With a rich colonial heritage to boast, Colombo’s charm has to be seen to be believed. It is easy to get drawn to its numerous eclectic design offerings. Let’s dive in!
By ANJULI FLAMER-CALDERA
Given the nature of my career, design more or less permeates every aspect of my life. There are so many sources of inspiration I have the privilege of soaking in every day. Sri Lanka may be a small island but it is jam-packed with an abundance of creative talent and beautiful backdrops. Since our little tropical enclave is slowly starting to open up, I am sharing a succinct insider’s take on the eclectic design experiences Colombo has to offer in terms of fashion, food and lifestyle. I am happy to share snippets of my daily life with travellers to this city. Here’s my ‘not-to-be-missed collection of spots in the city’ that I urge you to hit.
SPOT: KIN STUDIO
IG: @kingandlois, @loislondoninc, @lifeofkings.ny
LOCATION: 3, Ascot Avenue, Colombo 5
ESSENCE: Retail and sample showroom. A relaxed environment that invites customers to experience the brands’ design process.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Kin Studio creates apparel in an organic way, developing collections one piece at a time, embodying slow fashion.
INSIDER’S POV: When you walk off the humid side lane into the former ballet studio, which has now been transformed into Kin Studio, it is like walking into a vibrant, designer boutique in Soho, New York or Carnaby Street, London. You are immediately transported into another world. It is like a breath of fresh air, when your senses are brought to life with all the immaculate silhouettes and rich colours dripping off the racks. The energy is electric. The dynamic duo behind the studio, Radhika Hernandez and Rob Heights have carved out a new and much-needed design niche in Colombo for women and men. They have multiple labels to showcase including Lois London, King and Lois and Life of Kings, offering styles and staples for all occasions. This collective of versatile, well-engineered beautiful statements will challenge your fashion perspective of Colombo. Watch this space as it continues to evolve.
SPOT: DEPARTMENT OF COFFEE
LOCATION: 10A, Philip Gunawardena Mawatha, Colombo 7
ESSENCE: Specialty Coffee
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Minimalist on all fronts. Great tasting coffee and sublime on the design front. Contemporary to the core.
INSIDER’S POV: The well-lit and impeccably manicured interior coffee nook is a great spot to hit in the afternoon if you are looking for a quiet working space away from the bustling city. The coffee is made to perfection and the staff are super helpful. Iced Americano is my go-to coffee always and let me tell you they have nailed it.
SPOT: DAO KRUA THAI
LOCATION: 10, Palm Grove, Colombo 3
ESSENCE: Street Thai Food
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: A comfortable and relatable space fashioned to offer a diverse menu inspired by Thailand’s street food culture.
INSIDER’S POV: Ms Dao founded Dao Krua Thai when she moved here from Thailand. She started in a small poorly-ventilated and oddly-lit space on Galle Road, which was at par with the Thai street food ambience. It was one of those hole-in-the-wall places that was always bursting with flavour and character. You are not there for the fancy setting but for an authentic warm, quick, cheap and cheerful Thai meal. The Chicken Pad Thai is to die for. It has moved to a swanky spot, which was previously the famous Sandwich Factory. I would still recommend this spot to a legit street foodie.
SPOT: KIKU COLOMBO
LOCATION: Layards Road, Colombo 5
ESSENCE: Café, Store and Event Space
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: KIKU is a concept café, designed for those that appreciate their surroundings. KIKU’s interior invites you in with its soft colour palette and neutral tones; all furniture serves a purpose, being minimal in its detailing to complement the bright open space.
INSIDER’S POV: The place is versatile and dynamic, offering the option to rent out the space for private gatherings and creative events. KIKU hosts a creative, Japanese-inspired fusion café menu. Closeby is Studio Eleven (@studioeleven), a local design studio co-founded by British designer, Natasha Mitchell and Tariq Rahim that seamlessly marries classic Asian design aesthetics with modern minimalist sensibilities. It is a tranquil fashion abode with lots of filtered sunlight streaming in. The Shitake Burger, Matcha Latte and Rhubarb Doughnuts have to be tried.
SPOT: BAREFOOT GALLERY COLOMBO
LOCATION: 704, Galle Road, Colombo 4.
ESSENCE: The oldest contemporary art gallery in Colombo serves as a platform for artists, musicians, poets and filmmakers.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: To ensure that the work featured here is genuine, well-executed and interesting.
INSIDER’S POV: Showcasing the very best of Sri Lanka’s creative talent in multiple forums and aptitudes, it has always been a crucial component of my creative foundation and fabric. It has a salon-like ambience and is known for its casual and masterfully curated exhibitions. The quaint and quirky café on its premises plays host to many privé events and artful soirées. Artists that work with the gallery and host exhibitions on a regular basis include Alex Stewart, Barbara Sansoni and the designers at Barefoot, photographer Dominic Sansoni, Druvinka, Josephine Balakrishna, Laki Senanayake, Mahen Chanmugum, Nelun Harasgama, and Neville and Sybil Weereratne. There is always something exciting happening here—from exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings to film nights and theatre. It is definitely worth checking out on a weekly basis for natives and travellers alike.
SPOT: SMOKING HEARTS BBQ
LOCATION: Food Studio, Colombo City Centre Terrace, Third Floor, Colombo 2.
ESSENCE: Slow Smoked BBQ Restaurant. The Ultimate American smokehouse experience.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Authentically made and plated with dollops of love.
INSIDER’S POV: This spot brought a whole new style of BBQ to Sri Lanka. The eatery serves delicious BBQ trays, fresh tacos and churros. With select cuts of brisket, chicken and lamb and prawns as well as pulled pollos and smoked chilli beans, there are options for both vegetarians and meat lovers. Chef and entrepreneur Jesse Aston (Big Mighty Deli), Amy Quickfall (Studio Nice One) and sibling duo, Ryan and Jonathan Wijeratne (You’re My Favourite), are the people behind this phenomenal brand.
LOCATION: Lakpahana Building Complex, 14 Philip Gunewardena Mawatha, Colombo 7
ESSENCE: Retail & Interiors, Unique homegrown lifestyle and homeware brand.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Traditional Sri Lankan crafts and skills can be reinvented and reinterpreted to reflect the contemporary Sri Lankan lifestyle.
INSIDER’S POV: An interior designer by profession, the founder, Natalie Pendigrast’s preference for native design and local materials led her to make stunning fixtures that are inherently and aesthetically Sri Lankan. She is known for her collaborations with local artisans. Pendi empowers small businesses and startups, 98 per cent of which are backed by women designers and entrepreneurs.