Interior trends I’d like to leave behind in 2010 Friday, Dec 31 2010 

There have been one or two things that have irritated, grated and rubbed over the past months.  Maybe it’s just me?  Or maybe we can leave them behind as the year closes?

1. ‘Curated’

Every home is now described as ‘curated’, or a carefully ‘curated’ selection.  A curator is a professional role in a museum (I have a friend who studied for years to get to this sought-after position), where they are a specialist in an area.  A curator will research, acquire and take care of the exhibits.  Are we really so pretentious as to extend this to our homes… ??

2. Hotel in your home

Whilst I totally endorse stealing design ideas from hotels, there has been an increasing desire amongst those who can afford it to have a bedroom ‘like a hotel suite’.  Why set your expectations so low?  It doesn’t have to please many thousands of different people, and it doesn’t have to be so hard-wearing.  So let’s have more personality and individual style in rooms.  Who wants to stay in the Hilton when you can have your own version of paradise?

Things I’m hoping to see more of include:

The fabulous new online magazines that are springing up everywhere.  Lonny, Rue, Standard – keep up the fabulous work!

More recycled design – this is the clever stuff and some brilliant ideas are being born.


This is a word being bandied around by marketers who see it as the next ‘big thing’.  Which is completely ironic as authenticity is anything but a trend.  What I mean here is that I’d love our homes to be truer reflections of us and who we are as people, rather than a reflection of the sale in the furniture chain that’s near us.  I’d like to treasure heirlooms, use favourite colours, have your childs paintings out on display (or even better, – get them to splash-paint a table or a wall with you).

What are you hoping for from 2011?


Georgian elegance in Tasmania Wednesday, Dec 29 2010 

Just back from a week in Tasmania – where some of the earliest settlements exist in Australia – and there are some beautiful Georgian buildings.

The soft greens on the shutters and door perfectly complement the warm honey gold of the sandstone.  Using two shades of green highlights the beautiful arched panels in the door.

Georgian house in Richmond, tasmania

Architecture at this time was based on strong symmetry and classical proportions – still so pleasing to the eye.  I love these huge windows…

Sandstone house in Richmond, Tasmania

It could almost be a village out of Jane Austen (this is Richmond, just outside Hobart).  I was also taken with the huge stands of Lavender in bloom, perfuming the air.

Tasmanian lavender

Also in abundance were sea shells.  For anyone wanting the beach-chic look in their home, this is the place to come and beachcomb.  I wept to see piles of shells like sand-dunes – all for the taking.  Lord knows how much we have all paid for bags of shells in smart city boutiques…  I restrained myself to a few select pieces (much to ‘the man’s’ relief).

Sea Shells beach chic interiors Tasmania

All in all it was a fabulous week.

Symmetry and Light Tuesday, Dec 21 2010 

 I’m having a week’s break now – so I’ll see you after Christmas.  I thought I’d leave you with one of my favourite photos from this year (taken as a panorama).

Georgian interiors are still so utterly beautiful.  The symmetry, the pared-back simplicity and classical references.

I took this photo at Osterley Park near London.  The light streaming through the open door and the almost ghost-like figure add to the majesty of the stunning space.  I feel as though the New Year is waiting in the blinding light through the door.  What will it hold?

Please can you vote on what I should do with this table? Sunday, Dec 19 2010 

This is one project I want to finish off over the holidays.  I’m toying with a couple of options – and your opinion would be appreciated.

I started off with this:

coffee table before recycling

I wanted a large, low coffee table.  (Ideally, a coffee table should be lower than the height of the seat.)  I really don’t like the marmalade varnish that is often used on pine.  Pine is such a lovely colour until it is turned orange.

It’s like a really bad fake tan.

sanded prepped pine coffee table before

I sanded it back hard, to really rough up the varnish.  And then I primed it:

Primed white coffee table wood

And then while I thought about it, I put a matt white first coat of paint on, to even it all up and provide a base for the next step:

Primed painted white coffee table wood

The only problem is, I can’t quite decide what the next step is!

These are the kinds of ideas that I was considering.  I’m into flags at the moment, as you’ll know from this box I did earlier….

So I was considering a flag on the table, but in monochrome creams and greys.  I was actually wondering about the US flag this time though.

The one above is subtle, but might look nice?

Or maybe an off-set flag?

And then I wondered if that would be all too much, and that just a distressed effect might be better

So I actually haven’t done anything at all!

Please can you vote – and I’ll follow your advice.  The finished project to be seen in early January.

What to steal from hotels Friday, Dec 17 2010 

If you’re planning to go away over Christmas or you’re thinking about next year’s holidays, what are you bringing back with you, other than delicious memories?   We all know that you’re not supposed to take the towels from the hotel.  But there’s no reason not to steal their decor ideas.

