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.)