May 25, 2017

Outdoor Furniture Roundup: Architects' 10 Favourite Collections

We set out to find the best in outdoor furniture, so we asked Australia’s architectural powerhouses from Tzannes to Popov Bass, Iain Halliday and SJB - whose soaring structures are reshaping our country and admired around the world - for the all-time
We’re glad we asked, because several lines are new to us. Here are their picks. Oh, and we threw in a couple of our own faves, or course. Plus a few from the connoisseurs – top designers to landscapers from Thomas Hamel to Paul Bangay and Myles Baldwin - who know how to curate five-star spaces. You’ll love their outdoor furniture go-tos!

1. FERMOB Great inexpensive, compact French aluminium folding bistro chairs inspired by the famous Luxemburg Gardens furniture that comes in thousands of shades. Iain Halliday swears by them, saying "I am obsessed. They’re so simple, which is what garden furniture should be."
2. NORMAL STUDIO FOR MAIORI OUTDOOR Stay ahead of the pack with this clean-lined chair design by Christophe Pillet used by SJB Architects to great effect for Sydney's Light Brigade Hotel outdoor area revamp.

3. B & B ITALIA 1966 COLLECTION OF RICHARD SCHULTZ Almost every design great including our very own Iain Halliday lists this as one of their favourite outdoor furniture collections. 
4. JANUS ET CIE Bigwig design and landscape names like Thomas Hamel, Paul Bangay and Myles Baldwin get their outdoor furniture here – including its collections such as Quadratl, Savannah, Slant and Arbour. Top designers come also for Relais, a chi-chi timber design.

5. COTSWOLD The big names in design and architecture shop here for smart, strong teak garden staples - many are copies of original drawings by renowned architects like Sir Edwin Lutyens and Arne Jacobsen including iconic designs used in the world's best gardens such as Lutyens and Classic benches. Also timeless tables like Pembroke and Hamptons. Repeat clients include the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Royal Botanic Gardens as well as Thomas Hamel and New Zealand's Huka Lodge for its smart casual Belgian line of Vincent Sheppard woven fibre designs. Take your garden to the next level.  221 Hume Highway, Mittagong, 1800 677 047
6. KRISTALIA Outdoor pieces for high-design fiends used in some of the world’s hottest hotels and restaurants; used closer to home by local design talents such as Hare Klein, RL Design and D'Cruz Design Group, who list LP, Plana, Mem and Colander among their fave chairs for outdoors.

7. EMU The epitome of the authentic culture of Italian style are always fine-tuning the concept of design for outdoor living, Emu works closely with elite designers and architects to bring together the best in design and manufacturing methods. Emu’s furniture is characterized by its functionality, durability, and unmistakable style. All things which Elanor Hyland-Falle, from Tzannes Architects looks for when specifying outdoor pieces. The latest collections were designed by internationally famous designers such as Arik Levy, Carlo Colombo, Paola Navone, Patricia Urquiola, Jean-Marie Massaud, Christophe Pillet and Rodolfo Dordoni who have already created exclusive lines for Emu.

8. MINOTTI Paul Bruce, head of interiors at Popov Bass Architects thinks one company getting outdoor furniture right is Minotti. “The Cortina outdoor chair is a real winner. The white tubular frame has a Palm Springs vibe.  It’s that white tubular frame. Amazing."

9. PAOLA LENTI Popov Bass is also a fan of the Italian designer whose genius use of colour, from droolworthy neutrals to indigos and limes, would look at home anywhere in the world. "We’ve been using the Canvas outdoor sofa range," says Bruce and we agree, it's a great looker that would super charge your outdoors.
10. RODA Statement-style and strikingly modern high-end Italian outdoor sofas and chairs loved by Simone Haag, Hecker Guthrie, Kennedy Nolan Architects, Molecule, Decus, Claire Cousins and Arent & Pyke.
Melissa's three faves:
BROWN JORDAN Heavyweight international designers love the timeless, elegant metal designs such as Venetian that hark back to Palm Beach 1950s and we do too.
BUNNINGS Smart, weatherproof wicker-style resin armchairs for less.
COSH LIVING Offers great designer-look timber tables and chairs that could easily pass muster as Belgian pieces.
May 25, 2017


Some potted plants are too much trouble. Not boxwood. It’s easy to create curb appeal with this evergreen shrub because well-behaved box won’t lose its leaves, outgrow its pot, or clash with other colours.
Here are seven of our favorite ways to use boxwood as a potted plant:

Global Thinking
Emphasize the geometry of a round boxwood ball by planting it in a round or square pot. 

