via Vogue

Sometimes fashion is the leading edge in capturing the zeitgeist, and sometimes it's a follower. In this instance, when Marc Jacobs sent his models out at the recent Autumn/ Winter 2015 Ready to Wear show in New York, he was way behind the times - the prints that he used for his collection were all sourced from William Morris & Co, founder of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic movement, and were in many instances 140 years old.

via Vogue

There's a shift in Interiors and Fashion at the moment to embrace quieter, more muted tones, pattern on pattern, a bohemian vibe and to embrace individuality and the hand made.

The biggest mass appeal look in recent times via Adore Home

For the past 8 years or so the feel has been decidedly influenced by Hollywood Regency style as demonstrated above - lots of painted  bamboo furniture, bright white walls offsetting strong saturated colour and bold geometric prints, Foo dogs, bar carts, zebra print, and gourd shaped lamps (or the cockatoo lamp bases) with mismatched shades. It's a little bit preppy, strongly graphic, and has a 50's retro vibe to it. It's also been beloved of bloggers the world over (just add peonies and a colour matched macaron) and is now a look that's been widely commercially copied and filtered decidedly into the mass market with Target enthusiastically joining in.

Via Morris & Co

Via Morris & Co

The shift towards the Arts and Crafts movement comes from the current embracing of the home made, the artisanal, the bespoke… a nostalgia perhaps for the notion of individuality and honesty in design. All those people with beards running Bars who like to tell you earnestly about their specially foraged herbs arranged on the share plates and the selection of crafted artisanal beers they stock are a key leading indicator of the seismic shift in the creative sphere. When the world gets a little bit crazy, as it is at the moment with rampant mass consumerism and the instability terrorism is creating across the globe,  people seek a feel of the unique and the sense of bohemian individuality, the authenticity of provenance, and hand in hand the desire for comfort and home.

 via Morris & Co

via Morris & Co

The Arts and Crafts movement has its genesis with William Morris, principle founder in 1861. Morris was an artist, and his designs for fabrics, wallpapers, tapestries and furniture, and the approximately 600 books, published letters and papers he wrote during his lifetime about his subjects of interest were highly influential around the world. They captured the mood of the time, which was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 which displayed the mass production of consumer goods. The disappearance of the hand made and crafted - the disappearance of the artist - he and others in the movement worked in direct opposition to.

via Morris & Co

via Morris & Co

 His designs were influenced by the Medieval period, with a lyrical and flowing use of repetitive naturalistic pattern, and had a complexity and richness of design by the layering of pattern on pattern. There's a very strong play of foreground and background in his designs giving them a three dimensional quality and great depth. All his wallpapers were printed using woodblocks, and his fabrics used natural dyes which faded evenly and gave a gentle patina. The fabrics and wallpapers are still produced in England today (the company is now owned by Sanderson), with a very hand made feel to the papers and fabric produced with more modern techniques.

To modernise the range many are being recoloured to suit the current palette in interiors (the originals are also still available) with muted neutrals across the range, and foil elements in the wallpapers. Many new designs have also been created using tile patterns found at his original house (The Red House). I was at a showing yesterday for Morris & Co, and the way in which they were presenting the fabrics (as demonstrated in the images above) proves how modern they can be -  they've mixed in Mid-Century Modern furniture with the traditional wallpapers and fabrics to give a freshness and vibrancy to the designs and show how it can  fit with modern life for a younger generation of Morris enthusiasts.

A Morris & Co display at the Art Gallery of South Australia

Here in Adelaide we are very well aware of Morris's influence on design - the second largest collection of original William Morris & Co pieces are held at the Art Gallery of South Australia (the largest collection is held by the V&A in London). His biggest patron was a wealthy Adelaide family - the Barr-Smiths, who furnished 7 of their large houses with near continual shipments of rugs, stained glass windows, furniture, tapestries, wallpapers and furnishing fabrics sent from England.

Art Gallery of South Australia

The Arts and Crafts period influenced many of the very large houses and their interiors designed in and around Adelaide (Stirling in the Adelaide Hills has many of them) - Adelaide had many wealthy families at the time from Agricultural and mining booms. As tends to happen amongst friends you will often find that one will influence the others, and many of the wealthy Adelaide families collected Morris & Co and designed houses in the then fashionable Arts and Crafts style. Most of the houses have subsequently been modernised and redecorated and lost much of the richness of the original interior design schemes as a sparser aesthetic took over. A good example is below - this grand Victorian era staircase and entry hall would have originally had rich persian rug style runners on the stairs rather than pale carpet, and walls covered with a patterned wallpaper, rather than being painted out in varying shades of cream.

