Decorating with antlers

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Love them or loathe them, which-ever your sensibilities, they certainly make a statement in a room.  Gone are the days when antlers were consigned to dusty trophy rooms.  Now they’re used anywhere from a house in the Hamptons to modern high rise apartments.  I prefer antlers that are naturally shed, a big 16 pointer stag grows those antlers in 2 to 4 months, and loses them after he’s mated, only to regrow them again the next year.  There are also so many resin antler manufacturers, you really can go the humane way.  I love the organic shape they instantly give a room, and the natural colours are always a winner.

A wooden carved stag head, mixed with subway tiles and a collection of rattan trays, gives this veranda a lovely organic feel

Greige textured walls, mixed with old books and glass cloches

A gold stencil and stag antlers gives this bedroom a sense of serenity

An antler chandelier, old wood and stone tops makes this outside kitchen an inviting work space

An armoire and a drinks tray, combined with antique stone floor….

 

There is such a thing as TOO many antlers, I think…

 

A neat Scandinavian bedroom gets livened up with a collection of deer horns

Even a modern room can have a complete transformation with the help of antlers

A lovely display in one of my favourite interior shops in Cape town, Block and Chisel

A shop display in Selfridges.  A good idea, the old newspapers used as wallpaper…

Cool, classic french grey walls, crystal chandelier and antlers…

I love the very dark varnished floor

Elle Decor

Shop this look on 1st dibs

Dan Carithers interiors

Images from one of my favourite books, Creative walls

Decorative walls

Martyn Thompson

Velvet curtains and chocolate brown walls in the inviting home of Steve Shuck and Bobby Johns

A lovely display of natural curiosities

An all-white tableau of resin horns

Two of my favourite things in one room, skulls and antlers…

Mongolian sheepskin rugs add a lot of warm to a simple Scandinavian interior

Newport antiques

Antler lighting

Atlanta Bartlett

Antler furniture

I just adore this chest of drawers with horn handles

Wooden carved deer, gotta have one

A study in neutrals

Design within reach

Interior design by Kelly Behun

300 Point resin rack by Carolyn Salas

Whether you love them or not, a stunning natural curiosity…

Magic make-over: How to age furniture

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I ran into some budget constraints whilst furnishing the house in Provence (namely my husband!), so I had to buy some cheaper pieces to try and finish the interior before the holidays.  I’ve spent a lot of time finding antiques at the markets, so I needed these pieces to look like they’ve been around for a while to blend in with the rest of the furniture.  I managed to find two nice pieces at French furniture company Maison du Monde at a really reasonable price, but they looked a bit cheap and flat in their pure white paint.  So off to Ressource paint for some sample pots.  I love their paints, they come in lovely powdery shades, packed with pigment, so you normally only need one coat, which is lovely for a lazy painter like me!

I’ve painted so many things in my life, in so many different techniques, and this was a really quick, easy way of making something look old with minimal effort.  I hate sanding.  I really REALLY hate sanding.  So, my solution is to use universal undercoat.  You can paint it over pretty much any paint, including gloss enamel, and then paint a water-based paint over it.  Easy peasy.  If you’d like your undercoat to be a different colour to your topcoat (it normally comes in white), the easiest would be to mix pigment straight into your undercoat.  Otherwise, you have to paint at least 2 coats of universal undercoat, and then the undercoat in the colour of your choice.

So I started with two new, pure white pieces of furniture…

A little desk for the guest room

And a server for the living room.

Next, you have to age your piece.  I do this by tying a bunch of old keys together with a piece of wire.

This was all I had in the toolbox, some washers and brackets, but it did the job!  Now it’s time to take out your frustrations.  Bash the piece all over with the bunch of keys.  Make sure they’re old, in case one breaks!  Work the piece most where it will naturally get dents and scratches over time, like on the corners and on the legs.  It’s important for the dents to be irregular, so don’t use something like a hammer, the keys work really well.  I got this tip from a painter at a factory specialising in ageing new furniture.

Next, I mix my undercoat with some wood shavings found at the local lumberyard.  If your hardware store has a lumber section, you’ll find some wood shavings lying around. I take the bigger pieces out and use only the fine shavings.  Then I add wall crack-filler in powder form (I used Polyfilla).  I mix enough shavings and crack-filler in to make a paste, thick enough to give good texture, but thin enough to paint on.  I then paint at least two layers of this onto the piece of furniture, with sufficient drying time in between each coat.

