Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013: Best Books, Bistros, Hotels, Hideaways and Other Finds of 2013


As the year winds to a close, here are some of my favourite discoveries of 2013. 
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and safe New Year.
Looking forward to touching base again in 2014 with more inspiration, insights and a few exciting projects too.

J xx


F Scott Fitzgerald's former villa on the French Riviera, which is now a glorious hotel called the Belle Rives. The leopard-print and geranium-red bar was perhaps the most beautiful space of all. Zelda would have loved it.


The Tailor's Girl, by Fiona McIntosh 
A wonderful read about fashion, tailoring and London's Savile Row.

Garden People: The Photographs of Valerie Finnis, by Ursula Buchan 
A photographic record of fashionable gardeners, from Vita Sackville-West to Nancy Lancaster.

The Flower of Empiree: An Amazonian Water Lily, The Quest to Make it Bloom, and the World it Created, by Tatiana Holway
A fascinating read about horticulture in Victorian times, which swings from adventurers in the tropics to the famed gardens of Kew, the 35,000-acre Chatsworth estate and the Crystal Palace, the enormous glass house built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Virginia Woolf's Garden, by Caroline Zoob
A beautiful and unexpectedly moving biography of Virginia and Leonard Woolf's life at Monk House, filled with glorious photographs of their garden and exquisitely embroidered garden plans of each part of the estate. Written by the former tenant of Monk House, Caroline Zoob, who cared for Virginia's garden for more than a decade. 

Dior Impressions 
A companion to the recent exhibition held at Christian Dior's house and garden, which juxtaposes fashion and flowers in a truly captivating way.

CZ Guest: American Style Icon
A lovely look at the world's most glamorous gardener.


Fashion House, by Megan Hess
Kit Kemp: A Living Space
Encyclopaedia of Roses
Collette Dinnigan: Obsessive Creative


Kate Spade's new book, Things We Love, an illustrated guide to the colourful quirkiness of New York's most playful fashion brand.


The Strand New York

The Strand is full of bookish surprises, particularly the top floor, where you can find rare (and valuable) vintage fashion and architecture titles at low prices. It's where many New York stylists and merchandisers source the books that provide the backdrops to stores like Kate Spade and J. Crew.  In 2013, The Strand extended its reach when it opened an outpost in the newly renovated Club Monaco store in the Flatiron District; offering more covetable first editions and sublime hard-to-find titles.

Potterton Books in London's Chelsea and Rizzoli in New York are also great places to find beautiful and unusual books for your library.


The walk around the spectacular peninsula of Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera, which begins at David Niven's pink villa (above), which Dodi supposedly bought as a hideaway from Diana, and continues onto the charming village of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and its pretty beach Plage de Paloma, then onto the glamorous Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, before heading around the cape to Somerset Maugham's former home Villa Mauresque and finally to the staggeringly fabulous house and gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. (More images below.)

No wonder it's regarded as one of the most beautiful walks in the world.


The Royal Riviera, Cap Ferrat

Where the service is so kind that you won't be able to believe a hotel could be so thoughtful.


Charleston, South Carolina

No wonder there's a media buzz about it.


The Charles de Gaulle rose.

It's not only the perfect colour of mauve-pink, its scent is also intoxicating.


The French fashion house of Dior is to fund the restoration of Marie Antoinette's rustic hideaway at Versailles. 
Such wonderful news Dior.
If only more French fashion houses took such initiatives.



Harbour Island, a tiny speck of style hidden away on the edge of the Bahamas.


Salon Pompadour at the Restaurant 1728, Paris.


My latest book Provence and the Cote d'Azur has already sold out in many bookstores in Melbourne, just two weeks after its release. (Avenue Bookstore has just ordered 30 more copies, if you'd like one. They're lovely for a gift, or a perfect if you're thinking of heading to Provence this year.) 

Thank you so much to all of you who have bought it. I'm astounded and grateful. 
(And for those who have emailed me regarding US pub dates, I believe it's being released in 2014.)




Everyone seems to be doing it. Some people are even going on watercolour holidays. (Wouldn't it be wonderful to do one on the French Riviera?) 