If you're fortunate to be in Birmingham in the UK this summer, then you'll be able to view the exhibition of Birmingham's Holy Grail tapestries at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. They are exhibited very infrequently due to their light sensitivity, but are stunningly detailed and large scale - worth a look if you can get there.

Holy Grail tapestry via Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Apparently there is also an upcoming collaboration between British clothing manufacturer Barbour and Morris & Co with Barbour jackets being lined with his iconic fabric designs.

This all just proves that everything old is new again, it's all just tweaked a smidge to make it current… and that the fickle wheel of fashion is moving yet again to embrace the Arts and Crafts aesthetic.

back corner of the garden - hard to believe this is only 6 months old.

Up until the past few days, it's been an unusually cool start to Autumn in Adelaide. This has meant that for once the weather is matching what the season says it is supposed to be - we've had rain, grey days and crisp days and nights, rather than the usual March bake of 40C weather and Autumn fashions in the stores.

David Austin "Golden Celebration"

Leaves are turning bright crimson and saffron colours in the garden, but there are still the last of the roses putting on a display as well.

I went to a lovely Afternoon Tea at a friend's house out in her garden (it's currently School Holidays) - this was the setting. It wasn't quite so serenely peaceful as it might look in this photo though, as sitting at the adjacent table were 7 children under the age of 9 all demanding constant top ups of drinks, scones and sandwiches.

My children have spent a day collecting pine cones up in the hills in my Dad's garden, which which I've created a few arrangements in lieu of flowers about the place.  

And I've been cooking up a storm out of my new cookbook, Jamie Oliver's "Comfort Food". I've always found his recipes to be very reliable. I've so far made the Moussaka and the Slow Cooked Shoulder of Pork with a fennel and potato gratin. Both were big hits, although the Moussaka was frankly very time consuming. The Pork was cooked for an Easter Lunch with my family, and was perfect as I put it in the oven the night before and let it cook away slowly overnight leaving the morning free for the egg hunt and other Eastery things with the children.

views down the side garden

With the change in season I've been turning out cupboards and drawers all through the house and taking large boxes of outgrown or worn out clothes to the Charity shop. I haven't yet read the cult book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo but may yet do so - have any of you read it? Thoughts? The clear out has left room for a couple of new Winter additions though.

Above is my new Cable Melbourne jumper in grey (this is the back view of it - love the detail in the stitching and the curved hem). I've written about Cable Melbourne before as they are my favourite knitwear brand - much of it is made in Australia and the designs are modern and flattering (and warm!). I will usually buy one or two of their excellent pieces each Winter to add to my existing repertoire of knitwear. This jumper goes well with two of my existing scarfs, one silk in grey with orange edging (it's Fleurs et Papillons de Tissus), and a more casual grey toned Mulberry one that was a gift from a friend for my 40th. I've already worn all of these combos out and about with skinny jeans and ballet flats, and once it cools down further the new leather leggings that I bought heavily reduced in the January sales from Joseph (via David Jones).

On house interiors news I finally had confirmation that the lamp order I've been patiently waiting on from the US has finally left, and is now on a very slow boat inching its way to me. I have 10 lamps in the order, so I can't wait until they're here… it will certainly be a little brighter at night in the house. I've also just ordered two more chairs for the Sitting Room/ Library. They are going to go on either side of the card table under the painting, and will be in this Neisha Crosland fabric (swatch in the photo above) that I've been wanting to use for a very long time somewhere. Believe it or not neutrals can be the hardest thing to decorate with - there are literally a million shades of beige out there ranging from grey/ yellow/ pink/ green and brown toned shades so it was a happy day to find this fabric works perfectly in the room. The cushions I've got underway are still being made up by the workroom, so I'll likely have everything arrive at once to finish off this room with the lamps/ cushions/ chairs. Fun!

And just in time for the change in season and lots of nights in front of the fire we've finally got Netflix, and I'm loving it. If, like me, you're hopeless about remembering to watch a tv series and so miss crucial episodes and lose the train of what is going on (I couldn't follow Downton Abbey after half way through Series 2 for instance) this thing is perfect. Between Mad Men and Wolf Hall starting up on Foxtel, and now Netflix it will keep me busy. 

