Friday, 21 December 2007

Happy Holidays!!

This is where I'll be spending the festive season with my family and friends this year - Airey's Inlet - on the stunning Great Ocean Road in Australia. I'll be away without internet access until January 7th. So to all my readers - have a great festive season, and happy holidays! Thanks again for visiting my blog and for your comments, it makes it all wothwhile.

See you in 2008!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Today I'm loving...

This stunning crystal light by Marchetti of Italy. It's like a piece of jewellery for your home!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

From my style files - London Chic

I've been holding onto these tear sheets of this chic London home for quite some time, so I thought I would finally share them with you all. The owner is a very stylish Valentino executive who also has houses in Paris and Rome. He has a seriously enviable art collection, and had the assistance of Jacques Grange decorating the place, which helps!

The above two images are of the drawing room. I love this colour combination, it's so sultry and also looks very comfortable. The fireplace surround is Indian mica, with a c. 1700 venetian mirror above. The two paintings above the aubergine velvet sofa are by Francic Bacon. I love the side tables, you can find similar ones from EJ Victor.

Taupe velvet covered sofa in the second drawing room. The rug (same design as before) was designed by Jacques Grange. The diptych above is by Cy Twombly.

The dining room has more of a mix of styles - English 19thC marquetry dining table teamed with ebony and brass chairs covered in black and gold velvet. An Andy Warhold piece takes up most of the wall space and provides a contrast.

Above two images are the main bedroom. The Deco era palm-wood panelling beautifully compliments the Eugene Printz desk. The paintings are both anonymous works from the 16thC. I love how warm and masculine this room looks. And I love a bedroom with books.

The guest bedroom is lined with linen and has a much more neutral palette. The artwork above the bed is by Philip Taaffe.

Love, love, love this bathroom!! I think its because it is slightly industrial looking to me, with the large windows and stainless steel framed cabinetry - I must be onto something here, it reminds me of a Glenn Gissler kitchen from a previous post. I really love how light it is. So chic!

All images from House & Garden (UK edition) January 2006.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Thomas Maier does it again!

As many of you know I'm a huge fan of Bottega Veneta, and what Thomas Maier has done since becoming creative director. Well as far as I'm concerned, he's done it again! I am so in love with their new spring collection, I almost one of everything - these are my faves...

Friday, 14 December 2007

BODW, Day 3 - Zaha Hadid

Pritzker prize winning architect Zaha Hadid was definitely the drawcard for this year’s BODW forum, and drew what seemed to be record attendance. It’s unfortunate then that her presentation this afternoon was cut short because of program delays. Hadid spoke less about her foray into the world of architecture, the evolution of her career, and her inspirations than the previous two presenters; furthermore, there is probably not much that can be said about a woman of Hadid’s stature that has not already been said, but here goes!

Born in Baghdad in the 50’s Hadid first studied mathematics in Beirut before moving to London to study architecture. Upon graduation Hadid went to work for, and later become partner of The Office for Metropolitan Architecture - a practice set up by Hadid’s former teacher, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his former teacher, Greek architect Elia Zenghelis.

Hadid set up her own architectural practice in London in the 80’s and very quickly gained a reputation through some of the innovative spaces she created for international competitions, that she later went on to win.

Hadid learned early on that she was not able to use normative processes to express her ideas. The sketches presented to us were different from the standard architectural drawings that are normally produced, like none other that I had seen before. Full of life and colour, they are symbolic of a mind that works differently from that of its peers.

The themes of ‘fluidity’, ‘layers’ and ‘seamlessness’ were often referred to when she spoke about her spaces, because they are what defines her work. ‘Transparency’ and ‘volume’ are just as central to her philosophy. Her experimentation with vacuum formed furniture and buildings has created shapes that are almost calligraphic and are some of the most organic, yet elegant structures ever built.

As technology and building techniques improve with time, we will perhaps begin to see more exciting things from the unique mind of Zaha Hadid.

