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Lifestyle, Social

A peek inside my birthday party with Sterling Vineyards

7th December, 2017

I usually keep my birthday quite low key these days and spend it with the girls and Luke and close family which is always really lovely. This year however, Sterling Vineyards generously offered to host a party for me at Sydney’s La Porte space ahead of my actual birthday today. How could I say no?

It was a great opportunity to celebrate with 30 of my close friends, some of which I’ve known since kindergarten and others I’ve made in the industry and throughout my career, alongside Luke and my brother and sister-in-law. I think it’s always really special being able to gather your nearest and dearest together at an intimate event that’s just all about celebrating and enjoying lots of great food, drinks and each other’s company. And as the official craziness of the festive season ramps up over the next few weeks it was a nice way to catch up with my friends in the one spot.

I think a birthday party is always a great excuse to get all dressed up and I was glad to have the opportunity to wear a striped Maggie Marilyn dress I’ve been dying to wear. I needed standout shoes to match so opted for my pink Marco de Vincenzo braided heels. It was a fun outfit that was befitting of such a great occasion.

One of the great things on the day was being blown away by the amazing space and set up when I first arrived. Lunch was set in a gorgeous courtyard area and had been decorated with a white balloon installation and a long banquet table dotted with beautiful blooms. And what’s a party without a delicious spread to match? We enjoyed a long lunch in the sun and were treated to a delicious grazing menu that included smokehouse salmon with with baby capers, shallots and lemon, mixed grain salad and a caprese salad-esque platter with buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomato and basil. We had matching wines for each course starting with prosecco with canapés, a pinot noir chardonnay for lunch and rosé for dessert (fun fact: Sterling Vineyards is actually a wine brand from the US but they’ve recently come into the Australian market and use Aussie grapes for their range). Speaking of dessert! I’m still thinking about the white chocolate rocky road, handmade milk and dark chocolate bark and summer berries with meringue and mascarpone we were served up. What are birthdays for if not for indulging a little, right?

It feels as if each birthday rolls around quicker than the last and it can flash by just like that so it was amazing to be able to take the time to celebrate with all my friends. It makes me appreciate all the wonderful people in my life even more and another year spent enjoying my time with them.

Check out a few of my favourite snaps from the day below…

The gorgeous table setting

The impressive balloon installation

Bottles chilling on ice ready for guests to arrive

Having a great time with Luke

Selfie time with Terry Biviano

Tanja Gacic, Yan Yan Chan, Sara Crampton, Nadia Fairfax

With the Heinrich sisters, Andrea and Anna

Nadia with my brother, Tom and sister-in-law, Hoda

So lovely having all my nearest and dearest in the one spot

The delicious spread for lunch

Toasting another birthday!

With Tim Robards and Jordan and Zac Stenmark

With Terry and her husband, Anthony Minichiello

With Emma Watson and Sara

Personalised bottles for all my guests

Photography: Sophia Athas

This post was created in collaboration with Sterling Vineyards

Lifestyle, Shop

Beautiful coffee table books for your home

18th November, 2017

I love collecting coffee table books. I think they make a stylish addition to any home and is a great way to showcase your interests. Most of my coffee table books are about fashion and photography which is what I’m passionate about so I love having them dotted around my apartment as just seeing them around the house is really inspiring. When choosing coffee table books I make sure everything is a hardcover version of the book as it has a bit more longevity and just seems so much more luxe than a paperback. Whether you’re into food, style or blooms I’ve rounded up a few tomes worth showcasing in your home…

Shop my top coffee table book picks below:

Fashion

Event stylist Philip Carr reveals his tips for throwing a great party

16th October, 2017

Philip Carr is one of Australia’s leading event stylists and his name has become synonymous with exceptional style and the ability to create incredible function spaces. He has worked with the likes of Bill Clinton and Princess Mary of Denmark and styled everything from a wedding for 2520 guests to Nelson Mandela’s 79th birthday. If there’s an event, Philip is the man to turn it into something memorable. I sat down with Philip to chat about the biggest mistake people make when it comes to styling weddings, the key to affordable style and what he does when he’s hosting an event at home…

How did you begin your career in event styling?

