Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life & Lessons From 2012...

And so we come to the end of another year. We survived the apocalypse, applauded the Olympics, waved at the Queen on her Jubilee, smiled at the royal pregnancy, cried at the effects of Hurricane Sandy and mourned the Connecticut kiddies. We saw Obama re-elected, Jill Meagher die a terrible death, and Julia Gillard hold her own against some misogynist pollies. It was a year of heartbreak, happiness, more heartbreak, hope, a little more heartbreak and then, finally, a hallelujah that it was all over.  (Incidentally, have you seen 'The Voice' singing Hallelujah in tribute to the kiddies of the Connecticut shooting? It's beautiful. Link here: Hallelujah)

But 2012 was also a year of something else. It was, in a strange way, the year of kindness. Don't you think? Looking back, I think that's the only way we managed to survive 2012. Kindness. Lots and lots of it. Several months ago, checking out of the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, one of the loveliest hotels in the world, I jokingly asked the concierge how they coped with the diva-esque VIPs? "Kindness," he said with a smile. "We win them over with kindness." I've never forgotten it. Next year, we'll be running our Garden Tours with the same aim. In fact, we've already started implemented it into our company philosophy. {Beautiful 'Looking for Love' Paris street photo by Irene Suchocki from Etsy.}

And now, as we look towards Christmas, and to 2013 beyond it, I'd like to encourage everyone to do one thing on the 25th. Be kind. Compassion. Courtesy. Consideration. Respect. Even humour. They all go a long way in life. Don't let others' negativity and criticism get you down. Keep your dignity. Keep your spirit. Keep your happiness about you. But most of all, be nice. It doesn't take much. Truly. A word. A gesture. A hug. A note. A hello. As Robert Alan once said: "The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will some day. And in kind that kindness will flow. For kindness grows in this way."

On this note, I'd like to thank you all for dropping by The Library this year. So many people have emailed to say hello, while others have been kind enough to comment, and all of your notes have lifted my spirits and kept my soul joyous this year. They've also kept The Library blog going through all the 2am nights. I very much hope that The Library has inspired and enlivened you all in return. 

I know I promised to post some 'insider' tips about Paris, plus details of our lovely new tour, but I hope you'll forgive me if I leave it for a fortnight. It will really need a special post on its own. And it will offer some holiday reading over the New Year!

In the meantime, I'd like to show you a peek at what's happening in 2013, as it's shaping up to be an exciting year. Hopefully, I'll also be able to hold my earlier promise of featuring more interviews and even more exciting interiors and gardens here on the little old Library. 

Until then, wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas. And a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you. 

With love, from my family to yours. xx

Mock-up spreads for a beautiful new cookbook and memoir from The Landing Hotel and Restaurant in the Bahamas. The Library is very lucky to be involved with this project, which will be the first in a series of exciting new projects, and I look forward to showing you the evolution of this lovely, incredibly luscious book as it unfolds, page by page. Oh – and you'll love who's writing the forewords too! (Clue: An Officer And A Gentleman.)

More mock-up pages from The Landing's beautiful book. {Dummy spreads only}

Dummy spreads from another whimsical but lovely little book, How To Live A Beautiful Life: Following In The Footsteps of Chanel

I'm also going to show you this as it unfolds, so you can see how a book is produced, from conception through contents to photography, page design and production. 

" The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. "
Coco Chanel

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Art of Travel, Part 2: The Glamour

If you still think travel is tedious and exhausting and packed (pun intended) with emotional nights, long days (and delays) and extended difficulties, let you persuade you otherwise...

Oh – and the next post – the last for the year – will be a beautiful one about Paris and France. It will also include some details of how you can see the best of it next year in a wonderful tour we're organising. Do stop by if you fancy a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the gardens of France. We'd love to have you come along with us.

The beautiful, whimsical, travel-inspired windows of Hermès' flagship store in Paris. I'm not normally an advocate of using taxidermied animals in store displays, but I suspect this was an old exhibit from Deyrolle on the Left Bank. Look how magnificent he is! Look at that luggage! {My photo from archives}

A wonderful, wonderful video about luggage and Christmas and coveted orange boxes that will make you laugh, also by Hermès. Link here or here –

The sexiest camera ever produced... Leica's Hermès limited edition version. Would buy it, but would have to sell the husband for it. Then again...

