Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Friday, August 24, 2018

Reclaiming The Beauty of Life


Recently I watched the film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I know the title is long (one reviewer said it made him "lose the will to live"), but the story is surprising – and deeply moving. The kind of story I haven't seen for years. I read the novel a decade ago, and wept. I saw the film, and wept some more. Then I bought the DVD. (It's also on Netflix.) It reminded me of the power of storytelling. And boy, have we forgotten that in this age of pithy, witty one-line tweets and abbreviated conversations.

It was a film of layers: the war; the importance of books; the importance of empathy; the importance of friendships. And then there was the elegance of the cinematography. Even the garden scenes and Isola's flower-filled home had the light and painterly quality of a painting.

It reminded me of what a new friend said when she wrote to me recently. "Where has the fabulousness of life gone? Where is the magic?" Well, it was there, in Isola's greenhouse, in a lovely film with a title so long it would barely fit into a modern-day tweet. 

I hope you get the chance to see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyIn the meantime, here are a few more beautiful things, to help you cope with this expeditious life we're all leading. 

(There's a good little piece about the backstory behind the story here -- LA TIMES )

(Top image from Zimmerman's new collection, 'Corsage' -- more on this below.)


If you dream of writing your own book, be it a design book, memoir, or novel, I hope you'll come along to our intensive, one-day WRITING AND PUBLISHING WORKSHOPS. They not only look at the nuts and bolts of writing a book, but also how to get your book or proposal to the attention of publisher. 

It's short notice, I know, but there's ONE place left this weekend -- Sunday August 26 -- in the library at my beachside home on the coast of the Mornington Peninsula. And TWO places on Sunday, September 2nd, in a beautiful venue in Melbourne.  

There may be another Writing and Publishing Workshop in London in mid-September (we're just finalizing it now) -- please email me for details (email on website). 

More than anything, I would love to help you all with your books, whether they're novels, biographies, memoirs, travel books, design and architecture books, or anything you'd like to write. We need more good stories in this world. 

See this link -- for details 
(Look for workshops in top menu)

NB: A huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has bought Gardens of Style: Private Hideaways of the Design World (Rizzoli New York). Your support and sales helped it reach number one on Amazon (US) in the 'Garden Design' category in May. I am so deeply grateful, and so very touched, as is everyone who worked on this wonderful book. It was a beautiful project, and I'm so thankful to the entire team. Even Tory Burch did a lovely post on it here -- TORY BURCH  


Here's a glimpse of the glorious new book about by Linda Holden about the style and gardening icon Bunny Mellon. With last year's biography being such a huge success, it was inevitable that more books about this extraordinary person would follow. 

Bunny Mellon was known for her wealth but she was also incredibly talented at garden design. One of her commissions was the the formal and vegetable gardens at Hubert de Givenchy’s French home, Château du Jonchet. (Mellon, in turn, had many of her clothes designed by Givenchy, including her gardening hats and smocks.) 

This book features many of Ms Mellon's garden plans, watercolors, and illustrations, as well as vintage photographs by Horst, Aarons, and others of Mellon’s gardens, including her main residence, Oak Spring (above), and also her gardens and homes in Cape Cod, Nantucket, Antigua, and New York. 

PS There's a wonderful article about Bunny Mellon's interiors and garden by Architectural Digest here -- BUNNY MELLON

Vendome Press. Published October 30, 2018. US$60


A stylish addendum to the book about Bunny Mellon, above, is the recent article in US Vogue about fashion designer Tory Burch, who bought Bunny Mellon's estate in Antigua, in the Caribbean. Burch has spent the last few years restoring it, with the help of landscape designer Miranda Brooks (who did Anna Wintour's home), and interior designer Daniel Romualdez. The word are almost more interesting than the images, so do read it -- it's beautifully written by Hamish Bowles, who I think is underrated as a storyteller. 

I particularly loved the trellised garden room in this tropical hideaway, above. The image on the left is its current form, after Tory Burch's restoration. The image on the right is when Bunny Mellon had it, filled with her beloved pots and plants and topiary.



If you fancy a trellised garden room of your own, House and Garden UK has just featured this glorious wallpaper -- ‘Botanical French Trellis’ -- a custom-made wallpaper mural, from £294 a square meter. It's from Iksel. Guaranteed to make even the smallest powder room feel like a grand conservatory.



Do you follow Zimmerman? It's a gorgeous Australian label that's become a major name in New York and London. I adored the Edwardian-looking pieces earlier this year. The forthcoming Corsage Collection (above) is sublime. 



One of the most glamorous homes I've seen this year has just been featured in House & Garden UK. Designed for a couple who moved back to London after being in New York for years, it mixes Manhattan glamour with English understatement. 

