Friday, 31 July 2009

(home.inspiration) max kater

It's a great skill to converse with a complete stranger. In some contexts this is called networking, but it's more than that. It's the ability to chat to someone at a dinner party or a wedding or in the kitchen at work. I've met only a handful of people who can do this well - not only making the other person feel completely at ease, but also creating not just chit-chat but interesting conversation. Max Kater is one of these people. She must throw the most fabulous dinner parties because she's warm and welcoming. I was lucky enough to visit her beautiful Sydney home recently, which has just been featured on Apartment Therapy. We were strangers and yet within moments of walking into her dining room she was offering me lunch, making me a cup of tea, laying out toys for my little boy, and chatting away as if we were old friends. I'm not sure if it's a learnt skill or a gift, but it's certainly impressive.

The reason I was visiting Max was to learn more about her must-try eco-friendly cleaning range Murchison-Hume. I feel slightly silly to say it, but I've never been so excited to use a cleaning product before. It's beautifully packaged and it makes me feel so good that it's not made of toxic chemicals, especially as I have a young son. It also smells divine.

Anyway, it's time you met Max yourself.

Which five words best describe you? Resourceful, Creative, Stylish, Lazy and Impatient.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? Well, my very first was in my early teens selling ladies shoes at the ultra-preppy Pappagallo store in the Sherman Oaks Galleria (home of the notorious Valley Girl of 1980s Southern Californian Fame). I have continued to wear ladies shoes ever since.
What's your proudest achievement? Easy. Two amazing schoolboys called Ben and Charlie Kater (oh, and I guess bagging their father, Peter first).
What's been your best decision? Going for that post-ball nightcap to a private Hong Kong disco where I met Ben and Charlie's father. I was like a drunken Cinderella.
Who inspires you? You do, my dear! (Well, women like you). My Mother and late Aunt and friends and even women I read about who manage to balance work and family, love and life and still have time to be charming, play Lego, make dinner and put on eyeliner.
What are you passionate about? My family and our business. And a small occasional table I saw on 1st Dibbs which I love but can't afford.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? Thrive and bloom where you're planted! In decorating terms this means one should never buy furniture for a "someday" house. Buy things for the house you live in. And never involve husbands in any furniture dramas. It makes them very grumpy and they have to have a lie down.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Ooh, that's a tough one! It's a toss-up between Cleopatra, Andy Warhol, Elsie de Wolfe and Prince Charles. Can you imagine what a fun dinner party that would be?! I Bet Elsie and Charles would steal a couple of bottles and disappear into the Hydrangea and I'd be stuck doing the washing up with Andy while Cleo tried to seduce my Husband. Little Tart!
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Initiating legislation to aid parents in raising their children, the beginning of true global peace and a walk-in closet. I believe I will live to see all three.
What are you reading? The boy's old school newsletters and blogs written by people far more clever than myself.

Images courtesy of Murchison-Hume and Apartment Therapy

Thursday, 30 July 2009

(design.inspiration) nicole hopkinson

Oh, what a lovely surprise. I interviewed Cameron Comer a while back for Real Living and discovered at the time that he had set up a stationery business with two other people. One of them is the lovely Nicole Hopkinson. She recently agreed to be interviewed by Daily Imprint. I laughed when she described the collaboration process at Bluebird Papergoods: "The design of all products is done by the three of us (plenty of late nights debating colours, fonts, and layouts I can assure you!)." The humour is certainly apparent in some of those cards.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, Passionate, Positive, Loyal, Curious.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? Selling ladies shoes in my local shopping strip. I am now well and truly on the other side of the counter and juggle running a Melbourne liquor licensing consultancy, writing about online shopping, and my newest venture with designer Cameron Comer and Samantha Duff – Bluebird Papergoods which offers a super chic collection of greeting and notecards all designed and made in Melbourne.
What's your proudest achievement? Having my first book released in Australian in 2006 (The Global Shopper) and having a US publisher release an American edition a year later! It has been an amazing journey that started as a hobby but grew into something which has given me the opportunity to meet a range of inspiring and creative people from around the world.
What's been your best decision? Purchasing my first apartment a couple of years ago. It is my complete haven in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Melbourne CBD where I can surround myself with all my favorite things. It is a place I have truly been able to make my own and create a place that continues to delight!
Who inspires you? My parents, my friends, and people who are passionate about what they do. In recent years I have also realised that surrounding yourself with creative people can help to nurture and develop your own creativity and encourage you to see things in new and exciting ways.
What are you passionate about? Family, friends, creativity, New York City, and dark chocolate.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? Do what makes you happy – at least then you are guaranteed that at least one person will be satisfied!
Which person, living or dead, would you like to meet? Martha Stewart, Dominick Dunne, Barbara Hutton.
What dream do you still want to fulfill? To have Bluebird Papergoods stocked in every international capital city.

