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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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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Bali favourites: Balquisse Living

I was mesmorised when I set foot in the new Balquisse Living showroom.

It opened on November 1st, and is a 1.300m2 warehouse full of amazing furniture, antiques and curios. It presents four brands of the Balquisse Living Group under one roof, Hishem Furniture, Shahinaz Collection, Aisha Antiques and ZB Design

The showroom features exquisite curios and antiques, soft furnishing from Shahinaz collection, furniture from Hishem, and magnificent lights from VBL Lighting, it is the quintessence of The Balquisse Living style. The showroom features several room settings which are very industrial, "boudoir" chic!

Balquisse has developed a strong brand, supplying its product to many of the new vintage venues in Bali and around the world. 

Opulence is one of thier keywords and vintage is their motto.

Balquisse Living

Sunset Rd 18A

Kuta, Bali

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Bali favourites: The Bistrot

Another new favourite on Seminyak's Eat Street (Jalan Laksmana) is "The Bistrot". This glamorous cafe has a sublime, retro feel to it. In the words of the owners" the restaurant is reminiscent of a chic Orient Express railway dining carriage" and this is so true...

"Discreetly situated behind a beautiful temple but roadside on the very popular ‘Eat Street’ of the Seminyak area of southern Bali, this restaurant and bar has been conceptualised and lovingly put together by the formidable Moroccan and Belgian team of Zohra and Blaise. An impressive wooden and natural hewn stone air-conditioned yet high ceilinged open space, guests immediately feel welcomed upon entering and reminded of a New York loft/factory space with a distinct industrial feel.

The interior furnishings are warm and accommodating, and pay homage to many antiques and artifacts sourced from around the Indonesian archipelago, most being from the couple’s personal collection. The upstairs bar, provides a space that Hemingway would be proud of, and the spacious restaurant area reminiscent of the chic Orient Express railway dining carriage."

The Bistrot

Jalan Kayu Aya 117

Seminyak

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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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Ralph Lauren "RL Vintage"

Its no secret that we love Ralph Lauren.

The RL collections have been inspiring us for years. Fashion collectors scour eBay, vintage stores, secondhand stores and more for vintage Ralph Lauren pieces. Interior designers, too, can feel the rush of a decorator high when they find pristine pieces from Lauren’s past collections out of their natural habitat of department stores and perfectly curated Ralph Lauren boutiques. But whether you get more of a thrill from the hunt or the find, a visit to Ralph Lauren’s new online concept, RL Vintage, will sate the itch for the designer’s archival duds.

RL Vintage is a response by the company to fans’ nearly insatiable need for one-of-a-kind Ralph Lauren pieces. David, Ralph’s son, discovered Japanese magazines dedicated to his father’s work in the ’80s and ’90s as well as Reflex, a boutique in Tokyo that specializes solely in finding pristine pieces of vintage Ralph and selling to collectors. Upon his return to the states, David found over 300,000 eBay listings for Ralph items and discovered a whole culture revolving around the pure American design that his father built an empire around. With the launch of RL Vintage, David brings together a collector’s dream of merchandise as well as all the details that a history buff lives for (whether its fashion history or American history is up to interpretation).

The RL Vintage site will change seasonally, and for its debut, the Web site’s first batch of 50 pieces highlight Ralph’s obsession with the American West. Native American influences, cowboy culture and the patina of bygone rodeos and cattle drives are pervade the pieces, which run the gamut from military-inspired tailoring to fringed jackets and sarape-printed blanket coats.

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Dishoom East London

With its faded elegance and street food inspired cuisine, I absolutely ADORE East London’s latest eatery - Dishoom

The interior and exteriors of Dishoom are exciting, inviting, romantic and eclectic, featuring a clever mix of lighting, sepia family photographs, an array of oyster lamps and bentwood furniture… and a superbly monochromatic colour scheme! The Indian cafe style food is apparently very good but it’s the Art Deco styling that captures me the most. The restaurant is spacious, and the Bombay/Deco interiors are cleverly placed throughout a deliberately unfinished backdrop.

Antiquities, textured glass, and a dominant marble bar all make up the speak-easy charm of Dishoom. Designed by Russell Sage Studio, the designers behind Zetter Town House, The Hospital Club and St. Paul’s Cathedral, it is an imaginative and desirable space.

DISHOOM SHOREDITCH

7 Boundary Street, East London

 Photography, Sim Canetty-Clarke

Photography, Sim Canetty-Clarke


Airstream

In 1931, Airstream began with Wally Byam’s dream: to build a travel trailer that would move like a stream of air, be light enough to be towed by a car and create first-class accommodations anywhere.

When it comes to Airstream trailers, I am totally smitten. I dream of the day that I own one myself. It could be a second home, an office or vehicle for luxury travel. It would be custom designed, new or old with a classic, refurbished interior and a gleaming, metallic shell. The shinier, the better. 

Dreaming of your own polished aluminum quarters? Here are some classic midcentury examples that have been inventively restored and put to use as hotel rooms, guest houses, home offices, and in a few cases travel vehicles.

Above: A 1952 model renovated by a yacht interior designer functions as a hotel room at The Hotel Daniel in Vienna.

Above: One of many restored Airstreams seen on Vintage Seekers via Design Sponge.

Above: Landscape architect Andreas Stavropoulos transformed a 1959 Airstream trailer into a fully functioning office.

Above: The accommodations at Atlantic Byron Bay resort include this fully equipped Airstream imported from America.

Above: In Albany, California, just north of Berkeley, is Flowerland nursery with a trailer coffee shop featured on Gardenista.

Above: Vancouver's Le Marché St. George café and grocery crew often picnic and camp out of their 1969 Airstream Land Yacht.

Above: A 1965 Airstream Safari recast by Area 63 Productions and interior designer Caroline Brandesfor rent on her property in Big Sur, California.

The Blackwood Sassafras

As many of you may know, I have opened a 'retreat' on my property in Sassafras.

The Blackwood Sassafras - www.theblackwoodsassafras.com.au - is an exclusive hideaway, carefully set in a private location with the Sassafras village at its doorstep.

I have thoroughly enjoyed designing the one bedroom studio with my partner. It mirrors the original house, with whitewashed timber lining boards and dark stained flooring. It is filled with a collection of beautiful furniture and accessories. The luxury bathroom and kitchenette is styled with my signature white on white tiles with classic architectural detailing.

It is a showcase for my classic interior style.

For inquiries and reservations please visit contact us through the website... http://theblackwoodsassafras.com.au/contacttheblackwoodsassafras/

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A day in the garden...

Today, Sunday, has been spent in the garden. It's a long weekend in Victoria; it's spring racing, Melbourne Cup weekend. We've taken some time out to catch up on some home maintenance.

Everything grows at such a fast pace at this time of the year. I love the lush green foliage that appears before our eyes, but the upkeep is relentless. Still, after a day clipping, trimming, snipping and mowing, the end result makes it all worthwhile.

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...and Hudson, posing for the camera!

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