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Art Design Luxury Restaurants Town Houses

The House of Lavender’s Blue + sketch Mayfair London Afternoon Tea

Class Art Class

It all started at a private party in Chelsea. What doesn’t? Many moons ago, back in the sway, we shimmied up to developer Orpheus’ latest townhouse feeling just a little bit on form. By midnight we’d hit the top terrace dancefloor and before we knew it, we were tearing it up with the gorgeous Clea Irving. She was of course Art Curator of sketch. We’ve always been drawn to fabulosity.

A fuchsia painted rollercoaster of engagement parties, afternoon teas with models and planners and model planners, breaking the midday rule (“More Champagne darlings… time… places… people…”) over Christmas fairies and fairy cakes, summer madness and some insanity, pre Masterpiece cocktails, post Masterpiece nightcaps and post post Masterpiece parties ensued down the years.

We mightn’t have three Michelin stars or boast egg shaped loos or own a dining room big enough to thrash out a game of badminton in but – hey! – at The House of Lavender Blue we reckon we’re sorta up there with the artistic antics of sketch. A dismembered mannequin posing as Surreal garden sculpture. Goddit. More dioramas than a Victorian playground. Goddem. Architectural sketches and artistic endeavours of varying substance. All watched over by the attendant eye of Art Curator Zelda Blakley. Godda get more. Godda get out more. What’s more, more’s more.Knock knock. “What’s there?” A reverse Pandora’s Box. A pink cuboid of delights decorated with drawings of the ceiling plasterwork of sketch dining room. A bureau style ensemble with an extending board for playing monopoly or chess or miniature croquet or Russian roulette. And a menu signed by Executive Head Chef Fred Don and Executive Pastry Chef Christophe Gasper in a watermarked envelope. Sealed with an S. Which stands for superlative.

Très bon appetit. Jing Yunnan gold black tea. Sandwiches: avocado and tomato, egg gougère, cucumber and asparagus, vegan coronation chicken. Truffle brioche bun. Scone with clotted cream and strawberry and poppy flower jam. Petits gâteaux: bergamot macaroon, cherry and pistachio Battenburg, chocolate and buckwheat cake, exotic tart (!), lemon and grapefruit marshmallows. The whole shebang.

It all ended with a private party in Battersea. What doesn’t? Well, when we say ended… a new day has just begun (“More Champagne darlings? Time! Places! People!”). sketch afternoon tea is like a decadent lifetime away. The carousel must continue. We’re drawn to the new dawn. The fabulous new dawn.

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Art Design Developers Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Mary Martin London + Stuart Blakley

That Jacket

Some days you just got it. Lifestyles Magazine America is dedicating its latest issue to Mary Martin London. The renowned fashion and entertainment publication is distributed in 39 countries. Chief Operating Officer Anthony Alexander explains, “We just love Mary’s personality. And when we saw her clothes we were amazed! We’re bridging the gap between exposure in the US and the UK.” As Elizabeth Bowen wrote some 90 odd years ago in The Hotel, “Gratifying how one’s intimate world contracted itself, how one’s friends wove themselves in! Society was fascinating, so like a jigsaw puzzle!”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Heather Small + Mary Martin London

One Morning in Heaven

Ever since Heather Small unleashed to the world her unbelievable vocal range with the ultimate Eighties remix Ride on Time (accurately described back then as “a payload of pure euphoria”), she’s been forever moving on up, projecting a pure renaissance. Oprah Winfrey chose her British Olympics Games solo single Proud as the theme tune for her chat show. As well as being the frontispiece of the internationally successful band M People for decades, Heather’s own career has remained stunningly stellar. “I step out of the ordinary | I can feel my soul descending,” she sings in her extraordinary anthem Proud. In her next hit Close to a Miracle the opening lines embrace hope, “It could all be so beautiful | Like a ray of sunshine | From the inside looking forward | With a whole different view.” Today Heather is dressed head to ankle in Mary Martin London. She’s working those Jimmy Choo heels.

Londoner Heather Small is the petite toned embodiment of empowerment blessed with an orchestra of a voice and a down to earth yet megawatt presence. Yep, she’s stunning. “The love we have for each other should be regardless of colour or creed. I’ve grown up in a society that doesn’t reflect me. I’m a dark skinned black girl. I’m a proud sista! Everyone should be proud. I’m in control. I’m aware of who I am – I am very happy with that. Fashion means quite a lot to someone like me in the music industry. Fabric, cuts, the way fashion makes you feel.”

“I met Mary at a fundraising event,” reveals the legendary singer. “Mary spoke quite a lot – so do I! She’s got a wonderful brain. Mary is very very observant – any situation gives her inspiration. She reimagines her surroundings as a piece of clothing. A feeling, a vibration. That’s what I noticed about her. Mary’s clothes are ultra creative, a really good cut. It’s always about the bigger picture with her, more than fashion. There’s a bigger statement at the heart of them, what it’s like to be different, marginalised; she’s an inspiration, it’s more than apparel. It’s about sisterhood! Let’s laugh. Let’s have continuous applause by putting a crown on each other’s head! Above all have fun. Mary’s as mad as a box of frogs!”

