Another stop on my recent London trip was Maison Assouline on Piccadilly. Opened in October 2014, it is the brainchild of Martine and Prosper Assouline of the eponymous publishing house and is situated on one of London's busiest streets.
Inside, however, is an oasis of calm. Originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1922, designer Guy Oliver re-imagined the building into a 360-degree bibliophile experience. The first floor features a bar on one side, towering bookshelves on the other, and a lounge in between. The aerial view from the catwalk is amazing.
Here is a view to the bar where you can see the sheer height of the building's first floor. What you can't see is the intoxicating scent of Assouline's signature library candles. I picked up one called Culture Lounge and its rich, woody scent always takes me back there.
The space feels like an invitation to linger, enjoy a glass of wine or a meal, and flip through the pages of some of the most beautiful books in the world. It is light years beyond the usual harried shopping experience!
This wall of books is so perfectly considered with more covers on display than spines — a brilliant idea for anyone who collects books as beautiful as these. Within the books are a few offset sections back-painted in a rich orange-red (another Assouline signature) and illuminated to create dramatic display areas.
The upper level is set up like an apartment and loaded with an array of curiosities from Prosper's travels. Everything is for sale as part of Assouline's fully bespoke library service. They can outfit a client's home with everything from bookshelves, artwork and game boards to desks, carpets and reading chairs. And they will also custom-curate book collections, of course.
Here is Calgary's Paul Lavoie and Toronto's Elizabeth Metcalfe (who were with me on the Kravet Canada London educational trip) checking out a striking red and black shelving unit with a rolling ladder. I was a bit obsessed with the raw wood panelling and the unbelievable brass-wrapped furniture.
Not to mention the alphabet carpet and the brass rhino.
This shelving unit has an almost Mondrian effect with its black face trim and intersecting box pattern. It looks like it belongs in a Parisian apartment.
The coordinating desk is a work of art in itself, combining open and closed storage in a totally unique way.
And the X-shaped book stand in the same black and white finishes puts a standout book on display.
I was totally coveting the backgammon set with brass pieces and handles that paired so beautifully with the astrology print tabletop.
After visiting the Assouline store, we popped down the street to The Wolseley for dinner — one of the interiors that designer David Collins is best known for. It's a grand brasserie-style restaurant with black and gold accents, soaring ceilings, serpentine banquettes and a massive brass clock. They have a no-photo policy, but I managed to sneak one from our seat in the balcony.
London is full of beautiful spots like this — Jessica McCormack's townhouse and Assouline were just a snippet of all the enviable interiors I came across. I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I did!
For more from my travels, check out my blog post about France.
1-13. Suzanne Dimma
I know it's been ages since I've blogged. I was swamped with the Interior Design Show at the start of the year and I never seem to be able to catch up after that! And I've been travelling quite a bit for work. The good news is that I've come back armed with lots of great design stories. One of my favourite experiences was the Kravet Canada trip to the U.K. for London Design Week a few weeks ago.
London was as inspiring as always, and my visit to the townhouse of jewelry designer to the stars Jessica McCormack was a definite highlight. Her jewelry designs are totally unique and she showcases them in her stellar house in Mayfair, giving clients a unique shopping experience as they browse amongst her fascinating collection of artwork and furniture. Here are some of my favourite photos from her gorgeous live/work townhouse:
These are a few of the designers I was travelling with pulling up in front of Jessica's gorgeous Edwardian home. That's Richard Ouelette from Les Ensembliers snapping a shot of the building at the same time as me while sporting a snappy green bag from Want Les Essentiels de la Vie that I coveted the entire trip!
The front entry featured stunning panelling in a matte finish that complemented the olive green runner beautifully. Jessica worked with the Haas Brothers to create the dramatic candelabra. Its polished gold finish and slumped fused glass shades have a Dr. Suess-like impact in the stairwell, adding playful contrast to the more serious panelling.
Here's a detail of the intricate tile work on the floor.
I posted this shot on Instagram while I was there. The David Wiseman-designed ceiling fixture (made of bronze, porcelain and crystal components) hangs from a giant medallion in the front room. It was total whimsy — light and feminine, like woodland magic.
