Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Art of Food Photography (And A Great Christmas Gift Idea)

Have you noticed how it's no longer enough just toss a few ingredients together and call it a meal? Now you need to style it and photograph it too. Just in case, you know, you need it for your blog. Or your next book deal.

Or that cookbook of family recipes you been wanting to collate. (Such a great idea. It's just a pity I can't cook very well. A cookbook of dodgy dishes doesn't seem as appetising.)

Even those of us who aren't avid foodies, such as this writer, are still enthralled by food photography. Well I mean, it's fascinating. The vintage plates and bread boards. The old French linens. (Where do they source them all?) The styling. The beautiful lighting. Even the settings are amazing. It's not surprising that bloggers like Katie Quinn Davies (who took the second photo above and the one immediately below and writes from whatkatieate. blogspot. com) and Béatrice Peltre (top image and chocolate dish below:  latartinegourmande. com) have been given book deals.

So many people I know have started up food photography as a hobby that I've lost count of the number of conversations I've had about macro lenses. (I'm still trying to find the best one for good bokeh.)

One friend, a restaurant reviewer in London, even shoots the meals we have together when he's not reviewing. Apparently many London waiters are becoming annoyed about the sight of Canon lenses poking through the napkins. I'm not surprised. It would scare the life out of me too.

If you're fascinated by food photography, like I am, you may like to take a peek at a post Béatrice Peltre did here, on a workshop she held in France recently. It shows the behind-the-scenes shots of food styling. The images are so evocative you can almost smell the ripeness of the fresh produce. And the accompanying pix of the French countryside are beautiful too.

(If the link doesn't work, here's the site here:

So if you're wondering what to give you mother or grandmother for Christmas this year, why not collate a book of their best recipes, all photographed in beautiful, bokeh-enhanced light? Lots of places will print and collate mini booklets – Officeworks, Harvey Norman – and you could give them to the hard-to-buy-for aunts and cousins too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Unexpected Trend of Blue and Green, Part 2

When I was young, a friend's mother told me that "blue and green should never be seen without another colour in between". I was very scared of this friend's mother. So I adopted her colour philosophy and followed it religiously for 30 years.

Until now.

{Credit for above image is detailed below}

One of the wonderful things about reaching your forties is that you no longer care what people think. Nor do you heed decorating laws that don't make sense.

Look at Miles Redd, whose work is shown above. Do you think he adheres to a strange blue and green rule?

Feeling rebellious, we've started decorating our new house in exuberant shades of blue and green (cobalt, denim, kelly green, moss, even navy).  I still worry that a Colour Policeman is going to knock on our door and give us a ticket for blue-and-green misdemeanours, but apart from that we're over the moon paint can about our Pantone choices.

This is what inspired me. The colours of the gardens we saw in Connecticut on our garden tour of New England earlier this year. And also the colours of the Florida Keys a week later.

Did you hear that Madonna doesn't like hydrangeas? Good thing she's not coming on the Grand Botanica Tour in 2013, isn't it? We'd have to hit her over the head with one to show her how beautiful they are.

We're not the only ones embracing the new blue/green mood. Others are adopting the hues, too. According to House Beautiful's first Annual House Beautiful Color Report in the magazine's September issue, which was based on a survey of more than 4,000 people (including 300 interior designers), lots of people like blue and green. They even like them together.

 {Image above from House Beautiful. Interior design by Marshall Waton. }

In fact, almost a third of respondents selected blue as their favorite hue, while another 21 per cent were just as keen on green. (The rest were distracted by orange and purple; two of the hot new shades for 2013.) "We're seeing a trend toward soothing colors in the home," says House Beautiful Editor in Chief Newell Turner. "Blue and green are cool hues that imbue our living spaces with serenity. We're not surprised that the two most popular colors are restful and reassuring." {Image above from House Beautiful; image below it from Designers Guild}

Here, in tribute to two of my favourite shades, is a small post on the sophistication of this unexpectedly complementary combination.

Blue and green. They should be seen with nothing in between. Don't you agree?

{Image above is my slightly wobbly photo – I blame the wine in the rack of lamb – of Pierre's in the Florida Keys, still one of our favourite restaurants in the US.}

{Via Tricia Guild}

The London garden of designer Tricia Guild, director of Designers Guild. I've always loved this garden. Look at the beautiful cobalt blue fountain.

The chinoiserie-enhanced garden and sunroom of designer Mary McDonald.

The vegetable garden of Michael Devine.

The vegetable garden of Brooke and Steve Giannetti, of the beautiful Velvet & Linen Blog. 

