To lean or not to lean – that is the question on many people’s minds when it comes to displaying artwork, mirrors and other objects one normally hangs. Personally, I’m a big fan of the lean and especially the layered lean, but there are a few rules that apply.
Leaning art, when done incorrectly can look sloppy, messy and especially unfinished – like someone got a phone call halfway through hanging and just left the art on the floor.
This is usually the case when the art in question is too small to hold its own on the floor because it is not relating to any other objects. If you are leaning smaller art, in most cases it works best when it is resting on a piece of furniture like a desk or a buffet and is relating to other objects or art. By creating a grouping or vignette around the leaning art or mirror you are putting it in context and thus giving ‘meaning to the leaning’.
It is however possible to successfully to lean smaller art on the floor (I’m talking 30 x 60 but not much smaller then that except maybe next to a platform or very low bed). One way it can work beautifully is when the small leaning piece(s) relates to other things. If you lean art in a group and hang pieces above the leaning pieces you put it all in context. Also consider adding in a floor standing object like a lamp or an interesting coat rack, or leaning your art between pieces of furniture. Consider the eye line (meaning where your eye naturally rests when looking forward) and how your eye will flow around the room. If you have small leaning pieces on the floor not relating to other objects, your eyes uncomfortably graze the floor. If, however, you bring the eye up from the leaning art by hanging things above it and/ or adding a floor lamp or tall object(s), the eye flows from top to bottom or bottom to top taking in the entire narrative you have created.
Large art is a lot easier to lean as you don’t need as many pieces to tell a story. One oversized piece (2×2 metres for example) can do the trick. You can also layer large artworks or mirrors – but don’t over do it. Two large pieces should suffice. The scale of the pieces and the image itself should be enough to draw your eye from top to bottom of the room. Large leaning art works best when you view it primarily front on. Avoid leaning large pieces to the left or right of an entry into a room as you will often see it from the side, which doesn’t look great.
As with most of my advice, I say have a play around and experiment a little. The great thing about leaning art is that you do no damage if you don’t get it right the first few (dozen) times. There is no hardware and no holes, so really there is no risk. You are not banging onto brick or crumbling walls, so what are you waiting for? Floor it! Just remember to take a step back from your work every now and then and ask yourself a few questions: Is the leaning art relating to anything or does it look like something someone forgot to hang? Does your eye flow up the wall or get stuck on the floor? Do you see the art mostly from the side or front on? The most important question to ask yourself is ‘do I love it?’ if the answer is yes than you have succeeded. Enjoy!! x
Above are a coulple of (master)pieces by my good friend and abstract artist Kerry Armstrong (www.kerryarmstrongart.com.au) in a property I styed last week by architect Stephen Jolson (www.jolson.com.au).
It is hard to believe that the property styling division of Design & Diplomacy started less than a year ago. D&D had a soft start in Jan of 2015 when we were working almost exclusively with private clients, but the real big bang came when we announced that we would be offering full service home staging of properties for sale.
The jobs came in hard and fast – as soon as word got out that I was ‘back’ the phone was ringing off the hook. We had expected to have the time over the traditionally slow winter months to secure our warehouse, build our team and our stock – maybe even to go overseas to fill a container or two – but no! The gods had other plans for us.
Our first styling job came in June – before we even formally started – but as with any new business, when a client asks ‘can you do it?’ the answer is always YES. I bought furniture for the property and had it delivered directly there as we had no warehouse and stock at the time.
When our second job came about a few days after the first we had purchased our vans but hadn’t yet moved into our warehouse, so we loaded for the job on the street in Collingwood – literally!
We have come so far in 10 short months. We have been flat out since before the word GO. We now have a growing staff of 8 and work on very prestigious properties (valued up to AUD 20 Million) all over Victoria. We have firmly established ourselves in the market and built solid relationships with real estate agents across the state, including a very close relationship with Kay and Burton (Australia’s premier agency). The D&D directors and sometimes the staff work seven days a week (even in our sleep in fact – I am often fluffing cushions and rearranging furniture in my dreams).
