Hello, apologies for my silence - May is a busy month in our house, and if I look back over the past 2 years of blog posts they've always been a bit light on.

But I've had a bit of a binge on design books lately, so thought I'd write up my new books, some of which are new on the market, and some that are older.

Nicky Haslam's book propped with standard blogger- issue Macaron 

First up in the Interiors category there is Nicky Haslam "A Designer's Life". I have to say that I love all Nicky's previous books, and he is in my estimation one of the premiere Interior Designers in the world, so I did have high expectations with this book. But they were met - absolutely beautiful photography, interesting projects and lots of well written text explaining his approach to design and some of the clever tricks he employed to create the spaces. I think the reason why his design resonates with me is that he approaches Interiors rather like set decorating. Lighting is of prime importance, he plays with scale a lot, and uses everyday objects in inventive ways - not every piece of furniture/ object deserves a place in a Sotheby's catalogue. One example is using those plastic eagles that are supposed to scare off pigeons in his apartment after spray painting them white. He uses a lot of techniques to draw the eye and distract from less desirable features or problems. It's a good book.

Anouska's yacht

Another Interior Designer that uses theatre techniques is Anouska Hempel, and her book is equally interesting. She has a very strict aesthetic (I think her schemes are instantly recognisable as being her design) with a lot of influence from the East (probably growing up in Australia and travelling through Asia has had a lasting impression). Her use of lighting is also very theatrical - lots of up lighters and down lights, candles etc, and screens (quite an Asian influence with her use of them) to create mystery and intimacy in large spaces. She also uses a lot of black - black walls are not uncommon in her schemes. All very moody and theatrical. Anyone familiar with her background knows that Blakes, her boutique hotel that launched a thousand boutique hotels after it, has a very distinctive style, and that is trademark Hempel.

Moving onto gardens - the first book I was excited to get my hands on was Bunny Williams "On Garden Style". It was a disappointment. It's possibly a must read if you're creating a garden in the Northern Hemisphere (like, say, Connecticut )… but I think that any of Paul Bangay's design books are more informative and better from a how-to design perspective, as he is after all formally educated in these areas, as well as having years of experience with vast ranges of climate, soil type, plants etc. This book is really very place centric, and gives a lot of information on how she created her garden which doesn't necessarily translate well to anything else.

Highgrove, which is a book about Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales' garden is beautiful and is full of luscious garden photos. It explains how the garden has developed over the past 35 years showing photos of before and after and throughout the seasons, with discussion on the Prince's garden preferences, focus on organics, permaculture, the different designers who have worked on it etc etc.

The last garden book was Myles Baldwin's "Period Gardens - landscapes for houses with history". I loved this book. It looks at house styles in broad periods (e.g. Victorian/ 1920's etc) and discusses the design styles that were popular with that type of house. I'm planning a few tweaks to the front garden now that the children are not playing there so much (as they now have a large back garden post renovation), and this book resonated with me enormously. Essentially, I'd like my front garden to look like the cover, with a mix of textured plants and interesting foliage which was a hallmark of the Colonial Victorian style of garden design.

Lastly, Architecture. I thought this book looked interesting "The Practice of Classical Architecture, the Architecture of Quinlan and Francis Terry" and it was one of the more thought provoking things I've read about Architecture for a long time. Classical Architecture is largely out of favour with modern Architects, and certainly in most Architectural degree courses the world over it is completely frowned upon in favour of the Modernist style (which ironically is around 70 years old now). Much of our new design is built with lifespans of 50 years only due to the materials used (glass, aluminium and concrete which degrade). The shock of the new alongside the old is celebrated and Architects that design in this style are feted by the Architectural elite (Gehry, Foster et al). I have written before of my Design Schizophrenia - I think I'm a classicist at heart, but there is a definite push/ pull with modern design for me, much of which I was indoctrinated with at University where Classicism is definitely frowned upon (as I wrote when doing my renovation design of my house I'd never designed a pitched roof before as you're not taught it at University and unless you work extensively in domestic Architecture for a practice that does pitched roofs you're not going to pick it up. This is but one example).