I started helping in my mother’s catering business whilst I was studying psychology at university. As catering moved more into faceted events, I got more and more involved in the business as the non-catering side developed into events as we know today. In the eighties, events were more about the catering, drinks and music. Today it has developed into multi layered theatrical productions where all aspects of the event are analysed to give guests a heightened experience on all senses from how a party looks, feels, smells to what you touch and hear.

It’s all about the details… A look at a recent event Philip styled at the Park Hyatt with a statement-making table setting

What has been your greatest career highlight so far?

Working on numerous functions for and with President Mandela including his 79th birthday party. I have also worked on functions for President Clinton, President [George] Bush and Princess Mary.

Philip Meeting US President Bill Clinton

You often style weddings. What has been your favourite to style so far?

There have been many weddings that I have thought were the best I have done until we do another which feels even better. The best are always the ones where I really collaborate with the client whilst at the same time, they allow me to show my creativity and reach places that are far beyond what they ever thought could be achieved. I recently did a wedding where the meal and speeches were in one room and then we had a reveal into the coolest party space filled with lights and palm trees.

A recent wedding Philip styled featured a party space filled with lanterns and palm trees

What has been the most lavish wedding you have styled?

I have done a wedding for 2520 guests of which the first room was the dining area for a meal that only lasted an hour with Armani beaded tablecloths and extravagant table appointments. After that the guests were transported into a dessert room with tables of desserts, fruits and dessert wines.

Philip’s work on display at the dining area of a wedding for 2520 guests

The extravagant place settings at the same event

What is the best event you have thrown for yourself?

Every year I have a Boxing Day party which is more about catching up with all my friends and having everyone over that is still in town. I like to spoil my friends with things that they may not have experienced and that is a reflection of my thoughts on entertaining. I like doing things like having a cheddar bar with all USA, French and English cheddars and serve it with fruit cake. Serving ideas that are concepts of relaxed easy entertaining with a sense of luxury—like a platter with 30 buratta cheeses, 60 figs, chardonnay vinegar, fig balsamic and Colonna olive oil with Sicilian lemons.

Catering at Philip’s Boxing Day parties always has an element of luxury such as this platter of buratta and figs

What is your number one tip for affordable style?

Don’t show people everything you thought of. Keep your idea simple and strong. All too often people take and copy ideas from too many sources without focusing on one strong idea.

A wedding at Catalina restaurant in Sydney’s Rose Bay – the execution of white and green flowers is simple, but by doing one thing en masse it makes an impact

What is the easiest way to transform an ordinary space into something breathtaking?

Good lighting can transform an ordinary space into a special space. The use of good lighting or lots of candles makes a space special and luxurious.

What are the biggest mistakes people tend to make when it comes to styling weddings?

Showing people everything that they thought of, dictated too much by Pinterest rather than a reflection of themselves and their personality. It’s important to make your wedding personal.

 

Where do you find inspiration for your events?

Everything around me inspires me. Whether I am travelling overseas, on a plane, in a good hotel, being served in a shop, they all become lessons for my business. It’s great to know how to make people feel good. I’m obsessed about good service and it’s great to go to hotels, restaurants and be inspired how others do it. I just stayed at The Arts Club in London and the layers of details whether in the room, the bathroom, the service was a great experience to learn from.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

I am invited to ICE (International Conference & Events), an event industry conference by invitation only. I am humbled by the colleagues that are invited and to be part of such a group of people. They not only inspire me, but give me strength and motivation to try achieve better and greater heights within my business. This year it is in Paris and the exposure and opportunities that I will experience will be invaluable and memorable.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Rather earn $10 of your own money than $100 of somebody else’s.

How does social media work into your business?

I find social media works in a positive and negative way. I find too many people rely on too much of what they see and feel a strong need to copy other people’s thoughts, rather than crediting their own creativity and ideas. Often people don’t allow themselves to use their own creativity and personality and assume because it’s done by somebody else it’s a better idea. I like it in terms of creating a stamp on some of my ideas and thoughts. I have chosen to often see the comical side of a picture and made a quip on the photo. It allows you to see how clever so many people are and how you can be an artist in whatever you do.

