If you ever want to cause a little social anxiety amongst your friends, I've found a great way to do it is to put up an Instagram post of a table setting, with little other detail on it. The text messages and comments will then roll in enquiring exactly who is coming to dinner, and why aren't they?

This table setting above was for a photo shoot at my house, there'll be more on that some other time, but by the time the text messages were coming in that evening, I was packing away the silver and place cards, and instead making Spaghetti Bolognase for the family after a rather long day of trying to make my house Photo perfect.

Plates from Mottahedeh, linen scalloped placemats and napkins from Birdie Fortescue, coloured candles from my friend Kal in random glass candlesticks, watering can place card holders from Ballard Designs, antique Kings pattern silver, and green water glasses from Villeroy and Boch

While I do enjoy entertaining friends and family with a lovely table setting and a more interesting menu than Spag Bol, I was really wanting to discuss table setting in general, because Social Media has divided into two. There are either elaborately set out tables that are often for a fake "entertaining" set up, or they are a dispiriting "keeping it real" post of utensil free tables or kitchen islands with kids eating meals they probably shouldn't with their hands, no placemats or napkins in sight. The middle ground of a standard dinner setting seems to be lacking.

On the face of it, I have no problem with actual stylists setting a table attractively and letting everyone know it's a photo shoot. I have more of a problem with people, civilians if you like, trying to do the same, except pretending it's real life, or a "professional" of some kind pretending it's everyday for them. This leads into the whole problem with social media and the Insta-fake lives that so many lead, whether that be posting a photo of a Paul Bangay designed garden in Sydney Harbour and saying you took the photo when on a holiday in the South of France at a villa you rent each Summer (yes, a New York based designer really did that), or posting the same stack of ironed napkins and gifted plates on your outdoor table claiming breakfast was being served, on a day when the temperature where you were was about 9C (did everyone wear puffas?)

Breakfast is served - eating outside when it's 9C, plus a chicken, at Melissa Penfold's house at Bowral via Instagram

But back to table settings.... I was recently entertained by a post from Sophie Paterson Interiors on Instagram. Sophie is a well known Surrey (England) based decorator with an enormous social media following on Instagram. She was hosting 10 other designers over for a networking dinner at her house, for which she had styled her house immaculately and brought in a chef to cater. Her dinner placements were elaborately laid out with multiple glasses, sets of cutlery, placemats, chargers and napkins fluffed out in rings. There was just one problem: her knife blades were all pointing the wrong way. Cue the reasonably blunt first comment on the Instagram post that the knife blades were pointing the wrong way. Cue Sophie responding in a huffy lengthy paragraph that she was a busy working mother with better things to do than think about knife blades and it was all done in a rush and .......

the offending knife blades via Sophie Paterson Interiors Instagram account 

Putting aside how to respond to comments that you consider rude on social media, (a simple, "thanks, hadn't noticed it" would have saved face and shut down the back and forth of the pile on that then happened, with people hotly debating whether it was of any importance which way the knife blades faced, or if it was irrelevant because it looked pretty anyway), an Australian designer then commented that they'd done a photo shoot for their upcoming "styling your house" series, for which people pay money to take an E -course, and that they'd realised after the shoot that every single table setting they'd photographed they'd put the knife blades pointing the wrong way. They were now feeling a little anxious about the potential backlash.

Attractive table setting, not theirs

As well they should - if you're purporting to be a style expert and people are paying money to learn from you, you really need to ensure that you get the basic details right. Style over substance is the key point here - a simple check on google if you're unsure of your table setting placement would have shown the knife blades were pointing in the wrong way. One thing I have noticed on Social Media is that obviously as you are talking to a global audience, what is the "right" way to do something in one part of the world, is not necessarily the "right" way to do it on the other: there are cultural norms to setting a table, or even in naming something (Serviette vs Napkin etc). Announce something is wrong at your peril...

