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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hanging Native Australia – Quercus & Co

Launched in May 2012 by Adam Jones, Quercus & Co. is a Sydney-based pattern design studio specialising in wallpaper. Graduating in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London, and later teaching colour & design at the University of Technology Sydney. Quercus & Co. is the culmination of his avid and enduring love of colour and pattern.

The first collection of wallpapers sees Adam take inspiration for the southern coast land of Sydney, with the flora and fauna that graces this Aussie land.  Called ‘Coastland’ the wallpapers incorporate 10 hand drawn designs using sketches, lines and washes. Adam has included

“both illustrative and abstract patterns in muted, elegant colours the wallpapers are intended to be unobtrusive and considerate. We like to think of them as handsome backgrounds to complement your home and beautiful furnishings”

Coastal Banksia in Dark Grey Coastal Banksia in Pale Water Green“Coastal Banksia”

Once again I need that big house with a multitude of rooms to try all these beautiful papers. But for anyone who wants a touch of subtle Australian nature in their homes these look a great place to start…. what are your thoughts?….

Coral Fern in Blush CORAL FERN in Sea Blue

“Coral Fern”

Heath Banksia in Pale Water Green Heath Banksia in Silver Grey

“Heath Banksia”

On with the colourful journey……………….

 

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Four Sisters and A Paper Bag

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There is something very rustic about warm bread fresh from the bakery served in a paper bag, but alas that paper bag ends up in the bin as it never holds out for the journey. Tuscan company Le Sorelle  have come up with the perfect solution, made up of four sisters (below), La Sorelle entrusted their idea to local artisans and have created the Uash Mama (Pronounced Wash Mama) paper bag.

Created originally as a paper bread bag, they feel like leather and yet wash like fabric meaning they are reusable and – unlike the green recycle bags that you get in the supermarkets – a little more attractive to use from shop to dinner table… or you can use them for anything else you see fit…

uashmama bags Uashmama storage   bag it with a washable paper bag

Even better for the ecological ones amongst us… they are made using a virgin fibre from cultivation and NOT through deforestation.

The paper is treated using a similar process to leather where the paper is stretched and tanned. They come in four sizes and three basic colours (natural, black and white…)… however there is also a gold and silver laminate for those of you who like a bit of bling on your bread bag!

 

Photo: UASHMAMA® Laminated Silver and Gold Paper Bags...Washable!!!

Fortunately for us Aussies Object Trouve came across ‘Uash Mama’ (pronounced wash mama) bags when they were travelling through Italy earlier this year, and bought them back to the country of green and gold.

The revolution of the paper bag does not just stop there, they also have shopping bags with a hand woven handle… these would be perfect for shopping, or hanging flowers and plants.

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And my favourite little addition is the little terracotta warmer that you can heat up in the oven to keep you Pain au Chocolate or Panini nice and toasty warm!

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The technique has also been used to create little lampshades which can be placed over glasses…

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….The perfect little stocking filler…. or even stocking perhaps…..Now there is an idea girls…. just remember you heard it here…. on with the colourful journey…..

 

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Table Manners – Upstyling étiquette

One of my late mother’s pet hates was a lack of table manners. Ensuring that you do not start your meal until everyone is ready to commence, correctly holding and utilising your knife and fork, no talking with your mouth full, sauce bottles and takeaways should be dispensed into dishes….. not just dumped on the table….. and you do not get down from the table until everyone has finished ( I could go on but I think you would get the gist)…. In other words we were required to imagine the Queen was sat at the table…. Yes well I am yet to have ever seen the Queen at my table, but is amazing how some of those little traits rub off and for all those who are of the same mould, or feel the they may need a little help in cleaning up their act, here are a few little helpers to get you on your way.

Classy Takeaway

Be done with those greasy takeout boxes and plastic containers. Saturday night in front of the telly can take on a bit of class with relatively little effort with these metal style Chinese takeout boxes from Lunares Home. You don’t even have to empty the carton, it just slips right into the container.  They even come with their own matching chop sticks.

