Summer Holiday!

Well hello September, didn’t you sneak in quickly!  It’s been a while since my last blog post, mainly because it’s been summer holidays and the kids were off school, but also because I’ve been away touring the sights of Europe for a couple of weeks (more on that later), and we’re selling the house so that’s become another project in itself. This blog post is significantly longer than previous ones, so make yourself a cuppa (or a gin…I know my audience…) and get comfortable!

We’re not moving far, just hopefully closer to the dream of having more open plan space, with less stuff in it.  Even Interior Designers succumb to the pitfalls of clutter and ‘kids crap’ as I affectionately label it.  I’ve spent the last week Konmari-ing the crap out of my house, to the point where the poor man in the charity shop turned me away after the third car load because he didn’t have anywhere to store it all.  It doesn’t matter how minimalist & tidy you are, ‘stuff’ still finds its way into your space, either through unwanted gifts, art projects, piles of admin, out of season kit, too many toys, or things that you feel guilty about letting go of like that ugly heirloom from great aunt Bertha, or that dress you’ve finally accepted you’re not going to fit into again unless you come down with a severe month long case of norovirus, but you’re holding onto it to pass it on.

On the other hand, I find it really easy to keep the studio tidy, I’m very selective about what samples we keep here and if I don’t love it or don’t see us using it in the next 12 months then it’s out of the library.  If reps send me unrequested samples that I don’t like then I have a box which I keep unwanted samples in and once a term I send them up to the Design department at the local school, so they’re not a total waste.  I only use stationary I love and by doing so it means that I don’t have tons of half empty notebooks or cheap biros lying around, it’s a case of 1 out, 1 in and I replace as I go.  I only subscribe to 1 magazine and the rest of my industry info comes in the form of email newsletters which are easily deleted once read and don’t take up any physical space.

For residential projects we always approach with this common sense, real life scenario take on things.  Yes of course we’d all like to give our clients magazine worthy interiors that stayed looking pristine 100% of the time, but that wouldn’t be practical, or feel like a home.  We like to go in deep with the questions up front about our clients lifestyle, and more important than their wish list is their honest self evaluation of what their day to day life is like.  Cant’ be arsed to put all your make up back in the bathroom cupboard?  Ok, so we’ll give you a nice tray on a large vanity to keep them on.  Let the dogs sleep on the sofa?  Washable covers with extra throws and practical cushions it is then.  Cleaning your guns in the Laundry Room getting oil EVERYWHERE?  Then perhaps some bespoke joinery that incorporates a drip tray and somewhere to store everything.  It’s easy to walk into a house and picture how amazing it could look with new furnishings and all the ‘normal’ stuff removed or hidden away in cupboards, but after we’ve swept up and gone, it’s the client that has to live there day in, day out, and it has to work for them on every practical level, as well as be aesthetically wonderful.

This month is full of Design everywhere you look and I’m going to be blogging regularly through September with my favourite finds, trade show previews, industry events and project updates.  For now though before all of that kicks off, I’ll tell you about my holiday…!

What a trip.  So after briefly flirting with the idea of escaping on our own to a Caribbean hideaway, the husband and I packed up a hired 7 berth motorhome with 3 kids and 2 grandparents (one of whom has a tendency to overpack… 4 hairbrushes anyone?  Really??!) and set off for a 16 day epic adventure through France, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Germany.  We really crammed it in, sometimes driving up to 5 hours a day, but it was totally worth it and the places we visited were truly amazing.  For a brief world wind itinerary, see below;

– Epernay, Champagne, France – we toured the Champagne de Castellane house and caves, with some tasting to round off the tour, very interesting (and delicious!)

– Gruyeres, Switzerland – stunning town in the mountains, cobbled streets, lots of cheese, and a stunning château that we had the pleasure of visiting.  Seeing some of the old textiles that had a Missoni vibe and beautifully painted wooden beamed ceilings was a real treat. We went on to the Gruyeres lake for a welcome cooling swim, what a beautiful place.

