Monday, 29 December 2014

the hanging gardens of beatenberg

2014 is about to come to a close and right at the last minute I've discovered a new contender for my album of the year. Introducing: Beatenberg. According to their extremely brilliant website, Beatenberg is a fresh new face in pop music from South Africa. Despite being in love with and schooled in 'serious music' like Beethoven, Debussy and John Coltrane, Beatenberg is adamant that they are heard as 'pop music', which they believe is actually quite serious too. Songwriter Matthew says: 'It's about emotions, images and fleeting senses of things: the mad stuff that everyone feels and almost understands.' Listen to the dazzling Rafael from the boys' album The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg below.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

in the press... design*sponge december 2014

A few months ago, I received an email from Brooklyn-based Grace Bonney, founder of the wildly successful interiors blog Design*Sponge, tentatively asking if she could feature a piece about our London home on her website. I happily agreed and set myself the challenge of taking photographs and writing a few words about our flat (or apartment if you're native to the US). If you'd like to see the results, make sure to catch the full article. I've picked out my favourite shots here too - it's quite funny really, we only have three proper rooms, but I photographed them from every possible angle! We've had a great response and I'm very grateful to Grace and Design*Sponge for the opportunity to share our ever-evolving space.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

christine and the queens

I've had the new video from Christine and The Queens on repeat for the last couple of days - it's completely mesmerising, and the song itself, Christine, is a sparkling slice of elegant French electro-pop. Enjoy!

Friday, 26 December 2014

this time of year

It's been some time since I've posted a proper blog, I rather feel. December, of course, is always a busy month, and this one in particular has felt more than a little hectic. But what have I been doing? Working hard to tie up bits and pieces before the end of the year, mostly. Ben's decoration office is busier (and more fun) than ever, and I've happily been sending out piles of cushions and prints in time for Christmas. And in my free time? Well, back at the beginning of the month - it was a very cold Saturday I remember - D. was in Miami for the design fair and all I wanted to do was pack a rucksack, throw on a scarf, and catch the next train to Oxford. So I did. Every now and again I'll feel a great need to visit somewhere - the sea perhaps, some hills, or a city. I like the occasional lone adventure. I arrived quite late in the afternoon (Saturday always calls for a long, leisurely breakfast) and headed straight to the Ashmolean, to check out the William Blake exhibition.

Afterwards, I paid a visit to the grounds of Balliol College. For a while I sat completely by myself in the paneled chapel, lost in thought, a world away from the hustle and bustle outside.

Before long, the light had more or less vanished. I spent the rest of the afternoon meandering the busy, lamplit streets, hot chocolate in hand, dodging shoppers and cyclists, darting down empty alleyways and into antique shops and bookshops and any other warm and inviting buildings that I came across. Looking up, the city's dark spires loomed majestically against the indigo sky.

Outside the Bodleian Library, this minimal yet impressive Christmas tree was a sight to behold.

And then something funny happened. Just as I was boarding a train back to London, I noticed a striking poster in the station for an exhibition of William Morris and Andy Warhol's work at Modern Art Oxford, which had opened that very same day. Of course I abandoned my plans immediately and almost sprinted over to the gallery, giving myself just half an hour to catch the show before the doors were closed. The unconventional exhibition, curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller and entitled Love is Enough, aims to draw connections between these two giants of the 19th and 20th centuries. The show has received a few negative reviews, but I must admit, I loved it. Seeing Warhol's giant, dazzling pop pieces against Morris's beautiful, intricately designed wallpapers was sublime. That juxtaposition of vivid, brash colour and something subtler, darker and much more English, for me it was perfection.

The following weekend, we gave our annual Christmas party. I don't have much to say about this unfortunately (for my memories are vague), except that we had a huge amount of fun. As always, it began with an immaculate Sitting Room and Carols from King's on repeat and ended in a whirlwind of sloe gin, cigarettes and dancing to 1980s Christmas hits. I took the above picture just before our guests arrived. I always love the preparation that goes into giving a Christmas party - choosing a tree, sorting snacks, lighting candles.

A week later, D. and I travelled up to Edinburgh. We spent a few very cold, pre-Christmas days not doing very much at all, which was blissful. A few lunches (the above picture was taken at one of our favourite haunts, L'escargot bleu) followed by a few afternoon naps. We spent time with D.'s family, eating and drinking and generally being very merry, and then on Christmas Eve, I flew home to spend Christmas with my family in Hampshire. Today is Boxing Day and we've got several extra family members expected for a big lunch of leftovers and champagne. It'll be a jolly feast. I'll find my way back to London at the weekend and then on Tuesday D. and I are off to Mexico to celebrate New Year. The sea! A beach! Mayan ruins! Tacos! I could hardly be more excited...

