Blog

Drumroll please…. And The Winners Are…

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

20140612-210958.jpg

We had a great response to our birthday competition. Thanks so much for all your liking, sharing, popping your heads in to say happy birthday , the emails and lovely comments so many of you made…

As promised, we drew the winners of the seven $25 morris brown Gift Vouchers today, and they are~

Bernadette Lewis
Leanne Davey
Jen Stone
Joanne Morris
Michelle Hall
Karen Jizba
Vicki Guppy

Please contact us via email, info@morrisbrown.com.au to arrange to collect your voucher from either our Heathmont or Healesville stores!
Stay tuned, we will be having other giveaways in the coming months, you all seem to like them, and so do we !

Yarra Valley Sunday Drive- Clare James “She Hides in the Ginko & Weaves Through the Night”

Friday, June 6th, 2014

It is  fitting that our Sunday Drive in the Yarra Valley this weekend of our seventh birthday, is to visit the exhibition of local Healesville artist, Clare James.  Clare has been a constant visitor to morris brown in the years since we opened, and it has been with great delight ,we have gotten to know Clare and her little family.  It has also been a pleasure to see her work feature on lovely cushions, and on beautifully made bags by Melbourne based Nancy Bird, which we have been fortunate to sell, but more importantly it has been wonderful to spend a little time  looking to the world as Clare does.  A passionate environmentalist, creator, gardener and so many other things, her current work is a joy- the words below are taken from Clares’ reference to her exhibition, now on show at the beautiful Yering Station, at  Yarra Glen.

IMG_7646

yering1

“I thought I needed to escape. a yearning to leave behind stories in the news of a changing climate, of war, and of nature being destroyed. My anxiety felt bigger than me. Run to the mountains, disappear into the desert, go and clean my mind in the ocean? I have a family I need to protect. I decided instead to sleep in my garden. Get to know another side of this place that calms me and is seemingly familiar.  Meet her micro world and her nocturnal world, her star world and her weather world from a little tent on the lawn.  So I disappeared into nature, in a tent, in my backyard for 31 nights.”

IMG_7640

IMG_7642

IMG_7639

IMG_7638

IMG_7637

IMG_7641

Just a few snippets of what took my fancy!  Such a lovely space to be in.  A great weekend for a drive, the Valley in winter, with its foggy mornings and chilly air is gorgeous.  Wander past and see us at morris brown, under the elm tree in the main street of Healesville, just hanging about as we have done for the past seven years!  Put your name in the draw to win one of seven $25 Gift Vouchers… After all, you don’t turn seven every day!!

 

Change of seasons in the Yarra Valley…

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

The last days of Autumn were beautiful here in the Yarra Valley.  Winter has arrived suddenly, and I took the chance to treasure the last roses, still bravely flowering.  To fragile to enjoy inside, instead saved for a lasting memory…

IMG_5981 IMG_5982 IMG_5983 IMG_5984 IMG_5985 IMG_5987 IMG_5991

This week…

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

It has been such a lovely week of weather in Melbourne, blue skies and sunshine…

monkey pic

 

 

Bits from from the back streets of Healesville, and things that took my fancy this week at morris brown.  Have a lovely weekend!

Introducing Youki and her Sugar Bee Flowers…

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

First, we need to begin with a warning- if you are in a hurry, do not click on the links listed through the post below… you may loose several minutes, which seem to turn into hours in a blink of an eye, meaning mundane events, such as cleaning, cooking and vaguely acting like a responsible mother doesn’t happen, and chaos can occur!

In my next life, Id like to be a stone mason who does floristry – or a florist, who does stone masonary…either way, my hands would be pretty trashed !  A strange combination, one so permanent, hard and definite, and one so soft, delicate and fleeting.  But both immensely creative and detailed, both looking for that perfect piece to finish off the jigsaw…Both Jen and I love arranging flowers for the shop- Jens’ flowers are always amazing and sourced from her garden. This is the type of creativity that appeals to us, the much more naturalistic floristry that is gaining in popularity, championed by Henry Hudson Blog, Miss Pickering and others.  So imagine our delight to find another like minded soul hiding right under our noses…

S

Coldstream is one of those places all to common  in Australia, where the main highway allows people to fly through, windows up in their own world, on their way to who knows where.  Sometimes its these places, that turn up nuggets of gold,  and Sugar Bee Flowers is one such find.  Located in the Gateway Shopping Precinct of Coldstream, Sugar Bee is in good company next to Cunliffe and Waters, the Yarra Valley Tea Company, etc.  ( and the fish and chips aren’t bad either!)  I was completely blown away when I drove in one day and saw her sweet shopfront ( appointment only) and her simple, yet rustic display- ladders, watering cans and Billy Buttons  get me every time! All things we love, here at morris brown.   So, I decided to find out more about who was behind the window…and lo and behold, I found Youki.  Below is a little of her story; we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed asking stickybeak questions!