The extent of our success has surprised even us. We have twice as many properties out at any given time than our business case forecasted, which means we are ‘still’ buying furniture and have twice the operational volume today as we expected at 2.5 years in.
Today, for example, is just another ‘manic Monday’ – we have two collections and an installation of a 4-bedroom house. In between it all we are picking, packing and prepping for the rest of this week’s jobs. Mondays are almost always hectic as we install and scramble to collect the properties that sold the weekend past – and then there is the blog. I have been writing this blog every Monday for 15 months, come rain or shine. I have not missed a post even if I have been totally snowed under or out of the country. Lately I have called upon my fabulous creative team to lend a hand – contributing a post here or there to provide a bit of relief for this tired Creative Director. Don’t get me wrong, I love the blog, I love writing it and I somehow I am never short of ideas to write about. What I am short on however, is time.
Sooo…, long story short, I have decided to reduce my posts to fortnightly not weekly, at least for now. I will still have my team contribute – putting in their own creative two cents, but at this stage of the game, time is money and I need to invest it well.
I will still deliver the design feast but now fortnightly rather than weekly so, please continue to read and share and follow us in Instagram!
If you ask me there are some building materials that are simply timeless – and like marble and glass I believe that slate is one of them.
‘She’s mental!’ you may be saying to yourself – and it’s true – I do have my moments (especially after countless back to back 18 hour days of installing properties)… however I must say this is not one of them. Throughout my decades in design I have always loved natural slate – despite my ever-evolving style and changing tastes. I have always loved the texture, the variation, and the deep velvety colours it has to offer. I have loved its ability to hold in the heat or the cold, and I have loved its unapologetic perfect imperfections. Slate is not just your great-great grandpa’s building material – it has significantly matured over the centuries and has had a contemporary facelift to boot.
Traditionally slate was used extensively across Europe and America as a roofing tile. It not only was (and still is) really beautiful, it is also virtually non permeable and therefore a great water repellent. Slate was often and is still often used as floor tiles both inside and out, but now a day it’s not exclusively reserved for country style and farmhouse properties.
Slate tiles these days are available in many shapes and sizes and that includes the ultra contemporary. If you are an outside of the box thinker (like I am) you can also contemporize a traditional slate tile by the pattern in which you lay it and the grout colour you chose. If you like taking a risk but are reluctant to throw all caution to the wind in one go, a traditional slate floor with a crazy wall tile/ colour/ paper may be the choice for you. A slate floor is not only practical – but it looks, feels and IS a solid foundation –it is grounding and it brings you’re space down to earth.
Slate is not only a great material but also a great colour(s). I love a deep moody hue – the greys, the indigos, and the eggplants – it’s a dark rainbow. Slate has depth and it has character. Slate is the new black – actually the new ‘charcoal’ – ‘Charcoal’ everything from sofas to carpets to wall colour is sooo 2015. Mark my words. ‘Slate’ is the new ‘It’ colour, but has always been an ‘it’ material as far as I’m concerned.
Give it a go. If not in a tile than why not a wall colour – or if you just aren’t feeling that gutsy you can always try some bed linen or a scatter cushion.
I haven’t lived in a house since I was a little kid. I’m a city girl and I am used to apartment living. I can even say I love it.
I have lived in some fabulous, and even legendary apartments in my life and have always loved the communal feel of knowing your neighbors. I spent nearly a decade as a resident of New Yorks infamous Chelsea Hotel where my most well known and famous neighbors during my tenure included Ethan Hawke, Peter O’toole (for a short time after 9/11 when he was in NY to visit his son who was studying at NYU – I invited him to a BBQ at my apartment but sadly he never showed) and Dee Dee Ramone (from the Ramones – who my dog is also partially named after. Dee Dee lived next door for a while and was a really nice guy. He came to a party I threw at my apartment and I used to sit and chat with him and his wife Barbara in the lobby before he died. There were so many, many others who were not world-famous but who are the stars of my memories. It was an amazing place to live where neighbors helped each other out – where everyone had your back. It was like a club in a way – an exclusive club of misfits and artists. It was wonderful.