The design firm was Maddux Creative, a two-person show made up of Scott Maddux and Jo leGleud. They commissioned the paint specialist Isabelle Day to colour the arched entrance hall in Ben Nicholson-esque blocks of blue and sage and ochre, and then saturate the dining green in deep viridian green, which blends seamlessly with the view of the garden. In the white marble in the adjoining kitchen, rolling library ladders provide access to high cupboards, while the drawing room features an elegant curved sofa by Vladimir Kagan and voluminous, asymmetric curtains  inspired by Alber Elbaz's designs for Lanvin. 

The bathroom, however, is the pièce de résistance. Inspired by Le Meurice hotel in Paris, it is a lavish marriage of unlacquered brass and Arabescato marble. 

LINK HERE – House & Garden UK


If you love design, you must look for an issue of Cabana Magazine, the bi-annual tome that covers some of the most intriguing, elaborate, and extraordinary interiors in the world. But if you can't find it, the beautiful new book – Cabana Anthology by Martina Mondadori Sartogo – covers all ten issues.

In the words of its author, Cabana Anthology explores the “intellectual and emotional intimacy with buildings and their surroundings... the intense relationship of thought, place and the person."  Cabana Anthology, says its author, is about "the magic of atmosphere and aesthetics inspired by the classics and Italian art history, and interiors where old and new are assembled to reflect the soul and history of a person or a family, not a stylist.”

Look for it in bookstores, or order online.


Whenever today’s tastemakers reach for gray and white, leopard and houndstooth, satin skirts and sunburst mirrors, they pay homage to the chic of Dior. Now a new book chronicles the great couturier's love of interiors and furniture. DIOR AND HIS DECORATORS is the first work on the two Parisian interior designers most closely associated with Christian Dior, Victor Grandpierre and Georges Geoffrey, and the first study of the evolution of Dior’s aesthetic as seen through his houses. 

Author Maureen Footer, an expert in French decorative arts and former interior designer in her own right, recounts the lives and work of this influential trio, illustrated with a trove of evocative vintage photographs. Grandpierre created not only the chic, elegantly restrained look of Dior’s salons (pale gray walls, white moldings, and Louis XVI–style chairs) but also the template for the Dior brand, including typeface, logo, signage, and packaging—still followed to this day. Georges Geffroy, an aesthete and connoisseur of eighteenth-century antiques, shepherded Dior into the couture world with an introduction to the couturier Robert Piguet in 1937. When Dior acquired a townhouse in the fashionable 16th arrondisement, he asked both Grandpierre and Geffroy (who worked independently) to design the interior, assigning the private rooms to the former and the public rooms to the latter. The results were, like Dior’s haute couture creations, rich, sensual, and refined. 

After Dior’s untimely death in 1957, both Grandpierre and Geffroy went on to design salons for other couturiers, as well as homes for royals, Parisian socialites, fabulously wealthy ex-pats, and celebrated film stars and artists, ranging from Yves Saint Laurent and Marcel Rochas to Baron de Redé, Arturo López-Willshaw, Élie and Liliane de Rothschild, Gloria Guinness, Daisy Fellowes, and Maria Callas. 

There's a good article by Architectural Digest here – DIOR in AD

Abrams. Published September 2018.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

GARDENS OF STYLE in the NY Times and Architectural Digest

If you follow the New York Times' T magazine's Instagram page, Architectural Digest's online feed, and my own modest (and irregularly updated) Instagram page (LINK HERE), you'll know that a beautiful and rather ambitious book we've been working on for many years called GARDENS OF STYLE: PRIVATE HIDEAWAYS OF THE DESIGN WORLD has just been published by New York publishing company Rizzoli.

This book was such a team effort, and we are all so thrilled to see the final result! It was such a risky book, but has turned out beautifully -- mostly thanks to all the wonderful people involved in the project.



All the designers featured in GARDENS OF STYLE were all such a delight to work with. They are all hands-on gardeners, and their gardens are not just testament to their green thumbs but also serve as beautiful inspiration for their fashion and design collections. 

Aerin Lauder, Bunny Williams, Carolyne Roehm, Ben Pentreath, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Celerie Kemble, Robert Couturier, Paolo Moschino, Gary McBournie, Roman and Williams, and many others featured in this book have all drawn on their private gardens for their work, using the flowers, foliage, lines and forms to influence and inform their projects and collections. 

Two of the designers, Christian Dior and David Hicks, were as famous for their gardens as they were for their designs, with Dior using his beloved flowers to create his magnificent silhouettes. In fact, writing the Dior chapter was unexpectedly moving, knowing that he always viewed himself as "a simple gardener" rather than a couturier, and always suspected he would have been happier had he been allowed to retreat from the world and the stresses of his fashion collections to tend to his beloved rose beds.