Some of the best are by Paris Breakfast's blog (above).

Even Sibella Court's doing watercolours (above) in her usual stylish way. 

(PS Congrats on your new baby Sibella.)


HRH The Prince of Wales' and the Duchess of Cornwall's garden at Highgrove.

(And the Garden Tour people were wonderful too.)


Estate cartography and hand-made watercolour garden plans, such as these by Catherine O'Neill.

Just beautiful.


Tricia Guild's Tuscany estate.

If only.


New Orleans.

(If you've been watching American Horror Story with Jessica Lange, Angela Basset and Kathy Bates, the NoLa backdrop has been an added bonus.)


Sara Ruffin Costello, who moved from New York to New Orleans and then watched her career explode.

This is an example of her interior design work (above), but you can see more of her in the February 2014 issue of House Beautiful, where she appears as the Pop-Up Guest Editor.


The Washington School House Hotel.


Aubaine in Mayfair.

So pretty that the food is almost an after-thought.


Banke Hotel, Paris


In wrapping up the writing of the Picnic at Hanging Rock book (or the backstory behind the haunting story), we were touring Joan Lindsay's home, Mulberry Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula.

After the property manager and I had closed all the windows and blinds and locked all the doors, I paused in front of the house to take a quick photo on my iPhone. It was only when I arrived home and flicked through them that I noticed a pale face in the top window (above).

The mystery of Joan Lindsay and Picnic at Hanging Rock just deepens and deepens...


Gourmet Traveller January 2014 issue

Thank you GT for the lovely 6-page spread on my Provence book. And for being so lovely to deal with.


Can't wait to see this fabulous new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Wes Anderson film that everyone's talking about. (And seemingly everyone is in!)

Wishing you all a wonderful break this Christmas and New Year holiday.
Thank you all for your kind words this year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vale Stuart Rattle

I was very sad to hear about the death of one of Australia's leading interior designers Stuart Rattle in a tragic fire. He was one of Melbourne's true gentlemen, and my favourite interviewee of all time.

Stuart, you will be greatly missed.

[Photo of Stuart's house 'Musk Farm' by me. 
Photo of Stuart by Eamon Gallagher]

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How To Get A Book Deal

Recently I helped a new friend make contact with a publisher with the aim of gently 'pushing' her towards a book deal. I suspect I was overly enthusiastic ("THIS WOMAN HAS A GREAT BOOK IN HER!' was the effusive opening line to my publisher), but she'd lived an incredible life. She'd been CEO of Condé Nast magazines in both Australia and Russia for decades, then head of YSL in Paris, then helped start Monocle magazine in London with Tyler Brule. (I wanted her to write her memoir just so I could read about working with Yves.)

But even those of us who haven't lived such extraordinary lives can still secure publishing contracts. Amanda Brooks from recently announced she'd signed a second book deal after working hard on a concept and then flying to New York for a week to find/meet with publishers. Roseline Lohr of This is Glamorous is working on her first book. And Anna Spiro of Absolutely Beautiful Things has just put the final touches on her much-awaited new publication. 

The book market may be gasping for air at the moment, after being squeezed tight by various factors (slow sales/few bookshops/Amazon et al), but good books will always sell. 

If you're considering writing your first book, here are a few little tips to get you started.

[All images, bare the two Kate Spade pages, are 'roughs' and design inspiration from and for my new New York book, which is currently in production.]

1. Have a really great idea. This may seem obvious but it's more important than people think.  Spend a lot of time researching the market to ensure your idea hasn't been done before. If it has been done before, then ensure your book will have enough of a point of difference to be distinctive in the over-crowded publishing market.

Try and be as creative as possible in your idea. Think of unusual titles, unique content (see below) and even quirky marketing strategies to help it gain traction when it comes time to do publicity.

Some authors believe that books stop when they write 'END'. But if you can show you understand the entire industry, rather than just your small part of it, you'll appear to be more of a professional than just someone who wants his/her name on a cover.

