My Room 101

What can you not stand in your life?

I embrace many styles, and the French house will be subject to compromises because it is my only opportunity to indulge my catholic style tendencies (and because I take in whatever casualties/goodies that come my way)

Still, there are a few style elements that I staunchly avoid, and so, if I were to compile a short list for my Room 101 suggestions, it would have to include:

Things that are made to fit into corners (e.g. corner cupboards/ corner wardrobes/ corner shelves etc)      For some reason I have a very strong dislike of all things that were purpose-built to go nook and cranny-ish into a corner. This intolerance does not extend to things that go into recesses. No, I can’t explain, but corner-shaped things set me on edge

(a previous inhabitant of our French house painted the floor tiles around a long-gone corner unit as well as some of the rugs. I consider this very lazy as well as in poor taste, and its footprint is an enduring – ugly – legacy)

Barley twist legs    How boring and unimaginative, they make me think of my Aunty Kit (not that she was necessarily either of these things – and her legs were not kinked that I can remember – but she had a Jacobean-style cupboard with the offending legs in her chalet bungalow in Totteridge). I have yet to find a piece of furniture to persuade me that I could live with this particular feature and I have rejected many tables, sideboards and chairs because of them

Etched glass    Perhaps weirdly, though I drool over leaded, coloured, signpainted glass and over old pressed glass such as the feature image above*, I am not keen on etched glass

There are a few exceptions to this last one, usually in old pubs, but they have to be taken on a case by case basis. And no, again I cannot really justify it

What decorative things irk you? Or are there no rules…

*Only just noticed the generous dollop of bird poo, top left of the pic

Oh well!

Am I Being Curated?

I’ll find a home for anything Art Deco

Baz has often said that he doesn’t want me to turn our home into a shrine to the 1930s. Obviously, my love of art deco could easily have transformed our modest 1930s UK bungalow into a beautiful museum (when we came here the only remaining 1930s feature was the fireplace), but I have curbed some of these tendencies out of respect for him

This hasn’t completely prevented me from de-blanding our house by installing reclaimed 1930s panelled doors throughout, a Lloyd Loom bed and Chinese black lacquered bedroom units. Or, for that matter, from adding the sunburst drinks cabinet and a 30s church pew

He knows that if he takes his eye off me I will sneak more in

But I admit that the green uranium ceiling and wall lights were a step too far. I was constantly terrified that someone would damage them (low ceiling, freakishly tall visitors, etc) so my tame sparky Ray, who absolutely hated them, took them down again after a few weeks, so that I could relax

I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of Art Deco since I was little. It was and remains my biggest style influence. I get a thrill when we drive past an original deco front door and sidelights in situ and I still covet my mum’s ex-neighbour’s sunburst gate!

I suppose the truth is that Baz curates me. He tries to remind me that I cannot give a place to everything. At least, not in this house

There remain some beautiful unspoilt examples of thirties houses. The one I knew best was Jack’s House. My grandparents bought their brand new house in Edgware in the thirties and our Uncle Jack lived in the same house until his death about ten years ago. I lived there with him for about a year in the late eighties and it was his house I went home to during that massive hurricane, after working the nightshift. Nothing had been changed in all the years. Nothing at all. And I loved it. When finally sold, the buyers planned to strip it, including the completely original and unfashionably tiny kitchen with its black and white tiles and purpose-built larder

This summer, friends invited us to their unspoilt 1930s house in Bounds Green. Weirdly I became anxious as we approached my old area of London and I nearly passed out. It was worth the trip. They had kept everything including the little kitchen, so it was almost exactly a mirror-image of Jack’s old house, and a flood of memories engulfed me as we sat in the front room eating cake (Jack rarely used his front room, but we would sit and have coffee and cake together on Friday mornings in the back room overlooking the garden, with his enormous speakers blaring out classical music)

Jack was a one-off. One day I’ll try to finish the post about him that I started writing two years ago!

If, like me, you are consumed by a lifelong love of art deco, perhaps – like me – you lie awake at nights worrying about what has been chucked into a skip that day

Thankfully, fellow blogger Art Deco Magpie dedicates his time to the essential business of documenting and photographing some wonderful deco buildings, providing an honest report of them, raising awareness and ensuring that they are immortalised in case of the unthinkable

His blog is full of streamline passion and is well worth a visit. I loved his post about the Piccadilly Line, featuring the fabulous stations I knew as a child growing up in Southgate

And when Baz captured this image on Saturday evening I knew I could find it a home

 

 

A Very British Sunburst

I was so sure I would manage all kinds of tasks while Baz was away, but I have been hit by cold-snap apathy over the last few days. Waiting nearly an hour for a cab to work this morning and the ensuing migraine were just the icing on the cake

I think it’s time to reflect on a previous project which I haven’t followed up on properly: the sunburst cabinet

In time for Christmas, it reached its potential as a drinks cabinet. It totally owns the living room at home and will not be going to France, being simply too BritishIMG_3987I have avoided any work to the wood itself. This cabinet is in great nick and I love its patina. Mirrors make it more glamorous, as does a shelf in the lower cupboard IMG_4023I added a cheap bath plug chain to give a stable working space on the fold-down doorIMG_4025I love how the top opens up. It’s very useful and I’m amazed at how many bottles I can stuff into it. The top is for beer and other small bottles, but it’s the bottom where the magic really happensIMG_4026

