Thursday, 20 December 2007

happy holidays!

Today is the last day at work and my last day blogging until the new year - probably won't start up again until I'm back at work: Monday 7 January. Until then I want to thank you for your great support and all your kind words. Please write to me via the blog or via my work email ( telling me what you love, what you don't, what or who you'd like to see more of.

Wishing you all a fantastic festive season.



Image courtesy of Amy Butler Design.

designer tanya igra

Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the wrong era. I love all things from the past (okay - some things from the present, too) but one thing that struggles to be replicated in modern-day products is the art of crafting an object. Here's where Tanya Igra steps in with her small but growing business Miss Parasol. If you're in Sydney she plans to have a stall at the Antiques and Collectables Fair, Wentworth Park, Glebe on Sunday 3rd Feb. Alternatively, contact her via

How and why did you start Miss Parasol? My late father-in-law was a manufacturer of unique umbrellas and parasols from the 1950s. He had brought the family trade with him from Europe after the war. After he passed away, much of his unused stock was left in storage. When I eventually saw how beautiful these umbrellas were, I decided to bring some of these special pieces out in to the world again and started "Miss Parasol".
What has been the response? It's been unbelievable. I started selling at vintage markets and antique fairs specialising in collectables and old wares. The clientele who frequent these venues have been so excited about the excellent craftsmanship, beautiful fabrics and unusual handles which you don't see nowadays.
How has having your own business been different to what you expected? Having previously never been in the game of selling and marketing, it has required a lot more administration, coordination and planning than I had anticipated. Getting systems in place so that things can run smoothly has been essential. Following up key contacts and keeping things flowing has been a challenge, but well worth the effort.
What has been the highlight? Our first vintage fair… for the first hour it felt as if we were being ignored and the stall was deserted. Then suddenly everyone noticed us and we were absolutely overrun for the next 6 hours with very excited customers buying several umbrellas each as they could not make a choice about which umbrella they liked best. People often contact me after fairs wanting to buy more umbrellas.
Where do you look for inspiration? I don't look to any one person in particular for inspiration, but admire many creative people, especially those who can write well, draw and create things. I spend a lot of time reading and find inspiration in many of the characters I read about and the stories people have to tell about their lives and those of others who have overcome adversity.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? "Good things come to those who wait!" This may sound cliche but the best lesson i have learnt is certainly to be patient, not to lose hope and to have faith that things will turn out for the best in the end.
What are you passionate about right now? Raising my gorgeous 15-month-old son. As an older mother I feel so blessed to have him in my life and do not take motherhood for granted for one minute.
If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be? I would love to meet the author Beatrix Potter. I am a complete fan of Peter Rabbit and his friends and was very inspired by the movie Miss Potter who had a dream which she fulfilled despite the odds against her.
What are you looking forward to? Hearing my little boy finally speak so I can find out what is going on in his head! I also look forward to growing Miss Parasol by starting a website and branching out to find other avenues for exposing the umbrellas further so that they can be appreciated by more lovers of vintage things.
What are you reading? Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.

Images courtesy of Miss Parasol.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

patricia field

Doing her own thing.

Love that zany red hair, and the brave hat.

Where would SATC be (or SJP for that matter) without Patricia Field.

T-shirts you can buy from Patricia Field's shop. I actually bought the red and blue one, far right, when I was in New York last year.

Because she dresses kind of kooky and doesn't seem to give a damn.

Because she never played it safe dressing the girls on SATC - yes sometimes the costumes are out there - but that's what gives the show its spark.

Because she worked wonders in The Devil Wears Prada.

Because she is a New Yorker - yes, obsessed with them.

Because she has fire engine red hair.

Because she's getting better with age.

Images courtesy of;; and

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

douglas & hope

Douglas & Hope on Melbourne's Brunswick St.

One of their window displays.

What's instore.

Co-owner Cathy with her beautiful twins.

There are some shops you know you're going to love before you even step through the front door. I had been given a taste of what was in store via the pages of real living (our Melbourne stylist Clair Wayman often sources products from Douglas & Hope). Then when I stood in front of the shop window earlier this year, I sighed a breath of pleasure. How divine! Such a beautiful window display. Such thought and care... and beautiful products. Then I stepped inside. This shop, which has been open since 1999, is a must-stop if you visit Melbourne.