Rising up, Heather confirms, “I do believe in God. We are put on earth to fulfil a purpose. We need to learn how to be the best to ourselves and each other. Take yourself to a higher place and touch others. I believe in the goodness of people. Always tell the truth because anyone who hears the truth whether they want it or not they take notice… Singing has been a passion all my life. Mary’s clothes represent me.” Angel Street is an address and an address and a dress.

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Art Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Eric Lanlard + Cake Boy Battersea London

Sweet Things Are Made of These  

“I can’t wait to reopen the seating area outside,” says Eric Lanlard, his voice still rich with the timbre of Brittany. We’re in Cake Boy, his café lounge school next to the River Thames in Battersea. The Master Pâtissier and Chef is standing under a halo of lights beside a mouth watering cascade of tartes aux fruit, entremets framboise, pralines and tartes paysannes. “My favourite dessert in the world is tarte tatin – piping hot from the oven with crème fraiche on the side!” he shares. Eric moved from Plomelin in northwestern France to London 32 years ago to work for restaurateurs Albert and Michel Roux, becoming their Head Pastry Chef within a couple of years. He opened Cake Boy in 1995. Ever since, the Garçon de Gâteau has been busy as a global baking ambassador for the likes of Marriott International and Virgin Atlantic in between keeping it sweet by publishing books.

It’s time to take a trip down memory lane, an eight year trip back to a promotion in Knightsbridge… Here goes… Now that London Fashion Week is over, we can all breathe out. Nothing tastes as good as chocolate, so we’re off to experience the Montezuma Afternoon Tea at Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel. The hotel building is looking well for 50. Once the gangly new kid on the block, all Sixties bravura, it has matured (with the help of a subtle facelift) into something altogether more refined. The address is not so much golden postcode as golden place: Cadogan. Jumeirah Carlton Tower is off Sloane Street, home of the Rangers, between Candy + Candy’s One Hyde Park and the only road in London to have an architectural style named after it (Pont Street, keep up). Nearby is of course King’s Road, foodie paradise (Duke of York Square market) and shopping heaven (from Partridges to Peter Jones).

Afternoon tea, really an excuse to indulge between official meals, is high up the list of sybaritic Must Dos. Chinoiserie at JCT lives up to its name. Bedecked with hand painted Chinese wallpaper and gold leaf galore, the lounge is thronged with an army of cheongsam clad waitresses at our beck and call. We half expect Fan Bingbing to sweep through the revolving doors. Instead, the flame haired resident harpist provides a sense of serenity for the American, Saudi and English Isabel Marant clad guests. A glass of Champagne accompanies fresh strawberries before the menu goes choc-a-bloc in a celebration of its cocoa theme (Montezuma was the last Aztec king and a bit of a chocolate fiend). We order a Darjeeling and (Lady Grantham wouldn’t approve) a coffee.

One of the many joys of afternoon tea is having your cake and eating it in whatever order you desire. For the purposes of this review, we will stick to the order of the menu. Cocoa dusted (a taste of what’s to come) croissants with chorizo and Elemental provide a comforting intro. The sweet meets savoury theme makes its surprising, sensual, debut with a rich curried crab tart topped by white chocolate. A heart shaped white chocolate and parmesan palmier is hard not to love. Another unlikely yet successful marriage is chocolate macaroon with venison. For pescatarians, there’s the opportunity to order off menu, so cucumber and mayo sandwich is a traditional alternative. Back on menu, the cassis imperial chocolate cupcake is a fine dark mousse with balsamic blackcurrants filling an edible chocolate case. A sprinkling of pearls completes this sultry indulgence.

To cleanse the palate, a conquistador shot is an inspired layered composition of passion fruit, white chocolate with basil seeds and coconut jelly. Mission complete. Caraque spicy chocolate tart with popping candy features a pistachio wafer as delicate and colourful as the Chinese wallpaper. Dark mini chocolate caramel loaf filled with liquid salted butter, sweet food in savoury form, provides a jubilant succulent extravagant finale, for now, to cocoa. After this exotically original South American tour de taste, familiar British comfort returns in the form of (Lady Grantham would approve) scones with clotted cream and fruit preserve. Throughout this autumn, the general public can get tarted up and enjoy Eric Lanlard’s Montezuma Afternoon Tea. It costs £40 per person; £50 includes the Champers; for £55, the strawberries are added. The service is great, friendly staff who are more than adept at catching eye contact; a Coutts (of course) bank machine outside the hotel comes in handy for withdrawing tenners for tips.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Brenda Emmanus + Mary Martin London

An Infinite Pool of Talent

Broadcaster and journalist Brenda Emmanus OBE was the BBC’s Arts, Culture and Entertainment Correspondent for 18 years. Right now, she’s busy working on a range of projects including an ITV documentary to mark the late Princess Diana’s birthday. Brenda is a friend and client of Mary Martin. “I can’t remember exactly when I met Mary. I knew her on the scene, the celebrity community of people in my life network. Mary just appears in your life! Once she’s in she makes an impression. She’s a generous friend, an open person.”

