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Studio 6, 1-7 Unwins Bridge Rd
St Peters NSW 2044
Australia

+61 414 808 205

LUMIRA is a luxury scented candle and fragrance house founded by Almira Armstrong in Sydney, Australia. LUMIRA fragrances are your luxury lifestyle essentials. Copyright 2018 Atelier Lumira.

Journal

At Home With Jess Blanch

Almira Armstrong

Lumira At Home With Jess Blanch 01.jpg

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. 

Lumira At Home With Jess Blanch 03.jpg

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
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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 unique antiques and collectables. I recently found a mid-century Italian Vistosi chandelier with amber beveled Murano disks there – it is truly one of a kind. 

Lumira At Home With Jess Blanch 05.jpg

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. 

Lumira At Home With Jess Blanch 06.jpg

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. 

 Hotel San Cristobel, Mexico

Hotel San Cristobel, Mexico

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.

Photography by Kath Mclean, Bright Photography
Interview by
Michelle Bateman 

4 hotels with gift shops worth exploring

Almira Armstrong

 The Store

The Store

The hotel gift shop has traditionally been a place to find an emergency tube of toothpaste and a few unappealing mementos of your stay. But somewhere you’d actually want to spend time? No chance. Fortunately, this is changing, thanks to a few visionaries who have finally realised that holidays are an excellent time for us to indulge in a little shopping. In fact, some destinations are now so good they should come with a warning that visiting them will sure result in an excess-baggage bill...

The Ace Hotels

This global chain has a well-established cool factor – and the in-house boutiques to match. The Ace is known for partnering with other brands to create exclusive collabs, many of which have a connection to the local area. In the NYC outpost, this means plaid blankets from heritage brand Pendleton, while in LA, you might find a book of works by film director Mike Mills. So desirable is the offering, the company has even created its own Atelier Ace brand of products that have become globally covetable. Even if you’re not checking in, they’re also available in the Ace’s online store.  

 Ace Hotel

Ace Hotel

Paramount House Hotel, Surry Hills, NSW

The Paramount was named Gourmet Traveller’s hotel of the year in 2018, and we can’t help but think the retail offering might have had something to do with it. Many of the details that make the rooms here so special are also available to purchase, including bath and body products from Aesop. There’s also a tightly edited selection of clothing with a distinctly Sydney flavour, such as vibrant printed pieces from Double Rainbouu. If this isn’t enough, the hotel also plays hosts to semi-regular markets in the rooftop Paramount Rec Club, with a strong focus on design and homewares. 

 The Paramount

The Paramount

Soho House, Berlin

Retail maven Alex Eagle is well known for her boutiques (simply called The Store), throughout the UK and Europe, and Soho House in Berlin plays host to The Store’s flagship location. This is hotel gift-shopping on a grand scale, as The Store is spread over a very generous two floors, and encompasses a cafe and working space alongside its tempting assortment of fashion, homewares, art, music and literature.

Halcyon House, Cabarita Beach, NSW

From its interiors to its spa, there’s no question this coastal retreat has resort-chic down to a fine art. In the boutique, this translates to a selection of the most fashionable pool-to-patio essentials, such as wide-brimmed hats from Sarah Jane Curtis, wicker basket-bags from Heimat Atlantica, and playful accessories from Lucy Folk. With such a covetable aesthetic, Halcyon House is fast becoming not just a destination but a way of life. 

 Halcyon House

Halcyon House

Written by Michelle Bateman

How to choose a candle as a gift

Almira Armstrong

From hostess gifts to treasures under the tree, a candle is just the kind of small luxury that makes the perfect present. To elevate this kind of gift-giving to an art form, however, it pays to take a few extra moments to really consider the tastes of your recipient. 

Just as choosing a perfume for someone else requires a certain amount of research, so too does pinpointing the perfect candle. LUMIRA founder and creative director Almira Armstrong shares her best advice for getting it right. 

Do your research

According to Armstrong, “The first step to choosing a candle they will love is understanding the olfactory tastes of your recipient”. The obvious way to do this is by surreptitiously looking at the scents they’re currently burning at home. While there may be a mix, you should start to see certain patterns emerge. Are they partial to the juicy burst of sweetness mixed with earthy undertones that accompanies a fig scent? Or do they appreciate the soft and comforting notes of coconut or vanilla?

If you haven’t yet visited their home, you can also get an idea of their taste from the perfume they choose to wear themselves.

Whether they prefer mysterious orientals or light and breezy rose scents, if someone keeps certain notes close to them, chances are they will also appreciate the same styles for their home,
— says Armstrong.

Evoke an experience

“Scent has the magical ability to immediately transport us to another place and time,” explains Armstrong. “Capitalise on this power by selecting one that you know will resonate with a special time in the recipient’s life.” Sicilian Citrus becomes a daily reminder of that long, lost summer they spent in Italy; DUBH by Luc evokes the night you spent together under the stars.

Similarly, the right scent can also be a harbinger of an adventure that’s yet to come. What better way to spur their excitement for an impending tropical holiday than with the heady notes of Balinese Ylang Ylang?

Consider their decor

One of the greatest contributions a candle can make is to complement and enhance an interior style or atmosphere. “Selecting a candle that matches your recipient’s style shows a real thoughtfulness – you’ve taken the extra time to consider how the scent will fit into their corner of the world.”

For those who cultivate an easy beachside vibe at home, decorating with plenty of rattan and white, Armstrong recommends the fresh and summery Tonic of Gin. If their rooms are all dark leather and rich textures, Arabian Oud is an ideal complement. For more decor-inspired choices, see our Journal article on choosing the right candle for any setting.

Written by Michelle Bateman