How and why did you start Douglas & Hope? I had been quilting and designing womenswear for a few years and decided I wanted to open a store to sell them. My partner Paul has always run the shops, and I am the behind-the-scenes organiser.
What has been the response? To my knowledge we were the first store to sell patchwork quilts, and they have been incredibly popular from day one.
How is having your own business different to what you expected? I have worked for myself for more than 12 years; it certainly makes you incredibly resourceful.
What has been a highlight? It's always great when people find out what you do and their response is "Douglas & Hope - that's my favourite shop"!
Where do you look to for inspiration? I don't look for inspiration, new ideas seem to come from nowhere.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? To have faith in your customers and to follow your instincts.
What are you passionate about right now? Sourcing new product for the shop that's not found at gift fairs, and trying to stay one step ahead.
If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be? My partner's mother who passed away when he was young.
What are you looking forward to? My twin boys' first Christmas and 1st birthday in January.
What are you reading? Magazines, magazines, magazines. I devour them and I have just finished
From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki, it is amazing the parallels between her business and ours. I related completely to everything she said.

Images courtesy of Cathy Hope.

Monday, 17 December 2007

designer kara smith

Kara's designs.

Kara at the markets.

One of the brighter spots at the Young Blood Designers market was Kara Smith and her beautiful vintage handbags. I'm so over products that are "Made in China" so it's always good to see products that are locally made... and with love.

What five words best describe you? Passionate, driven, mad, shy, dog-loving.
Who or what inspires you? Jenny Kee is an inspiration to me – a very strong colourful woman who has gone "out there" to create her own look. I have recently finished her biography, A big life. She doesn’t just accept the ordinary and pushes boundaries. I love that... plus, she is a Blue Mountains gal!
What are you passionate about? Creativity: everyone should be letting loose in whatever form suits them best, Australian-made products and supporting Australian industry. Sustainability in all forms.
What has been your proudest moment? When my mother, Beth Buchanan, accepted her Order of Australia medal at Government House for her work in volunteering and "bringing back the bush" to urban Sydney. She has been in bush regeneration for about 15 years and loves it. It was wonderful to see her acknowledged for her passion in helping the environment.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? To get up on that horse and ride again - we must never give up in life! Though my bum was sore after the fall...
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? For the dead ones... well, I love Jayne Mansfield, so first it would be her, then Clark Gable... For the ones that are alive, Jenny Kee. I always love to meet like-minded creative individuals that are out there doing their thing. It constantly changes as you hear about people and I hope to have plenty of years to meet as many as possible!
What are you excited about? My partner’s writing, hopefully buying a house in the Blue Mountains next year, my overlocker, people seeming to understand the difference between Australian made and mass produced.
What’s next? I’d love to design my own range of Australian screenprinted fabrics for a unique range of handbags. I got talking to a few designers at the Powerhouse Museum
Young Blood Designers Market and feel I can move forward on it. It’s on the cards...

Images courtesy of Kara Smith.

Friday, 14 December 2007

weekly wrap: a week of goodbyes

My head is hurting. There's so much work to do before we break for Christmas and I STILL haven't started my Christmas shopping yet. Plus, my husband's birthday is just before Christmas and one of my very good friends has her birthday tomorrow. If my family were a little more understanding, I think I'd get them a penguin each. Adopting one, that is, from The Penguin Foundation. For $75 you get a photo, an open day invite, newsletters, etc, etc. But more importantly you will help build new penguin nesting areas, monitor penguin health and behaviour and protect the Little Penguins’ natural environment. Yes, they're no longer called "Fairy Penguins" cos that ain't PC!!!

Tuesday - The last session of Italian for the year. Had a yummy dinner at Cafe Nino. But starting to worry whether there will be enough numbers to continue the class.

Wednesday - Bye Bye Blueprint. Was incredibly disappointed to learn that the US mag is closing down. Especially sobering news in the wake of House & Garden's closure state-side, too.

Thursday - Bye Bye Christmas!!! Yes, believe it or not the festive season seems so three-months ago. We actually received Easter eggs and hot-cross buns from Hilliers today! As consolation to this madness, finally booked accommodation for part of my summer holiday in Noosa.

Friday - Four days to finish our March 08 issue. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!

Image courtesy of The Penguin Foundation.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

artist david eastwood

David's work takes centre stage in his living room.

The artist in his studio.

The Music Next Door (2007).

