Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thinking Pink: Hotels & Homes in the Season's Hottest Hue

Did you see the sartorial fuss made over Simone Rocha's latest fashion show? 

Simone, who is the talented daughter of design legend John Rocha, released a collection that ranged from Pepto-pink princess coats to classic black LBDs with a twist. It was pastels, but not as we know it. Just look at the tea coat above. It could be Jackie O all over again.

 The website Refinery 29 loved it, saying: "We’re tickled pink for her." 
(Pun intended.)

Pink, it seems, is the season's hottest hue, at least here in Australia where we're heading into spring. As a fashion editor friend said: "Blush is fast emerging as the colour of summer."

If you're a fan of rose shades, here are some lovely places to find them.

The Fielding Hotel, Covent Garden. 

A great little cheapie loved by Australians.


Garden designer Arne Maynard's country retreat in Wales, Allt-y-Bela. 

Arne is loved by many notable Londoners, including Tricia Guild of Designer's Guild, for whom he designed a sublime townhouse garden. 
He also won Gold at Chelsea for the Laurent-Perrier Garden.

You can stay at his country property. I've booked in for October. Can't wait.


More from Arne Maynard's beautiful blush-pink country home, Allt-y-Bela. 

Another beautiful place to book for your next getaway. 

This carriage house is in downtown Manhattan, and is available to rent through One Fine Stay.
Just love that mezzanine.


The newly redecorated Beverly Hills Hotel in LA. 

The hotel's famous signature pink (a dominant part of its brand) has been given a lift so it comes across as being less saccharine sweet and more Modern Glamour. 
Still a gorgeous place for lunch, even after all these years. 
(NB It's great if you have a long stopover in LA en route to NY and don't know what to do.)

Las Alamandas in Mexico. 
Another stylish hideaway with a surprising colour palette.
Owned by Isabel Goldsmith, the daughter of the late British financier Sir James Goldsmith. 

More from Las Alamandas.

An ode to rose, Charleston in South Carolina is one of the pinkest cities in the US. 

We're heading there in 2 weeks, and looking forward to seeing the South's famous grace, style and charm. We were going to stay in this hotel, above, but changed our mind for various reasons, and are now staying in the brand new Zero George Street, which has rave reviews. But is far less colourful.

More from Charleston's pink-toned boulevards.

Cabbages and Roses' store in Chelsea, London.

Not sure of credit, but will locate. Just love this.

New book. Looks good.

Gucci. Fabulous.

An oldie, but a goodie.

Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior.

And lastly, wonderful news for Schiaparelli (perhaps the most famous pink name of all), with Christian Lacroix taking the helm of this great French design house.

The famous salon in Paris has also had a revamp (above)

Elsa Schiaparelli would be pleased.

Funny and Curious Things about the World of Books

LITTLE GIRL: "I love books. I’ve written a book."
BOOKSHOP OWNER: "Have you? What’s it about?"
LITTLE GIRL: "I don’t know. It’s in my head. I haven’t read it yet."

Every year there's a new survey by some company or another about what people dream of most. And every year, sitting longingly at the top is: Write A Book. (But not in upper case.)  

I think everyone should write a book, and not just because everybody has a great story in them. 

I think people should attempt it because it would make the dreamers (and the critics) realise it's easier said than done...

But that's no reason not to begin.
(*Bad grammer here; don't follow my example.)

But if being an author is sometimes a struggle (the long hours, poor pay, the damage to the health, the social life and the bank account), then being a bookshop owner must be even worse. 

Sure, you're surrounded by lovely titles all day long ("I think I'll read Cecil Beaton today...") but then there are the customers... 

The strange and startling questions of the curious breed known as bookshop browsers have been chronicled in the wildly successful bestseller Weird Things People Say in Bookshops, a diary (of sorts) by London bookshop manager Jen Campbell. It's very, very funny. Seven reprints. And now a sequel.

Here, inspired by Ms Jen Campbell, and a new project that I'm working madly on  adding to The Production Pile, is some literary lightness to end the week...

(All books from our house; photographed in poor light late at night with a bad camera)


CUSTOMER: "Do you have this children's book I've heard about? It's supposed to be very good. It's called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.”

CUSTOMER: "I read a book in the sixties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?"

CUSTOMER: "Do you believe in past lives?"
BOOKSELLER: "Erm, well, I ..."
CUSTOMER: "I do. I absolutely do. I feel very at one with everything. I’m pretty sure this is my seventh time on earth."
CUSTOMER (looking pleased with herself): "And I’m almost certain that in a past life I was Sherlock Holmes."
BOOKSELLER: "You know, Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character."
CUSTOMER (outraged): "Are you trying to tell me that I don’t exist?"

CUSTOMER: "Do you have this book (holds up a biography) but without the photographs?"
BOOKSELLER: "I think the photographs are published alongside the text in every edition."
BOOKSELLER: "I suppose so you can see what everyone looked like."
CUSTOMER: "I don’t like photographs. Could you cut them out for me?"