My first apartment after I left NY for Milan I affectionately refered to as the ‘Frat House’. I had decided to stay in Italy after what was intended to be a 2 month ‘life cleanse’ traveling solo mostly in the South, however having met my future husband (the handsome diplomat) at language school in Sorrento, had no intention of leaving until he was mine, so I moved to Milan and into a friends share house with 2 guys – one of whom was a semi famous Italian rapper. There was always a thick cloud of smoke and a party going on at The Frat House – sometimes I would join in but more often I would camp out alone in my tiny-tiny room which was literally wall to wall bed and was painted fairy floss pink – all designed and constructed by an architecture teacher that had previously occupied my room. It wasn’t long before I moved out, but it was fun while it lasted.
I briefly had my own place before moving in to the Diplomatic residence with Tim. Now that was an amazing pad. It was a 600 Sq meter modernist palace on the 5th floor of a 1960’s building. Tim had lived there for a few years before I moved in and had restored it to it’s original glory. He used to call it the ‘flexi house’ because all the walls were doors and you could just open the whole place up. It was a real shift from the past apartments I had lived in but I settled in quite nicely indeed.
After that we moved into what may be my most favorite of all of the cool places I have lived. It was also in Milan but after Tim had left the government and went back to private sector. I spent months looking for the perfect apartment and I knew from the second I set foot in this one that it was the place for us. It was owned by a couple who had moved out in such haste 6 years prior that it was literally like a nuclear test site when I saw it for the first time. There was a layer of dust 2 cm thick covering the place, clothing on the floor and in the washing machine – even food in the oven. It was as if the owners had left in a great hurry, but the reality was that despite how much they loved it, their families needs had outgrown it and they had moved out so slowly they eventually didn’t go back for the rest of their things. Decades past and it was my totally adoration of the property that convinced them to let us move in. It may not sound appealing by the I have just described it, but beyond the dust and petrified roast was a magnificently designed 1980’s open plan apartment with original designer light fittings, boldly painted walls and more style then I can describe in a blog post of this length.
When we moved to Melbourne from Milan 4 years ago to be close to Tim’s kids we moved in a great apartment in an area that reminded me of New York – Collingwood. I didn’t know anything about the area or the reputation it still had at that time. I only new that I liked the Lower East Side/ DUMBO feel it had and I liked all the converted factories and warehouses that filled its streets. Most of all I liked that it was so close to the city.
My dream as a city girl is the same one all city girls dream – to buy an old warehouse and convert it into a fabulous home. That is still my dream, but I have found that as of late I am also dreaming of something I never thought I would want – a charming little house on a tree lined street with a white fence and a back yard. The beauty of this majestic town of Melbourne is that it is so varied and diverse. Tim and I just got back from walking Dee Dee a little while ago and in our short 4 block walk to the park we pass free standing houses flanked by old factories flanked by warehouses flanked by houses. It is such a wacky hodge-podge of properties but I love them all. I am privileged to be able to see inside so many properties daily for my work and as much as I love apartment living the fact that in this town I can live in a free standing house in the city or on the city fringe is pretty cool. Cool enough for me to embrace my inner ‘suburban’ self and to confess my new found desire for a slice double fronted Victorian cake. City fringe of course.
What a journey it has been thus far – from Chelsea to Milan to Melbourne, my life and where I have laid my head has been a great adventure. They say that home is where the heart is, and to me that means wherever I find my handsome diplomat.
‘Hard Rubbish’ as it is known here in Australian is when people put their large household ‘waste’ onto the nature strip (or sidewalk as we Yanks call it) for the council to collect and discard of appropriately. Often you will find furniture, appliances, plants, you name it – and quite often (depending on the neighbourhood) it will be in perfect, new and or working condition – quite a treasure trove indeed let me assure you.
