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).

Up there with my obsession with hand painted De Gournay wallpaper, I have long held an obsession with Horsehair upholstery. I realise these two things don't necessarily go together in most people's minds, but horsehair upholstery is probably one of the most durable, and most luxuriously beautiful upholstery fabrics you can use in Interiors. Nothing made with modern fibre technology can match it in my estimation. It was the indoor/outdoor/ commercially rub test rated fabric (in terms of durability) of its time.

Photograph: Lisa Linder

So I have had this post, ready to roll out, for about two years now so that I can make all my readers also suitably obsessed with this miraculous stuff. Of course, to illustrate the post I was going to provide an anecdote about my own horsehair upholstered items - two side chairs that I purchased at Scammell's Auction house locally at an estate sale. They were upholstered in their original Victorian era black/brown horsehair, had nailhead trim, and elegant lines. And they sold for $600! A bargain. Unfortunately though I had a busy week and... forgot to put in a bid. Sob. So no happy snap of them in my house.  Yes, I have kicked myself ever since....

1920's Danish chairs with horsehair upholstery, nailhead trim and with a cuban mahogany base

But let's rewind a little and talk about horsehair. It's not commonly used at all these days for a variety of reasons. Used by Thomas Chippendale, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Edward Lutyens on their upholstered pieces it was the height of fashion for around 150 years in Interiors.

Lutyens Napoleon chair upholstered in woven horsehair

The decline began as fashions changed -when it was used originally in Georgian and Victorian upholstered furniture it was of course in its natural state. Therefore you had a colour choice of the shades that a horses' tail came in, which were rather dull. Dyes at the time were not very colourfast, and were not able to successfully change the colour of the hair, so black was usually the default colour. It was slightly funeral, stuffy and not very exciting.

Photograph: Nick Brown

Horsehair for upholstery began to decline at the start of last century (it reached its zenith around the time Queen Victoria died) with the advent of modern fabrics, and a change in the colour palettes used in interiors. Horses were also replaced on our roads and farms with modern machinery, which meant that horse numbers in general declined, and with them the cheap source of the horse hair (the hair is cut from the tail, no horse is harmed/ killed from this).

Photograph: Nick Brown

Eventually horse hair was only used in upholstery as the stuffing. Gradually this too has been replaced by modern foam. However, modern foam, just like modern fabric technology, has not been able to successfully replicate the nature of the natural product. Horse hair has a natural spring to it. It will bounce back to its original position in a way that foam does not (as it degrades over time being a plastic). High quality upholstery is still stuffed with horsehair, but it is fairly prohibitively expensive. It is most definitely not, however, something that you'd put out on the kerb for the rubbish collection 10 years later. It would most definitely be a lifetime purchase.

My horsehair samples from a client job many years ago in reds and greens

But back to the use of it as upholstery. One company in Somerset, England kept up manufacture, on the original mill machinery to produce horsehair upholstery. However, in keeping with the times they revolutionised the actual product, using modern dyes to colour it in bright colours, adding in embroidery and patterns and producing a very beautiful, durable and unique product.  This company is John Boyd Textiles, which dates back to 1837, and is the last surviving mill producing horsehair fabric in England, and one of very few, if not the only one, left in the world. The main market for the company is not for use in interiors, but interestingly for use in soft form handbags that are then sold into Asia where they are highly prized. Germany has a flourishing industry producing these bags, and this is where much of John Boyd's fabrics are sent to. Closer to home it's been used extensively in commercial Interiors for upholstered walls, and on banquette seating and upholstered pieces. The natural lustre and texture of horsehair make it an appealing product for subtly luxurious interiors.

Photograph: Lisa Linder

There are a few quirks particular to the fabric - it comes in very narrow widths (57cm, normal width in fabrics are 1.2-1.4m), which means an experienced upholsterer is required to piece it together successfully when used on larger items. It's also quite eye wateringly expensive. It will take a day to weave 2-3 metres of horsehair fabric, which coupled with the difficulties in sourcing the actual horse hair itself explains the costings. If you can purchase an item already upholstered in horsehair, consider it money in the bank.

Photograph: Lisa Linder

Sadly at this point in time I have no upholstered horsehair items in my possession. One day I'll use one of the beautiful, jewel toned horsehair pieces for something though, and in the meantime I'll be haunting the auction rooms looking for my lost chairs (and if you are the fortunate buyer of them in Adelaide, well lucky you!).

