I love paint. I love its immediacy. I love being able to choose eco-friendly options with a range of interesting finishes. You can do it yourself and I love that you can completely overhaul, renew, or refresh a space in an afternoon. Here are my tips for getting the most out of a tin of paint:
1. Swatch, swatch, swatch. Visit the local hardware or paint store and buy small pots of a few colours that you like or those that fit in your 10-colour palette – don’t be scared to try something new. If the choice is there, get an assortment of different finishes: matt, semi and full gloss, and metallic are just a hint at the possibilities.
2. Try them out. Take your selection home and paint large swatches, about one metre (or two feet) square, in various parts of the room. Study the results at different times of the day, in natural and artificial light. This is a very important step, as the appearance of a paint colour can change depending on the size and orientation of the room, colours and elements that surround it.
3. If you’re hesitant, choose the disposable option. If you’re baulking at painting swatches directly on walls, paint your desired colours on one-metre squares of pure white paper and paint them to various spots on the walls. Be aware that the finish and colour will be slightly different to how the paint will appear on the walls.
4. Think about it. Look at your swatches for at least 24 hours before you make your decision.
5. Relax. Once you begin painting, don’t worry if you can’t achieve a professional finish. Some colours look great when they’re slightly uneven, as they have a more tactile quality. And remember, if you don’t like it or you really do a botched job, you can always paint over the top and start again.
Check out my advice on creating your own 10-colour palette here.
We are lucky enough to share Precinct 75 with many incredible makers and creators, including the very wonderful Adam Jones of wallpaper, fabric design and printing studio, Quercus & Co. A child of the Seventies, Adam is a true dreamer at heart. He is a lover of colour for its energy, joy and ability to uplift. Adam strives to stay ahead of ecological innovation, which is no easy feat, and pairs the handmade with the technological in perfect matrimony.
Where are you located?
I’m a total dreamer and trapped in my head!
Quercus & Co. has recently moved to a wonky old tin shed in Precinct 75, St Peters. The studio is part of a group of industrial brick, timber and tin buildings that house a community of creative businesses. Off the beaten track, the village-like complex has an industrious ‘lets get things done’ vibe.
Describe your workspace.
Until a couple of months ago, our Tin Shed was full to the brim with metal working machinery, cranes and puddles of oil. Although we’ve stripped the place clean and white washed the walls, the nuts and bolts and physical remnants of its working history are still here. I love working from a place that has a hidden story behind every mark and stain, it was never designed this way but was made by the work done here. It’s the imperfections in life that release new ideas.
Go to colour?
I grew up in the (very colourful) 1970s, however towards the end of the decade during my irritable teen years, punk had hit town. Other kids were all into black but I, of course, decided on brown. Dark brown. I insisted my bedroom be decked out in everything dark brown – from bed covers, to curtains, to furniture and every dark brown ornament from around the house. Dad painted the walls, doors and windows but refused to paint the ceiling: “you’re living in a bloody turd!”
Staring at the wallpaper on our walls as a kid, I was always figuring out the repeat. I can remember focusing on the printing mistakes – where the colours were slightly offset. I realize now that it’s these ‘mistakes’ or imperfections that are the most interesting. There’s something very revealing about them that draws you in. The designs I create are all firstly drawn or painted by hand (I’m actually quite a rough painter which is helpful) and it’s the blotted, washy marks of the ink or the scratchy marks of the pencil that I focus on. The things that inspire me most are artists who work in this way. Perhaps not so much abstract art but those working in a period or within a group where it was very experimental. The early modernists from the 20s and 30s, particularly the Bauhaus group, who were all pushing creative boundaries – its evident in all their work. Another more obvious artist is Vincent van Gogh whose drawings are mind-blowing. You can feel every angst and stress in each mark. His work set the pace for the 20th Century.
Paper – it’s fragile, soft, scrunchy, light, tactile, mottled, dry, absorbent, sculptural, rough and papery.
Dream travel itinerary?
Dream is the key word. Exotic, isolated and dramatic – anything from a hot and lazy Pacific island to a drizzling misty Scottish isle to a spree in New York, in the snow.