This book discusses the importance of Vernacular design (Vernacular meaning place appropriate - a style particular to the area that responds to climate/ historical influences such as patterns of settlement/ and constructed out of locally available materials). A lot of modern Architecture could be placed anywhere in the world - a glass box in Australia could be placed in America, could be placed in the UK, yet conversely we are told that this is more 'honest' that a mock Victorian (for instance) building that might be of a style that fits in with surrounding design. The stripping out of ornamentation (it is most definitely frowned upon at University design classes), and the cheapening of building materials were discussed… I found this book so interesting and thought provoking. The buildings they create are authentically period appropriate, and are masterpieces of their type. If you love Georgian architecture then this book is full of amazing houses they've designed and built for people all over the world. Lord Rothermere's house Ferne Park is one that has been extensively featured in print and is a pretty remarkable place in terms of the amount of authentic detail that has gone into it (a good article about it was written by The Devoted Classicist here). But even if you're not fond of Georgian Architecture the text raised many interesting points on the future of Modern Architecture and Architectural theory.

So I think that's a long winded enough book review from me… happy reading!
via Vogue

Sometimes fashion is the leading edge in capturing the zeitgeist, and sometimes it's a follower. In this instance, when Marc Jacobs sent his models out at the recent Autumn/ Winter 2015 Ready to Wear show in New York, he was way behind the times - the prints that he used for his collection were all sourced from William Morris & Co, founder of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic movement, and were in many instances 140 years old.

via Vogue

There's a shift in Interiors and Fashion at the moment to embrace quieter, more muted tones, pattern on pattern, a bohemian vibe and to embrace individuality and the hand made.

The biggest mass appeal look in recent times via Adore Home

For the past 8 years or so the feel has been decidedly influenced by Hollywood Regency style as demonstrated above - lots of painted  bamboo furniture, bright white walls offsetting strong saturated colour and bold geometric prints, Foo dogs, bar carts, zebra print, and gourd shaped lamps (or the cockatoo lamp bases) with mismatched shades. It's a little bit preppy, strongly graphic, and has a 50's retro vibe to it. It's also been beloved of bloggers the world over (just add peonies and a colour matched macaron) and is now a look that's been widely commercially copied and filtered decidedly into the mass market with Target enthusiastically joining in.

Via Morris & Co

Via Morris & Co

The shift towards the Arts and Crafts movement comes from the current embracing of the home made, the artisanal, the bespoke… a nostalgia perhaps for the notion of individuality and honesty in design. All those people with beards running Bars who like to tell you earnestly about their specially foraged herbs arranged on the share plates and the selection of crafted artisanal beers they stock are a key leading indicator of the seismic shift in the creative sphere. When the world gets a little bit crazy, as it is at the moment with rampant mass consumerism and the instability terrorism is creating across the globe,  people seek a feel of the unique and the sense of bohemian individuality, the authenticity of provenance, and hand in hand the desire for comfort and home.

 via Morris & Co

via Morris & Co

The Arts and Crafts movement has its genesis with William Morris, principle founder in 1861. Morris was an artist, and his designs for fabrics, wallpapers, tapestries and furniture, and the approximately 600 books, published letters and papers he wrote during his lifetime about his subjects of interest were highly influential around the world. They captured the mood of the time, which was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 which displayed the mass production of consumer goods. The disappearance of the hand made and crafted - the disappearance of the artist - he and others in the movement worked in direct opposition to.

via Morris & Co

via Morris & Co

 His designs were influenced by the Medieval period, with a lyrical and flowing use of repetitive naturalistic pattern, and had a complexity and richness of design by the layering of pattern on pattern. There's a very strong play of foreground and background in his designs giving them a three dimensional quality and great depth. All his wallpapers were printed using woodblocks, and his fabrics used natural dyes which faded evenly and gave a gentle patina. The fabrics and wallpapers are still produced in England today (the company is now owned by Sanderson), with a very hand made feel to the papers and fabric produced with more modern techniques.

