Monday, 27 June 2011

Starck reality ...

It's Monday morning and all is not quite well with the world.

Last night I stumbled upon a programme called Design for Life - anyone seen it?  It's a reality TV show (originally aired in '09 in the UK, I have since discovered) where 12 designers aim to impress Philippe Starck with products they develop.  The brief, from Starck, is to make something "useful to humanity and democratic" and the prize is 6 months working in Starck's design company.  Now, you can love or hate Starck, but I'm assuming if you've got any ambition in the tough world of product design, that prize would be pretty cool, not to mention professionally useful, to win.

Starck's ubiquitous Ghost chair - image via

It was the first I'd seen of this show, so I didn't know (until I read later) who the contestants were.  I was really hoping they were random strangers plucked off the street, but alas, they're mostly qualified product designers, some already employed in the industry.   So I am just a bit gobsmacked at the ideas some of them came up with ...

Bottom of the list for me, hands down, was the bedside lampshade that you could take off the lamp, roll up and fashion into a sort of baseball-bat-looking object, in case you hear a bump in the night and need to go and investigate, and you wish to look vaguely menacing in your jim-jams as you do so.  Hmmmm.  Starck was harsh - "you arrrrre in la-la lande and you heve complett-ely miss-ed ze point" (he has a very strong French accent!).  I did feel a bit for the guy who came up with an ergonomic chair to be used in schools based on the exercise ball idea - a tad heart-breaking when the first thing Starck said was, "I made zat, uhhh, twenty yearssss ago".

So before I get on with the week, I feel the need to remind myself how beautiful, useful and ingenuous design can actually be ...
Ahhhh ... I feel better already.  This chair, called the Valet Chair, was designed by Danish designer Hans Wegner in 1953.  Originally commissioned for a hotel in Copenhagen, at a time when most business travellers were men, the chair was designed to allow the hotel guest to hang up their suit ready for the next day, and keep contents of their pockets in one place.  Here's how it works ...

The workings of Wegner's Valet Chair - photo via chairblog

You hang your jacket on the back, then the seat flips up to create hanging for the trousers.  Lifting the seat reveals a tray in which you can pop the contents of your pockets.  Simple!

William Morris is famed for saying, "Have nothing in your homes that you do not either know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful".  I love it when the 'or' in this quote becomes 'and' - when you come across a product that ticks both boxes - beautiful and useful.

Order restored. 

Hope all is well in your world.  Til next time, Nx

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Is it summer yet?

My family back in Scotland would laugh out loud.  I live in Queensland, but of course I hail from that much colder (yet stunningly beautiful) country, where winter lasts for months on end and where summer happens on a Thursday, so you'd better have your shorts and swimmers at the ready, because you don't want to miss it.

And yet I still struggle, just a little bit, in winter - even when winter only means a couple of months where the mercury dips below 20 degrees Celsius!  A 'hothouse flower', my mum calls me.  I always look forward to the turning of the winter solstice corner and with that out of the way this week, my thoughts are turning to spring and summer and my colour radar is picking up on hues of sunshine and blue skies ....

Small but perfectly formed pops of yellow and turquoise in plenty in the apartment of Spanish Designer Mikel Irastorza.  Image via the always-inspring yellowtrace - click here to see more of the apartment.

I find it so strange how colours just sneak up on you. I've never been one for yellow really, but lately I'm being drawn to it more and more - maybe 'Yellow is the New Orange', a post that made me smile this week from the folks over at prairie hive.  Combine yellow with those favourite shades of turquoise or blue green, and it really is a fresh and summery winner.  I've only been doing this blog for a few weeks, and look how much of this combo has snuck in already ....

From left to right, a photo of mine, two colours from the Kevin McCloud Mid-Century Modern range for Fired EarthSoprano wallpaper from Graham and Brown (and that chair again) and a recent feature from Livingetc

I also realised how many touches of these colours I have dotted around the house ....

From left to right, some bottles from my (growing) Avon collection, blue mud bowl with Penguin pencils and yellow Pienet Kivet fabric by Marimekko (now discontinued I think), and one of many secondhand finds with those 50s buttons

So it's time for us here in the Southern Hemisphere to start daydreaming of summer ....

via karma button

Of long lazy lunches ....

I must write down the source as soon as I find the image - if this is yours or you know where it's from, let me know!

And making the most of our outdoor spaces ....

