Autumn leaves on a Crimson Glory vine

Well, it's been a long time. I have so much I've wanted to write about, that I barely know where to start, but thought, in light of the Corona virus worldwide lockdowns and some unexpected time, I would write a blog post that would take all our minds off the horror we currently find ourselves assaulted by around the world. So this blog post will be light in tone, and full of things I've found over the past months that I've been absent from here, and give everyone things to think about, read, and distract from daily reality.


Books: I didn't get a chance to write on the blog when Jenny Rose-Innes published her long awaited book "Australian Designers at Home" in November, featuring the houses of 20 Australian Interior Designers.... and which includes me! If you haven't already bought a copy it's now available in the UK and USA, as well as locally, and features 20 Australian Interior Designers homes, all of which are very different from one another. It includes interviews with each designer on their design approach, how they became a designer, and the way in which they designed their most personal spaces - their own homes.

Magazines: For a long time the Australian Design magazines have been fairly uninspiring - they are all the same. So much so that I am suspicious we're actually purchasing catalogues, as the same Italian chair or designer light fitting will feature in literally every different house in the issue of the magazine, naturally alongside an ad for the store that supplies it.

For this reason my favourite design magazines are World of Interiors and English House and Garden. English House and Garden have very kindly put up their entire May issue free to download on their website. I always find interesting new sources for lights or fabric or garden furniture in this magazine, and really appreciate the fact that the houses featured aren't so overly styled as the Australian Magazines tend to favour - they feel lived in and logical (no chairs positioned in front of stairs for a shot). The actual website is also excellent with lots of links to articles from past issues - here's the link.

I subscribed to the online weekly newsletter Airmail late last year, and love it. It delivers a new edition once a week (Sunday morning here) full of interesting articles and recommendations that feels like a really good magazine section of a weekend newspaper. Based out of the USA, it has a global outlook, and a slight Vanity Fair-ish feel (the founder was a former Editor of Vanity Fair, so this is no coincidence). Link here

Watching & Listening:

Screenshot from Rita Konig's "Create Your Perfect Home" course

Late last year, Nicola Lawrence (who used to import beautiful fabrics and wallpapers to Australia) tipped me off that Rita Konig (English decorator) had put up a new online course, called Create Your Perfect Home, that brought all her knowledge and experience to you in your own home, and that it was excellent. Courses with Decorators have become very popular in Australia, generally focussing on Interior Decoration and overall style. I had been toying with doing 1 day workshops on renovating/ designing house extensions for those going it alone without a designer (rather than taking a decoration slant), however I think Rita has done such a good job of combining all of these things in her course that I, along with all the others, am now redundant. I really enjoyed her style of presenting, her advice echoes pretty much everything I've ever written about on this blog about finding your own style and designing for your actual life, and getting the fundamentals right first before fussing with the fabric on the lampshades, and I really feel given everyone is sitting around at home this is something that a lot of people will be able to take elements away from and action in their own home, even if her style is not your style. Given the high cost of the design days that have been offered in Australia, this is a very cost effective way of getting loads of useful information and sources. Link here

Podcasts are something I tend to listen to while I'm drafting in my studio, or driving a long distance in my car (I loathe commercial radio stations). One of my favourites is the House Guest podcast by English Country & Town style. They interview creatives in London - people that make things, antique dealers, decorators, designers of fabric etc. Really interesting and enjoyable. Link here

For those looking for something less home design oriented, and more intrigue/ history slanted the Podcast The Ratline, is excellent. A BBC investigation on the disappearance of a high ranking Nazi in the aftermath of the war, and where he ended up under a new identity it's hard to believe it's all true (he even had a movie acting career, and friends in the Vatican). It investigates his eventual death from poisoning (or was it). Completely gripping, not at all sensational, and excellently presented. Link here


I don't really have anything to show you on a "wearing" front, as I usually do. It's all the same old dresses on rotation. So I thought I'd share some furniture/ home things instead.

