Fancy Hotel of the Week–Villa Chan Grajang

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Fancy Hotel of the Week-Villa Chan Grajang. Well, it’s not quite a hotel, but an absolutely stunning and very large private villa, but since it comes equipped with its own Thai chef, large staff and the most wonderful housekeeper ever, it feels like you’re staying in your very own exclusive boutique hotel and therefore seems to work for the purposes of this ongoing series (which I’m sure none of you remember, it’s been so long since I last did a Fancy Hotel post).

 Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

One of the reasons I jumped at the chance to go to Thailand for a retreat with life coach Susan Hyatt was the fact that Miz Susan doesn’t do anything by halves. When she was organising her retreat she went straight to a website called AwesomeVillas.com which, awesomely, specialises in, you guessed it, awesome villas. Except that the villa we ended up in – the Villa Chan Grajang overlooking Surin Beach – was more than awesome. Stupendous and sensational are superlatives that come to mind, and, judging by the collective intake of breath that occurred when we all arrived, I guess breathtaking would fit the bill too.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

As you all know I have a terrible weakness for stunning architecture (an astrologer friend blames it on my moon in Libra), and, after living in Kinfolk in last week’s blog post, this was more akin to taking a vacation in Architectural Digest.

I was so happy here. The lines and symmetry of the buildings were incredibly soothing to the eye and to the soul; the saltwater pool was the perfect blue and the perfect length, and the minimalism of the buildings just served to enhance the spectacular planting and views. Everywhere you looked there was a new vista or detail to observe – a reflection, a shape, a shadow or a texture. My eyes were drowning in beauty, yet relishing every moment and it felt almost spiritually uplifting. It was an object lesson in how our surroundings can affect our moods and mental well-being for good or for ill, and one that I need to apply to my own untidy bedroom and office.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Obviously we had to find out who was the lucky owner of such gorgeousness, and after a few judicious moments with Google, Susan worked out that it was the artist Damien Hirst. Which figured, as its cool white lines were not so very different from the cool white lines of his restaurant Pharmacy, which I used to live close to in my Notting Hill days. I don’t think I’ve been so jealous of a person in my life.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Mr Hirst, if I promise never to call you a charlatan again, will you invite me back to your astonishing house?

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The beauty of the villa was only enhanced by the tranquil presence of Pom the housekeeper -  one of many people I met in Thailand who are beautiful both inside and out -  and her wonderful staff. I adored the Thai way of decorating with fresh flowers and little flourishes. The Thais take such pleasure in beautifying the everyday, which is another lesson I need to take to heart.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The view from my bedroom

The food was faintly astonishing too – with mindboggling depths of overlapping spices, flavours and textures, presented again in the most beautiful way. Believe me, the overly salty and sugary Thai food you can find in the US or UK bears little resemblance to the subtle intricacies of the dishes we were served. In my next life I want to come back as someone who has a live-in Thai chef. Surely that wouldn’t be too much to ask?

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I loved this place. Loved, loved, loved it and couldn’t bear to leave. One day I will return. That’s a promise.

 

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The villa was even gorgeous in the rain

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Did you notice all the beautiful women in this post? My fellow retreaters were some of the loveliest, kindest, most creative, thoughtful and inspirational people you could wish to meet. It was a privilege to get to know them.

The Villa Chan Grajang is available to rent through Awesome Villas. Please take me with you.

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Whitney English Day Designer

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Dashing in quickly just to tell you all how an item of stationery is in the process of changing my life. Yes, I am a very sad person. But a new edition goes on sale tomorrow and I think you ought to buy it.

The Whitney English Day Designer already has a bit of a cult following among creative entrepreneurs and rightly so. The first ever planner designed specifically for us, the thought and care which has gone into every page is evident and heartwarming.

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Yes, that says “The Strategic Planner & Daily Agenda for living a WELL-DESIGNED LIFE”. See you’re inspired already. And yes, it is beautifully designed.