To see interviews with Zaha Hadid and for further information about her work check out the Zaha Hadid Blog website.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

BODW, Day 2 - Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon is the type of designer that gives hope to all aspiring designers. A university drop-out (he lasted 6 months in a sculpture course at Chelsea Arts) and a rock-star wannabe (literally), Tom Dixon has made a career out of being rebellious. His presentation this morning at BODW was titled “Design, and how not to do it”.

Dixon’s passion for cars and motorbikes initially fuelled his dedication to teach himself how to weld, allowing him to fix and repair them by himself. At a time in the UK when the industrial era was ending, Dixon had access to an abundance of scrap metal. It was with this very crude material, and his basic knowledge of welding, that he first started to create furniture. He relished not having clients or school teachers giving him guidelines or restrictions, so his creations were borne of trial and error. His practice with this material and method churned out no less than 50 chair designs in his first year.

His first commercial ventures were with some of the large Italian manufacturers, Cappellini and the like. Their understanding of design being a value add in many industries gained Dixon’s respect and lead to a long term working relationship. A relationship that allowed Dixon to grown from a one-man operation, to a studio now employing more than 15 designers.

Not long after this time, Dixon was employed by Habitat as their head of design. This was to be his first ‘real’ job. He went overnight from being an untrained and uneducated designer and producer to the creative head of the largest furniture producer in the world (Habitat, founded by Sir Terrance Conran in the 60’s, is now owned by the IKEA group). Despite the shock to his system, he insists that Habitat was good grounding for him, an environment where he was able to work on diverse products in many categories, and enabled him to learn the peripheral business of design – sourcing, marketing, branding, packaging and retail.

Seven years later Dixon took the leap and went out on his own again starting his own label, in much the same way, he describes, as a fashion designer would. Rebelling again against what is the ‘norm’, Dixon decided rather than providing a design service to manufacturers (whereby he would receive only a small royalty); he decided if he could control the entire manufacturing process he would also be able to reap the financial benefits. One of the first designs he would produce under his own label was the mirror ball pendants (see photo below, from none other than the home of Gwenyth Paltrow). The idea behind this successful product was his rejection of design. His tenure at Habitat had left him almost sick of design, he explains, so these had to be pure, design-free. The sphere, being the purest form, along with a lack of design or decoration would enable the pendants to disappear. Thankfully, they don’t. But the designer is also happy to admit that sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect, and often what you think is a mistake can turn out to be a success.

The business of design is quite capital intensive, Dixon explains, – tooling and machinery can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars – so again, he broke the mould and investigated unorthodox business models. He found off-the shelf plastic injection moulding machines, removed all the tooling and moulds, and ended up with what he described as a ‘plastic spaghetti maker’. He used this to create custom one-off chairs that are now worth far more at auction that what he originally sold them for (see photo below).

Dixon admits that the generation of the 80’s in London that he belonged to found it much easier to be rebellious. There was simply more to rebel against (i.e. the establishment), and the punk movement made that a lot easier. He feels that now almost anything is acceptable, so it’s much more difficult for designers (or anyone, for that matter) to be rebellious. However he encourages young and upcoming designers to do just that. He is still rebelling, be it against stereotypical business models, or types of self-promotion. I think it gives us hope that we can expect to see new and exciting things from him, and other designers in the future.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

BODW, Day 1 - Marc Newson

Fellow Australian expat Marc Newson is definitely a force to be reckoned with on the international design scene. His work on a wide range of projects – from watches and cars to furniture and interiors – for companies all over the globe has brought his designs fame and the man himself many awards and accolades, including a place on Time Magazine’s “Top 100 most influential people in the world today” list. The hour-long presentation that I attended this morning gave us a privileged look into Newson’s work – past, present, and future – as well as some of his influences and methods.