They share a major interest in common: a passion for fashion. “As a child I cut out dolls from magazines and dressed them up. I’ve very eclectic taste. My work in the newsroom is quite formal but my role allows me to be much freer to wear more what I like. I’m mainly a lover of dresses although I do love trousers – the androgynous look – too. I love dramatic dresses that really embrace fashion. I’m up for drama on stage but go casual at the weekend. I’m stimulated by the visual, beauty and art.”

“I love the childlike quality to Mary’s apparel,” reveals Brenda. “She doesn’t use design patterns; she just creates from the heart. Mary’s impulsive – she likes to try things like a child with paints. She’s passionate and curious about everything: Pop Art, the Renaissance, music. She works as an experimental artist. Like most geniuses she’s not afraid to try and fail. She takes you out of your comfort zone. Mary allows me to pull out my inner diva, to go wholly out: she’s all bells and whistles! She’s fearless with high drama and that’s what makes her fun, mad fun!”

Brenda explains, “I host a lot of awards and red carpets. Two days before one of my events I needed something… and a ballgown appeared from nowhere! That’s what’s amazing about Mary, creating an outfit from scratch within a day or two. Thanks to her I looked great on stage presenting the Screen Nation Awards. Mary makes you try stuff you probably wouldn’t think of trying. She’s like a motor. But she values my opinion – we have an exchange of ideas.”

Mary is not a wallflower,” smiles the broadcaster and journalist. “She’s a whirlwind; you know when she’s present. I learned that Mary studied really late overcoming a challenging childhood through dreams and ambition. She’s found herself. She has a clear vision of what she is as a designer. Mary has a rightful place in the world of fashion. What she’s achieved in such a short time, going international! She sees joy in everything. A crazy but extraordinary woman! She’s very resilient. Self triumph over adversity.”

Like Mary, Brenda acknowledges her own spirituality. “Experience higher being,” she recommends. “I have learnt to trust my inner voice, my intuition. Media is so impressed by the outer world but the inner one is so important. Life is a journey. Be true to your own spirituality. Surrender to the path the universe has mapped out for you. I meditate a lot for calm and peace. Be still – there’s so much to learn. Reset who you are. Value art, love, people, creativity. We’re not on this planet for a very long time.”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Friends

Rising Up

“Fashion is the barometer of the age to accentuate the personality.” So claims high profile lawyer and President of Octopus TV Andrew Eborn. “Mary is a tornado of talent. She’s a larger than life character – she makes her presence felt! She might be loud but there’s a genuine creative side to her. She’s a fascinating individual. I love Mary Martin London clothes. They have a free style belonging to that mad crazy world of hers. I work with a lot of major stars in the music industry.” Household names. “I also host the Andrew Eborn Show on Stella Television which features people like Charles Spencer and Suzy Quatro. But the Mary Martin segment is a complete moment of escape!”

Award winning Film Director Stephan Pierre Mitchell believes “fashion reflects our time” but “I make it my own”. He continues, “I don’t think there are rules. I don’t like to conform. I rip up my own jeans. I play around with fashion hence why I get along with Mary. I met her at London Fashion Week. I immediately liked her vibe. She’s got layers. She’s not boring. She’s up my street. Mary’s clothes are spontaneous, fun, bold, colourful… tells me a lot about her. I really admire her work; she’s very special. MML is BLF. Big! Loud! Fierce! I see so many energies flying up and down.” Stephan advises, “Be truthful with yourself. When we create from a true source, we heal. Don’t think of the end result, come from a truthful place.”

Mary’s former fashion textiles Senior Lecturer Emma Carey has turned her artistic hand to interior design: “My real passion is for the print.” Emma recalls, “Mary’s life story was amazing. I found her fascinating and all the things she had been through. I was intrigued and wanted to understand more. I soon learned Mary embraces learning and new things.  She’s a powerhouse with no real self pity. She’s very creative, very excitable, brimming with energy. She says whatever she thinks, always the truth. She makes amazing prints! Mary’s clothes are like Mary, full of life, expressive, not wallflower clothes. They’re loud, out there. Her personality does come through in her clothes.”

