In 1998 Maria Speake and Adam Hills met at Glasgow School of Art whilst studying for a degree in architecture at the Mackintosh School. They founded Retrouvius in 1993, initially as a vehicle for working with the Glasgow conservation world and local demolition firms. Early jobs include several redundant churches.

Their first interior design project came in 1996 – Newmilns Tower, a C16th house in the heart of the traditional lace making area in Ayrshire.

Retrouvius is known for respectfully re-using materials to distinctive, contemporary ends. Taking only a few projects each year, in properties ranging from contemporary penthouse to medieval priory, yacht to boutique, each is attentively tailored to the evolving needs of the client as well as the demands of the site.

Retrouvius generously share their experience of handling salvaged material saved over the years. They aim to demystify the re-use process and inspire others to re-use materials in their own projects.

Retrouvius are driven by the belief that good materials and well-made things are precious. If that resonates with you – their website is full of inspiring photos and ideas.


Armchair Traveller

The beauty of travel is that the memories can be just as enjoyable (sometimes more!) than the actual travelling itself.

My home has travel memories embodied in a range of different objects.

A framed poster of a Matisse cut-out promoting London’s Tate Gallery (from back when there was only one Tate before the re-imagining of the Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern). I’ve always admired how Matisse moved from working with paint to paper and scissors during the last decade of his life. A great reminder that as our lives and abilities change, we can continue to enjoy what has always been important to us – but perhaps just in a different way.

The book about architect Frank Lloyd Wright that I bought while visiting his Chicago home and studio. I was so awed that day to experience this extraordinary example of the 20th Century created by a man born not long after the middle of the 19th Century.

And then there’s the globe itself. The one I grew up with. The one with enormous expanses of pink symbolising Britain’s wide-ranging influence. The one with the U.S.S.R.

A lot can change in one person’s lifetime!

Many friends of mine are travelling at the moment. Enjoying the pleasures of summer in the Northern hemisphere. I love to see their photos on social media and live a little vicariously through their adventures and discoveries.

But, for now, I’m content to be just an armchair traveller. My travel memories are all around me in my home and in an instant I can feel like I’m there again.

Of course, from my armchair my travel memories are all of sunny, happy days with beautiful food and no blisters!

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My Favourite Kitchens

Looking at some of my favourite Australian kitchen designs and wondering what they have in common.

Firstly I think it is warmth. They all show a deep understanding of how and why we are drawn to the kitchen for nourishment and social interaction.

Secondly, they’re not all white! Please let’s move on from that clinical look. This is family cooking not science experiments.

Thirdly, they include a bold choice. Whether it’s a stone, a tile, a colour or a timber. There’s something in each of the kitchens that draws your eye, that makes you want to touch.

And lastly, they all recognise that kitchens are a major lifestyle investment not a throw-away fashion fad. Something to be enjoyed everyday by everybody for many years.

1. Arent & Pyke

2. Studio Esteta

3. Enoki

4. SpaceCraft



Work Triangle Dead?

Work on optimising kitchen layouts was begun in the 1920s by Lillian Moller Gilbreth, an industrial psychologist and engineer, in partnership with the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company. Gilbreth’s Kitchen Practical was unveiled in 1929 at a Women’s Exposition based on Gilbreth’s research on motion savings. Initially called ‘circular routing’, it was further developed by Cornell University in the 1950s and came to be called the kitchen work triangle.

The kitchen work triangle is a concept used to determine efficient kitchen layouts that are both aesthetic and functional. The primary tasks in a kitchen are carried out between the cooktop, sink and fridge. These three points, and the imaginary lines between them, make up the kitchen work triangle. The idea is that when these three elements are in close (but not too close) proximity to one another, the kitchen will be easy and efficient to use, cutting down on wasted steps.

The work triangle is still alive and valid to use in today’s designs. However, our kitchens have changed a great deal since 1929.  Today there are many more people accessing and working in the kitchen at one time, we have more and varied appliances, and the kitchen is often part of open plan living and dining.

Through extensive research, user observation and consultation, Blum has integrated and expanded the key learnings of the work triangle and developed a more contemporary approach to planning kitchen layouts called Dynamic Space®.

Dynamic Space® divides the kitchen into 5 work zones to create smooth workflows and can be adapted to any kitchen layout.

Jamie Freeman, Blum State Manager, will be demonstrating and sharing the tools to use Dynamic Space® in your kitchen build or renovation at KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL on Saturday 22 June.

With thanks to Wikipedia


Visual Generosity

Meryl Hare started Hare + Klein in Sydney in 1988.

She initially learnt about the principles of form, colour and proportion through her studies as a graphic designer. Her work as an interior designer started with her own home and then friends asking her for help with theirs.