Training in jewellery design rather than industrial design has given Newson more of an artist’s education than most of his contemporaries. Initially, working with his hands to realise his designs was born of necessity – it was the only way to get his designs into production. However, learning how to make the products he designed and the materials he wanted to use was an informative process for Newson and has influenced his career to this day, removing ties to any one particular material and lending a willingness to experiment with innovative techniques. In fact, Newson stressed repeatedly during the presentation the importance of young and upcoming designers learning how to make the items they are designing, and of understanding the materials they are working with (I agree with this ethos entirely), and spoke at length of the heavy influence of three things: technology, materials, and processes, on his work. To me, his fascination and respect for these factors are clearly evident in his body of work.

Physical production wasn’t the only part of Newson’s work born of necessity; he also explained that his desire and inspiration for most of his product design resulted from his lack of options. His design for a Japanese mobile phone for KDD (see above photo of Marc with said product), for example, sprang from him literally not being able to find a phone on the market that he wanted to buy, and his consequent frustration as a consumer at his lack of choice.

As for the future, Newson is already spending sixty percent of his time working on projects for the aviation industry (partly due to being appointed creative director at Qantas, the national Australian airline). His fascination for transportation design, particularly aeroplanes, he says has been mostly influenced by the need as an Australian to spend so much time traveling by air to get anywhere. (I can certainly identify with that!) With a few other trial projects and conceptual work for aeroplanes and other means of transportation (one being a passenger ‘space plane’), his work in this industry shows no signs of abating.

And Newson certainly should know something about travel: he moved to Tokyo after completing university, remaining there for four years until moving on to Paris, where he set up Marc Newson Limited. The company is now based in London, his home for the last ten years. And, despite having lived outside of his native Sydney for two decades, Newson still has a touch of the Aussie twang to his accent, much to my delight!

I’m looking forward to seeing what Marc Newson’s talents hold in store for us – even though the thought of space travel frightens the life out of me!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Business of Design Week 2007

This week is Business of Design Week in Hong Kong. BODW is Asia's premier annual international design event which is run by the Hong Kong Design Centre, along with many other sponsors.

"Bringing the best of the global design industry to Hong Kong, Business of Design Week (bodw) is Asia’s leading international conference dedicated to design, brand and innovation.
Uniquely focused on the intricate relationship between business and design, bodw is an international platform for designers, experts and entrepreneurs to network and share ideas, and an essential introduction to design for students and the public."

I'll be attending some of the events - including attending forums by Marc Newson, Tom Dixon and Zaha Hadid - so stay tuned for more posts later this week!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Paint & Paper Library

Habitually Chic posted this week about the launch of the new book "Paint and Paper: In Decoration" by fellow aussie David Oliver, founder of the Paint and Paper Library. I've had these tear sheets of the London home he shares with his wife and business partner Sophie, for 4 years. I've been meaning to post them because their living room is still one of my favorites, so now I have a great excuse to share them with you.

In 1996, from their Chelsea apartment basement, David and Sophie developed a range of paint colours that they hoped would reflect the 20th century. They very quickly developed a following by local designers and in 1998 they introduced a range of wallpapers they had designed, along with designs by Emily Todhunter and Neisha Crosland. Needless to say, neither of them knew they were creating what would be a leading company in the international interior design scene.

These interior shots are of the victorian terrace house they renovated and restored over a two-year period, that they now share with their two children (Edward and Cosmo) in West London.

The 70's sofa in their living room was a hand me down from Sophie's parents. Regency style armchairs to the right are covered in fabric remnants David had found years before.

A little difficult to see in these pictures, but the wallpaper and rug motif are the same, "Liberation", which was designed by David.

Sitting on top of the side table by Ashley Hicks is a glass match-stick striker (similar ones available from Nina Campbell).

This living room is still one of my favorites. The combination of colours and furniture styles is so warm and inviting. It has a range of historical references as well as many personal touches that make this ultimately a wonderful family home.

Wallpaper panels are Neisha Crosland's "Willow". The Art Deco desk and 60's pewter desk-set add character to their study.

