Posts Tagged ‘tailored interiors advice’

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There is a lot of road in California and I was lucky enough to travel on what is probably only a tiny portion of it.  But still, the occasional endlessness of it was so inspiring, like anything seemed possible.

After climbing out of Death Valley we were plunged into another valley and the straightest, longest road I have ever seen, with mirage-like layers of salt flat and brown rock, climbing towards a mountainous summit. We passed probably one car in that whole stretch of road.

On another road, driving towards Tecopa from Las Vegas, we didn’t see another car at all, let alone a house or settlement of any kind – for over 150 miles. To be so far from civilization was liberating but, I admit, also scary. Those days of long lonely roads stay with me – The Eagles on repeat in the CD player, the relentless sun and heat, the dust, the strange, crater-like landscapes, gradually becoming lush and tree-filled, the desperate need to pee, but most of all, the wonderful feeling of wanton adventure mingled with an electric fear of what was so unknown to me.


Other roads we travelled were rather more ‘populated’, but it was the more unusual sights that made me dive for my camera. This water tower looked like an alien ‘Tripod’ about to clamber over and stamp on us.

Water tower

We passed many wind farms but this one was the most photogenic. I was mesmerised by the repetition of pattern that went on for miles and miles.

Wind farm

Seeing this wonderful big St Bernard dog in the back of a flat-bed truck really made me smile. It was one of the many times when I thought to myself ‘I love America!’

St Bernard

Joshua Tree National Park had a profound effect on me. It was again like we were the only humans for miles around. We hardly saw another living soul at all, apart from the funny little creatures that may or may not have been kangaroo rats that popped up everywhere during our hike.  I was, however, nursing a perhaps irrational terror of bumping into a rather less cute and cuddly animal, or, should I say, arachnid. Others might think that tarantulas (I can barely type and look at the word) are cute and cuddly, but not me. I actually asked a gentleman at the Death Valley NP visitors centre about the likelihood of coming across a t-word. He said that they are in their burrows under ground during the summer but that in the winter it is common to see them crossing the road. He didn’t notice my shudder and went on to ask if I had a ‘special interest’ in them…

Joshua Tree NP

The open road became so second nature to us that even when civilization really was limited to a handful of trailers at the side of a dusty road, we weren’t really that shocked.


From the blazing heat and dust we moved into altogether different territory as we crossed the Sierra Nevada. The dry desert valley roads  gave way to alpine mountain passes, complete with a large helping of snow which in places was still over 6 feet thick, even in late May.

Sonora pass

These roads, in turn, gave way to farming country – straight, Roman-style roads lined with trees and green fields that stretched to infinity. The barns, unusually shaped to me, really caught my eye.


So, on we went from farmland to Napa Valley, from Napa to San Francisco and from there to Los Angeles, via the Pacific Coast Highway. The cold grey weather could not dampen our spirits as we crept along route 1, the waves crashing against the shore to our right.

Pacific Coast Highway

Our road trip came to an end when we arrived back in LA, although the freeway driving obviously added to the whole experience. However, it is those human-free desert roads that I think of and remember when I want to get that feeling of freedom back. You would need only to have seen the delighted expression on my face as we zoomed along those roads, the wind in our hair, to know why…

wing mirror

Now, you might have been wondering what a blogger on interiors and architecture is doing sharing such experiences as these! Well, it is because my design ideas are informed by so many elements, and not least the natural world. I have indulged in my fond memories in the hope that it will inspire you in some way too.


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I don’t know about you, but the first thing I like to do when I arrive in a hotel is to take a photo of the room, sad, I know, and as the bed is usually the focal point of the room, I inevitably end up with lots of photos of beds. My family enjoys seeing this reportage of  ‘places I have slept’ but I’m not sure that it would be of much interest to anyone else. Anyone, that is, except someone who is interested in interiors. I focus a lot on architecture in this blog for the main reason that I am just as passionate about architecture as I am about interiors, but also because it is so much easier to photograph architecture – every day if I wanted to! So, here’s a bit of interior action for you. It’s the cream of the crop of beds where I spent the night literally California dreaming.

Hotel Angeleno BedroomThis was at the Hotel Angeleno, Los Angeles (apologies for my posing!). The bed was huge, like sleeping on a cloud with the white fluffy mattress and duvet, and the headboard was smooth suede. The walls were covered in buttermilk wallpaper and there was a lot of leather.

Hennesey HouseHennessey House’s ‘Paisley Room’, Napa. We had the smallest room in the place but it was very comfortable for one night. A very well run and well-presented Queen Anne style guest house and the decor was extremely in-keeping with the style of the house.

