February 23, 2017

Our Three Favourite New Shops

From a country orangery brimming with topiary, pots, pillars, plants, chandeliers, conservatory furniture and trees to the best safari chairs and tables in town. Even a Parisian must-visit that can lift your whole life.

Here’s a rundown of our three fave new shops where we’ve sourced things and found inspiration. They’re the places that will enable you to bring out your individual style. Remember a really interesting house is rarely one look, or period. The shops we’ve listed are all brilliant examples of their kind. Get out there and make the most of them!

THE ORANGERY ON GREEN LANE Good taste doesn’t cost anything extra at this atmospheric glam new addition to Dirty Janes Bowral.
A white-soaring conservatory-style space with leafy green ferns, orchids galore, silver birch, topiary, unusually beautiful planters, pots, and that new IT plant, the phlebodium (blue star fern). Also chandeliers, candles, vintage silverware, willow obelisks,  hurricane shades, mirrors, consoles, birdcages and the most darling twig trays (big and small), $10-$55. Plus, vintage white ceramic lamps, one-off vases, affordable stoneware pitchers in green and ochre, wicker wreaths, and the kind of conservatory furniture we're told the style set is buying in London. Genius owner Maureen Gardener has a very easy style with the kind of plants that feel very relevant to today's interior. Keep an eye peeled too, for Gardener's glam new eatery and bar, Harry’s due to open next door late March. A must-visit. 
THE ORANGERY ON GREEN LANE, 13-15 Banyette Street, Bowral, 0419 154 860 

MCM HOUSE The brand that brought us the IT sofa of 2015/16 (Joe) has opened a new Paddington store as well as a pop-up at Bondi with one of the best furniture collections in the country for casual, modern living. A great range of cutting-edge classic safari chairs, armless sofas, frameless mirrors, dining tables, armchairs, and vintage pieces. The owner Charles Hinkfuss has a great eye. Go for one of our fave dining tables, Hudson, $1600, that looks good in all settings: urbane; rustic beach, loft, country, etc. Also the Lowlife ottoman, $450, Kiki armchair, $690, and of course, the Joe sofa which we’re now coveting in pink, 1.8m, $2550. 16-18 Oxford Street, Paddington, (02) 9698 4511, www.mcmhouse.com
BALMAIN All right, it’s not in Australia, but the Parisian flagship is much more than just leather jackets and well-cut pants.  French architect Joseph Dirand’s revamped and refined take on opulence is a great example of how he respects yet plays with the elegance of typically Parisian architecture, decorated as it often is with original panelling and ornately parqueted floors. These are obvious features to be retained, but Dirand pairs it with brass trims, glossy marble, (very much the material of the moment), edgy furniture, luxe window treatments and statues. The store revels in the possibility of interior design. It shows no fear of furniture, fabric or finish. Ornate detail is a joy. Texture is king. Go to be inspired. One of our faves. www.balmain.com
February 23, 2017

The Top 5 Interior Items To Buy In February

Now that it’s February its time to think about what’s needed to spruce up your home for the year ahead.

WHITE Refresh and restore with only that which is crisp, white, fluffy and makes you happy. From towels to tablecloths, and pillowcases, splash out on lovely fresh basics that you need to live well.

NEW BEDDING With a slew of new companies challenging the bedding industry in the best ways, there’s no shortage of options at great prices.  

CHAMPAGNE BUCKET To remind you that some standards are worth upholding.
PLANTS, PLANTS, PLANTS Great for softening any space.
NEW LAMPSHADES  Instant style updaters
February 23, 2017

Time To Declutter - 21 Top Tips

Good organisation is invisible, muddles stares you in the face. Here’s our all-time top tips for getting organised and keeping up morale (while you’re doing it).

