Blog Archives

Belgravia’s Favourite – Catherine Milner By The Luxury Channel

Catherine Milner has been quietly acquiring, renovating and designing properties for her exclusive and international clientele for a number of years.

Catherine Milner Interiors

Catherine’s most recent project was described as a triumph in which the ‘style went above and beyond that offered by most top end developers’ (Knight Frank, Belgravia division). Clients and contemporaries alike speak of her reputation for excellence and impressive value-adding renovations, making Catherine the chief port of call for high-specification projects in Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge.

Guided by strong architectonic principles and classical influences, in Catherine’s view “every property possesses an inherent and rational logic that must be un-locked”. Once revealed, skilled artisans and her personal team of sub-contractors are employed to achieve optimum control over quality and finish. This, combined with her beauty and charm, ensures that notoriously difficult builders become obedient soldiers in her presence. Meanwhile, delighted clients come up with every ruse to keep Catherine in their lives post-renovation. Whether they instruct her to design their home or garden, build a conservatory or facilitate a long lease extension: these clients know that all projects will be completed on time, on budget with taste and aplomb.

Catherine maintains a ‘personal commitment’ to every project and takes pleasure in creating beautiful and timeless homes for her clients. She will stop at nothing in pursuit of the perfect finish and looks for inspiration wherever she goes. During a recent trip to Pompeii, Catherine was inspired by the classical cornicing in the Roman forum. Upon her return to London she instructed her architect and craftsman to lift the ceilings and replicate the proportions to magnificent effect.

For Catherine, it is ‘important that the interior design of the property reflects both the client’s lifestyle and their cultural history.’ Only then can the turn-key service be of true value to a client.

Modus Fireplace Design By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel takes a look at the hottest fireplace installations around.

Modus Fireplaces

The summer may be upon us, but here at The Luxury Channel we’re already looking forward to winter after our discovery of Modus Design. Their bespoke fireplaces are more akin to art installations than heating devices, transforming your hearth into the focal point of any room.

Modus Fireplaces

No two Modus fireplaces are the same – they will work closely with you or your architect to accommodate your every need and create something truly unique and unusual. And, if you can’t wait until winter, Modus can make you a spectacular outdoor fireplace – perfect for those cool summer evenings and never-ending nights.

Whatever your design desires, this is the hearth to set your heart on fire.

Building for the Future? By Alanna Lynott

Do eco-friendly buildings really make a difference, or are they just a nod to fashion?

Building for the future

A sparkling prism of light, Hearst Tower stands like an artistic instillation on Manhattan’s West 57th Street. It was heralded on completion in 2006 as New York’s first ‘green’ high rise office building and was the first to be awarded a Gold LEED rating by the US Green Building Council. Buildings such as this led the way in environmentally friendly building design, but how much further have we to go before we’re really making a difference?

Over the last decade, offices, hotels and homes all over the world have been increasingly designed to conform to ‘green’ standards and these eco-friendly elements are often touted as selling points to customers keen to evade green guilt.

More and more, these buildings vie to outdo each other and showcase new design features and while the industry is moving in the right direction, many of these green features are not sufficiently thought through or do not go far enough. For example, wind-turbines on buildings such as the Bahrain World Trade Centre are innovative, but if eco-friendly designs aren’t implemented across the board, grand gestures can end up being ineffective.

David Hilton, eco expert for Grand Designs Magazine, believes the most important aspect of any building is the fabric itself, and technologies should only be considered once the outer shell is made to the best possible specification. “Insulation and air tightness are therefore paramount,” he says. A building needs as “much insulation as possible” to retain energy and keep heating costs low, and air tightness needs to be just right, so your building doesn’t leak heat while also providing optimum air circulation for occupants.

He also stresses that, from the start, designers need to fully understand the needs and habits of the building’s occupants, whether an office, hotel or home. Logical thinking is required, for example, “there’s no point letting the boiler come on to reheat the hot water after your evening shower, if you have a solar panel that will do the work in the morning.” And when it comes to building materials and fuel, truly green building designs are ones that take into account abundant local resources.

