There's been a little progress with the garden this week. Finally, part of the garden has transformed from a mud pit into something looking a little bit neater. The side garden had the gravel put down, and the steel edged garden beds laid out. Next is planting, there'll be some Japanese box, a row of standardised Olive trees, and along the wall outside the back extension (the bit that looks like a pathway) will be a row of pleached Pear trees. Eventually there'll be a water feature too. 

I've chosen this one from Parterre in Melbourne/ Sydney. It's zinc and I think the modern shape will look good with the extension and contrast well with the formality of this part of the garden (it doesn't come with the birds). 

The back garden looks like a World War 1 battle site - we've had torrential rain and it's been freezing cold, so I'm not sure how much this will progress over the next week or so as the ground is too sodden to work. 

It's been interesting to look over my Pinterest Gardens board to see that there are some similar themes that crop up. I had sent a lot of these images to my Landscape Designer, and after laughing and telling me I had a lot of ideas, she's incorporated some of the common themes that have run through them, and it's nice to see the design of the garden coming together and incorporating a few of them.

I like some degree of formality


Lush texture

topiary and hedging

In other garden news, we were up the Hill at my Dad's house in Stirling today. It was freezing cold. Don't let the photo below fool you - it was 6 C and about 10 minutes after I took this photo it started to hail on us. Unfortunately we had gone down the hill to admire the Camellia's at the bottom of the garden, so a rather hasty run up the hill proved how unfit we all are…

Dad has recently had this Camellia identified. The bush is part of the original plantings in the garden, so would be around 120 years old, and the bush stands around 3 metres high. Dad spends a lot of time in Winter when he can't garden looking up his reference books identifying the trees, camellia's and rhododendrons in the garden. They used to have tags attached to them, but they were separated from the plants. So he sits with a large pile of the old tags, and identifying leaves/ pinecones/ flowers and tries to work out what they are. 

Camellia Japonica - "Camden Pink"

This is a Camellia called "Camden Pink", and it's extremely rare. It's named after MacArthur's Camden Park Estate, and it's an Australian Camellia, a sport of one that the MacArthur's grew in their garden. Dad thought it might be a Camden Pink, and had emailed a photo of it to the head of the Camellia Society, who confirmed it. He's now thinking that the other extremely large and old Camellia bushes in the near vicinity are similarly Australian Camellia's, so is waiting for them to begin flowering so that he can see if he can work them out too. I think he enjoys the sleuthing aspect of working out the Garden's history.

A book I read this week runs on a similar theme - "Chasing the Rose" is the story of a mysterious rose that is found growing in an abandoned villa's garden in Italy. The author's Great-Great-Great Grandmother had designed and laid out the garden, and his search for the rose's identity takes him to Paris, to Malmaison and the Empress Josephine (the most famous rose collector of that period, and a friend of his ancestor). It is an Old World rose, thought to be extinct - the book follows the history of the Rose - the plant collecting from China and other parts of the world, and the era of Botanical discovery that was running parallel to this at that time. Old World roses nearly became extinct after World War 1, when fashions changed and Hybrid Tea's became popular. With no demand at the nurseries, they stopped breeding them, and many species were lost at this time. A lovely read, and a very pretty book - beautiful illustrations (although frustratingly none of the actual rose in question, however I have found an image of it on this blog). It would make a great gift for a rose lover.

  Onto other topics, Mr AV and I celebrated a milestone this week with the anniversary of when we met  - 20 years ago. We've now been together for over half our lives, so to celebrate we went out to dinner at Magill Estate on Friday night. I frocked up in this black drapey chiffon Chloe silk dress (old photo below - I didn't wear the Chanel belt with it), my black knee high suede boots and my pearl necklace and earrings. 

Dinner was delicious - they've changed the format slightly from the last time we were there, and it's now 7 course degustation only, with matched wines available if you like. We chose the matched wines, but far from being the smaller glasses I thought they'd be, they were full sized wine glasses. I had to largely abstain from the last 3 as I was in danger of being carried out of the restaurant at the end of the meal, having already enjoyed a pre dinner glass of Champagne in the bar area. The food was delicious as usual, and the wine was very good - I had a rather jolly time… 

this was the "snacks" course with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc champagne - there were 4 different little tasters to enjoy, and excellent bread and butter.

