Measure [tools & apparatus]
Fabric tape measures, wooden squares with etched numbers, enamel liquid measures, cone-shaped footed etched glass, old shop 1-metre sticks with a hole in the top for hanging, metal measuring sticks attached to the long tables at the draper’s or even just a good old-fashioned wooden ruler. I think these things are a tribute to vintage classrooms, a time of Cuisenaire rods, and maps that pull down from behind the teacher’s desk. Perhaps it’s the typography of the numbers that attracts or maybe the different shapes they come in.
Metallics appear in just about every one of my 10-colour palettes and styling themes. I love the contrast in texture that a metallic finish offers and the way it picks up and reflects the light and other colours in a room. I might use paint with a hint of shimmer or a sprinkling of glitter, a textile or cushion with a beaded or sequined embellishment, or perhaps fill shelves with objects made of precious and everyday metal, decorative silver pieces and tableware, or gold-papered boxes, things made of pressed tin or bronze. Mirrors and all kinds of glass should also be introduced for their wonderful light-enhancing qualities.
When I was living in NYC, I thought I knew every shop there was to know until I accidentally stumbled upon Dulkin & Derrick, one of the manufacturers of handmade fabric flowers. Ones likes the signature camellia of Chanel and even Carrie Bradshaw’s numbers. Brown-labelled boxes line all the walls & shelves, many with Chanel, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen and the like scrawled across the front.
I was passed a velvet-lined tray and left to roam into the depths. That day, I was into dusty pinks and grey browns (thinking of silk stockings and chemises. I spent a small fortune but have never forgotten my first visit.
My dad has had a moustache forever. Maybe that’s where my fascination with them came from, or was it our next-door neighbour, the conductor, who has a white ringmaster one that needed to be waxed? When I travel I look for moustached men in photographs & paintings, plus I named one of my paints ‘Moustache‘.
If I weren’t a stylist and shop owner, I’m quite sure I could be a curator. Everywhere I go, whether the venerable capital cities of the world or small, non-touristy towns, I seek out museums and galleries – anywhere that houses a collection. I’m drawn to anthropology, art and cultural exhibits but feel even more at home amongst the specimens of birds and bees, flowers and trees. I could spend days – and have – at the American Natural history Museum and Sydney University’s Macleay Museum, but have also enjoyed many hours at New York’s Explorers Club, Oxford University’s Pitts River Museum, and the 178-year-old taxidermy shop Deyrolle in Paris. I study the beetles, butterflies, cicadas, dragonflies and, of course, my beloved feathered friends. They all have precise colour combinations and patterns of such beauty and harmony – it makes my job all the easier.
Rethink the height of your furniture and create a whole new perspective for your room. This Bedouin-inspired living area, with its rich layers of rugs and throws, low-slung tables, daybed and floor cushions, instantly evokes an exotic and hedonistic ambience.
Not everything in your home needs to fulfil its intended use. Chairs can double as tables, floors used as a place to store generous piles of books and magazines, cupboard handles a place to hang decorations. Think outside the realm of traditional interior stores – this divine chair began life in a church.
Break the rules
Tradition would have you place furniture in set places, but it’s always worth breaking the rules to utilise space in different ways. Here, the chaise is set away from the wall, giving you complete access to the window.
Small alterations can bring new character to a piece of furniture. The handles of these wooden drawers were removed and replaced with leather thronging bought at the local shoemaker.
I thought these lights were Chinese, having admired them many times at the store Shanghai Tang. However, after witnessing them at the theatrical dawn fire ceremony in Mount Koya, I decided to include them. Considering the influences Chinese Buddhism in Japan during the seventh century, it’s no wonder they appear in both countries. I love the use of old everyday kimono fabric used for the shade and the glowing ambient lighting it gives off. Layer your patterns with gingham, bamboo blinds, screen-printed coffee sacks and blue screen-printed wallpaper.