I know I’m already very late to this party, but I came across the planner on Instagram a couple of months back and was lucky enough to snag one of the very last available August 2014 – August 2015 planners. Tomorrow on August 15th planners for the calendar year January 2015- 2016 go on sale and I’d hate to see you miss out. Get in fast, these babies sell like hot cakes. Or like hot planners.

Anyway, here’s why I’m in love with this wonderful piece of technology.

The planner comes in a sturdy ring binder with a useful inside pocket, gold protected corners and comes packaged with a pink velveteen ribbon that also serves as a bookmark. My office manager Joan Holloway certainly approves.

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The first page gives you space to picture your vision and dreams and think about your passions, powers, principles and purpose. The planner comes with a code for a free downloadable e-book to help you decide what to put here, which I found really helpful.

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Then you use the work you’ve done in defining your ‘core’ to inform yearly goal setting, which then gets broken up into 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and 12 month goals for different areas of your life. If I get anywhere close to reaching these goals this year I will probably die of excitement. And yes, I have been colour-coding things using the official recommended pens (I do feel like I’ve joined some sort of cult). 

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Then you can set goals and big to dos for each month as well as viewing your month at glance. Aside from the colour-coded pens, I have also become the sort of person who washi tapes their planner. There really is no hope.

There’s a ‘year at a glance’ page too, in case you’re running out of places to put washi tape.

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Once you have your month beautifully planned there’s a whole page for each day, including spaces to put your to dos for that day and daily schedule. There’s a ‘Download’ section for notes (I use it to write a brief summary of my day), a place for a daily gratitude which is rather lovely, and somewhere to write what’s for dinner, which is obviously critical. There’s space to write your top 3 to dos for the day and each day also has an inspirational quote.

Whitney English Day Designer - photography by www.paolathomas.com

In short, I shall henceforth be leading the mostly perfectly designed, organised and inspired life. Which really makes this planner very good value for money.

Get your January planner in the Whitney English Etsy shop this very morning.

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Antica Tenuta Le Casacce

 

Jamie and Ilva found the most stunning location for our Tuscan adventure.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Antica Tenuta Le Casacce is an agriturismo owned by Roman chef Enrico Casini, situated near Seggiano in the glorious landscape of the Val d’Orcia, whose timeless hills and valleys are deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enrico used to run six restaurants in Rome before settling down in his beloved Tuscany and his amazing four course meals every evening were a true highlight of our stay (we also did a cooking class with him – recipes appearing on the blog shortly, yay!).

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse offers a selection of creative workshops in conjunction with Enrico based at Le Casacce. Retired trial lawyer Linda is warmth and generosity personified – nothing was too much trouble – and a fabulous writer, artist and photographer in her own right. Her workshops include not only first class instruction but also a number of day trips to the small hill top villages which dot the surrounding hillsides.

However, with accommodation and surroundings like this, it was nearly impossible to drag ourselves away. Come and visit this little corner of paradise. Oh and meet Socrates, the resident manic depressive donkey and star of Le Casacce.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad view from the pool.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad view from the terrace.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s Jamie coaching Deepa from One Small Pot.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here are Linda and some of the ladies working hard.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The old stone buildings were charming inside too.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s the ghost of a photo studio at night.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Minx would have loved the wooden cats hanging out outside.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s Chef Enrico presenting his incredible food.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com
Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com
Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here’s Ilva being Ilva.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And a couple more of Socrates gambolling in the sunset. Life is sweet at Le Casacce.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Tuscany, I can’t recommend Le Casacce highly enough. And Linda’s Tuscan Muse creative workshops are pretty special too, as you’ve probably already worked out.

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The Launch of DXV, Or 150 Years of Design History in Cocktails

 

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

One of  our lovely sponsors on #blogtournyc was DXV, a new luxury kitchen and bathroom brand from American Standard. As part of BlogTour we were invited to visit their stunning new showroom in the heart of New York’s Flatiron district (usually by appointment only).

DXV celebrates American Standard’s rich 150 year history and heritage by organising its initial collections of fixtures and fittings around four separate design ‘movements’ – blending the design aesthetic and artisanal qualities of the past, with the performance and design requirements of the modern consumer.

