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Posts tagged ‘flowers’

A super-sized chrysanthemums mural

Floral wallpapers on the whole can look really twee and old-fashioned  and not necessarily in that funky retro kinda way. But, they don’t need to. Recently I added this incredible mural to the main wall of my bedroom and it is stunning.


The image is an enlarged and cropped version of a 19th century Japanese photograph by Ogawa Kazuma. The much smaller original is part of the collection of one of my favourite places in the world: the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. For years that wall was blank. I didn’t know what to do with it. It was the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning and it left me uninspired and some days even unhappy. Not a good way to start the day. And then I stumbled across Surface View . . .


Surface View is a UK based company which owns the copyright to numeorus impressive collections. You can select what you like and have it custom sized to fit the specifics of your requirements. The mural came in three large panels and the expert craftsman and decorator, Matthew Collins, installed it. The walls were painted in Porter’s Paints Triple Led Grey in distemper, which has an incredible velvety chalk-like texture.


Two warnings though, Surface View is totally addictive and you can fritter away hours on their site and once you discover distemper there is no going back to low-sheen, wash-and-wear finishes. But that is the subject of another post!





Am I happier now? Absolutely! But the right wallpaper and paint can do that to me.

Styling Emilie Smith

Photos Kate Challis and Emilie Smith

My Love for Interiors Magazines: Australian Vogue Living January/February 2014

I love interiors magazines: World of Interiors, Belle, Living etc, Real Living, Dwell, Elle Decor, Lonny, Adore, Wallpaper, (inside), House & Garden, Inside Out, Architectural Digest . . . you name them and I read them or, more aptly, I read them!

A year ago I invested in an iPad mini with the idea that I would subscribe to these publications online and have access to inspiring material whenever I needed it. What happened instead was that my 4.5 year old took charge of “Mummy’s Eye-a-Pad” and it’s now full of Pixar movies, Ninjago games and reading apps. For him 30mins of screen time is a treat, for me the last thing I want to do when I am relaxing is to look at a screen. I know it is terribly old-fashioned, but I take more pleasure in flicking through a magazine and earmarking pages I love. Most e-mags don’t let you tag images and import them into Evernote, or app of choice, for later reference. While I assume the publishers’ reasons for this is to limit the digital dissimilation of their products in the hope that consumers will pay for content rather than download it for free. The problem with this way of thinking is that it prioritises the suppliers’ needs above that of the consumer. So, in the short-term I am sticking to hard copies of magazines. I also love that I can give them away to friends or my local op-shop for someone else to look at and be inspired by.

Given the relatively small size of the population in Australia, we have a disproportionally large number of interiors magazines on offer. In fact, Australians read more magazines per capita than any other nation. I do my best for the country and help out as much as I can and one of my favourites is Vogue Living Australia. When I recently returned from overseas the  January/February edition was waiting for me and here are my highlights

A stunning flower photo shoot styled by Glen Proebstel . . .


The North Fitzroy home of metal worker artisan Anna Charlesworth . . .


A lush mood board of foliage . . .


An iconic Dale Frank painting in the Perth of Chris Lyon . . .


A breath-taking renovation of  a 19th century house in a coastal town  in Victoria by Tim O’Sullivan of Multiplicity which superbly combines the old and modern, sleekness with texture, history and nature. Known as the Drift House, it is a rental property. It has inspired me to find an excuse to go to Port Fairy for a long weekend for a visit.


A simple Scandi kitchen of Danish jewellery designer, Charlotte Lynggaard . . .


A breath-taking display of De Gournay wallpaper in the home of Wheels & Dollbaby founder, Melanie Greensmith . . .


A masculine, earthy, 19th century inspired study  . . .


Rushcutters, a restaurant to visit when next in Sydney . . .



This is not a sponsored post. I wrote about the January/February 2014 edition of Australian Vogue Living, because I adore it and wanted to share some of the love.

What do you like looking at for inspiration? Blogs, magazines, pinterest, instagram? All of them? None of them? Or something completely different? I would love to know.


Lessons Learnt from Abigail Ahern: Flowers, flowers, flowers

This is the first of a new series about design lessons I have learnt and I am going to start it with a few insights from Abigail Ahern’s Masterclass last month.

Fill your house with an abundance of flowers: they had texture and create immediate layering.

