Friday, December 21, 2012

Lighting ideas for your Home

Lighting can transform any space from a pedestrian room to something completely different and, often, quite beautiful. The array of lights to choose from these days is growing every day and designers have better and brighter ideas constantly.

Of course, there's an interesting association with lights at this time of the year; with Christmas nearly here, many streets in Australia are lit up for permanent noon, with flashing Christmas lights galore. While these can be fun and often hilarious, this is not what we're looking at.

Lights can set the mood in a room, so it's important to choose the right colour bulb for the right room. This can range from atmospheric purposes - you want brighter lights in the kitchen, but probably more yellow lighting in the lounge area, to functional purposes - a bright yellow light is best for the room where you do your makeup.

Additionally, lights carry the theme of the home across into the ceiling - if your home is a more traditional Victorian style, then sleek LED fittings might look a little odd. As will contemporary style pendant lights. However if your home is modern, especially if it has the strong open plan entertainment set up, these LED fittings can be your best friend. Just take a look at the beautiful range of LEDs there are on offer these days...

Eyeleds LED lighting home area design ideas

Additionally, in this day and age it's very important to consider the energy usage of the light bulbs you choose; energy saving bulbs are pretty common, and will benefit you and your energy bill in the long run. As energy saving bulb last up to 6 times as long as the traditional bulbs, you won't have to change them as often, which is a relief for those out of reach spots.

There are a lot of gorgeous designs available too. From just doing a quick look through any modern lighting store and you can see the sheer range of traditional, odd and contemporary lights available, from sleek pendants to eccentric chandeliers. If you're into the more cool and sometimes crazy designs, there is a lot of choice out there...
Z Two Lights Lighting designs ideas chandeliers LED

All in all though, it comes down to what suits your home. And those themselves come in many different shapes and sizes. Check out a range of lighting providers at Complete Home.

The Complete Home bloggers will be taking a short break over Christmas, and I certainly will be back in the New Year on January 10th. We wish all our readers a wonderful holiday period and a fabulous New Year, and we look forward to bringing you all the events, designs and ideas in 2013.

PS. For more great lighting ideas, we find Pinterest to be one of the coolest places around. Check out our boards for more inspiration

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making the Jump: Tips For Settling Abroad, Part II

So you’ve accepted a position and you’re ready to move overseas. Whether you’re headed to Abu Dhabi or New York, Hong Kong or Sao Paulo, here are some pieces of universal advice to help you make a smooth transition into your new home:

(4)          Get the lay of the land.

Each city you go to is a whole new world, and while it’s tempting to stick to the highlights in the guidebook, you’ll gain more knowledge and perspective on your new home by simply taking a map (or not!) and going out exploring. This means walking around, a lot. It means riding the subway or the bus until you know the routes and become adept at navigating the system. It means knowing where the nearest bank is, and where you can find vegemite or peanut butter when you get a craving for a taste of home. If you’re moving to a city with known security issues like Johannesburg or Manila, learn “no-go” areas from a local before you go out exploring.

(5)          Learn the language.

It’s not necessarily to be fluent, but knowing the basics like numbers, please and thank you, and hello and goodbye will make navigating your daily life in a new country considerably more stress-free. If the language is written in a non-Roman script, try to learn the fundamentals as soon as possible to prevent unfortunate mix-ups – even which bathroom to go to can be a major issue if you’re illiterate! Remember that other English-speaking countries may also have speech quirks that you’re unfamiliar with, so don’t presume that there will be no learning curve.

(6)          Eat everything.

For most of us, food is overwhelmingly the easiest way into a new culture. You might struggle with the language in Sichuan, for example, but you’re likely to fall quickly in love with spicy Sichuan hot-pot. Likewise, eating is a practice that unites people the world over, so sharing a meal with work colleagues or new acquaintances is generally an all-around win. Most of all, opening your mouth to new foods is a great way of showing openness to your host culture – so whether you’re sampling chicken feet in China, fertilized duck eggs in the Philippines, or barbequed stingray in Singapore, adventurous eating seldom goes amiss.

In the end, your new home is what you make of it. Taking your life abroad might seem like a big step at first, but with a little patience, curiosity and humour, you’ll hit the ground running.

Friday, December 14, 2012

6 simple tips for the perfect Christmas home

Christmas is a wonderfully doubled-edged sword. On one hand, you have the feel good version of Christmas which exists in our collective consciousness. This is the Christmas of our childhoods, the one with the magic, and the fluffy white snow, and the one that exists in the more traditional Christmas films. It's the Christmas of Dean Martin and Eartha Kitt and ice-skating in Central Park.

On the other hand, we have the stressful Christmas period, which turns everyone over 17 into grinches. This is a Christmas that exists in reality for far more people; the stress of using lunch breaks to finish your gift shopping, the stress of fitting 12 potentially drunk family members into your tiny dining room, and even worse, having to cook for this mass of relations. It's the stress that families encounter because not only is it Christmas, but it's the end of the school year and university semester and New Years is looming around the corner. Feeling stressed yet? I sure am.

But in our homes we don't want that stress to show through; most people take pride in their homes looking their best for guests and visitors, but especially at Christmas time. When hosting Christmas day for your family and friends, you want to ensure you can create the perfect setting with your home.