Sunny Stanton & Co

Firstly, I've been loving the "home" sections on companies such as Moda Operandi, Mr Porter, and Matchesfashion. They are full of beautiful glasses to drink an evening apertif in, things to set your table with, scented candles, throws and bibelots. These are items that are usually difficult to come by, unless you happen to be in the Cotswold and can visit Cutter Brooks shop

Sunny Stanton & Co

But closer to home, my friend Kal, whom many of you follow on his personal Instagram (he has amazing flair and style and for a long time I thought he as a decorator), opened a shop last year called Sunny Stanton & Co on Oxford Street, Paddington (Sydney). Like many small businesses things are hard at the moment to continue trading when no one is out and about. I've bought loads of lamps for clients from him since he opened, and he also has absolutely beautiful furniture that I've not seen elsewhere in Australia. Full of handy pieces like dressers, side tables, coffee tables (always so hard to find), porcelain like Blanc de Chine, ikat napkins and beautiful glassware he will ship anywhere in Australia and has a lot of things on sale at the moment. The shop Instagram is here .


Dinner for two (not five)

We've been trying to support local restaurants who have had to close to dine in patrons, and are now instead doing delivered meals and trying hard to keep their staff employed. We are treating it like a night out, and ordering as if we were sitting in the restaurant, with a couple of courses, rather than just as the convenience take away usually is. One of our local favourite restaurants is Orso, so this was dinner last weekend (the children ate pizza elsewhere in the house) delivered by one of the chefs to our house from their shortened menu for home delivery. I'd set the table outside with my Juliska/ Isis Ceramics plates as it was one of our last warm Summery nights, and we told the children we were Out, not home, and didn't want to hear about who was annoying whom inside... this worked fairly well!

Like many, I'm finding the supermarket shop a completely depressing experience. Full of weirdos in pyjamas and gas masks hoarding toilet paper and flour, the shelves are empty of many pantry staples, such as bread. For those self isolating in metropolitan Adelaide, Skala Bakery are now doing free home delivery of just-baked bread, family sized quiche, pizza bases, Cottage pies and little sweet treats like lamingtons, hot cross buns and donuts. They have an easy to use online shop and I highly recommend it, particularly if you're stuck at home now trying to home school your children....! Link here

New garden terraces

Lastly, many in Adelaide are aware that late last year we listed and sold our house. This was because, slightly spontaneously (we were not actively looking), we found a new one that we couldn't let get away. The new house is quite a long term project - there is an 18 acre heritage listed garden, and a large-ish heritage listed Georgian style house that needs a little bit of revamping (starting with the electrics - I am a big advocate of always doing the rewiring of an old house before you move in). It's going to keep me busy for some time to come. I will try to post some bits and pieces on the house, and have been sharing tiny snippets on my Instagram account.

Here in Adelaide this weekend has been wet, and cooler....the days are shortening and day light savings ended this morning. Leaves are changing colour and in this strange new world we live in it feels rather like the end of time..... things are slowing down. I've been baking cakes, making easy family meals, and spending a lot of time reflecting. I know a lot of people are feeling lonely, frustrated and anxious. I hope you manage to find some things in this post to take your mind off things and bring some respite and peace.

Everything I have loved for a long time, I have slowly started to .... not like quite so much, and it's all thanks to social media.

I seem to have a problem whereby if I see something too many times, with too many other people liking it/ owning it/ lusting after it, I get very turned off of it. If something becomes a mass trend, then it most definitely loses its cache for me, particularly when it's filtering down to the mass market and is inevitably butchered and bastardised in the process.

Exhibit A - Chinoiserie.

Chinese Bedroom at Belton House via National Trust UK

Very long term blog readers will remember me banging on about Chinoiserie hand painted wallpaper many years ago. I first fell in love with De Gournay's chinoiserie, hand painted wallpaper in about 1999 when I was living and working in London. I think the company had only just been launched, and it was not very big, and had a very small marketing budget in an era where getting a few columns in English House and Garden magazine was marketing gold. Their designs were based on the Chinoiserie wallpapers seen in stately homes in the UK, originally decorated in the 1700's. 

