Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Friday, August 24, 2018

Reclaiming The Beauty of Life


Recently I watched the film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I know the title is long (one reviewer said it made him "lose the will to live"), but the story is surprising – and deeply moving. The kind of story I haven't seen for years. I read the novel a decade ago, and wept. I saw the film, and wept some more. Then I bought the DVD. (It's also on Netflix.) It reminded me of the power of storytelling. And boy, have we forgotten that in this age of pithy, witty one-line tweets and abbreviated conversations.

It was a film of layers: the war; the importance of books; the importance of empathy; the importance of friendships. And then there was the elegance of the cinematography. Even the garden scenes and Isola's flower-filled home had the light and painterly quality of a painting.

It reminded me of what a new friend said when she wrote to me recently. "Where has the fabulousness of life gone? Where is the magic?" Well, it was there, in Isola's greenhouse, in a lovely film with a title so long it would barely fit into a modern-day tweet. 

I hope you get the chance to see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyIn the meantime, here are a few more beautiful things, to help you cope with this expeditious life we're all leading. 

(There's a good little piece about the backstory behind the story here -- LA TIMES )

(Top image from Zimmerman's new collection, 'Corsage' -- more on this below.)


If you dream of writing your own book, be it a design book, memoir, or novel, I hope you'll come along to our intensive, one-day WRITING AND PUBLISHING WORKSHOPS. They not only look at the nuts and bolts of writing a book, but also how to get your book or proposal to the attention of publisher. 

It's short notice, I know, but there's ONE place left this weekend -- Sunday August 26 -- in the library at my beachside home on the coast of the Mornington Peninsula. And TWO places on Sunday, September 2nd, in a beautiful venue in Melbourne.  

There may be another Writing and Publishing Workshop in London in mid-September (we're just finalizing it now) -- please email me for details (email on website). 

More than anything, I would love to help you all with your books, whether they're novels, biographies, memoirs, travel books, design and architecture books, or anything you'd like to write. We need more good stories in this world. 

See this link -- for details 
(Look for workshops in top menu)

NB: A huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has bought Gardens of Style: Private Hideaways of the Design World (Rizzoli New York). Your support and sales helped it reach number one on Amazon (US) in the 'Garden Design' category in May. I am so deeply grateful, and so very touched, as is everyone who worked on this wonderful book. It was a beautiful project, and I'm so thankful to the entire team. Even Tory Burch did a lovely post on it here -- TORY BURCH  


Here's a glimpse of the glorious new book about by Linda Holden about the style and gardening icon Bunny Mellon. With last year's biography being such a huge success, it was inevitable that more books about this extraordinary person would follow. 

Bunny Mellon was known for her wealth but she was also incredibly talented at garden design. One of her commissions was the the formal and vegetable gardens at Hubert de Givenchy’s French home, Château du Jonchet. (Mellon, in turn, had many of her clothes designed by Givenchy, including her gardening hats and smocks.) 

This book features many of Ms Mellon's garden plans, watercolors, and illustrations, as well as vintage photographs by Horst, Aarons, and others of Mellon’s gardens, including her main residence, Oak Spring (above), and also her gardens and homes in Cape Cod, Nantucket, Antigua, and New York. 

PS There's a wonderful article about Bunny Mellon's interiors and garden by Architectural Digest here -- BUNNY MELLON

Vendome Press. Published October 30, 2018. US$60


A stylish addendum to the book about Bunny Mellon, above, is the recent article in US Vogue about fashion designer Tory Burch, who bought Bunny Mellon's estate in Antigua, in the Caribbean. Burch has spent the last few years restoring it, with the help of landscape designer Miranda Brooks (who did Anna Wintour's home), and interior designer Daniel Romualdez. The word are almost more interesting than the images, so do read it -- it's beautifully written by Hamish Bowles, who I think is underrated as a storyteller. 

I particularly loved the trellised garden room in this tropical hideaway, above. The image on the left is its current form, after Tory Burch's restoration. The image on the right is when Bunny Mellon had it, filled with her beloved pots and plants and topiary.