Here are a few simple tips on how to prepare your home for Christmas day:

  1. Don't buy all new decorations every year. Yes, the displays in the homewares stores can be especially seductive, seeing the way everything is made for each other and the way the entire collection works. But this looks beautiful in a store; to invest in the entire story (such as a scandinavian themed Christmas collection, or a sparkly girly themed one) would be madness (and very expensive). Homewares look so different in the home compared to the immaculate shop fronts. The beauty is in the sheer mix of years of different Christmases, including the old-fashioned baubles you inherited from your grandmother, and the children's first decorations. 
  2. Tinsel can be an acquired taste. In Australia with our hot Christmases and lack of snow, tinsel can look a bit too fluffy and severe (and a bit kitschy at times). It can be used well sparingly, like along the top of the mantle, or one dainty pretty silver tinsel on the tree. Replace the big old fluffy tree tinsel with garlands - it can make your tree look a little more individual and interesting.
  3. Organise extra seating and tables ahead of time. With some houses expecting far more relatives than there are chairs at the dining room table, it can be tough to accommodate and keep your home looking neat. Chair covers can make your home look like a function centre, but a light Christmas deco on the back of each chair, such as some gold and silver ribbons, can achieve a better streamlined look. Organise larger tablecloths to throw over the dining table to hide the extra tables at each end. And while it's old fashioned, a kids table can be very handy - as long as you give them something special there too and keep them involved in the celebrations.
  4. Get any big jobs for the home done during the week before Christmas. You don't want to get to 23rd December and realise you should have had the carpet cleaned or the curtains steamed. 
  5. Figure out the music playlist ahead of time, and include minimal Christmas carols. By the time Christmas day rolls around, everyone is sick to death of Christmas carols due to shopping centres playing them since September. So create a playlist of music that will provide a nice background and will please all family members of all ages (our family's standard Christmas album is Dean Martin's greatest hits. They're not carols but they have a charming sensibility that suits Christmas day).
  6. It isn't necessary to have a traditional Christmas. There's many fun and relaxing ways to enjoy Christmas lunch without it destroying your home and your wits. Suggest having a Christmas picnic, with every family member bringing a dish and a rug. Be inventive - have a pool party, or make completely non-traditional Christmas food, like a curry or yum cha. Keep it fresh (but maybe make a small amount of hot lunch to please the oldies)

All in all, remember that it's important to have your home looking beautiful and neat, not perfect and spotless; it needs a welcoming comfortable air rather than a sterile one. And Christmas is about enjoying the day with your family and friends, and if that happens, then the day is a success, whether the curtains have been steamed or not.

PS. Use our Pinterest page to see the prettiest and most interesting Christmas decorations

Friday, December 7, 2012

Saving water in your home is only too easy

These days we hear all the time about the sky falling in, particularly in Australia, particularly in regards to our water usage. Water usage is a valid concern of the modern home, along with energy consumption and recycling, but there are ways to control it at the source itself.

Controlling your water usage by buying efficient products and appliances is one of the best things you can do for your households green rating. By having, say, a shower head that reduces the number of litres per minute, this could mean that your teenager's endless showers aren't hurting the environment as much as they once might have.

The Australian government have developed a program for water rating labels to be applied to all sorts of water using devices and appliances. These appliances are:
  • Washing machines (including combination washer/dryers)
  • Dishwashers
  • Showers
  • Urinals
  • Toilets
  • Taps
  • Flow controllers (optional)
You'll find that most of these you see in the shops will have a label on it that looks a little like:

Wels Water Rating Label
The product will have a certain number of stars assigned to it. The more stars, the more water efficient the product is. 

To learn more about this simply visit the Water Rating and Efficiency Labelling scheme's website.

So before you invest in a new washing machine, dishwasher, or shower, ensure you check out how it compares to it's competitors. You might be surprised how much if benefits you, the environment, and your water bill.

PS. For more tips and ideas on saving water and Eco-friendly homes, take a look at some of our articles and pages:

Some Like it Hot – How to pick your perfect pizza maker

Most of us have accepted that we can’t compete with the pizza industry; we don’t import our tomatoes from the fertile volcanic soil of Pompeii, we don’t have the equipment to reach 400°C without serious injury, we don’t have the skill to knead and toss a pizza or the time and energy to do it. We’re poor, talentless and lazy. Besides, pizza delivers. Pizza’s a party food and not for every day, right? Wrong! Behold! A new range of electrical appliances to save the common man a whole heap of time and effort, while allowing us to become chef de cuisine extraordinaire for a night.

So if you haven’t already started building your pizza oven, brick by brick in the backyard, I suggest you take advantage of the new electric pizza maker products that have erupted onto the scene (á la Vesuvius). There are a range of different brands to choose from but most of the brands (bar Breville) are not familiar to the Australian shopper, so you need to instead, ensure you’re getting a product which has all the best features to create your marinara in the Napolitano style.

A stone base is essential for the even distribution of heat. As with a regular oven, the top will always cook before the bottom - unless you’re smart enough to prebake your base, you will end up with a smoky top and soggy bottom and Nona would not approve. A pizza stone will retain the heat of the oven, cooking the bottom at a faster rate and evenly throughout to ensure you’re base is bubbly crisp. As well as the crispy goodness of a stone, pizza ovens should have a dual heating element top and bottom to ensure that it is cooked both sides. If you’re not inclined to splurge on a pizza maker in the first place (as they are expensive, and a large appliance) just buy yourself a pizza stone and use your regular oven, this is a pretty good alternative for your regular pizza lover.

However, if you are like me, a pizza aficionado, and if you need it in 5 and not 20, we’re back on the path of the Electric Pizza Maker. The next important thing to ensure is that you get a pizza maker that goes to a solidly hot temperature. A regular conventional oven will get to around 250° so you obviously need to make sure you buy a product with a hotter temperature than this.  Most pizza ovens stand at around 300° but I would recommend finding one that reaches 350°, and there are even a few rare ones out there that reach 400°. These should cook a whole pizza in less than six minutes depending. The rule goes: the hotter the better, traditional pizzas in Naples can be cooked in temperatures of up to 900° and ready in 1 minute. Be aware, most of these bad boys have an exposed outer rim which will reach up to 100° so try and get a pizza maker that has a fully covered handle to save accidents. I would also try to get a compact and attractive model as they are quite large appliances and might have to live on your bench depending on your storage situation.