All images from Vogue Living (Australia) August/September 2003. More images can be found on the Paint & Paper Library website - here.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

What I wouldn't do...

...for $28,000 to buy this Parzinger Cabinet listed on 1st Dibs today...

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

My Loveseat

Reading Stylecourt's guest posts about Ruthie Sommers and Carla Lane and their vintage furniture rescuing on Design Sponge today made me even more depressed that there are not many vintage goods stores here. When I was in Melbourne one of my favorite pass times was checking out second hand, vintage and antique goods stores for pieces to rescue. Most of them have since found other homes - mostly because I've moved so many times (twice internationally) - but also because my tastes change so fast. That's the beauty of buying cheap and cheerful though, you don't need to spend a fortune, so it doesn't need to be a lifetime investment. One particular piece I've rescued has become a companion, travel and otherwise. The antique Sheraton-style loveseat that is now at the foot of my bed was picked up from a vintage furniture store on High Street in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. This was the condition it was in when we first saw it....

When I said I wanted it my husband first reaction was to call me crazy. Then, because he's learned to trust me on these things, he relented. And we bought it. It took a bit of deliberation to finally chose a fabric, but once we'd agreed and had the frame restored and the seating re-sprung we finally got it re-upholstered. Didn't she scrub up nice?

It might be a while before he lets me do that again, the cost of the fabric was more than the cost of the loveseat and the upholstery put togehter! Oh well, she'll always be with us, so I think it was a good investment. If anyone is interested, the fabric is from Zoffany - "Rossini" VEL01008.

As you can see these photos were taken two years ago now, just before we moved to Hong Kong, in the midst of renovating our little Victorian townhouse...for someone else to live in..*sigh*(hence the nasty looking floorboards and rubbish bags etc.)

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Goodbye, Mr Chippendale

I picked up a copy of "Goodbye, Mr Chippendale" by the mid-century designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings via Amazon recently and read it last weekend in a matter of hours. I had no idea how witty, if not a little sardonic, Mr Robsjohn-Gibbings was!

Despite the fact that he manages to slam Stanford White, Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper and Syrie Maugham in a matter of pages I found it an interesting read. Written at the time of post-war reconstruction in America - a very exciting time for designers I imagine - Mr Robsjohn-Gibbings takes a swipe at America's preoccupation with antique collecting, and advocates a new modern American style of furniture to compliment the lives of a new young nation. Probably not for everyone, but worth reading nonetheless.

I enjoyed the illustrations by Mary Petty (my picks are below) who also contributes to another of his books, "Homes of the Brave". It made me think would our friend Mr Robsjohn-Gibbings feel about modern Americans favouring his vintage designs over newer more modern pieces – at a much higher cost? And how would he feel about his elegant and refined designs furnishing homes along with all the fussy decorations that he so vocally abhorred? Irony, perhaps. Food for thought, definitely.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Christmas wishes

I checked out Lane Crawford's (Hong Kong's answer to Barney's or Bergdorf Goodman) new homewares department at Pacific Place tonight, and am quite impressed. It's about time the ultra-hip department store offered a range of furniture and accessories at the same calibre as its range of fashion! Amongst its chic offerings are tea from Marriage Frères, bedlinen by Frette and Pratesi, books by Assouline, furniture by UK-based Established & Sons, crystal by Baccarat, Wedgewood china, Tivoli audio equipment, and much much more. I love their new Christmas catalogue (see their pages of Christmas wishes below), which includes tear-out wish cards for you to give as not so subtle hints for family, friends, or partners who are a little slow to get a hint... I could have ticked all the boxes on this one (there is a different card for each department of the store), but as my darling husband just bought be a bottle of Creed's Spring Flowers for our wedding anniversary I thought I shouldn't be too greedy!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Hong Kong design series - Part 3

