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

 

 

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

A 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 The first few times we came here C was just … Continue reading “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

 

 

West Bay Weekend

Is that OUR van?

Having parked the van way too easily the night before (The Thrill of the Chaise / Pugs and Pink Jugs ), we were stopped in our tracks as we reached the car park

All down the back and sides of the van was a stream of seagull ploppings. In less than twelve hours it had been completely ‘pebble-dashed‘ and the two gulls on top looked pretty bloody smug. Baz suggested that perhaps the Bridport and West Bay Tourist Board could use this photo?

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‘Still Life with Van and Gull’

At Bridport market I found lovely brass tiebacks on a stall where the lady remembers us even though it’s sometimes months between visits. Her price was so good I took the lot, and she shoved them into a carrier bag, telling us she only brought them with her as an afterthought that morning and that she’s still hoping to find suitable glass shades for my weird chandelier

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We wandered around the junk shops of St Michaels without buying anything, then took a friend’s tip for lunch at the recently-opened Dorshi – absolutely delicious

After a coffee at the flat and armed with ice creams, we struck out in our walking boots in search of bluebells at Eype Down. My sprained ankle made me very slow, but I needed to see how it coped on uneven ground. Not very well, as it turned out. Unfortunately we were a couple of weeks early for the best of the bluebells

Chesil Beach was lit up by the sun and Portland stretched across the horizonIMG_8776.JPG

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There were lambs – it is April, after all. They are such dear little things. There were ones and twos, blonds and brunettes

And even a little redhead

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Back at West Bay we went out on the harbour and watched the late afternoon sun hitting East Cliff, along to Freshwater and Burton Bradstock

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After missing out on beer the night before we had a proper night out with friends watching the Skimmity Hitchers at the Ropemakers (And yes, the beer tasted WONDERFUL)

Job done

The Thrill of the Chaise / Pugs and Pink Jugs

One of those evenings when you just want to get to the pub

We borrowed the company van for the weekend and headed off for West Bay. The weekend stretched ahead, promising two nights of proper pubs and some live music. We could just taste that first beer

We needed to make a detour off the M3 to pick up a chaise I had bought on Ebay. The seller seemed fairly abrupt in her messages, so I kept her updated on our progress, arriving at the agreed time of 7.30pm, despite the satnav spluttering and flatlining when we needed it most

We parked up and could see a lot of junk/stock piled in a conservatory. Baz stayed at the gate and I rang the doorbell several times to no avail. I tried repeatedly to telephone the lady, but it just rang and went to voicemail, over and over. I sent emails. I knocked awkwardly a few times on the door but I really didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go peering in the windows but we had come all this way and…

Judging from what I had seen, she was obviously a hard-nosed dealer

Or…

Or…

…Or a delightfully eccentric elderly lady who had fallen asleep and who eventually came to the door flanked by two pugs, one of whom had apparently woken her up

She told me the chaise was in the garage, but after looking around extensively she concluded that she could not find the garage key. A mere mortal such as myself might have been embarrassed and apologised. But not Lady with Pugs

‘Never mind. My partner will be back from Keep Fit class soon. One of us is very fit and the other is fat’ she announced. She was not very fit. ‘You’ll have to come in and wait. I’ll make you a coffee’

Baz and I exchanged exasperated glances as we stepped through the door behind her.  ‘Are you a dealer?’ I asked LwP, taking stock of the lime-green painted dresser in the kitchen, crammed with a jumble of mainly green jugs and vases, and pointing out to Baz a cute pink art deco jug on the top shelfIMG_8826

We followed LwP to the kitchen, where she set about making me a coffee. ‘Oh yes, I was a trader for years, but at my age it’s getting difficult because I have brittle bones. The class finishes at 8 o’clock, so she should be back by ten past’

I saw Baz slump at the prospect of spending over half an hour in an elderly stranger’s house. We were totally trapped

