Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vintage Vogues, Botanical Whimsy & Other Miscellany

Just in time for the weekend comes this quietly beautiful image. It's a vintage Vogue from the 1950s, framed by our wonderful local framer. (Our framer is incredibly cheap: email me if you want his details.) It was part of Santa's kind Christmas stash.

I asked my framer's assistant if anyone ever brought in... you know... prints that were so awful they weren't worth framing. "You mean like the black velvet Elvis someone brought in last week?" she said.  (BTW I love Elvis. Don't want to offend anyone who may have framed a black velvet print of him...)

The Vogue and a gorgeous old New Yorker magazine from the week I was born (another gift) now sit on our hall table. With my collection of shells from around the world. Which are apparently contraband, according to my partner who used to work in the Federal Police. 

Don't you love the Wish magazine that comes with The Australian newspaper on the last Friday of every month? I love a freebie. Grab it this weekend while you can people.

I noticed India Hicks has redone her guesthouse. Look at this banana yellow. Who knew yellow could be sexy in a beach house? Wonder if it was for a photo shoot? (Pottery Barn were there recently.)

Still infatuated with this botanical wallpaper at The Dorset Square Hotel in London. Kit Kemp's taste is impeccable.

Whipped up some curtains for our living room. Only had time to do one, so can't show you the whole room. This fabric was $10/m at Spotlight. It looks just like the Manuel Canovas print that I was coveting in Paris, below... Which was 100 times the price.

This was the fabric. 'Beaurogard'. Beautiful. 
Did you know chintz is coming back in? Yes, truly. 
Best save your granny's curtains, people.

Have you seen Manuel Canovas' new 50th Anniversary collections? They've released new houndstooth. Love the denim blue too.

How about this for a cute fabric? 

Matchbook magazine did a fabulous Downtow Abbey spread in this month's issue.

Started reading this, on the recommendation of a bloggy friend Paula. (Originally recommended by Slim Paley.) It's set in the South of France. 

Also reading Michelle de Kretser's The Hamilton Case, set in old Ceylon. Thanks for the literary tips Miss Paula and Miss Slim.

Was cleaning up old photo files and came across these, from the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Still can't get over the intricate trelliswork. Wouldn't you love a potting shed that looked like this? {Images mine}

A tent to convert me to camping. By Field Candy Tents. Fabulous. {Images via Field Candy}

Did you see this whimsical interior in Vogue? It's a house in the Hamptons owned by the swimwear designer Lily Madock. 
Am only posting one image as I'm trying not to use too many magazine photos, after seeing my uncredited pix all over Pinterest last week. I always try and credit my pix, but it's still a grey line and The Library is now trying not to use professionally shot photos that have been especially commissioned by magazines. If I do, I will always credit, and will ascertain whether the photographer (like me) would be happy being featured. Usually it's the magazines that are cross, as evidenced by Habitually Chic's having to remove many from her blog. (Although her crediting is not the best.)

On an equally bright note, we've been working on some Lily Maddock-inspired page spreads for a new book mock-up. I can't tell you more as it's still in the planning stages, but you might be able to guess the subject matter from the pix.

Think lavender, wine, olive groves, sweet hillside villages, fields of gently swaying lavender, and charming stone cottages begging to be renovated... Just like this one. {All images mine}

The pix are going to be so luscious I won't even need to write any copy. 
{All pix mine, excluding the cute Citreon, which is my mother's photo.}

Have already made some new friends to see while I'm in this place. I emailed this couple last night to ask about their gardening smocks, of all things, and then complimented them on their house. They were so lovely they invited me to pop in and say hello. I'll do a special post on them soon as they're so interesting, and their architect and design work is so inspirational, but here's their bedroom...

Look at the ceiling! Isn't it fantastic?

Love the interiors of the new Corinthia Hotel in London too. {Image via their website gallery.} Olive and navy are always an elegant combination. But the grey stripes are inspired design.

Doesn't this make you want to have a kitchen that looks like an old general store? It's the kitchen department of Anthropologie in King's Road Chelsea. The old-fashioned cobalt blues and ceramic greens are so gorgeous. They'd even etched 'General Store' into the cabinet glass. {Image mine}

(On a side note, I want to say thank you Anthropologie for stocking my books, both in London and New York. It's thanks to this wonderful store that Chronicle bought 20,000 copies of the latest 'Paris' book, which has set in motion the wheels for doing a sequel. I will be shopping at Anthropologie for the rest of my life now!) 

Another fantastic place, this time a relatively new one. This is quite possibly the most beautiful new hotel in the world. Tall call, I know, but look at it. Pale power blues and emerald greens, with graphic black lines to hold it all together... Traditional and yet distinct at the same time. Look at the old safari hats in the rooms.

