Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thank You Desire to Inspire!

Just dropping in to say a big heartfelt thank you to the lovely Jo and Kim at Desire to Inspire for listing The Library of Design as one of their "100 Blogs of 2011", alongside great blogs such as Vogue Living and one of my favourites, Field Notes – Your Guide to the Great Indoors.

Many of you may be familiar with Desire to Inspire, which is one of the world's top design blogs. I've loved it for years. Its design insights, ideas, profiles and stories are some of the best in the online world. I don't for one second think that this little blog is up there with DtoI or even Vogue Living, but it is nice to be recognised for the effort that goes into posting, even if it's only a tiny mention in a list of 100 blogs.

While we're on the topic of new blogs, and even great old ones, I'd like to list some of my favs, both here and in my "Kindred Spirits" Reading List to the left. I think it's nice to support other bloggers, especially newbies, and these are all full of great inspiration and conversations.

I'm looking forward to returning to The Library in a few days, and hope you'll like the line-up of posts for early January, including:

• Traditional Shelter Magazines vs Online Blogs (a different take on the topic, being that I'm a former magazine editor!)
• An Architecture Tour of Miami and the Keys
• Secrets of London
• Extraordinary Homes of 2011
• Linen Rooms, Luggage Rooms, Serveries and Other Curious Spaces
• City v Country Life, Part 3

Until then, have a lovely New Year's Eve!


Bourbon and Pearls –
Sweet Paul –
Spoon Fork Bacon –
Zucchini and Chocolate –
The New Victorian Ruralist –
Busy Being Fabulous – or

And this hysterical blog – 

"Trapped by the tawny palette, he struggled through yet another brown knit scarf..."

"Everyone always leaves..."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Inspirational Moments of 2011, Part 2

{Top: The Return of Glamour – refer to December entry below}

It was the simplest of music videos; a singer wandering the deserted streets of Paris on a winter's afternoon. But Adele's Someone Like You was so poignant, and showed Paris in such a beautiful light, that the world couldn't help but fall in love with the song, the city and Adele herself. Part of the melancholy charm of the video was its black-and-white tones, which seemed to perfectly suit the soulful lyrics and also Adele's mood, as she wandered slowly across the Pont Alexandre III and looked wistfully down the Seine. Not surprisingly, the video was a huge worldwide hit, and Paris authorities reported that visits to the city increased dramatically in October and November.

Someone else who contributed to Paris's tourism was Woody Allen, whose film Midnight in Paris showed the city in Woody's special way – with whimsy, humour, wit, nostalgia, and enthralling glamour. One of the best moments in the film was the gorgeous bicycle carousel, which is part of the Musée des Arts Forains (The Museum of Fairground Art). This magical place is located near Les Pavillons de Bercy at 53 Avenue des Terroirs de France (12th arrondissement), and is one of the  glorious secrets in Paris. It reminded us that just when we think we've seen everything there is to see in Paris, there is always more to explore.

Certain members of the media had predicted that books and libraries would go the way of videos in the digital reading age, but thankfully they seem to be wrong. In fact, the popularity of libraries is only increasing as book lovers remember the thrill of being lost among the shelves. The New York Times forecast that libraries will become the social lubricant of the future, meaning that we'll see them as not only places of inspiration and contemplation but also conversation. Even celebrity hotelier Ian Schrager decided to install a library in his new hotel, Public Chicago. Who said books were dead? {Images via, pinterest and the Viceroy Santa Monica}

Vogue Australia gave us a glimpse of the future when it dedicated its February 2011 issue to colour and featured a spectacular fashion shoot from Mexico. Then colour blocking became one of the major style  trends of the year, with Crayola shades showing up on everything from catwalks to red carpet events and even interiors. Now everything bright is in the spotlight, including countries such as Mexico and Curaçao – reportedly the hot new Caribbean destination. How could we not be inspired by colours that reminded us of fun? {Images via Vogue Australia and Curaçao tourism}