I really wouldn’t like to live in a house that’s as formal (stuffy?) as many hotels, but I do like some of their ideas.  Here are some great ones that I’ve seen (and sometimes stolen) over the years.

This amazing room is from a hotel in Rome (where the ‘man’ in one of his finer moments took me for a milestone birthday).  Where better to turn ‘old’ than surrounded by things that are ancient?  Anyway – the interiors were amazing.  This bedroom had white plaster walls with handwriting on.  I just love it!

We actually stayed in this room – which gives a whole new lease of life to frescoes (you can see the 2000 year old ones round the corner from here in the Forum).  They add such character and warmth to an otherwise plain room.


The staircase up to the rooms had an amazing glass ‘mobile’ hanging down, like an endless lariat necklace.  It added drama to the stairwell and I’m dying to copy it somewhere!

This was a hotel in Madrid – where I wanted to stay because of the interiors.  She has decorated each room with paint effects.

striped room

The hand painted stripes are so stunning and unusual.  The whole design is held together by the symmetry.

Which is what I’d definitely steal from this hotel in Cordoba, Spain.

In addition, the simple, almost non-existent colour scheme is brought to life by the texture – of the carved window frames, and of the fabrics.

In Laos, the Maison Souvannaphoum in the exquisite world heritage site of  Luang Prabang has nailed the art of dressing the bed – to stunning but simple effect.

This is such a delightful hotel, and the bakery opposite does the best french croissants of anywhere in the world (well, the french did conquer this country for a while).

styling beds

I also love the restrained use of a single strong colour and the way that the room is Asian without looking like a theme park.

At the other end of the spectrum, another amazing experience was lying on a bed, being tended to by nurses, in the room below in The Dorchester Hotel in London!  When I worked in London 20 years ago, my office at Cadbury Schweppes was in Marble Arch – just round the corner.  The blood bank actually came to The Dorchester, so you could slip out of work for an hour, be hooked up to a tube and donate your pint of blood, all while lying in state in one of the most fabulous hotels in the world.  And then of course you can have tea and a biscuit!  Bet they don’t do that any more….

Anyway, they manage to make a huge space look intimate by dividing it up into smaller rooms.  This is basically what I have done with this dining and seating area here.

One of the most amazing places I’ve stayed in Thornbury Castle in the UK.  It was built in the time of Henry VIII (about 500 years ago).  Ideas you could steal include: how to pull off having a suit of armour in your home…..  more seriously – don’t you love the bathroom with the mixture of modern glass and interpretation of coat of arms, together with the historic surrounds?

It really was incredible to step back in time.  No bland ceilings here….

So wherever you’re planning to travel to in 2011 – leave the towels behind and steal the ideas instead!

New use for old books (and a cute gift idea) Wednesday, Dec 15 2010 

Do you live with someone who just can’t throw stuff out?  Or are YOU that person?  Sometimes loved ones have items that they inexplicably cling to – things that appear to be precious for no apparent reason, and that grow into piles of hoarded ‘stuff’.  As you’ve guessed from that comment, I’m not a hoarder.  In reality, neither is ‘the man’ – but he has insisted on keeping the 1989 Michelin Guide on our shelves, despite the fact that most of the places mentioned have either shut down or been replaced by motorways.

What better project for a cute little refurbishment?

I had always had a love of those stories where treasures were hidden in books, secreted in holes cut into the pages, so this spurred my ideas.  In fact, Anthropologie are charging a few hundred dollars for something similar:

I wanted to created something more fun, arty and personal than useful.  (I’m still considering doing another book the Anthropology way – but that might be for next year).

secret hole cut into book vintage interior

I divided the book into two, keeping the majority of the pages to the back, and then I painted PVA glue throughout the edges of the pages to glue and bind them together.  This took quite a bit of time and patience.  I painted several layers until the back pages were almost lacquered like a box.

secret hole cut into book vintage interior

Then I used a scalpel to cut through the pages, until I had created a box within the book.  I kept going until I had an interesting page for the base of the cavity.  This is hard work.  I actually got a blister on my finger from doing this.

secret hole cut into book vintage interior beetle

Then I painted two little beetles and stuck them on pins inside the cavity.  A bit like Victorian specimen cabinets.  And a bit like beetles eating old books and wood.

