Monday, October 22, 2012

Nanna Chic

I've always had a soft spot for Grandma Chic. I guess it's because I had such lovely grandmothers. I don't like too much of it because I can feel a little bit overwhelmed but I'm always interested in touches here and there, reinterpreted in fresh ways. I recently went to a bar in Sydney called, appropriately, Grandma's bar, a "retrosexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour". I couldn't have said it bettter myself. It's tiny and a little like being in your grandmother's lounge room. There is a lot of paraphenalia like crocheted knee rugs and these cute canisters:

Retro pictures are artfully arranged:

This stag's head looks great against the lemon wallpaper:

Also, a few weeks ago, on our food pilgrimage through Victoria, we came across a lovely little inn called the Merrijig in Port Fairy on the Great Ocean Road. The food at the restaurant was delicious, and I also loved the retro, nanna touches, like cushion covers made from vintage tea towels:

Ceramic butterflies recycled from old china:

A cute idea was this cup, saucer and plate set with a tealight candle inside:

And a gorgeous apple green metal bed in our attic room:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Abigail Ahern and Cushions

On the weekend I attended one of Abigail Ahern's masterclasses at Megan Morton's The Studio at Koskela in Sydney. It was a fun day and I learnt many things such a how to age a mirror and how to bulk up Ikea shelving.

Here are some pics of her stylish interiors, which are very glamorous and dramatic:

She is so engaging and enthusiastic that I came home prepared to paint the boatshed and indeed all other properties I am involved with in a dark charcoal rather than the Berkshire White they are currently. And I think the darker hue would work in all of them. But then I realised that for myself I don't love pops of red, yelow or hot pink against charcoal. I prefer whites, pale greys, pearl pinks and generally washed out colours for cushions and other accents. Also, to paint everything again is a huge amount of work, considering we've only just painted one house interior in white.

As readers of this blog well know, all my places pretty much look like this (George's on the Basin):

More of the same (Villa Mimosa):

And yet more washed out-ness (Edna's at Erowal Bay):

And still more (Blackwattle Bay Apartment):

And then there's the boatshed itself:

So, not very adventurous and not a lot of scope for electric blues, olives or chartreuse in a big way.

However, there are some things from the masterclass that I will implement, such as having several light sources in a room, playing up texture, having flowers spill over the edges of vases, building up layers, using vintage, and combining expensive with less expensive items.

Which is where these cushions come in. Yesterday, I had a sewing day. I had previously bought a cotton sheet from the op shop for $4 and it was hanging around in the way as were a few cushion inserts. So I put them together, and for the price of a cup of coffee I have some pops of colour in Edna's, albeit a washed out blue ticking stripe kind of colour:

For George's I needed something to store cushions for the outdoor table, I saw in a catalogue something called a "cushion box" but didn't think it wass necessary to fork out the requisite $100 or so. So I painted a basket white and popped some more of the new cushions into it:

So there you go - pops of colour, layering, vintage, inexpensive items - I did learn something after all. And there's even a touch of charcoal grey in there. Thank you Abigail.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Finished at Last

Finally, I can unveil the finished pics of the house we've been renovating all winter. It's a two bedroom fibro which was built about 50 years ago. We call it George's after the man who built it. We wanted a palette of white, black and neutral, so it seemed natural to start with the outside of the house:

We have been renovating on a budget so almost everything was stuff we already had or Ikea purchases. I had updated the old dresser and shelf a while ago with white paint. The light fitting is from Ikea. I originally planned to paper the walls with Catherine Martin Lace wallpaper. But I realised that a large part would be covered by the dresser. I had some leftover Porter's chalkboard paint so I just used that:

Even though we were using relatively inexpensive items, I wanted one high-impact element per room. For the kitchen, it was the butler's sink. Although it was bought at Ikea, I think it adds a touch of class. I wanted a slightly industrial look, so went for stainless steel appliances and the hanging racks for Ikea:

The house is quite small and the living room opens straight from the kitchen, so I needed the same look to carry through all the spaces to unify it. The living/dining has the same colour scheme and the white painted floor makes it look larger. The luxury item in this room is the chandelier I bought from John Williams Auctions. We already had the table and cabinet which we refinished. The bentwood chairs were $5 at the op shop. The art deco mirror was also from the op shop:

