Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New York Secrets: Part 1 – Design Finds

New York is full of great places that are hidden in plain sight. You can walk past them and never know they're there. 

Here are a few travel treasures for your next trip.

CITY CLUB HOTEL There’s nothing else like the suites of the City Club Hotel, anywhere in New York. Carved out of a former ballroom, the hotel’s three duplexes have their own libraries, but the ornate, double-height ceilings and Palladian windows are the real reason most design lovers check in here. That and the fab location near Bryant Park. 55 West 44th Street.

HIGH LINE HOTEL This little-known hotel is a serene retreat in the Meatpacking District created from the cloistered shell of a seminary by the clever boys who did the super-hip Ace Hotel. The design has a Ralph Lauren look, only more austere and surprisingly pleasing. 180 10th Avenue.

HENDERSON PLACE Henderson Place is a pretty, well-preserved enclave of Victorian-era New York presented in a teeny cul-de-sac. It's particularly great for architecture lovers. I have architect friends in New York who love off-the-beaten-track treasures and even they don't know of its existence. (Until now.) Off 86th Street, near East End Avenue. There's also another architectural secret in the Upper West Side called Pomander Walk. This enclave of English-style homes so different from the rest of New York that it looks like it’s been lifted from a movie-set of a cute hamlet in the Cotswolds —leading some locals to dub it ‘the Downton [Abbey] of uptown’. Near West 95th Street.

ANTIQUES GARAGE If you love searching for treasures among the trash, West 25th Street is the place to go. There are several flea and antique places in this area, and this is one of the most popular. It features two floors full of stalls selling eclectic antiques and vintage pieces, including fashion and decorative arts. Some of the stalls to watch out for include Bryce Thomas Antiques (Limoges and more), George’s Collectibles (steamer trunks and other antiques), Kristine (antique, mid-century and modern design), Marlow’s Treasure Chest (vintage signs), and Noel’s Art and Antiques (paper ephemera such as photos, maps, documents and so on). Open only on the weekend (but check!). 112 West 25th Street.

THE TOP-FLOOR VINTAGE DEPARTMENT OF THE STRAND BOOKSTORE The iconic Strand bookstore is where you’re liable to find all kinds of literary treasures— including great fashion and design books. The ground and first floors are dazzling departments; the kinds of places where you promise yourself you won’t buy anything but then find yourself, two hours later, wondering if you need to get a taxi home. However, it’s when you reach the top floor that real desire sets in. There are thousands of vintage books here, including highly covetable fashion tomes that sell for a fortune on Amazon. There are $1 stalls outside too—book-buying bliss. 828 Broadway.

ARGOSY BOOK STORE Argosy offers some of the best vintage books in the city, stocked in a dignified old bookstore that looks like a rich uncle’s library, complete with Kelly green walls and a charming mezzanine. 116 East 59th Street.

ANYA HINDMARCH The British handbag designer has just opened her new New York store, and it’s as stylish as her designs, with smart mahogany chests and armoires full of leather loveliness. There’s also a bespoke tailor in-store, to help you design your perfect weekender. 795 Madison Avenue.

GRAMERCY PARK I discovered the Gramercy Park neighbourhood late in my New York education. I stumbled upon it when I checked into the legendary Gramercy Park Hotel, which was offering a special on their rooms (I could not have afforded it otherwise). What a fortuitous move. This neighbourhood is alive with history and the spirits of New York legends. The Astors, Morgans, Rockefellers and Roosevelts all lived here, and their strikingly elegant townhouses are still part of the neighbourhood’s unique appeal. The Gramercy Park neighbourhood was actually one of the country’s earliest examples of city planning. Created in the 1830s as a display of stately townhouses centred around a spectacular garden (Gramercy Park), it attracted a roll call of stellar residents, from Oscar Wilde to John Barrymore, James Cagney, John Steinbeck, Thomas Edison and the aforementioned dynasties. In recent times, it has lured Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder, Jimmy Fallon, Rufus Wainwright, Karl Lagerfeld and Jennifer Aniston. For a while, Katie Holmes lived around the corner.
While you can’t enter Gramercy Park unless you’re a resident of the apartments around it or a guest of the Gramercy Park Hotel, you can wander the streets of this dignified, distinguished area, which offers some of New York’s most impressive architecture. Don’t miss Stanford White’s The Player’s Club (16 Gramercy Park South,, the National Arts Club—the former home of Governor Samuel Tilden (15 Gramercy Park South,, and 36 Gramercy Park East, a neo-Gothic fantasy of terracotta where gargoyles stand guard high over the greenery.
If you do stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel, ask the doorman or concierge for the key to the park. The serene, tree-lined oasis is the perfect place to find peace and quiet, read the paper or reflect on the neighbourhood’s rich history. Between East 20th and East 21st, and Irving Place and Lexington Avenue.

