March 23, 2017

Good Taste? Bad Taste? What's The Difference?

Taste, style, what does it all mean? How can one thing or look be defined as ‘good’ and another be deemed as ‘bad'.

Taste - the particular style of things you choose to surround yourself with - is an attempt at creating balance says writer and philosopher Alain de Botton.
So someone whose life is especially chaotic might be drawn to serene, minimalist interiors, while someone who feels worn down by the cares and demands of modern life might feel drawn to warm, rustic styles.
But then how do you account for so-called 'bad taste'? De Botton broadly defines bad taste as excess of any kind. Here’s why people like the things they do. And why taste matters.
De Botton thinks that people who embrace excess are doing so as a means of dealing with trauma of some kind, making up for something that is, or was once, grievously missing from their life. So nouveau riche types, suddenly confronted with the means to spend after a lifetime of austerity, embrace gaudiness and ostentatiousness, while people trapped on the low end of the economic ladder, with no options besides working gruelling, thankless jobs, tend to embrace sentimentality, finding in decor we might deem cloying a warm escape from the relentless grind of everyday life.
According to de Botton, bad taste isn't something we need to 'fix' — because it's the symptom, not the problem. Bad taste is "a trauma created by a badly broken and unbalanced world," and if we can only create a more just, equitable society, then gaudy excess will disappear forever.
It's a nice idea — and one that could help explain why everything in Scandinavia is so damn beautiful. But take it too far and it starts to sound a bit pseudoscience-y. I love modern design, and according to the video lovers of modern, minimalist design are drawn to this style because their interior life is so chaotic. Ok, fair enough. But I also really like colour. Is that because I feel that my life isn't... colourful enough? Am I drawn to colours out of some sort of existential boredom? And why has my taste changed throughout my life? Is it driven by shifts in my personality, or something more external?
Also, this entire argument presupposes that bad and good taste are monolithic. If this is true, who, exactly, is the person that gets to decide what's good and what's bad? Some people love Beaux-Arts architecture - it is, in fact, one of the things that makes Paris so gorgeous.
But others who prefer more minimalist styles might hold up this kind of building as an example of the very excess that de Botton decries. Who's right?
French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu, in his book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, argued that there is no such thing as objectively good or bad taste, and that 'good taste' is determined by the ruling class in a society as a way of setting of themselves apart from less powerful classes, and establishing the things they enjoy as somehow superior.
German philosopher Georg Simmel noted that as soon as fashions are adopted by the lower classes, they will be abandoned by the upper classes, a phenomenon that could explain why what constitutes 'good taste' is constantly shifting.
According to these two, things favored by the lower classes (or by the recently wealthy, who, culturally, haven't really assimilated into the upper classes) aren't objectively bad: they're just considered to be in bad taste because the people who like them aren't the ones making the rules.
There's a lot more that could be said about this, but hopefully this will give you plenty to think about when you're at the home of your friend who collects those weird dolls. Maybe taste - just like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder.
March 23, 2017

Under $100... Blankets That Look So Expensive

Duvets are warm, sure, but they turn beds into lumpy landscapes and leave rooms looking messy. It's time to neaten up and reconsider the good old-fashioned blanket.

Mid-weight blankets or decorative throws are far svelter than a mattress draped in the bedding equivalent of a ski parka.

Here are a few options that won’t break the bank.

ANTHROPOLOGIE All kinds of styles from Animalia faux-fur throw blanket, $98, to Interlochen throw blanket in charcoal, $98,
FREEDOM Head to the chain for assorted designs such as La Porte, $69.95, Cadiz throw, $69.99, or Elena throw $59.95,
IKEA Ursula throw in white, $29.99, Ikea,
L&M HOME You won't go wrong with the Nevada denim throw, $91, or Pasha Teal throw, $95.90,
TEMPLE & WEBSTER Everything from Bambury Charcoal waffle weave blankets, $69.95, to IDC Frangia fringed throws, $39.95,
March 23, 2017

Exactly what you should buy from Ikea’s new Stockholm collection

For more than 50 years, Ikea has been refining its skills at creating quality Scandinavian-style home goods at a reasonable price. But it’s latest collection might be the best looking and -  greatest value - so far. 

STOCKHOLM first started back in 1984, with the aim of incorporating "smart craftsmanship" in everything, meaning design details are carefully considered and produced with fine materials, resulting in collections that include some of the best quality products produced by IKEA.
It’s latest series features deep-seated velvet sofas, hand-blown glassware in rich cobalt hue and crafted rattan and light-wood cabinets.  Plus the prettiest rattan armchairs we've seen for a while. And it's affordable, too. Check out the stunning collection for yourself online, and then shop it at Ikea from April 1.
March 23, 2017

10 Baskets that Make Laundry Look Luxurious

An old-fashioned laundry chute is the ultimate household convenience, but if you lack such a luxury, here are 10 standout laundry baskets that will do the trick.

