Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Photo walls and feature walls

My friend Olivia and I were just discussing photo walls and feature walls, as she's just bought an apartment and has a blank canvas with which to work. I saw a great photo wall recently in a magazine where the frames were all white, small, decorative French Provincial style. It looked really gorgeous and was a nice point of difference to the usual black frames with cream or white mountboards like what I have - pictured. Then again, it does depend on what type of photos you're framing. Pretty white ones are great for family snaps, whereas the darker frames with mountboard give photos a kind of gallery look.
We were also discussing whether feature walls have had their day, and whether a wallpaper feature wall is better than a painted one. Open to discussion. Post your comments.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Golden moments

On the weekend I went to a local market and picked up 30 Little Golden Books for just $6! Only 20 cents each! I used to love Little Golden Books when I was small, and although some of the language and design is dated, they are great representations of the time in which they were published - especially ones from the 1970s about cars! Some of the books, such as Raggedy Ann and Andy, have cool vintage design that I'll use to decorate my daughter's room. It's great to re-use and recycle kids' books (although personally I still have all the books from when I was little and I plan to pass them on to my daughter!).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Family ties

Today I'm thinking about family, and I thought I'd share this fantastic old family photo. It's of my Great-grandparents, my Grandmother (when she was a wee girl) and her brother. It was taken in Melbourne (Bourke or Collins?) and would have been taken in the late 1930s or possibly just as World War II began. I can just stare at this photo for ages - it's so evocative of the era, a moment in time in a society on the cusp of a huge war and massive social change. However, without waxing lyrical too much, it represents the family unit all together - how it should be - out for a stroll in their Sunday best.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New life to old pieces

I've been a fan of Rachel Ashwell (of Shabby Chic fame) for a long time, but my husband doesn't share my enthusiasm and complains that all Shabby Chic does is paint things white. Recently we bought a maroon bedside table from a garage sale, and I discovered a similar style old maroon chest-of-drawers in our garage that used to belong to my husband's grandparents that my husband was using to store nails and bolts in. I suggested to him that we paint both pieces white and put them in our bedroom. We had a lovely few evenings sanding and painting and even he agrees that the Shabby Chic/provincial look works. An easy way to turn dated maroon furniture into something nice!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And now for a musical interlude

A late blog as I'm just home from Melbourne. Just to reference this ad I saw today attached to the Hamer Hall. It's very reminiscent of the tram banner ads, but cool design nonetheless. I thought I'd share it with you for both its aesthetic and to remind us all to make the effort to attend some musical events this season. There's no shortage of wonderful composers and performers to choose from.
If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it - Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vintage design

As a children's book editor, I'm always looking for new illustrative design talent, and there's certainly amazing Australian illustrators out there. I constantly marvel at a designer or illustrator's ability to take a brief from an editor and turn a scene from a book or a handful of concepts into something eye-catching and appealing. Especially when the target market is a discerning 11-year-old!
Today I'm focusing on design from the past, though. Over the past year I've been on the lookout for retro book designs to adorn the walls of my daughter's room. I have found some gems from the 1950s and paid only a couple of dollars per book. I share photos of them here. Even the spines are visually rich. It's an inexpensive, interesting and original way to decorate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Afternoon tea delights

It's that time of day when my tummy is rumbling for a tasty snack between lunch and dinner, so I thought I'd share some of my favourite afternoon tea spots. There's a lot to choose from but whether you're in Melbourne, London or Bangkok, here's my selection . . .
In Melbourne, the National Gallery has a delightful room aptly named The Tea Room. It's decorated elegantly with wallpaper and mirrors and they serve sumptuous macaroons, sandwiches, cakes and have a huge selection of tea. I had my birthday there last year but was unfortunately too ill with morning sickness to savour the food (but I have eaten there other times and it's been delectable)! 
The Windsor Hotel in Melbourne is the grand dame of afternoon tea and if you're looking for Edwardian-style decor, richly decorated furnishings, divine food and a real experience then this is a fabulous choice. I am always biased towards The Windsor as I was married there, but even if my opinion is too subjective, it does have a great reputation. Their website tells me they've been serving afternoon tea since 1883 so they're doing something right!
Another Melbourne pick is the Langham Hotel chocolate indulgence afternoon tea. My husband took me there last year for our wedding anniversary and we spent a wonderful afternoon sampling every type of chocolate fondue, tart, crepe, and fruit dipped in chocolate imaginable.
London is of course the epicentre of afternoon tea. There's dozens to choose from but for me the Orangerie in Kensington Gardens and Lauduree in Harrods are the best. The Dorchester Hotel and The Ritz are incredible too but they take afternoon tea to a whole different level. 
The Orangerie is, for me, the quintessential English afternoon tea experience. It's elegant, stylish, light, airy and has beautiful food and teas.  You can sit on the terrace and look out over Kensington Palace, or dine inside and admire the piles of scones and cakes on display.
Lauduree is of course the ultimate Parisian afternoon tea, but you can experience it at a few places in London too. In Harrods at the back of the food hall, the piles of coloured macaroons and sumptuous surrounds are both a foodies and visual delight.
My all-time favourite place to while away an afternoon is The Oriental in Bangkok (pictured). It's old-world, charming, elegant and the afternoon tea room is named The Author's Lounge after some of the great writers - such as Graheme Greene and W Somerset Maugham - that have stayed there. Also in Bangkok is the gorgeous Eugenia Hotel, where you can sit in a dimly lit lounge surrounded by old books and look out over palm trees and tropical surrounds and pretend you're in colonial times. 
I haven't yet tried Craig's Hotel in Ballarat, but the afternoon tea there is meant to be fit for a queen.
Well, I'm off to have something to eat now!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Brown paper packages tied up with string