There has been some debate about the legality of ‘reclaiming’ that which has been discarded – even some (idiotic) arrests in the past – but the verdict is that these Aussie sidewalk scores are in fact legal and ripe for the picking.
You may think it disgusting to dig through other people’s trash for used bits of ‘whatever’, but there is no digging necessary – just keen eyes peeled on the curb and an empty car boot (or trunk for my fellow Yanks) ready for action.
The wealthier the neighbourhood, the better the loot. I have a dear friend that scored a brand new Dyson vacuum cleaner (complete with warranty) in perfect near new condition! If you have ever used a Dyson you know full well that that was some serious curbside bootie.
Personally, as a fan of original vintage, I like to troll the Caulfield curbside’s as Caulfield is a Mecca for modernist houses. Where there are modernist houses there are also ‘seniors’ downsizing, moving into assisted living or moving to the other side – all the while putting their former treasures right there on the sidewalk for you to snap up. Some of my favorite Caulfield collectables include a set of 1950’s iron chairs, a 1960’s vinyl upholstered foot-stool and a round 1970’s mustard coloured shag pile rug.
My sister in law lives in Healsville in the Yarra Valley and she shares my enthusiasm for curbside shopping. Together we have scored some great country delights – some of which she has sold on ebay for a tidy profit.
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – and personally based on the experience of myself and others, I couldn’t agree more. So get out there and get trashy!
When on the hunt for a life partner your needs and desires are different to (if and when) you are just ‘looking for a good time’. It’s ‘match.com’ VS ‘Tinder‘.
With Tinder – let’s face it – we all know what you are after. (I recently overheard a conversation between 2 friends at 5:00 on a Sunday at our local pub – one friend was telling the other how empty and ashamed he felt after sleeping with 3 women in 2 days – all of whom he had met on Tinder). Alternatively all of the Match.comers I have encountered are far more focused on the hand holding, long beach walks and a shared desire for 2.5 children and the suburban dream. Look, I am not judging here, I’m sure Match.com has more failures than successes in the quest for true love, but I am also quite sure that ‘Mr. 3 girls in 2 days’ did not find his future wife on his Tinder bender.
‘What the bloody hell is she going on about?’ you must be asking yourself right about now – well, I’ll tell you – I am talking about design you can dedicate a lifetime to VS design you can’t stand to look at the morning after the night you brought it home.
As an interior designer and stylist, I have seen hundreds of properties around the globe and the vast majority of them – even in NY and Milan – have been dated, or at least on their way to dating and dating fast, ‘speed dating’ if you will.
I see it a lot here in Melbourne too – the building boom and strong housing market has created an influx of cookie cutter ‘luxury’ properties that DO have quality finishes, that DO boast good craftsmanship, but what they often lack is timeless style.
I can’t tell you how often I walk into properties that are – 20 – 15 – or even just 10 years old and they are already dated and often falling apart. It is not glaring tastelessness – it is the subtle difference between a timeless ageless beauty of a Monica Belucci VS the passing fad that is a Paris Hilton or (hopefully) a Kim Kardashian.
Just like in fashion, building materials and trends in design styles come and go. There are plenty of things that are in fashion in building right now which are not necessarily due to a commitment to taste but more to a convienence that flirts with style. Large tiles instead of floor-boards for example, ‘charcoal’ carpets throughout, 2 Pac wardrobe and kitchen doors, mosaic shower tiles, etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong, none of these things lack style all together right now, but I can feel it coming because what they lack is originality.
What creates timeless design you may be asking?? Well that’s a good question and not an easy one to answer either. It is not often that I walk into a property of any age and just say to myself ‘YES!!’ because it’s just right, but when that does happen – like it did today in a 1990’s Toorak property that could have been built any time between 1920 to present day, there are a few key factors.
