Thursday, 29 November 2007

La Wally aria from Diva - Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez

This movie marked the beginning of the end of the life that my parents had planned for me, and the beginning of a life that I had not yet envisioned. For the first time I saw that culture could exist outside of a haute bourgeois setting. A pivotal and liberating moment.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Physician, heal thyself ?

Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room

I too have a house in my head, as I believe do all of you. I might even have several. That is probably why I often get sidetracked and distracted when making choices for our own house. I loose sight of the house we are in and chose things that would be better suited to somewhere else. Should we, as decorators, decorate our own houses? After all, doctors don't treat themselves.
I would be very interested to know who you would choose to do your house and why? Or, is the thought of someone else doing your house unthinkable?

I know the architect I would want and be completely happy giving carte blanche to, Bobby McAlpine, founding principal of McAlpine Tankersley.
Past architect would have to be Luis Barragan.
Now, as for the decorator...hmm. Tricky. You show me yours first, then I'll show you mine.

Now playing: Soul II Soul - A Dream's a Dream
via FoxyTunes

The House in My Head

An interesting and detailed look at the process of building one's dream house. Though the end result may seem a tad dated today, the process, which has not changed much, is very well documented. Unfortunately, I think Mrs Rodgers was more suited to the role of designer, rather than decorator. Had Mrs Rodgers left the decorating to another, I think the end result would have been very different.

Somehow, all the textiles and wallpapers chosen for this house do not work as well as they could have. Rather than being the smart modern country manor it could have been, the house merely has the feel of an executive's suburban home. The fashions of the day also seemed to play too large a role in the decision making. There was no sense of the long and celebrated traditions of the decorative arts being employed (as one would expect from a decorator) in creating this house. Design wise, it is nothing less than a triumph.
Had the decorating been done by say the likes of George Stacey or William Haines the house could have been a masterpiece and a worthy foil for the Rodgers' stellar art collection. An excellent example of this would be the house William Haines did for Ambassador and Mrs Anneberg at Sunnylands. To use her own words of her epilogue, " If only..."

All that said, this is still a wonderful book if only for the menus and recipes and the fact Mrs Rodgers was delighted with what she had created.

Thanks to Fairfax for letting me know about the article, The Lady is a Champ, about Dorothy Rodgers. This article hits the nail on the head on why I found her decorating lacking, "the wifely homilies". This quality translates into her choices and her view of the world. There is nothing wrong with that, it is just part of who she was.

Now playing: Bette Midler - In My Life
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 26 November 2007

Well kiddies...

Marie Laveau - Voodoo Queen of
New Orleans

None of the lovely things I wanted to post about seem to be springing forth. Instead, all I can think about are the things that are annoying me. So here we go.
Someone I have a great deal of regard for (this woman works like a Trojan) took the time to call and email me about a prospective client. She was just too busy to take on any new projects. So rather than let them spin in the wind, she suggested I should help them. Against my better judgement (these people bought Ligne Roset for their bedroom thinking it to be the epitome of modern), I dutifully followed up with a phone call and an email.
Guess what? Nothing. Not even a thanks, but no thanks. What a couple of ignorant @*%^s ! Who behaves like this? Mr and Mrs Ray Harriot of Bexley, Kent that's who. Mr and Mrs Ray Harriot of Bexley, Kent I hate you. Not, I might add, in a passionate Latin way, but rather in a disgusted French way.
Irrespective of the fact I know you won't read this.
A pox on your house, and on all who dwell in it.

A full moon, some chalk, a few black candles, a couple of live chickens, and we are all set... one pox and a little calamity coming up.

Now playing: Cher - Dark Lady
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Thanks: the giving of

Benjamin's Emblem, 2000 by Walton Ford
A very Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Now playing: Ella Fitzgerald - Anything Goes
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Jansen Furniture

A fantastic catalogue of the furniture favoured by the decorators of Maison Jansen. This is a decorator's dream come true. Though, one can not help but feel that archival records must be lacking as there are noticeable gaps. That said, this is still a vital record. Not only of the legendary firm, but also of the components necessary to a type of decorating that is virtually nonexistent today.