There's the smell of wood fires hanging in the air at night, and the days are definitely getting shorter. Hope you're enjoying the change of season whether it's Spring or Autumn where you are.

The original kitchen from the real estate listing

I haven't done a Before and After of the house for a while, but I think this one is a pretty good transformation. Originally this room was the kitchen in our house, and would have been a kitchen from the time the house was built in 1901. It had last been renovated in the 1970's, and we used it as a kitchen/ dining room for the first three years we lived in the house up until the time the new extension was completed. We had made some small adjustments - during the renovations of the front of the house prior to moving in we'd bricked up one of the doors into the kitchen to the small adjacent servery (which became the children's bathroom), leaving one access point from the hallway.

and my non real estate (no wide angle lens) listing photos - this was just prior to demolition of this room

The other additional problem with this room is that the cellar is directly underneath it, and when a bathroom had been added onto the back of the house the original stairs were covered over, so a hatch had been cut out and a very steep stair/ladder added to access the cellar. As part of the extension we reopened up the original stair location which enabled us to remove the hatch in the old kitchen floor and re-board over the floors. A bedroom with cellar access would have been a little odd...

 same angle as the top photo with a bit taken out for the powder room

The kitchen was definitely past its use by date, but the main problem that I had with this space related to the change in use and the plan for the reorganisation of rooms that we made. This room faces South so gets very little natural light, not ideal for a Child's bedroom, and was something that is exacerbated by the veranda that runs around the entire perimeter of the old part of the house making it even darker. The other thing was that I planned to take out a corner of the room to create the Guest W/C/ powder room with access from a new door in the hall. This bedroom was already going to be the smallest bedroom in the house, and was becoming even smaller by removing part of it for this purpose…. coupled with it being dark, having no interesting architectural features such as cornices, deep skirting boards or a fireplace (as it was a kitchen, these things had never been put in the room), it really was the worst room in the house.

To overcome all these deficiencies I decided that the best way to deal with the small space was to build in furniture. We needed to accommodate a desk (for future study, as my son is currently only 4 years old), bookshelves, somewhere to sit, a wardrobe, bed and bedside table. The room could easily have ended up feeling crowded by all these disparate elements, but by blocking the wardrobe, bookshelves, desk and seating into a custom built in unit I designed, it freed up floor area for playing, and created a neat and practical storage solution. With the absence of visual clutter the room feels more spacious than it is.

I designed this unit to run along the wall that has the window, as our windows are unusually low it precludes having standard height furniture like a desk or bed against it as they would cover over it. So the seating for the room is a window seat with a deep cushion and built in storage under, a wardrobe to the left of this, and on the right a built in desk with bookshelves above that are covered by doors when not in use. The desk has a pin board backing to it and built in power points for a lamp and for computer charging points.

In terms of colour choices for the room, that was determined by my then 2 year old Son. I really believe it is important to involve children in the design of their bedroom. Even very small children can usually tell  you what colour they want their special space to be. I do try to balance this out though by making a room that can grow with the child into teenage years. It was therefore a slight challenge to be informed by my Son that he wanted an orange bedroom - his favourite colour. There was absolutely no way I was going to paint the walls orange - it's just not a restful colour, and I worried that he may well not want an orange bedroom as a teenager at any rate, particularly if it was so in your face. So the Anna Spiro for Porters Paints wallpaper "Higgledy Piggledy Stripe" in Chilli Coral was the perfect choice - all the white balances out the orange nicely - it's cheery and bright without being juvenile or unsophisticated. My son then said that he wanted light blue for his blind and window seat cushion - his second favourite colour. So China Seas "Aga Reverse" fabric in turquoise was the final choice (he approved all samples of wallpaper and fabric). The wallpaper needed a vibrant blue, rather than a pastel.

The main problem I then had was bedding. Unfortunately in Australia if you have a boy your choices are either blue (navy or sky) or grey bed linen. Any turquoise is usually in girls bedding and comes with flowers, as does anything with orange - usually it's balanced out with pink. In the end I ordered from the US from Serena and Lily a turquoise bedspread and matching pillow shams. I also ordered a white doona cover with orange frame border… it was irritating to have to do this, but I held off buying it for over a year in the hope that something would turn up locally that would work - nothing did.