One of the more obvious questions is how does a Japanese Girl find herself immersed in life in the Yarra Valley?

Ha ha, that’s a funny question. Well, I came to Australia when I was 11, grew up in Sydney, then moved around the East Coast then settled down in the Yarra Valley 2 years ago. It is THE very best place I have ever lived – beautiful scenery everywhere you go, beautiful people, beautiful food… I really can’t compliment enough about the Yarra Valley. I just love it.

SIMG_4033 copy

Traditionally, the Japanese style of floristry flower arranging, is far more structured and formal, yet one of the reasons we admire your work so much is thatit is so free; are you self taught or did you work with someone to learn the skills you have today

Aww thank you! It really means a lot when people recognise me for free, loose floral designs. I studied floristry back in Sydney where I learned all the basics, did work experience in several florists, then the rest is I guess self taught! I love it when the flowers look like a piece of nature.

S

Your arrangements see to focus on the seasonality of the flowers, using what is available at that time.  In today’s world, consumers are accustomed  to having what they want, when they want it.  Do you find it difficult to convince clients that this is a great way to go, or do most people accept this?

I am very lucky because most of my clients understand that flowers ARE seasonal and what’s not there, is not there. Also, there are cases that flowers we were planning to use are not available due to weather, etc. While brides get disappointed, they understand and are happy to go with the alternative. I think Melbournians have a really good understanding of nature, which I really appreciate (trust me, I lived in NSW and QLD and VIC is the best flower state).

S

I know it’s like asking a mother what is her favourite child, but if you only had one flower to work with, what would you choose and why?

That is a tough question but I’d probably go with David Austin roses. They are pretty, they are fragrant, and their stems are often not straight which always makes it interesting to work with. They look nice on their own, and with others. It’s just the fine sharp thorns that’s the problem! I’ve had one stuck in my finger for 2 weeks now.

S

You work and have a family: how do you juggle all that needs to happen in the day.

It is a constant juggle, and it’s a common struggle for many, many mothers out there. I’m lucky because I leave for the market at 3AM while hubby and kids are sleeping, and I work mostly on the weekends while hubby is at home with the kids. I do miss out on the family weekend fun but that’s fine – I’ve got the winter wedding off-season to enjoy that.

sbcollage2

Favourite Yarra Valley destinations and why?

That’s so hard!! There are so many beautiful places I would visit on my day off. I love visiting the cafes and beautiful wineries and I love enjoying a little walk at the dam and the Badger Weir… There is so many things to see and do!!

S

Where do you go for inspiration- what magazines, blogs or other sources of inspiration do you turn too?

There are many different blogs that I follow including wedding blogs like http://www.polkadotbride.com,  ruffledblog.comhellomay.com.au; and my favourite florists’ blogs including my absolute favourite saipua.com, and few others like floragrubb.com/cutting,  www.floretflowers.com/blogtenthmeadow.blogspot.com.au, http://ariellaflowers.cometc.  We also can’t go past Pinterest for some beautiful pictures! I can’t look at beautiful flowers for too long though, because my heart will literally start hurting and I run out of breath (it sounds so stupid but it’s true) so I keep it to checking 2 or 3 per day.  ( Have to agree, I lost hours looking at them, when I was meant to be doing the links, oops!)

Recently, in the January edition of Belle magazine there was a feature highlighting several Australian florists: if you could work with any floral designer / florist who would you choose?

It was a great article. There are many admirable floral designers/florists in Australia with great skills and talent and I would love to work with any of them! I’m going to have to give you a really boring answer and I’d say there is always things to learn from others, and there is no particular one that I’d like to work with; I’d love to work with any of them!!

S

 

When you look at a posy, like the one featured above, it looks so simple, yet perfect.  There in lies the talent.  Because it is never so simple, and while floristry has such a creative pull, the reality is it is loads of hard work, some not so glamorous…No doubt, sometime in the near future, if you attend a wedding at one of the fabulous venues scattered across the Yarra Valley, you may just be admiring the handiwork of Sugar Bee Flowers, one of the amazingly talented people that call the Valley home.  Thanks so much Youki for sharing your stories and your photographs of your beautiful work with us.  Youki has a lovely blog where she documents many of her weddings, and you can find it here, if you’d like to see a little more flower power!

