Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Blue & White China-Inspired Trend: Frocks, Gardens, Even Flip Flops

The other day my partner came home from work, stripped off his black suit and said: "What's with all the blue?"
"What do you mean honey?" I said, stuffing yet another insert into a blue-and-white-striped cushion cover and stirring yet another navy paint tin.
"Our house," he said. "It's become very blue. It feels like we're living in a Chinese porcelain store."
"Noooo?" I said, starting to paint another wall in a cobalt oxide shade. "Really?"
"Yes," he insisted. "I think I'd better take that paint brush from you."

Then he banned me from buying any more blue things. (I had already bought him three blue-and-white striped shirts for his birthday. "Thanks honey!" he said. "They'll go with my other twenty-two.") It was at that point that I realised that I had become addicted. Blue was my new green. I clearly had a problem with cobalt.

This week, however, I've realised I'm not the only one to become fixated by the coolly glamorous hues of porcelain blues. Everywhere I look designers are drawing on the beauty of blue and white to create classically sophisticated pieces. In fact, blue and white as a trend is strengthening faster than china in a Paragon kiln. Our lives have become one big China urn love-in. {Image above via Robert Cavalli}

Here are a few of the lovelier photos I've noticed lately.

Oh – and I still love Mr Oscar Wilde's quote: "I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china."

Me too, Oscar. Me too.

Chateau de Groussy's extraordinary garden. {Image at very top is also from Chateau de Groussy.}

Blue and White China Flip Flops, by Mandarina.

Blue and White iPhone Cover, by Pink Pagoda.

JK Place hotel. 
(I know some people who would love to rip this interior out, blue china and all, and take it straight home with them.)

Solange Knowles in Robert Cavalli. 

Princess Mary. {Via Polphoto}


Navy nail polish. One of THE trends for Fall 2012. Adore this colour. Reminds me of the night sky over Paris. A Cup of Jo touched upon this trend the other day. She had more than 100 replies. Clearly, navy is big this season.

Our 'To Read' pile in our dressing room.

Our blue and white china-inspired dressing room and ensuite.

Our navy and cobalt sunroom. 

Sidewalks in Lisbon, by the always-delightful Slim Paley. {Via Slim Paley's blog}

The beautiful Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi. I love this couple. So much grace and class. Look how even the video camera matches the porcelain blue palette. Portia comes from my home town of Melbourne. Love seeing a local girl happy.

Aerin Lauder, at her Hamptons beach house. {Via Elle Decor}

Carolina Herrera.

Australian Vogue.

The new exhibition about Doris Duke's Hawaii hideaway, Shangri La, which is now showing at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York (MADS), until January. (Book published by Rizzoli.) Yes, I know it's not quite blue and white porcelain, but it certainly fits into the trend. 

Source unknown, sorry, but I am in love with this powder room. It has inspired me to do ours in blue and white tiles.

Vogue's memorable shoot at Versailles, featuring Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. I like Kirsten even more now that I've discovered she likes Picnic at Hanging Rock. I suspect she learned of the film from Sophia Coppola on The Virgin Suicides, who's also a fan. (Virgin was apparently inspired by Picnic.) 

NB We're making the trek up to Hanging Rock this weekend, armed with several 'spiritual men' (I hesitate to use the word 'shaman': I think they're just wise old Buddhists!) who have flown over from Asia just for the excursion. I will let you know what we discover. I was, I have to admit, very nervous of going, but I have been persuaded to join in. Apparently it's integral to 'The Book'. I don't know. I think I might wait at the bottom of the rock in the Gift Shop...

Carolyne Roehm's bestselling tome on the two tones.

More Carolyn Roehm.

John De Bastiani.

Mark D. Sikes.

Michael Smith.

Mondrian hotel, SoHo, New York.

Grant Gibson.

A gorgeous pair of porcelain-blue heels. Some people have a sartorial aversion to slingbacks or kitten heels, but I'm a fan. What's not to love? They're also easier to wear than high heels. These are from Mandarina. Such a great online store.

Monet's house at Giverny. 
Have you seen his home and garden yet? If you're an interior designer or a garden lover and you haven't, go next May (the best time of year). It is truly one of the exquisite hideaways in France.

Snowdon's beautiful 'Blue' exhibition, held in London this year. I posted photos of this in a recent blog, but here's a lovely video about it all. Snowdon explains that his favourite colour is blue – "there's something about it that puts everyone at ease", and that he decided to ask his friends and family to pose in it. The Queen Mother, the Queen and Prince Philip and a dozen big-name celebrities, including Manolo Blahnik, Graham Greene, Tony Blair, Ralph Fiennes and Jeremy Irons  all went into the studio to be photographed. Here's the video – here. I'm going to try and order the book. It looks incredible.