“Our design philosophy is embedded in our strong conviction that interiors should balance aesthetics with layers of visual generosity. We weave texture, visual warmth, refined comfort with a sense of the client’s personality.”

Hare + Klein tries not to have a ‘signature style’.

“We approach each project taking into account the client brief, architectural envelope and purpose so that the end result is individual and bespoke. However, I suppose that the thread that weaves through the work is attention to detail, comfort, texture and liveability.”

Personally, I’d also add Hare + Klein’s sophisticated use of colour and superb artwork selections to that list. Meryl Hare’s interiors are undoubtedly some of the most compelling in Australia.

Hare + Klein

Playful Approach

Katie Ridder’s former career as an editor at ‘House Beautiful’ magazine provided a great education for her current career as an Interior Designer.

“I was able to follow other designers around and see things through their eyes. It was sort of like being an assistant for many different designers.”

One of the striking aspects of Katie’s designs are her bold colour palettes.

Of colour she says “One of my very favorites is Indian pink with denim blue and touches of yellow. But there’s really not a colour I don’t like. I like greens with purples and magentas. Those are such great colours to work with too.”

Katie has a playful approach to mixing antique and modern pieces and draws her inspiration from a wide range of designers, styles and eras.

“I’m so inspired by the architects and furniture designers Karl Schinkel (19th Century) and Charles Voysey (20th Century), and I love the store Svenskt Tenn in Sweden.”

As New York Home observed, Katie Ridder’s “trademark is the ease with which she bridges cultures and continents, high and low art, periods and styles. Yet to call her work eclectic is to miss the point, for while it reflects diverse influences, it’s recognisably the product of a single sensibility – one with a distinctive take on colour, texture, proportion and scale.”

Katie Ridder

Il Sereno

“When we came to Como, just 45 minutes from Milan and a stone’s throw away from many of the best furniture makers in the world, we wanted to go with someone from Milan who worked with the manufacturers from the area. The only phone call we made was to Patricia Urquiola and we were very fortunate that she accepted the challenge.”

– Luis Contreras, Sereno Hotel Group

Milan-based architect and designer Patricia Urquiola is one of the leading names in design today.

Il Sereno is a hotel bringing a new era of luxury to the banks of Italy’s iconic Lake Como.

The peaceful sanctuary created by Urquiola uses the surrounding elements to ensure complete relaxation, and draws inspiration from Lake Como’s culture, lifestyle and history. The well-developed design sensitivity that Urquiola brings to the space ensures that each room incorporates and showcases the unique beauty that surrounds it.

Il Sereno is made largely from natural materials, including wood, stone, wool and other fabrics, to create an aesthetic full of authenticity and personality, whilst remaining timeless.

The colour palette for fabrics is likewise ‘locally sourced’. Sky blue, leafy green and a moody blue-green.

“The lake—it’s always present,” says Urquiola.

Il Sereno

Patricia Urquiola

Evocative Story

Kelly Wearstler’s signature style juxtaposes raw with refined, melds colour, sophistication and spirited spontaneity, and seamlessly blends diverse periods of furniture.

Since its beginning in 1995, her studio has grown from a boutique interior design business to a global lifestyle brand that includes collections of furniture, lighting, rugs, fabrics, wall coverings, bedding and china.

“I’m an interior designer, listener, interpreter, creator. For me, design is storytelling. I bring the vision of a home or hotel to life by creating an evocative story through colour, textures, patterns, and forms that are full of beauty, adventure, and soul. Each project is a unique exploration of curiosity and experimentation. I love what I do.”

Kelly Wearstler

But is it ART?

Academics may argue the definition, but for me ART is whatever you value enough to put on your walls.

Over the years I’ve gathered a highly personal collection of what I consider ART – although very little of it would pass any official test.

There’s a framed plate from my Nan’s home. It does have a Picasso-esque design, but is definitely more emotionally than financially valuable.

There’s a framed painting of dancers by me aged 9. Also not a Picasso. Not even a budding Picasso. But so full of joy that it makes me grin from ear to ear.

I nudged a client recently to have her art-class painting professionally framed. Now it hangs, as it should, alongside her other ART made by friends and family, and collected from adventures around the globe. (It’s the one in the centre on the top row.)

It’s ART if you treat it like ART. Value it, display it, look after it, get pleasure from it.

And do get it professionally framed. It’s a small investment for a really great reward.

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Nautical Elements

The glamorous Maritime Hotel in New York, once the headquarters for the National Maritime Union, made its striking debut in June 2003.

Keeping the 1960s building’s nautical architectural elements, the hotel has the look of a vintage luxury liner.

The lobby is swathed in warm wood and complemented by shelves lined with books, including issues of National Geographic magazines dating back several decades.

Velvet seating, porthole windows and New York-centric ocean themed art meet downtown cool.

The Maritime Hotel