Images courtesy of Bluebird Papergoods and Sharyn Cairns

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

(book.inspiration) paris: made by hand

I'm always impressed when someone who you admire, and think, "how on earth do they manage to do all that they do", goes ahead and does something entirely new and fabulous. Enter Pia Jane Bijkerk who is not only a stylist, photographer and blogger extraordinaire - I interviewed her here - but she's also recently written a beautiful little book Paris: Made By Hand. Well worth checking out, and now that we're heading into the second half of the year I hope it's no longer sacrilegious to say put it on your Christmas wish list. (Blame real living - we're already working on our Christmas issue!!!).

Image courtesy of Pia Jane Bijkerk

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

(interiors.inspiration) james andrew

I have a confession to make. I LOVE people who are passionate about life. Okay, so that might not come across as so much of a revelation given that it's one of the criteria for my blog. But I can't emphasise enough how much I get inspired when I come across people who embrace life to the full. They don't live as a pedestrian but as the driver of their destiny. I get energised after spending time with them. James Andrew is one of these dynamos. As if his interior work is not enough to get you excited, check out his completely addictive blog What Is James Wearing.

Which five words best describe you? Stylish, spiritual, bold, optimistic, eclectic.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job was working for a small theater company, doing everything from building stage sets to acting. I also worked as a banker (sadly) then I spent eight years at Ralph Lauren working my way up from shop boy to designer of stores, interiors and showrooms. I started doing freelance interior design, and developed enough personal demand that I left Ralph Lauren, and started my own firm. After some years on my own I was recruited to work for the legendary design firm Parish Hadley. After two productive years there I set off on my own again, starting my current firm which continues to thrive. I also founded in 2008 and this July we will be celebrating our one-year anniversary and already have a readership in 84 countries and territories!
What’s your proudest achievement? Owning my own design business and I'm also excited about my WIJW blog site.
What’s been your best decision? To stop looking beyond myself for acceptance and approval - I firmly believe that we can create our own destinies.
Who inspires you? It comes from many - there are interior design icons like David Hicks, Billy Baldwin, J M Frank, Emilio Terry, that have inspired me - but my mentor Albert
Hadley has had the greatest impact on me. There are men like Gianni Agnelli, Cary Grant, the Duke of Windsor whose impeccable style continues to influence and inspire my fashion sense. And there is Oprah - she has achieved such monumental success on so many different levels despite a myriad of obstacles. The story of her life journey continues to inspire me to achieve my very grandest dreams.
What are you passionate about? I live to share my passion for all things beautiful. Whether I'm designing an interior for a client, selecting clothes, having a good meal with friends, or planning an exotic trip, I really aspire to connect on a deep level with those of like heart and mind.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? The most important time is NOW and I really try to celebrate every moment with gratitude and appreciation.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I'd like to meet Valentino - I want to live like him!
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'm still looking for the perfect town house here in New York City.
What are you reading? I'm currently reading The private world of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge by Robert Murphy.

