Every year in June the Chelsea design quarter holds open its doors for a late night spectacular, the drinks flow and the conversations are merry. This year we decided to invite three designers to take over our windows, putting their own personal style within the space, with carefully curated items from Guinevere, of course.
The three designers were Geoffroy Van Hulle from Belgium, Sig Bergamin from Brazil, and Phillip Thomas from the USA.
The showroom was a veritable hive of activity in the weeks leading up, with the designers jetting in and out, wallpapering, covering walls in fabric, gallons of paint, trim, furniture selections etc. etc. The results simply blew us away, it is amazing if you say to three designers, “we want colourful windows, no beige interiors” what each of them come up with, all very different, but most importantly all very colourful! And so they soon became our Three Kings of Colour.
Geoffroy Van Hulle’s window has a clear and undeniable Moroccan theme. The absolutely divine hand painted wallpaper from Iksel called Ottoman Tent Mehmet, with walls and ceiling covered. The whole of one side dominated by an antique upholstered Kilim sofa, with velvet sides and tassel trim. An orientalist painting by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer fits in effortlessly. Dark, comforting and layered.
Next onto Sig Bergamin, and his Garden room. The walls, the ceiling, and the floor were all covered in D’ascoli fabric and the result is amazing, different patterns/colour ways on each wall creates a room to really stop and admire. Never one to shy away from a more maximal look, Sig’s window is full to the brim, the shelves overflowing with colourful glass trinkets, books & ivy vines (from Fake It flowers). A pair of beaded chairs, hand made by the Yoruba people, fit in perfectly, a complete clash of patterns, drawing the eye to the center of the room, where there is so much to see.
Last but by no means least, colour from across the pond. Phillip Thomas created a sophisticated space with red speckled wallpaper from Pierre Frey (plumettes) and thick stripes in ikat style wallpaper, also Pierre Frey (taraz), finished with a simple fabric trim by Samuel and sons, a fantastic idea, which really added a bit of height to an otherwise very squat room. The room was filled, with a fabulous boulle work desk and unusual artifacts such as this ceremonial breastplate, a room that can be wandered around and admired at leisure. The ceiling with its tiles of yellows and golds glistens at you, creating an added layer of intrigue.
We enjoyed this project so much; it has got us thinking how we will top it next year?!
“The charm of the dhurrie lies in its simple treatment of the decorative details, and the principles of symmetry repetition”
Dhurries are functional, decorative and extremely durable. These cotton rugs are made by weaving horizontal and vertical threads.
In the C19th Dhurrie manufacturing entered a new phase, which led to several exhibitions of dhurries in Europe and India. The first major Industrial exhibition in Europe promoting international trade and manufacture was the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, London 1851.
Weaving was originally divided into three distinct categories:
Private Workshops in towns. This category was predominantly driven by the British owned cotton mills.
Prison There was fierce competition between the private industries and prison workshops and inter-jail rivalry. This category was pioneered by the Maharajas who wanted to ensure the inmates had a skill and a way of making money once they were released and had the added bonus of helping make prisons a little more profitable with the sale of the Dhurries. The practice of prison dhurrie production still continues today and many of the prisoners are in fact paid for their skills.
Village This tradition is still passed from mother to daughter and is an integral part of village life for women. Originally the cotton was hand spun by the women with the yarns being sent to be dyed by men.
India is renowned for its vibrant colours and the natural dyes produced gave subtle, even colours which faded equally when exposed to light. Some colours and dyes were specific to certain areas so can be used to age and identify original dhurries. Chemical dyeing which was introduced in the C19th produced harsher colours, although much cheaper to produce, they don’t age as well as the vegetable dyes. Since the 1990s, and mainly through Western demand, attempts have been made to reintroduce natural dyeing by craftsmen.
Originally, cotton was hand spun on a wooden spinning wheel called a charka. It is a laborious and time-consuming task in which everyone participates, often sustaining village economy and traditional lifestyle. This craft continues today. Although rare, woollen dhurries can still be found though they are now made primarily for export. These were originally made for the Northern regions of India and Pakistan where the climate is much cooler.
Gul/Medallion 55493 There is the never-ending medallion design which covers a dhurrie or the smaller design with a central row of medallions or one central large medallion. Guls were derived from a lotus blossom motif and were a particularly prevalent design in the late C19th. 55479, to the right, is an example of ‘hooked’ guls.
Inexperienced weavers often started with a simple striped dhurrie before incorporating more colours and more intricate designs. Striped dhurries have always been favoured by the British who have been importing them for centuries. Striped dhurries were regularly used as underlay for the more intricate and expensive carpets and rugs in palaces.
Weavers often graduated onto geometric designs after learning how to weave striped dhurries. Geometric designs would often incorporate emblems or architectural decorations from within the palace or fort the dhurrie resided. The tile design features heavily within this geometric category (55488) and a ‘tile’ design dhurrie was used as the backdrop of the Indian pavilion at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Stylised birds, in particular, peacocks can often be found portrayed in dhurries as these birds are very auspicious in Indian culture. Wealthy families would commission extravagant pictorial dhurries as a way of displaying their wealth.
Flooring – Used as a floor covering during cooler months or outside for festivals and social gatherings.
Prayer – Both the Hindu and Muslim faiths rely on the Dhurrie as a form of prayer mat.
Contemporary Interiors – Over the years the dhurrie has become less functional and more decorative. These rugs have had a resurgence of late as they lend themselves to contemporary interiors with their fresh colours and geometric patterns.
Chinoiserie furniture seems to be having a resurgence of late and it isn’t hard to see why. Beautiful detailed lacquer work sits well in almost all houses, be they in the manner of Billy Baldwin with clean lines, classic furniture and a mix of styles, an all out Chinoiserie explosion, or indeed just a one off statement piece.
Chinoiserie, a European interpretation of Chinese and East Asian artistic tradition, sees simple cabinets and tables take on a whole new life. The Chinoiserie style, although varied, is often characterised by Chinese figures in exotic looking landscapes which almost always feature colourful birds, dragons and the iconic pagodas. This exuberant decoration depicting wildlife or domestic scenes was thought by colonial-era Europeans to be typical of Chinese culture. There however were some who believed Chinoiserie to be an injustice to Chinese culture and arts, as well as overly feminine, and a sign of cultural confusion within Europe in the 18th century.
Chinoiserie has never really gone out of fashion as such. The style took a blow after the death of George IV, whose endorsement of the style as can be seen in some of the rooms in the Brighton Pavilion. In addition to this, the first opium war 1839-42, meant export from China became near impossible and people became generally less interested with the style.
Chinoiserie has, however, always been a popular choice for interiors favored by Kings and nobles alike, sitting well with Rococo furniture that was also in fashion in the mid to late 18th century. In 1754 the 4th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort commissioned
a Chinoiserie themed bedroom for Badminton House with William & John Linnell producing much of the furniture including the embellished bed with its imitation lacquer surface and pagoda-like canopy. A more contemporary interior is that of Coco Chanel’s living room providing excellent inspiration for a Chinoiserie interior; functional, elegant and chic. The 20th Century saw houses like Maison Jansen create fabulous Chinoiserie pieces for a larger market, although still proving popular with the higher classes. To this day the pieces appear to have an almost timeless quality, coffee tables like this 1950’s piece have simple clean form, oriental bamboo style legs and a highly decorated top. The actual make up of the piece is very simple, the art is in the detail. Top Photograph Courtesy of Etienne Gilfillan.
The day that I walked in to Guinevere to find Dean’s dark and mysterious room of plaster breasts, legs, bums and tums, I was instantly mesmerised. The limbs are spread throughout the room, clutching banisters and breasts, kicking balls (metaphorically) and tiptoeing down stairs, they filled my face with a smile from ear to ear. The 60-piece plaster set from the workshop of renowned Parisian sculptor Max Le Verrier has been nestled amongst stunning Neo-Classical Mirrors, luxurious bone veneered Regency style daybeds and glistening gilded 8ft fluted Torcheres from southern Spain, creating a feel of eclecticism but in a sophisticated and somehow controlled manner. With the rich aubergine coloured walls, the pale plaster is all the more eye catching, and when a knobbly knee protrudes from the wall you almost believe there is a Centurion behind it breaking free from the past.