1. Don't try to do everything at once

Organizing the right way takes time and can be an investment. However, the benefits far outweigh the financial and time commitment necessary.
2. There is no "Band-Aid" fix
Be wary of hacks and quick fixes. Organizing is very much like dieting or working out. There are stacks of great tips and tricks that can help us along, but there's no magic solution to get rid of clutter. Just like dieting and exercise, when we approach organising as a shift in our lifestyle, that is when we can most successfully learn how to keep house.
3. Organising can be stylish
n the last decade, organisation has become linked with interior design, and storage tools are better-looking than ever. Think of keeping house as a part of decorating your home, and look for products that coordinate with your style.
4. When in doubt, keep it neutral
Using neutral bases for larger organisational items helps maintain a classic, simple look.
5. Think vertically
Wall-mounted storage is one or our fave ways to keep things organised without taking up desk, table or bench space.
6. Don’t Buy Anything…Yet
Stop buying products before you know what you'll need Buying storage products does not equal being organised. When you get that plastic tub home, it isn't going to tell you what to do.
7. Do a big edit
Bin everything you own and throw away everything that compromises your taste. Breaking up is hard to do. Be strong. Wrap your head around the task of throwing away your past. And don’t create a limbo land of storage boxes. They only encourage you to keep stuff that deserves to be thrown away. Find nifty solutions, but don’t let any corner of your house become a repository for detritus.
8. You don't have to hide everything away
If you store everyday things – like china and glassware - on open shelves, you’ll use them. If you don’t, chuck them out. 
9. Don't attempt to organise without clearing out the space first.
You need to deconstruct to reconstruct.
10. Quick-fix syndrome
Too many people think they can reorganise their entire house in a single day.  Don’t make a day of it. It’s too exhausting and you will get frustrated. Concentrate on one thing - and task - at a time.
11. Blindness
People often fail to see what is good and what is bad in their homes. Blame sentimentality of sheer force of habit. Ask friends with taste and no agenda over to pick out what you should discard or display. They might say that vase you’ve never known what to do with is an Art Nouveau beauty or that your lamp is an 1980s shocker that has to go. Don’t take it personally.
12. What to Chuck Out
Get rid of anything you wouldn’t pay to move. Old towels. Expensive art you don’t love. ‘Only when’ clothing. Unused cosmetics. Novelty napkin rings. Old paperback books.  Old electronics. Dead gym equipment. Movies you don’t watch. Shoes you don’t wear. Expired food you don’t eat. DIY projects that will never happen. Cheap toys. Leaky lilos. Old paint tins. Marshall all your old calamine lotions, anti-fungal creams, superglue tubes dead batteries, out-of-date warranties, and souvenir spoons into the bin.
13. The Pantry
Decant packets into containers: it looks good, avoids mess and keeps the moths out. Buy some big, attractive, matching glass jars with air-tight lids in which to store staples.
14. Store items where used
Being organised doesn’t mean storing everything out of sight. Based on frequency of use. Keep the sticky tape close to the scissors and wrapping paper. Store knives near chopping boards. Group similar items together. Put items you use once a year – such as sleeping bags and tents – in the storeroom or garage.
15. The Living Room Assess your knick-knacks
Why are these on display? Do you like them? Are there things in your cupboard 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.
16. Move On To Your 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 books with no heirloom value all deserve to be set free. Old books (particularly cheap ones) smell. Chuck out all fusty old magazines. Put them in a recycling bin, and start afresh with a 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.
Good organisation is invisible, muddles stares you in the face. Here’s our all-time top tips for getting organised and keeping up morale (while you’re doing it).
17. Presents
Everyone’s house is full of gifts that missed their mark; the scarf that goes with nothing, the lamp you hate, the book you’ll never read, and the perfume that makes you sneeze. Go around the house with a heavy duty garbage bag and collect the lot. You will not believe the difference it will make.
18. Hang Art
Don’t leave unframed art leaning on walls for years. And don’t strand small pictures on acres of wall: group them with other small works. Group paintings around theme, content, size. Put similar objects together: all your glass together on a sideboard, and all your hats on a wall. Massed together even mundane things achieve drama.
19.  Keep Surfaces Clear 
Be on constant patrol to keep benchtops and tables from deteriorating into a chaos of bills, quotes, parking fines, school notes, reports, invitations, catalogues and mail.
20. Don’t view organization as a chore
Done right, it’s productive, creative and a passport to a better life.
21. Keep it Clean and Maintain everything 
If you can’t embrace cleaning, employ someone who will. Even if you have to scrape the bottom of the piggy bank, get a cleaner to come as often as you can. Life is too short to attend to it all by yourself, but you must keep your standards up. Your silver needs to be polished, your mirrors gleaming, your floors waxed, your sinks sparkling and your linen pressed. There is no excuse for disorder. In between your cleaner’s visits, whip around for fifteen minutes every day to put things straight. It’s such a great way to live. Get on top of that mess, and get on top of life
February 23, 2017

The Curtains Everyone Is Obsessed With

Curtains make sense in any space. Not only do they cut heat, cold, noise , draughts, and glare, they define a space. If you living room is poky, a curtain is the best sort of extension. 

