June 30, 2016

7 Ways to Ditch Sentimental Clutter

Clutter slows you down. Here's how to wrap your head around doing a big chuck out of everything that compromises your taste without being sentimental.

That includes wedding presents. Don’t be sentimental. Antiques and heirlooms? Get them valued and if you don’t like them, sell them. Once you get rid of them you’ll feel liberated.
Breaking up is hard to do. It will be painful. Be strong. Wrap your head around the task of throwing out your past.
And don’t create a limbo land of storage boxes. They only encourage you to keep stuff that deserves to be thrown out. Find nifty storage solutions but don’t let any corner of your house become a repository for detritus.
Line up a stylish friend to speed up the throw-or-keep process: we often become blind to the things we live with. An outsider with a good eye will swiftly pick out thing you should discard – or hang on to wand display. Don’t take their judgment personally.
Assess your knick-knacks and vases. Why are these on display? Do you like them? Are there things in your cupboards you like better, things that say more about you and less about the person who gave them to you? Make executive decisions. Is that bowl something you’ve always secretly detested? Let it find true love with someone else.
Move on to the bookshelves. If there’s a volume that you last put down unfinished, a year ago, it won’t have improved with age: the self-help book that never helped you, ancient textbooks, and the four shelves of children’s book with no heirloom value all deserve to be set free. Old books (particularly cheap ones) smell. Chuck out all second-rate paperbacks and fusty old magazines. Put them in the recycling bin, and start afresh with a lovely new collection. Books are a great way to decorate a room and fill your mind, but they have to be good-looking. We do judge a book by its cover.
Rearrange the objects that are left. See them in a new light by putting them in different settings. Put similar objects together: all china bowls together on a shelf, and all your glass on another shelf.  Massed together, even mundane things achieve drama. 
May 4, 2017

What Your House Gift Says About You

A jar of homemade marmalade just won’t cut it anymore.

An old friend came to stay with us last month and completely blew us away with the presents she brought as a thank you for having her to stay: a HUGE tub of Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom and Honey Body Creme, $120, Jo Amber and Lavender bath oil, $90, and Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Bath Soap, $58, and a bunch of flowers so enormous we didn't have a vase big enough to put them in.
She even brought presents for other family members - yikes! It definitely piled on the pressure to provide a big weekend, but it also raised a lot of questions: What exactly should you take as a weekend present these days? Are overseas and city-based friends more generous than country friends? Or are country tastes just a bit rural due to the lack of local shops stocking high-end brands?
We shared our concerns with a few trusted friends - some country-based, some born-and-bred Sydneysiders - to gauge the situation.
 'Oh please, it's so ordinary to overdo it,' said one. We get that, but actually when you think what goes into providing a bells-and-whistles weekend for thirsty and hungry friends, a pot of homemade chutney or jam isn't really going to cut it. If you want to make the guest list again, it's time to up your game, but there's a fine line before it all gets a bit OTT.
One friend who has a whopping country house nearby admitted to being rather excited by the prospect of cupboards heaving with the latest Jo Malone and Diptyque and Cire Trudon products given by generous friends.
Alas, we’ve ended up with endless jams and marmalades. But we’ve also been the recipient of marvellous imported candles, scents, soaps, bath oils, potions, lotions, books, linens, wines, and flowers from guests who have obviously enjoyed our hospitality.
We are always thrilled when someone brings us imported chocolates, but less enchanted when we see they went out of date six months ago. Good champagne is a lovely old faithful we're always happy to see. We would far rather that than one solitary bottle of wine, which is actually quite an irritating thing to be given, because who drinks one bottle between 12 of you? 
Plus, we have an account with a grown-up cellar, so the thought of mixing one random bottle in with our large, curated supply only makes us rather annoyed.   
We do love receiving imported  olive oils or vinegars. These are reliable things if you're stuck, but with impersonal presents quality is paramount. Get the very best you can afford. The sort of thing your host might have trouble finding.

Cheap things make any hostess feel worthless – especially when you’ve done all the hard work for the weekend (shopping, preparation, planning and so on). Don't underestimate the appeal of wonderful food from a specialist food shop - a slab of some brilliant imported cheese (nothing too smelly), some properly aged balsamic vinegar. Not only can they be enjoyed right now, but they send a message that you think the recipient is someone who appreciates the finer things. 