As one of the leading pioneers of the Art Deco movement in the mid 1920’s, Max Le Verrier won a gold award for his work at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art in Paris 1925. The predominantly Greco-Roman inspired casts were used by Max Le Verrier to create some of his most beautiful sculptures.
When I first saw the limb covered walls, it reminded me of photographer Marc Lagrange’s sculptor workshop scenes in Tongeren, Belgium. The magnificent form in the centre blew me away, but then the clutter of moulds and mannequins on the wall meant you could look at it for hours and continue to find new amusements hidden in a dark corner. From the floor to the ceiling there is something beautiful everywhere you look, and ensuring no surface is left bare, whether that is the dust-covered floor or the old easel hanging from the banister, I found it quite inspiring.
Having always been fond of the more eclectic taste, this is something I would happily take home, creating drama in a sort of peacefully chaotic way.
I saw an old lady standing at a bus stop the other day. She was wearing a shabby purple coat, the sort that old ladies wear, with a bright pea green sweater and deep pink trousers. I doubt she had very much money or that life had been very kind to her. She looked fabulous. Beautiful colour combinations can happen anywhere and when they do they are a gift for the brain. They stay lodged, stored in some recess, to be recalled years later when one reminisces about a time and a place, or used immediately next time you choose a bunch of flowers or place a cushion on a chair.
My mind is full of, among other things, a myriad of colour combinations. Things I’ve mixed together in my head and things I’ve seen, sometimes remembered exactly as they were and sometimes re-imagined as better versions of themselves.
I’ve been thinking about Italian Renaissance colours for a while, the type one sees in paintings. That particular red that might be pink, a green that is more green than green can be and of course, that gorgeous blue that seems to be made of cornflowers and lapis lazuli.
The National Gallery’s recently staged an exhibition “After Caravaggio”. The first time I attempted to see it was sold out, undeterred and having made the effort to haul myself into the centre of town on a Friday evening, I decided to have a look around the permanent collection anyway. One forgets how lucky we are to have such wonderful places on our doorstep for free, we should all make more of an effort to visit them and not just queue for the blockbuster exhibitions. I focused on the High Renaissance Galleries. All the colours I wanted to see were there. I knew them already, of course, they were in my head and I could visualise them, but it was wonderful to see them in front of me, together.
The blue, the pink red and the green are all in Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (dated 1520-23, top left image), a painting that positively dazzles. Bronzino’s monumental ‘Allegory with Venus and Cupid’ (dated 1540-46 Right Image) has them too.
As a child I loved Bronzino’s paintings. I was given a book and found them mesmerising. I was a quiet, bookish sort of boy, alone in my own little world.The National Gallery has his ‘Portrait of a Young Man’ (dated 1550-55), an unidentified sitter portrayed in front of a pinkish red curtain; this was close to the shade I’d been thinking of. By way of a slight detour, but continuing on the drapery theme, Hans Holbein the Younger’ ‘The Ambassadors’ (1533, Image Below) has the most beautiful green curtain as a backdrop, of a shade so unique that it is impossible to accurately describe. The gentleman on the left of the painting, Jean de Dinteville, French ambassador to England, is resplendent in silk of pinkish red and against the green the effect is brilliant.
So, I had my colours, I had my combination, now, what to do with them?
I wanted to create window displays for Guinevere using this Renaissance palette, but re-interpreted in a fresh modern way. The last thing I wanted was some sort of historical pastiche, all trompe l’oeil painted draperies and bunches of grapes with bits of marble. We may be an antique shop but, perversely; I always want us to look new.Could the paint take on a life of it’s own? Initially applied by the artist in a careful, considered manner and then left free, unconstrained by rules to run and drip and splash and pool on the floor? That would be a different and interesting thing to do with this bunch of shades that was living in my head.
I had paint especially mixed, water based gloss that behaved just as I hoped, first neat in broad bands of vertical stripes, then slipping and sliding as we left it to drip.
The colours, deliberately splashed and splattered onto the floor, took on a new energy and proved to be the perfect backdrop to bold red Chinoiserie furniture, (53391) a French Empire daybed with a green chartreuse silk seat, (52654) a Cheval mirror shaped like an artist’s palette (50917), coloured glass and Italian modernist cabinets of steel and brass (53268). A strong backdrop is a great way to display strong pieces.
I don’t know whether other people see the colours of the Italian Renaissance metamorphosing into C21st century randomness when they look at the windows. Maybe they just think “oh, that’s fun and jolly for spring”.
That’s the wonderful thing about colour; it’s filtered through the individual’s eyes and imagination and means something different to everyone. Never let anyone ever tell you there are rules, it’s as subjective as taste.
Look for colour wherever you are and in all that you see. Load it to your visual bank or put it away somewhere in your memory. Remember the shades you like and the mixtures that entrance. Imagine the possibilities.
Then, when life is quiet or grey recall, think of it, visualise it and let it take you to another time or place.
London Design Week is always something to look forward to with the new collections being launched heralding the start of Spring and longer days (finally). It's easy to forget how lucky we are in London to have such a fantastic design district with Chelsea Harbour and Chelsea Design Quarter, a London home so many International brands mixed in with more eclectic standalone shops.
We are particularly looking forward to visiting the new de le Cuona showroom, we always enjoy using their beautiful fabrics on our furniture. Both Alton Brooke and Pierre Frey have exquisite fabrics that look fantastic on both traditional and contemporary furniture so we always make a point of visiting their showrooms and seeing the latest designs.
There is a great buzz during design week, with both Trade and Retail participating in the week’s events, talks and lectures. Many of the UK’s top Interior Designers and tastemakers give informative talks during the week and these are a great place to pick up design tips, recommendations and inspiration.
Easter Island, the remote Polynesian island located in the South Pacific, has always been steeped in mystery. The island of ‘Rapa Nui’ or ‘Easter Island’ as it is more commonly known earned its nickname thanks to Dutch explorers landing there on Easter Day in 1722.
This island’s most impressive claim to fame is an array of almost 900 minimalist monolithic human figures known as ‘Moai’ which were constructed between 1250 and 1500AD. The iconic moai have overly large heads with broad noses, strong chins and thin pouting lips. The statues have heavy torsos without legs and are usually portrayed as squatting. The oversized heads are thought to relate to the Polynesian belief in the sanctity of the head and represented both dead ancestors and powerful chiefs. Varying sizes of the statues directly related to the status of the chief who had commissioned it.
Originally the majority of the statues were located along the coast gazing inland overlooking the community as if to keep them safe. The exception to this was seven figures which looked out to sea, legend has it, to guide travellers to the island. There are a few inland ‘Easter Island Heads’ which are the most iconic of the moai which recent excavations have revealed to have full torsos buried beneath the earth.
Much has been made of how these monumental statues carved from a compressed volcanic ash which weigh on average 15 tons and are 13 feet high were moved around the island from the quarries to their final resting place. The most likely theories involved either rolling the statues on logs or ‘walking’ them into position using ropes.
Following on from the Moai era was the ‘Birdman Cult’ which was an annual competition to select a new leader. The competition comprised of a race to a nearby islet to collect the first egg of the season from the Sooty Tern bird. The first person to swim back to Easter Island and climb up the sheer cliffs with the egg intact to hand over to their sponsor was then declared ‘birdman’ for the year, an important position of status.
The demise of the island is still much debated amongst archaeologists with several leading arguments. It has long been thought that deforestation was the major cause along with the invasive Polynesian rat which devastated crops followed by the slave trade. The few survivors of the slave trade were vulnerable and as landing missionaries forced their religions onto the islanders the natives quickly lost their identity and were forced into living on a small portion of the island with much of their ancestral history lost or destroyed.
As of 1994 The Rapa Nui National Park and its Moai are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Bohemian glass, or Bohemia crystal is glass produced in the regions of Bohemia and Silesia (now the Czech Republic). For centuries it has been internationally recognised for its high quality, craftsmanship, and innovative designs and is highly collectable.