Thursday, 18 December 2014

in the press... architectural digest 11/12/2014

Furniture and decorative accessories reflect motifs from classical architecture. Read the full article here.

art on a thursday

John Cecil Stephenson, British abstract artist and pioneer of Modernism.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

beaton at brook street

Andrew Ginger, who with his company Beaudesert, curated the highly acclaimed Cecil Beaton exhibition at the Salisbury Museum this summer (which I very much enjoyed), recently collaborated with Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler to create Beaton at Brook Street - a display of key exhibits from the acclaimed summer show. Recreations of rooms from Beaton's London and Wiltshire homes and a collection of rare and unseen photographs, artworks and possessions sat alongside each other to present a unique view of Beaton's dazzling life.

Cecil Beaton in his rooms at Cambridge, 1922.

I popped along to Brook Street last Wednesday evening to catch the exhibition in its final few days (it ended on Friday), and also to hear a lecture by Dr Benjamin Wild about Beaton's style and clothes. The talk was very enjoyable and Dr Wild's wealth of Beaton knowledge made it most illuminating. It was wonderful to have the chance to see inside Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler's historic Mayfair premises, the famous Yellow Room in particular was magnificent, and made even more enchanting by the addition of Beaton paraphernalia scattered across its walls and tables. Previously a lecture discussing Beaton’s contribution to Vogue magazine was given, and the rare 1984 BBC documentary The Beaton Image was screened to an audience.

Cecil Beaton in the garden at Reddish House, circa 1970.

The exhibition also marked the launch of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles by Hugo Vickers, Beaton’s official biographer and literary executor. Photographs from Vickers’ new book were on display throughout Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler’s showrooms, complemented by the loan of privately owned oil portraits by Beaton, some of which had never been shown publicly before.

L-R: Rex Whistler, Edith Olivier, Zita Jungman, the Honourable Stephen Tennant and Cecil Beaton in the South of France, March 1927.

Make sure to listen out for news on where this inspiring show might be heading next. I for one have heard rumours about New York!

All images © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

two peas in a pod

I'm desperately in need of a new winter coat. I've thought long and hard about this and what I really want is a peacoat, and I think I'll end up plunging for the above, from Maison Kitsuné (expensive option), or the below, from Reiss (cheaper option). I've spent hours searching for my new coat - I want something in heavy wool, with big lapels and deep pockets; something I'll love and keep for years to come. I have light jackets and rain coats, but strangely what I seem to be missing is a reliable winter weather staple that'll see me through the colder months.

The peacoat is a classic, of course, but it's much trickier to find something a bit interesting than perhaps you'd imagine. I can't bare the thought of black, grey or navy wool (really, too boring for words), and most things look the same to me these days. I'm a sucker for a jewel tone however, so I'm deliriously happy to have found these. Forest green or cherry? Now we're talking!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A Designer's Life

I spent an evening last week at Ralph Lauren's flagship store on New Bond Street for the launch of Nicky Haslam's new book A Designer's Life: An Archive of Inspired Design and Décor. (What a title!) Haslam has delved into his design archive to share the key moments in his career and the myriad inspirations for his decorating style. Essentially it's a rich, fascinating scrapbook of lavish interiors, sketches, notes, party photographs and amusing anecdotes.

A few of my favourite pages show the interior of a house in Pelham Place, South Kensington, in which Haslam lived for a time. The house used to belong to Cecil Beaton and when Haslam moved in, the rooms were (almost) exactly the same as they'd been when he lived there. Black velvet walls make a dramatic backdrop for club chairs covered with clashing purples and greens, pinks and yellows. Note Beaton's very beautiful, youthful self-portrait sketch in the corner of the left page, which Haslam acquired years before moving into the house.

The Drawing Room at 8 Pelham Place, 1963. © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s. I'm a huge fan of those decadent black walls; they really are a perfect blank canvas. Coincidentally, next week I'm going to be visiting Colefax & Fowler on Brook Street, where several of the Beaton era interiors at Pelham Place have been recreated as part of the Beaton at Brook Street exhibition.

