We are big fans of Home Beautiful magazine’s relaxed, pretty style, so we’re very excited to feature Editor Wendy Moore today! Here she shares her own Christmas plans, along with some of her favourite images from the Christmas issue of the magazine. She has also shopped Temple & Webster to find her favourite products, and you can find these in the special Wendy Moore Collection sale event.

My Christmas style is: 

Simple, Australian, and easy to carry! My whole family heads to our holiday house on the Hawkesbury River, it’s a logistics feat every year. Everything – gifts, food and luggage has to fit in the car, then transfer to a boat, then off and up 86 stairs to the house. My sister is a florist, and she always makes a beautiful centrepiece for the table using the Christmas bush and the natives around the house. It’s always lovely.

This year I’ll be buying:

Lots and lots of kids’ stuff! My mother spends a day taking care of our girls, so my husband and I can do a day of secret shopping – we both love it. I guess I’ll be buying Peppa Pig and Angelina Ballerina! I always have fun shopping for my three sisters though, for every gift I give them; there is always a part of me that wishes I bought another for myself!

My failsafe Christmas styling tip is:

Keep the table simple and uncluttered; the food will become your decoration. The centerpiece should be low so conversation can flow easily over it, and I like a little personal place setting. One year I collected wooden scrabble tiles, drilled a hole in them and made a simple wine glass tag with an initial for each person, we still use them now.

This Christmas I’ll be serving :

To be absolutely honest, I always cook something from the Christmas issue of Home Beautiful. I often get to watch our food economist, Kerry Worner, cook it at the shoot – so I’ve already seen how simple it actually is. This year I’m tossing up between the Cranberry and rum fruit mince tarts and the Mango, lychee and blueberry pavlova. I don’t think my budget will stretch to making the Lobster tails with tarragon, shallot and vermouth butter – not when there are more than 25 of us in total!

My Christmas playlist includes:

I just go for the classics – who can go past a bit of Bing on Christmas day? Mix in some Dean Martin, Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald and everything is right in the world.

All I want for Christmas is:

A holiday! I want days and days with my husband and children with no plans whatsoever.

My biggest Christmas disaster was:

I remember getting a brand new fishing rod as a kid and promptly dropping it into the river within a couple of days. Never to be recovered!

After Christmas I’m planning to:

Disappear somewhere on the South Coast of NSW, finally get back on my surfboard, and make no further plans for a couple of weeks!

The Christmas issue of Home Beautiful is available now, or subscribe and never miss an issue. Hint – a subscription makes a great gift, too!

Shop the Wendy Moore Collection today.

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As the owner of Garden Life in Sydney’s Redfern, Richard Unsworth has designed and advised on countless inner city gardens and is adept at making the most of small spaces. Here he shares some advice in an extract from his new book Garden Life. Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy – full details are below. 

Our gardens and outdoor spaces are becoming smaller as more and more of us are living in the inner city where, if we have a garden at all, it is a small courtyard or balcony. Small spaces are very unforgiving, because everything is on show all at once. In a larger garden, the odd plant that is sick or not performing can be hidden by healthier, flourishing specimens. On a balcony one dead plant will stick out like dog’s balls; there is no room for error, or plants that don’t perform, or something that clashes or is the wrong shape or size.

So how do you approach small space garden design? What techniques can you employ to transform a harsh space into a verdant, restful and stylish retreat?

The laser-cut Geo screening diffuses the car space and provides a backdrop to a lush corner containing giant bird of paradise, Aeonium, jade and giant mondo grass.

CREATING VERTICAL SPACE

When you have limited floor space it is essential to consider what vertical space is available. It might be at either end of a balcony, a garden fence or just the side of a building.

I bought these beautifully detailed Turkish tiles and used them as the focal point in this leafy Paddington courtyard.

Climbing plants

One solution is climbing plants, but beware as I have seen far too many failed climbers in pots. If you are going to use pots, make sure you choose large ones with reliable irrigation. Climbing plants will often grow well at first, then dry out as they become pot bound, making the entire wall look dead.  To avoid this happening, be prepared to re-pot them every few years, and make sure they are kept-watered.

Star Jasmine has always been a great climber for a sunny wall, and it will grow wherever there is a support. The self supporting Boston Ivy on a render boundary or house wall is very stylish and looks terrific in winter when the stems are bare.  We use Creeping Fig a lot as it is a versatile climber, which will blanket ugly fences or harsh walls (no wires required) and grow in full sun or shade. It will need clipping four times a year to stop it becoming overgrown (it has a bad name for this)

Olive, resplendent in front of the composition of Indian jali screens and wall-mounted foliage.

Screens

Consider installing a screen on the wall as a feature, or for privacy. There are a plethora of laser-cut screens now available in many different styles and finishes, so you should be able to find something you like, whether it is a screen with an earthy, finish or a slick, powder-coated colour that will blend with an interior colour scheme.

