Friday, 29 March 2013


I spent part of my Gap Year in Florence.  It's up there as one of the more seminal of my life experiences, and it's where I met some of my best friends.  Theoretically, we were learning Italian.  Actually, we spent our time having tea in Cafe Gilli, drinking affogatos in Capocaccia, dancing at Yab, all the while agonising over unsuitable love affairs (and, occasionally, going to watch those objects of desire in action.  My flatmate was in love with a hip hop dancer.  We therefore spent every Sunday morning in the Piazza della Republica, watching him in motion.  This turned out to have been a genuinely valuable life lesson to have had when I very briefly found myself working for Trash, the Ministry of Sound's magazine.  Tragically, Trash folded after one issue, but not because of my lack of knowledge of East Coast v. West Coast rap.)  And we travelled all around Tuscany - and further - eating gellato, shopping (it was the end of the 90s. All any of us wanted was a black nylon Prada handbag) and gazing reverentially at alterpieces, fresco cycles, and all and any churches or baptistries designed by either Brunelleschi or Alberti.  

There were a lot of crucifixion scenes.  And today is Good Friday:

Giotto, from the Arena Chapel in Padua

Duccio, from the Castello Orsini at Bracciano

Fra Angelico, for the Chapter House of the Friary of San Marco, Florence

Incidentally Fra Angelico must have one of the most beautiful epitaphs in the world.  Written on his grave are these words:

"When you praise me, don't say that I am a famous painter.
Instead, say that for love of Jesus, I gave everything that I had to the poor.
The things that seem to be important on Earth are not the things that are important in Heaven.
I am brother John, from Florence, the flower of Tuscany."

Masaccio, from the Santa Maria del Carmine alterpiece in Pisa

And then, for something a bit more recent, here's something by Dali.  Which is not in Italy - or France or Spain - but in Glasgow.  The City Council bought it directly from the artist for just over £8,000, which at the time caused enormous controversy as popular opinion thought the price too high.  It's a reworking of a drawing by a 16th Century Spanish Saint, St. John of the Cross, and is now regularly voted for by many Glaswegians as their favourite work of art.  

Salvador Dali, Christ of St John of the Cross, 1951

And finally, this is by Bacon, who was not religious, and this tryptich is to do with slaughterhouses, the smell of death, and the possible premonition on the part of the animal being slaughtered.  He told David Sylvester "I know for religious people, for Christians, the Crucifixion has a totally different significance.  But as a non-believer, it was just an act of man's behaviour to another."  

Francis Bacon, Crucifixion, 1965

Happy Easter xx.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Happiest Man

If, today - or indeed any day for the next month or so - you exit the tube at Baker Street (my least favourite tube station to manage with a buggy and a toddler, but they're optional) battle through the waves of tourists heading for Madame Tussauds, cross the road, find the little side entrance into the University of Westmister (to the right of the main entrance, next to the public loos), carry the buggy down a rather temporary-seeming metal staircase before winding through a subterranean loading bay, hanging onto your toddler for dear life because he'd like to go and explore everything, you will eventually arrive at Ambika P3, the University of Westminster's exhibition space.  Currently, it is hosting an installation by legendary husband and wife team Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, The Happiest Man.

The work recreates an old fashioned cinema; classic cinema seats are lined up in front of a screen showing a loop of Soviet propaganda film from the 1930s and 1940s - think scenes of happy peasants singing as they bring in the harvest.  On one side is a little room, which one can enter and go and sit in, rather comfortably, watching the screen through the window.  There's a table and chairs, a bed, a few books (which include such things as Herman Hesse in Italian - I can only assume that the Kabakovs' London gallerist, Niccolo Sprovieri, must have raided his own bookshelves); it is the home of 'the happiest man', and entering it one 'becomes' that person, forever engrossed in happy, indeed utopian - though false - memories.  As installations go, it is totally immersive, and interestingly hard to leave. Aside from anything else, I was very comfortable sitting on a sofa in the dark - so was Sholto - and the images are very nice and cheerful - which is of course why 'the happiest man' decided to erect his little house in the middle of the cinema.  ("Mummy, me live in cinema too?  Please, please please?" Either my son didn't get the subtext, or he's got a much better developed sense of irony than the average two year old.)

