Thursday, 28 May 2009

(shop.inspiration) 4M

Did you catch Mark Patterson's home in the June 09 issue of real living? I loved it. From his charcoal-coloured staircase to his striped bedroom walls and beautiful bedlinen that has suddenly leaped to the top of my must-buy list. Well, for those of us who live in Australia, we can pretty much get his entire look because Mark is owner of the homewares store 4M in Melbourne. His recently released bedlinen is made exclusively for the store (made locally in Melbourne!). And the store stocks some of my fave brands such as Paul Smith and Marimekko.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, motivated, industrious, graphic, visual.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? Retail clothing sales, from there into architectural sales for a furniture company which was my intro into the design and furniture field working directly with architects and interior designers and then into my own similar business then expanding into retail as well.
What’s your proudest achievement? 4M... my business which has been running for 10 years now.
What’s been your best decision? Diversifying in my business. We started off as a local furniture company supplying to the architects and designers for their projects, then added locally designed and made lighting, opened retail stores and added more retail products and recognised brands.
Who inspires you? Generally my inspiration comes from international trade shows be it the Milan Furniture fair or the Paris maison fair for home wares.
What are you passionate about? Design, lifestyle and my dogs.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Go with your gut feeling and don’t be swayed by others' opinions.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Elle Macpherson because I think she is an incredibly talented business person and would love to know the secret to her success apart from her looks!
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To design a product range for a leading design house... Alessi or maybe even Paul Smith?
What are you reading? A book by a local author called Shallow End which is about the ‘goings on’ at and the disappearance of a swimmer from the Prahran pool. I’m only half way through, it's quite interesting given that I have spent much time in my younger years there and that work is just around the corner from there now.

Images courtesy of 4M and real living

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

(blog.inspiration) courtney barton

I have to confess that when I was recently featured on Blogs Of Note, I had never heard of the site. But like the dutiful girl I am, I checked it out and other blogs featured. I'm glad that I did, as I came across the fantastic blog In(side) the Loop by Courtney Barton. Not only does she have a really cute site, but when I dug deeper, I learnt that she's also an incredibly successful. She studied apparel design in Louisiana and went on to work for Jill Stuart and Ralph Rucci in New York. Now, she's based in Malaysia and spending her "eight to five" sharing tips on fashion and home decor as well as a few other goodies in between. Now Courtney works in branding and marketing consulting, but here is a styling project she worked on for Four Season's residential suite.

Which five words best describe you? Curious, happy, particular, self-driven and Southern.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job out of college was the Public Relations Manager for Hollywould, a then-emerging luxury accessory brand in New York City. I was often on-the-go and quickly realized my love for travel. Traveling independently taught me a great deal about who I am and what kind of person I want to be: sure of myself but vulnerable and open to new ideas and people. I recently moved to Kuala Lumpur with my husband to fulfil his dream of working internationally, and I'm also feeding my need to experience other cultures. I'm a firm believer in stepping outside your comfort zone from time to time; there's so much to learn and I'm itching to soak it all in.
What’s your proudest achievement? I've accomplished a few things in my young life that make me feel honored, but I'm not sure I've achieved that one thing that I'd term my proudest. I hope life continues to get bigger and better!
What’s been your best decision? Moving to New York City after college. I'm the youngest in my family and was the first to move outside Louisiana, so it was definitely a big decision. Without question, the city made me a confident woman right away (the sink or swim environment seems to do that to many!) and shaped my work ethic and drive. I definitely wouldn't be the person I am today without that city's powerful influence.
Who inspires you? The people I meet while traveling. The local shop owners. My godparents who are in their 70s single-handedly still running their cattle farm. My parents who are the most hardworking people I've ever met. My Uncle who encouraged me to always buy what I love, not what's trendy or considered valuable. My grandparents who tended a garden and cooked almost entirely from it. My husband who thinks change is wonderful and stays patient with me while I catch up. And my dog who epitomizes unconditional love.
What are you passionate about? Life and shoes. Both are pretty incredible.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? No pain, no gain. Anything worthwhile is never easy, but the reward is always worth it.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My maternal grandmother. I knew her as a young child and have such strong visual and sensory memories of our time together: crepes, cafe au lait served in bed, dirndl skirts and cork wedges. She took great pride in her appearance and home; she was a modernized Betty Homemaker. She was worldly and loved to fill her closets with things bought while traveling. The best part: she married the funniest man in town, so I know laughing was important to her. She passed when I was quite young and I'd give anything for her to know me as a grown woman. I think most of my passions stem from my grandmother's interests.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To go to culinary school. To turn my black thumb green. To learn a new language. To start a business with my husband. To grow my family.
What are you reading? I keep these 3 staples on my nightstand at all times: Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. Also, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazines and, of course, hundreds of blogs. I love the creative instant gratification you get from blogs!

