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Designs by Alina:  Handcrafted jewelry fabricated with gold, pave diamonds, and choice pearls for the sophisticated modern-classic woman. Beauty and inspiration forever entwined. Lifestyle blog on design, travel, fashion, family.

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Designs by Alina Lifestyle Magazine

Blog, Travel, family, interior design, jewelry design and fashion.

 

 

Springtime in Santa Barbara

Bernardo de Albergaria

I love words.

Having earned a living for the better part of two decades as a television producer, host, and writer, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. However, sometimes words are superfluous, detracting us from the point. So I will merely mention that following a seven year drought, Santa Barbara has finally taken her sweet revenge. Verdant hills and unfamiliar flora abound like the proteas I discovered in our garden yesterday.

Yellow Protea Pincushion

Yellow Protea Pincushion

Aren’t they stunning? In a state of sheer fascination, I fetched my camera to immortalize them and their many companions. Budding persimmons, cherries, plums, peaches, grapes, apples and guavas lie in wait for summer, while avocados, lemons, oranges, grapefruit and tangerines are on the verge of being devoured. Ah, but the roses!

Each spring I feel increasingly grateful for life’s abundance.

And I am fairly certain that this year I am in good company.

Dedicated to Neri, whom our family misses dearly, and to our 🐩 🐩 who love the garden as much as we.

Beverly Hills through the lens of an ex-local

Alina de Albergaria

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Much like the flora and fauna, we have been programmed to anticipate and adapt to the changing seasons, virtually by instinct. This is especially true now that the sweet scent of orange blossoms permeates the air, hinting at heat around the bend.

This year the season swooped in without warning, taking me to the City of Angels with my youngest in tow, while our teens spawned spring break plans of their own. We stayed in my old neighborhood, at the Peninsula where our daughter enjoyed one of my favorite rooftop pools in town, while I met with colleagues. Located in the heart of Beverly Hills just blocks from Rodeo Drive, the Peninsula caters to the discerning traveler with a penchant for understated elegance and stellar service. The tone of discreet beauty is evident from the moment a band of trees sneaks into view, encircling the classic Renaissance style hotel as though shielding it from bustling city streets. In similar fashion, the hotel retains a couple of chauffeurs so one might avoid the frustration that comes along with driving in Los Angeles. (Think William Foster in Falling Down).

 

Suite, patio and cabana photos: courtesy of the Peninsula Hotel. All others, property of Designs by Alina.

 

We reserved a car just once on the way back from dinner because we love to stroll, always choosing hotels that are on (or near) walking streets. Once you have seen the obligatory Rodeo Drive and Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where Pretty Woman was filmed) consider venturing south of Wilshire Boulevard, away from the tourists, to S. Beverly Drive, home to local boutiques and lively restaurants like Urth Caffe, where celebrity sightings are not uncommon. (I have spotted Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow among others, while enjoying my morning latte.) The pastries are hit or miss so I now opt for an omelette or French toast, and when I am craving a buttery, flakey pastry, Chaumont, one block north of Urth Caffe, is delicious.

LA quirkiness at its Hollywood best, anyone? Head on over to the Spadena House (aka the Witch’s House) four blocks north of the hotel on Walden Drive. This city landmark, known for its whimsical, intentionally decrepit style, was designed in 1922 by Harry Oliver, an Art Director who later influenced Storybook architecture.

 
The Spadena House, Beverly Hills

The Spadena House, Beverly Hills

 

Our hotel’s Belvedere restaurant offers delicious Mediterranean-inspired fare with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and wild-caught seafood. While the setting is lovely, lunch felt a little more tame than our mood, so we ventured out for the rest of our stay. Here are a few of my new and old favorites:

Brunch/lunch: Fred’s rooftop restaurant at Barneys has it all: farmers-market-fresh fare and a spectacular view of the Hollywood Hills. Another popular spot is The Farm (try the tuna three-ways). Then there is Sugarfish where your taste buds come to life with mouth watering sushi that will leave you clamoring for more. Be warned, however, not to ask for miso soup, cooked fish or dessert because, well, there is none. Sugarfish is all about simplicity stemming from exceptional ingredients. Ah, what I wouldn’t do for one of Chef Nozawa’s toro hand rolls right about now! Founded in 1983, The Ivy on Robertson is brimming with flowers, making you feel as though you are in a country cottage rather than the industry darling it continues to be. And while it is pricier than most restaurants in the neighborhood, you will not be disappointed from the moment you are greeted with a glass of chilled champagne.

Dinner: The places I used to frequent as a resident years ago, are more than just relevant today: Il Cielo (Italian cuisine) still tops my list for the most romantic garden setting. And like Il Cielo, Spago (Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant) has been around for decades and continues to be a front-runner. These restaurants are superb, though many would argue that West Hollywood is where the hottest new eateries are, and I tend to agree. My husband and I gauge our dining experiences a bit differently: he is a stickler for outstanding fare whereas I seek out beautiful design and a lively, unpretentious ambiance. That said, if you are up for a short drive to West Hollywood, we both recommend Catch, Eveleigh, or Lucques.

