Sensual Living With Ilse Crawford

Ilse Crawford is my guru. My inner depths about what I believe in good design is from listening, reading and looking at what Ilse discusses. She was the founding Editor for British ELLE Decoration. Since then editors have come and gone but none have created the same intellagence, emotion and inspiration like Ilse. Believe me they have tried. But the reason why Ilse creates such a buzz to the magazines she edits and the hotel's she designs is her philosophy. Her design studio StudioIlse follow two simple words: MODERN AND EMOTIONAL. They address our physical and emotional reactions to the visible world around us: human friendly design that can be smelt, heard and felt.

What does this mean when we talk about our homes? When designing your home you should create your identity, understand your emotional values and then make them visible and tangible through design. A holistic approach to design, interiors and architecture is key to achieving longevity as well as giving greater meaning to design.

I had the most amazing experience to consult for StudioIlse on one of their projects.
I designed a showroom apartment for the private sales arm of one of the UK's largest housing associations. The aim was to achieve an emotional and intelligent space defining a soul of the make believe urban couple living there.

My inspiration was the amazing multi-cultural vibrant colour palate that I discovered on the streets of Hounslow where the show flat was created. Using Ilse's ideals I tried to bring the senses from outside in.

The flat was very small so I wanted to demonstrate that you don't have to live in a white bright space to make a room feel airy. Working with deep colours can work really well in a small space. There are some tricks to remember.

Use high gloss to paint a bulky unit in the same colour as your wall. To make objects pop use bright pinks, yellow and white and for items you want to disappear consider black or clear.

To create an illusion of a seprate room install a sheer or fringe divider. Remember to stick with your wall colour for a small space. If  a different colour was used it would make a small room feel even smaller.

Using natural timbers such as this Benchmark table and stool helps make a home feel cosy and welcoming. Another clever trick to help make the outdoors blur inside is to paint high gloss around your windows and skirting the same colour as your walls.

To help break up the pace opt for a different tone blue for some of the rooms. This provides relief and surprise from room to room.

Painting a desk the same colour as the wall directs attention to other features in the room   helping to make the space feel light and airy.

To create a seamless flow through-out the home use the same flooring. Museum and shop glass cabinets are a fantastic solution for bulky storage items.

Add drama, drama, drama. Don't ever be shy. Your home is where you can be open to express yourself. Too often homeowners forget the most important room of all to decorate - the bedroom. This should be one of your favourite rooms in your home. If it isn't then you need to leave this computer now and start decorating your bedroom. Another small room tip...
All blinds in the apartment match the wall colour so when they are pulled down they don't break the flow of the walls.

A floating shelf, a clear perspex side table and an anglepoise lamp in black are fantastic tools for a small space.

Artist's Paradise


Mullholand Drive - Star Gazer

This was my first house feature I ever did and I think it's still my favourite. After all these years the home is still as seductive as when I went there. It really shows when designing not to follow trends but aim for over the top  grandeur and you will have a home that will forever wow your visitors. 
"LA is a sexy place. If you are going to live here, you want a sexy house" says Steven Silverstein, in his native Los Angeles accent. "Somewhere that puts you in the mood to have a drink - to have a party. You know what I am saying?"

Steven, a semi-retired fashion photographer and his Texan wife Gina, gave themselves the unthinkable time frame of one week to find a Fifties Modern house to purchase when they moved back to the United States from Paris. 
Their agent, a former Rodeo Drive haridresser, found them a 1958 classic by architect Richard Dorman which was completely out of the, couples price range. But the pressing time frame and 'love at first sight' prompted them to seal the deal. Today it's a place that has recaptured a romantic age of cocktail parties and the silver screen.
 The house was built as one of the first show homes in this exclusive area, high in the hills above Hollywood, just off Mullholland Drive. These dwellings gave many movie stars, film directors and LA socialites their first taste of life in a modern home. Its striking roof, which swoops down from seven metres at its apex to just 1.5 metres at other corners, is all that can be seen over the boundary wall, but on the other side, three walls of glass means the boundary between indoors and the green canyon below with its deer, raccoons and coyotes, vanishes. It's the nuances of different light here that Steven loves. 
 The mostly original interior includes turquoise splashed on redwood, mosaic double-sided fireplace, natural wood built cabinetry and Fifties light fittings. "The reason why we fell in love with this house is because it was unchanged, it was pure. We were taken aback," says Gina. "Dorman visited us which has made us really respect the house. He said it was his favourite project". 

