Sunday, October 23, 2011


As a Designer, I am wired to see the visual of life - be that in nature - the captivating light of sunset, and the variation of colour in autumn leaves, or in the built environment with architectural elements or clever product display/packaging. I also enjoy how a simple element such as colour, can have monumental impact. 
So I am adding some photos I have taken recently which I feet capture the 'visual' well. 

 This red & white striped shop is a butcher shop in Panzano Italy - certainly one which will not be missed, and I love how the mustard exterior of the neighbouring building compliments it.

Window display in a Roman shop - a strong visual impact to display watches by simply using coloured straws in perspex boxes

A shop selling paint powders in Venice displays them in purpose built timber boxes - the colour is a visual feast for passers by
This wisteria hanging in a private garden in Citta della Pieve Italy is magnificent

The shape of these security bars on these windows turns function into a feature

I love the architectural detail of the timber junctions and ceiling detail in this interior
The magnificently intricate Art Nouveau mosaics of Cafe Imperial in Prague. Built in 1914 it is certainly worth a coffee, wine or meal here so you can take in the beauty of the craftsmanship 

Ospedale degli Innocenti - Filippo Brunelleschi, 1419. (The hospital of the Innocents)

Located only a short walking distance from the main tourist attractions in Florence is a magnificent architectural building often missed by tourists, 'Ospedale deli Innocenti' (the hospital of the innocents). Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419 it is considered one of the early examples of Renaissance architecture.

This building began its life in 1445 as a foundling hospital (similar to a modern day orphanage) through the generosity of the silk merchants guild, one of the wealthiest guilds in Florence. The architectural importance of the building lies in the elegant nine bay colonnaded fa├žade, and its clear sense of proportion and order. The size, height, and distance between the columns contributed to the sense of regularity and geometric order which became an important element in Renaissance architecture. 

Above each column, is an intense blue glazed ceramic tondo designed by Andrea della Robbia in 1490, with a design that features a baby in swaddling clothes, a reference to the use of the building. Babies were anonymously left in a basin at one end of the portico, which was replaced in 1660 by a wheel that enabled babies to enter the building without the parent being seen. Above is a moving inscription in Latin taken from Psalm XXVI: "Pater et mater reliquerunt nos, Dominus autem assumpsit" – "Our father and mother have forsaken us, the Lord has taken us in".

The elegant colonnade on the facade of the building

The place where babies were anonymously abandoned.

I have visited this elegant building many times previously, but my recent visit was the first time I have been inside. The interior is as elegant and well proportioned as the exterior and houses a small but lovely art museum. 
A Beautiful painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) is one of the significant artworks housed in the museum
The interior courtyard is beautifully proportioned and has a serene calm about it

Friday, October 7, 2011


For the past 2 years, L and I have been looking to buy a small home in Italy. One would think when you have an entire country in which to look, that the process would be reasonably easy. However it has proved rather tricky, for it is only after seeing places that are not suitable, can you clearly define the parameters of what is important in the quest for a home under the Italian sun. In the end we decided we could not compromise on the following factors - 
1.An old home with original characteristic appearance including terracotta floors, gnarled timber beams & thick stone walls
2.Within the old city walls of whatever place we chose
3.Within easy access to a major airport and close to major arterial roads
4.Local amenities such as restaurants and services within walking distance from the home. 
5.An area to be able to sit outdoors - a small balcony or a loggia, but somewhere to enjoy a wine in the Italian sun
6.Our limited budget! 
So, after looking at many different regions and countless houses in each of those regions, 6 months ago we found a small town called Citta Della Pieve on the Tuscan/Umbrian border and it is absolutely delightful. It ticked all of our boxes. In this town we looked at a quite a number of homes and then found one we fell in love with. After negotiations from Australia and a trip back to sign the initial contract, just over 6 months later, we have celebrated our first night here! And we couldn't be happier with our choice!

It is certainly characteristic, in a building which the previous owners told us was built around 1650. It was part of a large palazzo which was subdivided 20years ago and they restored it with simplicity and a light hand. It has been their holiday home for these 20years and their creative personalities have produced painted walls and ceilings in most of the rooms (not all will stay... but time will tell as to what replaces them). It has cotto (terracotta) floors which dip significantly all over, thick walls which are a long way from straight and monumental old timber beams to hold the ceiling up. It is not large and certainly not grand, but absolutely perfect for us, with a loggia (covered terrace) that has an arched terracotta roof and a sign embed on the wall which states it was restored in 1843. The view from where I sit as I write this post is out to the magnificent countryside and mountains in the surrounding area. I have no doubt we shall spend many hours in this exact spot working on our computers or simply sharing a glass of wine with each other.