Ilya told the Financial Times that it is a contemplation of the 'stupid mentality' of romanticising the past.  Kabakov himself grew up in that period - he was born in 1933 - and what is certain is that life under Stalin was no utopia.  The Great Famine of 1932-1933 is estimated to have killed approximately nine million people; so much for those joyful peasants.

This mocking of the non-utopian past links, in my mind, with the idea of exile, whether voluntary or forced.  I have interviewed the Kabakovs a couple of times, and what comes across very clearly is that while Emilia has become American - in fact, she deliberately chose America over, say, the UK, because one can become American quickly, unlike here where it takes more than one generation to be thought British - Ilya is caught somewhere between Russia and the rest of the world.  Emilia is his conduit between work and everything else. I have visited their house on Long Island, and made the mistake of suggesting that it was Russian in feel - "It is not Russian, it is American," Emilia told me very firmly, and then explained that anyone who had left had to cut all ties with the past - otherwise "you wouldn't survive. It would be unbearable."  It is a message that comes across clearly in a poem by Vladimir Nabokov, To Russia, which I have to write out in full because it is just so beautiful:

Will you leave me alone? I implore you
Dusk is ghastly.  Life's noises subside.
I am helpless.  And I am dying
Of the blind touch of your whelming tide.

He who freely abandons his country
On the heights to bewail it is free
But now I am down in the valley
and now do not come close to me.

I'm prepared to lie hidden forever
and to live without a name.  I'm prepared
Lest we only in dreams come together
all conceivable dreams to forswear.

To be drained of my blood, to be crippled,
To have done with the books I most love
for the first available idiom
to exchange all I have: my own tongue.

But for that, through the tears, oh Russia,
through the grass of two far-parted tombs
through the birch trees tremulous macules
through all that sustained me since youth

with your blind eyes, your dear eyes, cease looking
at me, oh, pity my soul,
do not rummage around in this coalpit
do not grope for my life in this hole

because years have gone by and centuries
and for sufferings, sorrow, and shame,
too late - there is no one to pardon
and no one to carry the blame.

It is the first thing that Nabokov wrote after leaving Russia, and it literally sends shivers down my spine every time I read it, because I just can't imagine how awful it must be never to be able to go home again.  And were I ever to find myself marooned on a desert island, I think that might be the poem that I would most value.  (I don't know what is going on with the upper case/ lower case beginnings of lines in the version that I found to put on here, incidentally.  I am aware that it all looks a bit odd.)  Of course, the Kabakovs are able to go back to Russia now, and do so, regularly, but it is a Russia that has changed so much, and so fast, that it is, in Emilia's words, unrecognisable from the Russia that they left - so in a sense, they still can't ever really go home.

There is no doubt that Ilya Kabakov is the most important living Russian artist - he's the father of Moscow Conceptualism - and the most expensive.  Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova reportedly paid $60 million for a collection of Ilya Kabakov's early work (the Kabakovs haven't always co-signed everything; although they've known each other all their lives - they're cousins - the didn't start working together until Ilya left the Soviet Union for the US in 1988, Emilia had left 1973,  really thinking that she could never go back. It was Ilya who drove her to the station, he told her he loved her en route, they finally married in 1992.) There are examples of his work from the 80s hanging in the Saatchi Gallery's Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960s - 1980s, which is a great exhibition focusing on a period that I am fascinated by.  I can not possibly sumarise why I am fascinated by it in a matter of pararaphs, but there's a very good book on the subject - The Irony Tower; Soviet Art in a Time of Political Glasnost by Andrew Solomon.  It's truly gripping, and certainly sets the scene for what went before The Happiest Man.

Incidentally, I told Emilia Kabakov about Sholto's wanting to live in the cinema, and she very kindly told me that he could live in their installation for as long as it was up.  So if you do see a blonde two year there when you go, it's because I'm employing the artwork as a free babysitter.

