Because of wet weather & strong winds, we were deterred from visiting Iona, the island on the tip of the Isle of Mull in Scotland, and made a dash instead for the Drovers Inn at Inverarnan, which meant a ferry trip back to the mainland and about a one-hour drive from Oban towards Loch Lomond. What a treat we were in for. Built in 1705, one of the oldest pubs in Scotland, and in the middle of a national park, you travel down a picturesque road (perfectly timed for us at dusk) and see this beacon of warm light in the distance, making you think of comfort, soup and red wine. I’m sure that’s what comes to mind for most visitors, hikers exploring the surrounding mountains and lochs.
Inside there are boxes upon boxes upon boxes of taxidermy and mounted specimens are coming from the wall and ceiling and every which way. Many small rooms branch off the reception area – my favourite has a fox knocker on the door and opens to the bar which is dark and moody and candlelit with everyone chatty and talking about the day’s hike, where they’ve been to and where they are going next. I liked it so much I could have lived there. For this reason, I have harnessed those feelings in this setting (above), a not modern at all version of a studio apartment with everything you might need.
The small wooden discs above the fireplace are like books, an ever-useful tool for a mantel still-life. Use them to create different heights. I bought a scout leader’s hat in its holder when I was sourcing for a commercial space and loving all things campland. I saw Duart Castle from afar and navigated my way to its doors. I was not disappointed with its tartan-clad flooring nor to discover that its original owner was chief scout of the WORLD! We got a good dose of his achievements and past after climbing a stone spiral staircase with rope banisters.
I am not Scottish, but I love tartan and the history that it represents – its colour and pattern defining the clan you are from. I had two bespoke tartans made for me in my own colour palette from 21st Century Kilts.
I love that there are honesty systems that still happen, from bars in New York to country roadside stalls! Here is my very own. This is inspired by my non-visit to Tobermory whisky distillery. We had chosen this one out of hundreds of distilleries in Scotland, and on the day I went to explore it, it was all booked out. It will make me travel all the way back to the Isle of Mull just to see inside. For now, this is a homage to Tobermory.
This has elements from one of my favourite childhood books, The Magic Faraway Tree – in fact, it is what I picture it to look like at the very top! I went for a walk with my dad and we discovered wooden steps that climbed all the way up the highest pine I had ever seen. Up & up until they disappeared from view. If I had ascended, I know I would have found Dame Washalot and Moonface and everyone else.
Even if the vegetation of where you live isn’t like Scotland, you can re-create the overwhelming feeling of green and lushness by creating your own magical forest. If you don’t have access to these string balls, just cut foliage and put it in vases at all different heights. This achieves a feeling of being surrounded, and mimics mountains and lakes which are never at an even keel.
My homage to the night I spent with my dad at Bramble Bield.
Manners were very important in our household when I was growing up and I think there’s a lot to be said for table etiquette. You can take the formality, and then loosen it up. I took a very formal table setting and relaxed it by adding a leather machinery belt and strewn flowers.
The Gulf Stream is a powerful, warm and swift ocean current that starts at the tip of Florida and makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean to northern Scotland. It creates an unexpectedly warm climate in what is otherwise known for wet, rug-up kind of weather. The Highlands are typically mossy, scrubby and lush but at Inverewe Garden you discover plants that normally sit on a tropical island or in the desert! It was all so unexpected – to invoke this, make a decorative arrangement out of something unusual like prickly pear.
I have always been attracted to humble materials. Those that have a utilitarian purpose, such as a flour sack, are now used as upholstery on a sofa and as a window treatment. A defunct fireplace can add an extra layer onto a wall; stack it tightly with birch rounds or wood from other trees you love. Flat things are good souvenirs – I often buy paintings that can slip between my clothes in my suitcase for a safe return. This oil painting is from Unicorn Antiques in Edinburgh.
Tune in next week as I wrap-up my tour of Scotland, including final interior inspiration gleaned from my journey as well as my guide to fantastic spots to check out when you head out on your own Scottish jaunt.
The S&W crew is pushing their Landrover ‘Clyde’ on a roadtrip down the East Coast to pour their Byron Bay beers for us.
Setting up outside of The Society Inc., wander in from whatever path you’re on, grab a $5 beer and wrap yourself up & get cozy for a screening of Mctavish films and ease into the weekend with live music from Byron locals Kyle Lionhart and Luke Morris.
Sydney Café Racers will be rolling in on their bikes & all profits from Stone & Wood’s delicious brews will go to the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride for prostate cancer and master screenprinters Aisle6ix will be making tees for the cause as well.
The food truck Veggie Patch will also be there to provide hearty treats and S&W will be pouring your choice of beer plus Cloud Catcher from Clyde.
So slow down, leave your fast lives for one night and join us all on Surfari at The Society Inc.
Friday 25th September
F is for…
There is an extraordinary synergy between interior design and fashion, and so it seems a pity to hide clothes behind closed doors. We all have pieces that tell a story, whether due to the design of the garment, the reason for purchase, or a place it was worn. My advice is to display some of your beloved pieces for all to see. Note: study fashion with an interior stylist’s eye and you’ll discover common threads for you to reproduce at home.
Fasten [tools that]
How many clips does one person need? About 5000 is you go by my books! I do not quite have that many, but it may be close. In Japan, while trawling Ito-Ya, the nine-level stationery store, I managed to come out with at least 10 different styles in a range of sizes from teeny weeny to huge. Irresistible. Perhaps I should have worked in a post office. Along with the clips are all the other fasteners I need, such as staplers, paperclips and clipboards.
