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.


Scented Candles

We are very excited to announce the delivery of our first scented candle range.

We have worked with one of Australia's best candle makers, in perfecting this range, selecting the best ingredients; the best wax and the best scents. 

Beautifully packaged, the candles reflect our design ethos, in timeless, traditional and elegant style. Fragrances include Leather and Wood, Lemon Verbena, Blackcurrant and Rose.

Delivery will be in time for Christmas this year. We will proudly unveil the finished product soon.

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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DECORATING A CHRISTMAS TREE

Decorating a Christmas tree takes a little more thought than simply rehashing the same old ornaments  year after year.

While I'm all for tradition and using favourite heirloom decorations, I like to keep things fresh by editing my collection and adding new items each year.

I like to blend my tree with my house interior. A Christmas tree should be fun and make a statement, but a tasteful tree that harmonises with the interior of your home is often best.

Here are some tips that I follow when decorating Christmas trees. 

LIGHTS

Before you start to add decorations, you must first light up your tree.

Create a beautiful glow with the following tips on stringing lights on a Christmas tree.

•   For every foot, average 100 lights. So if you have a six-foot tree, you’ll probably need 600 lights. 

•   Before you start, plug in the lights to checks if all the bulbs are working. Leave them on while you work to see them easily as  you position them on the tree.

•   Starting at the bottom, string your lights around and through the tree in a random fashion. Try to avoid any obvious pattern or spiral; you want the lights to look natural. Place some lights deeper into the branches and place some closer to the front to create depth. 

•   A “dead zone” of lights occurs when you connect one string of lights to another. Hide any unsightly connections by pushing them deep into the branches. 

•   If your lights aren’t hanging exactly where you want them, wrap some fine floral wire around the cord and branch to hold it in place. Bend the loose ends of the wire towards the back of the tree out of sight and out of reach.

•   If you have a real tree with a branch that’s drooping or unattractive, simply remove it by clipping it from behind with a pair of florist shears. Use florist wire, again, to manoeuvre other branches into even positions.

 DECORATIONS

Before you even start thinking about placing ornaments on the tree, lay out what you have and take stock. There may be some that you can replace to update the theme of this year's tree. Once you've condensed your collection and started decorating, make sure you keep stepping back to look at your work. 

I always work with ornaments in colours that blend with my interior. Obviously for me this means, nuetral monochromatic chocolate and cream tones. 

If I were to add a colour it would be a colour that already exists in my home, possibly a deep antique red or gold. 

THE TREE

When it comes to decorating the tree I often use this formula:

“For every foot of tree there should be 10 ornaments. Within each foot there should be five basic ornaments, three accent ornaments and two theme ornaments. The basic ornaments complement the overall theme in colour but are basic in shape. The accent ornaments are basic shapes that go with the theme. And finally, the theme ornaments can be more decorative.”

Your tree decorations, as with all the other elements, i.e. table setting gifts and wreathes should work together.  Repeat the same colours, texture and styles that you have used in other areas of your home. If you have no stand out elements to work with, create a theme that works with what you have and continue it through all your decorative treatments.

I also like using existing ornamental pieces from my interior, such as cut crystal decanters or rusty urns, combined with my Christmas decorations to help blend everything in with my interior for a tasteful result.

Here are some trees and decorations that I find inspirational in recent years...

CHRISTMAS TREES

For many, a Christmas tree is the most important Christmas decoration.

Whatever your tastes there is a large variety of Christmas trees available, from traditional to contemporary,  highly decorated to quite plain. The biggest decision for many people, however,  is… real or fake?

In my family, I have traditionally leant towards a real tree. I grew up with one and it was a family tradition to choose and purchase the tree in early December each year. Whenever I smell a real tree it brings back the memories of my childhood Christmas. In recent years as technology has developed to the point of producing incredibly realistic faux trees, I have occasionaly been tempted by the artificial variety, however my obsession for the authentic always draws me back.

Of course, real Christmas trees require more planning and care than an artificial tree - they need to be purchased wisely, transported and cared for before being discarded thoughtfully after December 25.

Make sure you follow these tips before splurging on a live Christmas tree this year:

Measure the space

Before you go shopping or hunting for that "perfect tree," you'll need to decide where it will fit in your home. Once a spot is chosen be sure to measure the ceiling height and the width of that space. You will also need to measure your front door width and any other narrow spaces the tree needs to get through before you take it to the required space. 

