Grand Hotel of the Week: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

 

There’s a great exhibition currently showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled ‘Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life’. I saw it when I was in Vancouver last month and highly recommend it to anyone in the area who loves hotels like I do.

 

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The exhibition traces the rise of the modern hotel, and celebrates hotel design, hotel life and hotel branding (lots of examples from the Ace Hotels funnily enough). It also, not surprisingly, makes a lot of mention of the venerable Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, just opposite the Vancouver Art Gallery and fabulously located in the heart of downtown, where we stayed on my recent visit to Vancouver.

 

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The  iconic copper turrets of the ‘Castle in the City’ are nowadays somewhat lost among the other high rise buildings, and its gargoyles and statues look down on a sea of plate glass, but inside it’s just as you would expect – like its sister hotel the Fairmont Empress, it’s a gracious, elegant, timeless example of what hotel living really ought to be.

 

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That’s not to say that they’ve forgotten all the modern requirements of a luxury hotel. The pool was one of the best hotel pools I’ve seen, and amazing for a tightly-packed downtown location, and the staff was kindness and helpfulness personified.

 

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And on a Friday night the downstairs bar was hopping, and serving fabulous cocktails.  I had the new-for-Spring ‘Royal Boulevardier’ cocktail, a heady mix of bourbon, vermouth, Aperol and maple syrup, which was delicious, but will get you royally somethinged if you’re not careful.  (Click here for a PDF of Fairmont hotels Modern Classics cocktail menu, complete with recipes).

 

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Our room was spacious, comfortable and supremely elegant.

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Reflection of the hotel from our upstairs window

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And the gold stickers on the loo rolls made me smile.

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Full disclosure: We were given an upgrade to the Gold Lounge in return for a blog post.  However, the hotel has has no influence on the contents of this post and all opinions are my own. We just had a right royal time here.

 

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Things I Am Loving: Art et Manufacture

 

Continuing on my dangerous Helene Dujardin-fuelled shopping spree (goodness that woman has a lot to answer for), I have been making my way down her list of great prop providers and spending far too much money.

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These utterly gorgeous ceramics from Art et Manufacture are worth every penny though.

I love how the shapes they use are modern yet timeless and the blue and white patterns are utterly contemporary while calling back to Delftware and other traditional blue and white china. Very European, utterly chic and completely inspired.

 

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The sweet little espresso cups and bowl below are MINE though.  Look out for them in a food photograph near you.

 

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Wonderful Whidbey Island

 

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No Photoshop filters were harmed in the construction of this photo.  It really did look like this.

 

I’ve been feeling just a tad overwhelmed over the last week or so – moving eleventy million tons of STUFF back into the remodeled kitchen and bathroom; shooting some pics for a friend’s cookbook (yay!); holding the fort while the Husband was in China and generally rushing about like a crazy person.

 

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So when the lovely Clare Barboza told me there were still places left on her 2013 Farm to Table Photography Workshop this weekend on glorious Whidbey Island (just across the water from Seattle), I was wondering whether it might be a bridge (or indeed a ferry ride) too far.

 

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But with the aid of some dear friends taking the Minx for a sleepover, a wonderful Husband babysitting through his jetlag and some frantic late night packing I managed to make it work.  And I was SO very glad I did.

 

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I met some mindblowingly talented and just plain delightful women, ate fabulous food (thanks to the amazing Sean, Joe and Christine), drank too much wine; enjoyed gorgeous weather, sunsets, rainbows and scenery; and generally spent some quality time with my camera, which I always find to be incredibly soothing for my soul. We stayed at at the exceptionally comfortable Willow Pond Lake House; visited two farms -  Willowood, where they grow organic vegetables and Little Brown Farm where they keep goats and make the most delicious cheese and butter; shopped at the very cute Bayview Farmer’s Market and then got to style and shoot the farm produce.

 

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As with the Gulf Shores workshop I have MUCH to think about and process (and I will be blogging both at much more length), but in the meantime here are a few photos of the gardens at the house and from a pond nearby.

Can you see now why I loved it so much?

 

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Many thanks to Melissa (seen squatting above), who taught me how to ‘paint’ beautiful abstracts like this.

Stay tuned for the full story of the baby vegetables and the baby goats.

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The Kitchen Is Finished

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Dear hearts, it is DONE.

Just as I was losing the will to live with this whole remodelling malarkey, this morning is the first one for months where I have not been sharing my home with charming bearded contractors.  The silence is utterly blissful.

And we are THRILLED.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the light is in here. I knew it must be, but it was almost impossible to see it against the forest green countertops and burnt orange walls we used to have.

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There are still a couple of things to be done with the lighting – in particular we are waiting on a pendant light to go above the butcher block unit above -  and I also have to edit and organise approximately eleventy billion megatons of kitchen crap er paraphernalia.

But I thought I’d show you the finished empty shell and then we can talk about some of the details and styling at a later date, when it’s properly finished. I just hope I can do justice to it.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite details.

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Yep, the Big Chill fridge still looks awesome.

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I’m so happy with this aluminium roll door ‘appliance garage’.  We asked the contractors to customise the basic Ikea scrolling cabinet to make it deeper, so that I now have plenty of space to organise and disguise ugly appliances such as the slow cooker and panini grill and get them off the counter. I also like how the slats echo the panels in the ceiling.

