Los Angeles: Design Inspiration

Passing through Los Angeles for a quick visit, picking up on the humming vibrance in the cafes, restaurants and shops. Pockets & pools of inspiration interspersed with long stretches of driving. Re-visiting old favourites, and hunting down new ones, with the clues of elusive images seen on Instagram and Pinterest.

General Store in Venice

those distinctive Los Angeles palms


In the Abbot Kinney area in Venice, stopping for a healthy bustling lunch at Gjelina then checking out the exquisite Japanses ceramics and artworks at Tortise and TGS. Then up to General Store on Lincoln, where the innovative shop design is pitch perfect. Tall indigo tie dyed changing room curtains, fresh green indoor plants, large burled wooden slab tables and original triangular shelving.

hiking in Runyon Canyon

LAMILL in Silverlake


In Silverlake the charm of LAMILL cafe. The painted mural walls of ancient scenes rendered in black and white giving the room a grace while the bright red booths make it unpretentious.

Looking up: the Bradbury

Eat Drink Americano in Downtown LA


In Downtown the wonderful work of the Haas Brothers in the Ace Hotel. A stop off at Eat Drink Americano, located in an industrial area on the outskirts of Downtown that shows signs of interesting life. Finishing at the mysterious Bradbury Building, designed in a seance, location for Bladerunner. There is something in the liquid goldenness of the light trapped by the light well and the delicacy of the black filagree ironwork that makes it unlike any another building. It’s intriguing and unknowable – offering no easy answers.

cascades of bougainvillaea

The mysterious Bradbury Building in Downtown

Country Postcards


A country fix this week – one I’d been missing.
Stillness. Country drives. Time in the garden. Twilight walks with the kangaroos.

Alby & Esthers’ Cafe in Mudgee

a big country sky


Passing through Mudgee and a stop at Alby & Esthers’ Cafe; sitting with coffee under the vine leaves in a shady courtyard hidden off the sunny wide streets.

honey eater in the gravel garden

kangaroos on the morning walk


Lots of little birds about; gathering & darting in flocks. There’s autumn in the air now.

from the vegetable patch


Pulling vegetables from the vegetable patch, picking beans. The colours so vibrant and alive. Then the endless weeding out of the kikuya grass – not too sure about the pleasure/pain ratio here. There might be a necessary simplification coming- down to the essentials and favourites: spinach, cherry tomatoes, zucchini,herbs, cucumbers.

A drive up to the lookout after the rain, the light beautiful and soft. A radiance over the landscape. This is where it seeps into your bones – creating a calmness that lasts way through the long drive back to the city.

Simplicity in the City: Inner East

I hope they never repaint this wall in Five Ways


Hot sultry nights work in the Inner East of Sydney. Even though most of the terrace houses have been done up now- there’s still a bit of ramshackle charm; some peeling paint behind the wrought iron balconies, a few palms in the backyards. The growth spurt that often happens in February means that vines get out of control, and the air is fragrant with frangipani, especially in the tropical rain.

old apartment in Darlinghurst

at Chester White


Buffalo Dining Club and Chester White, two relatively new bar/restaurants both designed by Diane Fernandes are an exercise in how to create an atmosphere that best reflects the area – wonderful vintage style signage, peeling paint textures and exposed brick, casual light fittings with clean modern lines.

an incongruous picket fence

barista at Chester White

looking out to Kings Cross

pickles on fireplace

wonderful use of a mirror to enhance a space

upstairs at Buffalo Dining Club

Simplicity in the City: Nielson Park


I think the key to living in Sydney is to seek out the spots where there is a connection to water. And there is so much of it, such choice.
The surf beaches are proven classics, but the harbour contains secrets- little beaches and coves nestled in parks. They feel less commercial, less about signs and shops – calmer. The occasional glimpses of the Harbour Bridge the only reminder you are in a city.

looking back at Nielson from the headland

one of the textures of Sydney- rough hewn sandstone


Nielson Park is one of the most magical. It could be the setting for a performance of “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream”– the audience following the actors round through the park, up the sandstone stairs, onto the moonlit beach. There’s light and dark here- beauty and strangeness.

a peak of the Harbour Bridge

like from a Cambodian temple


The kiosk is from 1915 and is of the style with the bulky title of Queen Anne Federation. I prefer to think of it as “Story book” architecture- it has a quaintness and whimsy that could accommodate talking rabbits… Only recently I realised there was a tunnel from the beach to some sunken dressing rooms, built in the same era.

dreamy … the Nielson Park Kiosk

posts of the shark net

The old name for Nielson was ‘Shark Beach’- and there is a shark net that contains the swimming area. More darkness in the prettiness.

the barrier between sharks and humans

During the weekends it gets very crowded- groups having BBQs, games on the beach – full of life going on. But it is at dusk and dawn that Neilson slips back into its ethereal magic – just waiting for the night curtain to rise…

A New Path


It’s a shock looking back at old photos sometimes. Change seems to happen so slowly, like the passing of a river washing pebbles smooth. And then there is the cold photographic evidence. A few years ago the kitchen looked out onto a scrappy patch of land, dirt held together by weeds. A narrow concrete path led to nowhere. Then the courtyard was built – a sheltered space for outdoor meals – morning coffee & afternoon dreaming.

