Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, August 31, 2014

La Vie En Rose: The Perfection of Pink

Unlike our northern cousins, Australia is heading into spring, and today is the first day of the new season. So I thought I'd show a sprinkling of the most beautiful pink and mauve roses I saw in England this year, along with some other rose-hued books, haute couture, and a legendary Hawaii hotel to bookmark next time you head to Waikiki.

Flammarion's new book, A Home in Paris: Interiors; Inspiration (above) is a great start.
I haven't seen the contents of this book, but hopefully it's as gorgeous as the Schiaparelli-esque chaise on the cover.

Do you follow Giambattista Valli's Instagram feed from his PR office? Have a look – it's as lovely as Dior's and Mr de la Renta's. 

Valli's Fall 2014 Couture collection was his best yet. Inspired by the famous Moorish/Spanish Alhambra Gardens, it also had a little 'old Hollywood' thrown in.

And the embroidery detail was extraordinary...

I loved's description of the collection –

"Imagine the Alhambra Gardens. A girl wakes, maybe she's still dressed from the night before, maybe she swathes herself in a striped sheet or slips into her beau's pj's. It's bright so she puts on sunglasses. Her head hurts. She wraps it in a napkin from the champagne bucket. And she goes for a walk in the garden. There's a dry, warm wind, blossoms are blowing, they cloud her…"

And this last para from

"There was something old Hollywood about such a look, an impression Valli effortlessly compounded with dresses in a wisteria-printed mousseline that begged for Norma Shearer. Hardly the apogee of a "new" couture customer, but entirely emblematic of an aspirational age of elegance."

Just lovely.

{Pix from Valli's PR feed, and credited appropriately}

Speaking of flowers and gardens, here's a book for your Christmas Wish List –
Dior: The Perfumes.

Published by Rizzoli, it's a look at how Dior's famous scents have evolved over the years. Christian Dior always said he took a lot of inspiration for his couture from his mother's rose garden in Normandy (which our little group saw last year.) 

Both Dior and his mother particularly adored roses, and it's not surprising his scents are heady reflections of that private passion.

Another book to slip on the Christmas Wish List is Anouska Hempel's first ever monograph. (Also Rizzoli.)

(This is TOP of my Christmas Book Order. Have you seen Anouska Hempel's homes and garden? 
Google them. You will be astonished.)

As for Christmas lodgings... we're on the verge of booking this glamorous old beauty in Waikiki for a December getaway – the Royal Hawaiian. AKA 'The Pink Palace'.

Some friends recommended another gorgeous colonial-style hotel with the curious name of the Ala Moana Surfrider, but then another friend said The Royal Hawaiian (its neighbour) had prettier rooms. (See the pink pineapple wallpaper, above?) One of my readers told me it was lovely. She said it had a "Floridian, old-world feel to it".  That was evocative enough for us. Some TA reviews regarded its gently aged appearance (think Norma Desmond but in hotel form) as a put-off. But we like gently aged. We are also "gently aged". It's a nice way to be.

Plus, I love the wallpaper.

As for things that are old-but-coming-back-into-style, have you noticed the return of geraniums lately? They're going through a horticultural revival in a big way. Paris is always full of them, of course – in the flower markets; on balconies; in window boxes – but I also noticed them in Carolyne Roehm's garden and her restored Victorian greenhouse. 

We've been putting white ones into blue and white china planters, where they look simple, and surprisingly elegant.

Here's a small gift I gave my sister-in-law last week, to soften the blow of a sad week.

Here's another flower springing back into flower fashion (sorry, bad pun) – the Generous Gardener rose. It's a David Austin. Don't you love the name? Here's the blurb:

 Flower Type – Double/Full Bloom in Very Soft Pink.
Fragrance – Old Rose/Musk/Myrrh
Repeating – Excellent

"A rose of delicate charm, the Generous Gardner's flowers are beautifully formed; their colour a soft glowing pink at the centre, shading to palest pink on the outer petals. This rose would produce a wonderful effect towards the back of the border. The fragrance is strong with aspects of Old Rose, musk and myrrh."