The main fashion for colours came in the 1830’s glass was then coloured by layering or by colour stains and lustres. Usual colours were cornflower-blue and emerald-green. In the 1840’s green and greenish yellow glass came into fashion, was coloured with uranium and yellow glass coloured with antimony or silver chloride. Ruby glass coloured with copper was used almost exclusively for over-laying clear glass. A cut decoration that exposed the transparent layer underneath gave the glass a richly decorative effect. Gold was used for colouring the pinkish Rosaline glass that was made around the middle of the 19th Century by both the Harrach and Meyr glassworks.
The traditional techniques of engraving remained artistically in the forefront in Bohemia. In the traditional refinery region of North Bohemia only naïve mythological and allegorical scenes were engraved in the first quarter of the 19th Century celebrating loyalty, love and friendship, the ages of man, etc. According to the latest research it seems that the high standard of engraving was preserved in the first place by the engravers in Nový Svĕt, such as both Franz and Johann Pohl (1764-1834) who like the Silesian engravers engraved seals. Both Pohls are cited as teachers of the most famous engraver of the first half of the 19th Century Dominik Biemann (1800-57). Biemann left a wide range of signed works in the first place excellent portraits on glass medallions and on Harrach beakers, which show his training in drawing at the Prague Academy of Painting. Biemann settled in Prague, but he seems still to have worked occasionally for the Harrach glassworks in Nový Svĕt.
Bohemian glass is shaped by the two principal activities of the region – deer hunting and health spas. The town of Carlsbad was established, according to legend, when King Charles IV's hunting party chased a deer over a cliff. In their pursuit, the hunters descended into the valley and found a bubbling hot spring. The king established a town there and a statue of a deer is one of its symbols. By the 19th century, aristocratic visitors from all over Europe combined hunting trips with a spell of detox, drinking the water and bathing in the health-giving spas.
Glassmakers in Bohemia, led by Friedrich Egermann, responded with endless experiments. The secret of ruby glass that had been made from gold a hundred years earlier was rediscovered, along with recipes for rich blue and green glass. Whilst solid coloured glass was exciting, it wasn't suitable for engraving as the carving didn't show up. In order to overcome this a thin layer of richly coloured glass was applied on the surface.
The Parma antiques fair is always an interesting experience. It’s a melting pot where antique dealers from all over Europe set up stands in noisy multilingual confusion, as international professional buyers try to make sense of it all and find a treasure.
The fair doesn’t officially open until day 3, by which time all the buyers have left. Confusing? That’s the Parma fair.
The size of the fair is astounding, as is the diversity of merchandise (antiques would only cover half of it) including: old master paintings, garden furniture, oriental porcelain, slot machines, baker’s racks, watches, jewellery, fur coats, stuffed animals and supposedly Roman statues – all treated with the same irreverence amongst the shouting and gesticulating.
After 8 hours of trawling the aisles, asking prices with a scattergun approach because you should never assume that something is going to be too expensive, I decide to call it a day and make my way back to town. In all the years of going to the Parma fair, I have never taken the time to visit the famous Duomo with it’s cupola painted by Corregio, mainly because I’m too tired and I put it off till next time. So I decided that tired or not, today was the day – and I was completely bowled over.
The relatively plain Romanesque entrance is guarded by two massive Byzantine marble lions sculpted in 1281, and the interior is one of the best examples of 16th fresco painting that I have seen (perhaps excluding the Sistine). The nave and side chapels are completely covered in beautifully depicted biblical stories, although you have to put 2 euros in the slot to turn the lights on! When I got to the famous cupola, or dome, painted by Corregio in the late 1520’s,
I stared in awe for 20 minutes (4 x 2 euros for the lights).
It was famously stated by Titian, who was the most celebrated artist in the world at the time, that such was the technical ingenuity of this work of art, that the cupola filled with gold would be a fair price to the artist for such a feat – he wasn’t wrong.
Still dazed and blinking from the splendor I had just witnessed, I decided to pop into the relatively modest Santuary of Santa Maria della Steccata, which I must have walked past more that a hundred times over the years, casually appreciating it’s baroque architecture alongside all the other wonderful buildings. A relatively small church, the interior is covered by flamboyant baroque magnificence, with the fresco paintings by the famous Pamigianino (the little one from Parma) amongst others.
That will teach me not to be casual about Italian churches.
I have always loved Textiles old and new, but once I started working at Guinevere (centuries ago!!) My love of all textiles grew.
Beautiful vegetable dyed yarns, woven into tapestries. Reminding us of time gone by in castles and mansions. Cold, windy, wet days with barely any light, warmed up visually by the rich yet muted colours, and exciting us with a story.
Tapestries have been out of fashion, but I bought some recently because I love them and I was thrilled so see that some of our clients agree with me. They are wonderful pieces of history. Our most recent acquisition is an early 18thC Flemish tapestry. With a rich border, where the colour has remained, the central section filled with gorgeous flowers, food on plates, a bow and arrows, crossed swords at the top and blue parrots at the bottom.
Setting the scene in the middle is a cascading waterfall and a grand house in the distance to give depth. Framed buy trees, the colours of which are amazing. Leaves of every shape and oversized to give an element of drama, with colours ranging the spectrum of blues and greens. The tree trunks are a medley of warm browns and terracotta.
The characters are all in dramatic positions, arms up, feet pointing to show movement. Their clothes are swaying too. Not to mention, the main attraction of Perseus having just cut of Medusa’s head triumphantly. He is keeping her eyes well away from the crowd, no-one wants to turn to stone.
Thank you to all of you who, like myself, love a bit of drama and colour, tied together with history. Long my we continue to find them!!
I have trawled the internet and found some other excellent examples of these beautiful fragments of history.
18th Century Flemish Tapestry Pastoral – “Combining Romanticism, classicism and Baroque artistry, this spectacular antique Flemish tapestry is a quintessential example of this highly evolved art form that flourished in Dutch-influenced Flanders throughout the 18th century”
Flemish Tapestry Depicting the Crowning of Esther, late 16th-early 17th century, probably Oudenaarde.
17th Century Flemish Tapestry, “Rescue of the Nymph Io from the Giant Argus” The scene depicting a well-known Roman and Greek Myth: Hera, wife of Zeus has turned his lover, the nymph Io, into a cow and has cast her out of the heavens to earth and the garden of Nemea and ordered Argus, the all seeing Giant, to watch over her.
I had the good fortune to spend the day in Naples to view a collection of Attic style vases, which were made in this city in the 18th and 19th centuries as tourist’s mementoes for visitors doing the European “Grand Tour”. The richest visitors invariably bought the ‘real thing’, as many Attic and Appulian vases were being uncovered back then and sold to the highest bidder. The canny Neapolitans knew that this was a limited source of supply, so started making gorgeous copies of these vases for the more modestly wealthy visitors. Anyhow, vases appearing soon at Guinevere hopefully.
I didn’t have the luxury of making a long weekend of it, so it was the 6am flight out for me, followed by the
evening flight back – Oh the glamour! Still, I knew that my business would be concluded by lunchtime, so I planned a leisurely stroll through the Centro Storico and Spaccanapoli areas, finishing with a tour of the Capodimonte museum, which I had never visited before, and is home to Caravagio’s Flagellation of Christ – considered to be one of the most influential paintings of the late Renaissance, and a work that I have wanted to see for a long time.
I started my stroll at the Piazza del Plebiscito , a grand public square which is very un-Neapolitan in its scale and sense of space – surrounded by imperious colonnaded buildings including the Royal Palace.
Suitably impressed, I wandered up the insanely busy Via Toledo, flanked on the left by the Spanish Quarter with it’s narrow streets which lead tantalizingly up to Castel St Elmo and San Martino – The Spanish Quarter has a difficult reputation due to it’s historic ties to the Camorra, and it’s still not a good idea to wander around there looking too ostentatious!