Last but not least, if you have a sweet craving at four o’clock in the morning or want to surprise your little one while you sleep in, the world’s first cupcake ATM Sprinkles on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Camden is available twenty-four hours a day.

 
Sugarfish, Beverly Hills

Sugarfish, Beverly Hills

 

Yes, my husband and I are foodies and our children don’t fall far from the tree, but the greatest gift this time around had little to do with my palate or business. Pounding the same streets I did for so many years as a young woman in television, with my daughter beside me was really some kind of wonderful. But to stand in front of my old Beverly Hills apartment with someone who might have only touched my heart back then by way of a wondrous dream? Well, that, was nothing short of surreal!

 
 

Whether you have sprung forward in a matter-of-course, or added a touch of nostalgia for good measure, we wish you and your loved ones a glorious season of bloom.

The Bygone Beauty of Venezuela

Alina de Albergaria

 
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Today I share a piece of my heart.

To many, Venezuela is just another poverty stricken country. To me, however, it is the place in which, for the first time in my life, I had extended family. It is the birthplace of my mother and is where I met my beloved uncle/godfather, the most gentle, kind, loving, loyal human being I have ever known, the one who would later walk me down the aisle and cradle our newborn children.

 
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Venezuela hosted our family on virginal beaches with gaitas, salsa, and merengue, where fisherman asked what we wanted for lunch, bringing it to us minutes later from the sea.

It also hosted us in the Andes where my fondest memories of New Year's celebrations live. I can still see the sparks we made on the pavement those nights alongside children unbeknownst to us who, too poor to own skates like we did, partook nonetheless on improvised carretas made with ball bearings and wood, our joint laughter painting the streets with year-end mementos, devoid of social barriers. 

I witnessed vast differences in the way people lived: some with heartfelt smiles showcasing brown, rotting teeth, and others who spent their weekends shopping in Miami. Nonetheless, friendly demeanors hinted at how Venezuelans, from all walks of life, seemed grateful to live in such a majestic country. The years I lived there, in conjunction with those spent in the United States and England, helped shaped my worldview, and I am grateful for the grit, determination and compassion with which those experiences have armed me for adulthood. 

But Venezuela today is a far cry from the land I once knew, the wealthiest in all of Latin America. Venezuelans have collectively lost twenty-five percent of their body weight due to food shortages, while ninety percent live in poverty (Reuters). Civil unrest, hyperinflation and crime have sadly become synonymous with Venezuela since the turn of this century. To date, three million people have fled, including members of my own family, most leaving behind a country deeply loved.  

Today I celebrate the nation’s natural beauty, stand by its warm people, and wish for healing and peace in the years to come.

Honing your Christmas Decor

Alina de Albergaria

 
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As a designer obsessed with creating beauty, the aftermath of ribbons, needles, flour, paper, tinsel, tape, and all the trimmings of the season can easily become a source of mayhem.

Still, year after year, with a prevailing scent of Thanksgiving still floating through the air, we pile into the family car in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Dusty boxes which haven't seen the light of day for eleven months emerge while the children argue about who gets to put the angel on the tree, apple cider simmering in the distance.

Note to self: Next year it’s our son’s turn.

Note to self: Next year it’s our son’s turn.

Changing up the decor from year to year can definitely spark an interesting conversation, but I love items that can stand up to the test of time, not to mention the joy that unfolds as we open an old box and unravel the tissue paper within to reveal seasonal treasures.

 
 

This year our youngest pleaded for us to buy Christmas stockings, a tradition our family hadn't embraced as my husband and I grew up without them in our childhood homes. One look at her beaming smile as I pondered the idea was all it took for me to welcome her proposal.

Both Fig and Dove and One Kings Lane, trusted sources of mine, had several options but neither convinced me that they should author our newest gem. Neiman Marcus and Sferra Linens offered a few contenders which paired together well, though they fell short of the quintet our family required. 

And then a lightbulb went off.

If year after year Anthropologie manages to pull off the perfect Christmas window, surely they would have a stocking (or five) that I’d like. Voilá!

 
North Pole Stocking  from Anthropologie

North Pole Stocking from Anthropologie

 

I couldn’t locate enough coordinating stockings to round out the lot so I headed over to my local craft store in search of accessories to personalize them, my favorite being small rounds of birchwood onto which I hand-wrote initials with a calligraphy pen.

 
 

It’s late…the Christmas trail I left behind in my studio can wait until morning, but the smile I saw on my daughter’s face when I pondered her idea? Hmmm, if I sign off now, I just might get another one of those!

And to all a good night!

