Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

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!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

New York: Fashion, Flowers, and Garden Fantasies

A few weeks ago, a friend emailed. "Where are you?" she said. "I want to catch up for a drink." I emailed back: "At Burlington Airport, in northern Vermont. I flew up for the day to see my luggage pattern maker. It's so tiny, I think the shop also serves as the check-in! But all flights to New York are delayed for four hours due to the stormy weather. So I may still be here tomorrow..." 

In the end, I made it back to New York that night. But one poor woman, trying to fly home to Seattle, had her flight cancelled, and as compensation was offered a seat on a flight to New York, then another on a flight to Boston, and finally, after a layover of six hours in Boston, a flight home to Seattle. She took it, glad of the chance to get home by Christmas.

I tell this story because it dissolves the myth that travelling for work is fun. Sometimes it's so tiring, so utterly dull, I don't even take any photos. Because they would just be of boarding lounges. And gate changes. And a fuzzy view of the Manhattan skyline from the back of a crazy, speeding cabbie. But occasionally -- actually more than occasionally -- business trips can be wonderful. Memorable, even. They can make all the long haul flights worthwhile. This recent trip was one such trip. It was a cascade of increasingly lovely, bloomingly beautiful summer days where the sunshine ballooned up from the verdant New York and Connecticut landscapes, and flowers bloomed in places you'd least expect. 

Let me show you. 


First on the work schedule was a glorious, early-morning photo shoot at the beautiful garden of New York designer Bunny Williams and her husband, antiques dealer John Rosselli, in a bucolic northern corner of Connecticut. 

This garden is so beautiful that whenever Bunny and John open it -- usually once a month in the summer for charity (see garden or the Trade Secrets Garden Fair website) -- people drive for miles to visit. One couple I spoke to return year after year to collect ideas for their own garden. I've been lucky enough to see it before, and I, too, noticed many changes on this visit, the most significant of which is the addition of Bunny's amazing new design studio. And judging by the exclamations of visitors walking up the stairs when the garden opened at 10AM, it was the hit of the day.

This is the studio, below.  I tell you, I think I heard a grown man cry in envy.

The bookshelves ran the length of the studio, which was twice the size of the space pictured above. The elongated room was beautifully bookended each end by enormous picture windows that looked out over the green Connecticut countryside. There was a grand fireplace, too. And a kitchen and bathroom, with a gym below. 

But it was the books that held court here. There were hundreds of design and gardening titles. And everything was intriguing. Even Bunny's mood board, below, was fascinating.

This is Bunny's famous conservatory, with the windows that look over the equally famous parterre. The chicken coop is fairly legendary, too. 

If you want more details, buy Bunny's bestselling book An Affair With A House, which features lots of chapters on both the interior and the garden. Or just come along to one of the Open Gardens one day. You'll be as enthralled as the rest of us.


From there, it was a short drive across the border to Christopher Spitzmiller's enchanting house and garden in upstate New York, which he had also graciously opened for charity. Ever since it was featured in AD magazine, people have adored this charming place, which Christopher has renovated with his usual flair. 

The highlight for many visitors on this day was the classical white pavilion, which was, in fact, a chicken coop, set charmingly inside an idyllic flower garden blooming with poppies, salvias, and roses. Inside, the kitchen and dining rooms (which Christopher kindly let me see, but which weren't open to the public) were elegant studies in understated sophistication. The dining room was sublime, especially with the botanical wallpaper. But I loved the kitchen the most, I think.


The final garden of the weekend wasn't on the Shot List but I added it to the schedule after hearing about it at Bunny Williams. Owned and designed by antiques dealer Michael Trapp, it was well worth the visit. I stayed for hours! Most of the garden featured architectural antiques that Michael had collected over the years, and it was such a joy to walk through. If you love architecture as much as gardens, this is one to put on your future list. 

(Note: Michael Trapp only opens his antiques store on weekends, or by appointment. The garden is private but if you ask nicely, he may allow you to wander through.)


If you're contemplating a trip to Connecticut to ramble through country gardens and browse antique stores that you can't afford, my best recommendation is to stay in New Preston.  It's a sweeter-than-sweet village that is barely the length of a street but is FILLED with unique stores, which mostly specialize in gardens, homewares, and antiques. 