Finding the Strength To Create (Or Change) a Career

I had an email conversation with my lovely publisher today. (She's one of these amazing working mothers for whom I have unending respect and admiration.)

We were discussing publishing strategies, some of which involved me going to SF and NY in October for deal-broking meetings. Now, I love New York. ADORE it. But I don't have my publisher's flair, her patience, her dignity and strength, or indeed her publishing expertise. And the people I'm meeting are creatives I've admired for many years. Suddenly, I'm nervous. For the first time, New York seems rather scary.

Do you ever find yourself bound by self-doubt, especially in your career? Watching single-mother-of-four Rochelle on The X-Factor tonight, belting that song out like Miss Aretha Franklin herself, and then seeing her crumble into tears at the end, well, that made me cry too. (I hope she wins the show. I suspect she's gonna sing the pants off her songs.) 

We all suffer self-doubt, and not just because there are spiteful critics waiting in the wings to trip us up as we walk – as a success or a failure – off the stage. My partner works as a policy advisor in government, with a PT job assisting a small political party. He never shows his nerves. Politicians rarely do. I admire him for that. But for most of us, our career paths can often involve some fancy foot-stepping, a quickening heart-rate as the adrenalin kicks in, and a bad poker face to hide the bluff. I used to walk into business meetings with a week's preparation up my sleeve, but still found myself forgetting their names. So simple, and so important, too.

The thing is, it's good to be shown the humility door now and then, (or even just the "try harder door") because it makes you a better person: stronger, more tenacious and perhaps more patient and compassionate too. Dignity and wisdom come with experience. As Jerry Seinfeld said when asked what his best advice was: "Keep your head down in success, and your head up when the going gets tough."

So why are we having this conversation? Because lots of people I know are trying to change careers, or lives, and finding themselves bound by self-doubt. At least six people I know want to write a book. Another two want to start a business. A couple want to move overseas for work.  But the fear is near. The ambitions seem too, well... ambitious.

I'll tell you what I do when I want to achieve something but feel the nerves kick in. I follow Jerry Seinfeld's advice and look down. I ignore the naysayers, the cynics, the questions, and the competition. I do a full prons/cons list, a risk analysis, a CBA (cost-benefit analysis), a lot of other due diligence and research, and then finally a heart-searching Do I Really Want to Do This? There's an old business adage: IS THE PRIZE WORTH THE FIGHT? It's a good question to ask.

It's also something only you can answer.

Making the decision is actually the difficult part. Then all you need to do is take small steps. Think of the prize. Make a lot of To Do Lists. Remember Pareto's Principle. And perhaps keep your head down, too.

I wish you all the very best of luck. You will do well. Truly.

{PS Cheesy quotes, I know. Sorry.}

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beautiful New Books, Hotels, Insights & Other Things


Having just bought Alice Temperley's magnificent book – arguably one of the most beautiful fashion books ever published – I'm now catching up with her recent collections. Her S/S 2014 collection has been hailed as her best yet by many fashion journalists, and it's easy to see why. Every piece had poise, elegance and grace, while still being flirtatious, feminine and downright sexy.

No wonder she's one of the Duchess of Cambridge's favourite designers.

If you're not familiar with Alice's talent (and her engaging personality and style), invest in her book, True British. The cover is disappointing – it doesn't convey the delicate, almost ethereal beauty of the dresses inside – but thankfully the interior page designs do justice to Alice's extraordinary talent.

True British: Alice Temperley
Rizzoli New York, 2012


My new book on New York has just gone off to the printers and I'm so grateful and honoured to have worked with such a lovely publishing team. This is only the second book I've ever designed, and MUP let me have complete freedom. (So trustworthy!) It was such a joy to work on – although it's really only turned out well because of MUP – and I'm still touched that they agreed to this new travel series.

We'll feature some excerpts over the coming months, including the best place in NY to buy vintage Chanel and Dior (for incredibly cheap), a cluster of secret Manhattan gardens that are absolutely spectacular in spring, the best rooftop places to see New York from high, the prettiest hotels and bistros to frequent, the best fabric and design stores, and many other hidden neighbourhood treasures from one of the most inspirational cities in the world.

Published October 1, 2014.


There's a slew of new hotels opening during this half of 2014, and many of them are surprising in design. 

