When you are an ordinary mortal, furnishing a room can be an expensive process, so I like to acquire pieces that are going to be around for a long time. Items that are well designed and classical. Camel back sofas are always elegant, striped fabrics are classic, brass wall sconces will always have a place. The odd oil portrait will add gravatis to a room. This room shown below contains all these items, they could be bought yesterday or been collected over the years, they all make a serene and elegant sitting room. David Robertson and Frank Brennikmeyer's house appeared in World of Interiors July 1997. It contains many of my favourite items arranged in an understated elegant room. Country Georgian furniture, includes a Pembroke table, a pair of demi lune side tables striped upholstery on a wing chair, simple blue and white chinoiserie ceramics and a Persian rug are all items that are timeless.
As you gather I am not a minimalist. I like to collect bits and pieces that tell the story of my life. So my house if full of little treasures that have been given to me by friends and family or bought when I have been in special places. Sometimes these items are not always 'designer' but they might make reference to a certain experience or special event. The challenge is to get them to all fit in like they belong to the 'still-life' I am creating.
This eighteenth century 'cricket table' has a lovely wavy top showing the timber's grain. It holds little pocket books and old silver frames with family photos. The candlestick belonged to my parents On the window sill is a few pieces of 18th century pewter and a french jam jar that we bought in an antique store in Adelaide.
Our Red Sitting Room
As you have now guessed I don't shy away from colour when it comes to design and decoration. While neutral colour schemes can be calm and soothing sometimes a bit more excitement is required. Our red sitting room is used mostly in the evenings to gather with guests before dinner. We wanted a glamorous wow effect for this space. We decorated this room back in 1988. It hasn't changed very much over the years. We started with the two two seater sofas covered in a Warner's linen called 'Chinese Panel'. The sofas inspired the red wall colour. The colour we wanted to evoke was laqauer red of a antique tray or reminiscent of Pompeii. The incandescent lighting and the red walls make everyone glow in this room. The walls are finished with a glazed 'broken colour' effect, that gives the colour both more depth and creates the illusion of space. To balance the rick red walls we used a soft gold coloured ceiling, off white skirting boards and timber work and bronze coloured picture rails. This room was the first one we did in this house. It was the room to escape to when the rest was a demolition and renovation site. It is furnished with an assortment of pieces from different eras. The coat cupboard was made by Max's grandfather in the 1920's. A three legged cricket table circa 1760 made from elm was my first antique purchase in my new job at Crichton Interiors many years ago. I decided to set a policy of each year buying an antique piece to slowly build a collection of treasured items. It came from Lee Harper Antiques in High street, Armadale. The country Chippendale carver Max bought from John Dunn Antiques. We covered it in a piece of crewel embroidered cotton that picks up the warm rust colour of the room. A pembroke table from C1790 holds a quirky collection of crystal bottle stoppers. They refract the light. A fur rug made from Fox paws covers the old pine floor, that we waxed to keep the colour soft. To add some modernity the brass and glass coffee table sits on the rug allowing the rug to be seen as well as Max's childhood collection of rocks and minerals displayed in a display case, also made by his grandfather. The paintings on the wall range from my dodgy fake 'our lady of the snow" 15th Century oil to early twentieth century New Zealand water colours, to an oil known as' the pirates and pumpkin people' from the mid 1970s. Defintely an eclectic mix. We added 'silken satin' curtains that spill onto the floor and lots of cushions in treasured fabrics, hand printed silk taffeta, patterned velvet, cotton damask and even a chintz pattern with a monkey in the design. This room is nicknamed 'monkey's room' as the Chinese Panel' fabric has little green monkeys in the design. I added a monkey cameo to the stencilled border on the floor and we found a bronze monkey candlestick.
Rich red walls contrast with golden coloured 'silken satin curtains that theatrically spill onto the floor.The Warner's linen 'Chinese Panel' fabric inspired the red walls for this room. Hand printed silk cushions have napoleon bees and stars. I made these many years ago. The silk damask cushion is the most recent, it is a sample from Gainsborough Mills, England. The green silk cushion with the pearl buttons has bound button holes.
David Hicks is one of my favourite British Interior designers. I love his reworking of traditional interiors. He was a master at incorporating antiques into interiors and was known for his crisp colours and the geometric prints he designed. I often pour over my copy of his book David Hicks Living with Design, published in 1979. His son, Ashley, is equally as talented. This is his bathroom in his country house. It features classic David Hicks patterns, and a trick that he often used, braids to create wall panels. I would never thought of putting this geometric onto this style chair but its a great juxtaposition. I like bathrooms that are a little different and allow you to dream while soaking in the tub. At the moment I am gathering inspiration for the reworking of our bathroom in the country and this image has some interesting ideas.
Do you keep cuttings or scans from magazines for inspiration? I know I do, I have been doing this since I was quite young. Cleaning out some papers in my studio the other day I came across this image. I cut it from a 1970's magazine, all those years ago, but it still resonates with me. ( Sorry about the glue used to paste it into a book). I like the strong background, that unifies all the objects in the room.The wallpaper is 'Indian' designed by William Morris, around 1870, a subtle tonal pattern that gives depth to the walls. The deep blue/grey colour which is repeated in the cornice and skirting boards is a counterpoint to the orange coloured timber of the antique table, picture frames and mantle piece. It is a warm cosy room, even thought the walls are bluey grey. The other piece that attracts me to this room is the linen covered settee in a chinoiserie floral, probably by GP & G Baker, possibly 'peony garden' or 'magnolia' famous patterns that appeared in many colour ways throughout the years. Linen upholstered sofas are classics that never go out of style and are practical and easy to live with. I also love the layering of the pictures on the walls. There is plenty to look at, but portraits seem to be the main theme. There are some interesting plates and ceramic objects. It looks like a room that has taken many trips to the auction rooms to evolve. As this cutting is so old I cannot reference it in any way so if anybody recognises it please let me know. Also: Morris and Co in the U.K. still have this pattern, but in different colour ways and GP & J Baker fabrics still have similar classic floral linen prints available too.
Auction Room Finds
One of the most exciting ways to shop is visiting the local auction rooms bidding for little treasures. I like to go to Leonard Joel, in Prahran. We make an adventure out of this. Joels publish the catalogue the day before online and I check out possible items and estimates. I make a list. We go and have a look, and usually something else catches my eye. Next day we go to the auction and spend a few hours watching, waiting and bidding. The furniture auction starts at 10am and the decorative items at 12.00 sometimes we go and have lunch or coffee between lots. There are antique dealers and many interesting characters who regularly attend adding great theatrics to the day. This week I came home with some lovely books with leather bindings, an 18th century chinoiserie plate, two Japanese" Imari" patterned plates, a set of fruit knives and forks and a papier mache crumb tray and brush. You can see it is quite a stash, I only went for one plate! Now we get to spend time finding places to put all these bits and we can spend hours pouring over the books.
Hi I am Elizabeth an interior designer who lives in Melbourne, Australia in a little Californian Bungalow cottage with my partner, Max, who is also an Interior Designer, and our beloved furry children, Doris & Ernest. I believe that design can make our lives more rewarding and productive. I love, architecture and design theory but my everyday passion is fabrics and decoration, as I don't think we should get too serious but have fun with our homes and enjoy the process of creating our own environments. I am interested in classic cars, and collect Georgian and Mid Century furniture.