going early in the morning because it is unbearably hot and was crowded, even in the off season. 

                                            Next stop, Myanmar, formerly Burma.

                                                                         Buddhist Monks lining up for lunch

                                                                         Buddhist Monks lining up for lunch

Myanmar has always fascinated me. Twenty five years ago my husband and I visited the border between Myanmar and Thailand. I remember watching the droves of people crossing over the border into Thailand each morning looking for work. It was, and still is, a desperately poor country and at that time,most Burmese had never seen a foreigner. Clearly no one with fair skin, light hair and blue eyes. I remember standing at the border crossing admiring their traditional dress. Little did I know that I was more interesting to them. They wanted to touch my face and hair. It was just a little unsettling. Each evening they would have to make the trek across the border back home. Getting out of this country was almost as difficult as getting in. Myanmar has suffered for years under a brutal military regime until the countries heroine, Aung San Suu Kyi, won in a landslide in the country’s first democratic election. Aung San Suu Kyi was held captive in her own home for almost 15 years by the military rulers. Recently opened to tourism, Myanmar was always on my bucket list and I was eager to start this part of my adventure.  

We landed in Ragon, Myanmar which is the country’s largest city. It’s much more developed than Siem Reap. It’s also a much more conservative country than Cambodia. Most women still wear the traditional ankle length silk skirt,called a longyi, that is adorned with some intricate embroidery. There are far fewer westerners on th streets of Ragon. Strangers came up to us asking to take our pictures. I was told it was a sense of pride to have a picture hanging in your house with a foreigner, even if you don’t know the person. You’ll also quickly notice that most Burmese men and women wear a chalky mask on their faces. It’s made from a natural tree pulp and it’s supposed to be a sign of beauty while offering sunscreen and other benefits. Even babies have their faces adorned with this mask.  

On our first day we took the ferry from Ragon over to Bagan. It's a short ride to Bagan and well worth the visit. There are no cars in Bagan and I wanted to visit some of the local artisans. My transportation around Bagan was a Burmese version of a rickshaw.  

Of we went to my first stop. I was told there was a candle maker there who has been making candles the same way for the past 100 years. It was an amazing site to see. Big cauldrons of boiling wax being hand poured into tiny birthday candle sized molds. It must have been 120 degree in "rustic" barn. 

My favorite part of traveling is seeking out local artisans. This was well worth the visit. 

My second day in Ragon included a visit to Scotts market. It's a large sprawling market that sells everything from jewelry and silk to jade. I am in my glory searching for new and exciting pieces to bring back to the shop. Mother of pearl, silk and embroidered bags were just a few of favorite purchases.  

If you come,there are few ATM's so make sure you exchange money at your hotel. Credit cards are not excepted and neither are US dollars.

Next stop....Bangkok

I've been to Bangkok at least 4 times. It's a big,busy and congested city. My main reason in visiting Bangkok is to go to the world famous Chatuchak Market. It's only open Friday evening through Sunday evening. It contains everything from rare and exotic animals to cutting edge clothing designers and housewares. I love this market and it continues to fascinate me. The Thai vendors love to bargain and it becomes silly when you realize your fighting over pennies. You can get lost in this market and it's advisable to take a map. We spent 8 hours there one day and only covered 1/3 of the market. I think I like it so much because, many of the Asian markets I visit, I see the same items over and over again. This market is unique and contains many local designers selling one of a kind items. 

My next stop in Bangkok is to Siam Discovery. I have been very fortunate in my business to experience double digit growth. I'd like to think it's because I seek out the unique and unusual and create a shopping experience that is not the norm in the US. I am always on the look out for cutting edge lifestyle retailers that I can learn from. I hit the jackpot with Siam Discovery. 

Normally ,when I hear the word mall I think of cookie cutter stores selling mass produced items. This mall was the exception. It's hard to describe why it was so special. I headed straight up to the home accessories section and it didn't disappoint me. Row after row of long tables divided into small sections. Each section displayed a very small sampling of one-of-a kind artist and home ware designers. Each designer had their web site prominently displayed and a bar code to scan if you wanted to view,or purchase, more items from the vendor. It just made shopping such a adventure. Siam Discovery was all about discovery and it didn't disappoint. It even had an interactive exhibit where you type in your Instagram account and 100's of small monitors create a visual collage of you account. I would call the whole experience part shopping and part museum. 

Until my next trip....thanks for following!

DAY 3- Trends in Design

It seems the recent tragic events in Paris have impacted the design community. Every year there seems to be one bright luscious color that takes hold of this great design event.  In years past, I've seen bright orange, deep purple and turquoise in everything from bedding to lighting and furniture. This year, the colors are very dark, muted and a little somber. Deep blues, subdued grays and taupes are everywhere.  The contrast of black juxtaposed with white is the only real attempt at color.  But luckily, like fashion, color will return!


