Monday, November 30, 2009

The Cullen

Melbourne's newest boutique hotel - The Cullen

Did you know that Melbourne has a new designer boutique hotel? Must admit this one kind of crept up on me... I had heard whispers... but didn't realise The Cullen opened this month!

The Cullen
is a $48 million(!!), 115-room hotel, and is the first in a series of six proposed Art Series Hotels - a $300 million hotel group conceived by property developer Will Deague. Each hotel is inspired by and named after a prominent Australian Artist - The Cullen takes its name and inspiration from artist Adam Cullen.

Adam Cullen is one of Australia's most collectible artists, and is best known for winning the Archibald prize in 2000 with a portrait of David Wenham. Seven of Cullen's large-scale artworks grace the walls of the hotel foyer, other works and digital prints feature elsewhere in the hotel, and glass screens in each room are watermarked with Cullen's drawings. Each room also features designer details including Kartell ghost chairs and glossy design book! And apparently the hotel also has bikes and smart cars decorated with Cullen's work for guests to hire. Ooh la la!

Well I must say, I think Melbourne is sorely lacking in the boutiqe hotel department. Although I am not sure if a 6-storey, 115 room hotel counts as 'boutique'. Anyway, it looks pretty snazzy, and it doesn't seem too expensive. It'll be interesting to see how the other 5 Art Series Hotels unfold. Next in line is The Olsen in South Yarra, named after celebrated painter John Olsen, which is due to open its doors in March.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Interview - Max Kater of Murchison-Hume!

The beautiful, non-toxic, eco and kid-friendly, Australian-made Murchison-Hume product range!

Top - Max's vintage apothecary bottle collection which inspired Murchison-Hume's stunning amber-bottle packaging. Bottom - Details from Max's beautiful bright and very organised home!

Oh Max Kater's Sydney home is just stunning, isn't it? How about that blackboard wall in the kitchen? You might recognise these shots from Apartment Therapy a little while ago!)

Now listen. If there is one deliciously luxurious thing you can do for yourself, your home, your family AND our precious environment... it's switch your cleaning products. Murchison-Hume products are the most simple, natural, organic, eco and kid-friendly Australian-made cleaning products money can buy. (And they're not expensive!). They're grey-water friendly, they're packaged beautifully... they're truly the most glamourous and guilt-free way to clean your home!

Murchison-Hume is a small, Sydney-based Husband-and-wife business set to conquer the world. Truly! This inspiring young Australian business is the brainchild of LA-born Max Kater, whose 'light bulb moment' came initially as a response to her kids' allergies. She couldn't find any products on the market that were visually appealing, genuinely green and truly effective - so she made her own!

I find Max's story so inspiring - with no experience in this area, she has grown the Murchison-Hume product range and brand to global recognition and impressive international orders! (They just got their first order from Anthropologie in the US!! Hold onto your seats!). Max is a busy working Mum, and I truly have no idea how she finds the time to run her business from a home office (which double's as her eldest son's bedroom!), between the hours of 9.00am and 3.00pm!

As you'll see below, Max takes it all in her stride - she's unaffected, family-focussed and she has a wicked sense of humour... read on for a thoroughly entertaining insight into the clean, green and very inspiring world of Murchison-Hume!

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would end up making organic house-cleaning products, I would have suggested a nice cup of tea and a lie-down in a darkened room.

Having said that, my years as a Fashion Editor certainly helped to sharpen my personal aesthetic and my inner Domestic Goddess really kicked into overdrive when I became a Mother. I like to think I’ve brought that mixed bag of skills together in Murchison-Hume. Sexy styling meets domestic practicality…why not?

Tell us about the genesis of Murchison Hume.

Well, imagine the shock of working with the most beautiful clothing, shoes and accessories in the world to using yellow plastic dish brushes and Pine O’Kleen on a daily basis. Ugh! I decided then and there that cleaning products needed a makeover.

How did the concept originally come about?

