Tuesday 17 May 2016

happy dorset days

I've had a bit of a busy time recently - I was playing shopkeeper at my Bloomsbury pop-up shop for the whole of April (see pictures here), and up until then I was running around here, there and everywhere, preparing for the opening, plus working on a set of twenty illustrated plates, bowls and platters for the Young Bright Things exhibition at David Gill Gallery. It was a relief to escape the city last weekend with D. - we set off on Friday afternoon and stopped for lunch at The Beckford Arms on the Fonthill Estate in Wiltshire. I always love stopping off at Fonthill - it's a perfect pocket of Arcadian England. After pizzas we drove south to The Pig on the Beach on the Dorset coast. We'd spent a few days at the original Pig in the New Forest a few years ago and I was looking forward to checking this seaside version out - when you don't have a cottage in the country (yet...), you really come to rely on good hotels like The Pig! We went for a twilight wander before dinner... How perfect is the kitchen garden, with it's sweet little thatched hut? (Designed by my old boss Ben Pentreath!)

We clambered out of bed on Saturday morning and, jumping over fences and trying not to disturb the goats, made our way down to the sea.

After breakfast we drove out to the thousand-year-old Corfe Castle (we'd clocked it looming dark and lonely from the road on the way to the hotel). Really quite incredible. Then, on to Lulworth Cove and the natural limestone arch of Durdle Door. I'd come across countless pictures of Durdle Door and couldn't wait to see it in all its jurassic glory. It was the perfect day for it. We ate crab and lobster burgers and ice cream and enjoyed the sun on our faces for a while.

Back in the car with the roof down, we hurtled along the coastal road, stopping off a couple of times to take in the view of the sparkling sea or to peek through hedges into fields full of newborn lambs.

It was during one of these stop-offs that I wondered across the road and into a wood. Surprise - it was crammed with bluebells! We napped in the afternoon and later on ate well in The Pig's marvellous greenhouse restaurant - fried oysters, gnocchi, rhubarb and custard.

We headed off after breakfast on Sunday and drove to Wilton House, a favourite of ours. The gardens were looking particularly beautiful in the sunshine. Bit sad to miss the Palladian Bridge though - it's under wrappings this year while essential repairs are made.

James Wyatt's Gothic revival cloisters (displaying the 8th Earl of Pembroke's collection of statues) never fail to disappoint.


Sunday 27 March 2016

i am listening to...

My advice for today: listen to 2013, the completely magical debut album from Meilyr Jones. Inspired by a trip to Rome, a bit glam rock but also heavy on the harpsichord, it's my favourite release of the year so far...

pop-up shop and selling exhibition

My first ever pop-up shop and selling exhibition opens on 7th April next door to the wonderful Pentreath & Hall in Bloomsbury. I'll be showing fabrics, cushions, throws, furniture, drawings, paintings, prints and collaborations with Drake's (a special range of silk pocket squares) and Papier (stationery). I'll be open Monday-Saturday from 11am until 6pm. Please do by pop by if you can!

Tuesday 1 March 2016

late february in amsterdam

We spent last weekend in Amsterdam, arriving in time for lunch on Friday. Excitingly, we'd booked into De Kas a few weeks earlier after reading rave reviews. De Kas, meaning greenhouse in Dutch, is housed in a huge 1926 glasshouse just outside the city: one half is for eating, the other for growing fruit and vegetables. The chefs at De Kas are all about organic, fresh produce (grown either on site or on the restaurant's nearby farm), and our lunch lived up to the reviews - kale soup, chicory tart, delicious cod and shrimp, doughnuts... Walking along a canal close by after lunch, we came across these charming swan benches. One for the balcony at home in Camden, perhaps?

We were staying at Hotel Seven One Seven, where D. had spent a weekend ten years earlier with his family. It's an old townhouse on one of Amsterdam's most beautiful canals, Prinsengracht, and the cosy rooms, named after famous writers, are stuffed full of antiques and curiosities. Dinner on Friday night was at Lion Noir - a dimly lit, lively place with deep green walls and stuffed peacocks.

Saturday was spent exploring the local area (after pancakes, of course). We quickly came across the most wonderful antiques shop in the Nine Streets and this extremely fabulous Italian dinner set, which we snapped up in an instant. I mean, that orange! We'd been looking for new plates for some time, and could not resist these... Some came home in hand luggage, the rest are on there way over in a big box. I can't wait. Afterwards we checked out the city's big modern art gallery, Stedelijk, and then the Rijksmuseum, which I loved very much. Later on we had drinks with friends from London at The Hoxton, and then supper at Balthazar's Keuken - a small place I'd read about in London, where they serve a very good set menu based around the best ingredients of the season.

