Directorio Deco by Gloria Gonzalez

Carnations Forever

I have always loved carnations and was longing to find time to write a blog post about them. I have never understood the bad reputation of these flowers: they last for weeks, are budget-friendly and I find their ruffled petals extremely beautiful. They are also Spain’s national flower so my carnation obsession might have something to do with that.

They were introduced in Spain by Emperor Charles V who gave the ‘Persian Flower’ as a present to his wife Isabel of Portugal while they were in La Alhambra, in Granada. Shortly after, Charles V ordered that carnations should be planted in all the gardens of the Alhambra. Over time this flower expanded throughout the southern part of Spain, adorning gardens, courtyards and balconies as well as the hair of women dressed in flamenco dresses.

But carnations, members of the Dianthus family, have been cultivated for at least 2000 years. Wild Dianthus caryophyllus is likely to have originated from the Mediterranean regions of Greece and Italy (including Sicily and Sardinia), but the long time in cultivation makes it difficult to confirm its precise origin. The genus Dianthus contains several species that have been cultivated for hundreds of years for ornamental purposes.

It was the Athenians that named the flower Dianthos, from the Greek words dios (divine) and anthos (flower). Gillyflower, another name by which the plant is known, probably came from the French who called dianthus, gelofre. Carnations probably originated in the Pyrenees as single flowered specimens, but none of these naturally occurring, single wild varieties exists today. The beauty of its flower, its longevity as a cut flower and the ease with which it could be cultivated combined gave it instant popularity in many cultures.

The plant was subjected to massive breeding programs and by the early 1700’s there were single, semi-double and double carnations available in crimson, blush, purple, red, scarlet, white and tawny colours There were also striped, stippled, spotted and veined carnations with smooth or picoteed petal edges. Many of these hybrids were divided into very specific classes: Bizarre, Flake, Flame and Picatee.

Since Victorian times, when the interest in botany went hand in hand with the interest in the ‘language of flowers’ Carnations symbolize love, affection and fascination.

Quoting Caroline Roehm (a fellow carnation lover) ‘there are no bad flowers, only people who do them badly’ I hope this blog post and the images below inspire you to embrace the simple beauty of carnations.

Henri Fantin Latour, Carnations without vase, 1899

Georg Flegel (1566-1638) Still life with Carnation and Eggs 1600Georg Flegel, Still life with carnation and eggs, 1600

Lobmyr persian flower handpainted glassesPersian Flower Hand-painted tumblers

Table setting with carnations in a home in Notto (Italy) featured in Architectural Digest. Mattia Aquila photography.

el vendedor de claveles francisco bayeuEl vendedor de claveles, (The carnation seller) Francisco Bayeu y Subias, Museo Nacional del Prado, 1786.

william de morganTile with two carnations and foliage, William de Morgan, c.1881, The British Museum

william de morgan tileBlue carnation with prunus leaves, William de Morgan, 1872-1907, De Morgan collection

carnation strip fabric bernard thorpCarnation stripe fabric by Bernard Thorp

carolina irving and daughters table top collectionCarolina Irving and daughters

iznik carnation plateAn Iznik polychrome pottery dish with carnation bouquet, Turkey, circa 1580, Sotheby’s

María Ana Victoria de Borbón, niña (futura reina de Portugal) Museo Nacional del Prado, Jean RancMaría Ana Victoria de Borbón, niña (futura reina de Portugal), Jean Ranc, Museo Nacional del Prado, 1725.

the book of carnationThe book of carnation, R.P. Brotherson, Martin R. Smith

Louise Savitt’s bedroom. Horst 1965. 

the language of flowers carnationThe Language of Flowers: An Alphabet of Floral Emblems (London; New York: T. Nelson and Sons, 1857)

cutter brooks table setting in pink with carnations by amanda brooksCutter Brooks

A camel, giraffe, chameleon in a tree, flying dragon, ichneumon, spider, and various insects and flowers, including a carnation. 1663 EngravingAnimalium, Ferarum, & Bestiarum (A camel, giraffe, chameleon in a tree, flying dragon, ichneumon, spider, and various insects and flowers, including a carnation) print; Wenceslaus Hollar (After); David Loggan print made after Wenceslaus Hollar. 1662-1663; The British Museum.

gitana con clavelGitana con claveles, (gipsy with carnations) Santiago Martínez, 1919
D. Portahult ‘Oeillets’ (Carnation) collecion 


In Conversation: Gemma Martinez de Ana

‘A touch of luxury in life can provide a wealth of happiness’ says creative director and Bonadea founder Gemma Martinez de Ana. Spanish born London based, Gemma has always been attracted to beautifully made things. Discover her advice on tabletop, her recent collaboration with Fabergé, what’s on her Christmas wishlist and more on today’s conversation.