The bed is from Lilly and Lolly (Australian company), who manufacture in Australia, and is solid Tasmanian Oak. It's the colour box bed and matching single drawer bedside table unit. I've been really happy with the quality- very solid, well made and should last a long time.

The bedside lamp is a cheapie from Freedom Furniture that fortuitously matched the turquoise colour with the shade and cord, the artwork above the bedside is from Tiggywinkle children's boutique in Melbourne who carry a large range of original artworks suitable for children. The artist is a botanical artist, so it's a beautifully detailed illustration. The other art in the room is the large framed animal alphabet scarf over the radiator, and the room really doesn't need anything more than that. I've hung all the artwork deliberately lower - you are supposed to hang art with the viewing point at eye level, but as this room is for a small child I decided to keep the scale low by hanging it lower - it works better with the low lines of the bed and bedside table too.

It's now a really cheery, cosy space that perfectly reflects the personality of its inhabitant. He loves his bedroom, and will often take himself off here to spend time looking at books on his windowseat, or playing stretched out on the floor with his cars or Lego. Hopefully it will also be a room that grows with him with only minor adjustments into his teenage years.

Wallpaper - Anna Spiro for Porter's Paint "Higgledy Piggledy Stripe" in Chilli Coral
Paint - Dulux Hog's Bristle 1/4 strength semi gloss enamel
Fabric - China Seas "Aga Reverse" Turquoise on Tint
Bedlinen - Serena and Lily "Cabin Quilt" and Sham in Turquoise, "Border Frame" duvet cover and sham in Coral
Furniture - Lilly and Lolly Colour box bed in Tassie Oak, single drawer bedside table in Tassie Oak
Lamp - Freedom Furniture
Carpet - Quest "St Louis" colour Kendall Coal
Pendant light (not seen in photos above) - Bell pendant light from Normann Copenhagen 
I've been wanting to write a post about the Dining Room for quite a while. In Australia, it's become virtually redundant in modern design to have a formal Dining Room. Our casual lifestyle means that more people have embraced the concept of open plan informal living… and devoting a space solely for formal Dining (and which will often only be used a handful of times at best per year) seems to be a waste of space.

Of course there is the other problem in that eating a meal from an actual dining table has become rare, and that more and more people fail to actually sit at a table for a meal together (or alone even). Many families, particularly those with teenagers or young adults in them, will have family members running on such varying schedules due to part-time jobs/ studying/ sport/ extra curricular activities that the act of actually sitting at one time together at a table has become a special occasion in itself due to rarity.

We all know the benefits that come with sharing a meal with others, so this post is not going to become a lecture on the importance of sitting down at a table while eating/ table manners/ placement of cutlery/social history of the dining room etc. I thought I'd instead discuss the selection of dining furniture.

Firstly: table size. Generally speaking you require 60cm per person in length for a long dining table. For a round table, you'll need a 135cm diameter to seat six, 150cm diameter to seat 8 and so on. When working out furniture placement in a room and table width, you'll need at least 1 meter behind a chair for push out/ pull in and general circulation space. It is always a good idea to get out a tape measure in the actual space and measure out your proposed table size, and use newspapers on the floor to mark it out properly so you can visualise it and make sure it works.

In terms of width of a table, a 1metre wide rectangular table is quite narrow - you won't be able to put much down the centre of the table if you like to put out dishes/ platters/ bowls with food on them. 1.2m wide is ideal, however it is better to go narrower if you don't have the 1m clearance around the table for the chairs as noted above.

John Stefanidis design circa 1990's

Tables can be very expensive, and generally it is they that make the most impact in a room in a decor sense. But I have to caution that the money you should invest in your setting should be in the chairs. If you consider how much wear and tear the chair gets, along with the fact that if you may end up sitting down for a long meal with friends for many hours (and therefore experience a sore back from a poorly designed chair), the chairs are the item worth investing in. You want something that is comfortable and durable with some degree of aesthetic flair.

