It's been a while between blog posts. Life is busy, and the year has ticked over. I thought I'd just share a few random bits and pieces from the past 6 months, and things that I'm thinking about at the moment.

 my green shoes - love the columns

One thing that I've been getting into lately are Podcasts - I know, I'm late to the whole thing. I find drafting very boring, and I can easily spend a day shut up in my studio on my own, drafting away and not speaking to any real, adult people. Usually I just listen to music, and sometimes that is nice when in the mood, but other times it's dull, as drafting is quite mechanical once the actual design stuff is done and dusted.

So, podcasts have kept me company. There's a podcast out there on every topic, but of course I'm interested in the ones on design. I've been enjoying the Business of Home podcast, which is American, and which focuses on the homewares/ design environment from a business perspective, as well as a design one. I first off listened to one by Nina Campbell (English Decorator) on her career, which was very interesting (she had posted about it on her instagram, which alerted me to the podcast station), but then dipped into the archives and found some very interesting people being interviewed, and some very interesting viewpoints. The interview with designer Bunny Williams touched on a lot of topics of note, some of which included the fact that a younger generation of designers don't actually go out into shops to source fabrics and furniture and things, and do all their sourcing from the internet. This has lead to a decline in bricks and mortars shops (coupled with the high rents it's spelt their demise), as well as design centres being empty of actual designers looking at things.

The interior of Jamb, on Pimlico Road in London. They make reproduction mantle pieces, lights and also sell antiques.


This is true the world over. In places (like Adelaide), where you don't have access to everything the world has, internet sourcing can be very useful, but in places like London and New York, getting out and about and touching and seeing things brings a whole new inspiration and quality to your design. Just being in London during design week last year in October was fantastic to me to actually see fabrics and furniture and trends in person.


Inside Cox London, makers of stunning bronze furniture and light fittings. I'm desperate to use their beautiful oak leaf chandelier somewhere. They take inspiration from Giacometti and also have a strong naturalistic bent to their designs

Bunny also lamented that no one knows anything anymore, something that Nina Campbell also echoed. The lack of knowledge or appreciation on antiques, art, or how to live. When the Kardashians are featured heavily in Architectural Digest, you know things are really bottoming out in the style/ life stakes. They both decried the rise of the Instagram decorator - someone not necessarily educated (but also, crucially, not trained) in design. As I've noted in previous blog posts, there is  a world of difference in a well designed space and an eye catching photo designed for Instagram or a catalogue or magazine. Their view was that being interned to a big design firm was an invaluable part of their career, and made them the designers that they are today. The rise of the TV reality star decorator is a particular frustration here in Australia for a lot in the industry...

One other thing that Bunny touched on was the reality of manufacturing - she manufactures her home line (furniture, lamps, objects) in Vietnam, rather than the US. She made some interesting points on ethical manufacturing, plus the fact that while it's nice to think that a crafts person in the USA will create a lamp, it will cost 3 xs the price of the Vietnamese lamp. The average person can't actually afford the craftsman lamp, nor could it be made in quantity. So it's therefore a practical necessity to manufacture elsewhere. It's about accessibility in design. Not everyone can afford craftsman/ high quality things, but should they be denied that?

The reason why I found all this so interesting was that during the week a storm in a pen pot erupted on Instagram.


Bridie Hall, who is a "maker" (as she has sometimes termed herself - craftsman or designer is another term) and who has a shop in London with Ben Pentreath (Architect darling of the Prince of Wales set)  called Pentreath and Hall, took issue with a design of hers being ripped off by a High street chain. H&M are obviously a very big target to take on, however Bridie was calling them to task over a direct copy, as she though it, of her well known alphabet pen pots. I myself bought an "H" when on a speed walk through Liberty in London in October, and it now lives on my studio desk. She was upset that H&M had done a very cheap version with a candle in it, in similar shadow font typography and were selling them in their stores having had them manufactured in China - hers are made in London. Lots of outrage ensued on Instagram, and H&M within about 24 hours issued an apology and pulled the offending item from stores.


The thing that was interesting to me, though, was that things were quite skewed on Instagram, and the pitch fork brigade had been whipped up into a frenzy over it all, out to get blood from H&M. Many people commenting didn't realise that the offending candle did not in fact have a single alphabet letter on it, it actually said "Hi" (turned around in the photo she posted so you couldn't see the i). There was definitely enough difference in the insipid colours they'd used, the squat shadow font style and fact it was a candle and not a pen pot for it to pass muster with a legal team. Was this copying, or evolving the design inspiration?