Do you ever have to deal with difficult clients?

When one considers the nature of many of the events we do and the amount of money being spent, I feel clients deserve the best service. The nature of many events is often an emotional time on many levels other than the specific event. Emotions are often complex and events bring out many things. Weddings especially are so multi-faceted in emotion. From father of the bride giving away his daughter, to bridesmaids that are not the bride and more.

How do you handle them?

Often, they just need somebody to listen and vent their emotions and thoughts to. 99 per cent of the time it becomes all good on the day.

What exciting projects do you have coming up for the rest of the year?

Unfortunately, the most exciting thing happening is a large prestigious event that I have signed a disclosure for. Watch this space!!

Lifestyle

The key to great flowers according to one of Sydney’s top florists

5th October, 2017

George Low’s handiwork at the David Jones Flower Show

As the owner and founder of one of Sydney’s top florists, Seed Flora and the creative mind behind the David Jones Flower Show for the last 29 years George Low knows a thing or two about the key to a winning floral arrangement. Here he shares his favourite floral trend, the key to keeping blooms in top condition for longer and the biggest mistake people make when it comes to flowers…


This was your 29th year creating floral arrangements for the David Jones Flower Show. What was your inspiration behind the show this year?
This year we were strongly motivated by the theme of romance, focusing on a typically classic style with a modern twist. We used unusual colour combinations such as dark reds against soft pinks and lots of roses juxtaposed against more unusual flowers and foliage.

What is your favourite part of the installation?
Personally, my favourite part is seeing all of the flowers arrive and seeing it all come together. We have flowers delivered from all over the world as well as locally, I’ve been working with some of the growers for decades and some flowers and plants are grown especially for the David Jones Flower Show.

A retail experience with a difference courtesy of George – blooms in all their glory at David Jones’ city store in Sydney

What is your favourite floral combination at the moment?
One style of flower en masse in a beautiful vase, I prefer flowers that aren’t too mixed or too arranged to allow the flowers to do all of the talking.

What is your best piece of advice for creating DIY floral arrangements at home?
Keep it simple and invest in quality blooms, it makes all the difference!

Which flowers are best to buy during spring?
Tulips, blossoms, sweet pea, hyacinths and anemones are a few of my favourites in spring.

What is the trick to keeping flowers looking fresh and healthy?
The most important trick is to keep the water clean. The water in a vase should be changed daily and if the flowers are given a little trim it will elongate their life. 

What mistakes do a lot of people make when looking after their flowers?
Underestimating how much the flowers actually drink! Ensure the water level is kept up and clean and you’ll be sure to have your flowers around for a little while longer.

Fashion, Lifestyle

15 of my favourite things to do in Paris

27th September, 2017

At the beautiful Musee Rodin

There’s no doubt that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The architecture, the food, the history… all the elements are there for a holiday to remember and a thoroughly enriching cultural experience. I’ve been to Paris a few times (one of them was on my honeymoon so it has a very special place in my heart) and returning a few months ago only served as a reminder of just how much I love it there. There’s so much to see and do, not to mention the insanely good shopping to be done, so Luke and I tried our best to fit everything in but there are some notable standouts that we definitely couldn’t miss…

Outside Le Pavillon de la Reine

1. Stay at the Le Pavillon De La Reine

This is my favourite place to stay in Paris. It’s a gorgeous 17th century building, covered in ivy and looks straight out of a movie. It’s located in the Marais in the 3rd arrondissement which is one of the most picturesque spots in the city.

2. Grab a drink at The Bar Hemingway

A favourite of writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald this is the place to grab a drink if you’re after a warm, cosy atmosphere and a killer cocktail.

Lunching at Lou Lou with Luke

3. Lunch at Lou Lou

The beautiful outdoor setting is one of the major drawcards of this restaurant. It’s a lovely spot for a long lunch and is near the Louvré so it’s a great place to eat after a morning spent at the museum.