Images source from John Boyd Textiles, English House and Garden Magazine, and Country Living Magazine
I promise this is not going to turn into a travel blog... for one, I don't generally travel much, aside from the past couple of months with little overnight trips to various places. But I went to Brisbane last weekend to visit my friend Faux Fuchsia, and meet up with Romy and committed blog commenter Pammie.

I have never been to Brisbane before. I've passed through the airport on my way further North to the beaches and Islands of the Barrier Reef many times, but never actually stopped. But I loved Brisbane! The best thing about meeting up with a friend that lives there, is that they show you all the good bits you might not see as a tourist, and we spent no time in the CBD as a result.

Brisbane has lots of little houses that are quintessentially Queensland to me in the inner city - lots of weatherboard, fretwork and wide verandas designed to live on. I loved this one above with its tropical palms and patina in New Farm.

And many of them have the classic Queensland style of the lattice gate to the veranda. When this is closed it provides privacy to the veranda, and the front door is left open which means the veranda space is used like an outdoor room. This one above was so sort of 50's Queensland I couldn't help but take a photo.

We stayed the first night at the Fuchsiadome, and went to all Faux Fuchsia's favourite haunts.

We visited Montrachet for lunch (so delicious and French Bistro style), and dropped in and out of shops in Fortitude Valley, Paddington and New Farm. I particularly liked Magnolia Interiors in Fortitude Valley, they bring in a lot of unique things from France that I haven't seen elsewhere in Australia, like these beautiful coloured glass planters above, Astier de Villatte porcelain below, and absolutely gorgeous Limoges hand painted china.

There are also lots of beautiful cushions, lamps and other bits and pieces. It's probably a good thing they're not in Adelaide as it would be very bad for my bank account.... Romy and I returned on Sunday morning to panic shop before we left for the airport. I bought 4 breakfast sized Limoges cups and saucers, each one different.

We also visited the Paddington Antique Market, which is in an old Silent Movie Theatre. I bought this unusual silver plate toast rack (pictured above). It's circa 1890, and faux bamboo. It also holds 8 slices of thick toast in an upright manner... so it's a family sized toast rack, and I've not seen one like it before.

We went to Unique France (antiques), where I admired this set of four matching Art Deco armchairs. They were seriously beautiful in person. I could picture them mixed in with old pieces to give a bit of visual tension to a scheme (reupholstered in something more exciting than beige microsuede). Unfortunately they're $50,000 so I left them behind...

We went to Black and Spiro to check out Anna's latest fabric range in the flesh.

I can report it's printed on an excellent quality linen, and hand screen printed in Australia.

And dinner was at the Fuchsiadome, as you can no doubt tell from the table arrangement below - who else would use a furry leopard print tablecloth? We ate one of FF's famous sand crab lasagnas. It was delicious and really, really not good for the waistline... I think given all the hills in Brisbane FF manages to work it off in a way that I wouldn't be able to in Adelaide.

The next morning was based around more cultural pursuits. We started off at GOMA on Southbank, where we saw the Cindy Sherman exhibition.

I have friends who stayed in a hotel in Verona, Italy for their honeymoon, and were dismayed to find their room full of her creepy clown series of photographs. I'm not sure there was a lot of romance with these staring down at you in bed...

But after you get past the freaky clowns, the photographs where she started using digital cameras became very interesting. She makes a lot of commentary on the selfie culture, which is ironic as she pretty much pioneered selfies - her photos all feature herself in various costume/ makeup which she also does herself.

Here's Iris Apfel and Anna Wintour, and Faux Fuchsia.

We walked along Southbank to Stokehouse for lunch on the river, which was very pleasant indeed. Delicious food, and we stuffed ourselves so full we cancelled dinner that night. Faux Fuchsia won the desert category with her choice which was so pretty.

Sunday we went to the Botanic Gardens. This is the Japanese garden. There was also a lovely salvia walk.

We saw a Bush Turkey, frequently featured in Faux Fuchsia's blog as a menacing predator in her garden.  Those things are freaky. Thank God I just have possums the size of dogs in mine.

We had a delicious lunch at the Paddington Deli, and then it was off to the airport after Mr FF detoured to drive us around some of the cultural sights of Brisbane, such as the former home of Christopher Skase in Hamilton.

It was such a fun break. We talked interiors, antiques, art, fashion, gardens, books and food all weekend. Mr FF was a very good sport driving us around, plying us with Champagne (he'd bought in a case in preparation for the 4 of us) and throwing together cheese platters at a moments notice. The Fuchsia household is as visually lovely and immaculately neat as you'd expect, and I loved Brisbane and can't wait to go back for more. Hope you're having a lovely weekend wherever you are.
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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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