Here are some photos of Abigail’s shop in London.

What’s really interesting is that they are all fakes! Yes, that’s right. Decking out your house with this amount of real flowers every day of the year is really only possible by those living in the country with access to bounties of free blooms, or those with a line of credit at the local florist. Alternatively, invest in some high quality fakes. These days they are so well done it’s hard to tell them from real ones especially if you have a few scented candles burning at the same time.

Last week my house was photographed for a magazine and, with Abigial’s inspiration in mind, I combined both real and fake flowers and scattered them throughout the house and below are the results.


A few tips to remember: don’t put fake flowers near natural light as your secret will be revealed; and forget posies and flower arrangements, the latest in floral design is putting clusters of vases or bottles together each with one flower or stem.

The photo below is from the Masterclass, run in the attic of Abigail’s house. It’s painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings which is the most divine colour. Flowers (and pretty much anything) looks incredible against it. I am pretty excited that I managed to get a sample of this colour and it’s being sent to me in Australia. If I love it as much as I think I will, my plan is to have it colour matched and to start painting!

Photo by me (Kate Challis)


London calling: Columbia Rd and more coffee

Every Sunday morning rain, hail or shine flower and plant sellers set up in Columbia Rd. My last day in London happened to be a Sunday and just before leaving I snuck in a visit between photographing a very cool London apartment and packing my now over-flowing bags.

Apart from the flowers what attracted me there was a coffee stand recommended by a reader (thanks Lizzie!), but which was no longer there. The legendary Gwilym Davies has moved onto other things and is now part of the Prufrock Coffee team in Leather Lane, Camden. Instead I happened across another: Start Coffee. Only as wide as a doorway the long queue was encouraging and gave me a moment to pause and reflect. The pastry was delicious and the coffee was pretty good too.

Walking past Columbia Cafe with their window filled with trays of bagels bursting with scrumptious fillings made me regret having just eaten.

Unfortunately, I ran out of time to explore and photograph the shops along Columbia Rd, but what I did see delighted me: a mix of vintage, retro, hand-made, quirky and well-selected second-hand items. Columbia Rd is on the top of my list for my next visit.

Photos by me (Kate Challis)

London calling: A Master Class with Abigail Ahern

Last Friday I spent the day in the fabulous home of Abigail Ahern. Yes, the interior designer extraordinaire, who also has an interiors store, writes a captivating blog, appears regularly in magazines and on television and is now contemplating opening up a cafe. If that wasn’t enough, she also runs a Design School. The participants in my Master Class were a variety of women: many creative types (graphic designers, artists, web-designers), some looking for inspiration for doing up their homes, another who manages a charity shop and after ideas on how to make that amazing and a number of women like myself who just love interior design and are between careers and thinking about their next steps.

The day was informal, fun and yet incredibly informative. Abigail describes her style as eclectic and said that this is more difficult to pull off than any other style. The morning was spent with Abigail taking us through the essential elements of amazing spaces: for her it’s all about breaking the rules. While our houses are incredibly different (at the moment, I only have one dark room in mine while hers is dark from top to bottom), I seem to embrace almost everything she advocated without previously realising it. Furthermore, 90% of the images she used to demonstrate her points I have used for my blog. That was a huge confidence boost.

The best part of the day though, was being in her own home and being able to look every single room (nothing was off limits). I took loads of photos but am unable to share them with you as Abigail has a book of her work coming out next year featuring her home and the publishers (naturally) have put a ban on the publishing of her house in the meantime. What I can show you is one photo of Gemma Ahern, Abigail’s talented florist sister who talked to us about the basics of really gorgeous flower arranging using fake flowers that, amazingly, truly look real. You might say that floral arranging is a rather middle aged and middle class thing to get excited about, but it was great.

I left yesterday with 8 pages of ideas for things I would like to do at my home scrawled in my notebook – and with the challenge to take what I learnt and morph and synthesise it into my own style. After all, I don’t want to be an Abigail Ahern wannabe. Spending a day with her and in her home has given me a new found confidence, which as Abigail says is really one of the most important aspects of design: having self-belief.

Stay tuned as Abigail is taking her Design School to New York and possibly Australia later in the year.  In the meantime, I’ll be posting about the content of the Master Class and my essential learnings over the next few weeks.

Image credits {1} The Selby and {2} me (Kate Challis)