Not looking glamorous AT ALL in my husband’s t-shirt and cut off jeans…

Give the piece enough coats to create a good texture.

Once the undercoat was truly dry, I painted two coats of powdery blue water-based wall paint over the desk, avoiding the drawer inners, or you might have trouble closing the drawers afterwards.

On the server, I went with a dusty taupe.

And painted a slightly darker shade on the top, drawers, and in the grooves of the legs for contrast.

Now let your pieces dry for at least a day.  Next, I painted antique-ing liquid over small areas at a time, and into all the grooves, wiping with a cloth as I go along, and then using a soft wide brush over the area to soften the strokes.  This gives that lovely, aged look.  You can buy all manner of antiquing liquids, and it’s usually in the craft area of the paint section.  I only use water-based liquids.  Once this is dry, I take a medium sandpaper, and sand the areas that would’ve naturally scuffed over the years, like the corners, around the drawer handles, and on the legs.   This is where it’s lovely if you used a different colour undercoat, like blue under grey, or red under black, or cream under brown.  Don’t overdo the sanding though, you can always do more later!  If the piece is not going to get a lot of wear and tear, you can now leave it as it is.  If, however, you want it to look even more aged and be harder wearing, and you’re not planning to re-paint it any time soon, you can polish it with some matt antiqueing wax.  Or clear matt wax.  I didn’t have the right colour, so I went without.

The finished desk in the same blue as the toile curtains, with some antique french books  and an old chair found at the market.  I just need a little tassel, and of course I managed to lose two of the little drawer knobs, so I need to find something else at the market.

Add some old books, a glass cloche or two, some baskets, and voila!

Now, what to do with all your leftover pots of paint?

Is this what your garage looks like?  Do you have loads of paint cans with no idea what’s in them?  Thought you could touch up that scuff on the dining room wall, only to discover a dried skin in the bottom of your custom mixed paint, and you can’t remember the code?  Well, I love this post by Brooklynlimestone.  Mrs Limestone has a label you can download on her site, to organise all your paint cans immaculately.  Now, probably because I suffer a bit from O.C.D, this idea really appealed to me, and I rushed straight out to get some empty paint cans from my hardware store.  You can use small jars too, but I prefer the cans, in case I drop one.  Now you can also close your cans properly, so your paint won’t dry out.  Doesn’t this look lovely?

Make sure to write all your codes and other information on the label, and paint some of the colour on the lid and the label, to easily identify your colour.

Happy painting!

Aside

I Love Anthropology

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Well, like I said, on my last trip to London, I spent waaaaay too much time in Anthropology!  Who-ever does their merchandising is a genius.  I can go into the same shop 5 days in a row (um, I did, we stayed very close by), and every time I’ll notice something else I love.  When I went to the antique market in l’isle sur la Sorgue with my friend, she recognised the buyer for their furniture division.  Imagine that job, travelling all over the world, picking up gorgeous pieces…

A fantastic vertical green wall welcomes you in-store…

I don’t know which I love more, the artwork or the server underneath…

Wonderfully quirky little table

I adore these ruffled curtains, will definitely have to find a home for them!

These rolling pins will make me feel like baking every day!

Chandelier made from cups and saucers and jelly moulds anyone?

Anthropology also has a great webstore now.  Happy shopping!

Rule Britannia!

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With the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations and the Olympics all in one year, London is certainly the town to be in at the moment!  I’m lucky enough to visit London a few times a year, ostensibly to keep my husband company, he HATES to travel alone, but basically, to fit in a shopping spree of epic proportions.  Living in South Africa for a large part of the year, I feel like a deprived child when it comes to fashion, so, oh boy, when I get to London, I let loose, and rue my credit card statement for the next few months!

Ideally, I like to go in spring, as, except for skiing, I’m mostly in my summer wardrobe, and I hate shopping in autumn when the shops are full of black and grey and brown.  Soooo depressing.  I also can’t stand the sales in London, everything jammed on rail after rail, women pulling and shoving and bumping, and places like Selfridges and Harrods are the worst.  They’ll actually step over your unconscious body.  I also find people on Oxford street incredibly rude, someone will bump into you so hard you’re left with a bruise, and they’ll pass you by without so much as an ‘excuse me’.  Maybe it’s because that’s where all the tourists are?  It’s very much every man for himself.