It's not often you see interiors as the sole focus of an artwork. So I was intrigued when I discovered these were the works of a man - David Eastwood. His work was recently exhibited at the Robin Gibson Gallery in Darlinghurst and he has a show coming up in Melbourne.

What was the inspiration behind your current exhibition? Cumulative experience provides: each painting is a composite image derived from multiple sources - films I have seen, books I have read, songs I have listened to, places I have visited, people I have known. Some specific inspirations were Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (I’ve used carpet patterns from various scenes); Nick Cave, The Lucksmiths, Stereolab, XTC, They Might Be Giants and Elvis Costello; old interior design books; the 19th century novel À rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans, about an eccentric recluse and his extravagantly decorated home, triggered a few ideas; various props departments such as that of Opera Australia; even ordinary, domestic objects around my home and studio have acted as springboards for painting ideas.
Who inspires you? Primarily other artists – Vermeer is an old favourite, and the contemporary German painter Matthias Weischer a recent favourite. It is also inspiring to feel part of a community of artists for whom I have great respect and admiration, from the artists who have taught me and with whom I remain in contact as well as friends with whom I can discuss ideas and share studio visits.
What are you passionate about? Art (both making it and looking at other art) and listening to music are things that most directly interest, engage and sustain me.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Persistence and dedication in the studio pays off.
What are you excited about? The work I am currently making in the studio continues to throw open many possibilities that I am excited about exploring.
What’s next? I find it unhelpful to verbalise ideas for future paintings before working through them in the studio, but in general I am continuing to work within the them of invented interiors, something that has become my primary focus over the past couple of years. I also have tentative plans to squeeze in some travel (perhaps a brief trip to Europe), before my first solo show in Melbourne, which, all going well, will be the next exhibition of my new work.

Images courtesy of David Eastwood.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

cafe nino

A little bit of this... actually there was a lot of this.

And some of this with a delicious homemade tomato-based sauce.

I had another one of those "small world" moments last night. At the end of each Italian course - they're split into 10-week blocks - we have a celebratory dinner. Last night we went to Cafe Nino on Ocean Street in Woollahra. It's a funny looking place. The windows are adorned with fishing nets - tres tacky if somewhat endearing - and the crockery and cutlery is quite dated. But the food is amazing. Italian food just like you'd expect an Italian mother to make. They specialise in seafood so last night I had spaghetti crab and it was delicious if a little late in arriving. But here's the small world bit. One of the girls who couldn't make dinner - hi, Nicole - told me her partner's mother knows the chef really well and that they come from the same region of Italy. But this mother-in-law makes an amazing lasagna and each Christmas she makes a special batch for the Cafe Nino chef, who agrees its the best lasagna around. Now, if I can only get some of that! Oh, and Nicole tells me that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman used to eat there all the time (or get takeaway) when they were together and in Sydney. An interesting fact given that dinner last night cost only $30 a head!

Images courtesy of and

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

young blood markets

Bamboo Chutney.

People Like Us.

After many failed attempts finally got around to checking out the Young Blood Designers Market on the weekend at the Powerhouse Museum. Had hoped to get most of my Christmas shopping done but came away only with one purchase: a cute baby outfit for a friend who is heavily pregnant. While I love the idea of the market - an opportunity for up-and-coming designers to showcase and sell their wares - I did leave a little disappointed. For a start, I thought there would be a lot more exhibitors. I also thought there would be a lot more "original" stuff. Perhaps I'm overexposed to the products that are out in the marketplace given I work on an interiors mag, but there was nothing there that made me think: "Wow, I've never seen that before." Or, "that's a really clever idea". Maybe I'm too tough. I'd be interested to hear what other people think who have visited. I've found the products on Etsy more inspiring. Too harsh?

Images courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum's Young Blood Designers Market.

Monday, 10 December 2007

designer alex riggs

Products from Oobi Baby&Kids - Alex's business.

Alex Riggs, founder of Oobi Baby&Kids.

What better way to start a Monday than facing cheery colours and cute babies. Just think - this is the kind of environment that Alex Riggs, talented owner of Oobi Baby&Kids, surrounds herself with every day. It's no wonder her office was featured on the September 06 cover of real living.