I guess my “light bulb moment” came soon after having my second son Charles. We discovered that he had inherited my perfect trifecta of allergies; eczema and asthma.

A stylish Parisian friend (aren’t they all?) sent me an article about toxicity in the home and how they can exacerbate allergies and eczema and the more I read, the more I learned that it’s fairly easy to keep a clean house without using products that can be harmful (not to mention downright dangerous!) to our families and the planet. Sadly, there was nothing out there that was appealing visually, genuinely green and truly effective…so I made my own!

Max's son Ben's beautiful blue bedroom

What challenges did you face in realising your ideas, and making your idea a commercial success?

Really the only barrier was time. I’m sure every working Mother can relate to this, but seriously, the real challenge to starting any venture is to be able carve out the necessary time to be creative (while still managing to keep you and your family fed, bathed and clothed). And you can forget about getting your hair done. Learn to embrace the ponytail!

How is it working in a husband-wife partnership!? Can you give us an insight into the structure of the company – do you have other employees, and which significant tasks do you outsource?

Everyone says: “Oh how can you work with your husband, don’t you drive each other crazy all day?!” And the short answer is: “of course!” But I think Husbands can drive you crazy whether or not you’re in business together, don’t you? On the plus-side, I get to sleep with the boss.

Seriously though, I think we have a very complimentary skill set: Peter manages the business end of things, including our small staff of six at the factory and I do the creative bits from my office at home…I live only for art and beauty darling!

Which creative minds did you collaborate with when developing the Murchison Hume range?

I am lucky because my friends happen to be a fairly productive and creative bunch. Susan Sheller from Cotton Love Home was my constant guinea-pig from the very beginning. Shannon Fricke taught me how to enhance the subtleties of colour; Charlotte Sherston encouraged me to write like I speak (a dangerous and controversial idea) and Samantha Wagner (from Sambag) gave me the inspiration and the courage to stick my neck out and take Murchison-Hume from “hobby” into business with gusto!

Did you enlist a designer to help with graphics or packaging? It is so beautifully presented!

Pretty early on, I had a clear idea that my cleaning products would resemble old-fashioned apothecary bottles (which I love and collect). And Geraldine Ward, who is my Graphic Designer and a genius mind-reader, was able to take my ideas and translate them into a logo, labels and a perfect website for us.

Which creative people are you inspired by?

Oh, how much time do you have? Beauty is everywhere. Good design is everywhere and I cast a wide net when it comes to looking for sources of ideas.

In Australia alone, I am inspired by stylists Kristen Bookallil; Glen Proebstel, Sibella Court and Megan Morton who like me, can find beauty in almost anything.

Fashion Designers like Carl Kapp and Josh Goot for their refined take on Australian style, shops like Becker-Minty, Space Furniture and davidmetnicole represent an eclectic mix of everything that good design has to offer and even the Coca-Cola sign in Kings Cross gives me a creative jolt every time I see it!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Typically, I try to be up and “dressed” by 7:30am. I put the quotes around dressed because working from home, getting dressed requires little more than a clean face, a neat bun and a T-shirt dress!

After the boys have left for school, I try and make sporadic attempts at exercise (on the Wii Fit). But mostly I spend the day at my eldest son’s desk (which doubles as my office during school hours). When I’m worried or trying to figure something out, I go and do a little tidy up somewhere… I know it sounds slightly OCD, but it calms me down to fold towels or re-organise my sock drawer. Sad, but true.

By 3:00pm the house is full of noisy boys and afterschool activities, snacks, etc. I try to snatch at least another hour or two of work before it’s time to make dinner and then it’s bath, pyjamas, bed and it starts all over again the next day. Clearly I need to get out more…

Refreshing and so inspiring to her that Max manages to run a business from a home office that doubles as her eldest son's bedroom!

What are you most proud of professionally?

Apart from the obvious fact that it’s keeping us in shoe leather, the fact that my quirky little idea is being embraced by people all over the world. Pinch me!