The whole crew really has landed, an underground artists’ salon. Model and Director of Dam Model Management Hassan Reese strikes a pose outside, arms folded to reveal just a glimpse of Mary’s inaugural hand printed T shirt range. He shares, “Mary is unique! She represents tradition versus newness. She has an innate sense of Africa. Mary has African roots in her catwalk. Seriously, I feel nothing but love for her. Thank you Mary! I love that you have taken me on board. I feel so privileged and happy.” Late afternoon, model Katie Ice arrives wrapped head to toe in Louis Vuitton before revealing a Mary Martin London dress. Soignée has a new. “I first met Mary at a charity fashion event,” she remembers. “I immediately realised her clothes are so sophisticated – those fluffy dresses! – so unusual, so new, so different, then everyone copied them.” We’re rushing off to The Hoo next. “I’ll be free to pop in for some Champagne,” confirms Katie. “Life runs fast let’s celebrate it! It’ll be wonderful to see you and friends, it’s been a while.”

In the car later, much later, Mary lets slip, “You are my number one. I’m making bomber jackets every winter now because of you. I’ll use a different pattern each winter but I’ll still make bomber jackets. I agree what you say about them being so flattering to the male form. It’s all happening!” The rising of the arising over the horizon. London passes by in a fluorescent blur. All the voices of the day and in our heads and on the reel will soon fit together as a meaningful mosaic, an electrified Catherine wheel of sorts.

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Architecture Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Adil Oliver Sharif

The Turn of the Shrewd

On a cold wintry Saturday afternoon a former linen warehouse in Old Street London is all ablaze. Not literally on fire – the sparks flying are the creativity type. Afrobeats are vibrating across the attic floor below the exposed beams and bolts and screws. Something’s afoot. “Rolling, rolling!” orders the Film Director. A strong familiar voice echoes across the vast haunted space, “I love the camera! I can’t say I don’t! It screams at me! We need the drama for the camera! I love fashion! I love art! I love creativity!” Welcome. Maryland is back in town. The American philosopher Marilynne Robinson believes, “No one can anticipate your gifts because they are unique to you.” There will be lots of anticipation but no ambiguity in Mary’s unique first person narrative.

When the distinguished Director Adil Oliver Sharif was introduced to Mary Martin London through a mutual friend, the Lebanese Sierra Leonean model Yasmin Jamaal, he knew he’d struck camera gold. Adil has been filming interesting people over the last year or two. Mary’s his 66th interviewee, taking ‘interesting’ to a whole new level. She’s so interesting that Adil is now collaborating on a feature length film with Mary – and her friends, who include some of the biggest names in arts, culture and entertainment. This former warehouse is his studio and its flaxen heritage could hardly be more apropos as the backdrop to London’s leading black fashion designer sharing her story.

Everyone and everything are in flux as cameras, lights, seating, backdrops are arranged. And rearranged. And rearranged a little more. Adil is the ultimate perfectionist as is his team: assistant Racquel Escobar Rios and Director of Photography Nick Galbusera. “I love going deep,” confides Adil. “I love the complexities of the human skin and what reflects and swims deep within.” Mid afternoon and the set is ready for action. “Are we rolling? After establishing and managing my daughter’s career, I thought what can I do for myself?” muses Mary. “Hey! I’ll put my hand to sewing!”

Celetia Martin’s successful song writing and singing career has included numerous hit singles plus collaborations with the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Janet Jackson and Usher. She spent two years touring America with Groove Armada as the band’s lead vocalist. Celetia now manages rising stars herself. Not content with launching her daughter’s career in the arts, there was no way Mary was going to rest on her Grammys. So it’s not surprising she labelled the start of her career in fashion “a learning curve”.

“A lot of my mistakes were the making of my best dreams,” Mary recalls. “One of my first artistic realisations was the Fairy Tale Collection. It was all these fluffy free dreamers. I was backstage looking down as the dresses came out on the catwalk. All I could think of was am I crazy? But then everybody started clapping like in a Hollywood movie. From thereon it just started. A few years later I would get a degree in fashion and textiles with flying colours!”

“The drive behind the creativity of a show motivates me. And I love creating something from nothing. I never even like to know what I make. I like to surprise myself!” she relates. “My strength comes from God. I’m a great believer in God. I love God. He’s what drives me. That’s why I create. I’m unique. God made us all in His image yet everyone is unique. This gives me a sense of freedom and the ability to do things differently from other people. I’m a very very spiritual person. I do believe in the afterlife. I love being spiritual. I’m in this field walking, walking, walking… so pleasant being spiritual. Spirituality means a lot to me. God is my all in all.” Marilynne Robinson expresses, “I know what I want to do. I know what is mine to do. I know what is not mine to do.” So does Mary.

Her path to freedom and success hasn’t exactly been unsmooth. There would be a silver lining for Mary but in the beginning there was no silver spoon. She keeps going: “I’m from a family of 13 children. I was the seventh child – nobody took any notice of me. That’s why I’m an attention seeker now! A diva! I was born by the River Taff in Wales. It was beautiful. But I faced racism at school so I ran away. I ended up in a children’s home. Actually I was in about 10 to 15 children’s homes. I didn’t learn to read or write. Eventually I went to London to live with my aunty. Are we still rolling?”