And then I protected it all by gluing acetate onto the top (I just used an old overhead projector piece of acetate!)

secret hole cut into book vintage interior beetle

On the opposite page, I painted a large beetle onto a page, and then glued the pages together on top.  And I cut three holes until I revealed parts of this huge, painted insect.

insect hole cut into book vintage interior beetle

I know you’re wondering why I’m obsessed with beetles – but actually, it was a bit of a joke, for ‘the man’ to enjoy – as I had found a pile of sawdust as large as my fist on my desk – which we created from an antique altar table…. (remember?).  This kind of freaked me out.  I then found several HUGE beetles in the room and discovered to my horror that they were top of Australia’s most wanted list.  (totally freaked now)

beetle book art holes cut in books vintage recycled interiors

Aww – look at its leg!  Is this too creepy for you?  Well – I called Quarantine and they were over in a flash and wrapped the whole desk in clingfilm (yup – that’s how high-tech we are over here) and took the beetle away for analysis.  Apparently it was very exciting as the beetles were very lively (usually they only get dead ones).  Later they picked up the desk and stuck it in a freezer at -27C for two weeks, and then brought it back.

And it was all FREE!  Sometimes, I’m glad I pay taxes.  (not very often, admittedly, but I may as well be thankful on those rare occasions).

Anyway – hence the joke of the beetles.  And the actual Asian Longhorn beetle that was in our desk – is the one painted on the left.

beetle book art holes cut in books vintage  interiors

After all THAT – I did the cover.  I kept some of the title, and then added all kind of personal stuff like metro tickets from our trip to France, photos, labels from great French wine we’d drunk and so on.  I photocopied these so I didn’t have to spoil the originals.

beetle book holes cut in books vintage recycled interiors

All this resulted in a very personal and unique ‘objet’ – with memories galore.

Michelin france book art

Was ‘the man’ thrilled at this wonderful creation from his treasured book?  Well – after a few whiskies he was reconciled to the idea….

secret hole cut into book vintage interior

How to get the Industrial Rock’n’Roll look Monday, Dec 13 2010 

Are you the coolest person you know?  Then you’re probably already living with this style.

I love the edginess and vibrancy of rock’n’roll and industrial interiors.  They always seem to belong to the hip party girl (or dude).  There are some tricks to creating this look in your home.  It generally works best in a warehouse or loft conversion, but it can be translated into various interiors with a lot of punchy impact.  And the great thing is – recycled objects are the key to rocking this look.

Add bricks

Exposed brickwork really adds some grit (literally!) to this look.  The contrast between the rough brick and the smooth fabric is what makes it work.

Exposed pipework

You don’t want to look as though you tried too hard –  I mean you’re too busy to care whether or not you see the plumbing.  Let it all hang out.  Pipework, brickwork, airconditioning ducts and anything structural – if it’s usually hidden, this look has it all out on display.

I’m not sure whether this is the design equivalent of celebrities without underwear?

Unfinished surfaces

This look has wood and other surfaces that aren’t slick and finished.  Don’t worry if paint is peeling – it all adds character.

Contrasting Sleek

Despite all the rough and unkempt surfaces, remember you are a rock chick.  You’re rich, right?  So you need some very beautiful and sleek pieces for contrast.  The concrete prevents the pink chaise from look girly.  And the pink elegance makes the concrete look chosen (rather than unfinished and cheap).

Industrial accessories

Industrial accessories make you look cool because you recognise the beauty even in the rough.  And you recycle!

Add a flag (or two!)

Flags are an essential part of industrial and rock decor.  They can appear as rugs, hung on walls or covering sofas.  Just never on a flag pole.


Just to show you’re still a child at heart, make sure some really expensive toys are on show – whether it is a motorbike, a guitar or a recording studio.  You know how to play, and your tastes are expensive!

Unusual Accessories

A floating bed?  A door fit for a barn?  Throw it into the mix and you’ll have the kind of home that rock stars dream of.

How can I ensure my colour scheme doesn’t look dated? Thursday, Dec 9 2010 

Good question.  How can you ensure that a colour scheme doesn’t look dated? 

Remember avocado bathroom suites?

They were SO trendy when they first came out.  And now look at them….

Is it possible to decorate your home in a way that won’t look passé in a few years’ time? 

Take the chocolate-brown kitchen – something classic?  Well, this might be the modern take on it:

But this is my parent’s kitchen from the 1970’s.  I remember how proud they were of it.  And it doesn’t look classic at all!  (I can still remember Dad doing the grouting.)

1970's brown kitchen

That’s because even though the colours may be identical, the materials and styles have changed.  Dark tiles are shaped like subway tiles and have dark grout, rather than white.  The pattern on the blinds is not current – even the blinds themselves.

The bottom line is any house is going to need updating after 10-15 years.  As much as anything it will look tired and worn.  But you can get a look to last that long if you’re careful.

Firstly, if you really love the latest trends, and you get a rush from the new and the different, then it will be almost impossible for your home to be timeless.  Trends are just that – fads that come and go.  Be prepared to enjoy them and move on.  In the photo above are a number of things that will date including:  the L-shaped sofa, its very square shape and the chrome legs.  The free-standing shelf arrangement and coffee table will also look dated in  a few years.