Images courtesy of James Andrew and What is James Wearing

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

(shop.inspiration) safari fusion

To say that I am a little obsessed with Africa right now is an understatement. You see, if all goes well, I am heading there for the first time late next month. I'm thrilled to bits as I will be writing a travel piece on my experience too. Ever since the idea started to germinate I've been gravitating towards everything to do with this continent - from the photography of Peter Beard to travel destinations such as The Giraffe Manor. So it's no surprise that I got excited to find Safari Fusion recently. Here is more about the owner of the online shop, Kellie Shearwood.

Which five words best describe you? Adventurous, energetic, passionate, determined, perfectionist.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job was as a functions waitress at The Victorian Arts Centre, I worked casually whilst studying Travel & Tourism at William Angliss College. I then joined the travel industry working in operations support for a New Zealand wholesale company. Over the years I worked as a Senior Travel Consultant at various wholesale travel companies. However it was in my role as a Product Manager for a leading global luxury travel company that planted the seed for the career path I am on today.
What’s your proudest achievement? Leaving a job I absolutely loved to pursue my dream of running my own business.
What’s been your best decision? Marrying my husband of course!! Also buying and renovating our current house.
Who inspires you? It’s is not really who, but what inspires me. I am a visual person, so it is my surroundings that inspire me most particularly when I am travelling. Architecture, interior design, landscape, and also the interesting people that I meet along the way.
What are you passionate about? Travel, particularly to Africa. I am always thinking about my next trip to the continent! Collecting African art – traditional and contemporary. Photography: I love taking photos on my travels, especially of people and wildlife.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? To never give up, no matter what.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Nelson Mandela.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To open a Safari Fusion store where I can showcase larger African design pieces and safari inspired furniture along with homewares and lifestyle products.
What are you reading? Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I have just finished the latest one ‘Tea Time for the Traditionally Built’. I just adore the tales of Mma Ramotswe.

Images courtesy of Safari Fusion

Monday, 20 July 2009

(illustration.inspiration) sandra krumins

I came across the work of Sandra Krumins on The Nest - an online community created by Dumbofeather founder Kate Bezar. I'm glad I went snooping because Sandra is not only a great illustrator but she has some interesting things to say. I particularly love this comment: "It's much better to learn as you go along and make mistakes than be paralysed by all the what ifs." Hope you get some pearly wisdoms from the interview too.

Which five words best describe you? Resourceful, Sensitive, Driven, Introspective, Strong.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My very first job was at Crazy Prices when I was about 15. It taught me all about what I don't want to do with the rest of my life! When I finished high school I went straight into a Fine Arts degree. Studying art at uni never really suited me though - I wanted to get my hands dirty and make art but it was all theory and art history. When it came time to choose a major I elected to do painting and drawing but I was late putting my forms in and missed out, so printmaking was actually my second choice. I'm very grateful that it turned out that way because ever since then I've just been in love with printmaking, particularly linocut. It's really become part of my identity and integral to my art and illustration practice. After uni I studied graphic design and so I've been juggling the design, illustration and also creating and selling artworks for children through my little business Lino Creative, ever since.
What’s your proudest achievement? Last year I decided to stop doing graphic design so much despite the financial rewards, and follow what makes me happy: illustration and making art for children. I recently started selling at markets all over Sydney and even opened up my own little online shop, and I've never felt better.
What’s been your best decision? To go to the Hollywood hotel one night in 2007 to meet the love of my life!
Who inspires you? Strong, independent, unconventional, creative women who make up their own rules. Margaret Olley, Mirka Mora and Keri Smith [ed - you can read an interview with Keri Smith on Daily Imprint here] are just a few examples. Other artists and illustrators like Nate Williams, Esther Pearl Watson, Olaf Hajek, Rob Ryan, Donna Ingemanson and so many more!
What are you passionate about? My family, community, art, good food and wine, animal rights.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? The more you work, the more inspiration will come. Don't over think everything too much: it's much better to learn as you go along and make mistakes than be paralysed by all the what ifs.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My mother's mother. I'd love to have tea with my mum and my grandma. That'd be nice.
What dream do you still want to fulfill? Own my own home in the mountains with a veggie patch, a big art studio and a wood fire. Three kids and a jack russell called Fudge. And I want to learn how to knit.
What are you reading? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Images courtesy of Sandra Krumins

Thursday, 16 July 2009


Here is the latest instalment from the Design*Sponge guest blog post I did last year. To see the original post, go here.