Alex's work proves that when you're true to yourself and your interests that life gets interesting. She started Oobi as a label for brainy babies, producing Dictionary Definition tees, "Fact Sheets" (sheet sets with facts printed on them) as well as educational toys and games. The key was incorporating her love of bright, bold colours. In no time at all Oobi was picked up by Harvey Nichols, Top Shop and Nordstroms among other retailers in Sweden, Amsterdam and Japan. Amazingly the company is still only a four-person operation. Alex says, "Everyone is very hands on - it's a business of friends who work together and share a unique passion and retro aesthetic."

What five words describe you? Retro, disorganised, fun, colourful and exhausted.
What's your proudest achievement? Being on the cover of real living.
Who inspires you? Talitha Getty & Jane Birkin - fashion icons; Nadezhda Mandelstam - Russian writer; Caillebotte - painter; Alvar Aalto - designer.
What are you passionate about? Education, fashion, art, puzzles, cinema.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? I don't learn lessons, I make mistakes over and over and over.
Which person living or dead would you most like to meet? Paul Theroux - on holiday.
What are you excited about? Wearing a dress I bought recently in New York - no fitting occasion yet (being that couture and watching telly don't tend to mix).
What’s next? A trip to Croatia and Italy - on the search for hand-made lace and quirky trims and buttons.

Photos courtesy of Alex Riggs.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

country road product showing

As promised, here's a sneak peek from the Country Road product showing I went to last week. These items won't be in the shops until at least January - once the sale stock has gone, I presume. Interesting that grey is still strong and metallics are also getting a bit more of a run. I love the grey geometric design cushion - kind of reminds me of something Signature Prints would design.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

editor bianca tzatzagos

Bianca in Venice, one of her favourite cities.

Her craft room - she's always got plenty of projects on the go.

A selection of her favourite things hang on the walls.

Me (on the left) and Bianca in Rue de Buci in Paris a few years back.

Bianca's Editor of the Year award for Homespun magazine.

You've got no idea how long it's taken for this post to come to life. I've wanted to write a post on Bianca Tzatzagos for so long but the girl is just too busy! First of all she gave me a great tip for hotel in Paris (where she'll be staying this Christmas) and it has an amazing website and interiors (still trying to track down the pics), then I went to see the amazing decorating job she's done on her home (but forgot to take pics) and then finally she told me she'd won Editor of the Year for the mag she puts together, Homespun. That was it. I had to get her to find a few spare moments in her busy schedule to send some pics through. So, dutifully, she was up till all hours last night taking pics of her amazing craft room. For those of you who know Anna Spiro or read her blog then you've got some idea of the sort of person that Bianca is: incredibly passionate and creative. Whenever we catch up I leave her company on a high - she's such a positive person, and that needs to be celebrated. So, Bianca, thanks for being an amazing person. And to the rest of you - watch out: this girl is the best there is.

What five words best describe you? Happy, stressed, talkative, busy and content.
Who or what inspires you? I get inspired by lots of simple things, I think there's so much going on to be excited about. Even just walking into
Borders and seeing rows and rows of yummy, shiny, new magazines. Blogs ROCK. I also get incredibly inspired by time. A couple of hours at home can mean a wonderful transformation of a room or a whole new craft project. The potential that time offers is just sublime, don't you think?
What are you passionate about? The people I love. And continuously decorating and redecorating my place (and at the moment, Mum's house).
What has been your proudest moment? Definitely my wedding day.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Well it may be cliché, but that's probably a good sign: to trust my instincts. It's saved me in so many ways.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I think that's too much pressure to place on just one person!! I would like to spend a day working alongside
Martha Stewart, and wouldn't refuse if the late Coco Chanel had wanted to measure me for a suit... Or maybe I could commission a portrait from the late Marc Chagall.
What are you excited about? The future.
What’s next? Everything - that's the exciting part!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

max brenner

The intention is always to complete my Italian course homework over the weekend (I have classes on Tuesday nights). But in reality that rarely happens. A recent trend has been to rush over to Max Brenner late on a Tuesday afternoon and get a hit of chocolate while completing grammar exercises. Hey, there's got to be some incentive to do it! And what incentive this place gives. The chocolate bap (pictured above) kept me going for hours last week. Not sure what I'll have today though... there are so many options. PS Max Brenner has an online shop too. Great Chrissy shopping idea. They also have stores in the USA, Philippines, Singapore and Israel.

Images courtesy of
Max Brenner.

Monday, 3 December 2007

artist anne smith

Titania and Bottom series: Morning.

Titania and Bottom series: The Bouquet.

Titania and Bottom series: The Awakening.