By the time my coffee was ready, the three of us sat at a small kitchen table and a little black pug was asleep on my right boot, snoring loudly. The larger pug was happily licking the knee of Baz’s jeans. It felt quite homely and I made an effort to keep chatting to pass the time. She asked what sort of things I like and I told her of my lifelong obsession with art deco and my love of art nouveau. I was sitting next to an impressive metal art nouveau jug, just plonked on the kitchen surface and barely visible, competing as it was with random other stuff

LwP said she had given up collecting art deco in favour of her passion for the work of Edinburgh-born artist Russell Flint She struggles with mobility after a huge operation on her foot and she spoke of how she’d like to sell up and move back to Spain. To be honest the time passed very quickly, it was easy to make conversation and soon the front door opened. A petite spandex-clad and slightly younger lady stepped in, carrying a yoga mat

‘This lady is here to pick up the sofa and I can’t find my garage key’ said LwP

‘Oh, have you lost your keys again?’ (Fitty in Spandex)

‘The one thing does not equate to the other’ maintained LwP

As the lady in lycra was infinitely more mobile and had a key, she suggested we follow her to the garage. I thanked LwP for the coffee and as we were leaving, she asked me what I had seen on the dresser. I told her it was the little pink jug and she told me to take it, but of course I refused

‘I do a boot sale on a Wednesday morning and that was going with me this week. I’ll get nothing for it. I want you to take it’

I thanked her, embarrassed, and asked Baz to reach up for the jug. As he did, LwP said, ‘Just check there’s no money in it’. Baz dutifully shook it and it rattled. At first I wondered if it might be her keys (it was one of those evenings), but there was a load of change inside it and he tipped it out for her. She shook our hands warmly at the door and I meant it when I said it had been a pleasure to meet her

The nippy little lady in lycra made light work of moving things in the garage and she helped us load the chaise into the van, easily hopping up inside to make sure it was securely loaded, and we said goodbye

I spent the rest of the ride clutching my precious vase, delighted with this little gift. It was getting quite dark and Baz wanted the journey to end. We were an hour behind schedule, hungry and thirsty

So, did we make it to the pub?

We did not. We parked up opposite the flat and threw together some pasta, washing it down with red wine. We sat in front of the telly, dissecting the evening’s entertaining events and the little jug sat in its new home

 

How Low Can We Go?

There are clues everywhere, but put on your sunglasses

It’s exciting to find dates on things. I got a rush when I noticed that the panel of the attic door which we use on a daily basis is patched up with a financial report from 1914. Did someone from the house have links with Paris at that time?

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Newspaper seems to have been used liberally in the house. It’s great because it helps establish dates. The latest so far is 1983

On our first weekend at the house (Wine, Weather and Woodworm – 4 nights in Quillan) we noticed a door from one bedroom which didn’t open, while the other side of it in the ‘Jewel Room’ had fabric wall covering continued across it, making it invisible. The fabric covered the entire room, but we removed it from one wall amid a tempest of dust, exposing two layers of paper, the bottom one being pure ‘jazz age’ in exuberant zig zag, while also incorporating stripes and curves (below right). I love art deco but this is hideous

Having removed the paper from the wall with the door, I found that they had filled out the old door with cardboard and newspaper to make it flush with the wall before papering

The date of the stocks and shares is 9th August 1895. Under the newspaper is also some very old sort-of-flock paper, in a beautiful teal colour. It must have once looked very impressive, and it presumably pre-dates the newspaper

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Back in ‘the big cupboard room’ I purloined the builders ladder from the attic and have unleashed a torrent of papers. There are flowers, geometric print with flowers, stripes with bouquets, just stripes and then a simple one-colour blue on a pale background under them all

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Geometric with flowers – do you think it’s too much?