To modernise the range many are being recoloured to suit the current palette in interiors (the originals are also still available) with muted neutrals across the range, and foil elements in the wallpapers. Many new designs have also been created using tile patterns found at his original house (The Red House). I was at a showing yesterday for Morris & Co, and the way in which they were presenting the fabrics (as demonstrated in the images above) proves how modern they can be -  they've mixed in Mid-Century Modern furniture with the traditional wallpapers and fabrics to give a freshness and vibrancy to the designs and show how it can  fit with modern life for a younger generation of Morris enthusiasts.

A Morris & Co display at the Art Gallery of South Australia

Here in Adelaide we are very well aware of Morris's influence on design - the second largest collection of original William Morris & Co pieces are held at the Art Gallery of South Australia (the largest collection is held by the V&A in London). His biggest patron was a wealthy Adelaide family - the Barr-Smiths, who furnished 7 of their large houses with near continual shipments of rugs, stained glass windows, furniture, tapestries, wallpapers and furnishing fabrics sent from England.

Art Gallery of South Australia

The Arts and Crafts period influenced many of the very large houses and their interiors designed in and around Adelaide (Stirling in the Adelaide Hills has many of them) - Adelaide had many wealthy families at the time from Agricultural and mining booms. As tends to happen amongst friends you will often find that one will influence the others, and many of the wealthy Adelaide families collected Morris & Co and designed houses in the then fashionable Arts and Crafts style. Most of the houses have subsequently been modernised and redecorated and lost much of the richness of the original interior design schemes as a sparser aesthetic took over. A good example is below - this grand Victorian era staircase and entry hall would have originally had rich persian rug style runners on the stairs rather than pale carpet, and walls covered with a patterned wallpaper, rather than being painted out in varying shades of cream.

If you're fortunate to be in Birmingham in the UK this summer, then you'll be able to view the exhibition of Birmingham's Holy Grail tapestries at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. They are exhibited very infrequently due to their light sensitivity, but are stunningly detailed and large scale - worth a look if you can get there.

Holy Grail tapestry via Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Apparently there is also an upcoming collaboration between British clothing manufacturer Barbour and Morris & Co with Barbour jackets being lined with his iconic fabric designs.

This all just proves that everything old is new again, it's all just tweaked a smidge to make it current… and that the fickle wheel of fashion is moving yet again to embrace the Arts and Crafts aesthetic.

back corner of the garden - hard to believe this is only 6 months old.

Up until the past few days, it's been an unusually cool start to Autumn in Adelaide. This has meant that for once the weather is matching what the season says it is supposed to be - we've had rain, grey days and crisp days and nights, rather than the usual March bake of 40C weather and Autumn fashions in the stores.

David Austin "Golden Celebration"

Leaves are turning bright crimson and saffron colours in the garden, but there are still the last of the roses putting on a display as well.

I went to a lovely Afternoon Tea at a friend's house out in her garden (it's currently School Holidays) - this was the setting. It wasn't quite so serenely peaceful as it might look in this photo though, as sitting at the adjacent table were 7 children under the age of 9 all demanding constant top ups of drinks, scones and sandwiches.

My children have spent a day collecting pine cones up in the hills in my Dad's garden, which which I've created a few arrangements in lieu of flowers about the place.  

And I've been cooking up a storm out of my new cookbook, Jamie Oliver's "Comfort Food". I've always found his recipes to be very reliable. I've so far made the Moussaka and the Slow Cooked Shoulder of Pork with a fennel and potato gratin. Both were big hits, although the Moussaka was frankly very time consuming. The Pork was cooked for an Easter Lunch with my family, and was perfect as I put it in the oven the night before and let it cook away slowly overnight leaving the morning free for the egg hunt and other Eastery things with the children.

views down the side garden

With the change in season I've been turning out cupboards and drawers all through the house and taking large boxes of outgrown or worn out clothes to the Charity shop. I haven't yet read the cult book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo but may yet do so - have any of you read it? Thoughts? The clear out has left room for a couple of new Winter additions though.

