Martinique, the Banana Leaf wallpaper first popularised at the Greenbriar and Beverley Hills Hotels in the US in the 1950's has had a bit of a resurgence of late. I have to say, that I do love it quite a bit. Any design classic will always get me. I particularly love it when used to pack a punch, such as in a small powder room.

But then, I started to notice it in other places. It had jumped off the walls, and was now having a bit of a fashion moment. First, I saw some Pyjamas in a shop in Melbourne. Fun! I have run out of walls in my house for wallpaper, so Pj's would be a good alternative.

via Masini & Chern

And then I saw the Charlotte Olympia perspex clutch with the Martinique inner pouch, which I loved, especially with the little jewelled spider on top

The matching wedge shoes were a little high for me though.

Then there was the Dolce & Gabanna collection which used it on dresses, on bags, shoes, scarfs and pretty much anything else. 

Accessorised with a healthy dose of blinged out bug brooches. 

And now, when I go on Pinterest, my feed is full of other Banana Leaf things. You can have a Banana leaf themed party with backdrops

Paper Plates

 and of course the cake to match.

You can tell what time your guests will arrive by checking your Banana Leaf clock

And after a long, exhausting day partying on, you can collapse into your Banana Leaf bedding.

So it's starting to make me think that perhaps Banana Leaf is the new Chevron.....

Coming soon to a Target near you (if it hasn't already made it).

Up there with my obsession with hand painted De Gournay wallpaper, I have long held an obsession with Horsehair upholstery. I realise these two things don't necessarily go together in most people's minds, but horsehair upholstery is probably one of the most durable, and most luxuriously beautiful upholstery fabrics you can use in Interiors. Nothing made with modern fibre technology can match it in my estimation. It was the indoor/outdoor/ commercially rub test rated fabric (in terms of durability) of its time.

Photograph: Lisa Linder

So I have had this post, ready to roll out, for about two years now so that I can make all my readers also suitably obsessed with this miraculous stuff. Of course, to illustrate the post I was going to provide an anecdote about my own horsehair upholstered items - two side chairs that I purchased at Scammell's Auction house locally at an estate sale. They were upholstered in their original Victorian era black/brown horsehair, had nailhead trim, and elegant lines. And they sold for $600! A bargain. Unfortunately though I had a busy week and... forgot to put in a bid. Sob. So no happy snap of them in my house.  Yes, I have kicked myself ever since....

1920's Danish chairs with horsehair upholstery, nailhead trim and with a cuban mahogany base

But let's rewind a little and talk about horsehair. It's not commonly used at all these days for a variety of reasons. Used by Thomas Chippendale, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Edward Lutyens on their upholstered pieces it was the height of fashion for around 150 years in Interiors.

Lutyens Napoleon chair upholstered in woven horsehair

The decline began as fashions changed -when it was used originally in Georgian and Victorian upholstered furniture it was of course in its natural state. Therefore you had a colour choice of the shades that a horses' tail came in, which were rather dull. Dyes at the time were not very colourfast, and were not able to successfully change the colour of the hair, so black was usually the default colour. It was slightly funeral, stuffy and not very exciting.

Photograph: Nick Brown

Horsehair for upholstery began to decline at the start of last century (it reached its zenith around the time Queen Victoria died) with the advent of modern fabrics, and a change in the colour palettes used in interiors. Horses were also replaced on our roads and farms with modern machinery, which meant that horse numbers in general declined, and with them the cheap source of the horse hair (the hair is cut from the tail, no horse is harmed/ killed from this).

Photograph: Nick Brown

Eventually horse hair was only used in upholstery as the stuffing. Gradually this too has been replaced by modern foam. However, modern foam, just like modern fabric technology, has not been able to successfully replicate the nature of the natural product. Horse hair has a natural spring to it. It will bounce back to its original position in a way that foam does not (as it degrades over time being a plastic). High quality upholstery is still stuffed with horsehair, but it is fairly prohibitively expensive. It is most definitely not, however, something that you'd put out on the kerb for the rubbish collection 10 years later. It would most definitely be a lifetime purchase.

My horsehair samples from a client job many years ago in reds and greens

But back to the use of it as upholstery. One company in Somerset, England kept up manufacture, on the original mill machinery to produce horsehair upholstery. However, in keeping with the times they revolutionised the actual product, using modern dyes to colour it in bright colours, adding in embroidery and patterns and producing a very beautiful, durable and unique product.  This company is John Boyd Textiles, which dates back to 1837, and is the last surviving mill producing horsehair fabric in England, and one of very few, if not the only one, left in the world. The main market for the company is not for use in interiors, but interestingly for use in soft form handbags that are then sold into Asia where they are highly prized. Germany has a flourishing industry producing these bags, and this is where much of John Boyd's fabrics are sent to. Closer to home it's been used extensively in commercial Interiors for upholstered walls, and on banquette seating and upholstered pieces. The natural lustre and texture of horsehair make it an appealing product for subtly luxurious interiors.