I was beginning to feel peckish, and I had spent a lot of the previous weekend researching where I was going to eat my lunchtime pizza. Pizza in Naples is a bit of a religion – it is said that the worst pizza in Naples will be better than the best pizza anywhere else in the world, and I think I agree. Also, Neapolitans think that five euros is expensive for a pizza, and actively boycott posh pizzerias – so, you get to eat one of the best snacks on earth for the price of a moldy London sandwich – not bad. Anyhow, all my research went out the window as I spied a few outside tables by a pizzeria in Piazza Carrita, plonked myself down and ordered a Margherita and a beer – it was predictably sensational but set me back 8 euros! I obviously wasn’t blending in.
A little further up Via Toledo, I turned right up the succession of streets which make up Spaccanapoli, which is one of the three historical Greco-Roman roads which run east to west across the city. This was chaos on a grand scale – absolutely barking. The street is impossibly narrow, with some of the higher floors looking as if they’re about to touch balconies. Traditional shops, pizzerias, cafes, pasticcerias, butchers, fishmongers and plenty of shouting occupy the street level, sometimes housed under grand arches, but always a bit grimy, not at all sanitized. I was tempted to go for another pizza but knew that I would not make it up the hill to the Capodimonte with two pizzas on board.
The Capodimonte is a grand 18th century Bourbon palace with towering views over the city. It’s surrounded by tranquil gardens, and is built around a traditional central courtyard. The famous old masters collection includes works by Titian, Masaccio, Mantegna, Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini etc etc reads like a role call of Neapolitan renaissance artists – and some who were just passing through. It really is a fine setting to see these extraordinary works, and I had the place pretty much to myself – no crowds with noisy guides and no selfie sticks!
There are some astounding staterooms with mind boggling furnishings and works of art including “The Porcelain Room” which is entirely constructed from 18thC Capodimonte porcelain, including the walls and ceiling. My favourite was the Camuccini room which is centered by an enormous (about 12 foot) circular marble table – supported by Roman marble legs excavated at nearby Herculaneum, and the top is inlaid with exquisite Roman mosaics. I was now having to watch the time as my return flight beckoned, so I hurried through the second floor, pausing to gawp at the disturbing Judith and Olophernes by Artemesia Gentileschi, which depicts two women calmly sawing the head of the Greek general Olophernes – they look serenely detached, as if they were preparing lunch.
So finally, I turned the corner to see…a blank wall.
There was a guard snoozing by the blank wall. “Dove è la Carravagio?” I ask.
– “Monza” he replies, and resumes his forty winks.
I should have had the second pizza.
For this years London Design Festival, we are holding a Dhurrie Exhibition at Guinevere. The exhibition, which is currently open at our showroom on the Kings Road, celebrates the variety of patterns and colours of dhurries, and is accompanied by text, which explores the history, manufacturing techniques and symbolism behind the different dhurrie designs.
In India, dhurries play an important role in everyday life. These flat-weave cotton carpets are functional and decorative. The variety of colours and the simple designs make dhurries very appealing. They are suitable for use in classic or contemporary schemes, and are extremely durable.
They became popular in Europe after the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London, 1851. This major industrial exhibition promoted manufactured products and international trade. In the Indian Pavilion a huge ‘tile’ design dhurrie was hung up on the wall. We have examples of this design on display.
As British influence grew in India, dhurrie manufacture entered a new phase and thus, the period between 1850-1930 was the finest and most creative era of dhurrie production.
Our stylist Dean (aided by the muscles Raffi and Julian) transformed one of our rooms by covering as much floor, wall and ceiling space with a patchwork of striped, geometric, floral, pictorial and medallion dhurries. A fabulous 19thC Anglo-Indian ebonised four poster bed, some beautiful sari covers, cushions and lampshades, different coloured mosque lanterns hang from the ceiling, and an Indian painting of a Jaisalmer Lady . The room now looks like explorers have come back from India with all of the colour and patterns you would expect.
We love it! – and it is a great way to display the dhurries, which are usually all rolled up. The exhibition encourages people to touch and interact with the dhurries; to feel the different texture and softness of the weave and the surprising weight of the carpets.
For the exhibition, we borrowed a selection of really special and unusual antique dhurries from private collections. One of my favourites is this pictorial dhurrie, from northern Deccan, c.1910, which is composed of dark blue peacocks, light blue peahen and parrots. Highly decorative dhurries, such as these, would have most likely been commissioned by a wealthy family. In the centre of the dhurrie a peacock looks out directly at the viewer, displaying his plumage in an act of courtship ritual. The fertility symbols in the design implies that this dhurrie was part of a dowry, and its size suggests it was a bed dhurrie. Definitely worth a visit in our opinion….
We have always loved the versatility of Japanese screens. Despite their age, they manage to look timeless, chic and almost modern when placed in a variety of different interiors, even the most contemporary. The unsung hero of the art world. They can be used as both a full impact piece of art, or a one off room divider that can adds a touch of drama. It is no wonder that their popularity seems to be going from strength to strength.
Like many Japanese arts and crafts items, the folding screens we see today originate from Chinese design. Unlike the Chinese equivalent of Coromandel screens; heavy wooden structures intricately decorated and not intended for much movement, the Japanese equivalent is light; a wooden frame with decorated paper, and even uses paper hinges.
While a larger screens with up to eight folds were used during dancing events and large parties. The late 19th century saw a massive upsurge in import of Japanese screens to the West. This was the first wave of true popularity. With the screens being incorporated into home design.
I have always found it slightly confusing as to why the screens have such a strong Chinese influence and often use Chinese characters as opposed to Japanese, upon research it is clear to see why. Heavily influenced by Chinese design and subject matter. Whereas Coromandel screens were historically saved for the elite, the Japanese equivalent were much more common and accessible to the masses.
Unlike the heavier Coromandel screens which are richly detailed and often darker in colour and tone. The Japanese equivalent sees a lighter pattern, often depicting cherry blossom, nature, animals and figures, they are much more sparsely designed, an aspect that lends them so beautifully to a modern and simplistic interior for that subtle flash of colour and design.
Parties have a strange effect on people; the pre party nerves can be a killer.
For the Chelsea Design Quarter Summer Street party we had pre ordered the champagne and popped the first cork bang on the dot of 6. Marc stood patiently waiting for the first throng of eager visitors, the street was starting to get a buzz about it and the weather for once, when you have plan, was ice meltingly glorious.
During the quiet before the storm, I went on a little wonder to see what everyone else was doing. Many shops seemed to be doing the same, patiently waiting for invited parties and people in the know to arrive, some showrooms, Villaverde springs to mind, had gone all out with photographers and an outdoor set where you could get you photo taken,
all very luxe. There was a good atmosphere throughout and actually the Kings Road closures for once was of benefit, with quitter roads, it seemed almost like we had been cordoned off just for this event. How special.
The theme was the Queen, and her 90 years. The men on stilts, as always, were a sight, literally head and shoulders above the rest of the entertainment. Marc had a great time with them as can be seen. A magician and a brass band also joined the party.
People arrived in waves, but always quite big waves, old faces and new faces in equal measure, which is always a treat. Drinks were flowing and nibbles were nibbled (and not only by the Guinevere staff), overall a very enjoyable event.
My alarm went off at 5 am this morning. I hate early mornings. I have had too many of them recently. Message to self: Cancel early mornings!!
We are off to the airport. Once in the plane I remember how much I like flying. It forces me for a short while to sit and do nothing. Although my body is still, my mind is still whirring.
What jobs need doing? My mind quickly goes through a very long list.
For those who do not know, Marc and I have been building a house in Fulham for the past two years. It seems to be a never-ending project. Not one to take on lightly.
In fact another message to self: don't build another house please.
Something occurs to me while sitting here, that as I scan the house in my mind with fabulous 3d vision (in truth the house is currently a building site) that so many things for the house come from Fulham. What a great place!
Our builders,Plan Build, have their offices around the corner in Cooper House. It takes us just minutes to get to their office. They have been great and now that the important part is happening (finishing touches) our site foreman is so on the ball. He really does have the worst job in the world with us working next door as Marc and I are always keeping an eye out on what is going on, and constantly just 'popping in'.
