Thursday, January 19, 2012

Turkish Delight

A visit to Istanbul is truly a feast for the senses - the dramatic architecture of Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque, the beguiling array of goods for sale in the Grand Bazaar and the scents in the Spice Market, the tantalizing cuisine and the haunting call to prayer - broadcast from the minarets of mosques throughout the city - five times daily.


The region's fascinating history and rich cultural heritage seriously inspire the imagination. Following my own tour of Istanbul only one aspect of my curiosity remained unsatisfied and that centered on the storied yali, originally the summer homes of the old Turkish elite, that have lined the Bosphorus for hundreds of years.

Traditional yali exteriors are painted a rust-red, known as 'Ottoman rose.'

An article in this month's World of Interiors about a recent John Stefanidis project, the total reconstruction of an historically accurate yali, has finally given me a glimpse inside. Taking his inspiration from traditional 17th and 18th century Ottoman design, Stefanidis created an authentic interior and it does not disappoint.

Guests are received in a double reception room with seating along the windows to take advantage of the water views.

In keeping with the style of traditional yali interiors, reception rooms and the dining room are located on the ground floor.


The dining room overlooks the Bosphorus.

Bedrooms and a private sitting room are located on the upper level off a central sofa,or hall.

A double staircase with a banister designed in the historical vernacular leads to the sofa; the staircase landing.

A traditional-style window seat in the family sitting room.

The master bedroom.

Ceilings throughout the house were created by a team of local craftsmen entirely of wood and elaborately painted as they would have been in an original yali.

The library.

Detail of the library's painted wood ceiling.

Stefanidis immersed himself in Ottoman culture and decorative arts, and his numerous visits to Topkapi inspired a series of painted panels on the lower level.

The entrance to a powder room is disguised by the painted panels.

For a look inside the walls of Topkapi Palace during the rule of the Sultans pick up Katie Hickman's novel The Aviary Gate. Alternating between present day Istanbul and 16th century Constantinople this is enjoyable historical fiction.


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