Simple, sophisticated designs are big news at the moment: the best are slim, smooth drops with ultra-simple details. Like another layer of architecture.  – ripplefold numbers in luxe fabrics that can help correct a potentially not-perfect window shape. Keep them simple and choose a plain fabric in the same colour family as the wall thus extending the space.
For the best effect treat the curtain and wall as one seamless extension and aim to use a fabric colour in a similar tone as a source of texture. They are popping up in some of the world’s best interiors for 2017 – scroll the gallery to check some of our faves. 
February 16, 2017

Melissa's 2 Week Kitchen Remodel For Less Than $5000

Off-the-peg open shelves and slabs of honed, not polished, marble, plus a budget kitchen mixer, chainstore spotlights, even an antique lion.

See the ideas we used to give our 1970s Sydney kitchen an entirely fresh look – and surprisingly spacious feel - that cost far less than a major overhaul. Oh and, the tried-and-tested tricks that look so expensive.
FIRST UP Before we whizzed off to the shops; we decided on what we’d keep. The laminate cupboards were in good working order, as was the sink and basic layout. 

APPLIANCES One of the worst offenders of the room was the dated kitchen appliances. We called in specialists, Winning Appliances and Handy Crew, who measured up and advised on the best equipment. We splashed out on good, reliable known-brand appliances built to last that instantly updated the space: a new Westinghouse hood, Ilve electric oven, Elctrolux gas cooktop, Bosch dishwasher and Fisher & Paykel skinny refrigerator, fat with features, all in matte stainless steel finish to update the entire space.

OPEN SHELVING The 1970s tiles were doing the look of the kitchen a disservice, so we installed, sleek IKEA readymade Grundtal stainless steel open shelves to disguise the feature tiles which saved the expense (and hassle) of re-tiling. Plus, the shelving allowed us to display everyday china from plates to jugs, carafes, candlesticks, platters and vases on open shelves with an eye to aesthetics to give the kitchen instant character. Ikea.com.au

BENCHTOPS To save on the cost of replacing benchtops, we went for big bespoke marble chopping boards – almost the size of the benchtops that looked like ancient French creations that she dumped on the existing laminate benchtops to style up everyday life. We asked for cut-off corners (it cost a little extra but made a big difference) And honed, not polished finish. Stone Bank (02) 9567 8960.
BLINDS We corrected the small window’s proportions with a made-to-measure blind that is wider and higher than the actual window is – giving the room the dimensions it doesn’t actually have. The blind has 60mm blade timber slats with an ultra-deep super-chic 85mm pelmet – that was colour matched to the walls. Wynstan Blinds, www.wynstan.com.au
LIGHTING WE went to our local lighting supplier, Universal Lighting for sleek designer-look track spotlights in brushed chrome which weren’t expensive. Most lighting specialists such as Beacon Lighting offer similar options. Universal Lighting, (02) 9328 7633, www.universallighting.com.au

PAINT The kitchen is painted Dulux USA Chalk USA (a classic ochre-based white). “It suited the amount of light the room received in a wash and wear emulsion that coated easily and concealed blemishes well”, says Melissa. Never underestimate the transformative powers of colour. Paint offers immediate gratification, and even the good stuff is relatively inexpensive. Hate your kitchen? Try paint first. www.dulux.com.au
DOOR HARDWARE Door handles can set the entire tone of a space. We used new snazzy brushed stainless-steel door handles from Mother of Pearl & Sons Trading to replace soulless laminte D-handle designs. The mini handles we chose are discontinued but we recommend dowel cabinet knobs 453 in brushed chrome, that we have used for joinery and cabinets throughout our city apartment, Mother of Pearl & Son Trading, www.motherofpearl.com.au
TAPWARE A new slick, sleek kitchen faucet is an instant update. We love Bunnings Ikonic WELS 5 Star 6L/min Pin Lever Sink Mixer, $100, that could easily pass muster as a three-figure Italian design. Bunnings Warehouse, www.bunnings.com.au