So here are some photos -

The entry to the communal ingresso is the door shown here. Unlike any other places we looked at, over the past 2 yrs, this apartment is on the ground floor (therefore no stairs, which in Italy can be particularly onerous) yet the loggia (covered terrace) at the back is elevated one level due to the slope of the land - a perfect scenario really! 

 View from our loggia

 The loggia with beautiful old arched roof

The Living room with original fireplace (that we are told works very well) and paint colour that was reproduced from sample chips found under layers of other paint. Imperfect beautiful cotto floors and timber beams that have stood in place for almost half a millennia.  

 The previous owners painted the entry vestibule in precise detail. The 2nd bedroom entry is on the left of this photo and the living room entry is to the right.

 Our beautiful historic loggia

The view down the lane way outside the 2nd bedroom window 

Currently we are camping in a way - a new air bed mattress (which is surprisingly comfortable) and a table and chairs left by the previous owners are the sum total of our current furniture, but it couldn't be better as we are so delighted to call this piece of history our home.

There are definitely things that I would like to do to this home (all Designers like to stamp a place with their own ideas), but in the first instance we will just take it slowly and think. We intend to spend some months here in the beginning of 2012 so it will give us time to consider the choice of furnishings and to enjoy the process of gathering pieces that will make it our home and a reflection of us. I imagine it to have a collection of mismatched antique/2nd hand finds with personality, warmth and soul - not too perfect, but 'lived in' and real. Comfortable furniture to sink into and read a good book and a place to sit and relax while I beat L in a game of Scrabble, are also essential.

Winter is cold, and Summer is hot in this part of the world, so the interior choices will need to accommodate both ends of the climatic spectrum.  

So after 3 months here, from Christmas this year, and hopefully fully furnished with a collection of finds, this home will then be ready for holiday rental. With only one and a half hours by train to both Rome and Florence (we sit almost exactly half way between the two), it is a wonderfully central location to discover Italy and still relax in the laid back nature of the Italian countryside. In addition, one can sit on the loggia and enjoy the beautiful produce and wine from the surrounding region. 

La Vita e Bella! Carpe Diem!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I am in Jerusalem for work and it is my first time here. It is culturally diverse, has deep historical & religious importance plus extremely complex geopolitical issues. So much of its history is alive and on display. Many religions see it as the epicentre of their beliefs... the stories differ somewhat ..... yet often they revere the same shrines of importance ....... surely this means our similarities are far closer than our differences, and somewhere we should be able to find a point to agree upon and respect each others differences.  

View of East Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements 
A street in the Armenien quarter in the Old City - largely unchanged for centuries
Architecturally monumental Dome of the Rock in the Old City

 The seemingly unending views from the ancient Masada Palace in the Judean desert. In the midst of an arid hostile desert, this 2000+ year old palace was built on top of a plateau by Herod the Great, between 37 & 31 BCE. The isolated site encompasses an armoury, bath house, palace, storerooms to hold food for months and a sophisticated water aqua duct system. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE where the Zealots were able to resist the might of the Roman army for 2 years, and in the end chose mass suicide rather than surrender.

A significant amount of this palace remained intact when it was excavated in 1963.

This star signifies the actual birth place of Jesus Christ underneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Jerusalem - even though there are large amounts of tourists visiting this shrine, the church and cave of the manger are very moving in their simplicity & religious significance.

A section of the wall in East Jerusalem which divides the city - incredibly sobering in its presence, dividing communities from each other, plus from education, health and commercial services. Until you see this for yourself and have someone explain the extent of it and its impact, no international news service can possibly make you understand the emotional, physical psychological & commercial impact this wall has already had and no doubt will continue to have in the future.
We can only hope......
The Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem
This photo was taken in the home of a Palestine Refugee in Sheikh Jarrah Jerusalem, where they have to maintain 24hr vigil in their home to retain possession 
The remains of 2 different synagogues in Capernaum which is situated on the Sea of Galilee. The Bible cites this as the home of Jesus after he left Nazareth. The black basalt rock in this photo is the remains of the synagogue which Jesus is said to have taught in.