Images courtesy of Courtney Barton and Julie Soefer

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

(art.inspiration) raquel mazzina

A while back Raquel Mazzina was recommended to me as an artist to watch in an article I wrote for real living. Two years later I'm still loving her bold and brilliantly coloured brush strokes. It's no wonder Raquel cites de Kooning as an inspiration.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate. Determined. Loyal. Playful. Dreamer.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? Casual nannying whilst studying Fashion Design, then leaving fashion behind as a career to pursue painting and an artistic career.
What’s your proudest achievement? I am not sure that I am able to single one achievement solely as my proudest, rather an accumulation of smaller achievements.
What’s been your best decision? Returning to study Fine Arts at the National Art School, Sydney.
What was the starting point for your most recent exhibition? The phenomena of seasonal changes in my surrounding environment.
Who inspires you? All who pursue their dreams.
What are you passionate about? Life and its experiences.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Never lose hope and consider different perspectives.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Goya and de Kooning.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? The next painting.
What are you reading? de Kooning - An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan.

Images courtesy of Raquel Mazzina and Arthouse Gallery

Monday, 25 May 2009

(design*sponge.guest blog) karen mccartney

Here is the latest instalment of the design*sponge guest blog post I did last year. The original post on Karen McCartney is here.

Interior books: pages to return to again and again

Yes, blogs and magazines are great. But I’m a book lover from way back. For me they will always have a special place in my home (one that’s getting increasingly cramped I might add!). And interior books are no exception. Before interviewing the two remarkable women below I re-read their books and was inspired all over again. My current project is decorating what has been labeled for so long the “front room”– my study and general dumping ground (I have to admit). I’m now filled with ideas to transform it into a nursery (with a little corner for my desk and a much larger wall for my books). I’m posting pics of my progress on Daily Imprint so keep an eye out.

Burst of inspiration: Karen McCartney
Editor of interior books Creative Homes (Harper Collins) and Iconic Australian Houses (Murdoch Books); also editorial director of Inside Out and Notebook magazines

How did the Creative Homes and Iconic Australian Houses books come about? Creative Homes was created from existing stories in Inside Out magazine. We took the line of creative people, and how they live, and I edited the selection of stories and wrote a forward and design notes at the back. Iconic Australian Houses was a much more demanding exercise. I took the book idea to Murdoch Books who commissioned it. I worked closely with photographer Michael Wee, art director Andrea Healy and editor Leta Keens. I had 16 months to find all the houses, arrange the photography, research and write the chapters plus a 6000-word forward. It was hard but a thoroughly rewarding experience, especially interviewing the architects themselves.

Photography Michael Wee

What did you want to achieve with them? Creative Homes was designed to celebrate the diversity of how people live creatively in Australia today. Iconic Australian Houses was to celebrate (and record) the work of forward-thinking Australian architects (working in the 1950-1970s) who have shaped architecture today.

What makes a great interior? Conviction.

Would you say there’s a distinctive Australian interior style such as Danish, Swedish, French, etc? If so, can you describe it? As with food Australia has created its own “fusion” style. The outdoors and hence “lifestyle” plays a predominant role in how we live and homes that cleverly connect inside and out are influential around the world.

What’s the most common mistake people make when decorating their home? Not allowing enough time. Good interiors ripen and develop and it can take several years for it all to come together. If you try to do it all in a weekend you end up with a show home.

Where do you look to for inspiration? I look to art, books, market stalls and my two favorite magazines – Italian Elle Décor and World of Interiors.

Who inspires you? My friend photographer Martyn Thompson.

How has your own personal interior style developed? It changed, from a sort of light industrial look, in 1996, when my husband and I started to buy 1940s Danish furniture at London auctions. We also bought art and furniture from student shows – things that we still love today.

How would you describe your home? After renting in Sydney for a couple of years we bought the Bruce Rickard house we still live in. The place dictates something of the style – it is timber, brick and glass – so demands natural tones. The Danish furniture is low and looks modest and quietly special (like the house) and we have added some modern pieces such as a Hella Jongerius sofa from Vitra. We seem unable to resist chairs and bowls – so the house is short of neither.