What would be your dream project?

Oh, easy! Re-fitting the Qantas First Class Lounge (and all of its lounges and planes) with Australian-made Murchison-Hume products!

What are you looking forward to?

Being able to entertain at home again, now that the weather in Sydney is warmer!

Max's serene outdoor entertaining area... so very gorgeously Sydney!

NSW Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

My house: employee dinner, last Thursday. We have just employed an American, Peter Lyle, to help me manage things on the domestic front and he made a mustard béarnaise sauce to die for!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

At the moment, Saturday morning entails trying to read the papers with my youngest son, Charles (he always hogs the Real Estate section) while his older brother is at cricket!

Sydney’s best kept secret?

I’ll tell you if you promise not to laugh…remember, I am an expatriate and we never really lose our tourist habits: I lovelovelove the Chinese Garden of Friendship at Darling Harbour. Not nearly as cheesy at it sounds (how could it be)? I have a bit of a Koi fetish and I adore sitting in the Lotus Pond Pavilion, drinking tea and throwing bits of Char Siu Bao to the fish. The boys scramble over the rocks and we can languish there all afternoon…heaven!

Max's own watergarden, Koi fish and brand new waterlilies!

Thanks so much for Max for this interview, and for sharing such beautiful photos of her glorious home! I feel I should say, also, that I use Murchison-Hume products everyday at home and I can honestly vouch for their incredible effectiveness! My absolute favourites are the Counter-Intelligence chemical-free food surface spray (truly as effective as Spray-n-wipe - minus the ticklish nose!), and the Everyday Furniture Spritzer, which effortlessly removes sticky marks and gives timber furniture a beautiful sleek sheen. You gotta try it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rifle Design - brand new online store (+ GORGEOUS Christmas cards!)

Holiday (aka Christmas) cards by Anna Bond of Rifle Design, available online here

Wrapping by Anna Bond of Rifle Design

You might remember I met the super-sweet and super-talented Anna Bond of Rifle Design at Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, NY earlier this year? I love love love her gorgeous illustrations, hand-drawn type and muted colour palette... and her custom wedding stationary is especially gorgeous.

Anna has just launched her very own online store... and can I just say, it is totally, seriously awesome. It is so good that I just purchased all my Christmas cards from there (truly!). I cannot get enough of her beautiful work!

Also (unlike Urban Outfitters) Anna posts to Australia for just US$12! ....and with the exchange rate how it is... there really has never been a better time to go online shopping!

Anna's blog is amazing
Rifle's portfolio website is amazing

All these gorgeous things by Anna Bond of Rifle Design, available online here

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I continue to freak myself out with a seemingly endless infatuation with styling and design for kids, babies, rugrats. I am totally nowhere near having babies, promise! But the November issue of LMNOP just came out and... well... it's just gorgeous!

Go download it here - it's free, after all!

DIY paper Christmas Critters by Mibo - as seen in LMNOP.

Sydney super-stylish store for tots Manon et Gwenaelle - owned by the fabulous Virgine Batterson - features in LMNOP, and was also featured in the Inside Out Christmas Issue recently (and blogged here a little while ago!)

Monsieur Qui

Monsieur Qui is a French illustrator who loves - "cats, dogs, handmaded works, brass bands and paste big posters in the streets of Paris".

I love the the mix of girly, flowery illustration and boyish motorbikes and skate culture. Oh and the hand drawn type, of course!

Nice work Frenchie!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rob Ryan for Urban Outfitters

New Rob Ryan limited edition Lomo Fisheye Camera from Urban Outfitters!

Rob Ryan + limited edition Lomo Fisheye Camera + Urban Outfitters = AWESOME!!

That's all need to say really.

