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

Method:
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!


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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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