A jewelry designer rediscovers Istanbul's treasure trove


Lauren Khoo, designer and creative director of Lauren X Khoo, a fine jewelry line, shares with us her passion for gems and baubles, and her love for Istanbul.

Where did you learn to design and craft the beautiful pieces that you do? How did you get into this profession?

I received my GG (Graduate Gemologist) degree from the GIA in 2012, and I learnt to get my hands dirty at the Jewelry Arts Institute in New York City. I guess it started when I was a child during the time I spent with my late grandmother on my mom's side. She was a avid jewelry collector, and I used to tag along with her to private workshops and auction houses.

What kind of traveler are you?

I'm a mix of a very laid back and anxious traveler. It all depends on which city I'm exploring.

What are your 5 travel essentials?

  1. Hermes scarf
  2. Converses
  3. A HUGE tote to throw everything into
  4. Biologique Recherche moisturizer
  5. Aquaphor healing ointment

What are some of your must do's when you travel?

If it's a new place, I start out with the Wallpaper or DK guidebook and go from there. But I normally like to visit place of worship first, followed by museums and ending with amazing restaurants!

Tell us why Istanbul is your favorite city.

I love its culture, the people and the history behind this beautiful city. Its vibrancy is just incredible. I was lucky enough to meet some of my closest girlfriends back in university who are Turkish... which is probably the reason why I keep going back to the city once a year. It gives me the chance not only to visit them but to revisit places like Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque) and of course, the Grand Bazaar.

The Blue Mosque The stunning Blue Mosque

Lauren's recommendations for Istanbul

Most of the chic, trendy restaurants in Istanbul turn into buzzing bars and clubs. This kind of convenience always makes for long and fun nights. Here are my picks:

Reina and Anjelique

Located in the trendy Ortakoy neighbourhood, these two establishments are almost institutions in Istanbul's nightlife. They both offer stunning views of the Bosphorus, and the best part is you can go from eating to dancing in minutes.

Ulus 29 and Club 29

This is a swanky restaurant in the Besiktas neighbourhood that offers modern interpretations of Turkish cuisine. The views of the Bosphorus from here are amazing, and is the place for a special occasion. Ask for a table outdoor, if possible. After dinner, Club 29 is next door, if you want some music and dancing.


With its stunning bar and fun music, this is good place to let loose in the upmarket Etiler neighbourhood. The menu is Asian Fusion. I don't drink, but the cocktails, especially the Gingerella come highly recommended here!


Design buffs will love the aesthetic and attention to detail at this beautiful restaurant in the Karakoy area that serves a Pan-Mediterranean cuisine. With 8 metre high ceilings, beautiful herring-bone flooring, and bar shelves that almost seem to float, the place is simple, yet stunning.


Located on the Anatolian, or Asian side of the Bosphorus, this charming restaurant sits right on the water, so you have an unblocked view of the Bosphorus. The best part is arriving by boat, which can be arranged with the restaurant, if you are coming from the European side.


Located in the neighbourhood of Bebek, ultra-hip Lucca is where the stylish Istanbul elite gather for coffee and conversation during the day, and for beats and cocktails at night.

alt alt alt

Pictured above: Anjelique (credit: Green), FerahFeza (credit: retail deisgn blog), Uskumru (credit: Uskumru)

Where to stay in Istanbul

alt Breathtaking views from Taksim

alt Stylish loft in Cihangir

alt Modern fusion apartment in Beyoglu