But it looks very contemporary now.  So if that’s your thing, go for it, but be prepared for it to look very early 2000’s.

Including antiques and vintage furniture give a room much more of a sense of timelessness and means it will have more longevity.  By mixing up the styles of furniture you aren’t placing it in a single year or decade.  You’ll also give pieces more longevity, which is economical.  I also think you get more of a feeling of ‘home’ rather than showroom.

When choosing a colour scheme, choose neutral colours (which date far slower) for the pieces that are hard to change – such as sofas, wall coverings and curtains.  If you want to be slavish to fashion – then use cushion covers and accessories to introduce colour.  Then you can switch that easily as you tire of it or as something else comes into vogue.

In the room above, all of the elements giving the room its gorgeous mauve and lilac colour scheme are easily changeable.  Which means that in a few minutes, and without a large budget, you can have a blue room, or a silver metallic one.

When choosing colours or finishes, try to pick ones just coming in – such as the greys that I mention here, rather than ones that have already done five years and won’t have such longevity.  Above all, choose things that you LOVE.  Because then you won’t care so much about fashions.

Anyone else have photo’s of their parents’ house from the 1970s??

What about your remote controls? A new use for old cutlery boxes… Tuesday, Dec 7 2010 

remote control storage solution before

What about those remote controls?  I mean, there are so many of them now.  I know you can get one almighty mother to control them all – but we don’t have that.  There is the TV, the DVD, the stereo… not to mention stuff for games.

They can make even the most glamorous room look cluttered.  Add to that pens, the TV guide, and there is a load of necessary but unbeautiful ‘stuff’ in your living room.

remote control storage cutlery box recycled

The easiest way to deal with them is to store them in a beautiful box on your coffee table or next to your sofa.

The perfect fit seems to be old cutlery boxes.  These were designed to prevent silver from tarnishing.  But now that no one really has silver cutlery any more, these can be picked up for next to nothing.

cutlery box new use before recycling

These can be painted, stained or recovered.  Even if you don’t change anything, they look pretty fabulous as they are.  Often they are made of interesting wood.  This one has brass inlay.

remote controls in cutlery silver box vintage

Whilst you could recover the interior with new felt or fabric, the dividers for the cutlery work fabulously as remote control sections.  Who would have thought?

remote control repurposed cutlery box

A far more elegant solution that doesn’t cost the earth….

Salmorejo: the most delicous soup/dip Sunday, Dec 5 2010 

Salmorejo gazpacho soup

Because I enjoy salad, for years I was told that I would ‘love Gazpacho’ – which was described to me as liquidised salad.  To be frank, this put me off it for about two decades.  I can’t think of anything worse than blended lettuce and salad. 

But….when I was in Spain last summer I became addicted to their local speciality: Salmorejo.

This is a version of Gazpacho (which admittedly I now do like – OK OK, everyone was right!), a chilled soup, although it’s very thick and almost like a dip.  Salmorejo doesn’t have cucumber and peppers in.  It relies solely on tomato for flavour, along with olive oil and vinegar.

It is thick, creamy, tasty and satisfying.  The delicate flavour caresses your mouth, with hints of garlic, olives and tomatoey sweetness.  It is unbelievably good.

Salmorejo soup

What makes it even more fun is how it is served.  Sometimes it has wonderful jamon (Spanish ham) scattered on it.  But my favourite was a restaurant in Ronda which served it the way I have imitated….

Salmorejo tomato soup gazpacho

It is studded with hard-boiled egg, tuna, grilled red peppers, basil leaves and little crackers.   The addition of all of this makes it into a meal.

Or is it art??!!

Ingredients (serves 4)

8-9 large tomatoes

3 tablespoons excellent olive oil (I used Spanish extra virgin)

1-2 tablespoons excellent vinegar (I used caramelised red wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon sale

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 clove of garlic

About 100g of  a crusty white loaf, crust removed.

chilled tomato soup

The fiddly bit is peeling and seeding the tomatoes.  It seems like a hassle, but it makes all the difference in the world.  To peel them, slash the skins with a knife and pour boiling water from the kettle over them in a bowl.  After 15 seconds take out the tomatoes and the skins will slip off.

Then cut them in half around the middle and gouge out the seeds with your fingers, and cut out the hard green little core.  Keep the seeds and juice you remove, as you can sieve and reduce them slowly on a low heat to make the most fantastic tomato concentrate (good for stews, burgers etc).  Also – the crusts you remove make good breadcrumbs or bird food (even when cooking I try not to waste things).

Then place all the ingredients in a blender and blend. 

Adjust to taste (you may need more or less sugar depending on how ripe your tomatoes are – likewise vinegar).

It should be really thick – more like a dip than a soup.

Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

gazpacho salmorejo cordobes

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