Things That Made Me Smile This Week

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  1. This spectacular Terrarium, found by Wee Birdy whose wonderful blog I used to follow religiously when she was living and writing about London, this is the best terrarium I’ve seen yet:ec037c5907b02ddc835e5e5a9463ab9e
  2. All Missoni towels, but especially Noemi (picured) and this fabulous bathmat from Anthropologie. My bathroom is telling me that it desperately needs these in its life!    $(KGrHqZHJEEFGvim4EYRBRu0j7snE!~~60_57 27327121_046_b
  3. My very talented close friend Nina has has been commissioned to publish a photographic history of what people wore from 1950 to the present, a peoples history of style. She will be showcasing it at tomorrow night’s Dalston Takeover at the Victoria & Albert Museum Friday Late, if you have a good pic go along and you may end up in her book!FL_June_postcard_610px
  4. The 60th anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush last week has got me listening again to a brilliant Caribbean calypso compilation of London immigrants and their observations of life in London in the fifties. The album series is called London Belongs To Me, it is a truly brilliant collection, my favourite is My Landlady by Lord Kitchener CS1820995-02A-BIG

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Lipstick for Walls – Favourite Wallpapers

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So, I see wallpaper as the lipstick of home cosmetics. You can be as bold as you like, but I think wallpaper is most effective when used sparingly.  The old mothers truism about make-up transfers rather well to home design I think- paint your eyes or your lips, cleavage or legs, overkill leaves no room to think and nothing to the imagination.

With this in mind, having filled downstairs with a bric-a-brac of objects and pictures, we have not ventured into wall lipstick. I am now tentatively turning my attention to the upstairs hallway and  bedrooms  (I’ve been psyching myself for 6 months on the next onslaught of woodchip removal). So far, with the exception of the odd fabrics and throws, upstairs is quite sparse and calm.  Unlike the majority of design snobs I don’t have an aversion to the ubiquitous feature wall, this is partly because my taste in wallpaper veers between expensive and ridiculously expensive! I think my approach to wallpaper is much like that endorsed in cookery books, buy the best meat you can afford and use less of it, after all you will probably be looking at your chosen wallpaper for a long time so you might as well go for something you adore, however, all walls equates to gluttony in my eyes.

There are so many fabulous papers on the market (not least of which the Fornasetti ones referenced last week) so I have compiled a Top 10 to help narrow down my choices, what cornucopia for the eyes:

My Top Ten Favourite Papers:

  1. This is my top contender, which we totally can’t afford, but I am in love, may have to find a very small wall for it. The design is called Columbia Rd (after the flower market) and is designed by a small London based company called Custhom.788814272563660d4eeca114af8c188d
  2. I love the literary whimsy of this, Emma Maloney’s Beastly Chronicles paper is based on the short stories of Saki and each motif depicted comes from one of his tales:                                                                                   8_devon-life-wallpaper 8_bc-cornfield-yellow bc-grey_b
  3. I’m not really one for Cath Kidston these days, the frivolity lost in franchise, too much a byword for middle class austerity-smug nostalgia. However I do covet this Riviera print wallpaper, the ice cream hues are dreamy, I have bought a sample to frame, it really nudges you to think yourself on the harbor at Portofino, Cap Ferrat, Santa Margherita, Capri etc…img-thing2riviera_room_set_pa_321908c
  4. Anyone who knows me or looks at my blog regularly will not be surprised to see the number of entomology based papers make it into my top ten. Timorous Beasties is a company of particular note for this, some of the background colours are too bright and bling for me but I love the following three – I know, I know, this is technically cheating!234790 231714 230706
  5. I love Miss Print designs (have coveted their Dandelion Mobile chair for the last 18 months) sadly I think this – Cotton Tree – is too bold for us but I love the colours (sadly not as effective online as on paper).MISP1036
  6. Another design by Custhom, this one is even more expensive, Columbia Rd Maetallic, but it’s gorgeous: CUSTHOM-_COLUMBIA-ROAD-WALLPAPER-BRONZE1-460x400
  7. I just love this Louise Body Mixed Folk Tile wallpaper, we considered this for the kitchen (having been so charmed by lovely Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen) before opting for the safe design choice of miniature white metro tiles.mixedfolkfullsize1 mixedfolk-close1 rachel-khooimg_3882
  8. This is my husbands favourite wallpaper, but it only just makes it into my Top 10. Its so subtle and simple but really charming, its called Ostrich in Pencil on Bone and is made by Beware The Moon.                                                             beware-the-moon-ostrich-wallpaper-small-pencil-on-bone-2580-p[ekm]335x502[ekm]            3827_thumb.png Product-6268-2.full_
  9. I am totally in love with the output of English design team Rapture & Wright, their real magic lies in textiles, but I love this moody Cloud Bay paper:1381566804_l
  10. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I love what Cole & Son do with wallpaper! This is one of my current favourites, its called Woods & Pears and is from their ‘Contemporary Restyled’ collection ColeAndSon-ContemporaryRestyled-WoodsAndPears-955-030-01

