Summer dressing can be tricky. You want to be cool, so this means nothing clingy, but equally you don't always want to look like you're about to go poolside - you want to dress appropriately for city life as well... so what to wear?

 via Camilla

Well, judging by the runaway sales of Camilla worldwide, one of her floaty, silk, multi-patterned and embellished Caftans are the way to go. These have become something of a staple amongst the mothers at any Summer school function in Australia, and you'll see them at weddings, Black Tie balls, poolside at a resort or beachside in January on Aussie beaches, and given they're one size fits all, you could say that they're the most versatile piece of clothing out there.

via Camilla

Sadly, I do not own a Camilla caftan, as on the few occasions I've tried them on they have a tendency to overwhelm me. I'm not fond of busy prints on myself (love them on others), and being rather short they drape on the ground. The salesgirl helpfully informed me as I stood in puddles of multicoloured silk that I should just tuck it up into my knickers on either side, but I haven't done this since year 7 "Pop Bang Go" handstand competitions in the school yard, and don't feel so inclined to do that again. And if you're paying upward of $590 plus for an item of clothing, I don't want to have to tuck it up, or tie it up or whatever other tricks are required to make it fit shorty me.

via Camilla

But one reason why they work so beautifully is that the silk is light as a feather, and drapes beguilingly around the female form. Even if they're long and loose, you get a suggestion of shape underneath, which saves it from being a sad sack.

But I've noticed a recent fashion contender for the Camilla Caftan crown - Peasant wear.

Vita Kin, via Matches Fashion 

Firstly it was in the form of Ukranian style peasant dresses with their voluminous sleeves and heavy embroidery. This look can be seen all over the world in cities as diverse as Sydney, London and New York and about as far from the wheat fields of the Ukraine that they originated in.

Perhaps it was Yulia Tymoshenko, the former president of the Ukraine who entered the world stage when tensions were high with Russia in plaits and peasant garb, that managed to get the sisterhood to adopt her style of dress in worldwide solidarity?

a Vita Kin design via Matches Fashion, £1,988

But unlike Camilla, they don't translate to lounging by the pool in a resort, while doing double duty down at the local shops. So, really, you need something else simple, and peasant like, to while away the days on a beach in the Bahamas.

via Moda Operandi

And the perfect dress has been found by Pippa Holt. It's the Mexican Peasant dress. They're boxy, practically standing away from the body stiffly on their own allowing plenty of air flow to circulate under their tent like structure in the tropics.

via Moda Operandi

They're mostly cut mid calf length, therefore allowing not the slightest hint of chub to be seen - you could be any size at all in these! Unfortunately though, for anyone not 6 foot tall, I suspect that they will give the distinct impression of squat, peasant like proportions. It would also appear from all the model shots on the beach, plus the manner in which Pippa is standing, below, at her Bergdorf's opening that you have to stand at all times with your legs apart, and preferably one popped out to the side to make this look work.

Just like Angelina Jolie did that time at the Oscars.

Otherwise you just won't carry this look off. I suspect the peasants find having to do this quite exhausting when they toil in the fields.

Pippa has a team of Mexicans hand weaving these dresses, and they're available for US$850.

Which goes to show why most peasants don't own more than one dress - these things are eye-wateringly expensive! It costs a lot to live the simple peasant life, clearly.
Blowing the cobwebs off the blog to finally post about the new garage that is currently under construction in the back garden, the final part of our house renovation. In some ways I've dragged my feet about posting on this, as I wasn't sure it would make a particularly interesting post, but there are some quirky details to this, and I thought discussing the planning process might be interesting, and helpful hopefully!

American style carriage house via

Firstly, the design. One of the features of our house that we were attracted to when we bought it 7 years ago was the fact that it had three street frontages. This meant that we had flexibility with how we wanted to lay out the various elements of the house. I suppose most people would have placed the garage up against the house to give direct access into the main living area in our extension, but I didn't want to do this for a variety of reasons.

One was that it gave too much prominence to the garage, which is a curse in modern design (for more on this, read the Architect's Bible A Pattern Language), and the second was that it would create a large blank structure that blocked light to the garden and back living areas of the house. I have seen quite a few garages given prominence in houses that cut off garden space, all for the sake of saving a few metres walk. We have our outdoor dining area and pool where a garage would possibly have gone instead, which is far nicer to look out on from our living room.

rough layout of the upper level - it's evolved a little since these development approval drawings

So, it's a short walk down to the back corner of the block where there was an existing galvanised iron shed. It was very decrepit, and every time the wind blew I worried it was going to send sheets of iron crashing into cars on the street, and neighbours houses. It was also quite enormous, containing two large shed rooms (apparently the previous owner had cut gemstones in one of them), but only a single bay carport.

