I was recently reading a column by Bernard Salt, Australian demographer and pop culture column writer, about some surprising results from the most recent Australian Census last year. In in, he noted that the number of bedrooms in Australia now exceeds the number of people in the country, and that the show bedroom, as he thought of it, was on the rise, given there has been a corresponding rise in sales in the bedding industry of cushions, pillows, and bed linen. This is because in Australia, living areas are to the rear of houses, so most visitors to a house will enter through a front door, process down a hallway to the outdoor entertaining zone, and pass by a number of bedrooms that are now required to be arranged attractively with stacked cushions, bedlinen and other things that used to be seen only by the rooms inhabitant, and never by a visitor. This is to give off a 5 star hotel vibe, and to show wealth and taste. You can read the very entertaining column here


This all tied in neatly with a phenomenon that I've noticed over the past few years - the rise of the cult of D.Porthault, French linen company and the linen of choice to the discerning connoisseur of fine living.  We are told frequently by anyone writing about the company on the many, many social media posts written on instagram/ blogs/ magazines that the roll call of famous people that were obsessed  with it include Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel and a bunch of other famous people from the 1950's up to today far too numerous to mention, aside from on the D.Porthault website. There's nothing like celebrity endorsement, especially when the clients are no longer alive to complain about being co-opted into it.


But we all know they're the style set, so the seal of approval means we can all rush out to buy our own very expensive set of linen and be stylish as well, especially given how distinctive the patterns are as they ensure that everyone knows where your sheets come from. The French company was purchased fairly recently by an American with a passion for linen, and under new ownership the marketing push has really gathered pace, particularly in the US where there are boutiques opening and constant magazine write ups, and now the glossy coffee table book released this month about the company's history.



What is distinctive and recognisable about D Porthault linen is that it is known for a variety of printed patterns on fine quality cotton sheets, and it's rather expensive, thus setting it firmly equivalent to the luxury logo'd handbag... or Hermes Avalon blanket. They do plain linen as well, but it's the distinctive floral patterns that they innovated in the 1920s and have become very well known for that have aficionados/ cult members pattern matching and clashing with gay abandon with their sheets and towels.


I suppose you can see where I'm going with this... I don't really like printed sheets of any sort, aside from in a child's bedroom, so for me it is slightly baffling that they're so popular. For grown up bedrooms I like plain sheets as they don't compete with the other decorative elements in the room. I also think my husband would revolt if I made up the bed in pretty floral sheets and then asked him to sleep in it.

I really do not like the sheets in this bedroom

And this is an interesting fact in the whole Porthault love in:  the women that originally embraced the D Porthault sheets such as Jackie Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor didn't actually sleep in the same bed as their husband. They had their own bedrooms, as was customary for women from the upper classes of that era. Their bedrooms could be decorated in the manner that they chose, and their sheets were theirs to select without consideration of what a male partner might think of having to sleep under a bower of love hearts or clovers or sprigs of roses and pansies.

Rita Konig's former bedroom in New York with heart print bedlinen

I have seen some criticism of the new book as being essentially a big glossy catalogue, with no photos of D Porthault in the famous clients bedrooms of the past to give weight to the celebrity endorsement. So I googled them for you as I suspected that there weren't any photos showing the flowery sheets for one major reason. My hunch proved correct.

Here's Jackie Kennedy's bedroom in the Whitehouse


Here's the Duchess of Windor's bedroom in Paris



Coco Chanel's bedroom at the Villa Pausa



The thing they all have in common is that you wouldn't know what sheets they slept on as they utilised an item very popular in that era: the fitted bedspread.

The bedspread was usually made out of a fabric that matched in with their curtains (in the White House it appears to be white with a fringe), and covered the entire bed and pillows with nothing to show of the underpinnings. Rather like a jacket could have any lining inside, so too the sheets could be anything. While they may have slept on floral D Porthault sheets, or plain ones, or anything else for that matter... the one thing we know is that they never intended them to be seen in a decorative sense. Sheet selection was a personal and private luxury.