Please note, all photographs displayed are property of Sugar Bee Flowers

 

 

New Clothes in store @ morris brown…

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

As we feel the chilly winter winds, in store we have some cosy clothes appearing…

clothes on a rack

Lovely gentle colours…

 

Some a little brighter!

Some a little brighter!

 

Immensely wearable, instant classics..

Immensely wearable, instant classics..

 

Come and play dress-ups with us!!

 

Yarra Valley Sunday drives- Maroondah Dam Reservoir Park,

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

 

md3

This Sunday Drive sees us packing up the Esky, picnic rug and walking shoes…

The leaves are turning in the Yarra Valley, as autumn settles in.  A perfect destination sits just above the town of Healesville,  the beautiful Maroondah Dam . While the now defunct Board of Works may have had its critics over the years, one thing they did do, with wonderful foresight, was to set aside huge tracts of land across Melbourne, that we can all enjoy now. Places like Yarra Valley Parkland, Jells Park, Wattle Park, and then of course the much older series of reservoir parks, such as Yan Yean  and Silvan Dam, and many others that all play host to a multitude of people enjoying the great outdoor experience.

IMG_5441 dam view bright

Planning for Melbournes’ permanent water supply began early, with the  Maroondah Aqueduct  built in the 1880s to move water to the Preston Reservoir , via the Watts River. Maroondah Dam was third in the construction chain of water supply systems for Melbourne. Construction commenced in 1920 for the current  Maroondah Dam and continued until 1927. Some of the amazing statistics include a surface area 486 acres,  a depth of 125 feet, while the wall itself is  16 foot wide at the top and broadens to 104 feet at the base, to hold back such the huge volume of water behind it.  The Dam sits in a pristine forest, of mountain ash and tree ferns, which cover approximately 10,400 hectares. All the forested areas are closed to public to ensure the quality of the water supply.

Lucky for us, there was also an area designated for public use which sits below the 41 metre high concrete wall. Its mind blowing to think all this was built without the benefits of modern machinery, or computer programs! No wonder the fellows in the historical photos look proud !

IMG_5425 md historical photo 1

IMG_5430md historical phot 2

Once the dam was completed the gardens were designed and planted and have been slowly maturing as the trees and shrubs have grown. As a child, I can remember looking out the window of the car as you drove down a amazingtunnel of rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom during spring. Sadly, the gardens lack that wow factor now, but the remnants of the gardens that were once there when labour was cheap, still exist; in the stonework, pavilions and mature European tree plantings that are scattered across the Park.

IMG_5382 rose stairs 1

IMG_5414rose stairs2

Climb up the eighty four steps along the Rose Stair walk and you are rewarded  with an absolutely stunning view across the dam itself. Just near the top of the dam wall walk is an information area with historical photos and general info.

IMG_5444md dam wall top 2

IMG_5420md plaque1

 IMG_5418md plaque2

IMG_5435md top of dam

Stroll across the wall and in the distance you will see the original pumping station jutting out into dam, and eventually you will find yourself crossing over the spillway, a more recent edition. In times of high rainfall (obviously not now!) the spillway is a spectacular sight with tonnes of water thundering over it.

IMG_5432md old aquaduct

IMG_5449md current day pumping station

Every day, the view changes, influenced by the weather …but always so beautiful.

IMG_5445md top of wall 3

IMG_5458md view of dam

IMG_5480md long view

From here there are a choice of other walks. For more information log on to www.parksvic.gov.au

Old fashioned wood bbqs and concrete tables, a child friendly playground and a multitude of friendly birds make Maroondah Dam a great place to visit on a Sunday drive! or, seeing that it’s the school holidays, it’s a great place to have a wander around and run off a bit of excess energy!

IMG_5494mdwalkingroutes

If you would rather a picnic lunch, than a BBQ, the Main Street of Healesville offers a multitude of choices for all palates and budgets, including Beechworth Bakery, K&B Butcher, The Healesville Hotel, Innocent Bystander, and a great choice of cafes to grab a coffee or cake.  Of course, we are also located in the main street, right next to the Commonwealth Bank, so call in to morris brown and have a potter around!

 

 

Weekend delights- Botanica Editons, Yarra Valley…

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Do you dream of weekend escapes, where you indulge in some of the finer things life has to offer?  One of my New Year Resolutions is to run away a little more, quick dashes to the places seen in magazines and on the Internet, bookmarked for that free weekend.  (Between the cricket and football seasons of a small boy!)  We shall see how that eventuates!