D. at the Rijksmuseum, perfecting a snap.

Sunday morning was spent sleeping and watching movies at the hotel - very much needed. (I had a strange craving for 90s Hugh Grant and, in particular, Four Weddings and a Funeral). We strolled for a while in the afternoon and then popped into the Hermitage. In the evening we did cocktails at the Pulitzer hotel's bar and dinner next door at Jaansz - a gem of a place - all dusky pink velvet curtains and olive green velvet banquettes.

Above the door of this house a marvellous sign read 'It really does not matter'.

We visited a couple of lovely churches and canal house museums on Monday including the very grand Van Loon, which houses a fine collection of period furniture, porcelain and silverware from the 18th century. After lunch at The Lobby, it was time to pack up our things and head for the airport. I loved Amsterdam, I hadn't been since I was 18 and it was wonderful to walk among all those dark, beautiful rows of elegant canal houses once again...

Tuesday 16 February 2016

in the press... house & garden 12/02/2016

House & Garden have written a piece about our Camden flat - read the lovely article in full here. Lots of new photographs to see too!

Monday 15 February 2016

in the press... dujour 22/01/2016 and fashion times 28/01/2016

Read the full articles here and here.

to the banqueting house!

Back in January we spent a weekend at a wonderful little building, West Banqueting House, in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. West Banqueting House is a Jacobean building, originally built to enjoy seventeenth century banquets within and now managed by The Landmark Trust. We'd spied the house from our car last autumn, when we were in the area for a wedding. We quickly fell in love with its extraordinary beauty (I remember the car screeching to a halt and us jumping out in awe), particularly because its equally beautiful sister, East Banqueting House, sits just yards away. We tried to find a way in at the time, not knowing what the buildings were being used for or who owned them, and then just before Christmas I discovered that, fortunately, they'd fallen into the care of The Landmark Trust. I immediately booked a weekend's stay in the smaller of the buildings and kept it as a surprise for D.'s Birthday in January... And so, to the Banqueting House! We took two friends with us, travelling up on a chilly Friday afternoon. We ate supper at an excellent little restaurant in the village (The Chef's Dozen - imaginative, seasonal food) and rose early on Saturday (above). The ground was frosty and pale but the morning sun was basking everything in soft, warm light. D. and I can never sleep in on weekends, we get too excited about breakfast. Of course, we'd arrived in absolute darkness the night before, so we had a lot of fun running around and looking at everything - the architecture of the buildings, the remains of Campden House on our doorstep (sadly destroyed by fire in 1645), the view across the hills, the church next door...

West Banqueting House's bathroom is incredibly charming. Total perfection. The house really only consists of one main room with a big farmhouse table and basic kitchen at one end, squishy sofas and armchairs and a huge fireplace at the other. Up a spiral staircase to the fab bathroom and a cosy bedroom. What else could you possibly need?

Our two friends, Charlotte and Niels, slept next door in the Almonry, a smaller version of our abode but just as magical. After dinner on Friday evening I slipped over on the wet grass and fell into a ditch. The wine's fault.

We spent Saturday down the road at Soho Farmhouse, eating, drinking, and even rowing in a small boat at one point, if I remember correctly. Later on we prepared a banquet worthy of the house - champagne, roast chicken and apple and blackberry crumble. We talked and played games by the fire late into the night, the cold Cotswold wind whipping around the building's old stone walls.

I came across a battered copy of Follies and Grottoes by Barbara Jones in the Almonry, a favourite book of mine. I hadn't noticed this hilarious paragraph before however. It delighted me very much and made me realise that I need a giant party boat shaped like a swan, pronto.

Our bedroom... Welsh rugs, warm blankets and lovely old furniture. Sunday was spent at the fabulous Wheatsheaf Inn in nearby Northleach. I had a very good cheese soufflé. As I mentioned in a recent post, I'd not seen a soufflé on a restaurant menu in ages and now suddenly I feel like I can't move for the things, which is obviously excellent. Anyway, we lounged about in the pub for quite some time afterwards because it was raining (but mostly because of the huge lunch), before dropping Niels off at a train station up the road. Charlotte, D. and I spent one more night at the house and then, back it was to London on Monday. It was a dreamy weekend... We're already planning our next Landmark Trust adventure!

