Posts Tagged ‘123 Bethnal Green Road’

Musings on Maximal Interiors: from Hampton Court Palace to House of Hackney…

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The Hackney Empire Interior at the House of Hackney Pop-Up Shop.

Some people see an empty white room and feel a sense of peace, order and tranquility.  There are others for whom this is a blank canvas onto which they can lavish layers of love, adding a treasured piece of texture from their travels here, a handmedown from the family, or a cherished much coveted heirloom-to-be sourced from hours spent carousing car boot sales, markets, or auction houses.  I fall firmly into the latter category: what I described to M. Christian Lacroix as ‘too much is just enough’; I rest most happily in a world of more is more completeness.  While I can and do appreciate the clear charm of minimalism, there is for me an innate comfort in the creation of collections: the sheer enjoyment in the knowledge that my world is filled with pretty things.

This love of maximality started young: obsessed with history, I would try to recreate the past in my imagination – via the portals of time-travel, jumble sales and wardrobe.  Aged 7, I was quite the young fogey: partial to a puff sleeve in the style of Holly Hobby and Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Fast track a few years and I was at my happiest collecting again while living out of a rucksack: from traditional Indian fabrics, to handicrafts my Turkish aunties made in our village (my Aunty Meryem was shocked when I coveted an old deeply gorgeous slightly frayed patchwork quilt over a brand new one) and vintage kimonos in Japan from the Tokyo Salvation Army sales.  What might start filled with base essentials, would on each trip mushroom into a Mary Poppins universe in a bag, filled with new treasures, as I explored ideas of  colour, fabric, texture and taste through travel-happy folkloric ritualised design (part of my aunts’ dowries were 100 piece of embroidered bedding), thus to a sense of the timeless root  of beautified utilitarian design.

Last week we went on a day out adventure to the mothership of my childhood time travel fantasies: Hampton Court Palace.  It was one of those alchemically divine early Spring days, the light was bright and the day filled with hope of sunshine days to come.

Entrance to another world: where magic happens through the arched doorway.

Taking in the Tudor Kitchens.

Like a tourist... In William and Mary's garden.

Stuart Maximal Neo-Classical Order

Tudor Chimneys resting in a beautiful blue sky.

What is quite amazing about Hampton Court Palace is how each epoch danced time on her surface: from Cardinal Wolsey’s Thames-side retreat, gifted to Henry viii and Anne Boleyn when The King’s Matter (his divorce from Catherine of Aragon) seemed out of reach and his own future doomed, to Tudor pleasure palace, through to the renovations undertaken by William and Mary, who had hoped to totally rebuild it, as a response to Versailles’ stylistic dictate of royal living.  As they ran out of money, they had to accept this hotch-potch half Tudor, half Neo-Classical patchwork of a palace: eras grafted onto each other.  Somehow to me this is more poetic, more English as we constantly edit and reapply our design motifs onto the past – how many Victorian London terraces have been gutted and remodelled in the last decade to display a new opened out kitchen, defying the rectangular narrow design of the original?

Admiring Charles 1st's portrait - hung directly opposite William of Orange's throne: defiance or humility?

The sheer luxury of William of Orange's velvet privy was not lost on me!

Admiration for Anne...

From Hampton Court, we went to visit Lesley Silwood, from Buba London at her idyllic island Thames house.  Jeremy was quite entranced with the idea of us relocating to this magical place: resting on the riverbank, it is amazing, very Swallows and Amazons.  Lesley and Euan similarly embrace the maximal approach to living: with Euan’s zingy poptastic artworks, Lesley’s partiality for sparkly treasure updates, which given her mother is a vintage clothes dealer, means she knows (!) it did translate into a sunset slice of paradise.  Recently branching into homeware from their  gorgeous bag collections, Buba London have designed the most gorgeous pouffes, a white one of which sat rather comfortably in their bright expanse of kitchen, as we looked out at their cat tormenting their rabbit rather mercilessly in his front garden hutch.