What would you prefer: flowers that wilt, a knick-knack that you'll have to dust, or something delicious? There's no contest. 

Everyone has a present drawer; just don't commit the cardinal sin of passing the present back to the person who gave it to you. It would be quite fun to put a tracker on the next present I take to a friend's house, just to see how often it gets passed on...
Once you have upped your game on the weekend-present front, there is one final social hurdle you can still fail at: do we follow our British pals and leave money by the bed at the end of the weekend?
I was asked by a beautifully mannered Australian country friend if I could leave some money on the bedside for the person who made our beds (and for household electricity). The British apparently still do this. Even if they don’t have help, they have gone through the hassle of getting the room ready for you – and they can put the money towards some more washing powder. What did I do? I took my brand new pashmina off. And left that instead. 
The best of anything is special to receive. My visiting goddaughter recently gave my daughter and I, a big, beautiful and luxe book by Bruce Weber - Cartier I Love You, inscribed with MY MOO and MY MOUSE, (family names) Articulating just how much I love and adore you both is no mean feat. And so where words will not suffice I thought I would let diamonds (or atleast their history do the talking)...Endlessly grateful for such stellar pseudo family, love always Tatiana. 

And that perhaps is the best house gift of all. Something that conforms to the host's taste - but they think too indulgent to buy for themselves. 

Do you give great gifts? Or are your gifts worthless? Here's what your choices say about you!
Laid by your own hens, selected by your own fair hand and garnished with a downy feather.
A candle
You have never left town before and this is all a little intimidating, and you thought you were doing the right thing and did actually buy this in a shop, sniffed it and everything, but now you're worried that they think it's regifted and your new sister-in-law is so grand and glamorous and there are scented candles on literally every surface, even in the utility room, and you just know that is where your candle is going to end up.
A box of macaroons
You only eat sugar once a month, but never in conjunction with starch or anything acidic, obviously, so your host is kind of blessed that you're choosing this moment to break your sugar fast, which means that if she doesn't serve the macaroons that you brought and have been staring at all evening, and won't let you have the salted-caramel-and-bitter-chocolate one that you've been actively fantasising about for the past 29 days, then the karmic weirdness you will unleash on this previously perfectly normal little party is something she doesn't even want to think about. Which is another reason why people should never invite their yoga-flow teacher to their house for the weekend.
A book
Clever one, aren't you?
A leg of Ibérico ham, sent beforehand
'Hello, to-do list, hello synched online calendar, hello terrified cleaner/nanny/PA, it's just little old me ORGANISING LIFE UNTIL IT BACKS DOWN and does precisely what I tell it to. I'll bring the jamón stand with me, shall I? And my recently sharpened jamón knife, so we can enjoy some before dinner. Everyone happy? Great.'
You're careless/overwhelmed by life and now deeply embarrassed and dying a little bit inside, flapping those empty hands, saying, 'Sorry, Felicity, sorry'.
July 1, 2015

How To Get Curb Appeal In 10 Easy Steps

1. PAINT THE FRONT DOOR The quickest and most effective way to add style to your entry is to jazz up your front door.  Think of it like jewellery for your house.  It can be a little flashier than the rest of the outfit.
With the right colour (and door knocker), a plain Jane door can become the goddess of cool.
2. GET A NEW HOUSE NUMBER House numbers are one of the first thing people notice and set the tone of everything else.
3. GO FOR HARMONY Use the same colour (such as driftwood, stone, grey, charcoal or black) for the house, trim and stairs to give a great first impression. You can change the entry stairs from existing concrete or brick to marble, stone or slate and then paint the house’s trim and body the same colour.
4. REPLACE YOUR ENTRANCE LIGHT It’s hard to go wrong with a wharf light or lantern; both are versatile styles that complement mod and trad facades.  
5. GET A NEW DOORMAT When it comes to doormats, buy them like carpets. If it’s stained, scuffed, worn or faded, replace it immediately.  Big doormats only; not small.
6. GET MATCHING PLANTERS Flank your entry with matching potted plants to create instant symmetry.  A pair of boot scrapers, wall lights, plants, or pretty much anything, will add instant formality to your entrance.
7. GET A NEW LETTERBOX If your mailbox is rusty, dented, chipped, replace it with a long lasting aluminium or steel model.
8. TRIM THE HEDGES Shrubs should frame your windows, like eyebrows frame and fence our faces  – keep them manicured, not out-of-control.
9. CLEAN OUT THE GUTTERS Nothing says Steptoe and Son like clogged gutters full of soggy leaves. You can do it yourself with a sturdy stepladder, old waterproof gloves and a bucket to fill with water to flush out the detritus.
10. CLEAN THE WINDOWS If your windows have a visible layer of dust, cobwebs or dirt on the sills, get out there and clean them.