So really, all this consideration about the topic is because I feel like I've reached peak saturation of the entire internet world banging on about how special and stunning these linens are, and I just don't get it. Somehow the cult of D Porthault has passed me by. The excessive femininity of the designs, the "it all goes together so mix in all the prints at once" thing, the competition the sheets have with fabrics and wallpapers and other things in a space... it's just not for me.

Estee Lauder's bedroom - I really love Toile de Nantes wallpaper, but would prefer plain linen with it


But it has made me wonder if throughout all the frothing at the mouth comments and coy photos of bedrooms and bathrooms with bits of the distinctive patterns on towels and sheets to get a bit of instagram love from those in the know, there are others who share my distinctive Meh feel about it all.

So over to you: Are you a card carrying member of the Cult, or is a slightly more subdued palette more your thing?
It's been a long time between kitchen posts on this blog. Having finished my own kitchen back during the renovations a couple of years ago, I haven't felt the need to blog about them again. But something has been very much on my mind of late, and that is kitchen size.

 via Ivory Lane blog - double island benches, and a separate butler's pantry

This is because kitchens have in Australia, over the past 20 years, grown and grown and grown in size. Conversely, people cook less. If you look at the average commercial kitchen attached to a restaurant that seats 60 people, it's generally far smaller than the average home kitchen now. So it would seem that the size of the kitchen has no bearing on what is being produced in it.


Commercial kitchen - Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck with 4-5 chefs working in it. Image via


I see a lot of inspiration pictures in both my work, and that pinned by other Australians on Pinterest or Instagram featuring very, very large American-style kitchens. Traditionally Australian kitchens were modelled on European/ English kitchens in terms of size, and these are usually smaller due to apartment living.


Kitchens that often feature multiple sink stations and items like pot fillers (which are used in commercial kitchens locally, but were never considered a standard item to put in a domestic one until fairly recently) are now the aspiration. Kitchens with not one, but two enormous island benches to fill the space up between benches that would otherwise be acres apart. And don't forget the adjacent Butler's pantry with its own sink, fridge (or cool room if you really want to up the ante) and cooking equipment.


This can all lead to an interesting discussion about kitchens as the new status symbol of a house, but frankly, after past blog posts on luxury/ status symbols and the psychology behind it all, I just don't really feel like pointing this post in that direction and derailing the actual thrust I was trying to get across. That might make up a separate post involving kitchens/ dressing rooms/ outdoor kitchens/ home gyms and bars, all of which have seen a rise in popularity in Australian homes recently.

The point of this post is more to point out the following:

1. Large kitchens are difficult to work in

Ideally you should be able to walk a couple of steps between zones in the kitchen when cooking so as not to expend energy racing up and down meters of kitchen to grab something from the fridge or pantry or a pot. This is why commercial kitchens are actually fairly compact. Professional Chefs do not want to spend 8 hours on service running (literally) around a kitchen. Their job is exhausting enough as it is. This is something to bear in mind if you are working with a large kitchen area, and the fact that I have a small physical area is something I love about my own kitchen. I rarely have to move far to get what I need done.

Modern large residential kitchen design is overcoming this by including multiples of everything - multiple sink points (as you don't want to carry a saucepan full of pasta 5 metres to the sink to drain it, but rather dump the water in an area adjacent to your cooktop), multiple taps, multiple fridges. If you are currently designing your kitchen, and you are going the large kitchen route, then this is something you need to factor in and budget for. Otherwise your kitchen will give you no joy.

2. You do not need acres of cupboards to store all your stuff

If you're starting from scratch, or have an existing small/ normal kitchen that you're refitting, then consider looking to European kitchen design for inspiration on cupboard fittings. It's no surprise that the largest and best quality manufacturer of kitchen cupboard fittings and hinges are all German - Blum, Hettich and Hafele. They make all the clever pull out things that go into kitchen cupboards that help to maximise space and functionality. Ikea do a pretty good range too. But rather than just using these systems (which can add up if you start going really crazy on the kitchen organising) consider just using your existing basic cupboards more efficiently.