For years I dreamt of one day having a room in a beautiful hand painted chinoiserie wallpaper, but that slowly has changed over the past few years as everyone started posting and reposting images of Chinoiserie wallpaper on Instagram, and the big interiors fabric and wallpaper firms, like Schumacher and Lee Joffa produced panel based wallpaper in Chinoiserie design (with a pattern repeat, unlike the original which was more a panoramic design for the entire room without a repeat). It isn't that cheap either, but equally a room isn't going to cost you $30,000, so that's a win/win for the mass market. As the number of images of Chinoiserie increased, so too did my disinterest in having a chinoiserie room.

Exhibit B - Bamboo Cutlery

Aerin Lauder table setting

For a long time I've been contemplating buying bamboo handled cutlery to use for casual dining. I've nearly bought some on several occasions, but hesitated and am now at a point where I'm thinking I won't buy it at all. The Art of Dining ran last week at the NGV (Melbourne's Art Gallery), and they invited a bunch of well known designers to set a table... many of whom posted images of their tables on Instagram. Of course there was bamboo cutlery galore, as we designers tend to like similar things. Plus there are now quite a few people selling it very cheaply on instagram based shops, but it's nothing like the expensive version of it by the likes of Buccellati, or some of the French makers. 

Buccelati "Tahiti" via

The diffusion stuff is cheap, you can probably bend a fork in half with your hand, it'll fall apart in the dishwasher under heat, it only comes with a fork, knife and spoon and none of the other pieces in a proper cutlery set (entree sized knife and fork, tea spoon etc). And so, I sit on the fence. No purchase made.

Exhibit C - Wicker wave console

via Soane

The London based company Soane, has for many years made a console out of wicker with an elegantly waved base to it. They are absolutely hellishly expensive (hand made in Britain, and to a very high standard), and I've often thought how perfect they are for an informal living room, or conservatory style setup. They're not a concept original to Soane though, I might hasten to add. Mario Torres, a Mexican/ American wicker artist in the 60s and 70s (now deceased) first started making fantastical items out of wicker - I particularly love his parrot and monkey lamps. 

He also made a ghost table (as he called it), which was a console and a side table with a waved base to it, as if the wicker was a draped tablecloth. Soane's riff is an elegant take on it, however after a bunch of designers started posting images of it a few years ago, it's now trickled into the mass market- one of the large furniture wholesalers recently emailed their new stock to me via newsletter with a cheap version prominently featured... and so it will trickle into the homewares shops of Australia. I have to say that side by side to Soanes it's not nearly so  elegantly proportioned. Unfortunately these are going to be in every shop and "Hamptons style" interior in Australia, and so will end my love of the wave base wicker.

Rose St Trading (Melbourne) shop window, with aforementioned console via

So what exactly is the problem with everyone else liking what I like? The main problem is that when things trickle into the mass market, they become less about being something in good taste and special, and more about a trend. And a trend is a bad thing, as you then get very bad derivatives of it, which in turn render the original source tainted by association. Interestingly I have had several clients specifically request things that are different from their friends "I don't want what all my friends have" is a common refrain, so I know I'm not alone in not wanting to blindly follow the herd.

The main problem with something becoming mass market is that the derivative, trend based item will have different proportions, or perhaps a slightly different colour.... it will look a little off. This is not unlike fast fashion versus couture. The trend from Gucci trickles down to Zara, but in translation the fabric is cheap, the seams are wobbly, the print is garish, and it's never quite "right". This means that in time it ends up at the local thrift/ Op shop or in landfill. And it's exactly the same with the interiors world. The wallpaper might just end up stripped off, but the bamboo handled cutlery will split in the dishwasher, or pit from the cheap stainless steel being used. The wicker will be discarded as a new decorating phenomenom comes to the fore.

