I thought, that as I have scant chance of writing blog posts of any merit over the next few weeks, that I'd instead repost a couple of my favourite blog posts from many years past. Long term blog readers, please excuse my laziness in reposting some of them, but I hope that newer readers might enjoy them instead. I will try to write a couple of other blogs before Christmas, but in the meantime, here is one of my favourite posts.


If you've visited the British Museum you may well have seen Mary Delany's stunning paper collages. Begun when she was a 72 year old widow in the 18th Century in England, she is the inventor of paper collage, and her botanically accurate depictions of some 1000 different specimens are true works of art as well as science. Each of her collages is made up of individually hand-cut coloured paper which has been glued to black backing paper. She finally put down her scissors aged 82 due to her failing eye sight, after an industrious and unconventional life marked by her sophistication, intelligence, friendships (with many luminaries such as the composer Handel, writer Jonathon Swift and Sir Joseph Banks the botanist), and her talent in Art and Music. As I mentioned recently in a blog post, I read a fascinating book about her life, Mary Delany, her Life and Her Flowers. I love books about social history and women's lives over the ages, and Mary Delany lived quite an extraordinary life.

Born Mary Granville into a family of lower ranked nobility, she had association with the English Court through her widowed Aunt and was educated in French, English, History, Needlework, Dancing and Music in London for the life at Court it was assumed she would have. A change in the Monarchy with the death of Queen Anne led to Mary's family fortunes turning. Their reduced circumstances lead to her being pressured into a marriage, aged 17, with a 60 year old man of means. She was desperately unhappy, but he eventually died, leaving her widowed aged 23. Unfortunately he had not altered his will, and his estate passed to his niece, leaving her with a very small widow's stipend.

Mary was determined not to remarry (widows were able to move much more freely in society), and she remained single until she was in her early 40's (and was known as a Bluestocking through her friendship with that group). During this time she was active at Court and in Society, much sought after for her wit, humour and intelligence. She was also known for setting fashions, albeit in a more 'stylish' manner than being a pure trendsetter. Much of what she wore she designed herself, and also embroidered quite exquisitely. She made a court dress of black silk, which was embroidered all over with silk flowers, each different and unique (a precursor to her paper collages), and which has been passed down in her family.

embroidered panels from her court dress

Eventually she remarried, this time for love, to Irishman Dr Patrick Delany (against her family's wishes). She then entered a very settled and industrious period spending each day in paper cutting silhouettes, as an avid gardener (many of her letters reference with interest the work that Capability Brown was doing landscaping friend's and family member's estates in the revolutionary manner that became known as the Landscape Style), in shellwork (she created a shell grotto at a friend's house, as well as covering furniture, mirrors and ceilings in shells), embroidery (designing and embroidering curtains and chair covers for her home as well as her clothes), reading, playing music and doing all of these things in the company of her friends, of whom she had many. 

After the death of her husband, when she was 72, she moved back to England, living with the Dowager Duchess of Portland, a close friend. Both had an interest in Botany, which lead them to friendships with botanic luminaries such as Sir Joseph Banks. Her paper collages were the culmination of her scientific knowledge of plants, her artistic skill with colour and texture, and her extraordinarily high skill level in cutting fine and tiny pieces of paper to create silhouettes. These caught the eye of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George 3rd, who became good friends with Mrs Delany (as did the King himself), and encouraged her in her pursuit.

Mrs Delany's flowers have inspired many artists and designers. Of course, collage is now considered quite mainstream, but she was the trailblazer. Carolina Herrera sent out a catwalk collection for Spring 2011that featured botanic specimens on black that were definite homages to Mrs Delany's work.

I found her life so interesting on so many levels - she was a clearly intelligent woman, who was trapped by the circumstances of her sex, and the era that she was born into, to live a life that was not of her choosing. But after being given her freedom by the death of her first husband, her path was not conventional in the least. She waited to marry again for love, rather than social position or financial security (she apparently had many offers of marriage that she turned down). Her artistic skill, creativity and industriousness are completely inspiring, as was the fact that she was quite old when she began her real life's work of her one thousand botanical collages - there is hope for us all! 

There are several books written about her life. The one I read Mary Delany, Her Life and Her Flowers, was written by a descendant of her sister, but there is another more recent release titled The Paper Garden written by Molly Peacock and which is a slightly more dramatised version of Mrs Delany's life. Mary Delany lived a fascinating, industrious and creative life, a life that was inspiring on many levels.

all images via Pinterest
trial Christmas setting... need to find some water glasses that work

It's pre Christmas craziness here. I've been flat out working to get things I need done before the final Christmas shutdown of the construction industry, plus the school end of year activities have already begun with Sports Days and music concerts ticked off, and carols/ nativity plays/ speech days looming in the next few weeks.