The one thing the occupiers of this house didn’t over-use was restraint. My neck and shoulders ache tonight, but I’m getting a little bit closer to the bones of the house now

 

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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The Savoy Still Sparkles

Baz picked up a ‘Groupon’ for Kaspars Grill at the Savoy. Even more than the food, I was aching to visit such an art deco icon. We tubed it to Green Park and took a walk first, past the Ritz and down through St James (we’re such tourists!)IMG_7630

My ‘Rivoli Bar’ shot

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Baz’s ‘Rivoli Bar’ shot

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We passed Rowleys with its sumptuous tiling. Then we stopped for a pint at the Admiralty on Trafalgar Square to start the evening

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Love the tiling at Rowleys
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We’re told this is the only right hand drive road in the UK

The Savoy is of course a landmark. Inside it is a grand space, but the intimate seating areas and changes of floor level and finish, make it feel cosy as you pass through. It was tempting to sit and try every grouping, every corner

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Over a glass of champagne, we ordered scallops, ceviche, chargrilled halibut and a cod loin served with poached egg, followed by heavenly desserts. Despite the voucher it really wasn’t a cheap night out!

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Perhaps what really grabbed me was the use of glass. There were mirrors, glass sculptures and lighting everywhere. It was glamorous and opulent, as it should be

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the fountain

Our cameras sat upon our table, and a waiter was surprised to see that I have a Canon while Baz has a Nikon. Oddly enough, it was Baz who always had Canons until he bought this camera., whereas I bought my first Nikon at 18 years old and remained loyal until I tried a Canon at a photographic event in Yellowstone Park and found it very user-friendly. They are both entry-level cameras and our first digital SLRs . The results we get are often very different, mainly because of our approaches. The top photos illustrate this quite well

We wandered past the stately Simpsons as we left, and felt the fairly hostile night-time atmosphere of the Strand as we headed to Charing Cross for the journey home

Baz snapped a deli on the Strand. The staff were still at work and the interior looked cosy and inviting. Both of us felt this was our favourite shot of the night

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I borrowed this atmospheric deli shot from Baz

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

The Bogey Drip (a bench in chandelier heaven)

As we headed down Berwick Street on the edge of Soho, a mirage appeared in the form of a narrow shop-front with a chaotic window crammed with scruffy-looking chandeliers and lanterns. As we crossed the road I could barely contain my excitement …

(A bit of background: Until about a year ago chandeliers were ‘not my sort of thing’. Yet when I wanted an injection of glamour in our bedroom, somehow only a chandelier would do. I was actually slightly embarrassed that I wanted one and I expected an anti-bling backlash from Baz and C, but they egged me on to find something I liked. I did, and once it was installed by Ray the sparky I was seduced by the effect of the light. This started a crystal-fuelled frenzy and it’s very lucky that the French house came along to save our simple little bungalow from being turned into a Disney castle)

… As we entered the shop, the man re-stringing a large chandelier by the door invited us to look around the chaotic jumble of ‘stuff’ hanging from the ceiling and standing on the floor. As there was no obvious path through the cluttered room we ventured up the stairs, the walls of which were similarly festooned in grubby ormolu wall lights and sconces

Five floors of fragile orphans lay ahead. At each level there was one small room, cluttered with unloved lights dripping down from ceilings and walls, and strewn on tables and benches. Filthy and unrestored, they were all waiting to be renovated to order and re-homed. Some were no doubt more desirable than others but to my untrained eye they were all beautiful in their decay. I doubt I would have left empty-handed if I’d been on my own

Insane. How would you ever find anything?
How would you choose just one?

Back downstairs, I admired a large crackle-glazed glass shade dangling from a bronze hanger, which the owner referred to as the ‘bogey drip’ on account of its shape. He told us he nearly sold it recently, but when he took it down from the ceiling there was a dead mouse in it and the lady buyer ran screaming from the shop, never to return. When he told me the price I nearly screamed and ran off too

Chaos and intrigue
Chaos and magic on every floor

I said that I could easily spend a week looking around. ‘Well,’ he suggested theatrically, ‘We have a bench on the stairs. It’s 250 quid a month or you can rent it by the hour.’

Bright lights and a bench to rent by the hour. That’s pure Soho!!