I love using our Indian jali screens to create a patchwork pattern on slick rendered walls. We bring them in from Rajasthan, and they are full of character, warmth and history. They work in both a classic and contemporary space; it all depends on how they are configured on a wall. Old Indian doors can also add weight and warmth in the right space, it is just a question of personal taste and what you are drawn towards. You can also use the plants themselves to create a screen.

Faux bamboo sofa underneath hanging planters filled with epiphyllum.

Hanging pots

Hanging pots are useful in tight corners and other hard-to-plant areas and can easily liven up a small space.

Painted fences

A good solution for making new timber fences look more attractive is to paint them a dark colour and grow a climber up them (depending on the light conditions). Dark colours help green to stand out, so don’t be afraid to use something like charcoal – it will help make your boundary fence really disappear and show off your foliage.

The linear form and precise placement of the sandstone make the tiny space seem much larger.

Quickfire questions

My favourite gardening culture is incorporating edibles into our own gardens – so we can make fresh mint tea, or pick thyme for a roast chicken.
I would never tolerate Philodendron xanadu in my garden.
The first plant I ever loved was trailing lobelia.
The garden colour combination I can’t abide is red, orange and golden yellow
The best garden in Australia is Retford Park in Bowral.

Garden Life (order your copy here) by Richard Unsworth, photography by Nicholas Watt, is published by Penguin/Lantern (RRP $49.99).

Leave a comment below before 5pm (AEDT) Friday 28 November 2014 to win a copy of Garden Life by Richard UnsworthYou must be a member of Temple & Webster to enter, and you may only enter once. We’ll pick our favourite comments and contact the winners via Facebook or email by Friday 5 December 2014. If we are unable to contact the winner(s) within 30 days we’ll pick an alternative winner.

Posted in   Books, OutdoorTags  0 comments

The wonderful Maggie Beer is well-known for her no-fuss approach to delicious home cooking. Many of her products have a cult following (have you tried her ice cream?!) which is why we’re so pleased to feature a selection of her hampers and much-loved cookbooks in today’s sale event. 

We asked Maggie to share some Christmas cooking advice, along with two classic festive recipes. Merry Christmas!

This Christmas I’ll be serving:
Fresh oysters with a verjuice vinaigrette and a glass of sparkling
Christmas salad
Roast goose with apple, onion and sage stuffing
Apple Aioli
My Christmas pudding and brandy butter sauce
Sparkling ruby cabernet jelly set with cherries

My favourite food at Christmas is: the abundance of fresh, ripe locally grown stone fruit; peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries – wonderful.

My biggest Christmas indulgence is: very good champagne

My biggest Christmas disaster was: relying on our dam for yabbies before I knew how hit and miss each season is!

The best advice I can give to the Christmas cook is: be organised ahead of time, it makes every difference to how relaxed you are on the day. No one likes a stressed host!

My Christmas playlist includes: Opera, opera and more opera!

After Christmas I’m planning to: relax. Of course I say that every year but there’s always the next meal to think about!

Quince Glazed Ham

Ingredients

5.5kg ham on the bone
1/2 cup Maggie Beer Quince Glaze
1/4 cup seeded mustard
1 cup water

Method

Pre heat oven to 240–250C (or as hot as your oven will go).

To remove the skin from the ham, make a small cut just through the skin around the knuckle of the ham, then by using your fingers, push them between the skin and the fat and use the other hand to peel back the skin, then gently work your way from the top of the ham down to the knuckle.

Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the ham just through to the fat creating a diamond pattern.

Place the ham onto a lined baking tray with a trivet and pour the water onto the tray, this will prevent the juices from burning.

Place the quince glaze and mustard into a mixing bowl. Mix well, smother over ham.

Place into the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes to achieve a good burnish.

Remove from the oven and carve at the table.

Fruit mince tartlets

Ingredients

60g flaked almonds
3 granny smith apples
1/3 cup Verjuice
200g seedless raisins
200g Dried Moorepark Apricots
100g dried figs
200g sultanas
250g currant
150g dried cumquat slices
100g mixed peel
1 orange
1 lemon
200g brown sugar
2 tblspn honey
2 tspn mixed spice
1 tspn nutmeg freshly grated
150ml cumquat liqueur
175g unsalted butter

For pastry:

150g unsalted butter chilled
225g unbleached plain flour
75g self-raising flour
55g icing sugar
1 free range egg yolk
2 1/2 tbspn iced water

Method

Preheat the oven to 220C. Roast the almonds on a baking tray for about 5 minutes, shaking the tray to prevent the nuts from burning. Allow to cool, then chop.

Peel and coarsely grate the apples, then cover with Verjuice to prevent discolouration. Chop the raisins, apricots and figs. Combine these in a glass or ceramic bowl with the apple and remaining ingredients, except the butter, and mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic film and leave at room temperature for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Next day, melt the butter and stir it through the fruit mince.