That said, I love a bargain as much as the next girl, so if there’s a pair of Choo’s you’ve had your eye on for ages, the sales would be the perfect time to pick it up, but your timing has to be impeccable, and then you pray that they still have your size in stock.  Generally, I’d just rather pay full price for something that I love, than go home with something that’ll end up hanging in my cupboard with the tag on, because it was less 70%.

London is the most amazing place for shopping.  I love high-street fashion, and they do it so much better than in New York, Paris or Milan.  And, strangely enough, I’ve compared prices of the big designer brands, and Prada or Gucci was no cheaper in Milan than it is in London.  And the variety…., I get complete fashion overload.  3 to 5 days is normally enough, then I’m exhausted and broke.  We’ve discussed a few times moving back to London (my husband M lived there for 20 years), but, like he rightly said, we’ll be bankrupt in no time.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the food.  I think restaurants in London are among the best in the world.  I’ve had much much better Italian food in London than I’ve ever had in Italy.  There are just too many good ones to choose from.  We had lunch in a little place called Cavallino, not somewhere we’ve ever heard of before, and it was FANTASTIC.  The best cotoletta alla milanese I’ve tasted in years, if not ever.  M used to be in the restaurant business in London for many years, so it’s always great to see what’s new and happenening, and to eat VERY well.  We had dinner at the new hotspot, members club, The Arts club, and even though it was 11 o’clock at night, and the place was absolutely bursting at the seams,  they managed to serve the best meal I’ve had this year.  Out-of-this-world.   Don’t ask me what I had, there was a whole table laden with food, but I recall the creamiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had (especially for dinner?), with white truffles, and there was a yellowtail tartare with lime and ginger dressing I’ll remember forever.  Tian of crab, lamb chop with red pepper relish, the rest, after many many cocktails, is a bit of a blur, but I will be going back for more for sure!  Also, after spending enough time in Switzerland, the prices don’t even seem that shocking.  Food in supermarkets are certainly cheaper than in most European countries, in fact, some of it’s even cheaper than in South Africa, and the general quality and variety is fantastic.  Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Tesco, I just love walking through the aisles.  Oh, and the food department at Harrods…………  and the chocolate area in Selfridges, and the teas at Fortnum and Mason, and the rooftop supermarket in Harvey Nichols, and the Hummingbird bakery, and Ottolenghi, and Nobu and the Borough market, oh, I’ll be bankrupt, and fat!, if I lived in London…

Well, needless to say, with all the eating and shopping, I never actually do any of the sights in London, but isn’t it enough to just soak in the atmosphere?  But one day, one day, I’m going to make it to the natural history museum, to see what a PROPER cabinet of curiosities looks like….

Tea tea lovely tea, I can never get enough of all the gorgeous packaging, even though I don’t actually DRINK tea….  Fortnum and Mason is one of my favourite stops for a tin or two, and they’re lovely as gifts.

And is there a more elegant picnic basket than this?

Talking of tea, that should of course be one of the ‘must-do’ things when visiting London.  A good old fashioned afternoon high tea.  One of my favourites is at the Berkeley London, where their designer afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, is inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world.

The new Spring / Summer 2012 collection sees designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Jason Wu and Valentino grace the Berkeley’s tea stand.  Prêt-à-Portea adds a creative twist to the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries resembling the latest designs for the style conscious.  I loved when Anya Hindmarch made little handbag-shaped biscuits, I just couldn’t bear to eat them!

Just in time for the diamond jubilee!  Tea at the Berkeley

This their menu at the moment, don’t you just wish you could be there?