Titania and Bottom series: The Sleeping Couple.

At a glance I was fascinated with these artworks. They reminded me of another world, another time and, yes, of illustrated works that might accompany a novel or text. Then the titles gave it away: Titania and Bottom from one of Shakespeare's most popular plays: A Midsummer's Night Dream. The lithographs are by artist Anne Smith, who is also a director of the Falls Gallery in The Blue Mountains, NSW. These works appear in an exhibition at Newtown Fine Art Traders until December 12.

How would you describe yourself? A printmaker/painter.
What was the inspiration behind your current exhibition? The Midsummer Night's Dream series was inspired by Shakespeare's play.
Who or what inspires you? Persian miniatures, medieval tapestries, Chagall, Picasso, Rouault, Stanley Spencer, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Opera.
What are you passionate about? Painting and etching.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Patience.
Which person living or dead would you most like to meet? Picasso.
What are you excited about? Every new series of paintings I work on, and always the next one.
What’s next? A series based on the Mozart Opera, 'Magic Flute'.

Photos courtesy of Anne Smith and Newtown Fine Art Traders.

Friday, 30 November 2007

weekly wrap: silly season in full swing

The real living team arrive for the ACP Christmas party. Theme: "Entourage: rock star".

real living editor Deborah Bibby, national advertising manager Jo Biggs and me.

It's a bit of a struggle to write today's blog as I'm very tired after the ACP Christmas party last night. More on that later. Here's what else has been going on this week.

Tuesday - radio interview with Heart FM on "How to have fun without breaking the bank" - something I've become attuned to over the years.

Wednesday - had our last meeting of the year for book club and discussed Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss. The general consensus was that while there were some interesting/good sections in the book, other parts for excessively long and boring. Tried goat - yes, the animal - for the first time at
The Nepalese Kitchen: can't say I was converted.

Thursday -
Country Road product showing - will try to post some pics soon. Grey and red were strong colours and lots of chunky knits for winter. ACP Christmas Party: the theme was "Entourgage: rock star". As you can see I don't really look very rock star - all I could find in my wardrobe was bling.

Friday - recovery mode after Christmas party which fortunately included a long lunch at
Bambini Trust. Dessert was a selection of sorbets: blood orange, raspberry and chocolate. Yum!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

easy listening - and not barry manilow!

Came across this band - Nouvelle Vague - via Michi Girl (a great little newsletter that's worth subscribing to for the illos alone). They're playing with DJ Solal (from the Gotan Project) vs Filip Wauters at the Metro in March. This is how they're billed:

It’s cocktail hour! Adding a sophisticated French bossa nova twist to British new-wave classics from the 80s, Nouvelle Vague’s chic chanteuses purr their way through an evening of stylish reinterpretations. Tracks like Blondie’s ‘Heart of glass’ and Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘The killing moon’ are infused with Caribbean flavours (reggae, salsa, calypso), Brazilian rhythms and jazz. Using percussion, acoustic guitar and accordion with smouldering vocals, Nouvelle’s multi-instrumentalists transform each song into an original masterpiece.

Sounds intriguing and cool and I'm desperate to find some new CD's for my collection. Wearing out Fever Italia, Bossa Nova by Stan Getz and Gilles Peterson's Brazil series. Has anyone listened to their CD? Or get any others they can recommend?

Image courtesy of Metro Theatre Sydney.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

up-and-coming italian design

Love the organic shapes of this Covo design: perfect for olives!

The packaging is as important as the product for Chiara Mulas.

Here are more examples of her work.

Another Chiara design - so simple but so effective.

Alessi without the kitsch: designs by Silvana Angeletti and Daniele Ruzza.

The modernity of Italian design always amazes me given the country's heritage. You know, the renaissance, baroque, etc. But Italians never seem to do anything half-hearted, so perhaps that's the reason behind this fervour of sleek lines and shiny surfaces. Recently Italian design was on display in Sydney as part of the Lazio Lifestyle in Australia event. For those of you who don't know - and I'm ashamed to admit I didn't before this month - Lazio is the home state of Rome. It was was presented by The Italian Trade Commission, Regione Lazio, Sviluppo Lazio with the support of ALTA ROMA, ADI (Industrial Design Association) and Oro di Roma to promote fashion, design and jewellery from the region. Bravo!

Photos courtesy of Lazio Lifestyle in Australia.


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