To make the pastry, dice the chilled butter. Blend the flours, icing sugar and diced butter in a food processor until well combined and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and iced water and, using the pulse button, process until the mixture starts to come together. Shape the pastry into a disc, then wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 210C. Roll out the pastry until 3mm thick on a lightly floured bench. Cut rounds of pastry to line the moulds you are using, then cut a corresponding number of lids (I make 36 tiny tarts in mini-muffin trays). Line the moulds with pastry, then add a spoonful of fruit mince and top with a lid, pressing down on the edges to seal the tarts. Make a small cross in the top of each tart with the point of a knife. Bake for 12 minutes, then allow to cool in the trays. (If you are using larger moulds you will have to bake the tarts for a longer time – the pastry should be golden brown).

Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Shop for Maggie Beer’s gourmet hampers and cookbooks today

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We’ve curated a collection of coffee tables to suit every style - but the coffee table is only the beginning! Here we share styling tips for three key looks.

Image – Verandah House interiors.

Breezy beauty

You’ll love this if you care about comfort as well as looks – the generously sized table is sturdy enough for feet-up moments and coping with family life.

Why it works White furniture is a perennial favourite for a crisp, clean look, and the fresh green vase and natural accents bring the outdoors in.

Mix with a sisal rug for a coastal vibe, or vintage accents and pretty flowers for a modern country look.

Bonus points Drawers and an extra low shelf mean there’s plenty of room for magazines, books, beachcombing finds or the kids’ treasures.

Image – Urban Outfitters Home via Pinterest

Design darling

You’ll love this if you have an eye for mid-century style and a soft spot for graphic pattern and colour pops.

Why it works The geometric accents and faceted ceramics play off the angled legs of the table, with enough colour to add interest without being loud.

Mix with a circular rug to contrast with the straight lines, and metallic accents for an on-trend touch

Top tip Succulents, succulents, succulents. They fit with the retro vibe and are the least needy plants we know.

Image – Design Manifest via Pinterest

Luxe lover

You’ll love this if you’re a fan of understated glamour and sophisticated style.

Why it works Reflective surfaces and rich materials add an air of luxury, while the neutral palette means texture is key.

Mix with a generous bunch of peonies and a scented candle; try a vibrant patterned rug or gold-flecked hide.

Stylist’s secret If space is limited, a round table can help allow for easy flow through the room.

Explore our coffee table collection today.

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Megan Morton – author, stylist and founder of creative hub The School – is more attuned than most to the visual feast that India offers, so we asked her to translate some of what she found on a recent trip into lessons for styling at home.

When Natalie Portman came to shoot Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited in India she spent 10 days travelling for the 20 mins she was required on set to shoot.  This goes a long way to explain the way India works on its guests. Mostly it has its own time sequence. For some, an hour in this incredible place is more excitement than a whole lifetime outside of it. And while I am here for work, I am finding it hard to actually get any of it done. It’s beyond distracting. And there is no point in a rigid plan of attack or strict to-do lists, it seems to gobble you up and take you – like swimming against a current, resistance is almost useless. So this week we are going to do a Natalie Portman and take some lessons from the ever abundant India.  What is there to learn in terms of the home? So very, very much!

1. Feature Front Door 

Nothing drains your iPhone faster than the photos you will take of the incredible Indian gates and doors. It’s like the whole country has handshaked on making every doorway somehow special. Painted, stained, studded and adorned, no doorway goes without attention. And nor should yours.

What could you do to add some impact (either subtle or the slap-in-your-face type) to your own front door? Apartments need not go without. Even the smallest of Indian entries make the effort. Paint is only one of the many options. An elaborate knocker, a house number in brass, a vial for a daily offering of flowers. Or my favourite forever-summer house door is a row of horizontal studs top and bottom for subtle attention. Paint out with an iron effect paint and just add bougainvillea to trail up, over and around the doorway. And for that perennial winter front-of-house, paint it out Domino Black (Dulux), add a nickel knocker, keyless entry and flank with a pair of olives in zinc pots.

2. Volume

It seems that India got the memo about ‘more being more’. Actually they were the ones that issued the memo in the first place. Every market, every stall and every low and high end store goes all out, in the same way Bergdorfs does come December.

The tips I take from this relate to the volume in shelves and our own display areas. Small piles spread over the shelving area is the starting point. Spreading them in a here, there and everywhere fashion creates small bites of interest over a large item like a boring bookshelf. I would keep any larger items just to the left or right not as to centre it. The most riveting and eye catching displays work when the major item/piece is not smack bang bullseye centre.

3. Print

What’s so brilliant about Indian textiles is not just their individual exquisiteness, but the way, when they are multiplied, the result is more like a millionified. We usually add a print in to throw off the course of solids and plains. But what’s the point having a small little exclamation mark with just one print when you can go for a room full of fun with multiples?  More really does present as more.

What I can appreciate from this is that more more works for those who run a little on the messy side as well as the overly neat. Fixed up prim and proper or bohemian driven, it works both ways.