If you like pizza, it’s probably not worth the effort, expense or hassle of cooking your own, so I suggest continue collecting those mailed coupons. But if you are really and truly a pizzaiola at heart, a devoted lover, admirer and soul mate of the slice, then you can’t really be without one. They create perfectly delicious pizzas, as good as any nearby restaurant and in the time it takes them to process the order.

If a bench-top pizza maker doesn't light your fire, there are lots of solutions for extreme bakers, both inside and out. See our articles on firing up your backyard:

And if you're looking for the best kitchen appliance (and pizza oven) suppliers, look no further - Complete Home is a fantastic source

Friday, November 30, 2012

A dummy's guide to bedding: Quilts

Bedding can be the most important investment you make in your home; the key to a good night's sleep is in your bedding choices and I rate a good night's sleep pretty highly. But with the huge range of choices in the market (and it's growing every day) it can be really confusing to a novice to know you're making the right choice. So once a month I will do a feature on bedding and how to choose bedding that's right for you and your situation.

This month it's Quilts.

Quilts, doonas, duvets, whatever you want to call them, these are the large fluffy warm covers on your beds which can double as a bed cover and protector. There are many different types these days with different fillings, construction, and purposes.

The first big point about quilts is maintenance; quilts will need washing, airing and care. If not they can be susceptible (like all bedding) to hygiene issues, such as mould, dust mites, bed lice or even scabies. If you don't know what those are, google at your own peril - it isn't pretty. If your quilt is washable and your machine can take the size, then wash it thoroughly in boiling water once a month. If your quilt is not washable, it needs to be stuck in direct sunlight at least once a month (if not more). The sun is your natural defence against the nasties I listed above - it will kill off all of them (however if you realise you're infested with these, I would recommend a complete bedroom overhaul and a trip to the doctor; this advice is purely preventative, and cannot supplement the advice of your gp). On a daily basis, pull back your bedding when you get up and ensure the sun casts onto your bed through your window - let this air out until you're leaving the house or need to make the bed. Immediately throwing the covers back on will only increase the risk of nasties.

Now with that formality out of the way, lets look at the different types of quilt fillings:

Cotton: This is a great summer quilt. Cotton breathes and doesn't let you get all hot and bothered, but still has that little bit of weight we like in quilts. In Australia, it's great from Mid-November to end February for those balmy nights.

Eucalyptus: Some companies are starting to introduce Eucalyptus blends into their quilt ranges. These are a great eco-friendly choice, made from plantation trees (and some companies, like One Choice, promise to plant a new eucalyptus in the wild for every product sold) and natural fibres. They're great for asthma sufferers and warm sleepers; they suck out the moisture while keeping you warm, so there's less chance that you'll end up sweaty or cold.

Polyester: Synthetic materials are far better for the colder months. They're great because they're affordable, light and fluffy but very warm. Additionally they're nearly always machine washable. The only drawback is that they do not breathe at all - so if you're a hot sleeper prone to sweating, this will only make the problem worse. Great for cold kids though.

Wool: A classic choice for winter and autumn. Woollen quilts, made from natural fibres, breathe and aerate the body, and a lot of people swear by them. However they are quite heavy and compact, so if you want that light and fluffy feeling, wool isn't your best bet. Only some of these are machine washable, it depends on the maker. But they are a classic choice and most are Australian made.

Feather and Down: This often confuses people as they don't understand the concept of down. While the feather in the quilt is the actual bird feather with the spine going up it, the down is the fluffy tiny feathers that grow on the bird's stomach and chest. The percentage of down to feather is important in a quilt: the more down, the warmer, and fluffier it is (and luxurious), the more feather, it will be cooler, crunchier and flatter. Generally also, the more down, the higher the price. Feather and Down quilts generally cannot be washed, only dry cleaned, so they're not a great choice for kids. Additionally, they are not recommended for asthma or hayfever sufferers.

So there is lots to choose from, and these are only the most basic products - some more specialist stores do silk, or bamboo quilts. So always speak to the sales staff and see what they know about the products, as they tend to be trained on the differences.

The construction of quilts is also very important; when you see a quilt, generally it will have a pattern of boxes stitched into it. This is to stop the filling from moving around and bunching up in one spot. But some companies box it larger and some smaller. Smaller tends to be better, so keep an eye out for that.

Some companies are bringing out every season quilts too; this is where they sell 2 quilts in one packet, one heavier (Autumn weight) and one lighter (summer weight). These will clip or zip together to create one heavy Winter quilt. These can be great if you don't want to go through the entire selection process several times for the different seasons.

A final note is that across Australia there are retailing laws where quilts cannot be returned, refunded or exchanged for resale. What this means is that if there is not a fault in the product it cannot be returned - so no change of mind. This is for safety reasons as you can guess, sharing quilts with a stranger is not hygienic and can pass on some nasty things (this includes if you haven't opened it, as there's no way for a store manager to tell if a product has been opened and very skillfully resealed or not). So when you make your decision, make sure you're sure about it. This is a fantastic rule that protects all of us, so remember it when shopping.

Good luck with your quilt shopping, and comment if you have any interesting quilt experiences (or bedding shopping experiences). I used to work in manchester, so it's interesting to hear the consumer's stories

PS. For more information about bedding, the Complete Home website has heaps to offer

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trend focus: Vintage style

Over the past couple of years, vintage design and style has strongly picked up in mainstream interior design (as usual, it follows the movement of fashion towards vintage styles and trends). In the right house a retro or vintage style can look fantastic; in other homes, less so. I think a lot of it has to do with the balance between vintage cool and recreating the flavours of an era, to looking like your grandmother's house (nothing against grandmothers of course).