The Happiest Man is at Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Road, NW1 until the 21st April.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Easter Rabbit Special with Rose de Borman

Besides us, there are two other families that live in our house: a herd of tiny elephants lives upstairs, and a colony of rabbits lives downstairs.  Every so often - as with any family - there is growth.  Here is an image of the rabbit colony's newest addition:

The timing of his arrival seems particularly apposite due to the time of year, and already he goes by the moniker of 'The Easter Rabbit'  (which distinguishes him from, say, the Valentine's Rabbit, the softest of taxidermied bunnies that my husband gave me on Valentine's Day, or My Rabbit, which I fashioned out of clay aged nine, and which sadly no longer looks quite the same after rather too vigorous a game with Sholto, who is not getting his paws anywhere near the new rabbit.)

Anyway, the Easter Rabbit is by Rose de Borman, the textile and ceramic artist whose works I have fallen head over heels in love with, not least because she also makes cushions:

Seriously, seriously, did you ever see anything so heavenly?  I want them all.  But, as mentioned earlier in the month, my husband has banned my shopping for new cushions this year.  However, those two fish in the bottom image - they're not actually cushions, they're lavender bags, albeit of cushion size!  Which also come as bleeding hearts:

It's possible that there are one or two downstairs on the sofa . . . .and they're currently my favourite thing to give as a present.

But back to Rose herself.  So infatuated am I that I emailed her what basically amounted to a fan letter, which she very kindly answered:

She's always loved animals, she says, and has a little Jack Russell terrier (Sholto would like this. One of his best friends is a Jack Russell called Kipling.  Kipling is coming for Easter.  Sholto is beyond excited.)  Rose has grown up in the city all her life, "so I haven't been around as many animals as I would've have liked to, perhaps that is why they always look a little fantastical in my drawings."  She cites folk art as a major influence: "When I am stuck with my work, it's hand made objects by largely untrained artists that I return to, in life and in books - to try to remember the joy in making, and affection for the object you are creating, without pressures of what it is or how it will be seen by a larger audience."  She's also somewhat preoccupied with colour, telling me that she works intuitively through trial and error, and that she "can't finish anything unless the colours are just right."

"Without thinking about it directly I realise that Ghanain Fante flags must have been an inspiration for the cut out technique and simplicity of shapes in my cushions and other textile pieces," she continues.  "The bleeding heart lavender bags were probably an outcome of my love of Mexican folk art, textiles and imagery mixed with a desire to make something in a heart shape but for it not to be cute.  However, I also think that there is an Englishness to my work and I love British painters such as Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson."

Ghanain Fante Flag

Ben Nicholson, Cornish Landscape

Christopher Wood, Zebra and Parachute

Hearing all this makes me love Rose's work even more, because I too love folk art, especially Mexican folk art, and I adore Ben Nicholson and have specifically chosen one of his Cornish landscapes as they're my favourite;  I holidayed in Cornwall every year as a child, and have often been to the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St. Ives (Hepworth and Nicholson were married for a while) and I sort of feel that somewhere along the line, I must have trodden lanes and beaches and fields that he, too, had walked along or through.  I know absolutely nothing about Ghanain Fante flags, though.

Rose reminded me to feed the rabbit before she signed off, evidence that she retains affection for her family of ceramic animals.  So here's an image of some more of them to finish.  (The Easter Rabbit lives with me, though.)

Rose de Borman's work can be viewed and bought at

Monday, 25 March 2013

Painting Eggs

I've always been a fan of the Easter Tree:

And this miserably cold weekend was, I thought, the perfect weekend to assemble one:  Sholto and I would blow eggs together before painting them.  I even found some pictures of Faberge eggs to inspire us:

Obviously, this was one of my more delusional weekend plans.  What actually happened was this:

Day one: we set out to go to the florist but Sholto had a melt down before we'd even got a tiny bit of the way: "No NO too cold I'm too cold don't make me Mummy DON'T MAKE ME."