4. Offerings

Giving thanks is the backbone of life in India. The mantels, the small ledges, the shelves – any left over surface is given over to offerings of fruit, flowers (those marigolds!) and incense. Whether you make an offering station in your own space or simply take time in the day to make a mental gratitude, it is the way most Indians get through their day.  In the midst of such diversity, the commonality of prayer and offerings joins India graciously.

Bring a bit of India back home and assign your own offering station – try on the mantelpiece, the top left of the piano, by the bedside or front of all in the kitchen.

5. Navy

The softer cousin to black, the ever elegant solid. Try to find a colour that is doesn’t work back with. Let’s go through the list. Navy with mustard. Check. Navy with black and white. Check. Navy with hot pink, white and a slash of tangerine. Navy with stone, oatmeal and magnolia. Navy with slice of silver and puce. Check. Check. Check. India shows us a rainbow of choice with all coordinates leading to navy.

6. Planting. 

Beyond pots or garden beds, amazing things seem to grow even through the cracks and crevices in India. India proves that life always finds a way, and when given extra human intervention, goes a long way in creating a home and a street that feels like it’s thriving. Want a living room that sings of health and happiness? Just add a plant. If your fingers are green, attempt a flowering plant but otherwise,  just literally add a plant!  Improves the oxygen levels and so much more.

Door images by Maya Vidulich.

Follow Megan on Instagram @megan_morton or @theschoolinstagram.

There are a few places left at classes at The School before Christmas, plus you can give a voucher for Christmas or book yourself in for a creative journey in 2015.

Posted in   Styling, TravelTags  3 comments

Jono Fleming shares a family tradition involving sugar, fruit and a dash of creativity.

In my book, there are a few staples for the Christmas table: grilled prawns, a big glazed ham, and a beautiful fruit covered pavlova to finish. Ever since I was a little kid, its been a Christmas tradition at my house to make this pavlova with my mum.

It’s fun to unleash your inner cake decorator and personalise the pav with your favourite fruit. This time I added some beautiful edible flowers to cut through the sweetness of the meringue and balance out the sour and tart flavours of the fruit and berries. Have fun with your version, be creative and start your own traditions. Remember, no one’s ever too young to help out with dessert!

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

6 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups caster sugar
3 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
600ml thickened cream
3 passionfruits
1 punnet of raspberries
1 punnet of strawberries
1 punnet of blueberries
2-3 kiwi fruits (golden if available)
Seasonal edible flowers (available from green grocers or your local food market)

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 150°C and line two standard baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, little by little, allowing the sugar to dissolve before adding more. Mix on high for three minutes after all the sugar has been added.

In a small bowl, combine the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract, mix well and then fold through the egg white mix until combined.

Using a spatula, spread the meringue over one of the baking trays, forming a large rectangle. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C and bake the meringue for 40 minutes.

Once the meringue starts to colour slightly, remove from the oven and place the other baking tray (with baking paper) over the top and flip the meringue over. The meringue will crack slightly but this will be covered later. Allow the meringue to cool completely.

To decorate, whip the cream until it holds firm. Spread a thin layer of cream on the flipped meringue surface. Drizzle the passion fruit pulp and place raspberries on top. Now for the slightly tricky part: roll the pavlova tightly, trying not to crush the meringue.

From here it’s up to you how to present and decorate. I usually cover the pavlova in a layer of cream and then layer the fruit down the middle of the log.

Slice to serve and enjoy this fantastic, never fail, show stopper of a dessert! Merry Christmas…

 Serve your summer pavlova with Royal Doulton’s colourful tableware.

Posted in   Dish of the day1 comment

Alice Topp is a dancer in the corps de ballet at The Australian Ballet. After a busy end to 2014 with performances in La Bayadère and The Nutcracker, she is looking forward to putting her feet up!

My Christmas style is: Low maintenance!

It’s such a crazy time of year but Christmas for me is all about unwinding and enjoying the precious company of family and friends. I’m performing right up until Christmas in The Australian Ballet’s The Nutcracker, a production we opened in Melbourne in September, so I feel like I’ve been decking the halls and cracking the nuts for a few months now! After roughly 200 shows in 2014, our Christmas break is a great opportunity to put our feet up, return home after a jam-packed year of touring and cherish time spent with loved ones. If I was to define my Christmas style, I’d say it’s all about fun prints, florals, colour and movement.

Alice at the front of the ‘Kingdom of the shades’ scene in La Bayadère.

This year I’ll be buying: Mangoes, cider and brooches!

My go-to accessory of the moment would have to be novelty brooches and badges. They jushe up any ensemble, are a great talking point and make for wonderful gifts. My current favourites are the Bowie, Frida Kahlo and Wes Anderson themed numbers from the wonderful Andsmile. I’m also in love with a custom design range of earrings from Etsy shop Sleepy Mountain. This year my friends can expect to receive the Breaking Bad, Seinfeld and Steve Buscemi designs.