Water's EdgeAh, the Water’s Edge, Tiburon – a dream of a bed, which was a problem as I didn’t want to get out of it. I had to though, to jump on the ferry to San Francisco! This room was large and very luxurious with a huge bath as well as this huge bed! I loved the patterned blanket at the end of the bed and, again, the wealth of leather.

Huntington BeachThis was the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, the last hotel of our trip. The decor was light and bright with warm wood and colour accents, as well as unusual touches such as these stone shell lamp stands. The plain white fluffy duvet was present here too, as was the deliciously comfortable mattress.

All of these places inspired me to create a more comfortable atmosphere in my own bedroom, which is all white – walls and duvet – with pale grey low shelves on either side of the bed beneath which live our extensive magazine collections (mine fashion, architecture and interiors, his motor racing and fast cars!) and above which are different sized framed pictures. Above the bed hangs a string of fairy lights in individual white paper lanterns and a giant ball paper lantern hangs low from the ceiling. I’ll pop a photo of it on here one day.

I do admit that I find it difficult to emerge from my bed each day, and even more so now that it is in the dark! If only humans could hibernate…ah well, I can dream, can’t I?

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Last night I saw the most amazing sunset. There were layers upon layers of different weights of cloud, from wispy to thick and heavy, and in between each layer shone every shade of orange and blue – peach, violet, blood red – all of varying intensity. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, so much light and colour!

I saw it when I was out running across the fields towards Wells.  It sounds strange, but there was so much sky, it felt like the sunset was surrounding me! It really inspired me and lifted my spirits just when I was starting to flag…

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It’s long overdue, seeing as my California road trip was back in May, but it is time for me to lovingly reminisce about the fortnight I spent in the sunshine state, particularly as the autumn is creeping in here in the UK.

Our first stop in Los Angeles was, as anticipated, the architectural highlight of the trip, John Lautner’s Chemosphere being the main attraction, of course! I snapped houses at the side of main roads all the way around the state and will include them in my blogs, but wanted to start with the homes that line the canals in Venice, CA.

Venice beachfront is a crazy place, with all manner of weird and wonderful people. Just a block or so inland, however, are what is left of the canals. The calm and peacefulness, where householders tend to their gardens and ducks make their merry way through the water,  is a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the beach.

Venice 1

All of the homes were extremely attractive. The pristine white clap-board bungalow above was my own personal favourite – it has so much character – but every one of them was a picture, particularly for a modernist afficianado like me!

Venice 2

There were also some strange but wonderful homes. This one reminds me of an aardvark!

Venice 3

Other houses were more traditional but still just as beautiful. I was surprised that there were no other tourists wandering around the canals, enjoying the peaceful ambience and the interesting architecture. They are a little hidden away though, which might explain it – a real gem amongst the rough! I would have liked to have had longer to explore Venice but our whistlestop tour meant that we had to move on to the next wonderful place…

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Pink House 1

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I was on my annual visit to Dartmouth Royal Regatta last week. It’s always an enjoyable way to spend a few days and this year was no exception. As usual, it was a good opportunity to go wild with my camera and, in particular, focus on the way that the people of Dartmouth decorate their homes for Regatta as well as the way their homes are decorated all the year around. One of my previous posts talked about the ice-cream colours beloved of seaside residents and I loved these pink houses, seen whilst enjoying the Regatta festivities.

Pink House 2

I also loved the festoonery of bunting and flags that adorned many of the homes! Well done, people of Dartmouth – you gave us a lot more than the sailing, rowing and air displays to admire!

Bunting 1Bunting 2

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DSC04243This time I’m not talking about wild flowers, but gold old dahlias. I got this little bunch for £2.50 from a flower stall in Bath last Thursday and they are still very much going strong! They are so pretty, the pleasure they are giving me is priceless!

If I had my own garden, I would grow dahlias and sweetpeas and peonies (my other favourite flowers), as well as honeysuckle and big colourful roses. Hmm, I can dream…

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Alek, of ‘From the Right Bank to the Left coast’ threw down the gauntlet big style to interior designers the world over to find one picture that most closely represents our interior style. I’ve spent many an evening poring through my back catalogue of Elle Decoration, Dwell, Living Etc., Metropolitan Homes, Diseño Interior, Ideat and Casa Viva magazines, as well as files stuffed full of interiors ripped out of newspapers and supplements over the years and my many books. I came up with a shortlist of favourites but none were quite right – apart from two, that is. Yes, I know that is cheating, but both represent slightly different sides of me. One is my ‘reined in’ side, which aspires towards understated perfection and sleek glamour, the other is my more ‘everyday’ side, which loves laid back-ness and comfort. Not as much of a contradiction as you might expect!