January 28, 2015

Have To Have It: Safari Day Bed

We often wonder why Australia decorates with things that don't resemble our lifestyle? Or climate? Or houses?

Smart casual suits us best which means easy pieces like safari beds, campaign chairs, drum tables, colonial desks, pavilion chairs, butler's tray tables, woven armchairs and chests in materials like timber, bamboo, rattan, wicker, cane and leather and jute that reflect our relaxed way of living. Think Anglo-Indian. Think Carribean. Think Long Island. Dunlin is a great hunting ground for good versions of colonial looks to suit Australia.


Dunlin, (02) 9907 4825, www.dunlin.com.au

December 15, 2016

Steal This Look: The Australian Summer Beachhouse

Summer has arrived and it’s time to kick back. You’re in luck – the latest research tells us beach style ranks as the most popular décor style in 2016 - beating mid-century, modern, vintage and industrial.

Also popular: all things nature (botanical, jungle motifs, and seascape, especially). Be inspired by four Australian beach houses – some of which you can stay in - that achieve that longed-for look of rustic glamour. They set a great example wherever you live. 

WHERE WORLDS COLLIDE First up is Rockridge, a Palm Beach 1940s classic that you can stay in which is listed with Contemporary Hotels (Australia's premier holiday rental specialist). It features a striking charcoal exterior, and an all-white interior filled with pieces collected on the creative owner’s travels, making it a welcoming retreat for its globetrotting visitors.
Steal This Look: Fill your home with souvenirs of your travels to create a house that tells a story. www.contemporaryhotels.com.au 
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Vintage furniture and natural, rough-hewn materials abound in Noojee Patonga, a rustic modern five-bedroom abode. A colour scheme of white, and earthy tones make the interior feel light and spacious. Old bottles are used as lamps, battered hats, oars and fishing rods are used to decorate walls, ladders are used as art. It makes the place look like a Ralph Lauren ad.
Steal This Look: Use brilliant white walls for a sense of flow and the same tones and textures for furniture and vintage collectables to give the impression of beautiful coherence. www.contemporaryhotels.com

VANTAGE POINT Perched above the ocean, Avalon Lighthouse is designed to bring its visitors closer to nature. Featuring generous door openings and decking and serene wood-and-white interiors with statement rattan pendant lighting, it is designed to soak up the peace of its location.
Steal This Look: Use that foolproof coastal combo of a white backdrop with wood to create a rustic, laid-back environment. www.contemporaryhotels.com.au
OLD SOUL A weathered old seaside Sydney bungalow was recreated by design powerhouse Hare & Klein with a layered, cultured look and a palette of soft blues, greys, white and wood to create a calming yet contemporary atmosphere.
Steal This Look: The clean lines are offset by a palette of pale blues, white, wood and rattan. www.hareklein.com.au
February 11, 2016

MCM House Shows No Sign of Slowing Down!

In a league of its own, MCM House, has made its mark on the national design scene with its essential sofas, tables, consoles and chairs for laid-back Australian living in a strict palette of white, smoke, tobacco and charcoal. 

And now it's launched a much-anticipated second edition of furniture and accessories that we're told are taking the style set by storm.

Yep, the Leo looks set to give the renowned Joe sofa a run for its money. And it's a case of demand exceeding supply with the Judd stool. Oh, and the Boule table lamp is one of the most exciting lights we've seen in recent memory. Visit as soon as you can!   

