“The stuff of life” by Hilary Robertson

For This weekend I want to share with you “The stuff of life” by Hilary Robertson, published by Ryland Peters & Small. The way persons display objects in their homes reveals a lot about themselves. It is a little bit kind of magic how certain people arrange items, like Hilary Robertson does. She names this way of creating arrangements at home “personal altars”. These spots tell a story about journeys, memories or dreams. I think a lot about shapes and forms of objects to arrange at home. Nothing is more inspiring for me than a book like Hilary’s, showing the work of creatives displaying items in a way that magic occurs: Poetic still lifes, collections of vintage, salvaged and recycled objects or charming curiosities. The arrangements are always surprising, fresh, different in thinking and feeling. I love exactly this combination in interior styling. Let’s have a peek inside the book:

The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams
The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams
The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams
The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams

She describes how she and her husband built up a collection in New York, how they started trawling markets together. At home they display useful or unuseful things in eclectic compositions. One chapter is named ” stories told by real homes” and deals with “neatniks”, per definition persons who are extremely neat about surroundings. I suppose I am little bit a neatnik. Hilary describes so well in this chapter, how you can be a neatnik and nonetheless have some collections and a breathing and living home.

The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams
The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams

In the introduction Hilay writes: ” For me, making a home really was about the layers of things that are acquired over time; things that have stories and remind you of places and people and a feeling of discovery. It’s always a way of showing the world who you are: the museum of me; a key to your personality. I think that all ‘stuff ‘, even the most quotidian, can be beautiful if it is arranged as if it is important. And beauty (whatever beauty is to you) is balm for the soul.”

The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson (Ryland Peters & Small, £25) Photography by Anna Williams

So, if you need a book, which is a pure delight to watch and read and which surely will lead you through your home with a complete different sight on every angle, than Hilary’s book is a the perfect choice.

Thanks so much Hilary and Ryland Peters & Small!

You can order your copy of the book here.

A wonderful weekend for you, dear followers! Hope you are all well! In two weeks I will publish my last article here before Christmas holidays with stunning and poetic pics of Iceland. Take good care of yourself and a peaceful and calm Advent season! Melanie Kettner

The black kitchen….

Recently we were looking for a functional industrial kitchen and again I came across this one:  The black kitchen of VIPP, a Danish company standing for product design with a strong focus on quality materials and mechanics. This is reflected in their kitchen, where all choices concerning aesthetics and technical details have already been made in advance. Thus the kitchen appears with a coherent design all the way trough. The functionality is industrial: Fronts are made of stainless steel, the sink and countertop are made in one seamless piece. The back of the handles and the inside of the drawers are lined with soft rubber that is pleasant to touch. All these details guarantee durability, functionality without sacrifying aesthetics.


VIPP considered the question: what would a Chef value: ” A solid grip when opening drawers and turning the gas button. A kitchen raised on legs for easy access to clean the floor. A steel table top that can handle hot pots and pants.Our inspiration is taken from the professional market, where a kitchen is a tool and not decoration. We bring this philosophy in the private home.” Let’s have a look how this stunning kitchen surprisingly fits in very different surroundings:




Vipp was born out of a need for functional tools in the professional market. Just like Holger Nielsen, who crafted the famous VIPP bin for Danish clinics, the company considers itself as ‘tool builders’: “Our driving ambition is to bring functional principles found in the professional market into the private home with genuine, industrial design objects. Our ambition is a world with fewer but better products.”




The company: “We only make one type of each product. Because once you have captured the essence of a product and done your utmost in its conception, what else is there to achieve? Therefore, you will never see a younger model of an existing Vipp product.”

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All pictures © VIPP. Photographer: Anders Hviid

A wonderful relaxed weekend dear followers with lots of inspiration for your kitchen design. We just ordered two new black bins, black and white kitchen towels and the durable black dish washing brush of VIPP with a replaceable head. It is really pleasant to work with. Surprising how new “accessories” kann give your kitchen a new appearance.

The VIPP kitchen collection can be seen here and the dish washing brush here.

Take good care of yourself! Yours, Melanie Kettner

20 hectares of farmland

Inspiration for this week comes from HERBST ARCHITECTS from Auckland, New Zealand. They created a breathtaking retreat for a couple working in the photography and film industry. Their job involves filming on location for long periods of time. This house is the space to which they retreat between filming. The site is 20 hectares of farmland on the Kauaeranga river in the valley of the same name in New Zealand, it stretches from high on the hillside to the river banks with a panoramic view of the farmland below and the native bush on the opposite.