1+1 Equation Even if you don’t have acres of land to divide into geometric shapes, you can define space and create structure with a pair of tightly clipped boxwood flanking your entry. 

Go Shaggy A loose topiary look can also work, with slightly shaggy boxwood hedges.

Asymmetry Asymmetrical groupings of planters work well because they all repeat a single theme: boxwood. A few tightly clipped topiary balls of evergreen will add a tailored element. In your garden, repeat pots of buxus and topiary on opposite sides of doorways or stairways to make an outdoor space feel deliberate and restful.

Scatter Pattern Clipped boxwood adds structure to an informal garden. Plant your buxus domes in a mossy old pot. Collect different sizes. And you have an instant garden, you can move from space to space to suit the season (or your mood).

Choose Wisely Boxwood is a hardy hybrid that holds a clipped shape easily. There are more than 70 species of boxwood, of which the most common in Europe and the US is Buxus sempervirens.

Clipping Service
Boxwood is extremely easy going; you can clip it into balls–or into spheres, cones, squares, or pretty much anything you fancy –and it will hold its shape for months.

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May 25, 2017

Look Who's Back....Australia's Best-Known Antique Dealer Returns To Business

Australia’s best known decorative arts dealer, Georgie Howell (Howell & Howell) is back in town with the most beautiful things on earth, trading from Potts Point Galleries (and by appointment).

Not just a dealer, but an authority who has helped fastidious collectors fill their houses with antiques of unequalled pedigree, Howell left her famous Queen Street, Woollahra showroom back in 2011.
It has been a long five years without a comparable replacement for the genius Howell, who has serviced all corners of Australia for more than 35 years, but also the rest of the world. The company’s reputation has been recogonised by the global collecting cognoscenti – with containers of furniture sent to Lake Como, repeat clients in New York, even Shanghai.
Since arriving back in Sydney last month, she has already sold pieces to our city’s most prominent collectors. As they say good news travels fast.
Nothing ever stays with Howell for very long because there has always been a long waiting list of people who are ready to make room for her pieces as soon as they become available. 
Expect everything from 18th century wicker covered American bottles, French early 19th century oils on canvas, 17th century English, Dutch and Spanish glass decanters and goblets, an English two-door red Chinoiserie lacquer cabinet with carved edge and legs simulating bamboo. There’s a ceramic sculpture signed by a student of Henry Moore, W.Wright, plus antique Chinese export tankards, Chinoiserie porcelain perfume bottles with Vigneron glaze, Italian 1940s terracotta maiden sculpture and so many other rare collectables. Much to love, and collect for those who know their stuff.
0407 979 310
instagram / georgiehowell8

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May 25, 2017

Ok, We'll Be Doing Our Interiors Like This From Now On

Advertisers have their finger on the pulse of what’s next in a way that editorial may not. 

