At Home in Turkey

By Berrin Torolsan
Photographs by Solvi dos Santos
Published by Thames & Hudson
£24.95

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£22.95 / $30.29 / 112.61 TL
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US Edition : £19.00
Wohnideen 1001 Nacht German edition : £35.00

The US edition is available only for delivery to US addresses

‘The publication of this handsome book must add the burgeoning of a contemporary movement.’
Min Hogg, World of Interiors, February 2009
Book Description

This stunning collection captures the soul of 25 contemporary Turkish homes in hundreds of photographs taken during each of the four seasons and all over Turkey, from Istanbul and the Black Sea to the Aegean and Cappadocia. The houses range from seaside retreats to modern city apartments, from wooden chalets to stone dwellings, but they all have one thing in common: they are not showcases, they are all homes, lived in and imbued with the spirit of this fascinating country.

Turkey is a country undergoing spectacular transformation. But unlike many other such modernizing processes, this one does not involve the destruction of its rich and varied traditions of design and decoration. Nowhere is this better seen than in the pages of this book, in which the celebrated photographer Solvi dos Santos has traveled throughout Turkey during all four seasons to capture the soul of the contemporary Turkish home.

Here are the intense charm of the minimalist, pine-scented interiors of the Black Sea; the historic details of an antique monastery hidden in the Aegean; the élan of whitewashed Mediterranean courtyards fragrant with jasmine; the elegance of the Ottoman seaside mansions of the Bosphorus; the stark beauty of medieval, sun-baked, stone houses in the deep southeast; and the intimacy of a pied-à-terre in Istanbul’s shady backstreets.

Berrin Torolsan’s text provides a look inside these homes, and into the different worlds of their inhabitants, from hip designers, poets, and artists to teachers, farmers, and country gentlemen, from household names to unknown aesthetes. She uncovers the stories of each house and gives a sense of the geography and history of its location. 250 color illustrations.

Solvi dos Santos is a well-known lifestyle photographer.
Berrin Torolsan is the Publishing Director of Cornucopia

Reviews for At Home in Turkey
  • If you can’t afford the airfare you might take this delicious guided tour instead. Exploring some of the best contemporary Turkish houses (or caves), the photographer, Solvi dos Santos, divides her subjects by season, as if to emphasise the perpetual variety of Turkey’s terrain — and the successive civilisations that have held sway there.

    Berrin Torolsan’s informative text explores the inspiration behind such gems as a classical wooden yali on the Bosphorus; a rustic chalet in the mountains; a tea-planters mansion on the Black Sea; a Cappadocian cave-dwelling, with beautifully hewn piers and arches. We are also given a peek into the lives of some of Turkey’s leading figures, including Orhan Pamuk, Rifat Ozbek, and Ahmet Ertegün, who founded Atlantic Records. A businessman’s collection of his old briefcases is drolly ranged beside shelves of antique busts; sunlight streams into a chamber hewn from the volcanic rock. From Ottoman silverware to country stitching, these photographs testify to the enduring skills of Turkey’s local craftsmen — and to the perceptive eye that knows how to match the classical with the contemporary.

    – Jason Goodwin, The Spectator
  • I posit that devotees of Turkey, such as myself, seldom find our thoughts dwelling on its contribution to today’s interior design. We marvel at Byzantine and Ottoman cultures, gaze in awe at Classical sites and adore its fantastic landscapes, but with the publication of this handsome book must add the burgeoning of a contemporary movement revealed by Solvi dos Santos with her camera and Berrin Torolsan with her pen.

    The two of them whisk us from houses round the Black Sea in the North, to the Aegean and Mediterranean in the South, to Istanbul in the West and the lands bordering Syria and Iraq in the East, visiting the houses of decoration-conscious architects, fashionistas, authors, industrialists, and textile and interior designers….

    – Min Hogg, World of Interiors, February 2009
  • With contemporary Turkish design slowly gaining recognition in the international design arena, this well-illustrated hardback is a timely reminder of its growing influence.

