Wednesday, 22 October 2014

wish list: twentieth century watercolours and drawings

'Paul Roche' by Duncan Grant.

'Last Act. Queen of Spades' by Oliver Messel.

'Reunion in Vienna' by Rex Whistler.

Study for 'Saloon Bar' by Edward Le Bas. Inscribed by Duncan Grant 'For Duncan Grant from Edward Le Bas, 1940'.

All from Abbott and Holder on Museum Street, which happens to be my favourite place to browse pictures in the whole of London. No trip to the British Museum would be complete without a visit to this charming gallery. Taking up three floors of a pale blue townhouse, a stone's throw from the museum, Abbott and Holder specialise in British watercolours, prints and drawings. I could happily stay and riffle through the available sketches and paintings for hours on end...

To provide beautiful and interesting pictures affordable from income was the aim of Robert Abbott and Eric Holder’s partnership when they first dealt in 1936 during the Depression. For over over three quarters of a century it has remained their policy to stock pictures that are within the means of as broad a section of the population as possible. Most of their stock which includes work from 1750 to the present day is priced between £100 and £5,000. Possibly my favourite thing about Abbott and Holder? Should an attribution prove inaccurate, they will offer not only a complete refund but also a box of Black Magic chocolates by way of compensation.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Monday, 13 October 2014


I'm well and truly smitten with Inverallan's colourful, chunky, hand knitted knitwear. The company have been making premium knitwear for the fishermen of Scotland for generations and are one of the few true 'cottage' knitters still in existence today. Come the bleak midwinter, when I'm cycling to work on a dark and freezing Monday morning, one of these jumpers could be just the ticket. That perfect mustard hue alone is enough to put a smile on my face...

Sunday, 5 October 2014

meanwhile at the cushion factory...

I made these special edition dark gold on yellow Coral Cushions for Bridie's pop-up shop (which was a brilliant success). I think they've almost all sold out now, but they can still be made to order through my shop.

Bespoke bright orange on grey Coral Cushion for a Canadian customer.

White Tiger Cushion in teal/mustard photographed last week at my friend Piers' house.

I've been working on ideas for new print designs too... More on that soon!

in the press... elle decoration nl october 2014 & a little bird 01/10/2014

Read the article here. I'll be writing a guest blog for A Little Bird ('Vogue meets Radio 4, online') in the coming few weeks - watch this space!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

hatfield house

Last Saturday morning I took the train from King's Cross to Hatfield in Hertfordshire. Stepping out of the station, I came face to face with the gates to Hatfield House, the very place I'd come to visit. Hatfield is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family; the Estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Recently I had seen a few pictures of the house floating around online and knew I had to check the place out. (A particular picture I'd seen of a gilded ceiling set my heart aflutter.) This is the King James Drawing Room - Hatfield's principal reception room. Recently acquired tapestries have been installed as a background to the many splendid pictures; the whole effect is quite magnificent. I spent a good half an hour taking in the riot of colour and texture created by the layers and layers of fabrics, paintings, lighting and furniture.

The Armoury began as an open loggia in the Italian Renaissance style, until the 2nd Marquess filled in the windows in 1834 and laid the marble floor. The 3rd Marquess completed the alterations by putting up the panelling. Most of the armour on the walls was purchased by the 2nd Marquess from the Tower of London in the middle of the 19th century. I love the row of (possibly much newer!) toy cars.

The chimney piece in the Chinese Bedroom has been repainted to resemble red Chinese lacquer. How utterly fab. Until this point I hadn't realised that one day I would definitely love a lacquered fireplace.

A Long Gallery was an essential feature of every large Jacobean house. The one at Hatfield runs the entire length of the south front (170 feet). That incredible ceiling, originally white, was covered with gold leaf by the 2nd Marquess who had been impressed by a gold ceiling he had seen in Venice.

A very lovely gilded chair and matching stool in the Long Gallery.

The tranquil gardens...

I spent Saturday afternoon back at home, sketching. This is the Casino at Marino in Dublin, designed by the Scottish architect Sir William Chambers for the 1st Earl of Charlemont in the late 1750s. It's a small and perfect example of Neoclassical architecture. I hadn't realised that the name 'Casino' is the diminutive form of the 18th-century Italian word 'Casa', meaning 'House', thus 'Little House'. It really is the most charmingly handsome small building.

