It's highly probable that I'm going to ruffle a few feathers with this blog post, but I have been out and about in the Trade Showrooms quite a bit over the past few weeks, and I've been having some interesting chats with the women who own and run the Trade Agencies in Adelaide (where you go to source fabrics and wallpapers and other decorative accessories). There's been a bit of a recurring theme.

Overseas, the fabric companies sell retail to the public, and Interior Decorators are given varying discounts (usually reflected by how much work they put through that particular company) and then mark up their price to full retail for their client. This is how they make their money.

In Australia, Decorators generally do the same, however the general public are not able to buy through the various Trade Agencies that represent the fabric companies in Australia (there are none of the large overseas decorator fabric/wallpaper companies with a presence in Australia - it's all through local agents).

The problem is that there are no RRP's on the fabrics, and so Decorators usually apply a blanket percentage markup to the fabric and wallpapers they choose for a client in order to make money on their job. Pricing locally is not the same as overseas - it's sold wholesale from the fabric house to the local Agent who then marks it up to a price that is often just slightly below the retail price in its country of origin. A local Decorator will then mark up on top of the local wholesale price to varying degrees. Generally, if you mark up a fabric by 100% (the usual markup in Australia) a cheap fabric becomes middle priced, and a good designer fabric becomes eye-wateringly expensive. So this leads to a couple of problems. The first is that often the client will baulk at the price list given for an entire scheme, and may perhaps select a few items and think they'll do the rest later (which may never happen) - the end result is not great. Or, they might request that cheaper fabrics be selected and redo parts of the job - the end result is not great.

If you want your Clients to have the best room they can have, and something that will reflect well on you, the Decorator, then you need them to feel comfortable purchasing quality fabrics and wallpapers which will ultimately make you look better and which will give your client a fabulous end result.

In the past, before the Internet, clients had no option but to buy through a local Decorator, as they weren't able to source fabrics and work out where they came from locally themselves. Now, anyone with a computer can find a myriad of overseas retailers happy to ship to Australia at a price that is reasonably comparable to wholesale locally. The problem with purchasing from an overseas retailer is that you can, in fact, run into problems. Sometimes fabrics come with flaws, things might come from different batches and have colour differentials... and of course unless you see and feel something in person you can't be entirely sure of the colour and overall look. Some things are better in person, and other things are woefully worse. Returning things purchased on the internet from a foreign country, especially bulky goods like fabrics and wallpaper can be very difficult, logistically so and also dependent on how accommodating the company you've bought through is (they will not allow returns for a 'change of mind' if you don't like it in person). Having a Decorator advise you on fabrics that suit your particular requirements can be invaluable - you pay to avoid problems long term, to find a cohesive style that suits your lifestyle and your own personal style.

But by doing a blanket markup, many Decorators are losing out on jobs from clients that baulk at paying $300 per roll of wallpaper, or $450 per metre of fabric. Local trade agents are frustrated by their inability to sell retail to people who already know what they want and don't want to use a decorator with vague markups to purchase locally (and so turn to the Internet instead). Keeping a showroom open, providing sampling to the trade, stocking expensive books of fabrics and wallpapers to loan out all costs money, and unfortunately more and more business is shifting off overseas with local decorators being cut out by consumers.

This main problem is that the IDA does not want agencies to sell direct to the public, and the Industry standard is that decorators charge a mark up. None of the agencies want to go out on a limb on their own to offer retail and potentially be shunned by Interior Decorators. Decorators are still utilising a system of marking up to make money that is completely outdated. Personally I (and other Architects and Interior Designers who are used to charging hourly rates for professional services) charge an hourly rate, then a 10% markup on fabric, wallpaper, furniture etc which I feel is fair. This means that the fabrics and wallpapers are comparable to overseas pricing, especially when freight is factored in. If someone wants to source it from overseas, it doesn't bother me - it's on their shoulders if something goes wrong, and I have already had my time covered by the hourly rate I charge (although this has never happened as the pricing locally is usually slightly less than overseas on the Internet). Clients get a better result by having access to quality product at competitive pricing to what they'd pay overseas, with me handling any potential problems that occur (which actually do occur quite frequently.....sigh). For some reason, Decorators baulk at doing this, somehow thinking that a client won't pay for their time. I'm not sure why - most people are used to paying hourly rates for Lawyers, Accountants, Architects and other professionals. I provide detailed timesheets to my clients, and I've never had a complaint about the amount of time I've spent on a project.