Day two:  we made it to the florist,  only to discover that the twiggy blossom branches look like they might never actually flower, so we bought pussy willow.  However, no sooner had I handed over the cash then another tantrum erupted "I carry them!  I CARRY THEM!  WANT TO STROKE THEM!  GIVE THEM TO ME!"  By now Esmeralda was also crying because she was cold. Unsurprisingly, we somehow failed to make it to the shop to buy eggs.  And then when we did finally get home, Sholto, who has a constitution to rival the most delicate of lovelorn poets in tuberculosis-ridden 19th century Paris, was sick.  By which time I had remembered that eggs are deceptively hard to blow, anything Sholto is allowed to paint for longer than about forty-five seconds turns out generic toddler-brown, and my artistic skills (and patience) are certainly not up to replicating Faberge.

So we decided to watch a Bollywood Film together - Sholay - because it's my favourite, and it's got a good train scene, which I knew Sholto would enjoy.  It's Bollywood does Western, and has, in what was my pre-marriage opinion, one of the most romantic scenes of any film in the world:  a girl dances on broken glass to save  the man with whom she is in love (note that I said pre-marriage.  These days my idea of romance is my husband doing all the washing up, unprompted.)   And it covers Holi, the Hindu festival of colour:

I have often longed to be in India for Holi, ever since I read about it in Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy - seriously, how much fun does it look?and it's now, this week, Tuesday, and yet again I'm not there.  (Mainly because the very idea of going to India - or indeed anywhere further than Cornwall - with both our children is too exhausting to contemplate for longer than the time it takes to nod sadly and agree that we just can't do it.)  But Sholto certainly got something from the film:  on seeing all the coloured powder being thrown around he perked up dramatically and said "Mummy!  Paint eggs like that!"   So we're going to try.  Just as soon as either a.) the sun has come out and we can decorate eggs outside or b.) I've summoned up the energy to not be all OCD about the kitchen.

In the mean time, a still not entirely recovered Sholto is playing the Stella McCartney 'Decorate Your Stella Easter Egg' game, which is quite simply amazing:

So if we never quite get around to playing Holi, this is what our eggs will doubtlessly look like this year. It's not exactly Faberge, but it's a lot more fun.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Light Show

Everywhere I go at the moment, I hear the strains of David Bowie.  Even Sholto mutters about Major Tom as he skulks around the house causing chaos; he drew red felt tip all over some pale grey Chelsea Textiles cushions this morning while decorating his cardboard box space rocket.  But despite his misdemeanors, I am enormously looking forward to taking him to the Bowie exhibition at the V&A which opens this weekend: he's going to love it.

Taking the children to look at art is becoming easier - or I'm becoming more realistic about it - either way, I feel that we're well on the way to having it sussed.  The key is not to take them to anything static.  They need, in the words of Ziggy Stardust, Sound and Vision.  (There can be disastrous consequences if I don't comply with this basic rule.  I spent precisely eleven minutes at the RA's Bronze.  Which was one minute and thirty seconds longer than it took Sholto to realise that the galleries have got a really good echo on.)

The Light Show at the Hayward - which focuses on the past fifty years of artworks created using artificial light - was a total winner, for all of us.  Dazzling, frazzling; it actually gave me some ideas for interior design (between reminding me why living permanently with coloured lightbulbs never really caught on.)

Anyway, my ideas for graceful living:

I quite want this at the foot of my bed.  Or perhaps I could have my bed on some sort of dias in the middle of it, like a very contemporary Titania:

Leo Villareal, Cylinder

And imagine if one had a huge hall or antechamber, a marble affair with columns, and then imagine if you replaced the columns with these (ridiculously named) pieces:

Cerith Wyn Evans, S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E ('Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motive's overspill...')

This one is really hard to get a good photograph of, and you can't really perceive what it is from this image, but there's a tunnel of light both above you and below you and you're standing in what looks a lot like a tardis to view it, and I would totally have this in my downstairs loo.  Or in a really small room that just had a telephone in it - no one has telephone rooms anymore, but perhaps I would have one just for this piece of artwork - it's fabulous, right?  (Although the meaning behind it is less fabulous:  the prison of endless repetitions is actually a metaphor for life under a Chilean military dictatorship, encased by four walls it is as one of Pinochet's torture chambers.  But perhaps the downstairs loo, or a telephone room, is a good place to quietly reflect upon how lucky one is not to live under a military dictatorship.)