Umbrella by OEKE, Acapulco Chairs in Turquoise & Neon Yellow, reversible cushion from Thomas Paul (and I did see this on one of the blogs I follow but can't seem to track back to which one - if it's yours, let me know and I'll credit)

Of sipping homemade lemonade (or just arranging some lemons in a jar if making our own soft drinks is too much of a stretch!) ....

via Decor8, photo by Julia Hoersch

And last but by no means least, of days at the beach in this beautiful country I am so lucky to call home ....

via Eclecticrevisited

What gets you thinking about summer?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Colour me happy

I'm excited.  I'm thinking about colour, I'm talking about colour, I'm making decisions about colour.  And best of all, I'm seeing colour I love, everywhere I look.


I don't know what it is that makes one person jump for joy or let out a gasp (sit near me while I read my favourite magazines and you'll hear this often) when colour pops out, where another person longs for calming or simply striking palettes of neutrals.  Thank goodness we're all so different and have such vastly ranging tastes, but I make no bones about the fact that I respond to certain colours (always have and probably always will) in a very tangible and energetic way.  They just make me happy!

Which is why this picture of a paint store in London raises a smile whenever I see it:

Siecle Colours store in London

So top of the list in what coloured me happy this week was reading about the new (well, new to me) palette of colours that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame has created for Fired Earth paints.  I'm a huge fan of Mr McCloud's and use his Choosing Colors book all the time for reference.  Apart from that, Grand Designs was probably the first show I watched about design that really got me hooked.  It remains one of my favourites and I've been loving the revisits season, to see how all those grand plans really turned out (quite well, it seems!)  Imagine my utter delight, then, when I realised he's created a range of Mid-Century Modern colours, another of my great loves:

A 'bold and optimistic' palette of grey, blue, green, yellow, orange and pink launched to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain (hmm, those chairs look familiar ...)

I'll definitely do some more on this in a later post - I'll see what images I can find to place these colours in modern interiors.  Sticking with Mid-Century, I stumbled across the wonderful Prairie Hive on my blog travels, so thanks to them for this image:

Check out their blog and magazine for more colour fun

Staying in and around the kitchen, these bowls just keep popping up on my radar.  I cut a pic of these out of a magazine months ago, then came across them in my file when I was looking for inspiration for a study project I'm doing.  I'm designing a cafe, called Rainforest & Reef - think sipping your latte perched in the rainforest canopy in an eco-lodge, or watching the marine life swim under your feet in a 'reef' aquarium built into the floor. (Hey, there's no budget, I'm going for it.)  If the cafe actually existed, you'd be served your food in these:

Bowls made from recycled Macadamia shells by Husque

Out and about in Brisbane on the weekend, I found myself at (m)art design store at South Bank - it turns out these gorgeous and environmentally conscious bowls are made right here in Brisbane.  (More on this and some other great local finds another day .... )

When it comes to making decisions about colour, inspiration can really come from anywhere.  Here's what I'm heading towards as a palette for Rainforest & Reef, totally inspired by nature:

Bird of Paradise flower photo by Deborah DeAmroim, Rainbow Lorikeet feathers by me (Tree Frog photo unknown)

Which rather randomly reminded me I'd seen this pleasing green/purple/orange combo somewhere before ...

A playing field in San Francisco (taken by me)

I splashed out on a couple of different magazines this week, and this feature in Plaza caught my eye:

Swedish 'barn' home featured in Plaza magazine (photo by Jesper Lindstrom)

Now that's taking colour to a whole new level!  I love this shot of the interior of the house:

Photo by Jesper Lindstrom, styling by Pontus Djanaieff

So whether it's a magazine that you bought just because it had a colourful cover:

Cover and feature from Just Be magazine May 2011 edition, photo by Barnaby Wilshier
Nice Dinosaur Designs jewellery!

The bits and pieces of colour splashed around your home that cheer you up without you realising:

K-Mix Barcelona mixer by Kenwood and Margate Chest of Drawers 63 by Zoe Murphy (both seen in in Livingetc)

Cul-de-sac graphic prints, images via Modern Findings

Some muted shades to complement your neutral tones:

Home featured in Livingetc May 2100, photo by Birgitta Wolfgang Drejer

Or a whole lotta colour going on:

Livingetc feature July 2010

Whether you're as obsessed with colour as I am ... or not ...

As part of my Cert IV in Design, I keep a 'visual diary' of things I find that inspire me. 
These are by far my favourite pages so far ....

... I hope that something colourful has popped up for you this week to make you happy, just as these things have made me.

Til next time, Nx

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Long weekend, simple pleasures

Happy Tuesday everyone.  Just a short post to wish you all a great week and share a few simple things that made me happy over the long weekend - other than the simple fact of it being a long weekend, that is!