You also want to avoid your home becoming a hot mess of  from 10 different eras. The 50s and the 20s were gorgeous, innovative and stylish eras, but they should not strongly mix in the same area. Before you contemplate decorating in this style, consider researching the different style movements of the 20th century, and find what style might suit you and your home best.

If money isn't a huge factor, I'd also steer clear of mainstream homewares specifically marketed as "vintage style". More often than not, these are low quality pieces with no true commitment to a specific style or era, and are just following the latest trend. Instead, pick longer lasting and high quality true vintage pieces - there's a growing market in the area of restored vintage furniture, especially from the 50s onwards. If you live in Queensland, check out Kat Creasey's work on My Little Rockabilly - she has expanded her business into custom vintage furniture restoration and the results are beautiful;

One aspect of vintage interiors that can get out of hand is the amount of kitsch to use. Now I love kitsch and kitschy items - they can really add a more playful level to your home - but you only need a few of these items to get the intended effect. If you're doing a classic 50s style bedroom, one leopard print item (like an ottoman) is really all you need to break up the style. I've always loved the idea that you need one "trashy" or cheap item in every room to give the design a bit of tension. It's a great concept and will eliminate the stodgy or sterile element. It will also stop your home looking too much like your grandmothers home, or a display home.

While I strongly encourage more in depth research, here's a quick run down of the eras and their styles

1900 - 1914: The Edwardian era. This era was dominated by Art Nouveau, so look into luxurious interiors; potted palms, bamboo and wicker furniture, light and airy spaces and pastels. Think Titanic or Downton Abbey.
1918 - 1929: The Roaring 20s. The Jazz age was a bastion of change and modernity with the introduction of Art Deco and Bauhaus designs. Black contrasts, hardwood flooring, strong colours, Egyptian motif wallpaper, and simple furniture. Watch Chicago, Midnight in Paris, The House of Eliot or Miss Fisher's murder mysteries for some inspiration.
1930 - 1939: The depression era. Though marked with economic downturn, design continued to flourish and grow towards modernism, with influences from art movements such as Neoclassicism, Futurism, Cubism, Modernism and Constructivism. Sleek style, modern lines, minimalism, exotic upholstery, muted shades of green and mustard. Take a look at Cinderella Man and The Artist.
1945 - 1959: The mid-century modern. The late 40s and 50s were defined by nature as post-war eras, and with this there was a strong move towards sentimentality and modern designs (and there's two very different ends of the spectrum; conservative suburban 50s design and rockabilly trends). Think flowery wallpaper, formica furniture, pink kitchens, leopard print, record players, and cadillacs. Take some influences from Revolutionary Road, Cry Baby, or American Graffiti.
1960 - 1979: Flower Power and Revolution. These decades took strong influences from the revolutions in society, music and fashion; middle class white culture began to explore Indian and Eastern designs. Psychedelic wallpaper, saffron and pea green upholstery, space age designs, Andy Warhol prints and plastic. Look to The Brady Bunch, Hair and Goldfinger.

In the end, find an era that suits you. You can employ the smallest of elements from it, like a distinctice couch or piece of art, to a full-blown reproduction home. If anything, it'll guarantee individuality and a wow factor.

And make sure to check Complete Home's interior design section and furniture sections for latest ideas and providers of gorgeous interiors.

PS. Check out some sweet Vintage styling on Pinterest. It's a vintage haven there!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Making the Jump: Tips For Settling Abroad, Part I

Few opportunities fill us with as much trepidation as accepting a position that involves moving overseas. Once the initial excitement fades, we become suddenly aware of how huge the task before us is, full of unknowns and uncertainties. Daunting though it may seem at first, however, moving abroad is easily one of the most rewarding challenges life has to offer, and with a little foresight, you can make the transition to a new home in a foreign country with assurance, poise, and equanimity. Here are a few tips to remember if you’re considering making the jump:

(1)               (1)              Get your paperwork sorted early.

Nothing disrupts your peace of mind like having your visa or work authorization hanging in the balance, and dealing with foreign immigration offices is seldom a straightforward process. Often as not, I’ve found myself sprinting from office to office seeking a last-minute stamp or seal of approval on my documents that was never mentioned but is apparently required. Medical examinations, official notarizations, background checks, and lots and lots of passport-sized photos are usually a part of the process, and your application is virtually guaranteed to take more visits than you anticipated. If there’s an element in your application that may take extra time to fulfil, plan to get started with it well ahead of the deadline.

(2)                Learn cultural taboos and politeness norms.

As a foreigner, one is typically presumed a free pass for the odd cultural faux pas, but knowing the basics of how to act in a society will go a long way towards making your transition a smooth one. While guidebooks are full of spurious cultural tips (for example the old piece of wisdom that “thumbs up is a rude gesture in Australia!”), there are certain bits of basic etiquette that are broadly applicable. Not eating or shaking hands with the left hand in Muslim and Hindu cultures, giving and receiving objects using both hands in East Asia, and not wearing shoes into the home in Japan or Korea, for example, are all simple bits of decorum that are easy to learn and easy to observe. People are almost always happy to explain, so when unsure, just ask!

(3)                Make your new place “home”.

The places we call home are as much a set of memories and habits as they are a physical location. As such, bringing objects of personal significance into your new living space will go a long way toward making it feel like a home. Decorating with photos of friends and family, a favourite piece of art, or a familiar bedspread are all easy ways of making your new digs seem less foreign. Likewise, don’t abandon your daily customs just because you’re in unfamiliar territory. Whether you’re into yoga, running, cooking, or cinema, continuing to do what you enjoyed back home always makes the transition to your new life less jarring, and is usually an excellent way to meet people.    

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BoConcept officially launches in Crows Nest!

Last night I attended the launch party for BoConcept furniture in Crows Nest, Sydney. And I have to say what a fantastic night it was - these Danes make the best hosts. Not only was the store gorgeous, but the music, food and drinks were lovely, and the atmosphere was relaxed and so very stylish. Thanks again to those at BoConcept for a brilliant party.