Altfield is one of those companies you MUST know about if you live in Hong Kong. Not only do they represent some of the most amazing international fabric houses (including Pollack, Larsen, Donghia, Manuel Canovas, Nina Campbell, Jim Thompson, Scalamandre, Zoffany, Pierre Frey, Colefax & Fowler, Jane Churchill, Gaston y Daniela etc.) as well as their own exclusive collection, but they also sell lighting, wallcoverings, flooring and other surface coverings and soft furnishings. The beauty of Altfield is that they have 2 retail stores where the general public can buy furniture (Asian antiques, new pieces off the floor or custom made) and a wide range of homewares, lacquerware, jewellery and lots of other goodies. And even though they are a trade supplier, their showroom is also open to the public and anyone can purchase from them (not at trade prices though). I had my sofa custom made by them (I remember getting phone calls from them during a holiday in France double checking the length of our sofa - I had it made extra long so both my husband and I could lie down on it - they thought I was crazy!), and I also bought my two table lamps there. So, if you'e in Hong Kong and in need of some stylish home furnishings, check out Altfield, you won't be disappointed!

A couple of photos of their stunning showroom.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Jacques Quinet

If I could go back in time to any place or any era, I would have to say that France (or Paris in particular) in the 30's & 40's would by my choice. They had such style, such grace, such elegance in that era, in a way that I don't think has ever been replicated by anyone, anywhere since. I've long admired the work of Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (more prolific in the decades previous) and Jean-Michel Frank who, despite sitting at polar opposites of the decoration scale, both worked with luxurious materials and who created such grand interiors and furniture that they are still inspiring designers today. I more recently discovered the work of another genius of that time, Andrè Arbus, who also had a talent for refining furniture designs to their absolute finest detail that they still look modern, yet classic at the same time, today. Since then, I've made another discovery....Jacques Quinet. Quinet worked in this era also, but was also producing furniture and interiors into the 60's and 70's. I was so taken with the images that I'd found on the internet that I bought a book about him (below) as soon as I stumbled upon it. The book is full of lovely images, and as its the 4th book I've purchased recently that has French text it's inspiring me to learn the language.

"Jacques Quinet" by Guitemie Maldonado. Published by Editions de l'amateur (September 1, 2000). Unfortunately both Amazon and Stout Books are both out of stock of this item at the moment.

Two interiors featured the book that still look as current today, despite a few minor details, as they did in the 60's when they were created. The book is full of photographs, some colour but mostly black & white, so if you like the style, I highly recommend the book (if you can get a hold of a copy). If you read French it's a bonus!

Just two of the pieces that are currently available on 1st Dibs and Artnet.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Week of art

It's been a great week in the art world in Hong Kong. First of all, a local gallery organised a Julian Schnabel exhibition and brought him out to Hong Kong for the first time. Very exciting - this kind of level of work does not come here often. I saw the exhibition on Wednesday evening and was really impressed by the work they showed. I must admit I only discovered Julian Schnabel earlier this year when I learned that he had decorated the new Grammercy Park Hotel in New York. It was only after that that I discovered he was quite an acclaimed artist as well as film director.

On Thursday night I attended one of a series of lectures on contemporary Asian Art, held by the Asian Art Archive and sponsored by Christie's. The subject of the lecture was contemporary studio practice in India. The speaker was Atul Dodiya, an accomplished Indian contemporary artist who has been exhibiting internationally for some time now. Again, I was very impressed. Not only was he well spoken and articulate, but his body of work is quite phenomenal. I was also very happy learn more about the AAA - they are a registered charity, and the only organisation fo their kind in the world - who are amassing a body of work and information about contemporary asian art that is freely available to the public. If you're ever in Hong Kong and interested in this topic, check it out.

These are my picks from the exhibitions...

Julian Schnabel, "Fox Farm", 1989 - oil, gesso & resin on found painting

Atul Dodiya, "Three Painters", 1996, oil & acrylic on canvas (the person to the left is actually the artist)