The couple lives a life of self-sufficiency while on the land. The house includes materials that have a patina of age, with the character of sustainability, of recycling and adaptive re-use. What I love most, when looking at this house in complete lonesome nature, is the wideness and the feeling of being one with nature, far from civilization.






© all pictures Lance Herbst Photographer

More pictures and information about this house of Herbst Architects here. Don’t miss the wonderful film about the house made by homemagazin.co.nz at the end of the site, it’s so calming!

A wonderful week dear followers! Take good care of yourselves and enjoy the quiet autumn atmosphere! Yours, Melanie



The Cycles of Fäviken

Remarkable this in many ways secret place: Restaurant Fäviken Magasinet in northern Sweden located in complete solitude, shortly before nowhere land, 600 km north of Stockholm. If you want to have dinner here, like in a fairy tale you have to make a long trip first. Chef Magnus Nilsson acclaimed two Michelin stars, his restaurant is fully booked several months in advance, he cooks for max. 16 persons. His food philosophy deserves attention:




Being tired of his life in Pairs, he decided to stop cooking and went back to where he comes from. By accident he returned to the kitchen in an apparently inhostible area: Faviken stands on a 20,000-acre hunting estate and nature reserve in Jamtland with long white winters. The challenge Magnus Nilsson imposes on himself and his team is: the surrounding nature decides what comes on the table and this even in winter. Incredible how this task elicits Magnus Nilsson’s creativity in his own little universe, impressive the many different methods of conserving food in summer he developed for the long winter months. Magnus cooks for just a few people about 30 courses in the evening.



At Fäviken they do things as they have always been done at Jämtland, they follow seasonal variations and traditions. During summer and autumn, they harvest what grows on their land and prepare it using rediscovered rich traditions, or with methods they have created through their own research to maintain the highest quality of the end product. Magnus Nilsson: “We build up our stores ahead of the dark winter months. We dry, salt, jelly, pickle and bottle. The hunting season starts after the harvest and is an important time, when we take advantage of the exceptional bounty with which the mountains provide us. By the time spring and summer return to Jämtland, the cupboard is bare and the cycle begins again.”

Magnus Nilsson

© all pictures: Erik Olsson with kind permission

Magnus Nilsson saves nearly lost and secret recipes and  transforms them in something new. His important message for us all: Magnus Nilsson is following his own path, always seeking development. I bought his new cookbook lately with the title  “The Nordic Cookbook”. It seems like an outstanding and very giant bible of northern cooking with stunning images, wonderfully written, and it really is a kind of bible. What I like most of this book is that Magnus Nilsson reflects the cultural background of the recipes and poses the historical question of how a recipe develops this way and not another one. It is not an idealization of a dreamed nordic kitchen, he documents things as they are. He started with a collection of recipes people all over the nordic region sent to him and so this book has a historic and cultural character. Then he started traveling meeting the people of the recipes, eating with them and saving the recipes. This huge book is a beautiful Christmas gift, as you may guess, for interested persons in this subject. I love this book and gave it as a birthday present to my husband. It’s such a  treasure to learn from day by day….

Thanks Magnus Nilsson & Fäviken for the kind cooperation!

More about an adventurous dinner at Fäviken & booking information here.


A wonderful week and weekend  dear followers! See you here in about two weeks! Take good care of yourself!

Melanie Kettner

To resist the appeal of distraction….

Inspiration for the weekend: “Less is more” to apply to daily life with the aim to acquire more tranquillity, even if it may mean to resist media entanglement and the appeal of distraction. At home and in our agency we try to live accordingly f.e. by arranging some kind of blankness, with every item having its own place with not to much around. Our long white table for lunch, dinner and meetings for example has always to be blank in between, so that one can sit there with a scratch book and order one’s thoughts. It’s important to integrate isles of calmness in the sometimes hectic world of work, in our case film and photography, as often as one can and on different levels. Not an easy task. Therefore we cook and have lunch together with our team everyday.

The awesome pictures are from Dominik Tabaranski, conceptual fashion photographer based in New York, shot for Kinfolk. They show the principle Less is more in a beautiful and playful way.






© Dominik Tabaranski for Kinfolk with kind permission

Inspiration for the weekend therefore: “Voluntary simplicity means going to fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”- Jon Kabat Zinn.

That means: To accept some kind of voidness to find some other sort of enlightenment, to withdraw from the fast, superficial aspects of life and to look for the tranquillity and imagination daily life offers when our mind is not distracted from too much visual and auditive noise around us. Dominik too believes that less is more. His work has been shown in more than 30 exhibitions worldwide, he is represented by Marek & Associates. More about his work  on www.tarabanski.com

Thanks Kinfolk and Dominik for for sharing their pictures with NORTHLETTERS!