4. Visit the Hotel Plaza Athénée

Luke and I stayed here for our honeymoon so it’s a special place for us. We just had to visit and have a drink there to reminisce. It’s located on the famous Avenue Montaigne which is heaven for any fashion lover.

The Galeries Lafayette

5. Shop at The Galeries Lafayette

Shopaholics will love this upmarket department store that stocks every designer brand you could think of. If that’s not your thing the building alone is worth a look. I particularly liked this spot for the kids shopping. The range is amazing and extensive (there’s even a Disney store that would put a smile on any child’s face) and it’s hard not to want to buy everything in sight.

6. Visit the Ritz Paris

This exclusive hotel has had a major refurbishment and is absolutely amazing. The big drawcard for any beauty lover would have to be the new Chanel au Ritz Paris. It’s a day spa that has everything you could possibly want in a pampering session such as massages and facials but is given the luxe touch that only those famous interlocking Cs can bring.

 7. Browse Galerie de Valois

It’s a roll call of designer stores at this shopping locale including Acne Studios, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Oliver Peoples and Christian Louboutin. If you’re in the mood to stroll combined with a little retail therapy this is the place to go.

Amazing meal at L’Avenue

 8. People watch at L’Avenue

If you want to enjoy some people watching (especially of the famous variety) this is the place to do it. The clientele is always impeccably dressed so as an added bonus it’s great for admiring the often lauded Parisian style as you enjoy lunch. I spotted Anna Wintour there during my trip so you know it gets the tick of approval from the fashion set.

9. Check out Le Bon Marche

This super exclusive department store is owned by luxury giant LVMH so the retail experience is next-level. The space is just so unbelievably chic that simply browsing is a joy in itself.

The Thinker at Musee Rodin

10. Admire the art at Musée Rodin

Home to one of the most famous sculptures in the world, The Thinker, a visit to this place is a must for any art lover. The gardens around the museum are also gorgeous and well worth a look.

11. Eat at La Société

Great ambience and impressive interiors make this one of my top Parisian spots for dinner and drinks. Just be sure to leave enough room for this meal as you’ll be tempted to taste everything.

Dining at Hotel Costes

12.  Dinner at Hotel Costes

We go here for dinner every time we visit Paris. It has great food and is a fashion industry/celebrity favourite so it’s also another excellent spot for people watching.

13. Head to the Brancusi Art Studio

A replica of the atelier of the artist Constantin Brancusi was first produced in 1977 opposite Paris’ cultural centre, Centre Pompidou. It subsequently flooded and closed before being reconstructed in its current incarnation by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano. If you’ve got time, it’s well worth a visit for the immersive museum experience.

14. Splurge on dinner at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée

If you’re celebrating a special occasion such as an anniversary or milestone birthday whilst in Paris I’d highly recommend dinner at this restaurant.  The food and dining room is on another level.

15. A day trip to Versailles

Escape the city and do a day trip to the Palace of Versailles. The architecture is spectacular and everywhere you turn is Insta-worthy.

If you’ve visited Paris what are your favourite spots or things to see and do?

 

 

 

Lifestyle

How to style a bedroom that will grow with your child

18th September, 2017

Styling a beautiful, cosy nursery is often one of the things expecting parents love to do in preparation for the arrival of their little one. However as most mums and dads can attest babies grow very quickly into toddlers then school aged kids and in turn their once perfect space can become too young and need updating frequently. Designing a new room each time your child gets older can become a costly experience so it pays to instead start from the very beginning and create a space that can easily grow with him/her. With the help of Kristy Withers, founder of children’s furniture retailer Incy Interiors and Magdalene Liacopoulos, interiors stylist and founder of The Bebe Style Co, here’s how to design the perfect kids bedroom that will adapt with age…

Gather all your visual references for a kids bedroom

“The first step when designing a kids room is pulling together all your inspiration images and visual references of furniture and decorator pieces, as this will reveal the style and colour combinations you are drawn to,” says Magadalene. It is during this process that Magdalene says that it’s important to consider trends versus classic design, what is actually achievable in the space, and what will grow with your child and your family.

