MONTICELLO

I often speak of Monticello. From the moment I saw it, in an interiors magazine years ago, I was drawn to its grand Paladian presence. Its style, its symmetry and its classic sophistication have been a consent source of inspiration for me, throughout my carreer.

Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. Jefferson began his work on Monticello when he was twenty-six years old, drawing from knowledge gleaned from various books as there were no schools of architecture in colonial Virginia.  Originally styled as a plantation, the first Monticello was slightly more modest — built in 1768, it was two stories high with a total of eight rooms. As the years went by, and especially after his tenure in Europe, he continued to add rooms, and make inspired changes. By the end of its construction Monticello was a grand villa, comprising 11,000 square feet.

Influenced by Andrea Palladio, the Renaissance architect, Jefferson put his own spin on neoclassical architecture, incorporating octagonal forms in his designs which were often constructed in red brick. He created a style of architecture befitting a new nation – original, but drawing elements from European Classical tradition. Monticello contains a few ingenious innovations by Jefferson including a “turning machine” for holding clothing, a spherical sundial, and a revolving bookstand for his ever-expanding collection.

It’s probably one of the most fascinating homes in the United States, if not the world. Not for it’s lavish decorations or its grandiosity, but more so for its perfectly symmetrical design and the intricate details that can be found in every room inside the house. 

Just like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello sits on a hill with amazing views of the surrounding farmland, valley, and mountainous region. On a clear day, you can see for miles and gaze at the hilltops of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. 

There are only a handful of locations in the United States that are selected by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites and Monticello is one of them. It’s the only presidential home with such designation, and it certainly deserves it.

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An afternoon with Stuart Membery

Walking down a quiet back lane, off one of Bali's busiest streets, at the invitation of Australian design icon, Stuart Membery, I had a sense that I was walking into something special.

A discrete louvred doorway, in a high ivy covered wall, opened into a magical oasis, and I instantly felt at home.  Two colonial dwellings, sitting amongst manicured gardens, are the heroes of the estate, and a showcase to Mr. Memberys classic design style. 

I have long admired Stuart Membery, his career and his work; undeniably classed amongst other great Australian style icons including the sophisticated Trent Nathan and the timelessly elegant Maggie Tabberer.

The man himself, tall, distinguished, and instantly likeable, strolled out from his office to greet me. Geographically miles apart, we had exchanged pleasantries via email but today I had come to meet him in person, to talk about life, style and to see his stunning furniture range first hand.

Sitting with him in his beautiful surroundings, everything perfectly styled, it was impossible not to feel inspired. We discussed design; local and international. Mr Memberys mind, as sharp as a tack, referencing classic design icons as he spoke. From Dorothy Draper to Ralph Lauren, and the styles of chinoiserie, art deco and mid century modern. 

We admired his current projects, including his international resort designs and perused his elegant furniture and home collections, which are distinctive in their style yet utterly timeless and sophisticated. A beautiful blend of east meets west, both traditional and contemporary. I certainly had my favourites and I can see many pieces falling seamlessly into my own work. 

He graciously allowed me free reign of his home to snap away. Below are some of the results.

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Embracing the Dark side

While I am known for my penchant for 'white' interiors, I have recently been gravitating toward a darker colour palette in my work.

There is something decadently luxurious about a dark interior scheme; deep natural tones in charcoal, black, chocolate, and tobacco, teamed with deep oak joinery and other timber interior details.

It's a slightly more masculine look, that suggests the feeling of an old school gentlemans office or library.  There are leather bound books, cut glass whiskey decanters and a collection of timber walking sticks.

As the following images suggest, using darker elements in a traditional scheme will not look dated or overly fussy; what we see, in fact, is a slightky contemporary edge.

By using a clever mix of beautiful fabrics, natural timbers, sophisticated colour schemes, and perfect accessories the look can be stunning, elegant, and utterly timeless.


The French Chateau Dolls House

As promised, in a blog a few months ago, I have completed the first design in a new series of architectural miniatures. The French Chateau. Many years ago, as some of you will remember, I produced a range of handcrafted Architectural Miniatures, decorative Dolls Houses and collectable objet d'art. I am excited to announce, I have decided to recreate a selection of the original range. Hand crafted and hand painted, in the style of the original designs, these one off pieces will be available online… See our online store for more details.

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The Wolseley - Piccadilly London

The Wolseley has been on my list of London 'most do's'  for years! So it was an absolute treat to walk through its doors on my recent visit to the U.K. Even at a glance, it's impressive exterior, with its arched windows and brilliantly decorative iron work, drew me in.

The Wolseley is a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition on London's famous Piccadilly. With a spectacular Listed interior, the restaurant buzzes from early till late, seven days a week.

