Boxing Day Tsunami :: Palm Paradise Cabanas, Tangalle, Sri Lanka

Christmas 2004 has many memories for my close friends and family...

This was the time my husband proposed to me on Christmas Eve. We were on the deck of a cabana tucked away in a beautiful palm grove at Palm Paradise Cabanas on the southern tip of Sri Lanka.
We both love traveling and as part of this trip from London to Australia had decided to stay in Sri Lanka for Christmas. A few months before leaving we were shopping for walking boots in a travel shop in London when a lovely Aussie backpacker working in the shop advised us not stay in Marissa for Christmas. Instead he suggested we should stay in Tangalle as there may be more things to do there over the festive break. The town of Tangalle has some fantastic beaches, great surf breaks, a small fishing village, harbour and market and a couple of lovely resorts situated high up on a palm grove. Little did he know that this conversation may have actually saved our lives.

On Christmas Day we had called home to the UK and announced to our friends and family that we had got engaged and then relaxed into our holiday again.

On Boxing Day morning I looked out from our cabana and was excited to see that the waves were smaller than usual and the sea was inviting us in for a quick swim before breakfast. Most people in the resort were still asleep and we were the only people swimming in our small bay.
After half an hour and now feeling a bit hungry we slowly dragged ourselves away from this warm calm sea. My husband was still swimming when I got out of the sea and looked down to the beach edge only to see that the waves were coming in but not going out. Its is a strange feeling when you look at something like the ocean, expecting it to do what it normally does but it is doing something different. My instinct told me that something was very very wrong and immediately shouted at my husband to get out of the sea.

Each step we took to get out from the first wave was taking us a step higher than sea level up the steep grassy bank of our palm grove. Our Cabana was situated in the middle level in a group of about seven Cabanas approximately six metres above sea level. In less than a minute we had reached the decked floor of our Cabana and noticed that the sea had washed through some of the lower Cabanas and had came up to the level of our deck leaving us stranded. We were very lucky though as our Palm Grove had given us the elevation we needed above the first wave. If the wave had been any higher then we would have been climbing up onto the roof or up the nearest palm tree.

The sea hovered at this level for a while then receeded out to the horizon. All you could see was mud as far as the eye could see and a white foamy line on the horizon. The men from the village and the resort, including my husband, went down to the beach to see what they could rescue. Twenty minutes later and in lightening speed they were chased up the palm grove by the second wave.
images via Palm Paradise Cabanas
Not knowing what else was to come my husband and I found some kind local villagers that were happy to take us inland and to higher ground and so their family and the two of us all piled into a Tuk Tuk and headed inland.

Each year our thoughts go to all the families and businesses that lost so much in such a tragic event. We are also very grateful to be able to tell our story and made a promise to promote such a lovely country as Sri Lanka as an amazing holiday destination.

Sri Lanka is a great place to travel to if you have two to three weeks spare for a holiday. It is a small country but has a huge variety of things to offer from great surf beaches to diverse national parks, tea plantations to hillside villages and trekking, the ancient capitals of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, eco lodges and beach side cabanas to luxury spa hotels. For more information on Sri Lanka click here.

One of my closest friends from England is actually staying at the Palm Paradise Cabanas in January. Angela I hope you have a fab time. Have fun.

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year 2011

Just a quick note to thank you all for your support, inspiration and kind words for this year.

It's been a pure pleasure to start my blog and have the opportunity to discover such a talented, creative and supportive community. If you have been following my blog I hope that I have started to inspire you with natural interior design ideas and unique retreats and places to stay.

For those of you who love reading or writing blogs or those who have businesses or hobbies and use your blog as a daily diary I look forward to reading all your posts and learning of all your creative achievements, refurbishment updates and hopefully not too many refurbishment hurdles.

I would also like to thank a dear friend of mine Michelle (from Paper Tree Design) who without her encouragement, technical support and 'just go for it' attitude I would not have even started my blog. Thank you so much Michelle...

I wish you all a very happy Christmas, a great holiday and hope you have fun and a much needed rest over the festive season. Have fun.

7 Recycled Christmas wrapping ideas

I am sure you have been very organised but if you are anything like me you may still have some Christmas presents to wrap.

Throughout the year I tend to collect preloved pieces of ribbon, buttons, scrap pieces of fabric and used tissue and wrapping paper so I can recycle them for wrapping presents. I usually use brown paper as the base and use my recycled items for extra wrapping and decorative features.