Take good care my dear followers and see you here in about two weeks and meet the Swedish Chef de Cuisine of Fäviken Magnus Nilsson! Yours, Melanie Kettner

On the look for inspiration…

Today let’s go on the look for inspiration with Myriam Balaÿ Devidal and her creation of a collection of bracelets. Pretty adorable her work progress one can observe while dreaming over her fabulous pictures. You can see how the inspiration finds its way and how playful she is discovering it again and again. I am not so keen on colours, but this is a kind of colour enchantment playing with light and shadows you are automatically driven in. Myriam graduated in Industrial Product Design in France after numerous collaborations on stage sets, theater, television and cinema. She then entered the textile world and had memorable experiences in the Haute Couture with Chanel and  Dior for instance. Today she works at “L’appartement” on materials, colors, objects, scenography and image.



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© All pictures with kind permission Myriam Balaÿ Devidal

To have a look on her beautiful bracelets and for orderings go here.

I’m not keeping updated my Facebook page anymore regularly. So please keep in touch on my webpage. Wish you a wonderful weekend, in two weeks photographer Dominik Tabaranski and the topic “Less is more” or to resist the appeal of distraction on this site.

Yours, Melanie Kettner







The Poetry of Water

I am really fond of these pictures by artist Åse Margrethe Hansen from her local river in Oslo, Norway. Can’t stop looking at them. There is so much to discover in these images. The more we learn to observe closely the many different faces of the element water, the more we will take care of it respectfully and wisely. The approach of an artist helps us to reflect what we see and to even to see “more”. We live near a river and I do observe its changing faces from my work place quiet often. But let’s have a look on these wonderful pieces by Åse I luckily discovered to share them with my readers. They reflect the subtile play between water, colours and light and some of them seem to be painted from an impressionist artist:





I asked Åse, what this series meant to her:

Åse: “I have worked with this series «The Poetry of Water» over several years. Most of the pictures are from my local, Oslo river, AKERSELVA. My fascination with water goes way back – the whole idea of one colourless element (water) meeting another colorless element (air), and turning that meeting into a splash of colour, beauty, movement – is intriguing . It is never static – I return to the same bends in the river, the same falls, and always find something new. That´s my inspiration.”



© all pictures Åse Margrethe Hansen with kind permission

We are working a lot in our agency and NORTHLETTERS is the perfect place for some kind of contemplation. It’s very rewarding to me to show the inspiring work  of the artists, magazines, architects and Chefs I like much. My husband was member of the board of the German Association of Freelance Photographers and Filmmakers for a very long time. So, he is used to support other artists, not so usual in our times.

More stunning images of this poetic series you will find here.

An inspiring weekend with the focus on seeing “more” for you dear followers, take good care of yourself!

Yours, Melanie

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Wondrous Chateau de Beauvoir

I am wondering lately how daily life in a château must be like, with all its defiances and duties. The history of ancient buildings enthralls me. We are are living in very huge rooms with high ceilings with stucco. Quite often I am thinking about the stories the long history of our home silently has to tell. Gifted artist Claire Basler lives and works in CHÂTEAU DE BEAUVOIR. Her fabulous art includes outstanding mural paintings, magically displayed throughout the castle. Wondrous her giant flower paintings on mural and the rooms partly overgrown by branches and leaves…








Claire:”During the first days of spring a multitude of primroses awakens the garden next to the orangery. Then the surrounding prairies are covered in colour. Beauvoir opens out onto the sky and cops, its other side embedded in the romantic shade of large trees.”




Some of Claire’s poetry:

“clothing painted rooms in dreams, walls that come to life, unbounded freedom, telling stories, transforming space, time, adding volume to a room, clothing it in shadow and light encouraging the backlight surprising the sun, lightly touching transparency, close up or far away to lose oneself, to look, to create what I have held dear for so long.”



Claire: “I like daisies, fragile and passionate poppies, breezes, wind, grace, gentleness and it’s force, storms, the mystery of still waters, the vast sky in the puddles that line a dirt road and the tree that forces me to be silent, patient.”


© Claire Basler with kind permission

You can order her wonderful book about her work and Chateau here.