– Kandersteg, Switzerland – WOW.  We camped at the base of the mountains and enjoyed a rather spectacular thunderstorm in the evening.  In the morning we rode the gondola up to the top and enjoyed 5 thrilling rides on the alpine coaster, what an adrenaline rush!  You control your own speed and I got braver with each turn, but it honestly looks like you’re going to whizz right off the mountain at certain points.  We then hiked down to the Blue Lake, words can’t describe how stunning (and absolutely bloody freezing) it is.  A real must see if you’re heading to Switzerland.

Aareschlutt, Switzerland – A magnificent walk through a gorge with flowing river beneath you, I was desperate to kayak it but had to settle for a very hot trek instead.

Valle Verzasca, Switzerland – This has been on my Pinterest travel board since I joined Pinterest, and it didn’t disappoint.  Sometimes I see images of places I’ve visited and think how the hell did they make it look so great?  Usually by getting up at some ungodly hour when no one is around and using some clever Photoshop…but this place is exactly as you see it in the photos.  It does get crowded in the afternoon but luckily there’s plenty of places along the river that you can get in for a teeth chattering and bordering on hypothermic dip without many people – very refreshing in the mid August heat!

Milan, Italy – Whoop!  Made it to Milan!  I’ve travelled to quite a few places in Italy over the years but Milan has always been one of those places that was slightly too far from where I was staying to make it feasible.  It’s a lovely place, some interesting architecture and balconies galore.  We visited the Duomo (well, we almost didn’t actually, because they have armed guards on the doors and I forgot I had a penknife multi-tool in my handbag…they were NOT amused).  The architecture is just breathtaking, especially up on the roof, and the marble floor was an absolute joy.  Nicks discovery was the street vendor selling espresso slushies – his new favourite thing ever.  I’m not a fan of coffee but they were delicious.

Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy – We’ve been to Lake Garda a couple of times before, but usually further towards the north.  Sirmione is right at the southern point of the lake and I can’t believe we’ve never been before.  A wonderful old walled town with lovely little shops and amazing restaurants in the main square, along with seventeen million gelato shops that sell every flavour you can imagine!  We had to taste test of course..

Verona, Italy – On to Verona, the home of Romeo & Juliet.  I’m a sucker for Shakespeare and have wanted to visit Verona for years, as apparently have thousands of other tourists.  It’s so, so busy, it spoils the atmosphere somewhat, but after we’d been to coppafeel of Giulietta’s boob (it’s good luck, apparently) and read some of the love notes that are stuck up with chewing gum and plasters (gross right?) we approached one of the restaurants on the main square where the market is held and our amazing server took us through the back to the courtyard which was much quieter and cooler, a real hidden treasure!  We took the hop on, hop off bus tour round the rest of the sights which took us up to enjoy a beautiful vista of the town, before wandering around the Arena in the dusk.  Top of my current bucket list is to see an opera there.

Lido di Jesolo, Venice – We stopped for a much needed dip in the Med here at this expansive sandy beach.  We’ve all been to Venice before so decided to bypass the main city on this trip.  We arrived here at 6.30pm, just as all of the crowds had dispersed and we had the beach to ourselves as the sun was dipping.  Beautiful.

Trieste, Italy – An overnight stop here and then a drive around town in the morning, some wonderful architecture and it looks like somewhere fun for a weekend trip (without the kids) so we’ll probably be back!