Photograph: Lisa Linder

There are a few quirks particular to the fabric - it comes in very narrow widths (57cm, normal width in fabrics are 1.2-1.4m), which means an experienced upholsterer is required to piece it together successfully when used on larger items. It's also quite eye wateringly expensive. It will take a day to weave 2-3 metres of horsehair fabric, which coupled with the difficulties in sourcing the actual horse hair itself explains the costings. If you can purchase an item already upholstered in horsehair, consider it money in the bank.

Photograph: Lisa Linder

Sadly at this point in time I have no upholstered horsehair items in my possession. One day I'll use one of the beautiful, jewel toned horsehair pieces for something though, and in the meantime I'll be haunting the auction rooms looking for my lost chairs (and if you are the fortunate buyer of them in Adelaide, well lucky you!).

Images source from John Boyd Textiles, English House and Garden Magazine, and Country Living Magazine
I promise this is not going to turn into a travel blog... for one, I don't generally travel much, aside from the past couple of months with little overnight trips to various places. But I went to Brisbane last weekend to visit my friend Faux Fuchsia, and meet up with Romy and committed blog commenter Pammie.

I have never been to Brisbane before. I've passed through the airport on my way further North to the beaches and Islands of the Barrier Reef many times, but never actually stopped. But I loved Brisbane! The best thing about meeting up with a friend that lives there, is that they show you all the good bits you might not see as a tourist, and we spent no time in the CBD as a result.

Brisbane has lots of little houses that are quintessentially Queensland to me in the inner city - lots of weatherboard, fretwork and wide verandas designed to live on. I loved this one above with its tropical palms and patina in New Farm.

And many of them have the classic Queensland style of the lattice gate to the veranda. When this is closed it provides privacy to the veranda, and the front door is left open which means the veranda space is used like an outdoor room. This one above was so sort of 50's Queensland I couldn't help but take a photo.

We stayed the first night at the Fuchsiadome, and went to all Faux Fuchsia's favourite haunts.

We visited Montrachet for lunch (so delicious and French Bistro style), and dropped in and out of shops in Fortitude Valley, Paddington and New Farm. I particularly liked Magnolia Interiors in Fortitude Valley, they bring in a lot of unique things from France that I haven't seen elsewhere in Australia, like these beautiful coloured glass planters above, Astier de Villatte porcelain below, and absolutely gorgeous Limoges hand painted china.

There are also lots of beautiful cushions, lamps and other bits and pieces. It's probably a good thing they're not in Adelaide as it would be very bad for my bank account.... Romy and I returned on Sunday morning to panic shop before we left for the airport. I bought 4 breakfast sized Limoges cups and saucers, each one different.

We also visited the Paddington Antique Market, which is in an old Silent Movie Theatre. I bought this unusual silver plate toast rack (pictured above). It's circa 1890, and faux bamboo. It also holds 8 slices of thick toast in an upright manner... so it's a family sized toast rack, and I've not seen one like it before.

We went to Unique France (antiques), where I admired this set of four matching Art Deco armchairs. They were seriously beautiful in person. I could picture them mixed in with old pieces to give a bit of visual tension to a scheme (reupholstered in something more exciting than beige microsuede). Unfortunately they're $50,000 so I left them behind...

We went to Black and Spiro to check out Anna's latest fabric range in the flesh.

I can report it's printed on an excellent quality linen, and hand screen printed in Australia.

And dinner was at the Fuchsiadome, as you can no doubt tell from the table arrangement below - who else would use a furry leopard print tablecloth? We ate one of FF's famous sand crab lasagnas. It was delicious and really, really not good for the waistline... I think given all the hills in Brisbane FF manages to work it off in a way that I wouldn't be able to in Adelaide.

The next morning was based around more cultural pursuits. We started off at GOMA on Southbank, where we saw the Cindy Sherman exhibition.

I have friends who stayed in a hotel in Verona, Italy for their honeymoon, and were dismayed to find their room full of her creepy clown series of photographs. I'm not sure there was a lot of romance with these staring down at you in bed...

But after you get past the freaky clowns, the photographs where she started using digital cameras became very interesting. She makes a lot of commentary on the selfie culture, which is ironic as she pretty much pioneered selfies - her photos all feature herself in various costume/ makeup which she also does herself.

Here's Iris Apfel and Anna Wintour, and Faux Fuchsia.

We walked along Southbank to Stokehouse for lunch on the river, which was very pleasant indeed. Delicious food, and we stuffed ourselves so full we cancelled dinner that night. Faux Fuchsia won the desert category with her choice which was so pretty.

Sunday we went to the Botanic Gardens. This is the Japanese garden. There was also a lovely salvia walk.

