Sunday, 29 September 2013

Colour Deconstructed

Once upon a time, before marriage and babies and when I lived in Chelsea and regularly strolled down the Kings Road on my way to Vogue House each morning, I used to peer through the windows of Designers Guild and dream of the day that I would be 'freelance', and able to spend my time going out to lunch and shopping for cushions.

And then within moments, it seemed, I found myself married, living in Notting Hill, pregnant, and staring down the barrel at self-employment.  I attempted to assuage my fears by re-treading familiar routes, and thus made my way to Designers Guild where I bought some dark green and purple silk cushions, which I love, and which my husband - inexplicably - hates.  Since then, the cushion collection has grown, and I have been using those initial acquisitions as an excuse for every purchase, in a 'but darling, I thought they could replace the Designers Guild ones . . . ' sort of way.  And yet my green and purple silk cushions, which, two children later, are no longer what they once were (banana + silk = not ideal) are still on my sofa, because I love them, and they contrast beautifully with some pale grey linen Chelsea Textiles numbers, and some pink and green ikat discoveries.  Also, it transpires that my freelance life is not exactly as I had envisaged.  1.) Those two small children are very disagreeable companions both when it comes to going out to lunch and on prolonged shopping trips and 2.) I actually have to work quite hard, quite a lot of the time.

My affection for Designers Guild, however, remains.  So I was delighted to be sent a review copy of Tricia Guild's new book, Colour Deconstructed.  It explores why she is drawn to certain colours and patterns (and thus why we are, but I'm not entirely sure that applies to me as I'm seemingly drawn to every colour and pattern imaginable) and, as would only be expected, is full of stunning imagery and pictures of rooms that Tricia has designed.  Oh, and the odd inspirational quote, such as "Black is a force: I depend on black to simplify construction" from Matisse.  (Which makes me think that my latest plan, to ombre the staircase rods from white to black through every shade of grey, is not just reasonable but a brilliant idea.)

Anyway, images:

 Love the chintz - snakeskin contrast.

I dream of a staircase like this.

 I love this room.  I'm having a bit of an acid brights moment, and seeing this have fallen even more in love with the latest cushions to arrive in our house, which came by way of Yolke:

Yolke cushions - heaven right?  Mine have got a neon yellow gimp around them rather than piping.

Back to Tricia Guild . . . 

More amazing acid brights and oh my God I love that floor.

I love this fabric.  Love it.  I've just stuck it on my Pinterest 'Textiles; Birds and Other Beasts' board.

It's all made me fall rather in love with Designers Guild again.  So much so that I've become a tiny bit obsessed with these lilac and jade beauties (I only ever buy cushions in pairs these days) which are currently on sale (and if that isn't a sign, then what is?):

It seems, when it comes to Designers Guild, that I've definitely got a thing about purple and green.
Colour Deconstructed by Tricia Guild comes out on the 24th October, and is available for pre-order here

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Chasing Rainbows

I've spent the last week going to London Design Festival exhibitions (not enough - there was so much more I wanted to see) marching around 100%Design, meandering around Decorex, and finally mooching around the LAPADA Fine Art and Antiques Fair.  That last is where I found this glorious painted cupboard, which I want more than anything.  It's enormous, so I also need a new house.  I'd keep it on a landing so that I saw it every single time I walked up and down stairs - it's so beautiful that I would want to see it as often as I could.   It's not even that expensive, all things considering (although, after years spent writing for luxury titles, my sense of expensive is somewhat skewed.)   It's early 19th Century, but there's something about it - I think the geometric painted rainbows - that make it seem very modern, too.  It reminds me of Peter Blake's Babe Rainbow:

It's possible that the Peter Blake connection came about because Dovecot Studios were showing handwoven works that he did for them at Decorex, which I also fell in love with (I want the Rainbow for Esmeralda, obviously):

There were more rainbow stripes on the Missoni Home stand (Missoni Home being something I've got a bit of a weakness for - not so much the dressing gowns or the towels, but I have long coveted a pouffe, and look at those lights!)

Missoni Home

And then I discovered these from Twig UK, and realised that, even though the sofa and every single chair downstairs has already got at least one blanket/throw/ reindeer pelt/ whatever on it, I might need to get more . . . .