Quality, of course, is key – but as previously stated quality and style do not go hand and hand. Do not, I repeat, do not blindly follow the trends – especially when it comes to building materials. It is one thing to throw on a Memphis inspired quilt cover, it’s another thing entirely to build a Memphis inspired house (unless you’re Ettore Sottsass of course). Study design (I don’t mean get a degree – just get on line) – know what you like, know what you LOVE, and don’t allow yourself to be swept up with the masses. Look for classic features – who doesn’t love a classic beauty? You can always change your hair and makeup but a beautiful foundation is forever.
Look, as technology advances things will always ‘date’, however when it comes to great, timeless architecture and design – a flawless bone structure is irreplaceable, but a dishwasher isn’t.
P.S. Some of my favorite timeless structures of all time are Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelon Pavilion for the 1929 Worlds Fair (http://miesbcn.com/the-pavilion/), Phillip Johnson’s 1949 Glasshouse in Connecticut (pictured above) (http://theglasshouse.org) and Le Corbusier’s 1954 Chapel of Ronchamp.
I had a bit of a Chinese moment back in New York in the mid 90’s. I used to rollerblade (yes, I said rollerblade) to Chinatown from my apartment at the Chelsea Hotel to do Tai Chi with the locals at 6 am most mornings. I frequented ‘Harmony Palace’ on Mott Street for super cheep dim sum (or yum cha as it’s known here in OZ), and I would follow up my pork buns and jasmine tea with a hearty 30 minute rub down by a non English speaking Chinese man in one of the many cigarette smoke filled massage parlors that dotted the sidewalks of Chinatown.
It was around that time that I discovered the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui – described as ‘a system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (Chi).’ In my quest for inner peace and the meaning of life I rearranged my furniture, hung crystals on red cords around my apartment, put a mirrored splash back behind my kitchen burners, and of course hung a Bagua mirror over my door to protect from negative ‘Chi’. Unfortunately all this effort didn’t make the A-Hole I was married to at the time spontaneously combust, so I eventually abandoned my study and practice of Feng Shui.
It had been over a decade since I had considered it, but in recent years since moving to OZ the need for and relevance of Feng Shui has become more and more apparent as Chinese flock to Australia in search of property investments and the Australian Dream.
Savvy Aussie property vendors are aware of the influx of Chinese buyers and are willing to go the extra mile to secure the extra bucks some Chinese are willing to spend for their slice of the Australian dream. The Chinese take Feng Shui very seriously and maybe there is really something to it – you can never have to much harmony and balance in your life now can you – so why wouldn’t you consider a little bit of a Zen makeover?
Since moving to Melbourne I have dusted off my Feng Shui books and tuned up my knowledge in order to incorporate its practices into my styling jobs. Below are a handful of simple practices to whet your whistle that anyone can apply to their interiors regardless of if you are selling the family home or not – you have nothing to lose by testing them out and everything to gain (wealth, love, peace, harmony – you name it!), all with the successful application of these simple techniques.
– Clutter – a property stylists worst nightmare – and apparently a Feng Shui master’s as well, so clean that s**t up!
– Put the seat down – Ladies, your prayers have been answered – now you have an ancient Chinese philosophy to back up your bathroom demands – an open toilet seat is just asking the universe to flush away all your wealth and prosperity.
– Light and life – Plant life and natural light are essential for good Chi (energy), so make sure to open all your blinds and bring in some beautiful live plants.
– Water -Feng Shui actually translates to ‘Wind and Water’, so that should be enough to tell you that water is a critical part of Feng Shui – flowing water attracts wealth, so make it rain baby! Bring water features into your house wherever possible.
As to not overwhelm you I will leave it at that for now, but hey, give it a whirl. With a little luck these few tips and pointers will make all your wildest dreams come true, and hopefully you will sell your house for a hefty profit too!
Are you in a rut? Having trouble fitting into your environment? Well, lighten up. It’s a new year and discovering a new you can be as simple as a flick of a switch.
