Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

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.)


  1. Oodles of inspiration here! I watched the Downton Abbey Christmas special on Christmas will love it! xx

  2. With another birthday on the near horizon, I think I'm on the cusp of the Advanced Glamour category. And I think I'll be able to validate that by some news on The Hedge soon!
    Millie xx

  3. Thanks Jeanne and Millie. I've just discovered that I'm blogging the wrong way - and that apparently I need to leave return comments on your blogs, not mine! I'm so sorry. This digital media thing is SO different to the print magazine world that I'm used to working in. I have been leaving comments on my favourite blogs, but have cut back for fear of seeming like a stalker! However, I shall now bear the Return Comment Rule in mind from now on.
    Jeanne - did Mr Bates get together with Anna? Oh God, I can't wait to see the second series.
    And Millie - you will ALWAYS be glamorous to us, whether you're 25 or 45. Look forward to hearing your Hedge news. Janelle

  4. Oh Janelle thanks for the laugh! These silly Bloggie 'rules' are meant to be broken, & anyhoo who wrote them & where are they etched in stone? I think it's refreshing to get a newcomer's take on the whole start-up process. A post on your thoughts on the matter would be grand & very helpful to both newbies & not-so-newbies!
    Millie xx


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