When I was designing my kitchen, I spent some time with my Aunt M, who is brilliant with design, going through my kitchen plans. M is not professionally trained, but is better than most designers I've ever come across with kitchens as she is an excellent cook, and very thoughtful regarding matters of design. Running through my layout and debating various different options was very beneficial for me as I had a tight space to work with and a lot to pack into it. After we'd caught up, M sent through some photos of her cupboards to show me what she'd meant with some of our discussion. I thought I'd i include some of her most helpful advice and images below.

Tip 1 - get lots more cupboard shelves cut up by a kitchen joinery company than you'd usually have and stack them as close to each other as possible. Then rather than creating Leaning Towers of Pisa with your platters or salad bowls or whatever, you can stack them neatly one to a shelf and maximise your space while making them easy to grab and get down when you need them.




Tip 2 - for deep cupboards, have the shelves cut with an arc on them so that you can access the back of the shelves easily and see what you have stored. An example can be seen at the top of M's cupboard in the image below.


Tip 3 - M also used pull out drawers in some of the cupboards, even up higher than below bench top level as is normal (above), to give good access to the back of shelf areas where things traditionally get lost due to inaccessibility. 

Tip 4 - following on from tip 3, drawers (deep for saucepans or shallow for cups) are far better in a kitchen than a traditional cupboards with shelves. One job I'm working on at the moment is just refitting an existing kitchen that my client finds frustrating to cook in. This is mostly because the lower level cupboards are standard shelved 600mm deep cupboards and she looses things up the back and can never get organised. As she doesn't want to replace the entire kitchen we are refitting the cupboards with internal drawers, similar to M's above in the photo to make access to items up the back easier. 

via Heather Bullard design


Tip 5 - work out exactly what you do have and create specific spaces for them. This is the interior of M's Thermomix storage drawer below.

thermomix drawer

Tray dividers via


Tip 6- point of use organisation. I wrote a blog post about it here

And for my own final tip - really consider what you actually use in your kitchen - equipment, crockery and cutlery wise and whittle it down. Most people do not need 8 saucepans. Perhaps you have partial dinner sets that you started off , didn't finish, and never use as a result because you are missing key pieces (wedding registry are good at creating this conundrum). The juicer you bought on a health kick that is gathering dust in a corner could go.

Now, naturally, if you're someone like Stephen Andrew Jones (who writes the best blog on my sidebar) and who collects multiple Le Creuset pots... but actually uses them all...  then this is not advice you should take to heart. It's more a message to all the people with good intentions that they will become a gourmet chef, or who want a perfectly matched set of saucepans that are never actually used. In my case, in order to get enough storage, I got rid of the microwave. We only used it to reheat food a couple of times a week if that, not to cook, and it's easy enough to reheat food on a stove top, in the oven or in the thermomix, and I haven't missed it at all. Keeping things compact means your back and legs will thank you when you are spending hours cooking in the kitchen, and if you are designing or building a large kitchen, then consider the point of use organisation very carefully and allow multiple zones for different activities so that you're not run of your feet and exhausted from the experience.

Previous kitchen posts:

My kitchen - finished
Kitchen cupboard finishes

side garden

As it's now officially Winter (with the temperatures suddenly switched to match - we've had night time temperatures of 2C which is very cold for Adelaide this week), I thought I was overdue to do a wrap up of Autumn.

 Back garden


Other side garden

This year Autumn was particularly spectacular in Adelaide. I think because we had such an unusually wet Summer the leaf change was dramatic, and for a 2-3 week period I just loved looking out over my back garden with the changing colours from rich deep reds, to umbers and bright golds. Of course this also means that I've had the leaf blower out a fair bit, and will do so for another few weeks yet, as some trees are still going.

