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Serendipity | Milkbottle

Serendipity

Wendy Paterson

“I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint” wrote American decorator Elsie de Wolfe in the 1920’s. Wendy Paterson feels much the same, her pristine white-washed Sydney home alight with the joy and optimism of an inveterate collector and decorator – and lots of white paint. “I love the idea of ‘visual silence’, of luxurious austerity and restraint,” says Paterson. “The need for simplicity is tempered by my love of decoration – it’s a constant tug-of-war.”

It’s an intensely personal, private space, certainly not for everyone. The unadorned rooms of the inner-city circa 1860 sandstone terrace house offer an uninterrupted gallery for constantly changing, playful vignettes garnered from a lifetime of collecting – a nest of tiny spotted bird’s eggs, a fist of silver thimbles or a freshly laundered stack of monogrammed linen napkins smelling faintly of lavender juxtaposed with hand-coloured botanical etchings lying on an old Swedish daybed. A posse of scrabble letters on a metal table may appear random, it is not. Paterson is creating an interior conversation, speaking objectively through the many delightful small things she finds. Here is the honed eye of a true collector, the visual and the verbal, as she reinvents phrases to describe what she calls the “poetry of everyday life”. As a former teacher and decorative arts journalist, Paterson’s love of writing has helped define her attitudes and thoughts. “None of our thoughts are unique – someone’s always said it better!” she quips, flipping through a well-thumbed notebook of clippings and bon mots from philosophers and fashonistas, poets and musicians. It might be from the sharp-eyed Chanel, from Leonard Cohen or Khalil Gibram, or the veteran fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham: “He who seeks beauty will find it.”

A faded cotton mosquito net from The Society Inc. cocoons the 19th century  French canapé sleeping couch upholstered in patched linen, with collections of ephemera and “minutiae of everyday life” garnered from markets and local antique fairs. In front sits a gilded footstool in Carolyn Quartermaine ‘Script’ silk showcasing slippers in Rubelli linen. Vignettes include a collection of cameos on hand -worked lace handkerchiefs, and children’s gloves from Paula Rubenstein, New York, found with torn type-written details tucked inside, and a child’s faux leopard purse from Seasonal Concepts.
left A faded cotton mosquito net from The Society Inc. cocoons the 19th century French canapé sleeping couch upholstered in patched linen, with collections of ephemera and “minutiae of everyday life” garnered from markets and local antique fairs. In front sits a gilded footstool in Carolyn Quartermaine ‘Script’ silk showcasing slippers in Rubelli linen.
right Vignettes include a collection of cameos on hand -worked lace handkerchiefs, and children’s gloves from Paula Rubenstein, New York, found with torn type-written details tucked inside, and a child’s faux leopard purse from Seasonal Concepts.
 A cut-lace cotton ladies purse, a hand-made photo frame from a Provence flea market and an illustration from a 19th century  furniture catalogue which inspired the purchase, decades later, of an almost identical canapé sofa.
A cut-lace cotton ladies purse, a hand-made photo frame from a Provence flea market and an illustration from a 19th century furniture catalogue which inspired the purchase, decades later, of an almost identical canapé sofa.

Images: Mikkel Vang via Taverne Agency. Words: Helen Redmond

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