Lastly, we had friends for afternoon tea yesterday, and I made this delicious Apple and Honey cake, the recipe from this weekend's "The Weekend Australian" magazine. I highly recommend it - I used some Kangaroo Island honey, and it was so moist and yummy. My styling does not give the magazine's a run for her money, but you get the idea…!

Apple and Honey cake

225g unsalted butter
250g honey, plus extra to glaze
100g brown sugar
3 large eggs
300g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 apple, peeled cored and grated

Put butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan and melt, once melted bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute. Allow to cool. Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin and preheat the oven to 160C. Once honey mixture has cooled, beat in eggs and add SR flour, cinnamon and apple and beat to combine. Pour into cake tin and bake for 65minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10  minutes, turn out and glaze with 2 tbsp of warm honey with flaked almonds in it.

Lastly, all this cold weather has made me think about my coat situation - I have a full length grey Max Mara coat that I bought in 2001 when living in Melbourne. It was a very necessary purchase, and I wore it constantly to go in and out of the office in Winter, and stomping around freezing cold building sites. It doesn't get much wear at all now in milder Adelaide, and I can't help but think that this is partly because it's too long…. I'm thinking it needs a bit of a chop. The shape is lovely, and still current, but I usually have to re-hem my trousers and skirts by taking off a bit of length, so I think maybe it needs a bit off it too? Here's a photo of me in it tonight, in flat heels - and it comes to my ankles, which looks slightly ridiculous when I don't have heels on. Do you think I should cut it to just below the knee or mid calf? Opinions please!

 Our dog, Scruffy, living up to his name in his first blog appearance after foraging in the garden at Dad's (where he currently lives) and looking a little bit rat like and muddy.

Hope you had a good week...
I haven't done a weekly update for a while. Frankly, my life has been rather dull and routine of late, and I don't have anything exciting to update on. We are sorting through the defects list with the house (almost finished, just have a couple of lights left to hang… if the damn cables ever materialise from Italy - it's been 5 months now!!), so I still have the occasional builder around, and I've been productively spending my free time sorting out all the accumulated dust from the renovation in the front of the house, and organising in the new spaces in the back. 

But last weekend my sister and I accompanied our Dad to a Black Tie dinner. I finally got to wear this Lela Rose dress, bought heavily discounted early last year when I was going through a cocktail dress purchasing phase. It's a hard dress to photograph. To save you all a lot of shots of my armpit, this is the best I managed to get! It's got a fab ruffly shoulder thing, and is in a flattering shade of champagne coloured silk. The neckline doesn't work with a necklace, but I wore my pearl drop earrings, and a gold bangle and cocktail ring, my gold clutch and gold glitter soled shoes.

The dinner was fun, although the family pathology showed through - we three were the first to arrive. We all harbour a fear of being late, but this was slightly extreme as we were all 15 minutes early. We had to cool our heels with a glass of champagne... or two…. until the other Dinner attendees arrived. 

I haven't done a lot of clothes purchasing this past few months - another thing I've been quiet on. Instead I've been keeping my eye on the main game with furniture and garden purchases. Truth be told I think I may have reached a state of Wardrobe Nirvana for Winter - I haven't felt like I needed to add anything more to what I already had from last Winter, plus a couple of sale purchases in January and February. I did, however, decide to buy this APC chambray tunic style dress for next Spring a few weeks ago. I've been wearing it transeasonally with a Cable Melbourne merino top under it and with black opaques and black knee high suede boots. I quite like APC - it's a French brand that has very simple lines and is quite pared back in the detail in their clothing. 

In house news, the garden has not progressed much. It's been an inauspicious start - the Landscaper has been caught up finishing off another job, and so we have had mud in our back garden for the past few weeks after they started with the heavy machinery and then stopped again. It's not been great from my perspective with the kids (they like it, needless to say). We've also found the neighbours cat seems to have enjoyed walking around on our back veranda, and sleeping on the swing seat. I found paw prints as evidence….