Emmanuel Phillips Fox painting (an Australian Impressionist) of Sandy Bay, Hobart 

 photos from the Adelaide Antique fair a few weeks ago. I liked this pair of wingback chairs a lot.

Weather wise, it's been crazy too. Just after we'd all cleared away the mess caused by the recent floods/ cyclones I wrote about in my last post, and declared Spring finally on, we were hit by a massive Thunderstorm with golf ball sized hailstones that seemingly came out of nowhere. The AV cars received a couple of minor knocks, the storm hit at about 5pm on a Friday afternoon, but I have friends whose cars have been written off by their insurers, solar heating and electricity panels damaged, and skylights smashed. The weather is either freezing, or 38C, there has been no happy medium.

Sadly, the Echium Giant, which was standing nearly 3 meters high was knocked over in the winds... Mr AV made some rude comments about how it was looking, as did a couple of his friends... so last weekend I had a heavy duty garden session, and pulled it out. It had finished flowering anyway, so they usually die after that, but still...

droopy echium

I was also cursing myself when after a hot night a few weekends ago I decided to switch the Doona over to the summer weight one, then had to wear socks and flannel pjs to bed as the weather swung back down to freezing. This week it finally feels like proper Spring/ Summer, so I have started washing all the woollens and putting them away, hoping I'm not jinxing myself...and I've also continued on my big cupboard cleanup, taking more loads of outgrown kids clothes and toys to the Charity store, cleaning out cupboards in the kitchen and laundry and trying to organise the work samples in the Sitting room while we wait for the Studio/ garage to be built.... which has been delayed and will now start in mid January. Sigh. It's the neverending garage design/build.

woollen washing

I spent last Monday in the city knocking off a lot of the Christmas Shopping, and am now feeling more mentally organised. Mostly I give books to family for presents, or theme around consumables. There's a bottle of Tasmanian Whisky for my Father in Law, some Science based books for my Father, my sisters are getting Kink vinegar/oil bottles from The Jam Factory (I use mine for dishwashing soap and leave it permanently by the sink... it's pictured below with neon green dishwashing liquid in it... unfortunately I had thought I was buying colourless, this is not the colour pop I was looking for), the teachers at school and the music teachers are getting Project Ten bags (also one of my favourite gifts to give for hostess gifts and friends birthdays as well). There are currently so many good books around though - the latest Paul Bangay "County Garden"s book is fabulous and would definitely make a good gif for the keen gardener. I've successfully avoided all the Black Friday sales over this weekend - sadly the clothes I liked were only a measly 40% off, instead of the 90% off I'd prefer, because 40% off something $4000, is not exactly cheap.

kink bottle for dishwashing liquid

I am enjoying my roses, which have been fairly spectacular this year, even if they are late. If I've had a hard day, there is no greater pleasure than wandering around the garden far from fractious children snipping a few in the evening to put in little vases. In June I planted around 25 new bushes, all David Austins and I included a lot of dark reds. They're starting to put out their flowers, although I do think you get the best flowers after they've had a few years to settle in. If you want an endless stream of rose photos, then hop on over to Instagram where I am trying to restrain myself from constantly posting pictures of them.

As you can see from the very first image in this post, I'm hosting my family Christmas dinner for the first time this year. It will be a more casual affair, due to our lack of formal dining room, however I decided that using my Cabbage ware would be a suitably festive and garden-ish theme for the main event in the more casual setting of our open plan living area. I realise that cabbage ware will probably look a little odd for Christmas to those in the Northern Hemisphere, however we could easily have a very very hot day, and it's highly likely that the children will all be swimming post Christmas lunch. So, festively themed green cabbage ware, the antique silver cutlery, the Waterford Crystal glasses (which long term blog readers will remembered I purchased at estate auction for $20/ glass a few years ago and so will happily put in the dishwasher) and silver Christmas crackers and giant baubles as centrepieces will be the order of the day I think. We will have 12 adults, 5 children and 2 babies in attendance. The wreath will go up on the 1st December on the front door, and the fresh tree will be purchased and decorated next weekend. Today I baked sponge cakes that I've wrapped in foil and put in the freezer in preparation for trifle bases - my Dad visited during the week and dropped off 3 dozen eggs from his chickens, so I needed to use some up.

