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Design Developers Luxury People

Morpheus London + The Pavilion St John’s Wood London

It Is Cricket

Lord's Cricket Ground © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In an exclusive preview, Lavender’s Blue tour Morpheus’s latest ultra prime residence. It’s an architectural moment on a roofscape, reimagined for the opening decades of the 21st century. A great swathe of entertainment space lies behind a grand sweep of terrace, a cow shot from Lord’s Cricket Ground. A double hat trick. Side on is a hawk eye view of The Regent’s Park, good for rabbit and ferret spotting. Penthouse doesn’t quite paint the picture. This is about placement. Welcome to The Pavilion, St John’s Wood.

St John's Wood Lord's Cricket Ground © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Alex Isaac is Head of Design at Morpheus. Previously he was Creative Director at Linley and before that he designed yachts. Mega yachts. “Of course Morpheus is highly regarded in the development world,” he commences, “but increasingly we’re also taking on private commissions. We deliver one stop turnkey solutions for refurbishments as well as building new homes. Our development at Pond Place sums up the Morpheus approach to interiors – luxurious, elegant, not intimidating, relaxing, a calm environment.”

St John's Wood Lord's Cricket Ground Finial © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

His experience designing mega yachts for Edmiston and Company is relevant. “The highest levels of design and craftsmanship are essential for yachts. But you only stay on your yacht about six weeks a year so it can be more ostentatious. It’s not your home!” When Jamie Edmiston acquired Linley, he took Alex with him. Alex’s parents are both interior designers. The Morpheus team includes architects, architectural technicians, interior designers and cabinetmakers. “We’ve got a vast database of suppliers,” he confirms. “And we design problems out at the very beginning, while keeping within budget and timescales.”

Morpheus Pavilion Hall @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

More on The Pavilion, all 3,600 internal square feet and 1,700 external square feet of it. Two lifts open into a central entrance hall lit by grand chandeliers. “It’s important to invest in fine pieces,” Alex believes, “to spend money where it counts. Sometimes we take inspiration from antiques to produce amazing timeless installations.” Beyond, to the front of the building is that entertainment space. A walnut floored reception area is balanced on one side by a dining room and on the other, a study. “Rather than one traditional desk,” he continues, “the study’s designed for hot desks but it’s still quite formal.” A wall of windows overlooking the 100 foot long terrace could prove distracting for getting any work done.

Morpheus Pavilion Sitting Room @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Morpheus Pavilion Dining Room @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Morpheus Pavilion Detail @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Morpheus Pavilion Bedroom @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Namibia white marble corridors of certainty. To the rear of the host building is a quieter zone which includes a cluster of family bedrooms accessed off an inner hall. Marble is complemented by an indulgence of soft materials: velvet, suede, leather and 100 percent hand tied silk carpets. The bedrooms enjoy direct access onto a 60 foot long terrace. The master suite is separately accessed off the entrance hall and also overlooks the rear terrace. A glazed winter garden occupying part of the terrace allows for all year round relaxation. The square cut symmetry of the floorplate is matched by the classic balanced interiors. “We design through the eyes of our clients,” says Alex. “The nature of our work means we approach every commission like The Pavilion in a tailored fashion. This informs the design language to address our clients’ desires, needs and requirements.”

Morpheus Pavilion Bathroom @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“I like to bring the detailing out of loose materials, such as pillowcases, and apply it to the architecture as well, to the walls,” he highlights. Style, comfort and technology form the golden trio of successful interiors. Alex notes an increasing desire by clients for long distance control of their homes’ environment: “These days Apple interface is usually requested.”

Morpheus Pavilion En Suite @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“At Morpheus,” Alex concludes, “we’re diverse. We don’t fall into the trap of a house style. Instead, each project takes on its own distinctive style. Projects are informed by choice and use of materials, restraint and patrician dexterity. Clients expect first class comfort as well as distinguished style and the latest technology. That’s what makes up our DNA!” So far, so good innings.

