Thursday, 29 March 2012

I Have An Embarrassing Secret...

It's a secret that I only let people in on, once I have known them for a while, and I'm sure that they won't smirk. I thought that it was about time that I let you in on it.

My middle name is (deep breath...) Marie-Antoinette. Yes, you heard correctly - Marie-Antoinette - it's right there on my birth certificate. I was named after a French queen who had her head chopped off. Except that I wasn't exactly. My parents claim that I was named after my rather less well known Uncle Anthony and his then girlfriend Mary - my Godparents. (Although logically, this means that my middle-name should be closer to Marc Antony - as in the Roman political general - which I suppose doesn't quite have the same ring to it.)

I have no idea what makes two first generation immigrants from the Caribbean, living in 1970's London, and with no particular passion for French history let alone any connection to France, come up with the grand name of Marie-Antoinette. It certainly didn't suit the sartorial failures of my early years as a 70's kid running around in tartan flares and double denim.

I used to think that it was a subliminal thought whispered into my pregnant mother's ear by the spirit of the French Queen herself - perhaps predicting in the then unborn 'me', a predetermined love of chandeliers, decorative antiques, french linen and dainty French pastries!

Regardless, that's the middle name that they gave me, and it naturally encouraged an intense obsession with my namesake from an early age. I've read the biographies, own the DVD's, and have visited the palaces. It was the cause of much mirth and ribbing at my all girls Convent School, and was NEVER revealed at University. But while it is something that I have rarely disclosed, it is also something that I have always secretly rather liked.

If one can forget the many negative connotations that the iconic but ill fated Queen has historically endured, particularly when it comes to empathy and extravagance (by the way, she apparently never did utter the infamous phrase "Let them eat cake" when faced with a starving nation!) and focus instead on the amazing images, interior style, fashion influence and romantic colour palette that we associate her with instead, then you are left with a pretty beautiful legacy.

Is Queen Marie-Antoinette the real reason that I have a love of old houses, history & historical figures, ALL things French and of course pretty shoes?

I think that I've even spotted a few traits of her in my own home. And yes I do eat cake. Lots of it.

Do you have an embarrassing or inspiring namesake? I'd love to hear about it.

Have a glorious weekend!

Paula x

Images courtesy of; 1)Marie Antoinette Film (2006) by Sofia Copella; 2)Marie Antoinette 1762; 3)Daytime Salon at Versailles; 4)Empress's Bedroom at the Grand Trianon, Versailles; 4)Marie Antoinette a la Rose(1782) Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun, Musee National du Chateau de Versailles; 5)Marie Antoinette (1769) Joseph Ducreux as Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria 7)Elle Decor 8)Elle Decor; 9)Veranda; 10)Elle Decor; 11)Veranda; 12)Marie Antoinette Film; 13)My shoes!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Gorgeous Gardens & Buxus Balls!

Unsurprisingly, when the weather takes a turn for the better (...and Oh my - has the weather been absolutely beautiful in Norfolk this weekend!) my first waking thoughts are to my garden. I was very fortunate to inherit from the previous owners of Hill House, a structured and mature garden of just under one acre. Already impeccably hard landscaped, the gardens' shape and design is beautiful, but for me, it lacks the blowsiness, and romanticism of a wisteria clad traditional English country garden. I adore the structure & elegance of my box hedging, and I want to introduce even more round clipped buxus balls planted in fading, rustic terracotta pots and grouped in bundles around the garden.

However, to add softness to the design, an abundance of Hydranga bushes is (for me) a must, and having been inspired by a garden in Veranda magazine, I also fancy the idea of placing giant pots of hydrangeas along the drive.

Of course, no English country garden is complete without roses, and I want to introduce a multitude of soft pink and creamy white old English rose hedges, climbers & ramblers throughout. Amongst my favourite current reads (and there are many - I have an outrageous pile of gardening & interiors books and magazines causing a semi avalanche at the side of my bed!) - is the current David Austin 'Handbook of Roses'. Now I hasten to add, that I am a complete & utter 'virgin gardener', and if I had been asked 5 years ago from my postage stamp sized, London terrace garden, whether my bedtime reading would ever consist of a garden rose catalogue - I would have laughed over the top of my decaf skinny latte (now it's plain old builders tea!). However, there is something undeniably alluring about the thought of planting and nurturing one's own garden. I know that it will take time, harde graft, and probably a lot of frustrated tears (don't get me started on the ornamental potager that I'd also like to construct) but wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to look around a garden brimming with beautiful blooms with sweet names such as 'Wildeve', 'Gentle Hermione' and 'Eglantyne' and in a few years time and be able to say - " I planted that!".