Melissa’s 4 design tips:  
GO NEUTRAL Remember to go for harmony and use the same colours for all elements in your renovation - flooring, walls, benchtops, hardware, lighting– to give a sense of flow. 
THROW IN SOME BLACK No matter what style your interior—modern, traditional, or eclectic—we always introduce a black element, such as the Ikea clock – to add instant edge.
STORE THINGS IN PLAIN SIGHT If you see it, you’ll use it. And if you don’t, chuck it out. Display everyday china from plates to mugs, jugs, carafes, candlesticks, platters and vases on open shelves with an eye to aesthetics to give your kitchen the character.
ANTIQUE ELEMENT We hung an antique stone lions head on the wall – it’s actually an outdoor piece that’s strong, durable, and adds instant individuality to a space.
February 16, 2017

Every Australian Interior Designer's Favourite Upholsterer

A serious trade secret. Melbourne-based Wills Furniture is the place bigwig interior designers go for the best sofas and armchairs in town.

The Adelaide and Cliveden sofas are classics, handcrafted with expertise, perfectionism and great detailing, that grace some of the biggest and best houses in Australia.
Owner John Sharkey's renowned company has been producing soft, plump, firm upholstery – seating of all kinds, stools, ottomans, and bedheads -  for 24 years, using traditional methods, to suit most needs, (classic to modern styles).  
Go for Wills fabulous designs including Adelaide, Cliveden, Sheffield, Suffolk, Kingsford and Bradford. Plus lovely custom work, to any size and specification. Or have things you love resprung and recovered. A big selection of studs, timber finishes, leg styles, to choose from. You won't go wrong.

WILLS FURNITURE, 6 Guest Street, Hawthorn, (03) 9815 0111, www.willsfurniture.com.au 
February 16, 2017

The Right Way To Store Your Linens

Keeping your linens fresh, crisp, white and fluffy is about more than just washing them the right way.

It’s also about storing them correctly to preserve the colour and integrity of the fabric, especially when they spend so much time stowed away when another set is in use.
The experts at Frette, the 150-year old top-drawer Italian sheeting used by royalty and the Ritz in Paris, are full of great advice on the subject of bedding.
Marketing manager Amy Skarbnik recently gave Architectural Digest magazine the lowdown on how to maximize the shelf life of your linens and we think it’s well worth sharing.
FIND A DARK DRY PLACE "Store your linens in a bone-dry space with minimal light exposure," says Skarbnik. A linen closet is ideal, but if you don’t have one, she suggests a trunk at the end of the bed or a storage bench as design friendly alternatives.
KEEP THEM CONTAINED Protect your linens from dust by storing them in a fabric-friendly container. “A white fabric bag is the best option, and we recommend placing acid-free paper in between linen sets to allow for more air circulation,” says Skarbnik.
AVOID PLASTIC "It may be tempting to leave your linens in the plastic bags from the dry clearner, but don’t do it,” says Skrabnik. In addition to plastic, you should also steer clean of cedar or cardboard to prevent yellowing and to keep  your whites looking snow white.
STAY STREAMLINED To keep your storage space neat and organized – and to avoid overcrowding – limit yourself to three sets of sheets per bed as as few as three sets of towels  (including hand towels and wash cloths) per person, plus an extra set for guests.
USE SACHETS Sachets, while not a must, are a nice way to subtly enhance the aroma of your linens when placed in the back of your wardrobe or chest. “Just make sure the sachet bag is white so no colour can bleed onto your linens,” Skabnik advises. You can also use scented drawer liners. 
February 16, 2017

The Three Colours Everyone In Paris is Decorating With

The best way to kick traditional style up a notch? Do as the Parisians are doing this season and paint your space a rich, stunning colour like raisin, truffle or herb.