Wednesday 10 February 2016

in the press... the sunday times home 31/01/2016

Our bathroom makes an appearance in a lovely article about the revival of Georgian and Victorian furniture. Read it in full here.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

from scotland to dorset

I spent a few days in Hampshire with family before Christmas. I loved the peace and quiet - time to reflect on the end of the year, to catch up with relatives and to read (Laurie Lee's marvellous Cider with Rosie), which I started a few years ago and left somewhere unfinished). On the 23rd I travelled up to Edinburgh, to spend Christmas with D. and his family.

We made the first of many pavlovas on Christmas Eve - snowy peaks of meringue, topped with colourful fruits.

I gave D. a white truffle from Italy - we shared it with his sisters on Christmas Day morning - sliced thinly and scattered over a steaming pan of bright yellow scrambled eggs. Quite delicious, and we had enough left over to sneak into a dauphinoise a few days later...

The big day went by in a blur - most of the day was spent, naturally, preparing and then devouring the festive feast. Many sprouts and much bread sauce. We played games late into the evening and then fell asleep, happy.

I got some new pyjamas from my parents - completely ideal for lazy Sunday mornings I reckon.

On the 27th we thought we really ought to leave the house. A trip to the Botanic Gardens was in order. The sight of the majestic Palm House always takes my breath away.

Incredible soft afternoon light filtering through the windows.

The next day, we drove up north and spent a couple of days with D.'s aunt and uncle on their farm. I always love heading up to the Highlands - even the long car journey from Edinburgh is magical, past freezing rivers and waterfalls, winding through dark mountains and forests. We didn't sway from our holiday rhythm too much - we went for walks, we cooked and we slept.

The trip back to London was a long one. After a night at home, we jumped in the car and drove down to Somerset. We found time for a quick lunch at At the Chapel, a favourite spot in Bruton, then headed over to a friend's place near Bath for a New Year's Eve party. It was fun, fun, too much fun.

On New Year's Day (both with very sore heads), we set off for Lyme Regis on the south Dorset coast, a place I'd wanted to visit for a long time. The drive took a while - you have to weave in and out of tiny villages, right until you get down to the sea. We'd booked in for three nights at the HIX Townhouse, which is sort of half a hotel - staff aren't always on site and instead of a proper breakfast you get a hamper stuffed with fruit and juice and baked things delivered to your door every morning. We loved it.

Lyme Regis was just how I imagined it to be - charming in character, with lovely, colourful buildings. The high street is lined with many independent shops, including the most fantastic secondhand bookshop. I could have spent days in there with all these Agatha Christies.

We were staying a few doors down from Belmont, a Georgian house recently renovated by The Landmark Trust. It's booked up for most of 2016, which is a shame because I'm desperate to take a bunch of friends there. Have you ever seen a more perfect building? I'm in love...

For lunch on the 2nd, we drove ten minutes up the road to Axminster and ate at River Cottage Canteen. We had delicious things - roasted cauliflower and a very good hash of beef with eggs and parsley. For supper, we'd booked into the HIX restaurant in Lyme Regis, which overlooks the harbour (although it was dark of course so we missed out on the view). More delicious things followed - oysters, fish soup, deep fried cuttlefish and probably the best fish fingers I've ever had. The next day was spent exploring Chesil Beach, a spot I'd wanted to see since reading that very good book.

The entire weekend's weather was quite something - I'd never seen waves so high. (In fact at one point whilst walking along the beach both of us got hit by an unexpected wave and totally soaked from head to toe. Had to spend half an hour in the car drying off and warming up.)

We went to the newly opened Seaside Boarding House for lunch, which was very good. The cheese soufflé in particular. (You hardly ever see these on menus these days. Why? I adore them.) Afterwards we wandered along the beach, enjoying the hazy afternoon light.

The golden cliffs and sandy beaches of the Jurassic Coast made for a spectacular backdrop. We spent one more night in Lyme Regis and drove back up to London on Monday, feeling excited and ready to crack on with 2016!

Sunday 10 January 2016

in the press... vogue.com 05/01/2016

An exciting start to the year! Thanks to Aimee Farrell and Vogue.com for the wonderful write-up. Read the full article here.

Wednesday 23 December 2015