A design-lover’s guide to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo

Thanks to the 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro has been pushed into the spotlight for the past two weeks. The games might be drawing to an end, but there’s still a wealth of boutiques, galleries, and architectural landmarks to explore in the beautiful city and beyond.

Japanese-Brazilian interior designer and art consultant Layla Kawashima was born raised in São Paulo before eventually moving to Hong Kong six years ago. We invited her to share five of her favourite spots in her hometown, as well as in the neighbouring city of Rio:

Image courtesy of ThinkStock/ValterCunha

Parque Lage
The crown of this tiny but gorgeous park set at the foot of the Corcovado mountain, in the Jardim Botânico neighbourhood, is one of Rio de Janeiro's most recognisable buildings: a century-old mansion that once was the private residence of a rich Brazilian industrialist and his wife, an Italian opera singer. The historic building has been chosen to host the British House, UK's home away from home throughout the Rio Olympics 2016. The property dates back to the 1800s, but it was in the 1920s that a renovation by an Italian architect transformed it into what it looks until the present days. In the 60s, the property became a public park. Today, the mansion is also home to the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage. This is a nice place to go for a stroll around lush tropical gardens, have a cup of coffee or brunch in a historical setting and chill by the swimming pool at the mansion's internal patio.

Image courtesy of MAC-Niterói (Photography by Thiago Cortes)

MAC: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói
This Rio de Janeiro landmark is a fine example of modernism-meets-tropical and the duality between nature and urbanism. Why it’s worth a visit: good contemporary art housed in a flying-saucer-shaped Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist icon perched atop a rocky cliff side with full panoramic views of the Guanabara Bay. MAC-Niterói was in the headlines earlier this year when it hosted fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière's larger-than-life Louis Vuitton 2017 Cruise runway show.

Image courtesy of Loja Teo

Loja Teo
This is one of my favorite furniture shops in São Paulo and a great source of inspiration for anyone interested in mid-century modern design. Their collections, containing only original vintage pieces, gather Brazilian modernist furniture from the 50s to the 80s and include highly sought-after pieces by the likes of Sérgio Rodrigues, Joaquim Tenreiro and Jean Gillon, among many other prominent Brazilian designers.

Image courtesy of Conceito: Firma Casa (Photography by Maíra Acayaba)

Conceito: Firma Casa
Also located in São Paulo, Conceito: Firma Casa is a concept store that showcases a curated furniture selection from established as well as upcoming international and Brazilian designers. It is an interesting store, divided into the multi-brand furniture showroom and a design and art gallery with unique and limited edition pieces. What I like most about this shop is actually the architecture of the space. The shop's facade is literally alive, with thousands of individual potted plants forming a voluminous and geometric green wall – 3,500 vases with 9,000 green seedlings to be precise. The project is by SuperLimão Studio and the artistic concept is by Fernando and Humberto Campana, aka the Campana Brothers.

Image from Bixiga Antiques Market's Facebook page

Flea Markets
As in any other city in the world with a rich past, São Paulo's flea markets are a great way to explore the city by foot, interact with locals and try to snag a bargain or two. Every time I visit a city, I like to check out the flea markets because you can always find something unique for the home that also doubles as a souvenir. In São Paulo I recommend the Sunday antique markets at Masp, Praça Benedito Calixto and Bixiga.




Lead image courtesy of MAC-Niterói