Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Snapshots from a Tour of Homes and Gardens around the World


If you follow my Instagram feed -- LINK, you'll know that I've been living out of a carry-on suitcase for a while, travelling around the world to photograph gardens, houses, and cities for several new books. I'm now home for a few weeks, and I have to say, after endless airports, being home has never made me so happy!  For those who aren't on Instagram, here are some of the places and spaces I've been privileged to have visited. Many of them are open to the public (some every day; others only on a few days each month or year), and so if they pique your interest do bookmark their links. That's the best thing about social media: discovering all these fantastic destinations. I'm back on the road in late July, so feel free to follow on Instagram. Wishing you a wonderful week, wherever you may be. 




ITALY (LAKE COMO)
Confession: In between all the books and work, I've been trying to design a line of luggage. (A long-held dream after I lost a favourite Armani jacket to a toiletry spill.) Part of the R&D has been in Milan, where elegant bags are a way of life. These pix are from a research trip to Como, squeezed in between photo shoots in Milan, although the highlight of the day was not the textiles but a fleeting visit to the famous Villa del Balbianello. I wanted to do a formal shoot of this garden for a future book on Italy, but the rain was relentless, so it turned into a tourist visit -- which is often the best way to see a place. In fact, rain makes you put down the camera and really see the landscape with your eyes.  Unlike most of the other villas on Lake Como, Balbianello is set on a promontory, so its garden has been created from curving paths and magnificent views, rather than long, formal, Italian-style allées. The best way to reach is by ferry to the pretty village of Lenno, then a walk along the waterfront and through the villa's private parkland (rear gate open Tues/Sat/Sun only). Alternatively, the water taxi, although pricey, offers magnificent views of the villa from the lake.  It's one of the most famous villas in the world and remains one of my all-time favourite gardens. Even in the rain.  www.villabalbianello.com



WHERE TO STAY: www.relaisvillavittoria.com, a romantic hotel at Laglio, right on Lake Como. Or its neighboring estate www.villareginateodolinda.com -- just as beautiful.

WHAT TO READ: The just-published Gardens of the Italian Lakes (May 2016).




ITALY (PORTOFINO)
I've always wanted to visit Portofino after seeing the film 'Enchanted April'. So we squeezed a weekend here for a romantic escape and this was the view (middle pic) that we opened our window to at 6AM, as the sun rose over the Italian Riviera.  Even though a posh wedding had pulled into town (the father of the bride had paid for an airline to transport all the guests), the gentle port was still idyllic, especially on Sunday when the 200 wedding guests all wore white for the after-party in the village square! Leaving the partygoers, we hiked along the coast to the glorious monastery garden at Cervara Abbey (bottom right), which is open once a month, and then later walked the trails and terraces behind the castle to peek into the villagers' veggie gardens. I don't know which was more beautiful: the abbey's parterre, or the tiny potagers planted up the mountain? If you've avoided Portofino so far, do see it. The romance clearly worked because it's now my favourite place in the world.

WHERE TO STAY: The Hotel Piccolo is reasonably priced, and has its own cove for swimming. Try to time your visit for when Cervara Abbey is open ( www.cervara.it/en ); the garden (bottom right) is rated one of the best in Italy.



PARIS
A night's stopover in Paris was just enough to race around and see the latest places. My favourite was Tory Burch's new and much-talked-about flagship boutique on the Rue Saint-Honoré. It's designed with a coolly sophisticated colour palette that cleverly references Paris' famous architecture and sky. (Even the pale blues seem to match Paris' famous doors.) Its designer Daniel Romualdez (who lives in Bill Blass' former home -- LINK) is adept at creating spaces that feel luxurious while still being understated, and his work has made this beautiful boutique a must-see for design fans, whether you buy anything TB or not.  412 Rue Saint Honoré, Paris.

