2020 began with a bang, at least for us who visited Colombo on a trip guided by influencer and Sri Lanka lover, Riaan George. The city with all its colonial heritage, beautiful food, and exquisite design aesthetic got us hooked from day one. Immersing in the melting pot of cultures made us realise that the city’s soul resides in its trendy restaurants, stunning architecture, and captivating creative studios. We also had the opportunity to venture into the world of design and art, through one of Colombo’s best interior design lifestyle store, Pendi.
It’s not your average lifestyle store at all. Pendi works to sell the tag ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ in its own way by promoting homegrown labels that are changing the landscape of design in the country. The USP of the store is its authenticity. Each product, label, and design comes with its own story; the artist’s point of view alongside immense passion and a strong philosophy puts their brand on the forefront.
Founded by husband and wife duo, Natalie Pendigrast & Dilanke Hettiaratchi, Pendi started as a tiny studio, a passion project if you will. Natalie’s experience as a lover of art and design and as an interior designer, predominantly a penchant for homegrown art, gave the business its push. After a few pop-up sales and word-of-mouth accolades, the store picked up pace as the go-to destination for tourists and locals alike.
“The idea was to give traditional Sri Lankan crafts and skills a modern interpretation, and each designer we retail at the store has put in their passion and collective wisdom to create truly great products. We take a lot of pride in the fact that all of our products are designed and made in Sri Lanka,” explains Natalie Pendigrast about the designers and artisans striving to create quality products every day. This is her way of including them into the global design narrative by promoting their authenticity and individual style and making sure we all carry a piece of the island back home with us.
Doors to the interior design studio opened in 2017 – a stunning retail space that curates lighting, fashion, beauty, art, and homeware from well-known and discreet local artisans, designers, and craftsmen. There are three parts to the store: Interior design studio, bespoke studio, and a retail space. Collaboration is at the heart of Pendi, so expect new designers, bigger adventures, and local businesses tuning in through pop-ups and new launches. “ We continuously work with local young artists and designers who try to use Sri Lankan materials, products, and ingredients. It’s about going back to our roots,” adds Pendigrast.
There are more reasons why we loved shopping at Pendi – it’s not only a place to find that exclusive gift for a friend, it’s also a space that encourages sustainability, so what you take back is genuinely saving the planet in its own way. The studio’s almost all-female workforce is an added plus while Fair Trade is another feather in the cap.
We loved the personalisation, the adherence to high-quality materials, the pro-environment aspect and mostly, the bespoke quality of each product. What would I really pick from the store? Personally the intimate lighting fixtures, they are the star of the show. And the beautiful art and furniture that can be shipped anywhere in the world.
On the other side though, we picked out five interesting labels that caught our eye at Pendi and each one of them came with a distinct and memorable style.
Beautiful lifestyle products created out of concrete. There are cute planter pots that come with personalised messaging and words, cement blocks with action words in different languages, and name-boards and single letters alongside tiny fridge magnets, coasters, and standalone design items. We particularly loved to play around with words at our own little session – the word ‘Hustle’ on my desk now brings back beautiful memories of this stunning work.
If you’re looking for something extremely personal and natural, the fabrics at Botanic Hues are worth a look. Using plant and vegetable organic raw materials and traditional hand-dyeing techniques, they created beautiful prints on mulmul and cotton. These scarves are all the rage and we each tried our hand at creating colours with organic raw flowers. The beautiful, earthy tones come through hand-dyed shawls with leaf prints, pretty cushion covers, floral scarves, and soft and supple cloth bags. Everything is sustainable and locally sourced.
A good skincare label is what makes us jump with joy and organic ingredients always make it to our priority list. The sweet eco-friendly soap label comes with a few interesting ingredients such as Avocado (we picked one that smells like heaven), Bee honey, Coconut, Coffee, and Cinnamon. The label also retails Aloe Vera Shampoo, Aloe Vera Shower Gel, Coconut Shampoo & Coconut Shower Gel – all of them are equally exquisite.
Undoubtedly a contemporary label, Ena Designs is a label that can easily fit into any global home. The range is stunning: Hand-painted clay vases, modern ceramic coasters, cushion covers in organic prints, graphic planters, and ceramic serving platters in gold print – everything at Ena is perfect for a modern home. We loved making our own ceramic pots and took one home too.
Vintage straw clutches, wicker bags, and cane belts – Cane Couture is a label that is committed to working with rural communities and local creatives. With a Cult Gaia-ish vibe, the label works with Sri Lankan artisans by working on waste reduction. The eco-chic boho bags are unique and come with added metallic fittings to give you a luxe vibe.
Here are a few other labels that caught our eye:
The Metal Doodler that uses scrap material.
Nue Body Basics that works with hand-whipped body butter.
Paper Rocket Studio’s cute Sri Lankan lingo metallic magnets.
Booteek’s Sri Lankan towels, makeup pouches, and other handmade additions.
Semman Handmade for cute palmyrah tableware and limited edition table runners.
The Silk Body for their Sri Lankan-made 100 per cent organic exfoliating products.