GARDENS OF STYLE was commissioned by Rizzoli in late 2015, and it has particular significance for me, because I began work on it only a few weeks after my father passed away from a brain tumour in September that year. In fact, I flew from Australia to New York for the first editorial meeting barely two weeks after my father's memorial service.  I'm sure I looked a mess after months of crying, but my editor was very gracious, and so we began the long and complicated process of planning the gardens to be featured.

This was aways going to be a difficult book, not just because of the logistics involved in shooting all the international gardens -- shoots rely on seasons and weather as much as their owners and their schedules -- but also because of the sheer distances involved. For one of the shoots, I flew from Australia to Provence and back again in 4 days - 48 hours of flying in total -- and then, just three days later, I repacked the bag and flew 24 hours back to Europe again. Another time, I flew home from New York to Australia, received an email to shoot Aerin Lauder's magnificent garden in the Hamptons, and got a flight straight back to the US again. And yet another garden, in the Dominican Republic, was shot a week before a major hurricane hit. But every air mile was worth it to venture beyond the garden gates of these remarkable estates and gardens, all of which are private, and most of which are rarely open to the public.

It really was a great, great privilege to see these places, and an even greater privilege to shoot them. I am still grateful. So very, very grateful.


From the elegant formality of David Hicks' famous garden in Oxfordshire to the romantic flower beds of Carolyne Roehm's country estate in Connecticut to the enormous potager and overflowing produce of Emma Bridgewater's castle garden in England to the astounding design of Celerie Kemble's tropical hideaway in the Dominican Republic, every garden featured has its own beauty, its own charm, its own secrets, it own splendour.

Perhaps what I remember most about doing this book is the people who helped produce this book -- the designers who created and own these gardens, the head gardeners who clipped the hedges and parterres ready for photographing, the assistants and staff who helped set up the shoots, and of course the entire team at Rizzoli, who helped polish it ready for publication.

There were also many, many wonderful lunches and teas with these designers, and no words can adequately express how grateful I was for these lovely balmy afternoon, amongst the flower beds and box hedges. Some of the gardens were so beautiful, I had a quiet tear when I got in the hire car and drove away.

I hope the beauty of these magnificent estates is evident on the pages. And I hope that, if you buy a copy (a great Mother's Day -- hint hint!), you enjoy these gardens as much as I and my team has done.

Rizzoli New York
Published April 10, 2018
Available through most bookshops, or online.


Friday, August 18, 2017

New Books, Beautiful Films, Floral Places, and Other Nice Projects


I am thrilled to post that after two years of planning, many, many photography shoots around the world, and a great deal of logistics involving 15 gardens and their delightful owners (who are not only some of the world's most admired designers but also the nicest), my new book for Rizzoli New York, GARDENS OF STYLE is now in the final stages of production.

We are still refining page designs, so these are works-in-progress, forgive me, but it's just a little glimpse. I'm so thrilled with it -- and a little exhausted from it too, especially straight off the back of the huge biography. But it's been such a pleasure to work with the most wonderful team, particularly my patient, kind book designer Alissa Dinallo.  ( )

I will keep posting updates of the release date of GARDENS OF STYLE here and on my instagram, so follow along on Instagram if you're not already on Insta :

Rizzoli's publication date for GARDENS OF STYLE at this stage is April 2018 - if I can make the September deadline! 


I was recently chatting to a new friend, Kim, from Lily Pond Geelong (a beautiful store, do visit), and she was lamenting the dearth of design books at present. Here are a few that I think would be good for the Christmas Wish Lists.

Robert Bevan has been dubbed 'the paint detective' for his research uncovering hidden colors and paints and indeed the histories of great buildings. (He discovered the artist Whistler's original studio.) Baty's specialist paint business in Chelsea, Papers and Paints, is famous in design circles for finding rare and beautiful colours for interior designers and architects' requirements. (Ben Pentreath uses them.) This book, based on Bevan's research degree, is a fascinating look at colours over the centuries. The photos of gracious and grand old buildings are wonderful. Thames & Hudson, $120.

Christine Casey has spent 10 years researching the travels, fortunes, and fame of an extraordinary group of plasterwork craftsmen who came to dominate the 'great rooms' (or their ceilings) of palatial houses in early eighteenth-century Europe. These stuccatori were masters of plasterwork, and their embellished rooms are some of the most beautiful in the world. Yale University Press.

Charts the development of the English formal garden from 1630 to 1730. A beautiful book. The cover  alone is worth the price. Yale Books.


This novel has captivated everyone who's read it, and I'm about to start, although the cover pulled me in immediately. It's a novel of two stories by Booker-shortlisted writer Michèle Roberts. The first belongs to Madeleine, who loses her job as a lecturer and decides to leave her flat in cobbled Stew Lane and move to Apricot Place. There, she senses the past encroaching as strange noises begin to haunt her life. The second narrative starts in 1851 and belongs to Joseph Benson, a researcher who spends time in Apricot Place. As these entwined stories unfold, alive with the sensations of London past and present, the two eras brush against each other.  A haunting tale of desire, isolation and loss, and the search for human connection, it's winning over all the reviewers. I love a good ghost story! Bloomsbury.