The great Brasseries of France are the most obvious inspiration for this hugely popular restaurant, but there are few places in Paris that can match The Wolseley for sheer plushness. Originally a 1920s car showroom, it was built on such an extravagant scale that it bankrupted Wolseley Motors. Swift black-clad waiters glide across the patterned marble floor, carrying groaning platters of fruits de mer, steak frites and lobster bisque between the pillars and archways of this Italian-influenced dining room.

It is a celebrity hide out also with London 'A listers' Kate Moss and Jason Statham frequenting often. Madonna, when in London, is often spotted there.

As well as eclectic lunch and dinner menus encompassing European classics, the restaurant serves breakfast, morning coffee, afternoon tea and an all-day menu.

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Brighton and The Brighton Marine Palace and Pier

Once upon a time, pleasure piers were the jewel in the crown of Victorian seaside resorts. In the days before flight travel and package holidays, these elegant structures reaching out into the ocean were the forefront of entertainment, with their funfairs, ballrooms and cafes hosting hundreds if not thousands of tourists, each day. Sadly, many have long since been demolished while others cling to life dejected and abandoned. 

The Brighton Marine Palace and Pier is one of the last remaining pleasure piers in England. As famous as the town in which it stands, it has intrigued me for years and I have often noticed it used as a location in film, television and various magazine editorials.

On my recent travels to England's south east country I decided to make a pilgrimage to see the historic structure first hand. I was also keen to see the town in which it stands, it's famous foreshore of historic hotels, it's hidden lanes of antique stores and cafes and its pebbled beaches.

The pier is truly magnificent, sitting proudly of the south coast, withstanding the winds and rough seas of the English Chanel, I felt humbled in its presence. Walking out over its historic wooden beams I was transported to another era.  It may be said that England's 'Pleasure Piers' are a thing of the past, thankfully however, the few remaining are being preserved. 

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Encaustic tiles

Encaustic cement tiles have been around for centuries and I have been coveting them for years.

As a child, I remember my parents designing a patterned mosaic for our front hall. The result was beautiful. It is an image that has remained with me and I'm delighted to be reinventing it in a current project.

Cement tiles are decorative, colorful tiles used primarily as floor coverings. Floors or walls covered with these tiles are noted for their multi-color patterns, durability and sophisticated look. These tiles are widely used in Latin America and Europe. Their popularity spread to the US, primarily in California and Florida through the 1930s and 40s.

The tiles' colorful patterns, durability and versatility have been attracting the attention of architects and designers for large commercial projects such as restaurants and hotels. I have seen them used to great effect during my recent travels through South East Asia. 

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Sydney favourites QT Designer Hotel and Gowings Bar & Grill

This week, while on a three day styling project in Sydney, I revisited one of my favourite city locations. A place I had dropped into frequently when I lived there many years ago... Gowings department store in George Street.

I had known it as a Sydney landmark, a menswear institution for hundreds of thousands of men and their families who had been flocking through its doors since the stores opening in 1912. It was the place to buy menswear clothing essentials, iconic Australian brands such as Bonds and RM Williams (I bought my first pair of RM boots there when I was 21) Australian soldiers were clothed there during the war years. There was even a barber shop where a 'short back and sides' cut was the order of the day. 

Sadly, in January 2006, after three years of successive losses, Gowings closed it's doors for the last time, taking with it generations of memories for Sydney shoppers. 

In recent years, however, the Gowings building has been transformed. The Design Hotel group has opened QT DesIgn Hotel Sydney - and I was fortunate to stay there on my stay this week. 

An article in The Australian newspaper by Christine Mcabb explains it all...

"The scene is set by a streamlined art deco sign above bustling Market Street where dapper porters, sporting berets and jeans, wait on the pavement.

This is hotel as theatre. Staff have been cast not recruited, and all front of house personnel, from the bowtie-clad concierge to the red wigged “Directors of Chaos” visit hair and make up each morning before clocking on.

And “uniforms” are courtesy costume designer Janet Hine (the woman behind Dame Edna’s final frock).

The hotel’s 200 guestrooms occupy the building above the State Theatre and the old Gowings department store linked through the first floor lobby. Entrance is via the glittering former State Theatre shopping arcade where even the lifts get in on the act, kitted out with LED digital art (a feature throughout the hotel) and adjusting muzak according to the number of passengers on board (solo travellers might be serenaded with ‘Are you Lonesome tonight?’).

Local designers Nic Graham and Shelley Indyk have teamed up to deliver playful, stylish but eminently comfortable interiors that incorporate many of the buildings original features (a century old urinal in the men’s loo for example) and take into account the specific idiosyncrasies of each individually styled guest room.

The low ceilinged lobby is scattered with bespoke furniture and dominated by an installation of vintage luggage. The guest lounge is dotted with large velvet ottomans and the wall lined with artfully stuffed cabinets of curiosities (in fact the hotel shop selling all sorts of stylish objets d’art).