Of course, my first stop would have to be in the Yarra Valley itself, and there are so many places to choose from… I have been totally seduced by a newcomer on the block, so to speak!  Appealing to the gardener in me is the new, ever so beautiful Botanica Editions, located close to the Healesville Sanctuary, in Badger Creek.  Actually, to say Id like to stay here is an understatement; I think I would just like to move right in…  Karen has been a regular at morris brown for the past few years, and I have been hearing about their adventures renovating an old house with a creek for a while ( love a good renovation conversation!!).  When she arrived one day, offering her divine postcards for us to distribute, I couldn’t wait to get home and check it out on the Internet.  Complete swoon…It is so beautiful and the amazing photography capture the atmosphere so perfectly.

Owners Greg and Karen have created a truly beautiful oasis, primarily designed with relaxation and de stressing in mind.  All mod cons, beautifully fitted, there are so many touches to the place that add so many extra layers and set it apart.  How many B & B places do you visit that actually have their own abundantly planted veggie garden that is yours for the duration? Feel like salad to go with your purchases from the wide range of choices in Healesvilles’ Main Street- go right ahead a pick your self a bunch!

But to completely understand what drives this beautiful space, we were lucky enough to have a little chat with one of the owners Karen Dickson, and ask some tough (!!) questions…

WillowHouse_MG_1307

What inspired you to create such a beautiful setting in Healesville?

Healesville is our home and we love to share it with friends who visit.  We both grew up in the Yarra Valley (Greg was born here) and careers took us away for a while.  We returned to assist family and community with the 2009 bushfire recovery process and decided to make the YV our home again.  Reminded of the extraordinary beauty in this Valley and the surrounding mountains, coupled with the great food, wine and art in the region, it was hard to leave.
 With Healesville as our base again, we love to host visiting family and friends.  Bush walks, wine tasting, the occasional art exhibition and lots and lots of fine food were typical weekends with visiting friends, who kept returning and suggesting others also visit.
We came to the understanding that people loved visiting Healesville and the Yarra Valley and wanted to create a place where guests had a beautiful place to stay.  A place where the garden was critical in providing a relaxing and rejuvenating environment.  It was also really important that people felt at home when they came to visit, in the same way we like our family and friends to feel when they visit, so we found it easy to make renovating and interior design decisions.  It was critical for the house to feel like home and if it ever felt like it was becoming a hotel design or furnishing, we knew we were heading off track.
WillowHouse_MG_1289

What is your favourite part of Willow House and why?

 3 places, but all for the same reason – The Garden.
I love the lounge.  No matter the weather, it is easy to lounge about – comforted with cushions and throw rugs – and simply day dream!  Connect with the garden that drifts to the Picanniny Creek, through the harvest garden and up to the ‘green wedge’ vacant land beyond the garden of The Willow House.  It is easy to loose time in this day dreaming, contemplation space.
WillowHouse_MG_1087
The Harvest Garden.  I love to sit in this space, looking back through the willow to the house.  There is something about sitting in a space full of life and to discover the gifts the garden provides.  We have dozens of Roma tomatos, extra ordinarily spreading their ripening dates so our guests have been able to harvest over the last few weeks and this looks like it will continue for another few weeks yet.  The basil and mint seem to grow in front of my eyes and the beans have taken over the Morris Brown ‘bean tipi’ (what I call it, am sure it has a more suitable name).  It’s like playing a game of hide and seek as you look for the fruits of the harvest garden.  And there is nothing like eating green beans straight from the vine. Figs are a couple of weeks off, ready for jam making and I have made up stories about the Kiwi fruiting vines where we have 1 male to 3 girls (apparently he can handle a harem of 7).  It is like I am a couples counsellor, encouraging the girls to connect up with the guy.  Winding them along the support wire, to make their way closer.  I am sure the Bees can handle flying the short distance between each of the plants, but I like to play Mother Nature, helping them out.
The reading room.  We found an old club chair in Greg’s fathers shed (Bruce, Greg’s father was the local upholsterer for many years) and had it covered in a fabric called Willow, by a craftsman Upholsterer equal to Bruce’s skill.  From this chair, you can snuggle and read or journal, while still daydreaming out over the garden towards the Willow Tree.
WillowHouse_MG_1586

You have a lovely mix of “up cycled pieces” and contemporary design.  Is this a reflection of your personal taste?  Why does this type of interiors inspire you?