Morpheus Pavilion Winter Garden @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Design Luxury People

Luxury Living Group London + Alberto Vignatelli

And So To Bed

Luxury Living Group Bentley Bed @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There are parties and there’s the not so laboured or conservative but very liberal London launch of Luxury Living an equidistant plumped up embossed cushion’s throw from Harrods and Harvey Nics and Hyde Park and Harriet Walk and heaven. It’s the local shop for One Hyde Park. Being Knightsbridge that means a treasure filled palazzo. Limos stretching, (thick pile country pile) scarlet carpet calling, ropes a riposte to the common people segretating, champers flowing, rich doors opening, (the world’s your) oysters on tap. What’s not to adore? You know you’ve landed when even the bidet is solid gold. The World of Interiors and their partner are here. It’s our first party where there are nearly as many bodyguards as guests. Nope, that’s not a fake Van Dyck. Yon butterfly thing, yep it’s a Damo Hirst. The old and new masters are courtesy of Milanese gallerist Jerome Zodo. “I’m opening my first gallery in London,” he tells Lavender’s Blue, “on Dering Street off the top of New Bond Street.” Luxury Living is lined wall to wall with models and that’s just the waiters and marble busts. Founder Alberto Vignatelli enthuses, “We are delighted to open our new store in an area of London synonymous with luxury living. London’s concentration of wealth and power and international audiences with impeccable taste in interiors makes it the perfect city to start Luxury Living’s next chapter.” It’s really not a dog’s life but if Rover is a discerning fan of Top Gear, the Bentley pet bed is a must at £3,960 a pup pop. Luxury Living proves Italians really are more stylish.

 

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Architects Architecture Design Hotels Luxury

Pont Street + No.11 Cadogan Gardens Hotel London

Beautiful as a Story

Pont Street Architecture © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Architectural fashion is often a reaction to what went immediately before. There’s even a perceptible difference between Pugin the father and Pugin the son’s work. The second generation architect’s designs are more rationalised,” observes artist and architectural publisher Anne Davey Orr. “The use of concrete in the 20th century would issue in a much more open expression of materials and structure.” In between trying not to butcher quotations (it was a late night chat) it’s worth noting the penultimate decades of the last two centuries both stuck to something of a “more is more mantra”, a sort of turn of the century syndrome. Eclecticism gone wild. Competent chaos. Not without honour and slightly mad. Pont Street for the 1880s and 90s; postmodernism for the 1980s and 90s. Out went conformity and goodbye to context; in came variety and hello to contrast. Many a dazed and disorientated architectural historian has spent sleepless nights defining and redefining the late 19th century style or rather style hybrid. North German Revival? Queen Anne? Flemish Renaissance? Hans Town? Or simply Cadogan? Osbert Lancaster, never short of a catchy phrase, opted for Pont Street Dutch. John Betjeman shortened it to Pont Street which if nothing else is certainly geographically specific. He calls it the “new built red as hard as the morning gaslight” in his poem The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel. These days the arresting SW postcodes are as golden as they’re terracotta.

11 Cadogan Gardens © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Equally contentious is who invented it? John James Stevenson claimed “Queen Anne” as his baby; the 21st century artists sounding George and Peto produced some of the most overblown examples in Harrington Gardens SW7 but the style was to become synonymous with the domineering work of Norman Shaw. Whoever dreamt up Pont Street, and in reality it was the usual hotchpotch of talent and self publicity, the style spelt the death knell, the writing on the rendered wall, of regular terraces, issuing in an asymmetric age of individualism. “Look at me, look at me, look at me!” screams each and every house as the roofline tipsily whooshes and swooshes along more Dutch gables than Keizersgracht. Against the navy blue canvas of a sun drenched winter’s morning, the red brick and terracotta dressed with whitish stone renders Pont Street a patriotic tricolour. If walls could speak: “We may look Dutch or German or kinda Belgian (although certainly not anaemic Italian) but We Are Proud To Be British!” Its strength of character allows 20th century blips such as the picture window spanning the penthouse of 41 Lennox Gardens to be immersed into the wider picture of Pont Street. The houses (age unconsciously) celebrate their birthdays. “1884” shouts 25 Lennox Gardens in two foot tall letters from its third floor. A few doors up 43 Lennox Gardens tells the world it’s a year younger.

11 Cadogan Gardens Hotel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

While unsettling for minimalists or purists, a wander in wonder along the wonderful streets of SW1 and SW3, the blessed boulevards of the hallowed Cadogan Estate, throws up a maximalist and impure visual feast, an aesthetic eyeful, for the devil and angels are in the detail. At a glance, here are just some of the hyperactive highlights. Keyhole silhouette broken pediment copper dormers in Sloane Gardens. Double decker dormers in Culford Gardens. Witch’s hat copper turrets where Draycott Place meets Blacklands Terrace. Quoined porthole windows peering out of 54 to 58 Draycott Place. A neo Elizabethan fretwork loggia hugging 3 Cadogan Gardens. Pierless Brighton balconies clinging on to 85 to 87 Cadogan Gardens. A French château mansard atop 89 Cadogan Gardens. Twin Queen Anne fanlights surmounting the doorcase of 105 Cadogan Gardens. Stumpy Ionic pilasters with egg and dart capitals framing the porch of 60 Cadogan Square. A pair of ballsy busty bulbous oriel windows bursting out from 84 Cadogan Square. A crowd of Georgian, gothic, plate glass, lead paned, stained glass, dormer and gabled windows on the side elevation of 63 Cadogan Square. Oh, and a lonely half oriel window for good measure. Pont Street itself bisects Cadogan Place Gardens under the watchful eyes of Jumeirah Carlton Tower. But the great swathe of red is mostly found between Sloane Street and Lennox Gardens. The extremities of Pont Street dive back into stuccoland.