Ivan Navarro, Reality Show (Silver)

And finally, I would have this in my bathroom.  Again, it's not easy to photograph, but imagine the VIP bathroom at a very upmarket rave, complete with strobe lighting and mini fountains in every basin (I don't think that they were actually basins at the Hayward, incidentally.  But maybe they should have been.  Art like this, if you're going to buy it and not build a new wing for it/ keep it in warehouse that might burn down then you've got to figure out how to live with it, surely?  I interviewed Dasha Zhukova a while back; it was an interiors feature.  She's got a Richard Prince basketball picnic table - it's a picnic table, but there's a basketball hoop where the umbrella would traditionally go - and she uses it!  She actually eats at it! Amazing!)  Anyway, Sholto loved the strobe lighting.  So much so, that I almost felt sorry for him that he isn't growing up in the nineties.

Olafur Elliason, Model for a Timeless Garden

The only negative effect of this adventure is that Sholto has become somewhat dictator-like about the environment at home.  He either wants every single light in the house burning bright, or he wants to be in complete darkness aside from the neon glow of the streetlamps, and struts around yelling "Off!  Turn lights OFF Mummy!"  And then every so often he asks if could we go back to the Light Show.  "Please Mummy?  Today Mummy?  Please, please, please . . . ?"

Incidentally, it's worth booking for this show. Especially if you've got a toddler in tow, as mine, at least, isn't exactly good in a queue . . .

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Flouro Fever

My dreams are being haunted by Simone Rocha.  More specifically, the flouro broderie anglaise from her Spring Sumer 2013 collection.

I interviewed her at the beginning of the year - or perhaps it was the end of last year - for the February issue of Vogue Russia, and she talked me through the influences behind the collection, which is basically all about being a really cool teenager, and in love, and hanging out in some lane in Dublin kissing boys, while also being quite sophisticated, At least, that is what I took away from it. Oh, and she's also really really nice. 

And it made me remember one of Katie Grand's old editor's letters, back when she was at the helm of POP, which opened with the line "I was a great teenager."  And then it went on to say something like "you can work hard, and one day you might be too rich, and you might be too thin, but whatever you do, you can never be too young again."

Well, I wasn't a great teenager, at all.  And I think that one of the reasons that I love Simone Rocha's collection so much is that I feel that it gives me a second shot at it - even though I've got a mortgage and two children.  And this time, I would be really well dressed (in Simone Rocha) and not carrying puppy fat!  (Well, I'm not slim yet, but Malcolm Coombes the amazing dancing/ boxing trainer is getting me there, and I have faith that I will be whip thin by the time the sun comes out.  Especially if I continue to spend my evenings sewing like the incredibly uncool thirty year old that I am, rather than eating chocolate.  Of course, if I was out dancing, like I was when I was younger, well, I wouldn't need Malcolm.)

But in the mean time, not wearing Simone Rocha, and with a body that is not yet entirely lithe and pre-children-esque, I'm being made incredibly happy by two flouro-esque cuffs that I picked up from the post office this morning, designed by my friend Bettina von Sachsen Weimar.

I've got an orange one and a purple one, and I'm wearing them both together on the wrist that doesn't host the flouro pink Toy Watch, and they look amazing.  The little gold charm things are all detachable, and I've just got stars and crowns on mine because I'm not really a shooting kind of person though Bettina is which is why there are cartridges and wild boar too.  (She's German.  They have wild boar there.  She's also a princess, hence the crowns.  And I love a crown.  It's one of the reasons that I dress my children in Marie Chantal.)

And they also make me feel sort of teenagery again, because there's a hint of the friendship bracelet about them, insofar as Bettina is my friend, and I love them so much that I want to give them to all my other friends, and make them as happy as I am.  