If you fancy a trellised garden room of your own, House and Garden UK has just featured this glorious wallpaper -- ‘Botanical French Trellis’ -- a custom-made wallpaper mural, from £294 a square meter. It's from Iksel. Guaranteed to make even the smallest powder room feel like a grand conservatory.



Do you follow Zimmerman? It's a gorgeous Australian label that's become a major name in New York and London. I adored the Edwardian-looking pieces earlier this year. The forthcoming Corsage Collection (above) is sublime. 



One of the most glamorous homes I've seen this year has just been featured in House & Garden UK. Designed for a couple who moved back to London after being in New York for years, it mixes Manhattan glamour with English understatement. 

The design firm was Maddux Creative, a two-person show made up of Scott Maddux and Jo leGleud. They commissioned the paint specialist Isabelle Day to colour the arched entrance hall in Ben Nicholson-esque blocks of blue and sage and ochre, and then saturate the dining green in deep viridian green, which blends seamlessly with the view of the garden. In the white marble in the adjoining kitchen, rolling library ladders provide access to high cupboards, while the drawing room features an elegant curved sofa by Vladimir Kagan and voluminous, asymmetric curtains  inspired by Alber Elbaz's designs for Lanvin. 

The bathroom, however, is the pièce de résistance. Inspired by Le Meurice hotel in Paris, it is a lavish marriage of unlacquered brass and Arabescato marble. 

LINK HERE – House & Garden UK


If you love design, you must look for an issue of Cabana Magazine, the bi-annual tome that covers some of the most intriguing, elaborate, and extraordinary interiors in the world. But if you can't find it, the beautiful new book – Cabana Anthology by Martina Mondadori Sartogo – covers all ten issues.

In the words of its author, Cabana Anthology explores the “intellectual and emotional intimacy with buildings and their surroundings... the intense relationship of thought, place and the person."  Cabana Anthology, says its author, is about "the magic of atmosphere and aesthetics inspired by the classics and Italian art history, and interiors where old and new are assembled to reflect the soul and history of a person or a family, not a stylist.”

Look for it in bookstores, or order online.


Whenever today’s tastemakers reach for gray and white, leopard and houndstooth, satin skirts and sunburst mirrors, they pay homage to the chic of Dior. Now a new book chronicles the great couturier's love of interiors and furniture. DIOR AND HIS DECORATORS is the first work on the two Parisian interior designers most closely associated with Christian Dior, Victor Grandpierre and Georges Geoffrey, and the first study of the evolution of Dior’s aesthetic as seen through his houses. 

Author Maureen Footer, an expert in French decorative arts and former interior designer in her own right, recounts the lives and work of this influential trio, illustrated with a trove of evocative vintage photographs. Grandpierre created not only the chic, elegantly restrained look of Dior’s salons (pale gray walls, white moldings, and Louis XVI–style chairs) but also the template for the Dior brand, including typeface, logo, signage, and packaging—still followed to this day. Georges Geffroy, an aesthete and connoisseur of eighteenth-century antiques, shepherded Dior into the couture world with an introduction to the couturier Robert Piguet in 1937. When Dior acquired a townhouse in the fashionable 16th arrondisement, he asked both Grandpierre and Geffroy (who worked independently) to design the interior, assigning the private rooms to the former and the public rooms to the latter. The results were, like Dior’s haute couture creations, rich, sensual, and refined. 

After Dior’s untimely death in 1957, both Grandpierre and Geffroy went on to design salons for other couturiers, as well as homes for royals, Parisian socialites, fabulously wealthy ex-pats, and celebrated film stars and artists, ranging from Yves Saint Laurent and Marcel Rochas to Baron de Redé, Arturo López-Willshaw, Élie and Liliane de Rothschild, Gloria Guinness, Daisy Fellowes, and Maria Callas. 

There's a good article by Architectural Digest here – DIOR in AD

Abrams. Published September 2018.

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