Another fabulous camera... Paul Smith's version of the Leica. Look at the whimsical detail. The sketch of a light bulb that appears on top of the pop-up flash was drawn by Mr. Smith himself. {Via The Wall Street Journal}

And if you can't afford the tangerina Leica dream, here's a mobile / cell phone cover made to look like one of the coveted cases. Love this.

Louis Vuitton's windows in Paris: luggage stacked to look like the Eiffel Tower. Isn't this lovely? {My photo}

An uplifting video (so to speak) about the beauty of travel... Louis Vuitton's hot air balloon video 'L'Invitation Au Voyage', shot in Paris. Just beautiful... Link here or here –

Karen Blixen's luggage. This has also come via Hermès. It was specially designed for the author by the French company. There were two pieces made. Reportedly the latter consumed 368 hours of work and was an extraordinarily complicated piece of luggage, truly worthy of an aristocrat facing the demanding African landscape. This makes me want to read Out of Africa all over again.
{Via Luxury Insider}

Antique luggage used as bar carts and other irreverent things. We saw this at the Nomad Hotel earlier this year. Each room had a magnificent vintage steamer trunk upended to create a mini-bar. So inspiring... {Via Jennings and Gates' lovely blog}

A glamorous ONA camera bag, as seen on A Cup of Jo's blog. {}

Be still my beating heart... Have you ever seen such a beautiful camera? This is an antique Leica from the early 20th century, which has faux-lizard skin and gold plating. There were only 95 of these early models made. This one was sold recently at Bonham's auction house, and expected to fetch $230,000. Still, that's a bargain compared to the rare 1923 prototype camera which a Chinese bidder paid $2.8 million for this year. I'll just breath out now.

More converted luggage, this time as wardrobes, although I'm not sure what they're doing out in the snow? {Via Jennings and Gates' beautiful blog –}

Mai Tai's Picture Book is one of the most instructive blogs on the Internet, full of great advice on how to travel without looking like a troglodyte who's just come out of a hole (or economy class). Her trick? A gorgeous scarf. She even takes special scarf holders when she travels. Her work is impressive. {}

More cheeky, irreverent travel stuff from Louis Vuitton. These are 'bag charms', which you attach to your handbag or luggage to identify it. Here's the video about them. I love the palm trees. Link here  or here:

Me too.

And lastly, two Library readers challenged me (in good humour) to illustrated how you can pack for a 2-week holiday using just a carry-on bag. Put my money where my mouth is and all that... 

Last time I did a post on this I used mostly winter clothes. So here is how I'd pack for a holiday that encompassed city and beach, with some garden visits and perhaps a few evening shows scattered in between... Little tip: Pack hybrids, or clothes that can go across not just one, but two or three situations. I toss in oversized scarves that can double as beach wraps, frocks that can go from day to night, and handbags that can switch from casual to business meeting. It's difficult, I know. But it just takes some thinking... Here are some ideas.

Colour: Keep your colours to a minimum, so everything matches. I usually use navy or black as neutrals and then toss in a colour, such as orange or pink. Everything has to match with everything else. Everything. If it won't socialise with the rest of the clothes, toss it!