Not only can you save money but you can also reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill by using recycled items to gift wrap presents with. Here are some ideas...
images via hgtv, the willows home and garden & design sponge online
image via Compaiblog
1. Brown Paper – I always start wrapping gifts in plain brown paper. You can tie them with string, ribbon, fabric, rope, string handles from clothing bags or pieces of news paper Basically anything that would wrap around.

2. Brown paper bags – I keep all my brown paper bags or the bags that you are given from fashion retailers. I remove the string handle and flat pack the bag until needed. The bag can also be reused as a gift bag with new ribbon or turned inside out and used as wrapping paper.

3. Newspaper or magazines – This can be a very cheap way to wrap presents. Use an image, comic sketch or colored pages to wrap a present. Finish with a natural twine,rope or recycled ribbon.

4. Cloth bags & fabric gift bags – I reuse all my plain or suppliers fabric gift bags. These are great for wrapping clothing or books. All I need is to use some ribbon or twine and a tag to tie it up into a parcel.

5. Plants from your garden - Depending on the season there can be many things you can use in your garden.You can use flowers, herbs, leaves, twigs, driftwood, petals or basically anything you can find in your garden. They can be used fresh or dried and tied with rope, ribbon or twine.

6. Scrap cloth, buttons, lace & ribbon - Whenever we have to throw away an old worn item of clothing I always save the buttons and remove and save the decorative items like any lace, hems or details or pieces of the fabric that can be used for something else. Again they can be tied with some rope, ribbon or twine around the parcel. Whenever I take up my families trousers I usually have pieces of cloth left over that can be used to bundle up oddly-shaped gifts or used as a fabric feature wrap around a parcel.

7. Toddler artwork – If you have children I am sure you probably have tons of drawing paper scribbled on with coloured pens. You can either use all of the paper to wrap with and tie with matching ribbon or crop some of the paper to make a feature wrapping stripe.

Have fun.

Recycled driftwood Christmas tree

If you are looking for an alternative to the traditional Christmas tree or going away and need a portable tree how about these eco-friendly tree options.
image via All about you
Just gather a few pieces of driftwood and create your tree. Instructions to create this lovely tree can be found at All about you.

Alternatively you can purchase these from Folksy and Karen Miller of Devon Driftwood Designs.
image via Folksy
image via Devon Driftwood Designs
What a great idea for a coastal Christmas holiday or beachside holiday home. This now gives me some time to find enough drift wood for next year. Have fun.

Balinese beach house :: Noosa, Qld, Australia

In keeping with a coastal Christmas and looking for places to stay I would like to show you this amazing place that my family and I stayed at a few years back when I got married. I am unable to take credit for finding this house as it was presented to us by our wedding planner Kim from Events of Noosa, after requesting a house that would suit all our requirements and a place where we could hear and see the beach from...
Now I know it has a Balinese theme, which after arriving from England was amazing for us newbie's to Australia, but what attracted us to stay was the design of the pole home and its amazing location to Sunshine Beach.

To this day I still remember the thunderous sound of the waves crashing against the beach below echoing throughout the house. Just amazing!
images via Richardson & Wrench
The house is perfect for entertaining with two ocean view decks and a huge split level open plan living area. The white washed timber floor boards, high pitched ceilings and exposed timber beams really do give you that magical coastal interior feel.

Its location is nestled in the hillside above Sunshine Beach and can be booked through Richardson & Wrench in Noosa.

If you have any favourite costal properties or retreats you have stayed at I would love to hear about them. Have fun.

Christmas decoration ideas :: By the beach

It's been a mad few days preparing for Christmas. We shall be staying by the beach and with lots of things still to gather, purchase and prepare for I have selected a few images for Christmas decorating ideas to keep me inspired.
image via a beach cottage
images via the white company, costal living & pinterest 
Have fun.

Bathroom lighting ideas :: Moroccan and Turkish lamps

The holidays are now here and so I have a little extra time to spend on finishing things off around my own home. Tasks for this week include finding a reclaimed vanity unit and some mood lighting ideas for the bathroom.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit and looking for mood lighting for relaxing in the bathroom I am considering hanging a Moroccan or Turkish light. We have quite high ceilings so there should be enough space to hang a lamp and the light, shadows and colour cast should look great on the walls.

After a little searching I have found a few lamps that I quite like...
white wave design, just moroccan, this next, palmyra design & lush lighting
I have also remembered that I have a few lamps from Turkey in storage under the house that I purchased once in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul a few years ago. I will have to search for those and see what condition that are still in. Have fun.

