After 4 beautiful years of living in Queensland, the time had come to finally travel home to Europe to visit family and friends. Growing up in the Welsh valleys meant rolling hills and mountainous scenery was at my doorstep. This, and evenings of crackling fires and Grandma’s cooking were just some of the few elements I was truly missing whilst living in Australia.
Europe is a little pocket of the world that is brimming with an eclectic type of energy. Quaint little squares with 100-year-old shop fronts, local bakers yelling in a foreign tongue and historical art, right at your fingertips. It truly is the best place for design inspiration. Whilst away, I was lucky enough to also spend time in London, Berlin and Toulouse – a feast for the senses, to say the least.
FIRST STOP: UK
My, oh my had I missed London Summer. Weekend flower markets and alfresco dining were some of the small signs that the season was about to begin. Beer gardens were bustling from 4pm onwards with live music and happy hours at its forefront. The sun didn’t seem to set until 9pm and the city was finally getting back on its feet after a rocky couple of years.
As for shopping, sadly, some of the major and smaller retailers have had to shut shop due to the pandemic (goodbye Topshop ☹) and remaining business’ have had to adapt to new consumer behaviours online and in store. With a focus on creativity, culture and earth-friendly approaches, London retailers have embraced their new direction with simple changes.
Merchandising displays have provided escapism and a sanctuary to consumers by introducing biophilia into their spaces. Moss balls and eucalyptus were a plenty, perfectly complimenting timber shelving and quirky artwork by local talents. With sustainability on the forefront of marketing, retailers have carefully adapted their packaging and terminology to reflect the current environmental crisis. Eco-conscious consumers are more aware than ever of the effects of fast fashion and waste and therefore are gravitating to brands whose ethos aligns with theirs. Plastic has since been swapped for paper. “Organic” and “locally sourced” are just some of the key words found throughout eateries, and creative workshops are the new nightclubs.
London’s vivacious suburbs mean that there is always something to do no matter the day or time, and often places come alive at nightfall. Restaurants are open until the early hours; immersive theatre pours onto the streets and glowing art installations are seen from skyscrapers. Sunday afternoons are made for strolling through Notting Hill’s book shops or dumpling hopping in Chinatown before heading to the West End. Why not theme your next event on one of the many wonderful musicals? (Cue the Hamitlon playlist).
Bring a little bit of the capital into your space with classic Union Jack motifs of royal blue and candy apple red. Alternatively, opt for a modern take driven by Gen Z consumers with rainforest green and chestnut timbers for a refreshing and vitalising display.
Expressive. Grungy. Alive.
A city that holds a tremendous amount of political history, it’s gritty past and colourful present makes Berlin one of the most unique cities in the continent. The home of thumping techno, its left-wing outlook, and rebellious nature means each of Berlin’s districts are thriving with personality and culture. Infamous landmarks and museums are must-see’s whilst visiting Berlin, although taking some time to explore the unconventional side of this quirky city is highly recommended.
Hole in the wall cafés decked with simple props and quirky tables line the sidewalks – perfect for an afternoon snack or golden hour cocktails. Vintage Revival is a prominent style with Berliners as each street is home to at least 2 different thrift stores. Weekend flea markets were the perfect spot to purchase second-hand outfits and homewares (with the Raw-Gelande in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district being a favourite by locals and tourists alike).
Berlin opts for a slower pace of life as venues open late morning (unlike our 6am cafés in Brisbane) and locals travel to work on e-bikes and enjoy eating long lunches in the park or near the river.
As one of the most sustainable cities in Europe, Berlin’s eco-conscious government have many recycling incentives . Over 30% of the city is parklands and forestry and each plastic bottle recycled has a payback of €0.25. Tote bags with funky designs float around supermarkets, plant based restaurants are on the rise and one of the largest department stores in the city Naturkaufhaus Steglitz is home to all sustainable fashion, homewares and beauty products.
Anything goes in this welcoming part of the world. You can be who you want, wear what you want as Berlin celebrates all ages, genders, and sexualities. It wears a rainbow flag with pride and is a refreshing city for freedom, equality, and creative expression.
Known for its warmer climate and vineyards that stretch for miles, the South of France lived up to its expectations. Covered in blankets of terracotta, Toulouse is a hidden gem of cobbled streets and rustic shutters. With boulangeries on every corner, the inviting scent of fresh canellas and sourdough were too hard to resist. Grabbing a bite to eat and sitting near one of the many water features was the perfect spot to watch the world go by.
Toulousian’s effortless casual-chic style is easily admired throughout the city where bread baskets opt as handbags and small boutiques are stocked up with crisp linen for the Summer months. Rooftop bars offer 360 views from above and the pop up Guinguette’s along the river are home to oversized umbrellas to shade from the afternoon sun.
See you back in Brisbane!