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

 via Camilla

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

via Camilla

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

via Camilla

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

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

Vita Kin, via Matches Fashion 

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

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

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

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

via Moda Operandi

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

via Moda Operandi

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

Just like Angelina Jolie did that time at the Oscars.

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

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

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

American style carriage house via

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stable Block in East Melbourne via

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

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

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

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

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

more sky windows via

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

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

Symmetrical garage facade by Howard Design Studio via

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

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

Current window situation in progress 

 current exterior corner view with partial street closure and scaffolding

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

Studio upstairs in frame stage

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

At the top of what will be the staircase

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

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

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

Technically, it's now Autumn. But we have had several weeks of 30C plus days, and warm nights, and I always think the silliness that is deciding on a season based on a calendar date is particularly true of March in Adelaide, which I always think of as our hottest and driest month. At any rate, while the retailers have the memo, and have adorned their shop windows with coats and boots, it's definitely summer dress weather in real life. I thought I'd try to do a bit of a round up of what's been going on..

 Corner of a master ensuite. This is a double vanity unit with scalloped sconces set on the mirror.

I've been working, a lot. I haven't ever really written much about client work on the blog, but I do share images on the fly sometimes over on my Instagram.

Formal sitting room, the bookcase being painted. There is navy blue grasscloth on the walls

Back wall of the kitchen

Love the big farmhouse sink and classic lever tap

This house is a project I've been working on with my clients for the past nearly 2 years. It's now up to the bit that is exciting to photograph - all the months of drafting, dirty building site and frames and spaghetti junctions of wires is coming together and we now have the more visually exciting part of joinery, wallpaper and curtains that I can share glimpses of.

W/C with beautiful hand blocked wallpaper reflected in the mirror above the panel. We chose a lot of blue in this house to compliment the original stained glass windows

Finished bookcase with blind, wall sconce and books in. Just waiting on the cushion for the window seat.

It's a family home, and my client has been brave with her choices in colour and there's lots of wallpaper. I am so pleased with how it's all looking! We are now up to the furniture part and are waiting on a lot of orders to arrive. I'll share some photos once it's all a little more finished.

We've also finally started on our garage/ studio project at home. This is the final element of our total renovation of our house. After a very long lead up to starting, the slab was finally poured and the frame started going up, all very quickly. Hopefully within a couple of months it will all be finished, and I'll have somewhere to put all the stuff cluttering our back veranda (all the tools/ bikes/ gardening equipment) and the Sitting Room (all my work related samples etc). I'll post more about the design as it gets to the more visually interesting part, because while small it did require a lot of fiddling about to get it looking right, as well as functioning well.

Ground floor frame

I've also been working on a Beach House project, which has been fun. It's a starting from scratch job, furniture wise, and will not be a permanent house but rather a holiday house, so this changes the approach I'd normally take to a project, and I've started at one point, and ended up at another with the design as my thoughts gradually evolved on the whole thing. Firstly was that a beach house here in South Australia is very different to a Tropical beach house, of which images abound both here in Australia in our tropical North, and up through Bali and over to Florida, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic etc. Palms, bamboo, bright coloured prints, British Colonial style etc don't really look place appropriate here- we have a Mediterranean climate and the house has native scrub nearby in sandhills. There isn't therefore very many inspiration photos to draw on as starting points. So I've just made it up as I've gone along with what has felt right to me.

Guest Bedroom scheme - Aqua bedspread, the small print for the bedhead, and leaf print for cushions

It's also very easy to go crazy with seaside theming - Navy/White stripes, Seagull pictures, mini lighthouses, coral prints, and on and on... There will naturally be a lot of seaside theming, but I wanted to pull back a little from it and not get too literal. The existing house has good bones, and generally all the finishes are perfectly fine to work with, but it is quite 'shiny' in some ways (highly polished floorboards), so it's been about taking it down a few notches to make it feel less yacht- moored- at -Monaco and more relaxed and layered.

Main living area. Matching colours too perfectly would not give the relaxed, layered feel I'm after.

