The Kangaroos Leave Town

I’d been away for a while & I’d heard that the kangaroos had left town. It had rained and rained and the grass was all green and lush, like Ireland, – so the kangaroos didn’t need to come out of the bush anymore to feed on the village Common.

I was already missing them. It’s a privilege, never quite taken for granted, to get so near to a group of wild animals. Not too close, there’s always something of an edge to human/ kangaroo interaction. Better to look from a slight distance, no need to find out where the phrase ‘boxing kangaroo’ came from…

But the village with out the kangaroos- like a Western with out cowboys. Missing the drama.

At first it seemed to be holding true, but then, the first sighting; one of the old males who has been forced out of the mob and who sticks close to town. Always a slightly haughty look, as if trying to hold onto past dignity.

They were still there, more on the edges of town, gathering in the dusk. A couple in the slightly comical reclining “Roman” pose near the camping ground. Still there, for now, those other magical inhabitants of the village.

Provence: Design Inspiration

up the top of the grand staircase outside the train station in Marseille, Notre Dame de la Garde in the background

Three days in Provence, split between Marseille and Aix en Provence. From hard edged to calm: polar opposites in atmosphere…

The men who used to run Marseille

looking out over Marseille

Marseille is like a city out of time. The French Connection alley ways and the Count of Monte Christo’s Chateau D’If in the harbour offset with a striking new museum in the old port. The streets are hard to read & understand- they don’t seem to obey the normal rules of other cites. Not a place to be on your own in.

la Caravelle in the old port, Marseille

Vieille Charite, Marseille- former almshouse now museum

Lucky to have a guide with a passionate love of the city who steered us to exquisite gems like the Notre Dame de la Garde church high on the hill, filled with small ships placed there by sailors wives and the woody, atmospheric La Caravelle bar. Then the almost unbelievable spice markets with their mounds of saffron and exotic soaps, like something out of One Thousand and One Nights and the fascinating Chamber of Commerce Museum. The pearls produced by the gritty oyster of Marseille.

a square in Aix

beautiful signage in Aix

Aix en Provence is completely beguiling. Cezanne’s home town; it’s exciting to drive in seeing his famous mountain in the distance. The lovely profusion of fountains softens the city, along with the buttery yellow ochres of its buildings. Here you can relax and explore.
Randomly coming across the book “Two Towns in Provence” by M. F. K. Fisher where the author explores the seductions of both Aix and Marseille from the 1930s to the 1970s. Nothing seems to have changed too much. There’s kind of an enchantment to the two places, dark and light. I can see how artists have been drawn back over the years…

a cute Spanish Bar

leaving Provence

New York: Design Inspiration

ultimate favourite: Buvette in the West Village

looking down from the High Line

There’s nothing like New York for a shot in the arm: somehow the grid of streets buzz and hum with electricity- the same energy that has inspired all those films and songs…

the dark beauty of the lobby at the Nomad

a Holden Caulfield type of day in Central Park

Visiting the new Nomad Hotel designed by Jaques Garcia is like stepping into a 19th Century novel, perhaps an Edith Wharton or Henry James. All dark and opulent yet cosy. Potted palms, tasselled chairs, unexpected seating nooks. Located close by the Flatiron building, the atmosphere of the hotel references that era of the grand & beautiful New York skyscraper yet doing so with completely modern fabrics and furniture. It’s like a master class in in interior design.

the Library Room in the Nomad Hotel

close by outside, the Flatiron Building

Having a coffee in the library room just off the bar is a delicious experience; cocooned from the outside traffic and noise & surrounded by the comfort of well chosen books. Somehow walls of books can put you at ease, the different titles give you something to look at and delve into.

uplit bookshelves at the Nomad

a coffee stop at The Smile

So many wonderful bolt holes discovered this trip- The Smile, Freemans and Buvette. Discovered from images seen on Pinterest & from a wonderful personalised guide from Thomas Murphy from Blood & Champagne, which included the shops Paula Rubenstein and John Derian. Just a few days on the ground, but so much rich imagery to absorb and savour…

that architecture

so inviting- the entrance to Freemans

Brooklyn: Design Inspiration

The Bellocq Tea Atelier in Brooklyn

Brooklyn has become a brand name. A byword for alternative, an existence out of the mainstream. Coming late to the story, it’s different to how I expected it to be. The architecture is much smaller in scale: it could be on the outskirts of of a smaller East Coast city.

ombre walls at Bellocq Tea Atelier

the power of a rich, deep wall colour

Bellocq Tea Atelier is an early stop. Seen on many an Instagram and Pinterest feed, that atmosphere is even more beautiful in real life. Calm & serene, an oasis in the bleak post winter environment. The design is spare but full of ideas. The treatment of the walls, the rich deep purple in one room and the blue ombre in the fern room show how strongly paint and colour affects a space. Each pitch perfect element of the interior leads you into a frame of mind where you can focus on the ritual of sampling tea.

Brooklyn rooftops & water tower

the (other) kinfolk

Further in the urban landscape, a myriad of bars and restaurants, just past the offices of Vice, the gallery/cafe/shop Kinfolk (not the magazine) and the Wythe Hotel which has distilled best of Brooklyn industrial.

coffee at Reynard

early morning light at Reynard

Downstairs at the Wythe is the restaurant Reynard, the oversize windows filter the morning light at breakfast and the patterned tiled floors and Bentwood chairs give just a suggestion of a Paris brasserie.
Everything just works, – a cafe to linger in…

a toy view of New York City as seen from Brooklyn

old industrial elements in Reynards

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: Taronga Zoo

walking under the antelopes – the entrance to Taronga Zoo

Driving down the streets of beautiful old timber houses, it’s the strange sounds you hear first; hysterical cries, possibly a monkey – preparing you for the magical world of Taronga Zoo. The entry building is from Sydney’s story book architecture period; rows of plaster animal heads, wreaths encircling koalas & and a dome on top.

a ceremonial entry

the little baby chimp…

The zoo seems to have its own microclimate – steamier and more tropical than the rest of Sydney. Running down the side of a hill with winding paths overshadowed by large trees, fig trees growing out of rocks – it joins up to a ferry route down the bottom.

seat made of bush rock

Giraffe & Centrepoint Tower

The giraffes get the best view – right out over the harbour…

another seat along the path

lemurs – you can actually walk through this enclosure

I like looking for the remnants of the old zoo, the parts that date from the 1915 on, like the fantastical elephant house. The beautiful old rock seats made of bush stone are inspiring.

heading back to the house…

the former elephant house

I always leave wanting to come back. Such a complete distraction from the business of the world…

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…

Inspiration: Fast and Loose

Going through the original inspiration for the old schoolmasters house – piles of well worn pages torn from old World of Interiors, the credits and stories lost in time. Revisiting Rebecca Purcell’s book “Interior Alchemy” – unique & wonderful.
Some images turn up ideas that have already been absorbed into the house while others provoke new thoughts…

From Rebecca Purcell’s Interior Alchemy

Randomness, florals, quilts, little bird pictures, baskets… …moving fast & keeping it loose.

A strong coloured trim. Vestibules and mudrooms with a pleasing array of hats & baskets
- handmade textiles.
Rough paint samples left as layers, organic textures.

From Rebecca Purcell’s Interior Alchemy

Collections on the wall, spareness & space, utilitarian repurposed furniture.

The bed as the centre piece of the room, roughly held valances, rich fabrics against a plain background.
And botanical charts, strong coloured walls, graphic textiles and random handmade lights

Just being simple.