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.


After spending my summer holidays on the NSW coast, soaking up the sun and atmosphere in Byron Bay and the central coast, I was reminded of my journal entry from a few years back; ‘Airstreams’ - and all their cool, sophisticated glory!

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.


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.



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. 


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.


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. 


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...

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.


Top Australian Interior Designers

Interviews, Tips and Advice from Australia's top Interior Designers. A recent feature for Australian Open Colleges Featuring:

Greg Natale, Bespoke Design - Brendan Wong, High End Residential - Darren Palmer, The Block - Justin Bishop, Traditional & Enduring - Sian Macphearson, Est Magazine Editor - Jen Bishop, Interior Design Publishing - Andrew Loader, Residential and Boutique

Justin Bishop is passionate about timeless, traditional style design. Throughout his design career he has worked in a variety of creative fields, developing a passion for the creative process; and always demonstrating an absolute sense of style.

Justin founded his interior design company over ten years ago and has designed a number of versatile projects throughout the country, from the most elegant urban residences to casual weekend retreats and innovative commercial interiors.

As an interior designer he is known for his classically sophisticated interiors, which blend old and new harmoniously. His work has appeared in many leading magazines and interior publications including Belle, Country Style, the Melbourne Age and the Grand Designs magazine. Australian House & Garden recently listed him as one of the 'best of the best' interior specialists in the country.

1 What's the secret to running a successful interior design company?

I think the core of running a successful business is a belief in your product and a passion for what you do. I live and breathe classic style and design, it's ingrained in me. I genuinely enjoy assisting my clients and I'm always excited about working on new properties with them. Of course, a good business head is also a must but primarily in design, it's so important to love what you do.

2 What is the Australian industry like? How is it unique?

I suppose we have our own niche. Of course, we are influenced by overseas trends and styles, both current and past, but there is definitely a fresh, Australian pared-back and slightly rustic style that is truly our own. We have more and more access to international products but we are also fortunate to have a growing supply of brilliant designers and manufacturers right here on our doorstep.

3 What's required to work on heritage design projects?

Working on heritage projects requires a sympathetic and controlled approach to design. It's not an avenue to be too clever and creative, rather it's about showing restraint, being true to a particular design style and executing a coherent, well thought out scheme. I love working on heritage projects as my personal style leans towards a more traditional aesthetic.

4 What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work and how do you overcome them?

Organisation! As a creative type, this is not my strongest point. It's SO important to be organised when making decisions and passing on information. The slightest mistake can have an enormous impact on the outcome of a project. I make lists and I cross check everything; I force myself to be diligent with my diary and I make sure that I have covered everything on a daily basis.

5 What advice would you offer students looking to build their portfolio?

Get out there and start designing! Offer your services to friends and family. As well as a good education, experience is so important. Record what you do. Photograph your work, whether it's at design stage or completion. You can edit your portfolio at any stage but initially, it's important to create a large body of work. You will gain experience and start to develop your own personal design style.


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.


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. 


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


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