Via Tory Burch's Instagram account - white cabbageware and Iksel wallpaper

But really,  this all highlights a few things to me. My personal bugbear is that so few sit at a dinner table to eat anymore. I know from my client work that a lot of people want a kitchen Island bench to accommodate their entire family sitting down to eat a meal, however usually there is a dining table immediately adjacent to the island. When you sit at an island you line up on one side, which is not sociable, facing the mess in the kitchen. Eating casually like this (or off your lap in front of a tv) means many people don't actually set a place. You grab cutlery and sit down.... which means that if you've done this all your life, as an adult you may not actually know how to do a basic table setting (just a single knife and fork, a napkin and glass) unless you've worked in hospitality.

The two designers who have made the basic knife blade error are from a generation that likely grew up not being forced to set a table for dinner every night, a generation that on the whole as adults feels more comfortable eating out at a food truck that sells gourmet food at exorbitant prices, rather than sitting in a restaurant that charges the same, but puts a tablecloth on the table (so formal!).

Via Tory Burch's Instagram account

In the end, does knife blade placement really matter? Not really I suppose. It's just a detail... but it's symptomatic of a wider problem - the demise of the importance placed on eating communally, of setting a table every day to enjoy a meal with others, of talking and taking time out from other distractions be that work, or just the world at large with everything we do being plugged into it. Eating dinner with others, and placing an emphasis on visual enjoyment as well as a culinary one is one of those simple things that give dignity to ordinary everyday life, and that place emphasis on enjoying time with others. This is something anyone, from any walk of life can do within their means. It's just sadly symptomatic of society in general that emphasis is placed on doing it only for a special occasion or a photo shoot, not for everyday - it's about Style over Substance.

But then, I guess, that's Social Media in general....

Edit: I'm so sorry but I'm turning off anonymous comments for a while as the blog is being inundated with Spam, and it's becoming very tedious wading through it to find the genuine comments. 

Porte-Cochere entry from the street, with mature trees and marble and stone inlaid path and entry

I've been cleaning up my studio, and flicking through my old files of tear sheets, most from the 90's and early 2000's - long before digital magazines, websites and Pinterest took over. It's been interesting to see firstly what I was interested enough in to tear out back then, but also what has stood the test of time. 

Villa Beckwith

One that had interested me enormously at the time (90's, Belle Magazine) was an Italianate villa on the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. It was built by Peter and Valerie Beckwith, who were inspired by the villas along Lake Como in Italy. They named it "Villa Beckwith" and it cost a reputed $18 Million to build, with the blocks of land they purchased (three separate houses were purchased and demolished) running down to the Swan River from Jutland Parade, Dalkeith - true Millionaire's Row in Perth.

side garden with antique French statue

Peter Beckwith was a Managing Director at Bondcorp, one of Australia's biggest companies in the 80's, that collapsed spectacularly leaving shareholders with nothing, and that resulted in most of the directors facing court over allegations of fraud, and the founder, Alan Bond eventually (after many attempts at evasion with a conveniently failing memory...) doing jail time. 

entry hall with inlaid marble floors

Peter Beckwith died of a brain tumour before he was hauled up before the courts, and his widow put the house on the market. It's a rather sad story in many ways, but it exemplifies the excesses of the 80's and was done to such a high standard, that I thought it was an interesting project to feature.  

Stair foyer with the chandelier from an Irish Castle

The house was designed by the renowned late Sydney based Architect Espie Dods, who specialised somewhat in a classical aesthetic and a high net worth client base. Interiors were designed by the late Lady Victoria Waymouth, who flew out from London and oversaw every detail for the 4 years that it took to build and decorate.  The house was completed in 1990, just a few months before Peter Beckwith died, and was finally sold in 1996 for $8.5 Million, a record in Perth at the time, but far below its original build cost. 

casual living and kitchen area

a glimpse of the kitchen, built in Germany

Every detail was considered in this house, which was to be the family's long term residence. Antique street lights from Chile on council land led to the front gates and the stone and marble forecourt and porte-cochere. The entry features a chandelier reputedly from an Irish Castle and that cost £35,000 at the time, specialist paint finishes contractors were flown out to lavish attention on the tiniest detail - rooms were stencilled by men who had previously worked on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel. Cornices were wrapped around into closets and all soft furnishings were trimmed with passementerie and made in England. The kitchen was designed and built in Germany before being shipped over for installation. The gardens featured Antique marble statues imported from France, and mature trees that were craned in to give an established feel. 

