6 Feb 2017

How Unopiù Ushers Italian Riviera Into the Home

If there is ONE catalogue release that fills me with both excitement and anticipation, Unopiu's catalogue is it. Year upon year it comes up with a feast for the eyes, as much in terms of innovative product design and quality of materials, as in the photographic style and select photoshoot locations of geographical and architectural interest (Italian lakeside, Tuscany and seaside as appetizers, anyone?). We are talking the stuff of glossies, so if you happen to be an Architectural Digest aficionado, Unopiù is of that sleek calibre.

Therefore no dreaded dingy studio with zero art direction and snapshots on the cheap here! Everything is carefully thought out in its minute detail, and to the highest spec, from the products to the catalogue layout and quality of the paper itself. Talk about immersive experience, you got it right here at Unopiù!

Of course the catalogue's aim is not to detract, distract or deflect from the product ranges themselves. This is a retail company after all. The marketing material enhances what is to be expected when you shop from a place like Unopiù. Expect no-negotiable quality: weatherproof garden furniture, sturdy pergolas, homeware pieces that are made to stand out, and ingenious carports and greenhouses that become one with their surroundings.

All is delivered in style and originality and Unopiù shows us how it's done. I might be French and credit a little patriotic excellence in arts and design to my country where credit's due, there is however nothing like Italian design to tone that French chauvinism right down! Design italiano e bellissimo!

Source: All photography by Unopiù.

23 Jan 2017

Marble Effects

Spider veins, ombré streaks, swirls and translucence. Over its lifetime, nature has mastered the art of the marble effect to the point of sublimation where imagination becomes restriction. For us mere humans, to aim to emulate it in its depth of colour palette on a compressed timeline becomes a superfluous bout of vanity. But let us not be deterred by the feat. As long as it is not overdone, a marble effect is a chic and effective way of carrying a style or brand identity. The beauty of it is that, with a little talent and persistence, you can create it from scratch, without a slab of marble in sight!

Sources: (1-3) Nothing does it better than nature itself. Take a height and keep those peepers peeled because marble patterns occur naturally in the wild... with no marble in sight. Their majestic occurrence stands at the confluence of rivers, deltas and shorelines; it covers wide perimeters! Aerial photography in Australia by talented French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. (1) Sandbanks on the coast of Whitsunday Island, and (2) ibid., Queensland, Australia. (3) Shark Bay Sandbanks, L'Haridon Bight, Peron Peninsula, Western Australia. Those aerial seascapes exemplify nature's artistry at play. (4) In Chilean Patagonia, the aptly-named marble caves (Cuevas de Mármol) on Lake General Carrera display nature's intriguing marble sculptures. 'Marble Cathedral, Chile', photography by Karl-Heinz Raach, laif/ Redux, via National Geographic. From this point forward, anything manmade will irrevocably pale into less significance compared to nature's feat. (5) Yet would you believe this to be faux marble? Grand Antique by BVK Paintworks. Dutch master painter Barre Verkerke stands as close to nature as possible in his decorative representations. He applies his specialist skills to decoration and restoration projects alike. (6) Marbleised stationery is ever so stylish; when this is achieved by putting those seldom-used nail varnishes to good use, it's creative upcycling! Marbleizing Stationery by Kendra Smoot for A Cup of Jo, photography by Seth Smoot. (7) Why sweat the small stuff when you can purchase the template? Nude + Pink Marble Business Card Template by The Design Label (Meera G), via Creative Market.

P.S: Marble effects take on another dimension when paint is applied to a viscous water solution under the Ebru technique in order to (re)create a Fine Art painting that is then transferred to paper. Turkish artist Garip Ay shows us his step-by-step approach, recreating Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night (1889) and Self-Portrait (1887) to great effect:

12 Jan 2017

Plein Air Paintings by Calvin Liang

You do not get more outdoorsy than 'Plein Air'. And when nature and the elements lend themselves to the painter's magic, you get luminous landscapes that breathe the strength of the outdoors. Calvin Liang is a Plein Air painter who obviously loves sunkissed coastlines, and to view one of his paintings is to immerse oneself in a daytrip from the comfort of home. I wouldn't mind a couple of those on the walls of my living room, let me tell you! As much as I am sold, all of those paintings herein have been sold, which is usually (figuratively) the price to pay when faced with talent. This little daytrip of a post is also a trip down memory lane as I am revisiting places which I discovered back in Spring 2001, when I travelled to California; Laguna Beach and Carmel were firmly on my roadmap. Will be back!