And so it was the comments that I found quite fascinating. From the anonymous person that pointed out that her inspiration for many things in her range came from Fornasetti and hers were therefore derivative of it so why the outrage, to the people saying well, so it is, I'll still buy your pen pot over the candle because it's so much nicer and who knew that such small changes to font size and colour could make such a difference in making something look less designer and really quite cheap. Others pointed out that the masses couldn't afford her expensive pen pot, so buying an approximation wasn't exactly eating into her market. Of course the general consensus was that this was an outrageous rip off of a small designer by a big company, that would mass produce something that cheapened her original design and then discard it after the fad was over. Listening to podcasts about the current trend- driven design, and the fact that people jump on things and then discard them and that sped up cycle we're now on with the Internet making these cycles shorter and shorter made for an interesting tie in.

poor quality photo of Villa D'Este interior in Tivoli - all Trompe L'Oeil painted columns, curtains and Cardinal bits and pieces


Of course, designers take inspiration from others - very little is completely new anymore, and this was something Bridie also noted in the comments on her instagram post. When I was in Tivoli, Italy we visited Villa d'Este, whose famous gardens and equally famous villa are a Renaissance treasure. The interior was a surprise to me - I had seen many photos of the gardens, but hadn't realised how richly painted the interiors were. This room, above, the Cardinal's study, was of particular interest as it had Trompe L'Oeil walls with his accoutrements on it - his hat, books, and other personal effects. It reminded me strongly of the much lauded Bunny Mellon's gardening room at her house Spring Farm. In it, she had the walls painted with her gardening things - favourite hat, a ribbon with her wedding rings, her trowel etc. Bunny would most certainly have visited Villa D'Este, and did her own riff on it. Of course, she is then much copied too, and I'm sure versions of her summer house are out there done by others.

Bunny Mellon's garden room with Trompe L'Oeil via Architectural Digest

Aside from Podcasts, I've also been watching the Quintessence YouTube house tours. They visit people in the design industry and walk through their house, chatting about why they did certain things, or highlighting interesting design details. I find that photographs can manipulate the way you view a space. With Instagram, the introduction of the stories feature a few years ago was quite informative. Houses that had a clever amateur photographer behind the lens (and many took their photos on proper cameras, not iphones) have huge followings. When they started dipping their toes into insta stories and touring their houses, it suddenly exposed them for the rather bland suburban houses that they actually are. I noted many of them then stopped the videos. This is where the Quinessence tours are so good - you're looking at houses by top designers, and generally they're even better than they were in photographs. My favourites have been Richard Shapiro, Gil Shafer (how to make a new house look old), Brooke and Steve Gianetti's Patina Farm, and the more recent Lulu Lytle of Soane, London fame with amazing use of pattern and colour. Seeing the way the light moves through the rooms, the arrangements of furniture as it really is rather than placed for a good photo makes them so much more interesting to me.

Photo I took in Soane's London showroom in October - loved the green wicker and the fact it's a decent sized drinks table.

And so, while I haven't blogged in an age and probably, if I thought about it hard enough, have better and more worthy things to write about, another random thought this week was the realisation that I've got some sort of green obsession at the moment. I've always loved blue, but recent purchases in both the home and wardrobe have revolved around green. Late last year I denuded my living room of other coloured cushions to focus on green, and to better reflect the garden outside. Perhaps I'm seeking soothing inner peace from Mother Nature in these trying times?

ARossGirl via Netaporter about 9 months ago

I went to school drinks on Friday night wearing a green silk dress, above, which fortuitously matched green shoes (Aquazzura "Wild Things") I already had from a year and a bit ago, and green earrings I purchased from a friend's "bubbles and baubles" evening before Christmas. I have to admit that I had low expectations of the "baubles" on offer at the drinks having been to a fair few of these things in the past where you're pushed to purchase things you don't want after a glass of champagne.... and I thought they'd most likely be imported plastic "jewels" via Alibaba's Chinese merchants. Much to my surprise my friend Fiona's Aunt actually designs and makes the earrings and neck pieces and clutches out of leather and Swarovski crystal (they're very lightweight) and they are absolutely stunning. Her company name is Susan Y and her website is here. I bought my green earrings (below) to match my dress (above), and another different pair in gold that go beautifully with a lightweight brocade coat dress thing I have. Highly recommend having a look.