It’s such a sweet little cupboard and I love that something so basically made has, with very little effort, become such a star

Beauty Versus Usefulness

a tale of tiles and toilet talk

The long-awaited first bathroom is still (long) awaited, but getting ever closer. As I head back to France this weekend, I don’t yet know exactly when we will have a working toilet etc, but I do know that we are making progress

I showed Baz the beautiful tube-lined tiles I had found online as we sat on the sofa one morning before work

That’s when he used the ‘F’ word at me

‘Functional’

What he actually said was ‘Don’t you think we should go for something functional in the first bathroom?’

Functional is not a word we often use in our house – dysfunctional, yes, but functional, no. For instance, I would probably never buy anything purely because it was ‘functional’. So this suggestion was a real shocker for a woman finally reaching the stage of planning something decorative in this so far very un-decorative project. And I guess he must have awoken my inner dark passenger, completely unafraid to use her own ‘F’ word:

Functional? Don’t talk to me about (f******) functional! Finally I get the chance to do something gorgeous and you talk about functional?

There was more, but I risk wearing out the asterisk on my keyboard

‘OK, OK,’ said Baz, grimacing. ‘Just. Please. Never make your face look like that again’

I did realise that he was – at least partly – right. Our choices should be fairly sensible (yes, I hate that word too – and you might notice that I used the word ‘should’). While I still dream of art nouveau splendour and art deco sophistication, we cannot justify those tiles. This little bathroom may not be all it could be, but I am nonetheless very excited at the prospect of starting this project and I now have the scheme completely mapped out, barring the practicalities!!

‘You’re thinking about tiles again, aren’t you?’ said the all-seeing Baz, one day as we were driving home. I was, but it was just a daydream

So this morning, when I received an email from the smiley (he thinks/knows I’m bonkers) plumber asking me to start thinking about how I want the bathroom to be equipped, I was totally ready for it

I even offered to draw him a plan…

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tube-lined tile from Conway Road

 

 

 

The Fall of the House of Birds

Sanity is Optional

Builders blustering into the house has created a great deal of stress and creative energy. Here are some of today’s tableaux depicting progress. There were more but you’ve been spared because nerdpress got stroppy when I tried to upload them:

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‘La Toilette Qui Rit’
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‘Face With Cigar and Telescope’
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‘Jazz Collage’ (detail)
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‘Still Life With Resting Wheelbarrow’
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‘La Toilette Qui Dort’
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‘Stardust’

 

 

Bitten? I’m Smitten

Think before you lick that wallpaper

The recent cold dark evenings have not inspired as much paint-stripping as usual, especially as the rain, frustratingly, continues to get in through our garage roof

But, while the cold keeps me indoors more than normal, I can curl up on the sofa with ‘Bitten by Witch Fever’, a book which can only be described as very tasteful Victorian wallpaper pornimg_4101The book looks at the effect of the use of arsenic in papers, considerably widening the range of colours available. Opinion at the time was apparently divided between people who considered it terribly detrimental to the health to have such chemicals in their homes, and those who believed – rightly or wrongly – that it was only dangerous if they licked the wallpaper

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All the papers featured are catalogued with dates and manufacturers, many English but also some French

This book has made me re-think how I currently strip the paper in France. Until now I have not been wearing a mask or gloves, but I probably should protect myself from any possible ‘nasties’

And I am still trying to find information on this wonderful, if fragile, scenic paper in our salonimg_9078

This last picture (below) is a wall of the chapel at the fabulous Royal Holloway College in Egham, completed in 1886

img_3191I admit, I could barely keep from licking it!

A Bientot, Mes Oiseaux

La Maison des Oiseaux is calling me back

In an email exchange a month or so back, Gill (Blog-sur-Aude) referred to our house in passing as ‘La Maison des Oiseaux’. I found this fascinating, as I think of it also as a house of birds

Perhaps it was the loft full of pigeons, some living and laying, others fossilised, one of whom – living – ambushed me in the main hallway and made me jump out of my skin while the builders were replacing the roof, and leaving a mountain of detritus for me to clear up (the pigeons, not the builders)

Is it because I am ‘Poshbird’? No, I don’t think so

Anyway, I love birds. So, for whatever reason, I think the name fits our house. I might even find a suitably stylised bird to sit on the staircase in place of the missing bannister finial

And when this unusual winged wardrobe came up for sale I thought it was simply beautiful and I bought it with birthday money

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It sits on the deep bottom drawer, just visible in the mirror (as is my elbow)

It’s been packed up, so all I have are a few photos to drool over for now

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Bird motifs, gorgeous oak grain

‘A bientot, mes oiseaux!’