We have always admired designers who are able to achieve a simple and stylish, eclectic design.  We have also been really lucky to work with some professionals who do this very well.  Their influences seems to be part of The Willow House design coupled with Greg’s good eye for considered placement.
We also dislike waste and how older pieces, with quality craftsmanship are often discarded along with the history, value and love their previous owners shared during celebrations, tribulations, happiness and sadness – Life.  Not to mention the environmental impact each time houses and furniture are discarded and replaced with with an inferior, massed produced plastic version.  The Willow House has into a bit of a ’cause’ for us.  To demonstrate  it is just as easy to restore and renovate as it is to demolish and build ‘poo brown brick’ blocks that seem to be the flavour of the month around town – don’t print that!   Similarly, we were mortified when much of the weathered and dated  furniture in Greg’s grandfathers place was about to leave the family when we were cleaning the house.  Decades of  life stories that would have been shared around the furniture.  The baking stories that would have come from the kitchen dresser if it could speak, the meals shared around the dining table and the relaxation on the 60?s retro lounge, are all to be cherished.  Non of the furniture is of high $ value, but it has amazing ‘value of life experiences and  colourful stories’.  So restoring the furniture and placing it carefully throughout The Willow House was an obvious thing to do if we were going to add to the energy of helping guests feel at home and to be treated like family with all our family pieces shared, – btw, it’s amazing how many people walk in and say my grandmother/father had a dresser/table/lounge/etc like this.  Instantly they feel at home.  We stumbled on that little gem, that guests would connect so well to the furniture.
The ‘upcycled’ booth table tops – from Giant Steps when they refurbished their dinning areas – were turned into bed heads, and a result of Greg’s passion for fine pieces of timber.  I suppose that comes from his love of trees and the garden.
The contemporary components of the Willow House serve the practical needs.  We all love a clean, well functioning kitchen and bathroom.
 WillowHouse_MG_1211
WillowHouse_MG_1117

While the house is beautiful, the surrounds and care taken with the grounds is as equally impressive.  What was your inspiration there?  Do you have a horticultural background?

This is a combined passion, but  also Greg’s profession.  Yes Greg began his career in Horticulture at Black Spur Plant Nursery here in Healesville.  His design career then expanded, to working with some great garden designers and mentors throughout inner city Melbourne , London and other parts of the UK.  The London experience that resulted in a great business partnership with local landscape designers and 2 silver medals at Chelsea Flower Show (2002 & 2008).  Much of Greg’s landscape design business is now focused on working in the hospitality industry and the transformation of rural and inner city estate gardens.
I have a passion and background in Natural Medicine.  So the Willow House in many respects, is the fusion of our two passions and professions.  It is a sensory escape, a place where the garden (a natural bridge to the wider nature) helps us connect to a place of relaxation and rejuvenation.
It was important the garden was a full sensory experience.  Not just something of  visual impact .  Fragrance is a critical component of the garden, as well as the unfolding and discovery that take place in a garden design that changes with the seasons.  It was also important to include a harvest garden to support a demand and seasonal supply of fresh food from ‘garden to plate’.  And finally, the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Orangerie of Versailles had a great influence on our medicinal and citrus gardens.
WillowHouse_MG_1594

The seasonal gift offered to every guest is a lovely touch.  Will this be an ongoing feature and what other delights do you have in mind?

Thank you and absolutely.  Rosmarinus officinalis is our summer gift and we are discussing/debating the best fit for an autumn gift.  It is really important to us that that a ‘living’ gift leaves The Willow House with our guests. The culinary or medicinal herbs with their fragrance and as well as their visual qualities are fondly praised  by our guests.  We have had to add a second gift for our guests who travel to Melbourne and the Yarra Valley by air.  We are finding many international and interstate guests are staying at The Willow House and it is proving to be a little difficult to transport a terracotta pot of rosemary home with them.  Therefore beautiful handmade, natural soaps from the Botanica Editions apothecary (with the assistance of Dindi Naturals) are going home with our air travelling guests.
WillowHouse_MG_1684

You have just completed Willow House and I believe you are already knee deep in another venture…

I know, we thought we were going to have some time off, but destiny had a different idea.  Our neighbour mentioned she wanted to sell late last year and therefore,  extending the parkland gardens, complete with Billabong, meandering Picanniny creek and Pinoak nursery seemed a natural addition to The Willow House.  The second house is still to be named (and renovated), but the appropriate Botanical name is likely to reveal itself at the right time.
 WillowHouse_MG_1599

What does your ideal Yarra Valley weekend consist of?

Right now, it seems to be renovations.
My ideal weekend, is when friends come to visit.  We explore a couple of boutique wineries (not too many in one day, because we love spending extended time chatting with the owners or winemakers); somewhere great to eat (either café or harvesting from the organic market or local fine food stores); and a good old bush walk (Badger Weir or Maroondah Dam are our current favourites – and very easy) to work off all the food, wine and lazing about socialising.  Throw in a bit of retail therapy and a massage/spa treatment from one of our secret providers and then we have an easy Yarra Valley weekend.  Who has time for renovating???!

