Archive for the ‘Occasions’ Category

Habitat Regent Street Store

March 27, 2011

When the Habitat Flagship store in Regent Street opened in April 2006, it was hailed as another example of how art and design can enhance the surroundings of a space; a fact central to the mission of the Habitat brand. Respecting the architectural characteristics and the breathtaking original features of the building – a former cinema with vaulted ceilings and neo-Egyptian details – Tom Dixon, the non Executive Director of Habitat, who worked on the project, built a store around the cinema space, keeping intact (and restoring) every small detail. He even built an extension to the stalls in the form of a wooden structure, which was connected to the ground floor via the stare case at the centre of the store The result was a unique store: a 21-century environment selling affordable furniture and accessories, housed in an old cinema space restored to its former glory.

Almost one month ago, while walking past the store on my way to Carnaby street, I was saddened to see that the Habitat store was closing down. Huge, ugly banners were peppered on its window displays, informing of the unfortunate event. The place was full of people in search of a bargain and reminded me of a pirate looted-ship with items being scattered everywhere. In desperate attempt to find out why this was happening, I entered the store.

As I wandering up and down the aisles glancing at the battered shelves and unappetising signs of “Closing down” and “Sale”, guiltily trying to find an item on offer, I could not help but wonder what will become of the Habitat Regent Street store. Maybe a Gap or perhaps a Primark? An ill fitting departure from the character and charisma of its predecessor.

A small desk lamp and a wooden bus toy was what I could find I liked from the stock in a generous 30% – 50% markdown. And while I was going out,I clutched the bag with my newly purchased item and was confident enough that I had taken with me and saved a tiny bit of the store’s dignity.

Lambda.

[all images © LambdaPhage]

P.S. 29 May 2011: The old Habitat store in Regent Street will now become a Burberry store.

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New Year’s Resolutions

January 10, 2011

The advent of the new year inadvertently forces us to make an evaluation of the past year and focus on the things we want to change. Most people then go on and make their new year’s resolutions, which almost always include a clause for eating healthier (considering the abuse they have found themselves in in the run-up to Christmas). I was also one of them. If you check my previous posts carefully, you will see that I made at least one new year’s resolution in 2009: to write more.

But, nowadays, I do not believe in making new year’s resolutions any more. After the dust of the holidays has settled and the post-Christmas shortage of cash has been straightened, I look forward to February, and not January, to make plans for the new year. Because I believe that February is the best time to make rational decisions on embarking on new projects, without carrying the guilt of the previous year and without having the January blues. Most importantly, I will make decisions that will not be forgotten in a very short time.

And that is what I am going to do this year. I will wait patiently for January to pass, and I will start planning my new year in February. Some people might say it is too late, but I think it is really worth the wait.

 

Lambda.

 

[image © LambdaPhage]

London Christmas Lights 2010 (and 2009)

December 19, 2010

It has been almost two years since I started writing this blog and one of my most successful posts (in terms of hits) has been my very first one: the London Christmas lights. This is a tradition I started a 5 years ago: to go out each year and to photograph the Christmas lights of the busiest shopping streets around London.

I used a cheap digital camera to capture the images the first two years but then I bought a digital-DSL camera and a tripod; so hopefully my images have improved. Here are the Christmas lights of the big street arounds London for 2010 (and 2009):

New entry: Marylebone street

I wouldn’t have realised the Christmas lights at Marylebone street, if it hadn’t been for a friend who invited me for his birthday party at a restaurant close to the street. i then noticed the Christmas lights; they were unique, featuring decorations that I had not seen before.

New entry: South Molton Street

South Molton Street is a small diagonal pedestrian road starting from Oxford street, very close to Bond Street tube station. It is filled with shopping boutiques (among them Browns is the most famous one) and interesting coffee shops and caters for a refined, eclectic crowd. This year, the street featured lit arches, whereas in 2007, it featured Christmas decorations with giant lit angels.

New entry: Coventry Street

Coventry Street is the little street between Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square. I was positively surprised to see that it has its own Christmas lights decorations, and that they are more inspiring that the decorations one may find in bigger shopping streets.

Last place: Oxford Street

I have to admit that Oxford street managed to make a difference last year, just because they changed the Christmas decorations, after running with the chandelier theme three years in a row. In 2009, they unveiled their new design based on huge Christmas presents and umbrellas. Interestingly, the same theme seems to have prevailed in 2010. If you ask me, they should not have bothered, as the theme is not very inspiring.