So, the solution would be to me - that Trade Agents sell retail to clients who do not want to employ a Designer or Decorator, and Designers are given a discount that they can mark up to, just as it is done overseas, or that Decorators consider moving to an hourly rate system, just as other industries charge. Then any mark up is small and covers administration time (all those tax forms), rather than be designed to make their income.

Or, if a Decorator doesn't feel comfortable doing this they perhaps rethink their mark up, that a blanket percentage approach not be adopted - maybe a rate per metre or per roll instead and be upfront about it with the client. For example a mark up of $40 per metre of fabric, or per roll of wallpaper would mean that you're still going to be comparable to overseas pricing, and you'll find you'll make the same amount of money per job, and that you could specify more expensive and better quality product without fear of rejection by a price sensitive client. Maybe then we will find that overall the standard of Interior Design in Australia would be lifted by clients having access to the stuff that can help make a good design that much better.

It seems to me that currently no one is winning in this - the Decorators that lose jobs to people who buy overseas (after they have spent countless hours putting together a scheme for them and for which they are not paid), the Decorators who find that their jobs are never quite as good as they could be as a client won't commit to the entire scheme or has requested cheaper product, and to the consumer, who seems to be coming last in the entire process and is playing roulette with overseas suppliers if they try to get designer product cheaper.

I know of no other industry where you are paid for the work you actually do in such a lotto-like manner. The industry relies on the client being completely in the dark as to the source of the product, and how much you are making out of it - there's absolutely no transparency which makes many people wary and suspicious and reluctant to use the services of a Decorator.

Just my opinion, and I'd be very happy to hear yours - I'm interested in hearing both sides.

All images via Pinterest

We managed to escape the rain cloud that has been hanging over Adelaide by ironically travelling to Melbourne where everyone was complaining that it's been too dry (it's usually most definitely the other way around). We did a bit of client entertaining on Friday and Saturday night, and aside from that there was a lot of sleeping in, lazy mornings and long walks around South Yarra with Mr AV. So I've taken my usual poor quality, blurry iphone photos to show you what we got up to.

Friday night we went out to dinner at the Prahran Hotel, which is owned by one of Mr AV's clients. I wore this - black waxed jeans, gold heels with gold clutch, black wool roll neck and a black jacket with weird bustle thing on the back and a gold zip. It's Valentino, sourced 70% off from The Outnet.

 The Prahran Hotel is very hip and groovy, which was what I was trying to achieve with my outfit, and in which I clearly failed miserably. On a Friday night it's the place to be if you want to pick up, and you're aged from 20-30... a total meat market for trendy young things. As we were not in either of those categories, you could say that we were fairly obviously The Old People in the Pub. We were stopped by the bouncers at the door, not to provide ID, as I immediately thought (how foolish of me!), but to see if we had a reservation, as they clearly weren't going to let us in otherwise. Deflating. 

On my walk around the pub admiring the very interesting interiors (they've used a lot of concrete pipes for seating areas), groups of young men looked me up and down, clearly wondering who had let the cougar in the front door.

 multi levelled

Summary: Great if you're under 30. Not somewhere you'd go for the food, which is Ok pub fare, but not a drawcard. We had a really fun night with Mr AV's client and his wife, regardless.