The bit I never photographed for Instagram - the old brown falling down galvanised iron shed complex

The garage was reorientated to face our back boundary street which allowed for a much more efficient layout, and has made an overall smaller footprint on the site. We wanted a 3 bay garage, and then to have an upper level with a large open plan space for me to work in, and a small kitchenette and ensuite bathroom. This would have an entry door from the street, and another entry from the garage. It will provide a lot of flexibility in the future - if not used to work out of, it could be used for a teenaged University student to live in, guest accomodation, a place for an au pair, a home gym etc etc.

Stable Block in East Melbourne via

So the tricky part was fitting in all the wants, and making it look right. Really, the only comparable examples I could find were in the US, where many people seem to have living areas over garages, or have separate coach houses. But plonking an American style carriage house in Australia wouldn't look right, so I decided to use the old Australian city vernacular of the stable block as inspiration, an example of which is above.
third street, non symmetrical elevation

To tie it in with our existing side wall, I decided to continue the wall at the base of the new garage and wrap it around the laneway so that it didn't look like an afterthought (it will also have creepers growing up it like the rest of the wall). The rest of the structure is rendered in the same render we used on the back extension of the house to tie it in with that (grey venetian plaster with an ashlar block imprint). By having a wall with the studio above it it breaks down the scale a little, which should also make it less imposing from the street.

This is technically a two storey building, but we had to (council regulations) fit in the studio level mostly under the roof line so that it didn't dominate the streetscape and to make it the height of a single story structure, as are all the buildings in our street are.

studio loft windows, mine won't look like this sadly...via

The gable on the main street elevation therefore had to be lower than the gable on our neighbours house across from us on the secondary street, and not be much taller than the neighbour across our streets garage (they have a similar thing with three street frontages, and their garage is approximately 1m shorter than ours). So to get enough head height in and fit in windows, I decided to do a sort of New York/ Parisian Studio feel by wrapping the windows from the walls up and onto the roof using sky windows (Velux).

more sky windows via

I also spent some time working out with the Engineer a method of making the floor space between the garage level on the ground floor and the studio level as thin as possible to maximise head height in the upper level, and keep the number of stairs required to a minimum (as the stairs were becoming difficult to fit in with the head height issue at the top).

Fitting in all the "wants" on this design was tricky, and one of the first things that had to go was a perfect, symmetrical garage facade with matching garage doors.

Symmetrical garage facade by Howard Design Studio via

Due to having the stairs running against the second street side, the garage door was going to have to be offset to allow for the width of the staircase. Doing three garage doors symmetrically like all the photos I liked just didn't work. I also tend to err on the side of practicality, and doing one very large door, and one smaller was going to be much more practical than three small doors that we'd have to squeeze into at any rate.

So, with the lack of symmetry this threw up came the problem of how to place the windows on the upper level.  In the end after fiddling around with different placements, I decided to bank them into a 3 bay window and centre it over the largest garage door.

Current window situation in progress 

 current exterior corner view with partial street closure and scaffolding

The only other design point to note is the entry point between the garage and our back garden. We do not have any access into the property now through side fences. If for some reason we needed to get a digger in (say, a major plumbing problem), then it wouldn't be possible. The solution to this was to have a Jack and Jill door, which means we have a single large garage door which will be kept shut most of the time, and a standard width door which will give pedestrian access for us in and out of the garage.

Studio upstairs in frame stage

So, enough of the boring practical design talk. The interior is going to be fitted out fairly simply. I'm planning on doing a white beadboard IKEA kitchenette, which will have just a basic sink/ bar fridge set up (I've seen full kitchens done in this sort of accomodation and they never get used), and the ensuite will be tiled in a matte white large format tile, the floors a mid mottled matte grey - modern, classic and simple.

At the top of what will be the staircase

The walls will be painted and floors will be covered with fitted Sisal. I have purchased a wall light for the entry from Restoration Hardware, and have 3 pendant lights for the upper area from Early Settler/ Recollections.

The space has an additional store room on the upper level which I am SO looking forward to - at present every time I take delivery of fabric, light fittings, wallpaper or furniture for clients it's been stored in my formal sitting room... which is looking junkier and junkier. Having a dedicated space for this will be positively luxurious.

So that's about it. We're nearly finished with the exterior. The rendering commences this week, and then the garage doors will go in. Interior plastering will start in about another two weeks and the stairs will arrive then too. I think it will probably be about another 8 weeks to go until it's all done and dusted, but fortunately we've got the roof on and walls up before we hit Winter weather delays.
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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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