After 5pm drinks?
A glass of wine making dinner at home with my partner and the cats.
Secret spots in Sydney?
I love the bays – there are a couple of swimming spots around Botany Bay, where on a hot summer day the water is perfect. I’m not a surfer.
Ultimate dinner party guests?
I would invite people who will chatter and discuss brilliant observations and I can just listen. Stephen Fry (his husband is welcome too, he’s cute), Miriam Margolyes (trouble maker), David Sedaris (story teller) and Vivienne Westwood (spice) – ok maybe this isn’t the ultimate guest list, I’m exhausted already – coffee anyone?
Words to live by.
Fly by the seat of your pants.
Photos by Sophie Flecknoe
You can’t be expected to store all your travel experiences in your head – you’ll need a few photos to jog your memory. But you don’t need to be a professional photographer to take a great pic. With a little confidence and some patience, you can get a fantastic picture.
It’s all about composition.
- Consider what’s in your frame – adopt a stylist’s eye for crop and angle.
- Work out what should and shouldn’t be in the pic. Check, for example, where a wall or stair ends, or that you’re getting in the top of an object.
- To avoid distortion, it can sometimes be a good idea to stand back and zoom in; likewise, you need to be careful not to stand at an odd angle, otherwise things can look as if they’re tilting.
- Take your time – a snapshot doesn’t have to be ‘snap’, but it can still look spontaneous. The beauty of digital is you can check everything and go back to correct, right then and there.
- It’s important to go back and edit; be ruthless and do it as you go along, before you download your pics. It makes for a stronger ‘story’ at the end, which often gets neglected upon your return.
- Don’t store your photos away – I get mine printed as soon as I get back. It keeps the globetrotting inspirations alive, as well as let me physically move the pics around, put them in a different order, and play with colour and content. You’ll find this plays a large part in coming up with a trip-based 10-colour palette, even if one wasn’t obvious while you were gallivanting around.
- I often think of pictures in pagination, i.e. how the pages turn and a story runs in a magazine. I like to make a strong picture story of it, which can then be put into an album if I feel like it.
By doing these things, inspiration and excitement from you trip should be at the forefront of your mind and you are ready to experiment with your own interior.
The new design of Hotel Palisade is the journey of the building, from past to present. Walk into the original character of the building in the ground floor bar, which pays homage to days gone-by, with the hustle and bustle of the early harbor port days of the Rocks.
The design is inspired by the small trades of eras passed: the handtooled, handsmithed and handtinkered. Everything you see and feel is bespoke, handcrafted items by locally based master craftsmen and tradesmen. The fixtures and finishes are a nod to this industrial past using humble and honest materials… zinc, steel, leather, canvas, copper and timber. We celebrate the materials that patina and get better with age (and with a little bit of tough love, too).
You may still hear the jeers of the larrikins and the ‘wharfies’ coming to drink after a day waiting for ships to dock. You might catch the cackles and calls of the mothers and aunties for their little ones to come in from days riding billy carts and mock war games on the streets. You will feel the ruggedness of the surface under layers of thoughtful design.
On offering is a harp back to the time of oyster bars and the staple that the sea offered. This is a place where the history of the community is both wicked and respectable, but always with a very strong sense of camaraderie. The colour palette is inspired by the spectacular views of the Sydney waters and the original tiles that line the inner walls and their many moods of green.
To bring back this iconic ground floor back to life I instilled an army of talented people:
Rowena – Murobond & colour hunter, Felix – finder & maker, Tommy – builder & solutionaire, Saul – blacksmith extraordinaire, Jonathan – furniture maker & all round finishes guy, Simon – lighting & all round MacGyver, Athol – believer & magician of shapes & forms, hard & soft, Michael – genius of all painters, with the patience of a saint, Neil – scenic painter & layerer of history & romantic grim, Ross – electrician & unruffled weaver of the unimagined, Terry & Michael – magic makers from bad to good in floors, Andrew – tinkerer, Stuart – a shape shifter in furniture, Rosie – finder & keeper of oddities & curiosities, Will & Nath – wizards of the palimpsest & lost arts of signwriting, Chris & team – layering in tiles of once was, Simon – rejoicing of the history of graphics, Matt – plumber & onion peeler, Paul – time traveller & artist, David – lover of history & measurements, Camille – draper & leather shifter of quality aprons, Andrew – fabric & notion expertise, Sam & Katie – earth benders, Alan – sourcerer of all quality furniture, Ken – eagle eyed finder of vintage wares, Avi – tanner & unturner of all stones.