Formal Living room with beautifully made curtains and stencilled borders on the walls in soft ochre, green and red

Here you can see the wall stencilling and trim detail

These images always looked a little empty to me - I'm not sure that the family was inhabiting the house at the time of its sale. Perhaps a reader in Perth might know? There are none of the bits and pieces of family life around - photos in frames, artwork of substance... bedside tables are empty of all but lamps. 

Valerie Beckwith's bedroom with cream lace curtains to filter the Perth sun, and a cream and soft blue/ red scheme

some of the detail from the curtains - cream fan edge fringe, and the lining in the sprigged fabric, a tieback in cream and blue

The daughter's bedroom in pink and green

The daughter's bedroom with stencilled wall and a ragged paint finish

The matching ensuite bathroom

Another view of the rather exuberant tile scheme for the ensuite

The son's ensuite bathroom, with another interesting tile choice. I remember this being all the rage in the 90's

Pool area

The house has gone on to be sold several times since then, with the last listing in 2011. Sadly from the photos it looks like it was given a big dose of white paint, and the beautifully made curtains are gone - shiny purple ones in the casual living room were certainly not original. Valerie Beckwith's green and cream and blue sprigged curtains in her bedroom are replaced with gilded valances, her daughter's bedroom with its green and pink stencilled walls is now a shade called bland. Certainly while some aspects of the original schemes are very dated now, remembering that this house was decorated nearly 30 years ago gives some perspective on the fact that the quality in this makes the interiors stand up to the test of time. 

The casual living room now with purple curtains

The formal living - gone are the green curtains and hand stencilled walls

Valerie Beckwith's bedroom today - the valances on the windows were kept and gilded

The daughter's bedroom today with green walls gone and rather dispiriting curtains

The property was subdivided in 2005 and side blocks including the croquet lawn were sold off for development

The new kitchen as of the 2011 real estate listing

Floor plan from 2011 listing

Overall what I liked about this house and the reason why I kept these tear sheets for so long was the very, very high standard everything was done to - the bones are fantastic and of the highest quality, with world class designers involved. The other thing was that the Tuscan and Provencal style, which became so highly fashionable in the 90's and which has now fallen out of favour, was so well suited to our climate here in Australia. This house looks quite place appropriate with its shutters and Mediterranean date palms in the front garden, far more so than the Georgian style which replaced it in the 2000's. Everything revolves in design though, and it will be interesting to see when this style makes a comeback.

Hope you enjoyed this trip back in time.

Photographs: Robert Frith, Belle Magazine, early 90's with accompanying article written by Anne-Louise Willoughby.

2011 real estate photos were via realestate.com.au

David Hicks, English designer of note, has had an enduring influence on modern design, up there with Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler in popularising a style that has continued on for decades, even if completely opposite directions with their aesthetics. Recently I've been reading his old design books, which are as fresh as if they were written today. His major period of influence was from the mid 1950's through to the late 80's (he died in 1998), and his strong geometric fabric and carpet designs, precise architectural placement of furniture, and the tablescapes he created (he coined the term) are still much aped, copied and adopted.

A black and white photo from "Living with Design", the layers of detail with geometric carpeting, layers of trim on the curtains, and the 3d fretwork wallpaper build texture and contrast.

A "Vibrating" colour palette of pink and red, and strong geometrics counterbalanced with white or solid colour are his signature

I hadn't really thought about where the look that I consider quintessentially American came from - the use of bold colour, clashing colour (or 'vibrating' as he termed it) palettes (red/orange/pink or green/blue/ acqua for instance), upholstered furniture such as the much copied x-bench or grasscloth covered side tables, or fully upholstered arms on armchairs, and the geometric pattern on pattern that he designed and produced for fabrics, wallpapers, sheets, carpets and rugs.