The tumblr site is almost as funny –

And here are some more curious questions that author Roddy Doyle (Booker Prize winner) was once asked at a literary event:

"Is Roddy Doyle your real name?"
"Does your wife love you?"
"The internet says you have two children, yet you claim to have three?"
"How can you write accurately about the Dublin working class when you actually live in Los Angeles?"

Author and comedian Dave Barry once gave a talk in a bookstore. 
"Hey – is that you?" asked a customer, pointing to a poster of Dave Barry that publicised the event. "Yes," said Dave Barry. 
"Good, great," said the customer. "Could you tell me where's the men's room is?"

If you want to know about publishing illustrated books (cookbooks, design books, travel books), there's a great interview with Lantern's Julie Gibbs [here].

Or here –

The New York Times' take on books is [here].
'Books As A Way To Grace A Room'

Or here –

How a private library is built (an amazing blog post): [here]

Or here:

And finally... this beautiful letter.

In February of 1820, on learning that his good friend Lady Georgiana Morpeth was suffering from a bout of depression, the author and essayist Sydney Smith sent her the following letter, in which he listed twenty pieces of advice to help her overcome life's low points.

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Read amusing books.
4th. Be as busy as you can.
5th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
6th. Don't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
7th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
8th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
9th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
10th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
11th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
12th. And keep good blazing fires.

Yours sincerely,

(I like No 1 and No 3 the best.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Great Stories, New Horizons and Horticultural Delights

Heartfelt apologies – I've been busy expediting books and other urgent work projects that were put on hold when the Garden Tour took over life for 5 months. I'm also heading back overseas in a few weeks for more work projects so both office and home are choked under piles at the moment. 

But I thought I'd post a few whimsical snippets to entertain, inspire, entice and delight... 

Firstly, a sincere thank you to all those who went on the 2013 Tours of Paris and England, and particularly to those who sent lovely thank-you notes. More than three-quarters of the tour sent gracious emails, and one even sent a $1000 tip, which was deeply touching, and more than made up for all the hard work and pain that went into the tours. 

I'll try and post some highlights soon but Faux Fuchsia and Janet at The Gardener's Cottage both did extensive posts on their blogs, so pop over to their archives, as their photos are beautiful.

To all those who have emailed to enquire about future tours, I probably won't have time to do any more but one of the women on the England Garden Tour is organising a Grand Gardenalia Tour for 2014 (with some logistical help from me). 

She's lovely – one of the nicest women in the group – so you'll adore travelling with her. If you're interested, just email me. I'll be very happy to pass your details on. 

The RHS is also starting a new programme of garden tours in conjunction with Wendy Wu and Collette Worldwide Tours. Their itineraries don't include many private gardens but their prices are very reasonable. []

Love staying in hotels and guesthouses with glorious gardens? So do I. If you're travelling to Italy, try to book one of the guest cottages at La Foce, one of the most famous gardens in the world. Created in the Renaissance style garden by Cecil Pinsent for writer Iris Origo, La Foce is so remarkable that Monty Don included it in his Italian Gardens tour.  A new friend is about to head off there with her husband and has promised some photos for our soon-to-be-published magazine. (I'll be shooting for this while I'm away: we hope to publish by Nov)  []

And if you're heading to the South of France, another fabulous garden guesthouse to try is the Pavilion de Galon in Provence. Created out of a former hunting lodge by a photographer and stylist/designer, it's an incredible achievement. No wonder it's popular with architects and gardeners. []

Australian landscape designer Paul Bangay is also following in the 'horticultural hotel' path with his new garden-enhanced B&B at his country home in Victorian. It opens in October 2013, and a free garden tour of his famous Stonefields garden is included in the stay. See his pix on Instagram at  @paulbangay.

Another hotel/guesthouse that I loved staying at in the South of France was Bastide Rose. [] Owned by Poppy Salinger, the widow of JFK's media advisor Pierre Salinger, it's a charming hideaway created from an old mill and is set in a stunning landscape. [Will do a post on this soon. I can't publish many pix of Provence as my contract doesn't allow it until the Provence book is published in December.]

It's strange to think that this November will mark the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. I heard a startling story about what happened the week before he died, and who really did it (from someone who would know), but I can't betray confidences and it doesn't really matter anymore anyway. What IS intriguing is that Jack's 'code name' when sending top-secret information was 'Lancer', presumably for Lancelot. It makes you wonder what Jackie's code name was?

Speaking of mysteries, the new film Salinger, about the life of writer  J D Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, is out on September 6, and it promises to be an eye-opener. Salinger published Catcher in the 1950s but then disappeared at the height of his fame. Why? What were the secrets he was trying to hide? [Trailer here: Salinger]

I wish I knew, but the film promises to shed some light on the literary mystery. A few years ago I was staying with a new friend in Boston, a journalist who had joined a hosting agency much like Air BnB. While there, she told me a great story about Salinger, which I've never forgotten. She said her elderly mother had befriended a women (at their Bridge Club, I think?), and had started visiting this woman's house for afternoon tea. The journalist's mother visited her new Bridge friend every week for more than  10 years. One day, the journalist's mother came home and said: "You know my Bridge friend that I go and visit every week? Well I've met her partner a few times now. He's reclusive; he always works in his garden shed, but he comes inside for a cup of tea every now and then. He's a writer too, like you. I wondered if you know who he is?" My journalist friend said (rather absent-mindedly): "Maybe. What's his name?" To which the mother replied (equally absent-mindedly): "Salinger. J. D. Salinger."