As an added bonus Acanthus Press is offering a 10% percent holiday discount on their titles with a further 10% percent being donated to selected charitable organisations.

Now playing: Bill Withers - Grandma's Hands
via FoxyTunes

1st is paper, 10th is tin

Tin plates featuring 18th Century designs inspired by the Sèvres soft-paste porcelain in the Wallace Collection. The plates are very lightweight, they are 10 inches (26cm) in diameter and ideal for picnics or summer garden parties.

Now playing: Men At Work - Down By the Sea
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Standards, don't let them slip

Recently I helped a client with a kitchen refit. The only thing I hate doing more than kitchens, is doing bathrooms. Not because I hate bathrooms or kitchens. What I hate is the client's expectations. These are the two areas where background, or rather the lack of it, can really show itself. I prefer not to have my suspicions so blatantly confirmed. But, that is a whole different story. While selecting the appliances, I commented on the fact that the oven did not have a plate warmer. The salesman, who was extending a very generous discount in the hope I would change suppliers, said "that is very old fashioned". I telegraphed my disapproval with a look. Ah, the look, both a blessing and a curse. Yet again, that is a different story. Needless to say that kitchen has an oven with a plate warmer.
Why I bring this up is because a friend was recounting a luncheon he attended at the House of Lords. Now this is probably old fashioned, but one would imagine the standard there to be nothing less than exacting . Everything was wonderful, except for the fact the main course of hot roast beef was served on an ice cold plate. This is what happens when one gets rid of the hereditary Peerage; standards slip. The centre of the plate should be hot while the edge should still be able to be handled. This is not old fashioned, it is just plain common sense. Just as one would not expect a cold dish to be served on a warm plate.

Electric plate warmer
, in the event your oven does not have one.

Now playing: Communards, The - Breadline Britain
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 16 November 2007

What would the naysayers really do?

Recently, Architectural Digest has been taking a beating in the comment sections of various blogs. Indirectly, so has Mario Buatta. I understand how either might not be everyone's cup of tea. What I fail to understand is the virulence of the reaction. It is not as if either is promoting genocide.
Someone once asked me why I read AD (yes, avidly). I blithely quipped, 'To see how not to decorate'. AD is about architecture and design. Decorating and design are not the same thing. Many Designers, I think, hold we Decorators in contempt. Especially those under 35, who seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that they invented modernism.
I for one am only concerned with the end result. That does not mean I am uninterested in the actual structure. It means I am uninterested in the process. If the window needs to be moved, move it, but spare me the details. That is what contractors and builders are for. With that said, if the pitch on the back of a chair is not comfortable I will know instantly, and know how to correct it. Comfort, practicality, and quality are paramount. I am sure those qualities are also paramount to Mr Buatta; whose work I would not presume to critique. Yes, I would have done some of his rooms differently. Not, because I find them wanting, but because my perspective is different and I have not had the constraint of a brief.
But, honestly, who would not want to have the career that Mario Buatta has had?
And if AD called tomorrow, who would really say no?

Now playing: Cher - Bang Bang
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Window on the world

The first stand at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair.
Such high hopes for Natural History, in spite of the fact the US was preparing to invade Iraq and very few, if any, of the American trade was traveling. The US and Britain go to war on opening day. Talk about raining on a parade. By the end, I think it fair to say I had had enough.

The following month, a shared stand at Antiques and Audacity.
Doomed from the start. Run by this dreadful little woman who managed to be both odious and mousy all at the same time. Who kept telling the person who I was sharing with "You need to clear the surfaces of objects, if you want to sell your furniture". I was sharing with none other than the Philistine and the objects were mine. I was seething. I am still waiting for our paths to cross again. I want to make her cry (deep gut wrenching sobs), and I will.

The second stand at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair
A veiled and half hearted attempt at being commercial. I didn't love it, but managed to make a couple of sales. It needed more colour and pattern, and a better interplay between the objects. It just needed to be prettier. I bought the bookcase with the intention of turning it into one of those painted numbers. In the end I could not bring myself to do it.