Let's face it. Glamour's been a bit short on the ground these past few years. We've had clothes inspired by all sorts of things, from Lady Gaga to gardening, and while they've all had their charms, the va-va-voom element has been lacking a little. Well, now Glamour with a capital G is back, and what a dramatic return it's making. Hollywood-style hair, La Dolce Vita-style dresses and heels that are so shockingly sexy they need their own rating system... Oh glamour, we missed you. Let's hope you stay around a while this time. {Images via Australian Vogue January 2012)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Inspirational Moments of 2011, Part 1

A quick little post of inspiration to tide you over until the New Year. This year may have been a challenging year for many, but there was still a lot of inspiration and creativity around, it seems. Which just goes to show that inspiration and creativity can be found anywhere, even in a tough landscape. Part 2 posted tomorrow. (Above image from La Maison Champs-Elysées hotel; see below for details.)

Who better to start the year than the extraordinarily and imaginative artist and etcher François Houtin? A trained landscpape architect who worked on the restoration of the Tuileries gardens in Paris, Houtin now creates beautiful and often fantastical garden prints and etchings inspired by the idea of Utopia.  Hermés was so impressed the company asked him to design a range of dishware. The results were like something from an enchanted forest in a Gothic fairytale; a whimsical, haunting landscape of architectural follies and foliage and hidden imps and pixies. But it was his Paris atelier that was really inspiring. One of the most romantic studios I've ever seen, it's a dream of a space that makes you wish for an artist's attic studio of your own. Look at his alphabet; it's a narrative in itself. {Images via Hermés and Vogue Living}

When I heard that its bar was inspired by a potting bench, that was enough to intrigue me. The new Mondrian SoHo hotel in New York received columns of media publicity, thanks to both the timing of its opening (which cleverly coincided with New York Fashion Week), and the creativity of its interiors. Inspired by John Cocteau's La Belle et Le Bête, the hotel features – in typical Mondrian style – elaborate rooms and spectacular spaces, but perhaps the most beautiful is the garden room. Truly ravishing. {Images via Mondrian SoHo}

I first noticed Ellen O'Neill's work in House Beautiful's Pink issue. The magazine was full of great content but perhaps the best story was on O'Neill's Hamptons hideaway, a charming cottage decorated in faded reds and circus-inspired stripes. (I particularly loved her quote: "When I worked at Ralph Lauren, we attended Stripe Class–awning stripes, regimental stripes, ticking stripes. I love them all!" I think I'd like to go to Stripe Class. Where do I sign up?) If that wasn't enough gorgeousness, she then allowed us to see her sublime Manhattan studio; a perfect little space carved out of a 1920's Emery Roth-designed building. All the property ad said was: "One room with a balcony overlooking Gramercy Park, fireplace, outstanding views, key to park". She took it. And then she created her Ellenesque magic on that, too. {Images via House Beautiful}

One of the best things about the blogosphere is discovering new blogs, and Advanced Style is one of the most inspirational I've ever seen. Curated by fashion lover and street photographer Ari Seth Cohen, it chronicles the lives and wardrobes of people of a certain (grand) age, and shows you don't need to be young (or wealthy) to be stylish and head-turning. Cohen has been given a book deal and he deserves it. His blog is divine.  (Images via}

When the La Maison Champs-Elysées hotel re-opened in Paris in May, many in the design world rushed to peek inside the rooms. It had promised to redefine the concept of a hotel and it did, thanks to Martin Margiela, who created some of the most theatrical spaces this side of the Miami Mondrian. The suites were distinguished by two concepts – day and night. Some suites disguised themselves in all black palette, creating a veiled, enigmatic atmosphere, while others were bright, calm and white but still startling in their interior design. There was trompe l'oeil, black-and-white panelling and even whimsical cabinets of curiosities. All in all, a Margiela marvel. {Images at very top and above via La Maison}

It had everything we wanted in a period drama: gorgeous Edwardian costumes; a grand old house full of spectacular rooms and even more thrilling secrets; a touch of sex; a mysterious death; endearing characters (Mr Bates, for one), and a whole lot of entertaining quotes. Such as this: “No one wants to kiss a girl in black." Oh, Downton, we adored you. {Image via Downton Abbey}

After spending several months photographing a book on the world's most beautiful kitchen gardens last year (The Modern Kitchen Garden), I am now in love with the elegance, simplicity and charm of garden plans. My favourites so far are the plans of the gardens of Prieuré Notre-Dame d'Orsan and Versailles, but I'm now discovering historic illustrations of walled Edwardian gardens. There is something fascinating about finding your way through a garden plan, following the paths and diagrams all the way to the corners. Some of the plans I've seen are more beautiful than the gardens! (I will do another post on these in 2012.)