Invest in key features like furniture

The furniture in your child’s room should be able to grow with them so think beyond the baby stage and look for pieces that can grow with your little one. Kristy says, “it’s important to select versatile pieces of furniture that will adapt to each stage of development, such as Incy Interiors’ Teeny cots which features rounded corners and sturdy, removable sculptured side rails that can be transformed into a ‘big bed’ as baby grows.”

To avoid a cluttered space Magdalene says storage is always a sound investment. “Pick a set of drawers that can be used as a change table by adding a topper. Also think about whether these drawers can work in another area of the home if they need to be relocated down the track.”

Also don’t forget about the lighting in your child’s room. Magdalene says it’s important to be able to control lighting (nap time is one such occasion) so “splurging on the right window coverings for your space will be money well spent.”

Image: Incy Interiors

 

Avoid themes

A jungle-themed nursery might be a cute idea for the first few months but it has a limited shelf life. “Having a ‘themed’ kids bedroom will date quickly so select pieces that with a little rearrangement could easily transition onto the next phase in your child’s life,” says Magdalene. “For example opt for a simple wall shelf (my favourite are by H and G Designs) over a Batman-themed one, and create a ‘shelfie’ where items are interchangeable as your child’s tastes evolve.”

Keep it neutral

A room that will grow with your child should essentially be a blank canvas that can be updated with a few key components so Kristy says a neutral colour palette is advisable as “you can subtly or dramatically change the room by adding accessories like throws and pillows which will completely change the dynamic of the space.”

Most importantly a kids bedroom should be a conducive space for rest. Both Magdalene and Kristy agree that a clean, streamlined space is preferable to filling a room with lots of decorative elements or working with bold, bright colours or feature walls to avoid overstimulating children and provide them with a calm space to sleep.

Choose pieces that have a long lasting purpose

Your child will likely have an extensive book collection as he/she grows up so Magdalene says a set of bookshelves is something that can easily work in a space no matter how old they get. She suggests taking it up a notch and creating a dedicate reading nook. “By adding a seat or floor cushion (Australian brand Little Connoisseur  have a cute range of floor cushions) it will be a comfy spot for storytime before bed, and as your child grows, a space where he or she can have their own quiet time.”

Magdalene say other elements that can work as your child gets older are things like baskets which are great for housing everything from nappies and toys to dirty laundry and will transition easily through the infant to toddler phase. Art prints (especially illustrations) are also an inexpensive way to decorate and are a classic and timeless addition to any bedroom.

Think beyond the room

It may be hard to imagine now but further down the track your child will want to decorate their own space so it’s important that things like furniture are able to be rehoused elsewhere in the home. Kristy highlights the new Incy x Hobbe Blush Rocker [below] as a great example of a piece that can be repurposed. “[It] features a clean silhouette and squared sofa shape that is a drastic departure from the traditional wingback nursing chair commonly associated with nursery rooms,” she says. “Available in blush or navy it features tapered legs in shiny rose gold to help create a modern day nursing chair with a design sophistication that will eventually grow up and out of the baby’s room to join you in the lounge.”

Incy x Hobbe Blush Rocker (RRP is $1,299).

 

 

 

Lifestyle

Tips for throwing a stress-free kids’ birthday party

5th September, 2017
Kate Waterhouse daughter Grace first birthday party

Celebrating Grace’s first birthday

As most parents will attest kids’ birthday parties can sometimes snowball into a big production that can involve a whole lot of stress. From decorations to food to entertainment, the list of things to organise can be quite lengthy and often there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. Having organised parties for both Sophia and Grace I’ve managed to hone down my event planning to a few key things that ensure an enjoyable but more importantly stress-free event. Here are my top tips:

Keep it intimate

I’ve made the mistake of having a really big kids’ parties in the past and based on that I now make a point of trying to keep the numbers small and host a really intimate event. You don’t have to invite everyone under the sun! I think inviting the people that you’re going to enjoy having there the most such as close family and friends help make the day even better. Now that Sophia’s old enough, she can invite her own friends to her parties which often helps shape the guest list and makes it a lot easier.