While the editorial pages of interiors magazine are certainly an authoriatitive source on current interiors trends, (what houses are being decked out in right now, and so on),  it’s the advertising pages that give us a glimpse into the larger trends happening in the interiors world – and beyond. 
Sure the ads are designed to sell you something, but if they’re executed well, they’re selling more than a product, they’re also selling a feeling (hello Gucci, Celine, Chloe, Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton).  They make a statement way beyond what they are selling. 
All of which means, in theory, that the creators of ads have really done their research to come up with an innovative and compelling concept that will resonate with the public.
Take a look at Gucci’s 2017 Resort, Celine and Versace’s ads: they are celebrating themes like country living, grand estates, gardens and outdoors, which resonate loudly with recurring lifestyle themes right now: lifestyle, history, and longevity. And of course, timeless things that are for keeps.  
B & B Italia set the trend for steel-framed factory windows more than 15 years ago with its ad campaigns featuring huge spans of glass with metal frames in warehouse-style spaces. Now steel windows walls are having a major moment in the smartest houses around the world. 
Louis Vuitton, and mega fashion brands such as Bottega Venetta and Prada have been going all-out for statement interiors in their ads for years, using knockout backdrops in everything from concrete to all-black, monochrome and smooth metallic shine to showcase their products. All themes which have influenced our homes, become key trends, with thrilling results. 
Missoni Home has made it cool for us to mix old with new, cool with warm, smooth with rough.
Now the coolest brands from Isabel Marant to Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton, even Zadig + Voltaire are channeling a sophisticated, luxe look with ground-breaking ads that feature white panelled walls showcasing antique French sofas, statement lighting and French doors.  Perhaps setting the tone for a move away from the raw, emotional and honest look to a more advanced, polished feel for our homes.
Isabel Marant is reinventing white laminate kitchens with flock wallpaper. Shopbop is setting the tone with the prettiest pink studded leather sofas and green-toned floral wallpaper.
Ads inform us about what’s going on, in terms of what’s next in interior trends across all fields from floors to walls, windows, lighting, doors, window treatments, furniture, finishes, colours and much more. And the future looks more elegant. More showy than it’s been in a while.

May 18, 2017

Why Everyone Is RENOVATING These Two Rooms

They’re not the spaces you’d expect. 

Along with faux finishes and concrete, renovations are trending. After surveying more than 100, 000 of its registered users, design platform HOUZZ has released its 2017 Report, revealing that homeowners, including millenials, spent 11 per cent more on room makeovers in 2016 than the year before.
Even more impressive, this number excludes kitchens and bathrooms. If you imagined massive living room transformations, think again. The spots that garnered the most monetary investment were two unexpected places that we spend a lot of time in: the laundry and master bedroom.
According to the report, average spend on laundries and master bedroom renovations grew 24 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. Kitchen and bathroom remodels cost more than these projects, of course, but that spending has stayed more or less the same.
As for the makeover itself? “The functionality of a laundry is key. Above all, it’s about a well-designed room where the focus is on storage. Plus, clean surfaces and organization and creating a great design you don’t mind spending time in. 
You need durable floor tiles to withstand daily floor traffic. Ceramic to cement which resists moisture and requires little care. You want storage that is a combo of closed cabinets and open shelving to boost organization.  Multiple baskets that are easily accessible, can hide smaller items. A working surface that can withstand heat and liquids is ideal, such as stainless steel or wood or ceramic.
Laundry lovers—or those who hate it enough to want the job done with maximum efficiency—are installing multiple washers and dryers to save time, and building in space for steaming cabinets or rotary irons that press tableware and bed linens within minutes. It’s becoming a favourite room in the house now, and as laundries move up in the house, looks are getting more important.
Doing laundry is a mundane task; people want to give the room a look that is anything but mundane.
As for master bedrooms? It’s about creating a special space to retreat. When everything else in the world is spiralling out of control, and feels rather illogical, what we want, if not need, from our homes (and master bedroom) takes on even more resonance, in this case the notion of master bedroom as our safe place, personal sanctuary and reprieve from all the madness. It’s the place where a new bravery is emerging – something along the lines of: do within one’s walls as one will.  
We’ve rounded up a few of our fave looks. Whatever your design direction, this is a trend with serious staying power, and logic.

May 18, 2017

10 Easy Pieces: The Bedhead

The bedhead market has increased, fortunately. Here are 10 favourites for simple, functional and well-designed pieces with modern lines. 

LIVING BY DESIGN You'll be amazed how something a simple as one of it modernist-style bedheads, pictured above, in grey or natural, with or without buttons, can elevate your entire bedroom. Our new go-to.