On Saturday I popped into Home and Abroad in Avoca Street, South Yarra as is my habit, to pick up a little thank you gift for my Mother in Law, who had the children for the weekend. Good thing I had carry on as I could have bought half the shop - there's lovely glassware in there at the moment (hurricane lanterns, candle holders, water jugs and glasses), beautiful ceramic lines in great colours, and their beautiful Portuguese linens which they always have. A new linen tablecloth and napkins may have made their way home with me....

all the gift wrapping has bees on it 

That was it for the shopping for me this trip - Mr AV and I went on a big walk, and stopped for lunch in Fog on Greville Street, Prahran where I had some delicious fish tacos.

 Saturday night we took clients to dinner at Cafe e Cucina in Chapel Street. It's been around for maybe 20 years, and is a little slice of Italy. All the waiters are imported, and speak broken English, and the Interior and food is as authentic as you'll get in the Southern Hemisphere. At the two tables next to us were Pink and her entourage... I had been wondering who would take a 4 year old child out at 8pm for dinner dressed in a spiderman suit, and we finally twigged who it was. In January you'll always find the tennis commentators and players there having dinner during the Australian Open. The meal was excellent.

This is what I wore - an old Tory Burch dress with bib embellishment on it, and my black knee high Jimmy Choo boots, also old.

 Another walk on Sunday morning, and breakfast at The Botanical on Domain Road before heading back to the airport. I took more photos of grey rendered Melbourne houses to show the renderer for our extension. These houses are on Avoca Street, around the corner from the Lyall Hotel, where we were staying again.

This one below is my favourite

 I made Mr AV take a back view of the weird bustle type thing on my jacket for the blog. He is a reluctant photographer of me (seriously, there are about 2 photos taken of me a year, and they're generally dreadful and feature me in an apron looking annoyed that he's chosen that particular moment to take one).

So that was it - over too fast, and back home with a thud and a few hours of catching up on laundry, unpacking for 5, making dinner and getting organised for the week ahead on the Sunday evening.

On to the renovations. Here's what happened on the house this week. Not a lot. It rained, all day, all week. A bit of brickwork was accomplished.

windows in the ceiling lantern

This week the window installers are returning to finish installing the windows, around 5 weeks after they first came (so much for returning in two weeks...). I'm planning on throwing a ticker tape parade to welcome them back, along with the roofer who is also going to make an appearance this week. We have sunny weather forecast (at last!) so things should really move along, fingers crossed....

Hope you had a great week xx
I have decided to switch gear, and look at some wallpaper choices for the extension to give myself a mental break from all the dreary aspects of the extension, so thought I'd do a post about it.

This is primarily because, after the horror that was designing the Kitchen, I thought it might be a good idea to order the new sofas for the Living room. We currently have one 13 year old sofa, which is not looking the flashest after being enthusiastically jumped on by 3 children for the past 7 years. I thought this would be a tick the box type purchase, but no, Mr AV appears to have developed strong feelings on this item. Rather like Goldilocks, and about as articulate. Wish me luck....

Fortunately, he shows little interest in wallpaper choices (other than "no flowers"), so here are some of my picks for the new rooms.

For the Children's playroom, we are using the Cole & Son's Woods wallpaper. I think it will give a great "Where the Wild Things Are" type feel. I want this room to be a bit fun, but to also not jar visually as there is a viewing angle from the main living area into the playroom if the sliding door is left open.

Long time blog readers might remember that I wrote a post about Secret Doors. We have, as with a few other things, evolved the design a little. The stairs down to the cellar and Mr AV's underground Home Office/ Man Cave will now be surrounded by floor to ceiling steel windows to match the others in the living/dining/kitchen. This will let in light to the lower ground level, and visually open up the space a little as we were concerned that the stair enclosure was boxed in the kitchen area with the revised kitchen design and the dividing unit between the dining and kitchen (have I lost you yet?). But I haven't given up on my dream of a wall of fake books - we'll line the back wall of the stairs with a stylised book wallpaper, which I think will look quite fun on what would otherwise be a fairly boring blank wall. I'm liking this Andrew Martin Library wallpaper, which I'll do in a subtle grey tones that will blend in with the rest of the colours in the room.