Anna Moody photography.

You have recently designed four collector boxes for Fabergé to mark their exciting collaboration with Legado and Rome de Bellegarde. Where did the inspiration come from for these one-of-a-kind pieces? 

These four unique works were inspired by the legendary journeys of the three houses, from East to West, which ran in parallel through the 1900s and started with Fabergé in St Petersburg.

This beautiful city and the works of Peter Carl Fabergé were my starting point. I had the opportunity to see the world’s largest collection of Fabergé works when I travelled to Russia and I wanted to look at this rich past and combine historical references to create an imaginary journey that was romantic and poetic.

Each of the four collector’s boxes connects the pieces inside and their different worlds to create a cohesive story between the heritage of each house and their future legacy.

Faberge box designed by Gemma Martinez de Ana

The London box, designed and produced by Gemma Martinez de Ana. Anna Moody photography.

Gemma Martinez de Ana collector boxes for Faberge

St Petersburg, Cognac and Barbados boxes. Anna Moody photography.

Which part of it did you enjoy the most? Which one was the most challenging?

For me, the initial stages of research and the possibility of combining different materials was very exciting. In particular, the idea of blending something humble from nature like straw with precious gemstones was irresistible. I worked with an incredible team of experts at Fabergé who set the precious stones we used in the designs.

The boxes were entirely made by master artisans in England using eight highly specialist skills, so unique artisanal craft was very much at the heart of the project. To bring the painterly designs to life we used truly artistic marquetry techniques done entirely by hand, so with over 100 hours of painstaking handwork to lay the straw for one box alone, the biggest challenge in the process was time.

Gemma Martinez de Ana creative design for FabergeDetail of a moodboard created by Gemma for the design of the boxes

As the founder and creative director of Bonadea, you are well known for your tabletop passion, when did this start?

I fell in love with tableware as a young girl playing with my grandmothers’ collection, and I was always fascinated by the beautiful patterns found on porcelain and crystal.

Even at a very young age I would save my pocket money to buy something beautiful rather than candy, but still I never envisaged making a career out of it.

I also remember my childhood big family lunches and dinners with particular fondness, and those memories are of great inspiration. I love entertaining and I love storytelling, and am passionate about creating the perfect table settings for my guests.

Bonadea Pink Roses glassware set

Glassware, tray and coasters part of  Bonadea collection.

What would be the one staple you would recommend to splurge on?

Cutlery, it’s definitely worth investing in a good quality and beautifully designed set.

Not only will it last generations, but a good quality set of cutlery will make any meal special and elevate any table setting, just in the same way a good handbag or pair of shoes will make an outfit.

I am crazy for bamboo these days!

bamboo cutlery bonadeaGemma’s favourite bamboo cutlery.

What are the key ingredients to a beautiful tablescape?

I very much love layering, using colour and mixing family heirlooms with new pieces.

When I am hosting, I always take into consideration the occasion, the menu and my guests as a starting point, and the only rule I follow is that of laying the individual pieces correctly, then a pretty plate, floral touches, candlelight and a nice bottle of wine will do the rest!

What’s the best souvenir you’ve brought home?

I love anything finely crafted and during a trip to Japan, I found the most incredible tea bowl in Kyoto and lacquer pieces in Kanazawa.

Although my family would probably argue the best souvenir I ever brought home was Tokyo banana cake, and matcha kit-kat also from Japan.

What’s on your Christmas wish list?

Many books, a silk pyjama set and Pinto’s orchid Plateshopefully Santa is listening!

Gemma Martinez de Ana tablesetting‘Histoires d’Orchidees’ dinner plates by Alberto Pinto available at Bonadea

Thank you so much Gemma!

For the most exquisite tabletop selection visit

The timeless interiors of Calderon Bilbao

I’ve been a big fan of Spanish interior design studio Calderon Bilbao since I discovered their work a few years ago. Somehow I realised I never shared their work on my blog and thought it would be a great way to say a farewell to summer. Based in Bilbao, this talented design duo founded by sisters Ana and Cristina Calderon, has been creating beautiful interiors nationally and internationally for over 30 years.

Most of the images I share in this post are in Andalucia, southern Spain. Calderon Bilbao was also in charge of the bedrooms of one of my favourite hotels Finca Cortesin. I love the attention to detail of all these interiors and the way Ana and Cristina use fabrics, colour and pattern in a very soothing way. I’m sure you will become a fan too after seeing these chic, relaxed and ‘made for living’ homes.

Images: Calderon Bilbao

Calderon Bilbao also has a beautiful store in Bilbao ‘La Trastienda’