Ben and Jerrys Chic

A quick and easy desert of ice cream can now be glammed up with another Lunares top seller. The ice cream holder is designed to hold an entire pint ice cream carton so that it can be bought to the table with a whole lot of style and little effort. A clever loop on the side holds the scoop. Another bonus is that the pot keeps the ice cream colder, longer. You can also get them in smaller sizes for a little individual indulgence.

And for those that like to be colour co-ordinated with their gelato flavour…

You are never too young to learn…..

Save your child the embarrassment of trying to work out which knife and fork to use for each course, and the appropriate side for their beaker to be placed….with these kooky designs from Japanese design company Funfam.

TABLE MANNERS SET

The creator of Funfam, Tsuneyuki Fujoka, designed these place settings like jigsaw puzzles with very stylish and simple lines. The  Funfam place settings are made by hand from natural bamboo, a material that’s 100% ecological and easy for children to handle. In the European version (above), the child can choose his or her place setting according to the food he’s going to eat, a mini fork for a little appetiser and a spoon for soup – in the Japanese version (below), each type of food finds its own place in sweet little bowls for soup or rice, and in the tiny little plate for a salad. The place settings are packaged in plaited bamboo boxes, which are practical for carrying them. The mini sets also include little fabric bags so that the child can take their own plates and cutlery wherever they go….. not sure whether that would take off but you never know!

TAKUZEN SET

Never to late for teenagers either…………

Front Cover

Well if the European Table Manners setting above came a bit late for your teenagers do not fear… The late Walter Hoving (1897-1989), who was the former chairman of Tiffany’s of New York, penned “Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers as a result of his belief that the simple skill is sadly neglected. He believed that good table manners, which are often overlooked, should start early in life so they become used automatically. The book has recently been republished by Random House and is available for all good houses lacking in teenage etiquete via Amazon.

“It is customary for the young man to help the young lady on his right to be seated. When you both have been seated, don’t look around like a startled beetle {modern day version would be don’t pull out your iPhone and start Facebooking that you have just been sat next to a real stunner…. get in!!}. Turn directly to the young lady on your right and start talking.”

The book whilst written with the intention of a serious purpose, essentially has a humorous edge, which together with clever vintage illustrations by the late and highly acclaimed fashion illustrator Joe Eula (whose illustrations have been published in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar), makes a good coffee table read. As for it’s relation to the modern day table texting teenager…. one critic does comment on whether there would be many teenagers who need to signal to the butler that they have finished with the finger bowl!

And just because you are outdoors…..

….don’t think that the etiquette dies with the picnic.  London based designer Demelza has created Snap and Dine has created the perfect kit to ensure that your manners remain to a high standard in any outdoor situation…

Snap and Dine

“Snap and Dine is a single use three-course table setting that integrates disposable cutlery with traditional silverware. The portable lunch setting expands the possibilities of eating outdoors in style whilst reinforcing the correct use of cutlery, which has been lost over time. This is achieved through the decorative qualities and formal setting which are both a visual references to fine dinning. This product is fun and interactive whilst raising the standards of current eating on the go habits.”

Quite how this would go down at the back yard Aussie BBQ with the lads after a few tinnies…. but if you are game to try!!

So now we have all finished the lesson on modern day ideas to help you keep your table manners in check….. you are excused and may get down from the table….
…..On with the colourful journey……….
 
 

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Divine Inspiration from the Vatican

I thought I would share a little ray of sunshine with you today…  I promise you that this is not going to be a history lesson… partly because I would probably get it horribly wrong (I am always a little bad at retaining the facts!), but also because this blog is more about colour, design and inspiration, and being someone who loves the visual I wanted to file away some of the beautiful colours, textures that I saw.

Step one (as anyone writing a blog will know) is praying for a little divine intervention in the world of my inspiration…. and yes if ever anyone would like their home painted like the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican Church….. umm well…. I will see what I can do, but are you sure you would not like a nice Dulux Hogsbristle Quarter strength throughout???

Me praying for a little divine inspiration – Source Birdcage Design

So enough written, here are a few textures and inspirations that one day may showcase in the “House of Birdcage” Designer collection…. ok…ok…. maybe I am asking a little bit too much from the Big Man…. but hey don’t ask, don’t get so it is worth a try!!!

Mosaics and flooring….