DAY 2 - Paris

Today, as I was walking through the show, I came to a "booth" decorated in traditional French Haussmann style architecture. I was truly amazed when I got close enough to realize it was all done in wallpaper. The trompe l'oeil effect was so authentic and beautiful.  This French designer has created a line of wallpaper, wall coverings,vinyl rugs and pillows in a wide variety of trompe l'oeil effects.  Wall coverings that mimic a birds eye view into some of Paris' most elegant apartments.  The vinyl floor coverings mimic perfectly aged French hard wood floors and antique tin tiles.  I can already envision so many applications for this sophisticated and stylish French product.


Follow Lisa on a European Buying Trip

Where do you go when you're looking for inspiration and design trends?
You go to Paris and, in particular,
you go to Maison Objet, one of the largest and most innovative home design shows in the world.  Here you'll see everything from designer textiles,handcrafted furniture and the finest in home accessories.

I arrived on a very cold morning and quickly warmed up after my first cup of French cafe au lait. There's nothing like French coffee! Within 10 minutes of my arrival, I stumbled on a Portuguese glassmaker.  The company, run by a mother and son duo, makes the most beautiful colored glasses, dishes and table top items. The jewel tones of the glass candlesticks would be perfect in almost any room in your home.  I can't wait for these to arrive in time for Spring. 


Next up on my list is a favorite for many Savoir Faire Home clients.  Arte Pura from Italy creates some of the most elegant and sophisticated table, bed and bath linens that are like nothing else I've ever seen. 
I've ordered them in a variety of muted tones and each one is adorned with hand applied crochet and lace. These are so special.  This year I added some of Arte Pura's candles.  Each candle is decorated with wax lace.  


As the long day was coming to an end, I was happy to see a familiar face.  Sergio from Bella fabrics greeted me with a big Italian hug.  Bella fabrics produces fine Italian wool and cashmere blankets and they were a big hit at Savoir Faire Home.  His new introductions include hand embroidered wool in the most incredible designs. The quality of their workmanship is incredible.


A trip to Maison Objet will always include a sighting or two of the most bizarre.  This year didn't disappoint me.  Here is just a few of the craziest things I saw.  A refrigerator covered in blue fur!  

Pillows and benches made from hay. Yes, real hay!

Finally, florescent colored Turkish olive jars.



Thanksgiving Feast - Harvest Bisque

1-1½ lbs of cubed butternut squash (1” cubes)
5 cups of chicken stock
4 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
¾ Cup ½ and ½ - or milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Place sqash in heavy 4 quart pot with chicken stock.  Cook over medium heat until tender – about 15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer squash to a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Stir stock into squash puree.  Set aside.  In same pot, melt butter, stir in flour and curry.  Cook, stirring over medium heat until smooth.  Add pureed squash mixture to pot.  Increase heat to medium-high heat and stir until soup thickens slightly.  Reduce heat and add ½ and ½.  DO NOT ALLOW SOUP TO BOIL AFTER THIS POINT.  Add lime juice, salt and pepper.  Ladle soup in to tureen.  When ready, serve in bowls and serve immediately.


Start your Thanksgiving feast with Harvest Bisque soup.  
Served in this beautiful soup tureen from Savoir Faire Home... 
wonderful on your own table or to take to your host's home.  

High Point Market - Fall

Just back from FALL High Point, NC Market!

We spent last week at the High Point Designer Fall Market.  Found some great things for the shop.....
Fell in LOVE with this little sled!

Found some great new
 furniture, rug, lighting and accessory options
for our interior design clients.  

Trends at High Point confirmed Savoir Faire Home's
relaxed sophisticated decorating style using natural colors
textured fabrics and rugs
...with a pop of something unexpected. 
We are excited to share some of our finds with our customers!

Andover Renovation – Bathroom

The bathroom was handicapped accessible and outdated.  Moving the shower and expanding it with a seamless glass door made it the focal point of the bathroom.  The shower subway tiles are honed marble.  Flooring is natural stone.   The layout allowed for double pedestal sinks to complete the look.

bathroom after

Andover Renovation - 1950"s Garrison Colonial

Savoir Faire Home recently completed a total renovation of this lovely 1950's Garrison Colonial in downtown Andover. Our goal OUTSIDE was to update the look without changing the structure of the house. This home has good "bones"! Replacing the red clapboard with cedar shingles, putting in new black windows and floor to ceiling ones on the first floor and updating the front door went a long way in changing the look of this home. New landscaping, granite steps and walkway and black shutters completed the look.  





The front of the house – the dining room, kitchen and living room – were all separate rooms and very dark. My goal was to open up the space to allow more light in and make the space more useable. We pulled the wall back in the dining room and took out the built in china cabinet.  This opened the space into the kitchen. The floors are stained in 50% Jacobean and 50% Ebony.

