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

 

 

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’

 

 

Relight My (Gas) Fire

Upcycling and alternative energy sources

Attractive pieces often get scrapped because they are no longer useful or relevant, so I wanted to re-purpose an old gas heater by turning it into a light. That was the plan – to be sensible and to dip my toes – but then I couldn’t choose between two of them, both very different, each with its own merits. So I bought both!

This one is SO unusual and such a beautiful shape. I could see its potential and fell in loveIMG_8959I think it’s made of aluminium. It was in three robust basic pieces (three very heavy pieces) when I got it, plus it had some perished gas-fitting gubbings that I removed easily (WD40 again!). It was absolutely filthy and took more effort to clean than I had expected, but even so it has a good patina and I’m glad it’s not too shiny IMG_8957I bought a small nickel bulb fitting and some nuts and bolts to put the bits together firmly, and a neighbour kindly drilled the base for me as the existing feed hole was too small (I didn’t have anything that could get through metal that solid). My main frustrations were (a) finding nice 3-core flex, which I eventually got on line and had to wait a couple of days for, and (b) getting the flex through the cord grip. There was some quiet swearing at that stage

It took time to wire the fitting and plug, because I am out of practice. It was a very hot evening and I’m blind to close work without my glasses but they slipped off my nose when I looked down, so when I do the next one I’ll be sensible and work at the table with a magnifying lamp – much easier

IMG_8964IMG_8960I’ve not seen another heater (or light!) like this. I like the fact that it’s so industrial-looking and yet so decorative and sculptural. The ‘stamen’ at the front hides the bulb completely from all angles and the light reflects back from the ‘petals’ of the back-plate. I think it looks lovely, quite sexy actually

We should all re-imagine something every now and again. Have you anything you might re-purpose?

Things Removal Men Say

Do they have to share opinions?

The two guys delivering my much-fêted pillow also brought some other bits I’ve been hoarding in the UK. They did a good job overall, though at least one of my Fragile – this way up boxes, containing an irreplaceable wall light, arrived the wrong way up. I pointed this out to them as they unloaded the vehicle and was greeted by blank expressions. After 20 years working in relocation I see that removals men still have no sense of orientation. Hopefully my packing stood up to this abuse

They made the normal compulsory comments about the size of the house, the state of the house, are we going to turn it into gites, etc, and had a bit of a dig about ‘the French’ while they were at it. They were just trying to make polite if opinionated conversation

Among the goodies was one of a pair of leather club chairs that we can’t fit in our living room at home. I had them place it in the empty salon, where I have now successfully tested it. It rocks

Then it happened…

‘Now this’, said one of the blokes, himself a Brit living in France, ‘is a man’s room. That armchair there and a big TV on that wall, that’s all you need’ He kindly expressed through mime the approximate size of his enormous imaginary TV and indicated the wall where I should put it, between the elegant, if very shabby, French doors

I really don’t think so

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Discovering Bexhill on Sea

Bexhill on Sea has a renowned art deco heritage and I have long regarded it as a sort of Deco mecca, but I am going to stick my neck out here and admit that when we first got there I was not impressed. It is the sort of seaside place that is suffering from lack of employment and it felt a little downtrodden (if you live there, please forgive me and read on). We had driven for hours to collect some lights I had bought on ebay (thank you, Mum!) and I was expecting to see plenty of Art Deco

The De La Warr Pavilion did not disappoint and the sun came out right on cue. The building is used as a cafe/ gallery/ meeting space and is by no means immaculate, but the bones of it are still as clean and pure as ever, and it was refreshing to see it living in the current day rather than being a museum

I do love a good staircase
I do love a good staircase

The staircase wasn’t easy to photograph because there was a bearded violinist* hanging around who was intent on diving into every shot as I lined it up. But I love a challenge

Fluid and fiddler-free
Fiddler-free Fibonacci in action

Any schoolchild could tell me that the success of its curves is due to the golden mathematical ratio identified by Fibonacci. I failed to grasp the concept when Charlotte brought it home at at age 8, but at least I recognise it in practice

This is a public building, beautifully sited and built to withstand heavy usage. There are no flourishes here, no quirky art deco details and in fact no attempt at decoration at all. The building simply functions and serves, while adding to the landscape

The pavilion still looks stunning from outside too, and the view is directly out to sea. It’s incredible to think that this building is now 80 years old and despite being built in built in 1935, it remains modern

Glamour

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There were other happy surprises for us as well. The Bexhill seafront has a lovely terrace of beautifully-kept arts and crafts villas, with long elegant gardens leading down to gates onto the promenade

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And there was a wonderful home on the seafront which had been turned into a work of found art and proclaimed the legend, ‘Let the sea all worries wash awai’

Do you think the scooter is part of the display?
Do you think the mobility scooter is part of the display?

We had very little time to do justice to this very British seaside town, and for all we know we may never go back, but I am pleased that we finally got there. Perhaps the most surprising thing to me was that there was no sea of like-minded people armed with cameras and that most of the people we saw walking around were clearly local. The focus of the building was on usage rather than admiration, and perhaps this is testament to its success

There is a lovely light by the sea
the promenade

 * I say ‘violinist’ only because he was carrying a violin. I didn’t hear him play it or use it as anything but a prop, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt.. There were also 2 girls doing vocal exercises at the bottom of the stairs. I haven’t referred to them as ‘singers’ because anyone craving attention can warm up their chords in public. At least they moved out of the way before I started taking pictures

Getting busy with the fizzy

Charlotte lamented recently that ‘humanity has evolved too far’, because every time she has a spanking new idea for her art, whether towards her GCSE or just for her own interest, she finds that someone has already thought of it. And done it

I know how she feels. We have now decided to keep the little sunburst drinks cabinet in the UK as it is so typically British and so 1930s. I fancied a mesh-covered soda syphon to sit on it, but I’d never use it and could not justify having one purely as an ornament, so I decided to up-cycle one into a lamp base because I (obviously) like anything booze-related. Google tells me that this is not even slightly original and that companies already buy them up, convert and resell them. Buying a ready-made one just didn’t appeal to me, so I grabbed one off ebay. (For argument’s sake I’ll call this the first of my birthday money). There are so many types of syphon available, from the bright metallic ones of my 70s childhood back to gorgeous elegant coloured glass examples, but I just love the texture of the mesh over the chunky glass, and it reminds me of my years working behind bars (oh dear, that doesn’t read well, does it!)

wonky shade, but you get the idea
wonky shade, but you get the idea

The one-piece electrical fitting cost me £5.80 on Amazon and could equally be used on other bottles, etc, so I may buy more in the future. All I had to do was take out the chrome top and delicate glass inner tube – and pack them away safely in case I ever need to restore it to usage. I then just stuffed the fitting into the top of the glass. No electrician required, and cheap as chips

Ray the sparky was round yesterday and he had not seen a fitting like this before. I have topped the base for now with a shade which is still a little drunk from an accident last Christmas where I swept it off the dinner table and it’s only held together by brown tape, so I need to make a new one using the old frame. I will search for a suitable remnant of fabric at the market this weekend ….