Oh, except also, Urban Outfitters finally ships to Australia! (Unfortunately they only do international shipping via UPS and it costs $50. Boo!!). Maybe they'll rectify that soon.

ps) if you have not heard of London-based super-famous artist Rob Ryan - I don't believe you! But if you need a reminder of just how fabulous his work is.... look here and here. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

BYO Coffee Cup

My Mum is a bit clever. By day, she works fulltime as a creative director in an ad agency here in Melbourne... and in her freetime, she is constantly dreaming up endless fabulous creative ideas - I can't keep up with her energy and motivation... she's truly an amazing Mum!

Mum's latest project is particularly fabulous - the BYO Coffee Cup is a collaboration with her great friends Ren and Saskia. Between them they've started a fantastic little creative enterprise called HookTurn Industries - and the BYO Coffee Cup is their first product! They designed this smart silicone coffee cup to look just like a paper coffee cup - except it's reusable! The silicone keeps your coffee nice and hot, but is cool to touch. And of course it fits neatly under the coffee machine dripper just like a regular take-away cup.

I'm sure you guys have all heard the horrifying stats about how much waste is created each year from un-recyclable paper and polystyrene takeaway coffee cups... the BYO Coffee Cup is a super stylish way to make a simple change in your everyday life, which can have a really positive impact on our environment.

The BYO Coffee Cup retails for AU$10.95. It's available online here.... now wouldn't it make the best stocking filler, kris-kringle, or present for your boss / Dad / kid's schoolteachers? Yes. You know it would :)

ps) HookTurn are looking for stockists! So if you have a cafe / shop / online store and think the BYO Coffee Cup would be a good fit... please get in touch! They would love to hear from you!

BYO Coffee Cups are currently available in black, white and coffee colours, with either black or white lids (in an configuration you want).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Interview - Natalie Bloom

Bloom Cosmetics - Chapel st Store

Bloom Cosmetics - Chapel st Store

Chapel st store - floral plaster detail

Natalie Bloom's first book, Beauty in Bloom , gives a personal insight into Natalie and the essence of her beauty brand, and features gorgeous illustrations by Rebecca Wetzler.

I am very excited today to share an interview with Melbourne cosmetics queen Natalie Bloom! Natalie's incredible success with the Bloom Cosmetics brand is well documented... but what you mightn't know is that Natalie first started out in graphic design! Feeling very uninspired in her first job in a small graphic design studio after finishing uni, Natalie started making her own cards and gifts... one thing led to another and before she knew it, Natalie had launched her own business - at the tender age of 22!

16 years later, Natalie's business has gone from strength to strength - Bloom’s range now features over 300 products including colour cosmetics, skincare and a bath and body range, and is stocked across the globe, from From Dubai and Bangkok to London and Beverly Hills. Bloom also has a beautiful flagship store in Chapel st Prahran... and Natalie is very much an inspiration for many young Australian women in business.

Natalie's passion for beautiful design is evident in every facet of her business - from Bloom's gorgeous, varied packaging, to the Chapel st store design and Natalie's recent book, Beauty in Bloom, lovingly illustrated by Rebecca Wetzler. Natalie has collaborated with some fabulous local designers over the years including TDF favourites Neryl Walker and Kat Macleod!

Read on for a unique insight into Natalie's work and home life.. and some seriously gorgeous pics of her products, her inspirations and her beautiful home office!

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to found Bloom Cosmetics?

After studying Graphic Design at RMIT, I found myself working in a small studio. As the work was terribly uninspiring, I started creating and selling handmade cards and gift ideas in the hope I would feel more creatively satisfied. Before I knew it, my hobby had turned into a business and since then there has been no looking back!

How has your vision for Bloom changed since you first started the company (at just 22!) ?

Over the last sixteen years, Bloom has evolved and matured as a business and brand. The fundamental principles of a spirit of fun, commitment to product integrity and directional design have remained the same though.

Bloom skincare and makeup products

You’ve become a great inspiration for women in business – If you could give just one piece of advice to young women looking to start their own small business, what would it be?