When Hermés announced that its new fragrance was inspired by its roof, some people wondered if the French fashion house had gone a little Lady Gaga... But then it revealed images of its roof and suddenly the inspiration was apparent. Hermés was hiding one of the most enchanting gardens in Paris atop its Faubourg Saint-Honoré store. Filled with apple trees, pears, lavender, magnolias, roses and even an exquisite lawn, the rooftop paradise was designed by Jean-Louis Dumas, great-grandson of the atelier's founder Thierry Hermés. Dumas wanted to recreate the rural landscape of Normandy, and planted mostly white flowers against a cool green foliage. The result was so wonderful, it inspired Hermés' new fragrance, Un Jardin Sur Le Toit. We all love a secret garden, and this has to be one of the best. (I love how even the fragrance packaging features a whimsical illustration of the garden.)

The Art of French Style

As some of you lovely readers will know, I've spent the last few months writing, photographing and illustrating a book about Chanel and the art of French style called How To Live A Beautiful Life: Chanel and The Art of French StyleThe book is still in production, and I'm actually rewriting it/refining it now, during the holiday period. I'll provide more details of the book, including pub dates, in late January. But for now, here's a little sneak preview...


"She arrived. It was summer. She had on a little white quilted satin tailleur – a skirt, below the knee but short – a gardenia in her hair, and a white lace shirt. I have never seen anyone look at delectable, as adorable. What age was she then? What difference did it make?" 
– Diana Vreeland, speaking of Coco Chanel in DV

"Live with rigour and vigor!"
Coco Chanel, to Diana Vreeland

Early one morning in July 1962, during what was an oppressively warm summer in Paris, a dignified, gracefully dressed, model-slender grande mademoiselle (a highly respected woman of a certain age) walked up the now famous Rue Cambon; a thin ribbon of a street that begins at Rue de Rivoli and unfurls north of the rear of The Ritz Hotel Paris. She wore a cream skirt that fell to just below the knees (she claimed the knees were the most unattractive part of a woman's body), and a well-cut jacket made with quilted lining and a gold-chain hem to ‘weight’ the suit, so it sat neatly, in the way that she liked. She also wore a cream hat with a black ribbon (she was never seen without a hat, even in her atelier), a small black handbag carried lightly over her left arm in the French manner, a glamorous pearl necklace, and dark sunglasses. And although she was in her late 70s she wore heels. Black ones. With a sole that made a rhythmical click-click-click on the Parisian street. She also possessed cheekbones that could have been cut with one of her own silver-plated dressmaking scissors, thin, perfectly arched eyebrows that were as carefully designed as the necklines on all her dresses, and a meticulously maintained bob that pre-dated Anna Wintour’s famously disciplined coiffeur by four decades. In fact, she was the Anna Wintour of her time.

Fast-forward half a century from that warm day in July 1962. It is now almost 50 years since Chanel strode down the Rue Cambon on that steamy summer’s morning and I am standing opposite the entrance to the same Chanel store, having followed in her footsteps. Unlike in 1962, it is spring in Paris and one of the city’s famous spring rain clouds has settled over the streets. It’s not quite rain but rather a haze of fine scented spring mist, as if someone is spraying an enormous Chanel No. 5 bottle over Paris at uneven intervals. Everywhere I look, Parisians are darting for cover, opening up umbrellas decorated in Pantonesque shades and tightening belts on chic trench coats, that classic French fashion staple.
It’s difficult to know what the weather has planned for the day, since the sky shifts constantly in both hue and mood. Some days it is a pale blue; like the blue of porcelain plates, or one of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon rooms at Versailles; other times it’s like a faded military trenchcoat in Paris during the last days of the German invasion. And yet other days it clears entirely, so that the horizon is shiny and bright with the promise of gilded sun. The French, of course, are accustomed to this springtime spectacle and come prepared, with their natty little trenchcoats, pretty umbrellas, lovely leather gloves, bright scarves and flattering hats (boy, can these people accessorise). Even when it rains, the French still look glamorous. I feel like I’ve walked into a scene from The Umbrellas Of Cherboug.