There is nothing wrong with finding a bargain, or using a few cheap pieces to fill out a room. The problem is that so much of this is finding its way into a house, discarded in a new cycle in a few years and then ending up in landfill. The original home diy decorator has chosen these items for their house because they are fashionable and everyone else has them. Not because they are invested in them as a piece of design. Good design should be forever - the original source of these trends are timeless and will outlast the cycle from their mass market derivatives. The problem is that in the meantime I can barely open up Instagram or a magazine without seeing every basic thing I love turned into a trend and ruined for me. And it seems I'm not alone. 

The Bible of British Taste (Instagram), recently posted this image (above) from his house, and his caption made me laugh, along with the comments. The wallpaper is Cole & Son "Hummingbird", and is very old - it dates from the 19th Century, and is still in production. He lamented that every High Street boutique change room in the UK was now covered in it, so it had become a cliche, along with the cluster wall hang that he had over the fireplace. Overuse renders everything hackneyed. While his cluster wall is undoubtably superior to all the ones that one of my friends has labelled "Op Shop Art" walls, with a derisive tone (for overseas readers, Op shops are Thrift stores) they're all over the world now.  Let's all fill a wall with rubbish "Art" which is personally meaningless to us, hang it in a cluster arrangement for effect, and fill in that blank space we've inevitably got from painting all our walls white, just like everyone else. 

It means that designers are scratching and searching for something different constantly, and everything looks dated before it's even the new. Where will this all end? Unfortunately I don't know. Social Media is great to share information on, but unfortunately our appetite for the new and the now means we all like the same things at once, and then ditch them unceremoniously a few months later. Vale Slow Design - it seems we're all in such a rush to finish our decorating and have a photo shoot, that we don't look for quality, take our time or fill in the blanks with meaningful pieces. 

It's been a while between blog posts. Life is busy, and the year has ticked over. I thought I'd just share a few random bits and pieces from the past 6 months, and things that I'm thinking about at the moment.

 my green shoes - love the columns

One thing that I've been getting into lately are Podcasts - I know, I'm late to the whole thing. I find drafting very boring, and I can easily spend a day shut up in my studio on my own, drafting away and not speaking to any real, adult people. Usually I just listen to music, and sometimes that is nice when in the mood, but other times it's dull, as drafting is quite mechanical once the actual design stuff is done and dusted.

So, podcasts have kept me company. There's a podcast out there on every topic, but of course I'm interested in the ones on design. I've been enjoying the Business of Home podcast, which is American, and which focuses on the homewares/ design environment from a business perspective, as well as a design one. I first off listened to one by Nina Campbell (English Decorator) on her career, which was very interesting (she had posted about it on her instagram, which alerted me to the podcast station), but then dipped into the archives and found some very interesting people being interviewed, and some very interesting viewpoints. The interview with designer Bunny Williams touched on a lot of topics of note, some of which included the fact that a younger generation of designers don't actually go out into shops to source fabrics and furniture and things, and do all their sourcing from the internet. This has lead to a decline in bricks and mortars shops (coupled with the high rents it's spelt their demise), as well as design centres being empty of actual designers looking at things.

The interior of Jamb, on Pimlico Road in London. They make reproduction mantle pieces, lights and also sell antiques.

This is true the world over. In places (like Adelaide), where you don't have access to everything the world has, internet sourcing can be very useful, but in places like London and New York, getting out and about and touching and seeing things brings a whole new inspiration and quality to your design. Just being in London during design week last year in October was fantastic to me to actually see fabrics and furniture and trends in person.

Inside Cox London, makers of stunning bronze furniture and light fittings. I'm desperate to use their beautiful oak leaf chandelier somewhere. They take inspiration from Giacometti and also have a strong naturalistic bent to their designs

Bunny also lamented that no one knows anything anymore, something that Nina Campbell also echoed. The lack of knowledge or appreciation on antiques, art, or how to live. When the Kardashians are featured heavily in Architectural Digest, you know things are really bottoming out in the style/ life stakes. They both decried the rise of the Instagram decorator - someone not necessarily educated (but also, crucially, not trained) in design. As I've noted in previous blog posts, there is  a world of difference in a well designed space and an eye catching photo designed for Instagram or a catalogue or magazine. Their view was that being interned to a big design firm was an invaluable part of their career, and made them the designers that they are today. The rise of the TV reality star decorator is a particular frustration here in Australia for a lot in the industry...

