One of the best things about my job is that I write my own job description. So when travelling, I kill many birds with one stone. I choose destinations to be included in my books- but whilst I’m there I get inspired for my own commercial interior details just through eating in restaurants & staying in hotels. I pick up fabulous local treasures from artisans & markets to stock in the shop or use to design my own decorative hardware range. So, if you, like me, love shopping, sightseeing, eating & staying in super cool places & generally immersing yourself in another culture or place- this is for you.
These are the pictures from the amazing hotel, Le Sirenuse, in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. I had wanted to stay here FOREVER for obvious reasons: beachside location as well as it being an old-fashioned family-owned hotel. When travelling & writing I get to meet interesting people, and this was no different. I met with the owner Antonio, who is quite the character. The hotel was once a family home and now has rooms & terraces and pools that lazily tumble down the steeps of Positano. It is full of family heirlooms, indoor plants and hidden nooks & crannies to while away the afternoon or the evening! I am using this indoor plant idea at Uccello on Sydney’s George St. I have found beautiful Hoyas that are patiently awaiting the perfect pot.
I bought some owl pellets for me & my friend, Josh Yeldman, who likes to paint owls. They are sold at Paxton Gate (a super cool shop in San Fran) if you are not lucky enough to find them in the wild. Owl pellets are the bits & pieces owls don’t digest & buy siphoning through them you can unfold their eating secrets. You might find fur, bones & the like once you dissect & pull them apart. See here for a demonstration! This beautiful paper barn owl hangs in my studio & was made for me by my friend Anna-Wili.
The origins of the phrase is France, it means ‘found object’, or an ordinary object, found. This palette was inspired by all those things that are pre-loved, tattered, treasured, vintage, threadbare, faded & frayed. Old-fashioned haberdashery items: fabric by-the-yard, grosgrain ribbon, braid and trim, thread & buttons, a beaded flower or strand of sequins that is treated as an object of art by the one who finds it. These are the things that you might find in your mothers old sewing kit like fabric measuring tapes & pins with glass heads. Unusual things that don’t quite belong anywhere, but for some reason, are cherished. Mostly manmade, they often become items of inspiration- a piece of string that becomes the colour of your walls.
They can be big as well of course, perfect floral fabric from an old curtain or a satin quilt in a shade of dusty pink. Part of an old-fashioned doll that your Father brought you back from China in the 80s, a beautiful decaying metal fringe trim, a mother of pearl button that happens to be the perfect shape for the button that just fell off your softest cardigan, a feather butterfly, even the little bundle of bobby pins that are a bit rusty but have the perfect old paper packaging. It is all these things that don’t really have a point, but are kept and are ever so lovely.
‘Following a walk marked by an intangible mist of bloom that followed the white border stones she came to a space overlooking the sea where there were lanterns asleep in the fig trees and a big table and wicker chairs and a great market umbrella from Sienna, all gathered about an enormous pine, the biggest tree in the garden. She paused there a moment, looking absently at a growth of nasturtiums and iris tangled at its foot, as though sprung from a careless handful of seeds….’ By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
This theme is seaside summers & hot Februarys with the backdrop of the garden and all its elements. The bright deep greens of grapevines, passionflowers, Virginia creeper & tendrils galore, kitchen gardens & salad foliage provide the background for the watermelon pink of Rosa Ragosa (grown at port stops by sailors for its fat rosehips- full of Vitamin C and needed after a long voyage) & warm spectrum of Nasturtiums’ edible flowers and the shock brights of Geraniums. As a child, my brothers & I would look for cicadas hoping to get our hands on their beautifully veined wings (if a bird had not already got the better of them!!!). We knew all the names: Cherry Nose, Black Prince, Greengrocer, Yellow Monday, Tom Thumb, Double Drummer, Flowery Baker, & the all illusive White Nurse.
To finish the picture the beautiful Rorschach element of Monarch butterflies & the floating magic of dragonflies as they just so lightly touch the waters surface so their wings don’t catch on fire!
Think of a time of exploration when the French, Dutch and English were in a race to conquer & colonise the world. The flags that flew & tattered through strong winds, relentless storms, high seas and all the wildness of the ocean. The sailors & buccaneers lived on these ships, known as wooden worlds, as voyages of discovery & exploration lasted years, if not a lifetime. A world of sea shanties, sailmaking, mapping of uncharted coastlines & new lands, portlands & pirating.The colours are inspired by these characters, vessels, stories & the flotsam & jetsam of all of it. Rope & canvas are the neutrals: Staysail, Fairweather & Figure-of-eight; the glossy red of Bunting to frighten all the seafaring birds; & the deep, saturated blues of Oceania & Atlas. I love the Rime of The Ancient Mariner and the images of the untameable ocean it conjures up:
“And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.
With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled…”
I’ve long been curious about old-fashioned last names that described the ‘owners’ trade: Cooper, Fletcher, Smith, Turner, Wright, Tailor etc.
This curiosity led itself to these trades that are now somewhat obsolete, but oh so romantic sounding. Sadly, many of these trades are only survived by their surnames- the world has changed greatly causing many of these occupational surnames to fall into disuse. For me, these forgotten skills are apparent in the technique, sensitivity & material at the hands of my favourite modern day sculptors: Barbara Hepworth, Noguchi, Brancuzi, Andy Goldsworthy. These artists work as one with their materials, as I imagine the past tradesmen once did, when their days were filled with moulding & shaping & manipulating & transforming their material-of-choice. Now we have technology to do what was toiled over in days past, these trades live on in the work of those who prefer to do things the hard way, for the love of creating & working hard & making use of their toolbox.
The colours are inspired by cut stone, wood shavings, lichen, arrow feathers, braided leather, waxed linen, handmade paper & brush bristles, wood plates & objects, felted blankets, b&w photography, balls-of-string, giant sea-sponges, leathers & hides and all things natural moderne.