MCM HOUSE The Joe bed has become a Sydney classic.

HORGANS The wholesaler was one of the first to produce readymade, elegant linen bedheads, and still does a good line.

IKEA A great addition for those on a budget.

MAYVN Seek out its Margaux and Savoy for a luxe look.

May 11, 2017

The No-Brainer Purge: 20 Items to Get Rid of Right Now Without A Second Thought

If you're anything like us, de-cluttering is downright exhilarating. But knowing where to start can be a major mental roadblock.
If you've got the urge to get some stuff out of the house, start with this list of items you can say goodbye to right now with little thought and no impunity.
1. Expired coupons. 
2. Old magazines. If you're keeping them to look back at later, you won't. If you're keeping them for your kids to use for collages, keep three, maximum.
3. Expired pantry items (canned goods, spices, etc.). Check your local food bank for donation guidelines.
4. Old clothes.
5. Old/extra/excessive wrapping paper and supplies. If your stash tends to grow and sit, paring it down leaves you with less decision fatigue when it's time to wrap.
6. Excessive plastic and paper bags. They'll multiply again, you'll be surprised.
7. Broken things you've been meaning to repair. Take that pressure off yourself and breathe easier.
8. Old/extra/stained/torn linens. Chances are you never reach for those anyway.
9. Chipped dishes and mugs. They're fung shui energy stealers. 
10. DVDs you know you'll never watch again. You won't waste your time on them; don't waste space on them either.
11. Duplicate kitchen tools. Keep only the ones you reach for when you have a choice.
12. Accessories you haven't worn in a year or more. It means you don't actually like them.
13. Take-out menus. They're all online. Free up that junk drawer real estate.
14. Extra boxes and empty storage containers. Professional organizers say you should buy containers specifically for what you know you need to store, not the other way around.
15. Refills for items you no longer use. Examples include regular light bulbs after you've switched to LEDs, coffee filters for a pot you no longer own or use, or toothbrush head replacements for an electric toothbrush that kicked the bucket a long time ago.
16. Expired or compromised bike helmets. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that helmets should be replaced every five years or if they have been involved in any impact.
17. Expired medication. 
18. Expired cosmetics. Components separate, ingredients lose their effectiveness, and fragrances can turn rancid. Don't put them on your body.
19. Old cell phones. Make sure your personal information is wiped clean.
20. Books that don't move you or that you haven't used for reference in three or more years. Editing your collection leaves you with an autobiographical shelf that's a distilled literary portrait of you — and makes room for new favorites.
May 18, 2017

BARGAIN HUNTER: This week in Sales

No Chintz  From Friday, head to its mega three-day attic sale at Thirroul, that other retailers never miss.
There's bargains galore with a further 40 per cent off already discounted fabric remnants and rolls by Designers Guild, Marimekko plus No Chintz’s best-selling tickings, stripes, plains, linens, cottons and velvets, from $5 up. Also cushions in prints, plains and linens, from $5 each, plus great ex-display curtains, now $250 (were $1500), and lampshades in parchment, from $20. Plus bargain quilts, trims, cushion inserts, the odd queen bedhead, rugs, (wool, sisal and outdoor), $50-$100, assorted cane furniture, tables, even Designers Guild and Megan Park cushions with down filling. Worth the drive. Friday 19 May, Saturday 20 May, Sunday 21 May, 10am-5pm daily. Only at No Chintz, 243 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul, (02) 4268 4963,

Sheridan Outlets Gallop into your nearest outlet for up to 80 per cent off quality household linen staples. Start with  La Grange quilt covers queen size $129 (were $349.95), 500 threadcount sateen sheet sets in snow, mink, charcoal and angel, all sizes, $99, (queen was $$369.95). Also Everyday Linen quilt cover sets in white, now $145 (was $545.95). Then there’s fab Ultralight and Austyn white bath towels, now $15 (were $39.95-$49.95). Until Sunday.
The Design Hunter It's closing down sale which starts tomorrow is well worth a stickybeak, with  30 to 70 per cent off furniture, homeware and ex-styling pieces plus 20 per cent off brands like Bemboka, Hale Mercantile, Globe West, Enoki and Phendei.  Good accessories, from throw rugs to linens, stools and rugs, which can change the entire look of space.  These things don't cost a bomb, and are an easy update. Charing Cross. Until Sunday. 316 Bronte Road, Waverley, 9369 3322.


