Conchology: the study of shells

Beach-combing: (my definition) the natural flotsam & jetsam the sea deposits on it’s sandy slopes & in tide lines alone, ready for the find of the casual observer or keen-eyed comber.

On my very recent trip to the Maldives, I was scouting a deserted island that I am in the running to design with uber-cool architect Kelvin Ho. Whilst visiting the island both at sunset & sunrise I picked up these treasures whilst walking the perimeter. Think lots of white sand, pink skies & clear turquoise waters.

One of my very first memories is of beach combing for shells on the wild shores of the beach near my Grandparents farm, on the north coast of NSW. And although this collection of pink tideline-loving kelp shells sits proudly on my cabinet of curiosities, I have bought much fancier shells over the years & am as fascinated by the real thing as by beautiful studies, drawings & lithographs of them.

I am forever searching out shell museums & collections to pour over & use as inspiration for my own display & just to see what wonderful shapes, sizes & colours the world’s cornucopia of shells has to offer.


Mr Cook

My friend, Sean, who has worked with the lovely & talented Saskia of Grandiflora has branched out on his own. His new florist workshop has opened on the outer edge of Double Bay.

I had the chance to collaborate with him on my 10-page CountryStyle Christmas Spread for the December issue. This is a sneak peek of some of his masterpieces.


Camden Park House & Historic Houses inspiration!

I am fascinated with the history of old houses. I enjoy a day’s excursion whilst travelling or at home to witness how honest materials were utilised, crafted, expected & lasted over time. More often than not, it is not the furniture that interests me (tends not to be original), but the floors, tiles, skirtings, steps, layout etc & I particularly love the servants quarters if it is of that era.

I recently visited Camden House which is of the original Macarthur Estate outside Sydney set in beautiful gardens. At the time it was one of the finest estates in the nation after John Macarthur was granted 5000 acres of the best pasture land on which to build his estate.

On my last trip to NYC I visited the Merchant’s house on 4th St (amazing) & if you are stopping by Asheville, North Carolina- The Biltmore Estate built in the late 1800s by the Vanderbilts is a MUST!!!



I am practicing, with success I may add, the art of the smile. My sister once passed on a trick: if it’s all going pear-shaped or you are just a little lacklustre, practice smiling behind your hand (she told me it was a monks trick but don’t quote me on that). Not only does it feel slightly ridiculous, it does make you feel better & then, subsequently, everyone around you. If you are glum, a smile is contagious & can make you happy or at least offer a slight upturn of the mouth.

So turn that frown upside down (even if you don’t feel like it). I visited The Smile Cafe on Bond St with my lovely friend (& very clever stylist) Kim Ficaro, we had the best breakfast & catch up plus this place has the best food, philosophy, interior, book & packaging. This is a chart from the website to demonstrate the very large variety of smiles available to you.


Speakeasy & the 1920s

With the upcoming filming of Baz’s version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ with the fabulous Catherine Martin at the visual helm and the release of Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’, the 1920s are at the forefront again. One of my most favourite times- for me it’s exploring colonial outposts followed by camels caravanning my campaign furniture & necessities in the deserts of the Middle East, or the excitement & exploration of fashion, music, muses, literature & the art of Paris. I based my paint theme, ‘Atelier’ on this time & it features the colours that might have been appearing in the Montmartre: pigments, cloth & milliner’s feathered pieces.

I am researching Sydney’s history so I can reflect it in an upcoming underground brick vaulted space in Sydney’s CBD. The Historic Houses has some wonderful photographic books, reflecting the time through photographs pulled from the archives of the Justice & Police Museum of past ‘peoples of question’. Fabulous not just for the dress & faces, but for the furniture, streetscape & signage that appears in the backdrops throughout.



My Mum was fascinated with things made of horsehair. She was intrigued & studied the hand-woven horsehair veil found through Central Asia. You don’t see it much anymore, it was from older times. I think it was called the Paranja.

Oh, the versatility of horsehair! Traditionally used in upholstery, lining in clothing, woven for Paranjas, fly swats in Africa, plaited for jewellery, used in headdresses from exotic steppe nomads, paintbrushes & even fishing line. My Mum kept lengths of braid, horsetail & various other things under a glass dome at home & she has embedded me with the same attraction. I am not often without the braided bracelets of horsehair (creams & caramels for me) that I bought in Wyoming whilst horse riding in the Honeycomb Badlands- the stomping grounds of infamous American outlaws like Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.