Hello, apologies for my silence - May is a busy month in our house, and if I look back over the past 2 years of blog posts they've always been a bit light on.

But I've had a bit of a binge on design books lately, so thought I'd write up my new books, some of which are new on the market, and some that are older.


Nicky Haslam's book propped with standard blogger- issue Macaron 

First up in the Interiors category there is Nicky Haslam "A Designer's Life". I have to say that I love all Nicky's previous books, and he is in my estimation one of the premiere Interior Designers in the world, so I did have high expectations with this book. But they were met - absolutely beautiful photography, interesting projects and lots of well written text explaining his approach to design and some of the clever tricks he employed to create the spaces. I think the reason why his design resonates with me is that he approaches Interiors rather like set decorating. Lighting is of prime importance, he plays with scale a lot, and uses everyday objects in inventive ways - not every piece of furniture/ object deserves a place in a Sotheby's catalogue. One example is using those plastic eagles that are supposed to scare off pigeons in his apartment after spray painting them white. He uses a lot of techniques to draw the eye and distract from less desirable features or problems. It's a good book.


Anouska's yacht

Another Interior Designer that uses theatre techniques is Anouska Hempel, and her book is equally interesting. She has a very strict aesthetic (I think her schemes are instantly recognisable as being her design) with a lot of influence from the East (probably growing up in Australia and travelling through Asia has had a lasting impression). Her use of lighting is also very theatrical - lots of up lighters and down lights, candles etc, and screens (quite an Asian influence with her use of them) to create mystery and intimacy in large spaces. She also uses a lot of black - black walls are not uncommon in her schemes. All very moody and theatrical. Anyone familiar with her background knows that Blakes, her boutique hotel that launched a thousand boutique hotels after it, has a very distinctive style, and that is trademark Hempel.



Moving onto gardens - the first book I was excited to get my hands on was Bunny Williams "On Garden Style". It was a disappointment. It's possibly a must read if you're creating a garden in the Northern Hemisphere (like, say, Connecticut )… but I think that any of Paul Bangay's design books are more informative and better from a how-to design perspective, as he is after all formally educated in these areas, as well as having years of experience with vast ranges of climate, soil type, plants etc. This book is really very place centric, and gives a lot of information on how she created her garden which doesn't necessarily translate well to anything else.


Highgrove, which is a book about Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales' garden is beautiful and is full of luscious garden photos. It explains how the garden has developed over the past 35 years showing photos of before and after and throughout the seasons, with discussion on the Prince's garden preferences, focus on organics, permaculture, the different designers who have worked on it etc etc.



The last garden book was Myles Baldwin's "Period Gardens - landscapes for houses with history". I loved this book. It looks at house styles in broad periods (e.g. Victorian/ 1920's etc) and discusses the design styles that were popular with that type of house. I'm planning a few tweaks to the front garden now that the children are not playing there so much (as they now have a large back garden post renovation), and this book resonated with me enormously. Essentially, I'd like my front garden to look like the cover, with a mix of textured plants and interesting foliage which was a hallmark of the Colonial Victorian style of garden design.


Lastly, Architecture. I thought this book looked interesting "The Practice of Classical Architecture, the Architecture of Quinlan and Francis Terry" and it was one of the more thought provoking things I've read about Architecture for a long time. Classical Architecture is largely out of favour with modern Architects, and certainly in most Architectural degree courses the world over it is completely frowned upon in favour of the Modernist style (which ironically is around 70 years old now). Much of our new design is built with lifespans of 50 years only due to the materials used (glass, aluminium and concrete which degrade). The shock of the new alongside the old is celebrated and Architects that design in this style are feted by the Architectural elite (Gehry, Foster et al). I have written before of my Design Schizophrenia - I think I'm a classicist at heart, but there is a definite push/ pull with modern design for me, much of which I was indoctrinated with at University where Classicism is definitely frowned upon (as I wrote when doing my renovation design of my house I'd never designed a pitched roof before as you're not taught it at University and unless you work extensively in domestic Architecture for a practice that does pitched roofs you're not going to pick it up. This is but one example).