You can almost smell it, can't you?

{All rose pix by me; please credit if you re-use}

Gertrude Jekyll is another I fell in love with at David Austin's Rose Garden – which, I should tell you, had the BEST tags so you could jot down your favourites. (Mottisfont's tag were down in the dirt and often so faded that you had to bend over to see them: not a good look.)

Gertrude Jekyll is an incredible pink colour – not quite hot pink but far from pale pink too. It's the perfect mid-pink.

The Princess Anne rose was as striking as her namesake. The petals on this rose were astounding.

Virginia Woolf loved roses so much she grew this rampant climber outside her bedroom window.

 Virginia's love of this delicate flower is detailed in Caroline Zoob's fabulous book about the Woolfs' garden, which I've gifted to my friend Doody. (Do buy it: it's a beautiful book.) This rose, 'Rosa Princess Marie', was an old rose found at Heale House. Leonard and Virginia took a cutting and planted it outside Virginia's window, so she had something uplifting to look out upon. It's so rampant it falls across the door, creating the most wonderful frame for the entrance to her private sanctuary.

Inspired by the gardens I saw in England in June, I've been gathering together all the mementoes from the trip to make home-made wrapping paper. 

Do you do this? It's a frugal way of gifting but it also adds a very personal touch, too. 

In fact, we've used a similar college to do part of the branding for our Garden Tours.

Here are the first of the Paris and Provence books being wrapped, ready to send to readers in the home-made wrapping paper. 

Someone else who makes his own things is Jeff Leatham, the legendary florist (although Jeff's creations are far better than most.) 

Jeff is the man behind the famous floral arrangements of the Four Seasons Hotel in Paris (Georges V), which most flower lovers try and see whenever they're in Paris. 

His new book, Visionary Floral Art and Design, looks like being as inspirational and celebrated as his glamorous petal displays.

That's all from here. Back to my own pink office now...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

(More) Beautiful Things To Bookmark


I heard India Hicks was working on a new book with Rizzoli (her partner David Flint Wood tipped me off), and have been looking forward to seeing it, knowing both her and Rizzoli's penchant for aesthetics and perfection.

Rizzoli has just posted the details on its publisher's website, and it looks beautiful. The cover alone is a study in understated glamour.

India Hicks: Island Style.  Out February 2015.


Kate Spade's new book, Places to Go, People to See follows the previous coffee-table beauty Things We Love, only this time the pages focus on glamorous cities around the world, including Paris, New York, Capri, Monte Carlo, Rio, Buenos Aires, and others. According to the Kate Spade blurb: "In each of these enchanting destinations, readers will be shown how to experience their travels with the utmost elegance..." 

In true Kate Spade style, it features vibrant photography, inspirational ideas, and a dash of whimsy and old-world charm. (Top image is from the first book.)

Kate Spade: Places To Go, People To See. Published October, by Abrams.


Pink is making a comeback in gardens, according to horticultural friends in London. Blue and mauve had the monopoly for a while, but pink is now back 'in'! Thank goodness. Nothing says summer like an enormous flush of hot pink roses. 

Just look at David Austin's Rose Garden – link – to see how pink can be applied with perfect grace to create gorgeous garden beds.

{Image mine from forthcoming Paris book}


Another pink-loving person worth following, in this case via social media, is the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. 

His savvy marketing girl, dubbed 'Oscar PR Girl', posts the most beautiful pix of Mr de la Renta's creations on tumblr – here, or Instagram here.


If you live near or are travelling to New York this week, don't miss the wonderful exhibition at the New York Botanic Gardens called Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens and the Women Who Designed Them. 

It closes Sept 7, after a hugely successful season. or link


And finally, I must be one of the last people to know about this beautiful place, but it's so glam it's worth posting anyway. 