I travelled to Hampshire on Sunday to spend time with my family. We visited The Vyne, as we sometimes like to do when I visit. I worked here every Sunday as a teenager with a big group of friends from school, serving tea and sandwiches to visitors. It's always nice to pop back for a look around. It was actually rather warm and pleasant last Sunday - the ideal weather for a stroll in the grounds, which were looking particularly wonderful in the soft late September light. Bliss.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

i am listening to...

a painting, a song and a poem for autumn

Autumn Effect at Argenteuil by Claude Monet.

Today we celebrate the autumn equinox. The word 'equinox' is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are of equal length. The Druids call this celebration Meán Fómhair and honour the the Green Man, the God of the Forest. Other Pagans will celebrate the festival of Mabon, which marks the decline of nature and the slow coming of winter. Summer is waning, the autumnal winds have arrived...

Autumn is my favourite season. Soup, jumpers, crisp mornings. Every September I tend to listen to the above, one of my favourite songs by Patrick Wolf, on repeat as the month comes to its chilly close. Also, here is a beautiful poem from Ted Hughes:

The first sorrow of autumn
Is the slow goodbye
Of the garden who stands so long in the evening-
A brown poppy head,
The stalk of a lily,
And still cannot go.

The second sorrow
Is the empty feet
Of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers.
The woodland of gold
Is folded in feathers
With its head in a bag.

And the third sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers
The minutes of evening,
The golden and holy
Ground of the picture.

The fourth sorrow
Is the pond gone black
Ruined and sunken the city of water-
The beetle's palace,
The catacombs
Of the dragonfly.

And the fifth sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp.
One day it's gone.
It has only left litter-
Firewood, tentpoles.

And the sixth sorrow
Is the fox's sorrow
The joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds,
The hooves that pound
Till earth closes her ear
To the fox's prayer.

And the seventh sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window
As the year packs up
Like a tatty fairground
That came for the children.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sunday, 14 September 2014

parkway greens

We used to have our fruit and vegetables delivered to our front door in neat cardboard boxes, but since we've started shopping at Parkway Greens, which opened very close to our home earlier this year, we've been completely converted. It's become something of a ritual, our Sunday morning jaunt to leafy Parkway. We'll pick up what looks good (everything) and come home and cook with it. Sometimes I'll even have leftovers to take to work on Monday morning. I don't miss the cardboard boxes at all, convenient though it was to have everything delivered, because now we have somewhere local to shop - a beautiful green store stuffed with colourful, interesting produce. Last weekend we bought these courgette flowers (what a treat!) and stuffed them with ricotta and mint, before deep frying briefly. Absolutely delicious, and just as good as those I ate on the Amalfi Coast back in August.

D. made pasta which we ate with three types of mushroom and lots of herbs (from our flourishing balcony garden), garlic and parmesan.

I made a blackberry and blueberry galette (a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, who coincidentally also shops at Parkway Greens). This was fabulous, and I've actually made it two more times since last weekend, I'm almost afraid to admit. Sticky, dark, glistening and gooey, it's a perfect autumn pudding.

Even more blueberries, which I sprinkled over ricotta hotcakes this morning.

gant rugger autumn/winter 2014

I'm a big fan of Gant Rugger's horticulture-inspired autumn/winter 2014 collection. This suede and shearling jacket in particular could well find its way into my wardrobe come the colder months.

Olive green wool and a fur trimmed hood? Heaven!

A very lovely leaf print worn with tan leather gloves.

Enjoying the layering up with a grey wool waistcoat here (and the scarf in pocket).

Sunday, 7 September 2014

two good meals

We've been for two very good meals this week. The first was supper on Tuesday evening at The Palomar in Soho, where the food of modern day Jerusalem is warmly served. We sat at the beautiful zinc-topped bar overlooking the open kitchen and shared a variety of small dishes - sweet, buttery bread served with tahini and tomato dips, assorted mezze (featuring a delicious, oily aubergine dish), a knockout bowl of polenta topped with a rich mushroom ragout, asparagus, Parmesan and truffle oil and a striking, fresh salmon tartare. The small space was buzzing and lively and the music was loud; it felt like a new and exciting way to eat out in London. I recommend!

The second good meal was breakfast this morning - we ventured into town and drank hot chocolate and ate eggs with potatoes, onion and bacon over the Sunday newspapers at Fischer's on Marylebone High Street. The food (classic Austrian fare) is not particularly groundbreaking, but, as with The Palomar, the atmosphere is overwhelming and transportive. At Fischer's it's all about the ritzy elegance of Mitteleuropa - gorgeous panelling, marquetry and mirrors, distressed, hand painted wallpaper, waiters in green waistcoats and golden ties and a magnificent station clock looming over it all. Timeless and dreamy, the whole experience is pure Grand Budapest Hotel.