This is the Christian Lacroix-decorated Hotel du Continent in Paris (this has actually been opened for a little while), which features enormous maps as headboards and other travel-themed whimsy. Lacroix can be slightly left of centre when it comes to hotel design, and this hideaway is full of Christian's typically quirky touches. It's a great one for creatives.


This is another eagerly awaited hotel opening: the Baccarat Hotel in New York

If you've been to the Cristal Room restaurant on the first floor of the Maison Baccarat in the 16th district of Paris (above), you'll know how elegant their interiors are. If New York's version is as spectacular, it's going to raise a lot of (cristal) glasses.


Another Manhattan hotel opening is the SLS in the Flatiron District, which comes hot on the heels of the success of its Miami design (above). SLS has targeted the increasingly popular Flatiron 'hood for its newest baby, having no doubt seen how well The Ace, The Nomad and many other hotel newbies are doing in this part of the city.


And one last hotel worth considering is the Archer Hotel New York, which is said to have a rooftop bar so gorgeous, you won't need a martini to make you giddy with happiness.


A grand book to celebrate a grand event. Written by Hamish Bowles, it's certain to be as fascinating as The Met's guests and ballgowns that dominate the fashion media each year.

Abrams, September 2014.


If you're down south (I mean, really Down South) on Saturday, October 18, or  Sunday, October 19, 2014, consider heading to New Orleans and the famous French Quarter, where more than a dozen private homes will open their gardens in aid of Patio Planters. It's a rare opportunity to see inside these charming houses, and their owners are incredibly generous for allowing the public to wander through. It's a self-tour and details are on the website. Afterwards, you can do another ander through the Garden District (above), which is also a haven of horticultural loveliness.


Speaking of gardens, I've been emailing the always-gorgeous Laura Stoddart this week about a few things. Like me, you've probably bought one of Laura's books over the years. (Up The Garden Path is one of my all-time favourite garden books.) Her intricate watercolour illustrations were so exquisite, Kate Spade commissioned her for many of its products, as did many English companies.

She's still doing commissions, so contact her if you'd like her to design anything. She's worth every cent. And she's an absolute delight to work with.


And finally, apologies for not doing a Paris post for Bastille Day. Very shameful. 

I'm still struggling with the page designs for the new Paris book (above), among many other projects (including websites and whatnot). I did a watercolour at 2AM last night , while the family was sleeping and then woke up this morning and realised it was very, very bad! 

However, I'll shortly post some great places to go next time you're in Paris. And of course, we're offering a memorable tour to France in 2015. I won't be leading it, but will be helping with the itinerary for both Paris and Provence, and will include lots of places off the beaten tourist track to make the trip truly unique.

In the meantime, here's a great article from a recent edition of the New York Times' T magazine. It's about  botanically-themed destinations in Paris, by Charlotte Moss, who's always a great source of info about these kinds of things...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Travelling Cheaply: Tips To Save $$

Last week, I met a lovely lady in one of my favourite stores, The Rose Street Trading Co. She had one of my travel books on display and I thanked her profusely. (Which is what all authors should do.) 

"Oh, how I'd love to go overseas!" she said sadly. "But we just can't. We have two children, and they come with private school fees..." 

"Well, you're very lucky," I said sadly. "We'd love to have two children but we can't. So we just spend our private school fees on travel..."

This insightful exchange made us both realise how wonderful travel really is. Some people think travel is too expensive; that they'll never be able to afford it. I'm here to tell you that you can. 

Here are a few tips.

Use Google Maps To Find Secret Hotels
Many of the best hotels don't advertise, aren't on TripAdvisor and don't care about media exposure. They're found through either word-of-mouth or some serious due diligence. Or, do what many travel-wise people do and go on Google MapsLook for the neighbourhood you want to stay in – I love the Flatiron in New York, the streets around Rue de Seine in Paris (above), or South Kensington in London – then, use Google Maps to source hotels in that area. You'd be surprised how many under-the-radar places pop up this way. (You can then research them further via TA or the Net.) I've found so many fabulous places like this. It's a quirky trick, but it works.

Be Flexible With Your Dates and Times
If you don't care when you travel, go onto your preferred airline's website and see if they'll allow you to find the cheapest fare within a month's window. Singapore Airlines, United and Air New Zealand do this, and others are starting to. Their websites allow you to see the cheapest fare within any timeframe – and it's amazing to see the differences. One day may be $3500; the next day (quoting the same flight) may be $1200.

Fly on Tuesdays
I've mentioned this before but Tuesdays really are cheaper flying days. Wednesdays, too. Avoid Mondays, Fridays and weekends like the plague.

