Sunday, 22 March 2015

rebecca in richmond

Oh, Rebecca. I've been meaning to read you for years. A glamorous woman is mysteriously murdered on a Cornish estate in the 1920s (or 30s or 40s - nobody actually knows). So me. So when my friend Tobi told me that he had tickets for a theatre adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's best-loved novel at the Richmond Theatre, I was there like a shot. The play was excellent - disturbing, funny, totally gripping. I particularly loved the set, which featured the wreck of Rebecca's sunken boat at its centre, a crystal chandelier swinging above. Director Emma Rice’s adaptation made excellent use of live music throughout the performance - violins and fiddles and gloomy sea shanties sung by fishermen in dark raincoats. Yes, I loved it. And now it's time to track down the paperback...

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... I came upon it suddenly; the approach masked by the unnatural growth of a vast shrub that spread in all directions... There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand.

Monday, 16 March 2015

somerset spring

We arrived in Somerset late last Friday night. It was a long and tiresome drive from London. After a quick feast of cheese, bread and beer on arrival, we turned in for the night. Our home for the weekend was The Talbot Inn, a converted 15th-century coach house located in the estate village of Mells. We woke early on Saturday morning, well rested and happy to be in the country. The view from our bedroom window, of Somerset hills and trees and bright blue sky, made the late night journey more than worth the trouble. Breakfast was eggs and a Bloody Mary or three. Afterwards we paid a visit to St Andrew’s church, just next door to the inn. Inside, all was still and peaceful. In the image of the church entrance above, you'll spot the 16th-century Mells Manor in the background. The village's name comes from the Latin for honey, mellis, referring to the beautiful colour of the local stone.

We didn't do a great deal on Saturday. After our morning walk around Mells we hotfooted it over to nearby Babington House, where we had lunch on the terrace and read the newspapers for a few hours. The sun was shining; it felt like spring might finally be on its way. We spent the afternoon back in our room at the inn, dozing, with the sunshine streaming through the windows.

Dinner at the inn was another restrained affair - roast chicken and wine and rice pudding with rhubarb, followed by a jigsaw puzzle and an attempt at a murder mystery board game. And then other night's good sleep.

After breakfast on Sunday we headed over to Montacute House, which I've written about before. This glittering Elizabethan mansion is one of my favourite country houses to visit. The weather unfortunately wasn't nearly so nice as it was on Saturday, but the Somerset stone still gleamed golden.

Lovely spring daffodils in Montacute's greenhouse. In the afternoon we drove back to London, stopping off at the wonderful Pythouse Kitchen Garden in Wiltshire (which I've also written about before) for mushrooms on toast and fish pie. A good weekend.

Monday, 9 March 2015

in the press... lonny march 2015

I was delighted to be asked to photograph a selection of my 'prized treasures' for the March issue of US-based online interiors magazine, Lonny. Take a look here. Back in February, I enjoyed a very fun morning at The Marlton Hotel in New York with the Lonny team, where they photographed me for the feature. I wrote about the hotel and restaurant inside, Margaux, in my recent New York post - I loved the interiors so very much. The beautiful olive green leather banquettes and pink floral tiles became the perfect backdrop!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

late february

What's been going on since I was in New York? Well, a few weekends ago, I made a very good cake. Blood oranges are in season, so I bought a bunch from our local greengrocer and made this zingy blood orange and olive oil cake (find Tom Hunt's recipe here). No sugar is involved, just lots and lots of dried apricots, which give the cake a sublime toffee flavour. It's basically marmalade in cake form, which can only be a good thing.

We bought a set of vintage Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs to go with our beloved marble dining table. They were a total eBay bargain. I love the combination of honey coloured cane and sparkling chrome.

We went to a fun party at The Serpentine. Cocktails and art and stuff.

Duncan fell off his bicycle and broke his arm! It was pretty nightmarish for him for a couple of days, but he's now well and truly on the mend.

I made a trip to Tate Britain. This painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds is one of my favourite pieces in the whole place.