This book discusses the importance of Vernacular design (Vernacular meaning place appropriate - a style particular to the area that responds to climate/ historical influences such as patterns of settlement/ and constructed out of locally available materials). A lot of modern Architecture could be placed anywhere in the world - a glass box in Australia could be placed in America, could be placed in the UK, yet conversely we are told that this is more 'honest' that a mock Victorian (for instance) building that might be of a style that fits in with surrounding design. The stripping out of ornamentation (it is most definitely frowned upon at University design classes), and the cheapening of building materials were discussed… I found this book so interesting and thought provoking. The buildings they create are authentically period appropriate, and are masterpieces of their type. If you love Georgian architecture then this book is full of amazing houses they've designed and built for people all over the world. Lord Rothermere's house Ferne Park is one that has been extensively featured in print and is a pretty remarkable place in terms of the amount of authentic detail that has gone into it (a good article about it was written by The Devoted Classicist here). But even if you're not fond of Georgian Architecture the text raised many interesting points on the future of Modern Architecture and Architectural theory.

So I think that's a long winded enough book review from me… happy reading!

27 comments:

  1. Great post Heidi!.. I have three of your list above and agree with your views - especially your views on Bunny's book. I bought Charles Faudree Country French Legacy by Jenifer Jordan. This book is a visual feast in a very over the top kind of way but I love that the photos are all well captioned and the text makes for good reading. I do recomment it! xxx

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    1. That's interesting you felt the same way about Bunny's book Jenny. I had thought I might be the lone voice of disappointment in the Blogosphere considering what high regard she is held up with! I will have a look for the book you've recommended, it sounds lovely. xx

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  2. Thanks for the book reviews, Heidi! I am going to order the period homes gardening book. I have Charles' first book on gardening at Highgrove; this looks like a nice companion!

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    1. I gave the first Highgrove book to my Parent's many years ago, and the second is a good compliment - you can really see how the garden has developed and matured and been added to. Gardens are so ephemeral it's quite fascinating to see how it looks after another 10 plus years.

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  3. Fantastic post Heidi, thought provoking as usual. I really like and appreciate the depth of your analysis. Your critique has inspired me to buy the David Watkins book. In my opinion, the essence of place and individual and contextual expression is extremely important. It provides us with points of reference and a reason to connect with man-made constructions. I am by no means opposed to ‘world architecture’ and the modernist view but not to the exclusion of everything else. That approach just like the one of classicism has its place and its time. I consider it is a great shame that the current and accepted architectural theory is so subject to faddism and dogma. It’s just so narrow minded in my view.

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    1. Ewa I really found the text completely fascinating - I was boring my husband to tears the night I was reading it as I kept reading out chunks and trying to discuss it with him, which was a bit one sided I have to say…
      I think you're spot on in saying Architectural theory is subject to faddism, which is such a shame in a way as of all the Arts Architecture is the most permanent and affects people daily in a way that others do not. There is so much hubris and posturing ego wrapped up in modern architecture as well…. obviously this book is written from the point of view of a devoted Classicist, but even when taking it with a grain of salt it was still very thought provoking and a really good read. Hope you enjoy it too.

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  4. Heidi thanks so much for the reviews! I think that book on Classical Architecture looks so interesting, I'll be trotting over to Amazon to look it up. Also Period Gardens, that looks like a beautiful book.
    Lovely to see your post this morning but I know these are busy days for you, thanks for taking the time to write these reviews. xox

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    1. Oh I've been feeling bad I've not been so good on the blogging front lately Dani, including visiting other blogs. But I promise I'll be back in full form after this month is over! Aside from Bunny's gardening book all of the other books were good reads and full of inspiring pictures. I'm sure you'd find those two you mentioned of interest being a period house lover as well xx

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  5. Hello Heidi,

    Wonderful reviews of these books, and you've now got my interest piqued in "The Practice of Classical Architecture". It sounds to be a most thought provoking book and one that I'll likely agree upon if I were to read it,which I hope I do. I had no idea classical architecture is no longer taught (although why am I surprised judging by the number of modernist buildings going up all over the place. I noticed Prince Charles wrote the Forward to this book, which would be a natural fit with his building philosophy.