Flowers my saving grace

How I became a flower farmer by Erin Benzakein:

“Growing up, I bounced back and forth between the city and the suburbs a lot since my parents were divorced. I loved all of the choices that the city had to offer. Wonderful food, art museums, massive libraries that stretched on forever and the ability hop on a bus any time of day and be somewhere completely new in minutes. But it was also loud and crowded and intense. Obviously the suburbs were much, much different. While I liked how things were quieter and the fact that almost everyone had a yard, there wasn’t an ounce of uniqueness or soul to be found for miles. Neither felt quite right or much like home.


But summers, they were my saving grace. Sometimes I would get to stay on my Aunt Debbie’s farm near Olympia for a week or two and help with the animals and her overflowing garden. I would collect fresh eggs for breakfast and pitch in while she canned and preserved everything in sight. We mucked stalls, chased chickens, ate homegrown bacon and listened to country music from sun up to sunset. While utterly exhausting, those fleeting days are some of my favorite childhood memories.


Each summer I’d make the five and a half hour trek across the state with my sister and cousins to our grandparent’s house. They lived in a small town, bordering a slightly bigger small town that was surrounded on all sides by nothing. Well not nothing. There were wheat fields and onion farms and a sky that went on forever. The days were hot, and boring and perfectly wonderful. During working hours we were often shuttled down to my great grandparents place for the day. We played in the creek, drank warm soda pop, ate way too many caramels, bickered back and forth about nothing important and watched hours and hours of murder mystery TV.


My great grandmother, Grammie, was somewhat of a legend, or at least her old garden was. I’d hear stories of how she’d built it, one wheelbarrow at a time from the ground up on completely barren land in the desert of Nevada. Back in the day she poured her heart and soul into that little plot and everyone who knew her then would smile as they recalled the blue morning glory covered fences and overflowing flower beds.


By the time Grammie came into my life that little oasis was just a magical memory. She and my great grandpa Tater Dear had moved north to be closer to family as they aged and the garden stayed behind. Grammie’s health had declined to the point that she was pretty well bedridden. On those long hot days she would tell me tales of her flowers and then send me outside with scissors to pick a bouquet for her bedside table. While nothing like her old garden, there were still a few treasures to be had if you dug around. Leggy snapdragons, a few hybrid tea roses here and there and always a rainbow of sweet peas scrambling up posts of the carport. Ahhh, that smell, it still totally reminds me of her.


I took my flower picking job very seriously! After gathering a collection of slightly wilted blooms from the yard, I’d dig through her stash of old dusty bud vases to find just the right one. Those bouquets must have been a sight but she always cooed over them as if they were diamonds or fine china.

Grammie passed away when Elora was just a baby, the very same year we bought our house. I was able to bring a few of her and Tater’s ashes home with me and spread them in my new garden. I planted two long rows of sweet peas down the center of the plot in their memory. They bloomed better than any crop I’ve grown since. So well so that I ended up sharing the abundance with anyone and everyone I came in contact with! During that abundant season, word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and immediately tears welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden… and right then and there I was forever changed.


After witnessing the profound impact that such a small thing could have on a person, I knew I had found something worth exploring. The following season I replaced all of the vegetables with flowers, the season after that I dug up the orchard and put in more flowers, slowly greenhouses followed and from there flowers have taken over my life.

I love to think I’m continuing the legacy that Grammie started almost a century ago. My secret wish is that someday they’ll tell stories of my garden and its magic with the same twinkle in their eyes.”

© with kind permission Floret Flower Farm

ERIN BENZAKEIN is the owner of Floret Flowers, a small family farm and floral design studio specializing in growing unique, uncommon and heirloom flowers for brides, designers and specialty stores. They offer fresh certified organic flowers, specialty tools and supplies. Located in Washington’s beautiful Skagit Valley, their flower fields are bursting with flowers.

More to read and especially to learn about flowers on Erin’s website here


Frances Palmer’s garden…

Flowers have something comforting and soul nourishing about them. I love living with flowers in summer and admire those people who arrange flowers in the most beautiful and poetic way like Frances Palmer does every day with the stunning flowers of her own romantic garden in the british countryside. So some flower inspiration for you in summer holiday and even if you have to work at the moment, one can integrate some kind of holiday feeling at home and in daily life nonetheless….




© Frances Palmer with kind permission

There is nearly nothing more beautiful than a flower bouquet picked up early in the morning in your own garden…A lovely summer weekend for you, dear readers! More about Frances country life, flowers and pottery here.

Some more flower ladies here after summer break very soon: One has an incredible chateau, I would like to show you and the other one will tell us her beautiful story about how she became a flower farmer.

Take good care of yourself! Yours, Melanie Kettner