Lightweight trenchcoat (orange for glamour; this was one $5 from Chapel Street). Essential for showers in London or Paris, additional layering on chilly days, or to cover a dress that hasn't been washed for 2 days and is showing the rigours of long-haul flights. (Only pack if you think the weather is going to be at all chilly, otherwise it just takes up space.)
Flat loafers. Flat shoes are essential for flights and walking. (Ballets are no good because they don't have adequate soles. And your ankles will likely blow up in-flight, making their tight curves hard to slip on for a day or so afterwards and therefore contenders for blisters.) Loafers are my choice, but there are lots of pretty flat shoes around,
Espadrille wedges. Brilliant 'cross-over' shoes that are smart enough for both daywear / beachwear and business meetings. (Well, my casual publishing ones anyway; you may wish to include a pair of 'proper' heels for more formal appointments.)
Smart sundress. Find one or two frocks that are dressy enough for evenings as well as daywear. Include a belt and accessories to jazz up for business meetings or shows.
Tailored blazer. I always, always include a blazer or jacket. It will immediately smarten up any outfit, and be a glamorous safeguard if you find you want to suddenly attend a tradeshow or business meeting, have a date with an ex-boyfriend, go to an evening play, or simply try for an upgrade in a hotel or flight. Try to find one that's well cut (this is my favourite Armani); that way, it will hide the cheaper lines of any $50 frocks. 
Navy linen 'boyfriend' shirt-dress. Shirt-dresses are great because they're easy to wear on planes (throw some leggings underneath if you're cold); they're smart for cities (enhance them with lovely chunky necklaces), they're fab for slipping on beside a pool or walking along a beach, and can, if desperate, be used for dinner wear. (Just wear some fancy jewellery – say, a gold cuff and some dangly earrings.)
Two colourful dresses. These are great to wear around the pool / on the beach, but will also suffice for city walks.
Coloured Bensimons. Pretty sandshoes are nicer than flip-flops, and will do double-duty for walking. (Flip-flops are not smart enough for cities.)
A cardigan. I love long ones that can do double-duty as wraps on planes. 
One pair of swimmers and two or three scarves, which can double as sarongs. (You can sneak in a second pair of swimmers, if you want.)

FOR THE CITY VISITS AND/OR FORMAL AFFAIRS (meetings, shows, etc): Wear the more-tailored dresses (with the blazer, if cold) and more formal jewellery and accessories.
FOR THE BEACH: Wear the brighter dresses (which can also cross over to the city; wear a cardi or trench, if cold).
FOR GARDEN VISITS: Wear the flat loafers or Bensimons (you won't need boots, unless it's winter or chilly; in which case pack pants too), with bright dresses and a cardi. Buy a cute hat somewhere to keep the sun off. Take the bright trenchcoat or bright scarves if it's cold.

Here's how it all fits into a small carry-on suitcase, together with toiletries and a travel umbrellas. (Note: You'll be wearing some of the clothes.) I can even squeeze in a tripod and a second handbag / clutch. This bag may be over the luggage limit so you may have to check it in, but it's still an ideal size for travelling.

Lastly, more than 40 people have emailed me to ask how they could help my dear friend Jane Green from Life on Planet Baby. ( Thank you so much. Your cards and notes will no doubt boost her and her family's moral this Christmas. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone. Your new year has certainly started off in the right spirit! Sending you all a hug. xx

Tomorrow or Thursday: Preliminary details of The Grand Tour of Paris and France...

The Art of Travel, Part 1: Conversations

St. Augustine once said: "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I've always loved this quote. Just as I've always loved Ol' Augustine. I thought it was a fitting line to introduce a post tailored especially for the holiday season.

I know many of us have been deeply saddened and heartbroken by the tragedy in Connecticut, so forgive me if this post seems slightly frivolous in a time of collective mourning. I, like thousands of others, have been sad for a few days now, and I just thought it might be nice to look at something besides news stories on semi-automatic weapons for a change. However, if it's not something you'd like to read; if you're still focused on those first graders, I will certainly understand.

Long-time readers of The Library may know that I'm a happy traveller. I'll happily suffer DVT Class for 19 hours if it means a week in New York at the end. I'll happily tolerate a cheap hotel in Paris for a few days if it means I get to stay on the Left Bank a little longer. And I'll happily endure a 2 hour flight, then a 13-hour one, then a 5-hour one, then a 4-hour car ride, if it means seeing the beauty of Connecticut during the annual Trade Secrets Garden Weekend in May. (For those who think Connecticut is simply a news story; it's not; it's one of the most beautiful places in the USA.)

For me, travel is one of life's greatest gifts. It broadens the mind as well as the soul. It shifts perspective and changes attitudes. It introduces a note of humility into life, and perhaps also gratitude. I've been to many, many places in the world, and have been so grateful for every single one of them. Without travel, I think I'd be in a very different place in life. Pun intended.

One of the best things about travel is that it teaches us to see and listen all over again. It forces us to really look at the world, and take note of what people are saying. When we travel, we engage in life, and in conversations that we perhaps wouldn't have if we'd stayed at home. We slow down. We chat. We ask questions about the world, and the people we meet in it. We hear stories – wonderful, memorable stories. We nod, laugh, and sometimes cry. And occasionally – actually more than occasionally – we meet people who enrich our lives. 