If you buy cheap chairs you will get the same result that I have had with my horrible Eames replica chairs. They are uncomfortable to sit in, most are on the verge of collapse, and we are one short as one collapsed completely and could not be resuscitated. When we have people over we have to caution them on how to sit in the chairs so that they don't fall through the backs (it's happened a few times). We then spend most of the meal in a heightened state of anxiety as our guests's chairs creak and make cracking sounds, terrified they may end up on the floor. They were cheap, they are 6 years old, but I am not happy that they are going into landfill so soon after they were made. Such a waste on so many levels. The chairs were $100 each, which is pretty cheap in Australia for a new dining chair. So having said that, we bought 10 chairs, and $1,000 seemed like a lot at the time considering that the dining table was so expensive and we were paying for the entire new dining furniture all at once. Now, six years later… it seems like we've wasted the money. With hindsight I'd far rather have bought fewer, more expensive (durable) chairs and gradually built it up to a set of 10 then have bought the cheap ones all at once, with an end result of broken, uncomfortable and essentially unusable chairs. The saying "when you buy quality, you only cry once" is pretty apt.

my broken Eames Replica chairs

So the short version of that tale of woe is that now I advise people to put the money into the chairs. A cheaper dining chair that is well made is around the $400 mark when new (in Australia) with prices going up from there. $850 will buy you a real Eames dining chair, and there are of course chairs that are upwards of $3000 each depending on who designed them.

Another consideration when looking to buy your dining furniture is to consider who is using it. If you have a young family, or a family of teenagers then buying a highly polished "perfect" looking dining table may end up causing you a lot of angst if your family are not terribly well behaved with it. While I do not advocate waiting until your children leave home to buy good furniture and making do with the shabby in the meantime, you just have to buy wisely so that your choice reflects your lifestyle particulars and also has some aesthetic value. Our dining table is made from recycled wood and has a distressed finish. This has worked well with babies and small children who have scratched and banged and added to the general distress in a way that works with the original design. It was not my first choice of table - that was a more perfect looking modern designer table…. but having returned from a day of looking at tables in showrooms and then watching my oldest child (who was 2.5 at the time) smash his little fork into the existing dining table a few times that night while having his dinner, the distressed finish and more rustic table was chosen.

 my rustic style dining table in our casual living area

Similarly, buying upholstered chairs when you have toddlers or young children is a recipe for disaster. There are a lot of chairs available in either plain timber finishes or in polypropylene that are wipeable, and it's far better to accommodate the actuality of your life, than to have chairs that are encrusted with the remnants of meals past.

my Sideboard

 my sideboard with food served buffet style for a dinner party

I'd also suggest that if you can possibly accommodate somewhere else to serve food off, you'll be very pleased to have it for larger meals. We have our French antique cherry wood side board, which is extra wide. It's perfect for putting out platters of food and doing a meal buffet style, or for holding all the bottles of wine and extra things for meals that are already plated and served to table. If you're in an open plan living room your kitchen island bench may double up for this, but if you can accommodate the extra bit of furniture it's well worth it as it will keep the kitchen free for the actual act of cooking.

rustic table dressed up for a dinner party

In terms of formal dining in a separate room, things have changed drastically in the formal dining room in the past 10 years. For a start, as more and more people have done away with having a special dedicated stand alone room, the very formal furniture has naturally been jettisoned as well. Auction rooms are awash with Georgian, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian era Dining furniture from extension tables that will accommodate up to 14 or 16, sets of balloon back dining chairs, and large and heavy sideboards. In the early 1980's Victorian furniture was highly fashionable, as were large formal dining rooms, and now with our more casual lifestyle they are most definitely not. Like anything, it's cyclical so if you're after a bargain for the future and have room to accommodate it then a formal table and chairs might be a good investment. The big tip is that "brown furniture" as it has been called in a slightly derogatory manner for the past 15 - 20 years is starting to become fashionable again, so if you're interested in antiques these are the things to buy now. And if you're someone who has adult children that have stated they're not interested in inheriting your cherished family antiques, sit tight as they may yet change their mind.

Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece's Dining room in London via

It always feels special to me to be invited to someone else's home for  meal - no matter if it's a simple Lasagna and a salad (as one friend used to make for us in Melbourne - she would say she wasn't a good cook, so would make what she was good at, and wouldn't use the excuse that it wasn't gourmet fare and multiple courses to not have people over). The act of hospitality is a great pleasure when we are living in a world so rushed, and in which it's becoming so difficult to make meaningful connections due to the pace of life. It's most definitely something worth celebrating with some decent dining furniture.

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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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