Kate Waterhouse daughter Grace first birthday party cake

Grace’s first birthday cake

Catering doesn’t have to resemble an episode of Masterchef

The first kids’ party I ever threw I double catered and had kids’ meals and adults meals and by the end of it I thought this is ridiculous. Now when it comes to catering I serve up things that kids and adults can eat. I do big fruit platters and cheese platters that include carrot sticks and celery sticks so it’s a winner for both the big and little guests. Both are really easy to put together and can feed a lot of people. I find serving a variety of sandwiches is always a winner so I’ll do fillings such as chicken, ham and cheese and Vegemite which I know most kids will eat. As a treat I’ll also do sausage rolls and meat pies. I don’t like serving too many sweets so I keep it limited to the birthday cake and maybe some additional cupcakes and popcorn as a savoury treat.

Do most of your prep in the days before the party

I usually compile a list of everything I will need and do a big grocery shop before an event so I have all the ingredients I’ll need. I’ll aim to have ingredients chopped up ahead of time and if I’m making something like chicken sandwiches I’ll make the filling the night before and just buy bread in the morning so it’s fresh and put it all together on the day of the party. The more that you can do ahead of time the easier it will be on the actual day.

Kate Waterhouse daughter Sophia third birthday party

Sophia’s farm themed third birthday party

Have a theme

Having a theme just makes pulling everything together so much easier. Whether it’s a farm themed party or princess inspired having an overarching theme can guide everything from decorations to games and party bags and the birthday cake. One thing I do when I’m decorating a venue is to designate one area for the big photo moment when we’re doing the cake cutting. I’ll have balloons (a number balloon is always a nice touch) and some bunting to make the space fun and festive and this will be the backdrop for most of the photos on the day.

Plan group activities/entertainment

When you have lots of kids running around it’s a good idea to organise activities that they can do together. This helps keep the kids in the one spot and also keeps them all entertained. For Sophia’s last birthday we hired a birthday fairy and she kept the guests occupied which is a must when you’ve got to keep track of a group of three-year-olds who all want to venture off in different directions. If you don’t want to hire someone you can just have a line-up of classic games such as pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs and have all the kids get involved. Having games or entertainment is a must! Most of the time this keeps all the kids happy and at the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about?

What are some of your tips for throwing a kids’ party?

 

Fashion, Shop

Father’s Day Gift Guide: present ideas for every kind of dad

31st August, 2017

Father’s Day is quickly creeping up and I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect gifts to give Luke and my dad. In the process, I’ve stumbled across lots of really great present ideas that I’m sure will put a smile on any dad’s face come September 3. Whether your dad is sporty, fashion conscious or outdoorsy, if you’re after last minute gift options I’ve got them covered.

Shop my picks below…

Gucci embroidered leather sneakers

A great pair of kicks—especially of the Gucci variety—is a great way to spoil a fashion loving dad. These sneakers are versatile so you can bet your dad will have them on high rotation.

Kjus golf jacket

What better accessory for a day out on the green than this waterproof golf jacket.

Polo Ralph Lauren striped jersey shirt

A striped tee is a classic and would be the perfect addition to dad’s off duty wardrobe.

Jacquard Shawl knit

Help dad stay cosy and stylish at the same time with a gorgeous knit.

Trenery Vincent scarf

A lightweight wool scarf will help dad navigate the sometimes unpredicatable trans-seasonal weather .

Lanvin knitted silk tie

For the man who loves to look dapper, a knitted tie adds a fashion forward touch to any ensemble.

Emporio Armani Luigi watch

A beautiful timepiece always makes a thoughtful gift.

Trenery Brendon Eva Derby shoe

Elevate dad’s shoe wardrobe with this derby in a luxe suede with a chic statement sole.

Fabbrica Pelletterie Milano suitcase

If your dad is a frequent flyer quality luggage would help him jetset in style.