Take Overnight Flights
Try and book overnight flights. They're not only cheaper but they also save $$ because you can sleep on the plane. 

Book Hotels for Sundays
They really are cheaper on Sundays. 
(And if you want to try an expensive hotel for a treat, do a Sunday when it will be more affordable.)

Stay More Than A Night
There's a cutie little hotel in London called the Kensington House Hotel that gives you a free night if you stay x3 nights. As in a 3-for-2 offer. Savings? More than 150 pounds. Many hotels do this. Check their website and specials sections.

Spend More Time in Fewer Places
Last year, I flew from Sydney to the Bahamas (via 7 planes in 48 hours), for just 2 days, then to NY for work, then to Germany and down to Nice in France – all in 4 days. I was a wreck! Unless you're travelling for business, consider slowing down and spending more time in fewer places. It's more rewarding but it also saves money. Transport – flights, airports, taxis, transfer buses, hire cars – can really cost a lot And waste time. Do you really need to see 5 countries in 3 weeks? The best trip we've ever had was last year in Charleston. We did nothing and went nowhere. For FOUR days. It was bliss.

Find The Restaurants That Locals Go To
Do you really have to do Eleven Madison Parks of the world? The local bistros will offer just as good memories, and your wallet will thank you. (Tip: Look in the window. If it's full, it's likely to be good.)

Or – even better – have a picnic. My parents taught me this. They're the Picnic Experts. Now, my partner and I will buy cheap takeaway salads and sit in a park in the sun, or overlooking a beach, or in our hire car looking out to sea. It's bliss, I tell you. 

{All photos by me.}

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Black-and-White Weekend, Part 2

A few more lovely black-and-white bits for the weekend...

Australian media was abuzz this week about the news that Neale Whitaker will be taking over the editorship of Vogue Living

Having been editor of the glamorous Belle magazine for years, which has kept pace with Vogue Living for quality of style, design and content, Neale is well placed to take on VL. It will be interesting to see if he changes it and/or takes it in a new direction.

Current editor Victoria Carey (who's lovely) will still be editor-in-chief of Country Style magazine, which is one of the prettiest magazines in the market.

I'm currently working on ideas for page designs and section dividers for the new Paris book, Paris In Style, which is due to be published early next year. (New York In Style comes out first, in Nov 2014.) 

These were done using paper cut-outs, and were inspired by the Matisse exhibition in London last month. Matisse did a much better job, of course.

Will post pages from the new Paris book next week, showing the design stages and how a book progresses through the production process.

If you're in Sydney this week, consider heading down to Bondi this Sunday for the Winter Magic Festival, and its fantastic open-air art exhibition. Local painters and photographers will showcasing their talents 'en pleine air', including a friend of mine, Victoria Hopkins, who does the most beautiful large-scale paintings of pooches I've ever seen. 

Her work is, not surprisingly, rapidly growing in popularity, so snap one up before the prices go up. She also does commissions – a great gift idea for those with dogs. (All she needs is a photo.) She's really lovely to deal with too. Email her at

WHEN: July 13, 10am - 3pm Roscoe Street Mall
WHERE: Roscoe Street Mall

Black and White in Paris

Have you see all the media attention about Raf Simon's 2014-2015 autumn-winter collection for Dior Haute Couture this week? Even Anna Wintour looked enraptured as she sat in the front row of the orchid-lined show. 

The astonishingly elegant show was held in the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris, a fitting venue for Dior's sculptural forms. (For gorgeous images, go to Dior's website and online magazine.)

Valentino's fall 2014-2015 couture show was also a collection to remember. In fact, many of the pieces were more beautiful than Dior's

Chanel also went with the trend.

So, in the spirit of all this black and white sophistication, here are a few images of black-and-white Paris for the weekend. Most were taken on the recent business trip and one or two favourites are from past archives.

The bridge of locked love.

St Regis on the Île Saint-Louis – a glamorous new cafe that's fast edging out its famous neighbours in the popularity stakes.

Vintage photography at the sublime Images & Portraits in the Marais.

Le Labo's wonderful parfumerie.

As a New York company, it certainly looks very Parisian.

Beautiful old stairs in a covered arcade.

The YSL studio.

Ornate ironwork: you never tire of seeing this in Paris.

Astier de Villatte: one of the loveliest shops in Paris.

Hotel Paradis, a cute cheapie within walking distance of the Gare du Nord.

A Left Bank florist in bloom.

The Dries van Noten exhibition.

Classic Paris.
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