Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Things To Look Forward To in 2015

Have you seen all the fantastic new shows, films, exhibitions and even the fashion collections planned for release this year? Fornasetti at the Arts Décoratifs Museum. The Fabric of India exhibition at the V&A. Kate Winslet in the new film The Dressmaker (above). The Chatsworth garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Naeem Khan's beautiful new 2015 resort collection. The glamorous new Sanchaya Hotel. And garden books. Gorgeous, gorgeous garden books. By Charlotte Moss. Bunny Williams. India Hicks. And more. The start of the new year seems to have stirred people into action, because there's a growing feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air. People seem more optimistic; more positive and perhaps also more aware of their attitudes, anxious to avoid the collective malaise that comes from constant negativity. There is a distinct shift in spirit. You can see it on Instagram. People actually seem happy. 

Even the media is changing. Have you seen the promos for My Kitchen Rules yet? Two of the contestants Jac and Shaz, two appliance demonstrators from Mt Isa (I love them already) have a laugh that's so loud and so infectious I smile every time I hear them on TV. 

So here are some of the things showing up on radars, calendars, IG chit-chat, email correspondence and garden-gate conversations. 

Look forward to bring you some beautiful posts in 2015. And in the meantime, find someone who makes you laugh. Really laugh—out loud. Someone who inspires you, and gives you hope for a great, gorgeous, glamorous, garden-filled new year. 

They're the kind of people you want to be around this year.

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Hollywood designer Mark D. Sikes not only has one of the most beautiful homes in the Hollywood Hills, featured in countless magazine shoots, but also one of the best blogs (link). He also seems to be a genuinely nice person. Go back through his posts and you'll see how engaging he is. 

For the longest time, I've thought he needed to do a book. And this year, hallelujah, he is.

Mark  is also working on a fashion collection. Inspired by stripes.
Isn't that original? NY's Chance label does it too, but I suspect Mark's designs will be as covetable as his home.

(The elegant garden gate above is also Mark's. I told you: his house is beautiful. You'll want to move straight in.)


Someone else with a new book out in 2015 is LA-based interior designer Windsor Smith, who's had just as many magazine spreads as Mark. Her LA home, above, has one of the most glamorous foyers this side of Kelly Wearstler. Can't wait for this one.

Publisher: Rizzoli. (Details on Rizzoli's website.)


Another newish book I missed (I also missed that she moved from Denmark to London) is fashion designer Malene Birger's new one, Move and Work

Her first, Life and Work, was a huge seller, so this is certain to be as beautiful. 
No one has an eye for the unusual, the whimsical and the beautiful like Malene Birger. 
I hope she's happy in her new London abode.

Published by teNeues.


Several years ago, I was a ghost writer for Carla Zampatti, penning her foreword for a Myer book. 
She was such a delight to deal with that I've never forgotten her, although sadly her clothes (which I've always worn) are now priced FAR ABOVE my budget! 

Carla was only five when her mother took her to visit the dressmaker in her local small town in Lombardy, Italy. It was then, in a sudden flash of inspiration, that she knew she would become a fashion designer. Decades later, she remains one of Australia's best fashion designers, producing remarkable collections even when her husband moved to Paris to take up an ambassadorial post. This book promises to be good. 

Hope she's not retiring like Collette Dinnigan.

Published April 2015.


This is going to be an amazing exhibition. The Fabric of India at the V&A is set to tell the tale of textiles, history and one of the most fascinating countries of all time. 

Have you noticed how everyone's become mad about textiles lately? People are rediscovering the beauty of old fabrics. I've even learned there is a ribbon museum in France (I am SO there!). 

Since India is one of the world's leaders in beautiful textiles, this is certain to be a stunning show.

On at the V&A from October 2015 onwards.


How's this for a fantastic film? Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof) has directed Kate Winslet in a film version of the bestselling book The Dressmaker, which comes with a tagline of  "Love, Revenge and Haute Couture".

 Co-starring Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving and many other big names, it centres on the character of Tilly, an expert dressmaker trained by Madeleine Vionnet in Paris, who returns to her hick hometown to transform the locals with her couture creations, and in the process, exacts revenge on the people who wrongly accused her of murder all those years ago.

Moorhouse calls it "Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood's 1992 western film) with a sewing machine."

International release in October. Love the posters for it already.


I don't normally watch reality TV. But this year's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here may change that. 

An old university friend has just flown to Africa to be part of the production team and I've glimpsed this pic on her Facebook page. Now this friend is no stranger to exotic destinations AND contestants' diva-ish behaviour. She was a producer on The Amazing Race for 6 years and sent people off into places you and I would shudder to contemplate. But this show may make or break the entire team. 

