MY TRIP TO TRANSYLVANIA

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My romantic vision of Transylvania is filled with gypsies in colourfully painted caravans, layered skirts, horse whispering and music. I visited at the beginning of spring with my great friend James Merrell, when it was as if the whole world was about to bloom. The days were warm and cloudless, crisp in the morning and fresh. The landscape was a vision of soft, muted colours. I can only imagine how different my colour palette would have been if I had come just two weeks later.

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Transylvania is a region in Romania, a country of its own at another time in history, and an example of the fluid maps and ever-changing borders of the world, though the small villages and townspeople have remained much the same for hundreds of years. The second-longest mountain range in Europe, the Carpathian Mountains, provides the backdrop and harbours the largest populations of wolves, brown bears, lynxes and chamois in Romania, as well as the largest area of ancient woodlands in Europe. This is a place of fairytales, horse & carts and medieval villages where you navigate your way with hand-drawn maps past dark faces with moustaches hidden under hats.

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These are medieval villages and many are not much changed. The Romanians are ploughing potato patches, ready for seeding by May 1st and the soundscape is filled with bells attached to the working horses. Other background noises are church bells tolling, bees humming, cuckoos and woodpeckers and the clip-clop of horses on roads. The occasional all-purpose tractors are the only motor noise.

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On a warm and cloudless day, we set out from Zalanpatak on a bear hunt. First essential stop was to fill our water bottles at the 100-year-old spring. A hollowed trunk serves as a well with pebbles & stones in the bottom and a wooden lid sitting on top. It is well known that the surrounding Carpathian Mountains and woodlands are filled with bears & wolves. We hear shepherds’ whistles herding the ferocious dogs that protect their flocks from these wild animals. We climb higher with hellebores and wild orchids underfoot, and head to a grove of silver birch with spring leaves offering dappled shade for a picnic lunch on the mountainside. Caraway brandy and boiled eggs are on the menu.

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On a late-afternoon walk we saw pine branches tied with paper streamers hung on church doors, perhaps a celebration or warding off of evil.

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A missed turn in Transylvania on the way from Miklosvar to Viscri led onto a forest track. Heading NW (or so we hoped), early spring leaves of birch & oak, plum & apple blossom lined the road as we followed a river. We passed some children collecting wild strawberries, a one-armed horse-and-cart driver, some campers with their beers cooling in the stream, many steep cart tracks leading into the higher forest, and a coal-burning camp.

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Leading up to the villages, on the tops of poles and roofs alike, townspeople create specially placed platforms up high. The storks arrive on March 15th every year to raise their chicks, and leave on August 26th. Because of their giant size, they appear as garlands floating on the peaks of buildings.

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My good friend and editor Leta gifted me the fabulous book Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor before my travels to Romania. I had the pleasure of reading it while I was there. On his own travels through the region, he wrote in a giant notebook that he promptly lost for 50-odd years. It romanticised my journey and I always thought that around the next bend there would be gypsies dancing and hanging their skirts to dry by the river. He met such fantastic people and spent long lazy summer days & nights having parties with gypsy music, falling in love and wandering through the woodlands.

The timing of my arrival in Transylvania was at the key to my colour palette. A vision of soft and muted hues were informed by a sense of time-worn tradition and the influence of seasonal variation on the landscape. Tune in next week as I explore the colours of this enchanting land.

Did you miss the plane to my past trips? You can still catch up on my journeys to Scotland and Japan. Bon voyage!

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Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

FROM THE LIBRARY: COLOUR

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Colour is one of the most achievable & transformative things you can do to a space. Abigail Ahern’s book aptly titled Colour is such a feast for the eyes, and a statement in itself! She is a world-renowned interior designer, a woman synonymous with glamour, eclecticism & humor. Evangelical about colour, her advice to you is to never be afraid. Banish beige! Be Audacious! Transform your home by pushing the boundaries & being confident.

Abigail’s confidence jumps off the page in this book; it is punchy, energetic and exciting. It reads like a magazine – conversational, friendly, with slogans & bold typography. It is an abundance of fun, just as you would expect. With a contagious attitude, Abigail goes through the dos and don’ts, her stylist tips in paint and accessories to finishes and furnishings.

Lavishly photographed by Graham Atkins-Hughes, Abigail takes you inside some of the most beautiful homes of her friends from around the world. It is a cocktail of intoxicating, dark, intense colour schemes, tempered with bright pops of colour and ultra-luxe accents – it is sure to inspire.