It was particularly exciting as this isn't just a store launch - it is the launch of BoConcept in Australia. After 60 years of brilliant furniture design in Denmark (and spreading around the globe) they have finally graced our shores. And seeing the products in reality was an utter pleasure.

The set up of the store is particularly clever, in that as you walk through you encounter different styles and shapes of dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, offices, and all the bits and bobs along the way. It makes you feel like you're in a very stylish, very co-ordinated home, rather than a furniture store.

It was really very hard picking favourites, but I couldn't find anything that beat the couch that originally caught my eye (Back in my first post about BoConcept) - the peacock coloured customisable couch.
Not only is it as beautiful and vibrant in reality as it is in the images, but it's very very comfortable - spent a lot of the night resting on that couch. In my photo it's a bit yellow-y but that's due to the store spotlights (it is very teal in real life).

What I find really fantastic through about BoConcept is their attitude to furniture; it ought to be customisable and suited to your home (as opposed to changing the home for the furniture). This is seen with their design corner of the store; trained interior designers assist you at computers, and help visualise how your home will look with a BoConcept addition (and what customisable options suit you best). This is a perfect idea and I love it already.
The little surprises and additions in the furniture at BoConcept really make the design unique and playful. This includes in my last post about the coffee table which opens up; a lot of their furniture has these functional features, even in the wall cabinets or the sofas. See the chairs below - chairs double as storage space. It's very clever how they create furniture which is accessible for a space-limited apartment, or a terrible hoarder (like myself).
Now my guilty pleasure is homewares and decor items; having worked in manchester as a visual merchandiser, I suffer a terrible addiction to "dust collectors".
And the homewares at BoConcept are worthy of this affliction; they are very cute, trendy and interesting  and come a full range for all sorts of people. There are elegant vases and candle holders, clever bookends, and even neon plastic bicycles.
The canvases of art they had spread throughout the store added also to the gorgeous style of the place; these were all fresh and vibrant or sombre and moody.
There is not a dull moment with these decorator items - they all seem to be designed with the same passion and flair as all of the furniture.

I feel also that the attitudes of BoConcept appeal very strongly to the Australian culture; there is a wonderful emphasis on the furniture not being arrogant, that Danish design does not need to be simply for Danes, that Luxury should be affordable, in comfortable beautiful furniture, and constantly learning from their experience. They have the full set of beliefs on their website, but I think it's a great sentiment, and the best thing is that it shows in the furniture, in the staff, and in the store. It's extremely refreshing when you walk into a beautiful and unpretentious furniture store, with friendly and relaxed staff.
Overall, it was a lovely night and brilliant party thrown by the team at BoConcept. I love their store and this is definitely not the last time I'll be there.

P.S. Ensure you keep up to date with BoConcept's latest designs on Complete Home here

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Minimal Living

For the last five years, I've been fortunate enough to enjoy a highly mobile and deeply fulfilling lifestyle – not only living in Sydney, San Francisco, and Seoul, but setting foot in more than 30 countries on five different continents. Hectic as modern life is, with its ballooning demands on time, energy, and money, I’ve found increasing degrees of satisfaction and independence in my international existence by embracing a philosophy of minimal living.

While minimalism usually conjures up images of people obsessively paring their lives down to a rigid austerity, living without electricity and deeply involved in projects concerning things like composting toilets, it needn’t be anything so drastic. The idea of a ‘minimal home’ doesn’t have to be an oxymoron, and there’s no reason to sacrifice luxuries in the quest for simplicity.

Instead, in every new home I’ve made, I’ve put the things that I use every day, the things that bring me joy, right at the centre of my household, and greatly reduced the clutter around them. Morning meditation, for example, is a big part of my life, so having a quiet, comfortable, and well-appointed meditation space is always job one. My girlfriend, on the other hand, loves to cook, and so investing in quality kitchenwares for her is always a good bet.

Rather than having all your “good” things (whether crockery, furniture, or bed linens) always put away because they’re too nice to use, it’s much more fulfilling and practical to invest in good ‘dailies’ – good-quality things that see regular use – which prevents the contradictory impoverished feeling we sometimes get from having nice things that we’re afraid to use.

As Dr. Phiona Stanley at the University of New South Wales writes of experiments in voluntary simplicity, making a mental inventory of your rooms and cupboards will help you figure out what’s really central to your home life. If you can’t think of the last time you used a particular object (my barbeque has, come to think of it, gotten quite rusty), it’s probably not essential. If, on the other hand, you’re filled with fond memories of entertaining on your patio, or hours experimenting in the kitchen, these spots might make a worthy focus for your home.

In the end, minimalism is all about having to think less about the stuff you don’t need in your life, so you can have more time, energy, and money to enjoy the things that are truly important to you. “Simplicity,” as the writer William Gaddis said, might really be “the ultimate sophistication”.  

For more ideas on dressing up or dressing down your interiors, check out Complete Home, whether it's for your kitchen or living room.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Clever designs to prettify your home

What I love about the internet is the utter range of products, ideas and inventions you can find on it. The web is giving a voice to independent designers with cool ideas, and is starting to provide them with an enthusiastic niche market. I'm excited every day about the treasures I'm finding (and the design genius' behind them!) but this week all I can think about is patterned paint rollers, magical spill-happy tablecloths and hand-made cushions.

Magical spill-happy tablecloths? Sound ridiculous? Maybe, but they definitely exist. Kristine Bjaadal, a young designer from Norway, has designed tablecloths that when spilt on, don't stain. Instead it reveals a pattern previously invisible, and dyes it with the colour of the spilt liquid.
These tablecloths are simply magical. The idea is that a stained tablecloth doesn't have to be thrown out - with the pretty designs, the stains become something beautiful and the owners can see the use of the tablecloth and its past. With the emphasis on eating and entertaining these days, having something that reminds you of those times (in a beautiful way) is really lovely.