Photos by Chris Court
There’s something about Sibella: the founder of the aspirational homewares store comes with her own dedicated following of pirates, gypsies and wanderlusters.
Glossy magazines adore Sibella Court, the founder of the homewares and interiors store and blog the Society Inc. And it’s no wonder – Court sure knows how to curate a collection of beautiful items, from reclaimed vintage shutters to decorative crystals that would look swell in any dream beachside home. Hey, even if you don’t have the paypacket to support a weekend pad on the coast, it’s still tempting to dress up that Inner West share house as if you do.
The Society Inc used to have a boutique in Paddington; now the store can now be found at Precinct 75 in St Peters in a space that’s twice the size of the previous shop. Located in the heart of an industrial warehouse, the store is filled with eclectic antiques and oddities as well as new pieces of furniture and homewares sourced by or produced by Sibella Court. Stacked in the corner are rustic, bleached shutters from Java available for $350; there’s a nostalgia-inducing rope swing set, made in Australia, for $320; and there are indigo-dyed throws brought back from the western gulf of Africa starting at $190.
Standing tall in the centre of the store is a colourful army of longboards, designed by Sibella in collaboration with McTavish. The Gypsy range is inspired by Court’s travels and she has worked with Australian designers like Shibori and Bethany Linz to create the wistful patterns. The surfboards are available in three lengths and they’re made to order for just over $2,000.
One of the most popular items in store is a mirror designed in the shape of a shield, the Society Inc’s emblem. A staff member tells us that everyone who works there has one, and at $75 it’s an accessible way to own a piece of the Society Inc lifestyle.
Sibella Court is often at the store herself, and there are a number of gift items that loyal followers will lap up – like the hardware designed by Sibella, a range of handles, hooks and decorative tools with an industrial feel. There’s a pile of Sibella Court’s own literature, such as The Stylist’s Guide to NYC (Court lived there for ten years). And there are soaps branded with the shield emblem in fragrances inspired by her travels to the Galapagos and Transylvania – all crafted by Richmond Soap Studio ($15 each).
The in-demand stylist claims to be part gypsy, part pirate: her themes are seen throughout the store, from the porcelain fortune cookies ($15) to ornaments adorned with Turkish eye designs. ‘Fuck Everything Become a Pirate’ is sketched above an antique sink stand. One of the ways shoppers can indulge in the dream is to pick up a zeolite crystal for 20 bucks. We say, give in to those nomadic fancies and spend the afternoon in store, picking out a few nuggets of your own.
B is for…
Beads & sequins
One of my early collections, along with ribbons & shells, was beads & sequins. As a child I loved to separate and organise, by shape & colour, the seed beads my mum would bring me back in packets from her South-East Asian jaunts. On our trips to the city (a time when we would have to dress up and catch the bus) we would head to the fabulous ballroom dancing suppliers, Photios Bros, which continues to thrive today. Although you are not allowed to peruse the floor-to-ceiling shelves of stencilled cardboard boxes, you can choose your desired strand of sequin, bags of beads, colours & things sparkly from the catalogue at the front counter.
Birds’ nests, eggs & skulls
I have always loved exploring in nature, and picking up treasures as I ramble. It’s a rare day to find unusual eggs and skulls but, after strong winds, an eagle eye can find a grounded nest. I often have nests perched on top of cupboards, on my mantel or just sitting on a block of wood somewhere. If your fossicking hours are limited, you can visit your local natural history museum for inspiration and make your own nest with twigs and sticks.