These are my earrings - the Olivia round gemstone with malachite

me in green Scanlan dress which is a wardrobe stalwart

At any rate I was a vision in green at school drinks. I guess I've got into colour blocking.  But that's not the only green dress I have. My favourite work/ casual/ going out for dinner dress is green (purchased under duress when shopping with Romy whose instagram is here, and for that purchase I'm forever grateful for as it's definitely my favourite does- everything- dress). That was this time last year, and this year Scanlan and Theodore have put it out in blue. I was very tempted to buy it in another colour, however I think it's already sold out (in just 2 weeks! Maybe try instore if you're interested in it). I wear it with espadrilles for work in Summer,  or dress it up with nude heels for a night out, and in Winter I wore it with a thin black knit top underneath, knee high black suede boots and tights, and my leather jacket. What is better than a transeasonal dress? I packed it for my trip to Europe in September/October and it managed the different dress situations (also wore it with flat white leather trainers for walking and sight seeing) and temperatures with ease.

Family dinner with my inlaws 

I've recently increased the amount of green table linen I have by purchasing a table cloth that matched my napkins from Birdie Fortescue. It just feels fresh on a hot day, and I'm liking using tablecloths again after many years abstaining. It goes perfectly with my cabbageware too. I used the raffia wrapped water glasses that I found reduced at Foodland Frewville (local supermarket chain in South Australia). The white ceramic acorn thingy is from Puglia in Italy, and I carried it home in my hand luggage.


Highly styled blurry photo of book on my lap....

On to books. I read a lot over the Summer holidays, and I highly recommend "All the Light we Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr if you haven't read it already - it won the Pulitzer prize in 2015. Set in France during WW2, the story of a blind French girl and a German orphan, beautifully and poetically written, but such a plot driven story line during the liberation of France, that it will definitely be made into a movie at some stage. 

I've read a bunch of coffee table books, some better than others, but one I'm enjoying a lot is "A Food Lover's Pilgrimage in France" by Dee Nolan. It's essentially about the three ancient pilgrim routes that join up with the Camino in Spain, and that are lined with the Monasteries and all that was associated with them at the time and that has continued into present day - wine production, specialist food delicacies and the associated agriculture process, architecture and stunning scenery. It's full of stories of restaurants, wineries, producers, and I now desperately want to go. Alas, I won't be going anywhere exciting for a while, but an excellent read if you are a foodie or a francophile or just want a little bit of armchair travel.

And so, onto food. Cooking at the moment revolves around simple food as it's Summer and very hot. We tend to entertain fairly impromptu and family style in Summer with lots of other people's kids here, and so meals tend to be a little thrown together and need to be quick and easy. One cake I've made a few times is absolutely fantastic - super easy, large enough for a crowd, and the apricots, which are in season at the moment, are perfection on it. I've also made it with nectarine slices, so it's easy to change up if you have no apricots to hand.


Viennese Apricot Cake from Delicious magazine

180 gm unsalted butter
160gm caster sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Cups or 225gm plain flour
pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
10 small apricots

Method:
Heat oven to 180C/ 355 F
Grease and line a 28 x 20cm pan (11 x 8 inch approx)
in a food processor/ mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale, then add eggs one by one. Stir in vanilla add flour, salt, baking powder and combine until a smooth batter.

Pour into tin, stud the cut halves of the apricot across it and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool to room temperature, cut into squares and dust with icing sugar. Delicious with a dollop of double cream on the side.

And with that, I'll finish up. I've had a lot of trouble with blogger lately - Google seem to want to make it so difficult to use that everyone will go away. There's a mountain of spam that comes through, even with comments set off the anonymous tab, and I myself have had trouble commenting on comments made on my own blog posts. I'll persist, but may have to change platforms at some point, which will be a definite technological challenge for me! Hope you've enjoyed this random post!


I think the most hackneyed and bandied about word in Interiors, Fashion, and lifestyle in general is Luxury.


Everyone, it seems, wants a luxury bespoke life, however there are very few in the world that can actually have one in the true sense of the word - that would be reserved for Oligarchs and Billionaires who can live at a level you occasionally glimpse in things like glossy coffee table books.

Luxury is often used to imply scarcity - people will say the ultimate luxury is time. However Luxury as a term has been hijacked by marketers and big international conglomerates to conjure illusions of material wealth. Queuing up outside a "luxury" good store to buy something expensive and supposedly rare, as seen above, is not exactly a luxury experience in my book.

