Friday, 27 September 2013

wish list: john derian for astier de villatte

Could you imagine a better suited collaboration than John Derian for Astier de Villatte? No, I didn't think so. The celebrated New York designer has teamed up with the French ceramic tableware powerhouse to create a range of colourful pieces for the home, from plates and platters to teapots and vases. Discover more here. I'm all about the swirly marble print.


I shot and edited four short films for Toast, which I took on their autumn/winter 2013 menswear photo shoot. Both of the below were shot at Spa Terminus in Bermondsey - a favourite new spot of mine - just the ticket for a bit of early Saturday morning grocery shopping. View the Toast autumn/winter 2013 lookbook here.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

the sea close by

I didn't know a great deal about Albert Camus or his works until a few weeks ago. Then, whilst paying for a few novels in my local bookshop, I noticed the above little booklet on the counter. That title and cover? Most intriguing, I thought... Into my basket it went. (Well, it would have done if my bookshop had baskets.) This new edition of The Sea Close By was published in August as part of the Penguin Classics campaign celebrating 100 years of Albert Camus - Nobel Prize winning author, journalist and philosopher. First published in 1954, The Sea Close By recounts the author's experience on board a sailing ship voyaging around the New World. It's a light, summery daydream of a story - hazy and delicious - I read it on holiday and enjoyed it very much indeed.

Then, yesterday, I came across a short film, shot by director and photographer (and my friend's boyfriend) Tom Beard: a visual interpretation of The Sea Close By created in further celebration of the author's birth. Clara Paget takes a sojourn around the English South Coast whilst reading an extract from the story in her husky, cut-glass British tones. It's hauntingly good...

Sunday, 22 September 2013


Today is the holiday of the autumnal equinox, Mabon or the Feast of Avalon, a Pagan ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them during the coming winter months. The word 'equinox' is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are about equal length. The Druids call this celebration Meán Fómhair and honor the the Green Man, the God of the Forest. Offerings of cider, wine and herbs are appropriate at this time. Summer is waning, the autumnal winds have arrived. It's time to pay our respects to the impending dark...

Saturday, 21 September 2013

italy in september

We returned last night from a week spent exploring the Italian hills of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. This was the evening view from our farmhouse, which more or less straddled the borders of the three regions.

Breakfast (black coffee, locally cured meats and cheeses) on the terrace.

The weather was a little unpredictable. Sometimes hot, sometimes a little cloudy and cold. Most mornings began misty.

We were staying close to the medieval town of Orvieto - most probably my favourite of all the hilltop towns in the area. Walking into the centre from the outskirts, you catch little glimpses of the magnificent, glowing, golden Duomo between buildings and above rooftops; it looms silent over the narrow, winding streets.

The exterior really is something else - it's striped in white travertine and greenish-black basalt in narrow bands.



In Orvieto, I bought a bowl and a cup and saucer from one of the many shops specialising in majolica pottery. If I'd thought about this properly, I would have come armed with an empty suitcase and returned home laden with candlesticks, vases, jugs, plates and the rest. I love the colourful stuff so very much.

We ate in charming local trattorias and pizzerias but mostly we put together simple stuff for ourselves at home - fresh pasta in all shapes and sizes with lots of garlic, tomatoes and parmesan. Mozzarella and basil, Parma ham, salami and Pecorino. Flagons of local red wine, Aperol and Prosecco.

A bit of fruit. But mostly pasta.

Mysteriously, a pack of kittens (that's a clowder, don't you know?) seemed to come as part of the deal with our rented farmhouse - eight or nine of them appeared on our second day and refused to leave. We fed them milk and played with them almost non-stop for seven days.

The Lion King?

We woke one morning to find an even smaller kitten asleep on the terrace. A few weeks old maybe? We named him Marvolo. Christ, I miss him. I wanted to smuggle him home.