An intelligent and thoughtful design process in place of (or even along side) the grand gestures that architects want to showcase can make all the difference to a building, and ultimately, hopefully, the world.

David Hilton is an eco building advisor at Build Store as well as an eco expert for Grand Designs Magazine.

Design Italia By The Luxury Channel

What makes Italian design so special?

Design Italia

The Design Museum and Peroni Nastro Azzuro host a season of Italian-inspired talks, ‘‘Made In Italy’’ – the influence of Italian design. The Luxury Channel interviewed architect Claudio Silvestrin and Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum to find out more….

What are the talks about?

Deyan Sudjic: The Design Museum and PNA have come together to celebrate the best of Italian design and style, and the talks are a series of relaxed conversations about what makes Italy so special.

Claudio Silvestrin: It’s an informal public discussion about design in Italy. The talks will lead to a better understanding of the evolution and impact of design, design movements and design practice. We will discuss style, passion, and craftsmanship: quality versus quantity.

Why is Italian Design so influential?

DS: Italy has a wonderful ability to make things look, feel and taste special. Milan is the world capital of design. The city is a one-stop place to get a sense of what is happening in design every year.

CS: The number one brand in the world is not Coca-Cola but “Made In Italy,” which suggests style and quality at its best.

Design Italia

How do you differentiate between design that is aimed at the higher-end market and design that is aimed for a broader audience?

DS: I always think that what makes design important is that it is democratic, that it makes the every day just a little bit better.

CS: The myth that beauty is for the few remains absolute – but less and less every day. Good design works in this direction. Design can be of quality but unfortunately also about mere quantity. Ikea is an example of good design aimed for a broader audience.

What is luxury?

DS: Simple things, done really really well.

CS: There is material luxury and spiritual luxury. The perception of silence, quietness, free space, time for contemplation and the feeling of love are more attractive to me, rather than the possession of material toys like boats or expensive cars.

Made In Italy – The Influence of Italian Design

The exhibition talks take place at the Design Museum and will be chaired by director Deyan Sudjic.

Arik Levy: A Natural Embellishment By Matthew Phillips

Matthew Phillips explores Arik Levy’s latest aesthetic as part of the HSBC Bank’s Connection Collection….

Arik Levy

International banks are not usually renowned for their liberalism but, at HSBC, Arik Levy has been given ‘‘carte blanche’’ during the creation of The Connection Collection. The principle creations, Rocksplit and Rockshelves, offer insights not only into how the modern world has shaped nature, but also how nature continues to influence mankind.

Such ergonomics are in harmony with the themes that permeate Levy’s work. Reflective steel rocks, which have become the artist’s signature pieces, reveal much about his aesthetic. These metallic boulders do little to physically impose on their surroundings, save to alter how the beholder perceives an environment now mirrored in their oblique planes. The visual trickery is so subtle that one could be forgiven for believing that they are indigenous, yet non-biological, features of an open landscape.

Where other designers seek to embellish or define space, Levy distorts the natural forms that already exist in any given area. His often quoted mantra – “the world is about people, not tables and chairs” – laconically conveys his approach to industrial art structures. By placing people at the centre of his art, Levy’s objects are primarily intended to facilitate a relationship between his audience and their environment.

David Linley On Deck By The Luxury Channel

The custom furniture designer speaks to The Luxury Channel about his yacht interior designs and where the future of superyacht design is going….

David Linley

David Linley and his team have worked on yacht interiors and custom furniture for over a decade, designing custom pieces for builders such as Feadship and Alloy Yachts and design firms such as Redman Whiteley Dixon. But now he is putting more emphasis on offering clients a full scheme by his entire interior design team, from materials to design to finished products.

What is intriguing about designing interiors for yachts today?

I consider yachts to be the 21 century version of a dream house, where people can live out their dreams.

What do you think about trends in yacht design today, like the urban-chic style?

I think it’s incredibly important not to generalise, and to give the client classic, long-lived design. Our mantra going forward is to do luxury re-designed, to create a minimal design that is long-lasting and works at sea. It’s all about how will people live on the yacht.