Do you have any favourite blogs/websites or magazines that are your go to for inspiration?

We are really lucky being surrounded by some very creative designers in a variety of disciplines, so inspiration is often via their work and collaborating with them.
I am currently enjoying the Share Design blog (quick bites that I don’t see anywhere else) and (it’s not because I am writing to you) morris brown are always sending through great links and shares of really inspirational work.  Mags = Habitat, Slow, Green Magazine.  Along with a number of Health and Wellbeing publications (part of the profession!).  I am sure I have missed a bundle of important ones, but don’t want to bombard you.

 Thanks so much to Karen and Greg for answering all of my stickybeak questions!  It has certainly been a labour of love and I am sure the next door version of Willow House will be as equally beautiful.  When I asked Karen for the photo of the gorgeous kitchen setting with the wooden table, she explained the table and dresser were a rescue job; saved from Greg’s grandparents house before being tossed in a skip.  Maybe thats’ why Botanica Editions resonates so much with morris brown: it has the horticultural background we are familiar with, and the love of seeing beauty where perhaps others don’t see… Obviously they are doing something right as their guest book is overflowing with gorgeous comments and promises of return visits!

Have you enjoyed the photographs?  We certainly drooled over them!  They are the work of Matina Gremmola, and you can see more of her beautiful work at www.gemmola.com.

Would you like more information on the availability of Botanica Editions?  They have an easy website to navigate , and you can enjoy more beautiful photographs!  After all, there is Labour Day and Easter breaks coming up, not to mention Anzac Day falls on a Friday this year also… pop over here and take a look!

 

 

 

Weekend Delights- Botanica Editions, Yarra Valley

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Do you dream of weekend escapes, where you indulge in some of the finer things life has to offer?  One of my New Year Resolutions is to run away a little more, quick dashes to the places seen in magazines and on the Internet, bookmarked for that free weekend.  (Between the cricket and football seasons of a small boy!)  We shall see how that eventuates!

Of course, my first stop would have to be in the Yarra Valley itself, and there are so many places to choose from… I have been totally seduced by a newcomer on the block, so to speak!  Appealing to the gardener in me is the new, ever so beautiful Botanica Editions, located close to the Healesville Sanctuary, in Badger Creek.  Actually, to say Id like to stay here is an understatement; I think I would just like to move right in…  Karen has been a regular at morris brown for the past few years, and I have been hearing about their adventures renovating an old house with a creek for a while ( love a good renovation conversation!!).  When she arrived one day, offering her divine postcards for us to distribute, I couldn’t wait to get home and check it out on the Internet.  Complete swoon…It is so beautiful and the amazing photography capture the atmosphere so perfectly.

Owners Greg and Karen have created a truly beautiful oasis, primarily designed with relaxation and de stressing in mind.  All mod cons, beautifully fitted, there are so many touches to the place that add so many extra layers and set it apart.  How many B & B places do you visit that actually have their own abundantly planted veggie garden that is yours for the duration? Feel like salad to go with your purchases from the wide range of choices in Healesvilles’ Main Street- go right ahead a pick your self a bunch!

But to completely understand what drives this beautiful space, we were lucky enough to have a little chat with one of the owners Karen Dickson, and ask some tough (!!) questions…

WillowHouse_MG_1307

What inspired you to create such a beautiful setting in Healesville?

Healesville is our home and we love to share it with friends who visit.  We both grew up in the Yarra Valley (Greg was born here) and careers took us away for a while.  We returned to assist family and community with the 2009 bushfire recovery process and decided to make the YV our home again.  Reminded of the extraordinary beauty in this Valley and the surrounding mountains, coupled with the great food, wine and art in the region, it was hard to leave.
 With Healesville as our base again, we love to host visiting family and friends.  Bush walks, wine tasting, the occasional art exhibition and lots and lots of fine food were typical weekends with visiting friends, who kept returning and suggesting others also visit.
We came to the understanding that people loved visiting Healesville and the Yarra Valley and wanted to create a place where guests had a beautiful place to stay.  A place where the garden was critical in providing a relaxing and rejuvenating environment.  It was also really important that people felt at home when they came to visit, in the same way we like our family and friends to feel when they visit, so we found it easy to make renovating and interior design decisions.  It was critical for the house to feel like home and if it ever felt like it was becoming a hotel design or furnishing, we knew we were heading off track.
WillowHouse_MG_1289

What is your favourite part of Willow House and why?