Most of the shades are faint enough to be a neutral, but saturated enough to make a difference. All are colours that can created a calming, elegant or even electrifying effect.
RAISIN Parisians are using a soft amythest shade everywhere this season – it is the ideal medium-dark mulberry grey. It has warmth, but never looks drab, and has enough pigment to make a statement without being overwhelming. A classic look.
TRUFFLE It's a super soft and subtle smokey shade of charcoal-grey that feels fresh, light and airy. It reflects light beautifully to really open up a space, and serves as the perfect neutral backdrop.
HERB This is the ideal background colour: a warm, soft olive-ochre that looks good with everything. It's like the consummate party hostess who brings out the best in every guest. A perfect backdrop for blues (denim, chambray, navy) in a living room, and makes timber look fantastic. 

February 9, 2017

The Art of Australian Entertaining

The essentials for entertaining Australian style? An easy menu—because it's not about culinary gymnastics, it's about people—great lighting and really great music. 

Australians know you don’t have to be a great cook to be a great entertainer – some of the best parties are hosted by the worst cooks. Fancy food is far less important than people and atmosphere.
Here’s a quick guide to how Australians organize relaxed get-togethers that let the hostess have just as much fun as the guests.
DO SKIP THE SMALL STUFF Forget formality. Go for a relaxed atmosphere. Your guests will probably remember the pretty table setting. They might remember the super delicious aperitivo of camparis and fresh orange juice. But the three-course meal you didn’t serve will go largely unnoticed. Allow yourself to skip over somethings. No one will notice except for you. We never serve three courses.  You can go without a lot of ‘necessary’ items, save time, hassle and most importantly, money. And no one will bat an eyelid.
DO WORK WITH THE SEASONS Don’t drive yourself crazy with a pre-determined colour palette or menu. Work with what’s in season. 
DO LOVE YOUR GUESTS This is the golden rule. When most Australians invite people to their home, it’s because they like them and they come because they want to. A dinner party is a pact to have a good-time together – that means all of you, including the host and hostess. Everything else – the food, the wine, the setting is secondary.
DON’T SERVE COMPLICATED FOOD Australians don’t spend all day stuffing cherry tomatoes with 27 ingredients. You’ll be exhausted and you’re guests will tense up at the sight of the food, wondering how they’ll reciprocate. The food should be simple, generous, easy to serve and easy to eat. If you want to be Martha Stewart become a professional caterer.
DON'T BE CONFINED BY THE SPACE YOU LIVE IN  If you think your home is too small or not smart enough, think again. The people and conversation are what make a dinner party great. Sure, a stunning table overlooking the ocean at sunset is fun, but it's not necessary for a dinner to be fun and memorable.
DO CREATE A PARTY ATMOSPHERE Your kitchen and house shouldn't be the same as they are everyday. Light candles, set the table with a tablecloth, pretty china, napkins; play great music; fill the room with foliage and flowers; and put on a fab dress.
DO BE FLEXIBLE Accept last-minute party guests. If your best pal's cousin is in town for the night, or someone extra arrives, don’t glower, welcome them. You’ve always got enough food for one or two more.
NEVER BE RUDE If someone spills red wine on your new sisal flooring, or burns a hole in your favourite cushion, keep the charm flowing and go on as if they’ve done you the biggest favour. Most offences seem less serious the next morning.
IF THINGS GO WRONG If the casserole burns, the fish is off, or dessert is a disaster, never despair or apologise. Make light of the catastrophe, your guests are here for a good time, they don’t need to know your pain. Raid the cupboards, get creative. Even if it’s pizza for main course, keep the portions generous, the wine flowing and the laughs coming. Remember the hostess sets the tone of the evening.
BE FRIENDLY There’s no point having everything so, if you’re guests don’t feel welcome. Do as Australians do; be warm. Greet your guests. Rush to the door – even out to the car. Usher them in – gush over their little gifts, and make them feel loved. Introduce everyone. Give them a drink, and have one yourself. Stay with them while they drink it, too. Those first few minutes are vital. This is not the time to rush to the kitchen and start beating cream.
DON’T SHOW OFF Australians tend to resist the temptation to get out every piece of silver they own. They don’t want to end up looking like a restauranteur. One water and one glass per person is usually enough. They also prefer to keep the cutlery simple.