My failsafe Christmas styling tip is: Spend less time in shops and more time getting creative!

I always find handmade or recycled wrapping paper, makeshift cards and tags and the use of any art ‘n’ craft knick-knacks far more exciting when gift-giving! As kids, one of our Christmas activities with Mum was spray painting gum leaves from our garden in metallic gold and silver and using them as gift tags. One year my friend Gabriella gave me a 7 inch record with a super funny title as a Christmas card which I still have up on my mantelpiece. These are the things you remember and hold onto.

This Christmas I’ll be serving: I’d like to say my contribution at the family Christmas luncheon will be a smashing summer salad of fresh greens, mango, prawn and coriander with a chilli and lime dressing (my staple salad) but in reality, I’ll probably just make a dash to the supermarket and purchase my favourite fruitcake and custard!!

My Christmas playlist includes: The Black Keys, Father John Misty and an array of 80’s hits. I’ve recently been revisiting my collection of 80’s and 90’s cassette tapes.

All I want for Christmas is: Sleep, sunshine, cricket, friends and family time.

My biggest Christmas disaster was: Thankfully, it has yet to happen!!!

After Christmas I’m planning to: Hit the MCG for the Boxing Day cricket test, catch some sunshine and catch up on any overdue phone calls and letter-writing!

Follow The Australian Ballet via Facebook or on Instagram @ausballet

La Bayadère, a spectacular ballet following an epic story of love, betrayal and forbidden passion set against a backdrop inspired by 19th century visions of the exotic East, runs at the Sydney Opera House from 6 – 22 November. Tickets available via the Sydney Opera House or The Australian Ballet.

Posted in   ChristmasTags  1 comment

One of Australia’s most popular cooks, Anna Gare was a judge on Junior MasterChef and co-presenter of The Great Australian Bake-Off. This fresh and easy salad comes from her book Eat In (Murdoch), thanks to eatlove.

Labneh is yoghurt that has been strained in a cloth (traditionally made of muslin), to remove the whey. This process gives it a soft cheese-like texture, while preserving the yoghurt’s distinctive tang. The earthiness of the beetroot and beans paired with the creamy tang of the labneh make a gorgeous combination.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

300 g (101⁄2 oz) thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) baby beetroots (beets)
400 g (14 oz) podded broad (fava) beans
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 a lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few chives or mint leaves, sliced, to serve

Preparation

Strain the yoghurt overnight in a fine sieve or muslin (cheesecloth), placed over a bowl to catch the whey, in the fridge.

The next day, trim the leaves and stems off the beetroot, leaving 2.5 cm (1 inch) of the stem intact. Steam the beetroot in their skins for about 20 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork.

Remove the skins and stems under cold running water with your fingers (wear rubber gloves if you don’t want pink hands). If the beetroot are perfectly cooked, the skins should slide off easily.

Cook the broad beans in boiling water for 3–4 minutes (or 1 minute if using frozen beans), then drain and run under cold water to stop them cooking further. Pinch each bean between your fingers to remove the skin then put the beans in a small bowl, drizzle over some olive oil, squeeze over some of the lemon and season with salt and pepper.

Halve the beetroot and put in a bowl, drizzle over some olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the beetroot and beans over your favourite platter then top with quenelles (pretty little spoonfuls) of labneh. Scatter over the chives or mint leaves (or both), drizzle with some more olive oil then serve.

See more at eatlove.com.au where you can follow your favourite chefs, share their recipes and order their books.

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A collaboration between Shannon Sheedy of The Dharma Door and fabric designer Julie Paterson of Cloth Fabric seems like it was always meant to be. Both passionate about the power of community, they share a love for natural fibres and fabrics, and focus on hand-made work inspired by nature. Karen McCartney caught up with both Julie and Shannon to find out more, and you can see the results of their project in today’s Fair Trade storage essentials sale event.

Julie, what drew the two of you together to create a collaborative range?

I met Shannon at a trade fair a couple of years ago. We had adjoining booths. I loved her paper products, her storage bags and her personality. All three things were natural fresh and lovely. She and her products and her ethics all seemed to go together well. Authentic, trustworthy, real. I am drawn to people like this – I enjoy developing a working relationship with people like Shannon and Mick.

I’ve always wanted to develop a fair trade product but didn’t want to do it on my own. I produce all my own textiles locally. For 20 years I’ve been working with small-scale manufacturers here in NSW so I have not developed contacts with producers overseas.  Over the years I’ve understood  the benefits of partnering with people who share your passion but have different skills and experience. True teamwork that has  good potential for longevity works best for everyone.  I believe if you focus on the things you love,  are good at them, and work with others who do the same, things fall into place. And they did. The ‘Dharmas’ have been great to work with. Their focus over the last 10 years has been to source and work with artisans who produce high quality products in small batches from impoverished communities in Bangladesh. Shannon travels at least twice a year to be amongst the makers and has seen the communities flourish; in particular she has been around long enough to see the younger girls staying at school finishing their education, marrying later, delaying having children, having more power in their lives. The Dharmas  have built up a trust and a great working relationship with their makers and it showed in the products. So for me, getting involved with Shannon from a design perspective is working at my best. Along with every one else working at their best, together we produce the results we want easily.