Source: (1-7) Calvin Liang Fine Art. Chinese-born Calvin Liang is a highly-esteemed American Plein Air painter, a Master Member of Oil Painters of America and American Impressionist Society, and a Signature Member of California Art Club and Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

Plein Air painting is an immersive Fine Art technique popularised in the 19th century in France. It takes painters out of the art studio and into the great outdoors, where the aim is to strive to recreate movement, light effects, luminosity as it is being experienced on location, at a particular time of day. Historically the mastery of natural light was the key element that defined the Impressionist movement. Plein Air developed further into Realism, Naturalism and Luminism, via the French Barbizon School and the American Hudson River School, praised for the detailed, lifelike, almost photographic quality of their landscapes.

Further Reading:

2 Jan 2017

Palm Beach for Starters

How else to start up 2017 than on a high note? As President-Elect Trump celebrated the holiday over at his Mar-a-Lago estate with his family and friends, Mirabelle is taking over Palm Beach for the New Year! Throughout the coming weeks, Mirabelle's #TrumpPower series will boldly bring you lifestyle examples that make you unashamedly aim high. The mindset is setting the tone for the forthcoming Trump presidency, where everyone will be encouraged and incentivised to aim high for themselves and their families, not to content with little or expect from the State to provide that meal ticket for life.

The new presidency is heralding an era that I define as hope materialised. Hope materialised takes off where the Obama & Co. administration failed as it promised hope and delivered nothing but division and warmongering under a socialist regime, where the idea of a strong, hard-working, ambitious, successful, proud, independent and patriotic America was derided. Hope materialised means the American nation's return to full-scale employment and prosperity. Now I am no fool: not everyone will ever be able to afford the Palm Beach lifestyle, and we do realise that even Palm Beach has its fair share of social problems. Yet I chose the locale specifically for my post because of its overall symbology of success and prestige - and good design. Don't look at Palm Beach as a tall order, look at it as a high aim!

If you seek Coastalicious and prestige rolled into one, Palm Beach - a stretch of barrier island in southern Florida a hop away from the Bahamas - is sure to cut the mustard. I have gleaned a few pictures and thrown in some decorative elements for good measure. Palm Beach shall be unashamedly recreated closer to home, courtesy of a colour trio scheme of pink, white and dark green, a gold lining for good measure, and a tropical theme of palm décor and wicker... and a pink flamingo or two. Entertain a little flamboyance (Chinoiserie) combined with a little restraint (design balance, geometric patterns, treillis and planters) and voilà! the Palm Beach theme is demure and sparkles like a Cotton Candy Champagne Cocktail at the exact same time. I believe Palm Beach has that Gemini kookiness!

"It is this eclectic mix of old and new, of Spanish and Caribbean, of contemporary design and sun-faded WASP thrift, that makes Palm Beach chic." - The Vendome Press

