Monday, 30 April 2012

Absolutely Fabulous Inspiration...

What do you see when you look at this picture? Edina dressed in another 'imaginative' outfit? Patsy flouting the non-smoking law on TV whilst her hair defies gravity? Bubbles being her usual outrageously 'air-headed' self? Perhaps you just see one of those silly British 'comedy' shows, that you never bothered to watch and didn't understand what all the fuss was about anyway? Well - let me tell you what I see. I see a beautiful painted French armoire in the background, with open shelving and fabulously co-ordinated crockery at the end of a scrubbed French style refectory table.
Seriously. That's what I see. I don't see any eccentric TV characters. I have complete tunnel vision when it comes to spotting a bit of inspiration - no matter from how unlikely a source the inspiration may have come. Now personally, I thought that Ab Fab was fairly amusing in my youth, but not so much now. However, I found myself staring transfixed at the Christmas Special for one reason and one reason alone. That divine, painted, open shelved armoire in the kitchen. You see, I have a long, thin wooden French refectory table in my family room which leads on to my kitchen (see one end of family room below - not long after we moved in - there is a LOT more stuff around now, but still decorating to be done!)
I also have a lot of casual but pretty breakfast crockery that I'd like to display. I was all set to go the traditional route and buy a nice old fashion welsh dresser - especially since I already have an armoire with chicken wire doors in my formal dining room - but then my head was turned again by Ab Fab. So now I'm confused. Admittedly, it's a delicious confusion - any dilemma which involves the 'need' to stare at French armoires versus traditional dressers cannot feasibly be called stress (It's true - my husband told me this...) Here are some examples;
Doors on this armoire and on the less ornate one below, but I would probably remove the doors and have less formal, open shelving...
...pardon the pun, but they both look pretty Ab Fab in their respective ways...
I love this next one - so I'll give you two views...
LOVE, love, love open shelving!
I'm still not sure which way I'll end up going...
This one seems to be a combination of French chairs and table and English style dresser...I'm all for the mix!
Armoire or Kitchen Dresser???
Images courtesy of; 1 and 2) BBC TV Absolutely fabulous 3)My Family room/breakfast table 4)City Sage 5) Skeppsholmen 6) Foster House on www, 7 and 8) The Shoot factory 9 and 10) 1st option 11) The Shoot factory

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Be Still My Beating Heart...(or.. For The Love of Kate!)

I'm all for individuality when it come to interior design, but sometimes I find a shop (or designer) that so perfectly embodies everything that I am trying to achieve with my home, to which end I could quite happily pick up the entire shop - lock, stock and perfectly distressed barrel, and transport it into my home without altering a thing. Does this show a lack of imagination? If so, I care not, because Kate Forman is one such designer for me, and it's beyond my power to control my love for each cushion, curtain and candlestick ...
This morning I received her latest brochure - which I devoured, heart palpitating, over a cup of Earl Grey tea and a hot buttered crumpet - and from which I, upon finishing the last perfectly styled page, was left feeling bereft at it's beautiful conclusion, like the departure of a lover or the end of particularly spellbinding novel... Yes, I can be quite dramatic like that when it comes to interiors (it used to be shoes), but I have long been an ardent fan of her faded English country, meets French 19th Century, meets classic Swedish, elegantly 'lived in' style. (A mouthful I know - but my own typically overblown description - please don't blame Kate!)
I have a mountain of her fabrics waiting to re-cover various pieces of my furniture, as well as a veritable Everest high pile of plumped cushions and bolsters - still wrapped - ready to 'dress' the house when the painting has been completed.
Hers is one on the interiors sites that I lustfully sign on to and swoon over in the small hours of the night, dreaming, planning and plotting the dramatic decor transformation that is on the brink of commencing at Hill House (Yes Mr Sutton - You heard correctly - the time has COME!). I say the small hours because I do literally wake up in the middle of the night with the 'need' to get a fabric 'fix' before I can rest again - and I suppose - for my long suffering husband - it beats me awaking and creeping out of the marital bed for illicit meetings of a more thrilling kind. After all, I am unlikely to leave him for a cushion...
As you can tell, I have recovered from the temporary style crush brought on by my recent trip to Palm Springs, (I sense that my painted armoires, and artfully scuffed tables are breathing a huge sigh of relief that they are not to be replaced by something orange, glossed and mid-century modern after all!)and I am back to coveting what I love best. Everything old, all that is faded, all that harps back to a bygone era and is painted, chipped or slightly imperfect and above all much, much LOVED. Paula x All Images courtesy of; Zara Hart for Kate Forman Designs