    And, talking of PC, I must get my hands on the latest book on his gardens at Highgrove. I have the others and have enjoyed reading them over the years, not only for the great information on organic practices and how the garden evolved, but I enjoy the glorious photographs too.

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    1. Hi CD - I think The Practice of Classical Architecture has your name on it! It's definitely up your alley with not only the faithful period detailing, but the very interesting text. Prince Charles has fascinated me for a long time as he's really the only person that is so outspokenly critical of the 'big name' architects and their thinking. A lot of airtime is given to them, so it's refreshing to hear things from a different viewpoint. And of course his model village is pretty interesting and a place that I one day would be interested to visit.

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  6. Hmmm. Yes. Classicism v's 'modernism'. I understand completely your competing loyalties with these. Because I think that they are not entirely dissimilar. Both are looking at proportion, clean lines, limiting fussy decoration etc etc. Perhaps, of all the eclectic mixes one could have, a mix of classical furniture pieces in a modernist home is the most satisfying (warm / homey / comfortable), as shown in many of the room vignettes we've seen of your own home. You've got me thinking... Judith

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    1. Interesting to hear you say that Judith - I do like the images I see of very ornate classical rooms with stripped back modern furniture in them too… I think it can work either way. I think the problem with a lot of modern architecture is that people have been forgotten in them. They're giant sculptures, and at human scale are bland. If you walk down a street in any CBD in the world past the modern skyscrapers of commerce the human interaction is not rich - glass, steel, nothing to look at. Classical buildings may have been large scale, but at human level they still have detail that made them a more interactive experience. In a way…!

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  7. You make me laugh, my first thought when seeing the top pic 'oh the striped cup and saucer (cant think of maker off hand) and the macaron styling'

    I love classicism, in all its glory, though like Judith I like classical Georgian furniture in a very well designed modern house. It's the awful slab of cement monstrosities taking up every inch of space I cant stand and boy are there alot of them around here.

    Is Anoushka's yacht trying a bit hard? I think so .. though all the gardens are gorgeous not too controlled though I love Japanese gardens. Design schizophrenia you say !

    Always something to think about, thanks

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    1. Glad you appreciated it! The striped cups are Limoges, but mine is a Christina Re one that I was given on mother's day. Much more affordable!
      Yes, the cement monstrosities are taking over the world. But in good news they'll all be torn down in 50 years time when they degrade too badly, so they're not permanent!

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  8. Hello! I really need to get that Nicky H book and the other one I sped -read at your home about his crazy little house in the country. Want to get Higgrove too because you know how I've BEEN THERE!!!! Meanwhile I thought Blakes Hotel was really chic and glam and very theatrical. I miss travel but none on the horizon for me!! I wish you were on fb again because Pammie's snaps in the Sth of France are 11/10.

    You should buy the acanthus pot and plant it out with succulents x

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    1. You'd love the Nicky H book - he's very clever. And the Folly one is fab too. And of course you have to get the Highgrove book! The chooks don't make an appearance though, so you've got that over the book!
      The acanthus pot is a definite possibility. But I will have to sneak it in somehow as it's very 'spenny.

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  9. Loved your reviews and the sound of some of these books. Highgrove was beautiful - but was completely puzzled (stumped!) by the stumpery. Quite eccentric. Such a happy afternoon despite the dreadful weather that day.

    So sad to hear what a limited outlook the current crop of architecture lecturers espouse - and training up another crowd of young people to a similar bias. Such architectural snobbery. So interesting to read your thoughts on this.