An unusual curtain tie back that looks like an oversized hair ornament a geisha might use on a casual day.
The Japanese are organised & tidy, having a place for everything. Don’t feel you need to buy a staired chest – I recycled balsawood boxes tipped on their sides and secured (by sheer gravity or Liquid Nails, if you must). They once housed old scrolls, paper lanterns and ceramics.
Mix up your textures: use leather for flooring and a wooden circle with embossed painted numbers as a tray or tabletop. Perfectly faded flat cushions serves some utilitarian purpose; woven water reed slippers don’t need to worn but just happen to look the part. The traditional wooden houses of Kyoto have flooring of tatami mats and often with low floor-friendly furniture. I have used a layer of raw leather topped with a length of boro to create flooring. Hang your pendant lights low and make sure you have lots of comfy cushions at hand.This is for eating, conversing, playing games and all your other past times.
The Japanese use low seating arrangements and shoji sliding paper screen doors, clever devices to change the function of their spaces, from sleeping to working to socialising. A bamboo table and cushions, all lightweight for easy moving, sit on a split bamboo mat. A low-hung paper lantern gives a beautiful soft glow.
I was inspired by my visit to the amazing Naoshima art island. Consider furniture placement and be aware of its forms as well as its function. The ceramic stool, hand-painted photo wallpaper and sculptural base of the table act as art pieces as well as functional pieces. Even if you cannot have the internal gardens of a classic Japanese house, place a great shaped to bring in the green and all its serenity.
My Japan recommendations:
Okunoyu Ryokan (Japanese traditional inn)
Ph 0967 44 0021
Traditional Japanese rooms, dotted through the maples, with an energetic river alongside. A tatami-matted room serves as your dining room cum sleeping quarters. We dined on a 36-plate meal (all tiny beautiful morsels of everything) then slept in a row on futons. Plenty of hot pools to choose from: one in the room, men’s, women’s, communal & private!
Ph 075 221 3018
Kyoto shop run by the same family for over 100 years, making and selling traditional wooden brooms. They are all natural fibres, and include your regular square indoor brooms, ones for geisha make-up, paintbrushes, nailbrushes and all sorts of shapes to get into unusual places, nooks & crannies. All so lovely, it would be rude to hide them in the shed or cupboard.
Ph 075 441 0355 (English spoken)
Indigo-dyer’s studio, house & shop in Kyoto. All three are lovely if you’re lucky enough to get invited in! Shibori and indigo-dyed fabric by the yard, paper, clothes & thread for purchase.
Everything you need for any & every craft, and more.
Keera Vale was built in 1843 from old convict bricks, making it one of the oldest properties in the Wollongong area. Originally built for a judge, it’s original grandeur has been crumbling until it fell into the hands of the passionate and dynamic Jen & Harold who wish to restore this ‘house on the hill’ into a new family home.
A trip to Keera Vale was always welcome; an easy drive down the beautiful coastline of Sydney to Wollongong and the knowledge of endless cups of tea & sweet things. Jen & Harold always have a full bustling house that seemed to give everyone there a big hug. One of the many visitors/workers/friends I met there was local Australian artist, Paul Ryan. His rich paintings, thick with paint are easily recognised & I quickly fell for his painting, ‘Blue Boy’ that he dropped over for Jen. We swapped numbers & in no time I had him painting for me for my hospitality design job at Hotel Palisade in Millers Point!
L is for…
I bought my first set at auction when I was in my late teens. I have always enjoyed organising my collections in my own way, giving them all a place to live, in some state of organised chaos, and accessible when required. I keep an eye out for old shop, museum & library furniture, including glass-fronted milliners’ drawers, wooden filing cabinets, plan drawers and pigeonholes. Many are made from oak & kauri pine, with lovely simple hardware (note: you can always change the hardware if it’s not to your liking).
