A while back, I wrote about my firm belief that if you stop traveling, you stop growing as a designer. Despite having traveled to more than 40 countries in the past six years, I’d never been to Turkey, so I was anxious to experience this magical place where East meets West to create something unique and special.
Even if you’re not able to travel to Turkey soon, you can still inject that Turkish feeling by adopting an overall design philosophy of balancing opposites — rough against smooth, antique next to modern — to create harmony in your home.
Traveling to Istanbul and Bodrum, I got eyeball-deep in the centuries of Byzantine and Ottoman history, innovation and design responsible for some of the most magnificent architectural masterpieces in the world, including the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque, famed for the more than 20,000 legendary blue Iznik tiles that grace the inside of its walls. Visiting these iconic designs immediately got me thinking about how I could bring some of that inspiration home.
My search for the best home decor offerings in Istanbul starts with the most obvious destination, the Grand Bazaar. In this 33-acre shopping mecca, ancient pathways are lined with more than 4,500 shops selling everything from jewelry to scarves to silver.
Our first stop is the Sisko Osman (named after its famed proprietor), where we see a parade of the finest vintage and antique Turkish carpets and kilims. Sisko’s son Nurullah pulls out a selection of wool pieces that are in the range of my desired size, color and price point. Many of the rugs shared with us are so old and fine (several have been loaned to museums in the United States) that they aren’tfor sale. Rugs and kilims from this part of the world are usually hand-woven; made of wool, silk, cotton or some combination thereof; and tend to be rich in color and pattern.
Anxious to see what else the bazaar has to offer, I’m guided to the finest lighting vendor who supplies to top notch hotels throughout Istanbul and the world. Influenced by ancient patterns and lines, these new lighting creations manage to be simultaneously traditional and contemporary, making them easy to accommodate in many environments. The intricate metalwork is lace-like and is either elegantly backlit through opaque glass or projecting exotic shadows and patterns onto nearby walls. I often say that a pendant is a great way to have a floating piece of art in your room, and there are a dizzying array of them to select from here.
Right outside the Grand Bazaar is a must see of another sort. Translated as “gift,” Armaggan is a contemporary four-story shop stocking original, luxury home decor creations made with the finest materials and crafted by top-notch artisans. This place is set up like a pristine museum (and the prices are almost untouchable), but it’s worthwhile and free to go see how contemporary Turkish designers are taking their rich and deep culture and translating it into extraordinary modern masterpieces.