    Have been very much enjoying the opportunity for exposure to modern French architecture, in Marseille particularly and now today in Menton with the Jean Cocteau museum, designed by the same man who created MUCEM in Marseille. Adore the old belle epoque buildings too.
    Sorry you cant's see my Facebk posts as would have valued your opinion on some of these buildings and shots. My email system has become infected with a virus so can no longer send or receive emails. Can only send FB messages and comment on blogs (though hotel's wifi often drops out and takes my half finished comments with it). Better stop now before it happens again! Pammie xxx

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    1. Hello Pammie! I got your postcard yesterday, and Loved it! Thank you so much. So sad to hear that your email isn't working though, as I did enjoy your first one, and loved seeing and hearing what you're up to.
      I have to say I'm fairly jaded by the herd's viewpoint on Architecture… I didn't enjoy my degree much at all though, it was a 5 year course of endurance, and always felt a bit of a square peg in a round hole as a result.
      I would have loved to see your photos on Facebook, but I will stand strong and not get back on it! Hope you manage to sort out your woes with the computer, and enjoy the trip!! xxx

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  10. Lots of garden inspiration here. I want to read that Highgrove one: the mother of one my school friends does part time garden tours of Highgrove as they live not too far away. I keep meaning to visit.
    I went to the OKA outlet sale last weekend and came home with four Nicky H chairs in the cream 'walpole' style. They were a steal at £100 each, but the original price was OTT (£590) so it wasn't that much of a 'saving' in my mind. There was lots of the Nicky H stuff left over in the outlet - I think largely down to the fact that the retail prices were a little crazy and didn't match the quality. Also, good for designing a room from scratch, but they were all very attention grabbing items (I'm thinking of the campaign tents here) that would only suit a few interiors.
    x

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    1. You'll have to get to Highgrove Charlotte!! Faux Fuchsia and Pamela speak so highly of it, I hope one day I'll make it there too.
      Lucky you with the OKA sale! I just had some of the faux shagreen lamps delivered for a client project, and they were fab - good quality, and look perfect for the job. We were all very happy. But I know what you mean about Nicky's range - I had a bit of a look at it (wouldn't ship it here due to prohibitive cost) and it's very distinctively Nicky. The sort of pieces that will make a point of interest in a room, but you wouldn't want to do the whole room in it as it would be too much. You did get a bargain, and I do like those chairs - they sound like they'll suit your new home perfectly from what you've described. xx

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  11. Interesting. many moons ago we used to go to the bar in Anouska's Hempel's hotel (must be near you, is it still there?//) she was big big on the truckloads of white orchids. It was fun going there and a great place to really dress up. Bit o drama. I wasn't always sure her theatrical style wore well though, maybe it was the lack of color...

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  12. Re my previous old timers comment, Naomi popped into my head as I made it, of course Anouska's hotel is in Marlebone in London, not near Adeleide Villas!

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    1. That's ok! Made me laugh. I've never been to Blake's though - back in '99 when I was living in London I wouldn't have had the cash for it! I was an impoverished Interior Design Assistant slave on subsistence wages, so a glass of champagne in Blakes was never on the agenda. Sadly!
      Pretty sure that Anouska started the orchid craze. They were all the go back when I was working there, and treated with great reverence in the office. Not like now where you pick them up at the greengrocer (or Costco, as I saw the other day!)

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    2. Heidi - now you can see the muddled madness of my mind....
      You have Costco in Australia??

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    3. we do! It's my favourite place to shop - you never know what you're going to find in there! Last week it was bolle ski helmets, the other week top of the range german taps. Or orchids!

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    4. Shoot! I don't think we have that same range of extravaganza in Oakland!

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  13. So many great books and I'm dying for Nicky Haslam's new book - I have several of his others and love them. And I see a few gardening ones I need to add to my collection. Hope you're having a great week!

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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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