Our kitchen contractor (Uber Kitchens) also works out of Cooper house. The whole process so far has been easy. We are now waiting for them to install. Can't wait, think it will be cool.
We have also ordered a huge sofa for our sitting room. The area where everyone will hang out. This too has been purchased over the road from us from a fabulous shop, called Camerich sofas.
The Shutter shop has also made all the shutters for the front of the house. Now installed and looking fab. Their office is just before the bend.
On the way back from them towards us we pop into the flooring shop. Floor Seasons. They will be supplying our oak floor, in a lovely honey colour.
If I am saying how great Fulham is then I must mention our canteen L’Antico. Delicious Italian pasta. Franco and his lovely daughters are always so welcoming even when we over stay our welcome by staying too late.
Dear Diary. Last note to self: Love Fulham x
Last week, Anna and I went to Christie’s to see ‘Incredible Inventions and Curious Collections’.
On the first Tuesday of every month, Christies has a late night opening with art and wine, who could resist?! This was ashamedly my first time visiting Christies, and so when Anna suggested it, I had no option but to go.
The evening featured an array of unusual and unique objects. There was a demonstration of a one-and-a-half-metre-high mechanical corkscrew and wine-pouring machine. This gargantuan beast seemed to me a bit unnecessary however obviously a feat of engineering. If push came to shove…I would have no clue how to use it!
My favourite item was a modern Novelty ‘Dragon’ Clock by Alexander Mushkin. Made from over 1,000 individual pieces, including spoons, forks, car engine parts, brass wire, candlesticks, and many other random things.
Anna, for some reason, loved this Giant Stainless Steel Fork by Mark Reed… She claims it was because it was big and shiny, but I think the wine may have taken affect.
We also went to a highly informative and interesting talk by Dr Michael Pritchard, Director General of The Royal Photographic Society speak on the history of Leica cameras. Unfortunately we missed the game of mini golf that took place at some point during the evening.
We finished the evening with an Aperol Spritz at a nearby bar and then a delicious pizza at Franca Manco’s.
I love the idea of being able to view all of these amazing one off pieces especially combining it as a social event as opposed to what I had always imagined could be a very intimidating venue. Same again next month? Apparently, there will be a special Antiques Challenge – I wonder what the prize will be!?
One of the best things about working at Guinevere is the fact that we are constantly surrounded by a large selection of ever-changing eclectic and beautiful objects –predominantly antique but also some contemporary pieces.
Some of my favourite items in the showroom are by the contemporary artist Paula Swinnen, whose work is inspired by natural forms of flora and fauna. Not only are the objects functional, they are also works of art; engaging, quirky and unique.
Paula Swinnen discovered her passion for the arts at the early age of fourteen, which led to her studies at the Fine Arts Academy in Brussels. Twenty years later, Paula’s interest and experience has developed and she is now a highly successful self-taught sculptor. Using the ancient lost-wax technique,
which enables the artist to capture exquisite detail. Paula has mastered every stage of working with bronze, from the casting to creating the patina.
Although working in a field largely dominated by men, due to the huge physical effort involved, Paula has become a prominent figure, creating truly expressive and personal works. Paula is a great friend of ours and we have been lucky enough to represent her since 2011.
It’s always exciting when a new piece of Paula’s comes into the showroom from Brussels. Each piece always has a new element or special twist, which displays the artist’s constantly developing personal style. What piece of furniture will she create and which animals will she choose to incorporate into them? A snail creeping up a banister perhaps, or a lizard or dragonfly perched on a branch of a candelabra?
Last week I was delighted to find a new ‘Vignes’ center table placed in the showroom. We had a similar design in a coffe table a few years ago, but the scale and intricacy of this piece is spellbinding. The legs of the table and the branches that spring from it are moulded as gnarled vines, patinated in a light brown finish. A great deal of attention is paid to the vine leaves, each one being individually shaped, adding a real sense of life and movement to the piece. Delicate curling shoots and bunches of ripe grapes also issue from the main branches. The leaves, shoots and grapes are finished in polished bronze, with a lovely warm gold tone complementing with the brown branches.
When you look closely, you can spy two snails creeping along the branches. A freestanding polished bronze bird stands poised on top of the glass table top, with a crown on its head, surveying its kingdom, watching us work and looking out for potential buyers and a new home!
My week starts Sunday afternoon as I catch the train to Manchester in readiness for a Monday morning start. I had previously been to the shop on many occasions when staying with Marc and Heather. I have always been drawn to the wonderful items they have and so jumped at the opportunity to work there.
Day one was a quick introduction to everyone and then helping Natasha on a stock take.
Day two was a visit to the pop up shop in Jermyn Street and lunch in China Town with Marc. I started to feel more relaxed with everyone. The working atmosphere is very easy going and everyone is friendly.
Whilst at the pop up Marc ran through some antique terminology with Masie and I was asked to read descriptions. It’s all new to me and I made a few interesting mistakes:
Tocheres I pronounced ‘torturers’, candelabra became ‘candle a bra’, Rococo was ‘Morocco”, gilded to ‘glided’ and baroque said as ‘barrow key’.
Another days work involved going to the warehouse, where I managed to get lost at a roundabout for an hour until I was found! Working with Raffy and Julian our job was to unwrap and check for damage on 12 glass light fittings delivered from India, and then to wrap them up again! Although the job was long with over 300 pieces to do (which took one day and a half!), the time there was brilliant as we were told enthralling stories by Raffy of his time in Poland and France and marveled at the massive mountain of wrapping paper. It was all so well wrapped that you could have dropped each item from the top of a twenty-story building.
Overall, my working week as an intern was fantastic and to anyone who reads this I recommend you come to the shop and admire the brilliant items it has on show.
I got to PAD at 12.15 in Berkeley Square, conscious of course that I wanted to squeeze lunch in-between the two fairs. I met my friend Geoff at the door and we decided that the best way to navigate this fair efficiently was to walk around the outside then do the alleys longways.
The first stand pictured was Chahan. Custom furniture in whites and greys and fantastic texture. A very cool and modern look. Chahan and Richard are longstanding friends and I have always admired their work.
Visiting the stand of Gallerie ALB, Antoine Broccardo, I came across this wonderful pair of shoes, carved wood to look like feet. I also snapped the stand because I loved the eclectic mix that had a warm and comforting feel. I love the screen on the back wall, reminiscent of the Japanese paper screens we have. Almost next door was Gallerie Rapin which had a wonderful pair of brass chests of drawers. Très Chic.
And then came the inimitable Pinto stand. I love the considered and very up to date mix of elements. The pieces look casually placed, but you know its anything but. Top drawer.
My stomach was soon calling for a lunch stop, so we left Pad and decided to walk through Marylebone. Geoff suggested 28-50 Marylebone Lane, a restaurant he knew well. I had a delicious Sea Bream Ceviche washed down with a glass of White Douro. Excellent food and good wine reasonably priced. Recommended.
We then carried on foot to Frieze masters. Much further than we thought as we went first to the other Frieze. All in all, a 25 to 30 min march.
Frieze Masters is a serious affair. Right at the entrance is Dickinson Fine Art with their highlight offering of Magritte's L'Empire des Lumieres. My nephew Max is working there, didn't manage to catch a glimpse of him this time though.
I felt there was less Fine Art there than before. I am however continually attracted to antiquities, and there were many dealers in this field. I have always wanted a greek or roman torso in my front hall. Of particular note was a Pompeiian Bronze centre table on the stand of Phoenix Ancient Art. A one off.
The Weiss gallery had, as always, a particularly fine display of early portraits, but of particular interest was this late 17th Century portrait of an Italian Jesuit missionary in China by Michaelina Wautier. Definitely my favourite of the fair.
The more I continued through the fair the more modern it became and so less my style. I got a black cab home and I snoozed. My phone told me I had walked 7 kilometres that afternoon…
Valentine’s Day. Sunday 14th February.
A Cautionary Tale.
Once upon a time there were three brothers: Tom, Dick and Harry.
They were nice boys, well brought up and each quietly excellent, in his way.
