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The after-hours stylist

25 April 2023

Cantabrian Kate Williams shares some of her stylish and sought-after ways to repurpose, think creatively and cultivate simple elegance in your home. Words Kate Williams, Photos Anna McLeod

A love of nature and a need to celebrate what each season offers is at the heart of Kate Williams’ talent and passion for creativity and styling, while her popular floral workshops and garden tours at her rural Canterbury property are sell-out events.

China & cutlery

Fossicked and found

My beloved china cabinet is rearranged regularly to suit the seasons. While the cabinet itself is its own visual feast, the china is used regularly no matter how much sentimental value each piece holds. Life is too short to not use the good crockery, and we all know how much better a cup of tea tastes in a thin-lipped, gold-rimmed piece of floral beauty.

My china and cutlery collections are also treasures fossicked and found over the years. Each piece holds a story, from old bone cutlery – some rescued from clay residue after flooding at our bach, to pieces gifted at our wedding, and picnic wares brought out year after year. If only these treasures could speak of the occasions and tell their own stories.

Dried flowers

Prolonging texture and beauty

My husband and I were married in the old Majestic Theatre in Christchurch in the early ’90s, and we styled the entire interior in dried flowers, which was so fashionable at the time. Most of those arrangements then furnished our first home, and when I try to work out why I struggle to embrace the resurgence of dried flowers these days, I think I still only associate them with dry and dusty statice and gypsophila that lingered too long in our cottage.

However, there are some dried flowers I can live with, knowing they provide interest and texture during winter. Hydrangeas, roses and peonies are all flowers that dry easily, as do eucalyptus and magnolia leaves.

I have experimented with various methods, and leaving hydrangeas in a small amount of water for them to drink themselves dry in their vase is my best way to retain their form and colour. You can also add one-part glycerine to two-parts water to assist with the drying process. Another method is to place your chosen flower in a flat container with silica gel for 48 hours. Silica gel can be purchased online and is reusable. I hang roses, peonies, eucalyptus and magnolia leaves to dry with no other treatment.

Display your dried flowers simply in an old rusty container or create an artful still life in a vase placed on a coffee table or sideboard. To prevent that dry dusty look, I spray hydrangeas with clear hairspray. Any flower heads that break or don’t survive the process are used for other purposes, like decorating the Christmas tree, placed in potpourri or as table decorations.

laundry and linen 1

Laundry & linen

Stowed away for safekeeping

While a laundry is often associated with everyday chores, this room has been thoughtfully designed so that even mundane tasks can be done in a pretty space. It has always been important to me that storage areas are well organised.

And that they smell nice – my laundry has a vase of daphne and other fresh flowers in here, all year round.

The overflow of jars, books and preserving pans are stowed here. It is also the place for storing the harvest before preserving, freezing and dehydrating.

Another item I collect is material – furnishing scraps, fabric offcuts and linens – so the linen cupboard is a treasure trove waiting for just the right occasion to use that certain piece of velvet or paisley fabric.

I like placing linen on a dressing table to instantly soften the look, or use fabric to fancy up a feast or make the everyday more special.

I am always on the lookout for beautiful linens and have been known to fill suitcases with fabrics when travelling overseas.

Vases & vessels

You can never have too many

Being an avid flower-lover lends itself to collecting a vast array of containers. I do have plenty – many of them found while fossicking for second-hand treasures, which is one of my favourite pastimes.

Vessels and vases can range from beautiful glass to tin buckets, fruit-salad bowls from another lifetime to cans with their labels removed.

The trick is to find somewhere to store them all. My vases and containers are stored in an indoor studio where it is warm and inviting for the winter months of sorting and creating. They can also be repurposed to create layers on a display, to stack cakes and build tiered tablescapes.

Picking fresh blooms and foliage and placing them in a vase of choice is such a simple way of bringing nature indoors, and it doesn’t have to stop just because it’s colder and there are fewer flowers available. Just think creatively, and look and display any beauty of nature.

Extracted from The After-Hours Stylist by Kate Williams & Anna McLeod.
Published by Bateman Books, RRP$60.

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