Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Books, Hotels, Hideaways & Other Discoveries

New Discoveries of 2014.

Some have been launched for a little while; 
others are getting ready to be launched in the next few months.

Hayman Island, 
Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

Getting ready to re-open after an enormous renovation under new owners One & Only Resorts, the island resort of Hayman will look remarkably different from its old self. Newly decorated suites seem larger and more modern, the service is already better and the excursions to neighbouring islands and the reef promise to be trips to remember. Prices, while not cheap, aren't prohibitive, with rooms being offered at a 25% discount through the soft opening period. 

Opening July 2014.

Ham Yard Hotel, 

Firmdale Hotels' latest venture, with the usual sublime decorating by Kit Kemp. Just as beautiful as Number Sixteen, Dorset Square, Covent Garden and all her other projects.

Opening June 2014.

The Ritz, Paris.

Also getting set to re-open after a 2-year closure for refurbishment.
(If you can't afford a room, slip in for a drink, a meal, or to use the extraordinary spa and pool.)

Opening mid-year.

Hotel Fabric, Paris.

Created from a former textiles factory. Full of fabric whimsy. And not expensive, either.


The Siam, Bangkok.

My new favourite. The interior design is sublime.


Park Hyatt, 
Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Another new favourite. Refashioned from the Hôtel de La Paix, the new Park Hyatt-managed hotel, which re-opened late last year, hasn't lost any of the Paix's legendary grace and style, but has simply refreshed the space. So incredibly cheap too. As are all the hotels in Siem Reap.


The Beaumont, 
Mayfair, London.

Opening soon in the shell of a former 1920's Art Deco garage. So striking.

Opening later this year.

Living Life Beautifully:
Christina Strutt.

A new book from one of my favourite designers, Christina Strutt of Cabbages & Roses, who's not only opened a new Cabbages & Roses store in Chelsea, right next door to The Chelsea Gardener, but is also holding a marvellous summer fair in Bath, where her country home is, in early June. (Run together with Love Love Vintage; who have the most wonderful vintage wares and fabric fairs).

Published by Cico Books. Out now.

ABC: David Collins Studio

An eagerly awaited new book about the work of London designer David Collins, who sadly passed away last year. The new book was in production when David Collins was alive, and has been written by him, with a foreword by Madonna.The launch is edged with sadness, but I think he would have liked the finished project.

Published by Assouline this month.

Dior: The Legendary Images.

Published to accompany the new exhibition at Le Musée Christian-Dior, at Granville in Normandy, opening shortly.

 Published by Rizzoli this month.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Importance of Kindness

After seeing the extraordinarily touching Australian Story episode on Tara Winkler and the Cambodian Children's Trust a few weeks ago, I was so moved that I decided to touch base with CCT, who kindly replied right away. (Amazing, given the response they've had). Long story short: I'm heading off on a business trip, and have decided to do a detour to Cambodia, at the invitation of one of CCT's lovely staff.

Supplies are going along.

It doesn't take much to help people. An extra suitcase. A helping hand. A decision to do something, however small, that might just help someone else. I spent a long time assisting a few people early last year with everything from travel advice to logistics, and even travel funds, and a couple of them complained so much that I think I went into shock for a short while. But so many people in our family and in our social circle are quietly generous souls that it rubs off, and you realise how important it is to be kind rather than critical, and to be caring rather than castigatory. After a while, you realise there's no other way to live your life.

If you haven't yet seen this lovely doco on Tara Winkler, you can watch it here. Full episode – Tara Or there's a trailer here: Australian Story - Tara

We'll be moving to a new website shortly, so this and my email will be transferred over, and there may be glitches with the new site and the old/new email. I hope you'll bear with us in the meantime.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

April in Paris

Some destinations are sublimely beautiful in April. New York City with its abundance of cherry blossoms is one. England, with its magnificent gardens, is another. 

But perhaps one of the prettiest place to spend an April afternoon is Paris. 