There were several fireplaces in the house and each one was spectacularly appointed. The one in Jessica's office featured a pinkish marble and the painting, Amazon Lily by Valérie Belin, played off of it beautifully. With all the colour and layers in the artwork, fewer things are needed on the mantel.
Look at the scale of this oval mirror. It was like looking through a doorway.
Moving from light and airy to dark and cosy, the second floor drawing room was a complete contrast from downstairs. It's a perfect example of how you can play with different styles and palettes in a single space.
The deep blue walls looked like Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue (30), ideal for rich, luxurious impact. I love how the French walnut console in the corner looks perfectly at home with the prototype leather chair and the Anne Hardy print over the fireplace.
The chevron floors were to die for. The highlight in here was the custom electric player piano by Based Upon. Its cool '70s vibe had a vintage yet contemporary feel. You can see the keys are working their magic. Apparently it plays customizable playlists from your iPhone. The Brazilian hardwood barstools are by Joaquim Tenreiro, the top left painting is by Susanne Johansson, the bottom left by Axel Geis, and the painting over mantle is by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
Here's a quick panorama of the room:
This dramatic curved bentwood olive ash shelf filled one of the corners. It's Irish designer Joseph Walsh's Enignum Shelf V1.
Here's another Instagram photo I posted, a simple grouping at one end of another fireplace. I love how the posie looks like it's about to make the terracotta head (by artist Charles Weddepohl) sneeze.
The secret jewel in the entire place was the powder room wrapped in a stunning olive-green fauna wallpaper and paired with coordinating fabric, crisp marble and brass accents. The dark wood toilet seat, with a concealed space-saving cistern, felt so new (even though it's anything but).
The leaded glass window behind the vanity added more pattern and privacy.
The antique faucets made the vanity.
And the pineapple 'welcome symbol' sconces were the perfect finishing touch. The whole room renewed my passion for coordinating fabrics and wallpaper.
Stay tuned for other highlights from my travels in upcoming H&H issues and blog posts!
Since I was a child, my family and I have spent part of the summer in the south of France. This summer I was lucky enough to spend a month in the Luberon in Menerbes, a beautiful hilltop town dating back to 4 BC. It wasn't my first time there, but because we settled in for as long as we did, I fell into the rhythm of the village and came home with some of the sweetest memories. Here's a glimpse of our time spent there.
The house we stayed in is called a mas – a country house typified by plaster walls that keep the house cool on very hot days, a terra cotta tiled roof, a series of rooms built on to each other over time and painted wood shutters that are used every day to keep the hot air out. It was charming and rustic. The house was perched on the high hills of Menerbes, overlooking the wine valleys below.
There was a long lavender hedge off the kitchen patio. Each morning I would take in its sweet, fragrant smell.
As we would walk into town for fresh croissants, this was our view to Mont Ventoux and the town of Gordes.
We took this pebbled road into town, past clouds that looked like prehistoric birds.
And past the painted doors in inspiring hues.
And above the tiled rooftops that looked like paintings.
And then we'd arrive at the upper entrance to the town.
Along the way we would pass these pretty courtyards and secret gardens between the stone walls and wooden gates.
Some buildings with manicured boxwood, turrets and stone railings were especially impressive.
Sometimes we were greeted with a friendly face from above.
Or a sleepy one from below.
Here is a sampling of the freshly baked breads that would greet us in the morning.
My favourite store in town, La Vie Est Belle, was in the bottom of an ancient building that felt like a cave. I loved the antique kilim by the front door but sadly, it was not for sale.
To cool off, people flocked to the river in nearby L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to dip their toes in the bright green waters or paddle around in a kayak.
I loved antiquing at the famous brocante there. I picked up 12 of these brass knobs for a song hoping to retrofit them for my new walk-in closet.
Which worked out perfectly!
Lunches were always languid and relaxed — fresh, simple produce set out in a colourful display.
Or carefully staged culinary masterpieces. Seriously, why can't we have lunches like this everyday?
And of course there were always fresh flowers and incredible local wines.
We attended a poetry reading one afternoon at the house of Picasso's ex-wife Dora Maar, which is now an art school. The gardens were absolutely gorgeous with a playful mix of modern sculptures and traditional outdoor furniture.
Nearby Gordes was such a beautiful town, for this exact view. The homes were all built into cliffs like this one.