Aquanova Lubin Laundry Bin in Beige, $80,
Morgan & Finch wicker hamper, large, $49.95,
Cotswold Furniture Laura linen basket in aqua,
Doormat Designs Jute laundry basket in bleach with black stitch, $149,
Flamingo Road Laundry Bakset, $189,
Kmart Laundry Hamper, $29,
Uniqwa Cancun Laundry Basket Large, $209,
Target Open Weave Laundry Basket, $29,
Cane Design Rattan Oval Washing Basket, $45.95,
Casa Uno Bamboo Chevron Laundry Basket (Set of 3), $219,
Weylandts laundry basket with stitch detail and lid, $115,
Weylandts rattan laundry basket, large, $225,
March 16, 2017

A Modern Country House In Kangaroo Valley

Taking on the revamp of a 100-year old weatherboard farmhouse tucked away in the upper Kangaroo River for a busy Sydney-based couple with three young boys is a job for someone adventurous and with style.

Thankfully, the owners have both in spades. The result is a masterclass in easy decorating. 
Braebrook is warm and modern (not to mention comfortable for all ages) but also has a timeless quality to it. 
It’s Sydney-based owners wanted to use the place for school holidays and rent it out the rest of the time, so the house needed to be low-maintenance, with extra rough and tough materials that are practical but look good, too.
First up: it was decided to work with a few existing quality pieces, (a seven-metre solid timber dining table, a knockout chandelier and two well-built sofas); then allow the house to fulfill its destiny.
Shiplap walls were updated with a several coats of Dulux Lexicon, a foolproof liveable shade of white paint, that always works well in the Australian countryside.  Too much colour can look unflattering and visually noisy.
Every room was updated, from the three bedrooms to the open-space living, dining and kitchen area. Even the wrap-around outdoor deck. 

Next up, it was time to go shopping. Here's where we entered the picture and did what we always do, seeking out fad-free, hard-wearing key classics.  An African wicker sofa, pretty timber consoles, a coffee table, and elegant lamps, and cushions. Plus simple curtains, bedding and baskets. Timeless staples that can be mixed and matched.
Styles and themes were mixed up: Asian pieces, French farmhouse, linens and jutes which work because of the cohesive colour palette and lack of pattern. We alternated clusters of objects with empty spaces.
We grouped baskets and plants and books to create still lives, but give them room to breath. And kept in mind: a limited palette is unifying and warm textures, such as leather, wool, and rattan, are easy on the eyes. Very simple linen drops were selected for curtains and bedding.
We chose tactile but tough materials throughout the house that have visual interest and character and wear well, such as cottons, linens, wicker, jute, timber, stone and metal.
Windows everywhere were treated to new timber venetians and roller blinds from Wynstan with window and walls treated as one seamless surface to instantly correct proportions.
The bedding, curtains and cushions are a mix from Ikea, Pottery Barn, West Elm and Restoration Hardware.
Fans and door hardware are from Bunnings. Furniture is mostly from Orient House, La Maison and Barbara's Storehouse.
Rush and jute matting from Armadillo & Co was added to timber flooring. It’s affordable, but doesn’t look it and holds furniture beautifully. Once we got the flooring right everything else seemed to come together. 
Finally, all spaces were sharpened with new table lamps and lampshades.  They gave rooms confidence and are one of the first things people notice. We opted for great bases in classic shapes from glass to metal topped with big linen shades.
Walls were decorated with a mix of African baskets (old and new), anything. The aim was to just fill up the spaces, working from the centre out. Massed together, things achieve drama. We raided Orient House for African tribal trays in all sizes and shapes and used them on walls in living and sleeping areas to create drama.
The house really works. You can see for yourself – as it's available to stay in; and will find it’s as great in real life as it is in the pictures!

Photography: Elise Hassey,
Design:Melissa Penfold's Edecor personalised online design 
March 16, 2017

A guide to Sydney's Best Florists

We give you our 10 top Sydney florists. The go-to places and names we can't live without for the best blooms used by PRs, celebrities and stylists. 