Paris in April is pure magic. It's a cinematic sweep of postcard-style streets, overflowing florists, cheerful shopkeepers and charming maître ds, scented parks and gardens, exquisite window merchandising, elegant exhibitions and altogether entertaining street scenes.

April is also one of the best times of the year to travel to Paris—and many other places, for that matter. recently revealed that the cheapest week to travel is the last week of April and the first week of May. 

I tested the claim last night. Sure enough, return flights from Sydney to either New York or Paris that are normally A$1700—$2000 are just $1350. 

Oh April, you really know how to tempt us.

Here in Australia, my publisher and I have been working on ideas for a new book. It's about—you guessed it—Paris. I had planned to go to NY for work this month but now it looks like I may have the take the long (and scenic) way around the globe. Who can resist a chance to photograph Paris in spring?

I hope to show you some beautiful new 'finds' from the City of Light, from secret fashion museums and ateliers to gorgeous stores and hotels and even delightful walking trails that take in the best bits of this photogenic city. 

Some people abhor Paris (including my partner). And I must admit that every time I return I think: perhaps we should try a difference place next year? And then I find myself going back, yet again. Paris will do that too you. Almost 30 years after my first visit, some things haven't changed. My French is still shameful, but my love for the city hasn't waned.

On this note, I want to thank everyone who kindly bought Paris: A Guide to the City's Creative Heart. We've just learned that it recently hit the No. 1 Ranking on US Amazon for Illustrated Travel books. 

Actually I can't quite remember the category: it was a niche one, so it's not a big deal, but we were still very surprised—and grateful for the No. 1 ranking.  I'm deeply grateful to everyone who bought a copy. Book buyers are the loveliest people.

I also want to recommend some other Paris books. Nichole Robertson's Paris in Colour is delightful if you want some photographic inspiration, while the new book The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden by Alain Baraton is a superb read if you love gardens. 

Another I've recently bought is A Day at Versailles by Yves Carlier; a sumptuous behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of this grand estate. 

And Edmund White's new memoir, Inside A Pearl: My Years in Paris is... well, I had mixed feelings about the name-dropping and cruel characterisations, but there's no doubt he's a brilliant writer. And when he admitted he also struggled with the French language, well, it was a sign he's as human like the rest of us... It's an evocative book that beautifully sums up Paris in a way I could never do.

Au revoir for now. And once again, a sincere thank you.

[All photographs by me.]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

High Glamour in the Garden (and Elsewhere)

I mentioned the inimitable New York fashion designer Ralph Rucci here last month {link}, so it's wonderful to see that Architectural Digest has published a feature on him. {link} 

Architects Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski of Bonetti/Kozerski Studio have just completed a studio redesign of Mr Rucci's atelier, ingeniously moving the workroom to the front of the warehouse space so the first thing one sees from the lobby is the bright area filled with white-coated artisans working at cutting tables, sewing machines or fascinating patterns and toiles. 

As an interior design concept, it's as remarkable, as delightful and as memorable as one of Mr Rucci's creations.

While Mr Rucci prefers to stay very much under the radar, his sublime creations are worn by some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and high society. His clothes are architectural but still sensual, and minimalist but still full of maximum impact. There's  a lovely video of the collections and also his new-look atelier here – {link}  

Both are online now at Architectural Digest –

Also in the latest Archi Digest is a fascinating story on Pierre Bergé's Normandy retreat. Mr Bergé's was the lifelong partner of the late Yves Saint Laurent and is still living his life with the same grace and style.

It's a shame there aren't more photos of the regenerated gardens, overseen by landscape designer Madison Cox, but it's still an intriguing peek into Pierre Bergé's private domain.

While we're on the subject of horticulture and hemlines, a beautiful exhibition has just opened at the Garden History Museum in London called Fashion and Gardens. 