Removing the wall between the kitchen and family room further opened up the space! An open floor plan immediately updated the first floor. The counter top accommodates 5 counter stools. Cabinets are all custom in "Grandma's China"- a wonderful soft grey. Countertops are honed marble. 

Next up, is the bathroom update!

Vienna and Budapest - A Great Summer Trip!


When my husband and I found out that our daughters would be away for most of the summer, we decided to hit the road as well.  Our first stop was Vienna, Austria.  The last time I was in Vienna was almost 30 years ago.  I had remembered little about Vienna except a Saturday morning flea market filled with great finds and delicious food.  At the time, my sister and then brother-in-law owned a large antique import business. They traveled extensively all around the world and filled entire containers with some of the most amazing pieces.  I managed to find the same market on this recent trip.  Every Saturday morning at the end of Naschmarkt is an "antique" market.  Wow, how times have changed.  Instead, It appeared that people had cleaned out their closets, rolled all their belongs into a bed sheet and dumped it on the ground.  So much for merchandising!  I did manage to see some amazing crystal chandeliers and glassware for sale.  And keep your eyes out for an old woman selling antique table linens and grain sacks.  Her prices were reasonable and she was willing to bargain!

My favorite find of the day....sweet poppyseed bread just like my grandmother used to make.  My grandmother was born in Czechoslovakia and wasn't much of a baker except for her poppyseed and nut breads.  She would make this sweet paste out of the poppy seeds and then roll it into a bread and bake it.  I actually managed to put one in my luggage to take back to my 89 year old Mom.  I'm looking forward to seeing the smile on her face once my mom takes a bite out of the poppyseed bread!

Also on my list of favorite things is an ice cream shop called EIS.  I love ice cream and can't resist a good cone every now and then.  This shop makes the most amazing ice cream from farm fresh ingredients. Try the pumpkin seed oil ice cream. 

I know it doesn't sound the best but the flavor was just like eating sweet pumpkin seeds. If you are traveling to Vienna and looking for an excursion you must also go to MELK. This town sits high above the Danube and is just exquisite.  With it's cobblestoned streets and romantic architecture it is a welcome respite from the heat of the city.  Try any of the apricot made products from this area.  The glazed apricot seeds were my favorite. 

Next stop Budapest!

This has to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.  It's certainly my favorite. Most of the city was bombed to pieces during WWII and the following Soviet "liberation" but much was rebuilt to replicate the original designs.  Budapest has a certain pre-war charm and it's easily manageable on foot.  First stop on my list was the central market.  The central market is an old railway station converted into food and craft stalls.  I have never seen so many kinds of salami and sausage in my life. 

Many of the sausage and dried meats are seasoned with Hungary's world famous paprika.

The stall owners are all willing to give you a sample. The local handicraft at the market is also quite extensive. Some of the specialties include embroidery and cut work pieces, hand-painted household items and decorations, hand-painted eggs, unique handmade Christmas ornaments and much much more.

The  prices are a little steep here but you can still find some great bargains.  If you can appreciate that many of the pieces are handmade, then they are worth the price.  We also took a day trip to a local artist colony and found much of the same but for less money.  

My favorite was a sister and brother team selling some of the most amazing hand-embroidered items.  I bought tons of hand embroidered placemats and napkins for the store.  The owner was so sweet and gave me a hand embroidered wall hanging with a Hungarian "home blessing" as a token of her appreciation.

I would also suggest the Saturday morning flea market in Budapest called Petofi Csarnok. Many of the craftsmen and women come from the countryside to sell their wares.  I met a young man selling antique embroidered linens.  He told me that his grandfather had traveled the countryside for many years during the war and would buy hand embroideries from local villages.  He is now in his 80's and wants to sell many of his pieces in order to have a comfortable retirement.  He was so proud to be doing this in memory of his grandfather.  I left his stall with two giant bags and a big smile.  I love these kinds of finds!  I am looking forward to selling some of these amazing pieces in my shop and you can expect some very special holiday items.  

If you should ever come to Budapest don't miss the Terror Museum.  It's one of the best museums I have ever been in my travels all over the world.  This museum covers the Nazi occupation and the Soviet rule over Hungary.  Though the subject matter is sad, it's a sobering reminder of the atrocities of war.  You could easily spend a day here so leave yourself plenty of time.  On a lighter note....I would skip the mineral bath houses that Budapest is famous for.  My husband was dying to go so I reluctantly joined him.  Imagine taking a bath with the Hungarian Army?  That's what it felt like as I stepped into a warm crowded pool with 100's of the city largest and hairiest men.  I counted down the minutes and than got out in search of another pool that was a bit cooler and less crowded.  I found one indoors that was much less crowded and much cooler that was mostly filled with older women doing water aerobics.  Little did I know that hygiene was such in such high regard when I was ordered out of this pool because I didn't have the required bathing cap.  I couldn't believe they were concerned about my hair in the pool when most of the men swimming were covered in it.

Well so much for that!