There are few books in the world as lovely as this. According to the blurb, reading it is ‘like opening Pandora’s box’, or delving into ‘Darwin’s cabinet of curiosities’. Both of these claims are true – Etcetera is the biblio equivalent of pottering around a junk shop you’ve stumbled across in a back alley of Paris – there’s so much to see, and so much to inspire. Court is a creative curator with a magpie eye – her home and styled shots reflect her passion for colour, texture and fascinating ‘objets’. She’s like a magical chef, throwing together unexpected and wonderful ingredients from the past and the present to create beautiful interiors where every object tells a story. And her penchant for all things Natural-History-related is oh-so-NOW…

I could wax lyrical about the typography and design – the old typewriter-style fonts, the gorgeous transparent vellum paper pages that are utterly decadent – but this is the kind of book you have to see for yourself and hold in your hands to fully appreciate.

Postcards, letters, tickets – Court refers to herself as a ‘keeper of collections, or a bowerbird’ (a quick Google-search reveals this is a black crow-like bird, probably the Aussie equivalent of a Magpie!) – and her extensive stash of ephemera is evidence of her hoarding nature. It’s all so beautifully presented. But you wouldn’t want to be her cleaner!

Among the interior shots, there are pages of to-die-for paint swatches (Court is a part-time colour consultant for Murobond Paints in Australia) with enticing titles such as ‘Tales of a Sea Gypsy’ and ‘Travellers and Magicians’. One paint colour is called ‘Moustache’. What’s not to love?

Etcetera is out in Australia and the USA already and it’s due to be published in April by Murdoch Books here in the UK, with a £20 price tag. The good news is, the April issue of Living Etc magazine (out in March) will have a cover-mounted extract from the book, so we can all get our hands on a slice of the pie before the publication date. Until then, here are a few more gorgeous pics to whet your appetite…because I just can’t resist! – Ellie


The bell jar obsession

November 25, 2009

There’s an atmosphere of slight hysteria in the office today. It might have something to do with the arrival of a scratch ‘n’ sniff Yankee Candle press release (low-lights include  ‘Strawberry Buttercream’ and ‘Tutti-Frutti’…), or perhaps it’s the news that two of the most lovely home brands, Farrow & Ball and Jo Malone, are teaming up to launch an exciting new collection next week? (We’ll keep you posted!) Then again, perhaps it’s the thought of today’s annual Cath Kidston sample sale that’s getting us all a bit over-excited. For me though, it’s bell jars that are floating my boat today…

Whether it’s ogling the gorgeous bell jar displays in London’s hippest Shoreditch shops, Comfort Station and Caravan, or staring longingly at the stunning pages of Australian stylist Sibella Court’s new book Etcetera (which has just landed on my desk. Hurrah, hurrah! Hopefully we’ll show some pics on here soon – it’s due out in April in the UK. For now, check out her shop The Society Inc for a flavour or click here for a preview…), I seem to be surrounded by glass domes filled with curious objets…and I’m hooked! This all ties in with the current vogue for dark romanticism, macabre Victoriana drama and dusty museum display cases – something we’ve discussed before. All very Darwin. All very Gothic. All very dead. Of course, you don’t have to fill your bell jar with beady-eyed taxidermy or creepy skeletons…dried hydrangeas, vintage silk ballet pumps and mercury glass candlesticks would all look lovely. Or you could always opt for a little china bird. For reasonably-priced bell jars, see yesterday’s hot shop, Dee Puddy (£22 for a large 30cm one), Hibbitt, or Crocus. If you can wait until springtime, we spotted a fab little glass bell jar in the new Sainsbury’s spring/summer 2010 collection for just £7.99! Bargainous, to be sure. Of course, garden cloche bell jars DO look a bit like boobs, and they don’t come with bases – but a glass cake plate does the trick. Vintage lab bell jars with bases are REALLY expensive, even on eBay, tragically.