Tom worked hard in the city and earned a lot of money. Most of the time he was stressed. He drove a top of the range Audi and, if he’d lost a little weight, could have been considered quite handsome. He had a lovely girlfriend who also worked hard in the city and earned a great deal of money. She was permanently exhausted and survived on coffee.
Dick was the best looking of the bunch, his career had never really scaled the heights, but he was ever hopeful & rather charming. He dressed well and he and his wife made enough money to take regular weekends to Ibiza & Formentera. Sometimes they asked if they were a bit old for partying but as they didn’t have kids yet, why not? She had a fabulous wardrobe of boho chic kaftans and he spent a lot of time on his abs.
Harry was generally regarded as the nicest of the bunch, quiet and unassuming he was secretly rather clever. He’d been dating a girl he really liked for quite a while and she really liked him. They both separately wondered if the other could be the one. Neither wanted to tempt fate by saying so.
As St Valentine’s day approached the three brother’s began to think.
Tom thought about Paris, or maybe Rome? Deciding both were far too predictable he settled on Istanbul instead, until he realized there was no way his girlfriend could take a few days off. She was working every hour at the moment and about to clinch a massive deal.
In the end he brought her a spiralizer, she’d said she wanted one recently and was worried about how much take-out food they ate.
He proudly presented it on Valentine’s day morning. If only we were overlooking The Bosphorus, he thought.
“Hmm, that’s nice” she said, “how useful”.
Like a man who turns up at a smart party in a rented tux, he knew he had failed.
What she’d been hoping for was actually a weekend away, anywhere, as long as she could catch up on her sleep and have massages. It didn’t have to be a magical kingdom, just somewhere with no client meetings.
Dick couldn’t buy lingerie, he’d done that for Christmas, and as his credit card was a bit maxed out, jewelery was out of the question. The wicked florist said she couldn’t guarantee a delivery of flowers before 10am on a Sunday, so he went all the way to the market in a distant part of the kingdom and brought the biggest bunch of red roses he could carry. Worried he hadn’t spent enough he picked up a bottle of scent too, not her usual one, as that would have been too obvious, but something new. An hour in a department store sniffing testers just about finished him off & by the time he got back to the flat, he and the flowers had rather lost their sparkle.
He proudly presented it all on Valentine’s Day morning. By now the flowers had even less sparkle. He smiled hopefully, If he’d had a magic wand he would have waved it.
“Red roses, what a lovely surprise”, she said and not a bit like the diamond tassle earrings I wanted, she thought. And he doesn’t even know which scent I wear!
Like a man who puts all his money on red as the wheel spins to black he knew he had failed.
Now Harry and the girl he really liked had both left things to the last minute, but neither seem worried and oddly enough neither was free to spend Sunday with the other.
Guinevere, a beautiful emporium on the Kings Road, famed for it’s selection of loveliness opened at 10am on Saturdays. Only five minutes walk from the tube station, Harry had enjoyed a coffee and avocado on toasted rye at a nearby deli before he walked through the doors about half past.
He looked at the array of things, all unique, before selecting a gorgeous Murano ruby glass casket , he considered a pretty shagreen photo frame but decided that could wait. If everything went as he hoped this weekend they were going to need to frame a photo to commemorate a special day.
The girl he really liked spent the morning at the gym and as she knew that Guinevere, the beautiful emporium on the Kings Road, famed for it’s selection of loveliness wasn’t stuffy, like some places, she walked through the door in her gym gear with a post work-out glow just after after 12. She looked at the array of things, all gorgeous, before selecting an Art Deco silver mounted decanter (50671). She considered a cut crystal ice bucket but decided that could wait. If everything went as she hoped this weekend they were going to need something to put Champagne in when they announced a special day.
Harry and the girl he really liked didn’t wait until Valentine’s day morning to exchange their gifts.
Imagine their surprise and delight as they exchanged their smart packages wrapped in Guinevere boxes and ribbon that very evening! Sometime love can’t wait and it’s reassuring to know that the one you think you love has excellent taste.
Much later, sat at her dressing table, the ruby red casket taking pride of place, she looked up and in the mirrors reflection saw Harry at the end of the bed, he had poured drinks from the Art Deco decanter.
“Perfect” she smiled and he smiled back. He was the one.
Like a man who buys his Valentine a gift at Guinevere, he knew he hadn’t failed.
Guinevere is open from 10 until 5.30 Saturday 13th February.
Gift wrapping free of charge.
Fairytale ending up to you.
We decided that we would make a quick hop to Brussels on the day of the preview for Eurantica.
This is a large antiques fair that is staged once a year and was previously held in Brussels in one of the beautiful halls of the Heysel exhibition park. This is conveniently located in Brussels itself and you can get there on the underground. This year they have moved to a new hall in between Brussels and Antwerp.
We took the first train out on Eurostar, the 6.50 am which gets us to Brussels around 10 am. At least we are in the city centre and its 10 minutes ride to the Sablons where many of the antique shops are situated. The train is late and so we don’t start looking around really till near on 11 am.
We have arranged to meet some friends for lunch at the Trosieme Act, a restaurant in the area where I have never failed to have a good meal. It is approaching 1pm and we have so far seen nothing of interest. Just before getting to lunch we come across Tom Desmet’s new shop. Tom has beautiful sculptures and works of art and impeccable taste. He has just moved into a large house which he is turning into a beautiful gallery. I took this picture of the front entrance hall.
After lunch we realise that in order to get to Eurantica, we have to get going straight away. The new venue is an hour by car with traffic and roadworks. We get there just before 3.30pm. It is a prestigious fair, but they really have put it in the middle of nowhere.
It takes about an hour to walk around and the stands are well presented. They have good quality items and this is a fully vetted show.
Of particular note is Yannick David’s stand. Yannick is the husband of Paula Swinnen, the Belgian bronze artist whom we represent in the UK. He is also exhibiting one of her vine tables that we showed during our exhibition with the artist last year.
Also I loved this pistol chandelier on Bie Bart’s stand. I didn’t feel it was really Guinevere though.
Our train is at 7pm so we aim to leave the show at 5. Leaving an antiques fair is hard. On the way out you meet everyone you know. So we get to the car by 5.30.
Still, we arrive at the station at 6.30 and our train gets into St Pancras at 8pm. So we get home around 9.
It’s a long day just to see an antiques fair. If they stay with this venue next year I will either fly to Antwerp or stay at home. But at least we had a nice lunch, saw some old friends and came home with some delicious chocolates.
It has been a while since I've been to Montpellier with Dad (AKA Kevin Weaver). It's supposedly because we need enough people left manning the shop but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be down to the fact that with two of us along, that's twice as much food and wine. Wine possibly being the main issue.
That being said, we arrived the night before the fair and we went out to eat at a place he's been waxing lyrical about; L'Entrecote. As some of you might have guessed, the main thing on the menu is steak. I say the main thing… It's the only thing. That and 'allumette' chips. The only decision you make at this restaurant is how you want the faux filet cooked ('rare', 'medium rare' and 'what are you doing!?') and what kind of wine you are having. We ate outside, just off the main square with really delicious steak (cooked in butter… I could practically hear my arteries screaming at me) and endless refills of the most addictive chips you can imagine. Yes, I said endless refills.
Moving on from my brief sojourn as a restaurant critic (yes please!), we were up at the crack of dawn the next day, or as some people call it, 6.30am, making our way to the fair in our strange little rental car.
With the sun already starting to make an appearance the two of us, along with the hundreds of other dealers streaming into the fair, began making our way around the stands, the dealers scrambling to get their pieces out on show in the hope of an early sale. Dotted amongst the usual fare were a few fairly odd pieces; at one point I thought a fox had decided to join the party, but was disappointed to realise that as it was stuffed, he wasn't going anywhere.
After about an hour or so with nothing to show, we started wondering if we would find anything at all and were just beginning to give up hope when we came across some tapestry pilasters.