My favourite part of each day was dining outdoors in the warm air at dusk, like the evening we spent in this relais situated in the vineyards below Menerbes.
Or in the gardens of the Maison de la Truffe at the top of the village.
Or at one of the lovely restaurants lining the streets in town where waiters crisscrossed the streets.
We finished each day by walking through the town's twinkling glow.
Guided by the clear moonlight to our home away from home in the hills.
For more inspiration, read Hilary Smyth's blog post about Antiquing In France.
We are underway with our upstairs reno and one thing we've already finished is the small guest bathroom.
This is what it looked like a few months ago. I still love the vintage sink that I got at a yard sale over 15 years ago but it was too low and rusted, so I had to get rid of it. Plus the trad shape really didn't work with the mix I have going on in the rest of the house. I wound up giving it to a friend of mine who's in the middle of a Victorian historic restoration so it will be right at home.
The other thing I had to get rid of was the glass-block window — way too '80s for me.
But the highlight for me is the new wallpaper, Ocelot from Farrow & Ball. That and the new sash window instantly transformed the room. I framed the window in 6"-wide lengths of marble for a polished look that tied in with the floor.
Only one thing left to decide and that is whether or not to paint the tub black. I'm on the fence... what do you think?
Every time I visit Chester I take a short detour to The Finer Diner in Hackett's Cove. It's a quaint roadside building on enroute to Peggy's Cove.
I love their crab cakes with onion rings and paired with a glass of white wine, I am totally in heaven.
The first space we shot was designer Philip Mitchell's guesthouse at his new house (he completed the guest house before tackling the main building this year). Their property looks out to Chester's Front Harbour. I tweeted this picture of photographer, Janet Kimber, taking our first shot of the day before the sun came up.
I loved the rope railings on the neighbouring pier so I made Philip and his partner Mark Narsansky move their Muskoka chairs for their portrait.
That's their new house called 'the White Cottage' in the background and the guesthouse is tucked up to the left (their first house was featured in our October 2011 issue).
Everyone who visits Chester has to book a dinner at Nicki's Inn restaurant at the intersection of King and Pleasant Streets. It's Chester's finest restaurant — the food is fantastic, the decor is lovely and the owner Nicki is charming. She also has a few rooms that she rents out upstairs if you are looking for a place to stay for a few days.
Here I am at Nicki's celebrating the completion of the shoot with Philip (far right) and Mark (they are so handsome) and another east coast designer, Deb Nelson, (who has the most gorgeous hair) whose home we shot the following morning. We all look so happy!
Another place to stay is the historic Mecklenburg Inn which has this totally charming exterior. I have never been inside though!
Deb's shoot also started bright and early the next day. Here are a few of my fave moments at her place that didn't make it into the story in our July issue. Of course there was the white picket fence surrounding her backyard that affords this pretty view over her neighbour's yard to the Front Harbour.
The third floor of her house is like a lookout tower with paned glass windows on all sides. I could have stayed up there all day. While we were shooting up there a regatta was taking place and one sailboat actually sunk — it was high drama.
Deb had the cutest vintage hardboard doorstop of a fox terrier that I adored.
And her whitewashed painted floors were perfect for summertime living.
Going to Chester is like stepping back through time: the white picket fences, old cars, and clapboard or shingled houses and sidewalk less roads make it the one of the most charming towns I've seen in Canada.
Another restaurant that Deb and I usually check out is the Rope Loft for a wharfside dining experience. It's lovely to sit on the back deck and watch the boats come into the harbour. But apparently it's up for sale now.
We also had breakfast one morning at the Chester Golf Club — what a breathtaking view!
If you have time, take the ½ hour ferry ride to Tancook Island, for a very different experience. It is far more rugged and wild. Only a small number of people live there and it is like stepping away from civilization: which we all need now and then!
If you follow the dirt road to the right from the ferry you will eventually come to the Wishing Stones — an eclectic store where you can get a tea and check out the antiques. I fell in love with the landscape painting on the right and totally regret not buying it — a reminder that if you see a find that calls your name when you're in an out-of-the-way spot, buy it!!
They also had a display of ringed rocks where they ask you to take one, walk to the back bay and throw it in to make a wish. The wishing stones are marked by a "magical" white quartz ring that must be continuous with no breaks in order for the magic to work. The instructions read: stand by the water's edge, close your eyes and make a silent wish, and throw the stone as far as you can into the sea.