Doing:
A lot of my work the past few months has been drafting and design of new projects, so nothing particularly interesting to show on the blog, completed project wise. I did do about 85% of the beach house project install that I was working on a few months ago. It was a pure decorating job (furniture only, no Architecture or Interior components to it) and I took a few snaps before I rushed off. Still waiting on a few key pieces to be made and delivered, so I'll post some further pictures once it's all done. I'm really pleased with how it's all come together. The wall colour was the existing, nothing has been repainted.

Octopus over the master bed, which some Instagram followers found a little spooky to potentially sleep under. Fabrics are William Yeoward and Ralph Lauren. I chose relaxed, washed out navy tones

Work has also nearly wrapped up on one of my long term projects. We're still waiting on a few pieces, but I thought I'd share these in progress shots of the concealed TV I designed to hide in wall panelling in the casual living area. It has a push catch on the panels that fold back to see the TV. I've done a lot of paneling in this house, so this pared back modern approach worked well in the new extension. Cushions (and garden plants outside!) are still to come


I did do a cushion delivery of some for other rooms though, and this is the window seat reading nook in the Tweenager's bedroom that has been completed. I looove this room so much.



In our own house, the large bronze pot, final focal point for the front garden, was placed on its plinth. This was delivered last November, however the pre Christmas rush, and the post Christmas holidays meant my landscaper was unable to build the plinth it sat on until a month or so ago. It's had a box ball put in it, and is underplanted with a trailing succulent. I need to plant something around the base to get it to blend in a little (aside from dead leaves), but the front garden is looking so good now. Everything has grown enormously in just a year and a half, and I think it really suits the style of the Victorian era house.

Bigger than it looks here

Progress on the new garage has been a little slow the past few weeks. With colder temperatures the render is not setting overnight, and it's been slow going. Hopefully this week it will be completed and the scaffolding will come down - in the meantime the builder wrapped it in tarpaulins to try to keep it all dry to allow the renderer to work. The painting inside started over the past week, and the gyprocking (plastering) has almost been completed upstairs. New garage doors were installed too, so it's finally inching closer. I think probably in 3-4 weeks time it will be complete.

inspiring view from the back garden

A few readers have emailed or commented to tell me to get to the David Roche Foundation museum in North Adelaide, and I'm ashamed to say I have only just been, a year after it opened. This is despite the fact that I've attended no less than two dinner talks given by both Martyn Cook (the Foundation head, and a very well known antique dealer originally from Sydney), and Robert Reason, head curator. Both gave fascinating talks and I was desperately wanting to go.... but things have been busy and a year flicked by.

Elephant inkwell on malachite base was a gift to Tsar Nicholas II

De Gournay wallpaper clad spare bedroom. In the corner is an embroidered waistcoat that had belonged to Louis XVI

Finally I made it with a friend, and I have to say it's one of the best Private house museums I've been to in the world. Worth a trip to Adelaide for this alone. David Roche put together one of the best collections of Russian, French and English antiquities around his particular interests, and the collection has been conservatively valued at $85 Million. Many of the items would no longer have been allowed to leave their country of origin now - there are chairs that Catherine the Great commissioned and sat on, items owned by Napoleon, Regency English furniture, paintings, silver, Faberge boxes, Chinese export porcelain, and all displayed in his house, a typical Adelaide sandstone villa which he decorated in a flamboyant manner (De Gournay wallpaper, leopard print, elaborate passementerie on the curtains etc). Nothing is behind ropes, and you can wander at will with the tour guides. After the tour finished, we walked down Melbourne street to The Lion for lunch in the restaurant. It was a very pleasant break from the hum drum day to day of family life and work.