A Designer’s Life: An Archive of Inspired Design and Décor, by Nicky Haslam, published by Jacqui Small Publishing.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

christie's interiors november/december 2014

I styled a photo shoot for the second issue of the recently established Christie's Interiors magazine. View more images from the shoot (and a story of mine from the inaugural July issue) via my website.

The shoot took place at my friend Piers' handsome house in North London. I mixed items coming up for auction at Christie's South Kensington with a few accessories from my favourite shops and Piers' own furniture and rugs.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

ten love songs

Norwegian songstress Susanne Sundfør will release her sixth album Ten Love Songs in February 2015. Listen to the first single from the record, Fade Away, below. It's a slick piece of Norse electro-pop with a big, shimmering chorus. I'm quite obsessed.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

art on a thursday

L'homme Au Chat. French school first half of the 20th century. From Julia Boston Antiques. This is pretty high up on my Christmas list.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

autumn in the cotswolds

D. and I left London late last Friday afternoon with the idea of escaping the city before the motorways got too clogged. Of course, everybody wanting to leave London on a Friday afternoon has this exact same idea and before long we found ourselves stuck in traffic jam after traffic jam. What a relief it was then, to arrive in the village of Crudwell (granted, not the most glamorous of names), on the edge of the Cotswolds. In need of a brief break, I'd booked in for us to stay at The Rectory Hotel for the weekend very last minute a few days beforehand. We left our bags in our attic room and walked a few hundred yards down the road to The Potting Shed Pub, which is owned by the same guys who own the hotel. I had the most perfect bowl of rabbit pasta and a good drink with lots of rhubarb, and then, totally exhausted after a long week, we had baths and went to bed...

Saturday was a very rainy and windy day; we spent most of the morning reading the newspapers. In the afternoon we drove to nearby Tetbury, where we explored the (many) antique shops and had a good lunch of hot onion soup (ideal wet weather subsistence).

The exterior of a very handsome house in Tetbury. A good choice of blue paint.

After Tetbury, we drove to Castle Combe (via several extremely muddy dirt tracks), which is often called the prettiest village in England. It's certainly true, the rows of Cotswold stone cottages, babbling river and Market Cross are all completely charming. I must admit my main reason for wanting to visit however: the village was used as a key filming location for Steven Spielberg's production of War Horse, a film which, I'm unafraid to say, I have a huge soft spot for. Just as the sun was beginning to set, we wandered through the village, the smells of woodsmoke and wet leaves hanging in the air, popped into the church, and sat for a while by the river.

Filming War Horse in Castle Combe.

The sitting room at The Rectory.

We enjoyed a great autumn feast in the hotel's panelled dining room on Saturday evening - Negronis, scallops, venison, rice pudding.

Springing to life on Sunday morning, we headed back towards London, with the idea of stopping off at Strawberry Hill House on our way home. The Gothic Revival villa was built in Twickenham by Horace Walpole from 1749; Walpole rebuilt the existing house in stages and added gothic features including towers and battlements outside and elaborate decoration inside. He wanted theatrical effect, atmosphere and what he called 'gloomth'. The object of 'gloomth' was to create atmosphere, an emotional and evocative approach to building opposite to the rationality of the classical Palladianism that was prevalent in Britain at the time. Walpole filled the house with papier-mâché friezes, Gothic-themed wallpaper, fireplaces copied from medieval tombs, a Holbein chamber evoking the court of Henry VIII, Dutch blue and white tiles and modern oil paintings, china and carpets. Strawberry Hill was not intended to be a faithful recreation of a medieval manor. Fascinatingly, Walpole said of the house: 'It was built to please my own taste, and in some degree to please my own visions.' You know, I'm not too sure how I feel about Walpole's big Gothic meringue of a house. Inevitably, nothing felt... well... real (not helped by all that papier-mâché, I suppose). Parts of it I really loved, the wallpaper lining the main staircase for example (see above), was wonderful. I think, in its heyday, it would have been the perfect house in which to have thrown a wild party!

An engraving from 1784 showing the main staircase at Strawberry Hill.

As an antidote to Horace Walpole's mock-Gothic melodrama, we dropped by Chiswick House afterwards. We needed a dose of Neo-Palladian symmetry. Though the house itself is now closed for the year, the gardens were looking incredibly beautiful in the last of the afternoon sunlight.

I mean, that light!

And then, home was calling. Back to the city, happy and rested.