Bjaadal is really interested in the wear and tear of household objects and turning it from something negative into something beautiful and positive. The designs are always interesting and innovative, with a little bit of old fashioned sensibility; making everyday objects last longer.

The Painted House is another company that is really approaching the look of the home in a different way. The designer, Clare Bosanquet, found the idea in Romania, and adapted it to many different applications. This product is found in the form of a paint roller, but one that is patterned like a traditional stamp. These paint rollers come in many different cute and interesting patterns, from wall applicators to fabric.

So rather than the arduous process of applying wallpaper to your home, or going for plain matte coloured walls (or attempting a difficult or expensive mural) you can easily pretty up your home with a paint roller or your choice. The application is easy, and the results are beautiful. The choice of colours and pattern is entirely up to you, and the result will be a personalised and pretty home.

I particularly like the deer pattern (to the very left). With Christmas on its way, this applicator would make some gorgeous wrapping paper or even help decorate your home ready for the big day. I'd love to see the pattern in silver on a white wall - it would be exquisite.

My final obsession of this week is Remorque Clothing and Intimates. This is an independent company run solely by Sophia Hopgood, a young woman from Adelaide, Australia. Her best seller is her handmade cushions, made from interesting and funky fabrics. Her influences are a strong dose of vintage, rockabilly, 40s and 50s culture, pop culture and alternative culture, and I love her work.

I actually own two of her cushions and they are beautifully sewn and made from quality fabric. They differ from your stock standard cushions in that they can openly and distinctly say something about your personality, loves and style; an Elvis cushion popped on your couch or a leopard fur cushion on your bed will say a lot more about you and your home than maybe a raw silk cushion. Sophia makes the cushions to order, and personally interacts with each and every customer - you can tell she's very passionate about her company and about making her customers happy.

I love a home with a bit of kooky style or something a bit different or exciting, and that's exactly what these companies are offering. And I'll continue hunting for the next weird and wonderful innovation.

P.S. The cool products and awesome ideas don't end here - check Complete Home's wallpaper and paint section, or our furniture section.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fondness for Fondue

While the seventies are not renowned for good taste, one good and tasty thing did come out of it – the Fondue.  Fondue originated in Switzerland in the ninteenth century, however, it sky rocketed to international fame and popularity in the sixties and seventies as a sophisticated dinner party favourite.  
After this era, unfortunately the fondue cooled off and melted away. The concept didn't correspond to the new health conscious, diet obsessed and convenience culture that the nineties introduced. This I understand, I have a beautiful enamel fondue set and I’ve never felt inclined to use it for an after-work, week night meal.
In recent foodie culture, the current trend of easy and nutritious has once again been superseded by a new trend, which is the desire to eat authentic food rich in culture and tradition. This is the new height of sophistication, no more packet mixes, easy bakes, seasonings or sachets. Even the calories don’t count anymore. Now we travel, we have memorable dining experiences and we want to recreate amazing and real food in our home kitchens.  

However, there is a trade off with fondue. Yes, it takes significant effort, skill, expense and time and will unfailingly make a huge mess. However, Fondue is a theatrical, interactive dish that stimulates conversation and creates conviviality at a party and romance for a couple. There’s almost no preparation either which you can’t do communally in the company of your guests - and - it’s the only socially acceptable way to eat a whole meal of cheese.  Fondue also allows for creativity in the kitchen. The traditional recipe involves melting Emmenthal or Raclette with a little cornflour, garlic and wine and that’s essentially all you need to create an awe-inspiring meal – however, ingredient possibilities are endless.  At “La Maison du Fondue” in Aix en Provence I was fortunate enough to sample four different fondues from a menu of forty, so be creative and don’t be afraid to throw in some blue cheese, goats cheese, rosemary, mustard seeds, pesto, chilli, beer, champagne... anything that goes with cheese will go with fondue.  All that’s left to do now is thread some crusty baguette on the end of your prong, wipe the cheesy grin off your face, and be thankful that Fondue is back and hotter than ever. Here's some nice Fondue models to get you inspired and joining team cheese.

For more awesome appliances, check Complete Home. And don't forget about the gorgeous kitchen to hold your fondue party in.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Homes Around the World

“There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and while she may have wished for her farmhouse in Kansas, it’s hardly the final word in what a home can be.

Having spent much of the last five years both living and travelling throughout Asia and Africa, I’ve seen firsthand how different the concept of home can be in different cultures. While the “Australian Dream” might be for a house with a yard, for example, most families in the buzzing, densely-populated city of Seoul, South Korea generally aspire to an apartment in one of the city’s thousands of high-rise towers. While these apartments might come complete with traditional heated ondol floors (perfect for the cold Seoul winters) and possibly a special kimchi refrigerator to keep that all-important Korean condiment at a constant temperature, they also tend to be tiny, usually less than 100m2.

Nor does home even have to be a constant place. While I’ve spent a year at a time living out of a 40-litre backpack, there are an estimated 30-40 million people worldwide who are permanently itinerant, following a traditional nomadic lifestyle. Nearly half of Mongolia’s population might live in the blocky, smoggy, urbanized sprawl of Ulan Bator, but another third still are still pastoralists, horsemen and herders driving their flocks across the steppes in search of pasture. For this million-strong population, home is a ger or yurt, a portable circular hut made of wool felt supported by a timber frame, and carried on the backs of yaks or camels, which can be assembled in as little as two hours. In Mongolian, in fact, ‘ger’ literally means ‘home’.