There are so many ways to make use of your favourite wallpaper samples, without wishing to sound like a home makeover show, this is what I did with some of mine. The designs inside the embroidery hoops have been a lovely distraction from the optically intrusive woodchip!best

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Things That Made Me smile This week

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  1. Once every decade (or there abouts) Richard Linklater produces a new installment of his Sunrise films. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Before Sunrise (1994) and Before Sunset (2003) are two of my very favourite films, I have watched them more times than I care to admit. I have an aversion to Chick-Flicks and Rom-Coms but Jesse & Celines story is cleverer than that, the first two installments were hopelessly romantic, smart, gritty, inventive and true cult classics. Tomorrow the latest installment Before Midnight is released – untold joys! Looking at the trailer I think this one will be a lot bleaker but as a document of love spanning two decades expectations are high…                                          Before-Sunrise-006 before-sunset
  2. I didn’t bake anything at all this week, however I did have a lovely meal at Bills with very fabulous company which included my death row desert – Eton Mess, not much I wouldn’t do for an Eton Mess…photo2
  3. Reading Francoise Sagan’s A Certain Smile – a wonderfully subtle novella.
  4. Kitchen renovation re-continues apace – thank god, the chaos is starting to grind, and so in celebration I have treated us to a lovely enamel ladle set made by Austrian company Riess from Objects of Use.9c3f26f8ce0d78833fb56b613e0098e8

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Piero Fornasetti – Design Crush

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I love Piero Fornasetti, he is a full on design crush for me, from hot air balloons to his obsession with Lina Cavalieri, his designs rarely fail to amuse me. If anyone was ever silly enough to give me a couple of grand to spend on an object for the home it would probably go on a vintage Fornasetti piece, maybe one of these umbrella stands:

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Cole & Son have just produced a new range of his designs put to their exquisite papers. I think they are so successful at this, they always curate his work with humour and authenticity. In much the same way that Liberty of London so successfully trawls its archive of print patterns and reproduces them on objects and items with a modern spirit, Cole and Sons interpretation of Fornasetti is both sympathetic and unique. In celebration of this, I am casting my longing gaze back over his prolific output.

Short bio –  Fornasetti was an Italian painter and designer who started his workshop in 1938 in Milan. He was influenced by the architectural design strategy of the Bauhaus collective and though he could not speak German it was through Bauhaus publications his creative vision was born. Fornasetti’s work also nods to Surrealism and he is known for his whimsical reference to this, his love of architecture and his obsession with the face of nineteenth century operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri whose face he reproduced over 500 times in his life’s work series ‘Tema e Variazioni’:

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In his lifetime Fornasetti produced over 11,000 pieces of work, with usually very high end prices and indeed I feel fairly certain they work best in grand settings where statement pieces become a part of the tapestry of a room.