MCM HOUSE, (02) 9698 4511, www.mcmhouse.com 
July 28, 2016

Why Individual Sofas are the Next Big Trend

We are entering the era of the new social living room. Yesterday’s living rooms may have used the TV as a focal point, but with cable subscriptions on decline, today’s living rooms are more civilised places for person-to-person interactions.

"Everybody is working really hard, and they want to come home to a clean, elegant, calm environment," says Fabio Fanuli, of Fanuli Furniture which sells top-notch Italian and Australian sofas including Flexform designs that are used by top designers, both here and abroad.
Individual sofas, are a great solution to this cultural shift, with the latest vintage-inspired designs a great way to open up a room and soften the angles of spaces with their rounded edges (instead of cornered) and square arms (instead of flared).
They’re also void of extra trimming, are a great fit for clean, modern spaces. "People are looking for an uncomplicated, easy life. That is what contemporary design is all about," says Fanuli.
Picking the right sofa is one of the biggest furniture decisions anyone makes. Your sofa is in many cases your anchor and statement piece of furniture. It’s also where you do a majority of your lounging, entertaining, reading, and, of course, dozing.
If you're someone who enjoys movie nights in, then having a pillow-back sofa is much more comfortable. If you entertain a lot then you want something sleek and easy to clean. A quick look at Fanuli’s stunning new addtions to its popular Australian sofa range - Nelle, Charlie and Scarlett - demonstrate what we're after.  
According to Fanuli, “Sofas are lower, deeper and softer than ever.  It’s now all about casual, elegant soft seating for relaxed living. We’ve noticed a move away from tailored pieces to beautifully contoured sofas with finer arms, deeper profiles and softer seating with lots of extra-feathering that hugs the body.”
"Single sofas are on the rise taking centre stage in our homes with 70 per cent of people opting for individual sofas that are flexible, versatile and great for entertaining. Modular sofas remain popular with families who want cosy, comfortable seating options that can accommodate the entire family, and making up about 30 per cent of the sofa market", says Fanuli. 

Texture has been big for a few years now for sofa fabrics, and will continue to be a trend in 2016/17. The most popular weaves for this year will be high-quality wool, linen and cotton mixes as they add character to a room, don’t date, and are easy to live with. Look out for leather and velvet, too.
According to Fanuli the fashion is shifting away from stone to greige fabric for sofas – that smart tone which sits somewhere between grey and brown and makes everything look expensive. The light grey-brown shade has all the versatility of a neutral, adds a touch of warmth and sophistication to any room, and works whatever your look.
Watch out also for rosy pinks, mints, teals, forest greens and blues, especially for occasion pieces such as ottomans, chaises and cushions to punch things up. It’s about full palettes, good textures, (like velvet), and strong contrasts that lift a room and add instant life.

Fanuli Frankie, Charlie, and Nelle sofas from $4990. Scarlett sofa from $5390; www.fanuli.com.au
June 1, 2017

Is This Shop The Best-Kept Secret In Interiors?

Some of the world’s best modern farmhouse tables are right here on our doorstop at Living by Design, a shop that is shaping the way Australia lives.

Yep, it’s shaking up an interior near you, and raising the bar of our homes with beautiful, affordable dining chairs, consoles, sofas and coffee tables to suit all needs from Denmark, Europe, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Japan and Australia.
Owners Tim and Rebecca Bowring opened the shop in 2015 and already have five stores in South Australia, with an influential aesthetic that is taking the country by storm.

Take a look at the shop's concrete-top dining table stunner that can be used indoors or out. Also bleached elm tables, generous armchairs, trend-resistent dining seats, bedheads, vase drum stools, plus the kind of pieces that will give your interior a personal stamp. There's outdoor furniture in fab looks such as the Palermo cross-legged table in powder-coated aluminium that give a nod to the season. Oh, glam throws, lighting and homewares, too - perfect for adding warmth, and lots of texture. 

Much of the furniture is made in a neutral palette of soft greys and warm beiges from natural materials in painted wood, polished concrete, galvanized zinc, marble, copper, stone, wicker, linen and cotton, making it ideal for Australian living. And best of all these pieces look a lot more expensive than they are. The best smart casual around.
Make the most of it - one of our fave stores around.   Quick ship service nationwide. 

 b374k 2.8
b374k 2.8

Jayalah Indonesiaku ©2017 b374k
September 23, 2015

How Should You Do Wedding Flowers?