What are you passionate about? I love it when you see a new design that feels like a future classic – the Konstanin Grcic Diana tables (at Anibou) in powder-coated steel are a good recent example.

Friday, 22 May 2009

(writing.inspiration) mohammed hanif

One of the highlights of this weekend's Sydney Writers' Festival is Mohammed Hanif. A novelist with a sense of humour - yes, it's possible. And I'm all for encouraging such anomalies. Mohammed's book A case of exploding mangoes was longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

Which five words best describe you? Good intentions. Bad teeth. Restless.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job was in Air Force as a trainee fighter pilot. I must have been the worst pilot in the modern aviation history. Then a potato farmer briefly, didn't work out for me. Fashion journalist for a bit then editorial assistant at a political magazine. Then a reporter in Karachi. On the side a couple of theatre plays. Then joined the BBC and moved to London. Still with BBC but now back in Karachi. Currently a full time hack, and occasional writer.
What’s your proudest achievement? Getting a soft boiled egg to perfect consistency.
What’s been your best decision? Quitting flying. That's the main reason I am still alive.
Who inspires you? Day time television. Back pages of newspapers. Left overs in the fridge.
What are you passionate about? Politics and table tennis and telling tales.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Soft Brush. Firm grip.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Truman Capote. Nicole Kidman.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Writing a second novel.
What are you reading? War and Peace. Pakistani newspapers.

Images courtesy of Mohammed Hanif and Random House

Thursday, 21 May 2009

(design.inspiration) erin dando

Flicking through an old issue of real living recently I came across a feature on Erin Dando of Blossom Creations. Usually I know every feature and profile off by heart because I see them about a hundred times before the mag goes to print. But this issue was put together while I was on maternity leave. Anyway, I decided I had to learn more about Erin and her environmentally friendly range of designs.

Which five words best describe you? A very nice person indeed.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? I got my first job was when I was in 14, I worked as a pharmacy assistant. Things have changed a fair bit since then! It took me a long time and many false starts to work out what I wanted to do career-wise. I studied communication at Uni (specialising in Advertising and Marketing), taught English overseas, worked in marketing, admin, and also worked for a non-profit organisation. I then went back to study graphic design and started my business.
What’s your proudest achievement? Well I’m 3 months away from having my first baby – can I answer that question then? I’m sure it will surpass anything I think I’ve achieved so far!
What’s been your best decision? It’s hard to know where to start - so many small decisions have led me to where I am now… My decision to live and work overseas led me to meeting my husband (we met in Japan), as well as giving me invaluable life experiences. My decision to leave work full time and go back to study led me to starting my own business. My decision to start the business has opened so many doors for me, taught me so much, and exposed me to so many amazing people and experiences. So I guess in general - my best decision has been to follow my heart, it always seems to work out.
Who inspires you? I’m not going to say anyone famous or well known because really I’m most inspired by everyday people - people who are facing or have faced enormous odds, hardship or terrible situations and not only get on with life but shine through and manage to inspire others with their outlook. People like that really help to keep things in perspective. I also admire people who have been brave enough to make big changes/decisions in life in order to pursue their passions, beliefs, or dreams. There are so many people in small business, people aspiring to a certain career path, or people passionate about a cause who face enormous challenges but put 100% into making things happen – again without bemoaning the small stuff. That takes a lot of courage and strength.
What are you passionate about? Family, relationships, people. Of course I’m passionate about design, environmental issues and a number of other creative pursuits - but it’s people that really matter to me.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? To be patient and trust in yourself. Things always happen for a reason – whether it’s good or bad, there’s always something to learn from it.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I never met my grandfather, I’d love to be able to sit and have a chat with him and hear his stories. Based on what I know about him I think we would have been great friends.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? There’s still a lot of travel I’d like to do. My husband and I dream of spending time in Italy (mostly cooking and eating!), I dream of travelling to Ireland with my Dad (we both love Irish music), and I dream of one day showing my kids around places I’ve grown to love in my travels throughout Japan and South East Asia.
What are you reading? Dead giveaway here – currently on my bedside table are these books I’m flicking between: Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley, Hypnobirthing – The Mongan Method by Marie F Mongan; New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas; Painless Childbirth by Giuditta Tornetta… Any guesses what I’m getting prepared for?!?

images courtesy of blossom creations and real living

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

(home.inspiration) dairy house

Melbourne photographer Adam Ross was very kind to alert me to this beautiful little homestay in Victoria's Healesville. He shot the photos for the owners of Dairy House - who also have another property called the Healesville Hotel. While these properties were in close proximity to the recent "Black Saturday" bushfires, neither properties were damaged.
I love that the place is distinctly Australian but has some colourful touches, such as the Indian sari on the woman in the painting from the first image.
Images courtesy of Adam Ross and Dairy House

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Here is the latest instalment from the design*sponge guest blog I did last year. The original post is here.