What does that translate to in terms of design?

It means you think about fabrics and how you attach them, how will they need to be cleaned and so on. What gives the owner pleasure and ease at sea, essentially.

How has yacht interior design changed since you worked on your first yacht project?

Technology has come on by leaps and bounds – there’s the ease with which you can communicate now, and better refrigeration which means food lasts longer. Twenty years ago, there weren’t any flat screen TVs to fit into the design. There was no internet. Now you have the ability to get e-mail 24 hours a day and download films, and so you have to incorporate an office and really think about how people plan their time and how they will live on the yacht. People really are completely as if they were in their own house with everything that one would expect.

What other major shifts have you seen?

People are more sensitive to the environment, how they fit into the landscape, the use of materials. They are interested in the green aspects of living on a yacht. Since 1987, we’ve planted a tree after every commission in our customer’s name, and our manufacturers have to work to our specifications. I feel we have really been ahead of the curve.

What about new places opening up to superyachts, like Montenegro?

Yes, there are a lot of new places and so people are asking where can you go that’s new. The temperature changes in climate mean new wind patterns and new places people can sail to. There will be some new thinking about yacht design and how and where you can live on a yacht.

What does Linley bring to this new era of yacht design?

We offer a unique combination of expertise. There are custom designs that only we can do, from individual pieces of furniture to the ship’s interior design, and even industrial design. The only frustration comes when we don’t have the opportunity to realise these visions!

Giving Up the Host By The Luxury Channel

Giving Up The Host

What makes a great hostess gift? We asked some frequent hosts (and guests) what they like to give and receive….

Kit Kemp, co-owner and interior designer of Firmdale Hotels

Kit Kemp

Kit Kemp and her husband Tim’s boutique hotels in London are known for their modern whimsy and vibrant décor set in the best and most desirable locations. Soon New York will get the same treatment when their eighth property, the Crosby Street Hotel, opens mid-2009 in Soho, followed by another site in mid-town Manhattan. She and her husband live in London and also have a house near the New Forest.

Is it different hosting in town and in the country?

Well, if you are our guests in London, you stay at one of the hotels. But in the country, obviously you stay at our house. That’s when you actually get to know people over the weekend, when you have time.

What’s the best hostess gift you’ve ever received?

I’m always touched if when someone brings something personal. I once got photos of my children and their children riding horses bareback in the sea near our house. I love to get jar of jam or chutney from the person who makes it too.

What make the best hostess gifts?

The personal touch means more to people. Recently I stayed with a friend in France, and his previous guests had competed over who could find the naffest gifts. So in my guest room was one of them — an elf with a funny hat and a donkey with a plant in it. His house is an interior design paradise and it had this ridiculous thing in the bedroom.

What do you like to give as gifts?

Because I’m a designer, we have loads of scrap materials left over, and so I’ll make a shoe bag or something like that. I always think it’s nice to bring something you’ve made yourself. My cakes and my pies, like my blackberry and apple pie, always look very homemade!

Anya Hindmarch, designer and owner of Anya Hindmarch London

The beribboned stamp of Anya Hindmarch is much coveted by fashionistas everywhere (her collection for Target in the US sold out in two days), and her handbags, shoes and accessories make welcome gifts. Not surprisingly, many of her personal gifts come from the same well that inspires her luxe fashions.

Anya Hindmarch

What do you like to give if staying somewhere for a long time?

I recently stayed with someone this summer and made a washbag covered with photos of all of us at a fancy dress party, and gave one to all the family and children. Really the ultimate luxury is time, so a hand-crafted gift means a lot, like a pillow hand-stitched with “Love from Anya and Co.” I’ve also made towels with a map to their house printed on, and made beach bags for each of the guest rooms with the name of my hosts’ house stitched on.

What do you like to bring for a dinner party?

Something personal is so much nicer — it doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, and it’s actually more generous when it’s personal. I recently went to dinner with a banker, and brought Credit Crunch chocolates bought from a friend who runs the chocolate department at Selfridge’s. A tiny posy of flowers tied with a ribbon like bluebells is very sweet, something in season that smells lovely.