Buba London Pouffe.

As we are about to have a baby, but waiting to move from our let’s call it compact one bedroom apartment until after the birth (translation: until we know what we’re doing!), Jeremy has been actively modifying the space: from creating a shoe cupboard, to repackaging my Victorian owls.  As we aren’t moving yet, rather than install the new kitchen we bought a few months ago (still in boxes in the garage until we move), we have restyled it on a budget thanks to wallpaper and willpower.  Adhering to the maximal codes of overlaid design, I feel rather proud of the results.

Taxidermitastic for Tamara.

After butterflies and gnomes, came owls - an ode to collecting..!

Kitchen refurbishment rather than Kitchen overhaul, thanks to a spot of wallpapering.

The original cabinets are rather revolting and if we were planning on staying much longer then the spanking brand new ones we have chosen, bought and paid for, would now be shining in all their boxfresh glory.  But as we are aiming to move, this then is a Spring-hopeful transformation.

Last night we popped over the launch party of the East End’s ode to maximalism: The House of Hackney, a pop-up shop on the strip of road where Dalston meets Stoke Newington.  Their delightful hostess Madeleine guided us on a tour of the space: three themed spaces, with sustainably locally sourced interiors, where fun and OTT embrace the more is more prerequisites of layering, redesigning and making you think.  I loved the Hackney Empire room, with its Mad Hatter sense of psychedelic Victorianism.

Walls have been stripped back to reveal their Georgian past, while mirrors have been over printed with floral designs and updated with graffitti.  I was totally charmed: perhaps I was old before my time, my little girl well-being was as rooted in how a space feels; and as such I have always felt the pangs of lust of a luscious interior, as much as for a snazzy pair of shoes.  What is charming here is to see how this world order has been translated into something at once layered with an homage to the building’s many pasts, with current stylistic solutions and humorous analogies: Colefax and Fowler on acid indeed!

Have you ever imagine what happened if we dared to step through the looking glass and saw the world through topsy-turvy spectacles for an afternoon?  Well I think it might be rather fun: a place where our eccentricities sense order in their madcap escapades and where good design is shown it’s ultimate OTT overhauled conclusion.

If you do go down to Dalston this weekend, take a trip to the basement where cult baker Lily Vanili’s subterranean tea room will complete your tour.  Jeremy reported that the espresso martini was rather delicious.  As Lily had fed us at Amelia’s 123 Bethnal Green Road book launch, it felt like a full stop to the circle to enjoy them here too at another of London’s charmingly creative responses to duller than ditchwater corporate uniformity.

http://www.bubalondon.com/

http://www.houseofhackney.com/

http://www.hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace/

 

 

 

HRH Dukey’s Baby Shower at 123 Bethnal Green Road

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

A list of deliciousness available at Dukey's Baby Shower

Last Sunday I hosted Dukey’s Baby Shower at the newly opened Bunker Cafe, at 123 Bethnal Green Road (www.123bethnalgreenroad.co.uk): a shop whose products are all sustainably sourced from within the boundaries of the M25.  What I loved about the store, when I came to Amelia’s book launch there last month, is the way it combines a simple use of space with quirky eccentricities.  Plus designers sold there include some old friends, such as JJ aka Noki, which adds another layer of familiar cuteness to the equation.

The Bunker Cafe pre-celebrations: prepped for the baby shower

My lovely god daughter Zoe came down for the weekend on an exeat from her school in Taunton to take up the mantle of face painting artistry; while Mark commuted between shows at Covent Garden for balloon animal-making duty (plus a rather ‘creative’ balloon neopolitan ice cream, as well as randomly sized swords, which was perhaps more than a sleight of hand!..).

Zoe, brush in hand.

Mark displaying his skills.

Face Painting Art Direction: note how the result matches the outfit - genius!