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Stylish Genes!

I inherited my Father's nose. This was a bone of contention when I was a teenager, but now that I am all grown up - and have since (so my Mother tells me) "grown into" my nose - I am delighted to have something that is so indisputably inherited from my family. But where did my love of fashion and interiors come from? From the age of 12 I used my pocket change to purchase ridiculously irrelevant issues of Vogue magazine. Irrelevant, because I spent my earliest years in urban 1970's South London - as far from the glamour and gloss of a stylish fashion magazine as one could get at the time (although as a point of interest, an officially glamourous Naomi Campbell was being brought up just over a mile away in one direction and a few years later, an equally stylish Kate Moss two miles in the opposite direction, so perhaps it was something in the water?)

My Mother had no particular interest in fashion, but she did like to browse through a copy of House and Garden or Country Life now and again, so perhaps there's the clue? However, my own very conventional family history aside - isn't it just fascinating when several generations of the same family show a sense of such impeccable style and taste, that one is left to wonder whether 'taste' is as inherited a feature as a crooked nose or a gap toothed smile?

There are numerous well known and fascinating British dynastic families in the world of fashion, interiors and design. The Conran's are one such family, and the Hicks family are another favourite of mine. However, a particularly long held style crush and fascination for me is The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and her grandaughter, the model, knitwear designer and mother of four, Stella Tennant.

I'm sure that most of you have seen the homes of both Stella and 'Debo' the Dowager Duchess featured in magazine spreads a countless number of times (I know that I have!) but as with all things beautiful and desirable, it never hurts to see them again and again...and again!

Stella's Scottish farmhouse above...
And the 'Old Vicarage' where the Dowager Duchess now resides on the Chatsworth Estate below...totally divine, but which would you choose?

But the exterior of houses that have stood for generations are often easy to look stylish aren't they? After all, the original architect usually worked his magic and stamped his great taste a few hundred years ago. But what about the interiors? Are these not the true testament to the taste of the current owners... and how do they stand up across the generations?

First of all The Dowager Duchess's entrance hall and sitting room. Simply lovely aren't they? I think that whether I were eight or eighty years old - I could be happy in either of these rooms. I think that the hallway may be painted in Farrow & Ball's 'Arsenic'?

LOVE the reminds me of marshmallows, and is quite possibly once again a Farrow & Ball paint in 'Calamine'.

The Dowager Duchess's (very modern) dining room... Her bathroom...

And now to Stella's home...
Her sitting Room...

Morning Room...
Stella's bathroom...inspired by her Grandmother perhaps?
Her Bedroom...

The children's bedrooms...

And best of all...Stella's amazing garden!

So is nature or nurture responsible for a heightened sense of interior style? Or is it perhaps, that the relatives with a taste for brown flock wall paper, flying ducks on the wall and old rusting fridges on the front lawn, are hidden away in the attic, and we just simply don't get to 'meet' them!

Have a great weekend.

Paula x

Images courtesy of:
1) US Vogue May 2010; 2)Photograph by Simon Upton for World of Interiors;
3) Francois Halard for Vogue 4, 5,6,7& 8) Simon Upton for World of Interiors;
9,10,11,12,13,14,15 &16) Photographs by Francois Halard for Vogue

Monday, 16 April 2012

Palm Springs Life!