 Isn't that just the best story? 

Those who love books and gardens (such as Mr Salinger) will be pleased to know that literary gardens are becoming hugely fashionable in horticultural circles. Literary influences in gardens were everywhere at Hampton this year. Jenna Stuart's atmospheric 'Witches of Macbeth' garden (above) featured medicinal and poisonous plants while Sophie Walker’s vibrant 'Valley Garden' paid homage to literature with a garden inspired by Jean Rhys’s classic rewriting of Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea. (Such a great book.) 

Furthermore, the UK’s first ever Festival of Garden Literature was held at landscape designer and Chelsea winner Tom Stuart-Smith's Barn Garden on June 29 and 30. Speakers explored themes that included gardens in biography and autobiography, and how Eden and Arcadia continue to haunt our imagination. Adam Nicolson (Vita's grandson), Sarah Raven and Louisa Young were highlights. 

Next year's festival is already being planned for June 2014, so if you love garden books, mark your diaries.

Speaking of gin, gardens and other good stuff, the Queen Mother also loved the intersection of gardens and scintillating wit:. She had her gardener create a 'Salon Vert' at Clarence House, which was an outdoor green room in which her guests could sit, indulge in a lovely luncheon and a G&T or three, and catch up on royal gossip. 

There is no truth in the story that towards she end of the meal she would order the chairs to be moved close to the wall separating the garden from the Mall, so that they could all eavesdrop on the conversations of the passers-by on the other side. 

No truth to that at all.

Gardening books make gorgeous gifts – if you can relinquish them. Vita, by Victoria Glendinning, is still one of the best biographies about Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinary gardener, writer, designer and custodian of Sissinghurst Castle. The book was so popular when it was published, it was reprinted 21 times in 12 months. 

I've been trying to get through a wonderful set of Getrude Jekyll gardening books that my partner's sister gave me as a lovely gift this year. Gertrude Jekyll was part of the Arts & Crafts movement and together with Sir Edwin Lutyens created hundreds of architectural garden in England and abroad. 

The hallmarks of the Jekyll/Lutyens Arts and Crafts gardens were overflowing borders and wild areas held in balance by strict structural lines created from hedging, paving and other structures. Still love an Arts and Crafts garden.

Another wonderful Jeyll book is Gertrude Jekyll: Her Art Restored at Upton Grey. It's the story of a restoration of one of Jekyll's gardens at Manor House in England by Ros Wallinger and her financier husband John. 

Ros Wallinger had never gardened before, but that didn't dampen her enthusiasm. She flew around the world to research and source the plants that Jekyll would have had in the original garden. (After 8 years of hunting, Ros found one tea rose in Umbria: a great lady rosarian told her that it was surviving there in an Italian professor’s garden.) When the Financial Times asked Ros if she thought she'd get on with Miss Jekyll, she said: "I admire her, but she would find me spiky." 

Yes, sometimes even gardeners don't get along.

Kit Kemp, meanwhile, is working madly on her next Firmdale venture: Ham Yard. It's a three-quarter-acre site behind Piccadilly in London that's been vacant for 40 years. Kit plans to create an enormous hotel there, set to open next spring (May). 

She's planning a red, white and black palette, in homage to Sixties artist Terry Frost.

After the enormous success of her first book, a memoir about the fashion industry, former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements is now rapidly working on the sequel. 

Entitled Tongue in Chic, it's being rushed out in time for Christmas. Rumours are that it will dish the sartorial dirt on the fashion industry. (Mixed metaphor there, sorry.)

And lastly, here's one of the loveliest stories I've heard all year. 

Last year, I befriended a girl at a business breakfast. We met again when she invited me to Hanging Rock. Her friend was coming out from Indonesia to see the famous landscape, and they kindly invited me along. Her friend was a spiritual man – a shaman – who, I have to say, was the most well-dressed shaman I've ever met. (Although I've only met one shaman.) 

 In May, when I was away overseas, she emailed to me to tell me some surprising news: she'd just returned from her honeymoon! She and the spiritual man, Vas, had married – in Indonesia. 

The ceremony had involved – wait for this – 2000 guests, 500 or so gatecrashers, 50 tents, 6 priests, 16 Western friends and family, 5 cows, several goats and sheep, and a huge reception all night party in the heart of Vas' home village. 

It was, she says, crazy and sometimes overwhelming, but it was also the most wonderful wedding she could have asked for.

Isn't that a great love story?

Sending a huge hug to Melati and Vas for their new life together...

Have a lovely week!

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