  • Gucci art deco Grand Marnier and dark Valrhona chocolate mousse embellished with golden beads
  • Mulberry white chocolate crème de menthe and raspberry mousse topped with a lemon meringue
  • Fendi nautical red and white striped vanilla cake filled with fraise des bois cremeux accessorized with oversized yellow button
  • Christian Louboutin must have neon yellow high heeled chocolate biscuit with signature red sole
  • Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel
  • Miu Miu 1950’s inspired vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and playful white bow
  • Valentino romantic peach cake dress with light pink champagne jelly and edible flower
  • Dolce & Gabbana light blue Sicilian blueberry sponge cake wicker basket wrapped in chocolate
  • Michael Kors safari opera cake with dark chocolate and mocha filling topped with signature leopard print

Now, according to Belleabouttown, the five best places for afternoon tea in London is at The Dorchester, The Langham, The Metropolitan, The Berkeley, and the Orangerie at Kensington palace.  Be sure to try one next time you’re in London!

The arts club is London’s oldest art club.  This grand Mayfair institution, co-founded by Charles Dickens, has entertained the likes of Whistler, Kipling, Degas and many a Royal Academician since it first opened nearly 150 years ago.

Having undergone a major, year-long refurb the place has an uber plush new look (no boho touches or shabby chic here) and a star-studded committee; Gwyneth Paltrow has collaborated on the décor with David d’Almada and Mark Ronson is in charge of the music.  Stella McCartney is a patron, also HRH Prince Philip.  The club’s  restaurant is currently home to the hottest tables in town, with superstar chef Raphael Duntoye (from Le Petite Maison) overseeing a delectable menu, and has a world class contemporary art collection.

I spent a WHOLE DAY in the Selfridges shoe gallery.  Does that make me a bad person?

It seemed that if you didn’t own a pair of glossy rose gold shoes, you simply weren’t current, darling!  And if they look like something out of the Jetsons, living in space, even better!

Louboutin, oh Louboutin

I lost my heart to these…

Every girl needs a pair of party shoes to dance the night away in!

What is not to love about Alaïa?

Lanvin

The stylist, Rachel Zoe, has her own shoe range now.  Not really my style, seeing as I’m nearly 6 foot tall, and with rather large feet, I need to steer clear of the platforms.  Otherwise I scare small children and men.

I also popped downstairs to their interior section, and loved the antler mural.  And can you ever have too many beautiful mirrors or cloches?

Then off to the Harrods food hall for a snack, before I undergo some more retail therapy.

Checked out Tom Ford’s new shoe collection…

Fell in love with these intricate leather pieces…

Then Liberty London for some Liberty print diaries…

I discovered a fantastic new shop by Latvian designer Atis Artemjevs, floating, frothy creations, wth the most innovative draping, and the wonderful assistant, that gave us tips on her favourite Icelandic restaurants, a real gem!

Now, I’m not normally one for second-hand/vintage shops (same problem with digging through rails of clothes), but I did find a fabulous shop, Sign of the times, just off the Kings road, stocking Alexander McQueen, Cavalli, Dior, Gucci etc etc. All lovely, on trend fashion with not a mothball in sight. A McQueen dress would set you back about £150-£300, Dior for £250, and I bough a gorgeous emerald green dress by Bruce Oldfield for £100.  See, told you I loved a bargain!

Had to stop off at two of my favourite shops, French sole and Blue Velvet, to pick up some ballet pumps, I know, we’re so tired of them, but they’re great if you have to walk miles and miles!

I also tried to do lots of research on interiors, and stopped off at as many places as I could.  Saw some wonderful driftwood tables and mirrors at Oka, reindeer ice-bucket at India Jane (it’ll work in the chalet),  crystal at William Yeoward, fabrics at Designers guild, oh the list goes on.  Spent waaaay too much time in Anthropology – will post that tomorrow – and had a good look around Ralph Lauren.

I love the marble topped table in Ralph Lauren

The linens were incredibly intricate, I’d love to dress a very feminine bedroom in these..

French connection has started a home-ware collection.  Very calm beach-side chic…

Very cool campaign-style chair

After a long day of shopping, back to the Berkeley, the Blue bar this time, for a well deserved glass of champagne!

After 5 days in London, I’m well and truly exhausted.  One of my best friends is a buyer for a big fashion chain – is that every girl’s dream job, or what? – and I truly don’t know how she does it.  I’m suffering from complete sensory overload, too much information to process, and a monster hangover from all the party-ing and dining.

Thanks to said hangover, I had to cancel our table at Heston Blumenthal’s London restaurant, Dinner, and I’m completely devastated!  I was SO looking forward to it, I’m obsessed with that man’s cooking, but I just can’t seem to drag myself out of bed on a rainy Sunday night in London.