Links of London classic gold t-bar cufflinks

If you really, really want to spoil dad this year then these cufflinks would definitely fit the bill. They’re definitely an investment piece but a pair of gilded cufflinks would take your dad’s look next-level.

Aesop Facial Balancing Gel

Aesop always do beautiful skincare and this facial gel enriched with vitamin C will deliver light hydration to the skin and is an ultra easy addition to dad’s grooming regimen.

Polo Ralph Lauren cap

This versatile cap will quickly become a weekend staple and add a bold pop of colour to any look.

Tom & Teddy swim short

If your dad hasn’t updated his swimmers for years, a pair of fun swim shorts will quickly have him looking on trend at the beach.

Lululemon shorts

For the fitness fiend father a pair of cool shorts will be a welcome addition to his gym wardrobe.

Trenery leather overnight bag

A beautiful leather weekender bag is the type of gift dad will have for years to come.

Happy Socks Father’s Day gift box

Socks have always been a reliable go-to Father’s Day gift option but when they’re this vibrant and fun they’re definitely guaranteed to put a smile on dad’s face.

Lifestyle

A chat with Almira Armstrong, founder of candle and fragrance brand Lumira

30th August, 2017

Almira Armstrong founder of candle and fragrance brand Lumira

It was becoming a mum that prompted Sydney-based Almira Armstrong to reassess her career. In 2013, Armstrong launched Lumira; leaving behind a successful career in marketing to meld her love of gorgeous scents and creating candles to create a luxe fragrance and candle range. Here the successful businesswoman and busy mother of two shares what inspires her, the key to looking stylish whilst juggling a young family and career and the one thing she is most proud of…

How did you come up with the Lumira range?

I’ve had a love affair with candles and fragrance for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories as a little girl was playing with mum’s bottles of perfume at every opportunity. During my teens, I taught myself how to make candles in the kitchen at home, which I would give to friends and family for special occasions. After university, a career in marketing kept me in creative circles and offered the valuable opportunity to live and work overseas, but becoming a mum prompted me to rethink the path ahead and I decided to pursue my dream of creating products that would allow me to indulge my love of scent, design and travel. In September 2013 Lumira was born.

What is your favourite scent in the range?

Tuscan Fig has to be my favourite scent at the moment as it reminds me of the time my husband and I travelled through Italy together. It was an easy scent to bring to life as the visual and scent memories were so vivid. It’s now available as a Perfume Oil, so I get to wear the scent everyday!

How has the range expanded?

I always wanted to add fragrance to the brand, it was just all about timing.  I introduced the Perfume Oils late last year and they have been so well received.

How would you describe your own personal style?

I would say casual-chic as I never know what my day will involve.  Most days I am quite hands on within the business so it’s usually my favourite J Brand jeans with a white tee and black blazer that can take me into meetings when need to.

Almira Armstrong founder of Lumira on her style

Armstrong describes her style as being casual-chic

What is your favourite room in your house?

My bedroom! I love getting dressed and ready for the day. There’s something ritualistic about it but also the notion of a new day and new opportunities. Then of course it’s the place I switch off after a long day too!

What is the best styling tip you have?

Your shoes are the finishing touch for every outfit! It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple tee and jeans, you can either dress it up or down with a pair of killer designer heels or simple white sneakers.

How do you like to relax?

Usually with a cup of tea and my favourite book.  I am currently reading Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.

What is your favourite dish to eat?

Anything from [Sydney’s] Fratelli Paradiso, but especially the Scampi Pasta.

Do you have a favourite local café?

Sample Coffee which is right near my office has great coffee and croissants!

Where do you like to travel to?

I love Europe, but where I like to spend most of my time is Italy.  One of my favourite parts is Puglia, the diversity between land and sea is just so beautiful and inspiring.

Testing one of Lumira’s gorgeous scents

Where do you find inspiration for your range?

For me, fragrances can be very transportive and trigger memories with a power that none of the other senses have. Creating a fragrance begins with a series of inspirations – art,  design, travel, poetry… these (and more) are all elements that I draw on for inspiration when developing a new fragrance.

