The Dunstane Houses

creative direction & photography CYNTHIA NGUYEN in collaboration with THE DUNSTANE HOUSES


The Dunstane Houses is a family-run five star boutique hotel property: set in two restored heritage Victorian townhouses, the Dunstane House and the Hampton House, with 35 rooms between them— featuring English interior, history and the classiest bars that provide Scottish treats, such as whiskies to wet your beak with. Within the heart of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, this property comes to life as a swanky yet inviting and charming persona, offering the most authentic Scottish experience and stay. 

The houses date back to 1851, where they were first built by George Lorimer as Victorian Villas with Jacobean/baronial style in mind, on land owned by George Heriot’s Trust. Followed by a thoughtful restoration process while preserving many of the buildings’ original architectural and design elements, The Dunstane Houses now operates as a boutique brand offering refined Scottish experiences within their striking walls— walls that display their tasteful, bold wallpapers, Scottish tartan tweeds, and counting plenty of windows that allow pools of light to pour in, drawing in the beautiful ornate mouldings on the high ceilings and wainscoting. At these heritage properties, there is an overwhelming amount of detail and refinement throughout the space, including a subtle narration of Orcadian influence— which comes through in the served food, such as the Orkney whole Kipper, the selected original artwork, and even the Orkney-based marshmallows you can receive in your room to pair with your hot chocolate. 


The Dunstane Houses are comprised of two Victorian townhouses which are situated across the street from one another, offering a 6 unique suites and a total of 35 beautiful and comfortable rooms between the two buildings.

Featured room is their Hamnavoe Suite on the top floor of the Hampton House (Room 202).


Guests can to enjoy the elegant high ceilings that are adorn with ornate mouldings, wallpaper and wainscoting. The interior is inspired by the neoclassical design of old-town Edinburgh, subtle Orkney details (island off the northeastern coast of Scotland) and English style interior.

The suites are design with a combination and the consideration of comfort and contemporary: from cloud-like, soft king-sized beds to walled flat-screen televisions displayed across the bed to enjoy after your long days of exploring, to old-world teak furnishing and modern lighting, to Persian rugs and walls with original artwork by Orkney artists. The traditional Scottish flare radiates through the space in the form of tartan accented cushions to the delicious homemade Scottish shortbread found replenished daily in the biscuit jars. 

On the main floor of the Hampton House is the dining space paired with the Honest Bar, where you will enjoy your morning meals (served in both houses), as well as create your own cocktail while bearing in mind the honesty system.

Enjoy food or afternoon tea at the main house across the street, the Dunstane House, where you can taste multiple plates of Scottish cuisine (must-tries are the Haggis Fritters with the delicious mustard sauce and the whole Orkney Kipper) and mouth-watering whiskies (with more than 100 single malts to choose from) and cocktails with the view of their bewitching fireplaces from your Chesterfield sofa.


The property is located in the captivating and peaceful neighbourhood of Coates and it is about 10 minutes away from the city centre. Everything in Edinburgh can be enjoyed by foot paired with sensible footwear. 

The nearest station is Waverley and is only a 10-minute work from Haymarket station. There is also a nearby stop for the tram that goes straight to Edinburgh Airport. 

You can experience Edinburgh’s Old Town that is made up of beautiful cobble stone streets and smoky painted sandstone buildings. The disfigured black patches that dress the buildings are said to be cause by the smoke of the city during the early ages of railways and pollution. In this area, you can walk along Edinburgh’s most famous street, the Royal Mile, which was the route for kings and queens for the last 500 years that connects to Edinburgh Castle (west) to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (east). As you walk along the Royal Mile, take a few photographs of J.K.Rowling’s greatest inspiration for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts school, the Edinburgh Castle. You can also pay a visit and rub the nose of the famous dog statue, The Greyfriars Bobby, who was a Skye Terrier who became famous for spending 14 years coming back to the grave of his owner until he had passed. 