The side table, chair and footstool are also op shop finds. I had the chair re-covered in a Warwick fabric and covered the footstool myself in hessian. The cushions are from Freedom and Pony Rider:

We wanted to keep the vintage bathroom, and jazz it up with light accessories to brighten it. The stool and art deco mirrors are from op shops and the shower curtain is from Urban Outfitters:

The bedroom has a bed, bedlinen and bedside lamp from Ikea:

I also put in a settee that I'd bought years ago from Ruby Star Traders. The cuhions are from there as well. The wardrobe was original to the house but I think it has been improved by paint. The white plantation shutters were a splurge item:

All in all, we are very happy with the results and consider it three months well spent. George's is at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Villa Mimosa

I haven't had time for blogging lately as I've been away for a little trip to Melbourne. The fibro beach shack reno is coming along, but still not there yet.
In the meantime, I'm posting some professional photos that we had taken of our house in Kiama on the NSW South Coast. It's called "Villa Mimosa" after a villa rented by Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf's sister) in Cassis on the Cote D'Azur in the 1920s. I know that Kiama is a long way from the French Riviera, but, hey, they're both by the beach.
Anyway, we've been doing the house up for a few years in my usual style, which I like to call "French Seaside Industrial". I've sewn cushions and repainted or re-covered existing furniture. For the main bedroom I painted some early 90s pine furniture, sewed the palm print cushion cover, bought some Ikea curtains and bed linen and found the lamps and mosquito net at the op shop:

The second bedroom has an op shop mirror and chest of drawers, and a chair from Ruby Star Traders:

I've been dying to paint the timber kitchen cupboards white, but painting all the furniture kind of took it out of me so I'm leaving them for now. I bought a light shade and utensil racks from Ikea and an island bench with stainless steel top from Freedom:

In the TV room, I put up a salon hang of vintage ship pictures. I painted the dresser and filled it with vintage plates. This is the dresser that nearly did me in and has deterred me from using white paint again for many years to come:
In the living room an old post office cabinet holds magazines. All the furniture is from op shops, with cushions from Pony Rider and Ruby Star Traders. The lovely old cedar fireplace surround is original to the 1890s house:
There is another fireplace in the dining room. I bought the two chairs either side of it from John Williams Auctions:

Here is the exterior of the house, which overlooks the surf beach at Kiama:

The side veranda is a great place to eat in summer:

Mre images of Villa Mimosa are on the South Coast Holidays website at

Images by Nick Epoff 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mr Wong and Palmer & Co.

Earlier this week, we paid a visit to Mr Wong and Palmer & Co. No, they're not real people. The latter is a speakeasy style bar in the Sydney CBD, Abercrombie Lane to be exact.  The prohibition era decor was obvious when we were greeted at the door by a gentleman who showed us downstairs:
There is great attention to detail in this seat printed with the P & Co logo:

And this sign:

The Merivale bar was designed by Sibella Court, and is an example of the current Rough Luxe trend which is popular in bars and hotels in Manhattan and London. The masculine style calls to mind a gentleman's club, as seen in this cabinet of top hats:

I didn't sample the food, but they serve yummy-sounding things like matzo ball soup and a charcuterie platter:

In keeping with the "clubby" theme, the entrance foyer contains these wire lockers:

After a cocktail, we moved next door to another Merivale establishment, Mr Wong's in Bridge Lane. The upper level is lovely with its stripped back brick walls and vintage furniture: 

The lavatories are works of art in themselves with subway tiles and stained glass doors:

The lower level is just amazing, with this mural and a collection of blue willow plates on the wall:

I loved the attention to detail, with the industrial shelves holding Asian style crockery, canisters and jars full of intriguing objects which look vaguely medicinal. The beaded curtain and light fittings are gorgeous too:

I can personally recommend the Peking duck pancakes:

And the steamed dim sum, which look like jewels tucked side by side in their steamer:

From the higher level, you can see the wonderful jade green tiles and matching cane seating:

I can't wait to return to both these beautiful spaces.
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