Megan Morton - stylist

She’s one of the busiest stylists in Sydney, if not Australia. And she’s had her work featured in international publications, including Vanity Fair. Megan has worked extensively across Australian interior and lifestyle publications and has a client base that includes leading homewares brands and interior designers wanting their projects to make it into glossy magazines. 

When did you start working as an interior stylist? Nine years ago.

What lessons have you learnt along the way? Money and style have nothing in common.

images from Creative Homes edited by Karen McCartney (Harper Collins); photography Con Poulos

What’s your favourite decorating style? Charming.

What’s the most common mistake people make when decorating their home? Sticking to the rule book.

Where do you look to for inspiration? Music and books. I read everything and anything.

images courtesy of Thames & Hudson and Published Art and Vanity Fair

Who inspires you? Tadao Ando, Millie De Castonet, Iain Halliday, my florist.

Which features or projects that you’ve worked on are you most proud of? A Vanity Fair cover, a skyhome in the city and a wine bar we designed for fashion week and Dita Von Teese and a Christmas lunch for the homeless.

How has your own personal interior style developed? It’s pretty much been the same my whole life.

How would you describe your home? A ramshackle mess (with outrageous potential!) where my most favourite people and things happily co-exist.

What are you passionate about? Living with only what you need.

Monday, 18 May 2009

(thank you.) apartment therapy

I was taking deep breaths to calm myself on Saturday morning as I learnt that Apartment Therapy had just featured my little Bondi flat (it's like the little apartment that could... just keeps chugging along, proving its worth). Here is the feature and here is the slideshow.

It's funny seeing the photos because since they were taken I've painted so many things - the bed is now Porter's Paints Rococco (a charcoal grey colour). The mahogany low boy is Porter's Paints Vatican Blue (think Matisse blue) and I'm about to paint the little white stool bright yellow. Stay tuned for pics.

Images courtesy of real living and Amanda Prior; styling megan morton.

Friday, 15 May 2009

photographer patrick cline

Oh, what the hell. It's my blog and I can do what I like. That's why this time I'm publishing more than the usual five images because I love them all. Even narrowing the selection down to this many was tough. The story of photographer Patrick Cline is what dreams are made of. He started out assisting and is fast on his way to shooting for Vanity Fair. He is making it in the Big Apple, which is what many only aspire to. I learnt about Patrick via Michelle Adams when she praised his work over coffee on her recent visit to Australia. You may remember from when I interviewed her here that she spoke about a collaborative photography project called Lonny - the name is an amalgamation of Lon(don) and NY. Luckily for all of us, many of the photos above are actually for sale - here. Or, for now, you can do what I'm about do, and print some off and stick them in front of your desk and dream until the real thing arrives in the post. Thanks, Patrick!

Which five words best describe you? Driven. Intuitive. Productive. Stubborn. Hungry (all the time).
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job was with a black and white printer, at an underground studio in Spitalfields Market, East London. I learnt how to hand process, and print in the darkroom. I then went onto assisting, an Editorial/Advertising photographer Dan Burn Forti. At this point I hadn't wanted to be a photographer, but it took about a month of working for this guy, and I was hooked. After a few years of assisting many great photographers in London, I traveled to NY for my first crack at living there. I loved the city, and how much opportunity came my way compared to London, so I spent a couple of years working at a high end Color Lab in Manhattan, printing for photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Tom Munro and Mario Testino. I am now back in NY, and have been for 2 years, and now have a small company that prints, retouches and designs from my studio in Manhattan. I also shoot, and have just recently taken on photographers to represent as an agent.
What's your proudest achievement? I guess it has everything to do with my career right now, it is so easy to get caught up in the stress and day-to-day runnings of work, I forget that I not only work for myself, but have a studio in Manhattan, which is kind of a dream I've always had.
What's been your best decision? To make the move back to New York, and start a business, I knew it was right for me here.
Who inspires you? A handful of photographers, Daniela Federici, Tom Munro, Michael Thompson, Dan Burn Forti (the person that first opened the door to my obsession) Mario Testino - these are basically people that I love the work of, and just think have the most amazing lives, traveling and meeting interesting people. Also a few people around me at the moment, creative, talented people, that in this tough economic climate, just keep going, pushing, trying, evolving, inventing. These people help me move forward too.
What are you passionate about? Food, oh and obviously work, but yeah, love eating.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? To always follow my instincts, whether that be about people, work, just life in general.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I admire a lot of famous people for various reasons, but wouldn't necessarily want to meet them, I guess I would want to meet one of my late family, to see what they were like, great great grandfather maybe?
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To shoot for Vanity Fair.
What are you reading? Vanity Fair (oh and a book called The Cosmic Ordering Service by Barbel Mohr).