You see the pic above? Look at the green picnic kit of mini alcohol bottles. Half are missing and it's only the first few days. This isn't the contestents' fault. This is the CREW!

Ooh yeah, this is gonna be an interesting show...


Something to really look forward to this year is Chelsea Flower Show, which seems to be pulling its Wellingtons up after several years of miserable and increasingly disappointing displays. 

Chatsworth is doing a garden this year. So is L'Occitane. 

The latter has designed a perfumer's garden in Grasse, in the South of France, featuring figs, olives and sweeps of purple, heavenly scented flowers. It was meant to represent the declining perfume industry in Grasse and showcase the beauty and history of the famous lavender fields.

Hope it wins a Gold. The idea alone is worth a medal.

The grand Derbyshire stately home of Chatsworth, meanwhile, has teamed up with Champagne house Laurent Perrier, to create a small, pretty corner of the 105-acre Chatsworth garden featuring a two-storey oak framed building, a natural swimming pond, woodland and British flowers such as roses and peonies, in a palette of greens, pinks, lavender blues and creams.

The late Duchess of Devonshire would have no doubt loved the idea.


Charlotte Moss has been busy lately. I noticed her Instagram feed was full of garden pix last year but didn't dream it was all going to be for a book. 

Garden Inspiration is a compendium of gorgeous horticulture, ranging from Europe's best green spaces to Charlotte's own sublime Hamptons estate. (This is a women who, when she needed help with her garden design, called in the owner of the famous French garden, Prieuré d'Orsan She knows how to make things happen.)

Published by Rizzoli April 2015. Can't wait for this one.


The other day I saw an image of a grand, white, French colonial-style house in the tropics, and—as is the way with the Internet—followed the thread back through people's comments to this, the just-opened, surprisingly beautiful Sanchaya Hotel. [Link] 

Located on the Bintan coast, a 45-minute ferry ride south of Singapore, it's an elegantly designed resort that blends the traditional and classic with the modern and unexpected. Think a Great House (designed in plantation style) with modern black-and-white bathrooms.

Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, it promises to be one of the most talked-about hotels this year.


And finally, fashion designer Naeem Khan looks like being the one to watch this year (along with John Galliano, but the jury's still out on John). 

Just Google "Naeem Khan" and "2015 Resort Collection" and you'll see why all the fashion editors are in a tizz over it. 

It is superb.

Lots of lovely images here or  here.

PS If you'd like more regular updates and insights, please feel free to follow my Instagram account here 
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Rediscovering London and Paris, via Instagram

Are you on Instagram? No? Neither was I for years. I resisted it because, like many photographers, I was wary of the way Instagram owned the copyright to all the images posted on it. It was like blindly signing your rights over to an organisation you knew little about. 

Lately, however, I've become enamoured with the beauty of 'Insta' because it's a captivating insight into people's lives, only without the negativity and criticism that sometimes goes on in society and social media. I don't know about you but I'm trying to live a more balanced, positive, productive and happier life, and for some reason (well, actually it's probably not that surprising), images of people's gardens, a table set for 10 under a grapevine-covered arbour, a pile of new books, a bouquet of fresh flowers, snapshots of travel, a just-finished illustration, a newly decorated room, and even someone's too-cute dog will make me joyful and also—this is the strange thing—surprisingly grateful for life.

You see, Instagram celebrates the charming minutiae of our days; the beauty of our world, rather than the ugliness of society. It's a visual reminder to appreciate the things we see, and the things we have, and the things we're lucky enough to experience, too. It also encourages us to appreciate others as well. I love seeing Kerrie Hess' latest prints and Nichole Robertson's Parisian pix, both of whom I follow.

 Some people do carefully composed 'flatlays' or still lifes (tagged #flatlay), which are the new and 'in' thing on Insta, but I prefer the spontaneous shots: the 'outtakes' of our days that would never make it into a family photo album but still offer uplifting glimpses into lives well lived. Happy lives. Joyful lives. Lives that make us smile. 

For the past week, I've been posting on Instagram, and I have to tell you, I'm converted! 

It's a great way to post travel pix and tips and to exchange information with other followers, but more than that, it's a great reminder to look at life with a fresh vision. Sometimes we need to put down that expensive camera, stop over-composing, and just take a shot that moves us, a shot that simply makes us happy.