Wearing:

It was the Royal Flying Doctor's "Wings for Life" ball a few weeks ago, and as usual I frocked up and went with some friends. This year's theme was "Beach Ball", and they had sand inside and a band playing classic beach themed music from the 60's onwards. It was great fun, as always, and we sat with some very funny friends on our table who kept us all entertained. I wore a Collette Dinnigan dress that long term readers would remember me purchasing a few years ago, and DIY'd my own hair this year into a messy updo which I stuck a brooch into for interest. I did not go barefoot however, as I'm short enough without removing my heels. Here are some terrible iphone selfies to show you my efforts:

dress - a great underarm shot if I do say so.

blurry DIY hair photo

Reading:
Just before Easter I was lucky enough to attend a lunch at which Janelle McCulloch was the guest speaker, launching her long awaited book "Beyond the Rock". The book has been a labour of love for Janelle who has painstakingly researched the life of Joan Lindsay, author of the seminal Australian novel "Picnic at Hanging Rock". Janelle's book is a biography of Joan Lindsay, and in particular her writing of a mysterious novel that has captured the public's imagination in a way that no other book has done since in Australia. Janelle gave a fascinating talk about the influences in Joan's life, and what had lead her to write the book. It's a beautifully compiled biography, more like a coffee table book in the production values, and while it doesn't answer "the secret" (no one can, as Joan carried it to the grave with her), it certainly made me draw my own conclusions as to what compelled her to write the book, and if it had a factual basis to the mysterious story of the disappearance of four school girls and their teacher on St Valentine's Day 1901.  Janelle has long written a wonderful blog centring around Travel, Gardens and Design, The Library of Design, which is on my sidebar if you haven't already discovered it.


Another thing that I have been reading are old magazines - very old. I bought a set of "Flair" magazines, circa 1950-51, which have had an enduring influence on graphic designers, publishers, and other related design fields ever since their very brief print run (It closed after a year due to high cost of production). It's clearly been an influence on modern publications such as Cabana magazine, and reading such a high quality magazine of its era was fascinating. I loved the ads, the suggestions on lifestyle matters (table linens, newleywed gifts, furniture), beautifully tailored fashion from its era in New York and the high quality articles from leading literary luminaries at the time such as Hemingway. If you don't want to try to hunt these down yourself, but are interested in their contents, a compendium was put together by Rizzoli in coffee table book format called "The Best of Flair".


I can't imagine how uncomfortable it would be to sleep in this to sweat off the weight...


Cooking:

I have been making a recipe I discovered on Tenina's blog quite a bit. It tastes a lot like a Vietnamese Clay Pot curry in that it is light and fresh tasting, and as it makes a very large quantity is great for freezing. I serve mine with Rice noodles and steamed beans.


Spicy Vietnamese Ginger and lemongrass Curry
Here are the instructions and recipe if you have a thermomix

Otherwise:

Ingredients
4 trimmed lemongrass stalks
8 Cloves Garlic
8 Kaffir Lime Leaves
5cm piece of ginger (peeled)
1 small red thai chilli (recipe calls for 2, but my children prefer mild tastes)
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3KG diced beef (chuck)
2 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1 TBSP fish sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup water
3-4 eschallots peeled
500grams Carrots diced

In a mortar and pestle, or food processor process lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilli until a fine paste forms. Add olive oil and fry off in a saucepan for a few minutes until fragrant. Add water, fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, Star Anise and Cinnamon stick to mixture and simmer for 5 minutes.

In a slow cooker (or large casserole pot), add beef and pour over the liquid. If cooking in the casserole pot, set the oven at 150C and cook for 4 hours. Add eschallots and carrots for the last hour of cooking. Serve with Rice Stick noodles.

It takes about 10 minutes of basic prep and then you have enough to feed a family for several meals. A great meal for the time poor.



These are (possibly) my last roses, which I picked a couple of hours ago. Somehow they've survived the cold overnight temperatures. Every time I think I've picked the last, I get a couple more on the bushes, so who knows! I've put them in an empty Cire Trudon candle vessel. They make a great vase.