A morning of architectural investigation deserves an afternoon of pure indulgence. Historically, afternoon tea was the outcome of dinner hour slipping to after 7pm in the early 19th century. Hiccupping ladies at first surreptitiously downed tea and gobbled cakes in their boudoirs after midday. Certainly, trailblazing trendsetting taboo busting zeitgeisty gal-about-castle Duchess of Rutland was bolshily dispensing tea in her boudoir by 1842. By Pont Street times, both sexes were merrily letting rip into scones and clotted cream in the drawing room or on the lawn. Where better then to indulge than No.11 Cadogan Gardens, the hotel bought by the synonymous Estate in 2012? It’s a thoroughly sophisticated member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

11 Cadogan Gardens Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A maze of lacquered cloistered sequestered panelled hallways and passageways leads into the consciously picturesque opalescent drawing room. Linen at the ready, afternoon tea awaits, designed to instil a divine inertia into the remainder of a blurred and stimulating day. Decked and bedecked, trellised and jardinièred, the terrace is tucked between the townhouses and the mews to the rear. A flashback in paradise, evanescent and alive with remote anticipation, it’s a place to dwell on the meaningfulness of life. Another surprising space, full of heavenly glamour, is the Versailles inspired mirrored hall. Oil paintings of aristos line the ascending staircase to the 54 bedrooms. Monochromatic photos of models Christie, Linda and Kate line the descending staircase to the basement. Souls of different ages, the universe in process of consummation. No.11 has a distinct and dynamic personality, warm and sensuous, functioning outward from within.

11 Cadogan Gardens Sandwiches © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Over to the father of town planning Manning Robertson for some contrariness: “Definitions of architecture are as unsatisfactory as any other expositions of the aim and meaning of the arts; but if architecture is to be alive at all it must clearly involve the erection of buildings to suit the demands of the period, and the embellishment of those buildings according to the dictates of the materials in use, the treatment being a direct reflection of the outlook of the epoch, based of course upon past work, insofar as it is applicable. We cannot say that the 19th century, which produced principally a dead copying of the past, did not reflect itself truly; it was, on the contrary, amazingly accurate in illustrating that the worship of material prosperity is not consistent with a high level of art. Public attention was absorbed elsewhere; architecture had to look after itself; what more natural than that men living in such a period should turn round and, as a sop to the aesthetic, attempt to reconstruct periods long since dead? The Victorian era was an age of immense scientific achievements, but it was also unique as an age that produced no living and typical architecture, unless one calls an indiscriminate repetition of past styles ‘typical’.”

11 Cadogan Gardens Afternoon Tea © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Design

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew London + The Queen’s Speech

Join the Queue 

Kew Gardens Christmas Trail © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kew Gardens Christmas Trail. Lakeside explosions of The Nutcracker, kaleidoscopic cacophonies of the chattering classes, lower-upper-middle class people in glasshouses, why my Versailles. “Oh,” the Queen was overheard muttering at the recent dinner in her honour at Dublin Castle, “I rather like this clinking of glasses,” as the lively Irish in unison cheered “Sláinte!”  To quote another Elizabeth, the Anglo Irish writer Ms Bowen, “I think the main thing, don’t you, is to keep the show on the road.”

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Architects Architecture Art Design Luxury People Town Houses

Architect John O’Connell + The Wallace Collection London

The Great and the Good

The Wallace Collection Perspective by John O'Connell @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lavender’s Blue on a tour of The Wallace Collection with John O’Connell founder and director of John J O’Connell Architects. Sssh! This Dublin based international practice is responsible for the restoration, rejuvenation and reinvigoration of the galleries which together form central London’s best kept cultural secret. Despite being a Sevres urn’s throw from Oxford Street, The Wallace Collection at Hertford House radiates an air of calm and civility. Perhaps it’s the sylvan setting of Manchester Square. Or maybe the muted acoustics of the glazed courtyard restaurant. There’s nothing subdued though about the interiors of Hertford House. A blaze of historically correct colour awaits. Quiet! The latest room to sparkle once more is the Great Gallery. Mr JJ O’Connell speaketh:

The Wallace Collection Drawing by John O'Connell @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“In principle, each room is enhanced to stress the domestic or private mansion aspect of the main house. For example interconnecting doors between rooms have been reinstated and indeed in the Study we have introduced an entirely new false door to visually balance the existing doorway on the other side of the fireplace. Our main purpose is to provide an augmented setting for the Collection. It is not about re-creating rooms as they were, no, but rather re-presenting them for today’s visitors and scholars. The colour of the Dining Garden Hall is a quieter silver grey. You can’t have hectic colours all the time!” Listen up! Chief sparkler takes a breath:

“This is the size of a city block, the Great Gallery, so it’s an extraordinary beautiful room and what we’ve done is gone and looked at the archived photograph of the room as it was with this lovely laylight which had to be abolished at a certain moment and now with modern technology we can again have this great laylight. This is where you have studio glazing at the top of the roof and it in turn lets light down onto this magnificent laylight so in other words it has a huge amount of natural light falling into the room.

It’s not wallpaper on the walls. It’s the most wonderful possible fabric, silk, and it’s not just damask, it’s a brocatelle, so it’s got even more silk in it! I think that to, as it were, bring the gallery forward into the modern age, you need to get the best possible conditions: lighting, climate control, security, fire safety compliance, decorative effects, so you can bring all of that into this great space. You could only do that if you go right back and lift the roof off because that’s what happened here. You see, the entire roof was taken off and what we have here is a whole new room within the gallery space because this has the technology almost of a railway terminal, when you see the supporting structure, and yet inside it is so beautiful.

Architectural features must do at least three jobs. The oculi in the latticed cast plasterwork punch through the cove: vertical stop, start, stop, start, all the way round the room. They also let more light into the room and act as the return path for the air conditioning. Reinstating wainscoting has curatorial importance. The paintings come to life against coloured fabric above the dado rail and the light coloured wainscot is appropriate as a backdrop to furniture. The gilt fillet of the wainscot is more pronounced than in the preceding galleries. If it was too small it would look titchy; if it was too over the top it would look bonkers. The wainscot must flow along. The Great Gallery enshrines everything we have learned during our 19 years working at The Collection. Everything bar the floor is new.

“I think first of all The Wallace Collection is so multifaceted, the armour, then of course furniture, particularly Boulle, as an architect we love Boulle furniture, this is what we really want! The great thing is here the parameters are set. You can move everything but you cannot acquire and you cannot dispose which is marvellous, so it’s like a game of chess all the time. Everything is of equal importance. The placement of objects is just so important.” Quite so.

 

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Architecture Design Fashion People Town Houses

Recreating Eden Landscape Design + Savannah Georgia

Paradise Found

Antebellum House 1905 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Atlanta. Hotlanta. Leave sultry Sunday Funday we’re-off-to-balmy-Piedmont-Park behind. Hop on the next flight out of the capital of Georgia, bumping along over the alligator swamps. Y’all this is the only way to make it from Lavender’s Blue to Savannah blue. Savannah Hilton Head International: as trim and prim as a spanking new golf resort. Grab a cab and speed along the highway past preened lawns greened by sprinklers, screened by clipped bushes, neat verges, shuttered existences, everything manicured to within an inch of its life.

Savannah Georgia © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Turn right off the highway. Screech of breaks. Wham bam thank you ma’am! A change of gear literally, historically, metaphorically. A contrast as sharp as the right turn. Do the time warp. Welcome to the urban jungle that is Savannah. The antebellum and great antebellum mansions between pastel washed clapboard townhouses and horse drawn carriages clip clopping along cobbled boulevards fanned by the river breeze make for picture perfect views framed in 1,000 postcards. Yet it is the lush verdant vegetation above all else, the layer of nature that hangs over and creeps round this genteel city four square, that makes it so special.

Jim Williams Mercer House Savannah 1© Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Spanish moss forms an overhead tapestry of heavy green drapes and swags interwoven with patches of intense blue sky. A pink azalea carpet sweeps across the squares while wisteria climbs up buildings like wallpaper, dogwood blossom providing extra pattern. Ivy acts as leafy borders. Eat at The Lady and Sons, pray at Christ Church compline, love. But this visit was years ago. The immediacy of the past, the distance of the present. Deep calls to deep. That is all we have. The future is not ours.