Now, I was (before you point out that this particular post is a bit thin) going to segue seamlessly from a whole load of products which are vaguely rainbow reminiscent to a selection of images from Tricia Guild's new book, Colour Deconstructed, on the premise that there is a not too tenuous link.  However, I've been so busy running from show to exhibition to fair etc., while also trying to remember to occasionally shove a fish finger into a child and to meet my various deadlines (Vogue Russia and American Express Centurion since you ask, no wonder I thought stuff at LAPADA was cheap) that I totally failed to download the images that I was sent for that purpose in time, and now the zip file is past it's sell-by, and I can't get at them.  I'm hoping that they will be re-sent.  Something to look forward to next week, maybe . . . . (must go next time I'm in Edinburgh)
(You might spot that I've not given any information regarding the cupboard.  That's because I'm hoping that I'll suddenly make loads of money, like, next week, and be able to buy both it and a new house.  All together now:  Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up hiiiiiiiigh . . . .)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Australia: The Thorn Birds, Nick Cave and the Royal Academy

Retrospectively, I was embarrassingly dismissive of all those who headed to Australia for their Gap Year.  If one hadn't felt the tremors of India testing their nuclear weapons while riding camels across the Rajhastani desert, or accidentally found oneself stuck in Pakistan with only a hazy understanding of the political situation that had temporarily closed the land borders, the eighteen year old me wasn't very impressed.  When recounting my glorious travels (which I think I probably did to anyone who'd listen) I would conveniently omit that when I reached comparable civilisation (Vietnam) I immediately holed up for three days with a selection of Hollywood romantic comedies and bumper packs of Pringles and Mars Bars.

The truth is that I just wasn't very imaginative.  My impression of Australia was formed entirely by being made to read Walkabout (which seemed way too weird for me to be able to relate to it in any way) and from watching Neighbours and Home & Away.  And my shortsighted and mistakenly superior self didn't bother researching any further.

Over the years, there have been occasional little prompts.  I watch The Thorn Birds with a biannual regularity.  It's one of my favourite film sagas of all time, up there with Gone With The Wind, The Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisted.  It's got it all:  overpowering love, insane ambition, total devastation, Catholic guilt, arguments over wills, illegitimate children and stunning scenery:

And then of course there's Nick Cave, with his incredible haunting lyrics, and his film, The Proposition:

(Australia is pretty much the only thing the two films have in common, incidentally, which you can probably deduce from the images. . . . )

And now the Australia exhibition has arrived at Royal Academy, and oh my God I want to go.  I'm even considering a twenty four hour flight in economy with both children, that's how much I want to go.  Why, why didn't I feel this way when I was unencumbered by the world's least agreeable travelling companions?  Those inhospitable landscapes; take me there!  

Sydney Nolan, Ned Kelly - I've always been fascinated by Australia's most infamous outlaw.

Eugene von Guerard, Bush Fire

Shaun Gladwell, Approach to Mundi Mundi.  I want to motorbike through sacred Aboriginal landscapes.  This is actually a clip from a great video piece. I watched it for ages.  And there wasn't even a bench to sit on.

But there's far more the exhibition than just these - it fully explores Australian art, the movements, and the stories behind the paintings. I don't feel equipped to try and give you a brief surmise, and the current RA Magazine does a much better job than I would - all I can say is that I haven't felt as enlivened or inspired by an exhibition in ages.  I knew virtually nothing about Australian art - who does?  Except, perhaps, those who had the foresight to go there on their Gap year.

Australia is at the Royal Academy opens on Saturday and is on until the 8th December.  Go, go go!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Awe and Inspiration from Stella McCartney to Phoebe Hart

I'm interviewing Stella McCartney later, and I'm feeling a bit butterfly-ie about it.  I always get them before interviewing people I really admire.  I was almost sick before I interviewed Marina Abramovic, but in the event needn't have worried as she barely drew breath (which I wasn't expecting from an artist who has made silence such a feature of her work.)  With Stella I'm awed not only because she's brilliant but because she continually accomplishes so much, and the more I research her the more I realise I don't seem to do anything, really.  (Also, I now know that I actually need a heart-shaped wood in the grounds of my country house.)