Rae's on Wategos :: Byron Bay, NSW, Australia

My Father has now arrived safely from a rather chilly English climate which marks the start of my Christmas Holiday... Yipeee.

I am looking forward to showing my Father around Queensland and New South Wales incuding Sydney and so I have been researching places to visit and stay during December and January.

One of my favorite areas to visit from Brisbane is the Byron Bay area and beautiful Wategos beach. The beach is set in a small cove with Mount Warning (a great trek) and Julian Rocks (a great dive site) in the distance.

Set slightly back from the beach is a beautiful eclectic spa retreat called Rae's on Wategos. I have had the pleasure to dine here a few times but have never stayed as yet.

The architecture and interiors can best be described as an eclectic mix of Mediterranean, Moroccan and Asia influences and details. Each room is individually styled with a mix of courtyards, gardens terraces and balconies overlooking the beach.
The rooms have a mix of Moroccan tiled floors, built-in seating and tables, rattan chairs, beautiful timber four poster beds with linen drapes, eclectic furniture and lighting and an assortment of ceramic plant pots.
Rae's on Wategos
Byron Bay images
One day I hope to stay at this beautiful retreat... Have fun.

Hand printed organic fabrics :: Thea & Sami

It has been a mad weekend as we are sorting out our house in preparation for Christmas and the arrival of my father who is coming to stay with us. So what better time than to sort out our guest bedroom.

A few weeks back I met up with Thea from Thea & Sami at her amazing screen printing and design studio. Thea & Sami create hand printed natural and organic fabrics and homewares products.

I fell in love with these natural linen peacock cushions. As the national bird of India they reminded me of my past travels through Rajasthan and North India. They now have a new home in our guest bedroom.

Thea they look wonderful. Thank you...

Green T. House :: Beijing, China

I know I have strayed from Australia here but I am a keen tea drinker and I have stumbled upon the Green T. House and Spa in Beijing. Created by artist, entrepreneur and tea lover JinR, the Green T. House is a "tea experience". A creative and relaxing community in a natural, simple and elegantly designed interior that mixes together dining, music, art, spa and minimalist architecture alongside the traditional tea ceremony.
images via Green T House
There is a delightful mix of pure finishes and natural materials like bleached timber, limestone and crafted doors and screens alongside JinR's artwork and beautifully restored furniture.

Being a tea drinker living in a coffee drinking country I would love to see a tea and spa concept like this over here. It seems like a wonderful place to escape to for rest, relaxation, inspiration and restoration of traditions that are in danger of being lost in our fast paced lives. This one is definitely on my list of visits. Have fun.

Bathroom design ideas :: Little details

Sometimes it's the little details that make a room...

I have been looking for ideas to add some interest to my small bathroom design. With the high cost of refurbishing a bathroom I am quite keen to introduce some ideas with cheaper recycled elements.
For those like me that live in a warmer climate and do not have a radiator in their bathroom, an old ladder can easily be used to throw those bathroom towels over.
Vessels can also make lovely additions to any bathroom design with a variety of uses. Instead of buying a new vase an old milk bottle, cup or jug can make a lovely vase.
images from Debi Treloar & Baileys Home and Garden 
Similarly, decorative side tables and wicker baskets can and an extra dimension and additional storage to any bathroom design. Have fun.

Interior design workshops :: Interior design tips

Thank you to everyone who contributed to my Interior Design Workshop survey. I really appreciate your comments and will be announcing the details of the workshops in December.

In the meantime I will leave you with something from a workshop I held earlier this year. Where do you start when you want to re-design a room?

When thinking of changing a room, an old colour scheme or the design of a kitchen or bathroom there are a few questions that are worth considering before you start:

What is the main reason for change?
A new room use, new furniture, dated decor, more storage or space?


What do your like or dislike about your room?
The colour scheme, the light, the current style, the furniture, the finishes or lack of storage?


What is your family type & lifestyle?
Couple, single, family orientated, teenagers with lots of friends, babies, pets, retired and relaxed, home office, entertainers, formal or casual lifestyle?

How will you use the room?
How will the space be used on a daily basis and what elements are required?

What would you like to retain, revamp, reuse or de-clutter?
What key pieces of furniture would you like to retain, re-upholster or re-paint?

What is your budget?
Set a budget with a contingency amount.

How much time do you really have?
Have you considered how long the works can take and whether to do the work yourself or pay a professional?

These are just a few basic questions you should ask yourself at the beginning of the design process so that you start your project with a clear direction.

Have fun.