    – Nicole Swengley, Financial Times, December 2008
Featured in Cornucopia 41

The Poetry Within

By Berrin Torolsan


Selden Emre’s grand house on the island of Cunda, which once belonged to a Christian priest, dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. In its day it was one of the town’s most prestigious houses, located on the hill next to the basilica on a corner known as Merdibanli Sokak – the street with steps.

Cunda, off the coast of Ayvalık in the northwestern Aegean, is a small island attached to the mainland by a causeway. The largest of twenty or so islands in an archipelago that forms a lace-like pattern on the Aegean coastline, Cunda is the only one that is inhabited. With its magnificent views and scented breezes blowing down from Mount Ida, it has always been a popular retreat. The island’s architecture suffered in troubled times: the riots and civil wars of the final days of the Ottoman Empire were followed by a massive earthquake in 1944. But elegant 19th-century Neoclassical features are still visible everywhere.

Selden is a brilliant antiquarian with a keen eye for exquisite objects. Her three-storey house dominates its neighbours but is not ostentatious. It has been beautifully and faithfully restored to its former grandeur, yet in no way is it at odds with the other old houses in the neighbourhood, all of which are listed, and no fewer than 551 of which are under conservation by the state. The pale pistachio green of the exterior paintwork marries happily with the wooden shutters, the white detailing, the exposed stonework of the arched doorway.

Old architectural features, which often also prove to be clever practical solutions, are still in use. For example, rainwater is collected from the roof and channelled through zinc gutters and pipes into the cistern in the basement. Nowadays there is a city water supply, and if there are any water shortages one can order a tanker. But, as Selden says, “Why not use a perfect ecological system that already exists?” As a result, all year round she enjoys the softest of water. “Rainwater is free, and it makes your hair silky, the laundry soft and your plants happy.” All she did was install a small pump to bring water to the upstairs bathrooms. During the entire restoration concrete and synthetic materials were avoided. The thick stone walls, often lime-plastered and limewashed, and the wooden ceilings and floorboards all help to keep the house cool in the summer months, making air conditioning unnecessary.

An elegant arched doorway with massive oak doors opens into a spacious hall with chequered black-and-white flagging salvaged from another old building, the frosty patina of age sage greens, faded mauves and soft creams is enlivened by a vivid velvet nursing chair next to the fireplace. On the garden side of the hall is a raised platform, under which stands the cistern, filled to the brim with rainwater. On this platform, where the kitchen was originally located, is a second well-used fireplace with its original hearth, a sofa and a dining-cum-working table, all offering inviting corners to rest, work or just contemplate. Selden’s three cats also seem to be most at home here. Beyond is a very small, bright kitchen with a charming balcony, a later addition, where breakfast can be taken. From the platform one also has access to a little veranda, where most summer afternoons are spent and from which stairs lead down to a delightful walled garden, lovingly lined with pots and containers of sweet basil, old-fashioned roses, fragrant lemon geraniums, jasmine and clove-scented pinks.

A wrought-iron staircase with wooden steps – one of the few modern features of the house – takes one up to two rooms on the first floor, separated by a landing. The ceilings are lower here, as these were originally the winter rooms traditional in all Ottoman houses; sandwiched between two floors, they were warmer and easier to heat in winter. The shutters in these rooms are inside, so that they can be easily closed on stormy evenings. Selden has converted them into delightful guest bedrooms. All the cupboards, shelves and niches have been preserved, offering not only generous storage, but also handsome partitions, even concealing a bathroom in one of the rooms. All the timber elements are painted a distressed sage green.

The lath-and-plaster second floor overhangs the street, jutting out over the strong stone walls of the two lower floors and resting on delicate iron consoles. The rooms on this floor have magnificent views from every window, even the bathrooms. Selden reserved the two larger adjoining rooms as her bedroom and boudoir. The latter has a vaulted ceiling with plaster cornices and was presumably once the main reception room of the house. The ceiling has traces of painted decoration, and the walls are inlaid with small wooden plaques which would have enabled the owners to hang curtain rails above the windows and numerous heavy-framed paintings around the room without damaging the plasterwork.

Selden has a fine touch: the colours, furniture and objects she has chosen all have a poetic, uncontrived feel. The restoration may have taken two years to complete, but it looks as if it was effortlessly achieved.

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