Ever her glass more than half full, running over, Mary overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. “Not being educated meant I had to force myself to do things in life. Not being able to read or write that well even now means my mind is more adjustable to shapes and how to put things together.” It’s the turn of the shrewd. As for the racism, “Don’t hate. Use your energy to find your creative self. Learn the essence of time – use your time well.” Mary volunteers at the youth mentoring Urban Synergy charity, encouraging children to follow her into the fashion industry. “We know nothing about the nature of time,” contends Marilynne Robinson. “Time in some sense exists simultaneously with itself. It’s not sequential in the way we experience it.”

“Fashion is an expression of myself,” Mary argues. “I’ve got a thing about fashion. I love texture – combine scuba with to see the way an outfit can move. Voila! Creative mind flow! That’s what I call it. I’m like a child in a candy shop when I’m in the middle of a fabric store. I could sleep with fabric. Real love. I’m attracted to creative people who are a bit different. I don’t do normal. I don’t do boring. Fame doesn’t mean anything to me. High regard for talent? I get that. I don’t want the fame. I just want God to have all the glory.” Marilynne Robinson suggests, “If there’s a place in heaven for the arts, that will be the hallelujah!”

“The major influence in my life has been myself,” Mary summates. “I challenge myself every day to be better, to change designs, to be the better me. I’m a free spirit! I live my life freely. Every day I wake up I’m happy to be alive. I’m a black woman, a strong black woman. There, I’ve let you into Maryland.” The afternoon closes and beyond the red brick gabled walls of the former linen warehouse, over a sea of grey tiled roofs, the mellowing sun sets over the city. On an attic floor in Old Street London, a Jamesian “cloud of music and affection and success” floats away: it’s a wrap.

 

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Art Design People Restaurants Town Houses

Hello Darling + Darling House Waterloo London

The Lost and Found Generation

Hello darlings. Hello Darling. Like a 21st century Dennis Severs’ House (the madcap period drama that lurks in Spitalfields), Hello Darling the brasserie and botanical bar and Darling House the mad party pad upstairs does eccentricity on tap. It’s out on a whim. The creative minds behind this immersive concept are Harriet Darling and Elise Edge. Presumably “Hello Edge” didn’t have quite the same ring to it. The interiors are a riot of paint effects and visual puns. A piece of art on the wall slides to the side. Is it a painting or window? It’s both. Below a handwritten “Lost Property” sign lies a discarded copy of Sarah Knight’s bestseller Get Your Sh!t Together sticking out from a Christmas bag. A note inside reads: “To Lulu, to help you stop losing your things wherever you go!” Is it an installation or the trail of a somewhat clueless guest? Not sure.

Gertrude Stein, champion of Cubist literature, on “Glazed glitter” in her 1914 Tender Buttons, “Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover. The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come. There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometimes, surely any is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing. There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine. There can be breakages in Japanese. That is no programme. That is no colour chosen. It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing. It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.” Goodbye Hello Darling. Goodbye darlings.

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Architecture Art Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

The Berkeley Hotel Knightsbridge London + Breakfast

Apsley Fabulous

Lavender’s Blue. Some colours are legendary. And others become synonymous with places. The Blue Bar is always The Berkeley Hotel. The hangout of the bold and brilliant and beautiful down from Apsley House. Every era has one. A London fine dining defining interior designer. Currently, it’s Martin Brudnizki. At the end of last century, no restaurant or wine bar was complete unless David Collins had transformed it. The late Dublin born artist used a striking Lutyens Blue hue, a dusky cornflower, to create the most memorable interior in Knightsbridge just as the new millennium dawned. In a touching posthumous tribute, The Berkeley called up David Collins’ protégé to dream up a dining room named after his master. Robert Angell employed some of David Collins’ favourite motifs, from a white onyx bar to a Soaneian use of mirrors. Some designers are legendary. And others become synonymous with places. Lavender’s Blue. Breakfast in bed, even The Berkeley variety, means casually leafing through magazines, preferable the vintage variety. Although inclusion of today’s Times is a nice touch. Here’s the September 1999 edition of Wallpaper* magazine:

“There’s no denying that the acrimonious and much publicised art appreciation tiff between Damien Hirst and new Quo Vadis owner, Marco Pierre White, was bound to draw in curious diners and art lovers alike. But David Collins’ pleasing refit and the culinary skills of ex Ivy maître d’ Fernando Peire are two good reasons to return.  Leather banquettes break up the room, a marked improvement on its previous cold refectory incarnation. Though not hugely original, the food is exquisite, just as we have come to expect from a MPW establishment; lobster, poulet noir and a variety of risottos are all on offer to a discerning clientele. The controversial conceptual art by Marco Pierre White is more than a little reminiscent of that of Damien Hirst, though much cheekier, especially our favourite, the aptly named ‘Divorce’ – a copy of Hirst’s dot painting, but with four perpendicular slashes – ouch. The Private room at the back boasts Thirties New York green leather walls created by the ubiquitous Bill Amberg. The skeletons have been ripped out of the upstairs bar, and the refit’s final stage will include  a bar for the restaurant as well as a members’ bar called ‘Marx’ in homage to the great Karl who lived on this site. Admittance will depend on whether or not Fernando likes you – so start sending flowers and chocolates now.”