The Laundry is where I'd like to have some fun, and I'm still looking around. I love this hot pink Manual Canovas Pali wallpaper

Or this beautiful Pierre Frey "Le Grand Corail" but in the pink colour way

Or how about Nina Campbell's "Lobardia" butterflies

As it's unlikely that Mr AV will ever enter the laundry, I can probably sneak something in that is a bit girly.

For little S's bedroom, aged 3, he has requested that his room be orange. I have no objection to the colour, except that I will not paint the walls orange. I have a feeling that by the age of 12 he might be over it. So I'm planning on using Anna Spiro's Higgledy Piggledy Stripe in orange, and mixing in a lot of blue/red fabrics with it.

The powder room will sadly not be wallpapered in De Gournay. Somehow I don't think I can stretch to around $20,000 for wallpaper, as much as I love it. So instead, I'm looking at this Celery Kemble grasscloth from Schumacher with an overprint of her Hothouse Flowers pattern. It's significantly cheaper....

It's always fun to look at the possibilities, although I get frustrated when visiting the showrooms in Adelaide, as many of the wallpaper books are not here to look at. It seems the distributors in Melbourne and Sydney will send them over when they're requested... although how they think anyone is going to know to request something that they don't know exists is a bit beyond me....

Remember last week I said that you'd be seeing many more photos featuring my white Alvar Aalto vase, as all my others were packed up in the shed? Well, in the interests of blog variety, I decided change was needed... so I bought a clear Alvar Aalto wave vase too! 

I was lucky to find a set of three (this is the large one in the photo below) at the local Auction house.... and I got the three for $90 (the large one sells for around $180 on its own in shops). It's given me enormous pleasure to look at my bargain vase every time I've walked in the front door, filled with cheery poppies. 

During the week Mr AV and I and a couple of our friends went to a special viewing and dinner of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Award  at the Adelaide Museum. Dress code was Conservative (okay, not really, it was officially Lounge Suit, but the crowd was definitely Conservative). I went with my old black crepe Tory Burch dess and pearls. And a coat, as it was freezing.

I love the Waterhouse exhibition - Artists submit work for consideration that is based around the theme of Natural Science, so there is quite a variety in all mediums. The exhibition features the finalists - this one was the winner Judith Brown's Flight of Fancy. It's made up of leaf veins, bulbs and paper.

We all loved this painting by Kate Bergin called The Art of Patience it had the most incredible detail and really drew the crowd - it's huge. 

And this one below appealed to my Interior Design side, it was by Nicola Dickson called Gould's Australian Chinz II and definitely looked like something I'd choose for some curtains. After the viewing we walked down the road to one of the North Terrace Clubs for the big dinner where the guest speaker, the CEO of the Adelaide Zoo gave an entertaining talk about the Adelaide Zoo's Giant Panda breeding program (let's just say that the Panda's have the odds stacked against them from an anatomical point of view). 

And so I can report that despite the Australian explorers searching fruitlessly for the fabled Inland Sea 150 years ago, we've made the discovery ourselves. It's in our backgarden. Honestly, if I see another weather report with the prediction of rain I'll scream. We have had one or two days a week where it doesn't rain for the past 8 weeks, so progress on the house is s . l . o . w. Don't be fooled by the blue skies here - about 5 minutes later it was pelting down with rain again.

The Great Inland Sea. We won't need to put in a pool at this rate.

They've finished off the ceiling lantern though - it has windows, louvers and a roof! Hooray!

But I'm sick of my current footwear - William Morris pattern gumboots usually reserved for gardening, and pink lurex Wellie socks

 This was football this morning for the 7 year old. 5 year old E. and 3 year old S. are enthusiastic supporters and mud stompers.

Pretty soon we had to retreat to the grandstand when the rain set in. Mr AV stuck to the sidelines - he likes a bit of old school footy action. I don't, I prefer corporate box type action. Unfortunately they don't have any of those for the Under 8's, mores the pity.

Pure misery at 10am on a Sunday

Whoever is doing the rain dance can stop now! Please?