A sense of style is an odd thing, really. It’s difficult to acquire. Like money. Or a good husband. You can think you’re stylish–you can dress in a lovely pair of pants or a gorgeous new frock and you can even splash out on a beautifully fitting Giorgio Armani jacket, but you can somehow still look unstylish. That’s the thing about style. It’s elusive. Chanel knew this. She knew that some people had style, and others didn’t–and that those who didn’t would be prepared to pay for it. She also knew that she had it. There is nothing quite so empowering as knowing that you have a secret that every other woman would rip the clothes off your back for. 
‘It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,’ she once said of clothes, and she was right. This was, after all, a woman who knew how to capture style, and how to create sophistication. It was her strength, her talent. It was the key to her success.
Of course, she also had a head start. She was French, after all.

Catherine B. 1 & 3 Rue Guisarde, St Germain des Près, 75006, Paris.
Didier Ludot. 24 Galerie Montpensier, Palais Royal, 75001, Paris.
Gabrielle Geppert. 31 & 34 Galerie Montpensier, Palais Royal, 75001, Paris.
Pandora’s Dress Agency. 16-22 Cheval Place, London SW7.

"I want to make things that are classic. Imagine inventing the Chanel suit or blazer…"
–Tom Ford

Sit up straight. Don’t slouch. Walk tall. Elongate your body. 
Walk everywhere. Especially up stairs. The incidental exercise will help keep your legs in shape.
Dress with restraint. Before you walk out the door, take one thing off.
Go easy on accessories. Ensure they’re the best quality you can afford. 
Watch your silhouette. Keep the lines clean and in proportion. For example, a long scarf or wrap looks best with long, vertical lines–slim pants and a neat sweater, a narrow pants-suit or a long skinny dress. A short scarf, meanwhile, looks better with a short jacket, or a short dress.
Wear white near the face, particularly if you’re wearing a black suit. It brightens the complexion. Always try and buy white shirts with a strong collar and French cuffs. Cuffs add instant elegance to a suit.
Don’t be tempted to wear black all the time. Life is not a funeral. Try navy, chocolate or charcoal grey. If you want to wear black, think of a young Sophia Loren and go for a sexy dress. Accessorise with killer shoes, big dark sunglasses and a cute Italian. Wear a coloured scarf or carry a red handbag. Anything to avoid looking like a Sicilian widow.
If you find something that suits you, wear it often. Chanel only needed two or three of her well-made suits to survive her working week. 
Most of all, wear what makes you happy. Clothes are made for pleasure. Be happy wearing them.

Here’s what I think. I think that French women love being a little unpredictable, but since they find it so difficult to be radical in fashion, because the pressure to conform to the traditional ladylike aesthetic is so strong, they release their rebellious nature in other ways. They smoke. They buy sexy, vertiginous shoes, with heels that sit just the PC side of S&M. They often slip on an expensive, slightly titillating bra-and-knicker sets beneath their subdued little suits. They even have affairs. With a little Secretary-style hanky-panky-spanky to spice life up a bit. And yes, some of them even get paid for it. Think of Chanel deliberately underpaying her fitting models because she assumed that they could put their bodies and faces to better use during the evening for ‘extracurricular’ income. French women may look like the epitome of Mad Men-style chic, but they are far from being 1950s and 60s secretaries and housewives. Don’t let the Dioresque façade fool you. French women are as naughty as any of their Buenos Aires or Rio cousins. 


Friday, December 23, 2011

10 Lovely Things About 2011

It's always easy to look back on a year and notice the difficulties and the down sides. But it's far better to look back and recall the bright bits and the highlights. So for this post, I'd like to forget about the woeful and the horrible and instead list some of the lovely things that have happened to me/us during 2011. I hope it will inspire you all to put your feet up and look back at some of the nicer moments you've had during this surprisingly tumultuous 12 months. Go on. It will give you a lot of joy on Christmas Eve. Trust me.