WHERE TO STAY: The stylish new Hotel Providence, 90 Rue René Boulanger, www.hotelprovidenceparis.com Or the classically beautifully Hotel Castille, next to Chanel at 33-37 Rue Cambonwww.castille.com/en



PROVENCE
If you ever get the chance to see the South of France in late April, grab it, for there is nothing like Provence in spring. The light, the flowers, the fragrances, the flavours... I always feel fortunate when I come here, and the four days I spent in late April was no exception. I shot two remarkable gardens for forthcoming books: Le Louve in Bonnieux , and Pavilion de Galon in Curcuron.  The former garden was designed by Hermès' former head of design Nicole de Vésian, and is a spectacular green and white garden designed to look like a tapestry. It's still private but it's open to the public, although you need to book a tour through the website — www.lalouve.eu (And if your French is rusty, like mine, just use Google Translate to convert your email before you send it; it's courteous  to write in French and their reply will be quicker.) La Pavilion de Galon, which is nearby, is a former hunting lodge that's now an exquisite country garden done entirely in purples and blues created by noted French photographer Guy Hervais and his beautiful wife Bibi. You need to stay there to see it, but it's worth it; wandering the enormous iris garden at first light is an experience I'll never forget. The garden is best in either mid-spring, when it's blanketed in irises and wisteria, or in summer, when all the salvias are out. The landscape in this part of Provence is truly extraordinary; gentle roads meandering through villages and around mountains, with views that make you want to stop the car at every turn. No wonder Peter Mayle has returned here to live.

WHERE TO STAY: Pavilion de Galon www.pavillondegalon.com



LONDON
For two brief few weeks in May and June each year, London erupts in flowers. Streets are garlanded with embroidered trims of pale pink and purple wisteria, front gardens explode with roses, and of course the huge Chelsea Flower Show pulls into town; like a giant scented circus. Some of the best places to see gardens, particularly the wisteria, are the little streets and mews lanes around Launceston Place, although Notting Hill and Chelsea are good wisteria-hunting grounds too.  

I have to admit I love wandering the streets of Chelsea, Pimlico and Kensington in May, where the flower-filled boutique windows are often just as good as anything you'd find at Chelsea.  Of course, the famous flower show is still a great insight into the newest horticultural trends, but it's increasingly impossible to see (or shoot) the gardens with the crowds, and the ticket prices have skyrocketed to the point of ridiculous. A better option is to grab a map of all the entrants in either the Chelsea in Bloom or Belgravia in Bloom festivals (usually available from any store with flowers out front), and do your own free walking tour. Many streets, particularly those in Pimlico, are a veritable festival of petals. Furthermore, some boutiques offer fantastic classes.  This year, David Linley put on a willow weaving workshop (above), to match the giant willow displays that were in front of his store. You can see easily why these various fringe festivals (there are several others in London at this time beside the Bloom ones) are overtaking the Chelsea Flower Show in the popularity stakes.

WHERE TO STAY: My favourite London hotels are still The Pelham (Kit Kemp's interior design without the Firmdale price), The Ampersand, and Blakes (opt for the Designer Double rooms),  which are all in South Kensington and thus close to the museums, parks, and bookstores and fabric shops of King's Road. However, the newly renovated Flemings in Mayfair (above, with green banquettes), is a pretty and ideally located bolthole for those who want to be closer to the West End. www.flemings-mayfair.co.uk


THE COTSWOLDS
If you go to the Cotswolds a lot, you may think you've seen it all. But this trip I discovered several places I never knew existed. One was Chastleton House. Scene of the BBC series Wolf Hall, it's a perfectly preserved Jacobean mansion filled with extraordinary period rooms, many featuring superb tapestries and furniture. But the most fascinating thing about Chastleton is its families. Each generation became poorer and poorer until the last owner lived in just one room. But the lack of modern updates meant that poverty actually preserved the house. (There's a wonderful article here.) Some critics feel that it's a bit too 'lost in time', and that perhaps a bit of furniture polish and some flowers wouldn't go astray. But I saw only beauty and dignity and grace: a house that has lived a thousand lives and is still looking fine for her age. Just look at this tapestry, which covered a whole wall of the bedroom. Even the long walk to the house, through a pretty field, was part of the charm. Wonderful. Just wonderful. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chastleton-house

WHERE TO STAY: The Wild Rabbit, a chic hideaway with a famous restaurant. www.thewildrabbit.co.uk Or The Wheatsheaf, an upmarket pub with luxurious rooms  at affordable prices. www.cotswoldswheatsheaf.com Temple Guiting is another swish place; a grand manor with a superb garden, but rates are high. (You have been warned.)