The staff at The Bunker Cafe were lovely: providing a carb-fest high tea of scones and victoria sponge, combined with Siam’s super-duper triple layered home-made carrot cake. The result: a relaxed soporific haze of smiles and contented stomachs; while mini-munchkins compared their face painted results, enjoyed a spot of colouring book wizardry and fought each other with balloon-shaped swords.

Eddie and Rocco as Spidermen.

Jeremy arrived for the last hour; displaying if ever we needed reminding our divergent tastes in wardrobe!

All smiles from Dukey's Glamour Aunties!

Mum aka Grandma!

As the countdown to motherhood rushes on unabated: part exciting, part scary; this was a really special afternoon, filled with kindness and smiles. Pregnancy can be isolating and I am sure so can early motherhood, it was then, all the more lovely to spend time with friends, basking in a golden glow of love and kindness.  We were bought some fantastically gorgeous gifts, Dukey (our nickname for the bump) will clearly be the best-dressed baby in town!

Tea, cake and art: a delightful Friday afternoon ritual!

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Last Friday, I went along to Amelia’s book launch at the lovely Bunker basement soon to be opened cafe at 123 Bethnal Green Road with Siam and of course, my permanent guest of honour, ‘Dukey’ the 6 month bump (currently showing his flair for rugby high kicks while I type!).

Amelia is someone I have known since she assisted my old friend and fellow Watford evacuee (though she went back!), Lou Winwood.  She then took the brave step to launch her own magazine: http://www.ameliasmagazine.com/ which after 5 years as a biennial print publication, is going online, while she concentrates on book publishing and other projects.  Her last book I remember poring over in a bookshop on Broadway Market, so I was keen to see what was on offer this time, with ‘Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration’, a book of illustrations by new artists of sustainable fashion designs.

123 was a bit of a revelation (www.123bethnalgreenroad.co.uk): like a Georgian house, where winding wooden staircases led to rooms filled with old friends’ designs: JJ’s Noki collections feature heavily, alongside other designers with a sustainability slant, including the lovely Kenna (hairdresser extraordinare of my wedding day locks) even more lovely girlfriend Aimee McWilliams’ designs. 123′s stock is sourced purely from the M25 radius.  I felt amongst friends; Siam felt partial to a good shop, which suited me as I sat in a lovely leather chair, surveying the room and edited her choices from my new ad hoc throne.

Meanwhile downstairs in the Bunker Cafe there was much merriment to be had.  As someone whose first home economics lesson at her rather aspirational girls’ school was how to bake a victoria sponge, prepare the cucumber sandwiches and correctly lay a tea tray, for the English lady’s ritual that is high tea, I have never been one to shy away from that gathering of the clan, that genteel art, which is afternoon tea and conversation.  Girls in brightly coloured tights, with sleek hennaed hair, or patterned frocks, pinned with antique brooches, drawing pad in hand, offered to paint our portraits, while we sipped Pukka teas and surveyed the mountains of miniature gilt edged scones, which we could diy coat with lashings of jam and cream, laid out on vintage china.  This, I thought was my kind of party.

Jenny Robins (http://www.jennyrobins.co.uk/) painted my portrait, I was amazed that she could paint without seeming to mark her corners.  Here I am, doing what all expectant mothers seem to do: hug their precious bump, aah!

Impressive I think and a marvellous aide-memoire for when he is born, of what pregnancy was like.  Siam’s portrait was a fabulously glamorous rendition of her 1940s aka a Nana Golda Goorwich-inspired outfit, velvet turban et al!

It was such a charming sparkly way to spend a Friday afternoon, the bubble of which was certainly not burst when I surveyed the treasures incarnate in the goody bag (thank you Amelia!): I defy any woman to not smile with delight (and possibly squeal) when presented with gifts including Dr Hauschka products, Tatty Devine treasures, magazines and more.  This ocean of beneficent goodwill carried me forth to buy my husband bagels on Brick Lane, drive back to North London listening to Pulp and into the weekend with a sense that all is right, nice and proper in the world – just as it should be after an afternoon tea soiree!