Stylist Shannon Fricke - Editor of interior books Colour and Space (Murdoch Books); also interior stylist, writer and TV presenter.

How and why did you start working as an interior stylist? I grew up with a mother who had a passion for both fashion and interior decorating. I watched her from the time that I was a small child creating beautiful ensembles and interiors - although her creations came to bare on a very tight budget. From this, I learnt that when you create from the heart and with your individuality in mind, first and foremost, you can create a style that is all your own. Being able to do this gives people such confidence and it’s this that inspired my foray into interior decorating. Firstly with my own home, and then other peoples’ - for television, magazine articles and my books. What I hope is that through my work, people will feel a sense of confidence to be able to create for themselves.

What lessons have you learnt along the way? That when you take the time to stop and reflect on the things that you love, then the creativity will come.

What’s your favourite decorating style? I don’t follow one particular style - every house you live in and then every different stage of your life requires a different decorating response. There’s nothing that I love more than walking into somebody’s house and being surprised by the elements that they’ve thrown together. I think it tells you so much about a person.

What’s the most common mistake people make when decorating their home? It’s a missed opportunity when people slavishly follow trends. In my view, the home is like a blank canvas, waiting to be filled in. You can create and folly to your heart’s content in your home and the only people to know are those that you invite in. It’s such a safe and lovely place to express yourself.

Where do you look to for inspiration? I’m inspired mostly by people and their experiences - I love to hear the stories of other peoples’ lives. And then there is my own life and travels: my family, the countryside that I live in, my garden, my horses, overseas trips - basically everything!

Who inspires you? People who live a fulfilled life - that follow their passions and their heart.

What did you want to achieve with the Colour and Space books? I hope the books offer the tools that people need to build their decorating confidence so they can create a home that they love living in.

How did you go about sourcing the images? My good friend and brilliant photographer Prue Ruscoe and I sourced and photographed the houses that appear in the book. We even traveled to New York for a couple.

How has your own personal interior style developed? In two ways since I’ve had my children. The first is that I’ve built in triple the amount of storage that I used to have - to hide all the stuff! The second is the colour palette that I’ve used - I’ve ditched the crazy oranges and reds for a quieter palette of greens and blues. The last thing that I need with two energetic kids in tow is more crazy energy.

How would you describe your home? Exactly the place I want to be.

photography prue ruscoe

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

(design.inspiration) matthew chan

If you're in the midst of renovations or one day would like to build your dream home then I suggest you take a look at the website of architect Matthew Chan. He creates real homes that are sophisticated yet livable. The Mountain Villa - I'm there! (Okay, maybe that one's not so real.) And as a recovering perfectionist, what Matthew says here has real resonance for me: "Make every project your best project as you are always judged by your lowest mark."

Which five words best describe you? Determined, adaptable, optimistic, competitive, quirky.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? I worked in a merchant bank as a courier at age 15, but I decided quite early on that instead of finance I should pursue a more creative profession - I ended up studying architecture at uni + haven't looked back since.
What’s your proudest achievement? We just won a commission for an installation to be exhibited in the Sydney Laneways By George project to be held over the summer, which I am pretty proud of. Otherwise finishing my masters degree in the Netherlands was quite an achievement for me.
What’s been your best decision? Starting my own design studio - having the Independence to call my own shots is more valuable than anything to me.
Who inspires you? My crazy parents who are completing advanced degrees when most people are well retired and winding down; maybe Miguel Indurain, a Spanish cyclist who won the Tour de France 5 times in the early 90s.
What are you passionate about? I love the outdoors + spend all of my spare time thinking of how I can escape the city + get out into the mountains, ocean or bush. I'm also into cool bicycles and have quite the collection. I love my food and am definitely led by my appetite. Of course, I am passionate about my work first and foremost, but its the other things which make life a bit more colorful and feed my energy.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? 1. you have to begin as you would like to finish. 2. make every project your best project as you are always judged by your lowest mark. Question everything + take nothing for granted + maybe learning to ride a bike as a kid.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Ghengis Khan.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Building my next masterpiece and then the one after that. Riding across the Pyrenees, traversing the silk road by bicycle.
What are you reading? The plague of fantasies by Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher from Slovenia, I learnt of from the recent architectural conference.