Each design-focused guestroom is different (in the Gowings building the original department store floor boards have been retained), decorated in rich reds, oranges, yellows and white, but all share certain features: an incredibly comfy ‘Gel’ bed, cleverly curated ‘artefacts’, quirky bedside lamps (in the guise of top or bowler hats, book binders or vases), an excellent mini bar (stocked with healthy snacks), Nespresso machine and a welcoming martini tray.

Where to eat
Under director Robert Marchetti and executive chef Paul Easson (ex Mebourne’s Rockpool Bar & Grill), food will be a feature at QT. On the ground floor the Parlour Lane Roasters café morphs into a wine bar after dark. Upstairs, the all-day dining Gowings Bar & Grill is the antithesis of your usual hotel eatery, a buffet free zone (in the mornings bar staff front to mix smoothies) featuring a huge open kitchen fitted with wood fired ovens and an impressive glass fronted seafood room where a giant yellow fin tuna (delivered weekly) hangs to be cut as needed. Room service is equally innovative, served in a bento style box for easy, in-bed dining."

 

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Carrara

We have recently specified a porcelain Carrara tile for a clients five bathrooms.

Authentic Carrara marble is quarried in the Italian province of Carrara. It is a gorgeous stone used to make tiles, tabletops and countertops in homes around the world. 

Carrara marble, like other marbles is porous. Because of its light color it is more likely to show stains than other marbles and stones. It also needs regular care in order to maintain its beautiful surface. In addition, cleaning Carrara and other types of marble must be done properly with a pH-balanced stone cleaner. 

We love the look, but is the maintenance worth it? The obvious solution is to opt for a faux Carrara porcelain tile. The options here are endless and the quality is supurb thanks to recent advancements in technical manufacturing.

A faux marble is an intelligent choice. 

The look is stunning. Carrara is timeless and elegant. It transcends period style and can work effortlessly in a modern or traditional scheme. 

 

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Sydney favourites The Country Trader

 

Many years ago, I lived in Paddington, in Sydney's inner east. One of my favourite memories while there, was walking along Glenmore road, past grand sandstone terrace houses, through Fiveways and out to Oxford Street. On the corner of Glenmore and Oxford was The Country Trader.  

It was a store like no other. Long before vintage French provincial antiques became overly fashionable and garishly reproduced, this store was the real deal. I visited it often. It was at this store that I first remember feeling a wonderful sense of creative inspiration.

With the philosophy 'Anything is Possible', The Country Trader specialises in new and antique furniture and furnishings from the provincial to the opulent, as well as custom, architectural and interior design, restyling and restoration.

In recent years, The Country Trader has found a new home in the pyd building in Surrey Hills in Sydney's inner south (an area that has rapidly become the hub of interiors 'fashion forward' enthusiasts).

Whenever I am in Sydney I am compelled to drop in. The Country Trader continues to be one of my favourite stores. The stores owner, Geoff Clark, travels the world in search of antiques and one-of-a-kind finds, allowing Sydneysiders to the chance to take a treasure home for themselves.  This applies to breathtaking furniture and woodwork, stunning pieces of art, collectors' items, and much, much more.  

Walking around the store is overwhelming, yet thoroughly inspiring. The large space is filled to the brim with fabulous items and wonderfully theatrical visual merchandising - yet is it not cluttered or claustrophobic. You'll find items of various styles, from eclectic to traditional.  Along with beautiful furniture and lighting, you'll find the unexpected, collections upon collections of breathtaking object d'art.  

To seal the deal the store also houses a selection of the Ralph Lauren furniture range, costly but totally desirable in all it's magnificence. 

The Country Trader

pyd Building, 197 Young Street, Waterloo, New South Wales

 

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Sydney favourites Victor Churchill Butcher

 

I am not surprised that Victor Churchill Butchers won the International Interior design award for retail stores (held in New York a few years ago) It is one of the most breathtaking stores I have ever seen!

It's hard to believe that you are standing in the middle of a bustling butcher shop. It oozes beauty, character and soul. It is a truly unique store, which has successfully blended a traditional European butcher in look and feel, with modern, cutting-edge design elements. This amazing atmosphere is nurtured by the stores owners, the wonderfully warm and inviting Puharich family.

"As a boy, Anthony Puharich feasted on lamb cooked whole in the garden by his Croatian-born butcher father Victor Puharich, sharing a taste and respect for meat they've never lost. His glamorous meat boutique in Sydney's Woollahra has been dubbed ''the Bulgari of butcheries''. The floor might be Italian marble rather than sawdust, but fifth-generation butcher Puharich still has his feet firmly on the ground. Together with his father, he runs the shop and Vic's Meats, the nation's biggest meat wholesaler, supplying many of Australia's top restaurants, including Vue de Monde, Movida, Sepia and Quay."

Well worth a visit, it is an absolute visual feast.... Oh, and the meat isn't bad either! 

Victor Churchill  Butchers

132 Queen Street Woollahra, New South Wales

 

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 …and Oprah signed her approval!

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