The third stand at the Decorative Arts and Textile Fair
I loved this one. It was said to be the most striking stand at the fair. That alone should have tipped me off. One sale in five days. I was rattled beyond belief. How I did not strip someone to the bone I will never know. Only once did I ask someone 'is that is how you behave at home'. Unfortunately for him he would repeat his blunder at my last fair. I hate people who plop onto furniture and do not sit properly. It really irritates me.

The fourth stand at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair
I hated this one. Because the last was so dire financially, I decided to tone it down. All I ended up with was a pale imitation of my living room. One sale and no pizazz. Not a happy camper. Still, I would not give up.

The fifth stand at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair
This one turned out the best. I followed my instincts. I even hired someone - just in case it was my approach that was the problem. Call me crazy. It wasn't. I made the sales, while the approachable, happy assistant wasted his time with housewives looking for free decorating advice. Idiot.

The sixth and final stand at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair
This was the one where I realised the people who attend this fair would never really get what I do. I knew I had gone too far. It was too dark, too real. By the time it was all set up, I had decided enough was enough. Luckily, I was able to teach a couple a very valuable lesson. Even if you are a washed up actress that appeared in The Railway Children , it does not mean your oafish pig of a husband can go plopping himself where ever he likes. They walked away crimson with rage. They don't know how lucky they were to be able to walk away. It could have been the first fist fight in the fair's 25 year history. As big as he was, and he was big, I had no intention of loosing to the likes of that. I will bet money he hasn't done it since.

I have always believed that all one ever needed was an audience and a window on the world. These images chronicle an active attempt to cultivate a new audience. I was happiest when I did as I liked and followed my instincts. While these did not prove to be the most successful, I was at least pleased with them.
Like most things there is a formula that works. I unfortunately was not willing to work to it. I saw each stand as an adventure into something new. A chance to do different look. I was looking too far ahead of myself. I should have concentrated on the look of the moment and given them the fake painted French Victorian rubbish and the mass produced nondescript mid Century tat they were so hungry for. I could also have been nice. I could have also stuck pins in my eyes. Nice on me, would have been the same as paint on that bookcase. It would have just been wrong. What is the point in perpetuating the mediocre?
I haven't done one of these in well over two years. I most likely will never do one again. It's too hard and too soul destroying. However, I still do believe in a window on the world and an audience, I just haven't found them yet. I will.

Now playing: Will Young - Leave Right Now
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Derek Patmore

Here are some images from Derek Patmore's Colour Schemes for the Modern Home, published by Studio, New York 1933.
It does strike me as odd how a comparison of the two books is similar to the comparison of the two fabrics. Patmore is to Fauve, as Ionides is to Arbre de Matisse.

Now playing: Simply Red - If You Don't Know Me by Now
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 12 November 2007

How sweet is this?

Last Monday, to my great delight, a package arrived courtesy of the lovely Fairfax of Pigtown*Design. For those who don't know, I was the winner of her very generous raffle of Dorothy Rodgers' The House In My Head. I felt rather sheepish about winning it, as I was sure that there was one far more deserving than I. However, when I saw how beautifully wrapped the books were (to my surprise, there were in fact two), all guilt just flew out the window. It felt like Christmas! Fairfax very kindly included an original copy of Decorating is Fun by Dorothy Draper. I kid you not. Feel free to turn any shade of green you like, now. I am so touched by her generosity that words fail me. But I did want all of you to know how special I think she is.
So to you Fairfax, a big and heartfelt thank you!

Now playing: Sade - I Will Be Your Friend
via FoxyTunes


Rupaul's Starrbooty

I just learned about this, and I can not wait to see it. Like a splash of colour, a little trash is good for the soul.

Mystery solved

Here we have two very similar fabrics.

The top image is of Fauve by Clarence House, which is printed on a smooth upholstery weight cotton with a soft hand.

The bottom two images are of Arbre de Matisse by China Seas. Printed on a linen ground with a slightly stiffer hand, and which is also available in the reverse.
The reverse is the original print that Billy Baldwin used in Woodson Taulbee's living room, not the very similar Fauve which is more flowing in its design.