The property is nearby the Scottish National Gallery, where you can enjoy some artwork and afternoon tea at their Scottish Cafe and Restaurant. Take a walk down or grab dinner at Portobello beach while viewing the sunset (which will eventually turn into a majestic foggy evening). You can enjoy some nachos, pints of beer or mulled wine at The Espy or grab some delicious mussels and cocktails at the cosy Boathouse. 

Pick up a few gifts and souvenirs like handwoven wool tartan goods or luxurious cashmere gifts along South Bridge and High Street, such as the Scottish Experiences Store. For Harry Potter fans, you can visit the Museum Context for themed clothing, collectibles, fan art in the form of lovely cards and posters, as well as photo opportunities around the spiral stone staircase. For unique gifts for the holidays and occasions, check out Mr. Wood’s Fossils where you might find well-preserved fossils of dinosaur remains, ammonites and gems that can go back later than 110 million years from around the globe— extremely ideal for those who love antiques, collecting, history and all sorts of detail. For vibrant and crafty gifts, check out Lackdhu, where you can find handmade ceramic magnets and ornaments, illustrated cards, hand-knitted jumpers and hats, felted brooches and much more. And because our health is our greatest wealth, gift some health-boosting teas, candles, oils and mulled wine or hangover cure kits at D. Atkinson Herbalist.


4 West Coates, Edinburgh EH12 5JQ, United Kingdom


Starting at $250/night for the Cosy Wee Double and $780/night for the Dunstane Suite (prices are in Canadian dollars)


For information or booking, visit their website and Instagram

A special thank you to Shirley and the entire staff at the property for hosting me during my visit.


As always, all opinions are my own.

I do not accept or review PR stays unless I had an enjoyable and genuine experience to share.


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If you could share your Scottish experiences below, I’d love to hear about it.


Away with Hazelton

creative direction & editing CYNTHIA NGUYEN photography VINCENT KO in collaboration with HAZELTON HOTEL

Donned with velvet, emerald couches in the lounge and serving exquisite Boston vanilla bean cream donuts on the menu— this boutique hotel will capture your heart. And not because it’s in the heart of Yorkville. Whether it’s for work, pleasure or play, the Hazelton Hotel doesn’t stop at expressing luxury at their hotel doors. The ever-so captivating Yorkville neighbourhood that surrounds the property is fastened with the best designer boutiques such as Corbo Studio and TNT Fashion, galleries, bars and restaurants. Uncover Toronto’s first true luxury hotel in one of most desirable destinations in the city— with 77 comfortable, oversized luxury hotel rooms and suites designed by award-winning and internationally renowned, Yabu Pushelberg firm.

From the spacious, granite bathrooms that is accompanied with your own personal television to watch your favourite soap opera, to the heated granite floors, to the L’Occitane en Provence bath sugar cubes and toiletries. The bathroom alone will make you want to make yourself at home or at least get you calling it your own private sanctuary. The 24-hour room service is catered by the ONE restaurant, headed by celebrity Chef Mark McEwan— which is by far, one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I often catch myself re-ordering their Shakshouka, spaghetti with meatballs and Boston cream doughnuts. They also have an amazing tea selection by Sloan.


in this photo
jacket BALMAIN
trousers PETER COHEN
courtesy of TNT FASHION

There’s something about the property being farther away from the downtown core, from where I live and work, that makes this escape seem more like believable and simple getaway for me. Sounds like the perfect mini vacation from home. To leave the city freely and travel away from the seasonal blues is not easy for most. Where there is rest and wellness to be restored, the space around you does heavily contribute to your recovery. For me, the spacious size of the rooms (and closet) allowed me to feel free to move around in and all the modern interior and details felt as though you were staying in an enhanced version of your home.





in this photo
courtesy of TNT FASHION


With a bed so soft, you’ll sleep through your alarm— especially with the hotel’s L’Occitane en Provence lavender pillow mist to help you have a better rest, (although the fact the curtains of the room open electronically with the flick of the switch made it hard to contain my excitement to open them in the morning) and a bathroom so beautiful, you’ll definitely want to make time for a bath. For someone who doesn’t own a bathtub in their home, this was a huge opportunity for me to take advantage of. I made some tea, brought a book and called room service to bring some extra bubble cubes for the bath and they kindly and promptly provided.