I always stay at The Hopkins Inn, a lovely family-run inn on the lake, which has rooms from $130/n and a charming restaurant that's split between a lovely terrace under shady trees overlooking the lake and a cosy dining room inside.  For sheer value, it's one of the best places in New England. (Top right image with sofa.) 

My favourite places to shop in New Preston, perhaps in the whole of Connecticut, are Pergola (don't miss the spectacular waterfall behind, which you can see from the store's rear deck) and Dawn Hill Antiques, which has some of the most beautiful Swedish antiques this side of Stockholm.


Then it was back to New York City for publishing meetings with two of my publishers, and I discovered another great little hotel gem here, which was just $179/n -- even in high season. 

The Hudson Hotel New York is not only close to Central Park for those early-morning walks but also features a grand library for afternoon cocktails, and a spectacular rooftop terrace overlooking the Hudson River, for evening drinks. Even the entrance to the rooftop terrace is an experience, punctuated by bright pink flowers, hammocks, huge tubs of orange trees, and pergolas galore.

The Hudson Hotel was very cool many years ago (I vaguely remember when it opened), but has now mellowed, thankfully, into an affordable pied-à-terre for people visiting Manhattan who don't want to pay a fortune. Rooms are tiny (you are warned), so upgrade if you're a couple, but you can't complain for $179 for a full bathroom (with bath), and a view like the one above. 

It's also within walking distance of all the great department stores, too, from Bergdorf Goodman to Saks Fifth Avenue, both of which stocked THE most beautiful Dolce & Gabbana collection I've ever seen. Designed around hydrangeas, this new season's D&G line (above) is, quite simply, sublime. Many Instagrammers were posting about it, and even Beyonce bought the flowing chiffon version.


Dolce & Gabbana's latest collection is almost as beautiful as this botanical hideaway; The Whitby, Firmdale's newest hotel in their ever-growing collection. Themed around flowers, it's a vibrant poem to petals and also to vintage plates, which are framed on the walls as porcelain art. It's all wonderful, especially the conservatory, which is lovely for a quick lunch. I only stayed an hour but could have lingered all afternoon.



My other favourite place in New York City is Caffe Storico, which is a little-known cafe within the New York Historical Society on the Upper West Side of Central Park. (DETAILS: Lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets full of beautiful dinnerware, and yolk-yellow banquettes that invite you to linger all afternoon, it's a gorgeous spot for an affordable lunch, especially if you follow it with a walk through Central Park. 

 I also loved the sights of New York that I came across this same day, such as this firehouse mascot, which the firefighters were clucking over. (Sorry, couldn't help the pun.)

Another interesting thing to see was Amazon's new bookstore in Columbus Circle's swanky shopping centre. It was FULL of people buying or reading books -- much like Borders used to look like when it was at the height of its popularity.  (I was thrilled to see this familiar book chosen as one of the bestsellers / books to buy in the Travel Section. Thank you Amazon staff.)

Also caught up with this charming designer  -- Jeffrey Bilhuber, who is one of Manhattan's nicest men -- to look at his chapter for the new Rizzoli garden book. 

He suggested we go to the Majorelle Restaurant at the The Lowell Hotel, which I'd never been to but which I fell in love with at first sight. The floral bouquets were as beautiful as the architectural details. Even the bookshelves full of design books. 

It's all very 'old New York', as in very elegant, very dignified, and very, very sophisticated. (Most of the women were wearing Chanel.) We stayed in the bar, but if you're dining, it's a dress-up kind-of place. Wear the heels. And drink Champagne!

Other detours included a quick trip to the Hamptons to see the new One Kings Lane pop-up store, which is already causing a stir for its stylish blue kitchen, and a visit to the Madoo Garden Fair, a once-a-year gathering of elegant gardenistas selling all kinds of lovely antiques and topiary. 

Then it was home to our own far-more-ordinary blue-toned abode (top left), and to finishing books in time for the end-of-year deadlines.

I hope that, wherever you are, you're having a beautiful, bloom-filled season too.
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