Lastly, I thought I'd comment on the terror everyone has about the profiling that goes on in the Social Media world. If you're on Facebook or Instagram there are targeted ads, all mining information on you based on your likes, who you follow, words or terms you use, and places you've tagged or been tagged as visiting. I know people get very worked up about the information possibly being used against them. But I am here to tell you all to fear not! Based on my Instagram targeted ads, I think we're all safe. I follow, and generally like other people's photos of Interiors, books, gardens, fashion... pretty much everything you see me write about on here. Based on this, Instagram has been targeting me with these ads:




Eyelash extensions for Asian women




Some stone thing to attach to your hijab that will make you look "classy as hell"



A special Easter celebration at a Gay bar in Singapore called "Are you a friend of Dorothy's"


And just for good measure, a breastmilk keepsake pendant. 

I think Instagram has got a little confused. We all have nothing to fear people.

Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Summer dressing can be tricky. You want to be cool, so this means nothing clingy, but equally you don't always want to look like you're about to go poolside - you want to dress appropriately for city life as well... so what to wear?


 via Camilla


Well, judging by the runaway sales of Camilla worldwide, one of her floaty, silk, multi-patterned and embellished Caftans are the way to go. These have become something of a staple amongst the mothers at any Summer school function in Australia, and you'll see them at weddings, Black Tie balls, poolside at a resort or beachside in January on Aussie beaches, and given they're one size fits all, you could say that they're the most versatile piece of clothing out there.

via Camilla

Sadly, I do not own a Camilla caftan, as on the few occasions I've tried them on they have a tendency to overwhelm me. I'm not fond of busy prints on myself (love them on others), and being rather short they drape on the ground. The salesgirl helpfully informed me as I stood in puddles of multicoloured silk that I should just tuck it up into my knickers on either side, but I haven't done this since year 7 "Pop Bang Go" handstand competitions in the school yard, and don't feel so inclined to do that again. And if you're paying upward of $590 plus for an item of clothing, I don't want to have to tuck it up, or tie it up or whatever other tricks are required to make it fit shorty me.

via Camilla

But one reason why they work so beautifully is that the silk is light as a feather, and drapes beguilingly around the female form. Even if they're long and loose, you get a suggestion of shape underneath, which saves it from being a sad sack.

But I've noticed a recent fashion contender for the Camilla Caftan crown - Peasant wear.


Vita Kin, via Matches Fashion 

Firstly it was in the form of Ukranian style peasant dresses with their voluminous sleeves and heavy embroidery. This look can be seen all over the world in cities as diverse as Sydney, London and New York and about as far from the wheat fields of the Ukraine that they originated in.


Perhaps it was Yulia Tymoshenko, the former president of the Ukraine who entered the world stage when tensions were high with Russia in plaits and peasant garb, that managed to get the sisterhood to adopt her style of dress in worldwide solidarity?


a Vita Kin design via Matches Fashion, £1,988

But unlike Camilla, they don't translate to lounging by the pool in a resort, while doing double duty down at the local shops. So, really, you need something else simple, and peasant like, to while away the days on a beach in the Bahamas.

via Moda Operandi

And the perfect dress has been found by Pippa Holt. It's the Mexican Peasant dress. They're boxy, practically standing away from the body stiffly on their own allowing plenty of air flow to circulate under their tent like structure in the tropics.



via Moda Operandi

They're mostly cut mid calf length, therefore allowing not the slightest hint of chub to be seen - you could be any size at all in these! Unfortunately though, for anyone not 6 foot tall, I suspect that they will give the distinct impression of squat, peasant like proportions. It would also appear from all the model shots on the beach, plus the manner in which Pippa is standing, below, at her Bergdorf's opening that you have to stand at all times with your legs apart, and preferably one popped out to the side to make this look work.


Just like Angelina Jolie did that time at the Oscars.



Otherwise you just won't carry this look off. I suspect the peasants find having to do this quite exhausting when they toil in the fields.

Pippa has a team of Mexicans hand weaving these dresses, and they're available for US$850.

Which goes to show why most peasants don't own more than one dress - these things are eye-wateringly expensive! It costs a lot to live the simple peasant life, clearly.
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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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