The current popularity of the bar table with mass arranged bottles of tonic etc started here via 

strong geometric carpet designed by Hicks via

He loved using lacquered walls for his schemes, and spent a great deal of time over lighting schemes with lamp placement, up and down lights and picture lights all being employed to light an interior with atmosphere. Lighting is absolutely the most important single element in a room, and his books are very inspiring in showing how he did it (before LED lights, and the tiny, strip LED or spots that we can now use).

Four of his books that I have

He was incredibly popular in the US, and travelled there often lecturing and on tours with some of the manufacturers that he licensed product to, and it was only when reading his old design books, which I have recently purchased out of print copies of (he wrote nine), that it struck me how fresh many of his designs still look, and how much he has influenced many of the big name interior designers that are practicing today in the US (as well as around the world).

Carpet at the Adelaide Festival Theatre - the books were overscaled for photo opportunities at Matilda, so you can see this carpet is quite bold.

Here in Adelaide, a trip to see the musical Matilda with my children at Adelaide's Festival Theatre last year made me look with fresh eyes at the Festival Theatre carpet (pictured above). It's Adelaide's premiere concert/ opera house in the city built in the 70's, and demonstrates that the original carpet design was certainly influenced by him (he was quite influential in Australia as well, with clients here that he would visit).

Tory Burch, the American fashion designer, has clearly been influenced by Hick's design ethos - she credits his style for her branding, and as the inspiration behind her first shop (as per an instagram post, above - her signature colour is orange, and her use of geometric pattern is very Hicks).

India Hick's "Legacy Letter" necklaces - based on David Hick's geometric alphabet designs via

Tory Burch's logo is also very Hicks in style - he created an entire geometric alphabet, which his daughter, India Hicks, has recreated as necklaces, and also in her own branding of her lifestyle company.

Much of Tory Burch's new Spring/ Summer '18 collection has been influenced by strong geometric and saturated colour palettes, which she credited as being inspired by Hicks, after his most recent book was released - Scrapbooks, edited by his son Ashley Hicks.

My favourite of his books is his later "Living with Design". As a primer on Interiors it's excellent, and much of it is still relevant and fresh today. Explaining lighting, placement of objets as tablescapes on coffee or side tables, furniture placement and room arrangements, It's up there with the Terance Conran series on design books... much of which is now regurgitated in other Designer's books.... but there's no replacing the originals.

via Quadrille , a Hick's style geometric wallpaper wrapped up onto the ceiling, and Roman blinds with a border tape by Ashley Whittaker in House Beautiful March 2018

It's rare to find true creatives in this world - and while his self publicity can be slightly grating at times (there are many, many references to the family connection to the British Royal family by both David Hicks and his daughter India in their self publicity to sell themselves to the American market presumably) he was a true original in his design style. His colour choices, fabric designs and carpet designs can be still found at Stark carpets in the US, and also in fabric collections by companies such as Quadrille/ China Seas, also in the US.

The one thing that I reflected on after reading all the books, and recognising the style that Hick's developed as quite "American" in my thinking, was that it was quite an irony that what we think of as a quintessential English Country house style of decorating (worn patina, mismatched fabrics, slipcovers, antiques) was developed by an American (Nancy Lancaster, the driving force behind the English firm Colefax and Fowler), and yet conversely the style that I think is quintessentially American (saturated colour, strict furniture geometry, the importance placed on lighting and lamps, geometric fabrics and trim such as greek key) was in fact introduced by an Englishman. Both styles have endured, and both have become a signature for the countries in which they became popular. The Hicks legacy has endured through his son Ashley Hicks, a talented designer in his own right (Sculpture, Interiors and editor of books on his father), and through his daughter India Hicks, a former model for Ralph Lauren, prolific with coffee books revolving around her house in Harbor Island, a range of soaps and perfumes at Crabtree and Evelyn, and most recently, a new lifestyle brand that has launched in the US selling bags, skincare, jewellery and scarfs.