And I'm getting so carried away by all of this that I'm seriously considering having a couple of flouro pink highlights put in my hair for the summer (once I'm thin.)  But perhaps that is going too far.  My husband would be horrified.  Because, as mentioned earlier, I'm not actually a teenager.  So I think, if I am going to do flouro this summer, I need to remember that Simone Rocha's collection was sophisticated as well as young.  And then look at Spring 2013 Atelier Versace, which had some properly grown-up flouro:

Bettina's bracelets are sophisticated though - knowing her, they'd have to be - Bettina used to wear Hermes scarves for tea when we were nineteen, and her cuffs share her wrist with a Cartier Tank Francaise, rather than a Toy Watch.  So here are some more of her designs - these ones are wrap bracelets - just to tempt you:  

Bettina's bracelets can be found at

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Anna Harvey on Flowers

Lent is nearly over, the days are finally becoming warmer, and The Flowered Corner on Ladbroke Grove - my local, and preferred, flower shop - is full of anemones, ranunculus, hyacinths and tulips, all crying out to be bought, taken home, and arranged in vases around the house, where they will distract people from the buildup of dust.  (I'm training up Sholto to be our cleaner.  He's actually quite into it, and even has his own very special sheepskin duster which he bought in Masham Market on our last North Yorkshire trip; sadly, the fact that he's only about two foot tall means that he can't reach everything yet.  He'll grow.)

To return to the point: everything I know about cut flowers, I learnt from Anna Harvey, the eternally chic ex-British Vogue Fashion Director, now Editorial Director of the majority of the international Vogue titles (she is the woman behind the launch of Vogue in Russia, India, Turkey, the Netherlands, and most recently Ukraine - to name but a few . . . )  As her assistant, one of my jobs was to go and choose the week's flowers for her office from the barrow on Bond Street.

And, as often becomes the case, I caught her aesthetics.  It is entirely due to Anna that I prefer to see a single type of bloom in each vase, and usually of a single hue (though I do love a mixed bunch of ranunculus).  It was she who made me see that flowers are an essential part of entertaining, even if the entertainment in question is a work-related meeting.  She taught me how to care for flowers,  and how to make them live as long as possible.  "I love flowers, I really do," she explains.  She once described herself in an interview as a 'cabbage rose sort of person', and "I think I am in every way.  I love pretty things.  I admire minimalism, but decorative is more my bag." So here are her tips:

- Only buy what is in season.  Peonies may look tempting in March, but they're not ready, and won't open properly.
- Find a good florist, and form a relationship with them - they know a lot about their stock, and they will let you know what is best. (Anna is a regular both at the afore mentioned barrow on Bond Street, and Only Roses on the Brompton Road.)
- Trim an inch off the bottom of the stems as soon as you get your flowers home.
- Water needs checking and changing regularly; it really does prolong life.
- Another couple of days can often be achieved by cutting down the stems when the heads start looking a bit droopy.
- When the heads of roses start to bow, they can sometimes be revived by being laid flat in a luke warm bath, so that the water doesn't have to work against gravity to reach the flower itself.
- When it comes to arranging the flowers, some, like roses, work better in an opaque vase (their stems turn the water green, not a pretty look); others, such as peonies or anemones, look heavenly in a glass bowl.
- If you're buying for a specific occasion, such as a dinner party, buy two or three days in advance.  Tulips, roses, ranunculus, peonies, anemones and many others besides look much better when they've started to open.
- If in doubt, buy more flowers than you think you will need.  Nothing is more miserable than a half empty vase.
- Finally, if you can't decide what to buy, go for roses.  And even if you are going to put them in a tiny jug at home, buy the long-stemmed variety; the longer the stem, the fuller the head.  (Although, having said that, spray roses arranged in jam jars look adorable.)

Of course, Anna is not the only person working in fashion to have developed a long lasting love affair with flowers:  roses, poppies, daisies and more are ever finding their way onto the catwalk and into shoots (and some houses will forever be associated with a certain flower;  I can not see a camellia without thinking of tweed, gilt chains and quilting.)  Anna, who has more style than anyone else I know, cites the rose headdresses from the Spring Summer 2013 Dior Couture collection as being a current source of inspiration; as for shoots, I happen to know that a certain Paolo Roversi shoot for Vogue India would probably rank among one of her all time favourites, if pressed.  

