Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Gardens, Books, Beachhouses, and Other Lovely Things

Social media is a funny thing. Sometimes it can be nasty, or sometimes it can be just plain crazy! Other times, it can be surprisingly kind. This week, the internationally renowned author and entrepreneur India Hicks suddenly shuttered her business, to the shock of the thousands of people who follow or work with her. But instead of jamming her social media with unwanted vitriol, as is often the case, everyone applauded her effort, energy and inspiration over the years. Kindness flooded the comments.

It was, I think, a quiet acknowledgement that most of us prefer to seek out the niceness of life rather than subscribing to the negativity that social media breeds. I tell you this small story because I've noticed lately that many people are shying away from or even shutting off from social media. I am one. But I have missed the stories, the ideas, the inspiration, the social interaction, the unexpected whimsy and beauty. Many of us in my social circle have gone full circle and returned to old-fashioned email to ping-pong interesting snippets to each other. I even send cards and parcels -- with stamps!

I don't know what the future holds for media, and as a former journalist and magazine editor I'm intrigued to see how we will receive our information once the major players such as Instagram have had their day. Until then, I thought I'd do a little blog post. Because there are lots of lovely things bouncing around – from books to dinnerware, and even a wonderfully dilapidated old beach house (ours), that's breathing new life into our little family, after we decided to buy it on a whim. I hope these bring you joy on this windy Wednesday. And I hope that, wherever you are, beauty and kindness come your way.

(Image above is my favourite spread from a new book outlined below.)


This new little botanical guide to England (LINK) has been my baby for the past year. (As well as the old beach house that we're slowly restoring.) As with every book I'm involved with, I'm thrilled and deeply grateful that I was able to be part of it. It's a truly beautiful guide, thanks to the efforts of the entire team at Images Publishing. 

I really hope you all like it. It covers everything from glorious under-the-radar gardens and private estates throughout England, to garden museums and festivals, garden hotels, restaurants and pubs with gardens, and many other unusual botanical destinations. There's also an index of garden courses, from photography classes to garden embroidery workshops. 

My favourite section is on hotels – there are so many gorgeous new hotels with kitchen gardens and cutting gardens and restored parterres. If only I could have stayed at them all.

I really hope you enjoy reading it. (I've already ordered a copy for my mother for Christmas.) It's published in early September by Images Publishing, my long-time publisher. For more details, previews and to buy an advance copy in the pre-sales, please go to any of the websites below. 


Many people know of textile designer Lisa Fine. Her designs are as sublime as her homes in Paris and Manhattan. (Her beautiful fabrics are available through Nicola Lawrence --  link.) So Lisa's first book has been eagerly awaited by many of us. Titled NEAR AND FAR (a fabulous title!), Lisa chronicles the design of her homes in Dallas, New York, and Paris, and then takes us along as she visits the places and people that have been her greatest sources of inspiration. Among her favored treasures are the Mughal palaces and gardens of India, the 18th-century home of Carl Linnaeus in Sweden, the whitewashed retreat of interior designer John Stefanidis on Patmos, the idyllic country house and garden of London-based designer Penny Morrison, and a storied house in the Tangier Casbah belonging to collectors Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani. 

Evocatively photographed by Miguel Flores-Vianna, it's a treasure trove of design ideas. I've already put it on my Wish List for Christmas. 

Published September 2019. By Vendome.

If there are two places that have been prominent in travel media this year, it's Venice and Capri. (Thanks to Zimmerman for the latter.) If you adore the former, look for Skye McAlpine's stunning book A TABLE IN VENICE. Then, if you can, try and find photos of her new Venetian apartment. It's as lovely as her photography. (The above pix are from Ben Pentreath's social media; he was lucky enough to dine with her in this spectacular space.) 

A Table in Venice is now out in bookstores. I hope Skye begins working on a second book soon. And that her new apartment is in it.


Have you seen Anna Weatherley's delicious dinnerware? It features some of the prettiest plates around. Anna is based in Washington DC but she is so fond of Australia that she has waived shipping here. 

Look for her gorgeous designs on her website -- link here.


