At Home with Jess Blanch
As the editor-in-chief of RUSSH magazine, Jess Blanch has been lauded far and wide for her impeccable personal style. So it’s difficult to fathom when she declares that her equally meticulous taste in interiors is “minimal but lazy and not overly considered” and that her home has “no design plan or style, it’s just what we have haphazardly collected over the years”.
Truth be told, the Paddington terrace that Blanch and her husband Marty Switzer moved into 12 years ago shows no evidence of either laziness or haphazardness. Instead, it’s all airy brightness with a chic and minimal palette that’s punctuated by the couple’s vast and diverse collection of art, antiques and design pieces, including “hand-me-down bentwood chairs and 19th century French fittings alongside modern cabinetry like USM”.
However with one daughter already – Sloane, now aged three – and another child on the way, Blanch admits she’s had to adopt a more relaxed attitude to homewares. “The lesson I’ve learned is not to stop buying things I love, but just not to be precious about them. Before Sloane had taken over the house I’d bought a stone Luca Nichetto side table, which she’s also taken a liking to. It’s become home to her daily collection of objects and the bordeaux lacquered top has been so badly chipped I need to patch it up with Chanel Rouge Noir nail varnish every couple of weeks. I think I love it more now but I also think I’ll wait until the children are at school to get my dream cream Bambole sofa.”
What time of day do you most enjoy being at home?
Our bedroom occupies the third attic level of our home and has big windows looking across to the Harbour Bridge and the water. We rarely draw the blinds at night so I love waking up to sunrise as my husband brings espresso, and milk for Sloane. The early mornings are precious family time for us and regardless of how late out I am, I never sleep in and miss it.
Saturday afternoons are also a chill time in our house; our neighbour from the music school across the road often tinkers on his saxophone, so along with the buzz of Paddington shoppers, being inside feels like a refuge. It means we almost never go out on Saturday night once we’ve settled in at home, though.
You have some beautiful art pieces that span different media. What do you look for when choosing art for your home?
I buy art purely based on what I connect with, and certain pieces just seem to look back at you and say, ‘take me home’. We work with a lot of emerging artists at RUSSH so I’ve been fortunate to see some great early shows. I have a mix of contemporary Australian artists ranging from Catherine Clayton Smith and Otis Carey to the more traditional Angus MacDonald acquired well over a decade ago. One of the most significant sized pieces in our home is an oil on canvas work by L.A. artist Mattea Perrotta, whose work I fell in love with after seeing a piece at the New York store Apparatus Studio. Work by artists I know are always special to have; I hold close a desert landscape by Jedda Daisy Culley and by my bedside is a Poppy Kural metal weaving, and a sculpture called ‘You’re a different woman when you’re undressed’ from Holly Ryan’s first show. I rarely commission pieces as I never know what I want until I see it, but my friend Sloane Angell recently did a sketch of the Notorious B.I.G which turned out brilliantly.
“The lesson I’ve learned is not to stop buying things I love, but just not to be precious about them.”
— Jess Blanch
How do you like to use scent at home?
I burn scented candles daily at home and always mix them up between rooms and seasons. I rarely replace the same scent in the same place, as I think it’s a great way to freshen up a space and create a new mood. I tend to gravitate towards floral and fruit top notes, even for home. I’m especially fond of gardenia, both my husband and daughter’s favourite flower. I like to light a candle at night when my daughter has gone to bed and the house has been restored to an adult environment. I put on a record, pour a glass of wine and can finally stop moving.
Where do you like to shop for homewares?
For furniture I love the Melbourne store Criteria for its modernist sensibility and in Sydney The Vault which has very unique antiques and collectables. I recently found a mid-century Italian Vistosi chandelier with amber beveled Murano disks there and it is truly one of a kind.
As a frequent traveller, what do you enjoy most about travelling?
At the moment I am keen to put my passport away and am looking forward to our annual summer holiday in Byron Bay. For me, the best thing about travelling is eating and drinking in new places or returning to old favourites. Arriving in London to a martini at Dukes or Scout, Paris institutions like Septime or Chez Georges. In NYC I tend to indulge in a lot of what they call ‘dude food’, Katz’s deli or one of the ‘big city restaurants’ like The Grill. This year I’ve travelled to Tokyo a few times and have a new appreciation for ramen and gyoza, plus did my first trip to Marrakech and discovered tagine.
Do you have a favourite destination and are there any specific scents that you connect with these places or experiences?
I fell back in love with Paris this year; the early morning smell of the boulangerie, amber wafting through the Ritz, the burnt BBQ smell of street food in Le Marais and roses in Parc Monceau. One scent memory I’ll be forever chasing is from a time on a beach in Todos Santos in Mexico; the ocean, fish tacos, cold beer and fresh lime. Nothing has ever smelt better.
What has been a favourite discovery from your travels?
My best travel discoveries are experiences, my most memorable being a sailing trip through Sardinia. Each day for lunch we’d swim off the boat and walk through the bushes to a family run agriturismo where there was no menu, just a simple, delicious pasta cooked by the family that lived there.
We’d eat barefoot at tables under some shade but with a sandy floor and the most basic cutlery and crockery and yet these meals felt like the most luxurious of my life. The days were filled with sun, swimming and exploring and then a aperitif on deck before heading out by tender to a restaurant at night. Then repeat. We avoided the big ports and found some places like Porto Rafael near Palau which are still pretty and untouched. This trip taught me that to truly relax I need to be near the water, away from cities and preferably, without shoes.
Which products from the LUMIRA range are you most enjoying and why?
Currently I’m most loving the Tuscan Fig candle. Without knowing its name it took me right back to a summer week I spent with friends in Montestigliano for their wedding. We did a lot of the Montepulciano wineries and ate long meals alfresco in olive groves and it’s amazing how you’ve captured this very Tuscan experience with that scent.
And the wick cutter – genius, I don’t know how I lived without this before. I feel like it’s the ultimate Christmas present for the person who has everything.
What are you most looking forward to for the coming year?
We are moving nearby to a new house. It is an old Federation style home and I’m looking forward to stripping it back and embracing the period features, whilst making it very minimal. We will be living in big white rooms with no furniture for a while and I love this stage when a home is like blank canvas and still feels very undone.