I have never lost the thrill of the discovery of a fallen feather. Lorikeet, kookaburra, seafaring birds, blue jay – I’m yet to find a red cardinal. For all the bits and pieces I gather while out shopping, walking or on location, my style philosophy could almost be called ‘lost & found’. Feathers are one of the things I spot with a vengance. I look for stripes, colours, neutrals, big and small, dotted, white, jet inky black.
My mother told me many times I was an angel with dreadlocks & mottled wings! I find lots of feathers and am also given many by friends. I’m sure this is so I can replace the fallen ones and still be able to fly. As well as single bird feathers, I have many things made out of feathers – shuttlecocks and arrows, darts, paintbrushes, fans, hair ornaments and headdresses.
The study botanists, marine and other sciences (but not to dismiss the enthusiastic amateurs) that collect specimens, record & observe nature. Equipment required on a field trip (though, not necessarily all at once): Flower presses & herbaria, specimen jars, gumboots (or a sensible shoe), clear bags with secure tops, test tubes with cork stoppers, petri dishes, sketchbook & pencil, artist’s roll, shears & scissors or a knife that folds, belt with pockets or cargo pants, butterfly net, alarm clock (for early-morning foraging), sticky tape (a collection in itself), boxes with clear tops, labels & tags, pith helmet, entomological pins, arsenic, camera, fern trowel, magnifying glass, album.
The flags that flew – tattered through strong winds, relentless storms, high seas and all the wildness of the ocean. The seafarer in me can’t get enough of things that fly, although I am just as satisfied for my flags & bunting to live inside and/or be made of cardboard & paper.
A warning, a celebration, an indication of a win or a loss, to scare or attract attention, to signal or even spell something out; there are so many reasons for them that come in an endless variety of forms. Not to be used in a formal way, I soften hard lines with flags that protrude into a space or bunting that is oh-so-casually placed over doorways & in entrances.
A stylist’s dream – I love fresh, fabric, milliners’, and all sorts of printed and artistic renderings – as the combinations are endless and almost impossible to mismatch. Experiment with your own floral motifs and see where it takes you.
To rummage, search, sticky beak or have a very good look through. A handy skill to pull out of your bag of tricks at markets of any kind, antique shops & side-of-the-road sales. Most likely to reward the fossicker with a rare treasure or two.
1. Seek out all kinds of fabric – second hand, offcuts, wondrous new patterns – in your chosen colour palette and throw them on the table like a deconstructed patchwork tablecloth.
2. Embrace imperfection. It doesn’t matter if the table shows through or the fabric hangs haphazardly.
3. Offer an assortment of patterned plates and let your guests choose their own.
4. Don’t always pick flowers for decoration. Use Japanese fortune sticks, or poem cards or items that draw in textural appeal or provoke a conversation.
As we traversed the Highlands and isles of Scotland, a very obvious palette revealed itself in the expected and the unexpected.
A much-anticipated falconry lesson offered all deep browns and soft caramels in feathers, claw-proof suede gauntlets and leather hoods. Those same tones were also found in comical shaggy Highland cattle on a backdrop of impossibly green fields and again in whisky, which we sipped with a water chaser in old-fashioned inns.
The tiny bell-shaped heather flower carpets every hillside of the Highlands landscape giving it an overall smoky soft purple tone with a scent that smells of the earth. It’s so springy to walk on, and is tough enough to make brooms and brushes from – and is also very lucky in a gypsy kind of way.
At Jupiter Artland we walk into Anya Gallaccio’s magical amethyst sunken grotto and are surrounded by a deep chamber of amethyst-encrusted walls – so magical in the range of purple hues that complement the landscape outside.
The Gulf Stream swings right past the west coast of Scotland, meaning that Inverewe Garden is full of palms and other unexpected tropical plants. Created in 1862 and sheltered by 40 hectares of woodlands, this is an oasis of bright greens amongst the Highlands.
When Dad and I were driving north on hedge-lined lanes, we passed a few lovely old-fashioned sports cars in British racing green with go-fast stripes, the kind of cars that leather goggles need to be worn to drive.
These colours enriched my journey to Scotland and, by the same token, were easily accessible and fresh in my mind when I returned home. Tune in next week as I detail the way I translated the inspiration from my jaunt to Scotland into my interiors.
Discover the start of my Scottish fling here.
E is for…
Inspiration comes in all forms. A newsletter dating back to 1939 showcasing the H.M.S. Bounty inspired this embroidered cushion, custom-made in Bali.
Paper for a purpose; the incidentals made from it, often overlooked or discarded with marks from being many times thumbed. Here, a tonal collection of ephemera picked up in Japan, a lovely reminder of my travels: poetry cards, calling cards and a random ‘4’. I can add and rearrange as I discover more pieces.
You see the imagery of the evil eye throughout Turkey as well as West Asian cultures. It’s the protective measure used against curses bestowed upon you by an ill-wishing gaze, the effects of which can be bad luck or death! People with light-coloured eyes are relatively rare around the Aegean Sea, so people with blue eyes are thought to impart the curse, intentionally or otherwise. Turkish charms are normally blue as a result. I’m a big believer in any additional protection in life and always wear my own amulets.
To be relished! However you travel, whether it be via sailboat, puddlehopper, motorbike, taxi, horse & cart, vintage Mercedes or old-fashioned hiking, seek out adventure & beauty where you can.