The best interior design is usually associated with the wealthiest countries. But that isn't always the case; look at the Polish capital, Warsaw.
That the city has left behind its creatively challenged past can be seen at Almi Decor (82 Al. Jana Pawla, tel: 48 667 970 131; www.almi-decor.com), with its spidery black chandelier (2,700 Polish zloty/HK$7,500) and leather-covered olive stool (2,290 zloty). Despite the obvious interest in the new, there's a definite cold war whiff at DDR Studio (33 Koszykowa, tel: 48 22 628 40 60; www.ddrstudio.com). Archaic-looking gadgets rub shoulders with a vivid-orange anglepoise lamp that wouldn't look out of place in 1970s Moscow.
It's a different story at Evergreen (49 Ul Tamka, tel: 48 22 827 62 03; www.evergreenonline.pl), which shows no trace of communism in its minimalist store. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything more modern than the glass-topped coffee table on curved legs (1768 zloty). At Magazyn Praga (27/31 Ul Zabkowska, tel: 48 22 670 11 85; www.magazynpraga.pl), the products are aimed at the nouveau riche. Of special note is a white porcelain bowl, which looks as if it's been crushed, and the Plopp mini-stools (above right), which appear to be made of plastic but are actually artfully fashioned from steel.
There's more in the same vein at Zoom (84/86 Ul Nowogrodzka, tel: 48 22 816 20 65; www.zoomzoom.pl). A sloping chair in black and white (829 zloty) would create a sense of being suspended in a private space while a mirrored serving plate (125 zloty) decorated with orange baubles would bring a spot of sunshine to the dinner table.