I recently bought a buge shelving system that was once part of an old Belgian hardware store. It sat on one of the walls of The Society Inc, Paddington. It’s the perfect shade of grey and has shelves and drawers and compartments for all the small things I hunt & gather. On some of the drawers, the old rectangular die-cut-cornered, red outlined labels still hold firm, with beautiful cursive writing, all browned & crunchy.
Many of the museums I frequent have the best old labelling and, although it is merely a form of categorising, identifying & organising, I see so much beauty in a label tied to a bird skin, a simple rectangular typed & dated label on top of a corked test tube or stoppered apothecary jar. Buy old and new labels, and add to your old containers.
One of the simplest ways to introduce depth to your interiors is to layer, layer, layer. Textiles, in particular, offer a tactile and visual beauty like no other and, when unified by a central colour palette, a vehicle for a dynamic mixture of patterns.
Lights that hang & clip
I’m going to say that this came about because of my total dislike of downlights. I do not like to be in a spotlight, blinded by misdirected lighting. Everyone looks fabulous in soft ambient lighting, so why not make a prettier & happier world? I have picked up old & new lights the world over and love the immediacy of clipping them onto a chair, or hanging where I want them to hang. Note: Don’t be deterred by different voltages, make friends with an electrician who can MacGyver them to suit your country code.
Limbs & body parts
I borrowed (and never returned) some framed Indian doll heads from my parents many years ago. I enjoyed that people either loved them or hated them (yes, a strong word, but true). Since then , I have sought out various random body parts from flea markets and junk shops.
There are two shops in San Francisco and one in NYC that have fuelled my curiosity for oddities over the years: Tail Of The Yak, Paxton Gate and Obscura. I’m not sure if I have always liked unattached doll parts, fake eyes, teeth sewn on cards etc, but maybe I have. These things are often small, and for those who notice, cause a double take.
Linen & homespun
It’s crunchy, textured, absorbent, durable, loomed, natural and thick (well, usually). I like to surround myself with it in every room: bath, kitchen, bedroom. In my time, I have found a couple of old rolls and felt over-the-moon excited. I sleep on linen sheetsI bought in a backstreet brocante when my friend Edwina was getting married in a barn outside Bordeaux. Ah, living the dream and listening to rural French radio. In my top five places to visit is a linen company that manufactures old-fashioned towels, sheets, cloths etc in Transylvania (where I will find my Dracula, of course).
Luggage & porters’ tags
These conjure up a time of slow travel: steamships, trunks and the all-important porter. The tags that would link you with your possessions, plus the name of your destination to minimise confusion upon arrival! I use the newer version of these daily in my shop, and have a very extensive , that I have picked up while gallivanting to stationery stores, flea markets, artist suppliers & hardware shops. I have since made them into metal form to be used as drawer pulls in my hardware range for Anthropologie.
Playing with scale is an essential trick of a stylist’s trade. Experiment with objects of different shapes and heights, such as the long spindly branches, flat-stacked picture frames, a domed velvet horseriding hat and the length of blue and white Japanese fabric seen here.
When developing your own interior style, begin your own collection of assorted goodies and regularly sort them into like-minded piles – you’ll soon discover a pattern emerging and start hatching plans for bigger ideas.
I’m a big believer in asymmetry and often style things to embrace the negative space. Mixing seemingly disparate objects unified by colour palette – a star garland, leafy wreath, ball of twine – creates a personalised, meaningful vignette, rather than a ‘I bought everything brand new’ vibe.
Think outside the square
When acquiring new things for your home, don’t limit yourself to interior stores. My love of ribbon, for example, led me to New York’s Tinsel Trading Co, a magical haberdashery filled with wondrous trims and notions. Search online or in your own city for similar sewing suppliers and start some simple craft projects.
I’m always trying to find new ways to display my finds. My shells look wonderful placed in a corked test tube with a typed description, sort of scientist-meets-stylist. I’ve also taken inspiration from entomological cataloguing and made cardboard boxes; pinning and labelling my own amateur finds.