Among them are the names whose look and influence have been monumental on our homes (people now play with pattern and texture, duplicate arrangements and stick to single hues).
Queen of blooms, Saskia Havekes's statement-making branches, succulent leaves and fab flowers have inspired books, photographic exhibitions and many a copycat florist. And her illustrious client list reads like a roll call of the great and the good of the fashion world. Think Elle Macpherson, Cate Blanchett, Toni Colette, Hugh Jackman, Jane Campion, Sarah Murdoch, Sass & Bide, Kylie Kwong, Donna Karan, Dries van Noten, and Hermes. What more can we say?  
Shop 1/12 Macleay Street, Potts Point,
9357 7902, grandiflora_sydney
My Flower Man
Kieran Birchall’s oversized, dramatic bunches often combine classic flowers with mod foliage and natives so expect to see English roses mixed in with showier leaves, and blooms. Instead of combining flowers evenly, he often keeps each type distinct in the bunch, so there are pockets of light and dark. He can deliver same day around inner Sydney. Currently online only.
My Violet
The secret is out on this little Redfern-based workshop, which is like looking through a keyhole into a secret garden. It is fast becoming Sydney’s go-to flower shop for home-grown flowers arranged in owner Myra Perez’s signature informal vintage mod style. A fave with the fashion crowd for weddings and events.
4/21 George Street, Redfern
0405 910 029
Seed Flora
This Glebe florist is responsible for the annual epic David Jones flower shows. Proper flowers, a mix of modern and classic blooms. Seed can make magic happen with just a few magnolia or cherry blossom branches and orchids.  
79 Bay Street
Glebe Sydney Australia
+61 (2) 9552 6677
Sophia Kaplan
If you’re looking for flowers that offer something out of the ordinary, Kaplan could be your first port of call. Inspired by picking wildflowers around France, Germany, Italy and Australia, she is an artist who likes her bouquets to look as natural as possible. Working from a shared studio space in Alexandria, she textures each arrangement with unexpectedly shaped foliage. Nothing too stylized. Online only.
Poho Flowers
This florist creates modern-looking displays from its airy Art Deco space that houses a contemporary, cool show of greenery, branches, berries, pods, palm leaves, fleshy flowers and natives. The arrangements focus on lush, earthy tones. Statement flowers.
Shop 2, 117 Macleay Street, Potts Point
(02) 9331 4333
Tracey Deep Floral Sculptures
Much more than flowers. Deep, who holds regular exhibitions of her work, brings an artist's sensibility to her edgy 'living sculpures'.  She uses architectural branches, pods, wood, even metal with unusual flowers such as clivea, sedum, ginger flowers, and coral-like celacia. A firm fave for high-profile weddings, big parties and corporate events. 
Studio G01, 59 Great Buckingham Street, Redfern,
(02) 9318 1177. floralsculptures
Long revered by magazine stylists, this hotspot located in Darlinghurst is as modern as the name suggests. Inside the crisp layout and a wall of hundreds of coloured roses is Jai Winnell’s signature informal style. Simplicity and freshness are key.
237 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
(02) 9380 4725
Jardine Botanic
If you like your flowers to look as natural as possible, not as if they have come out of a glasshouse, Jardine Hansen’s loose, free-form arrangements will strike the right note. Flowers are not bunched up, their heads don’t bang together; their form is not lost.  The emphasis is on botanical varieties. Jardine offers floral styling for weddings, events, corporate spaces and private homes across Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
0412 890 841
Mr Cook You’ll find amazing inspiration here. The place does classic, classic blooms in a contemporary and organic way. You'll find everything from cabbage garden roses to arrangements that incorporate succulents. Great style.
318 New South Head Road
Double Bay Sydney Australia
+61 (2) 9363 5550
Mandalay The kind of flowers that look good anywhere. Fresh-cut,  relaxed but just dramatic enough. A fave with well-heeled Eastern suburbs types. The bunches are generous, the flowers will last, and you can pick up a useful and affordable vase while you're there.
6 Cross Street
Double Bay Sydney Australia
+61 (2) 9362 5000
March 16, 2017

10 Gorgeous Gifts To Give Your Weekend Hosts

Here’s to modern weekend hosts! Whether you’re travelling near or far this season, never arrive empty-handed.

From soaps to serving pieces (and everything in between), this assortment has all the right ingredients for you to show up in style. 
March 16, 2017

Your Search For The Perfect Accessories Ends Here

Style is all in the accessories. It’s amazing how a great cuff, necklace, or earrings can make a chainstore outfit look like a designer classic.

You can change the mood and status of a space with a few well-chosen objects of desire. The right jewellery and pieces can take you a long way.
Look out for Dinosaur Designs new collection, Sand, that explores sandstone. Different pieces. Different personalities. All in the most delicious matte and glossy earth colours.
Gorgeous bowls, bangles, dipping dishes, serving spoons, (classic to edgy).
March 9, 2017

Trend-Spotting: 10 Best Finds From Maison et Objet

Welcome to our Maison et Objet 2017 trend report, for your fast track guide to the hot new names and biggest design trends for the coming year.

We take our time to distinguish the transient, fun, fashion minutes from the ones that truly capture the mood at large. True trends are not born in a vacuum, they are a visual manifestation of what’s going on in the world around us.
While we love the new elegance that emerged at the fair – the antique mirroring, rich velvet, jewel colours, metallic fabrics and cosmos-inspired lighting - the best offerings flitted successfully between style and honest-to-goodness usefulness.
The message from Paris: being fashionable isn’t enough anymore. Here are the best things and bankable brands that achieve that longed for combo of style and practicality. 