As always, what does Gertrude Stein have to say about breakfast in her 1914 Tender Buttons? Rather a lot as it turns out. Here are a few of her rich pickings, “A sudden slice changes the whole plate, it does so suddenly.” And, “An imitation, more imitation, imitation succeed imitations.” And, and, and, “Anything that is decent, anything that is present, a calm and a cook and more singularly a shelter, all these show the need of clamour. What is the custom, the custom is in the centre.” A candy striped strawed bottle of ‘Berkeley Boost’ – freshly squeezed carrot, orange, turmeric, apple and ginger – followed by a homemade croissant and almond pastry; fruit salad; Scottish smoked salmon, cream cheese, rocket with Annabel’s style linen tied lemon bagel; Greek yoghurt, granola, Acacia honey and strawberries; and a celebratory chocolate cake topped with raspberries. The portions are so indulgent this ain’t breakfast in bed – this is breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea and supper between the duvets. All to be taken laying down. All on Aunt Margery’s best linen and tea set. Some breakfasts are legendary. Lavender’s Blue.

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Architects Art Design Fashion Luxury People Restaurants

Sexy Fish Mayfair London + Annabel P + Mary Martin London + Peggy Gou + K Style + Maya Jama + Teddy Music + Gertrude Stein + Frank Gehry + Damien Hirst + Lavender’s Blue + Love + War + Peace

Annabel’s Party

Finally the limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically disembarks dripping in diamonds. Cathedral school followed by the finishing variety has clearly paid off. It’s her role. Lavender’s Blue Directrice turned Diamonds Ambassadress turned Frontline Heroine has arrived. “Dahlings! One can never have enough class – or diamonds.” Clearly not. The doormen make way, the waitress beckoning to the best table in the house. Siberia where art thou now? “This is War and Peace!” Annabel declares scouring the wine list. “Champagne, dear Giuliano!” Meanwhile DJ Sophie ups the tempo downs the base. It’s a night off for Korean DJ Peggy GouK Style is so where it’s at right now – but Sophie is determined to bring the house down. This is going to be more disco than dinner.

Sometimes you really gotta go with it and order a pre dinner alfresco cocktail that matches the cushioned upholstery. Sea Breeze please or at least something ephemerally turquoise. Beetroot, carrot, ginger and orange detox elixirs soon cancel the boldness. For a hot minute. Annabel’s wearing Biba vintage, working it babes. Her fellow guest is as always rocking Mary Martin London head to toe. Annabel gets busy stirring up Insta Stories in between yellowtail tartar, smoked tofu and caviar followed by pink shrimp tempura. Maya Jama sends her love. Sexy Fish is after all the television presenter’s fav restaurant. Good friend Grime DJ Teddy Music of Silencer fame chimes in next. Everyone’s soon discussing menu tips. Mango and passionfruit, coconut and lemongrass or pineapple and mandarin sorbet? Decisions, decisions. “All three. Or is that six?” How does Gertrude Stein view dinner in her 1914 classic Tender Buttons? “Not a little fit, not a less fit sun sat in shed more mentally.”

Basement bound, a downward descent reverberating under a Frank Gehry crocodile past Damien Hirst mermaids before walking by those marbled bathrooms – salut Versailles – till the night relaxes into an embrace of unbelievably attractive seafood. Late call but Mary Martin London’s on the blower. “Fantastic! I cannot wait for our next interview. Let’s talk. I’m here and ready and want to talk about my amazing new dresses and fashion.” The limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically departs dripping in diamonds and fantasy.

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Art Fashion Luxury People

Portrait +

All Too Human

Virtual vernissage of a vision of a visage. New normalcy for old masters. And a few new masters too. William Campbell, the highly distinguished framer of Marylebone London, advises a commanding dark stained wooden frame oozing oodles of definition. “The frame you have chosen is quite traditional so I think you should visually separate the canvas from the frame by placing it upon a mount. This will emphasise the edge of the canvas in a three dimensional manner. Raw black silk will work really well as the mount material. And of course it should all be protected by gallery glass.”

­Over to the artist, the highly distinguished painter of Pimlico London, who shares, “This portrait is quite abstract. It gives a suggestion of outline and face. But it’s really about texture and paint quality. I used a palette and knife. The three artists I was inspired by are Bomberg, Auerbach and Kossoff.” The checked shirt is a case in point: it’s reminiscent of David Bomberg’s stark and thickly built up colour. Frank Auerbach’s concentration on surface is wonderfully reimagined too. And Leon Kossoff’s figurative life drawings suddenly don’t seem a generation away. This portrait immediately radiates perplexing resonance coupled with a discursive inventiveness.