Above is my new Cable Melbourne jumper in grey (this is the back view of it - love the detail in the stitching and the curved hem). I've written about Cable Melbourne before as they are my favourite knitwear brand - much of it is made in Australia and the designs are modern and flattering (and warm!). I will usually buy one or two of their excellent pieces each Winter to add to my existing repertoire of knitwear. This jumper goes well with two of my existing scarfs, one silk in grey with orange edging (it's Fleurs et Papillons de Tissus), and a more casual grey toned Mulberry one that was a gift from a friend for my 40th. I've already worn all of these combos out and about with skinny jeans and ballet flats, and once it cools down further the new leather leggings that I bought heavily reduced in the January sales from Joseph (via David Jones).

On house interiors news I finally had confirmation that the lamp order I've been patiently waiting on from the US has finally left, and is now on a very slow boat inching its way to me. I have 10 lamps in the order, so I can't wait until they're here… it will certainly be a little brighter at night in the house. I've also just ordered two more chairs for the Sitting Room/ Library. They are going to go on either side of the card table under the painting, and will be in this Neisha Crosland fabric (swatch in the photo above) that I've been wanting to use for a very long time somewhere. Believe it or not neutrals can be the hardest thing to decorate with - there are literally a million shades of beige out there ranging from grey/ yellow/ pink/ green and brown toned shades so it was a happy day to find this fabric works perfectly in the room. The cushions I've got underway are still being made up by the workroom, so I'll likely have everything arrive at once to finish off this room with the lamps/ cushions/ chairs. Fun!

And just in time for the change in season and lots of nights in front of the fire we've finally got Netflix, and I'm loving it. If, like me, you're hopeless about remembering to watch a tv series and so miss crucial episodes and lose the train of what is going on (I couldn't follow Downton Abbey after half way through Series 2 for instance) this thing is perfect. Between Mad Men and Wolf Hall starting up on Foxtel, and now Netflix it will keep me busy. 

There's the smell of wood fires hanging in the air at night, and the days are definitely getting shorter. Hope you're enjoying the change of season whether it's Spring or Autumn where you are.

The original kitchen from the real estate listing

I haven't done a Before and After of the house for a while, but I think this one is a pretty good transformation. Originally this room was the kitchen in our house, and would have been a kitchen from the time the house was built in 1901. It had last been renovated in the 1970's, and we used it as a kitchen/ dining room for the first three years we lived in the house up until the time the new extension was completed. We had made some small adjustments - during the renovations of the front of the house prior to moving in we'd bricked up one of the doors into the kitchen to the small adjacent servery (which became the children's bathroom), leaving one access point from the hallway.

and my non real estate (no wide angle lens) listing photos - this was just prior to demolition of this room

The other additional problem with this room is that the cellar is directly underneath it, and when a bathroom had been added onto the back of the house the original stairs were covered over, so a hatch had been cut out and a very steep stair/ladder added to access the cellar. As part of the extension we reopened up the original stair location which enabled us to remove the hatch in the old kitchen floor and re-board over the floors. A bedroom with cellar access would have been a little odd...

 same angle as the top photo with a bit taken out for the powder room

The kitchen was definitely past its use by date, but the main problem that I had with this space related to the change in use and the plan for the reorganisation of rooms that we made. This room faces South so gets very little natural light, not ideal for a Child's bedroom, and was something that is exacerbated by the veranda that runs around the entire perimeter of the old part of the house making it even darker. The other thing was that I planned to take out a corner of the room to create the Guest W/C/ powder room with access from a new door in the hall. This bedroom was already going to be the smallest bedroom in the house, and was becoming even smaller by removing part of it for this purpose…. coupled with it being dark, having no interesting architectural features such as cornices, deep skirting boards or a fireplace (as it was a kitchen, these things had never been put in the room), it really was the worst room in the house.

