I guess you could describe me as somewhere between a minimalist and a maximalist. I have vast & unique collections that sprawl over my home, shop & storage units. These collections are diverse in reach, with some pieces being more precious than other – read: more delicate, though perhaps no more sentimental – so working out how to best keep them safe and suitably stored is of utmost importance. While I love museums, I like to arrange my things in a more informal setting, inviting friends to pick up the pieces as they so desire. Keeping this in mind, I think striking a balance between open display and more closed storage is a smart way to enjoy the best of the minimalist and maximalist worlds. Here are some suggestions for adding storage to your home, that still speaks of your style.
Apply some creative thinking to your storage solutions to create spaces that offer practicality, while still adding interest. Here, the wide steps of a ladder provide shelving, while the narrower rungs can be used for draping jewellery, scarves and other accessories.
If you have a penchant for open display – like me – find a common thread to group your pieces. Objects stored on open shelving and flung-open cupboard doors take on new appeal when blessed with a uniformity of colour, because what’s the point of possessing beautiful and meaningful things if you can’t show them off for the world to see?
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.
As I mentioned recently in my Stylist Alphabet: S is for… post, while I’m perfectly content with throwing things into baskets, filling jars and inventing other ways of decoratively displaying my possessions, I’m equally devoted to finding practical – read neat and tidy – storage solutions. Look for second-hand shelving and cabinetry from apothecaries or industrial filing cabinets and drawers in a mixture of timber and metal.
I have a lot of stuff (yes, I really am just a good old-fashioned hoarder like my grandmother!) so I’ve built floor-to-ceiling shelves to house it all. They’ve become my cabinets, or shelve, of curiosity. Corners to explore, study and enjoy. You can do this, too, anywhere you like – on window sills, mantels and dressing tables. Line things up on a baseboard on the floor or hang textiles from a suspended pole from the ceiling. Do not limit yourself with display and let your collection speak for itself.
Hailing from the Byron hinterland, Anna Karina Elias is an earthbender, molding clay and forming different shapes. Hers are of the wabi-sabi variety, perfectly imperfect & intended to be enjoyed with a green tea, or freshly picked greens from your own garden. Instinctual & utilitarian, her practice is multi-sensorial and each piece completed is unique in its own subtle way.
Can you describe in detail your workspace and location?
I work from a converted hardware, which has been divided in twelve studios for artists and creatives in the small town of Bangalow in the hinterland of Byron Bay. My studio has high ceiling with timber beams and timber flooring, the room itself has been divided horizontally across by a wall of large windows. This way I have a small gallery/showroom in the front and work from the back.
Walk us through your artistic process.
At this time most of my work is utilitarian. It is important for me to carefully consider all the elements of my work. This process is instinctual. I look at how weight plays with size, colour plays with material, composition with proportion. My aim is for a multi-sensorial experience. One has to engage with my pieces physically, there is no distant objectivity. The work is my language, imperfect, subtle, tactile, quietly composed and deliberately delicate.
Do you have any rituals you follow when creating & making?
The only ritual I have is a cup of scalding hot coffee straight up.
To what era in history do you most identify?
My daughters would argue the 70’s, given my love for corduroy and ELO, but I have a great imagination, every era has its romantic allure.
Who would you love to chat with over a meal & where?
There are so many people I’d love to sit and eat a meal with! I’m interested in so many people and what they do. At this moment I’d love to meet Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, artists Marlene Dumas and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Possibly in a rustic taverna in Italy because I can dream.
What’s your favourite flower?
As much as I love all flowers I’m a tree person. I love the architecture of trees; I love to think they hold the stories of time.
Who or what keeps you inspired?
I find inspiration everywhere! Nature, people, cities, colour, stories. I don’t know how you can’t be inspired. But inspiration plays a small roll, imagination and turning up are just as important. You have to get into the work, labor for it, there will never be a perfect time or a perfect idea. The stars won’t align; magic happens when you let go of your preconceived ideas and just begin.
What is currently on your bookshelf?
I usually have a few books on the go… I just finished Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art by Nancy Princenthal, now onto Barbara Hepworth Writings and Conversations with Sophie Bowness, Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian and I read to my little boy every night and we are loving The BFG Roald Dahl.
Inspiration from a trip will never be translated in the few mementos you bring back (unless you did some serious posting home) – and shouldn’t be! Gather paraphernalia that reminds you of an area and mishmash it together. High up in the Ecuadorian mountains, the homes were comfortable, with interiors that spoke of family history, each piece a memory but not hodgepodge. Make it a beautifully orchestrated journey throughout your house or apartment, including the transitional and forgotten spaces.
Don’t be afraid of colour. It doesn’t necessarily mean bright or overwhelming. Here, it has become its own neutral – a beautiful base to build the rest of your room around. It reminds me of driving very high up into the clouds, surrounded by vivid green fields & mountains.
