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.
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?
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.
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.
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.