At the launch party in New York, even the cocktails were themed appropriately and I was lucky enough to be given the recipes, devised by ace mixologist Elayne Duff. Obviously any opportunity to make, photograph and drink cocktails is not to be passed up in a hurry.

So welcome to 150 years of design history in bathroom fixtures brought to you via the medium of classic cocktails with a contemporary twist (you can’t say we don’t spoil you).

 Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here’s Elayne shaking up a storm! (Photos of Elayne by Vladimir Weinstein Photography)

CONTEMPORARY

First up is the Contemporary era, representing the years 1990 onwards. In design terms, this constantly evolving aesthetic combines minimalism and rich texture, individual style and natural forms. The photos representing each design era were taken at the DXV showroom.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Interpreting this them through cocktails, Elayne chose a modern twist on the Scofflaw using raspberry syrup instead of the traditional grenadine.  This cocktail was new to me and apparently dates back to Paris in the Prohibition era – if you were drinking cocktails at the time you were scoffing at the law – but also nods to today’s love of bourbon.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This is an easy cocktail to make as it doesn’t contain too many esoteric ingredients, and it’s one I’ll make again and again. The earthiness of the bourbon is softened a little by the sweet raspberry syrup (I bought mine, though you could make your own) while the addition of bitter citrusy flavours in the form of dry vermouth and lime juice ensures that it is not too sweet.

Scofflaw
Serves 1
A contemporary twist on the classic Scofflaw
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Bourbon
  2. 1 oz dry vermouth
  3. 1 oz raspberry syrup
  4. 0.75 oz lime juice
  5. 3 dashes orange bitters
  6. Fresh raspberries to garnish
Instructions
  1. Chill a coupe
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  3. Measure in the ingredients
  4. Shake well
  5. Strain into the glass
  6. Garnish with raspberries
mirror mirror http://mirrormirrorblog.com/site/
MODERN

Next up is the Modern era representing the post-war years between 1950-1990. The design of this era was marked by experimentation and individuality,and the interplay between flowing lines, curving forms and geometric structures.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Elayne was inspired to create a traditional Mai Tai to represent this movement in a nod to jet age travel and the  ‘tiki’ culture of those decades.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

A Mai Tai can so often be overly kitschy, festooned with little umbrellas, cherries, pineapples and tropical flowers. The drink too is often adulterated with pineapple juice, orange juice or grenadine but this is a sophisticated and very more-ish version – luscious, strong and not too sweet. I will also be eternally grateful to this recipe for introducing me to orgeat syrup, made from apricot kernels and tasting like marzipan in a bottle.

Mai Tai
Serves 1
A classic Mai Tai without the kitsch
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Ingredients
  1. 2 oz aged rum
  2. 1 oz lime juice
  3. 0.75 oz orgeat syrup
  4. 0.75 oz orange Curacao
  5. 0.25 oz dark rum
Instructions
  1. Chill a double rocks or other large glass
  2. Fill a cocktail shake with ice
  3. Add ingredients and shake
  4. Strain into glass over plenty of crushed ice
  5. Garnish with a lime wedge and a flower
mirror mirror http://mirrormirrorblog.com/site/
GOLDEN ERA

The Golden Era covers the pre-war years from from 1920-1950. In design this is the classic era of Art Deco where a spirit of experimentation was combined with industrial design to produce a thoughtful, refined aesthetic, based on simple geometric shapes and reduced ornamentation.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

In cocktail terms Elayne paid homage to that era’s obsession for gin with the Corpse Reviver. I’m not a big fan of gin-based cocktails – they can often get a bit too floral and grannyish for my tastes – but this was GOOD, given extra layers of bitterness, sourness and sophistication by the Cocchi Americano (used instead of Lillet), lemon juice and absinthe, with an orange twist instead of the traditional cherries.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Corpse Reviver
Serves 1
A contemporary twist on the classic Corpse Reviver
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 0.75 oz London dry gin
  2. 0.75 oz Cointreau
  3. 0.75 oz Cocchi Americano
  4. 0.75 oz lemon juice
  5. dash of Absinthe
  6. Orange twist to garnish
Instructions
  1. Chill a coupe
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  3. Add all ingredients and shake
  4. Strain into chilled glass
  5. Garnish with an orange twist
mirror mirror http://mirrormirrorblog.com/site/
CLASSIC