By contrast, the peoples of Lesotho, a mountainous landlocked country inside South Africa, used to be pastoralists who moved between high pastures in summer and low valleys in winter until this pattern was disrupted by the pressures of colonialism. Needing a home that could stand up to both the intense sun of summer and freezing cold of winter in the mountains (80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres), they devised a type of circular rondavel known as a mokhoro, built with thick walls of mud and stone for insulation and a heavy thatch roof to keep the weather out. Often partially built into the hillsides of north-facing slopes, these traditional dwellings are an excellent example of passive heating and cooling, embodying principles now being adopted in the low energy “passive houses” of Scandinavia.

Of course, it’s also often said that “home is where the heart is,” and in most of the places I’ve lived or visited, considerations of family (and extended family!) are central to the concept of a home. Whether in India, Mozambique, or Guatemala, I’ve most often found grandparents, grown children, and grandchildren happily living together in “generational” households. Surprising as it may seem, this trend toward “permaculture” living is on the rise in Australia, too: from 1981-2006, the number of multi-generation homes in Australia increased by 26.7%, according to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Exclusive Vacation in Morocco

With managing editor,

Fez is Europe, but closed
Marrakesh is Africa, but open
Fez is black, white and grey
Marrakesh is red
(John Gunther, Inside Africa 1955) 

Morocco is one of the few places on earth where you switch from a country of donkeys and mules from the biblical past to one forging into the future while the cry of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer wafts across a labyrinth like medina. Cellular phones make no distinction between elegant suits, couture fashion jeans or djellabas and haiks in impossibly bright tones of orange, lime green, ochre yellow and pink.

Morocco is a visually sophisticated nation with a distinctive beauty and cultural legacy
which reached its zenith from the 11th to 13th centuries when the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties ruled North Africa from Marrakesh to Tunis. The Moors excelled in mathematics, literature and medicine, they built mosques, minarets and palaces that were the envy of the entire Islamic world. Curiously, these achievements were preserved by defeat at the hands of the Crusaders in 1492 and for the next 500 years Morocco was closed to outsiders. The skill of Moroccan craftsmen, already legendary more than a thousand years ago, now has fresh relevance. Among peaceful oases and palms, age old crafts adorn restaurants and palaces and the world’s trend setting contemporary stylists grab ideas and translate them comfortably into the now from this captivating, colourful, exotic country.

Our tour to Morocco is leaving March 25, 2013 – April 7, 2013. If you would like to join us contact Kate St James

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bang & Olufsen launch BeoPlay A9 (and know how to throw a party)

Last night I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Bang & Olufsen launch party for the new BeoPlay A9 in Australia. And what a party. With every store manager from the Australian Bang & Olufsen stores, crammed into a very cool Surry Hills apartment, and surrounded by some of the most upmarket and cool technology hitting stores, I don't think it could have failed.

The BeoPlay range is something that is quite new and exciting, not only for Bang & Olufsen, but also for the market (you could tell all of the Bang & Olufsen reps were super excited, the speeches were pepped up and enthusiastic, and every rep wanted to tell you about the range). The company is moving with the times and how digital our lives have become; this range allows for it with digital televisions, ipad docks, ipod/iphone/smartphone docks and speaker systems. All of the products are about producing the highest quality audio and visuals but accommodating our futuristic technology. 

I do love the wireless smartphone/iphone dock - it has so many options, and you can continue using your smartphone while the speakers are blasting your favourite music away on the other side of the room. I can see this being super useful at parties - you don't want to leave your phone on the dock in case some dishonest person nicks it, or friends want to prank your facebook. But with this you just log in on the apple airplay, pick your music and continue on with your dancing or gossiping.

The setting itself was gorgeous, along with the food and drinks. B&O managed to find this ultra-cool open plan apartment in Surry Hills, Sydney (up the top of 6 flights of stairs!) and boy, does the owner have an amazing interior. What I found most intriguing was the way they suspended a wooden ladder horizontally from the ceiling above the kitchen bench to hang the pots and pans from. This was the drinks area, so I didn't manage to grab a photo. With such a hot night (it's really starting to heat up here in Sydney) I was glad for the chilled water they had on offer (along with the champagne). But the chilled water was served in glass jars with old fashioned red and white paper straws. This is what the entire evening was like - a strong attention to detail and those final touches. It was very cute and very cool.

This night was particularly exciting for B&O as they were unveiling two very new and exciting products - the new BeoPlay A9 and the BeoVision 11. Both of these are extremely sleek and high-quality products. The BeoPlay A9 is a round speaker system (on the left in the above picture) which can be lifted off its stand and placed on a wall, or wherever you want. It was developed by young Danish designer Øivind Slaatto (check out his other work, it's pretty neat) who based the design on the way musical harmonies are mathematically imprinted in nature. The result is astounding - the sound quality is perfect, and the look and feel of it is perfect for the contemporary home. What I particularly liked was the way the back of it was touch-sensitive; so if you want to change the volume, a swipe to its back is all you need.

The BeoVision 11 is a new television for the company. It sits on a remote-controlled stand, so if you change seats or rearrange the room, the television angle is easily adjusted. The visual quality is insane though - I was sitting very close to the side of the tv, and I could still view the image perfectly - there was no distortion at all. The speakers are also very high quality, and as usual, you can link it to almost everything - your entire soundsystem, your apple tv, your game console. 

All in all it wasn't your typical launch party; instead it had fantastic food, interesting company, an awesome setting and the surrounds of premium futuristic home technology. And I think it was a good night was had by all.

P.S. If you want the latest updates on Home technology or even keeping your home secure, head over to Complete Home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Designer Wheels

Following in the mantra of Donna Hay, entertaining should not just be stylish, but also simple. What’s the point of owning a glamourous chair if it’s uncomfortable to sit in? With this in mind, I introduce to you my favourite piece of furniture at the moment, the very functional family of trolleys. While shopping trolleys are great for the supermarket, I would like to steer you in the direction of cheese trolleys, drinks trolleys and mobile kitchen islands which make entertaining indoors and outdoors, so much easier to manage.