Krk, Croatia – Our first stop in Croatia, the island of Krk.  We only stopped for a few hours to enjoy a swim in the harbour, it was so, so hot.  It’s very rocky and there are tons of urchins hiding between the boulders so wet shoes and a mask to see where you’re going are a must.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia – Another one that has been on my bucket list for years.  Many of my friends have visited Plitvice and they’ve all said how stunning it was, and they were right.  As with other tourist sites, it’s VERY busy and sometimes you end up queuing behind people whilst they’re stopping on the walkways to take photos, but there are worse places to be stuck.  Luckily it was cooler today, if it had been as hot as it was yesterday in Krk I think one of us would’ve passed out on our 12K hike.  It’s so tempting to jump in to the water, but no swimming allowed, so we headed up to Slovenia where we knew we’d find some water  🙂

Bovec, Soca River, Triglav National Park, Slovenia – Let me live here.  After driving through the park on some pretty hairy roads, we arrived at my favourite place of the whole trip.  The people are super friendly, the scenery is on par with New Zealand’s south island and the activities on offer are an adrenaline junkies dream.  We took to the river for a family white water rafting trip.  We’re keen kayakers and paddle boarders but we’re all white water virgins, so it was a bit of a baptism by fire and we almost died at one point (no exaggeration, we were in serious trouble) but what a ride!!  I was shaking with adrenaline afterwards and could barely lift my arms to take my wetsuit off with the 1.5hours of paddling, but my god what a thrill, we’ll definitely be back here!  Next time we’ll squeeze in a trip to Lake Bled too.

Thermal Baths, Villach, Austria – After our adrenaline fuelled fun we drove an hour to Villach and spent some much needed relaxation time enjoying the thermal water, lovely!

Salzburg, Austria – An overnight stopover and then we spent the morning wandering around the city along the river and under the arches to the house of Mozart.  We found an amazing glass blowers workshop and bought some beautiful treats to bring home.

Lake Chiemsee, Germany – This was an unexpected treat and I wish we could have stayed here a little longer.  We found a wonderful little secluded campsite on the west coast of the lake and whilst the kids played card games with the grandparents at the camper van, Nick and I took a quiet stroll along the lake front, past remote boat houses and old wooden jetty’s whilst watching the sun go down over the mountain.  One of those moments that will stay with me as a happy memory forever.

Rothenburg, Germany – If you’ve ever wanted to visit somewhere that encapsulates everything that is amazing about traditional German culture, then this is the place.  Wooden buildings, cuckoo clocks, bratwurst, beer, Christmas decorations, cobbled streets, music and Bavarian products.

Mummlesee, Black Forest, Germany – We drove the famous Schwarzwaldhochstrasse and stopped at Mummlesee Lake.  The vistas along the route are beautiful and there was a lovely little park for the kids to play on by the lake whilst we sat and enjoyed a cold beer.  Nick bought me a hand carved walking stick and we also found some questionable 50% proof alcohol for our friend back home…!

Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, France – Back into France on the way home and we saw the signpost for this place and just had to stop.  It’s eerily beautiful, which seems like an awful way to describe a cemetery, but what I mean is that rather than feel unwelcoming and foreboding, like many cemeteries do, it feels open and invites you to spend some time reflecting there.  The rows upon rows of unnamed white crosses (and stars, in the case of Jewish fallen soldiers) and the team of gardeners going to work on the pristine lawns and borders really is a sight to behold, but more than just visually, you can feel it in your heart.

Reims, France – The last stop on our epic journey, and what a journey it was!!  We enjoyed some down time swimming in the pool at the campsite and then took a ride into Reims for the day.  We visited the Notre Dame, another architectural phenomenon, and lit candles for our loved ones who are no longer with us.  The history of this building is amazing, we were fortunate enough to see an exhibition of photographs showing how it was used as shelter in the war, how it was put back together when fire ravaged it and how it still provides sanctuary today.  I’m not a religious person, but there is something about churches and cathedrals that completely draws me in, I could spend hours just sitting in quiet admiration.

So that was our summer holiday, absolutely knackering but totally wonderful.  Many happy memories were made and spending time as a family is always so precious, we’re so fortunate.  Hoping you all enjoyed a wonderful summer whether you stayed at home or ventured further for relaxation or adventure.  Now it’s time to step it up a gear, back to school, back to work, ready to make the best of what September brings!

Jenny Quinlan
Director & Head of Design
Studio JQ Ltd

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