Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Monday, June 24, 2013

Paris in Black and White (and Grey)

I'm still chained to my desk, writing a book about Provence and the south of France that's facing a tight deadline, so hope to catch up with all your lovely emails, comments and also a few overdue posts by the end of this week. In the meantime, here's a glimpse at Paris, in all its black and white glamour. 

(I was showing a friend some pix of the recent trip the other day and we noticed that all I seemed to take photos of was fashion and flowers. So apologies to all those who are tired of seeing frocks and floral borders. Will try and resume regular posts soon, including Harbour Island, New York and London.)

Paris in black and white.

The newly restored cafe of the Musée d'Orsay.
(And the famous clock, through which you can see a fantastic view of Paris.)

Vintage Dior gowns at the Haute Couture Exhibition at the Hotel de Ville in the Marais.

(This exhibition was free. Don't you love that?)

More gorgeousness from the Haute Couture exhibition.

A flashback to 1980's Chanel in the window of the Rue Cambon store. 

(Apparently Chanel jewellery from the 1980s is hugely popular again, according to a dealer I met in New York.)

A present for my mother for her birthday.

The Chanel exhibition.

(Which was also free. And not a single person in the queue.)

The beautiful powder room of the Hotel Trocadero Dokhan, where a group of us met for a few bottles of Champagne one evening. 

(I picked up the tab. The price of 200 Euros made my eyes water slightly. But it was a wonderful evening, and the group hadn't let me pay for dinner once during the week. Such lovely people.) 

Ralph Lauren's Left Bank boutique.

Always love to peek in here.

The simple but classically stylish fitting rooms at Ralph Lauren.

Artwork at the Hotel Maurice. 

This quirky grey painting said, simply, 'Versailles'. Not sure if the chairs were part of the installation? 

The foyer of the Hotel Maurice. 

Had afternoon tea here with a friend. I hadn't realised how magnificent it was inside. 

Some of our cute group taking in turns to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower. (I had taken them to a secret place where you can get the perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower, and they'd all lined up in a row to compose it.)

This photo makes me smile every time I look at it. Look how happy they look? No barging in front of each other, no complaining, no whinging that people are in their way. Just patience and pure joy to be on holiday. That's what travel is about.

A quiet corner.

Dinner at a classic restaurant on the Seine.

A quiet street near the Luxembourg Gardens.

A glimpse of an icon.

The gates of the Fashion Museum.

A blink-and-you-miss sighting of my books in the WH Smith on Rue Rivoli.

Valentino. Oh, Valentino.

A great little store on the Left Bank that sells vintage Louis Vuitton and other labels, including old steamer bags and trunks.

Look at the lovely old cash register with the LV on top.

Pure Paris.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Glamorous Gardenalia

A few weeks ago, when I was visiting friends in LA, I smiled in sympathy when one of them confessed that not a week goes by when he doesn't want to ditch his job and go out into the garden instead. (And this friend has a great job – although I suspect he would also make a great garden designer.) Who doesn't dream of taking time off from their responsibilities in order to hide in the garden for a few hours? 

If you're longing to escape the deadlines, pressures, stress and simple problems of everyday life for a few hours of peace, calm and greenery in the garden, here's some horticultural loveliness to tempt you. Not all of us can ditch our day jobs whenever we want, however, so if you're tied to your desk, then I hope that some of this botanical beauty will help make your day blissful.

By the way, when I walked around this friend's LA neighbourhood peeking at everybody's homes, I was astonished to see how many of those who lived in this gated estate also loved gardens. And no matter how famous they are, apparently they all love to get out and wield a spade occasionally, according to my friends. (Or at least tell their gardeners where to wield the spade...) My favourite garden was that belonging to Lauren Graham and Peter Krause, which featured a sublime pink planting scheme. It's inspired me to buy some hot pink Japanese anemones, some lipstick-pink bougainvillea, and a whole lot of gorgeous pink Pierre de Ronsard roses...


The talented Australian illustrator Megan Hess, who shot to fame after Candice Bushnell asked her to design a book cover, has just released her first book, entitled Fashion House.  This gorgeous title was given to me as a gift this week, and I was so touched – and so impressed. It's startlingly different from any other book, and the illos are exquisite. (As you would expect.)

There are dozens of whimsical, beautifully drawn scenes, including 'The Dior Room', 'The Pucci Room', and The Riviera Suite'.

My favourite, though, was the 'Botanical Room'.

Fashion House is published by Hardie Grant. Do look for it. (It also makes a great gift.)


Another fabulous book, which I've been re-reading in preparation for a photo shoot of one of the gardens featured in it, is Private Gardens of the Fashion World

This glamorous coffee-table tome features the private gardens of Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, Anouska Hempel, Hubert de Givenchy and many others. The price keeps rising on Amazon, however, so purchase while you can. 


A friend also gave me the classic DVD, Suddenly, Last Summer, starring Elizabeth Taylor,  recently and I was hooked from the start. Or should that be, from the garden.

It's an 1959 American Southern Gothic mystery based on the play of the same title by Tennessee Williams. It's very dark, quite gruesome really, but the real beauty lies in the incredible house and garden. Oliver Messel did the production design (he also did Gigi), and his fondness for his signature colour green really comes through. He even dressed Miss Liz in it (above). 