Images courtesy of Matthew Chan

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Interior designer Diane Bergeron is a New York native transplanted into Melbourne who has gained a strong following in Australia in part thanks to the renovation of her home in newfound city. The transformation of a two-storey Collingwood warehouse into a cool yet refined home has seen her work featured in an array of magazines across the world. However, Diane has been creating interiors for the best part of 20 years, a passion she developed after growing up in Massachusetts. Diane also has a successful business importing her favourite American fabrics.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, creative, outrageously optimistic, enthusiastic.

What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? A lemonade stand at age seven. In my early 20s I had a vintage clothing store on Martha’s Vineyard and waited tables in NYC. Since then, I’ve moved around a lot… always doing interiors in Montreal, Miami, New York and now here to stay in Melbourne where I set up a showroom importing all of my favourite American fabrics.

What’s your proudest achievement? I have two. My daughters Annis & Coco.

What’s been your best decision? Moving To Australia.

Who inspires you? Charlotte Gainsbourg & Annie Hall.

What are you passionate about? Food. Music. Shoes.

What's the best lesson you've learnt? Trust your instincts and follow your heart.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I have a dream dinner party guest list… Lillian Hellman, Elizabeth David, Barak Obama, Diana Vreeland, Nancy Mitford, Woody Allen, Dorothy Draper, Slim Aarons, Spalding Grey and Robert Rauschenberg.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Do the interior design for a boutique hotel.

What are you reading? Villages by John Updike. The latest New Yorker Magazine.

images courtesy of diane bergeron

Friday, 10 July 2009

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Up until recently Lynda Gardener has mostly been known for her Melbourne store Empire Vintage, selling an assortment of homewares. But always alongside this she has received a fair amount of press in relation to her home that is furnished in the style of the shop. Now Lynda has taken this combination one step further and created a country home that is available as accommodation - The White House Daylesford.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, creative, dedicated, caring, a little over energetic!

What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job was working as a secretary at Levis Strauss but I quickly moved into a visual merchandising role, setting up all their concept stores around Australia - purchasing props from all around the country and making sure the stores were absolutely perfect for opening day. I was there for 12 years and loved every minute of working for such a large corporate company.

What’s your proudest achievement? I have many, some are really small, but still just as important to me! Opening my own store 15 years ago and still going strong, all of my interior decorating work, particularly my latest project The White House Daylesford, having my homes over the years featured in books and magazines around the world.

What’s been your best decision? To step out on my own and achieve everything I have so far.

Who inspires you? People all around me: artists, decorators, stylists, creative people.

What are you passionate about? Everyday things - watching my dog run around in the park chasing birds with his forever wagging tail; time that is spent with my friends/family, the next project I will be decorating, travel, dinners, my home, enjoying life to the fullest and the list goes on and on and on.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? To relax... it has taken me a long time to actually learn how to sit and just take the time to do nothing.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My list would change daily, but let's start with Coco Chanel.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? So many dreams, build up my interior business, continue to travel each and every year, perhaps another country house, a book... opening up another business? I never stop thinking of new ideas.

What are you reading? Mainly interior books/magazines... and most recently a little book by Pia Jane Bijkerk [interviewPARIS:made by hand.

images courtesy of lynda gardener


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