Boohoo, so sad, I’ll just have to go back to London soon!

Ta-dah for now!

Banquette seating

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Are you one of those people who always request a booth when you go to a restaurant? Whenever I go out with friends, there’s always a scramble for who gets to sit on the banquette, there’s something so intimate and cozy about them.  How about incorporating one into your dream home?   I absolutely adore banquette seating, whether it’s in a kitchen, dining room, or living room. It’s a comfortable, inviting seating arrangement that’s brilliant at maximising your space.

From elegant silk upholstery to casual built-ins, some that even include hidden storage, there are so many reasons to adore the banquette. They’re comfortable, great for feeding a crowd in small spaces and  they add an inviting softness to your kitchen.

Currently I don’t have one, but I will find the perfect spot eventually…

Blush pink silk and a faded Gustavian chair makes this the perfect corner to have your afternoon tea.
Maximise your space with a built-in corner booth.

A bright rug with casual seating, modern chairs and a farmhouse table make this breakfast room cheerful and fun.

Fill your wall with family pictures for a cozy nook.

This would be lovely in Miami, but probably too bright before your first cup of coffee?

Informal banquette style seating looks fresh and lovely with a lick of white paint and clapboard panelling.

Beam me up Scotty!

Vintage enamel pendant lights works very well in this bright, airy corner.

Fitting a gorgeous seating area into a very small space makes this a genius arrangement!

Wow, love this image from Elle Decor, don’t you?  The fabric on the chairs, the wallpaper, stylish without being too safe!

More fresh ideas from Kemble interiors.

Blue blue and more blue, too many options to choose from!!

Massucco-warner-miller-design.  The deep-buttoning is adorable.

Don’t you just love the french metal windows?

Symmetry is key in this dining area from House Beautiful.  Imagine having a long lunch with good friends in this inviting space.

Now this has GOT to cheer you up on a gloomy day!

Again very cleverly utilising a small space.

A conservatory to aspire to in Elle Decor.

Imagine some cheese and red wine in this cosy setting…

This winter white palette works very well in a modern apartment.

Lindsey bond turquoise wall with a quatrefoil mirror and tulip table.

A Rachel Halverson high backed bench wit studs adds a sense of drama.

Atlanta Homes & Lifestyle

Stud detail on the bench, a giant clamshell, dark wooden floors and interesting ceiling detail, what’s not to love?

Perfection.

Do you have space for a banquette?  Which one would you choose?

Incredible, edible sculptures

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Ok, so I love to bake, and I think I’m quite good at it, but there are some crazy talented people out there.  I look at Nadia from My little bakery‘s incredibly delicate biscuits, they’re so beautiful, I don’t think I could ever eat them..  The dedication, and steady hand! it has to take to make these boggles my mind…

Then there’s Karen Portaleo and her catering team at the Highland Bakery in Atlanta, Georgia (who count Demi Moore and Sir Elton John amongst their celebrity clients), who specialise in cake sculptures – and appear to do a particularly good line in animal-inspired creations.

Take, for example, the cake they created for Sir Elton’s birthday party, which depicted a dog complete with wacky, Elton-esque sunglasses. Or the pooch poking its head out of an oversized Gucci holdall. Or the incredibly complex octopus cake, intricately finished down to the suckers on its tentacles.

Amazingly, lead decorator Karen has no formal training in baking, and worked as a prop and set designer for the advertising industry before turning her sculpting skills to baked goods. She now records her creative cakes on her blog, Special Sugar – complete with step by step tips in case you ever want to make your own.

Could you honestly eat this?

And then, of course, the perennial favourite, cupcakes…  I adore these by Grace from Cupcakes by design that I always order when a friend has a baby…

Or they’re great to send at any time…

And just for the heck of it, because they’re so pretty, hydrangea cupcakes…

Today, I covet…

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Rare Fiske Aquarium on Stand Signed & Dated 1876

In two parts, this very rare piece is exceptional in all respects. All original paint; perfect condition; exuberant acanthus leaf decoration to the stand; graceful cabriole legs. New aquarium-standard glass and sealant. From a Hudson Valley, NY estate. Truly a collector’s piece and most likely a custom-made piece, as it does not appear in the Fiske catalog. Available from The Elemental garden on 1stDibs

I can just imagine this filled with shells, coral and maybe a blowfish or two….