No, that wasn't a mistype, we really did see a set of four 17th Century tapestry pilasters, and having never seen anything like that before Dad thought they would be perfect for the showroom. I'm sure they'll be featuring on our Instagram and possibly twitter once they've winged their way over from France, so keep an eye out for that.
Soon after that a bar and pair of stools were spotted. Being for sale it wasn't stocked with alcohol and bar snacks but was still exciting enough for us to snap up before anyone else got to it first. Sadly it won't be going in my living room as I had originally hoped, but maybe with a bar in the showroom Dean might be inspired to create a whole bar set up; chairs to lounge in around low tables, with cocktail shakers and shot glasses scattered about the place. Maybe even a bottle of champagne waiting in an ice bucket for all the hard working antique dealers at the end of the day?
We recently came across a collection of Bianchini Férier designs in black, blue and autumnal watercolours. The designer's notes scrawled around the edges, a couple even had stamps charting their progress through different stages of approval, in the hopes that they might become one of the signature fabrics produced by Bianchini Férier. Not knowing much about the company, I began doing a little research, and started to realise what a huge part of fashion industry history these 12 watercolours represented.
For those of you, like me, who didn't know, the silk weaving house of Bianchini Férier was founded in Lyon on the 23rd July 1888 by François Atuyer, Charles Bianchini and François Férier. After a few decades of successful partnership, in 1912 the artist Raoul Dufy (1877-1935) was contracted by Bianchini to design textiles for the company, which turned into one of the best known collaborations within the design industry at the time.
It has been said that Dufy was poached from right under the nose of Paul Poiret, who he had been working with for just a year before being tracked down by Bianchini, however his designs were still used in Poiret's garments.
Over the course of his contract he produced over 4000 designs, and would see each one through from conception to completion. The firm continue to prosper after Dufy's contract came to an end in 1928 as planned,
and continued supplying fabrics to the great fashion houses of the time, a practice which continued and expanded in the sixties to the production of designs for designers such as Givenchy, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Laroch, Nina Ricci and Yves Saint Laurent, to name a few.
Much like the prints used in the fashion industry today, the simplicity and pared down colour scheme of the watercolour designs ensures a seamless transition from design to fabric.
These 12 'working' watercolour sketches have an immediacy that gives them a fresh, timeless look, which along with the insistent French notes in the margins (“And they had better be consistently engraved!”) to remind us of their origins, makes them the perfect addition to the Guinevere walls.
Collection image courtesy of dufy-bianchini.com
Lacca Povera, perhaps more commonly known as Arte Povera; which literally translates to poor art, is as term which you might be surprised to find associated with some of the beautiful European furniture of the 19th and 20th Century, such as these Venetian Consoles from Newel, left,
or our Italian Commodes right. Far from showing a lack of wealth, however, this was a actually an incredibly popular finishing technique, often taken up by amateur hobbyists as well as professionals, based on the Chinoiserie craze of the time. It involved taking Asian concept and aesthetic, to some extent 'westernising' it, and recreating it in a less expensive and time-consuming manner.
As opposed to layer upon layer of lacquer being built up, along with labour intensive hand-painted designs that went into making pieces such as Coromandel screens, Lacca Povera was a much shorter process. It involved paper cut-outs, which were often purpose-made commercially printed images that might then have been hand-coloured, being applied using fish glue onto the already prepared surface. This was then varnished several times, making it difficult to distinguish the edges of the images from the surface of the object.
What once began as a less expensive, simpler version of chinese lacquer is now considered quite a rarity, often as or if not more valuable than some of the more readily available Chinoiserie pieces.
These Lacca Povera pieces lack the formality of traditional chinese decorative lacquerwork but retain the elegance of their inspirational counterparts.
Red-eye from Los Angeles and noon touchdown at Heathrow the 28th of July, cab it into Fulham, shower, and make myself ready for the opening party of the Guinevere Pop Up Shop at Weiss Gallery in Jermyn Street. I have flown in from LA to work at the Pop Up for the six weeks it will be open.
‘Pop Up Shop’ sounds a tad casual for what I find when I get there. The gallery, styled by Guinevere’s resident designer, Dean Robinson, is looking gorgeous and luxe. Furniture, lighting and accessories are mixed together with specially selected paintings from the Weiss collection. The look is sumptuous, gold, red and ebony feature in the main room, and cream, soft green and gold in the long gallery.
A crowd soon gathers, enjoying the hors d’oeuvres by the Imperial, the champagne, and, I notice, especially the Tom Collins with blood orange!
My favourite pieces from Guinevere are a pair of bronze statues of Atlas standing on plinths inscribed with quotations from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
One figure is holding up the planetary system, and the plinth is inscribed: ERRATIUM MOTVS LVMINVM CANONICA (The motions of the Planets and the General Law of their Aspects) Volume 1, chapter 12.
The other figure is holding up the planet Earth, with the inscription below: MEDIAM ESSE MVNDI TERRAM (That the Earth is in the Middle of the World) Volume 2, chapter 69.
My elegant Louis XV style desk here at the Pop Up is directly opposite a portrait of a Dutch lady who looks incredibly like Frances McDormand (the actress from Fargo). This lady is in formal court dress, a stunning black and gold gown, delicate lace at her neck and cuffs, ropes of pearls and a massive brooch on her bosom. Somehow I can’t see Frances in this outfit, but here she is, every day, keeping her counsel!
Very late in the day but the after effects of the delicious brunch, as provided by the ever excellent Everyday Fabulous food, has just worn off, that and the bellini's.
About two weeks ago, Natasha, Dean and myself went on a magical mystical tour of Farley Hire. If we thought our showroom was big, we have been dwarfed and superseded to say the least.
We were lucky enough to be given a tour by none other than Mark Farley, and even though we thought we would be able to find our own way round I think we would never have found our way out, and also then we wouldn't have had the stories. Chandeliers that Kate Moss (among others) has swung from, a chair graced by Marilyn Monroe's derrière, not to mention all the Game of Thrones props (fan girl moment).
I can not express to you the tardis like nature of the building, and also the amount of items it stores. Reams and reams of paintings, crockery, furniture, fabric, EVERYTHING.
Mark has an exceptional eye with some pieces being reproduced as well as a vast quantity of antiques and originals. It is very interesting the difference between a prop hire and our showroom, everything is beautifully aged, and meant to be so. With even items that you may consider completely unusable such as this battered chair are requested.
As a girl who has always longed for a pony, the Indian section with its array of carved wooden horses really spoke to me.
One of the best things about being fabulous is when other people realise you’re fabulous. Particularly if it’s someone whose taste and style you admire.
Yes, I know one can be quietly excellent in one’s field in a low-key, taupe cashmere sort of way. But quite frankly, if I’m putting on a show, I like a round of applause. Nobody notices the quiet ones in this game.
So, when I do a display for Guinevere I want pizzazz (it’s a Diana Vreeland word) and I want plenty of it. Show stopping backdrops with beautiful furniture as center stage. Off-white walls and quiet good taste? Leave that for the estate agents brochures please.
Sir David Tang is the sort of client who understands this approach, no shrinking violet himself in the style stakes, he knows what he likes and if he likes it he tells you. Successful people don’t have time to faff about or be indecisive.
I’ve recently been using bold horizontal painted stripes as the backdrop for our window displays. I love the immediacy of paint and the transforming power of colour.
It started with two windows I did at Guinevere in collaboration with Interior designer Alidad. He has used stripes as a foil to his beautiful multi layered exotic schemes. Alidad’s stripes are controlled and meticulous, Alidad is controlled and meticulous. Now, about me.
Ask anyone who knows me and I’m actually very shy, but when it came to doing striped backgrounds, we are talking bigger and we are talking bolder.
Broad bands of darkest chocolate brown with gold contrasting with the softest ivory. Against this I placed a set of French gilt chairs upholstered in delicious red velvet and enough ormolu accessories to make Louis XIV blush. The other window was in the same broad stripes, this time café au lait, gold and the same ivory with a monumental pale grey painted ivory bookcase filled with plaster casts and a v.chic travertine centre table.
I think Alidad liked it, at least he said he did. I hope we managed an okay fusion of Alidad taste in the Guinevere style.