Sometimes I worry that my Insta pix are TOO under-composed, that perhaps I should have shot the Paris hotel bed BEFORE I slept in it, but the slight ruffles of Instagram, and life, are what make it real.

That's the beauty of it. The imperfections.

Other times, you can be somewhere and take a photo that seems so surreal, you can barely believe you caught it. This shot, taken from the ferris wheel in the Tuileries (something I'd never tried but always wanted to do, esp in winter), reminds me of a Georges Seurat painting.

So here are a few Insta pix from Paris and London, from new places I've discovered, and a few old ones I've rediscovered. 

Do consider joining Instagram, if only to share pix with your family, and if you do, then drop by and say hello at

Or click on the link here to follow my Insta trail.

The Petit Palais

The staircase in the Petit Palais' is one of the most beautiful in Paris. And not that well-known.  I love the curves of the ironwork against the curves of the staircase and the stone arches: an incredible design of line and beauty.

Other people will no doubt shoot it much better, but I wanted a 'snapshot' to remind me of its elegance.

 Le Dokhan's Hotel

Le Dokhan's Trocadero is one of Paris' true gems. I've only stayed here once as it's normally quite expensive, but last week they were throwing away the rooms just to fill the hotel. So I booked three whole nights. It was bliss.

It really is a beautiful, beautiful hotel, which will fill your Insta feed if you're not careful. It's a neoclassic fantasy with a rooms decorated in blue and white, a lift lined in Louis Vuitton steamer trunks and a Champagne bar that just serves Champagne. (Of course!)

Do consider booking it on your next Paris trip. Even the cheap rooms are delightful.

Parisian architecture

Every now and then I become a little jaded with Paris, but then I see something that makes me realise how glorious it is. On this trip, it was the details: the exterior of the Galerie de la Madeleine; the gilded gate of the Petit Palais. That's what Instagram does: it forces you to look at the details.

Parisian museums

It's easy to think you've 'done' the museums of Paris. Been there; seen that. But there are so many sweet little places to discover, and on this trip my 'find' was the sublime Jacquemart-André (Musée Jacquemart-André). Set inside a former mansion—once one of Paris' grandest residences—it displays the rooms as if they were still part of a private home.

It really is spectacular.

Vintage style

Something else I rediscovered was the treasure to be found in Paris' vintage designer boutiques, where wealthy Parisians and foreigners leave their unwanted (and often unworn) items. You can sometimes find new Hermès scarves, tag still attached, for under 100 Euros. Catherine B's boutique is a little over-priced now, but others, such as Reciproque, still offer bargains.

Floral fantasies

The florists of Paris and indeed London are always worth stopping at. Instagram is FULL of flower pix and no wonder: they're always a joy to see.

This was Wild at Heart in Notting Hill Gate. Aren't the 'red' hydrangeas beautiful?

Lindley Library

Another place I discovered was the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library near Victoria Station in London. A treasure trove for gardeners, it's a free library full of thousands of books that just focus on gardening. It's the largest gardening library in the world. I spent ages researching Gertrude Jekyll titles for a future book, but I could have stayed all day!

The Artesian Bar

A new favourite, this exquisite place was a symphony in pink leather and chinoiserie, with a little gilt thrown in. Designed by the late David Collins, it's one of the loveliest bars in London.

Great for a pick-me-up mid-afternoon, after a day traipsing around town.

The Portrait Gallery

Located high above the rooftops of West End, with incredible views of London, this is perhaps one of this city's best restaurant secrets. It was misty when we were there for a quick G&A, but I imagine it's magic on a summer's night.

Meeting Miss Tricia

And finally, Designers Guild held a wonderful Christmas soiree yesterday, filling the store with crafty people making gorgeous things. Founder Tricia Guild was also there and I was very fortunate to be able to spend a few minutes chatting to her. She is just as lovely as her designs.

It made me grateful for having an iPad to hand!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Instagramming London and Paris

Just a note to say that if you're on Instagram, I've been posting travel tips and inspiration from London and Paris this past week, at link here

Do have a look, or even follow: I would love to see you there!

And if you're not on Instagram, you can still view images on this link – here or at

I will still post on this blog so if you're a traditionalist (like me) and like to read stories and posts, there will still be newsy bits delivered here.

As always, thank you so much for reading! I always love the surprising interactions that come from these pages and other pages, posts, and people's sites on the Internet.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Textiles and Fashion Discoveries of Paris and London, Part 1

When you travel for work, it's easy to get stuck into the same old 'the Milk Run' (as a friend calls it) of staying in same trusted hotels, strolling the same favourite routes and neighbourhoods; browsing at the same beloved boutiques; dining at the same restaurants (with friends who love them as much as you do) and even visiting the same museums. 