Attractive side garden

Back garden - mud with trampoline marooned in the middle

cat visitor evidence

The Jam factory sent a photographer around yesterday to take photos of the light fitting, so I seized the moment when I had the entire living area devoid of clutter, and the kids chairs, to take some photos myself. I had lugged the enormous TV out of the room earlier in the day, and my GOD it looks so much better without it. I can't wait until we sort out the TV situation. I'm planning to do some custom cabinetry with a pop up feature in it, so the TV will be hidden most of the time, unless it's actually being used. That way it won't block the window permanently - as it does at the moment. I am going to send these photos to Mr AV to hopefully move this up on the long list of things to spend more money on….

Sorry, that's probably photo overload. But I do love this light fitting so much! 

S's bedroom furniture arrived this week, and he was incredibly excited. Here's a shot of his bedside table made out of Tasmanian Oak with a lamp I bought that fortuitously matches his blind colour perfectly - it was from Freedom Furniture. I never spend a lot of money on lamps for the kids as chances are it will not make it through to the time when he eventually leaves home (although that is some time away, given he is currently 4). I'll take some proper room photos and do a before and after on this room, our former kitchen, soon.

All three children have had new bedlinen purchased in the mid year sales. E's is a particularly pretty set from Yves Delorme, we did a Mother/Daughter shopping trip into the city one Saturday afternoon and E took her little pink market trolley with her. We must have looked suspicious as we were trailed by the store detective through David Jones. 

This weeks flowers are a bunch of cabbages. I thought they'd look reasonably neutral for the photos the Jam Factory wanted to take. I've also got another Orchid…. I'm hopeful the three that have finished flowering and that are currently living in the laundry will put out a new shoot, however with my track record I'm not holding my breath.

Lastly, I've been absolutely gripped by this book - Empty Mansions. Such a fascinating (real) story of the creation of one of the US's greatest fortunes, and the fate of the reclusive heiress who inherited it.  A definite recommendation from me.

Hope you've had a great week...
There's an ongoing problem with copying in Design. Replicas abound, and knock- offs and tribute designs of furniture, light fittings and fabrics are all too frequent now that the internet has broken down geographical and informational boundaries, and provided easy access to the third world and its cheap manufacturing hubs. The secondary issue relating to this are Architects and Interior Designers and Decorators who claim their designs - their intellectual property - are pilfered by other designers or home owners. I've had a number of times people comment on the blog that I am very transparent with my sources - furniture, paint colours, carpet etc. I know a lot of other bloggers and Designers protect this information as they see it as their Intellectual property, something they make money from and which they will not give away for free.

I don't have a problem with revealing these things for a few reasons. Firstly there is virtually nothing new in this world. I have not made any of these things myself - I put the elements together, or curated them, to create my design. If you want to know the paint colour I've used, I have no problem with that - I didn't invent the colour, and if you use it in your home it may well not give the same effect. Paint changes with the light, and this means that geography, and the position of your windows will make it look different to the room I've used it in. People cherry pick information on design from blogs or magazines in just the same way that I do - I've found these things through reading magazines or trawling the web, so if you want to know where I've found something I have no problem with that. I don't repeat my designs - I use fabrics, paint colours and furniture that suit that particular and unique home and lifestyle of the person I'm designing for. If someone tries to wholesale copy my design, it won't look the same, or function the same for all those reasons I mention above.

Designers are endlessly inspired by each other. One thing will spark an idea that will create something new. But there are frequently cases where designs are just ripped off by others, usually large retailers taking the designs of small creatives. I recently noticed that a local designer, who has created a light fitting used extensively in Magazines, and featured on blogs both nationally and internationally has an eerily similar design to one produced in the new season range of Restoration Hardware (Big US furniture retailer). The original designer has had her light out for many years now.

 the original via

the design that is very similar

It's difficult for designers, who are small and on the other side of the world, to find restitution without engaging an expensive US lawyer, with no certainty of outcome. I think a lot of the large retailers are happy to play the game with this, finding that they are likely not to be prosecuted, and if they are they will settle it fairly quietly. Financially it doesn't really impact them. Ironically, these same large homewares retailers face their own problems with their designs or look being ripped off into cheaper mass produced ranges. If you google "Restoration Hardware copycat" there are a lot of blogs and websites with designs that are very similar to the much more expensive RH ones.