Hope you had a good week x
Let's start with the renovations, so the poor male readers don't have to wade through all my other random thoughts this week.

Not a lot has happened. We've had yet more rain (although a gloriously sunny weekend... which is typical when no one is working!). They've finished bricking up one side of the house (that I showed partially done last week) and moved onto the other.

The ceiling lantern has had the blanks put up on the blind sides, been roofed and tomorrow (or Tuesday given that there's more rain forecast) they will put in the windows and the fixed louvres over the blanks to finish it all off. Then the living room should be roofed.

I've spent the week working on the Lighting/ electrical plan. Fun times.

So that's it for the renovations. Moving onto to the week in general, it did not start well, and has finished poorly.

I had a terrible sleep on Monday night and awoke riddled with anxiety. I can only blame it on the very strange dream that I had... In my dream, I was meeting the blogger known as Faux Fuchsia, and we did not get on at all well. Yes, Disturbing. I can only blame it on the fact that the last thought that went through my head as I fell asleep on Sunday night was that I had yet to get around to removing the remains of the chipped red nail polish that I'd put on for the Jam Factory dinner on the Friday night. The Horror. First thing Monday morning, I was scrubbing it off, but I had a strange and unsettling day as a result.

Faux Fuchsia has been much on my mind this week at any rate... After reading on her blog that moths had attacked her cashmere, I felt a mild state of panic myself. It has been quite some time since I hung fresh moth strips around the AV wardrobes, so I made haste to hang out some fresh ones... this is the good stuff - Orphea moth strips. They're natural and non toxic, don't smell like moth balls and are easy to administer. As I was distributing them liberally around our dressing room and the children's drawers and cupboards, I became aware of the fact that I clearly harbour a paranoia about moths... I have various remedies in almost every drawer and wardrobe.

I've made lavender bags... here are the ones I made for E after she was born - there are a set of 8 Matryoshka dolls with different coloured faces and ribbons. I also made them as gifts for other friends and family with little girls, although I'm not sure they share my horror of a lavender bag-less house.

Then I've also tried these Thurley moth repellant blocks impregnated with some sort of herbal stuff that smells nice (made in Western Australia). Here I've doubled up with the Orphea strips. Just to make sure.

And lurking in the very bottom of the drawers rattle some cedar balls as well. If only I had the money to line the actual drawers with cedar, I'd be a happy girl indeed (I did do this for a job in London once... that was for the House that Didn't Have a Budget, which I've mentioned before on the blog. I was given free reign in decorating the staff quarters. The Glory.).

During the week I restocked the gift cupboard. Do you have one of those? I have a pathological fear of being disorganised, so keep a very well stocked present cupboard (Mr AV refers to the contents as The Inventory, as in "The Inventory level is looking very high at the moment"). This stems from my Mother and Grandmother, who used to do the same, and is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I have run low on hostess gifts/ gifts for kindergarten helpers/ random other little present type things... and found these gorgeous Mor triple milled soaps during the week. I always love the packaging that Mor does, and their things always smell so nice too - perfect little indulgences. These are packaged up like little vintage letters, with wax seals, pretty stamps and cursive hand writing... and best of all they were reduced to $7.50 from $15, which was quite good value in my opinion. They smell divine... it's tempting to keep them all for myself, but I'll resist, and they'll make the perfect little gift for others.

Finally, the Magnolia has come out, in all it's frothy pink glory.

and the hall table arrangement for the week are proteas in the Alvar Aalto vase. Sick of seeing it yet? Unfortunately I packed all my others into the shed, so there isn't a lot of vase changeover until the reno's are over.

Lastly, my week ended on a rather sad note when my Grandmother died. Fortunately I had visited her on Wednesday, taking with me a bunch of camellias from my garden. While it was not exactly unexpected due to her advanced age, it has of course been sad coming 10 months after my Mother's death. Mr AV took me out to dinner on Saturday night to cheer me up, and we had a glass of Champagne to farewell her.

Hope you had a good week xx
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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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