Dior Couture, Spring Summer 2013

Paolo Roversi for Vogue India launch issue, October 2007

Sadly, I'm unlikely ever to be a couture customer.  But there are always cabbage roses, Anna's favourite:

The Flowered Corner:  110A Ladbroke Grove, 020 7221 3320
Only Roses:  257 Old Brompton Road, 020 7373 9595

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Can one ever have too many cushions?

So, having spent over six months looking for the perfect lampshade, two come along at once.  This one is from the Danish homeware store, Rice, and the ostrich is hand embroidered.  I think it will look beautiful on the lamp in my bedroom, and actually will go quite well with the Timorous Beasties Bell Moth shade on the overhead light. (If I buy it, that is.)
Let's face it, I will never manage to live in a Modernist home.  Or, indeed, according to Edith Wharton's rules of decoration:  she disapproved of wallpaper, thinking it unhygienic - which simply won't work for me because when I drift off into happy reveries, fantasy decorating houses that I don't own (but might, one day) there's wallpaper in every single room.  My love of it is so great that when I lived in Chelsea I used to have to leave for work five minutes early every day, just to allow for time spent staring through the windows of De Gournay (which, incidentally, is an activity I can recommend as a guaranteed mood improver):

But while De Gournay does hand painted exquisite one off-ness, I'm also a big fan of the all over look.  I have a very strong memory of my first fully appreciative moment of interior design:  my friend Alice's mother completely re-did her bedroom in Laura Ashley.  The curtains (and pelmet), dressing table skirt (it was one of those kidney shaped ones), bedspread, cushions, valance and lampshade all matched.  I'm convinced that there was even one of those things that covered the box of tissues.  I was six or seven, it was the eighties (obviously) and the impression that Alice's childhood bedroom left has been lasting.  (I sometimes reminisce, even now, with the help of the Laura Ashley Home Furnishings book.)

My very stylish friend, the jeweller Christopher Thompson-Royds, recently gave his bedroom a similar treatment, only he went to Zoffany rather than Laura Ashley:

And one of my eternal references when it comes to decoration is Diana Vreeland, and her drawing room, which she wanted 'red, like a garden in hell':

(Both these rooms are guilty of another crime, at least according to the mighty Wharton:  she didn't like pictures hanging on patterned wallpaper.  I can DEFINITELY never live in a house ruled by her principles.)

But even trying to follow Christopher's example is going to be tricky for me, as I can never commit to a single pattern or design, and I have an obsession, and I mean OBSESSION, with cushions.  We have so many that one has to physically move them out of the way to be able to sit on some chairs, and still I fantasise about more.  But since Rifat Ozbek started designing them, how could one not?

And actually, that image just proves that a huge pile of mismatching cushions can look marvelous.  And just look at how many Diana Vreeland has got on her sofa!

Unfortunately, my husband has threatened to divorce me if anything else from Chelsea Textiles or Missoni Home or Yastik finds it's way into our home this year (though when I pointed out the apparent clause in his phrasing, he sighed and said "Cushions don't have a best before date, you know," - which is my point exactly, they last forever, how good an investment is that?!) Anyway, the point is, I've started making them.  I'm so tired after a day of hanging out with the children that all I can do in the evenings is lie in bed and watch Covert Affairs and wonder what my life might have been like if MI5 had actually wanted me, so I might as well sew at the same time.  And it stops me going downstairs to spoon Nutella directly out of the pot and into my mouth.  

Sholto has specifically requested cushions to match his tent (and quilt, and lampshade) which are all in the Nursery Window's Black Foot Star fabric.  I've trimmed it with some pom poms that I had left over from a chair I reupholstered:

I've still got several to make as he has suggested that a heap of them would look nice (I agree.)  And then he'd like me to make some for his best friend Orson, who does actually live in a very chic Modernist house with bright red poured concrete stairs . . .   I fear that Sholto may be about to discover aesthetic differences at a very early age.  (I only hope that the friendship survives.)