WILTSHIRE AND DORSET
If you saw last year's film Far From The Madding Crowd, and loved the Dorset landscape in which it was filmed, then put this place on your To See List. Mapperton House (above) was the setting for Bathsheba's farm although the best part, the garden, wasn't featured in the film (I would have included it!), probably because Bathsheba's farm was meant to be run down and this amazing garden may have cast doubt on that. Set in a deep valley behind the manor house, it's a formal garden of topiaries and terraces that extends from a stunning conservatory (above) to a series of grand swimming pools (bottom left). I only had an hour here and wished I could have spent longer. It's magnificent. Completely and utterly magnificent. Don't miss the secret corners, including the two-story summer house. http://mapperton.com

WHERE TO STAY: We stayed in a tiny pub in a tinier fishing village called West Bay (where Broadchurch is filmed), but if we returned we'd try and stay at Lyme Regis, specifically Belmont House, which is one of the prettiest places in the south. LINK


NEW YORK
Manhattan is always magic in spring, and on this visit I made sure that I made time to see the New York Botanic Garden, which my friend Lee had said was a 'must see'. Inside the gardens, the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden was not only peaking, it was the best rose season they'd ever had. But the famous conservatory was enthralling too, especially the 'Impressionist' garden  that had been recreated as part of the American Impressionism exhibition. A fundraising ball was held the afternoon I was there, and this was just one of the arrangements. If you're heading to New York, jump on a train at Grand Central and head here, before the roses fade. It's a spectacular part of Manhattan than many tourists (myself included) miss. www.nybg.org

WHERE TO STAY: I usually love The Roger or The Nomad, but this time I stayed in a new and very cute boutique hotel called The Gregory, near Bryant Park. Themed around books and fashion, it's  incredibly cheap, and has lovely staff and a superb restaurant next door that's reminiscent of a historic old New York bistro -- high ceilings, huge fireplace, timber panelling, crips white tablecloths.  The suites at the front are best. A truly gorgeous little Manhattan hideaway. www.thegregoryhotelnewyork.com




NANTUCKET
A quick flight from JFK takes you to Nantucket, a dazzling island off Cape Cod that's becoming renowned for great design. This has long been one of my favourite places in the world. This gentleman above is Gary McBournie, a gorgeous designer I've known for years who has a weekender on Nantucket with his lovely partner Bill. (You may have seen their house in the May issue of House Beautiful). There is a lot of new construction going on all over the island, but the influx of money means there's also a lot of beautiful new boutiques and hotels and bistros. Here are some of my favourite new places from the weekend:



WHERE TO STAY: 74 Main, a sophisticated boutique hotel with glamorous rooms www.76main.com Or The Roberts Collection, a recently renovated hotel with several buildings -- I stayed in The Gatehouse -- www.therobertscollection.com The former has better service and better rooms, but is more difficult to book because it's so popular. The latter is cute but perhaps be patient with the 'casual' attitudes. 

WHERE TO EAT: I loved Met on Main (two photos on right) for the beautiful wallpapers and banquettes, but the cutely named 'Cru', a yacht-club-style hangout at the very end of the wharf, had a great vibe, gorgeous staff uniform, and of course that inimitable view that only Nantucket can do.


Then it was back to New York, flying low over the Hamptons, and a final meeting with my book editor at Rizzoli before heading back to Australia. 