Traditionally your inspiration is the Australian bush and landscape – did you deviate from that inspiration for this range?

This first range is a ‘best of Cloth’ – a group of our best loved geometric designs, chosen because they work well on The  Dharma Door products. The designs describe the Australian landscape in the form of symbols and motifs that themselves were drawings taken from my sketchbooks. Each design has a story attached to it too. Boardwalk ( the striped one) is about the erosion of the coast line – specifically the sand dunes and how we should always be mindful to walk on the boardwalks when we are at the beach. Spotcheck ( the spotty one) is about how we build connections when building new communities. The design was developed from a drawing I did when travelling down the south coast of NSW and seeing a bulldozer ploughing shapes and patterns into a hillside that used to have dairy cows on it.  New homes were being made there instead. A bit of a shock initially but people need places to live and so this was pattern of progress. Wollemi ( the diamond shaped one) is a close up of the cone of a Wollemi pine, the most ancient living tree in the world ( which just so happens to live in my ‘ hood up in the Blue Mountains). So each design has its own story and each story is rooted into the Australian landscape in one way or another.

What colour palette have you chosen to work with and why.? 

The colours in this range are quite a bit brighter and cleaner than the colours I usually use. I’m probably best known for an earthy palette that feels like it’s been dug up from the ground – oxide, bone and sepia – but  this time I wanted to create a range of colours that were simple, fresh and clean.  The Dharma Door products are accent pieces used in the home for flashes of colour to brighten up a corner of a room as well as a practical storage solutions. So I went with a bright white,  turquoise and indigo – high key,  high contrast colours combined with the natural jute basecloth.  And I’m loving this new direction, having already embraced it in my new designs for upholstery and curtaining fabric that come out very soon.

Natural fibres and non-toxic inks have always been core to the Cloth brand but was there any stretch in working with a company that is 100% free trade ?

When Shannon and I were first discussing the possibilities of working together I found out that the artists she works with all have the same kind of set up as I do in my shed up in the mountains. We are all very low-tech and hands on, old school style. We all screen print by hand with natural fabrics and water based inks yet we all work with the same basic technology too –  a bit of Illustrator and Photoshop knowledge. Nothing too fancy, just the basics. So it was very straightforward working together as our processes all talked to each other.

How did the design process work ?

Shannon gave me a range of the baskets to work with and I began translating my designs onto them, thinking about scale and the combinations of the designs that would work best.

I like to work with more design options than I need so that once sampled up we can pull out the final selection from a bigger initial group. I initially sent about 6 or 7 designs over to the artisans in Bangladesh, timing the artwork arriving by email with the arrival of Shannon to their workshop. She visits them regularly so together they have developed a great working relationship. Their communication is very good. A couple of designs were sampled whilst Shannon was there and when she returned she sent the swatches to me. With a little bit of back and forth tweaking colour or sometimes scale this was how the full range was completed – a couple at a time over a period of maybe 4 or 5 months.   This  back and forth and longer lead time for the development was the main difference for me from my usual experience of working locally with very quick turnaround times – but it wasn’t too bad considering exactly where the work was coming from and how basic the facilities there.

I think Shannon went over twice during the sampling stage – she is a very hands on coordinator who takes a lot of trouble to make sure the products are as she wants them to be. I appreciate that effort she takes.

Did you visit the makers, or take their natural capabilities into consideration in the production of the range?

This time round I wasn’t able to travel over  to meet the makers and I relied entirely on Shannon’s guidance and experience.  The timing was tricky because whilst I was designing this range I’ve also been writing a book. And as any new author knows a book takes up every available spare moment.

This past year I’ve pretty well been chained to my desk and there was no possible way of travelling whilst I had an unedited manuscript staring at me day in day out. However I do plan to travel to Bangladesh for the next range.  Actually seeing where the work is being made always stimulates me into thinking outside the square. Talking directly to the artisans I know will bring unexpected opportunities and I’m looking forward to doing just that.

Will any of the items make their way to your Blue Mountains house?

Of course! In fact many of the sample pieces are already there in use every day. I’m a notoriously untidy person with many projects on the go at any one time. The projects I’ve currently got stored in the baskets range from clean washing needing to be put away to new fabric swatches for my next fabric range. And rather than hiding all these piles of messy bundles I can proudly display them all over the house. A perfect collaboration result. Thank you Dharma Door xx

Shannon, as well as being Fair Trade it has always been important to you that the items are aesthetically pleasing. Is this a hard balance to achieve?