Here I have created a little make-your-own altar. Mine is a tribute to travel where every cross could be a representation of a place or trip – I have included a fun one from Byron Bay to reflect my location.
You can pick up crosses anywhere and, if you dig a little deeper, they come with a story or the history of the town or country you’re in. In an antique shop I saw a figure of Saint Anthony, and through my enquiries discovered that if you have lost something or are lacking in love you pray to him (for love, place his image facedown under the pillow).
Some people collect magnets (which I’m not encouraging) or postcards, make your collection personal and aesthetically pleasing so you can show it off for guests once home, and as a reminder for you. A travel shrine. Hung by the bed, they can also protect you while you’re sleeping and ward off bad dreams. I like the way magic realism and superstition are part of religion in South America. I personally pick up textiles all over the world because they pack flat and travel easily – don’t be shy to change them regularly, it transforms your room through a colour palette.
A dip-dyed curtain in watery tones, changing like the colour of the sea as the tide goes out, and a hexagonal-patterned runner, reminiscent of the tortoise’s shell, complete this interior.
I could never overestimate the importance of freshly cut flowers – all the better if they’re home grown. In the haciendas throughout Ecuador, roses & geraniums are in every room. It’s a nice little surprise when there are flowers somewhere unexpected like your bathroom. Attention to detail is important when creating a space, as it is those small moments that make it memorable. I love picking up salvaged bathroom fixtures – this sink is the ultimate powder-room size, petite and elegant with lots of history. I recently renovated my own bathroom and mixed old & new fixtures to give it plenty of layers and interesting patina – not just shiny & new. My own sink is an old Parisian cleaner’s sink and the taps are from Porte de Clignancourt in Paris, a convenient accident.
Tune in next week as I tease out more interior ideas from my adventure to Galapagos & Ecuador, as well as let you in on little secrets that you’ll want to check out if you make the journey.
S is for…
Ah, the variety. Like pushpins, safety pins come in many shapes & forms depending on the country of origin and the purpose. The Japanese version of the kilt pin is a favourite present, fine and in a gold finish. For my hardware range, I designed some based on the oversized laundry bag pins of the past and oversized fine kilt pins. A great invention that is both functional and beautiful. Shop some of my collection of pins here.
Samples & swatches
I opened a box at my storage space recently and found my samples of fake grass and fake snow. it reminded me of my years in NYC building sets, so I put the box back on the shelf and look forward to the next time I open it. I have lots of samples. I blame it on my job but I do love to see the colour or texture variations of the same thing in a small size.
Since the days of travelling salesmen, we have had sample & swatch boards. It’s always lovely to come upon an old bead, ribbon or lace one. At the indigo dyer’s house in Kyoto, he let me pore over his great grandfather’s indigo kimono sample books: mulberry paper, thick with fabric squares, and hand bound. This was extra special.
I have a thing for miniature things, not dollhouse things, but really small functional stuff: petri dishes, beakers, vessels, test tubes, funnels etc.
I have bought many a vintage scientific vessel from flea markets all over the world. I use them in my own interiors both on an everyday level as well as display. They are very much a part of my own Cabinet of Curiosities as well as making an appearance in my bathroom. Old apothecary jars house decanted vitamins, glass medical jars with labels like ‘tongue depressors’ house my cotton buds, bandages, cotton pads & other bathroom essentials and are a lot more sightly than the packaging of today.
These look great alone or en masse. I pick them up all over the world. They fold flat, come on a stand and are mostly round, oval or shield shaped. The original idea was as a travelling mirror to hang or stand alone on a dresser or convenient surface, such as a sand dune, side of a mountain, campaign table, train bunker, back of the door or tree branch, depending on your destination.
The other option is the freestanding kind, with an adjustable angle. Not as practical for adventures, but they look great standing against your existing mirror or in a dressing room, by a bed, a specially made shelf or the like.
I most recently found a round one about 25cm in diameter with a wonky wire stand, in a dusty antique shop in Ho Chi Minh City, slightly neglected, but lovely in all its tattered-ness.
Snapshots taken on overseas adventures should be more than just a record of the places you visited. I took this photo at the Summer Palace in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and constantly refer to it for inspiration: the rich and layered colour combinations, the textures and shapes on the walls and floor, and the furniture placement all have the potential to be part of my own living space. Flick through your old albums and see what interiors and architecture you fancy, then find ways to introduce those elements into your home.
And, of course, Silver
I think one of the best opening lines in a book is from Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson. It reads “My Mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal, part pirate.” I’m quite sure, having not met the author – until recently – that it was written just for me. These words jumped off the page from the moment I first read them, and inspired me to name my own daughter Silver, and precious she is.
The Stylist Alphabet:
A is for… B is for…
C is for… D is for…
E is for… F is for…
G is for… H is for…
I is for… J is for…
K is for… L is for…
M is for… N is for…
O is for… P is for…
Q is for… R is for…