One of the easiest and most dramatic ways to transform your environment is through lighting. Lighting is often overlooked as a critical part of an interior, but the truth is it can make or break a space. Poor lighting can literally be depressing, it can make you look and feel sick and it can even make you look fat (I call it ‘celulighting’). On the flip side great lighting can relax you, it can ‘put you in the mood’, it can make you feel and look beautiful. Think of the ‘soft lighting’ used to photograph Hollywood movie stars Circa 1940’s –Marlene Detrich, Lauren Bacall, Jean Harlow – they didn’t call it ‘The Golden Era’ for nothing.
You may not be aware that it is the lighting that is making you feel so great or horrible, but just think about it for a second… Have you ever been to a gym that is dark and dimey lit? No, because bright lighting keeps you alert and awake. How about a club? Surely you have never been to a nightclub with blazing lights – no one would ‘throw caution to the wind’ if they felt that everyone was watching. What about when you walk into a particular living room or art gallery or hotel lobby and you feel comfortable but cant put your finger on why. Good chance it’s the lighting. The lighting sets the mood.
The same truths apply to your home. Lighting is transformative so please allow me to help you improve your life and to show you the light with these few pointers.
I hope these tips have enlightened you. My goal is to bring you joy through simple smart changes you can easily make to your home. There is no reason to settle for anything less than a blissful home life, so walk towards the light and find yourself in a better place all around.
Fancy a new look but don’t have the dough to buy all new furniture? Don’t worry you are not alone – and you are not stuck either!
Moving, as I did last week, can really give you a new perspective on your furniture, art and objects as you will find yourself in new space with a completely different layout, forcing you to look at your things in a new light. However, you don’t have to move to see your home and possessions in a new light – and sometimes looking at your things and your environment differently is all the inspiration you need to get your creative juices flowing towards a newly inspired home.
We all do it – we live with things the way they are for so long that we get stuck seeing them one way and one way only. As I am really hand’s on, I will often move a client’s furniture around when meeting them for the first time. Their eyes light up and they are amazed at how a simple shift – sometimes it’s simply the placement in the room or just the angle of a piece of furniture, that can really transform a space – often in 30 seconds or less – and a world of possibilities present themselves.
It’s all about looking at things with fresh eyes combined with a little trial and error. You may find it difficult to suddenly walk into your living room after living with the furniture layout for so long and to suddenly see ‘the light’ and have a creative epiphany. If you are having difficulty seeing the possibilities then just start shifting things around. Take down all your art and strip the beds and sofas of scatter cushions and throws and have a play. This is a NO cost makeover with zero risk – what could be better? If it’s a total dud you can put it all back the way you had it, but I can promise you that even if you do put it back where it was it will not feel the same. A simple shift can free up old blockages and get the energy flowing again.
So, if you’re feeling like its time for a change here are a few ‘designy’ tips to make sure your revised interior is better than the original:
I would love to see your before and after’s! If you are in the sharing mood then flick them my way. I will be sure to respond with my 2 cents. Now go forth and get styling people – and don’t forget to have fun! xx
It’s no secret that moving sucks. Moving is number 3 on the most stressful life events (after divorce and death of a family member!). Well folks, today is MY moving day and I am writing this as I wait for the truck to arrive.
When I told people we were moving friends and family just shrugged it off saying ‘you move people every day with Design & Diplomacy’. And while that is true, it is very different when the property you are moving has full drawers, closets, cupboards, filing cabinets, storage cage, etc. That’s where the stress comes in and that’s where it is different to a property styling install or collection.
Despite the fact that we are insanely busy with D&D, plus we have a new puppy who likes to pee inside (and the whole reason for this move in the first place), I am still able to sit here calmly sipping coffee and writing this post is because we are organized. After moving country twice, a move up the street to Fitzroy is no sweat.
Since I am in the business of people moving – even though I don’t actually help clients move house, I am often there throughout the process and I see and feel their pain, I thought I would give you my 10 tips for a seamless move.
Well there you have it, 10 tips for a stress free move….
The door -bell just rang and my truck has arrived, so I have to sign off. Good luck with your next move and I’ll see you on the other side of Johnston Street!