BERT FRANK Everyone was talking about the Brit designer’s avant-garde shelving cabinets. 

COLE & SON The Brit wallpaper stalwart teamed with South African ceramics company to produce Singita – a paper called Ardmore covered with fab flora and fauna that looks set to become a collectable.
FERM LIVING A couple of years ago terrazzo prevailed, and last year splattering seemed to take hold. This year it’s confetti that’s fallen on walls and flooring, tables and tops. Fine examples were on show at Ferm Living, where wallpapers, fabrics and accessories got the full treatment.
GEORG JENSEN One of the best for individual tabletop pieces with kick was the silversmith - who after more than a century - is still going strong. Add a touch of class to your with champagne buckets, large ice tongs and coasters using a Harald Nielsen’s 1922 ‘stepped’ motif that harks back to Art Deco period with a mod highly polished finish.
LIGNE ROSET Soft-seating royalty Ligne Roset gave us the IT sofa of the fair - ‘Cover’. A knockout contemporary design that comes in two versions (a classic button style or mod foam unit) with drop-dead gorgeous slip covers including a luxe velvet option.
L’OBJET The accessory maestro launched one of the best ranges of statement-style vases, bowls, stools, tables, mirrors and lighting inspired by Mayan history and architecture.
NORDAL Plants and herbs, bulbs, shells and coral took centre stage at the fair meaning brands like Nordal are a key bit of kit. The more nature in our homes, the better. 
PULPO Who wouldn’t want to rub their hands along a smooth radial or bullnose edge that softens circular tabletops? We loved the squaring of furniture at Pulpo where tables captured the vibes of a Brancusi and sunny disposition of a Keith Haring.
MICHAEL VERHEYDEN Now that brass, marble and wood (alone and combined) have become popular shorthand for quality across the mainstream as well as luxury markets, designers such as Verheyden are more relevant than ever.
SKULTUNA 1607 Brass remains one of the most wanted materials for our homes this year with modern designs such as the Spike Series by Swedish jewellery designer Maria Nilsdotter for Swedish brand Skultana 1607, striking just the right note.
WALL & DECO Tantalising timber, stone and metal-style wallpapers look like the new, stylish, practical way to brighten up a wall, a floor, or a room. Thanks to advances in technology, these papers (which replicate real materials and can be used indoors, or outdoors. The bonus is they’re robust, easy-to-clean, and don’t require sanding or oiling. Plus they are super affordable. 

Other hot names and best in-show brands:
BEIJA FLOR WORLD Soft wrap vinyl mats mimiking cement tiles from Israel-based company. 
DE LE CUONA Peerless yarns
ITO BINDERY Fetish-worthy stationery from Tokyo-based designer.
JONATHAN ADLER The fantasy element of furniture that you don't need to dress up 
MISSONI HOME Some of the splashiest classics at the show.
PINCH DESIGN Think clean lines and attention to detail.
SCHWUNG HOME Longtime supplier of lighting to Restoration Hardware. 
SUZUSAN Craftmanship doesn't get much better.
March 9, 2017

Why Floorboards Are Becoming Statement Pieces

Nearly a quarter of homeowners are upping their budget this year for at least one area of their property — and flooring is leading the way.

US home improvement marketplace Plentific has revealed that flooring is set to experience the biggest increase in investment, with an average 29 percent of homeowners looking to spend more on this in 2017, followed more widely by the bathrooms and kitchens (both 27 percent).
Apparently this is backed up by US floorboard giant Ecora, who says this year will be one of the most "dynamic times" for flooring, with homeowners becoming more creative and seeking originality in flooring, which is becoming a statement piece in its own right.
"A lot more consideration is going into the selection of the floorboards, because this is usually the statement piece in any home that doesn’t go out of fashion," says Ecora director Jeandre du Toit. "It needs to stay current and be adaptable to changing trends."
For a while, paler woods were the most popular choice for flooring, where they reflected modern and stylish interiors and accessories.
For 2017, greys and dark brown tones are bringing a warm and sophisticated feel to interiors as well as adding depth to spaces.  
A rich dark wood can also form a great base for either the clean modern or eclectic room. Remember, flooring outlives paintwork so it’s best to stick to something natural and muted that will work with successive colour schemes: something with enduring appeal, which fits in with the way you live.



Every season, we do the work for you, to find the season's must-have buys in our pick of the latest looks to prove that you really can have style for less. Introducing Melissa Penfold essential basics - wicker wingbacks, linen sheets, soy candles and much help you transition your home instantly for summer. Happy shopping!
Melissa Penfold