More gardens and homes are scheduled for July and August, so do join Instagram if you'd like to follow. And -- as always -- email me for any travel tips -- or just to say hello. janelle.mcculloch@bigpond.com
janelle(dot)mcculloch@bigpond.com

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Celebrating Flowers, London and Life



One of the lovely projects I've just finished photographing and writing is a new guidebook about London, called LONDON SECRETS, which is to be published later this year by my former publisher (and employer, when I was a book editor), Images Publishing. It's designed to be a companion to the bestselling PARIS SECRETS -- details of which are here. London is going through a huge design revival at the moment, and it's always a joy to return to this city, which seems to look beautiful regardless of whether it's drizzling and grisaille grey or shimmering under silvery sunshine. 

I'm now working on a beautiful garden book for Rizzoli New York, which involves shoots in the UK, France, Italy, the US, the Caribbean and other destinations. So if the blog and Instagram posts are sporadic, that's why, and I hope you'll forgive me. As compensation, here are some glorious garden bits and pieces to celebrate the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (And a few travel tips for London, too.)





LONDON -- NEW SPACES AND PLACES
(From the new LONDON SECRETS book, published by Images in late 2016)

I love London. It's my second home. But the city is changing so fast at the moment that it feels like there's something new going up every week. Of all the new architecture appearing in London, some of the most exciting buildings are the new hotels, which seem to be sprouting like spring bulbs at the moment. Two of the most talked about are the Hotel Costes on Sloane Square (still to break ground, but not far off), and a new hotel planned by bestselling writer Alain de Botton called The Philosopher's Hotel. The latter project is tucked away in the serene, leafy streets of Hampstead, and is being billed as "the thinking person's hideaway". Spaces include a library (which Botton has dubbed 'Keats' Living Room'), a study (naturally called 'Freud's Study'), and an art studio, named after Constable. (You don't want to turn up with a low-brow book here!)

If you can't wait for these two boutique hideaways to be finished, there is a new, superbly named hotel called Batty Langley's, which is the third hotel from the gentlemen behind the equally quirky Hazlitt’s in Soho and The Rookery in Clerkenwell. The theme was inspired by the eccentric English garden designer and writer Batty Langley, who was famous for producing 'patterns' for Gothic structures, including summerhouses and garden seats, in the mid-18th century. He was particularly fond of cabinets de verdure, but all his garden designs were popular. His book New Principles of Gardening, in 1728, was a surprise bestseller. Even George Washington was a fan. There are likely to be many fans of this new London hotel, which is arguably one of the most charming retreats in the entire city. www.battylangleys.com

There is also a newbie in Notting Hill -- The Laslett Hotel (although I was a bit underwhelmed by it), and another cutie in Marylebone, the Zetter Townhouse in Marylebone, which is sister to the much-loved Zetter in Clerkenwell. The latter is probably the best bet for those who love textiles, antiques, books, and beautiful rooms, although its location -- right in the middle of Marylebone's magnificent shopping quarter -- is pretty irresistible too. Like Batty Langley's Hotel, The Zetter Marylebone is modelled on a character, only this one is fictitious gent called Uncle Seymour. The idea is that it's meant to represent the London townhouse of a well-read but slightly eccentric gentleman, whose books and antiques are all still as they were when he resided here. (It's a tradition: the sister Zetter in Clerkenwell was the townhouse of 'Great Aunt Wilhelmina'). There's an extraordinarily beautiful restaurant / bar called 'Seymour's Parlour', which is cosy and claret colored, and filled with things that look like they should be in the Soane Museum. The best suite is the Rooftop Apartment with its own terrace, outdoor bath and an (indoor) bathroom decorated with an enormous vintage map -- all mad but so fantastic too! www.thezettertownhouse.com/marylebone

As for horticultural havens, there are a few of those in this new book. My favorite new discoveries include the Isabella Gardner Plantation in Richmond (stunning azaleas in spring!), and Duck Island Cottage in St James's Park. (There is a fantastic story behind this cottage; too complicated to include here, but do look it up if you love gardens and history.)


EIGHTY, AND STILL ELEGANT IN WELLIES...