I got a new (old) watch! It's having a much nicer (orange) strap fitted this week. I've never worn a watch until now. Look at those painted numbers! So incredibly cool.

We've been buying lots of old terracotta pots which we're filling with plants and then sort of forgetting about, which is what I think most people do.

I've been drawing a lot...

I've just finished Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols. I can't remember who it was that recommended this book to me, but I'm very glad they did. Curiously, there isn't too much information about it online. After a bit of research however I managed to find a battered old copy bound in grey linen on eBay. Set in 1920s London, the novels tells the story of Brian Elme, a young and handsome gossip columnist who spends his time making up society gossip, until he becomes the star of society himself. Beverley Nichols was one of the original Bright Young People, and in this novel he satirises the set to which he belonged. I recommend. It's deliciously funny.

And I've been listening to Beirut almost 24/7. I never really used to pay much attention to Beirut and then a month ago I decided to give all of their albums a good, proper listen. I instantly fell in love. Beirut's songs make me want to pack it all in, run away to a Romanian forest and join a group of Gypsies. Or something.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

new york in february

I returned from New York last Tuesday, where I'd been spending a few days with my mother and sister, who'd both never been before. (My role was the unofficial tour guide/taxi hailer/chief lunch adviser.) On the previous Friday, our first full day, we headed over to Central Park and Fifth Avenue; leaving the girls to shop I paid a visit to The Frick, which was wonderfully peaceful. I had the Garden Court to myself.

And then on to the MoMA where I managed to catch the Matisse exhibition a day or two before it closed. It was seriously beautiful and probably the most inspiring exhibition I've seen in a long time. My favourite part? The films projected on to the walls of the gallery showing Matisse cutting shapes out for his assistants to pin up and arrange under their master's direction.

The next day we zoomed up to the top of the Rockefeller Center, which gave us this superb (albeit rather gloomy) view of the city. It even started to snow whilst we were up there. For lunch we headed down to Balthazar in SoHo. I'm a big fan of the London version, but was excited about checking out the NY original, which didn't disappoint. I had the usual - a Bloody Mary and steak frites.

Sunday was spent meandering along the High Line (after excellent bagels and coffee from Black Seed, recommended to me by a friend). I popped back uptown to The Met after lunch, where I spent a couple of hours sketching. I found a fabulous multicoloured pencil in the gift shop which naturally, I went a bit mad with. Later on I met with the lovely Marisa from Stylebeat.

Another sketch. It was cold whilst we were there, that's for sure. Even walking along the streets to get from A to B would bring us out in tears after about twenty minutes. Good excuse to pop indoors for a hot chocolate though.

I took a cab down to The Marlton Hotel on Monday morning, to meet with the guys from Lonny Magazine (more to come on that soon). I absolutely adored The Marlton - the interiors, the design and the excellent restaurant next door, Margaux, where we enjoyed a good meal on our first night (I highly recommend the cauliflower custard).

The interior of Margaux - leather banquettes in the perfect shade of olive green, beautiful teal and pink tiles, lovely chairs, mirrors and light fittings. It all just works so spectacularly well.

Later on I pottered around Greenwich Village, before picking up a book to take home from the wonderful Three Lives & Company bookshop. In the evening we flew home, tired but happy after a very good break. Mum and sister loved it. I didn't sleep on the plane, but I did watch Paddington, which, as much as I love the Big Apple, filled me with joy at the thought of returning to my home city... Until next time, New York.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

the blue magician

I've been meaning to write about my new favourite jumper. It's from Howlin', a knitwear brand based in Antwerp, but with strong roots in Scotland and Ireland. The way of manufacturing remains traditional but Howlin' like to experiment with fun colours and imaginative patterns. I'm a huge fan. My favourite thing about this sweater, apart from the colours and patterns? The name! It's called The Blue Magician, which is clearly the best name for a piece of clothing ever invented.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

recent works

New illustrations in vintage frames available from my website.