 3 places, but all for the same reason – The Garden.
I love the lounge.
 No matter the weather, it is easy to lounge about – comforted with cushions and throw rugs – and simply day dream!  Connect with the garden that drifts to the Picanniny Creek, through the harvest garden and up to the ‘green wedge’ vacant land beyond the garden of The Willow House.  It is easy to loose time in this day dreaming, contemplation space.
WillowHouse_MG_1087
The Harvest Garden.
 I love to sit in this space, looking back through the willow to the house.  There is something about sitting in a space full of life and to discover the gifts the garden provides.  We have dozens of Roma tomatos, extra ordinarily spreading their ripening dates so our guests have been able to harvest over the last few weeks and this looks like it will continue for another few weeks yet.  The basil and mint seem to grow in front of my eyes and the beans have taken over the Morris Brown ‘bean tipi’ (what I call it, am sure it has a more suitable name).  It’s like playing a game of hide and seek as you look for the fruits of the harvest garden.  And there is nothing like eating green beans straight from the vine. Figs are a couple of weeks off, ready for jam making and I have made up stories about the Kiwi fruiting vines where we have 1 male to 3 girls (apparently he can handle a harem of 7).  It is like I am a couples counsellor, encouraging the girls to connect up with the guy.  Winding them along the support wire, to make their way closer.  I am sure the Bees can handle flying the short distance between each of the plants, but I like to play Mother Nature, helping them out.
The reading room.
  We found an old club chair in Greg’s fathers shed (Bruce, Greg’s father was the local upholsterer for many years) and had it covered in a fabric called Willow, by a craftsman Upholsterer equal to Bruce’s skill.  From this chair, you can snuggle and read or journal, while still daydreaming out over the garden towards the Willow Tree.
WillowHouse_MG_1586

You have a lovely mix of “up cycled pieces” and contemporary design.  Is this a reflection of your personal taste?  Why does this type of interiors inspire you?

We have always admired designers who are able to achieve a simple and stylish, eclectic design.  We have also been really lucky to work with some professionals who do this very well.  Their influences seems to be part of The Willow House design coupled with Greg’s good eye for considered placement.
We also dislike waste and how older pieces, with quality craftsmanship are often discarded along with the history, value and love their previous owners shared during celebrations, tribulations, happiness and sadness – Life.  Not to mention the environmental impact each time houses and furniture are discarded and replaced with with an inferior, massed produced plastic version.  The Willow House has into a bit of a ’cause’ for us.  To demonstrate  it is just as easy to restore and renovate as it is to demolish and build ‘poo brown brick’ blocks that seem to be the flavour of the month around town – don’t print that!   Similarly, we were mortified when much of the weathered and dated  furniture in Greg’s grandfathers place was about to leave the family when we were cleaning the house.  Decades of  life stories that would have been shared around the furniture.  The baking stories that would have come from the kitchen dresser if it could speak, the meals shared around the dining table and the relaxation on the 60?s retro lounge, are all to be cherished.  Non of the furniture is of high $ value, but it has amazing ‘value of life experiences and  colourful stories’.  So restoring the furniture and placing it carefully throughout The Willow House was an obvious thing to do if we were going to add to the energy of helping guests feel at home and to be treated like family with all our family pieces shared, – btw, it’s amazing how many people walk in and say my grandmother/father had a dresser/table/lounge/etc like this.  Instantly they feel at home.  We stumbled on that little gem, that guests would connect so well to the furniture.
The ‘upcycled’ booth table tops – from Giant Steps when they refurbished their dinning areas – were turned into bed heads, and a result of Greg’s passion for fine pieces of timber.  I suppose that comes from his love of trees and the garden.
The contemporary components of the Willow House serve the practical needs.  We all love a clean, well functioning kitchen and bathroom.
 WillowHouse_MG_1211
WillowHouse_MG_1117

While the house is beautiful, the surrounds and care taken with the grounds is as equally impressive.  What was your inspiration there?  Do you have a horticultural background?