Speaking of London, and gardening, and all things charming and quirky and quintessentially British, it's fantastic to see that Jo Malone's new spokesperson is the eighty-year-old model and gardening cover girl Gitte Lee. (Christopher Lee's widow.) She's so beautiful. Look at her, with her three hats, her silk scarves (she's wearing two, just to be sure!), and her diamond brooch. What glamour! 

She's also the perfect person to spruce the company's new limited edition collection of fragrances, 'Herb Garden' , which are designed to be the best kind of casual scents. The descriptions alone make you want to try them -- 'Lemon thyme crushed in soil-covered hands; cool earth encasing ripening carrots and fennel; the aromatic artistry of herbs -- verdant, crisp, juicy and sweet...' Just the thing for weekend spritzes.

www.jomalone.com


MAIRA KALMAN'S ILLUSTRATIONS

It could be argued that Jo Malone's team has taken inspiration for the above photo shoot with Gitte Lee from Rhoda Birley's famous photo in the fantastic book Garden People: The Photographs of Valerie Finnis  (Thames and Hudson). 

Many gardeners know about this book and the colorful characters in it (Rhoda -- Lady Birley -- was shot in her garden at Charleston, in Sussex), but what's interesting is how it continues to inspire people -- and photo shoots -- years after it was published. 

I recently came across these sublime illustrations by New York illustrator Maira Kalman, who loves to paint gardens and gardeners, and perfectly captured Rhoda (above) in her now-legendary gardening outfit. 


Maira Kalman also painted an exquisite study of Sissinghurst's garden (above).


Maira is now so highly regarded that many people are commissioning her to do books and magazine covers. The New Yorker has been asking her to design their covers for years. (This week's issue of The New Yorker; a pink-hued, petalled study of a green-mustached man to celebrate the advent of spring, is by Maira.)


Here's one of her spring covers here --

For more information on Maira Kalman, there's a TED talk here -- The Illustrated Woman. Or there are lots of articles on various sites around the Net.



BEAUTIFUL BOOKS, NEW AND OLD

There are some gorgeous books being released this year, including an enormous tome of all of Karl Lagerfeld's theatrical catwalk shows for Chanel, published in May (LINK HERE), and a new Thames & Hudson title called Floral Patterns of India -- a must if you love design (and India!). 

However, I've been quietly buying a lot of vintage titles, as much for their charming covers and design as for the stories inside. 

The favorite so far has been Vita Sackville-West's English Country Houses, which she wrote while London was being bombed during the Blitz, and entire areas of southern England were being destroyed. It was her hymn to a way of life that was fast disappearing, not just because of the war but because of the changes that were taking place in society. 

Beverley Nichols' books are well worth reading, too -- although perhaps start with his biography first, to better understand him. Warning: Once you start reading his books, you'll find it difficult to stop!


GARDENS ILLUSTRATED -- AND VITA'S LOST ROSES

One of the best magazines in the world is Gardens Illustrated, the beautifully produced UK publication that's also sold elsewhere in the world. The photography is always superb, and the articles always feature under-the-radar gardens, interesting landscape designers and gardens, and beautiful flowers and plants. 

The latest issue, No 229, is a special edition that features an enthralling story written by Sissinghurst's head gardener, Troy Scott Smith, about Vita Sackville-West's lost roses. (Released Feb/March in UK; March elsewhere, including Australia.) 

Vita Sackville-West was famous for her roses. And when she noticed that many cultivars and species were dying out across England, she made it her mission to save and protect as many as she could. Unfortunately, of the 300 roses that she saved at Sissinghurst, only 100 were still alive in 2013, when head gardener Troy Scott Smith took over the estate. Cognizant of Vita's horticultural legacy, he took it upon himself to find "Vita's lost roses" and reinstate them into the garden. He used Vita's diaries and notebooks to identify where the roses had been in the garden, and what their names were, although head gardener Jack Vass' detailed garden plans were also helpful. Sadly, some of the roses seemed to be lost forever, but Troy tracked down more than 200 of Vita's original plants and brought them back to Vita's beds. 

