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My top five quirky stories for 2012

I dare to think how many words I write each year. Heaps. But I always take care to address every project that crosses my desk, and many of those end up in the magazines I write for. So as 2013 kicks off, I thought I'd share with you my top five quirky stories from last year. Enjoy! 

This volcano-esque bathroom belongs to an apartment in St Kilda. You might wonder what the rest of the apartment is like, followed by WHY OH WHY OH WHY, and then perhaps look at the practicalities. Like how you actually get into the bath-slash-shower. FYI there are built-in steps. I'm a little sketchy on the design details, but the apartment was auctioned last year. I wonder if the bathroom was a selling point? 

My favourite chair is Thonet's famous 18. Bentwood. It's a cliche, but this chair is a thing of beauty and I have long admired its functionality and good, simple looks. For this story, I was interested to learn how the iconic brand is not afraid to keep up with trends. So Thonet injected its range with bold splashes of colour. What a great result! This shot is taken from the Melbourne office of Serviceworks, which specified the chairs for its break out areas.

Another brilliant image, this time from The Establishment Studios, a not-so-new now photographic and object for hire space in Prahran. The crystal pendant light is by Christopher Boots and I was lucky enough to handle some of the beautiful crystals at his Footscray studio. This picture is one of the spaces for hire at The Establishment Studios, which are often booked out for editorial and product shoots. 

What can I say? I love these little piggies. They form part of Calden Cabinet's exhibit as part of the HIA Brisbane Renovate and Build Show a few months ago. While the exhibited kitchen is really about clever automated features and the most cutting-edge technology, for me I really liked the playfulness of these plastic hoofers. Apparently, they proved quite a hit with patrons too, but another exhibitor stepped it up with a life-sized horse in their exhibit. Giddy up.

My last highlight is this outdoor room - Cristal Box - that formed part of a feature for (inside) magazine on living outdoors. It's available in Australia from Parterre by Gandia Blasco, and the marketing campaign presents the box in each of the four seasons. This one with its lush greenery is my favourite. 



Secrets of the Waldorf Astoria, New York


Sometimes there is a god. And on the day that the Waldorf Astoria New York had a sale, the gods were smiling and I became a believer. For nine nights, my better half and I were lucky to stay at this New York grand dame, the world's first skyscraper hotel. Yes, much of it is under construction, and yes, the rooms are a little faded, but with so much eye candy on offer it's a smorgasboard of secrets and surprises for design lovers. Let's not forget the tradition and pomp either. No shorts after 6pm in the lobby thanks ladies and gentlemen...

Image courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria website

The best way to get to grips with the 1200-room hotel - and uncover its secrets - is to book a tour, which begins from the bronzed, nine-foot clock greeting the lobby foyer. 

The tour provides a peek into some of the private spaces that only the (very) rich can afford to use, including the Starlight Roof and the Grand Ballroom. You many know that Grace Kelly held her engagement party to Prince Rainier of Monaco here, but you may not know that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor have a permanent suite on stand by, decked out in their own royal colours. Or that the composer, Cole Porter was a resident for decades, and the grand piano in the lobby's Peacock Alley bar was his, which he bequeathed to the hotel upon his death.

If you look up, you'll see these intricate ceilings that feature an Art Deco motif of a gazelle.

Image courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria websiteWe head on up to New York's homage to the Palace of Versaille's Hall of Mirrors - the Silver Corridor - a reception area where guests are greeted and dazzled by much mirror and glass.

Next up is the Grand Ballroom, which was - and still is - the place of many soirees on the New York socialite calendar. Much of it was covered up during the '60s, as part of a plan to de-glamorise the hotel, but thankfully it was restored and its Deco features allowed to revel in full glitzy glamour. For the first time here, women were allowed to host their own parties and travel unaccompanied without a man. 

The central chandelier is suspended in the Grand Ballroom, and was installed by founder, Conrad Hilton himself.

Intricate carpet detail.

The original glass light pendant in the Starlight Roof, a rooftop space that was the toast of the town. It's since been enclosed but still plays host to various gatherings.