In a word…yes! The Dharma Door’s aim is to bring the highest quality Fair Trade homewares and lifestyle products to a market that values contemporary design, while making a positive impact through trade. We are successfully bridging a large gap in the consumer market by observing trends and designing products that best utilise the artisans’ skills, available natural raw materials and through consistent quality training. The biggest challenges when operating a Fair Trade business within a mainstream wholesale/retail model occur with production timeframes and quality issues. We have worked continuously over the past decade to address these challenges by developing effective strategies that respect the artisans, their community, family priorities, cultural differences, the impact of climate and lack of infrastructure.

What does it mean to be a Fair Trade company?

The Dharma Door practices the Ten Standards of Fair Trade, which means we are committed to providing product development, skills training, market opportunities, fair payment, women’s empowerment and much more through our long-term trading partnerships with small-scale artisans in Bangladesh. We are also passionate about the positive flow-on effects for artisans such as their personal dignity, improved health and living conditions, education and a reduction in child marriage. We are proud to be actively promoting Fair Trade and sustainable ethics to a growing audience seeking style with substance.

You have always been aware that the consumer demand for your product is fundamental to keeping the artisans you work with employed. Does the collaboration with Cloth support this?

Absolutely! There is a direct correlation between consumer demand and our ability to contribute positive social and economic impacts within the artisans’ communities. Cloth designs are bold, contemporary and have a loyal following. They are also inspired by nature and the Australian landscape so they sit beautifully against natural fibres, which is what our artisans work with. After many years of working together, our artisan partners understand the link between producing our product designs to the highest quality and the amount that we order from them. Collaborating with Julie on her designs will enable broader consumer appeal and ultimately the artisans will benefit. Cloth has now become an integral part of this very special Fair Trade story.

It takes about an hour to complete the rope for each Hessian Sack.

What was the process for the partnership with Cloth?

Julie and I met at a trade show a couple of years ago and she loved our jute wrapping paper and Fair Trade production practices. I had admired her work for a long time, especially the earthiness of the natural textiles and colours that she chooses. Our conversations around collaboration evolved this year and we felt that her designs would work really well on some of our other products including our Hessian Sacks and Duo’s. Julie is authentic, open-minded and flexible, which has helped enormously during the development phase. Things always take longer in Bangladesh and she has been very patient considering the process has been quite different to her usual way of working. We met with Julie in Sydney and selected some designs and colours together. The sampling process with the artisans was lengthy as it was essential to interpret the designs well, not only for aesthetic reasons but also so can we be sure that we are honouring Julie’s designs.

Has it driven any change to the product?

Fundamentally the product design of Hessian Sacks and Duo’s has remained the same. We replaced the tassels with knots on the sacks, which was a great idea of Julie’s.

Did the artisans you work with respond well to the designs?

The artisans are always excited to work with new designs as it keeps their work interesting and stimulating. During the sampling process, which I did face-to-face with them in May, they told me that they liked the boldness of Julie’s designs. All of the screens are handmade and the inks are mixed by hand so there was a lot of detailed discussion over the colours and design sizes. This all helps to develop the artisans’ skills and eye for detail and quality.

Julie is no stranger to jute and hessian – did she respond well to the materials?

Julie has a preference for natural fibres as we do, so that has made our partnership easy. The materials we work with are a little coarser than Julie usually works with however her bold designs have worked well on our jute/cotton blend. Julie’s flexibility came into play here and she understood the limitations that our artisans currently face with regards to access to materials.

Do you think you will partner again? Has it driven any future plans?

We would love to continue to collaborate with Julie. We relate to one another on a very grounded and open level, so collaborating has been a truly enjoyable process. We have some ideas that would be new for both The Dharma Door and Cloth, which we’re quite excited about. Stay tuned!

 Shop for beautiful and useful Fair Trade storage solutions today.

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We are delighted and honoured to feature signed copies of our Editorial Director Karen McCartney’s brand new book, Superhouse, in a special sale event today. Here Karen introduces the book, an incredible volume of awe-inspiring ‘superhouses’ from around the globe. Leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy – full details below.

Superhouse, as a concept, came about through a discussion with my publisher over lunch and we agreed there and then what a good title it was.

But of course being a Libran, and prone to indecision, it wasn’t long before the positives of the title began to drift into negative territory and I worried that it sounded superficial, flash and just too damn moneyed. So I wrote a definition of what ‘super’ meant to me in this context. This was my outline.

“A superhouse is one that delivers a 360-degree completeness of form, its exterior and interior have a seamless execution and above all else it is awe-inspiring. This quality can be elicited from the perfection of its natural setting, a remarkable use of materials, an exceptional level of craft, ground-breaking innovation or a use of space that lifts the spirit.  All the houses chosen will be beautiful and possess a quality that sets them distinctively apart from the everyday. A strong connection with nature would provide the choice of projects with a necessary thread of coherence.” So while each house had to deliver ‘beyond normal’ it also had to possess qualities that superseded those that money alone could buy.