I always love getting a parcel on the front doorstep and one of the advantages of living in a country town is that this happens quite a bit because I shop online and get things delivered. Of course the disadvantage is that you can't buy everything in Ballarat - despite some very good shops. Anyway, today I went for a walk and returned home to find a lovely box on my front doorstep wrapped in brown paper. It was from a shop in Melbourne called My Poppet, which I've never actually been into, but that sells very cute kids' stuff. Today the delivery was four cute coloured melamine cups beautifully wrapped in pink and green tissue and in a vintage-style skipping rope box.
I should also add that country living has other advantages too - everyone says hello when you walk past, the postman handed me my letters this morning, a shop I went into today gave my baby girl a free pair of socks, and I can walk to cafes, the train station, the lake, shops, the library, and the cinema all within 20 minutes! Having been a city girl all my adult life, I do find some things hard to get used to - today I saw a tractor driving down the street and someone carrying horse saddles. Ballarat is actually a country city and is quite big so this was unusual but it does remind one of the farms and properties not very far away.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Paris dreaming

My mum is going to Paris later this year so yesterday I spent some time researching hotels with her. Then I got an email from my friend Sue who was in Seoul on her way back from Paris, and now all I'm thinking about is how to scheme a trip there! I've been fortunate to go to Paris a half dozen times. Living in London allowed that - from there it's just a few hours away by Eurostar. Now it's a 22-hour flight! 
Anyway, whenever I think of Paris, I think of it in black and white like the old photographs by the great photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis. It is a romantic city regardless of whether you're there with a significant other or not. Every cobblestone has a story, every scene is elegant, every pain au chocolat and chocolat et banane crepe tastes sumptuous, every shop seems glamorous and exciting. So, as I was day-dreaming about strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens, the left bank with its narrow streets and boulangeries, the exquisite Musee D'Orsay and the funky shops of the Marais, I dug out some of my own photos to share with you. 
An armchair travel day today.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday sauntering

What a lovely day it's been. Saturdays are always great because my husband's at home and we go exploring. We both love discovering new towns, markets, cafes. We rose early with bub and went to Wilsons, which is a great little fruit and veg and gourmet food market/shop in Ballarat. We stocked up on lunch supplies and then decided to see if there were any garage sales nearby. We had stumbled on an amazing one a few weeks earlier, which admittedly was more like a shabby chic/provincial furniture market than a garage sale, so we thought we could repeat our luck! We ended up in the gorgeous little town of Bunninyong outside Ballarat and went to the local farmers' market and an outdoor church fete/market. We didn't find any provincial furniture but stocked up on toys for bub - a box of Lego Duplo for $2, blocks for 50 cents, a book for 50 cents, and some cute red patterned gumboots for $3 that she'll grow into. My husband also bought chutneys and lemon butter (he loves it) and I bought giant carrots and zucchinis from the farmers' market. What a lovely day of meandering and meeting the locals. We then had a gorgeous afternoon with my mum and grandma and sister and nephews over for lunch. The sun shone so we sat outside and ate and read magazines and chatted and ate some more. A glorious Saturday. Here's some pics from Bunninyong.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ode to Autumn

It's one of those gorgeous all-Australian autumn mornings in Ballarat today when the hot, sticky summery  weather has given way to cool, fresh rain. Steam is coming off the ground, the air is suddenly crisper and everything looks brighter and more vivid. Everyone keeps telling me that Ballarat in autumn is beautiful and we're just coming into the new season. I can't wait to get out and take photos of the leaves once they change, and feel them crunching underfoot. In the meantime, here's some photos I took in autumn around England a few years back. What a glorious season - wherever you are!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

English gardens

There's nothing more beautiful than English gardens with their roses, hedges, grottoes, mazes, irises, petunias, lilies, kitchen gardens and secret seating spots. Thankfully Ballarat is full of English-style gardens so it provides everyday inspiration as I walk around. I'm trying to create my own little garden inspired by those in England, but for now here's some photos of the great gardens to whet your appetite for a drive in the country (if you live in England), or a walk through the streets (if you live in Ballarat). 

Tea for two

To get my blog up and running, I thought I'd add a few posts on the same day. Here's some gorgeous teacups collected from English markets and the T2 shop in Melbourne. T2 has glorious teas from all around the world and has some beautiful vintage and Turkish inspired cups and saucers that I can never resist (and you can buy T2 online!). Last Christmas my husband bought me some more for my collection (well, I bought them and he gave them to me!). You can never have too many pretty teacups and it's the perfect thing to use when posh guests or grandma or aunties come to visit!

Postcards from the past

I am a big fan of collecting interesting little mementos whenever I go somewhere new. I have travel diaries full of postcards but my favourite ones are vintage postcards that remind me of the golden era of travel before mass tourism began! These postcards sit on my mantlepiece in a cute heart-shaped display that my sister-in-law gave me. They show the Pyramids, old Marrakech, London and Brighton in the UK. A lovely reminder of places I've been that I can enjoy looking at everyday.