Luckily, the hotel has documented its famous past, and we are invited to look through the museum, where this huge tome - guest book - is showcased. I was lucky enough to score a Waldorf pen when I needed to make a note, but our guide told us the hotel was planning an 'amnesty program'. It did indeed launch the amnesty in July, and is currently asking guests staying prior to the 1960s to kindly hand back its branded (stolen) treasures.

I'm ending the post with a rather unattractive image, but it represents the best part of the tour for me. It's a door that leads to a secret tunnel underneath the hotel. We had to walk around the entire hotel to find it, and I think this was it. I'd be happy to hear from anyone who knows if I'm wrong? It was designed for Franklin Roosevelt to enter and escape the hotel secretely, and contains a specially made elevator and car. There's some more images and information about it all here


All other images taken by me.


Blobs are back in the Big Apple

I went to New York a couple of months back. First time. I knew I'd fall in love with the place, and it got me like a deer in headlights. Highlights? Hmm. On a large scale, the Empire State building was a hot mess of steel, as was the Chrysler. But there was plenty of small stuff too. Like the bulldog – Chester – who we met at the wine shop down the street. If you know bulldogs, they ain’t too dainty on their feet. But the owner of this bulldog danced around his shop like he was on hot potatoes, and Chester shuffled and snuffled at his moving feet, drooling on his shoes and throwing himself around to our great hilarity.


But I digress. While we were in Madison Square Park, I spotted these pastel-coloured fibreglass blobs. Dribbling on a park bench, perched on a picnic table and on their own, the friendly elements look Ghostbuster-esque but actually form an installation by sculptor Charles Long, ‘Pet Sounds’.  If you lean in to one of the blobs, they emit funny futuristic noises. Brilliant.

This week, while researching a story on hotels, I stumbled upon some images of a new pastry boutique in Mexico, Cioccolato. Turns out it has a blob too. A pinky purple-y one that appears to slide off a table, but is actually a table leg. This snazzy refit was done by Savvy Studio. Go the blob.

So who's for some pastry goodness?!

I needed one final project to complete this post, and it came to me yesterday via Contemporist, in the form of the Melted Snow Table by AAStudio, from Romania. It’s made of corian and was designed to resemble a rock formation covered in snow. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking more about blobs for some reason right now, but I'm happy to go with the rock.   

Hell, they all work right? Blobs are back. Cheers, A


The Establishment Studios

Hot off the press: I was rapt to see my feature on this new studio space on Broadsheet today. You can read it here. I met Rachael and Glen onsite a few weeks ago in Prahran, and enjoyed learning about their work and new headquarters. Both are totally talented and absolutely delightful, and I'm looking forward to hearing more big things from them.

The largest space for hire in the building - the white room. The natural light is sublime.

Glen and Rachael can work with many colours in creating a mood.

The blue tones are softened by wall treatments and bold colour.

Part of the original building, this space has beautiful natural light and a natural look.

The largest area at the studios has whitewashed floors and is where Glen's rather large prop collection is stored.Pics by Tom Ross @ Brilliant Creek


Open House Melbourne 2012

Hot off the press: I covered this year's OHM for Indesignlive. Read it here. I took a few snaps on my own camera while en route, before it rather inconveniently went flat.

Highlights included Lend Lease's new Forte building, which will be built out of timber in a first for Australia.

Next up, I headed to Hamer Hall to see what all the fuss was about. Totally justified. ARM has done a sensational job with its renovation and it's certainly worth meandering through each space to admire its handiwork. It's harmonious, delicate and also respects what has come before.

Fitzroy followed. I wanted to see some residential projects, and see how architects are designing around existing spaces in inner city areas.

Welcome to 32 Kerr Street Apartments. This is a smart residential building that uses the arcade beneath the apartments as a thoroughfare for residents. The garages lining each side of the arcade can also be transformed into office spaces. Not only does this create a multi function, but in doing so creates more opportunities for interacting with neighbours.

I also liked the building's grill facade.

Finallly, I wandered up the road to the Hive Grafitti apartments. Designed by Zvi Belling and his neighbour, Prowla, the buidling highlights how a lot can be achieved on a small building footprint. The most exciting aspect was the building's facade, designed by Prowla with hip-hop typography adding an urban, edgy feel.

The nearby grafitti's pretty cool too.