If you haven't come across the books before then I recommend them to you highly - well worth hunting down. It's fascinating to think that a look now developed 60 years ago can still look so current today.
I thought I'd do a little round up of things I've found that are interesting or that I like at the moment, it's been a while between these sorts of posts, and I always find them fun.

 via Veranda magazine

Firstly, to China. Long time readers will remember a few of my early posts were on the subject of fine China, of which I have none. This is not because I don't like it, or have a need for it (I would use it fairly often, I don't believe in saving things for best, and would happily pull it out for a family dinner). My problem relates more to commitment issues. I suppose as tastes evolve, so do tastes in china - no where is this more evident than local estate Auction rooms, which are full of 60's and 70's barely used sets of Royal Doulton etc.

Now ideally, I'd love a set of Flora Danica, but it's ruinously expensive, along with very formal, so putting that aside the next best options for me are ones that can work in a reasonably casual setting, or be dressed up. That way you won't only pull it out when you're doing some sort of semblance of silver service. One account I follow on Instagram is the Laboratorio Paravicini account. They're based in Milan, and hand paint plates in beautiful and unique designs. I was clicking around on the Julia B (beautiful linen, another weakness of mine) website, and happened across a tabletop tab, which includes the most beautiful plates, as well as linens, glasses and cutlery, all newly launched. Interestingly I noted that they've been commissioned from the aforementioned Laboratorio Paravicini and are made to order. I love the way they're interesting, decorative, but not overly formal in presentation (no gold, a looser pattern).

Coincidentally I was then reading the latest Veranda magazine over the weekend, and saw an article on the launch of the collection, which made for interesting reading - the family house that Julia B spent childhoods at near San Francisco is Italian in style (the garden is pictured above), which explains the quite Italian style collaboration. Unfortunately, the plates, while not Flora Danica in pricing, are still fairly expensive (US $750 for 4, more if you want them monogramed with your initial), so I can't say I'll be rushing to commission a 12 person set just yet.... the hunt continues.

Romy's Airbnb apartment in Hobart

On to wallpapers. This is one of my favourite topics, and wallpaper has had a massive resurgence in recent years. I feel like every week there's another collection being launched, and it is pretty hard to keep up with all the manufacturers now - with the advent of digital printing, and the flipside interest in traditional block printing, there are a lot of niche producers now. While I'm not overly fond of the feature wall (despite having a large one in my house!) the scenic feature wallpaper can work really well where you have a large, blank, boring wall to fill, and mostly this is very expensive, produced by the likes of De Gournay, Zuber and Gracie.

If you don't have the money for a scenic wallpaper, or for decent art, then this could be the solution for you. Andrew Martin in London were the producers of my own library book feature wall, and always have good solutions such as blue and white plates on the walls (pictured above is one of my friend Romy's Airbnb apartments in Hobart with the Cargo wallpaper used in the entrance), panelling, stamps... and now a collaboration with the National Gallery (London) whereby you choose any of the paintings in their collection, provide your measurements, and they'll print it onto wallpaper and ship it to you.

Here in Australia you'd have to do this through a decorator, as their wallpaper here is to the trade, but I thought this was such a fantastic solution for some potentially awkward rooms and certainly would give bang for your buck without resorting to faux art.

Books - I've read a lot over the long Summer holidays, partly because my family and friends know a safe bet is a coffee table book, so I tend to be given many of the new crop for gifts for my Birthday and Christmas. One that I've loved has been "Life at the Top", about the grand apartment buildings of New York. These apartments were built for the very wealthy, and still are inhabited by the very wealthy. Each chapter is devoted to a landmark apartment building, with information on who designed it, who lived in it then and now, and, best of all, a floor plan of a typical apartment in the building, and a featured apartment usually decorated recently by a big name designer.

I can't tell you how much I've loved looking at the floor plans! Many have multiple living areas, designed enfilade style where one room opens into another to allow for entertaining on a grand scale, as well as more intimate room scales. Many have say, 4 bedrooms with ensuites, but 7 separate maids rooms (these are historical floor plans, I'd say those that still have live in maids wouldn't have quite that number anymore). They again make me bemoan the apartments that are built here in Australia - designed for sales to Investors that won't live in them, with low ceilings, no storage, and a single open plan living room/ kitchen with walls of glass (no where to hang art, put furniture up against, no where to escape your partner entertaining their friends aside from a bedroom). They're not apartments to live in. I'd dearly love to design a decent apartment building here - there are a few good ones in Melbourne and Sydney, but really the best apartments in Australia were built in the 1920's, and we haven't seen anything like them since.