Do you follow Nowness' 'In Residence' videos? If not, search them out -- they feature incredible homes of celebrated architects, designers and artists. My friends and I are always referring each other to their newest videos. 

My favourite is Rose Uniacke's extraordinary London home – quite possibly one of the most glamorous interiors in the English capital. She calls it "a monastery meets Venetian palazzo". It's difficult to believe it's in the middle of London. The best part? Her hidden courtyard garden, which has a secret door built into the brickwork. 

The link to Rose's residence is HERE
(The music is as mesmerising as the videography.)


Architectural Digest has recently published an article asking if botanical embroidery is the next big thing in sewing circles? Many people I know, including my sister-in-law, have been practising this for years, but they tend to be quiet achievers, so hopefully AD's story will push this gorgeous art form to the fore.

AD's story focused on Olga Prinku, who takes real flowers and weaves them into ornate embroidery filled with petals and other things foraged from gardens and forests. What she and all these other botanical embroiderers do is simply magical. And to think that all it takes is tulle and a few dried flowers...

Find out more on Olga's instagram HERE or Architectural Digest HERE


Recently I stumbled across a house in Architectural Digest that was unlike anything I'd seen for years. It was the grand Beirut home of Mae Daouk, and it was notable for the colour mauve -- or lilac, as it's being marketed as the moment. 

Purple has never been a big colour in design -- I think it's a hue that grows on people as they get older, particularly with gardeners who see it in salvias and other flowers. But this year, it's making a glamorous comeback. Lilac -- especially that luminous shade of silvery lilac you see in evening skies -- is everywhere I look at the moment. So much so, that we have decided to do our new kitchen in our new (old) beach house in lilac. But I love Mae's place -- anyone who pairs purple with Schiaparelli pink deserves a gold medal.

The link to Mae's home in Architectural Digest is HERE


Someone who is utterly mad about mauve is Zimmerman, the Australian fashion label famous for its femininity and frills. If you caught all the fuss about Zimmerman's new store on Capri last week, you'll know this label puts on seriously glamorous soirees. But its launch parties are nothing compared to its summer dresses. These are a few I snapped in-store last week. If you can't afford the eye-watering price tags, there are two Outlet stores, and both are fantastic for finding sophisticated Zimmerman frocks for bargain prices.


Many of us were devastated to read the news of the death of legendary magazine editor Min Hogg last week. During her editorship of The World of Interiors, Min was responsible for publishing some of the most brilliant magazine stories in the design world. Her own homes, above, were just as stylish. She will be missed.

The New York Times' wonderful obituary about Min is HERE.


If you're one of the fortunate ones who saw the Dior exhibition at the V&A in London this year, then you'll adore this video from the New York Times. It shows the attention to detail that goes into archiving Dior's precious dresses. Even Monsieur Dior would have been happy with this level of care, I think.


I've been quiet on social media for a few months. There are many reasons. A few lingering health issues. A book deadline. Mentoring my wonderful authors. (One may already have a book deal.) And writing a new book. But perhaps the biggest reason for our quiet life is an old beach house we bought, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, four days before Christmas. 

We didn't know we wanted to live by the beach until we starting renting an interim townhouse, waiting for our city place to be finished. Then we fell in love -- with a house by the sea.

We saw a slightly run-down old house on our nightly dog walk, made an offer, and the rest is renovation history. Six months of dust, hammers, drills, plans, revised plans, tradespeople (actually we're doing most of the work, due to the miniscule budget), visits from friends and from our wonderful architect Virginia Blue, and -- best of all -- blissful evening strolls along one of the most beautiful esplanades in the world. 

Not a day goes by that we don't say thanks for our new life. Our new life in a lovely old house.

Restoring a house is a long process. Our books are still everywhere, the tables are still cluttered with things that have no home (there is little storage here), the paint colours, fixtures and fittings are still being determined (lilac and cornflower blue are the forerunners, inspired by the cover of the new book), and the garden is a disaster!

But oh, how we love it.

I hope to post some pix on Instagram soon. When things look a little more presentable. In the meantime, if you ever want to say hello, just email me (the old-fashioned way!) or dm on Instagram -- I'll always try and reply.

Until next time, wishing you all a wonderful week, from our little family at the beach.

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.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...