Shades of white

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Ok, I know I seem a bit schizophrenic in my decor choices, yesterday modern, today Scandinavian, the next day French…  Well, I like different things in different countries!  It would be very boring if all our houses had the same theme.  It depends whether the house is in a city, on an island, what the light is like, what the building tells you it wants to be!   I love this French style vignette for an entrance hall. Too smart for our island house, but a definite possibility for an apartment in Paris or Stockholm…  The turned legs and vintage wood with heavily distressed iron bracket on this console is all style. Perfect for an entryway, hallway or behind a sofa…

Like a window on Paris in the Springtime, this elegant canvas print of blossoming cherry branches embraces elements of romance in hues of sky blue, grey, taupe, and cream. Bring Paris to you!
I would add this lovely, hand-cut, hand-sewn, and hand-tailored high back settee to make this entrance feel really lux.  It comes in fashion fabrics including trellis print and linen-look solids to take your room from neutral to sensational. Constructed from extra-thick kiln-dried hardwood and reinforced with wooden corner blocks, the hefty frame will ensure that it becomes a family heirloom. The final touch is the button back detailing, which gives a tailored look.
And, just to finish it off, inspired by an aged iron gate, this table lamp is all about unique detail. A sand burlap oval shade, trimmed in a deep tan burlap and lined with gold and taupe zebra print, tops a perfectly aged iron scroll-work base.
All this available from Shades of white.
Happy decorating!

Naughty weekend in Milano…

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It’s been a very busy few days, 3 countries in one day for a start.  The morning started off in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, where the family has just bought a new ski chalet – well, not so new, it’s an old wooden farm house from 1860, hence the rest of our trip this day.  First, across the border to Chamonix in France to meet with the lovely Carol to discuss soft furnishings and to see the stock in her warehouse.  It’s surprisingly hard to find stylish chalet decorations – think antler chandeliers and driftwood lamps.  The goods on American websites are a bit ‘rustic and heavy’, too much Adirondack cabin for me.  The Swiss shops – apart from being hellishly expensive, can be too twee, red and white gingham, which is sweet in children’s bedrooms, but for the living areas I’d like it to be more sophisticated – think greige velvets, cashmere sofa’s, cow-skin rugs and reindeer hides.  I saw some lovely things in Mégeve, a Swiss ski resort the other day.  It would, however be cheaper to shop in Euro’s on the French side, and Carol’s shop has such a lovely collection.

It was my first visit to Chamonix, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t find the town particularly charming.  There are lots of high-rise buildings in the center of town, and the shopping area seems too large and impersonal.  Spring is definitely in the air though, all the trees are in blossom, and the valleys are turning green, with lots of snow still on the mountains all around us. Chamonix is known for it’s challenging skiing, so maybe it’s not the right village for me, who’s very much a fair-weather skier!

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Next, over the Italian border to Courmayeur to meet with an architect, who turned out to be very knowledgeable on old chalets, and took us around to show us a few she’s worked on.  Really inspiring stuff.  This is a newly built chalet (about 8 years old), using very old wood.  This way, you get an instant ‘old’ chalet!  Apparently, the owner is legendary for her wild parties, I can just imagine, I love this place, such character.

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The area where we went to look at the cabins are a bit out of town, in a lovely forested area, high up the mountain.  Really unspoilt and special.  Now I’m all fired up to rip up all the new wood in the chalet and replace it all with lovely old planks (at great expense, I’m sure).

I found Courmayeur very spread out, with a typical bit of Italian chaos thrown in.  The center of town was quite charming, and of course, the Italians got the shopping right.  Even in such a small town there’s a shop selling Gucci and Prada and lovely shoes.  In most of the Swiss resorts it’s mostly just ski shop after ski shop, and even a pair of socks sets you back 30 Euros.  I love the crazy dining room in the Hotel Royal e Golf where we stayed.