Moving on, I've been meaning to blog about this book for a while "The Princess's Garden", about the Princess of Wales who was a driving force to found Kew Gardens in London. This particular Princess of Wales never became Queen, as her husband, the Prince of Wales (Prince Frederick) died before ascending the throne, his younger brother then becoming King George 3rd (the mad King). She has been written out of history in a way, as she was deeply unpopular, but had an interest in Landscape design and botany, and one thing that I have found so interesting in this book was the concept of landscape as Political Propaganda. At that stage in England, the Whigs and the Tories were the two political parties, with the Tories representing absolute Monarchy, and favouring the Stuart dynasty (the pretenders to the throne, such as Bonnie Prince Charlie who were supported by the French), and Catholicism, and the Whigs believing in Constitutional Monarchy, the independence of Great Britain from European influences, the Church of England and therefore the Protestant Hanover Dynasty (the rule of the Georges).

Capability Brown designed garden at Stourhead

Up until this point, landscape design in Great Britain aped the French style with parterres and intricate knot gardens. These were designed to be beautiful looking from above in your Stately Home, and were very much in the style of the French Court at Versailles. Of course the French were closely aligned with the Scottish rebellions and the Stuarts (the Jacobite uprisings), so it was seen as a political statement of alliance to the King to rip out the formal French style gardens and replace them with newly fashionable Capability Brown style parkland gardens instead, the complete opposite to the old style,  and purely English in origin.

Last book recommendation: Fiction. I read "Lincoln in the Bardo" over the holidays and loved it. It's a story woven around the death of Abraham Lincoln's 11 year old Son Willie, who died of Typhoid Fever at the height of the American Civil War. His devastation at the death of his son, at a time when mothers across the country were also experiencing the loss of their sons on the bloody battlefields of the South is beautifully written. The Bardo is the in-between world between heaven and hell, it's a book that stays with you and I highly recommend it.

Clothes: We're in that difficult part of the Adelaide season where the Winter stock is arriving in shops, but it's still 40C outside. I feel like I've been wearing the same summer dresses over and over and over... but if I cast my eye over the new seasons arrivals that are just trickling into the shops, I am really loving the latest offerings from Melbourne designer Megan Park like this Kazari Gypsy dress which would look good with knee high black suede boots and a fine merino knit under it in Winter as well as working in Autumn without the layers (when it's not exactly chilly in Adelaide, but feels inappropriate to wear a beachy sundress).

Of course the flip side is that over the other side of the world, the Spring collections are starting to appear. I do love Lela Rose dresses (New York designer), and this is my pick of the current offerings.
I love the Emerald green botanical print over the fine black/white stripe, and the forgiving lines of the skirt. I'd wear this with black espadrilles, rather than white shoes, or black strappy sandals if going a little dressier.

Lastly, I thought I'd share a few Instagrams to follow if you don't already.

Firstly, Margaret the Italian Greyhound. I promise this is the only dog I follow! Margaret is an Adelaide girl, and has a very funny sense of humour that always makes me laugh. 

On a completely different tack, another that I follow is Stacie Flinner, an American travelling the world for a year with her husband (in style). Look, it's all fantasy travel - beautiful photos of amazing places, and her wearing lovely outfits while doing it, but I'm enjoying following along and seeing the architecture and natural wonders they're experiencing. Maybe one day I'll manage to get a trip on the Orient Express, or stay in a former Maharaja's palace in India...

Last recommendation - my now real life friend Kal . For a long time I thought he was an Interior Designer, but he's entirely self taught, and has a real world job that is nothing to do with Interior Design in Sydney. He proves the point that talent doesn't need to be taught, and that curiosity and self education can go a very long way. He has a beautiful house, and while he is not exactly a prolific poster, his photos of perfectly set dining tables, his incredible house, or his super chic Mum in her Chanel are always spot on.

Hope you've found something interesting and new to you from this post, and have a happy week!

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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