Now playing: Bill Withers - Use Me
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Paint by numbers

World of Interiors (December 2007) has spotlighted one of my favourite books, Colour and Interior Decoration by Basil Ionides published in 1926 by Country Life. I think part of my love of this book was due to its obscurity. Say poof to obscurity! I first discovered it about seven years ago because of an odd little book called The New Mauve, by Simon Grennan and Val Williams. Among the highlighted designers of yesteryear, such as Constance Spry and Syrie Maugham, were these bizarre color recipes for rooms. What made them bizarre was not their combinations (which are in fact quite fabulous) but their preciseness. Everything was detailed, even down to the type of art one would need to finish the room. These recipes were credited to Derek Patmore's Colour Schemes for the Modern Home, published by Studio, New York 1933. In my search for the Patmore book I came across the earlier work by Ionides which was delightful from start to finish. Content with my find, needless to say, I ceased my search for what I can only presume was a take on the original.

Now playing: Air - Lost Message
via FoxyTunes

Past perfect

This layout from House & Garden (January 1987) is what inspired me to become a decorator. Well, this and the fact that I had been fired from every real job I have ever had; some people just aren't meant to take direction from others.
This is the apartment of the now late Nancy, Lady Kieth; a multifaceted woman who lived life to the full. The embodiment of what a chic American woman should be.
The article begins, "What you see on these pages is the accumulation of a lifetime. Nothing was acquired for the rooms. Rather the rooms were acquired for the things." This has served as one of the principles of what I try to instill in and create and for my clients; rooms that appear to have evolved over time rather than those that have been done.

Perhaps the imminent demise of House & Garden is just the natural progression of things, and not the curse of Gwenyth. After all, are the lives of the new "icons" really worthy of preservation by a publication with such an illustrious past? You really can't make a silk purse of out of a sow's ear.

Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life

Now playing: Peggy Lee - The Folks Who Live On The Hill
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 9 November 2007

Doc Martin says

- you unctuous platitudinous eunuch! Ooh, I can hardly wait for the appropriate moment to spit that one out.
For those who don't know, Doc Martin is a wonderful television show that is a spin off of the movie Saving Grace.

Now playing: Mahalia Jackson - Amazing Grace
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Confucius say, a picture is worth a thousand words

I ask you, is nothing sacred? First Gwyneth on the cover of House & Garden, now this.
Ugly Betty is one of the few shows I look forward to, and now they have gone and done this. Shame on them! I haven't even seen the episode yet (we are a week behind) and I am already indignant at the thought of it.

Why use a thousand when three will do.

Now playing: P!nk - Stupid Girls (Main Version)
via FoxyTunes

Sitwellian splendour

The Editor of Wheels by Alvaro Guervara, c.1919
Portrait of Edith Sitwell in what may be her Bayswater flat on Moscow Road (not one of the more salubrious areas of the time)

The Drawing-room of 2 Carlyle Square, Chelsea by Ethel Sands 1920s
The Fauveist colouring really captures the spirit of both the time and the nature of the occupants.

Interior of 2 Carlyle Square
By E.F. Mason for Homes and Gardens, January 1936

The Drawing-room, 2 Carlyle Square
Copy print from the Illustrated London News
16 October, 1926

These images are from the National Portrait Gallery's catalogue that accompanied the exhibition The Sitwells and the Arts of the 1920s and 1930s held in October 1994 through to January 1995.
Well appointed rooms that reflected the creative and eclectic personalities that filled them.
Even when I first came here in the late 80s, one could still come across rooms such as these. Rooms of the well bred, as I liked to call them, essentially filled with other people's cast offs; admittedly some of those cast offs came from some of England's grander houses. There was always a prevailing sense of decay and faded grandeur; as well bred did not always go hand-in-hand with fiscally sound. With necessity being the mother of invention, house proud in England had always meant warm and comfortable rather than pristine and immaculate. Sadly, rooms of the well bred in London have all but disappeared; having given way to the rooms of the merely rich.

Now playing: Jacqueline Du Pre & Osian Ellis - The Carnival of the Animals: The Swan
via FoxyTunes