It's The Siam in Bangkok. Belle magazine featured it last last year, but I suspect it's going to take off very soon. Here are some more images from The Siam's website gallery (which are available to use)...

Love the greenery everywhere. 
Not sure about The Siam's artwork though. What ARE these people doing?

Shot this in a window near Liberty's in London. Such cute merchandising.

A wider shot. Don't you love botanica?

And lastly, have you seen the new changes to UK Harper's Bazaar under the editorship of Justine Picardie? Justine is a literary hero of mine; such a lovely person too. She's taking it back to the glamour of the 1950s. Look at this sublime page. Oh! I wish all magazines would experiment with white space and whimsical typography...

Wishing you all a whimsical and irreverent weekend. 

Love, Blue Rooms and Hemingway on Valentine's Day

I feel sorry for my partner. Imagine having a design journalist manage your household? ("Are you putting green and purple sheets on the bed? Together? Are you really going to do that to me?") 

Seriously. No wonder he drinks. 

(Side note: He deliberately switches the towels and bedlinen around when I go away for work, just to be wicked. I come home and the house looks like someone's vomited Pantone's mis-tints everywhere.

Anyway, I realise he lives a very difficult life with me as a partner, and so every now and then I try to make it up to him with marital rewards. (No, NOT that kind.) If you've been in a relationship for a few years you'll know these keep the peace. What's that old adage? "A marriage is less like love and more like a business arrangement where you both try to balance the books and keep an eye on the competition."

So, as a gift, I gave him this (above). It's a Fishing Pass. For 12 months' of Guilt-Free Fishing. 

He used January's pass last weekend, and has a February trip to King Island this weekend. A group of his mates have chartered a plane and are flying down to the island to do Secret Men's Business. When he comes back, I'm going to Sydney for a girlies' week. This is how you keep a marriage together, you see. It tends to work beautifully.

While he was away on last weekend's Bloke's Bonding Trip with the political boys, I decided to turn his bedroom into a 5-star, hotel-style suite. As a treat.

(This is our bedroom, but when he snores, I sleep in the Maid's Quarters in the back. So I call this his bedroom.)

The 'theme' was 'Hemingway's Boat'. The book of which I read over summer, and loved.

Repainted the walls, which were splotchy from the last painting effort.
(WHO hung those wonky pix?)

Then re-painted the butler's trays. These were spray-painted with gold paint, then lacquered over with a Feast Watson Choc-Walnut finish, so they resembled the side of a boat. 

The curtains were $20 at Spotlight. Love those Spotlight sales. Hate the navy and gold fabric but it does look masculine and we can't afford Manuel Canovas.

The padded bedhead was a DIY job with leftover Ralph Lauren navy pinstripe linen, bought for $12/m.

Made a little Hemingway side table. We already had the replica of Hem's house in Key West and the bestselling book Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson, and then I found the boat on sale – the closest I could find to Hem's beloved cruiser 'Pilar'. (Just ignore the dubious painting job on the table.)

The finished product. 
The Hemingway Suite.
(Sorry about the bad hospital corner on the bed there. The whole bed looks dishevelled! I had to get back to work!)

This was my helper. He likes to oversee things. When he's not emitting gaseous smells and humping his Jack Russell sibling.

RR loved the new bedroom. He loved it so much, he decided to write a poem. This is what he wrote:

Our love is like a Hemingway boat.
It always manages to stay afloat...

When he gave it to me, I had to try not to laugh.

"Is that all you have for me?" I said eventually, with a solemn face. "Love is like a boat?"
"Well, I agree it's not Keats," he said.
"Perhaps you need to revisit it?" I suggested. "Perhaps it's missing a verse, a stanza, or something...?"

(Actually, this is the replica card. The original was damaged after the dogs trod on it.)

"I'll write you another poem on February 14," he said generously.

And that, my dear readers, is how we keep the magic going in our house.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Garden Trends 2013

Forgive me. Some of you may not be as obsessed with the petals of haute horticulture as the rest of us. But I hope you non-botanical people will allow us to chat amongst ourselves for one small post. Because we need to talk about a very important topic. What's hot, what's not and what's being relegated to the gardening compost heap in 2013.

The following is a whimsical list of what seems to be 'IN' and 'OUT' in the grand, gorgeous world of gardening this year, although as I put it together it's bound to be more faux-cical than factual. Gardening trends also change faster than the seasons so please don't lynch me if you plant dahlias and they end up being shunned by something more on-trend, such as brussels sprouts. (Apparently very big this year.)