What are you most proud of in your life so far?

l am appreciative of being able to balance my work and my kids.  I have a five-year-old boy and a girl who is two years old. The juggle is very real, but it’s rewarding to be able to make time for the kids, yet dedicate my day to work.

How do you juggle a young family and your own business?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure. It’s hard to maintain a sense of self when you first have kids. But I’ve realised that, for me, it’s as easy to put on a dress and leather jacket as it is to pop on a pair of running leggings. I also take inspiration from other mums like Miroslava Duma, Anine Bing and Taylor Tomasi Hill. There are so many gorgeous mums on Instagram and in the blogosphere who are leading by example when it comes to balancing work with motherhood.

I balance everything by taking a casual approach to style – my routine is not time intensive – and making sure that I have the help I need to get my work done. I don’t do it alone. I also put down my instruments at a hard time every day so that I have good quality time with my family. It’s not easy to do in a world where you’re constantly switched on, but I find having so many competing high priority items actually makes me more regimented and disciplined when I’m in the office.

Where do you see yourself in five years?  

I have a lot going on this year but it’s all working toward a long term work goal. I’ll continue to invest in the fragrance ranges whilst experimenting with some new product lines. I love collaborating with other talented creatives and feel so grateful that people love what is being produced.  It’s the customers who love what I do that really inspire me to keep creating. I’m also spending a fair bit of my time overseas introducing the brand to new markets which is so much fun! So in five years time I imagine we will have a much stronger global presence. Having the kids by my side while I travel internationally is really special right now, they’re seeing how Lumira all works as well as fitting in  family time in between. In five years time, I hope I’m still doing exactly what I love – just on a larger scale.

Photography: @bianchiphotography 

Fashion

A life well spent with Marks & Spencer

7th August, 2017

Things can undoubtedly get hectic and busy at times but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that the key to a well-lived life is making time for small everyday pleasures. This is why I was happy to team up with Marks and Spencer on their latest campaign that aims to encourage everyone to live life fully and spend it well. I’m a big believer that that you only get one shot at living so it’s important to prioritise the things that matter. I’ve learnt not to always save things for a “special occasion” but to ensure that each day is spent in the very best way possible.

For me, my family, is my entire world so spending time with my girls is one of the most meaningful things I can do. I always prioritise being with Sophia and Grace whether it’s spending time playing together outdoors or chatting over breakfast or reading them a story at night. Everything always seems just that little bit better when I’m with them.

What’s a life well spent without treating myself to the little things that put a smile on my face? My daily ritual of walking to my favourite café and buying coffee is a must. It’s a small thing but it helps kick off my day and puts me in the right frame of mind. Also, it’s a definite treat but I always buy flowers for my home. It doesn’t have to be a big over the top bunch but I think a lovely bouquet of blooms in the house is always a nice reminder to treat myself to the things that enrich my surroundings.

It goes without saying that fashion is a big passion of mine so it does feature heavily in my life and it means that I’m always prepared to invest a little bit more in my wardrobe and prioritise quality over quantity. I’d rather spend money on pieces that will last. This is why the denim range at Marks & Spencer really resonated with me, especially for someone that lives in jeans. There are plenty of options in the range so I’m always guaranteed to find something that suits my aesthetic, is crafted well, and at a reasonable price point plus as a bonus it’s delivered really quickly. I actually ended up buying the mum and skinny styles as I couldn’t resist either one. They’re both stylish, fit well and are comfortable (a must with two girls to chase after). And I have to say, there’s nothing like the feeling of slipping on a brand new pair of jeans and taking it out on its very first outing to put a smile on my face!

Over the years I’ve adopted the mindset to make the most of every moment. I’m all about prioritising quality in every aspect of my life. I spend less of my time on the things that don’t matter and spend more of it focusing on the things that do. And ultimately isn’t that what living is all about?

Shop my look: Trench Coat, Mom Jeans, Loafers, T-shirt, Biker Jacket, White Shirt, Boyfriend Jeans 

This post was created in collaboration with Marks & Spencer