Every inch of these buildings has some form of intricate design work and a story to tell, the issue being with an average of 80,000 people looking round a day it is a little hard to get to fully appreciate everything for long….

…with such vivid colours still shining through….

Doors and Ceilings

Not an inch of space is not considered….. from doors to ceilings to alcoves, each fighting for a spot to tell their story…

Guilded carved door panel – Source Birdcage Design

Showing my true colour geek side,… i just love the contrast of the raspberry colour against the Bronze…. they sure know how to showcase their treasures…

No Natural White Dulux on the ceilings here!!….

My Favourite had to be the little Bee mural as you walk into the Vatican Crypt….(below)

Well I hope you enjoyed my divine intervention…. I will leave you with a Pope’s eye view….. and on with the colourful journey………

 

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Forty Eight Hours in Palermo – Meandering the Markets

9am – Getting lost in the Markets

If you are in Palermo on a weekday then you have to hit Palermo’s famous outdoor markets.  There are a number of markets and many run into each other, the most famous being Vucciria market (which means voices or hubbub) – which accurately reflects the bustling, bartering notes all around, there is also Ballaro, and Borgo Vecchio and Mercato del Capo.

The markets sell a variety of produce from handicraft to clothes, but the real draw card is the food produce…. and this is where you kind of wished you had gone self catering…… the prices compared to home are unbelievable.  We spotted 10kg of vine ripened tomatoes for just two Euro….. compared to A$5 for 8 tomatoes in Australia….. (yes it is times like this you curse Australia’s strict Customs requirements!)

The vibrant fruit and veg….. through to the herbs and spices….. and dodging vespas

11.00 am – Cathedral Influence of Monreale

After the occupation of Palermo by the Arabs the Bishop of Palermo was forced to move his seat outside the capital. The role of the new cathedral was assigned to a modest little church, Aghia Kiriaki in the village nearby which was later called Monreale.  A little bus journey from Palermo will take you to visit this beautiful little town.  Although we were not to clever and of course go there for the siesta time… but never to be deterred there was a perfectly good little gelato cafe to while away some time and curb the heat.

The Arabic influences are very prominent with the  outsides of the principal doorways and their pointed arches  enriched with carving and coloured inlay, combining  three styles – Norman-French, Byzantine and Arab (above and below).

3.30 pm – Palermo Cathedral

One way to escape the heat of summer is to slip into Palermo cathedral (one tip is to carry a lightweight shawl with you to cover your shoulders otherwise you have to wear a paper tablecloth if you are bearing a little bit of flesh!).  This is one place where you can see all of the influences that have run through the city over the centuries. Being built at the end of the 1100’s, it  has been modified in each century to suit the Roman, Baroque, Gothic and more modern movements.  Each competing and complimenting in their own way.  Unfortunately no photo’s were allowed…. and even though people were a little sneaky… I always feel a little superstitious in a religious building… just in case the big man is watching down!

Palermo Cathederal – Source Birdcage Design

Well if that does not cool you down then there is always a little sneaky Gelato stop to help fight the heat! (yes two gelato’s in one day… no wonder the skirts are a little tight!)

7.30pm – Loosing yourself in the streets of Palermo

Early family strolls are part of the culture in Italy, the perfect way to work up the appetite. And as you are beginning to understand from the rest of this post trying to find our destinations usually took a little longer to do than we had anticipated meaning we kind of took on the twilight stroll culture without much effort….. but usually the destination was worth it.  Taking a tip from an article in a magazine we set off to find the perfect place for a glass of wine and a taste of the local cheeses…. unfortunately in the 2 weeks that the magazine had been published the recommendation was no longer there…. oh well (note to self always check a business is still running before you walk an hour to try and find it!)…. but the same magazine did come up trumps with the next two recommendations…..

9pm –  Dinner in the piazza followed by a literary nightcap

For a modern twist on the traditional recipes, we headed for Piazza Sant’Andrea,  Ristorante Santandrea, is the  kind of restaurant you would walk past if you did not know it was there, in fact you walk past it a couple of times to check that it really is there…. but well worth it for a true, relatively central, taste of sicily.