Firstly, you have to love what you do. If you’re not passionate you can’t sustain your business and keep going through the hard times. And secondly, whatever you do, do it with integrity. This has been my mantra for running my business and has been the yardstick that I have measured all my decisions against.

Beauty in Bloom at The Society inc. in Sydney

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Whilst I’m still incredibly hands on at Bloom, no two working days are ever the same. The only similarity is that each day is pretty chaotic and filled with a demanding mix of meetings and creative brainstorming sessions on product, business and brand development.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – nature, travel, books, magazines or the web etc?

I’m constantly surprised by the different guises creative inspiration comes in. Whilst I often pour over Greville St Bookstore’s incredible range and am a magazine fiend who never misses an edition of Frankie or Italian Vogue; increasingly I’m turning to blogs for inspiration. Aside from the Design Files (of course!) I regularly visit Meet me at Mikes and Handmade Romance.

Which designers / creative people do you admire?

Where do I begin?! Most of the creative people I admire are very close to home. At the top of my list is my good friend, Mirka Mora, who is an artist in the true sense of the word. Her free spirit, use of colour and part in Australia’s art movement continue to inspire me. I also admire Yeojin Bae and Ortolan who both have a whimsical and feminine aesthetic that is similar to my own and Rebecca Wetzler for her exquisite illustrations in fresh, fluid lines - and work on my book Beauty in Bloom!

A painting of Natalie's family by Mirka Mora

What would be your dream creative project?

The best part of my job is that I often get to work on highly creative projects. At the moment we’re developing an Organic range. It has been a couple of years in the making, but working on this collection makes me feel as though all my dreams have come true! It has allowed me to take pure natural ingredients and create formulas that have such integrity. Plus it has given me an excuse to work with one of Australia’s most exciting artists. Watch this space!

What are you looking forward to?

After a pretty heady year, I’m really looking forward to having a break over Christmas and spending time with my family and loved ones at the beach. I’m also itching to launch our Organic range which will hit stores early next year!

Melbourne Questions -

Where is your favourite shopping/strolling neighbourhood in Melbourne?

That’s easy - Gertrude and Smith Streets!

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

I know it’s the flavour of the month with many Melbournians, but we recently had a stand out meal at Hellenic Republic. I love their no fuss approach while still remaining true to a traditional sensibility.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

I love starting my weekend at home. While I read the papers over a lazy breakfast, the kids play amongst themselves. We then take the girls to ballet classes and head to Prahran Market to stock up for the week ahead.

Inspiration wall in Natalie's home office

More home office details

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Lawson Grove is hidden in a quiet cul-de-sac just around the corner from my house. It’s the perfect spot for coffee and sweet treat and was my ‘home away from home’ while I wrote Beauty in Bloom.

Huge thanks to Natalie for her time, and to Elise at EGPR for facilitating the interview and sending through such a stunning selection of shots! I don't know about you guys... but I'm completely inspired after posting this!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Anthropologie London via Pia Jane Bijkerk's blog!

All these fabulous photos of Anthropologie London by Zoe Yule, via Pia Jane Bijkerk's beautiful blog.

Oh Sorry. It's Anthropologie Thursday again. I realise I posted about Anthropologie last week. But it is too delicious! I can't help it.

I was just browsing through Pia Jane Bijkerk's fabulous blog... and stumbled across these stunning pics of the new Anthropologie London store (their first store outside the US), posted here by Pia's guest blogger Zoe Yule. Is it incredible or WHAT!? Love Zoe's photos and her wide-eyed excitement after attending the London store opening event in Pia's absence (score!).

You MUST go check out Zoe's full post here... she describes the magical evening in wonderful detail - vertical gardens, tea and delectable cakes, custom art installations by carefully selected UK artists - From beautiful handmade ceramic vessels to 'knitted' pots and vintage quilts refashioned into works of art. Aggh. Aesthetic overload.

But it begs the question... Why do we not have such retail gorgeousness going on here...? Come on Australian retailers.... lift your game!