Our flat is neither grand nor high spec, however when we bought our first flat 5 years ago I knew we had to have something of my much loved Fornasetti in it. The general feel of our study is modernist – grey walls, dark leather, Bauhaus prints, metal filing cabinets (sadly sold on during the last move when I saw the massive profit signs) and my personal favourite home design cliche – industrial task lighting.5-wallpaper-0609-xlgI thought Fornasetti’s dream cityscape wallpaper Riflesso (above) would fit well within the general masculine, functional feel of the room. Now it comes in at an exorbitant cost (£83 per meter with a minimum pattern repeat of 1.3m) so I knew that if we were to invest it was not going to be on a wall but on something portable. I picked up a fairly battered old forties desk on eBay which I’d painted in places with Farrow & Ball’s French Grey and was contemplating gold leafing the drawers. However the desk top was the perfect size on which to mount the non-reflected side of the print, I think the result was successful:

DSC08885I also love the aforementioned Lina designs in ‘Theme & Variations’. Sometimes I find them a little crass or obvious and I’m not sure I am convinced by the use of gold in some of the currently produced pieces but there must be at least 50 of the designs that I just adore. Her face was recreated so tirelessly by Fornasetti over a 50 year period that it has become a grand love letter to a face never beheld in real life. And yet despite the mass production, her face is still not overexposed and the aura of Fornasetti’s work still speaks from each piece. I think this is no mean feat, it seems to fly in the face of Walter Benjamin’s argument about The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

Arching my brow as I say this, as I can feel the potential for this to be pretentious – is there a difference in the integrity of certain mass produced objects? Mass production is clearly a large component of meaning in Warhol, and his work has been endlessly reproduced on many mediums, but I don’t think this detracts from being able to stand and contemplate his work, say Double Elvis, with the same aura as traditional art. Whatever the answer, Lina’s face may be a one trick pony, but I like the trick. I will never fork out £100 for one of the plate designs of her face but there is a canny company from Brighton called LoveFrankie who sell lampshades on eBay that they have made from the original  Fornasetti wallpaper collection. We have one in our hallway, I think its wonderfully charming, I really like that the Lina designs are on the inside and only appear when lit up:

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And finally, to finish where I started, here are some examples of the latest Cole & Son Collection – Fornasetti II. If someone gave me a bribe and a big house I feel certain the outcome would include something of this:

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Things That Made Me Smile This Week

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  1. These vintage images of trapeze artists and the New York Skyline: jump1[1] NY
  2. Despite the weather becoming decidedly gloomy I have fallen in love with these Liberty print sunglasses by RetroSuperFuture. I may actually have to buy my first new pair of sunglasses in a decade!ss11retr151000320-yellow_1
  3. Dipping in and out of the collected letters of Zelda & F.Scott Fitzgerald – Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda, a magnificent book to read excerpts from before afternoon naps, here are some of my favourites so far:

From F.Scott to Zelda, July 1930:

The photograph is all I have: it is with me from morning when I wake up with a frantic half dream about you to the last moment when I think of you and of death at night…

From Zelda to F.Scott, Fall 1930:

My darling, hasn’t it been a lovely day? I woke up this morning and the sun was lying like a birthday parcel on my table so I opened it up and so many happy things went fluttering into the air…I love these velvet nights. I’ve never been able to decide whether the night was a bitter enemy or a grand patron – or whether I love you most in the eternal classic half-lights that blend with day or in the full religious fanfare of midnight or perhaps the lux of noon. Anyway, I love you most and you’d phoned me just because – I walked on those telephone wires for two hours after holding your love like a parasol to balance me, my dear.

From F.Scott to Zelda April 1938 – long after the breakdown of their marriage:

Oh Zelda, this was to be such a cold letter, but I don’t feel that way about you. Once we were one person and always it will be a little that way.

4. Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Earl Grey Buttercream & Salted Caramel, the months calorie count in one tiny cupcake, so rich but so nice, recipe taken from Raspberri Cupcakes Blog:DSC08780

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The Great Outdoors – Window Box Gardening

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I will be honest, I am writing this post purely because of the self satisfied joy I felt when the dried ranunculus flower heads I planted began to properly sprout last week. I am not at all green fingered but this year I have tried to start some very small scale gardening with window boxes and the like but my efforts are very much from the lazy girls guide – or as my husband likes to term it survival of the fittest!

imagesI adore flowers but am nowhere near disciplined enough to prune and sift, however I really want some nature in and around the flat. But how to choose plants when you are a novice? As a starting point, much like interiors, I like quite unusual plants, I love this topiary image above (of Petersham Nurseries via The Cool Hunter) and think the most successful gardens are enchanting because they are curious or unexpected – I particularly like artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness (below).

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garden1 I have a preference for wild gardens, prefer delicate colours to garish ones and unusual shaped flowers attract me the most. I love pretty much all plants that grow in the sea and also mossy plants. So far I have bought three alpine succulents in this ilk to go on the kitchen window sill.   They are so low maintenance I may start a larger collection. So far we have these:

Sempervinum

photo(9)Succulent

photo(5)Golden Mound

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Looking around at other peoples gardens everyone’s taste is so different. One of my very favourite flowers (technically a weed) is Cow Parsley but I have reluctantly accepted that if I plant Cow Parsley it will probably not only take over our front garden but possibly everyone else’s in the road! Having said that, one of the nicest front gardens I have seen recently was in Peckham where somebody’s entire front garden had been taken over by the prettiest of weeds – Borage.

l1296251666My lovely husband has been buying me flowers every fortnight this year and so I have been using this as research into what I actually wanted to grow – a living source book if you will. So far my absolute favourites have been these Ranunculus he bought at Tooting Broadway station:

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I searched online to see if I can grow some in a window box and the variety is infinite. I love the pinks above but you can get so many colours, including green ones which look like miniature cabbages on stems! Alas the only place I can find them online is Sarah Raven and she has sold out. After some expert counseling from my green fingered friend Neil about window boxes I decided on Ranunculus and Peonies for a bright box. Neil warned me that I  likely wouldn’t see any Peonies in the first year, but oh joy that the Ranunculus heads I sewed have begun to shoot green leaves and are now about 10cms tall – I had no idea how much joy a few green leaves could bring me:

DSC08683 I also planted a spring window box of white Geraniums and Muscari. I  bought the Muscari  after some caught my eye at  the flower stall outside Liberty. So enchanting, they are just incredible and the bee’s went crazy for them. Now that they have stopped blooming I love their triumphant green pods refusing to be lost amongst the still prolifically blooming geraniums:

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DSC08150My next project is to make a terrarium for the living room, these are some I have been pinning as inspiration:

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One final note, the very top image in this post – what is it? I have planted it and lost my note of the name! The flowers look like this, answers on a postcard: DSC08197

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Things That Made Me Smile This week

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  1. Tamasyn Gambell textiles, I think these are lovely, unfortunately for me my husband hates them but I am organising them in my head in a secret home where I dictate all design decisions. Luckily for me she also makes notebooks…Tamasyn_Gambell tamasyn-gambell-edit1 Tamasyn Gambell 1-1550x559
  2. Not being able to get into my kitchen properly at the moment to bake, I have been looking back at things I have baked in the last few months. I came across this which made me laugh. Its an almost sugar free Pear and Coconut cake made when my best friend returned from travelling in South America – OK the fox wasn’t entirely in keeping with the theme!best
  3. Hooray for perseverance, after 6 months I have finally won an original Memlite task lamp from the 30’s on eBay. I’ve had this saved on search for so long and had given up on getting one for the price I’d set. Now to spend hours looking for a suitable flex to re-wire it with…                                                                                                                  pinterest.com 30ede0c9571ae2df1dbd33663dfa8780
  4. Listening to Lana Del Rey in the sunshine in the garden, total girls music and all the songs seem to be about kissing or getting high but I still unashamedly love them.LanaDelReyBornToDieAlbum600Gb16211
  5. And finally, a special 5th choice place for the week. The new series The Call Centre – Happy People Sell on BBC3. Think David Brent running The Only Way Is Essex, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a tv show especially one about real lives. Ricky Gervais tweeted afterwards ‘I honestly don’t remember writing it, but I must have, surely? I think it’s my best work. But I can hardly watch it. #TheCallCentre’. Watch here.neville-wilshire-bellamy-4016129