images courtesy of Patrick Cline

Thursday, 14 May 2009

(food.inspiration) boon chocolate

Recently I got to check out Corban & Blair's latest range of products at Boon Chocolates, a gourmet chocolate shop in Sydney's Darlinghurst. While I was there primarily to check out stationery, I left calculating when I could give my tastebuds another fix. You see, I have a chocolate addiction problem. But I don't want my problems to detract from the story behind Alex and Fanny Chan. They are an incredible brother and sister team that have brought very different but complementary skills together. Fanny trained in Belgium - the epicentre of the chocolate world - under one of the world's greatest chefs while Alex worked developing food products for multinational food brands. Their cultural background blends Chinese, Filipino and Spanish influences and they are so sweet and good-willed as people. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about - Alex aspires to be a social entrepreneur while Fanny wants to have a cocoa farm. If you go to the shop you really must have a chat to them. They are not only warm and giving of their time but very inspiring and interesting.

Which five words best describe you?
Alex – passionate, idealistic, enjoys people, loves music and a socialist.
Fanny – meticulous, perfectionist, obsessive, creative, and humble.

What was your first job and what path have you taken since then?
Alex – first job was a food technologists for big companies but now I really enjoy going back using only natural ingredients and to work around it. It is where real understanding and love for what we do really develops and grows.
Fanny – first real job was waking up in the morning at 3 am to do croissant. Then, I moved to pastry then fell in love with chocolates almost at an instance.

What’s your proudest achievement?
Alex – when people come to our shop and say “I am in love with Boon” there is no greater feeling than that because we put so much of our soul and energy in what we do.
Fanny – going to Belgium and told myself “I don’t know anyone but I will go there and try my luck.”

What’s been your best decision?
Alex – to be involve with Opportunity Australia because it makes you feel that you are not just working for yourself but for the society at large.
Fanny – stopping my masters degree in food tech and telling my dad “I am going to Belgium to pursue my passion for chocolates.”

Who inspires you?
Alex – Ayrton Senna – a race car driver whose passion in what he does and commitment to the poor is inspiring. Unfortunately, he passed away doing what he wants. My parents – are definitely my inspiration as I am a segment of their personality. Commitment to people in need and to make a difference ie to become a responsible “social entrepreneur”.
Fanny – Rafael Nadal – his humility and passion for improving himself is a role model for me.

What are you passionate about?
Alex – I love photography black and white (in my dark room), write poems and essays, tennis, and music (jazz and classical music especially Mahler and Schubert)
Fanny – I love going to museum, chocolates (of course), travelling, food.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt?
Alex – nothing is ever sure in life so always have option B or C.
Fanny – no guts no glory. Go for it and don't look back.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Alex – Jose Rizal – the Great Philippines National Hero. He defended the rights of the Filipino from the atrocity of the Spanish colonialists. But his vision was more on self empowerment than armed struggle. His idea was later taken up by Gandhi’s pacifist movement 50 years later India when she got its independence from Britain. He was executed for his views and his family was exiled for his belief. Apparently, he is known to be one of the smartest person who ever lived in south east asia in the modern times. Please google him.

What dream do you still want to fulfil?
Alex – I want to be a social entrepreneur and to let people know that Australia is the place where you could fulfil your dreams.
Fanny – to grow my own cocoa farm one day.

What are you reading?
Alex – I am learning Spanish now. Philippines used to be a colony of Spain and a lot of the Philippines history was written in Spanish. (I think Australia should make it mandatory to learn other languages... it opens so much opportunities to see the world.)
Fanny – learning French.

Images courtesy of Boon Chocolates


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