Designed by former Tocca founder (remember that beautiful fashion label?) Marie-Anne Oudejan,  it's called Bar Palladio and it's in the city of Jaipur, in India.  The bar is owned by Barbara Miolini, a Swiss-Italian ex-pat who wanted to introduce an Italian-style lounge to her adopted home, which Marie-Anne also now lives in. The exquisite interior detailing features Indian motifs of flowers and vines, tented ceilings, secluded banquettes, and blue hues so beautiful they will make you want to redecorate immediately.

More images can be sourced on Remodelista and Lonny, or here on Marie-Anne's Facebook page, where these are from – link, or here {Bar Palladio link}

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Picnic, Paris and Other Bookish Things

Lots of readers have been asking about books. The Picnic at Hanging Rock book. The Provence book. The New York book. The book offer. Even recs for Paris books. (We're a literary lot, aren't we?)

Confession. I'm reticent about publicising my books because, well, readers don't want to feel as though they're being "sold" things all the time. In the meantime, my publishers are peeved that I don't make ENOUGH effort to market my books.

So. Here's a brief update of all the books floating around my desk and life. And then we needn't speak of them for a little while!

(PS I'm wrapping up the gift books for readers this weekend. Some readers may have to wait until Sept, but I've emailed those lovely people.)


Chronicle in San Francisco has just bought the US rights to this book and is working on the redesign now. It will be released in the US in FEBRUARY 2015.  The new cover for the reprint edition is lovely. It's full of gorgeous Mediterranean blue hues. You'll adore it.


Currently in a mess on my desk. Enough said!


The Picnic has been three years in gestation, and has haunted me. It haunts me still. Sometimes I can't sleep for thinking about it.

It's a wildly convoluted and heavily layered tale about the life of author Joan Lindsay and the backstory behind one of Australia's most famous and most talked-about novels, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Joan Lindsay's closest friends were themselves fascinating, among them Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Frederick McCubbin and his family, Edith Sitwell, the Lindsay family of artists, Maie Casey (Baroness Casey), and even Banjo Patterson, who appears, perhaps unwittingly, to have given her the original idea for the story. But it's the other elements that are really interesting. There are aboriginal massacres (that part haunted me); intriguing myths and mysterious, including a supposed 'curse of Hanging Rock' (not to be scoffed at), and secret love affairs (which I'm still undecided about revealing; some things are clearly personal, and may need to be hinted at, rather than scandalised). And finally, there is the novel itself, Picnic at Hanging Rock, which cleverly merges mathematics (look for the number 'three', which represents the trinity in all its forms – religion; philosophy; maths; mythology) with sexuality, spirituality, sentimentality and of course the great Australian landscape, which is perhaps the novel's most memorable character.

Pythagoras. Repressed sexuality. Strange landscapes.  The supernatural. Aboriginal mythologies.  A hidden history of Australia. Time. Quantum Physics. I'm surprised my head didn't explode writing this manuscript.

So. After three years, the manscript was submitted, however it was then pulled back from my publisher because we discovered a new lead. We're doing some last-minute research into it, to try and tie off loose Edwardian ends. Otherwise, we'll be publishing it early 2015. Complete or incomplete.


My favourite book so far, New York will be released by MUP on October 1, but likely in bookstores by LATE SEPT.

MUP are likely offering a price discount via their website, so if you head to in mid-Sept and keep an eye out, the books will almost certainly be available online there. (Note: New York isn't available in the US yet.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gardens in Green and White

We've had a reflective week here with the passing of someone close to us, so to counteract that we've spent a lot of time in our garden, where the sight of fresh green shoots and new spring growth (Australia's transitioning from winter to spring) has eased the heartache. (Fertiliser is often just as good for the soul as it is for the soil.) 

Fortunately, our new gardener started work this week, so there was a 'pro' in the house.

Formerly one of Dame Elizabeth Murdoch's gardeners, Geoff is one of the quietest, kindest, most knowledgable plantsmen I've ever met. One of our family may have gone up to Heaven but Heaven has been kind enough to send a replacement. I think Geoff and my mother-in-law would have liked each other.