On Sunday we took our car out and went exploring, before long coming across an incredible but strange site indeed - a lone town, perched perilously on top of a hill, rising majestically from the red earth, out of a vast, windswept canyon. We navigated our way to the small town of Bagnoregio, where we crossed a long, steep bridge and ascended to Civita - the beautiful hilltop gem. Civita is home to only 14 year-round residents, so few that the town is often nicknamed 'the Dying City'. It's dying in another way too - the town suffers constant erosion of its volcanic rock into the deep valley below. The charms of Civita are subtle - there are no attractions as such, it's just Italy. Warm, glowing stone walls and quiet churches. Pure and perfect.

The view from the footbridge.

The colours of the stone buildings in these hilltop towns are always gorgeous. Deep ochre, cool grey, rusty orange, dusty pink, muddy peach...

On Wednesday we drove down the road to Lago di Bolsena - a giant crater lake (the fifth largest in Italy) of volcanic origin. We ambled along the shore (black sand, rocks) and ate linguine with lobster in a sweet little restaurant.

We liked the lake so much that we returned the next day and took a motorboat out onto the crystal clear waters, stopping off on the opposite side of the lake to eat lunch and dropping anchor here and there so that we could sunbathe and then jump out and swim to cool off. I'd never ridden in a motorboat before (let alone captained one) but gliding across the lake, wind in hair, sunlight bouncing in all directions was probably the highlight of the holiday. So much fun.

The lake is home to two small islands - Bisentina and Martana.

In traditional skylore, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the 2013 autumnal equinox will come tomorrow, September 22nd, so the full moon on Thursday 19th counted as the Harvest Moon. It shone brilliant, white and huge over the Tuscan hills.

We rose early on Friday with an idea. Seeing as we were going to be flying out of Rome later that evening, we decided to make the most of the day and the city by arriving there early and catching a few of the sights. I'd only been to Rome properly once, as a teenager. For some reason I missed out on the Pantheon before and so that was my first on my hit list. It didn't disappoint.

We came across a really incredible church with maybe the most impressive religious interior I've ever seen. The Chiesa del Gesù in the Piazza del Gesù. The lavish Baroque styling is astounding, over-the-top and opulent to the max - all clearly conceived to inspire awe at the magnificence of the Catholic Church.

The Fontana di Trevi. Christ knows what's going on with my camera here but I kind of like it. After a good bowl of gnocchi and a quick stop by Vatican City, we hopped on a horrible plane and flew home. Until next time, Italia.

kill your darlings

Coming to our cinema screens this winter: the biographical drama Kill Your Darlings. The story: David Kammerer's murder by Lucien Carr in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. This film is pretty much my entire autumn wardrobe inspiration - oversized tweeds in deep green and charcoal, crisp white shirts, striped ties, round tortoiseshell glasses, check scarves, roll-neck sweaters, Fair Isle knits... Just perfect.

Friday, 13 September 2013

to umbria

I am off on holiday tomorrow - to Umbria, Italy - for one last glimpse of summer.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

autumn knitwear

Summer is fading, autumn is on its way. This means only one thing. Knitwear. Thick, heavy jumpers and cardigans in soft cashmere and scratchy wool. Round necks, roll necks, shawl collars, deep pockets, leather buttons... Of course, I prefer my autumn knits to be the colour of winter fruits and vegetables - pumpkin, blackberry, or jewels - emeralds, rubies... These are two good new additions to my wardrobe.

i am listening to...

Hailing from Copenhagen, Agnes Obel makes sublime music, elegant and haunting in equal measure. She's won handfuls of awards in her native Denmark, but I think she's relatively unknown in the UK, which is a crying shame... Riverside is my favourite track from her 2010 debut record Philharmonics - watch the video below. Her second album Aventine will be released on 30th September.

Monday, 9 September 2013


A very quick sketch that I did of Dionysus (or Bacchus if you're a Roman), son of Zeus, god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy.

thursday afternoon

Late on Thursday afternoon I decided to take a trip to Trafalgar Square, first stopping off at St Martin-in-the-Fields. What luck! There at the back of the church was an an orchestra practicing for a concert. I joined a handful of people - old women, teenagers with backpacks, tourists with umbrellas, business men in suits, sitting in silence in the wooden pews, watching and listening.

The early evening light streaming through the windows was spectacular.