What does the sitter think? “I look very relaxed – exuding a certain nonchalance­. Maybe that was the intention! William Thuillier is a very clever artist. He’s really captured that moment. It was a very sunny afternoon and the light just streamed through the French doors of his incredibly elegant piano nobile studio. I remember we ha­­­­d several coffees and laughed a lot. There is something quite avant garde about my portrait. I hope it is hanging in my nephew’s offspring’s country house drawing room in years to come.”

Lavender’s Blue Art Director Annabel P – videographer, storyteller and socialite – knows her stuff. “I love the portrait! It’s so very you.” She soon sets about seamlessly filming the same sitter against the setting of The House of Lavender’s Blue. “I wanted to film you in a Lady Gaga sequence with­­ a period twist­­­. That’s very you too! You’re very informal yet you offer up so much to the canvas and camera. You’ve an easy unencumbered and beautiful presence to capture, even when you’ve donned your glasses ready for bed.” No show is complete without a Bill Brandt influenced self portrait. Visible virtuosity.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People Town Houses

Mary Martin London Scarves +

The House of the Red and White Lions  

“We are having the best time ever!” proclaims the haute couture artist. “I’ve just won a Global Ovation Lifetime Achievement for Fashion!” Bravo! Mary is the Valkyrie of fashion residing over her very own Valhalla. This ring cycle ain’t gonna end anytime soon. Late to the game, the BBC is falling over itself to interview her and beef up its breaking news. Queue. Join. Next. The accolades keep pouring in: Costume Designer of the Year at the Global Community and Business Star Awards and Style Icon Honoree Excellence in Fashion Couture courtesy of the Global Style Icon Awards, to name yet another two.

Mary exclaims, “I would like to say thank you to the Global Style Icon Awards for awarding me the best designer – costumer designer! – for 2020 and 2021. I’d also like to say thank you to the Foreign Office for letting me do my virtual show in the building which was an amazing shoot in a beautiful place. And, yeah, thank you thank you that’s all I can say – I’m happy!” Mary explains more about that epic Foreign and Commonwealth Office shoot, “History had inspired me. I realised that Ignatius Sancho was an inhouse slave but was later set free and he was the first black millionaire in Britain. And he and his wife used to sell tobacco and everything from their shop which stood on the site of the Foreign Office on King Charles Street.”

She rolls, “I was the first black woman to do a shoot in there. What I did was reverse fashion and I put the black models on the stairs like they were the kings and queens. I wanted to show good images of black people in regal clothes – like black excellence – I’m a fantasiser! You should always be proud of yourself and who you are really.” Never resting on her many many laurels, the designer shares, “I love digital art! I started doing the art and people started to love my art just like they love my clothes so I thought why not? I’m doing some beautiful images and I’m also putting them on clothes as well as screen prints to hang on your walls.” That’s when she’s not conjuring up fluffy puffball dresses, a style Mary invented. It’s overture overload! A pressed foil wrap dress – another Mary Martin London trademark design – clings to a tailor’s dummy in the studio at the top of her townhouse, her very own Isolde’s Tower. And next season’s must have accessory is in the making: the outsized unisex bag. But her suitcases are packed: “I love Ghana! I’m going over there as soon as I can to do some fashion!”

Right now she’s busy sewing up a storm: a private commission to design and make individual scarves for an Irish mother and her two daughters. The scarves feature Mary’s signature Slaves in the Woods pattern in each client’s favourite colourway. Welcome to the undisputed territory of Maryland. Earlier, the designer was partying with R+B singer Mark Morrison. Next, Kofi arrives and before long Mary is duetting down the corridor with the legendary rock singer: “Black is the colour of my skin | Black is the life that I live | And I’m so proud to be the colour that God made me | And I just gotta sing black is my colour | Yeah couldn’t be no other oh no | Black is my colour / Yeah yeah | Couldn’t be no other | No no no.” Kofi laughs, “Everybody loves Mary!” American dance and house singer Kathy Brown of “Happy People” and “Give It Up” fame rings: “It’s going to be a good year!”

Mary has been jazzing up her atelier of late. She scrawled “And behind the smile, beneath the makeup, I’m just a girl who wishes for the future” across a Katherine Hepburn mirror in her salon. And “Life is better when you’re laughing” over a Marilyn Monroe mirror in her studio. A humongous two metre tall carnation precariously balances over her materials cupboards. Like everything about Mary Martin London, it’s larger than life, carried on huge waves of Wagnerian music crashing on the ocean floor. Not everyone has “Talking to God” as their WhatsApp tagline. Not everyone is Mary Martin London. An afternoon in her company: well, it’s like living life in inverted commas.