One other thing that Bunny touched on was the reality of manufacturing - she manufactures her home line (furniture, lamps, objects) in Vietnam, rather than the US. She made some interesting points on ethical manufacturing, plus the fact that while it's nice to think that a crafts person in the USA will create a lamp, it will cost 3 xs the price of the Vietnamese lamp. The average person can't actually afford the craftsman lamp, nor could it be made in quantity. So it's therefore a practical necessity to manufacture elsewhere. It's about accessibility in design. Not everyone can afford craftsman/ high quality things, but should they be denied that?

The reason why I found all this so interesting was that during the week a storm in a pen pot erupted on Instagram.

Bridie Hall, who is a "maker" (as she has sometimes termed herself - craftsman or designer is another term) and who has a shop in London with Ben Pentreath (Architect darling of the Prince of Wales set)  called Pentreath and Hall, took issue with a design of hers being ripped off by a High street chain. H&M are obviously a very big target to take on, however Bridie was calling them to task over a direct copy, as she though it, of her well known alphabet pen pots. I myself bought an "H" when on a speed walk through Liberty in London in October, and it now lives on my studio desk. She was upset that H&M had done a very cheap version with a candle in it, in similar shadow font typography and were selling them in their stores having had them manufactured in China - hers are made in London. Lots of outrage ensued on Instagram, and H&M within about 24 hours issued an apology and pulled the offending item from stores.

The thing that was interesting to me, though, was that things were quite skewed on Instagram, and the pitch fork brigade had been whipped up into a frenzy over it all, out to get blood from H&M. Many people commenting didn't realise that the offending candle did not in fact have a single alphabet letter on it, it actually said "Hi" (turned around in the photo she posted so you couldn't see the i). There was definitely enough difference in the insipid colours they'd used, the squat shadow font style and fact it was a candle and not a pen pot for it to pass muster with a legal team. Was this copying, or evolving the design inspiration?

And so it was the comments that I found quite fascinating. From the anonymous person that pointed out that her inspiration for many things in her range came from Fornasetti and hers were therefore derivative of it so why the outrage, to the people saying well, so it is, I'll still buy your pen pot over the candle because it's so much nicer and who knew that such small changes to font size and colour could make such a difference in making something look less designer and really quite cheap. Others pointed out that the masses couldn't afford her expensive pen pot, so buying an approximation wasn't exactly eating into her market. Of course the general consensus was that this was an outrageous rip off of a small designer by a big company, that would mass produce something that cheapened her original design and then discard it after the fad was over. Listening to podcasts about the current trend- driven design, and the fact that people jump on things and then discard them and that sped up cycle we're now on with the Internet making these cycles shorter and shorter made for an interesting tie in.

poor quality photo of Villa D'Este interior in Tivoli - all Trompe L'Oeil painted columns, curtains and Cardinal bits and pieces

Of course, designers take inspiration from others - very little is completely new anymore, and this was something Bridie also noted in the comments on her instagram post. When I was in Tivoli, Italy we visited Villa d'Este, whose famous gardens and equally famous villa are a Renaissance treasure. The interior was a surprise to me - I had seen many photos of the gardens, but hadn't realised how richly painted the interiors were. This room, above, the Cardinal's study, was of particular interest as it had Trompe L'Oeil walls with his accoutrements on it - his hat, books, and other personal effects. It reminded me strongly of the much lauded Bunny Mellon's gardening room at her house Spring Farm. In it, she had the walls painted with her gardening things - favourite hat, a ribbon with her wedding rings, her trowel etc. Bunny would most certainly have visited Villa D'Este, and did her own riff on it. Of course, she is then much copied too, and I'm sure versions of her summer house are out there done by others.