Although my made up staycation itinerary only covered 24 hours, the use of those hours offered good rest, an extravagant bubble bath and an amazing breakfast in bed.

But let’s face it— the true meaning of relaxation doesn’t exist without a few hours at the spa. The Valmont Spa at the Hazelton offers world-class facial treatments, luxurious body treatment and specialized massages designed to release stress and toxins. You have access to the steam room, indoor saltwater pool and gym. For more than 30 years, Valmont does not only hold one of the most premium range of advanced performing cosmetics and skincare products from Switzerland but has also been deploying all of its know-how in the field of anti-aging with profession care combining expertise, product performance, and accuracy of gestures.

I had the great pleasure of enjoying the last few hours of my time at the Hazelton hotel by ending it off with a facial and a collagen face mask by Marie Nguyen. A skin consultation was performed, followed by a facial cleanse using Valmont’s purification White Falls cleaner and White Falls invigoration softening toner. Next, Marie used Valmont’s purification face scrub mixed with Valmont’s clarifying cream mask— this combination is great for those with extremely sensitive skin when you’re looking to exfoliate.

The priming with a hydrating fluid is then used before using the V-line lifting cream mask to reduce the look of lines and wrinkles on the face. The lifting mask is then removed for Marie to proceed with applying the Valmont’s prime renewing pack, which promotes anti-stress and fatigue and produces that immediate glow. With the renewing pack, the regenerating collagen mask went over top for 20 minutes to rejuvenate the skin, causing the skin to lift, hydrate and smooth out— during this stage, a nice scalp and hand massage was done. Lastly, Marie removed the mask to apply Valmont’s eye cream (used to replenish the skin’s volume around the eye and treat puffiness and dark circles), v-line serum, face cream and lifting cream. It’s safe to say that may be the most intensive yet best facial I’ve had so far. A shout out to Marie Nguyen for walking me through the steps and providing such a personal and amazing experience during our session.


in this photo
coat FILIPPA K pants VINCE
courtesy of CORBO STUDIO


in this photo
courtesy of CORBO STUDIO

A special thank you to the entire staff and property for hosting my wonderful staycation.
My stay was extremely short but the rich experience exceeded beyond my own expectations. 
As always, all opinions are my own.
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don’t call me lucky

creative direction CYNTHIA NGUYEN 
photography VINCENT KO 
in collaboration with ANN TAYLOR

“I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”

— Shonda Rhimes



Here’s the deal.. if I had it my way, I would buy my entire Fall wardrobe each and every time the new year rolls in. But like most people, whether it’s cost or closet real estate—that’s not my reality. That being said, this reality leads me to be highly selective with the pieces I choose to invest in for years to come and all season long.

Having been a loyal fan to Ann Taylor since the start of my university days, I’ve teamed up with them on their “let’s work together” campaign to share with you my favourite modern, versatile picks from their Fall line.

The thing to know about Ann Taylor is that they’re not just a one-stop shop for a basic suit, but they’ve evolved the concept of “work dress code” for modern women like myself, by offering pieces that can be taken from 9am to 9pm and on— staple turtle necks that can be used every year, to minimal wrap coats, topped with trend-forward trousers, paired with sleek, pointed toe kicks.

If you’re looking for something to wear for an interview, a presentation or even a celebratory promotion dinner, Ann Taylor pretty much covers all the basics and sophisticated, on-trend pieces to play with and get you prepared for all of your occasions. The idea of staying in one outfit for work, dinner and attending a party is considered effective if you’re able to use the same pieces to adapt to any situation or place and have it stretched beyond your 9-5. And who doesn’t want to look like the most polished yet still feminine one in the room? I wouldn’t mind flaunting my work pieces and admitting to coming from work. x







Pants are Power

creative direction CYNTHIA NGUYEN
photography VINCENT KO
in collaboration with ANN TAYLOR

You know that feeling when you find that pair of pants that holds you in the right places, stops at the appropriate areas just like the original design and doesn’t require a belt?