So, the first room I have chosen is from a relatively recent Elle Decoration from February 2008. There are elements that I greatly admire about this room that reflect my own style, but there is also room for my own touches of improvement.

Style Picture 1What do I love about it? Well, firstly I love the pendant light shade, its architectural shape and the sense of whimsy it adds to the room – who doesn’t love a bit of whimsy? I love the light airiness of the space, the colour – monochrome brown, black and white, the use of wood which adds warmth, the texture of the surfaces, the structure of the kitchen and furniture layout, the clever use of structural space, allowing for the double-height ceiling and mezzanine level. I love the chairs and simple dining table and tableware with the teak salad bowl. The repetition of rectangular shapes in the kitchen space which is continued to the stairs and the wall of the mezzanine, as well as the way each step has two layers is a great touch. I also love the abstract picture next to the oven, oh, and the way the oven is mounted on the wall. The wonderful black and white portrait and anglepoise lamp, as well as the (just seen) red flower fairy lights tumbling out of a ceramic vase on the mezzanine add personality to the space.

What would I change? Not much! I perhaps would have installed more texturally-interesting tiles as the ceiling-high splash back in the kitchen space. An architectural shaped plant, perhaps a Swiss cheese plant, would look great on the mezzanine level to the right of the chair. A ‘barely there’ runner on the dining table patterned largely in monochrome but with a splash of dark green. In the winter, I’d throw some small sheepskin rugs over the dining chairs and line the stairs with tea-lights and the table with candles in a mid-20th century Danish stainless steel candle holder.

Perhaps it’s my love of collecting Danish tableware (stainless steel and teak) that provides the same attraction for me to this space. I love the room’s sleekness, with its nods to classic Scandanavian as well as retro style and its wonderful architectural pieces, full of movement. It is modern but also personal with carefully chosen objects that are genuinely beautiful and well-designed. It is not surprising that the owner, Maria Löw, and architect, Gun Ahlström are both Swedish. I couldn’t get further from being Swedish myself, but this room reflects my own personal taste and aspirations as closely as it is possible to get. Until the next picture, that is…

Picture two, ripped from the Saturday Times magazine, probably a good five years ago (don’t have the date, unfortunately!), is one that I discarded for being, on the face of it, too boring, but I kept coming back to it. It’s actually a perfectly laid out multi-functional space that works wonderfully and includes interesting structural elements which are happily married to the modern sensibility of the furniture.

Style Picture 2I love the space, the huge amount of natural light that just saturates the space, and the positioning of the furniture to naturally define the different areas. The exposed brickwork of the walls and fireplace and, of course, the fact that it is all painted white, is also extremely appealing to me. The wood floor off-sets this, as does the pale blue painted kitchen wall. I love the Louis Poulsen pendant lamp hung low over the super long dining table and the colour scheme of the items in the room in general which provide warmth against the white backdrop. I love the shelves in the window, and the way that the storage scheme cleverly makes use of every nook and cranny. I love the casually slung table cloth and the wonderful architectural shapes of the flowers on the table. I love the kitchen cupboards and black unit top. I love the owner’s desk area and the black painted radiator.

I would only change the (visible) sofa as I can’t imagine that the low back would make it very comfortable, despite its good looks, and, to me, comfort really matters. I’d also exchange the three cushions for two with different patterns. The dining chairs are almost there but I’d prefer the Eames DSR chairs (with Eiffel Tower base!) in this space.

Apart from these things, this room pretty much says ‘me’!  It also has a loose Scandanavian element to it, and the use of natural materials and texture, as well as the white and dark wood, is similar to that of picture 1. My Danish party-ware would sit perfectly in this space and it is also open to the addition of more vibrant colour – more so perhaps than the more minimalist scheme of picture 1. I can see my cockerel collection being quite at home on the higher shelf to the right of the desk!

So, that’s me anyway. I love poring over and collecting these images because I have a passion for seeing how other people live – some would call it ‘noseyness’! I’m always looking for ways of improving spaces and taking inspiration from little parts of things that just sing to me. Remember that I’m talking about my own personal taste in both of these pictures, too. I would never try to influence a client against their will and would make sure that their space reflects their own unique taste. There’s also nothing wrong with mixing in a bit of aspirational magic in with your personality too, though (I’m thinking of picture 1!), as what would life be if we couldn’t dream?

Other pictures that were considered but did not make the final cut:

Style Picture 3Style Picture 5

From Easy Living and the Saturday Times Magazine respectively, I love the beautifully displayed sombrero collection, the low shelving, the exposed brick work of the first picture (and the presence of a cockerel collection!) and the wonderful dining chairs, black painted floor and rosy under unit light of the second picture.

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