 

 

Not Everyday – the Wolfsonian

Just getting my regular fix

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We hadn’t researched Miami. Having been there years ago it seemed unnecessary. So when we stumbled upon this sight in the foyer of a building I was frantically taking photos through the glass doors until Baz explained that we were allowed inside. We had found the temple that is Miami’s Wolfsonian Institute

The Institute is apparently 15 years old (yes, it’s obviously a while since we visited!) and holds a small and beautifully chosen selection of items. Artworks include some rather unsettling 20th Century pictures, including a painting which deals openly with suicide. I apologise for the lack of quality in the photo, but I felt I had to include it

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Of course, I found myself mentally furnishing a home with the jaw-dropping selection of home items

IMG_0550Look at these gorgeous nouveau theatre chairs – I could definitely find space for these. And the leather is perfectly patinated and worn

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Cooking technology may have improved but you can’t tell me there’s a more lovely cooker anywhere today. Never mind practicalities, I would happily have this and never cook

And this would in turn mean that I would need the perfect toaster IMG_0569

But why have just one?

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My tea set would be flawlessly simple and silverIMG_0576

And of course I would have a stunning dressing table, with mirrored shelves and a floor-length mirror, in exactly the right shade of green

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.. and the latest beats. Though I would of course never part with my sunburst cabinet

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I realise that the items here might not push everyone’s buttons, but frankly I will never understand why. This post is obviously not for those people

It is for those of you who will feel exactly what I do when I look at these pieces. I want to touch these things and put them into my house context

Only kidding. Of course I mean my house really!

Beyond the Pale – Miami Pastels

IMG_0345A business trip brought us here, but it’s good to be back. There’s a special quality about the light, the orange juice (OMG I had forgotten how good it tastes!) and the ubiquitous form of art deco that we almost take for granted when the word ‘Miami’ is uttered

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The first few times we came here C was just a baby and so she has no recollection. One time, we stayed at the Breakwater, right in the hub of South Beach, where the downstairs nightclubs throbbed all night

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South Beach is where she took her early steps, but what she sees now is an exhibitionist’s chaotic paradise where nothing or no-one can be too bright, too loud or too visible. She adores the flashy top-end sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – that compete for attention, and loves the music emanating from every window of restaurants, bars and carsIMG_0736

Baz and I are not too old to enjoy these things, we’re honestly not

But for us Miami is still all about the art deco. Obviously. Many of these hotels were cheaply built, as is so often the case, and must require frequent maintenance. A few are shrouded in hoardings where major works are taking place, but there’s still plenty to seeIMG_0437

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I think it’s hard to beat these simple perfect curvesIMG_0411

I also adore the motifs featured on so many buildings – often painted in typical Miami-deco styledeco

And the odd bit of glass…

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For me, South beach is not somewhere to come for a rest, but for a change. There is a collision here, where the light meets the pastel colours and the shapes. Miami is a confection that relies on all these elements. In addition, it’s a bustling chaotic hub of a town where the buildings and the beach are an almost incidental background now to the nightlifeIMG_0347 We took a walk before the sun was up, and the only other people on the streets were dozing on the cafe chairs or walking aimlessly, hand-in-hand. Definitely a good time to enjoy it

 

 

Those kittens won’t shoot themselves

encounters on South Beach

The boardwalk provides a 4-mile morning loop on an ideal running surface to the temple of Starbucks at South Beach. It’s an easy run as long as I am back to the hotel before it gets impossibly hot each day (around 7 am)

The distinctive huts along the beach are my landmarks
IMG_0625Enjoying my temporary routine I notice others around me, who also start their day by coming hereIMG_0666

The cats are in all shades of ginger, grey, white and ‘Branston pickle’IMG_0710Taking shade in the sea grape bushes during the heat of the day, they appear each morning to enjoy small piles of kitty biscuits, lovingly placed by dedicated locals

By the second day I recognise several of the cats, and I am on nodding terms with a few people – some of them runners and some ‘feeders’. One lady says she feeds them ‘every day, sixty three of them’. Another man tells me he gives food to ‘about three dozen’. Clearly this is a great commitment and a real passion

As we settle in bed one night, we tell C that we will both be getting up at a time she’s only heard of, for me to run and Baz to find and photograph the groups of kittens that she won’t see during the day. She groans and pulls her cover over her head, unimpressed

‘Those kittens aren’t going to shoot themselves,’ says Baz, but in the morning the kittens elude us, ushered away by protective parents before we can snap them

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The beach walk is popular with runners, cyclists, dog walkers. Many people practise yoga. Many more sleep on the beach – some through choice, some through necessity. I see one man asleep each morning on the same piece of boardwalk, and there are many more adrift here

After a chaotic Saturday night in SOBE a pair of abandoned or forgotten gold-heeled shoes lounge on the beach. There are lovers and revellers not yet returned from clubbing. As I pass two men in their twenties sharing an early morning joint, one shouts out to me: ‘Good morning beautiful lady, you look great’

I am glad of his encouragement. Name me one fifty year old woman who wouldn’t enjoy that!IMG_0481

The initial warm breeze will become a searing heat by 7 am, so I am delighted to see the beach hut we christened ‘half-of-Lisa-Simpson-hut’, signalling that I am almost back at the hotel. It’s now our last morning in Miami, my last run in Miami, and a man shouts gruffly to me: ‘Cold! Eyes! Bitch!’

Just another nutter, this place is full of them …