You may have already seen the image of "Another Curious Tea Party" by Kate Bergin (above) floating around Social Media or in newspapers promoting the NGV "Best of the Best 2016" exhibition, which runs from 11-13th May. The National Gallery of Victoria Women's Association have put together an exhibition and major fundraising event in conjunction with top designers in a variety of fields to raise funds for scholarships for leading art school graduates and curators and also to contribute to the acquisition of works for the Gallery. This is to be done every three years, and is not to be missed!
inspiring Table design by Danielle D Rollins at the New York City Orchid Dinner with Chinoiserie theme
It showcases table art or table scenes conceived by artists, decorators, galleries, designers, stylists, couturiers and florists which promises to be a creatively inspiring event. Some of my favourite Melbourne designers and suppliers are involved, such as Flowers Vasette (my favourite Melbourne Florist), Hill of Content (bookshop), Turner and Lane (fab homewares store), Mud Australia (beautiful pottery based tableware) along with many other top designers like Diane Bergeron, Brownlow Interior Design... and it promises to be varied, inspiring and fabulously creative.
Botanical Gardens table designed by Danielle D Rollins at the New York City Orchid Dinner
As any long term blog readers will know I do love a bit of table setting action, and with a Kate Bergin image to promote the event, well I was easily hooked in when the NGV approached me, offering four tickets valued at $25 each to give away to my blog readers. These will be split into two sets of two, with one set available here on the blog, and the other on Instagram. To enter, please use the rafflecopter entry form below, the draw closes on Wednesday 27th April 2016 at midnight and winners will be sent the tickets directly by the NGV.
"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them"
colour coordinated books by the metre
I was contemplating this quote today in the context of the prevalence of the artfully styled interior. It was on a chalkboard outside Matilda's Bookshop in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills. It's very common to see Designers incorporating walls of bookshelves in their schemes for clients - bookshelves which they then buy books by the metre to fill up, as their clients don't actually have any books to put in them. And undoubtably they create atmosphere and ambience and the feeling of cosiness and a full life. But a wall of books brand new and completely unread by the owner does depress me somewhat. Perhaps this is because some of what I learnt studying Architecture at Uni sunk in, and that is Truth in Design. If you don't read, and you buy books by the metre as a decorative device, you are not being truthful in the design. And perhaps this is the fundamental difference between Styling an interior versus Designing one.
Alternatively you can buy multiples of things and fill the shelves up like your own personal homewares store
via @sophiepatersoninteriors instagram account
Don't even get me started on television shows like "The Block" that promote fast turnaround, unrealistic budgets, little thought to design and interiors slanted to the demands of the real estate market rather than real living.
the perfectly colour coordinated Celine bag casually left on the floor via @sophiepatersoninteriors instagram
a piece of good design- a seating niche via
the sofa too close to the bed, the stool too close to the sofa, the stool with the large vase of flowers you'd knock over… via
backward books via
It's long been a fascination of mine to analyse an interiors image to see what is likely always there and what has been created for the photo shoot. Some of those clues are contained in the text - pieces of furniture/ accessories/ art that are credited in a magazine are often borrowed for the shoot. Often these items are sourced from the big advertisers in the magazine, but certainly a lot of styling has gone on that bears no correlation between every day life and the perfect picture. Other things require a little more observation - chairs that block doors/stairs/ halls, or things obviously moved into position for a photo that would never be there otherwise - like the fully upholstered cross bench stool with attractive vignette styling including an oil painting in a shower alcove as pictured below.
via @ivyandpiperhome instagram
The cover of Home Beautiful magazine with photoshopped changes to a pool cabana - furniture, light fitting, window, flooring, hanging chair
The original image they based it on in a house featured some months before in the magazine, designed by Melinda Hartwright Interiors
So what she'd actually been sold on was the image of the smiling mother and child on the sofa, and she was projecting that she'd like to live moments like that in her future. Essentially design and decoration is loaded with all the expectations of special moments we'd like to create, of the way we'd like to live our lives. Big warm family gatherings where everyone is happy and convivial (when in reality you don't get along with your family and Uncle Billy always is drunk), snuggling with the golden child on the sofa, cooking delicious meals from scratch in your enormous and very clean kitchen (when you more often buy takeaway). All these things are loaded into our psyche when viewing images of houses and inserting ourselves into fantasy pictures that many then try to create in their own homes. I've always said that the best thing you can do when starting the design process for anything is to be realistic and honest about how you live - if you don't cook, you're unlikely to start just because you have 2 wide ovens, an inbuilt deep fryer and steam oven.
carefully curated shelf styling via
Real design is about making your life easier - it's not about chairs that block doorways, spray painting something gold from Target for a decor accent or any of the other things that might end up looking good in a photo and being pinned 10,000 on Pinterest. Unfortunately the business of design and decoration and the relatively recent culture of shopping for home items on a seasonal basis has masked the underlying truth - that good design will make your life better, and that it doesn't matter how many throw rugs, coffee table books, turkish towels, diptyque candles and cushions you buy - if you don't fix the underlying problem you'll just be buying more and wondering why it doesn't work. The best house is the one that reflects its owner - not someone else's idea of what is good taste, current fashion or supposed personal interests and hobbies that they don't actually have. And perhaps this is why the images of perfection in magazines are a little like a souffle in reality - pretty but can fall flat in the end.