BEFORE ANYONE ARRIVES Preparation is the key to a great night. All you need to do is look good, be charming and dish up the food.
DO DRINK AND BE MERRY Nothing makes people more relaxed than a generous glass of something when they arrive. Hit your guests with a grand gesture in a glass. Try Campari, martinis, or generous slugs of gin-and-tonic. Alcohol is the great ice breaker, don’t underestimate it. It’s amazing what a few glasses will do to relax a room and get everyone laughing.
DO LIMIT YOUR TIME IN THE KITCHEN Don’t leave your guests on their own, making polite chitchat while you vanish to cook. Pre-prepare as much food as possible. That will leave you plenty of time to relax and spend with your guests. Don’t wash up during dinner: what you think takes a few seconds, actually results in your guests being left alone and unloved for ten long minutes.
KEEP IT SIMPLE In the food department, do only what you can comfortably. If that’s five courses, congratulations. Otherwise, pare back to something dead simple because your guests will only be relaxed when you are. Simplicity can cost a little more (a mountain of prawns and oysters, a whole salmon cooked on the barbecue) but it leaves you free to sparkle.
The higher quality the ingredients, the less you have to do. Nothing beats slow roast lamb or a filet of beef.  So easy to serve and far better than sweating over it. To finish there is nothing wrong with cheating – so long as your shop-bought pastry is a stunner.
GET SOCIAL Once your pals arrive, work the room. As long as the atmosphere is right, all you need is enough food to go around, served simply.  With smiling relaxed hosts, people will have more fun tucking into one great course, than a feast dished up by largely absent hosts.
MAKE IT LOOK GOOD Presentation is everything. You can make plain food look great, styled correctly. Big white bowls and wooden bowls are a good start.
LET THEM SERVE THEMSELVES Don’t plate up food. There’s nothing nicer than helping yourself to what you fancy. Use different sized platters and pedestal bowls for interest. It looks (and feels) modern.
DON’T GIVE THEM INDIGESTION No lunch or dinner should have more than one creamy course or more than once course involving pastry (forget that menu of onion tart, followed by beef wellington followed by pear tart).
KEEP GUESTS OUT OF THE KITCHEN You don’t want to turn your guests into sous-chefs of scullery maids, and people who hang around chatting slow things down in the kitchen when they should be animating the dinner table. Generally, they’ll only come to talk to you if you’ve been spending so long in the kitchen that they feel guilty. Their presence is a sign for you to head back to the table.
DON'T RUSH TO DO THE DISHES One of the best parts of a dinner is the time after the meal is finished when everyone lingers at the table. Open a fresh bottle of wine.  Sit back, relax, and let the lively conversation commence.
WALK PEOPLE TO THE CAR WHEN THEY LEAVE There is nothing lovelier than having the whole family come out to say goodbye and wave guests off. Let people know you care and that you’ve appreciated their company. It doesn’t matter who they are: the richest man in Australia or your friend and her latest hopeless boyfriend. Never let anyone leaving your house open the door themselves. It’s bad luck for them, and hideously ill-mannered on your part.
February 9, 2017

3 Non-Negotiables For A Stylish Interior

How to decorate? When it comes to creating a chic interior there are really just three rules every stylish interior follows. 

Each idea is simple enough to implement into your home without taking away from your personal style. 

1. IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE APPROPRIATE When you decorate an interior your first thought should be: ‘Is this appropriate?’ Let your house be true to itself – be that introverted, the outdoors type, gypsy or homebody. You might have loved France, Morocco, or Japan but it’s best if you just introduce elements of it, rather than do a fully themed re-creation.
2. IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE COMFORTABLE Real luxury at home is comfortable chair with a good reading light and handy table to pop your drink on. You can have that wherever you live. Think comfort. Your home has to be a sanctuary – as soon as you walk through the door your spirits should lift. If it feels that way to you, everyone wo enters will be impressed.
3. IT SHOULD NEVER BE TRENDY Avoid next big things. The more understated and elegant the interior, the longer it will last. Only buy things that will serve you like a loyal dog. Never change the way you design a house for the sake of a trend.



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