The final DXV movement represents the Classic era, representing the years 1880 to 1920 which saw a convergence of opulence and modern technology, and an emphasis on artisanal craftsmanship. In this, the era of Art Nouveau, design pushed beyond the rigid geometry of neoclassicism and became more intricate and organic.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Elayne Duff chose to celebrate the communal drinking of this era to create a traditional rum punch and here she is serving it at the launch party. The recipe for this looks really interesting and I’m definitely going to try it our at our next summer party. If it works I’ll share it in a future post.

Launch of DXV - photography by www.paolathomas.com

For more about the DXV collection and its design inspirations check out this video. I don’t normally like to share ads on this blog, but the visuals on this are mesmerising.

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DIFFA–Dining By Design 2014

One of my favourite things about the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, and indeed of the whole of #BlogTourNYC, were the DIFFA – Dining By Design show tables.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Every year designers and sponsors are asked to create fantasy tablescapes and then bids are invited to host a table in each of these magical party venues at huge closing gala, with all proceeds benefitting AIDS research.

There were several I would have loved to bid on, though with most I think you would want to keep the hallucinatory drugs and indeed the alcohol served to a bare minimum, because some of these spaces were seriously mind-bending in their own right.

So enjoy the craziness and I would probably suggest that you don’t try most of these at home.

Which are your faves?

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I’m not entirely sure how you’re supposed to get at your food under the Perspex here, but this room by the New York School of Interior Design mentored by Shawn Henderson was possibly my favourite.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Mrs AllThingsColourful here also liked this one by Gensler + Herman Miller though the tableware looked a little dull. But the changing colours in the room more than made up for that (see the changes here).

You probably don’t need me to tell you that this was designed by Diane Von Furstenburg for Kravet.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Seriously no wine necessary in this one by Interior Design Magazine, designed by Ali Tayar with Alejandro Cabrera. Some plates would be useful though.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Loved this use of the classic Saarinen tulip table in this room by Knoll and HOK.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This room was designed by Geoff Howell Studio and sponsored by Ottawa, Canada’s Capital. And it showed.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This room by Ralph Lauren Home was dull but pretty in that typical Ralph Laurenish way.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Gorgeous flowers in this room by Carlos Mota for Architectural Digest.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Another great use of flowers here by designer Marc Blackwell.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Loved this moody room designed by Kara Mann for Maya Romanoff, but wow those chairs look wildly uncomfortable.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Finally some cosy seating by Echo Design.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

While this table by David Ling for DDC was almost TOO cosy and sort of shapeless. I love those furry chairs though. They look like little sheep.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

You better be looking good at this table by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, because the solid gold reflections are EVERYWHERE.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This table by Robert Verdi for Essie was one of the few that looked like it might fit into a home somewhere.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

While this room for 3M Architectural Markets, designed by Rottet Studio, looked FIENDISHLY uncomfortable.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This table by Flexform by Soren Rose Sponcer for Manhattan magazine was just rather dull.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

T Magazine had put together another paean to discomfort and noise.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Design Within Reach room looked like a Design Within Reach shop. At least their branding is consistent.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

While Barneys NYC missed the memo that they could actually use their imaginations.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I’m not sure why you would want to wear a dunce’s cap on your birthday in this room by the Pratt Institute, mentored by Ali Tayar.

DIFFA-Dining By Design 2014 - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Finally this tablescape by the Fashion Institute of Technology, mentored by Jes Gordone, showed us what dining inside a whale would be like.

I truly thought I had visited and photographed most of the rooms, but it seems I actually missed a lot. If you like these then here is the full slideshow, with some more gorgeous rooms and some different perspectives on the ones I shot (very difficult to take pics here with so many people milling about).

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Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry

It was a little after lunch during a long day at the Architectural Design Show on #BlogTourNYC and I thought a sponsor presentation about kitchen cabinets might be the perfect opportunity for a small snooze (don’t tell Veronika).