Now, imagine you were not allowed to wear pants— ever.
And that you could be arrested for slipping into a pair.

In light of International Women’s Day, I’ve teamed up with Ann Taylor to celebrate the brand’s commitment of over 60 years— making women feel empowered through their apparel, as well as the evolution and right for women to wear pants. Not only speaking to the historical shift in fashion but more-so the right in equality and social which women have fought for back in the 1940’s. 

It’s a fascinating thought to see how much of a statement and value is behind the mere act of women wearing pants.


Doublecloth Bow Sleeve Coat 
Frayed Cuffed Girlfriend Jeans
Marled Newbury Blazer



I’m sharing with you Ann Taylor’s campaign video that follows the journey from the year 1940, when women were once arrested for wearing pants in public, followed by today, 2018, where women can now wear pants freely– wherever, whenever. Including the Oscars. This video pays tribute to National Women’s History month and commemorates the evolution of how women have fought for not only the rights to wear pants that make them feel confident and empowered in fashion but for equality as well.  



creative direction CYNTHIA NGUYEN photography VINCENT KO in collaboration with GUERLAIN
and special thank you to Tobi

Something incredibly horrible yet interesting happened to me recently— I had found distinguished, fine lines under and around my little eyes. I mean, yes they’re not thaaat noticeable to others on a day-to-day basis. However, when you have to see yourself before bed and when you wake up every single day, you see a whole lot more than just a sleepyhead. The truth is, I’m actually aging. The even sadder part to that truth has been told by nearly everyone who is older than I and has warned me about how life and my skin complexion (as well as your metabolism) starts to go downhill after 25.

The problem is, that I don’t have a skincare ritual to speak of. It’s been really hard when your schedule is all over the place– sometimes, I get home from the office at 12am and just want to pass out or I’m in a rush and I simply want to spray some multi-purpose facial oil to revive my face from looking partially dead. And so, it looked like ‘now’ was a great time to get some sort of skin regime down— I wanted a simpler way to achieve and maintain good skin for myself.

I’m the kind of lady that loves products that includes scientific facts and natural ingredients.

I am delighted to share with you a collection that offers effective results in pro-longing the signs of aging, wrinkles and firmness. Thanks to scientifically proven facts (after ten years of research) and the properties of honey, Guerlain’s Abeille Royale collection offers all of the above mentioned in boosting skin. Another sweet and small mention I read about the line: “Inspired by the latest discoveries in neuroscience, the new Abeille Royale Repairing Concentrate goes even further and, for the first time, targets the damage suffered by the skin’s nervous system with exposure to UV rays and other external aggressions. So the skin can repair itself more effectively and fully.”

I’ve recently integrated the Youth Watery Oil into my skin care routine from Guerlain’s Abeille Royale collection. This light product’s formula combines the power of a serum, the richness of an oil and the freshness of a really good and lightly-scented perfume. I applying only a few drops on my cheeks and forehead, then blend the oil and little, creamy micro-beads into my skin. It’s made from Ouessant honey and exclusive Royal Jelly, sourced from an exclusive bee hive in France. A few drops of this youth-boosting oil leaves my skin feeling super plump, rejuvenated and smooth all day long— almost like a baby’s bottom..With the same love and respect for bees, independent Canadian brand, MYEL Design and Guerlain have partnered up to release a series of delicate and minimal jewelry. Featured below is their Essaim Silver Chain from their Alvéole collection.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Guerlain’s Abeille Royal Youth Watery Oil,
Guerlain’s Abeille Royal Replenishing Eye Cream.


Dress c/o Tobi
Lack of Color Spencer Boater Hat
Honey Punch Off-Shoulder Ruffles Top
Lord and Taylor Woven White Mules

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