Images courtesy of: 1) Stella McCartney's garden US Vogue, 2)unknown, 3)unknown, 4) Veranda, 5), 6) Debbie Treloar, 7,8 & 9) David Austin Roses

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

My Perfect Dining dainty as a Lauduree Macaron!

During my time away from 'blogland', and in between the more mundane stresses of life, I did still manage to feed my e-bay/auction habit from time to time. One of my primary focuses was the pursuit of my 'Perfect Dining Room'. You know, the one where one magically starts to host weekly intimate, yet glamorous, supper parties, - the sort of suppers where the conversation is sparkling, the food is fabulous and the decor is immaculate and tasteful. Like the dinner parties that I see in magazines. Not the real life ones, where I am to be found running to the kitchen every 5 minutes in a attempt to get the timings right, i.e. Get the courses to the table without everything going cold or worse - being burnt to a crisp - at least one can eat cold food! Not that even badly timed dinner parties tend to happen with much frequency these days (any that involve people over the age of 11 and a cake without number candles anyway) - but a girl can still dream!

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to be the winning bidder on a couple of perfect dining room additions - a French armoire with chicken wire doors. (see image on left) I have ALWAYS wanted one of these!
...and a painted sideboard with more than a few chips and bits missing, but the shape and carvings were so pretty that the imperfections seemed beautiful to me.

I also found an 8 seater circular dining table (not shown), that suits the square proportions of the room, and 6 dining chairs that desperately need recovering, but are a great shape - you can just see the edge of one chair and it's yucky stripy fabric in the corner.

I love all of these things - especially the fact that with the exception of the armoire, everything was bargain basement cheap - and I mean seriously cheap (although even the armoire was less than half the price of most I saw). They all needed cleaning up and of course the chairs will need to be re-covered (which regrettably will bump up the price of less then £10 each) however, that to me is part of the joy of finding things at auction or in dusty old curiosity shops. Finding a 'one of a kind' gem and re-covering, painting or polishing it up to reveal it's true beauty is a feeling like no other. Far more satisfying and enriching than buying a clone from a large department store - although obviously not so convenient or straightforward. I admit, there have been many times when, having just lost out on a 'perfect' bargain and feeling that my heart would surely break, I have sworn off ever bidding again at auction and headed straight for IKEA!

Anyway, I digress - back to the 'Perfect Dining Room'. My predecessors at Hill House decorated the house in an immaculate but rather austere and serious fashion. The dark green paper of the walls, and heavily patterned curtains which they left in the dining room, harp back to a grand and rather Victorian style of dining, which is not my thing at all. I prefer light and airy colours in a French or Swedish, shabby chic style - with a bit of English country house thrown in. The following images (and the first image from Veranda) share the sort of vibe that inspires me, and that someday soon I hope to achieve.

Aren't they beautiful?

Like sherbet drops, sugared almonds or Love Heart sweets all rolled into one.

SO romantic!

Not quite sure why one needs a romantic dining room with three kids from 8-10 and a cheeky Jack Russell, but suffice to say that they usually have their meals in the family room/kitchen diner anyway (picture on right - sorry it's so dark), and have absolutely no desire to engage in sparkling dinner conversation beyond asking what's for pudding!

But what if I never get to have those charming and delightful dinner parties full of interesting guests & sparkling conversation? Is it a waste of a room? Surely Mr. Sutton & I can enjoy eating fish and chips by candlelight in a dainty jewellery box of a room with only each other for company? What do you think - are separate dining rooms an outdated indulgence?

Images from: Veranda, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Morgan Harrison Home

Monday, 19 March 2012

"Garbo Talks!" (or hello again, apologies & what's new?)

Well...what can I say? It's been a long time? (obviously), What took me so long? (Life & stuff...), do you want me back for good - as in the Take That song? (hopefully???)