Finally, I'd like to apologise, most sincerely, for being low under the radar of late. Since these Garden Tours have taken off faster than summer jasmine, I've had to focus a lot of energy on ensuring they're run in a professional manner. Still, it will all be worth it. Nothing will please me more than seeing the cheery faces of 24 lovely gardeners at the end of each successful tour. As Luther Burbank once said: "Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful. They are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."


Did you see the recent Spring/Summer 2013 collection by Valentino? Hamish Bowles called it "a joyous celebration of the infinite possibilities of the unfettered imagination." There were frocks inspired by formal gardens, by romantic flower plantings and even by ornate iron gates. (Created by raised decorative patterns on the surface of the fabric, to suggest the elaborate wrought-iron gates hiding the mystery within.) There were also ball gowns elaborately embroidered with flowers and birds (which rightly elicited a spontaneous round of applause), and woollen numbers stamped with designs taken from 18th-century garden design books for formal parterres, along with chiffon dahlias (dahlias are so IN), latticed ribbon-work and blooming skirts. Even Valentino was emotional at the sight of it all. Beautiful. Just beautiful. 

Have any of you been following Carolyn Roehm's work on her new Charleston house and garden? She's been detailing it in her blog – link here. Before she'd even bought a stick of furniture she'd purchased two 10.5″ caliper live oaks and two huge Magnolia grandiflora to plant in the front garden. Isn't that a woman after your own heart? Then she had to find a 100 ton crane (above) to lift the 18,000-pound live oaks and the 10,000-pound magnolias into place. (Makes our wheelbarrows efforts look rather tame.) She wants, she says, "a real old-fashioned scented Charleston garden": one with gardenias, camellias, jasmine, magnolia grandiflora, evergreen oaks (Quercus virginiana) and Ficus pumila. Can't wait to see what she does with the camellias and gardenias.

Vegie gardens have been in vogue for a while now, thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama, Her Majesty The Queen (yes, even she planted one) and of course long-standing supporters such as Rosemary Verey. (Whom I'll never forget meeting. Such a gracious person.) But people are actually designing gardens around them now. For the perfect example of this, see my favourite garden in the world, Villandry Chateau in France (above). As Stephen Lacey quoted in The Telegraph recently: “Designer friends tell me that even super-rich non-gardeners are asking for their gardens to include somewhere they can go foraging for a few edible rocket leaves and berries." Edible hedges are apparently big, too.

Sales of authentic, vintage and replica Victoriana gardenalia have gone through the greenhouse roof. Cute cloches started it, but now people are buying old-fashioned mini conservatories, seed boxes, and even antique tools on the Internet. This is Ben Pentreath's garden at his country house, The Old Parsonage. Isn't it charming? More details on his delightful blog here – Ben Pentreath.

Picking gardens were hugely fashionable last century. And perhaps earlier this century too. But then they were overtaken by the fad for formal French gardens and the English box hedge mania that went with it. Thankfully, beautiful picking gardens are coming back. And not designed ones either but gorgeous, blousy, toss-it-anywhere-and-see-what-it-looks-like stuff. It's the bohemian aesthetic. And it's surprisingly marvellous. Try Googling Sarah Raven's picking garden at Perch Hill for inspiration.

Several years ago there was a trend for white gardens. (Think Sissinghurst.) Then blue gardens. Now, black and white gardens are the biggest thing in botanicals, inspired, partly, by HRH The Prince of Wales' magnificent monochromatic design at Highgrove (which features white lupins and peonies and black grasses).* Black and white gardens are easy to eulogise, but difficult to create. Even Mother Nature is partial to colour. However, stylish gardeners are tossing down dark Tom Thumb hedging, black and white delphiniums and foxgloves, black-stemed violet hydrangeas such as the purple-flowered Hydrangea macrophylla 'Merveille Sanguine' (which translates to '****** Marvellous'), and the beautifully named 'Plum Pudding' Heuchera. Plus silver birches with their white trunks and of course Light Sussex chickens to tone in with it all. (*According to a garden designer friend, The Prince of Wales' gardeners have softened the black and white scheme at Highgrove to allow for a more relaxed cottage garden-style aesthetic with lots of scent and colour.)

Did you hear the news that Prince Harry is collaborating with a charity to produce a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show this year. I think that's fantastic. The prince is said to have a “keen interest” in the garden, which is being designed by Jinny Blom, and even if he doesn't have time to do more than nod approval at the horticultural blueprint, I still think it's marvellous that he's lending his name. Clearly the leaf doesn't fall far from the tree, after all. I do think Prince Harry might surprise us all.

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) reported that November sales were up 11 per cent compared to last year. It's one of the retail trends that is going against the downturn. That's pleasing news, indeed. Keep on gardening, people. Good work. Well done.

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