Choosing the right real Christmas tree

You want a tree that offers some space between branches for decorations as well as sturdy branches tohold heavier ornaments. The tree looks better when ornaments hang straight. To test a tree, take an unbreakable ornament with you and hang it on several branches to see if there is room for it to hang straight.

How can you tell if a tree is fresh? The needles should look shiny, green, and fresh -- not dry or brown. They should not fall off when you pull on a branch. Once you are home, saw off at least 2cm from the bottom of the trunk so the tree will begin to soak up water immediately. Your tree should stand perfectly vertical. 

Securing the tree

There are all types of tree stands you can buy, but most people try to cobble together a heavy bucket or pot that will hold up the tree. The taller the tree, the bigger diameter of the trunk and the sturdier the stand needs to be. Australia doesn't have a wide variety of live tree stands on the market, but the best will have some water which the tree can absorb over the Christmas summer to keep it looking fresh. Place a plastic or other waterproof covering on the floor where your tree will stand so you don't ruin the carpet or get watermarks. If you have a very large tree or are worried about it tipping over, you could attach the tree stand to a large, flat piece of plywood to broaden the base of the tree, give it stability and further protect the floor.

How to care for your real Christmas tree

Live trees need to be replenished with water to keep them fresh and stop the leaves dropping off, in much the same way you need to keep cut flowers in vases of water. The trees tend to absorb more water in the first week or so after being cut. Place the real Christmas tree in a stand that can hold at least 4 litres of water. If the water drops below the trunk, the trunk may seal itself and not be able to absorb water. Place the tree away from sunlit windows, television sets and other heat sources as they will dry out your tree prematurely. If properly cared for your real Christmas tree should last at least 4-6 weeks before drying out and turning brown.


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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Living minimally

While I am known for creating rich, layered textural interiors, I try to use restraint with certain design elements. Colour, for example.  A richly layered room can be sublime if a sense of order, and control is applied by using a simple monochromatic colour scheme. Similarly, a harmonious result can be achieved in an interior when, a commonality is observed between collections of objects, using style, texture or tone.

The extreme of this aesthetic, of course, is minimalist design and there is a true art to creating the perfect minimal, yet warm and visually interesting interior. It takes skill to create a flawless balance between what is not enough and what is way too much, aka, clutter. We often use the term “less is more” in design, but it isn’t necessarily about going cheap on your furnishings and accessories, it is about attaining better design through simplicity. It is about how you can get the most impact through careful editing and restraint. The less is more theory is more about how the eye visualizes a space, which is all a personal preference.

Most people forget when designing a space to add personality through texture, color, materials and patterns when attempting to add less to a space, which ultimately gives the room an unfinished appearance. It is also about harmonizing and creating a perfect balance of leaving certain spaces in a room void of furnishings and accessories. The key to creating the perfect minimal room is to create a serene and uncluttered atmosphere, not cold and sterile. Be sure to let objects have some breathing room so they are more appreciated. There is an art to creating spaces that do not have excess, but rather exude warmth and attractiveness.

Wolfgang Behnken, the creative director of Young & Rubican, has recently renovated his appartment in Hamburg, using a mix of historical pieces, a perfect off white and authentic timber tones. We love the result.

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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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STYLES OF INTERIOR DESIGN # 2

TRADITIONAL INTERIOR DESIGN

Traditional interior design is typically evocative of classic European decor. Hallmarks of this style generally include deep wood tones, architectural details, and elegant furnishings. This style is quite versatile and can be combined with other interior elements to create a unique look in a room.

One of the most important facets of traditional interior design is the silhouette, also called the line, of the furnishings. Wing-backed chairs, claw footed tables, and curved furniture pieces that hearken back to the 18th and 19th centuries are examples of this. Common models for such traditional furniture are pieces attributed to the Queen Anne or Chippendale styles. Antiques are also often integrated into this design style, but many companies sell new pieces that mimic the lines of the old.

Architectural embellishments are widely used in traditional interior design. These can include elaborate moldings, beveled wood paneling, and intricate tile and wood floor patterns. Arches, columns, and built-in cabinetry are also frequent features of this type of design.

Rich wood tones are another key element in traditional interior design. Dark woods like cherry, maple, and mahogany are typically used in furniture pieces of this style. These are often carved and lacquered to give them a luxurious, elegant feel. Wood floors are also considered a standard for this decor, although tile and carpet are often used as well.

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