Friday 12 January 2018

World of Interiors 12

Arranging books on shelves with spines inwards is a ridiculous “trend” much touted in early 2018. (To achieve the same effect, cover your books in neutral-coloured paper, as people used to do.)

"I suppose we’ve always reused things", says Caro Stow-Crat, over lunch with Samantha Upward at a new eaterie accessorised with redundant kitchen equipment. "An old hot water can is splendid for watering the garden. But I get a bit depressed by all these empty cake stands and old fire buckets. It’s OK to reuse things, but as decoration? I suppose it’s the same as hanging up copper warming pans and carpet beaters, like they did in the 50s. Now, what can I do with granny's spill vases…?"

"Put pencils in them," suggests Samantha. "Oh, look, a lovely old wooden Camembert box. And a Horlicks mug... I must confess I stole a Fortnum's chocolate box from a girl at school. I used it as a pencil case and kept it for years. We call it "repurposing" now!"

Country Living Magazine shows a bedroom with a wooden four-poster bed (though the posts are too short to hold up a canopy). The floorboards are exposed but have been sanded and sealed too aggressively (they’re orange and look too new). The door is made of recycled wood and looks like a stable door (in a Georgian house). There are recycled planks stuck to the wall, forming a backdrop to a Victorian picture of some sheep in a gilt frame. The whole effect is of a titled family down on its luck that has been forced to camp in an outbuilding.

Though it's not quite as decadent as the “abandoned houses of the Hebrides” aesthetic, which shades into “servants’ quarters of derelict Irish country house”.

The School of Life’s perfect home is, again, Georgian. The floorboards are exposed, though they at least look antique. The Georgians would have put down drugget, and covered it with Turkish carpets. There’s a chest of drawers floating randomly in a corner, and an open trunk on the floor. A distressed leather pouffe is the crowning touch – or is it a Gladstone bag?

DECOR CRIMESIn a Victorian/Edwardian house, it's naff to expose the fireplace and put a copper hood inside, then add a wood mantelpiece of the wrong period. The fireplace would have had an inner “surround”, with a cast iron grate in the middle. The Edwardians and earlier would have been appalled at exposed brick in your living-room. A Victorian room would have had a wide mantelpiece (with drapery on the mantelshelf), and the Edwardians loved elaborate overmantels. (I've just seen a room in a house for sale painted entirely in peach – including the fireplace, mantelpiece and grate.)

In a Victorian house, don't strip the doors: paint them cream.

And don't knock through and extend so enthusiastically that you end up with odd bits of wall sticking into spaces. In this arrangement, the same dull fitted carpet “flows” through the entire ground floor. Everything is too new, but there’s one ye olde artefact in the wrong place (the potato weighing scales in the living room).

Think twice before adding a “glass box” extension to a standard semi. So you remove all downstairs dividing walls and build a huge glass-roofed extension into the garden, removing all character from because you need lots of space to... do what exactly?

The entrance hall, which was big enough to contain a large fireplace, had probably been designed to be used as a breakfast-room. The first thing seen on coming in was... a wood-carving of a helmeted guardsman with a shield and spear standing on a pediment carved with animal heads. (The Great Indoors, Ben Highmore on a Jacobethan castle – from the 30s.)

White walls and a large black-and-white photograph of pebbles .(The Great Indoors, Ben Highmore)

Dangling replica antique light bulbs (Edison bulbs). They give out a dim, cold light that you can’t read by.

Fake shuttered concrete internal cladding.

Garish carpets in public spaces.

Very dim lighting in public spaces and museums.

“Restoring” Victorian ghost signs.

Giant sculptures of human body parts in public places (a half-sunk visage in Cavendish Square, huge nudes outside St Pancras church blocking the view of the beautiful caryatids).

Terrible modern art in medieval cathedrals.
Frosted glass partitions.
Buildings in the shape of a giant human head. (Le Guetteur 2015)

Sentimental garden sculptures, “sculpture park” sculpture, memorial sculpture.

From The Times
carpet in bathrooms
armchairs ditto
TV in every room
Roman blind in kitchen
pedestal mats in the loo
cat litter in kitchen (and cat food)
utensil rack above hob
Victorian pulley clothes drier (maiden)
Aga in the city "They’re used mainly for heating country houses.”