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Arriving in Milan for a dear friend’s birthday celebrations, our hotel, The yard, a new boutique hotel in a great location, is gorgeous! The kind of place I would love to move into.  The whole place is booked for the party guests, so after the lovely owner, Alessandro, showed us all the rooms, I pick the one I adore most, decorated in Ralph Lauren ski chalet kind of way with antlers everywhere ……  love it!!  Each room has a theme, Chukka (polo), Fairway (golf), Mustang, hunting, smash (tennis), and touché.  A suite decorated in safari style, and winch, a sailing theme.  The bathrooms are filled with Culti, some of my favorite products.  How can you not love this place?

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Seeing as how a long weekend in Milan is part of my birthday present, I take full advantage of the afternoon and do some power shopping around the Duomo.  Or, more precisely, power window-shopping in Gucci and Prada.  I’m quite surprised that prices don’t seem to be much cheaper than in London.  I even bought Prada shoes in Gstaad of all places that were cheaper than they are in Milan?!

Go figure.  We have an absolutely lovely lunch in da Giacomo overlooking the Duomo, which looks so magnificent, as it’s been recently cleaned, gleaming pink and white , it’s the first time I’ve seen it without all the scaffolding.  Pollution is such a problem in Milan, cars are not even allowed to drive in the center on Sundays anymore.

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Miserable weather, but not enough to stop us shopping!

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This little beauty is on my wish list/birthday list/anniversary list…

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I’ll feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in these!

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Thigh high python boots on less 50% sale……

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This gives new meaning to the word ‘ballet flats’!

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A new find, love love this.  The designer is half Japanese, half Turkish, and her influences come through strongly in these gorgeous scents.

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The crazy upside-down Victor & Rolf store

Another must-see for me is the Dsquared2 shop

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Anyway, time for a quick nap before we have to go to the first dinner of the weekend.  We’re in Milan to celebrate a very dear friend’s 50th birthday.  She does the PR For Valentino and Lanvin , to name but a few,  and her husband works for Armani Casa, so the crowd will be uber glam and fashionable.  Luckily I found a little Marchesa cocktail dress I adore!

Dinner, in a very sleek, modern apartment, consists of the most delicious Sicilian tomatoes, burrata and buffalo mozzarella en whole Parma hams, lemony green olives, masses of ruby red Italian wines…….  What a gorgeous way to eat.  I would be SO fat if I lived here!!

Today, with a slight hangover, I’ll let you know, I’m attempting Italy’s high street stores.  Gorgeous shoe stores everywhere, but for proper high street shopping, nothing beats London.  I do pick up that scarf print is huge, silk dresses, short shorts and remember wearing a belt as a scarf?  Well, it’s back.

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H&M’s spring summer campaign.  Not sure if I’m ready for the acid yellow jeans…

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Gucci, the original..

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And a lovely dress by Nicole Miller

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Another gorgeous traditional Italian lunch at Paper moon. It’s absolutely packed, I didn’t know you could fit so many people into 1 restaurant.  The buzz is very lively, and I just HAD to have the cotoletta primavera.  A whole veal chop, flattened and crumbed with the bone still on, served with fresh chopped tomato and rocket…. Perfect for a hangover!

I did a leisurely long shop in Zara home, they have a lovely large store in Milan, and picked up some cutlery for the chalet.

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Rushing back to the hotel, I realize I don’t have enough time to have my hair done.  PANIC!!  My dress is quite busy, so I need to take my hair back, but oh, I’m not very good at doing it myself.  Ok, I just need a bun.  It’s not exactly brain surgery, is it?   My husband can do it.  After a few failed attempts, and me getting more and more panicky, I realize that maybe it’s really NOT that simple.  He runs from the room with big eyes after I’ve proceeded to shout at him, only to come back with Rosa, the owners mother, who tells met in very fast Italian not to worry, she can do it.   After being a model for so many years, it’s amazing how quickly you can tell that someone knows what they’re doing just by the way they touch your hair.  Phew, sigh of relief, that was lucky.  10 minutes later, and I have the perfect bun, neat and sleek.  How great is this hotel??