Do you usually bring gifts for your hosts’ children, or include them?

I love to give presents to the children, usually something they can do during the holiday, like make their own gingerbread house. We make leather photo albums that can be embossed, and I once took all the little misspelled messages the children had written down and put them on the album cover. It was really sweet.

Do you research your hosts’ tastes? Like not bringing wine to someone who has a very large cellar?

Absolutely, the gift has to be completely relevant. It’s got to be thought through — it’s about spoiling them, isn’t it?

What do you love to get?

It’s always about memories for me, and photos are really special.

Bobbi Brown, founder and CEO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

Bobbi Brown has released her latest book, Bobbi Brown Make-up Manual: For Everyone From Beginner To Pro (Headline Springboard, £20). Her cosmetics are sold in stores from New York to Bahrain, and she and her family reside in New Jersey and Telluride, Colorado.

Bobbi Brown

Do you have a standard gift you like to give or do you tailor it to each occasion?

I tailor the gifts. At dinner at the Edgar Bronfmans, who owned the Seagram Company, I didn’t bring any alcohol, I brought my make-up. I like to bring the new line, something you can’t get in the store yet, or J. Crew or Loro Piana cashmere socks, so you don’t have to worry about the size. If I’m staying somewhere for a long time, I’ll give a cashmere blanket from Loro Piana. They are ridiculously expensive, but I gave one to Leonard Lauder when I stayed with him in Aspen.

What is important when considering what to give or get?

I like something that’s personal and took thought and shows that the person didn’t just grab the classic thing. It’s not about impressing me, but about being creative. I have enough candles, pot pourri and orchids. A photographer friend, Henry Leutwyler, once gave me a framed photo of my kids he had taken. Often, I get things that aren’t me and I’m happy to pass them on to my sister-in-law and friends. I also like it when a guest makes a contribution to charity but does their research, and makes it to my charity, Dress For Success, not their own.

What is the most memorable hostess give you’ve received?

I had a friend stay in my house in Telluride while I was away, and when I came back, she had filled my cabinets with a soup ladle, measuring cup, corkscrew, and left a note saying these are the things that you needed. That was most thoughtful and I was really impressed. I also love to get food. A number of my friends pre-order great, healthy things to put in my fridge, simple things that will be a meal for people. I love it when guests say “I’ve got dinner on Thursday night,” and they shop for it and make it.

Shine On You Coloured Diamond By Sunshine Flint

Move over white – diamonds in rainbow hues are now on everyone’s wish list!


The Hope Diamond is probably the most famous coloured diamond in the world. The gray-blue stone (and its infamous curse) is sequestered inside the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. But there are many other coloured diamonds on the open market, and they’re increasing popular, both as something to wear and something to invest in.

The sheer rarity of coloured diamonds has made them incredibly desirable today — in fact, they command the highest prices at jewellery auctions. From engagement rings to collar necklaces, fancy, or coloured, diamonds are now in high demand by everyone who can afford them. That list includes Hollywood celebrities, Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes and regular consumers who want something special. And jewellers have taken notice. Diamonds in every shade are getting the royal treatment from princess to marquise cuts, with pieces coming from all quarters, from avant garde designers like Theo Fennell to conglomerate De Beers.

If a flawless, white diamond is a rare thing, a flawless, coloured diamond is even rarer. Only one in every 10,000 diamonds is a coloured stone, and only 4,000 carats are available on the world market at any one time. Traces of boron turn a diamond blue, while nitrogen creates yellow stone. A flawless red diamond is practically non-existent. That’s why the Moussaieff Red, a 5.11 carat diamond and one of only five graded in the world, is worth more than $20 million.

Following red in order of rarity are orange, green, blue, pink and yellow, yellow being the most widely available and thus the most affordable. Now brown diamonds are the latest to strike collectors and jewellers’ fancy. They run the gamut from golden champagne to deep cognac. “There is an interesting trend towards yellow and light, golden colours which are warm and sympathetic and need not stretch one’s pocket,” says jewellery designer Theo Fennell. “They also can lend themselves to more original designs than traditional white.”