Both Katharine Hepburn and Taylor received Academy Award nominations for this film, but the real star, I think, is the Gothic garden. Messel, too, was nominated for two Oscars for his "eerie, imaginative and wild" set. There are some wild stories about what went on behind the scenes of the film, too.

Oliver Messel's drawings for the garden in Suddenly, Last Summer.


US Vogue has also published an ode to gardens recently, with its online story Gardens in Vogue

{Link here } or here –

This list is just beautiful. And kudos to Vogue for devoting so much space to the subject.


Gardening buddies Stuart Rattle and Paul Bangay have decided to open their private gardens to the public in November this year. They only do this once every two years, so if you've always wanted to see Rattle's enchanting Musk Farm (above) or Bangay's Stonefields property (which is being celebrated in his next book), make a note in your diary to be in Woodend on either Saturday November 23 or Sunday November 24. Musk Farm is particularly pretty.


Trust those garden-loving South Australians to think of this. 'The Body In The Garden' is a quirky new literary festival that elegantly combines two diverse genres – crime and garden writing. 

It will be held in the Adelaide Botanic Garden (which incidentally, is one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world) during the weekend of October 25–27. The 'nature' of the festival (sorry, that pun couldn't be helped) is likely to attract a great deal of interest from both the media and audiences. Already confirmed are Swedish crime writer Hakan Nesser, UK garden writer Toby Musgrave, who's a leading authority on garden history, and Australian garden designer and author Paul Bangay.


Okay, now we get to the 'R' rated part of the blog. Did anyone see the film The Kids Are Alright, with Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, on TV the other night?

I've been wanting to see this movie for years, after hearing friends feverishly discuss it. It was surprisingly good. Bening is fantastic in it. But the real attraction was Mark Ruffalo, who, I have to confess, was rather hot... He and Julianne get down and, er, dirty, you see, and not just in the garden... 

Here's another shot of Mr Ruffalo.


Mr Ruffolo isn't the only one with a penchant for hot houses and sexy women. Baz Luhrmann's Jay Gatz also likes a frond embrace. (Sorry.)


In an example of how gardens and fashion meet more often than you'd think, garden designer Patrick Blanc designed a ‘Robe Végétale’ for French couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier for his 2002 fashion show. (I remembered this because I stood behind Mr Gaultier at Monoprix in Paris a few weeks ago. He was very polite. And very tall.) 

Patrick’s design was a wedding dress that tastefully stretched its ivory tendrils around the model’s outlines.

Look at the botanical bustier. Just beautiful.


This image is worthy for two reasons. Firstly, it shows Oscar de la Renta's Connecticut garden, which is one of the loveliest on the US East Coast, and second, it also shows the double avenues of pear trees.

Isn't this a clever garden design? We're going to try it for our back yard, even though it's one-twentieth the size. Possibly one-hundredth.


US Vogue recently did a main story on Miss Katy Perry, in which Katy revealed that one of her favourite things is visiting botanical gardens. I have increased respect for her now.


Just loved this branding, for New York-based stylist Amy Merrick's business.


I read today that Bunny Mellon had all her gardening clothes designed by Balenciaga.

Can you imagine?

This was one of Bunny's floral frocks.

Babe Paley was fond of gardening too...


With the perfect name for this post, this sublimely beautiful B&B in Provence is one made specially for garden lovers. 

Owned by Poppy Salinger, the charming widow of the late Pierre Salinger (the one-time media advisor for JFK), it's hidden away in the depths of the South of France, but worth all the effort it takes to get there. The house is actually a former mill, built over a river, and the gardens are as delightful as the rooms.

I can't wait to go back.


I've been liaising with Elle Decor regarding a few things and then I found this issue in my Reading Pile. 

Look at the cover. Doesn't it make you want to head out into the garden?


Yet another lovely B&B to bookmark for your next trip to France, the Pavilion de Galon is a stunning guesthouse in Provence that's famous for its garden. 

My friend, the American interior designer Gary McBournie stayed there recently with his partner and said it was superbe.


Anybody who attended a girls' school knows all about D H Lawrence's notorious novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. It was the book you read in place of a proper sexual education. (It was all you needed, really.) 

Well, the Australian author Nikki Gemmell (The Bride Stripped Bare) has taken Lawrence's titillating tale and turned it into a modern story, called I Take You. 

It's an interesting twist on the classic tale. Gemmell, you see, has chosen to set her er, 'romance' in one of the beautiful private communal gardens of London; an exclusive and verdant space that seemed to be perfect for an illicit affair. Her gardener is the keeper of the garden: her Lady Chartterley is one of the manicured wives who lives in the grand houses that overlooks the greenery. Mix in some compost and you have all the ingredients for a lush liaison.

Apparently, it's set to be the next hot novel.
I'm going to a talk by Nikki Gemmell in Sydney at the end of this month. I'll let you know what she has to say about her Chatterley obsession.

{By the way, I've made changes to the Comments Section as I was getting hundreds of spam emails a day, so if you find it difficult to comment, I apologise profusely. It's my fault as I don't quite know how to configure Blogger. But I do hope you like the posts anyway.}

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