So I'm thinking about rugs again in order to distract myself.  Let's return to Luke Irwin, and his children's collection!  (Stella has four children.  Two of each.  I'd love that.  I really want a couple more - and so does Sholto who asked only yesterday if I had enough money to go and buy more babies.)  So, if and when I have four children, and they all have a bedroom each, this is what they'll have under their feet:



Ball Games


However, heavenly as these carpets are - and they really, really are - just buying them wouldn't necessarily be achieving anything in a Stella-worthy superstar sort of way.  Especially not when one considers that a lot of my time recently (when not researching Ms. McCartney) has been devoted to pouring over a review copy of Remarkable Rugs, The Inspirational Art of Phoebe Hart:

Phoebe Hart made these - and many more - entirely by hand, and entirely by herself.  She led a fascinating life:  she worked on set designs for the Ballets Russes, not under Diaghilev but later, in London, under Polunin, while following the Stage Decoration and Design course that he launched at the Slade School of Art in 1929.  After the war, and the death of her first husband, she moved to Jamaica (by way of Manhattan) and there met her second husband and started to create needlework designs, working with a rehabilitation craft scheme for post-tuberculor patients.  They exported as far as Liberty's - as in our Liberty's, here in London - and it was her designs that were chosen to present to the Queen on her visits to the island.  

And then, inspired by a friend, and using early American folk techniques, she started making actual rugs such as the two above.  They're amazing.  The entire book is full of the most exquisite designs featuring endless flora and fauna.  Here are some details:

See, amazing amazing, no?  It's clear that I'm going to have to learn to make rugs - although these are not going anywhere near any floor; should I ever achieve anything this impressive, it's being hung on a wall.  (Where my parents, for some reason, still have not hung my GCSE weaving project, my only real attempt at anything similar thus far.  I realise that it does not even begin to compare to these in beauty, and it's references are nowhere near as interesting or varied; it is, in fact, just a length of greeny yellow weaving with some red pom poms attached - yes!  For those who guessed, I was indeed inspired by Monet's poppy fields - but still . . . )

Anyway, I can thoroughly recommend the book.  It's got so much in it; so many details, both of the rugs themselves and of the different techniques that Hart used.  Truly, if anything is going to get me crafting, it's this.   And, actually, my making rugs is marginally more likely than my ever being invited to design all the clothes and uniforms for all the British teams for the Olympics. Or designing a capsule collection for Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop, as well as four Stella McCartney collections each year, the Kids collections, the Stella McCartney for Adidas collections . . .   Oh, or be in a position to fund three scholarships for the MA course at Central St. Martin's.

The butterflies are back.
Remarkable Rugs, The Inspirational Art of Phoebe Hart, by Harriet Hart (her daughter) is published this Friday the 20th September.  But it here now, on Amazon!  It's amazing!  

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Turkish Rug Dilemmas and Luke Irwin Aspirations

So, my friend Simon has (nearly) bought a flat.  This has been a lengthy process, which has involved his sending me numerous emails with attached floor plans saying "Do you think you could make this look nice?"  When I asked for a definition of 'nice' he tried to tell me that my flat is nice.  Which is kind of him.  I'll admit that certain elements are, not least due to my obsession with fabrics and cushions and textures.  There's a nice rug which we brought back from Algeria.  We've got some quite nicely upholstered dining room chairs.  The blinds are Chelsea Textiles -  'nice' doesn't do them justice - and the cushions are a mix of more Chelsea Textiles, Designers' Guild, Missoni Home, Yastik, Rose de Borman and one that my Grandmother made as a wedding present just before she died which I love above all the others.  There are a variety of throws and blankets, both Scottish and Welsh, and some dead animal pelts (cow, reindeer, the usual.  Though I've gone off fur since having babies, it's something to do with everything being somebody's mother.  I can no longer watch Bambi, ever.)  The overall effect is certainly, well, homely, shall we say, and not un-nice.