This summer I will be heading back to Chester once again to photograph architect Nicholas Spencer-Lewin's house, so keep an eye out for it on our pages in 2015!
For more Maritime style, browse a gallery of East Coast homes.
(Except #8, via Mecklenburgh Inn) Suzanne Dimma
I recently returned from my seventh (!) trip back to San Miguel de Allende, and I continue to be inspired by this city in central Mexico. I'm always discovering new things to explore. Here are a few of the inspiring spaces I visited this time. There were lots more that you can find in our October 2014 issue — on stands this Monday, September 1st!
This year we had the pleasure of staying in a house that had originally been owned by the film director Peter Glenville, whose body of work was most prolific in the 1950s and 1960s. He directed films like The Prisoner starring Alec Guinness and Silent Night, Lonely Night with Henry Fonda and Barbara Bel Geddes. The rumour was that the house was host to numerous parties back in the day. Interestingly enough the house did possess a distinct old Hollywood vibe. It was more British than Mexican in feel, and incredibly charming, eclectic and a tad eccentric — which I love. You can see what I mean in this picture of the upper living room.
But it was the house's surrounding gardens that really stood out as spectacular. This was the walkway from the front courtyard (featuring my sister's Jack Russell terrier, Moo). We were there in the winter so things were a bit dry, but before we left all sorts of flowers came into bloom along the high walls.
At the top of the pathway was a fountain backed by an enormously high ivy laden wall and a first-tier patio that looked back to Centro. That upper living room looked out on to this area. The small square stepping stones lead to a set of wooden doors that opened into a whole other garden area, kind of like a secret garden.
The highlight was this spectacular pool that Bruce Weber had photographed for Kelly Klein’s book, Pools. This is the view over the pool and alleée of trees. An adjoining patio affords a breathtaking view to San Miguel below.
This is looking back to the Casita, or guesthouse, perched at the top of a series of tiered stone steps. It evokes a bygone era of old Hollywood and we were told that a number of Hollywood greats had stayed there. Peter O'Toole visited after wrapping Lawrence of Arabia and apparently brought a massive sculpture of a camel which was positioned behind a sofa in the casita.
While I was there I visited this gorgeous house that had been featured in Elle Decor and was owned by a San Miguel-based interior designer, Leslie Tung of Mitu Atelier. It's perfect: not too big, not too small, with a wonderful sense of style. This is the courtyard that the house is built around. It featured deep red walls apparently inspired by the colours of China's Forbidden City, a stone fountain and what I think was an arching bougainvillea tree. Her ginger tabby was pretty cute too. The settee is by Casamidy (an exquisite Mexican furniture line based out of San Miguel), and the checkerboard stone-and-marble table was designed by Lis Bisgaard.
I love this shot of the cement fountain designed by landscape architect Alfonso Alarcon, with the water jug perched on the ledge.
The concrete staircase is so simple and Zen, and it leads up to a stunning view of a Madonna recessed in a small stone archway at the top.
Leslie's home office was on the third floor — there are lots of layers and curios to stimulate the eye wherever you looked.
This Empire-style daybed draped in an exotic fabric was the focal point of the seating area in the office.
Last year I stumbled on this super chic boutique hotel called L’Otel right in Centro. It was so lovely and charming I had to go in and ask for a tour! I tweeted this front door photo because I loved the mix of stone and tile on the floor against the black front door. San Miguel is ripe with all sorts of interesting furniture pieces like this front hall table and the fun orchid pot that looks like a water barrel.
The breakfast room featured this fun trompe-l’oeil glass-print wallpaper. They cleverly ran shelves across it for a three-dimensional effect.
All of the rooms looked into this pretty pink courtyard complete with vintage bikes you can use during the day… although riding a bike on cobblestones is pretty tricky.
But the thing I love the most about San Miguel de Allende is how every year I discover a little bit more magic. I always find some kind of inspiration to bring back home with me. I stumbled upon this happy reminder while walking down an alley and it stopped me in my tracks.
All photos except for 7. Suzanne Dimma
7. Katherine Dimma, Wandering Rounds blog
See more Mexican style staples here.