The new collection of jardin-inspired fragrances from Hermès. My favourite is Un Jardin Sur Le Toit– The Garden on the Roof – which was inspired by the real rooftop garden atop Hermès' St-Honore store in Paris. Here's the packaging below. Sublime.

Nantucket in summer, one of my favourite places. Jetblue offer flights from NY for $100. It's worth it. Stay at the Veranda House Hotel. It's not blue and green, but you'll love it anyway.

Via House Beautiful's 'Green' issue. They could have named it the 'Green and Blue Issue'.

Ms Charlotte Moss. Another fan of green and blue.

Can you believe the dapper-ness of this distinguished gentleman? It's from a blog called 8-bit lan. Not sure what it's about, but I like his style.

Spectacular patio. Spectacular. Via Better Homes & Gardens.

Pretty. This would look gorgeous in a beach house. Via House Beautiful February 2012.

Todd and Rachel of Utah loved green and blue so much, they were married in the two colours. Photography by Jacque Lynn. Aren't those bridesmaids dresses pretty? Horizontal stripes aren't slimming, but these are gorgeous.

Kate Spade's dinnerware.

And missing the source of this, but love it anyway. (There's always one!)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cheap Travel Tips: Champagne Travel on a Toast Budget

I have been liaising with a lovely reader who is interested in the inaugural Flowers, Frocks & Horticultural Fantasies Tours. (AKA The Grand Botanical Tour – link here; we're still workshopping the title.) She's been investigating flights. She's rather keen, bless her. I've been helping her with airlines – even though we've not even finalised the itinerary yet. (So it's a little like putting the wheelbarrow before the gardening spade. But that's never stopped this writer from dreaming and scheming and scheduling, nor should it stop anyone else. I'm all for a well-organised tour.)

This lovely reader has been investigating Business Class fares to London. She received a quote from Qantas for A$12,000. (US$12,000) Some seats were even $15,000. Premium Economy was $6,500. That is just CRAZY.

Qantas, what are you THINKING?

{Image of Andree Putman's slick steamer trunk for Poltrona Frau. Which possibly costs more than Qantas' fares.}

As this charming reader and I wept at the horrors of Business Class prices (I'd hate to think what First would cost), I thought I would do a post on affordable travel. I'm sure more of you would love some travel tips. Many of you may even have some of your own to contribute.

Someone has already recommended this gorgeous, newly restored place to me (above) – the St James Hotel in Paris, created on the site of the first ever hot-air balloon airfield in the city and decorated with witty hot air balloon motifs. It's the only chateau hotel in Paris but the interior has a carousel-style lightness and charm to it. It also has a website that opens up like a doll's house. Just beautiful. Just a pity the prices are chateau-ish as well. But at least the public areas are free. (Another tip: If you can't afford the rooms, go for breakfast or lunch instead.)

We travel to New York fairly regularly for work – last year I went three times – and rarely do we pay more than A$1300 for a return fare. (US$1300.) That's Melbourne/Sydney to New York. Non-stop. (Okay, an hour in LA.) For $1300. We often upgrade to Premium Economy seats too, for just $150. London can be just as cheap. One year I flew for $800 return. I know! I even got a seat for that price!

(For non-Australians, this is a good deal. Don't forget we're a 24-hour flight from London. For those who don't know where Australia is, we're down near Antarctica. A geography lesson will be forthcoming.)

This is how our family travels. The Frugalist's Way.

1. Subscribe to Travel Websites.
Then, when specials are advertised (notifications are sent by email), you can jump on them straight away. The best travel sites double as stylish online magazines, most of which post regular articles about new hotels and interesting destinations. And not just those they're affiliated with.

These are the ones I like.

Tablet Hotels
Until recently, Tablet offered great last-minute deals on many of the hotels they represented. I've booked top New York hotels for $200/n through the site. Suites, too. This seems to have slowed / stopped. But it's still a fantastic source for good deals. (Look up their specials page.) Not to mention inspiration, ideas or just travel porn. (Their articles are really witty.)  Oh – and their photos are so luscious, you'll want to book on sight. Tablet, you're such a tease!