If you have a casual living space that will be frequented by children there are several practical things you can do that will make life easier.
indoor/ outdoor fabric that I used on a sofa for clients last year in a casual living area
Upholstering sofas in one of the new indoor/ outdoor fabrics is a great way to go. Every single fabric range has extensive indoor/outdoor fabrics in them now thanks to the new fabric technologies, and they are completely stain proof, ranging from fairly inexpensive, to top of the range with fabric houses such as Pierre Frey. If you love a light coloured sofa, but have toddlers, then slipcover a sofa in one of the new fabrics (the fabrics feel completely normal and not plasticky) and you can easily throw it in the wash and watch any stain be it vegemite/ chocolate or mud without treatment simply disappear. I've also used indoor/ outdoor fabrics in rooms frequented by grandchildren, where the grandparents didn't want to have to be constantly asking the children to take their shoes off or sit carefully (and instead wanted to be the 'fun' grandparents). This makes the sofa easy to spot clean with a bit of soap and water. Upholstery that is not a solid plain fabric also works better to disguise dirt. I usually select a fabric with a bit of 'movement' in it so that general dinginess will be fairly disguised. Our own sofas are a very, very fine check in tonal greys, and this has disguised dirt very well without going the route of the full washable slipcover.
grandchild friendly surfaces for my client - leather upholstered armchairs, indoor/ outdoor fabric on the sofa.
If you eat at a dining table with your children (rather than serving them at the kitchen island) then a dining table that has a robust finish to the top is optimal while children are toddlers. Our dining table is already distressed and made from recycled wood. The children have variously scratched, drawn and gouged it, and you really can't tell as it works in with the surface. Stone is a good surface for this reason too, highly polished/ perfect timber is not. A dining table made with a 2pac factory sprayed painted top is definitely not a good idea. All the edges will chip and you'll have scratches all over it.
My dining table and chairs. The table is a recycled timber, the chairs have covers that can be removed and washed.
via Lauren Leiss
If you're putting in floorboards, a hardwood is better than a soft wood. Pine in high traffic areas (such as hallways or kitchens) will scratch and degrade over time when compared to a hardwood. In our hall we installed Spotted Gum floorboards over the existing old pine in the hallway, and it has held up well. Timber in general though will show scratches and dents more easily, even from high heeled shoes (not just children scootering inside), so alternatives to consider are tile, linoleum, vinyl, polished concrete, and carpet. Our choice of linoleum is fantastic, and I still am so happy we made the decision to install it. It takes a real knock from the kids, and cleans up brilliantly.
Regarding carpet, I know a lot of people like nylon now, and this is something that seems to me to have come from the project home/ developers market and spread through the carpet suppliers recommending it when retailing it to homeowners. Project home builders like nylon as it will meet their builders warranty and they are pretty much guaranteed that it won't change or stain until their warranty period is up. I never recommend it (unless it's for a commercial property) as it is, in the end, plastic. Wool carpet wears a lot better than nylon over a longer period of time. It feels more luxurious, and is a natural product. Stains will come out fairly easily (unless you want white carpet). For children who often lie on their carpet to play games, I just think it's far nicer that they're on a natural surface. But this is a personal preference. Obviously dark carpet is good for children for hiding stains and dirt, and that is what I chose for my own house. I knew that the long duration of our renovation and us living in the house for the duration meant that a light coloured carpet would look dreadful otherwise.
my youngest's bedroom - he wanted orange walls, this was our compromise
I think it's important to involve children in the design of their own spaces. To keep this simpler, I recommend asking them for a theme or colour that they like, then picking two things you're also happy to live with and then asking them to choose between those limited choices. Too much choice is overwhelming. I buy my children's bedroom lamps from cheaper places like Target, Bunnings, or Freedom furniture when on sale. Then I don't have to worry too much if one is knocked over.
Playrooms/ teenage retreats
Playroom via Pinterest
My children's playroom with blackboard wall
Ikea storage for toys in my kid's playroom - doors are essential
Avoid natural stone such as marble or limestone. This is because they are porous and will absorb stains and odours. There are good porcelain alternatives these days if you like the look of stone for tiles, and in bench tops the composite stones (such as caesarstone) are better options - even colourless soap will stain marble if left sitting on it for too long.
Tile behind toilets - Little (and many big) boys have bad aim.
via Channel nine's The Block - solid splashback rather than mirrored, but I don't recommend marble
I am preparing in my own way for the upcoming cooler months though by feathering the nest. Finally I have had the armchair I purchased at auction last year reupholstered. I ended up choosing a plum coloured Pierre Frey relatively large weave fabric to replace the original orange velvet.
The armchair before suffering from saggy seat
The upholsterer did a great job - he replaced the pancake like horsehair cushion with a down and feather one, redid the broken webbing in the seat, and redid all the antique brass nailhead just like the original. It's the favourite chair in the casual living area now, and we're all very happy with it. To show how the colour ties in with the others in the room you can see the plum colour is in the spots on the rug, and also similar in colour to the colours in some of the scatter cushions on the sofa.