We then headed to a bar on the front on Palermo called Kursaal Kalhesa (below), this is one of the signs of the more modern middle class cultural movements slowly infiltrating Palermo, with cultural events taking place over a couple of glasses of Prosecco….. The bar is set in a cave like book shop which morphs into a cafe / night time bar, and has the perfect roof garden bar/restaurant for a night cap to finish off a busy day!  (Well it is very hard sampling Gelato you know!!)

source vogue Italy

kk4

Source Runningheels.co.uk

9.30 am – Back on the road

On with the colourful journey………………

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Art, Italy, Recipes, Travel

 

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Forty Eight Hours in Palermo – Raw Prawns and Fiat 500’s

After a relaxing break in Taormina we headed back into our trusty hire car with the GPS fully charged and ready to go off on our next big adventure…… Palermo.

After decades of Mafia domination, Sicily’s chief city has been cited as re-emerging as one of Europe’s great capitals. There is however a great contrast in the city itself.  Whilst it is starting to entertain elegant, middle-class shopping quarters within it’s ancient walls, there is still a sense of a city with a long way to go.  In it’s day the city would have played host to some magnificent grandeur buildings, which, although are still there, many are decaying into a memory which you just pray they have the ability to restore,…. or someone with a little entrepreneurial foresight takes a punt on an investment that might come good in years to come….anyone got a couple of spare dollars to lend??

Palermo Cathederal – Source Birdcage Design

But despite it’s developing rough edges you cannot help having a little bit of soft spot for the city which, through its myriad of winding alleyways, full of little bars, shops and bustling outdoor markets, is full of Italian passion and life. For anyone looking for inspiration, whether it be architecture, design, food or culture, this is a city that you may just want to pop your head into for a couple of days – as it has a little mixing pot of everything to whet your inspirational fire….

4.30pm…. Fresh off the Boat

One of the main staples of Sicilian food… if you had not guessed already is fish, and Palermo was one of the first places where I actually tasted raw prawn… they are literally that fresh that you can do so (but one little note these guys are not auditioning for Materchef, so do not be surprised if you do have to remove your own poop shoot!) but I can honestly say it is worth it…. they are to die for.

Palermo Fish Fresh off the Boat – Source Birdcage Design

If you are really wanting to look like a tourist then I can definitely recommend stoping off with your camera to watch the fisherman bring in their afternoon hauls ready for the evening restaurant shifts…

6pm – Negotiate the Traffic and travel with a True Style Icon

Back in the car we are left at the whim of our very cultured GPS to take us around the one way systems of Palermo in rush hour…. you know that point where you see the hotel but you are stuck to follow the winding lanes and what should take you ten seconds takes you an hour. You do start to develop the Italian bravado and very quickly learn that they do not want to dent their car any more than you so ….somehow the chaos of the roads is actually very civilised.  You just push in front and somehow that is OK – because to be frank if you do not they are not going to wait for you!…. in Australia or the UK that would almost certainly result in a two finger salute…. but here…well we survived!

One little style icon that cannot go without mentioning is the fantabulous Fiat 500, they are the car of choice in Italy (and much of Europe come to that).  Whether the vintage 1957 model or the modern remake they are everywhere…. I did have a very romantic dream of travelling around Italy in one…. to which my husband replied… “sure, but where are you going to put your travelling wardrobe and shoes!”….. so yes the estate car won!…. oh well my little Bambini – maybe next time.

8pm Hitting the Town

Well…..as you are probably beginning to tell much of the trip to Italy was about tasting the food… well it would be very rude not to.  And inspired by the catches we had seen coming off of the boats we decided to take ourselves to a little place that came with high recommendation.  “Trattoria Piccolo Napoli”…. one thing with Palermo is that the best places are hidden in areas that you would never know to look… you may think that somewhere will take you ten minutes to get to , but I would usually triple that estimation….. but once you get there it will not disappoint!  One good sign is that it is filled with locals and given how the Italians are about their food, you know that you are onto a good thing……

The Trattoria Family – source lucianopignataro.it

Now remember those raw prawns I told you about……. here they are. Just a little bit of lemon juice and salt is all you need!