But then there are toys.  Lots and lots of toys - including a plastic guitar/ dog that yelps if you leave it alone for too long (thank you Godfather Mark), a plastic toy piano that the children like to have beat-boxing in the background, the plastic Octonaut ship that Sholto pretty much forced his Godmother Kim to buy him, and many many more that I keep in rows of garish plastic marble-effect buckets that are lined up on the window sill, and which totally destroy any aesthetics the room might have had.

They look more elegant - and muted - in this image than they do in my flat.

I questioned Simon more closely.  It transpires that what he really means by 'nice' is that he'd like a flat like Lawrence Selden's in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.  He sent me this passage for inspiration:

He ushered her into a slip of a hall hung with old prints.  She noticed the letters and notes heaped on the table among his gloves and sticks; then she found herself in a small library, dark but cheerful, with its walls of books, a pleasantly faded Turkey rug, a littered desk and, as he had foretold, a tea-tray on a low table near the window.  A breeze had sprung up, swaying inward the muslin curtains, and bringing a fresh scent of mignonette and petunias from the flower-box on the balcony.
Lily sank with a sigh into one of the shabby leather chairs.
"How delicious to have a place like this all to one's self!  What a miserable thing it is to be a woman."  She leaned back in a luxury of discontent.

As far as I can tell, our flat and Lawrence Selden's have precisely two things in common.  1.) the rug and 2.) the books, which are everywhere, piled high, the actual bookcases having run out, as it were.  (Although, I don't for a second believe that Laurence Seldon's flat had copies of That's Not My Kitten/ Dragon/ Tractor etc.)

So, I've been thinking about what to do about Simon's shortly-to-be-acquired new flat, and currently the carpet is proving a sticking point.  Because I don't think that I can go back to Algeria at the moment - what the children and work etc. - and because those sold by Oka cost a fortune (is it just me or has Oka become very overpriced?  I don't think it's just me) and because Luke Irwin's cost even more of a fortune, but justly so, I feel.  (My other concern with Oka is that I sort of worry that there becomes an Oka 'look', that one might walk into somebody else's house and find that it's exactly the same as one's own, because everybody went to Oka.  It's like upmarket G-plan furniture - I grew up in a series of army quarters - Ikea for the upper-middle classes, who all think it's jolly good because it's owned and run by Viscountess Astor who, lest anybody ever forget, is Samantha Cameron's mother.  All this doesn't prevent my wandering past it on a daily basis and fantasising about living an alternate reality in which life is easy and organised and looks just so.  So, occasionally I stumble in and buy a lacquered box, or pen pot, or something, just to give me a bit of hope, you know?  Also, I often really like their crockery.  Well, actually, I really like everything, which is the problem: Oka is really really nice.  Lawrence Selden would totally have shopped there.)

Oka, £1,385

But actually, I like Luke Irwin's much more, anyway:

Ikat 3

Ikat 14

Ikat 24

The launch of his new collection, Tarantella (I think of that wonderful poem by Hilaire Belloc - "Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?  Do you remember an Inn?)  is tomorrow evening, and I'm already in love with most of it, before I've even seen it for real:


St. Antonio

St. Fazzio

I'm especially in love with Agatha, and, had I not already acquired one of The Rug Company's dhurries for the children's bedroom, I would be figuring out how to re-mortgage our flat in order to be able to let the children enjoy the joys of Luke Irwin under their feet.

Incidentally The Rug Company's customer service is unbelievably amazing.  I ordered the rug in green, and then decided, when it arrived, that it was too grassy.  So I switched it for the yellow, which I put down, and then decided that it was too, well, yellow.  (Seriously.  I never stopped getting a shock when I saw it.) So we've got blue, which is perfect, and almost the exact same shade as Farrow & Ball's Parma Grey, which is on the walls.  (One day I'll have a house with sufficient rooms to have the pink, too.)  But my point about the customer service is that each time The Rug Company very patiently came and picked up the wrong-coloured rug, and re-delivered another, totally for free.

Which means I'm definitely going to be scouring The Rug Company's website when it comes to inspiration for Simon's flat.  Which is, after all, what all this research is theoretically about . . . . (Must not buy more rugs.  Must not buy more rugs . . .  ) - home of the marbled buckets; they also do washing up bowls and laundry baskets (yes we've got those too.  Obviously.)