Bunny Mellon's garden room with Trompe L'Oeil via Architectural Digest

Aside from Podcasts, I've also been watching the Quintessence YouTube house tours. They visit people in the design industry and walk through their house, chatting about why they did certain things, or highlighting interesting design details. I find that photographs can manipulate the way you view a space. With Instagram, the introduction of the stories feature a few years ago was quite informative. Houses that had a clever amateur photographer behind the lens (and many took their photos on proper cameras, not iphones) have huge followings. When they started dipping their toes into insta stories and touring their houses, it suddenly exposed them for the rather bland suburban houses that they actually are. I noted many of them then stopped the videos. This is where the Quinessence tours are so good - you're looking at houses by top designers, and generally they're even better than they were in photographs. My favourites have been Richard Shapiro, Gil Shafer (how to make a new house look old), Brooke and Steve Gianetti's Patina Farm, and the more recent Lulu Lytle of Soane, London fame with amazing use of pattern and colour. Seeing the way the light moves through the rooms, the arrangements of furniture as it really is rather than placed for a good photo makes them so much more interesting to me.

Photo I took in Soane's London showroom in October - loved the green wicker and the fact it's a decent sized drinks table.

And so, while I haven't blogged in an age and probably, if I thought about it hard enough, have better and more worthy things to write about, another random thought this week was the realisation that I've got some sort of green obsession at the moment. I've always loved blue, but recent purchases in both the home and wardrobe have revolved around green. Late last year I denuded my living room of other coloured cushions to focus on green, and to better reflect the garden outside. Perhaps I'm seeking soothing inner peace from Mother Nature in these trying times?

ARossGirl via Netaporter about 9 months ago

I went to school drinks on Friday night wearing a green silk dress, above, which fortuitously matched green shoes (Aquazzura "Wild Things") I already had from a year and a bit ago, and green earrings I purchased from a friend's "bubbles and baubles" evening before Christmas. I have to admit that I had low expectations of the "baubles" on offer at the drinks having been to a fair few of these things in the past where you're pushed to purchase things you don't want after a glass of champagne.... and I thought they'd most likely be imported plastic "jewels" via Alibaba's Chinese merchants. Much to my surprise my friend Fiona's Aunt actually designs and makes the earrings and neck pieces and clutches out of leather and Swarovski crystal (they're very lightweight) and they are absolutely stunning. Her company name is Susan Y and her website is here. I bought my green earrings (below) to match my dress (above), and another different pair in gold that go beautifully with a lightweight brocade coat dress thing I have. Highly recommend having a look.

These are my earrings - the Olivia round gemstone with malachite

me in green Scanlan dress which is a wardrobe stalwart

At any rate I was a vision in green at school drinks. I guess I've got into colour blocking.  But that's not the only green dress I have. My favourite work/ casual/ going out for dinner dress is green (purchased under duress when shopping with Romy whose instagram is here, and for that purchase I'm forever grateful for as it's definitely my favourite does- everything- dress). That was this time last year, and this year Scanlan and Theodore have put it out in blue. I was very tempted to buy it in another colour, however I think it's already sold out (in just 2 weeks! Maybe try instore if you're interested in it). I wear it with espadrilles for work in Summer,  or dress it up with nude heels for a night out, and in Winter I wore it with a thin black knit top underneath, knee high black suede boots and tights, and my leather jacket. What is better than a transeasonal dress? I packed it for my trip to Europe in September/October and it managed the different dress situations (also wore it with flat white leather trainers for walking and sight seeing) and temperatures with ease.

Family dinner with my inlaws 

I've recently increased the amount of green table linen I have by purchasing a table cloth that matched my napkins from Birdie Fortescue. It just feels fresh on a hot day, and I'm liking using tablecloths again after many years abstaining. It goes perfectly with my cabbageware too. I used the raffia wrapped water glasses that I found reduced at Foodland Frewville (local supermarket chain in South Australia). The white ceramic acorn thingy is from Puglia in Italy, and I carried it home in my hand luggage.