Here are a few favourite garden places and pieces to offer some some horticultural inspiration for the gardening months ahead. 

{Top 3 images are my own, from my kitchen garden book.}

A beautiful new book for both Paris and garden lovers is Private Gardens of Paris, by Alexandra dArnoux and Bruno Laubadère. It's set to be published in Sept, but Flammarion are considering pushing the pub date forward, so keep an eye out.
Published by Flammarion. {link}

One of Hawaii's most beautiful gardens, Doris Duke's Shangri La.
Have you see the book? It's just as beautiful as the garden.
We're considering spending this Christmas in Hawaii to have a rest from a busy year, and this magnificent place is definitely on the To See List. 
(A lovely reader recommended it, and I'm so grateful to her.)

This is one of Paris's most beautiful florists.  It was called Saint-Pères Fleurs, but now seems to be called La Boutique des Saint-Pères. It looks like the luxurious salon of a grand old home, only one filled with vases and blooms. I believe it's been renovated, so if the images you find on Google aren't inspiring, don't worry – it's remarkable in real life.
14 rue des Saints-Pères, Paris.

Ralph Lauren's restaurant, Ralph, in Paris, is one of the prettiest restaurants in Paris for garden lovers. 
It's been so successful that Ralph is opening a New York offshoot (sorry for the pun) on the Upper East Side later this year.
173 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, 75006.

Another lovely Parisian hideaway for horticulture followers, the Hotel de l'Abbaye is tucked behind glamorous iron gates and a charming front courtyard. Its rear garden and terrace are wonderful for breakfasts and a relaxing wine at the end of the day.
10 rue Cassette, Paris, 75006.

If you can't afford a plush Parisian hotel, try a garden apartment. This one, available through the wonderful apartment rental site, One Fine Stay, has its own lush, private oasis in the middle of Paris, reached by walking through the apartment's charming conservatory. It's called Rue Lhomond, and it's in the Latin Quarter, a neighbourhood that's currently going through a revival.

I adore this quirky garden architecture store. It's part of the famous flea market in the village of L'isle sur la Sorgue in Provence, and is near the main parking area in the centre of town. (I'm not sure of the address and it doesn't matter because, like many French places, the store may move around anyway.) Just look for all the rusty-but-still-glamorous greenhouses lined up in a dignified row. You can't miss them.

Don't you love this new silk square by Hermès? 
It's based on the illustration for  Hermès' perfume Un Jardin Sur Le Toit ('A Garden on the Roof').
So simple. So beautiful.

Spotted this image on Instagram recently via Ben Pentreath's Insta posts (another garden lover). It was posted by Soane Britain and is an image of the absolutely gorgeous orangery at the Horniman Museum in London. (There are more amazing pix on Google.)
100 London Road, London.

Vita Sackville West's famous 'White Garden' at Sissinghurst launched a thousand white imitators. Even after all these years, Vita's is still one of the most magnificent.
{This was photographed in June this year, when it was truly glorious.}
Biddenden Rd, Cranbrook, Kent.

If you haven't seen Villandry, then try to see it next time you visit France. It's one of the most majestic gardens in the world. This is the topiary garden, but the estate has several gardens, including a delightful parterre and the spectacular ornamental potager – made entirely of vegetables (pictured at the top of the post). My parents and I once flew to France to do our own private garden tour and my father confessed that this garden was worth flying across the world for.
3 rue Principale, Villandry.

And finally, this was one of the most exquisite gardens I saw at Chelsea Flower Show while living in London in the 1990s. It's the Chanel Garden by Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Stuart Smith. It was, at the time, the most expensive garden ever produced for the Chelsea Flower Show, at a cost of 1 million pounds. There's a great article about it here – Link.

{All images my own, excluding One Fine Stay, Shangri La and Hornman Museum, which are from their websites and are properly credited. 
If you use or repost my images, please credit me out of courtesy.}
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