I have created a set of limited edition prints for US-based online art gallery Buddy Editions, including the above Spring Flowers in a Classical Urn. Shop the collection and read an interview with me here.

Timothy with a Cat.

A series of bone china plates - coming soon!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

christie's interiors january/february 2015

Some recent styling work for the third issue of Christie's Interiors magazine, with photography by Tom Harford Thompson. We shot this one at home on a very cold Sunday morning, just before Christmas, along with an abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers from my local greengrocer. I was more than a little taken with the (huge and heavy) Piero Figural Venus head-shell champagne bucket. I mean, could you ever imagine a more fabulous object? I think not. Imagine that in the centre of your dining table. I returned it very reluctantly.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

a birthday in bruton

It was Duncan's Birthday at the beginning of January, and to celebrate we travelled down to Somerset last weekend with a group of nine good friends in tow. We took an early train from Paddington to Bruton and walked through several muddy fields to get to the newly opened Hauser & Wirth Somerset, which lies just outside the village. D. and I have spent a fair amount of time in Bruton - usually when staying at At The Chapel - and I'd wanted to visit the new gallery ever since I first heard about its arrival. It seemed like the ideal place to visit with a group of friends (especially with the promise of a big, celebratory lunch to look forward to afterwards), but primarily I just felt like taking us all to the countryside for a day - you can always guarantee hopping on a train and seeing fields and rivers will lift everybody's spirits.

The gallery complex is quite phenomenal - a beautiful combination of new, sleek wood, old stone and glass. Everything seemed to glisten or glow in the soft, frosty January sunshine (we were very lucky with the weather). Here's our friend Paola enjoying the country air in the courtyard. I loved her big check and blue theme.

I cannot recommend Pipilotti Rist's exhibition Stay Stamina Stay enough. From summer 2012 through to summer 2013, Rist spent a sabbatical in Bruton, taking part in the first Hauser & Wirth Somerset artist residency. She went on to produce new work in response to the surrounding landscape and the people she met. In one of the exhibition spaces, Rist has projected Mercy Garden on to two of the walls; the imagery comes mostly from footage the artist shot whilst living in Somerset. Slow motion close-ups play out in mirrored effect; fingers stroke stinging nettles, hands caress soft petals and washing floats in the breeze. The images are filtered and layered and set to a soundtrack of banjo folk music by Heinz Rohrer. It was beautiful, and in fact we all left the space feeling quite dazed.

After our jaunt around the gallery and a Bloody Mary or two each, we sat down at our table in Roth Bar & Grill. Not just any old gallery restaurant, the chefs serve honest, seasonal food. The room itself is wondrous - the gallery's entire family of artists have work on show. With D. surrounded by his friends, we had the most perfect, long lunch. People caught up and laughed and laughed well into the afternoon. The food and drink was simple, earthy and delicious - sardines on toast, roast chicken, fish stew, treacle tart, good wine and good cheese and the obligatory round of espresso martinis to wake us all up again.

Work no.1086 Everything Is Going To Be Alright by Martin Creed. The ideal mantra.

Well and truly stuffed, we left the gallery and headed over to the village of Bruton itself (by this time it was quite dark and we were trying very hard to walk in single file down the winding country lanes). We crowded around this very apt neon in the clubroom at At The Chapel on the High Street and drained a bottle of wine or two. Before long we were back at the tiny train station, homeward bound. The Birthday party carried on into the night, but my memory is a little vague post-6pm. I suppose one could blame this on those small bottles of champagne, which we went through at a rate of knots during the return journey... A perfect day.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

art on a thursday

Still Life at Basiluzzo by Alberto Morrocco.