And lastly, one of my favourite gardens: a Connecticut estate photographed by Tim Street-Porter, who's married to the lovely Australian writer Annie Kelly. Look at the blue and white urns. Just beautiful.

Oh - and just remembered this image, originally posted on a blog I love called College of Life {}. Isn't it fantastic?


  1. i really love white and blue combination for rooms. reminds me of porcelain china wares, which i totally adore.=)

  2. Dear Janelle

    Love the blue and white and combo with greens. My main china is Spode B and W Italian - also like Oscar Wilde's quote. I love many colours so our house would be absolute despair of a stylist or himself (noting his dying words: "either the wallpaper or I will have to go").
    The kitchen/family room is b and w, inspired by Monet's kitchen. The splashbacks are his tiles (the main background one in your picture). When the Monet exhibition opened at NGA - Day 1, I checked out the shop -there it was. Asked for enough to tile a kitchen. Poor guy almost died of shock but agreed to put in a special order. So eventually the kitchen was gutted and tiled with a pencil border tile in plain blue. Because Monet's own tiles looked great with dark copper colours, had the cabinetry made from jarrah and Corian bench tops in same bone as background of the tile.

    Might be all right by itself but then the lounge and dining room are green (husband's fave) with reds and pinks and more of the jarrah. Our son doesn't like it, says it looks like Kerry Packer's library (as he imagines it might have been)- naturally there are lots of books. So the poor interiors look a bit confused. When I see the pictures in your posts, I feel like starting all over again as I'm a bit over the jarrah and green/pink/red. But husband would never agree.

    Love the pictures of your own blue and whites, particularly the gilt chairs in your dressing room - with the wonderful pile of books. And look forward to more pics. We have a few of those books, including "Jackie as Editor". Even husband approved this as she was editor for Mahfouz, one of his many fave Nobel Prize Winning authors. He has a copy of at least one book (for some - many titles) by every Nobel Literature prize winner from the beginning. Best wishes for the Hanging Rock adventure, Pamela

    1. That's amazing Pamela. I'm truly astonished that you have a Monet kitchen. That's the sort of thing I'd do - ask the gentleman if there was more to order. Did you see Giverny on your last trip? Isn't the house beautiful? Almost as the garden, in my opinion.

      Love the "Kerry Packer library" reference. I'm sure it looks magnificent, despite your son's wit.

      The 'Jackie As Editor' is a great book - I've been reading it at night. Please tell your husband I'm very impressed by the Nobel collection. We've been stockpiling old classics to read when we're old (and books are scarce), and will now add the Nobel, and perhaps also the Pulitzer, lists to the collection.

      Thanks for another insightful note. xx

    2. Dear Janelle
      Didn't visit Giverny this most recent trip as have been several times before. We both love it, husband is also a hobby water colourist and he enjoys painting in the gardens. We generally tend to be in Paris at around the same time of the year so would see the same seasonal flowers every time, though always lovely of course. If we ever go at another time would visit again to see different flowers. And of course I love the house - I always spend ages there. While all the crowds of people keep moving along quite quickly, I try to spend as much time as possible in each room soaking it all in.
      There are some magnificent books in husband's Nobel collection. He recommends to me the ones he thinks I'd like and I read those. But he's an intellectual (I'm not) and he's happy to read things that would bore me so I don't try to read all the prize winners. Sometimes, in his opinion, the judges really got it wrong, especially in the earlier days, and selected writers who haven't lasted the distance while they ignored some of the greats.
      Now with the Internet it's much easier to track down out of print books but part of the thrill at the start was coming across an author he was searching for in the second hand bookshops in Paris or New York or London.
      With best wishes, Pamela

  3. Love the pictures of your house - the Navy looks fabulous. I wouldn't change a thing! I love blue and white too, always have. xx

  4. So lovely of you to say Heide. Our house is a bit cluttered. The minimalists must hate it! Still haven't made it to Adelaide, but we're heading over in December. Would love to treat you to coffee then! Will bring a gift too. xx

  5. I am such a fan of blue and white - the tent is unbelievable!! No one does it better than Carolyn Roehm - love her book.

    1. Isn't that marquee amazing? I think it's a permanent display? It may even been wood, rather than fabric. I'd love to see it one day. Thanks for letting me know that CR's book is lovely. Am about to buy it on Amazon. x

  6. What a fabulous post - thank you - from another blue and white fan ! x

    1. Thanks Joanna. Lovely of you to write. There seems to be a lot of us bluesy fans about! xx

  7. I really love the soft green greyish wallpaper , though I'd take the tent , I could hide and there wait for a sheik or someone like that. Though if you get tired of your little gilt chairs... will gladly look after them.