So, I'll try to keep up the blogging during the next month, but the end of the year feels like it's in light speed at the moment. All the posts in my head on all sorts of design things are not unfortunately jumping out on the page, so I hope your Christmas prep is going well, and for those in the US I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving.

image via Nicola Lawrence Textils and Papers. Chelsea Textiles cushions.

And finally, if you were are an Australian based graduate of The Inchbald School of Design in London in either Landscape or Interiors, and you'd be interested in getting in touch with others here, then please email nicola(at)nicolalawrence.com.au, or me on anadelaidevilla (at) bigpond.com  as we're trying to get together a group.

 images via Nicola Lawrence Textiles and Papers

Nicola recently set up an internet based business from her property on a Merino sheep farm in country New South Wales, and she retails absolutely stunning fabrics, wallpapers, lampshades and cushions, not easily available in Australia. Her business, Nicola Lawrence Textiles and Papers is quite unique, and it is making accessible some of the more boutique brands of fabric companies from the US and the UK. Long term blog readers will know that I am of the opinion that lack of retailing of good quality interiors fabrics and wallpapers is detrimental to the design environment as a whole here, so I think it is fabulous that Nicola is making these brands available in a way they'd usually not be (as they're to the trade only). If you're looking for beautiful hand blocked fabrics or wallpapers, and you're not necessarily looking to employ a designer, this might be a good option for you.

Via Nicola Lawrence Textiles and Papers
Have a happy weekend
the side garden

Blowing off the cobwebs on the blog - that was an unexpectedly long hiatus. The Great Storm that swept through South Australia nearly a month ago, and that dramatically knocked out the entire state's power for 12 hours (for my overseas readers, the state of South Australia is roughly the same geographical size as Germany, although only has 2 Million inhabitants), also knocked out the AV internet for almost 2 weeks. Of course it took me about 6 separate incredibly tedious phone calls to the Telstra call centre in India to try to work out what was going on.... and eventually they conceded there was a problem in our area and not with us personally, and it was finally fixed. But then, it turned into School holidays, and all other plans to write the odd blog post went out the window.

sandwiches by scented candle light

I will add that I have determined on the back of that storm that I will become a Prepper. It takes 12 hours without power to realise that burning multiple differently scented candles at once is quite sick inducing, and that rifling through the drawers to find in desperation the ones gifted to you that you had previously determined smelled too offensive to actually use, makes you realise that a large supply of unscented plain candles are a good thing to have on hand. So too is more than 4 slices of bread to feed 3 children and one adult when all your appliances work on electricity, and that due to the cyclonic conditions outside it's not exactly BBQ weather.

soggy and grey

We have certainly had our fair share of rain here. It has been a very usually cold and wet Spring, and the first full flush of roses, which generally marks the first week of October, has not really eventuated yet. This week a few bushes spluttered into life, but most are still some way off. Most of the blossom in my garden blew away in the high winds from the rolling successive storms we've had over the past 6 weeks - on Tuesday it hailed yet again. I've been busy preparing for the promised warm weather, wrapped up in my puffer and layers of wool, eschewing the more usual lighter layers and colours at this time of year. I have a bad feeling we're going to suddenly have days of 40C and no real Spring in between.

front garden

The cold wet weather did mean that during the school holidays I got stuck into a big clear out of two of my children's bedrooms. A large quantity of outgrown toys and books were delivered to my younger sister, who had her first baby two weeks ago, others were donated to charity or binned. Clothes were sorted/ thrown out/ donated and everything was organised anew. We no longer have any baby or toddler toys in the house! This is sad in a way, and a relief in others to finally clear out a bit of the toy pile. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, so the cancelled camping trip due to the flooded roads North meant that I had a productive alternative weekend.

In the garden I mulched all the garden beds, my hedging man trimmed things that needed shaping, and I had the verandas and paved areas high pressured cleaned removing the build up of dust that had accumulated over the past year. Next up the windows will be cleaned, and I will have ticked off a lot of my Spring cleaning list, most of it outsourced I have to admit!

The new outdoor sun lounges to go beside the pool from Restoration Hardware in the US finally arrived last week, and look perfect. Now we just need some sun to arrive as well....

roses and irises by the Bocce court
One upside of the wet weather is that not only did I receive a record low water bill this quarter (usually the watering system is turned on by the end of September, but it still isn't remotely needed), but the fertiliser that I threw around everywhere in early September was well watered in, and the flag and bearded Irises have been spectacular as a result.