Highly styled blurry photo of book on my lap....

On to books. I read a lot over the Summer holidays, and I highly recommend "All the Light we Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr if you haven't read it already - it won the Pulitzer prize in 2015. Set in France during WW2, the story of a blind French girl and a German orphan, beautifully and poetically written, but such a plot driven story line during the liberation of France, that it will definitely be made into a movie at some stage. 

I've read a bunch of coffee table books, some better than others, but one I'm enjoying a lot is "A Food Lover's Pilgrimage in France" by Dee Nolan. It's essentially about the three ancient pilgrim routes that join up with the Camino in Spain, and that are lined with the Monasteries and all that was associated with them at the time and that has continued into present day - wine production, specialist food delicacies and the associated agriculture process, architecture and stunning scenery. It's full of stories of restaurants, wineries, producers, and I now desperately want to go. Alas, I won't be going anywhere exciting for a while, but an excellent read if you are a foodie or a francophile or just want a little bit of armchair travel.

And so, onto food. Cooking at the moment revolves around simple food as it's Summer and very hot. We tend to entertain fairly impromptu and family style in Summer with lots of other people's kids here, and so meals tend to be a little thrown together and need to be quick and easy. One cake I've made a few times is absolutely fantastic - super easy, large enough for a crowd, and the apricots, which are in season at the moment, are perfection on it. I've also made it with nectarine slices, so it's easy to change up if you have no apricots to hand.

Viennese Apricot Cake from Delicious magazine

180 gm unsalted butter
160gm caster sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Cups or 225gm plain flour
pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
10 small apricots

Heat oven to 180C/ 355 F
Grease and line a 28 x 20cm pan (11 x 8 inch approx)
in a food processor/ mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale, then add eggs one by one. Stir in vanilla add flour, salt, baking powder and combine until a smooth batter.

Pour into tin, stud the cut halves of the apricot across it and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool to room temperature, cut into squares and dust with icing sugar. Delicious with a dollop of double cream on the side.

And with that, I'll finish up. I've had a lot of trouble with blogger lately - Google seem to want to make it so difficult to use that everyone will go away. There's a mountain of spam that comes through, even with comments set off the anonymous tab, and I myself have had trouble commenting on comments made on my own blog posts. I'll persist, but may have to change platforms at some point, which will be a definite technological challenge for me! Hope you've enjoyed this random post!

I think the most hackneyed and bandied about word in Interiors, Fashion, and lifestyle in general is Luxury.

Everyone, it seems, wants a luxury bespoke life, however there are very few in the world that can actually have one in the true sense of the word - that would be reserved for Oligarchs and Billionaires who can live at a level you occasionally glimpse in things like glossy coffee table books.

Luxury is often used to imply scarcity - people will say the ultimate luxury is time. However Luxury as a term has been hijacked by marketers and big international conglomerates to conjure illusions of material wealth. Queuing up outside a "luxury" good store to buy something expensive and supposedly rare, as seen above, is not exactly a luxury experience in my book.

Luxury isn't just about the price tag associated with something and the ability to purchase that item. For many people it comes with a log of baggage around the experience of purchasing the item. A book I have mentioned before on the blog "I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon)" contained an anecdote, written in a rather bitter manner, about how after the author had sold his Andy Warhol painting, his (now ex )wife bought a Chanel suit. He accompanied her to the boutique and as he was waiting he chatted to the sales assistant helping his wife and told her he'd just sold the painting so was stumping up for his wife's "dream" suit. He later found out from his wife that apparently this ruined the entire experience for her. Part of her dream wasn't just in buying the suit, it was wrapped up with the entire experience of pretending she could buy it easily, and having the sales women fuss around her.... the luxury was the fantasy feeling she was getting from the experience as a whole, not just in the actual garment.