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La Nouvelle Vague – The Subtext of Style

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petit_soldat4“Film, Andre Bazain said, substitutes a world that conforms to our desires”

Le Mepris

With the release last month of Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge, the first feature film of the French New Wave, on UK DVD for the first time, I have been passing my gaze back through the cinematic archive of La Nouvelle Vague and marvelling at how stylistically it epitomizes the end note in style for me.tumblr_m1yvna6gpb1qmr9rao1_500 Since I saw my first Godard film at the BFI when I was 17 the French New Wave has been my favourite muse. It is my most formative style reference point, my manifesto for cool, even my blog address is homage. Le Mepris was the first place I saw the island on which I got married, New Wave my first ever really expensive coffee table book, it is neither us nor our parents you will find a wedding picture of in the upstairs hallway but Godard & Karina.

In the early black and white films I love the playful, inventive, improvisational originality, the way that the streets of Paris became film sets, the stylistics and the jazz.

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womangodard-belmondo-seberg_opt-1 BandaPart Paris-nous-appartient-Jacques-Rivette-1961 (translated) Paris is ours

In the later films (especially those of Godard) I love the primary colours, the politics, their pop-art-plus – the way the screen looks like moving pop art, the self referential in-jokes and the dynamic brutalism.

GODARD_1965_Pierrot_le_fou_typography (2) - Copy

10509452_gal Le+Mepris+01 le+m%C3%A9pris large_pierrot_le_fou_blu-ray_5   pierrotlefoupierrot7048825299_319dc2335fFrom Belmondo so charmed with himself in A Bout de Souffle to his absurd suicide finale in Pierrrot le Fou face painted blue, dynamite wrapped around his head, every moment on screen is a lesson in male cool.

Borstal boys on fairground rides, murder, menage a trois, racing through the Louvre, fugitives smoking Gitanes, left bank communism –

Directors, actors, cinematographers, Paris, I salute you all!

large 400 blows blu-ray4There are so few true auteurs these days with definable vision, Tarrantino is one exception (his production company Bande a Part an homage to Godard). French New Wave films are inescapably beautiful, the ultimate in wallpaper viewing, whilst remaining totally authentic and uncontrived.

They force you to think hard about deeper questions, they suggest but never dictate, they are funny, sometimes whimsical, they reference high culture, they are a reality that shows its seams. And Anna Karina, sigh, Chanel may have found her but Godard made her. The adopted French poster girl of 60’s irony, fragility, poise and playfulness. I know they said ‘And God Created Woman’ in relation to Bardot but Karina has the edge for me:tumblr_liiwc5tSKt1qc42blo1_500 tumblr_lf6ldlOAMN1qzvmb1o1_500 tumblr_lc0d4xCpe11qa0abuo1_500 5327285702_f98fa05f47_z_large

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To choose my favourite films of the French New Wave feels a bit like choosing between children for me, but here is my potted history:

My Top 10 Films of The French New Wave:

  1. Pierrot le Fou (Godard, 1965)
  2. Bande a Part (Godard, 1964)
  3. 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959)
  4. Le Signe du Lion (Rohmer, 1959)
  5. Jules et Jim (Truffaut, 1962)
  6. Paris Nous Appartient (Rivette, 1961)
  7. A Bout de Soufflé (Godard, 1960)
  8. Les Amants (Malle, 1958)
  9. Les Bonne Femmes (Chabrol, 1960)
  10. Cleo de 5 a 7 (Varda, 1962)

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