In fact, it's the conversations with the people I've met that I remember most about my travels. It is the conversations that have resonated long after I've come home and reconciled the Visa statement.  For some reason, they linger in the memory, like gold dust, adding value to both the journeys and the years. These conversations – and you'll no doubt have them too, on your journeys this Christmas and New Years – don’t always have to be about profound matters of existence either, or full of witty Beatonesque bon mots and piquant Oscar Wilde observations. They can be as simple as a casual chat to  the person beside you in the plane, or the airport, laughing with them about the agonies of long-haul flights. They can be as short as the interlude in a Broadway show, when you find yourself engaging in an impromptu review with the stranger seated next to you. And they can be as spontaneous as starting up a debate with the guy next to you at Balthazar's bar, arguing good-naturedly over the differences between Aussies and American cuisine.

Conversation—real conversation—binds us more than anything else I know. It brings us together, as a society. It is, I believe, the matter upon which happiness is based.

Wherever you travel this Christmas season, slow down and have a bit of a chat.

After all, isn't that what life's meant to be about?

{All images of Paris 'chatters' by me}

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Black Tie Delights: Tuxes, Top Hats & Tails... Say Hello To 2013

This is supposed to be an Advent Calendar post, but as I've been knee-deep in business admin and book stuff for days I've completely lost track of time. So I hope you'll forgive me if I leave the Advent windows to one side for a moment.

I was thinking of next year – as you do this time of year – and I wondered what note The Library could end on? Then I thought of fashion – as one does during this whirlwind party season – and I thought of tuxes and tails. I'll be wearing one on New Year's Eve in Sydney. It seems like the perfect sartorial point to finish up on.

Tomorrow, Friday and the weekend posts will be the last for this year, and as The Library is taking a long break they're very special ones. We're releasing some preliminary details of our Grand Paris Garden Tour, so I hope those who are interested will pop in to see what we have for you. (Do email me if you're keen: I'll add your name to The Interested List, which is growing by the week.)

I'm off to wrap some more books up for Christmas gifts. In the meantime, here's a look at one of the key trends coming our way next year – The Black Tie Delight.  

Tuxes and tails to help end the year in style. Mr YSL, you would be proud. 
{Top image by Bill Ray}


Peter Beaton's beautiful millinery store on Nantucket Island, off Cape Cod – a favourite of Hilary Clinton. 

Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, 1928. {Source unknown}

A piece from Celine's Spring 2013 collection.
Celine and many of the other recent Spring 2013 fashion shows were all about tuxedos and black tie glamour. {Via Harper's Bazaar}

A piece from Lavin's Spring 2013 collection. {Via Harper's}

A piece from Alexander McQueen's Spring 2013 collection. I think this one is meant to keep off the blowflies? {Via Harper's}

A piece from Ralph Lauren's 2013 Spring collection.

More of Ralph Lauren's tux lux, from the company's elegant online magazine.

Dobson's wickedly whimsical 'Tuxedo' stilettoes. {Via}

A tux-inspired wrap dress, by Diane von Furstenberg. Love this.

Bow-tie pasta. Saw this in New York earlier this year. Fell head-over-bowtie in love with it.

The magnificent Miles Redd.

More of Miles Redd. {Source unknown: will find and insert}

An illustration of the well-known stylist Brad Goreski, who works with Kate Spade. Mr Goreski is famous for his bow ties.

A Kate Spade dress from the most recent collection, inspired by Brad Goreski!

Ashley Olsen.

Our Cate.

Dior's 'Tuxedo' nail lacquer.

The  newest hotel in Hollywood – or Beverly Hills – which is called, very wittily, 'Mr C'. The logo? An irreverent bow-tie gentleman. Very Oscars.

The toiletries at The Plaza hotel in New York, which are finished with little bow ties.

Rachel Taylor, from a GQ Australia shoot. Lookin' good Rach!

Brad Pitt. We know he's fallen out of fashion over the Chanel ad, but let's forgive him. He seems like such a nice guy?

And to finish off... some Christmas cheer from Martha Stewart. How's this for a celebratory setting?

See you tomorrow for a special travel post, and then a special Paris on on Friday... xx

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