2. Once you've researched the market, prepare a comprehensive proposal for your intended publishers. 

Include your bio, your career/writing experience and whether you have a platform (whether you've published / had success before, or whether you have a following in any field or genre), your analysis of the intended readership and why they'd buy your book, even ideas for format and price. (Although this will be the publisher's decision, your ideas will help them visualise it.)

Also include any competitors. This may seem strange but it will show you have researched the market and know what's out there. Explain why your book stands apart from these competitors (if they exist), and why it will sell.

In essence, try and pinpoint what makes your book so covetable that readers will buy it. Is the subject matter 'fashionable' at the moment? (I know this seems superficial but, like fashion, publishing has its trends.) Is it a perennially popular topic? Essentially what publishers want to hear is that your book is highly commercial and/or financially viable.* (*Throw those words around a lot.)

3. Tell a great story. All good books are based on a good story or 'hook', even illustrated art and design books. What's your book about? Distill it down to a succinct and riveting 50-word synopsis (think of what you'd like to see on the back cover), and you'll have the essence of it right there. Refine that synopsis and put it right at the start of your proposal. IN BIG BOLD FONT. Publishers are busy. They don't have time to read. (Haven't you heard the joke that nobody working in the publishing industry actually reads anything?) If they like the synopsis, they'll keep reading. (Well... a few lines anyway.)

4. Provide visuals. This is key. We now live in the Instagram age, where people prefer pictures images over words. If you can SHOW what your book's about, you'll have more chance of getting an editor's interest. (See point 5 below for how to do this.)

5. Submit a proper mock-up, if you can. I usually spend a week or more compiling a comprehensive dummy on InDesign, complete with high-res pix, complete chapters (I usually write at least 5 chapters), a full contents list, and even ideas for end papers and covers. 

(If you don't have InDesign, consider buying this professional publishing program, as it will really help you to 'see' your book and plan it out before you pitch it. If you happen to know a teacher or a student, ask them to purchase an academic version, which is much cheaper. If you don't want to spend a few hundred dollars, consider asking a graphic designer to create a mock-up for you.)

6. Think about the content. Write a full Contents List to include with your proposal, including any headers. Fashion designer Collette Dinnigan's latest book had the loveliest chapter headers, such as 'Know Your DNA'; 'How The Magic Happens'; 'The Journey of a Dress', and 'How To Stage A Show In Paris'. Whoever came up with those needs to be commended: they were enthralling.

7. Tell the publisher who the target market is, and why they'd buy the book. I know I'm repeating this, but it's imperative – for you as well as the publisher. You need to know who you're writing before you even begin writing. And the publisher needs to know who they're selling to. 

7. Treat your book as a job. Tell the publisher when you could most likely complete it – and then try to stick to this deadline after you've signed the contract. Even if you have pressing issues; even if your life is falling apart and your health is such that you're in no position to be under such stress, STILL FINISH THE BOOK ON TIME – OR NEAR TO IT. Publishers have deadlines too – they need to meet printers' schedules and publishing dates – and the slightest delay can hurt the book's release.

8. Always try and be nice. I know this is tough sometimes, especially when the advance figure isn't what you thought, the design isn't quite what you expected, the proof-reader's somehow missed a lot of serious typos and grammatical errors, or the publisher hasn't put your name anywhere on the page proofs – particularly on the title page and cover where it's clearly meant to go. (Uh-hem; I'm not saying any of this has happened to me.) There are times when you can get cross but it's usually when you have a few bestsellers under your belt and you have the experience to argue. Until then, it's best to try and be tactful. And grateful.

9. Work hard at publicity. I'm terrible at this. TERRIBLE. I hate publicity because I believe a book should speak for itself and an author should remain behind the scenes. Fortunately, I've had strong sales without having to do too much of a publicity dance,  but newbie authors do need to get out there and get their names known.

10. And when all is said and done, be proud of your achievements. After 20 books, I'm still quietly thrilled when I see one of my titles at Rizzoli bookstore in New York, or even – as I did yesterday – on the front page of The Australian newspaper, our national broadsheet. Writing a book is hard work, but in the end, the rewards far outweigh the pain.

Good luck! I wish you all the best in your publishing endeavours! And please email me if you have any questions. I'll happily try and answer them.

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