"Although we were cautious not to change the original colour schemes, there was a little too much turquoise in this house for our taste," admits Gina. The couple decided to sand down the kitchen counter top and the wood panel walls in the den, just leaving a trace of the colour in the wall's grooves. The original mosaics in the bathroom were repaired and a new slate floor put down in the bedroom. Even the Fifties black lino tiles were retained and waxed to a sheen. "We are both preservationists at heart," she says. "I think people rush into doing up homes to quickly". 
Antique stores in LA and Dallas were scoured to find furniture by
"Because the house has nostalgia, it felt only right to have furniture and accessories that had contemporary clean lines and bold colours to match the preiod," says Gina. 
  Guests who don't want the couple's infamous Hollywood parties to end are drawn to the kitchen in the early hours of the morning. The kitchen, a cocoon in the middle of the house, is lined with rich timber. It is the only room that is sheltered from the windows overlooking the San Fernando Valley.
The Silverstein's honesty to the period could have made their interior predictable but the couple's fun choice of colour and mixture of old and new have made it unpretentious and full of character.

 Steven has always had a love affair with Fifties and Sixties glamour. "I grew up in LA. I grew up with cars with fins. I saw turquoise mixed with white and colourful interiors. This way of living is in me from my childhood," he says. At 223 square metres it is small but, he says, "Who needs a McMansion to be happy? I have always dreamt about living in a house like this".

All pictures by photographer Richard Powers

Brent Bolthouse - American Dream

I was channel flicking this afternoon and found myself watching MTV's show The Hills. Please don't tell anyone! The show instantly sent my mind back to when I went to the creator and actor of the shows AMAZING home. 

First meeting Brent Bolthouse I instantly had a huge crush. Good-looking, super successful and a lover of restoring old masters how could I not. 

In Hollywood, some say your cool credentials depends on whether you've received an invitation to a Brent Bolthouse production party. Dubbed the 'King of LA Nightlife', this party-planner has a golden Rolodex bulging with A-list contacts - Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lindsay Lohan to name just a few. 

Like many Hollywood hopefuls, the potential of this Los Angeles home had been overlooked - until discovered by Brent, a passionate buyer with an eye for true star quality. 

But with a glamorous 'day' job that essentially means working all night, this is one man who is in desperate need of time out in the best and most relaxing surroundings, which explains why he says his greatest indulgence is his home. 

Located in the East Hollywood Hills, with sweeping views of the city below and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance, the home was designed by legendary American architect John Lautner. 'It's not a large home by LA standards, but Lautner's design means that it never feels claustrophobic', says Brent. 

I found it tough to get this house published and looking at the beautiful pictures by photographer Richard Powers again I do scratch my head and wonder why. This house is a star who deserves to be in the spotlight. 

You can check out more of this story and the history of the home in this months Australian Inside Out magazine. 

Silly Weekend with Ben Watts and Friends

There is no doubt photographer Ben Watts knows how to make a splash. Ben's Long Island retreat is the perfect venue for a summer party thanks to its' colour-clash interior and beachside location. 

As one of the rising stars of the photography world, its no surprise that Brit-born Ben Watts (brother of actress Naomi Watts) chose to relocate to New York. But needing somewhere to escape the city, he created a weekend retreat in Montauk, on the eastern tip of Long Island. The tiny hamlet is part of a beautiful stretch of coast that makes up the Hamptons, the summer playground for cool New Yorkers. 

When Ben's glamourous Manhattan guests come down for a fun weekend, the laid-back vibe and Brit-cool interiors encourages everyone not to waste anytime in replacing their Monalo's with a bikini and an i-phone with a blow-up inflatable. All the lifestyle shots are by Mr Ben Watts and the interior shots are by talented photographerJames Merrell

I gave Ben a call to ask him a few questions about his style and love for summer. 

What does summer mean to you? 
'It's an exciting time that's over way too quickly. It spells fun and optimism'. 

How would you describe your Style? 
`Lively and Eclectic. I like to bring things back from my travels and use them in my home.'

What Inspires You? 
'I was born in the UK and grew up with images of pop culture in magazines like The Face and 
i-D. I'm drawn to anything with a strong visual identity, from the hip-hop scene to the British Flag'

What do bright colours bring to an interior?
'They give a space energy and make everyone feel upbeat. Colour creates mood and reflects the personality of whoever lives there. I like to use loud colours.' 

But how do you mix it all together – colour, pattern and prints – without it all clashing?              

'I don’t really think about it. They all have vitality, so they they work together. I’m an energetic person, so I need my surroundings to keep up with me. Although I live in a beach cottage, I wanted to bring an urban edge to it because it’s still New York'.

How do you like relaxing with friends?

'When people come to Montauk, they let their guard down. The barbacue is fired up and we have a feast. I hold a huge Fourth of July party and guests sleep in tents in my backyard. It’s a place where people can chill out with a beer, sit by the pool or wander down to the beach'.

Ben’s party tips...

Your pool parties are legendary. What’s the recepie for success?

'Good music, interesting people and lots of inflatables.' 

What’s your favourite drink to make a party to go with a bang?

'The pink drink rose – it’s fun and everyone likes it'. 

Speedos or board shorts?

'Board shorts! I would never wear Speedos and I don’t think any man ever should – even if he thinks he can carry them off. If I could get a human-size vacumn, I would suck up all who attempt to don the Speedo!'