sin fang

Did you know about Sindri Sigfússon and his beautiful music? I didn't, and the reason for this baffling oversight is quite beyond me. Iceland musician Sigfússon, or Sin Fang, creates swirling, wistful songs, and I can't get enough of them this week. Listen to the rippling single Look at the Light below. Warm piano, brass, strings and a vast array of twinkling electronics combine to create something very special indeed... And just look at the artwork! So very me.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

fabulous tulum

And so, to Mexico. We took off from Heathrow early on the morning of the 30th. I love flying, that excitement I always get reminds me of being a child. (I used to enjoy those documentaries about airports so very much.) The flight was fine - I watched Boyhood over scones with jam and cream. The film was incredible. I'd marvelled at all of those ridiculously good reviews in 2014, and it didn't disappoint - I found it very moving. Afterwards, naturally, I moved on to Godzilla. Who doesn't love a disaster movie featuring an army of fighting, prehistoric monsters? Touchdown in Dallas, three or four margaritas later (to get ourselves in the mood, very important), and we were back on a plane bound for Cancun. We were then driven in the dark to Tulum, where we arrived, exhausted, at our holiday home for the week. It was really quite disorientating, arriving at our beachside hut in complete darkness, unable to see anything, with the sea roaring loudly in our ears. Nevertheless, we were terribly excited, and just look at the view we woke up to! We stayed at a place called Diamante K - it was the only hotel that I contacted that had a free bed in the entirety of Tulum (we organised the trip only a few weeks prior). Our place was pretty basic, essentially just a hut on the beach, but what could be better than waking up every day to the sound of waves breaking and the feeling of sand underfoot?

After a long, exploratory morning walk along the beach, we spent most of our first day with a few of D.'s friends from New York who were also in town for the week. A delicious lunch was had at Posada Margherita, and after a quick nap, we ventured over to the Mayan ruins where, close by, a festival was being held to celebrate New Year's Eve. The highlight of the celebration had to be the full-blown Mayan ritual which took place at 12am, complete with men jumping around in jaguar masks and feather headdresses, furiously banging drums and doing insane things with fire. Of course all of this meant that Thursday was mostly spent sleeping.

We woke early on Friday and visited the ruins - we were pretty much the only people there at 8am, which was delightful. Later on we had a great lunch and much needed, highly relaxing massages at Hemingway - a beautiful beachside spot.

In the evening our friends from New York were DJing at a fabulous bar just up from the beach called Gitano - it was good fun. Pink neon lights, palm trees, disco balls; it was, we reckoned, the best place in Tulum to enjoy a late night drink.

Saturday and Sunday were both spent at Villa Las Estrellas - another beautiful restaurant on the beach with great big beds to fall asleep on after the essential lunchtime taco fiesta. As you can probably gather, most of our time was spent eating delicious food or hanging out at the beach - napping or reading or swimming in the sea. When we go away in August, usually to Italy, many of our days are spent visiting churches or nearby towns; it was enjoyable to do quite the opposite in Mexico - we stayed in one place and just... relaxed. After lunch on Saturday we wandered further down the beach to Coqui Coqui - the famous perfumery and spa. Worth a visit, if only to sample the sublime fragrances.

Nancy Mitford - perfect holiday reading... Clearly not wanting to venture too far from the beach, we spent Sunday morning exploring a cenote close to Tulum, where D. snorkelled and I mostly just flapped about in the crystal clear water (wearing a bright orange life jacket, thank you very much). Oh, and we discovered a really cute family of turtles.

When researching good places to check out in Tulum before our arrival, one restaurant in particular kept on cropping up. Every blog I read and indeed every person I spoke to mentioned it. So, very hungrily, we made our way over to The Hartwood on Sunday evening. The queue was pretty long, but we were seated after a few minutes and had the most delicious dinner. It was worth the hype. I had steak (barbecued to perfection) and mashed yuca - a root vegetable native to the Yucatán Peninsula. Lots of whisky cocktails too.

Monday morning saw us fly home to rainy London via Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn't mind too much. I'd had a wonderful time in Tulum (I highly recommend it, especially if you're into good food!), in fact I'm sure we'll end up returning before too long, but I always rather like getting on with things after having had a few relatively lazy weeks off. Lots to do, lots to look forward to. I do keep daydreaming about that jaw-dropping view though...