Blackboards & slate
I believe I was born in the wrong era, although I do love the liberation of technology! Ah, the romance of the time when you walked to your school and had your very own slate to write the day’s work on. I have collected some of the smaller slates bound in leather and wood, and one even has a name etched into it. I have created a range of 12 colours of chalkboard paint so you can put a blackboard on a wall or a piece of furniture anytime you please, in any colour you please.
I love bones – not all bones, mind you. They have to be a certain shape, but I’m not usually fussy about which animal they are from: the fineness & fragility of seafaring birds’ bones found on the beach; the oversized thigh bone of a camel; or the dried-out vertebrae of a snake my brother gave me from his farm, which is a sculpture unto itself. If these make you slightly squeamish, there are beautiful porcelain cast bones that can be used in the same way, or even beautiful pencil drawings that can be stuck to your wall.
My collection of books serves to discredit the maxim ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. So many of the ones I own have been bought because of the linen or board with which it is bound, the ribbon bookmarks, or paper stock. Whenever I’m travelling I pick up cheap or second-hand books with unusual fonts or typesetting and especially seek out those with foreign lettering. If they’re faded, well-thumbed, or falling apart, well, that’s even better. All of them usually make their way into my home or shop, either as the catalyst for a colour palette or as parts of the many layers of styling. Shop from my library.
A friend of The Society Inc. lent me these beautifully built bottled boats made by a fisherman on Sydney’s northern beaches. ‘Impossible bottling’ is rarely seen these days, which in my mind makes these specimens all the more special. Keep your eyes open for objects made using dying trades and crafts like this and you will no doubt be rewarded.
One day (hopefully soon) I’m going to have my very own perfume & home fragrance range. When this happens, I have all I need on hand for inspiration. I have a vision that my perfect scent (possibly rose based) will hang on a beautiful chain lanyard or leather tie around the neck in a miniature corked bottle, on the ready for when you need some freshening up. In the meantime, I have many small bottles that I adore for their sheer tininess in their past lives: some held perfume samples, some Chinese medicine and others perhaps dosages of poison. The amber shielded bottles hold and air of mystery, and a hint of the exotic. Although they appear medieval, give them a new life and use them to house your things: rings, cotton buds, coins or even paperclips.
You always need brown paper for something. In the shop it’s a staple, and most drawers have some form of brown paper in them: envelopes of every size, letter paper, cards, rosettes, big rolls for wrapping packages, sandwich bags, tags and postcards. There’s something endearing and comfortable about it, making me think of an old-fashioned shop where you could buy canvas buckets, yardage, chandlery, stamps, ice and everything in between. Each purchase carefully brown-paper wrapped and tied up with string. Shop brown craft tape here.
Even before I had a paint range, I had a rather large collection of brushes that my antique-dealer friend Alan sourced for me. I think about the care that painters, signwriters and barbers take of their real-bristle brushes, treating them with respect so they last a lifetime. These are attached with small brass cup & eye hooks, easy to take down for closer examination and use. A couple of stores (New York Central Art Supply & Sam Flax) have brushes I can’t resist – specialised and handmade ones made from animal fur, feathers, bamboo, wood and other lovely materials.
A favourite of mine. It’s a lovely way to use any fabric swatches you’ve collected. This one has been sewn from an assortment of vintage Japanese indigo fabric, but yours might be fashioned from colours and patterns more suited to a child’s room or other favourite place.
I have a wooden box with compartments for my own buttons, sorted into colours; and easy to find when one has popped off my shirt or coat and is nowhere to be found. Although there are some very serious collections of buttons out there, mine is not one of them. It’s a hodgepodge of my own, my mother’s, her mother’s and her mother’s. A little timeline of history in itself in ways of fashion, new technologies and availability of materials. Of course today I like the leather buttons that look like knots, tiny, irregular mother-of-pearl ones, very plain calico-covered ones and the like.
Stay tuned, as I catalogue all the pieces of my cabinet of curiosities in weekly posts.
Missed ‘A is for’? You can read it, here.