I planted some new bearded iris varieties earlier in the year which have just flowered. They were heritage ones from the Diggers Club which are highly frilled in lilac, lilac and white and pink, and this one below, which is supposedly black.

Looks dark purple to me though....

My ecchium, which I grew from seed, is now almost 3 metres tall and full of white flowers. The bees and honeyeaters (birds) love it.

 bees galore

 one lonely Sharifa Asma rose in the powder room

With the lack of change in season, what I'm cooking and wearing has been tediously similar to what I was cooking and wearing in the depths of Winter. So I decided to try a couple of new recipes, and this Karen Martini one is a winner. Easy to do for one, or for 4 (just cut down the quantity as needed), and a simple and quick mid week dinner dish.

Baked Chicken with tomato, fennel and white wine

4 Chicken Marylands
1 Tablespoon Fennel seeds
3 Red Onions thickly sliced
5 garlic cloves thinly sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, cut into chunky dice
150ml white wine
250ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
20 large green or black olives, pitted
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180C/ 355F
1. Brown chicken in olive oil in fry pan, set aside in casserole dish
2. Sautee onions and garlic in a few table spoons of olive oil with some salt and pepper until soft
3. Add fennel seeds and cook for a minute until aromatic
4. Add tomatoes, continue to cook for 3 minutes until soft
5. Add white wine, simmer for a minute
6. Add stock, bay leaves and pitted olives and bring to simmer
7. Pour over chicken in the casserole dish
8. Put into oven and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

I like to serve it on couscous mixed through with a little chopped preserved lemon, chopped roasted almonds, chopped flat leaf parsley and some steamed green beans. The children like this one, although they pick out the olives.

I had a win at the local antiques auction a month ago - this club fender for the library/ sitting room. The base is in copper, and the seat in brown leather and fortuitously the dimensions fitted my fireplace perfectly. Best of all it was a tiny fraction of the cost of importing one from the UK (shipping alone had been quoted at 700 pounds!). I can't show the rest of the room as it's currently a horrible mess...

We are soon to be starting the demolition of the old shed, and construction of the new 3 car garage with my studio space above, which is where all the samples/ work things currently cluttering up the library/ sitting room will be moving to. To this end we've spent the weekend clearing out the old shed, which I had in all seriousness worried would blow away during the various storms that have rolled through in the past month with their high winds. It's been a thoroughly disgusting and depressing job, as it barely provided weather coverage, so everything in it has been wet/ damaged/ covered in possum poo, plus we've had to finally sort through the stuff the builders left from the previous renovations (50 paint cans, most empty etc). We are hoping the first week of November the build will start... especially as the delivery of the sun lounges also brought the delivery of some furniture for my future studio above the garage.

This sideboard will be perfect with large baskets on the shelves for my samples. Unfortunately though we have no where to put it for a few months... so it's inside against the French doors in the casual living area. Mr AV has been a bit grumpy with me about it, especially as he had to carry it in with a friend, and I gather it's sort of extremely heavy. Plus I then mentioned it would have to be carried up a flight of stairs in the garage in a few months time...

So, hopefully the next couple of weeks the weather will improve, and the demolition will start on our last major project for this house, at long last.  Hope you are enjoying more pleasant weather than us here in soggy Adelaide!

Martinique, the Banana Leaf wallpaper first popularised at the Greenbriar and Beverley Hills Hotels in the US in the 1950's has had a bit of a resurgence of late. I have to say, that I do love it quite a bit. Any design classic will always get me. I particularly love it when used to pack a punch, such as in a small powder room.

But then, I started to notice it in other places. It had jumped off the walls, and was now having a bit of a fashion moment. First, I saw some Pyjamas in a shop in Melbourne. Fun! I have run out of walls in my house for wallpaper, so Pj's would be a good alternative.

via Masini & Chern

And then I saw the Charlotte Olympia perspex clutch with the Martinique inner pouch, which I loved, especially with the little jewelled spider on top

The matching wedge shoes were a little high for me though.

Then there was the Dolce & Gabanna collection which used it on dresses, on bags, shoes, scarfs and pretty much anything else. 

Accessorised with a healthy dose of blinged out bug brooches. 

And now, when I go on Pinterest, my feed is full of other Banana Leaf things. You can have a Banana leaf themed party with backdrops

Paper Plates

 and of course the cake to match.

You can tell what time your guests will arrive by checking your Banana Leaf clock

And after a long, exhausting day partying on, you can collapse into your Banana Leaf bedding.

So it's starting to make me think that perhaps Banana Leaf is the new Chevron.....

Coming soon to a Target near you (if it hasn't already made it).

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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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