To overcome all these deficiencies I decided that the best way to deal with the small space was to build in furniture. We needed to accommodate a desk (for future study, as my son is currently only 4 years old), bookshelves, somewhere to sit, a wardrobe, bed and bedside table. The room could easily have ended up feeling crowded by all these disparate elements, but by blocking the wardrobe, bookshelves, desk and seating into a custom built in unit I designed, it freed up floor area for playing, and created a neat and practical storage solution. With the absence of visual clutter the room feels more spacious than it is.

I designed this unit to run along the wall that has the window, as our windows are unusually low it precludes having standard height furniture like a desk or bed against it as they would cover over it. So the seating for the room is a window seat with a deep cushion and built in storage under, a wardrobe to the left of this, and on the right a built in desk with bookshelves above that are covered by doors when not in use. The desk has a pin board backing to it and built in power points for a lamp and for computer charging points.

In terms of colour choices for the room, that was determined by my then 2 year old Son. I really believe it is important to involve children in the design of their bedroom. Even very small children can usually tell  you what colour they want their special space to be. I do try to balance this out though by making a room that can grow with the child into teenage years. It was therefore a slight challenge to be informed by my Son that he wanted an orange bedroom - his favourite colour. There was absolutely no way I was going to paint the walls orange - it's just not a restful colour, and I worried that he may well not want an orange bedroom as a teenager at any rate, particularly if it was so in your face. So the Anna Spiro for Porters Paints wallpaper "Higgledy Piggledy Stripe" in Chilli Coral was the perfect choice - all the white balances out the orange nicely - it's cheery and bright without being juvenile or unsophisticated. My son then said that he wanted light blue for his blind and window seat cushion - his second favourite colour. So China Seas "Aga Reverse" fabric in turquoise was the final choice (he approved all samples of wallpaper and fabric). The wallpaper needed a vibrant blue, rather than a pastel.

The main problem I then had was bedding. Unfortunately in Australia if you have a boy your choices are either blue (navy or sky) or grey bed linen. Any turquoise is usually in girls bedding and comes with flowers, as does anything with orange - usually it's balanced out with pink. In the end I ordered from the US from Serena and Lily a turquoise bedspread and matching pillow shams. I also ordered a white doona cover with orange frame border… it was irritating to have to do this, but I held off buying it for over a year in the hope that something would turn up locally that would work - nothing did.

The bed is from Lilly and Lolly (Australian company), who manufacture in Australia, and is solid Tasmanian Oak. It's the colour box bed and matching single drawer bedside table unit. I've been really happy with the quality- very solid, well made and should last a long time.

The bedside lamp is a cheapie from Freedom Furniture that fortuitously matched the turquoise colour with the shade and cord, the artwork above the bedside is from Tiggywinkle children's boutique in Melbourne who carry a large range of original artworks suitable for children. The artist is a botanical artist, so it's a beautifully detailed illustration. The other art in the room is the large framed animal alphabet scarf over the radiator, and the room really doesn't need anything more than that. I've hung all the artwork deliberately lower - you are supposed to hang art with the viewing point at eye level, but as this room is for a small child I decided to keep the scale low by hanging it lower - it works better with the low lines of the bed and bedside table too.

It's now a really cheery, cosy space that perfectly reflects the personality of its inhabitant. He loves his bedroom, and will often take himself off here to spend time looking at books on his windowseat, or playing stretched out on the floor with his cars or Lego. Hopefully it will also be a room that grows with him with only minor adjustments into his teenage years.

Wallpaper - Anna Spiro for Porter's Paint "Higgledy Piggledy Stripe" in Chilli Coral
Paint - Dulux Hog's Bristle 1/4 strength semi gloss enamel
Fabric - China Seas "Aga Reverse" Turquoise on Tint
Bedlinen - Serena and Lily "Cabin Quilt" and Sham in Turquoise, "Border Frame" duvet cover and sham in Coral
Furniture - Lilly and Lolly Colour box bed in Tassie Oak, single drawer bedside table in Tassie Oak
Lamp - Freedom Furniture
Carpet - Quest "St Louis" colour Kendall Coal
Pendant light (not seen in photos above) - Bell pendant light from Normann Copenhagen 
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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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