May 18, 2017

How to Clean Woollen Blankets, 5 Expert Tips

Autumn is the time to welcome back toe-cosy rugs, blankets and throws. But before you pull your fave woollens out of the linen cupboard to pop on your bed, we need to make sure they are fresh. 

If you are thinking of putting them in the wash: our advice? Please don’t. Wool is an incredibly resilient fibre, but it requires the gentlest handling in water and is often best left alone.
Here’s a quick lesson in hand-cleaning your woollies right, so they are spotless, sweet-smelling and always make you feel better.
1. Shake and Hang

Often ventilating wool is enough. Shake it with oomph. It feels good, it feels productive. Hang it somewhere where the air moves. It’s helpful to remember that dirt is solid, no matter how microscopic. Picture the air lifting the dirt off the fibers and sweeping it away, because that’s what it’s doing.
2. Spot Clean by Spraying
Need to take things a step further? Sometimes wool just requires freshening. This is easily achieved by giving it a little spray—whether all over or in spots that need cleaning—before hanging it up to dry.

Wool is hydrophobic, meaning the exterior of the fibre actually repels water. Lanolin occurs naturally, and most wool is treated after production to restore this element. Lanolin acts as a protectant—it’s antibacterial and works to repel dirt and water, which is why wool is considered self-cleaning.
Hot water will cause the fibre to expand, and dry heat will cause the fibres to shorten and shrink, so a spritz is preferred to soaking; and the dryer is never a good idea. When spot-cleaning dirt or oil, use vinegar diluted with water (1/3 vinegar, 2/3 water), and start slowly. If the piece is dyed, make sure it’s colorfast (the dye won’t bleed). Do this by spot testing with a damp white cloth. If the dye comes off, then it’s not colorfast and you’ll need to dry clean. Dealing with a fresh stain? Seltzer works well on wool—the air bubbles literally trap and lift away the trouble.
3. Bathe with Just a Hint of Soap
Are your woollens still dirty or musty? Give them a bath. But make sure the soap is mild and ideally pH neutral—Softly is tried-and-tested. I like an oil-based castile soap (even though it’s slightly more alkaline). Regardless, use a fraction of what you think you need: If it starts getting sudsy you’ve gone too far. Many of the properties that protect the wool are oils. When you use detergent, you are essentially stripping the fibre of exactly what is keeping it clean in the first place. Do not scrub or agitate, that will damage the fibre and mess with the shape. Just soak it and let the mixture do its work. The soap will react with the water and lift the dirt on its own, (no assistance from you required).
4. Roll, Don’t Wring
Wool can hold up to a third of its weight in water. After you rinse your blanket, do not wring it out. You’ll damage the shape and risk never quite getting it back again. Just roll it up in a towel to absorb the moisture—often this requires several goes (and  towels).
5. Air Dry
Hang the blotted blanket to dry. The ideal is a horizontal netted rack on legs—not something most of us have hanging around. But if you have outdoor space, considering setting up a clothesline. Better yet, set up two clotheslines with a few feet between them—hanging the blanket over the pair relieves a lot of the weight on the wet textile.  You’re not supposed to hang wool in direct sunlight, but I always break that rule for just a few minutes. The UV light from the sun works with the water to cut the mustiness. Cleanliness is the first step in keeping the moths at bay. 

May 11, 2017

How to Decorate when you're broke

Yes, it is possible. So what if you’re living out of the spare-change jar: your finances might be in the doldrums, but you (and your house) don’t have to be.