A very elaborate example of the modern trolley is the beautiful custom designed cheese trolley at Restaurant Arras. Adam Humphrey (restaurant owner) personally designed the trolley which currently has a reputation surpassing the cheese and even the restaurant.  Humphrey’s cheese trolley costs over $8,000 and took 9 months to create; it features a hidden ice tray for temperature control, a cheese knife drawer (resplendent with a $1,000 bronze handle), a pull out serving board and a tall, Perspex cloche. Adam Humphrey’s believes:

“I’ve always to create a cheese trolley that was as beautiful and dramatic as the cheeses we serve, so I decided that the best way to do that was to design one myself from scratch”.

Drink trolleys are another fantastically practical item of furniture. There are many sleek, bright modern designs which are perfect for outdoor use and beg to hold a carafe of summer punch or martini glasses. They are particularly useful for outdoor entertaining, where you can just wheel them between your outdoor area and your kitchen for restocking to save carrying awkward loads and making multiple trips.
Mobile kitchen islands with wooden benches are fantastic for preparing food in an organised and contained way, and giving a smaller kitchen an extra bench to use. They are also brilliant for serving food; they make a great board for cheese, antipasto or snacks and once again also assist transporting food, drinks and tableware from living areas to the kitchen. Here's a few I found particularly inspiring:

For more outdoor entertaining options, check out our Outdoor Furniture section at Complete Home, or even the Designs section for some stylish inspiration.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Travel Tales

It’s often said that travel broadens the mind and after a month in England and Europe, I can certainly say that it is definitely a source of inspiration. I grew up in England and so the annual or bi-annual pilgrimage back to see family and friends is more or less mandatory. I always combine my overseas trips with design shows and events and this trip was no exception. So I thought this issue, I’d share some of my travel insights with you.

Day one found me at the BIBA Exhibition at the Brighton Museum. When I was a teenager, BIBA in Kensington was an almost weekly destination for my best friend and I; we would spend hours trying on the latest fashion offerings from this iconic and popular fashion store. Founder Barbara Hulanicki went on to become an interior designer whose work can be seen around the world and whose wallpapers are now available through Habitat and Graham and Brown.

Day two I visited Decorex, in Chelsea, London’s luxury interior design show for professionals. On show were the crème de la crème of the UK design houses as well as some of Europe’s big names, including Vivian Westwood, Fortuny, Andrew Martin (whose stand was reminiscent of a Star Trek TV show set), Christopher Guy, Fromental and many more. Offerings included classic as well as contemporary designs and while it was difficult to identify any particular trends, the mood was upbeat and colour, texture and pattern were in abundance.

Christopher Guy Stand
Corita Rose stand

Vivian Westwood wallpaper

Day three saw me at The Curzon cinema in Curzon Street to see the fabulous Diana Vreeland (the empress of fashion) film, The Eye has to Travel. As the former editor of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, Vreeland was a larger-than-life figure on the fashion scene for many years. The film’s story weaves its way through the Belle Époque period in Paris, New York’s Roaring ‘20s and London’s Swinging ‘60s — intermingled with insights and stories from colleagues and friends such as Andy Warhol, Diane Sawyer, Manolo Blahnik and Veruschka. It traces events in the history of fashion while touching on themes such as the evolution of women into roles of power and prominence. Famous for her quote “style is everything ... style is a way of life ... without it you’re nothing”, Vreeland ruled the world of couture for more than five decades.

Over the following weeks I visited many quaint and historical villages, the remains of Roman castles, wonderfully preserved pubs, design showrooms and shopping destinations, all the while making note of the great diversity in style for both fashion and home.

My last week was spent on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. The lovely village of Cala Major, just outside the capital Palma and where my friend has a holiday apartment overlooking the ocean, was perfectly placed to enjoy the sun, sea and shopping. While the rest of Spain struggles economically, Mallorca still seems to attract lots of visitors, as could be witnessed by the continuous stream of aircraft that were visible (thankfully not audible) from the apartment. The architecture, art and scenery of this beautiful island are no doubt the reason why so many famous people have lived or live there, including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Sir Richard Branson. Cala Major is a largely tourist-free destination with a generous, well-maintained sandy surf beach, elegant hotels and restaurants, along with simple cafes and restaurants patronised by tourists and locals. It is also where the Spanish royal family has its summer residence. For art lovers, it is where artist Joan Miro, who arrived in the 1950s, set up his house and studio that is now managed by the Fundacio Pilar I Joan Miro, which houses 2500 of his artworks along with 1000 paintings by Pablo Picasso.

Cala Major, Mallorca
Back in England, my final two days were spent in the pretty town of Lewes in Sussex, where the remains of the Norman, Lewes Castle still dominate and afford stunning views of the town. Finally, not far from Lewes in Firle, is Charleston House, former home and country meeting place for the writers, painters and academics who become known as the Bloomsbury Set, which included Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Established in 1916 by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who moved to Sussex with their unconventional household, Charleston became a meeting place for many artists and intellectuals. The artists decorated the interiors and furnishings of the house with paintings and murals inspired by the Post Impressionists. The pretty walled garden was given a southern European accent and included mosaics, box hedges, gravel pathways and ponds — with a touch of Bloomsbury humour in the placing of the statuary.

Lewes Castle, Lewes Sussex
Burnham on Crouch

The White Hart, Burnham on Crouch

The house is now maintained by the Charleston Trust and is open to the public at certain times of the year. On show are murals, painted furniture, ceramics, paintings and textiles, along with objects from the Omega Workshops, a design enterprise founded by members of the Bloomsbury group to express their ethos. The collection includes work by Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Sickert, Tomlin and Eugène Delacroix.