 
CHRISTMAS DECOR DESIGNS BY ALINA
 

Sixteen years of motherhood: what have I learned?

Alina de Albergaria

 
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My favorite sound in the world is a child’s laughter, something I feel lucky to experience on a daily basis in our home. 

This weekend, however, the harrowing noise emanating from above was anything but cheerful, amplifying itself as though our home existed for that sole purpose. I remember being driven to rage myself at her age and decided to let her find respite in her chilling wails while I found mine by way of a keyboard.

Is it any wonder that there is no manual for the most critical, fulfilling and difficult job in the world? How could there be when every family’s circumstance is different, each parent bringing a diverse set of values, experiences and unique skill set to the table? Most of us who take the job seriously are on an endless quest to improve upon our own upbringing by embracing what worked and discarding what didn’t. We must rethink, remold, reshape, and repurpose ideas for every stage of a child’s life as he or she morphs in perpetuity.

 
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Our son has self imposed boundaries making it easy for us to be laxed with him. Our daughters, on the other hand, move to a different tempo. I remember how terrified I was the first time I saw our eldest, at the age of five, handling a bee. A whisperer of sorts, she reached for a fallen one gently placing it in the palm of her hand until it flew away. It took some time for her to convince me that she knew what she was doing, but calmly observing and listening to her enabled me to shed my fear and embrace her determination and self confidence. She must have handled several dozen bees that spring and was never stung. Around the same time, she mounted her first horse taking to equestrian life like a hummingbird to nectar. Again, while I felt apprehensive, I knew that what she stood to gain emotionally and physically far outweighed my fears.

 
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Empowering a child, among other factors, requires striking a balance between yielding to their wants and disallowing them. Thankfully, many years of Montessori followed by public and private schools have been invaluable in showcasing a variety of approaches and perspectives, collectively inspiring us to guide, observe, listen and evaluate, a practice we have followed (or attempted to follow) a thousand times over. For the most part this has enabled us to trust our children thus empowering them in the pursuit of a productive, stimulating, and fulfilling life.

As aware as I am of my parenting strengths, I am even more so of my weaknesses, the largest one being my inability at times to commit to a decision. (See Dear Ebba and Roberto for more on commitment phobia.) The constant wavering between a desire to please and listening to one’s own heart is confusing for a child, not to mention frustrating, which brings me back to my daughter’s disappointment earlier today.

An athletic fiend, or as my dear cousin would say “a life fiend,” our youngest approaches life with remarkable passion and determination, excelling at virtually every academic, creative, and athletic pursuit she tackles. Her love of slime, for example, led to the launch of her online shop while still in elementary school, earning her more spending money than she ever dreamed possible, but more importantly, it is teaching her invaluable lessons in entrepreneurship and responsibility.

Last summer, much like an alpine swallow in continuous flight, our daughter did not stop moving her body. Daily somersaults became the norm transforming our abode into a mobile gym with round-the-clock cartwheels, handstands, and flips until her body nagged for more.

 
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I embraced it.

Until I didn't.

She was relentless, soon becoming obsessed with the idea of enrolling in a formal gymnastics class which spawned the feeling I had years ago when her sister mounted that first horse or held that first bee. It wasn’t so much that she had already committed herself four months prior to tennis, or that she was already stretched with lessons, clinics, her shop, friends and homework. Even in the best scenario, a small injury could easily keep her away from the court for weeks. But what worried me the most is that knowing how passionate she is about every pursuit, she would never have approached the sport from a recreational standpoint which elevated my fears. Furthermore, a family friend who is a spinal surgeon, told us that following four successful years of gymnastics, he forbade his own daughter from continuing because of the tragic spinal injuries he had seen. The harmony in our home was being threatened by my inability to take a stand, choosing instead to waver between wanting to support her (and my husband who was less apprehensive than I was) and listening to my own reasoning. Weeks of stonewalling and backpedaling came to a stand still when my husband finally told me that I could count on his support but only if I stood firm on my decision.

And so it was that we informed our child that we were no longer on board with gymnastics outside of our home. Feeling betrayed, she chose to let off the vehement steam I described earlier, avoiding me for the rest of the day. Later that evening, still melancholic but no longer angry, she asked me to snuggle up with her to watch an episode of I Love Lucy. Different from most, that embrace felt as though she somehow understood the difficult choice I faced, and dare I say it was as though she appreciated it.

Four days have passed and while her sadness has abated, she continues to advocate for herself using every tool at her disposal, including a signed “contract” to convince us that she would never get hurt. I am proud of her resourcefulness and must admit that I nearly buckled twice. But remembering that I too had a lesson to learn aided me in keeping the temptation at bay.

Did we do the right thing?

That million dollar question will likely never be answered. What I do know is that despite the fact that I have managed to stand firm on my decision, our daughter continues to hop onto our bed in search of the snuggles I am so eager to give.

And that is good enough for me.

 
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