Then there are the replica furniture websites. Replica furniture is a slightly shady area. I personally don't have a problem with replica furniture if it is out of copyright (50 years from the time it was designed*). The "real" versions of the design are still made under license to the original specifications, and the copy versions are ok in my book as the estate of the designer does not get royalties anymore. The only thing that I would say is that the replica is never as good a quality as the real deal. Look at my Eames Replica dining chairs for a good example of that.

But the stuff that is being sold that is a replica of current designs are not OK in my book. The Designer doesn't see a cent of it, and usually the cheap knock off is not as well made or constructed as the original design and by association cheapens the original design. When I was looking at light fittings, one that I was very drawn to was the Kevin O'Reilly Altar light, pictured below. The retail price was quoted as being around $21,000, which horrified me just a little. I googled to see if I could find something similar, and Lo - there was a replica! The problem is, that it was still $3,500 (which was expensive for a replica light fitting in my book, when it could be of dubious quality), and the other problem is that Kevin O'Reilly designed his light fitting not that long ago, he is still alive and creating new lights, and finding a cheap version that was not the same, and that was made in China, instead of the USA means that the light fitting was not going to look anything like as nice as his real design was.

The real deal via

So the end result there was that I contacted the Jam Factory and commissioned my light fitting, which frankly I think is nicer than anything I had found (detailed in this post). Lindsey Adelman, whose light fittings I also admired has taken an interesting approach to the copycat versions of her designs. She has, on her website, put up DIY instructions using bits and pieces from the hardware store. Recognising that not everyone is going to be able to pay $24,000 for her light fittings, she has effectively cut off the rip off merchants by allowing those without the budget but a bit of creativity to do it themselves.

And then there are the copies of Designer branding, an enormous problem in fashion, but also in homewares. Recently on Instagram, I found a photo of candles being sold in a shop I used to go into in Melbourne a lot, and so follow their feed. The shop is full of interesting, tasteful things for the home, the owner is lovely and has a good eye. The candles they are now selling have large and rather crude logos on the side of them - Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada or Hermes. Aside from the fact that I dislike the overt branding (you know my thoughts on obvious branding from previous blog posts), it is illegal that they are being sold. The logos are trademarked, and protected by international law, these candles are not produced by the companies whose logos appear on the side of them. There is absolutely no difference in the eyes of the law with selling fake candles and fake handbags, and I would personally not want the Lawyers from those companies making contact with me. I wrote a comment on the photo questioning this in a reasonably polite, brief and non confrontational way, as I thought perhaps this had not been considered by the shop owner. I had thought that in all likely hood the shop in question would remove the photo from Instagram but perhaps keep selling them, or if not, reply to my query on this with an explanation of why they thought it was fine. But instead my comment was deleted, the photo is still up and the candles are still being sold. There are so many things that are just plain wrong about selling these candles. Not only from a legal point of view, but because it touches on all the other things I've written about here. These are luxury brands whose branding is infringed by cheap knockoffs. These candles are tacky. The logos are large and poorly executed. It is highly unlikely that any of those stores would produce items even remotely similar to these things because they do not reflect well on them. And not to mention what it says about you as a person if you buy and display a cheap, knock off candle with luxury logo on it in your home.

In the end, it's always better to have the real deal. Whether that be a candle, furniture (I have learnt my lesson from my cheap Eames replica chairs), a light…. if you can't afford the real thing, don't buy the approximation. If you want to see a designer logo on something, get the perfume or a lipstick. Frame the carrier bag it comes in if you really want to. If you can't cough up the designer price tag for a light fitting, search out something you can afford that has some integrity of design and craftsmanship instead. You get what you pay for in this world. So this is your responsibility as a consumer - don't knowingly buy something that is ripping off someone else in this world, whether they be a Big company or a small Designer. Design and Intellectual Property are a bit of a fuzzy area, and yes, all design inspires other design, but a blatant copy is just that.