Here’s a cute bell jar pic from The Guardian to add yet more fuel to my bell-jar-obsession fire! I really can’t stop thinking about bell jars. Perhaps I’m actually losing the plot. Or maybe I’m just high on ‘Tutti Frutti’ scratch ‘n’ sniff…– Ellie

Skulls, insects, diagrams of horrific medical instruments, Victorian-style Darwin-esque etchings and Natural History sketches are all over the world of design at the moment. Let’s call this trend: Macabre. It’s dark. It’s gothic. It’s black. It’s creepy. Think of a dusty museum display case in the 1800s – full of spidery death and decay; skeletons, faded labels, stuffed birds with beady eyes, sad rows of dead butterflies, scientific diagrams of insects, plants and animals – all lifeless.

Re-found Objects/NorthumberlandHas this dark romanticism got something to do with 2009 being the bi-centenary of Charles Darwin’s birth? Perhaps. But whatever the roots of this dark trend, I’m LOVING it all. RE, one of my favourite shops, has embraced it with relish, launching a whole new ‘Macabre’ collection, with vintage plates covered in skulls, eyes, snakes, scorpions, lizards, lobsters and spiders, as well as insect napkins.

Re-found Objects/Northumberland

Re-found Objects/NorthumberlandAlso, check out their ‘Esquire’ notebooks with sketches of lethal-looking barber’s and dentist’s tools as well as some less-scary brushes. Their ‘Gardener’ notebooks and ‘Cook’ books all feature similar Victorian etchings, too.

mensware

notebooks REThe recent revival of the glorious Pictorial Webster’s – A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities might have contributed to the current obsession with flora, fauna, and dead things sketched or etched…

Picture 20Picture 19Featuring over 1,500 engravings that originally graced the pages of Webster’s dictionaries in the 19th century, this chunky volume is absolutely fascinating. Meticulously cleaned and restored by fine-press bookmaker Johnny Carrera, the alphabetically-arranged engravings show everything from Acorns to Zebras, Bell Jars to Velocipedes – a Victorian list of ‘curiosities’. Crafting fans will be as excited as I am about the rubber stamp set that features these fantastic images…and the A-Z wall cards are CRYING out to be framed as wall art, or propped up in nurseries and designer offices…

pictorial webster's stamp set

pictorial webster's wall cardsThese cute cards also tap into another trend we’re seeing emerge – the Alphabet trend – but let’s not complicate things with all that now!! Having a quick look for some high-street Macabre buys, I spotted a black skull candle in Paperchase, a skull cushion in Dwell, and some funky flock skull wallpaper from Barbara Hulanicki at Graham & Brown

skulls

I’ve been a fan of the Victorian-style sketched jewellery at Paraphenalia for a while now, and it fits in with this look perfectly!

paraphenalia

Let’s end with this pretty butterfly calendar from Anthropologie. Have a lovely, if a tad macabre, weekend. – Ellie

butterfly calendar

I went to the Natural History Museum yesterday to see the Darwin Big Idea exhibition, which was of course fascinating – I thoroughly recommend a visit before it ends on 19th April 09. It’s inspired me to go on the hunt for wildlife furnishings today and I’ve just come across Wesley Barrell’s charming new collection of bird and fish cushions:

Fish cushion, £65, Wesley Barrell

Fish cushion, £65, Wesley Barrell


bird-cage-cushion

Bird Cage Cushion, £60, Wesley Barrell

 

And how gorgeous are these bird wallpapers from The Little Greene:

Gt Ormond St parchment, The Little Greene

Gt Ormond St parchment, The Little Greene


Gt Ormand St parchment detail

Gt Ormand St parchment detail

I also bought a Bird House Painting Kit yesterday in the Natural History Museum shop, but  I’m slightly concerned that with my artistic skills I’ll scare away the birds in my garden, as opposed to encouraging them…hmmm…

Bird House Painting Kit, £9.79, NHM

Bird House Painting Kit, £9.79, NHM

I’m going to paint it and put it up in my garden this Easter weekend, so I’ll let you know if I get any ‘big ideas’ whilst bird spotting. In the meantime, as I’m sure you’re not holding your breath, check out the garden ideas section of the Ideal Home website and our top garden tips in the latest issue of the magazineEmily