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.
As a nature sanctuary, nothing can come in or go from the Galapagos Islands. I bought this collection, put together in the ’60s by a fisherman’s wife who lived on the part of the Moruya River where the river meets the sea south of Bateman’s Bay, NSW. I put them on table surfaces to be arranged by size, colour, shape or whatever I desire. Not to be shut away behind glass as it is a lovely experience to hold them.
Embrace unusual spaces. This was a very narrow and what many would see as quite an awkward space. Rather than being scared of small spaces, make them inviting and intimate – like the quarters of a ship’s captain! Let the space direct you instead of the other way around. Often you will create something you never would have thought of. The Galapagos was a stopping point for merchants, buccaneers, specimen collectors, explorers and whoever else was lurking in the waters. Here, they’d stock up on tortoise meat, which would last for six months and guard against scurvy. Some of the first things that attracted me to these islands were the stories of the trade winds, of seafaring exploration and the romance of Darwin’s discoveries here.
In Quito, I went to Casa Museo Guayasamin, a museum which houses famous Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin’s studio and his home, which had a wall of nooks with hanging ship’s bells. A wall can be a cupboard, window or screen, textured, of unusual shape and three-dimensional. Embrace any unusual backgrounds and let them guide your display.
Here sits a casual setting on the table for what will be the beginnings of a long lunch. The mix of textures shows off vintage and new cushions as well as a beautiful blanket as a make-do tablecloth. This gives the feeling that everything is handcrafted, although it is not – the fact that it is a little off and not quite perfect is the reason why the scene is pulled together. By creating a casual setting, your guests will feel comfortable and your gathering or event will be guided accordingly. A styled interior should not be seen as simply something to admire from the outside, but must be appropriate to live in and be a part of, it should act as a foundation to create stories upon that reflect your life and become a part of your memories. I would eat a dessert of passionfruit pie, chocolate cake and fig with cheese in syrup here with good friends over many hours, as I did in an Inca stone dining room what feels like many moons ago.
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.