But one of the great things about #BlogTourNYC was the opportunity they gave us to meet with and learn from so many inspiring and creative people. Rutt Cabinetry are makers of stunning high-end handbuilt kitchen cabinets and they had brought in designer Scott Stultz to design their first new offering in over a decade.

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Scott himself gave us a fascinating presentation into his creative process and woke me up thoroughly when he mentioned how influenced he had been throughout his life by John Ruskin.

For those who are unaware of him John Ruskin was a British art patron, art critic, social reformer, philanthropist, polymath and all round good egg in the latter half of the Victorian era.

Among his many achievements, he championed Turner and Gothic architecture, wrote seminal works of art history and criticism, influenced the pre-Raphaelites and is considered to be the grandfather of the Arts & Crafts movement in the UK, with ideas about sustainability and environmentalism which were astonishingly forward-thinking.

If you’re in any way involved in the arts and design in Britain, his influence remains pervasive to this day – I heard a lot of talk of him in design circles in the UK -  but this was the first time I’d heard his name mentioned in America. 

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Scott described how he had used Ruskin’s principles to create furniture that was timeless in its appeal, speaks to both our visceral need for comfort, and our intellectual need for order and proportion, but which was also has an element of adventure.

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This plain detailing on these overhead cabinets fits in well with contemporary styles (and would look AWESOME in our Craftsman house #hinthint), but also harks back to the similar detailing of Arts & Crafts furniture. Scott explained that he had chosen the beautiful semi-elliptical curves of the mouldings to break up the orderliness of the windows and panels and bring in that sense of risk, like an ‘animal waiting to pounce’. 

As an aside here is my little Arts & Crafts oak bureau in our Craftsman house with its own semi-elliptical moulding. Fascinating to see that it would fit right into this kitchen.

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Ruskin series has various options for cornices and mouldings  and, as is entirely right and proper when John Ruskin is your influence, the craftsmanship and attention to detail is sublime.

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Scott explained how he had thought about the proportions and kept the vertical elements of the panelling thin and light, so that the eye travels upwards (in the same way as you see in Gothic architecture) making the whole feel much lighter and airier, despite the solidity of its construction.

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ruskin by Rutt Cabinetry - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The attention to detail has extended to the door pulls, appliances and  finishes. Rutt had collaborated with MIele to show how well the layers of Miele’s Brilliant White finish (laminate under thick glass) complemented the texture of the Keswick Oak finish giving it a contemporary appeal.

The video below shows Scott describing the various finishes designed for the collection and named after Lake District landmarks which were important in Ruskin’s life.

I may have been sitting in a huge hangar in the New York City, but this English girl felt right at home. And I think John Ruskin would have liked it too.

Note to Scott: It’s pronounced ‘Kes-ick’. The ‘w’ is silent. (Yes, I am that person.)

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Go Love Your Room–Michele Varian’s NYC Loft

I loved Michele Varian’s SoHo shop so much that I was thrilled when she posted on Instagram that her loft apartment had been featured in a New York magazine.

Michele Varian's Loft

And if you’ve seen her shop, her loft is everything you would imagine it would be – stuffed full of fascinating and beautiful objects, perfectly arranged in gorgeous vignettes. If you read the article (which you really should) you’ll realise that pretty much every single thing in her apartment has a story behind it. This is a place where people live and work and laugh and love. And it shows.

Michele Varian's Loft

This kitchen is giving me LIFE. From that perfect blue to the open shelving to the mismatched china, to the well-used pans, to the spices. It looks like the kitchen of someone who loves to cook, loves to eat and loves to entertain.

Michele Varian's Loft

Anyone would be inspired in this workspace.

Michele Varian's Loft

That bed and the THROW are gorgeous and there’s something really cool about that framed pair of gloves. And that mirror. Naughty girl Michele!

Michele Varian's Loft

Michele’s husband is a musician and I love that his presence is really obvious all round the apartment. 

Michele Varian's Loft

Michele’s wallpaper makes the perfect backdrop for his guitar collection and tiny vintage piano.