I understand that producing decorations for the biggest shopping street in Europe can present with some challenges, but with all the money they have been receiving from sponsors, I expected them to have come up with more interesting Christmas lights.

Second runner-up: Regent Street

Regent Street is also running with the same Christmas lights theme for a third year in a row. Only this year, they have decided to add some elements. Some light signs, advertising the characters of The Chronicles of Narnia, this year’s sponsor, have been scattered among the Christmas lights making the theme to verge on absurdity.

First runner-up: Bond Street

Bond street is having the same Christmas lights for a consecutive third year. At least the ribbons are three dimensional and tasteful. But above all, Bond Street has not allowed for any sponsors to put distasteful signs at their Christmas lights.

Biggest surprise and disappointment: Covent Garden

Covent garden is a big surprise and a big disappointment. Surprise, as in 2009, it featured lots of shiny decorations and a big chandelier-like light installation in the middle; a theme which was very tasteful. Disappointment, because for 2010, it featured lots of red christmas tree balls and a weird light installation in the middle. If you see this year’s theme in broad daylight, it is acceptable, but if you see it the dark, they is not, as it is dimly lit. (Needless to say that a red Christmas tree ball theme was also featured in Selfridges a year before, and was better executed than Covent Garden).

And the winner is: Carnaby Street


Like every year, Carnaby Street proves to be a small gem. Not only for the shops but for the inspiring Christmas decorations, which are unlike any other. Moving on from the giant inflatable snowmen in 2008, they used a similar principle for their “reindeer-peace-hope” theme in 2009. For 2010, they have had another inspiration and presented a space-like theme, which blends marvelously with all the colours of the buildings around this street.

Lambda.

[images © LambdaPhage]

[My obsessions]*

August 7, 2010

It is about time this blog gained some character. In the past 1,5 years I have been writing it, I have mainly posted my reviews and my observations. When writing most articles, I have struggled with the style and the tone, but most importantly with the person: should I write in the first person, the third or the plural? Mind you, some of those blog entries were used as contributions to a small magazine, so I opted to use “we” more than I used “I”.

This is about to change. If the blog is about myself, and if I need to retain my mystery identity, then I ‘d better reveal some things about my character. And what better way to do this than writing more entries in the first person. From now on, I will be trying to use a lot of “I”.

To celebrate this change in style, I will also start a new regular type of posts called “my obsessions”. These will not be any different from the review posts I have written thus far, but they are going to be about things I like, I admire or I get obsessed with. It will be about items, shops, ideas etc that form my little world.

Many of my friends and colleagues, especially those who have just met me, believe I have a liking to branded – and sometimes expensive – items. They might be right. To me, however, it is not about the brand but about design. If all of our everyday things have been created by designers, from the tissues we used to the cars we drive, then I admire those designers that go the extra mile. The designers who will think carefully the item they want to make, that will study its properties, it function and its utility and will then go on to design things that speak for themselves: either for being extraordinary or for becoming more utilitarian.

And so the column starts with my obsessions. Item I already possess, items I am about to have or items I would like to get. And it can be everything….

You will be able to distinguish those posts from the regular ones, as there will always be a star following the title.

Lambda.

The Londonpaper

September 18, 2009

londonpaper image

I came to London 4 years ago. One day, after getting off from work, I was approached by a man that wanted to give me a newspaper. Assuming that I would have to pay for it, I shrugged him off. The same happened the next day and the day after that. Just as I would get off from work and would turn around the corner, the same man would wait to give me the newspaper.

On the fourth day, I noticed many other people taking the guy’s newspaper without having to pay anything. This man was actually handing free newspapers! I decided to give the newspaper a try. After all, how bad could it be?

The newspaper was called The Londonpaper and it was not bad after all. In fact, I later found out that it was a successful daily, free newspaper recording interesting fact around the world but maily the daily beat, buzz, gossip and happenings in London. As far as I could tell, it was written by young, enthusiastic people and was a combination of relaxed attitude and witty language. But above all, it would inform Londoners of what was going on in town.

Londonpaper was certainly not the only weekday newspaper in London. It competed against “London Lite”, which was distributed around the same time in the afternoon and “Metro“, typically found at tube stations in the morning. But Londonpaper easily outclassed its competitors not only for its editorial flair, its variety of regular columns and features but also for its colourful appearance and exemplary editorial design. In fact, it was featured in Zappatera’s superb book “Editorial Design” as an example of a fresh approach to editorial layout.

