In conversation with Lucy Cleland.
WEDS 27th MARCH, 5 - 6.30pm
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.
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….
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.
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!?
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…
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.
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!