The exhibition is divided into three themes: Gardens into Fashion, Fashions into the Garden, and Colour Theory, all of which celebrate the relationship between garden and clothing design. Curated by Nicola Shulman (who's bringing this little place to life), it's worth visiting if you're in London early this year. (Open until late April.) {link}

The BBC did an interview with Ms Shulman here. Surprisingly funny.

And if you're heading to London for the Chelsea Flower Show in May, be sure to pop by Marylyn Abbott's tiny but exquisite Topiarist's Garden in the Artisan Garden area. Marylyn was the designer behind the famous Australian garden Kennerton Green before moving to England to work her horticultural magic on West Green House in Hampshire. (Which sadly suffered damage in the recent storms.) 

The Topiarist’s Garden is based on an original concept by Marylyn Abbott for a garden at the bothy at West Green House. The garden was designed to be a reflection of what Marylyn calls "topia opera”, filled with eclectic topiary designs and charming perennials – "a fantasy of formality"! {link here}

And if you should be in New York before mid-April, don't miss the new exhibition at FIT's Museum called Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s. 

It reveals the grand transformation that took place in women’s and men’s fashion in the 1930s, not only in Hollywood but also in New York, London and indeed places such as Cuba and Shanghai.  It's at FIT's Special Exhibitions Gallery from now until April 19. I can't wait to see it. {[link} 

Lastly, I hope you'll forgive the intermittent posts here. Instagramming would be easier, but sadly I don't have time at the moment (and everyone else posts such lovely photos anyway). So I'll try to post here a few times a month. For all of those lovely people who said they're no longer receiving posts by subscription, I apologise; I suspect it's to do with Google's changes last year.

As compensation, we're frantically working on a new online magazine, which I've mentioned briefly in the past, and that will probably take the place of these posts – and will be emailed out (free) to subscribers. It's shaping up to be beautiful! I'm sure you'll all like it.

This year is shaping up to be a big year of work. I've just finished designing the new New York book (above and below) and am now going to try and tie up loose ends on some other projects (including the Picnic book, which Australian Story are interested in covering), before heading straight into an exciting new publishing project about Paris.

The new Paris book will features Hermès, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cocteau, Chanel and many others, so hopefully I can do it justice. 

There are always going to be critics, detractors and other deterrents in the world but if there's one thing I learned from 2013 it's the importance of remaining gracious, dignified and kind. And making your own work, life and relationships the most meaningful and fulfilling they can be. Let everyone else live their own lives. As Diana Vreeland said: "There's only one very good life and that's the life you know you want and you make yourself!"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Inspiring Instagrams and Other Splendid Sites

If you're feeling uninspired, or would like to bookmark some lovely sites, here are a few that are becoming hugely popular – and for good reason: they're witty, insightful, inspirational, colourful and usually full of interesting glimpses of people's lives.

Robert Couturier's Instagram

A peek into the designer's magnificent home and life.

David Lauren's Instagram 

(Yes, from that family)

This is Glamorous' Tumblr

Online magazine Gardenista

The Style Saloniste

Amanda Brooks' Instagram

The official Hermès Paris Instagram 

An inside look at fashion shoots, upcoming pieces and typically bold accessories.

Pigotts' Instagram

One of my favourite Sydney stores. Nan's taste is impeccable, as is her sister Janie's.
And I love it how they mix images from the store with personal photos from their life and travels. (Look at this glamorous old shot from Lake Como. The gentleman in the suit looks like something from a Merchant Ivory film. Clearly they all dress up to go out to dinner in Bellagio.)

Jasper Conran's Instagram

Mrs Lilien

A gorgeous blog.

The style section of London's FT 

Just splendid, as the sartorially obsessed Londoners would say.

FT also has a great section called How To Spend It, which, thankfully, isn't just for the cashed-up class. Their Gardens and Books sections are particularly good, as are ther  columnists.

And lastly, sometimes a peek at the 'celebrity Instagrams' can unearth some amazing gems. 

Here's Mr Floyd on what appears to be a private plane with a huge and noticeably clean wad of cash beside him, calmly reading the paper...

So many questions, so little time...

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