It was such a surprise that on Thursday, 17th September, I read that the londonpaper had only another day left before closing down. At the time of writing of this post, I had not searched for the reasons for this closure. But I am willing to take a (wild?) guess: the current economic downturn led to a rapid decrease in advertising revenue, rendering the entire project of running and distributing a free newspaper financially unattainable.

From Monday 21 September, no more restaurant reviews, no more relationship talk by Andy in his column “man about town”, no more lovestruck, no more pet of the day, image of the day, no more gay man about town by Joshua and, above all, no more city girl and Em cartoons. Luckily, some of the regular columners have already hinted to us where we will find them next after we exit our offices on Monday and momentarily feel the void of the man not being there to hand us our londonpaper fix of the day.

So, so long Londonpaper. You have been a fantastic getaway from the daily sorrows of work and the perfect way to clear my thoughts after a busy day.You have been the casual read during the tube ride, a careless browse at my couch before the gym and, above all, the perfect guide to all things London.

LambdaPhage.

The Lawn Tennis Championships – Wimbledon

June 22, 2009

wimbledon_queue_card
When I was younger, most of the boys of my age were fascinated with football or basketball. I was not. Instead, I was obsessed with tennis, not a very popular sport in Greece at that time.

With time, this small obsession faded away, to the point that my wooden tennis racquet, the one I got as a Christmas present, got its permanent place to our storage area.

It wasn’t until after I had moved to London that I was reminded of my youth obsession. There, at approximately the end of June, Londoner and visitors fanatically descend to the SW19 area to watch tennis. What would seemingly be a small tennis tournament in a suburb of a big city, here in London it has transformed to the best tennis championship in the world – rivalling even the Olympic Games tennis event. The Lawn Tennis Championships, commonly referred to as Wimbledon, take place for two weeks during summer.

wimbledon_queue_sticker
The first two years I lived in London, I was quite busy and did not get the chance to visit. It was only last year that I seized the opportunity to hop in a district line train after work to join the long queue at Wimbledon and finally gain entry to the grounds of the championship.

Most of the ground courts at Wimbledon were positioned next to each other. I had never before experienced what it feels like to watch a tennis games within a small distance from the players. It just reminded me what it felt like casually playing tennis in Greece.

Can’t wait to get to Wimbledon this year.

Lambda.

[all pictures were from Wimbledon 2008 © AELTC]

The New Acropolis Museum

June 19, 2009

acropolis_pic_front

There are times I wish I was in Greece and one of them is today. The reason is quite simple. It is the official unveiling of the new Acropolis museum.

The new Acropolis museum is a building designed by renown architect Bernard Tschumi. The concept was to build a museum where natural light can enter the building as much as possible. The extensive glass surfaces with the view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon also serve for the contextual unification of the exhibits with their natural environment.

Parallel to the opening of the new Acropolis museum, an old debate seems to be reheated. It is the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece. The Parthenon mables, sometimes referred to as the “Elgin Marbles” are pieces of Parthenon’s east and west pediments and the metope, that were removed in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, when Greece was under Ottoman occupation, and were transported in Britain. They were then purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed in the British Museum where they still stand.

acropolis_pic

The Greek governments have instigated an international campaign to have the marbles returned to Greece for moral and artistic reasons. I will not describe the debate here into more detail, as you can read about it in several other sites (Wikipedia, International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

The fact however, remains. To be able to see those marbles in their full glory, you need to have a strong memory and travel 2392 kilometers between those two cities. I hope with the unveiling of the new museum the real reason for their return will resurface. In the new Acropolis museum, the marbles will be bathed by natural light – the same light praised by many writers and poets. It is an experience, that the dimly lit and grey – but nevertheless spacious – room in the British Museum is not able to offer.

Lambda.

P.S.: You may also watch two videos with the prepapation and transfer of the antiquities from the old museun (situated at the Acropolis hill) to the new one.

(First picture © The New Acropolis Museum website and second picture © Christos Vittoratos, source Wikipedia).

Snowy London

February 8, 2009

very few snowflakes falling in Fulham BroadwayPrelude to the big snowfall: very few snowflakes falling in Fulham Broadway

 I have been in London for over 3 years and I had never experienced heavy snowfall. It snowed on Boxing Day some years ago (or so my flatmate said), but I was in Greece for my Christmas vacations. Occasionally, there would be snowfall during the night, but nothing would betray it the next day. But last week I was positively surprised to see what was termed as the heaviest snowfall in London for the past 18 years.