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Architects Architecture Art Design Developers Luxury People Restaurants

Hartwell House + Garden Aylesbury Buckinghamshire

Inside the Vale in Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell Parish

National Trust country house tours are all jolly good but nothing beats the fun of actually lounging, dining, partying and hopping into bed in an historic property. Le grand expérience. We once lunched at Florence Court in County Fermanagh to celebrate the 7th Earl and Countess of Enniskillen returning some rather grand trinkets to their former home but that was a one off despite dining out on it ever since. In a marriage made in heaven, or at least a pairing in Britain at its finest, the dream comes true in the triumphant triumvirate of Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno; Middlethorpe Hall, York; and Hartwell House in the Vale of Aylesbury. National Trust houses where the four posters are for using. Well if Hartwell was good enough for Louis XVIII (he rented it for five years from 1809) it’ll suit us Francophiles thank you very much. Although His Majesty probably didn’t have to catch the train from London Marylebone. And so, we wave goodbye to the golden tinged terraces of NW1 on a blisteringly hot morn.

We’re tasked with capturing the spirit of the place, its current glory, its essence no less. The present is not a foreign country; they do things better here and now. Although Paris France is our next stop. As Gertrude Stein amusingly muses in Paris France, “You do not mention the relation of French men to French men of French men to French women of French women to French women to French children of French men to French children of French children to French children.” It’s worth mentioning the Frenchman who would become exiled sovereign as his plump features fill a bust and a statue and a painting at Hartwell. The Frenchman who looks down on the dining table of Apsley House on Piccadilly, London, in a portrait by François Pascal Simon, Baron Gérard. “But all art is erotic,” prescribes Adolf Loos in his 1908 lecture Ornament and Crime. Erm, not so sure, but we really do agree with his statement “Luxury is a very necessary thing.” And “An English club armchair is an absolutely perfect thing.” His words “Fulfilment awaits us” have a prophetic ring to them. Unerotic art, luxury and English club armchairs await us.

It’s also worth mentioning a certain French woman. A French woman who was Queen of France for 20 minutes. Marie-Thérèse Charlotte Duchess of Angoulême was the eldest daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The Dauphine joined her uncle to hold court at Hartwell. Her much maligned and misrepresented mother tried to set her daughter on the straight and narrow. On New Year’s Day 1784 the Queen, forgetting cake and remembering the poor, told Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, “The winter is very hard. There is a crowd of unhappy people who have no bread to eat, no clothes to wear, no wood to make a fire. I have given them all my money. I have none left to buy you presents, so there will be none this year.”

First impressions of Hartwell are grand, very grand. And very Jacobean. A feast of late 17th century transomed and mullioned oriels greets us as we swoop down the driveway round the turning circle with its life size statue of Frederick Prince of Wales on horseback and screech the breaks outside the entrance archway. But peeping past the very manicured bush (straight out of a David Inshaw painting) round to the garden front, there’s a perpendicular juxtaposition that would give County Down’s Castle Ward a run for its money. It’s Arcadian Palladian! The wealthy Hampden family built the original house before selling it to the even wealthier Lee family a couple of centuries later. In 1938 the house and 730 hectare estate was bought by conservationist Ernest Cook, grandson of the Victorian pioneer of package holidays Thomas Cook. Not that there’s anything package about bespoke Hartwell House. Ernest Cook saved the ensemble from certain ruin. Historic Hotels owner Richard Broyd would later acquire the leasehold which would in turn would be assigned to the National Trust in 2008 while allowing the house to still be run as a hotel. Lasting impressions of Hartwell are grand, very grand.

The dining room with its pendentive domes and matching Greek key cornice and carpet is more Soaneian than Pitzhanger Manor. The walls are painted lemon sorbet colour and the ceiling lemon ice cream. Contrary to appearances the dining room is 1980s not 1780s. It’s the creation of the architect Eric Throssell who converted Hartwell House from a finishing school to a hotel. A very clever creation at that. The architect amalgamated a closet, secretary’s room, south portico hallway and study to form a coherent space. The closet was reshaped to form an apse balancing that of the former study. French doors are wide open to the terrace. Dinner is served. The menu is elegantly labelled “Hartwell Bill of Fare”. Sourdough and fried tomato bread are followed by a starter of pan seared scallops, apple ketchup, compressed apple and oat crisp. The main course is pan fried turbot, leek spaghetti, sun blush tomatoes, British new potatoes and mussel cream sauce. Pudding is raspberry and elderflower tart, elderflower and mint sorbet. Taste good dining in a good taste dining room. Jacqueline Duncan, Founder of Inchbald School of Design, always reminds us, “I’m interested in taste.” A gentle breeze rustles through the dining room. Such peace and tranquillity. Yet under the fading light outside, tragedy is marked on the lawn. A tiny gravestone reads: “In loving memory of Charmian Patricia baby daughter of Captain and Mrs Conyers Lang died March 30 1924.” Beyond this gravestone, a walled cemetery abuts the estate.