Stay positive. Don’t be miserable thinking about the things you can’t afford. Remind yourself of the opportunities this period presents. We’ve all been down on our uppers at some point, there’s no shame in it. Get out there and strut your stuff for all you’re worth. If you do this period of your life properly, people will never guess you’re broke.

Never again will you have such a great reason for using your imagination, doing things you would otherwise never do. Money makes many people lazy. The things you accomplish in wealthier times will never match the achievements of your ‘I Will Survive’ period.
The trick when you’re broke is; don’t let your standards drop. Don’t subside into a life of unmade beds and dirty cups. Always surround yourself with pretty things.
Be proud of where you live. Even if you live in a shoebox and have a budget of zero, honour your presence in it. Hang a beautiful fabric, or display a bunch of berries or a huge Chinese lantern.  Make sure everything you put on show speaks to you and sends a positive message to others: ‘I care about myself, I have taste and I’m not afraid to show it.’
Don’t be afraid to display old bottles, battered hats, riding boots, even coats. They can make your home look like a Ralph Lauren ad. Look at the things artists paint _ eggs in baskets, lemons on a wicker tray, twisted pieces of driftwood – and try them on a sideboard. Don’t throw out your old straw hats, hang them on a wall. It can be better than art, more natural, less try-hard.
Look at things you already own and use them in new and inventive ways. Raid the markets for flowers, scour bargain fabric shops for cut-price remnants that will transform a crucial cushion. If you find yourself with nothing better to do than watch Oprah, get out of the house.

Go to the theatres of life - and we don’t mean the shopping centre. All that neon, and all those things you can’t afford to buy, will depress you or send you into debt.
Catch a bus to the best part of town and go window-shopping. Pick up ideas on how to decorate your pad. It’s not just what’s for sale: check out how the high-end stores display things to best effect. Look at colour schemes that work, how objects are arranged on coffee tables. Laugh at the ludicrous price tags- it helps morale. While you’re there, watch the passing parade.

The best things in life are free - it's just that money makes people lazy. Time is the one thing you usually have an abundance of when you’re broke: use it to get educated.
Learn which museums and art galleries have no admission price or free entry. Visit commercial galleries to see what’s hot.
Get Around
Don’t just shop in one area. Go to different parts of town- geographically and culturally. Go to the Chinese, Arabic, Portugese and Italian sectors. Pop into two-dollar shops to vary the mix. See what’s out there, you’ll broaden your horizons and pick up different perspectives. You’ll be surprised, not just at the different looks but the different in price. Going over the bridge or getting out of town can be as good as going overseas.

Don’t Be Scared
No shop is too upmarket, downmarket or foreign for you. Go everywhere. Never think you’re too good enough to go into hate boutiques; you’ll learn the best lessons in quality, style and display secrets there. You might not be able to afford anything but you’ll pick up looks and then be able to imitate them. Never fear you’ll be backed into a corner: just explain that you are looking, thank you very much, and what a charming shop it is. Flattery gets you everywhere. Never be frightened by shop signs on which not a single word is English. Walk in confidently, smile broadly and enjoy the cultural experience. Charm speak all language. 

Get creative with your plants
If you just don't have the budget for big plants, start small. Grow plants from seeds or find smaller plants you can nurture and transfer into bigger pots as they grow. Ask pals if you can propagate cuttings from their succulents.
Look at what you've got Can any of your pieces have decorative elements stripped away to improve their look (since stripping is nearly free)? Sand down mismatched wood furniture, then update with chalk paint or whitewash the lot.

Hang it
Wall hooks are ultra affordable and though small, they can support larger elements that can become a part of your decor, namely fashion. Use them to hang clothing and accessories, in ways that add to your interior scheme (and save on storage)
Clean up week is great fun, and you’ll be amazed at what people throw out. There are better pieces in council clean ups than in most shops selling new furniture. Op shops and school fetes are great for books and community markets are great for plants.
Your home has to be a sanctuary – with a comfortable chair, a good reading light, and a handy table to pop a drink on.  You can have that wherever you live (and whatever the budget). As soon as you walk through the door your spirits should lift. Work on that lived-in look. 



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