The dinner and party is held in the Palazzo Crespi.  Never normally open for private parties (only Valentino and Lanvin has had parties there), tonight, for my friend, they’re making an exception.  What a treat! The art collection is world famous.  Full of old masters, and the two largest Canaletto’s in the world (rumored to be worth $100 000 000 each) hang in the sitting room, where we kick our shoes off after dancing the night away under the frescoes.  The story goes, the original owner lost them in a card game.  When he went back the next evening to win them back, he put the palazzo up for collateral, and proceeded to lose that too!  Imagine if it was your grandfather that did such a silly thing.  Anyway, in spite of the palace being jam-packed with all of us, I managed a tour, and the art collection was truly astounding.  The detail of the building, rococo furniture, inlaid marble floors, antique crystal chandeliers (I counted, in the hallway to the bathroom alone, there was 15 giant chandeliers), ornate frescoes, hundreds of gilt mirrors, a vast collection of silver and coral. A Library filled with priceless book…  and this is a private residence.  I was in my element!  The guest bathroom looked like something out of Marie Antoinette’s chamber, marble, gilt and cherubs everywhere, and larger than most city apartments.  Most of the guests dressed in Valentino, and free flowing champagne all night.  What more can a girl ask for?  We were not allowed to take photographs in the palace (because of the art collection), but I did manage to sneak one or two!  Truly a memorable evening!

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The girls, and note one of the infamous Canaletto’s behind us..

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Very foot-sore the next morning, the hotel has put an enormous spread together for our breakfast.  I do find the Italian breakfast a bit strange, mostly cakes and sweet things for breakfast, but this was truly a feast!  The owner’s wife even runs out to have the broken heel on my Choos repaired (a perfect repair for €5!, how cool is that).  The service in this hotel is fantastic.  It feels like you’re a part of the family.  I especially love that they always have two enormous bars of chocolate (the size and shape of a gold bar) on the counter, and believe me, we tucked in after getting home from the party.  Thank goodness I didn’t stay too long at the after-party in the living room, or would also be missing lunch at Pane & Aqua today, like quite a few of the guests!

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A VERY tired looking group the next morning!

After yet another lovely lunch with all the family and close friends at we stroll around a lovely food and flower market on the riverbank, before going to dinner at the birthday girls house.  How DOES she keep it up, I’m exhausted!!

Monday morning, I try to pop into il Salvagente in Via Fratelli Bronzetti.  It’s an upmarket outlet shop selling Balenciaga, Cavalli, Chloe etc, but they only open at 3pm.  Damn!!

We go to nr 10 Corso Como, where I end up never buying anything, but I love the shop anyway.  A great mix of different designers, shoes, hats, jewelry, and fantastic coffee-table books on the first floor.  I see a very cool Alexander Macqueen ipad case with a big gold skull on it, love the new shoe collection by Balenciaga, adore the fabrics at Lanvin, covet a gold chain bag by Givenchy, WANT the white all-in-one suit by Heider Ackerman and tennis dress by Rick Owens…  I see some inspiring silhouettes for my friend’s collection in New york in September, and fall in love with the belts and shoes by Alaia all over again.  Love love love.

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Belts by Alaia

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Just in time for lunch at Trattoria Milano, where I have an enormous portion of risotto Milanese with osso bucu.  Yum!

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Then, what I’ve been looking forward to sooooooooo much, a good food shop at my favourite place in Milan, Peck.  Parma hams stacked up to the ceiling, Sicilian tomatoes, meltingly soft burrata’s, smoked paprika Calabrese sausages…….. ooh, I can spend all day in this shop… well, or till I run out of money.

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Just a quick pop across the road to get some macaroons from another favourite, then, unfortunely, hit the road back to  Switzerland.  Not a very successful shopping trip, but a lovely lovely weekend with good friends and great food…

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Aah, and how sweet, Mamma Rosa, from the hotel, even gave us a goodie bag when we left, her homemade marmalade, and her famous biscotti!

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Some of my must do things in Milan:

Designer shopping:  via Alessandro Mansoni, via della Spiga, coso Venezia, via Senato and via Montenapoleone

See Tom Ford’s stand alone shop

High street shopping:  Corso Vittorio Emanuelle

Excelsior department store’s downstairs food department

Zero sushi, Jacomo for food, Giacomo Bistrot, or La Briciola. The restaurant at Armani/Hotel is also very good (with obviously a stunning design….). In its way also the Dolce & Gabbana restaurant called Gold is worth a visit:

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Ciao till next time!

xxx