Gardens Illustrated has a lovely story on the search for the lost roses, as well as four wonderful pages showing 44 of the best roses grown in Vita's garden. (And also specialist suppliers where you can source rare roses.) 

If only Vita were alive to see her rose beds restored to their original glory. She would no doubt be very pleased.

Link to article HERE.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NEW BOOKS AND OLD LIBRARIES



I would like to apologize to you all for the radio silence, and give you a little update from our small corner of the world. Even though it seems very quiet at times, bound by books, work and deadlines, and softened by travel, friends, family, gardens, and a few fulfilled dreams too.



One of these fulfilled dreams has been a writing project that's had a five-year gestation period. (Which is not long for a biography, but very long for me!) It's called THE PICNIC, although some of you are already aware of it, having followed the progress of it on this blog. It's an illustrated biography of Lady Joan Lindsay, the elegant but enigmatic author of the bestselling novel Picnic at Hanging Rock.  It's part biography, part essay and part analysis, and yes, we DID unearth the story behind the mystery. That's what took five long, research-intensive years!

I have to confess that, at one stage, I thought this writing project would never end. Information, leads and insights kept trickling in from kind readers and generous strangers all over the world. But in hindsight, these contributions were what made this project such a special one to work on, and I'm deeply grateful that we've had so much assistance from those who knew the Lindsays personally.




After three publishers vied for the book, the highly regarded publishers Hardie Grant made a offer too good to refuse. (I would have been happy to go with the other two publishers, as I know both women and they're very nice.) I'm pleased to say that the illustrated biography of Joan Lindsay and the story behind Picnic at Hanging Rock will be published in October / November this year (2016).  It's a beautiful story. I still tear up reading the chapter about Joan Lindsay's final years. So I hope you all love it, too.

These pages are only mock-ups (forgive the typos; the copy hasn't yet been edited), so they won't be the final page designs, but they do offer a glimpse at the wonderful people who punctuated Joan and Daryl Lindsay's private world. These friends included the great man of theatre Sir Laurence Olivier (who is pictured above wearing Joan's gardening hat in the couple's walled garden of 'Mulberry Hill'), and Sir Keith and Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's parents, who were Joan and Daryl's close neighbours and friends for more than half a century, and who are pictured at both the back door and the front garden path of Mulberry Hill in the photo above Laurence Olivier. By all accounts, the Murdochs and the Oliviers were genuinely nice, down-to-earth people; something that is clearly evident from the photos above. 

The story behind THE PICNIC is a truly remarkable story and I wish I could tell you more but it's embargoed until Hardie Grant release further details later in the year. For now, I'm very happy to leave it in their capable hands, and move onto another lovely project, this time for Rizzoli New York. This book is all about gardens, which will make for a refreshing change from the Edwardian era and all its glamorous mysteries and secrets!



AND A FEW MORE BOOKISH THINGS...

In between all these books, I've been taking the time to remember old books. Old stories. Old memories. This is because my mother is moving out of her large house in the country to a smaller place and our family has been helping her move.  I was coping surprisingly fine with it all until I saw Mum and Dad's study, which is being emptied of all their books. It's funny how things like that can make you sentimental, isn't it?  We may cull our libraries but the nostalgia for the stories we've read in them will always remain. So here, on the eve of Deborah, the Duchess of Devonshire's great estate sale at Sotheby's London (Oh, for all her garden books! I'm going to attempt to put in a few pathetically low bids...), are a few more bookish things to entertain you.

PS I'll be back to Instagram soon! It's been a big few months.



A GRAND LIBRARY RESIDENCE TO RENT IN PARIS

One Fine Stay, the international accommodation agency that's much like an upmarket Airbnb, has released a coolly elegant new residence to rent in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. 

Its key features are not its French doors and its Instagram-worthy vistas over grey Parisian rooftops, but its grand, Neoclassical library and its all-white salon, both pictured above. Beautiful, non? And large enough for the whole family to be happy.