Sir David certainly did and he called me from Hong Kong on his mobile to tell me so and ask if we could replicate the effect in his “country residence”, a charming lodge within the grounds of Hyde Park.
Now, a lesser man might have gone down the chintzy, pale painted grey, shabby chic route with a lodge in the park but thankfully Sir David is more chic than shabby.
Working to a tight schedule of a looming party as our completion date we began the transformation.
Painting horizontal stripes is actually much trickier than you’d think, it all about proportion, getting the thickness right for the space and deciding on the sequence of colours, you just know when you’ve got it right, but it takes time. Luckily I work with Guinevere’s in house man Rafi, he manages to translate my ideas into reality, usually without too much complaining. Drawing out and masking up the lines takes ages but once the painting starts it was wonderful to see the Lodge’s library and sitting room assume a whole new character. When we finished I styled both rooms back up; the library took the chocolate and gold scheme which proved to be an excellent background for a book-laden mahogany round table surrounded by caned library chairs.
The sitting room looked incredibly glamorous with light wood mid-century modern pieces Sir David had chosen at Guinevere and a beautiful oil painting he already had.
The wonderful thing is that nobody would expect any of it from the outside, but when you walk through the door the effect is dramatic and that, of course, is the best of it.
I suppose that is what I aim for with the displays at Guinevere, to be predicable would be the worst thing in the world.
Wednesday morning flight to Boston with BA. At least we left from Terminal 5 which is normally efficient. I was with Hannah, my daughter, who had a couple of appointments in Boston, so we combined our trips.
Anyway, we left on time. I had some wine and watched two mindless films to while away the hours. I can't even remember what they were. Hannah did give me the look about the wine as it was only 11.30 am. We also landed on time and then hit American customs….. Two hours later we exited….
We were met at the airport by our friend Nancy. Nancy lives outside of Boston in a lovely mansion filled with beautiful pieces which she collected with her late husband over the last 40 years. This is the view from the pool past the fountain up to the main house.
Thursday and Friday were spent in Boston for Hannah's appointments, but in the morning's I was able to catalogue some of Nancy's pieces, part of the reason for my trip.
Friday afternoon we left Boston in rush hour (deep sigh) and headed for Pawtucket, a small town just outside of providence, Rhode Island. We have a share in a large building there which was formally a car showroom and has a theatre on the 1st and 2nd floors. The main showroom has been divided into smaller showrooms and two of these are antique shops.
We were with our friend, Paul, who co owns the building, and had dinner that evening at Al Forno in Providence. The food and wine was delicious, even if the staff were a little too pleased with themselves!!
Saturday morning was spent in our building as there are repairs ongoing and so there were decisions to be made. I also looked at some Mid century pieces that were offered at a good price in one of the shops.
Then it was back to Boston, where I was able to catalogue some more items. This is the living room with just a little bit of malachite.
Sunday was much the same cataloguing except we had take away ribs Sunday afternoon, which were delicious, whilst Nancy watched the football (?) Then a rather sleepless flight overnight to London. I now know what they mean by red eye.
Working at Guinevere for so many years I have been spoilt by looking at gorgeous items on a daily basis. Every now and then something new is purchased which really over exceeds all our expectations and excites the senses. This week we have a stunning Pair of Russian Malachite tables with Silver mounts and hoof feet. They ooze elegance and would work in a truly modern space or a traditional one.
I am currently working from a Large Louis XV style Bureau plat in Kingwood with Ormolu mounts. It has great scale and a wonderful old leather top, which really tells a story. Not many people are able to work from a desk with so much history and character. Lucky me!
We are always shopping for the un-usual. Yesterday it was a cheerful red 1950’s English cigarette box in snake skin with bone edges. In all my years I have not seen one this colour.
Today I have been playing with the Antique textiles in the conservatory. Fabulous Block printed, hand quilted bed covers in gorgeous Indigo . All shades of blue are always a winner.
Otherwise the coat to wear this winter is the FUN coat made from Indian ceremonial throws. They are embroidered with bright coloured flowers with little mirrors. While everyone one else was wearing Black to an opening of an Art Gallery I wore one of these coats and was the ONLY person looking bright and cheerful. If nothing else I was different.
Tomorrow is another day….
As an Olympia virgin I was not entirely sure what to expect. In my mind I saw it as a large, lavish and beautifully presented space, with the best pieces the dealers have to offer. In most respects I was completely right, but it was smaller than I expected.
Champagne on arrival was accepted willingly, as my partner in crime Roger, a previous Guinevere Stylist, and I started our journey round. Roger had a very particular way he wanted to go around the fair; apparently there is a method to these things. Unfortunately this fell on somewhat deaf ears, and I managed to convince him to be a bit more haphazard. This may or may not have had something to do with the champagne… but was most definitely to our detriment. I am pretty sure I saw the same stretch 4 times over.
There were a few pieces that caught my eye, including these amazing prints by Raoul Dufy print called ‘La Fée Électricité’.Unfortunately a bit out of my personal price range at £27,000, however it is safe to say I fell in love.
Another stand-out piece was “Mao Two Faces” by Ren St Hong on Tanya Baxters stand.
However the area in which we lingered the longest, not only because of the sheer size it took up but also because of the subject matter, was Chen Dapeng’s. A very renowned artist in China, although personally I have to say I haven’t heard of him or seen his work before, so another first. It was all very big and very bold…However, not necessarily to my taste. His grand unveiling of his homage to the Queen, immediately caused a stir and I could see on my twitter feed comparisons being made between the sculpture and Tom Hanks. In my opinion it had more of a resemblance to Mrs Doubtfire. The bust was created to commemorate the ‘gesture of reconciliation’ between Britain and China.
I was subsequently blown away by the rumours of the value of one of his pieces representing Chinese history, with Ying and Yang embodied by a sculpture of balanced male and female counterparts. The price tag doesn't bear to be mentioned.
Overall I had fun, the company was good and although not all of it was to my taste (art not company)…I guess you can’t have everything!
The antiques fair at Montpellier, which is a one day trade only event, happens around 5 times a year. I remember first going there about 30 years ago when the hangars seemed to me to be brimming with amazing pieces, and I wanted them all – I’ve calmed down a bit now, but the energy and enthusiasm generated by Montpellier continues to inspire the next generation of young dealers who are looking with open minds, not hampered by the blinkers of experience.
Montpellier is a lovely historic Provencal town, with a lively atmosphere helped by it’s young university population. As I had a walk round on Monday afternoon, checking the local antique shops for anything interesting and affordable, I couldn’t help but pick up on the subdued atmosphere after the horrific incidents in Paris a couple of weeks ago – the fountain of the three graces in the main square was festooned in floral tributes and candles to the fallen of Paris – but the French seemed determined to go on as usual, and the outside terraces were vibrant.
The fair starts at 8am at the sound of a klaxon as a couple of thousand eager buyers from over 50 countries rush into a series of empty hangars – empty, because the exhibiting dealers get in at the same time, so nothing is out yet. This doesn’t stop us all from rushing around like headless chickens, peering into the back of trucks as the exhibitors try to unload.
I like to find something worth buying in the first half hour or so – it’s like scoring an early goal – the pressure’s off, and I can slow down a bit. Luckily I spotted a lovely 50’s coffee table by Maison Jansen with a Chinoiserie lacquer top, after 20 minutes or so, did the deal, and was on my way.
My haul for the day ranged from a beautiful and classic Bureau Plat to a quirky beaded glass chandelier in the shape of a sailing ship – if you go to Montpellier with a shopping list, it’s probably better to throw it away before starting. Expect the unexpected.
It was a good opportunity to catch up with some French dealers, and they confirmed that the events in Paris had pretty much closed their businesses down, especially the Paris Flea market dealers – The Flea market is actually in the district of St.Denis – so prominent in the violent events as they unfolded.
But at the end of the day, antique dealers are quite resilient individuals, and they don’t stay inside waiting for things to improve – as an Italian dealer who had driven through the night from Venezia to set up her stand told me “You know, we are all addicts”, which is as good an explanation as any!