What does one say after an absence of...(I can't quite bring myself to count it) but let's just say - toooooooooo long!

And why is 'Garbo' talking now? Well, to very quickly surmise, I started this blog way back in 2010 after moving to the Norfolk countryside with my family, having been a born & bred, self confessed 'committed townie' Londoner.

The move itself was the best thing that we ever did - I have quite happily slipped into a life of Hunter wellies and riding boots and (bar the odd wedding and v. rare town based shindig), my designer heels from my previous life on a magazine are wrapped up in aspic, awaiting their new life as 'vintage treats' for my twin girls in about 10 years or so. Anything useful that has the privilege of having it's own 'name' or 'label', is either stuffed into the earth to remind me what and when it was planted, or high on a pantry shelf and used to bake cake.

So what caused the prolonged 'blip' to my much loved blogging habit? Well quite frankly life came along and kicked me in the shins to remind me that although I liked to think that I was an expert life juggler, sometimes in reality, a few balls have to be left to fall, in order to keep the others going.

Changing ones' entire life is, for some, the perfect time to commit to writing a blog and document those many changes - however, for me it was a commitment too far. Within a space of months, I had moved across England, given up my career, taken on a 'project' of a house & garden (believe me, the polished veneer hid a multitude of sins!) had to settle 3 kids into a new life and school, bought a puppy, had to make new friends of my own (I discovered that I can be quite shy - who knew!). Admittedly, these are all exciting things which I had planned and knew were coming - and no, I certainly don't expect sympathy - none of it is exactly horrific - although I now realise that I got by on pure adrenalin for the first year. However, the main thing that threw me off course was becoming carer for both my parents in quick succession after two low points in their otherwise healthy lives. (They are both doing fine now - thanks, and that period of our lives is hopefully, fingers crossed, now over - onwards & upwards!)

Anyway, SO much has happened in blogsphere since I've been gone. I have managed to keep my eye on some wonderful familiar blogs, such as Simone at The Bottom of The Ironing Basket - and some AMAZING new ones that I've discovered along the way - Ben Pentreath who has a fabulous shop and the most divine blog, which frequently features on of the most breathtaking house I've seen in recent times - a simply beautiful old vicarage in Dorset, that makes me swoon every time I see it, and it's heavenly garden, (a lot of adjectives I know, but just check it out - you'll understand why!) and author Laetitia Maklouf who writes a wonderful gardening blog, and is author of The Virgin Gardener - a godsend to first timers like me. There are lots more, old & new that I'll mention along the way.

'Pintrest' is a totally new concept for me - I'm still pinning things to a notice board with ladybird drawing pins, but I am sure that I will eventually come round to the idea of on-line 'mood-boarding'.
I spent a long time not quite understanding the point of 'twitter', and then I decided just this last week to sign up and start following people I knew and/or admired, and I must say that I'm quite hooked.
Historically, I'm always the last person to sign up for new technology. I rebelled against getting a mobile phone for ages until my work colleagues finally pinned me down and forced me to purchase one - who needs to know where I am during my lunch hour anyway? I also remember my first day at work on a magazine when I was faced with 'e-mail' which - terrified of putting a mistake in writing - I refused to use for months - at the time I would rather pick up the phone and talk to everyone - still not quite sure what I was afraid of! Although, that's not as bad as my early days as a model booker. We worked on 'swing charts' which were literally diary charts built into the middle of a table, with every single model appointment, written on a minute by minute basis, which we the bookers, had to write in and rub out by hand. Hundreds, and hundreds (and hundreds) of times. I remember hating the switch to a (much simpler) computerised system - now I really can't see how I fought against that one, but protest I did!

So hopefully, you will join me while I explore the world of blogging once more. Of course along the way I will show you what's been happening with the house and garden. I'll warn you, it's been slow going, and there are more decorating and organising projects in my head (and on my pin board) than have been completed in the 'real world'. However, there has been the odd occasional auction bargain or e-bay purchase along the way which you may find of interest - and of course, there are always other peoples gorgeous houses to sigh and gasp over. I can't wait!

Paula x
(p.s. my gorgeous Mothers Day roses above. Hope that the mothers out there had a lovely one!)

Images: 1) 2)Vogue Korea 3)Burberry 4)Rose & Grey at 5) Unknown - sorry!
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