Zalig Aan Zee

February 13, 2017 • CollabKnokkeTravel

two years ago, i first discovered ZALIG AAN ZEE when we booked their vacation home in the meerlaan in knokke. we spent such a lovely weekend there – four couples with our kids – that we vowed to rent one of their homes once a year. but then life happened and everyone was so busy that our brilliant idea went the way of most good intentions – it seemed impossible to get everyone together at the same time. until i got an email from the lovely kathleen cassiers, who runs zalig aan zee. it was as if she read my mind and she gave me the little push i needed to rally the troups – sans kids this time. my husband’s birthday was coming up and i knew he would love nothing better than to have his friends in one place to spend a lazy weekend together.

so in all secrecy i got everyone to cancel their plans, book their tickets to belgium and rent a car to take them to the belgian coast – because the wonderful house in the pannenstraat 120 in knokke-heist would be ours for the weekend. now all i had to do was find a way to get my husband to belgium, drop off juliet with her grandparents (which all involved a lot of white lies and awkward pauses before answering my husband’s questions) and drive him up to knokke without him getting suspicious. of course he knew something was up, but the look on his face when we arrived and he fully realized what was happening… well it’s something i’ll remember forever.

on to the house then! zalig aan zee has a very characteristic style – all of the houses feature a monochromatic color scheme, punctuated with lots of wood and other natural elements like leather and linen. all of them have been designed to be freakishly efficient. the homes really aren’t that big, but every room has been so carefully planned that everyone has ample wardrobe space and lots of places to put other stuff. the first year we brought everything with us to prepare some home cooked meals (the guys in our group are all more or less into cooking – we are lucky gals), but when we realized we needn’t have brought half of the stuff because the kitchen is so well-equipped, this year we just relied on the zalig aan zee amenities.

my favorite things about this particular house are the gas fire place in the living room and the swinging chair in front of it, the wood fire place in the cozy patio (which features a covered kind of outdoor living room – so cozy and ideal for fickle belgian weather) and the enormous attic which has no less than eight single beds. i love the design of that space – it’s any organization freak’s dream-come-true. every single inch of that space is put to good use, and i can just imagine the fun our kids will have in there when they’re all a little bit older. for our weekend, it was the perfect fifth bedroom to host two couples – even though it might not have been as romantic for them as for the four couples who had their own rooms…

as i was getting this post ready to publish, i noticed i hadn’t made a category yet for ‘knokke’, and that just won’t do. as a belgian from antwerp, my childhood summers were spent on its beaches – selling paper flowers for little shells. when i got a little older, i had some of the best nights of my life there – hanging out and partying with my friends who also spent a huge chunk of their summers there. knokke sometimes gets a bad rep because it can be kinda posh and snooty, but if you know where to go (and which places to avoid) it’s a fun place to go any time of the year. there are some seriously fun shops to discover – a peek into OBJET TROUVE is guaranteed to leave you inspired (and bankrupt). and it has some really great restaurants – CUINES33 has been one of my favorite foodie destinations for the past couple of years. but most importantly knokke is located right next to the beautiful natural park HET ZWIN, which is the perfect place to go for long walks and fresh air.

it’s only been two weeks, but i’m already starting to crave another visit…

all photos by stephanie duval • ZALIG AAN ZEE rental home at pannenstraat 120 in knokke • also, yes, i travel with three cosmetics pouches because i am high maintenance like that. in other news i have rekindled my love for KIEHL’S and i can now not longer live without their hydro-plumping retexturizing serum concentrate and super multi-corrective cream. insert all the heart eyes emoji’s for what this duo has done for my skin lately. #notsponsored #justareallybigfanoftheirstuff

Bye 2016

January 20, 2017 • BabyCollabLife

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i’m not going to bore you with all the reasons why it’s been so quiet over here – instead i’ll dedicate my time and energy to getting this place back to life. because i miss sharing my stories on here, and i miss hearing back from you. this blog has been a driving force behind much of my professional life, a way to connect with so many likeminded people and new friends, and a logbook for some of my favorite memories of all time. and i’d like to keep it exactly that. even if it means posting christmassy photos by the end of january or disappearing for weeks on end and then probably posting four different articles in one week. erratic or not, this place will remain a reflection of my life, and i’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for sticking around as long as you have.

so i might be royally late in the holiday inspiration department, but it’s never too late to share photos of moments you’ll treasure forever, is it? last fall, my life in switzerland got a highly necessary injection of creativity and friendship. i had already started hanging out with my new friend NIENKE (she’s a talented interior designer, globe trotting supermom and gorgeous dutchie) – who i met through instagram but turned out to live exactly two streets away from me, how crazy is that? but then we met MARTA (she’s a whip smart university professor, gifted photographer and spanish beauty) and when we got together all three of us, something clicked. i can’t tell you how happy i am to have these two generous, kind, funny, smart and creative women in my life – and so close by! – right now. we have so many plans in store that i can’t wait to tell you more about.

but first things first – when i heard marta was looking to do more family photo sessions and expand her photography business in switzerland, i was so excited to have her come over and photograph juliet and i. marta brought along her beautiful baby boy théo, nienke brought some beautiful decorations, and the five of us had a wonderful time together – almost forgetting at times that we were there to take photos and not just laugh our asses of or ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over théo’s overall adorableness.

i am going to share more photos of our session (and i’ve already shared quite a few over on my INSTAGRAM) but i wanted to start with these shots around our christmas tree. because yes, i already miss the holiday season and yes, i am already counting down to decorating our next christmas tree. as this year was the first time juliet could really begin to understand the magic of it all, it seems to have become even more of a special thing for me now than it was before. i am reliving all of my wonderful childhood memories through her eyes, and i am loving creating new traditions with her.

in any case – marta did such an amazing job of capturing our living room in its full christmas glory, and juliet in her prettiest little LIILU dress and bonnet. she had the most fun of us all – showing marta around, playing with nienke, and generally basking in all of the attention. i’ll tell you one thing though – never first teach your kid to NOT touch the christmas tree under any circumstance and then have her take out and put in candy canes just because it looks so adorable on the photo. those kinds of parenting techniques will come back to bite you in the ass.

juliet’s dress and bonnet by liilu • tights by marmar • slippers by easypeasy • my sweater and shirt by cks • christmas stockings from fabelab via • photos by marta villacampa


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my name is stephanie duval, and i am a storyteller. this blog is where i share my favorite stories about design, travel, fashion and the nice things in life.


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