11pm tired feet and sweet dreams……

Day one at a close, tummy nicely full, and “cankles” coming into fruition, it was time to head back to the hotel……

One tip before I go ……for those who take the road to Palermo…..get yourself a good map – GPS on our phone became our friend (although not looking forward to the phone bill).  It is so easy to become absorbed into the little streets that you quickly loose where you are hence the “cankles!!!”

On with the colourful journey………………

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Art, Interior Design, Italy, Travel, Trends

 

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Taormina – A Warm Sicilian Welcome (and a bit of indulgence)

After a fair amount of travelling and catching up with family we left on a little plane for the beautiful Italian Island of Sicily.  Arriving at the airport and picking up our hire car (about the only automatic car that they seemed to have!) we took ourselves out on to the Italian Roads…….and……. yes….. it was not long before we turned back to the hire car centre to pick up GPS – for a number of reasons

Firstly….. my Italian beyond Prosciutto and Bella is a little scarce and the sign posts are… quite rightly as one would expect… in… well Italian.

Secondly…. for the sake of our marriage…. getting lost at night… when you are driving in Italy… on what to us is the wrong side of the road…. is second only to a trip around IKEA to cause that marital tension (and yes I have that female affliction of directing with my hands instead of simply verbally articulating “left” and “right”!).

And an unexpected third bonus of the GPS was that it was very funny listening to the Cockney computer generated voice trying to pronounce Italian street names…. (yes It does not take much to make me smile!)

Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily, Italy

The only downside to the GPS is that it does not factor in the boom gates that you need to enter to get to our hotel…..fortunately Mr Italian Concierge (our knight in shining armor) came to rescue us right back!

All tension and speed limit infringements were immediately forgotten when we arrived at our hotel… and here are some photo’s of the view from Hotel Timeo….. where we got to experience three days of how the other half live….! Good old fashioned service!

With the smouldering active Mount Etna in the distance contrasted with the lush and fertile land and the beautiful crystal clear sea it was very easy to drift away….. Above is a view of the coast line, and in the near ground the lush gardens of our hotel….as you can imagine our backsides did not move too far from the hotel. Although…. they did have a complimentary bus that takes you to their private beach and a complimentary boat which leaves at 10am each morning to show you around the coastline…..yes yes yes I could have got very used to this…. but not so sure my credit card could cope!

How gorgeous are the cheerful Bougainvillea lined streets outside the hotel (below)……

Ok so now my daydreaming back to distant memories is fixed above…. if you ever get to go to Taormina here are a few musts…..

Food and Things……

1. If you are looking for somewhere special to stay then I would really recommend Hotel Timeo, although the area is so beautiful I don’t think you would honestly find yourself hard pressed to enjoy your stay in any of the accommodation in the area.

2. Always ask the locals where, given the choice of some beautiful traditional food they would eat, and they will generally send you in the direction of the best places that you would never have found on your own…. And in this instance we were certainly not disappointed.  The stand out restaurant for us was a place called Trattoria Da Nino. It looks very simple from the outside… but trust me if you are a Seafood lover….. then this is the place for you… you need to try the Carpaccio of Prawns served in fresh orange and Lemon juice with a sprinkle of olive oil….the best!

We also got lucky and had a live Sicilian street band serenade the restaurant with songs which, together with a glass of Pinot Grigio made for a fantastic little Sicilian experience.

3. A trip up to Mount Etna…. I have to admit we ran out of time on this one,… maybe next time. (Mount Etna smouldering in the background of the picture below).  It is also a little chilly up there so make sure you take something warm!

4. The Greek Theatre… this is the best place for an early evening stroll to get the best views of Taormina and to soak up a little bit of history.  The picture above is taken from the Theatre (and below)

5. Now if late night shopping is more your thing then you cannot resist getting a little lost in the lanes showcasing the Sicilian ceramics and culinary delights of marzipan fruits, biscotti and Limoncello… with the odd designer clothes shop thrown in for good measure!!

6. And if those weary little legs cannot carry you any further then finish the night (or even start the night) with a cocktail overlooking Taormina from at the Hotel Metropole – The little snacks that come with the drinks are the perfect little Italian bonus! What better way to watch the world go by….

I hope you enjoyed my little tour of Taormina…. now on with the colourful journey….

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Art, Interior Design, Italy, Travel

 

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