Do yourselves a favour and read the entire article by Eliza Krpoyan for Scene Magazine. All the beautiful photography is by Peter Murdock.

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Things I Am Loving – BLANCO Solon Compost System

 

BLANCO is a maker of luxury sinks and faucets (or taps in proper English, I do find faucets still to be a very alien word for me). Family-owned since 1925 and renowned for their superb German engineering, they were one of the lovely sponsors of #BlogTourNYC and I wish I’d known about them when we were remodeling our kitchen as their products truly are special.

BLANCO Solon Compost System

In particular I really wish I’d known about their SOLON Compost System, because I would definitely have installed it. I’m even going to ask our contractor if it would be possible to retrofit it into the kitchen now, though I’m imagine that cutting into our white quartz countertop at this point might be a bridge too far.

BLANCO Solon Compost System

But what a neat, beautifully engineered, idea. Instead of having a smelly stainless steel bucket sitting on your counter attracting countless fruit flies (ask me how I know), you get a top quality stainless steel bin that you can drop into the counter and just scrape peelings and scraps straight into. At other times the lid fits flush with the counter, so it’s not taking up space at all and the lid is specially engineered to minimise odours, which I presume also minimises those peaky flies.

And when it’s full, you just pull it out, throw out the scraps and stick the bin straight in the dishwasher. I’m extremely into composting but goodness me it’s a messy business and it would have been so nice to streamline the process when we had a chance.

If you’re remodelling your kitchen and thinking of installing it yourself here’s a video demonstration.

If you want to see a TERRIBLE interview with me and much better interviews with my fellow BlogTourists Marcy Michaud and Faith Sheridan, where we share our tips for green living, BLANCO interviewed us all at the AD Home Design Show. Here is the excruciating video evidence.

Blimey chaps, I really need some lessons in active listening, instead of letting my eyes wander all round the room and picking my nose (I was NERVOUS, what can I say?)

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Weekend Link Love

Double Rainbow Over Seattle - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s been a week of sunsets and showers, flowers and sunshine, hot cross buns and Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – and the most extraordinary rainbow that I think I’ve ever seen. And you really can’t get much better than that. (Also it’s astonishing what one can do nowadays with the pano feature on the iPhone).

InstagramApril2014

I will be spending the weekend baking a Simnel cake and hosting a traditional Easter Sunday lunch with lots of roast lamb for some British friends here.

Simnel Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you want to do the same, my recipe for Simnel cake – the traditional English Easter cake – is here.

 

If you want to make dye eggs using natural dyes, my friends Leigh and Pamela had fun this week.

This his and hers food photography is insanely beautiful.

Saveur magazine came up with this list of the best food blogs around. I’m looking forward to looking and drooling.

Brene Brown and Chase Jarvis did an amazing interview about Unlocking Your Creativity  which is worth watching in its entirety.

Here’s a little post on capturing authentic ‘moments’ with photography. I always think my photography is too contrived, so this is something I’m striving for.

And here’s an interesting piece on how Facebook manages its filtered feed, though not terribly helpful for those of us trying to get even a few organic viewers to our Facebook pages.

 

On the blog this week, we discussed New Trends in Kitchen Design, read Don Draper’s Tarot Cards and worked out how Mad Men is going to end, visited Bunny William’s amazing New York shop Treillage and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and had a stressful time baking a Roller Skate Cake.

Hope you are all having a wonderful and relaxing weekend.

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Skagit Valley Tulip Fest

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s the that time of year again where I bore you with photos from Skagit Valley Tulip Fest, about ninety minutes drive from Seattle. For those of you still in the depths of winter, I apologise.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

You’ve gotta love a road trip where you get to see this out of the car window.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

But unfortunately several thousand other people had the same idea.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

I even got to try out the pano feature on the iPhone for the very first time (no one can accuse me of being a gearhead) which was super duper impressive.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

After a glorious day we chased the sunset back to Everett, where we stopped off for fish and chips.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad day on the whole.

If you’re in Seattle the fields are at their absolute peak right now. I’ve never seen them so pretty. Previous dispatches from the tulips here, here and here.

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