The colours I'm using for the main living area are a sort of dusty Aqua and shots of red to highlight mixed in with natural linen and white linen on the sofa.  Lots of raw timber for the dining table, coffee tables etc... and I've sourced all sorts of fun things for Art for the walls...

Including this vintage 1910-1920 wool bathing suit with greek key detail, which has been framed. I posted this on Instagram and had a few questions as to where I found it... so to preempt anyone else asking, it came from I've sourced decorative things/ art from all over - eBay, Etsy, 1stdibs, Bluethumb and local galleries. Decorator Art (by which I mean the ready made, ready framed prints) has a place in design, I suppose, but it can vary enormously in quality. You can find all sorts of interesting, more individual things if you're prepared to put in a little more effort in sourcing, and to think creatively about it.  It doesn't have to cost a lot either - none of the things I've found so far have.

Aside from work, it's been the start of the School year, so I've had a myriad of Parent Information Nights, Welcome Drinks, Class Drinks, Movie nights, Swimming Carnivals, a couple of trips to Hospital with  two of the children (one had a fish bone to dislodge from her throat, the other needed an appendix out, both now fine) and then a few dinners out with friends to keep the candle burning at both ends.

I've also been addicted to a Spanish mini series, called Grand Hotel (entire series on Netflix). It was first filmed in 2013, and has high production values (it's subtitled). Set in a Hotel in Spain circa 1907, it's a little bit Downton Abbey and a little bit Agatha Christie, a little bit scheming mafia family style, with a forbidden romance with a dishy male lead meaning it ticks pretty much every genre box. I loved it, and am bereft now that I've finished watching all 64 episodes (or something like that).

Grand Hotel

One purchase that I've absolutely LOVED this summer has been this Binny dress, which is called the Victoria. It ticks all my Summer dress boxes - cap sleeve and higher neckline to give sun protection, loose, which makes it cool on a hot day, plus comfortable to wear, and a reasonably modest length, which is essential with children as you tend to bend over a lot. It's cotton, so I can throw it in the machine and being white can bleach it when something stains it... It also walks the line between dressy and casual quite nicely. I will happily wear it on a weekend around the house with flat sandals, or with wedge espadrilles during the week to work in. I have given up trying to get anyone in the family to take a photo of me, and my efforts at a selfie didn't work out so well... so here is a photo from the Catalogue. I look exactly the same in it (ha!).

Binnywear Victoria dress - a winner


I started the year off well with a lot of baking for the children's lunchboxes... and have gradually slid back to no treats as the term has worn on. But I have made a bit of an effort with dinners, and trying to put a few new recipes into rotation. One thing that I cook a lot is a slow cooked lamb shoulder. This works for having friends over, or for a simple family dinner mid week. It's super quick to do the marinade in a food processor or thermomix or mortar and pestle, and then it takes around 4-6 hours to cook, which means it's a good thing to start cooking in advance.

Thursday night's dinner

Slow Baked Lamb Shoulder (Karen Martini - Feasting cookbook)
2 Tbsp sea salt
8 cloves garlic
6 sprigs of rosemary, stripped and chopped
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
100ml olive oil
3 Tbsp dried Oregano
1.8-2.2kg lamb shoulder, boned (I have also done bone in)
100ml white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 150C fan forced
Grind salt, garlic, rosemary, peppercorns in a mortar and pestle (or food processor), add the olive oil and dried oregano.
Open out shoulder and rub all over, place in baking dish, splash over the vinegar and pour 150ml water in the base. Cover with tight fitting lid and bake for 2.5 hours. Remove the lid/ or foil and then turn up heat to 200C for 5-10 minutes until nicely browned. The meat will be so tender it will fall apart, and I like to serve it with a couscous mix (parsley, lemon, roasted almonds, spanish onion)  and steamed green beans.


The thoughts I wrote about Art above, dovetails in nicely with a book that I bought and read this weekend - Imogen Taylor's "On the Fringe". Imogen Taylor worked at Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler for 50 years, the venerable English decorating firm. Her memoir is about her time there, the projects she worked on, and how they did things post WW2. Everything was bespoke and invented by the designer, from mixing paint colours on site, to finding scraps of wallpaper or fabric and recolouring and remaking it for projects. They revived many old trades, designed lamps, furniture, carpets and rugs for projects, and in general are about as far removed from what a lot of people term Interior Decoration these days as you can imagine. Again, there is space for all types in this world - not everyone has a bespoke budget for one. But the creativity at a time when there wasn't really a design "Industry" makes this a really interesting read.