This is a combined passion, but  also Greg’s profession.  Yes Greg began his career in Horticulture at Black Spur Plant Nursery here in Healesville.  His design career then expanded, to working with some great garden designers and mentors throughout inner city Melbourne , London and other parts of the UK.  The London experience that resulted in a great business partnership with local landscape designers and 2 silver medals at Chelsea Flower Show (2002 & 2008).  Much of Greg’s landscape design business is now focused on working in the hospitality industry and the transformation of rural and inner city estate gardens.
I have a passion and background in Natural Medicine.  So the Willow House in many respects, is the fusion of our two passions and professions.  It is a sensory escape, a place where the garden (a natural bridge to the wider nature) helps us connect to a place of relaxation and rejuvenation.
It was important the garden was a full sensory experience.  Not just something of  visual impact .  Fragrance is a critical component of the garden, as well as the unfolding and discovery that take place in a garden design that changes with the seasons.  It was also important to include a harvest garden to support a demand and seasonal supply of fresh food from ‘garden to plate’.  And finally, the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Orangerie of Versailles had a great influence on our medicinal and citrus gardens.
WillowHouse_MG_1594

The seasonal gift offered to every guest is a lovely touch.  Will this be an ongoing feature and what other delights do you have in mind?

Thank you and absolutely.  Rosmarinus officinalis is our summer gift and we are discussing/debating the best fit for an autumn gift.  It is really important to us that that a ‘living’ gift leaves The Willow House with our guests. The culinary or medicinal herbs with their fragrance and as well as their visual qualities are fondly praised  by our guests.  We have had to add a second gift for our guests who travel to Melbourne and the Yarra Valley by air.  We are finding many international and interstate guests are staying at The Willow House and it is proving to be a little difficult to transport a terracotta pot of rosemary home with them.  Therefore beautiful handmade, natural soaps from the Botanica Editions apothecary (with the assistance of Dindi Naturals) are going home with our air travelling guests.
WillowHouse_MG_1684

You have just completed Willow House and I believe you are already knee deep in another venture…

I know, we thought we were going to have some time off, but destiny had a different idea.  Our neighbour mentioned she wanted to sell late last year and therefore,  extending the parkland gardens, complete with Billabong, meandering Picanniny creek and Pinoak nursery seemed a natural addition to The Willow House.  The second house is still to be named (and renovated), but the appropriate Botanical name is likely to reveal itself at the right time.
 WillowHouse_MG_1599

What does your ideal Yarra Valley weekend consist of?

Right now, it seems to be renovations.
My ideal weekend, is when friends come to visit.  We explore a couple of boutique wineries (not too many in one day, because we love spending extended time chatting with the owners or winemakers); somewhere great to eat (either café or harvesting from the organic market or local fine food stores); and a good old bush walk (Badger Weir or Maroondah Dam are our current favourites – and very easy) to work off all the food, wine and lazing about socialising.  Throw in a bit of retail therapy and a massage/spa treatment from one of our secret providers and then we have an easy Yarra Valley weekend.  Who has time for renovating???!

Do you have any favourite blogs/websites or magazines that are your go to for inspiration?

We are really lucky being surrounded by some very creative designers in a variety of disciplines, so inspiration is often via their work and collaborating with them.
I am currently enjoying the Share Design blog (quick bites that I don’t see anywhere else) and (it’s not because I am writing to you) morris brown are always sending through great links and shares of really inspirational work.  Mags = Habitat, Slow, Green Magazine.  Along with a number of Health and Wellbeing publications (part of the profession!).  I am sure I have missed a bundle of important ones, but don’t want to bombard you.

 Thanks so much to Karen and Greg for answering all of my stickybeak questions!  It has certainly been a labour of love and I am sure the next door version of Willow House will be as equally beautiful.  When I asked Karen for the photo of the gorgeous kitchen setting with the wooden table, she explained the table and dresser were a rescue job; saved from Greg’s grandparents house before being tossed in a skip.  Maybe thats’ why Botanica Editions resonates so much with morris brown: it has the horticultural background we are familiar with, and the love of seeing beauty where perhaps others don’t see… Obviously they are doing something right as their guest book is overflowing with gorgeous comments and promises of return visits!

Have you enjoyed the photographs?  We certainly drooled over them!  They are the work of Matina Gremmola, and you can see more of her beautiful work at www.gemmola.com.

Would you like more information on the availability of Botanica Editions?  They have an easy website to navigate , and you can enjoy more beautiful photographs!  After all, there is Labour Day and Easter breaks coming up, not to mention Anzac Day falls on a Friday this year also… pop over here and take a look!

 

 

Elk and other arrivals… this week in store!

Friday, February 21st, 2014
Lovely Linen Top with Elk Bag

Lovely Linen Top with Elk Bag

New Elk Jewellery Winter 2014

New Elk Jewellery Winter 2014

Lovely Elk Wooden necklace

Lovely Elk Wooden necklace

Elk Classic Dress, with gorgeous leather bag, look at the Plaited detail!

Elk Classic Dress, with gorgeous leather bag, look at the Plaited detail!

Shiny shoes, also in green...

Shiny shoes, also in green…