While I had written two books on iconic Australian houses, it didn’t quite prepare me for the experience of going global. It is one thing to pick up the telephone to an architect in your own country and arrange a photo shoot – it is quite another to spend weeks trawling the Internet for houses you think hit the mark (it is surprising how many are good, and how few are great).

Of course the criteria is different to every person, but I knew that I had to source extraordinary places – where the sense of living differently was marked – whether it was an English castle, a house embedded in rock in the San Juan Islands in the USA or a tiny woodland cottage in Ballarat, Victoria.

“Did you visit to them all?’ people ask – wide-eyed at the prospect of all that global travel. While the answer is no I didn’t, I did get to many of them, and in some instances I sent a proxy. My husband David Harrison was travelling to the Milan Furniture Fair and interviewed the amazing designer Piero Lissoni on my behalf and then he arranged for David to see the Monza Loft.  I did get to the USA, Spain, the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand and of course all the houses here in Australia.

The architects are an interesting bunch, often practising globally – there are examples of Chilean architects working in Spain and Parisians working in Morocco. They were all incredibly generous with their time and thoughtful with their responses to my endless questions. Richard Powers, the photographer, did travel to every house, capturing their awe-inspiring qualities in beautiful poetic light, showing their context in nature and detailing their interiors.

The next stage was to sit down with Penguin/Lantern, designer Evi Oetomo, and work through every chapter to ensure the flow of photographs told the story of the house and made sense in conjunction with the words.

After all the work – 26 months after the initial conversation – having followed the process closely every step of the way and knowing every caption and every drawing intimately, it still felt like a wonderful surprise to hold the physical book in my hands. The cover has a tremendous silky tactility and the image feels rich and three-dimensional. It is what happens when a great team of people work together.

Here I have chosen some images that for me sum up so much of what was extraordinary about the process of the creation of the book. Please leave a comment at the end – as we have two signed copies to give away.

This holiday house, by Chilean architect duo Pezo von Ellrichshausen, is set in the remarkable landscape of north-eastern Spain. It is something of a concrete monument where all the living is on the four verandas, with their tremendous 360 degree views, and a swimming pool centred in the middle of the house.

My friend Alex and I travelled to Spain, staying nearby in the medieval town of Cretas before setting off in our tiny car to visit Solo house. Of course we had directions, and of course we got in trouble – driving on an increasingly rough and narrowing track with brambles scratching the side of the car. We could see the house – we just couldn’t get there. It must have been rather a strange sight, from any of the verandas, to see this little car darting about in the dense vegetation – clearly lost. We did eventually get there, climb the 197 steps to the entrance and experience the full-on drama of the space.

This is one of my favourite houses in the book. Designed in 1967 by Pritzker Prize-winning Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, it is a most beautiful sun-lit house with its articulated windows, patterned Portuguese floor tiles and great furniture. The new owner, who owns a high-end homewares store in Sao Paulo, Mi Casa, has restored it and decorated it with his eclectic taste in furnishing to give this magnificent place genuine character and warmth.

This house was important to me because it is in Ireland, and in all my years growing up there I didn’t ever experience architecture with this kind of spare, modernist beauty. To me Ireland was about low thatched cottages, Georgian Dublin and red-brick Victorian Belfast. The Goulding Summerhouse, was designed by Ireland’s foremost architects, Scott Tallon Walker, who changed the architectural language of the country and pulled it into the twentieth century.

Paul Morgan’s Trunk House is a great example of one of those houses where the footprint is small but the ideas are expansive. We photographed the house on a winter’s day and it was very necessary to have the little wood burning stove going full pelt. There is a tremendous focus on the relationship to the surrounding trees, to the degree that they are integrated into the building, forming supports for the curved verandah.

 

I visited Barton Myers and his wife Vicki at their house in Santa Barbara in April of last year.  My daughter and I were staying in the Chateau Marmont, because I thought it might be the only time in our lives we could do it, (and yes I did spot Charlotte Rampling) and drove the hour and a half outside metro LA, travelling partially along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to the beautiful setting of the house at Toro Canyon. Fire prevention measures dictate many of the design considerations, from the reflecting pools of water to the water-filled cacti that populate the garden. I interviewed Barton Myers after he had finished sweeping the concrete deck. He used to be in the navy, his wife Vicki explained, and old habits die hard.

Images from the book Superhouse by Karen McCartney and photography by Richard Powers, published by Lantern ($79.99).

Leave a comment below before 5pm (AEDT) Thursday 20 November 2014 to win one of two signed copies of Superhouse by Karen McCartney. You must be a member of Temple & Webster to enter, and you may only enter once. We’ll pick our favourite comments and contact the winners via Facebook or email by Friday 21 November 2014. If we are unable to contact the winner(s) within 30 days we’ll pick an alternative winner(s). Good luck!

Buy a signed copy of Superhouse today  and enjoy next day delivery.

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