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We are obsessed with the splashback tiles in one of Heath Ceramic’s ‘Dwell’ patterns.  The photo doesn’t begin to do justice to how beautiful they are. I’ll do a separate blog post all about these.

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We freaked out a little and bought a slab of walnut butcher block for one part of the counter. I think it might be my favourite thing in the whole kitchen (the rest of the counters are in honed white quartz). We asked the contractors to add a hinged flap of butcher block at the end to provide an extra bit of much-needed counterspace.

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The ceiling is painted in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Simply White’ in a semi-gloss sheen and has turned from being an eyesore into a design feature.  I am besotted with how beautifully this has turned out.  In fact we chose three different whites for the kitchen, which I will also do a blog post about.

In fact I have to say that I’m besotted with the whole thing.  The only problem is I hardly dare use it.

It’s interesting to see how similar it is to our original Sketch Up designs. Goodness that was a useful exercise to go through.

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And here’s one picture of the ‘before’ just to whet your appetite.

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Here’s the kitchen in all its former monstrous hideousness.

Oh and many, MANY thanks to the wonderful GTR Residential Contracting for making our dreams a reality.  It was a true pleasure working with so many craftsmen, in particular the ever patient and charming Dan for whom nothing was too much trouble.  If you are in the Seattle area, I can’t recommend these guys highly enough.

Pics of the bathroom remodel coming VERY soon.

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Project 52: Sign of the Times

 

Wow, I have become Chatty Cathy on here all of a sudden.

Anyway, just thought I’d close out the week with my latest submission for Project 52.  Our assignment was to take a photo for the cover of a book entitled ‘Sign of the Times’, all about the advances made in technology in recent years.

 

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I’m always seeing the Minx with various screens casting an eerie glow on her face, so I thought I’d make it into feature for this shoot, where she just got to sit in a darkened room and play games on the iPad. 

She’s never been so happy to be in a photoshoot before. 

But when did my baby get so GROWN UP?

   
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Things I Am Loving: Forms in Nature

 

This sort of stopped me in my tracks when I saw it yesterday.

 

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Created by artists Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz, this ‘light sculpture’ entitled Forms in Nature is designed to cast spooky shadows reminiscent of a wild forest all round the room.  I have long been fascinated by the beautiful shadows cast by chandeliers and I love how they’ve taken this to the next logical step and made the shadows the star of the show.

 

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At the moment it is still a conceptual artwork, but according to their website they are looking at putting this into production.

 

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Things I Am Loving: Wind & Willow Home

 

It’s been an expensive morning.

 

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One of the more unexpectedly dangerous aspects of doing a workshop with Helene Dujardin was the list of favourite prop suppliers she sent us after the course. And after three days playing with all her gorgeous things it was impossible to resist going shopping. 

 

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My first stop was at Wind & Willow Home.  Helene had a stack of these little wooden bowls in an array of colours, perfect for salt, oil or spices and for adding a little unexpected touch to a tabletop setting.  And  of course you could also use them for actual FOOD rather than just as a photography prop.

They’re incredibly tactile too. Etsy artist Araya Jensen starts with beautifully turned bowls and spoons and then hand dips each of them in a synthetic rubber in custom-mixed colours. 

The beauty lies in the timeless organic quality of the wood combined with the soft modern rubber in a host of contemporary colours.

 

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These walnut bowls are incredibly special.  Trying to work out if I can afford them.

 

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I REALLY want that plate too.

 

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I was in yet another Creative Live workshop during the early part of this week, so apologies for lack of bloggery.  So much to catch up on over the next week or so – more from Vancouver, more from the Gulf Shores photo workshop, more prop suppliers and the KITCHEN AND BATHROOM REMODEL IS SCHEDULED TO FINISH TOMORROW.  Quite honestly it’s looking to me like there’s about six months work left to do, but the contractors seem confident.

I so cannot wait.

   
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Gulf Shores Food Photography Workshop

 

Sometimes you have weekends that are almost impossibly inspiring; good for the deepest depths of your soul and quite possibly life changing.

 

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This last weekend I attended a food photography workshop in Gulf Shores Alabama, with the amazing Helene Dujardin of Tartelette (and Senior Photographer at cookbook publisher Oxmoor House) and the equally amazing Seattle-based food photographer Clare Barboza. 

 

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I’m still processing what exactly the workshop meant to me (there’ll be a blog post with the images I took later this week), but one of the most quietly inspiring and good-for-the-soul aspects was the location.  Who knew that Gulf Shores, Alabama was so incredibly beautiful?

 

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Every day, we took walks on the enormous, blindingly white, sparkly sand beach – like dunes of soft sugar – and admired the seabirds and the soft pastel colours of the seagreen waves, the seashells and the pretty wooden houses on stilts, lined up like so many macarons on the water’s edge (I’m clearly in a dessert-y frame of mind). 

 

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It was one of those places that always looks different depending on the light, but always equally enchanting.

 

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Gulf Shores, I’m so sorry I doubted you.

Come take a walk with me.

 

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The name of the house where we were staying seemed hugely appropriate.

 

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And I wondered if the clouds on the flight back were telling me something.

 

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Check out Clare Barboza’s blog post, to see what fun we had.  And here’s another blog post from my lovely classmate Jerry Deutsch. I met such fabulous people on this weekend.

   
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