Graff, considered one of the best jewellers in the world and subject of our programme The King of Diamonds, has 60 percent of the world’s yellow diamonds – in 2006, they sold the Golden Maharaja (65.57 carats) and the Rojtman Diamond (107.46 carats). They say they have seen rising interest from customers in yellow, pink and cognac diamonds.

Yellow diamonds have always been popular, especially in the US, according to De Beers, and pink diamonds have really come on in the past few years. They appeal to connoisseurs and collectors – maybe for a special occasion, such as a wedding anniversary. “There are so many variations in the pink and blue shades: lilac pink, baby pink, grey-blue, pale blue….not all of them are that rare, but each is certainly unique,” says a spokeswoman for the company. “Clients are looking for a stone of character.”

It’s that character that has made coloured diamonds so popular in retail and for collectors. Individuals can therefore choose the shade and hue that best fits their personality, their wardrobe and their mood. Would you expect anything less?

Italian Style, To Go By Sunshine Flint

Fashion designer Antonio Berardi teams up with Peroni to create a new line of luggage….

Fashion designer Antonio Berardi, long a favourite of the stylishly body-conscious set (see Victoria Beckham striding around in his well-cut dresses and heel-less PVC boots), has a new fan in Peroni Nastro Azzurro. The Italian beer-maker and the Anglo-Italian designer have teamed up to create the ultimate in hand-crafted and authentic luggage and travel accessories. The first piece, Valigia, a luxe weekender bag made from palmellato leather, is out this Spring.

The five-year deal with Peroni gives Berardi free rein to come up with concepts and design, and also gives him global distribution possibilities. In the haute couture world, Berardi’s fashions have already expanded into the Russian market, and he has his eye on China and India. But the inspiration all comes from a very Italian place.

He has spent his career taking inspiration from his Italian heritage and spiking it with the discipline of his British education. “Britain inspires me with crisp tailoring and heavier fabrics, while the Italian part of me is a bit frou-frou and romantic,” he says. “The British side is strict, while the Italian side is baroque.” Berardi’s parents emigrated to Britain from Sicily’s Agrigento region, but were determined to hang on to their culture, food and familiar reminders of home. “We imported all Italian food and drinks,” remembers Berardi, and they travelled back to Sicily every summer to visit family. These trips are where the designer drew his inspiration from for his collaboration with Peroni and the individual luggage pieces.

Peroni is a natural partner, according to Berardi, because they are known around the world as a chic and cool Italian brand. The luggage line draws on his Italian heritage and design sensibilities, especially his childhood memories of travel in the 1960s and 70s, when the Med jet set lifestyle was glamour personified, from Sveti Stefan to Forte dei Marmi. The designs also come from his current needs as an artist and entrepreneur who travels frequently for business and pleasure. “I wanted to design something that not only I would use today, but that also brings me back to how I traveled as a kid going to Sicily,” he says. “La bella figura — how you are seen, your image, your travel outfits, your luggage — was very important.”

Sicily continues to inspire him, as seen in his recent Spring/Summer collection, which grabbed attention for its catwalk showstoppers in orange and fuschia. “It’s almost how I was told about Sicily growing up in Lincolnshire, the Sicily of myth,” he recalls. “I’m carrying that on in Fall/Winter with the elements I didn’t get out before, like the sequel of a book or a movie.” His revealing panels, feminine but structured cuts, and inventive use of fur (think embroidered with crystals) appeals to his celebrity and fashion clientele, which has grown since the days when he designed some of Posh and Becks’ wedding outfits. Berardi is grateful, but also knows the price of exclusivity. “We have to cater to them and have more dresses in the collection,” he says. “Because if one wears a dress, another won’t. They all need to be kept in clothes.”

It’s too soon to say if those same fashionistas will be loading this limited edition luggage onto the yacht for the steam down to Costa Smeralda this August. But if the quality and innovation Berardi is valued for are any indication, more than a few will be willing to pack it up.