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 1 January 2018

What to Wear 7

The Daily Mail has some style rules for women at work, 2016:

Replace your droopy cardigan with a tailored jacket.
Update your scuffed handbag. They recommend something “structured” with panels of patent leather.
No scuffed shoes, trainers or flip-flops.
Avoid flashy, clanking jewellery, but don’t replace it with tiny, timid, conventional pendants and earrings.
Avoid too much animal print.
Keep updating your image, and get your teeth done.
Shoes and bags – invest in quality.
Don’t wear anything too tight (skinny jeans, or a pencil skirt that ends up as a concertina of wrinkles).
No ripped jeans.
Dark denim is classier than bleached.

Caroline Stow-Crat comments: "My 'scuffed' handbag was handmade for my grandmother and is still going strong, thank you very much. And I would ban animal print in offices – or anywhere! How about a nice velvet blazer with an antique brooch on the lapel?" 

In the US, people look down on jeans with rhinestones, writing or flowers on the back pockets – or without back pockets.

Two-buttoned sports jackets were naff, and “never brown in town”. (JP)

A lady would not go to a wedding in her riding clothes, and she would not go shopping in a ball gown. At a basic level, she shows her taste and decorum by dressing quietly. She does not seek to draw attention to herself through her dress. Elegance is found in understatement. A lady’s apparel should be neat and tidy.
(Victorian etiquette manual)

In September 2017, John Lewis removed “boys” and “girls” labels from its children’s clothes. In response, a Catholic priest vowed never to visit the department store again, with or without a cassock. Caro wonders why small children are all dressed in pyjamas these days.

The piece of Burma jewellery worn glitteringly over one breast instead of in the centre where any sensible woman would have worn it. Or the shoes cut away so that the big toe was open to the weather. Or the clip-on ear-rings.
(A character from London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins worries about his daughter’s choice of friend. The Burma company made Art Deco rhinestone brooches.)

"My dear! and got up regardless... one of those little hats with an eye-veil... three-inch diamant√© heels... such bad taste with a semi-toilette... fish-net stockings and all...’ (In Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy L. Sayers, two typists speculate about an unexpected visitor to the office. Another Sayers character, Miss Murchison, wears skirts that are “the regulation four inches below the knee” – in the 20s - and “not too much face powder”.)

"You won't mind Robert not wearing evening dress," she said. "He never will if he can help it. I shall just slip on a semi-toilette myself." (All Roads Lead to Calvary, Jerome K Jerome But what was it? A more restrained kind of evening dress?)

In the 1950s and 60s, there was a type of older lady who wore hot pink lipstick, a fur coat, magnificent faux jewellery, a Chanel-style suit over a corselette, long lacquered nails and lots of rings. She walked about in a cloud of expensive perfume. She had been elegant all her life. She pretended she’d heard what you’d said, and understood what you were talking about, and laughed rather desperately. She may have thought it common to keep saying “What did you say?”, associating deafness with lower-class ailments like adenoids. EM Forster in Howard’s End calls it “degraded deafness”. Poor Jacky is always saying “What?”, but she is “not respectable”.

The Times had a field day when Pippa Middleton married a hedge fund manager. Apparently HFMs are VERY rich. But the couple are new, not old Chelsea: “Pippa is a nouveau-Chelsea girl.” 

“To us Notting Hill dwellers, these ladies seem to live in a fashion time warp. ‘Frankly, Pippa often looks like she’s going to work in an office as a secretary,’ says a neighbour. ‘You have to understand that fundamentally Pippa and Kate’s style is English suburban,’ says a society friend. ‘They’re very plain and safe in their choices.’”

An interior designer speculates about the couple's new home: “There will be white sofas with pink and turquoise touches. Not too modern... Perhaps a Perspex table with some colour... There will be a Plain English kitchen and lots of Farrow & Ball."

The Times adds that “having been raised in a middle-class household”, Pippa probably won’t employ many staff, but for big dinners she may hire a sought-after Italian butler. 
Basically, concludes the Times, “She is a Home Counties girl at heart”. And what could be more damning?

More here, and links to the rest.