Monday, 2 September 2013

La Rentree, with Smythson and Farrow&Ball

Nothing says 'back to school' quite like returning from a weekend on the Norfolk coast to find the October issues of World of Interiors, House & Garden and Tatler have arrived, along with the new Smythson catalogue.  I love Smythson.  Love Smythson.  They have provided me with a diary every year since I started university, and their notebooks are a constant companion.  I don't know how I would have got married without 'Wedding Notes', or indeed given birth without 'Baby Notes.'  (I exaggerate, slightly.  Obviously I would have managed, but the managing wouldn't have been quite so aesthetically enjoyable.)

But this September, for the first time since I left Conde Nast (when there was a real new season feeling, because, well, there was a new season) this year is a proper 'rentree'.  Sholto starts school next week.  Esmeralda had her first ever lesson today (swimming), and I have once again got an office to go to (though I don't, fortunately, have to go there full time, or even regularly.)

I do, however, have to decorate the new office, because obviously if I'm going to spend time there, it's got to look nice.  So to that end I've been perusing paint charts, acquiring tester pots, and  sticking up sheets of paper all over the walls.  I know that Farrow&Ball have got new colours coming out this week (there's a rather acidic yellow that I like, but our office, which I'm sharing with Christopher, it's all due to our new venture more of which coming soon - incidentally he grandly informed me that "Zoffany paints are much better quality"- is south facing and I think if we went for yellow it would be like working actually inside the sun) so I'm thinking a sludgy green, or a yellowy green:

Clockwise, from top left:  Churlish Green, Vert de Terre, Lichen, Saxon Green.  All by Farrow&Ball.

I was most swayed by Vert de Terre, but then I got home and looked at the new Smythson catalogue again, and realised that Churlish Green is almost the exact same colour - chartreuse - as the new 2014 diary that I am currently lusting over:

(One of the reasons I so love Smythson is that they bring out new colours every year.  Although this also has negatives.  I almost had a break down when they discontinued their Park Avenue Pink correspondence cards.  I used to have them with my name engraved in pale grey, and they were beyond amazing.  Now I have Bond Street Blue, with my name in bright pink, which is still good, but not quite the same.)

Regardless - how chic would it be to have one's diary matching one's office walls?!  And the colour is one that I've been semi-obsessed with ever since Nicole Kidman wore that Dior dress to the Oscars, back in God remembers when:

Literally one of my favourite Oscars' dresses of all time.  

Obviously, all this has also got me thinking about the walls at home.  More and more I realise that I treat our house as a kind of experiment, which I'm personally not averse to, and I don't think that the children mind either.  (I've stopped consulting Andrew - I'm too scared of what the answer might be.)  Reading World of Interiors on the bus on the way home from the new office (must get a bicycle.  I want an old-fashioned Pashley, sit-up-and-beg with a basket on the front, I will look like this:

strolling past the white stuccoed fronts of the grand Notting Hill houses - ho hum - only if I diet successfully at some point) anyway, World of Interiors:  I read an amazing article about a woman called Clare Bosanquet who discovered the most heavenly rollers on a trip to Romania in the late 1990s, and now makes her own, which one can buy, in order to make one's walls look like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

I've been wanting to wallpaper our walls since forever, but have refrained because the wallpaper I want is by Hermes and costs more than it would to gold leaf the walls (I think, roughly, my maths is not a forte when it comes to shopping.)

Hermes jungle wallpaper - LOVE

But now I realise that I can pseudo wallpaper the walls by buying one of the rollers!  Currently, our walls are Cornforth White by Farrow&Ball, which is actually pale grey, so I could recreate my original Smythson correspondence cards in the inverse by choosing a pale pink to make the pattern.  Or go rock chick with neon pink, or go for somewhat more subdued (which might be a good thing - there is pattern fighting pattern all over our house.  I actually got a shock when I walked back into it after two weeks in Wales, I'd sort of forgotten just how much there is.  But then I think of Diana Vreeland's drawing room, and remember that pattern is a good thing) with white, which might well be the answer.

New season, new term, new walls.