I first met Uttama when I offered to help out at a cake table at a charity bazaar. I was then new to Dublin-and was, as always, eager to hear words of welcome. So the minute she smiled, welcomed me and told me her name, I knew I liked her. She told me she was Cambodian-French. Her name sounded so Indian–in fact, so much like my own sister’s name,Uttara, that I was intrigued. And after a couple of times of meeting her, Uttama and I set up our own French language practice classes- Uttama guiding me through magazine articles and I stumbling along ! That is how I started to learn more about her country of origin, Cambodia– and , indeed, about her and was I impressed by the little that I learnt !
And yes, Cambodian culture and language, I discovered, did draw inspiration from among others, the Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism .
She spent all of her adult life in France,worked in the French fashion industry, married a wonderful Frenchman, has a lovely daughter who goes to the French school, lived her married life in Paris, Texas and now Dublin, but describes herself and her household as more Cambodian than French ( Yes, everyone has to definitely remove their shoes when they move to the bedrooms upstairs!). The reason, she says, is her husband himself, who, and I find that, too, knows more about and is more interested in Cambodia and the East than Uttama herself.
So it does not come as a surprise to me when I find her home filled with beautiful pieces of– you guessed it–Eastern furniture and artefacts !
Her home, in a leafy suburb of Dublin, is bright and airy. The entrance lobby dips down to open to the drawing room on the left and the large kitchen and informal dining area on the right. The pieces of furniture are mostly antiques which Uttama bought in shops in Paris. A few of them were bought explicitly for this particular house. They are high quality, beautiful and arranged with elegance and a degree of simplicity. Quite like the way Uttama herself dresses- in elegant sweaters, dark pants or skirts with her hair neatly held back !
In her drawing cum dining room, the sofas are covered with off white cotton throws Uttama bought in Turkey. She says she saw them in a market there and knew immediately that she wanted them for her sofas.
I think it gives the pieces warmth and movement- even in appearance. The book shelf has lots of interesting books– many, of course, on Cambodia. On a table behind the sofa is a collection of family photographs and memorabilia- lit by the warm glow of a lamp-
The coffee table with beautiful boxes, paint brushes and a black lacquer container with an orchid-even that is elegantly bent !-
The dining area- the table and chairs the perfect size for the area-
There is an impeccably finished red lacquer basket on her dining table and many others placed around.
I fell in love with this basket- you immediately want to run your hands on it to feel its smoothness !And, well– me with my nosiness– want to open it to see the compartments inside ! (It is really a traditional lunch box with compartments– how nice if you can eat out of it –)
My favorite part of the room- the gorgeous Chinese chair with the lamp and the lush, lush plant. Some people just have it in their fingers– their plants are always lush and laughing. Uttama’s are all like that ! All she does, she says, is water them from time to time. They just LIKE her !
My favorite piece- the chair- with a fabulous silk cushion fashioned like the front of a Chinese dress with folded cloth buttons- I love it for its design !
An exquisite red lacquer finished table with a collection of beautiful artifacts and a lacquer painting–
A collection of red lacquer baskets– makes you want to carry them away– doesn’t it ?
A view of the drawing room through the lobby-
When I ask Uttama if she has a favorite piece of furniture, she looks around at each one, looking for an answer. She does not have it- because she loves them all equally ! It is understandable- isn’t it ?
Thank you so much for sharing, Uttama.
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