She even mentions The Society Inc. in her list of places to shop for the best items to add colour to your spaces & specifically mentions my collaboration with paint masters & merchants, Murobond. Fight the rules. Boost the colour in your life!

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Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

MY IDEAS ON TEXTILES

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Textile connection
My mother specialised in Islamic textiles from central Asia, although her love of textiles started with a simple indigo hill tribe piece that she unearthed in Thailand. She travelled the world in search of knowledge, and would return home laden with items of extraordinary colour, craftsmanship and history: antique turban fabric, central Asian silks and cotton suzanis, ikat jackets, vintage cotton Russian prints, dragon print linen, Indian ralli quilts and so much more. I use this collection of hers as a constant reference for colour combinations and design.

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You can’t go past the possibilities textiles offer when it comes to adding depth to a space. Layering up with wall coverings, floor rugs and such will instantly create a warmer and more inviting space, and give you the opportunity to create an interchangeable scheme with different textiles.

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Layer love
Embrace the dust cover look of a locked-up mansion. If your vintage linen doesn’t cover the whole sofa, layer in patches and continue to add tone and texture with the cushions. These are old French sheets and Belgian flour sacks. Let the covers fall to the floor – linen has such a body-filed drape.

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Drape expectations
I’m one for making do with what’s in front of me, so when I inherited some oddly placed picture hooks, rather than remove them, I draped the wall with a giant inky green mosquito net to create a luscious backdrop. Loose hanging arrangements allow you to add different shapes, objects and frames – whatever takes your fancy – and ensure your rooms can be easily transformed when the mood strikes.

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Get creative
Inspiration comes in all forms: a newsletter dating back to 1939 offers a beautiful image that becomes an embroidered cushion, custom made in Bali. The fabric in the background is an old sail hanging from a picture hook.

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Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

MY TIPS ON SUBTLE STYLE

You don’t have to shout to make a style statement. Here are four ideas for soft flourishes that add interest in a humble way.

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Connect the dots
A garland easily constructed using oversized plastic dots stapled together demonstrates the impact of transient, inexpensive decoration.

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New leaf
A map/journal I found at a second-hand bookstore is colour photocopied and tacked on the wall. This could be divine for a celebration, or because you like it, semi-permanent or just for the day.

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Reach for the stars
Brown sticky tape should be part of everyone’s styling toolkit, as it allows for instant installations, such as this star fashioned from ribbon, while the tape itself has its own humble beauty.

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Improvise
Improvisation can offer both low-budget and remarkable options for designing a room. In this loose interpretation of a wardrobe, clothes are hung on the back of an unused door left leaning against the wall. The wide steps of the ladder provide shelving, while the narrower rungs can be used for draping jewellery, scarves and other accessories.

Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

THE ONLINE STORE LAUNCH

On February 8th this year we will launch our new online store & reveal our more permanent store focusing on my globetrotting finds, and other loves, hardware & haberdashery.

We have a new fit-out and more floorspace devoted to the shop as we have moved our office, design studio & reference library upstairs (which is our base for all my goings-on).

The products will reflect my interpretation of hardware & haberdashery which will cover:

Toolkits & tackleboxes, ship chandlery, drygoods, oddities & curiosities, tinctures & apothecary amongst my treasures seeked far & wide and will be continually updated with new product from local & global artisans & manufacturers as well as my own range of products.

Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

GLAMPING

I am obsessed with Glamping. For those of you out of the loop, that is Glamorous Camping (I think I worked at Grazia for too long!). I have my own twist on the definition, and it lies somewhere between Safari Style & English Raj campaign furniture.

I must admit I am in Rajasthan at present so the whole colonialism, trophy hunting thing is very much at the forefront! I recently bought this canvas camp bed that folds, collapses & accordions into itself with speed & efficiency (you only get your fingers caught once!). Now I’m crazy to live in a safari tent (in a sydney garden waterfront please) on a mosquito netted camp bed with G&T served at 5 o’clock.

Visit the colonial mansion, Giraffe Manor in the Lang’ata suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, or Kit Kemp’s favourite place Jao Camp in Okavango Delta, Botswana, where you stay in a handcrafted, canvas & thatched tent surrounded by vast, open floodplains and African forest.

Above all else, when you are in need of your riding jodphurs, canvas gun case, folding writing table or safari hat, pop in to F. M. Allen on Madison Ave, NYC. They will supply all you need & design a bespoke African safari trip for you at the same time.

Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

TRADE WINDS

Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

TALES OF A SEA GYPSY

Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

SYRIA

Written by Amber TSI Byron — October 30, 2019

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