Afterwards I spent an hour or so in the National Gallery, a place I love to go and get lost in every now and again. Such a calming experience I always find - all that cool marble and dark wood really soothes the soul. Here's poor Saint Sebastian, early Christian saint and martyr as depicted by Matteo di Giovanni.

design icons

John Lewis recently got in touch about a special design timeline they've cleverly put together, in celebration of this year's London Design Festival. The interactive timeline above takes you on a design journey, charting some of the world’s most iconic furniture designs of the last 70 years, from the Anglepoise Lamp through to the Magis Bombo Bar Stool. The collection includes designs which continue to stand the test of time, together with more recent objects destined to be future classics. I think it's all rather fun... In particular for me, having recently picked up a battered old orange Anglepoise, it's interesting to learn more about the historic story behind the brand.

Brought to you by John Lewis.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

new colour

Tomorrow, Farrow & Ball will officially add nine new colours to its well-established range. I like these four the most: top left: Stiffkey Blue No.281 - reminiscent of the colour of the mud found at Stiffkey beach, Norfolk. Top right: Nancy's Blushes No.278 - named after a mystery Nancy, so charming, my favourite of all nine I think. Below left: Mole's Breath No.276 - the colour of a mole’s coat, of course... Below right: Wevet No.273 - named after the old Dorset term for a spider’s web. (Oh, what a brilliant, brilliant word! I can't stop saying it.)

Discover the rest of the 2013 range here.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

the goldfinch

This book is the sole reason I have not left my house in days. Two decades after Donna Tartt soared to literary stardom with her debut The Secret History, the reclusive author's third novel The Goldfinch is, 153 pages in, absolutely sublime...

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

at home: part one

A glimpse into my home... I bought the wooden desk off of a young Islington couple - I picked it up from their house, just down the road from The Duke of Cambridge, a favourite pub of mine. I was completely adamant that I wanted an old school desk. The lid lifts up in two parts and it's covered in scribblings, scratches and gouges. It's quite small but pretty perfect. I bought the purple crystal in Devon a long time ago and the two tiny Dutch candlesticks were given to me by a friend who was living in Amsterdam at the time. I bought the old embroidered Royal coat of arms patch on eBay and the figurine of Michelangelo's David was picked up in Rome during my teenage years. The perspex photo frame was made at school, when I must have been about thirteen or fourteen; it contains a snap from a holiday in France. I can't help but surround myself in objects that I've collected over the years; most of them have little value and are possibly a bit ridiculous, yet I wouldn't have it any other way. The etched tumbler and footed mug both came from Ben's shop. They are useful, perfectly formed things. The lavender on the other hand is clearly past it's prime... I need to find an interesting new plant for the forest green Kew pot.

My bedlinen came from Toast. Mismatched, of course. The copy of Dracula, with its perfect bright yellow cover, was given to me a few years ago on my Birthday.

This is one of my all-time favourite paintings. Jeune Homme nu assis au bord de la mer, figure d'étude by Hippolyte Flandrin. I bought at least five postcard versions from the Louvre many years ago. I rediscover one every now and again, in a box or used as a bookmark in a long forgotten novel. I pasted one up on my wall.

I bought this Welsh tapestry rug from Toast, once again. It was hand loomed using British wool by the oldest working woollen mill in Pembrokeshire. It glows golden in the sunlight. I love the colours so much - olive green and oatmeal. Resting on top: a pair of tattered but much loved plimsolls.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

tales of us

English pop outsiders Goldfrapp will release their sixth album on Monday 9th September. Tales of Us is the band's most conceptual record to date and the result of a two-year creative process. I'm practically in love with the track listing. Doesn't it read like a long lost dream?


The project's release will be accompanied by a series of short films for five of the album's ten tracks, co-created by Goldfrapp and directed by Lisa Gunning, a feature film editor and Goldfrapp's partner of several years. A complete film compiling the five clips is also scheduled for cinematic release later this year. Watch the video for Drew below, and then go here to watch the video for Annabel. Both are bewitching, haunting, beautiful... I can't wait to see the rest.