the original path,  in the same location

the original path, in the same location

the ‘Old Town’ path mixed with slate from the area

Now the grapevine has started to really grow over the pergola, providing shade for those burning hot summers’ days. Late last year the addition of a path to alleviate the heavy tread of the gravel. A long time gestating – it needed to be practical, good to walk on – yet not look to ‘city’. The eventual choice, ‘Old Town’ concrete tiles from Amber that were cast to look like old stone flagging. The random pattern and the insertion of locally sourced stones to get away from a ‘fake’, Disney look. Once it was laid and walked over several times, it looked like it had always been there.

the magnificent eucalyptus tree outside the courtyard

garlic that has been in the village since the Gold Rush


Recently I came across the Spanish word – ‘sobremesa’- which is defined as the time spent around the table after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you shared the meal with; time digest and savour both food and friendship. And I realised that’s it – that’s really the purpose of this courtyard. All those many small decisions had been leading towards creating an atmosphere for sobremesa.

a perfect meal in the courtyard – anitpasta with fried bread

Kangaroo Dreaming

The kangaroos add a wild element to the atmosphere of the old schoolmasters house. They usually congregate just over the back fence at the end of day, a mob of about fifty. Eating the grass, peaceably. Often a couple of young bucks boxing. Mothers with their joeys. It’s a complete world & society.

They are compelling to watch. Not sure where else in the world – perhaps in Africa, you would get such large wild animals this close to a small village. It can feel like being in a zoo enclosure with a wrap around view. They are strange and unusual creatures – completely unlike other animals. The tiny little arms. The small joey heads poking out of their mothers’ pouches. The boing boing movement so fast and powerful. And yet somehow the final result is wonderful – they are creatures of grace, not comedy.

A recent theory holds that human beings are herd animals. A herd being defined as more than five. In an era of relatively fewer family groups of this number, perhaps this is one reason why it’s fascinating and somehow satisfying to watch a herd of animals interact.

Out on a walk you can surprise a few in the bush. There’s a low humph humphing sound I’ve come to associate with them. There is interaction – basically an intense stare and forward rotating ears, often accompanied by a total freeze of posture. Suddenly, like a schoolyard game, there is a whole field of kangaroo statues. The inspiration for concrete garden ornaments becomes clear.

When they’re not there, absent to some other kangaroo grazing land- I miss them. They turn the sunset landscape into a magical world. Creatures from the Dreaming.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Making some garlands for my house out of silver foil; slowly, listening to fascinating Conversations podcasts. Always with craft I find that in the act of occupying the hands, the mind opens up and is extremely receptive to story telling & entering different worlds.

Rustic bench at the English Cottages

distant blue hills

On a break – a visit to some friends; Bill & Genevieve who run the Hill End Press. They live and work in the historic English Cottages and there is something a little other worldly about this collections of small buildings, studio and garden. A bit Alice in Wonderland. The photos should really have the soft light of dusk heading to twilight, not the burning midday sun.

home of the Hill End Press

riot of red roses

Roses run wild here, as tall as the buildings, almost covering them. A reminder that the red rose is a classic not a cliche. Away from the corny single plastic wrapped rose of supper clubs it is a strong and beautiful thing- I want to plant more in my garden.

Genevieve’s garden has an English bent but is also inspired by the plantings of Piet Oudolf with unexpected combinations like dark fennel with heritage irises. Her evergreen shrubs are clipped into sculptural rounded balls. It’s overgrown and charming with winding paths opening onto a green field with a yellow boat in the distance under the trees. If you drifted off to sleep here under the rose bushes, you could well be awakened by a late & impatient white rabbit…

Roses, bushfires


The haze from the bush fires in the air. The land is burning in the Blue Mountains over 2 hours away and the disaster is present on the news and in the air. Close yet far.
Meanwhile I pick the beautiful roses from the garden – life goes on.

smoky haze on the track

the naturalist desk covered in flowers

There are four different types gathered now on the naturalist desk:soft pink roses foraged from a country lane & from the old schoolmasters garden – rosa rugosa, a rambling rose & a lovely golden pink one. All beauties; the scent, the colours unlike anything you can purchase from a city florists.


So beautiful to have around the house, brightening dark corners. A feeling of abundance. Now I get interested in what to do next. How to dry them, make pot potpourrie, sachets, rosewater. At a Lifeline book sale in the nearby country town, I find a book which holds the secrets…

Spring Schoolmaster’s Garden

Irises & roses

King Parrot


Spring in the garden of the old schoolmasters house. Many surprises have pushed their way up through the hard clay ground. Buds and blossoms and small unripened fruit are everywhere. The earth seems to be telling of the potential of the seasons to come.

blue buttons on the path

the echium has landed

Not even two years ago I planted an echium called “Cobalt Towers” , from a tiny little pot- a plant you could fit into the palm of your hand. Last year it got huge and shot up a beautiful blue spire the bees loved. This year it has gone further…. there are now close to fifty spires, and it is higher still. There is a strong life force emanating from it- the constant sound of bees, little shy birds hovering and drinking its nectar.

looking up to the gravel garden

It’s such a beautiful process to bring in cut flowers from the garden. The combinations of flowers dictated by the seasons. They always seem to have a random lusciousness. A reward for all those many hours spent weeding and watering…

rambling roses

blossoms in the bedroom