The Easter holidays are over, the children are back at school, and we're still adjusting to the time difference after a wonderfully inspiring holiday in Palm Springs.

Those of you who know my blog are aware that I am a fan of all things old, English country, painted and French, slightly shabby, very pretty and usually faded - hence my love affair with Hill House. However, sometimes an aesthetic can creep up and turn your head without you realising it, and suddenly your heart palpitates as it is drawn towards something that you would otherwise have passed by. Well, Palm Springs was a design epiphany for me. Now, don't get me wrong - my heart will always belong to old English roses, Georgian houses and medieval church spires, but if one were allowed to stray once in a while, then the mid-century modern architecture and design ethic that shapes the city of Palm Springs wouldn't be a bad place to start.

We stayed in a rented house a short walk away from the Uptown Design District of Palm Springs. Even I - a stalwart lover of blowsy white or faded pink flowers - was left in awe of the acid brights of our temporary garden - particularly as the flowerbed commanded the attention of several incredibly tame Humming birds throughout the day. In this climate, and with the light constantly streaming down from a hot sun, how could I not love the vibrant splashes of colour that feature everywhere from the furniture, to the soft furnishings, accessories and paintings - in gloriously sharp contrast to the severe lines of glass, steel and concrete that dominate the style of architecture. My brother-in-laws' house (whose wedding we had come over to attend) is quite simply a breathtaking work of architectural art. Each room seems to appear straight from the pages of a magazine. One couldn't simply walk through these rooms - we had to 'waft'. One doesn't merely 'sit' on an Eames chair - one 'drapes' - you get the picture? (Although, admittedly, even two weeks of glamorous wafting and draping can get a little tiresome, and as I sit here, back at home in jeans and wellies, ready to tackle the weeds in my garden, I can't help but feel pleasantly relieved that I can now 'stomp' and 'slump'!)

Ahhh, but back to Palm Springs! As claimed by the Mayor in the Design District publicity brochure, over the years, Palm Springs has become a "world-renowned destination for decorators, designers, and visitors in general who seek the unique, eclectic and eccentric." - in short, a modern interior lovers HEAVEN!

Palm Canyon Drive is home to a host of vintage and modern furniture stores such as the divine Insolito Home, where they boldly (and quite rightly) claim - "It's not just FURNITURE, it's ART"!

And then there are the fashion boutiques like Trina Turk where you can make-believe that you are an extra from the film "Valley of The Dolls", or art galleries, such as the stunning Michael H. Lord Gallery, and the fabulously named SHAG - the store, (a retail store and gallery dedicated exclusively to the artist 'Shag' - yes really!)

For friends and family back home, there are a multitude of gift shops, book stores and design shops, and as for people watching or testing out those Pucci prints - even the restaurants, such as at The Parker, celebrate the cities famed mid-century modern roots.

Nepotism aside, my favourite slice of retail therapy had to be found at the amazing pet shop PAWZ, owned by my brother-in-law Don. Not an ordinary pet shop, PAWZ PS is a truly modern pet boutique offering the finest doggy fashion, luxury pet items, doggy couture, toys, collars and beds etc. A veritable feast of doggy madness and canine glamour.

Naturally, Byron our Jack Russell, was the beneficiary of a suitcase full of mid-century modern doggy chic - although whether he will dare to wear any of his Palm Springs brights in the presence of his burly Norfolk farm dog friends is another story altogether!

Happy to be home!
Paula x

Images courtesy of; 1)Poolside of Kaufmann House by Slim Aarons circa 1970; 2,3 & 4) My brother-in-laws Palm Springs Home; 5) Our holiday rental pool; 6)Chair from; 7) www.TRINATURK.COM; 8)SHAGTHESTORE.COM; 9); 9)www.PAWZPS.COM; 10) BYRON!
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