Review here - Financial Times Review


My book designer for Gardens of Style, Alissa Dinallo, was actually the design talent behind the incredible jacket and page designs for the Joan Lindsay biography Beyond The Rock. This biography has just been entered into the prestigious Stella Prize, and I am about to do another round of publicity, so if you would like to hear about Joan Lindsay, the story behind the famous literary mystery Picnic at Hanging Rock, what is true and what isn't, and what we had to cut out at the very end, please come along to one of these events. I'd love to see you and say hello!

Many of the events for this book earlier this year - including the event with actress Helen Morse - were booked out, and many people missed out, so if you'd like to hear about this strange and beautiful story, do come along. It would be so nice to meet you!


Ballan Library,  near Ballarat, 10AM
143 Inglis Street, Ballan, Victoria.
Phone:  0419 519 650
Author talk
Bookings and details -- Ballan Library

Lilydale Library (Eastern Libraries), 10AM
Lilydale Lake Road, Lilydale 
Phone: (03) 9800 6457
Talk and afternoon tea, with book signing
Further details from Lilydale Library closer to date

OCTOBER 15 - 22 
Frankston Library, Frankston (Part of History Week)
60 Playne Street, Frankston
Phone:  (03) 9784 1020
Author talk
Details TBC, see this website or Frankston Library closer to date

Nedlands Library, Perth
Day of Literary Feasting 
60 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands, Western Australia 
Phone: (08) 9273 3500. 
Email: E
Writing workshop and author talk
Details from Redlands Library in Perth closer to date

Stonnington Literary Festival, 6.30PM - 8PM
Malvern Library, 1255 High Street, Malvern
Author talk
Details released by Stonnuington Council and Malvern Library closer to time.


The House of Dior is in the process of opening three major exhibitions around the world, one of which has opened in Paris at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the other is about to open next week, here in Melbourne at the NGV

The Melbourne exhibition is the first complete Dior collection to be shown outside of Paris and features 140 garments from Christian Dior Couture, including Dior's signature ballgowns and evening dresses and current contemporary designs from the House's first female head designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri. 

As well, it will show an archive of photographs, sketches and works from previous designers at the House of Dior, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano and Raf Simons

Showing at the NGV Melbourne, from next week (27 August) until to 7 November, 2017. 
The Paris exhibition at Musée des Arts Décoratifs runs until 7 January, 2018.

Details and tickets here:  Dior NGV


One of the most beautiful new movies to be released this year is this glorious new costume drama called Tulip Fever, which is based on Deborah Moggach’s bestselling novel. 

Set in 17th century Amsterdam, it centres on a beautiful young married woman (played by Alicia Vikander from The Danish Girl and The Light Between Oceans), who begins a passionate affair with an artist hired to paint her portrait. The lovers gamble on the booming market for tulip bulbs as a way to raise money to run away together. The trailer has just been banned in the US due to the 'racy' sex scene (which is about as racy as a tulip). 

As well as Alicia Vikander, the film also stars Judi Dench, Tom Hollander, model-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne, and Christoph Waltz (from Django Unchained). The script is by Tom Stoppard, so it should be good. 

Tulip Fever is slated for US release in September and Australian release on November 23. 

The (not-so-racy) trailer is here:  TULIP FEVER


If you're heading to London at any time (don't forget to take LONDON SECRETS, the new guide book! Badly disguised plug there...), one must-see stop is Petersham Nurseries' new restaurant, store, deli, and florist in Covent Garden.  

Most of the regulars to London know of Petersham in Richmond, one of the most beautiful destinations in the city. And its glamorous new 'sister' promises to be even more gorgeous. There is a huge retail space, a florist, a delicatessen, a florist, and not one but two restaurants to open soon, called The Petersham and La Goccia. 


There are many other projects currently in the planning stage for my team, including two new garden books in the early research stages (mock-up above), a new biography (didn't really want to do many more books, but it's about a famous fashion designer so who can refuse such a beautiful subject?), ongoing mentoring of new authors with their exciting publishing projects (something I love doing),  a new luggage collection that is still in the R&D stage, using a wonderful pattern maker in Vermont and a bag maker in London, and all of the lovely things going on in our private lives too, which is a lot but I will keep those private for now.  

For now, I hope you'll stay in touch, either by Instagram, email, or good old letter, as some people still do! (NB The blog is problematic at time, so if you can't leave a message, don't worry.)

Follow along on Instagram for updates -- or just to say hello!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...