We saw a Bush Turkey, frequently featured in Faux Fuchsia's blog as a menacing predator in her garden.  Those things are freaky. Thank God I just have possums the size of dogs in mine.

We had a delicious lunch at the Paddington Deli, and then it was off to the airport after Mr FF detoured to drive us around some of the cultural sights of Brisbane, such as the former home of Christopher Skase in Hamilton.

It was such a fun break. We talked interiors, antiques, art, fashion, gardens, books and food all weekend. Mr FF was a very good sport driving us around, plying us with Champagne (he'd bought in a case in preparation for the 4 of us) and throwing together cheese platters at a moments notice. The Fuchsia household is as visually lovely and immaculately neat as you'd expect, and I loved Brisbane and can't wait to go back for more. Hope you're having a lovely weekend wherever you are.

Over the weekend, we visited our friends Andrew and Alice at their farm at Watervale, in the Clare Valley (about 1.5 hours from Adelaide). The Clare region is now known as a food and wine destination; it abuts the world famous Barossa Valley which I wrote about a few posts ago here. Originally though, this area was all farm country, and Alice and Andrew now run the family property (they run Merino Sheep on it), which Andrew's family have farmed since around 1860.

I've written about visiting them for lunch before on the blog, but this time we were house guests for the weekend, along with another family, the Bs and their 3 children. That brought the total number of kids to 9, and adults to 6. But while we adults were outnumbered, we had a relatively quiet time without kids in sight - they literally disappeared outside to play and only returned hours later muddy and happy to eat before disappearing again.

We did the usual things you do in the country in Winter. There was a bonfire lunch in one of the paddocks.

We ate and drank every 2 hours it seemed, Alice is pretty good at turning out gourmet fare. All of my children managed to fall in the creek and get soggy feet and muddy legs at various points.... The kids visited the litter of new puppies and collected eggs from the chooks, did some go karting up the bumpy driveway, and rode around in the back of the Ute over bumpy farm roads.

Farm dog with Ute

The modern part in the back of the house with Pierre Frey covered window seats

The house wasn't lived in for around 10 years or so before they moved in, and it was still in a sort of Victorian era time warp. A renovation completed a few years ago has created a modern, light, bright and warm living area at the back of the house, while leaving the original formal rooms at the front untouched, with all their layers of family history.

Print room

My favourite room is the room that Alice put Mr AV and I into for the night - the print room. It's like sleeping in a World of Interiors Magazine photo shoot. It seems to have been decorated around 1890, and literally every surface has been covered by carefully cut out illustrations from English periodicals of that period.

There are a lot with pictures of the future King Edward and Queen Alexandra's wedding, pictures of Queen Victoria holding various babies being christened, horses, cats in bonnets, and various other things. Apparently no one is sure which family member originally did this, but it does seem to be the Victorian equivalent of the teenage girl's bedroom plastered with pictures of teen idols all over the walls.

The Billiard Room is also interesting, full of taxidermy and old books

My 6 year old said to the other boys "Lets get out of this room - it's really creepy"

and photos of various members of the Royal Family who stayed at the house in years past when they had come out to the colonies on tours.

The Duke of Windsor, circa 1920 when he was still Prince of Wales, unattached to Wallis, and highly eligible

As with most farms these days, Alice and Andrew have diversified their operations. Most farms like this in the past were mini villages, and were heavily reliant on large numbers of servants, management staff, and labourers to keep things going. Modern farming means that Andrew now does it all himself, with a bit of help from a casual labourer. This means that there are a lot of cottages and outbuildings that are no longer inhabited. After completing the renovation of one of the old cottages, they now have a thriving business with a self contained cottage called Hughes Park Cottage. It's quite separate from the house, so totally private, and is set amongst pretty rolling hills dotted with gum trees, and at this time of the year lots of little creeks with running water.

The other thing that they've recently started doing is to hire out the gardens against the house for Wedding receptions as a venue. Having attended their wedding 10 years ago, I can attest to this being an excellent venue for a memorable wedding with the marquee set up on the grassed terraces to the front of the house - the views are so pretty across the hills, and the house makes a stunning and very special backdrop with photographical opportunities galore on the property.

I thought it might be interesting for my overseas readers to have a little glimpse into an Australian style working farm. This farm house is definitely on the larger side I hasten to add, but it's a little glimpse into lives lived in the past, and country hospitality, working life and style today.

So, here is a little promo for my friends. Alice is a consummate hostess, and a very stylish city girl now living in the country. The cottage is beautifully furnished in a quintessential South Australian country style

Hughes Park Cottage

and for weddings, should you be thinking along those lines, this is a link to all the information on them

Hughes Park Weddings

I'm pretty sure after having 10 houseguests for the weekend, Alice is still trying to catch up this week, so thank you Al, we absolutely loved staying with you.
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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
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