For me, a home is like a museum without the signs saying ‘Please Don’t Touch’. Think of all the stuff you own that has emotional or historical significance or comes with a memory or tale of where, when and who. It’s just a matter of finding ways to incorporate these things into your surroundings as three-dimensional reminders of your life for you and others to experience.
Consider this list of some of my personal treasures, then start to think of the items you own that could tell a similar story:
I love to pick up a perfectly tossed grey stone with a white stripe and be transported to Portofino some time in 1995 drinking a Santa Margherita pinot grigio.
A religious dharma made of shells that was bought on a trip, made on a whim, to Naples after I ran into an ex-boyfriend in Paris.
A nestled stack of six white ceramic scientific bowls, slightly crusty, with no known purpose, but bought (not even haggled for!) at one of my all-time favourite flea markets, Le Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves, Paris. Every adventure to this market would begin with a jamon baguette from the van on the corner.
A crown of dried giant kelp collected for me by a past love and carefully transported from Big Sur, California to new York.
Beeswax still intact in a much-used wooden pane bought from an amused beekeeper who lived in a caravan on the snowy, hilly surrounds of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. it was early spring, the first blossoms were out and children were selling tiny early tulips, so delicate and fragile.
My grandmother’s treasures: shells we do not see on our shores anymore, jet beads, tiny seed pearls in an old department store box, handmade sandwich signs about one and a half inches high saying ‘watercress’ and devilled egg’, silver napkin rings.
Assemble your mementos with love and care, and use them in your decorative palette. You’ll only enrich your home’s sense of history, and enjoy returning home even more.
Put similar materials together- a metal postcard holder sits with a metal mesh lampshade. It’s a place for cards, postcards, invites & other ephemera collected on your travels. Adorned with coasters, wrapping, matchbooks, napkins, maps etc as mementos. This becomes a living mood board within your own space which changes & inspires travel and new adventures. This still-life brings together a montage of myths and inspiration derived from expeditions in Naples, Salerno, Positano & Sorrento. And shows ways to create an organised environment which can still be beautifully arranged.
Shop the look here.
A few years ago I was working with the Queensland Museum. I was designing my very own Cabinet of Curiosities using their vast archive of natural histories for an exhibition. It was here that I discovered Emma Lindsay’s work hanging in company with an owl in flight & various other antique specimens. We share a love of Australia’s beautiful birds & animals.
Recently I commissioned Emma to paint a portrait for one of the dark blue rooms at Henry Deane, the lounge bar located on the 4&5 floors of Hotel Palisade. As the Hotel Palisade boasts 360 degree views of Sydney harbour we decided on the threatened Little Penguin colony that resides at Manly, the only breeding colony on mainland NSW.
You can help save this colony of the smallest penguins in the world by donating to National Parks & Wildlife
Describe your studio
My studio is a white room in my house facing the northern light. The studio window looks out to a sea of blue sky and green leaves from my garden, which lets me know the weather and often features regular bird visitors. Within it are stacks of canvases, cacti and maidenhair ferns, shells and rocks from my beach and desert travel, brushes, paint, low white metal cabinets that function as canvas supports and storage for materials. Until recently there was hardly room to move, with the work of 2 shows filling every wall. At the moment, the studio is bare as I begin again from scratch.
Best art supply store
Art supplies are like candy stores – so many to love. My fav in Australia is St Luke’s The Colourmen (Melbourne), in New York Dick Blick’s.
I’ve always loved animals, wild remote places, and have planted out my garden to attract native species and birds. I’m in love with biodiversity and paint. The subject of extinction and species endangerment has allowed me a creative focus in my studio paintings that allows me to connect to a critical environmental and cultural issue of our time. My interest in endangered and extinct species first became a passion after I visited the Queensland Museum in 2007, to check out a recently discovered headless night parrot specimen, a critically-endangered desert bird species of which little was known. When I went there, seeing the whole zoology archive moved me in a profound way. I began painting the beautiful ones, birds with brilliant plumage, but then started to wonder about our other endangered and extinct birds. I found the QM, like many Australian and global museums, does not have a complete record of species under threat or lost. Looking in depth into museum collections and available visual literature into where remaining extinct and endangered species could be found or seen led to the development of my practice-led research PhD Extinction project. This 8+ year labour of love on our lost birds became an exhibition of 29 extinct full and sub species Australian bird specimen portraits. These birds are held in museums in Australia, England, France, and the USA, and the final exhibition of this work was shown as part of the recent World Science Festival Brisbane 2016. It felt fitting that the Queensland Museum should be the place to show the final PhD project as it is where it all began. The Extinction project is ongoing.