I've also added a couple of second hand books to my reading list this month. I use Abebooks to find second hand books I'm looking for, and am eagerly anticipating a copy of "Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House" in a few weeks. One Instagram account that I've been following designs Private Libraries - they specialise in out of print books revolving around Gardening, Interiors, Architecture, Food, Fashion and Biography. They are Kinsey Marabel & Co, who are located in the USA. A great source of tip offs on interesting books to buy or borrow from the library.

As I've mentioned Instagram, I thought I'd include some accounts that I've been enjoying following.

Ivy and Bricks restored house facade

Firstly, for renovation and restoration lovers there is Ivy and Bricks a beautiful, grand 1908 house in the US. It's being meticulously restored to a high standard.

The start of one of Timothy Long's short videos

I love watching Timothy Long, Fashion Curator's little mini videos on Instagram. He works in the UK in museums, and will do little videos of the garments from the store rooms behind the scenes with explanations on the detail in the clothing. Fascinating!

Jupeculotte - Pierre Balmain dress

Fashion historian and curator Jupeculotte posts interesting fashion photos from the past, with descriptions on the clothing/ designer/ fabric/ social context.

I will finish up by saying I was saddened to see this week that Bill Leake, the Australian Newspaper's Cartoonist died suddenly from a Heart Attack. The tribute they put in the paper was brilliant. He was a very clever satirist, who railed against the Politically Correct Thought Police, and naturally offended, prodded, and questioned through the age old medium of satire, as the best do. A political cartoonist from the old guard, he was clever, and thought provoking, and I can't imagine the letters to the Editor page without his funny jabs at life in modern Australia. Cartoons and Satire have long been a tradition in Western Democracies, and as we have seen with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the cartoonists have become targets for extremism from both the far left (he was relentlessly trolled on twitter) as well as the religiously extreme of all persuasions.

I hope you had a great weekend. It's a long weekend here, and I'll leave you with a photo of sunset on Saturday night  where we were having drinks- we get spectacular sunsets in Adelaide. The CBD can just be seen poking up in the centre of the photo (this view was taken from a house in the foothills).

I was idly clicking through the "Just In" section of Matches Fashion, when I noticed a peculiar trend was starting to emerge.

I think we can blame it on Iris Apfel.

Iris loves an oversized accessory, jacket or anything else really, and her influence in fashion in the past 10 years cannot be overstated. She is the 90 plus year old darling of the fashion cognoscenti. Along with young women who are dying their hair grey, fashion designers are drawing inspiration from the proportions of a certain Older Women style

Gucci - Is it just me? I get strong Ronald McDonald vibes from this

So it's no surprise then, to see oversized sunglasses being the "thing" of the moment. Even if they're starting to get incredibly oversized, to a point where you could easily go incognito as no one can discern your face behind the frame

Karen Walker

But other items have also become curiously large.


Jumpers/ Sweaters, where you can't actually see hands poking out.

Stella McCartney

Voluminous skirts, shirts and trousers that look as if you're playing dress up in your Mother's clothes aged 4.

Saint Laurent

It's distinctively unflattering, including the jeans style I last wore circa 1999 when waists were still high, the cut was loose, and a mid wash denim was all the go.

Red Valentino

I will be avoiding all of this like the plague. Being of average, rather than supermodel, proportions I would absolutely drown in all of these things.

But then I saw something that can be worn by a women of any size or height and who has a love of accessorising. Ankle Bracelets. It appears they're a thing. A £165 thing. Sorry to inform you though that they're already pre -sold out in every colour.

I'm thinking I'm probably going to sit these looks out, although I'll watch with breathless anticipation to see if the youth of Adelaide adopt these global trends - you?

Images via the Just In section of Matches Fashion
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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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