Mr and Mrs Smith
Several years ago Mr and Mrs Smith jumped on the Hip Hotels bandwagon; a slicker-than-slick book-and-travel-website business model started by Herbert Ypma. Herbert seems to have fallen by the Avenue Foch somewhere. Mr and Mrs Smith, in contrast, are sprightlier than pilot taking a suck of the oxygen mask. It's sophisticated, informative, intelligent and full of pretty pix (what we want, really). I've not yet used it to book hotels but I've heard of people securing great deals. And the reviews are entertaining in themselves. This was the description for the Saint James – a place "to wear smoking jackets, chic Chanel monochromes and inky Christian Dior silks (monocle/cigarette holder optional). Packing tips: Flying goggles and headscarf – should the hot-air balloons in the grounds decide to head skywards, you’ve come prepared. Alternatively: leopard-print scarves or stilettos and sexy smalls for your grand boudoir". Gotta love an engaging tour guide.

Best Flights
An Australian-based online operator that always offers great deals. One year I flew to London for $800 return. At the moment, they have an outstanding Cathy Pacific offer: ALL flights to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris and Rome, inclusive of taxes, for $1599. That's EVERY DAY from now until March 2013. Pack your bags people! Cathy Pacific is a nice airline, too.

2. Prepay where possible.
I love pre-paying. That way, you don't have the shock of the hotel bill at the end. You can just toss some spare notes down on reception for the mini-bar chocolate and waltz on outta there. But why I really love prepaid deals is because they're always cheaper. I go through In May this year, I paid for 2 nights at the beautiful Gramercy Park Hotel. In prepaying, the room was half price. I could have never afforded to stay there for the rack rate. New York, I miss you.

3. Fly on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. 
I've spoken about this trick before on The Library. Never fly on a Monday morning. It's when the business travellers fly, so they hike up the airfares. Or a Friday night. (When they all fly home again.) Tuesday is a dead day. Fly Tuesdays and you'll often get flights for 50% less.

4. If you're flexible with dates, book city hotels on weekends and country hotels during the week.
City people often leave cities on weekends for a break. Business travellers leave, too. Hotels want bookings on weekends, so they'll lower prices. If I'm going to Paris on a reaaaallly frugal budget, I'll stay in Versailles from Monday to Thursday and commute into Paris on the 30-minute express, then check into a Paris hotel on Friday for the weekend. Strange, I know. But my Versailles hotel is A$90/night or so. Where can you get that in Paris? Then on the weekend, my preferred Paris hotel - Trocadero Dokhan's - is staggeringly cheap. AND there's nobody staying there!

5. Don't be loyal to airlines. 
Do you think they're loyal to you? No. They're worse than a hooker on Sunset Boulevard. They'll swing wherever the business is, baby. So don't choose Qantas simply because it's meant to be a good airline. It's not as good as it was. AND it's expensive. Try other carriers – Cathy, United, Lufthansa. And be wary of some. Singapore is the Rolls Royce of airlines, and charges accordingly. It's not cheap. Virgin is like the Volvo of carriers, but still charges like Rolls Royce. (It's shrugging off its 'Cheap Airline Tag', so watch out prices.) Both Singapore and Virgin have their merits, of course – Singapore's First Class sleeper beds are like nothing on this earth, and Virgin's flight attendants are lovely looking – but don't book them just for their names. Or their pretty faces. Shop around.

More travel tips soon. Cheap travel tips for Business Class travellers too. Oh, I'm giving myself itchy feet just writing about it all!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vogue Living. Just Beautiful.

Isn't this beautiful? It's quite possibly the most beautiful cover of Vogue Living I've ever seen. If the frighteningly big 'Kitchens and Bathrooms' line wasn't there, it could be a magazine masterpiece.

It's the Sydney home of interior designer Cameron Kimber. This house was formerly a shoebox-sized, 1880 cottage tucked down a gritty, inner-city laneway. The original interior, according to Cameron, was "ugly, brown, plastic and hideous". A real 1970's mash-up.

Now look at it. Cameron has reconfigured the rooms and removed the dirty brown decor. Amazing what a switch of living spaces and a crisp, clean black and white palette can do.

Here are some more images, via Vogue Living and my archaic scanner. {Above 3 images via the lovely Bumble At Home blog. See link below}

Love the coco-cola coloured leather on the Louis XVI chairs. So modern. And the gilt frame. I do love a bit of Versailles-style gilt. Especially with black to temper it.

And the mahogany bureau that's been transformed with black lacquer. A huge expense, but look at the difference.

Love gingham and checks. They should have never gone out of interior design fashion. I suspect they're coming back in. (Just hoping out loud there.) On second thoughts, if they're in Cameron's house, they probably ARE back in interior design fashion.

Unfortunately, I can't go into detail on the furniture and changes Cameron has made as I'm a little behind deadline, but do look out for the Vogue Living on your newsstands. It's a beautiful issue this month.

Oh – Some more details of this interior can be found on the delightful Bumble At Home blog - here.

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