I've danced around the topic of Luxury on this blog for many years, be that what it means in fashion or in life in general... but I was recently reflecting on it again because I was asked to articulate what Luxury at home meant to me.

Certainly some of the push back I've had on the blog in the past has been the umbrage that some have felt at my suggestion that people should question spending large amounts of money on heavily logo'd luxury goods with dubious design merits in their house. Luxury has been democratised, and it really has very little to do with whether you can personally afford something (hello credit!) and there seems to be almost a sense of entitlement to items branded as luxury goods being available to all. So what exactly is it that makes them luxurious if everyone can buy them, and you have to queue up in order to do so, like some sort of Communist bread line?

via John Jacob Interiors

I have decided, after a lot of deliberation, that Luxury is a feeling that is somewhat fleeting (it can wear off), and comes down to three things: Ease, Comfort and Appearance, in that order, and really has very little association with the money aspect.

via Veranda

Ease of living feels luxurious. This can mean a lot of different things, but I think for most people (who do not have staff) this boils down to a house works for you, not you for the house. An example of this is that in recent years a lot of people have added bathrooms to their dream outer suburban homes at alarming rates. It's not unusual for a suburban McMansion to have 5 bathrooms, one for each bedroom, plus an extra WC or powderoom, whereas a house in the same location with people with the same earning ability would have had only one bathroom not that long ago. Luxury in this instance has been interpreted in having large amounts of personal space. The major problem with this is that unless you have staff, then you have 5 bathrooms to clean every week. The house is not working for you, you are working for your house, and this doesn't feel luxurious if you're the one scrubbing the bathrooms of your children.

Excerpt above from Imogen Taylor's "On the Fringe" about her time at Sybil Colefax and John Fowler.  I found it a very interesting observation that people with a lot of money didn't actually know how to live well... and that their Interior Designers were teaching them.  It plays into the idea that luxury living isn't about the cost of something, although a lot of people assume that it is. 

Back on track, comfort, the next key component of luxury comes from the extra thought you might put into a house that makes it tailored to how you live in it. It's about having a table for your drink next to the comfortable chair you like to sit in. It's the kitchen that is easy to cook in because everything is where you need it, and it doesn't require traipsing up and down to fetch things, or hauling things out of cupboards constantly to get things out from the back that you need. It's a restful night's sleep because you have blackout blinds, or a house that is warm in Winter and Cool in Summer. Feeling supremely comfortable is a luxurious sensation - anyone that enjoys the feeling of sliding into fresh sheets on a bed and the luxuriously expansive feeling that can bring will know what I am getting at.

via John Jacob Interiors

Then you get to appearance, which is the part that many people jump to initially. Some things look luxurious, perhaps because they require commitment, in a surface sense, to keep their appearance looking that way (shiny surfaces are often associated by people as being "luxurious", however they all require a lot of maintenance to keep them that way, perhaps why they are associated with luxury as they imply staff that keep everything looking immaculate). Appearance can also mean an attention to detail that is beyond the norm to make it feel luxurious.

So where does this lead us? The most famous Modernist Architecture quote is "form ever follows function' (Louis Sullivan), and the modernist movement lead to the stripping out of fluff and extraneous detail down to the machinations of living, ironically often leading to fairly uncomfortable interiors and houses. I am (obviously) not a minimalist in this sense, and love detail, ornamentation and the softening and comfort that it brings, but I think this still gets to what is what is true attainable luxury.

If your house works well, then that is what luxury is about - ease and comfort. If it looks good to you, then that is also what it is about - attractiveness. It's not about what you experience on holiday in a 5 star hotel, or what another might think is luxury. It's about an Interior that provides a haven to you from the world, that works for your life, that gives you that feeling of satisfaction, pause and expansiveness that is a luxurious sensation in itself.

That, to me, is luxury that is achievable, and the rest is just marketing hype and noise.

So over to you reader, I'm curious to hear what makes you feel luxurious in your home.

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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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