*edit - I have been corrected by a Lawyer in the comments section that it is in fact 16 years that a furniture or lighting design is protected by Law

I have been mentally terming this post as "the box on the back of the house", because when thinking about what exactly constitutes a typical Modern Australian house renovation, that is what springs to mind. The typical Australian house has evolved over the past 40 years to really embrace casual entertaining and outdoor living. I'm not sure that there is anywhere else in the world that has so wholeheartedly changed their style of living so comprehensively in such a short period of time. A key feature of a modern extension or house in Australia is the open plan Kitchen/ Living/ Dining, located at the rear of the house with easy access and view of the back garden, some sort of outdoor entertaining area (often now with a built in outdoor kitchen BBQ area), and if you're lucky, a pool, as shown in the image above. Conversely, this has meant that less and less emphasis is placed on the traditional Formal rooms that are located toward the front of a house. In many houses, this has been done away with altogether, with the rooms changed to bedrooms (such as in the case of a small inner city cottage), or reduced down to just a single formal room or study/ library. Most often the formal dining room is not felt as being necessary. Australians tend to entertain casually, and the modern extension is a definite reflection of this.

The modern extension has also evolved into a statement of slick modernity though, rather than a retrospective heritage style as in the past. In line with current Architectural Heritage theory, Australian Heritage advisors and planning officers prefer a clear distinction between old and new. If you have an old house, the last thing the Heritage Architect will want to see is a faithful rendition of your homes original features in your new extension. Preferably, they like it to be a very modern contrast.

Front of house via

Back of house via

If you've ever watched "Grand Designs" on TV, you'll see that Kevin McCloud spends a lot of time talking about this topic. The extension that we've done to our house is what is considered a complimentary extension - it references the old front of the house (keeping the pitched roof, veranda elements), but still remains distinct from the old by not using the same stone wall material or sash window style, and by stripping back the detailing (so no cast iron lace on the veranda for instance). It was interesting that when I had one of the (many) pre-development application meetings with my local Council's Heritage Advisor, she stated she would have liked it to be a lot more 'modern' than it is, such as those above and below, but that it was distinct enough that it was fine to go ahead.

So now that I've put all of that into context, I'm going to tackle the fact that many people end up with a box on the back of their house. Some are done very well, some are very high spec, beautifully detailed and quite stunning contrasts with an old house. Others are... well... lacklustre.

So if you're looking at doing a modern extension to an older house, here are some ways of making a basic box a little more interesting, tricks that Architects frequently employ to create interest and manipulate space.

Level Changes

The Sunken Lounge of the 60's and 70's is actually still a very good example of this. Split levels work to break up and designate space into its function. In our extension we have a level change to the children's playroom, and this works well in separating their domain from the living area (this level change was purely due to function, as Mr AV's study is underneath, so it gave extra ceiling height in there).

But a level change can be in both directions - the other way to manipulate space is to change the ceiling heigh in different areas. There is no reason why you can't lower a section of the ceiling at some point to change the emphasis on a space (this could easily accommodate services, such as ducted air conditioning and is shown well in the last image in this post). In the first image above, there is a creation of a kitchen zone by stepping down the kitchen floor. The dining table pushed against the step is therefore at kitchen bench height. This is a very small house, in Albert Park-  Melbourne, so a clever bit of spacial manipulation adds practical kitchen bench space, and breaks up the kitchen from the living area. The second image (from a different house) shows steps up to a small library space which separates it from the main open plan living area, creating a more intimate feel. In the house below, the double sided fireplace sits between the dining and living area acting as a focal anchor point, and also to divide up the functional aspects of the space. The steps down to the lounge area further emphasise this by creating a different spacial experience from the dining with the extra ceiling height this achieves.

Clear traffic pathways

Always have a furniture layout done before you start construction. Mentally walk through it thinking of the traffic paths - how people will walk to the back door (indeed, what will be your back door if you have a wall of glass french doors for instance), how people will use the living zone. You do not want a major traffic path to go through a seating area - it will always feel transitional. A living area with sofas should be an end point in the traffic pathways. Mentally take the rubbish out of the kitchen to where you will keep your bins outside. This sounds obvious, but if you place your living zone as the main thoroughfare through to the back door, it never feels restful. In the image below the traffic path has additionally been defined by the black slate path in the flooring.