My favourite land animal is the cat. In the sea, the great white shark. But I dream of seeing a flock of bright pink flamingoes in the wild.
Latest book purchase
‘Georgia O’Keefe and her houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu’ by Lynes & Lopez. I recently visited O’Keefe’s studio in Abiquiu and drove out to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The architecture, cacti, and landscape out there is incredible, the weather and the environment unforgiving and starkly beautiful. This book is the only way to see the original rooms, furniture, and styling in her adobe dwellings up close and personal, as photography is not allowed while visiting the inside of the house.
Go-to for Colour inspiration
The natural world is the perfect palette for colour inspiration. The plumage of birds, the foliage of plants, the ocean, the desert, the sky, the weather, the translucent layers of human skin. The trick is trying to translate often transient delicate colours the eye can see and reproduce it through the ‘mud’ of paint…
Top 4 museums in the world
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).
The Musee National d’Histoire naturelle (Paris).
The Louvre (Paris).
Queensland Museum (Brisbane).
The greatest tool for creativity is music. It inspires me beyond everything else.
When I have time and $ my number 1 great escape for inspiration is always New York. It is the ultimate city for me that has everything I love on one island- art, music, culture, books, dance, fashion, performances, food, museums. At home, I head to Byron Bay at every opportunity, especially after punishing deadlines. There is no better place to unwind, walk beautiful beaches, and remember how great it is to be alive.
K is for…
A knoller is also known as a bell toller, and I feel a connection to this, partly because I’m often called “Belle” by my friends and family, but also because I love the chime of a bell carrying through a public space. The solemn notions that accompany lonely bell-tollers add a kind of mysticism to this old trade, and I think it’s a sort of two-parter, not only wrapping in the toller, but the bell maker – what an artiste! That sonorous chime has softly pulled me from getting lost in a long lunch in a far-flung town square, or heralded the drinks break at a French flea market all too often. That sound is one often taken for granted and an art form that endures, marking the hours passing with a musical flourish.
When you’re hoping to soften hard details and make an interior scheme feel extra inviting, adding texture via layering is so important. Here are some of my tips to layer your look:
A string runner, made using extra-thick knitting needles to make it extra hole-y, has an intense and raw beauty to it that works beautifully with the more refined pieces around it. Before you make your next interior purchase, close your eyes and touch it. Consider its weight, texture, shape and size and match it with the opposite.
A masterclass in layering textures. I love how Timberyard in Scotland weaves in so many different tactile elements. From the timber panelling, to the velvet sofa with linen-bound books beside it, this space is made for comfort. Add in the cushion/rug combo and the single antlers shed by their original owners and you have so many jumping-off points to draw more texture into your spaces.
How could we discuss texture and not cover the home of textiles, India? The tradition is just so rich with inspiration that you leave this country and want to bring home fabric after fabric by the ream. Here you can see how soft and inviting this bedroom becomes with layer after layer of textiles added. Now of course, to re-create this at home may take it a little far, but that’s not to say that you can’t follow in the footsteps of master drapers and layer with confidence after seeing this room.
Pa . per – noun
A substance made from wood pulp, rags, straw, or other fibrous material, usually in thin sheets, used to bear writing or printing, for wrapping things, etc.
White.s – adjective
Of the colour of pure snow, of the margins of this page, etc.; reflecting nearly all the rays of sunlight or a similar light.
I first heard of the word ‘paperwhites‘ from a photographer friend of mine. It caught my imagination and, while I’d been a long-time admirer of paper, I started looking more closely at all its tones and finishes, from reams of standard snow white copy paper to gorgeous crepe, onionskin, glassine, vellum, tissue and tracing varieties. I then started to consider the hallmarks of age on paper, especially the muted, stained and faded tones of ephemera I’d collected over the years: postcards, love letters, certificates, shelf liners, dollies, patty pans, the backs of botanical plates, flashcards, wrapped sugar cubes and matchbooks. The palettes and textures that began to emerge were wonderful, and here evolved my palette; paperwhites.
You can view the whole palette in my book gypsy to see how I have used it in various spaces. I would suggest trying moonshadow or nautilus, for a subtle shine as a background to a styled vignette in your home. Whalebone is perfect for a foundation coat on the walls, and then pair it with loveletter for a soft feminine touch to any room.