Lately I've taken to baking a lot more.  Other than loving the smell of fresh cookies or cakes wafting around the house, it makes me truly happy to create and taste these delicacies.  In the last couple of years I've learnt that I'm not only gluten, but also lactose intolerant (and at times sugar and yeast intolerant as well).  Add in the fact that I'm already a vegetarian, and well, you can imagine just how limited my diet is.  Thank goodness for hummus!

So, there's nothing like picking out a recipe from Seriously Good! Gluten-Free baking by Phil Vickery to get me loving my food again:

This brioche wasn't a great success (didn't rise quite as much as it should have), but I had fun taking photos while it was still warm and crumbling.  I was trying to follow some of the tips that I learnt from Shannon Fricke at her Styling workshop, such as taking a few petals off the flower and spreading them around, and making the food look as if it had already had a bite taken out of it (which it had, actually!)

I'm no food stylist, that's for sure (or someone who irons tablecloths, apparently!) and I would love a digital SLR camera that takes shots indoors that aren't grainy, but this was lots of fun to do!

These last two photos made me smile inside and out, and made me laugh too.  Sometimes you can spend ages fiddling about trying to get a photo right, then other times you're just walking past and the shot's right there ...

For those who haven't met her, this is Martha (or Princess Martha if you want her full title and status in the household).

See you later in week everyone. Nx

Friday, 10 June 2011

Wonder walls

A little detective story (more of that in a moment) got me thinking about wallpaper this week.  In particular it got me wondering when and why we fell out of love with it.  I'm a child of the '60s and in the modest 3 bedroom bungalow where I grew up, we had wallpaper in every single room, even the bathroom.  Now, I'm not saying it was all that attractive - I seem to remember some velvety flock and some badly-drawn utensils and jars repeating around the kitchen walls - but there was certainly a good dose of colour, pattern and texture in our otherwise ordinary house in a little village in Scotland.

Did it become cheaper to paint?  Did it become too hard to rip off wallpaper when we inevitably changed our minds?  Or did we all lose our confidence and start playing it safe?  Were my parents, in fact, brave and daring decorators?

Whatever the answers, with the seemingly never-ending range of stunning wallpapers out there today, there are no more excuses (and I'm talking to myself here, probably more than anyone!) for not splashing some colour and pattern on our poor Hog-Bristled walls.  Of course I could dedicate a whole blog to wallpaper, but here are a few that caught my eye this week that I hope you'll enjoy ...

First up, some hand-painted heaven from the fabulous Fromental:

Embroidered Nonsuch in (custom) Glacier

Paradiso in Kelly

Sylvaner in Bolero

Blue/green wins me over again with another gorgeous and luxurious hand-painted paper, this time from DeGournay:

Earlham design in part custom colours on Emerald Green painted silk

While I'm on a roll (pardon the pun) with botanicals & birds, what about some Lorikeets from the always interesting Sixhands:

Lorikeet in Emerald City

Or some striking colour and shape combinations from Nama Rococo:
Chateau 66 in Hot (via Little Willow - no longer appears on Nama Rococo website)

Chateau 66 in Kraft (photo by K Kennefick)

Bring the 30s bang up-to-date with this from Graham & Brown:

Soprano in Teal

And of course I couldn't do a post about wallpaper without including Sandersons 50s collection:

Wrappings in Kingfisher/Red

More funky, modern shapes from missprint:

Saplings in Sunflower Yellow with White

Little Trees in English Grey and Cotton Trees in Snapdragon Red

And I just love Lizzie Allen's sense of fun:

You can even create some cool clutter without taking up any floor space with Ella Doran's Stacks and Stripes:

And talking about texture, go 3D with this beautiful Bramble wallpaper from Catherine Hammerton:

And finally, to a classic I return to again and again - the remarkable and fascinating William Morris:

via Historic Style
I got so carried away with all these amazing wallpapers, I nearly forgot to tell you what started all this in the first place!  It was the Ikea Family Live catalogue, would you believe, and in particular, this picture:

I just fell in love with this wallpaper and had to know what it was.  I did some fairly random and aimless internet searching, then had the brainwave to email the editor, whose kitchen happened to be the one featured.  Needless to say, I am sure Lotta is extremely busy and I appreciate that a question about the only thing in the whole catalogue that is not an Ikea product is not quite top of her list.  So I resigned myself to never finding out, but was already inspired to write a post about wallpaper.