Sources: (1) The Palm Beach architectural style and interior design coffee table bibles include Palm Beach Chic by Jennifer Ash Rudick, photography by Jessica Klewicki Glynn, published by The Vendome Press in October 2015. The book gives us a ravishing insight into 25 exclusive Palm Beach homes. Daydreams to your days and sweet dreams to your nights are guaranteed! Book cover photography via The Glam Pad. (2) The essence of Palm Beach is encapsulated in this very picture: design-led poolside lifestyle of showroom quality, overpowering striped awning, oversized luxuriant flora (here hibiscus), rattan furniture, pink and dark green colour scheme, and an overall sense of design formality having fun. Historic renovation and extension ('Windsong Too' pavilion) of Windsong (cf Pict. #7), a 1939 Georgian Revival Palm Beach property, by Thomas Kirchhoff & Associates, interior decorator Mario Buatta. Photography by Scott Frances for the 'Master of Ceremonies' article by Architectural Digest magazine, July 2013 edition. (3-4) More stunning photography by Jessica Klewicki Glynn for Palm Beach Chic, via The Palm Beacher. (3) Welcome to the garden of Eden: lush and evergreen. Better come prepared: your furry friend and you might get a close poolside encounter with a snake or gator! (4) The magnificent stucco veranda serves as an outdoor living room that is anything but stuck up! Tchin-tchin to the blue chintz and rattan! (5) Dahlia Porcelain Flower by AERIN, via Neiman Marcus. No stranger to Palm Beach or to the coastal lifestyle for that matter, Aerin Lauder has produced a range of stylish homewares that will find themselves at home in coastal environments - and elsewhere. If beauty is on your mind, Aerin has it covered too. More about Aerin's collections from a previous Mirabelle post(6) The banyan trees of yesteryear are still to be found today around Palm Beach. This one, 'The Banyan Tree' was immortalised by American artist Emile Albert Gruppe (1896-1978); image via The Athenaeum. (7) Talking of banyan, those in the background at Windsong (cf Pict #2), frame this side of the garden in their curtain-like embrace. The stately exterior of the distinguished 1939 property is there to remind us that Palm Beach has been here a while. Traditional exterior designer, Bunny Williams Inc. Photography by Oberto Gili for the 'Glory Days' article by the now-defunct Home & Garden magazine, March 2006 edition, via Architectural Digest. Check out The Glam Pad for more Windsong sassiness! (8) Escape the Palm Beach locale and stay chic; a few miles down the road, quench the thirst of the day with a snazzy cocktail and soak up the retro-vintage ambience at Marion Miami. Take a 360° virtual tour peek here. Take a sip: Sherry Cobbler cocktail photography by Nicole Franzen. (9-10) Playa Grande Beach Club by Palm Beach-based Kemble Interiors marries Dominican insouciance with Palm Beach exuberance in order to produce "a fantastical medley of historic Dominican Victorian architectural elements mixed with the whimsy of Palm Beach garden follies."

31 Dec 2016

Uncork the New Year and Serve on Ice!

Can you believe how fast the year's gone? Or am I just being melodramatic? Years are catching up and yet it is impossible to catch up with them in their relentless travel. Meanwhile we can still catch up with things we would like accomplished and package them up into the sacro-sanct New Year's Resolutions so they don't merely sit on our mind like co-opted ideas - cue the Palm Beach post I had intended for Mirabelle but stalled on halfway through! The flipside about resolutions is their propensity to turn into resolutions of the unresolute variety: they end up diluted or deleted.

This shall be different in 2017. I'll see you on the other side of the New Year with my Palm Beach regalia! Until then, Cheers to NYE, My Lovelies!

Sources: (1) Twinkle, twinkle little star! Photography by Mirabelle. (2) Glam up the Champers with a dash of ice: Pomegranate Champagne Sorbet by The Cookie Rookie. (3) Lash out the cream: Chocolate Mini Cakes with Hazelnut Buttercream by The Vanilla Bean Blog. (4) Feel fruity for the New Year: A Fresh & Fancy Girlfriends Brunch by Coco Kelley.

6 Dec 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookies the Mason Jar Way

Easy as 1-2-3, you got it right here! With the holiday season a sprinkling of snowflakes away, here is one nifty instant cookie present fit for a sweet-tooth relative or friend! You've heard of cakes that pop out of a packet, Betty Crocker way. How about cakes that elegantly swish out of a Mason jar and that are entirely personable, i.e. as health-conscious, organic and luxurious as you want them to be? And pretty and thoughtful enough to become presents, without your breaking the bank or a nail?

The Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe infographic brought to me by the guys at Fix is a nifty edible present that is 100% customisable and assembled together in less than 5 minutes. The present requires a little involvement for the recipient, namely mixing the ingredients together with egg, butter and vanilla - and have an oven at the ready. Talk about hassle-free baking, when virtually all of the ingredients have been selected, weighed and handed over to you in a jar with a tag and a ribbon. Yes we could do the baking for you, but then we would have to scoff all the cookies!

Source: Mason jars have the power to be repurposed in all sorts of creative ways and the Mason Jar Madness article by Dinah Wulf goes under the hood (sorry, lid!) of the jar to dig out domestic uses for the home and garden. You will find a host of nifty ideas, tips and advice from the Fix blog!