Focal Points

via Poliform

The worse thing you can do is to make a space and then think you'll sort out where everything goes once its built. That's how you end up with everyone on a sofa facing a wall looking at a big screen TV, with the view behind them. When I was designing our back room, I had what I thought of as a 'viewing point'. It was what you'd see as you walked from the hall into the new extension and looked left and right.

You need something to draw the eye to - in our case the end focal point is the fireplace in the living area, which is an obvious and time honoured design device (and in times past, a purely practical one). I have mentioned before that Architects and Interior Designers generally don't like a focal point to be a giant TV screen, and this is because when it is off it is a big, black void on a (usually) white wall. If you're not going to have a fireplace (and in some climates this is not remotely practical) an anchor point of a large and special piece of furniture (and you could conceal a TV in this if it is a high armoire with doors, or has a mechanical pop up mechanism for something lower), artwork, wall of bookcases or something similar will do the same trick.

Natural and Artificial Light

Ideally, you want natural light coming from multiple directions. As the sun moves through the day, if you have a single wall with all your windows on it, you'll miss out on a lot of the direct sunlight throughout the day. Light coming from two or more directions adds a lot to the experience of a room - you'll get a play of shadow and light that moves around through the space through the day. You can do this with clerestory (highlight) windows, or from skylights (the ones where you can see the actual sky) if you can't fit windows on another wall due to the constraints of your site. I think the most obvious temptation currently done in modern living areas is to have a wall of bifold or sliding/french doors. I suppose the rational is that you want to maximise the connection to the outdoors, and maximise light as well. But framing a view with a window can be much more visually interesting in a space, and can also help to delineate spaces within a standard rectangle. The window seat below is a good example of this.

Regarding artificial light, a feature pendant light/ chandelier is a great way of separating zones in an open plan living area. Dining tables are ideal for this treatment by having a large pendant light fitting of some sort. They should be hung lower than a normal light fitting to create a sense of intimacy - if the light fitting base is about 90- 120cm higher than the top of the table it should look about right. If you have incredibly high ceilings you may need to raise it higher than that. The image below shows a large pendant light fitting anchoring a seating area. Without it the seating area would be 'floating' in the middle of the room.

via Poliform

Playing with scale

Overscaling things can be a great way of creating visual interest in a space. To emphasise space, you need to create a feeling of height. Going taller than standard off the shelf glass doors or windows will give a much more interesting, less builder -spec feel than the standard sliding doors or windows will. The image below shows how they go almost to the top of the high ceilings, which looks a lot more dramatic than if they had a meter of wall above them. Similarly, I will always make overhead cupboards in a kitchen much taller than the "normal" height overhead cupboards. It just doesn't look good to have a very large gap between your kitchen overhead cupboard and ceiling, and this also holds true for bifold/ sliding/ french doors.

Articulating space

You of course do not need to do a rectangular or square box shape for an extension, but this does seem to be the default. A lot of time people think that it is better to have the largest space they can possibly fit, so rather than making an extension L shaped, for instance, they'll just make it a giant rectangle instead. But funnily enough this doesn't always make a room seem spacious. Dividing up an open plan area into different shaped zones will definitely give interest to a space, and help it to work better without having to resort to spectacular Architectural trickery to do the same thing. The house below shows a dining and kitchen area in the same plane, with the seating area coming off the kitchen. The kitchen has a lowered ceiling height to differentiate it from the adjacent spaces, and the focal point of a stone fireplace anchors the seating area.

There is a book that is recommended reading for all Architecture and Town Planning students at University, and it's called "A Pattern Language". It was written in the 60's and is essentially a study of what makes a room/ a house/ a street/ a suburb and a city a good place to live. It's fascinating how accurate all of it is, if you reflect on the different places you've lived or rooms you've experienced in your life and consider that what has made them feel "special" or what has worked functionally it's usually exactly as described in the book . If you're looking to buy or build a new house from scratch, reading this will give you a lot of ideas about how to make a home seem welcoming, function well, and ultimately a wonderful place to live in, regardless of your budget. In the end throwing money at a house, or building something to be the biggest you can with your budget does not necessarily mean that it is successful or special or a great place to live in. It's about manipulating space, light and functional aspects to create something special.
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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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