More details are this grand Parisian library apartment at on One Fine Stay's website at www.onefinestay.com 
Or here -- LINK



A WRITER'S GARDEN

I love the writings of author and garden columnist Anna Pavord, who received worldwide acclaim for her bestelling book The Tulip, but who had been penning moving and memorable pieces long before then. 

There is a gorgeous video on her garden, which gives her so much literary inspiration, on the link below. There are some other lovely videos on the same site, too, including the Duchess of Devonshire's garden at Chatsworth—all worth a look. 



WRITERS' ROOMS

There was a joyful piece in the New York Times recently about the rooms in which authors work, including the beguiling study of bestselling author Jeanette Winterson. I love the enormous, light-filled artist's studio above. What an inspirational place to work.




LIBRARIES THAT FORM THE CORNERSTONE OF BUILDINGS

We've recently purchased an off-the-plan investment apartment in a quietly sophisticated new project called OPERA, which is located on St Kilda Road, a leafy boulevard in Melbourne. What most attracted us about OPERA was the enormous Library downstairs. That, I think, was even more appealing that the residents' Wine Room, the Winter Lounge (above), the garden terraces, the restaurant, the pool and gym, and the glamorous navy-and-marble interiors of the apartments.

I'm just hoping they fill the library with good titles. Wouldn't it be a cosy place to entertain clients or friends?



THE BOOKSHELVES OF A BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Do you read The Style Saloniste? It's a great blog written by former Vogue Living features writer-turned-author Diane Dorrans Saeks,  who now lives in the US where she's written many bestselling design and architecture books.  LINK HERE  One of her recent posts was on her extensive library, which has some of the most interesting design titles I've ever seen. (I was touched to spot a few familiar books among them.) She often does posts on her enormous library and always gives recs for great books. Some of her favorites are from publisher Persephone, which discovers old novels and re-releases them. If you haven't yet discovered Persephone, do look at their website: the titles alone make for humorous reading.



A FASHION TAKE ON LIBRARIES

I love how Net-a-Porter's magazine The Edit recently chose a library in which to do a fashion shoot with actress Dakota Johnson.  The backdrops were as charming as the clothes. 



A LIBRARY SUITE TO LINGER IN

My long-suffering partner is joining me in Europe this May, while I'm there to shoot gardens (we're also trying to plan stopovers enroute; all very complicated for this travel organizer!), and I'm trying to get him to agree to one night in this splendid place: the Library Suite of Blakes Hotel in South Kensington. 

Few people know that this exists; even the celebrities who check into Blakes don't opt for this room. It's a real secret in London; an enormous hideaway decorated with shelves and shelves of books. 

Now Blakes Hotel has lots of design and architecture books scattered around its foyer and rooms anyway, but I can't imagine anything nicer than actually sleeping in a library. 

I've always loved Anouska Hempel's interior design work, particularly the British Colonial antiques and other Asian elements she incorporates from the Far East. It reminds me of the romance of travel. And how often can you say that about modern hotels?



AND THE DECAYING GRANDUER OF A LONG-FORGOTTEN LIBRARY

There was a lot of media late last year about this extraordinary place, which hides a grand but decaying library. It's called Berkyn Manor and it's the former home of poet John Milton who wrote Paradise Lost

The once-elegant mansion has been empty for three decades -- the last inhabitant died 26 years ago at the age of 96 -- but the rooms are still filled, rather eerily, with furniture, and the library is full of books. As photographer Josephine Pugh described it: “The house was so full of personal effects that it had an eerie stillness without the owners being there. Nowhere was this more evident than in the large, first floor room which housed an untold number of pictures and objects."

Apparently there are plans to restore the mansion and perhaps develop it as a residential estate, but let's hope the books are saved before all the looters get in and run off with the first editions... (NB There is now security around the premise, but many fear it's too little,  and has come too late.)

Let's just hope somebody saves those gorgeous, gorgeous book cabinets.

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