This is my last post until early January. Next year, there will be some exciting changes at The Library. I'm in the process of persuading some of the world's best designers, writers, photographers and creative professionals to contribute to it so you won't have to listen to my ramblings all the time! I very much hope you'll come back and continue reading then. Until then, thank you for following me here The Library. I've been touched to see the Stats go up and up, even if people have been shy about commenting. And congratulations to the ever-supportive Millie from The Laurel Hedge for winning the Comment Competition. I really wanted to send all my lovely readers a gift, and perhaps next year I'll be able to send more presents out to those who have been regular commenters.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
All the very best to you all.
Janelle McCulloch

10 Lovely Things About 2011

1. January. Three days in the Whitsunday Islands. First holiday in a year. Bliss.  I've always loved that Tennyson line, "In the afternoon they came unto a land, in which it seemed always afternoon..." Well, the Whitsundays felt like one long beautiful afternoon. (NB If you've never flown over the reef in a sea plane, put it on your Life To Do List; it is one of the most sublime things you'll ever experience.)

2. February. RR proposed. Well, he didn't really propose. Because he was rather shy he was given four months to say The Four Words. He got through the "will" and the "you", before stumbling a bit on the "marry" (he whispered that one out the car window). But he finished handsomely on the "me". How could a girl say no?

3. March. Attended design/media/bloggers conference in LA. Conference was interesting but highlight was being in LA during Oscars week. Received a lovely invitation to a dinner party at a friend's house in the historic Laughlin Park gated estate in the Hollywood Hills. (The old Cecil B DeMille estate). The architecture was amazing but what was more amazing was that some of the other guests turned out to be Oscar nominees. AND my friend lived next door to Natalie Portman, Ellen Pompeo, Justin Bieber and Will I Am from the Black Eyed Peas. (Seriously, could you HAVE any cooler neighbours?) Apparently, the residents have AMAZING neighbourhood parties. Can you imagine Will I Am leading them all in a little street dancing? My friend says he is the loveliest neighbour. Decided I needed to move to Laughlin Park.

(3b). March. Three days in New York. Bought loads of books from The Strand for $1 each, caught up with friends, felt the inspiration flow again...

4. April. Two books published The Modern Kitchen Garden and Coast: Lifestyle Architecture. Remembered all the wonderful weeks I spent photographing them in 2010. Is there anything lovelier than photographing a garden?

5. May. Adopted two little puppies – a Jack Russell called Coco and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Cooper. (Yes, Coco is the tomboy and Cooper is, well, the effeminate one.) Both proceeded to chew threw iPhones, iPods, expensive shoes and favourite books. (They spent a LOT of time in the laundry.) Despite this, we adore them. Even if we're unsure of their sexuality.

6. June. Started writing a book about the story behind Picnic at Hanging Rock. Went to the National Library in Canberra (SUCH a beautiful place) and spent 3 days immersed in archive files. What an extraordinary story.

7. Third book published – Paris: A Guide to the City's Creative Heart. Received lots of lovely book reviews in The Australian, the Australian Financial Review, Gourmet Traveller, Vogue, US Vogue, Melbourne ABC radio, and many other places. And I didn't have to slip any of them a fifty dollar bill...

8. October. Decided to postpone our marriage in the US (long story, too depressing to recount). Went to Adelaide for a weekend instead. Still unmarried. But happy.

9. November. Finished renovations on our house. The highlight was hiring two Afghanistan tradesmen to do the painting. These gentlemen were the loveliest guys you could ever want to work on your house. They told me stories of leaving their wives and kids to come and make money in Australia, they entertained me with humorous tales of their country and they painted our five-bedroom, two-storey house in just three days. For $2000. Incredible. I was humbled by their professionalism, their personal pain, and their grace in the face of adversity.

10. November/December Finished the year by starting a blog, something I've been meaning to do since I parked the name in April 2008. Spent the first few weeks wondering if it was worth it. Then met the kindest, funniest, most talented and most inspiring women through the blogging network. No wonder traditional media are nervous of the social media phenomenon. Not even Vogue Living gives you this kind of interaction. Or this kind of inspiration. Bloggers, I adore you.

All in all, a wonderful 12 months.
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