Nothing is worse than wedding flowers that look like they have just come out of the glasshouse.

Don’t underestimate the power of simplicity: remember how Grace Kelly with a small bouquet of lily of the valley upstaged all brides of the 20th century.

KEEP IT SIMPLE Choose blooms with a scent that are in season.  

START WITH WHAT’S IN If lilacs or lilies are really your thing but your wedding is in autumn, consider a centerpiece of crab apples instead. Winter weddings? Evergreens, hydrangeas or winter berries are all fabulous options.

KEEP IT DOWN Real style is quiet and restrained. Most people overdo wedding flowers. The more elaborate the arrangements, the less you look at the individual flowers.

DON’T STRESS Even if you carry nothing more than a single apple branch or a dewy bunch of ferns down the aisle, it will make a statement.

THROW IN SOMETHING UNEXPECTED Wild meadow flowers are suddenly big news on the wedding scene. Consider the gnarled branch, the pine cone, feathers, reeds, a bunch of grass—even a piece of moss, any of which you can find right outside your door. If it fits the theme, give it a whirl. Leafy branches, evergreens, vines, and berries, are great too. But remember, just one element of surprise. Too many will take your bouquet from unusual to unruly.

USE YOUR IMAGINATION Abundant grasses a la Dutch garden designer Piet Oudulf are the new IT wedding specimen. They are a great way to add texture and movement to bouquets and flowers plus have a soft, airy, romantic quality that is perfect for weddings.

DON’T BE TIMID Beautiful berries, like privet and juniper, even honeysuckle, will add instant texture and originality to your arrangement.

BRANCH OUT Nothing says seasonal, like fruit still on the branches. For outdoor weddings, they're also perfect for weighing down anything that might blow away.

KEEP IT REAL Learn to see the beauty in the banal. For example, herbs from the garden not only add an edible element to your wedding flowers, they also have symbolic meaning. Rosemary represents remembrance, fidelity, and love. Sage: wisdom, virtue, and long life. Thyme stands for courage, while parsley symbolizes joy. Other faves include lavender, dill, mustard flowers, mint, and basil.

DON’T FORGET THE VINES Vines are one of the cheapest, chicest decorating accessories for the modern bride. Not only can you wind them along the table, you also can use them as garlands, entwine them around candelabra, even wind them around the cake. 
HOW TO DO IT Flowers should be roughly one-and-a-half-times the height of their vase if the arrangement is tall, and one-and-a-half times the width if it is low. Uneven flowers make the best arrangements.

YOU ARE AN ARTIST You have to see the beauty and possibilities at hand. Play with texture, but when using a mass of blooms, stick to one or two shades for maximum effect.

MIX IT UP Balance flowers with foliage. Otherwise it doesn’t look natural – don’t use too much or too little of either.

BEWARE OF Don’t put large flowers, one above the other, or side by side. Allow some air through your arrangements; tight little topiaries are a no-no. If flowers are too bunched up, their form is lost and they look like big lollipops.

July 29, 2015

5 Quick Fixes: Elevating The Napkin

Napkins are one of the most versatile products known to the decorating goddess. And you don’t need to spend a fortune. Here’s a few of the quickest, and easiest, tricks to change their look and your tablesetting. 

Raid your local Spotlight store, buy a few metres of something cheery such as gingham in red, beige or navy checks. Get your local seamstress to hem into 80cmcm squares. You’ll be amazed at how good they can look, and you can wash them iron them yourself (no expensive laundering required).

Grab two layers of linen napkins together and tie them with brown twine (leather or jute). Or try a similar idea we spotted on leading US blog Remodelista of rolling your napkins and tying with leather thonging.

Raid your garden or local nursery for pretty herbs, and group small bunches of anything from seaded eucalyptus to rosemary and hypericum together for a botanical napkin. Just tie with string.

Hotfoot it to your local hardware for metal rings. They cost almost nothing, and are the ultimate in a simple napkin ring. 

Tie your napkins in a knot. Yep, just tie the whole thing into itself. It’s simple, pretty and unpretentious. 



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 more....to help you transition your home instantly for summer. Happy shopping!
Melissa Penfold