    Napoleon was great, though crowded galore, a dress and train from 1804, Malmaison , all these Australian references such as Josephine breeding black swans ..I loved it.

    Though South Pacific was wonderful too. I do recommend it.
    Anyone who can write "Im as corny as Kansas in August" is OK with me

    Did more in Melbourne than ever do in Sydney ..isn't it always the way!

    1. We can sit in the marquee together! Wonder if they make reproductions? I've already asked the hubster if he can whip up a version for our backyard!

      Have heard South Pacific is fab. Must add that and Napoleon to the list. Goodness, you've done more than we have and we live in Melbourne! I read a bio about Napoleon once. Painted a dreadful picture of him. Terrible teeth, terrible skin, terrible demeanour, but a fierce ambition. Josephine was painted as a snob with no social skills but a big sexual appetite. Sounded like the Napoleonic version of The Housewives of OC... I'm not even sure if I'm remembering this correctly, so forgive me. I've probably made that up! I do remember one of them was voracious in bed. Such a thing to recall! xx

    2. I think everyone had bad teeth then , modern dentistry ! ..I'd be a mess without it.

      Re that famous David picture of N charging up the Alps in full military, gleaming uniform , apparently he really went on a donkey with a blanket around his shoulders. oh myth !

  8. I just LOVE blue and white! We have a newish house that has white and I love finding a BLUE something to add. I loved all these gorgeous pics and feel inspired! Thanks !

    1. Oh, your house sounds beautiful Gigi. Love the name as well. xx

  9. Another fan of blue and white here ! I have a nice little collection of blue and white Chinese porcelains, started when I bought a "ginger" jar in London in the late 80s and now it is all over the house.
    I would love to do my next home with a bathroom floor of blue and white and I will definitely bring my blue and white toile roman shades with me :)

    1. Your bathroom plan sounds impressive. We're trying to do a similar thing, although I fear my budget renovation won't be quite as glam as yours. Your ginger jar collection sounds beautiful too! xx

  10. Too funny - as I read this I am watching my four year old pull on his cobalt blue skinny jeans (yes skinny jeans on his skinny little legs) and matching t-shirt! It appears Cotton On Kids is on trend. I adore that Cavalli dress too - pinned a while back but didn't know it was Cavalli (the trouble with pinterest).

    Your blue rooms are divine. Don't stop - oh to take to our 'rental cream' walls with paint. I'm sure landlords buy it all at the same awful shop.

    1. How funny. Cotton On is always on trend. I'm sure your lovely home would look great, despite being rented. A home is what you make of it, and it's often the family who makes it cosy, as much as the decorating. x

  11. I am a fan of blue and white. Classic really. I adore those flip flops.

    1. I adored your chicken coop. I've actually seen them designed around blue and white china. There's one at West Green House in England. The chickens eat from China porcelain. Can you believe it? Thanks for popping by Deb. x

  12. You are certainly one of a multitude of us who love blue..and especially in faience and china..check on this..Loved this post! Such YUMMY things!

  13. That tent set up would look fab in the bottom of my garden next to that particular pool.....sigh.....and then I'd forget about spending the weekend weeding and just languish drinking champagne while wearing the Cavalli. But then back in my real life, I might just have to paint my toenails Blue Satin (already in the bathroom cupboard) and daydream. I love your dressing room and fabulous that your dog matches! Have a fab weekend! Rx

    1. Yes, we love our Cavalier, even though he's not navy... I haven't bought the Chanel yet, but it's on the weekend list Romy. xx

  14. OH WOW! Blue and white china is my favorite and these photos are heaven! I'm going to pin them now! Come visit and say hi!

  15. I love this post Janelle.The blue and white colour combinations are fabulous.I am going to look for the book by Doris Duke.I could not help noticing your Cavalier on the rug.It made me sad as we had to put our beautiful Cav Tess to sleep four months ago.Tess was 12 and we adored her I miss her every day.I love your home.xx Trish

    1. I'm sorry to hear about your Cavalier Trish. It's always heart-breaking when our dogs pass away. 12 years is a good time. I hope ours lives to that wonderful old age.

      Our Cavvy, Cooper, thinks he's a Rottweiler in a Cav body. He's quite audacious - chases the birds, hunts out rabbits, he'll even smack our Jack Russell over her head with his hairy poor if she gets too close to his bone! He's come a long way from when he was the runt of the litter and the last to be sold. We love him. They're such beautiful dogs, aren't they? xx

  16. I just love this post Janelle the blue and white is fabulous.I love your home it is stunning.I could not help to notice your darling Cavalier on the rug.We had to put our
    beautiful Cav Tess to sleep four months ago and we were devastated.We miss her so much but we know that we were lucky to have her for 12 years.I will look out for the Doris Duke book it looks fantastic.Thank you for a great post.Trish


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