I woke up on Sunday morning unaware of what was going to happen later in the day. The weather was cold but not particularly different from the previous days. And suddenly, during the evening, at around 18:00 o’clock, it started snowing. Having not been accustomed to this kind of weather here, at first I welcomed it but, having lived in Germany for some time, I was aware of its consequences: it turns into mud and ice the next few days.

The big snowfall

The big snowfall

The next day in London was not far from this picture. On Monday morning of the 2nd February, the roads were full of snow, the bus services were not running, most of the tube lines were partly suspended (if not all) and most trains services severely disrupted. I was lucky enough to have decided to work from home that day (without knowing what was going to happen) and did not experience any of the frustration of the other people going to work.

In fact, it reminded me of a very similar situation in Greece a few years ago, when it snowed heavily several days after New Years’ (I was not there).  Transport was severely disrupted and even flights were suspended from the newly-built Athens International Airport. The single equipment to defrost the airplanes couldn’t simply keep up with the demand. As a result, a number of travellers were stranded at the airport and were almost left without food, as deliveries could not be made. (Nowadays the airport is connected to the Metro and National Rail network, so this situation might never happens gain). But, after a few days everything came back to normal.

Picture of Hammersmith Bridge taken with low shutter speed. The falling snow resembles rain.

Picture of Hammersmith Bridge taken with low shutter speed. The falling snow resembles rain.

Back to London, I browsed the Internet to learn about the people’s reaction to Monday. While several were not angry -after all, they got to spend their time at home relaxing and playing with the snow – many were frustrated, especially by  the poor performance of the London transport authorities. Foreigners living in London, especially Germans and Austrians, even remarked that: “Back in our country, we also have snow, but this is not a reason for the trains / buses / metro not running”.

And it is true. When I was living in Heidelberg (a small city close to Mannheim and Frankurt in the Baden-Würrttemberg state), the local authorities would be fully prepared for long periods of snowfall. Special equipped vehicles would clean the roads, council workers would clear paths, clean and grit the sidewalks. All of the services ran smoothly and I never experienced any disruption or delay in transport services because of the snow. I was even told the residents are required by law to clean and grit the sidewalk in front of their house.

So, the complaints of the Germans would be justified, right? I don’t necessarily think so.

Comparing Germany with the UK would be unfair. After all, it was the heaviest snowfall in 18 years. It would simply not make sense for the British authorities and the London transport authorities to invest into equipment to deal with situations that only rarely occur. It is better to immobilise existing services and be patient for a couple of days. In Germany, Austria and the like, you almost certainly experience snow for at least 1 month every year, so you do not expect snow to bring life to a standstill. For all the other countries, it just makes sense.

I just hope that you enjoyed it while it lasted.

 

Lambda.

 

(all photos © Lambda Phage)

New Year’s Resolutions (or at least one)

January 1, 2009

Fireworks

I never really understood why people give such importance to something was devised for its practicality: time. That’s why I never really understood the big fuss about New Year’s Day. Surely, it marks a complete orbit of the earth around the sun. But for many people in this planet (either belonging to different religions or nations) the New Year has not arrived today.

On a more practical side, the advent of the New Year (to the people that still believe it arrived today) marks a day for self-assessment of the past year and the renewal of promises.

Which brings me to today’s topic for this post: my New Year’s resolutions. Last year, I promised to start writing a blog, so that I can practice and further develop my writing skills. Almost a year passed, and I fooled myself into believing that I was just taking some time to carefully design and craft the blog. On December, I realised that unless I took immediate action, another year would pass by doing nothing. But today was what I feared the most, when I would look back at the previous year and realise that I did not keep my promise.

So, rather than losing time in the dressing room, I decided to show up to the football pitch and just learn how to play football during the game. That’s how this blog came to life and why I am not so angry with myself today. I guess that for this year’s resolutions, one thing that I need to promise myself is to write more.

Lambda.

(photo © LambdaPhage)

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2008
Hammersmith Bridge photographed at Christmas 2007

Hammersmith Bridge photographed on Christmas 2007

Just a very short post to wish everyone (although not so sure that anyone is listening): Merry Christmas.

 

Lambda.

(photo © LambdaPhage)