In my research for this post, I was leafing through a gorgeous book I have - Wallpaper: The Ultimate Guide by Charlotte Abrahams - and what do I find?  This fresh, colourful and joyful wallpaper that makes me think of spring is by Josef Frank and is called Varklockor.  No wonder I love it ...  

Varklockor wallpaper designed by Josef Frank in the 1940s

Funny how you find what you need when you stop looking. 
Have a great weekend, everyone. Nx

P.S. Just noticed a bit of a bias to UK websites/companies - completely unintentional!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I hope these flowers brighten your day, just as you all brightened mine

It's Tuesday and although I promised myself I would devote all my time until Wednesday afternoon to my course work, I just couldn't resist a quick post.  I just wanted to say thank you SO much to everyone for their visits to my first post and especially their welcoming and encouraging comments - the words of friends and strangers alike have made me so happy, more than you can know. 

Blogging is a whole lot of fun, I wonder why on earth I didn't start sooner.  Or maybe I do ....  As we so often do in life, I managed to find quite a few reasons to put off starting my blog.  The main reason for me, though, is a little demon I do have to wrestle with every now and again on this journey.  At times when I'm not so sure of myself, I can so easily convince myself (browsing a few magazines and surfing the overwhelming amount of blogs out there will do it) that there's nothing new in the zoo.  How can I be different and have amazingly new and fresh things to say and show that haven't been said or shown before?  Well, its easy to think that, but it's missing the point, isn't it?  It's not about out there, it's about in here - what's in me.  Blogging, I've realised, is the most incredibly satisfying way for me to express myself and that's the part that really matters - that people read and enjoy what you have to say is the perfect icing on an already delicious cake.

Have a great day, everyone, and I'll catch you later in the week, Nx

Thursday, 2 June 2011

I've got the blues this week, and the greens, and the blue greens ......

It's funny how our attention wanders, isn't it, and where it sometimes ends up.  I was sitting at my desk earlier this week, meant to be doing some 'proper' work and I started noticing the colours on the table next to me.
You see, I'm a self-confessed pattern and colour addict - give me a plain surface, such as the brown Ikea table in question, and I'll cover it with something.  In this case, wrapping paper of the stunning Sandersons Dandelion Clocks in the Chaffinch colourway (and if you love the shapes and textures of the 50s as much as I do, check out Hayward in the new 50s Fabrics collection while you're there).  This may have been done to death a bit and yes, it has been made into a teapot and a wash bag, but I am just besotted with the colours (and if you've a keen eye, you'll notice this design in my header).  I love blue when it mixes with yellow, then green when it mixes with more yellow, so here's the trail of thoughts and ideas from that moment when my attention wandered ....

It's amazing what you find lying around ... I bought these gorgeous 1950s buttons on eBay ages ago. 
Not sure what to do with them but love them nonetheless!

This got me thinking about how the colours are made, (and here's one for you Kerry) ...

This will be familiar to all you ISCD foundation course students out there.
Canson chips, painstakingly painted from blue to yellow - harder than it might look!

Later in the week, as I rewarded myself with the treat of buying my favourite UK magazines, Livingetc and Elle Decoration (though they are both April issues, I'm sad to say), I came across these absolutely stunning shots styled by Finola Inger and photographed by Damian Russell ...

Elle Decoration April 2011, Finola Inger (stylist) and Damian Russell (photographer)

Check out Damian's website - this is one of many incredibly beautiful shots, for this Elle Decoration feature and many others.  Ok, just one more ...

Elle Decoration April 2011, Finola Inger (stylist) and Damian Russell (photographer)

So finally to my last shot.  There's something about this picture - it just fills me with joy.  It always comes to mind when I think of this part of the colour wheel, so I used it in my course work to encapsulate the beauty of the journey from blue to green to yellow.  Enjoy ...

Photograph by Martyn Thompson for Home is where the heart is? by Ilse Crawford

And a final footnote for all you colour trend spotters out there.  Here's what Elle Decoration (UK) had to say in their April issue. Of course it's the UK, it's a few months ago and our seasons are at opposite ends of the year, but it's a small design world these days - if these beautiful colours keep drifting to the top of our colour consciousness here in Australia, I'm all for it ...

"Blue, greens and greys ... this is the colour spectrum we feel most keenly represents the mood of the moment ... We've added in a touch of sober grey to the gently optimistic blues and green, to suggest longevity.  And the way in which we use these hues is changing.  No more flat colour blocking; it's all about textured shades used in a loose, painterly fashion."
Elle Decoration, April 2011

Funny what you notice ...  Until next time, Nx