But every now and then it's important, I think, to step off the Milk Run and discover cities anew—just as you did the first time you went overseas. Changing the pace and the paths you take can renew your sense of wonder at places, and make you fall in love with destinations all over again.

This happened to me this week. 

In the spirit of this new 'Gratitude Attitude' that we're all joyfully adopting, I decided to try and uncover parts of London and Paris I'd never seen. 

I'm here for a few days to source textiles and fashion places for new books, including the Paris book that's been stuck behind a writer's block. For the last few months I've been reluctant to leave my partner at home after a few very sad months, but the state election is on, our house is in chaos because of it (my partner works in politics part-time), and so it seemed like a good time to finally GET OUT OF TOWN and find inspiration again!

As it turned out, the last week of November is the perfect time to travel: Paris hotels are dirt cheap (I found many for $100/n), the Christmas lights are twinkling, and the weather is still gentle. More than that, people are busy and so things that would normally be booked out are available. But the most wonderful thing about getting off the ol' Milk Run is discovering a new side to Paris and London.

Let me show you what I mean.

Every month, the V&A Museum has a tour of its archives. I'd never bothered with it before as it's often over-subscribed, but this week there was a place, so I cleared a few hours to try it.

Oh my. What a textile lover's dream.

Held at Blythe House in West Kensington, the archives are where the museum's collections of fashion and textiles are stored when they're not on show. Our group only saw one room but there were 54,000 pieces in that one room. Rows and rows of vintage Dior, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Chanel and so on... I can't tell you how amazed we all were. The gasps seem to rise higher and higher.

I dare not show you much as I'm not sure how much we're allowed to reveal (the security was tighter than MI5!), but I can tell you it's well worth it. If you love fashion and textiles, it's an incredible place to see. The V&T has always been held in high regard by fashion and textile lovers but this team should be applauded for their dedication to preserving such magnificent history.

Another little-explored section of London—at least for me—is the northern part of Notting Hill, and having heard about the wonders of The Cloth Shop, a fabulous fabric resource in W10, I decided to head north. 
(Tip: If you want to see Portobello Road, go on Fridays when there are no crowds. It's bliss.)

The Cloth Shop is a secret treasure trove of textile goodies in the midst of the bustling markets: a store full of beautiful linens (some as little as 12 pounds) and striped bolts galore.

The staff is also lovely. There's a cat too, who happily sits on all the expensive trimmings.

While you're there, pop around the corner to Alice Temperley, a designer loved by both British celebs and Australian expats for her intricately detailed pieces. (link

She has stores in King's Road and Mayfair, but this is her original, and is still her private atelier.

This house is on the way to Temperley.
 If you look carefully, the brass plaque says 'BANK ROBBER'. 
Clearly a thief with wit and style.

I'd also never really stopped to notice the flower stalls in London before. This as one filled with Christmas bouquets in shades of crimson and magenta. Just beautiful.

More London cuteness. I can't believe I've never seen this side of Notting Hill before.

But perhaps my biggest London 'discovery' has been the bedrooms of Blakes Hotel. 
Which have to be seen to be believed.

Most design lovers and hotel hedonists know about Blakes—it was the first 'boutique hotel' in the world. Like many, however, I'd never really spent much time here. Until now. With cheap November deals (try Sundays and Mondays for the best bargain prices), I booked a night. 

They kindly gave me the red-and-white room. Which was like walking into an urban oasis on a cold London afternoon.

This is the bathrom. Balcony and all. 

(Can you see the ceiling? It's all lined in fabric. Incredible.)

The detail in the curtains, curtain pulls and door handles was enough to make a design lover gasp.

Apparently Lady Gaga stays in a similar red-lined room here. A room that, incidentally, has just been voted The Most Romantic Hotel Room In The World by Mr and Mrs Smith Guides.

Here's another room, which Amelia, the gorgeous reservations girl, kindly showed me. 
The price for this room is incredibly cheap, considering the design.

If you love fabrics, this is the London hotel for you.
Trust me. You'll be as ga-ga as Lady Gaga.

I'm back in London next week, so will post more textile gorgeousness then.

I'm now in Paris for a few days to source fashion, style and design destinations for the new Paris book (just to finish it off), and will post many of my Parisian discoveries this week.

If you'd like to follow on Instagram, the link is here: instagram link

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I'm only new to Insta, but it's a lovely place to browse pix, so hope you follow. I look forward to seeing you there!

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