Another project that's just starting to gain momentum is the new garage. We had hoped to get moving on it last year, however the difficulties involved in the design meant it's taken until the past month for final development approval to come through from our local council. We have a tricky time with Heritage requirements for our street (our house itself is not Heritage listed, rather the overall street is protected), and this means absolutely everything is sent to the Heritage advisors for comment and recommendation (such as when we did a pool in our back garden that can't be seen from the street… it still went through Heritage).
The slow progress on this approval was due to the fact that we are incorporating a second level for accommodation over the car spaces. This will be for out of town guests, but will also do double duty as a studio for me to work out of. I've incorporated most of this space into the roof line so that it doesn't appear visually bulky from the street, and it has direct access to the street via a door and staircase. It will finally be a place for me to store the samples that are currently overtaking our Library/ meet up with trade reps and clients and get a little better separation of work/ home life which is all rather blurred at the moment. There'll be a kitchenette, a full bathroom and a murphy bed (concealed Queen sized bed that folds down from the wall). I'll post more as we get to the point of starting construction (currently the engineering is being finished off, then we need the building permit approved), but it will be an interesting project to follow for some readers as I'm trying to maximise the outcome for minimal expenditure - it's always interesting to me to see which are my most popular design posts, and they tend to be the ones about doing things cheaply. The ones on spending money…. not so much. But in the meantime I thought I'd share a few of my design inspiration photos of garage/ coach house/ loft style conversions all from the Garages page on my pinterest.
Aside from that life has been busy. They call it Mad March in Adelaide as we have all the Festivals at once - Adelaide Festival of Arts, the Fringe, Womadelaide (world music festival), Writers Week and then the Clipsal 5000 (car race - I avoid this one). Coupled with just getting over the whole back to school information nights/ drinks/ getting children settled into school etc just prior and it's been busy.
Two weeks ago I went to see the James Trilogy plays (James 1, James II, James III), which was 11 hours in total (7.5 hours of theatre, the rest being intermission and breaks between the plays for afternoon tea and dinner). It was performed by the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre of Great Britain, and was the headline act for the Festival of the Arts. Each play could stand on its own merits if you didn't think you could sit through them all, but seeing them consecutively was fantastic. It was all very Game of Thrones- like with the political intrigue/ clan fighting during the 15thC and was obviously written just before the referendum on Scottish independence last year - the final monologue in the James III play was spoken to the audience about Scottish identity/ independence from England and it was a sort of hybrid between the 15thC in costumes and the modern era with language. It was absolutely brilliant.
Of course, sitting down for 11 hours throws up a quandary of what to wear. There were a few men in kilts in the audience, but having no Scottish blood myself, I opted for comfort by wearing my favourite Joseph stretch gaberdine leggings. I know, I know - leggings are not pants, but honestly, these are a thick (elasticated) fabric and really do look like pants. I've forced some of my friends to buy them too and they are similarly thrilled with the miracle nature of these pants - comfortable, you can wash them in the machine, yet good enough to wear to the theatre or dinner out. Mine were bought a year ago in the David Jone's sales at 50% off plus another 30% on top of that but I will be buying them full price when these wear out (I think matches and netaporter carry them). I wore them with the silk shirt/ jacket/ Goossens necklace I blogged about a few posts back. Jacket necessary because even if its a warm day for some reason they like to make the theatre absolutely frigidly cold. I suppose it did give a very Scottish feel by default...
Continuing with the never ending summer, a few months ago I was telling my sister about the bargain Salvatore Ferragamo sunglasses I'd bought at Costco. I have an unfortunate habit of throwing my sunglasses in my bag at some point (after being very careful to store them in their case most of the time) where they inevitably scratch. I was particularly annoyed as I'd done this to a reasonably newish pair of Chanel sunglasses, and wasn't prepared to fork out for another pair. But my sister was unimpressed with my cheap designer sunglasses and told me that you can buy replacement lenses. Not only that but you can get them polaroid -something the designer sunglasses never seem to come in. In fact the saleswoman in Chanel went to great pains to let me know that my sunglasses were not legal to wear driving in Europe. I was able to reassure her that wouldn't be a problem for me… Anyway, back to the replacement lenses. They make the lenses for pretty much all designer sunglasses, mail them out to you and you just pop out the old ones and put in the new. If they don't carry your brand in stock, you can mail your sunglasses to them and they make a pair to suit and mail them back. Cost is around $60 for polaroid and less for the non. Can't recommend it more highly. The company is called Sunglasses fix. I've now replaced two of my old sunglasses lens and have three sunglasses on rotation.
Anyway, I'm off to do a bit of free magazine reading on my ipad before preparing lunch for the family. It's a long weekend here, and we've had a very lazy one after the past few busy weeks. I've finally managed to get stuck into the garden to do the weeding and pruning and having been too busy to download my usual rotation of about 20 design and fashion magazines from the local library I have a lot of catching up to do. Hope you had a good weekend.
view of the side garden
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