Luxury isn't just about the price tag associated with something and the ability to purchase that item. For many people it comes with a log of baggage around the experience of purchasing the item. A book I have mentioned before on the blog "I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon)" contained an anecdote, written in a rather bitter manner, about how after the author had sold his Andy Warhol painting, his (now ex )wife bought a Chanel suit. He accompanied her to the boutique and as he was waiting he chatted to the sales assistant helping his wife and told her he'd just sold the painting so was stumping up for his wife's "dream" suit. He later found out from his wife that apparently this ruined the entire experience for her. Part of her dream wasn't just in buying the suit, it was wrapped up with the entire experience of pretending she could buy it easily, and having the sales women fuss around her.... the luxury was the fantasy feeling she was getting from the experience as a whole, not just in the actual garment.

I've danced around the topic of Luxury on this blog for many years, be that what it means in fashion or in life in general... but I was recently reflecting on it again because I was asked to articulate what Luxury at home meant to me.

Certainly some of the push back I've had on the blog in the past has been the umbrage that some have felt at my suggestion that people should question spending large amounts of money on heavily logo'd luxury goods with dubious design merits in their house. Luxury has been democratised, and it really has very little to do with whether you can personally afford something (hello credit!) and there seems to be almost a sense of entitlement to items branded as luxury goods being available to all. So what exactly is it that makes them luxurious if everyone can buy them, and you have to queue up in order to do so, like some sort of Communist bread line?


via John Jacob Interiors


I have decided, after a lot of deliberation, that Luxury is a feeling that is somewhat fleeting (it can wear off), and comes down to three things: Ease, Comfort and Appearance, in that order, and really has very little association with the money aspect.

via Veranda

Ease of living feels luxurious. This can mean a lot of different things, but I think for most people (who do not have staff) this boils down to a house works for you, not you for the house. An example of this is that in recent years a lot of people have added bathrooms to their dream outer suburban homes at alarming rates. It's not unusual for a suburban McMansion to have 5 bathrooms, one for each bedroom, plus an extra WC or powderoom, whereas a house in the same location with people with the same earning ability would have had only one bathroom not that long ago. Luxury in this instance has been interpreted in having large amounts of personal space. The major problem with this is that unless you have staff, then you have 5 bathrooms to clean every week. The house is not working for you, you are working for your house, and this doesn't feel luxurious if you're the one scrubbing the bathrooms of your children.

Excerpt above from Imogen Taylor's "On the Fringe" about her time at Sybil Colefax and John Fowler.  I found it a very interesting observation that people with a lot of money didn't actually know how to live well... and that their Interior Designers were teaching them.  It plays into the idea that luxury living isn't about the cost of something, although a lot of people assume that it is. 

Back on track, comfort, the next key component of luxury comes from the extra thought you might put into a house that makes it tailored to how you live in it. It's about having a table for your drink next to the comfortable chair you like to sit in. It's the kitchen that is easy to cook in because everything is where you need it, and it doesn't require traipsing up and down to fetch things, or hauling things out of cupboards constantly to get things out from the back that you need. It's a restful night's sleep because you have blackout blinds, or a house that is warm in Winter and Cool in Summer. Feeling supremely comfortable is a luxurious sensation - anyone that enjoys the feeling of sliding into fresh sheets on a bed and the luxuriously expansive feeling that can bring will know what I am getting at.

via John Jacob Interiors

Then you get to appearance, which is the part that many people jump to initially. Some things look luxurious, perhaps because they require commitment, in a surface sense, to keep their appearance looking that way (shiny surfaces are often associated by people as being "luxurious", however they all require a lot of maintenance to keep them that way, perhaps why they are associated with luxury as they imply staff that keep everything looking immaculate). Appearance can also mean an attention to detail that is beyond the norm to make it feel luxurious.

So where does this lead us? The most famous Modernist Architecture quote is "form ever follows function' (Louis Sullivan), and the modernist movement lead to the stripping out of fluff and extraneous detail down to the machinations of living, ironically often leading to fairly uncomfortable interiors and houses. I am (obviously) not a minimalist in this sense, and love detail, ornamentation and the softening and comfort that it brings, but I think this still gets to what is what is true attainable luxury.

If your house works well, then that is what luxury is about - ease and comfort. If it looks good to you, then that is also what it is about - attractiveness. It's not about what you experience on holiday in a 5 star hotel, or what another might think is luxury. It's about an Interior that provides a haven to you from the world, that works for your life, that gives you that feeling of satisfaction, pause and expansiveness that is a luxurious sensation in itself.

That, to me, is luxury that is achievable, and the rest is just marketing hype and noise.

So over to you reader, I'm curious to hear what makes you feel luxurious in your home.

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
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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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