Savannah Townhouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In the now not the not yet, who better to talk to about Southern planting than the owner of Recreating Eden Landscape Design. Former model, cat lover and Lavender’s Blue reader Sandra Jonas has been designing noteworthy landscapes for over two decades. Gardens, parks, historic sites, cemeteries and even Olympic equestrian competition courses have benefitted from her talent. A graduate in Landscape Design from Radcliffe College Cambridge Massachusetts, her award winning work has been celebrated in Atlanta Homes, Better Homes + Gardens and Southern Living. Sandra’s own garden is a learned essay in four seasons centred on the vistas and verandas and virtues of Hamilton House, her 1840s antebellum home in Hogansville.

“Some of the most beloved and ubiquitous spring plants in Georgia are the big blousy Southern azaleas, or rhododendron indica,” she says. “Every spring garden tour is timed for their bloom. They are spectacular. Larger gardens will have at least one Southern magnolia, magnolia grandiflora, the plant that defines the South. Larger gardens may use these plants as hedging material. They have dense evergreen lustrous foliage and flowers the size of dinner plates with a fragrance that isn’t too sweet or powerful nonetheless.”

Landscape Designer Sandra Jonas @ Lavender's Blue

Sandra adds, “Then of course there are the camellias, which, depending on the variety bloom from autumn to spring. Right now camellia sasanqua is the star of the garden. The wonderful thing about the climate here is that gardens planned with care can have plants to delight every month of the year. Most historic Southern gardens feature a ‘camellia walk’ leading from the house to the kitchen. The kitchen was located some distance from the house so that a fire wouldn’t destroy the house. These sheltered walks were probably meant to keep the food warm rather than necessarily for the comfort of the slaves who cooked and served it. Usually there would be fig trees and muscadines, wild grapes, that would be made into preserves and wine for winter. As for the gardens I’ve seen in Savannah, they mostly use plants to frame the architecture, which is sensational, and anchor the houses in the landscape.” Tara!

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Architecture Art Country Houses Design Luxury People

The Irish Georgian Society London + Island Hall Godmanchester Cambridgeshire

The Most Beautiful House in England

Island Hall Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A letter to Country Life from Simon Herrtage sets the scene. “What a catalyst for action the ‘Destruction of the Country House‘ exhibition was and how much we owe to Sir Roy Strong for staging it. On visiting it as a young man, I was immensely moved by the plight of these buildings, so when my father died in 1978, I sought out a house in need of help and bought 18th century Island Hall in Cambridgeshire, a fine structure that had been converted into flats following service occupation in the Second World War and subsequently suffered a disastrous fire. With the help of the late Peter Foster of Marshal Sisson Architects, the house was saved and, in return for grant aid from the then Historic Buildings Council, we opened the house to the public and enjoyed several happy years there. Had it not been for the exhibition, who knows what the fate of that house might have been – but, given that it was viewed as ‘beyond reasonable repair’ I think we can guess.”

After this structural restoration was successfully completed, Simon advertised the house in Country Life to allow someone else to carry on the good work as custodian. “Drive on,” warned Lady Linda Vane Percy when her husband Christopher, the distinguished interior designer, purposefully slowed down outside Island Hall in 1983. Two weeks later, they bought it. Christopher had good justification to be interested. The property had previously been in his family’s ownership for almost two centuries save for the rickety 20th century patch when Simon Herrtage rescued it. “We are proud of Island Hall’s war record,” admits Christopher. “In 1943 my grandfather’s cousin was given 48 hours to leave his house. It had been requisitioned. Things unravelled again when it was requisitioned a second time under the Emergency Housing Act. With its odd assortment of tenants it became like a grand version of Rising Damp!”

Island Hall Garden Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Things went from bad to worse. “In 1977 a fire broke out in what is now our telly room,” relates Christopher. Hell. “The tenant in this part of the house was a milliner and her materials caught fire.” Lady Linda adds, “I was recently sent an East Anglia Television video of the event. Even now it is rather unnerving seeing what was later to become our home in flames.” Otherwise, conversion into 15 flats wasn’t all bad news for Island Hall. “The alterations looked brutal but architectural features were boxed in which protected panelling and chimneypieces,” he recalls. The Georgian organ visible in an early 1900s photograph of the entrance hall wasn’t so lucky. It ended up on a bonfire. This historic photograph shows the entrance hall crammed full of gas lamps, occasional tables, rugs, prayer chairs, nursing chairs, dining chairs, more chairs. The staircase is shown partitioned off by a bizarre Gothick screen – eclecticism taken a jarring step too far. “The house was waterproofed and almost entirely heated by the time we bought it,” says Christopher. “We quietly worked our way round restoring columns, rerunning cornices, replacing missing chair rails and recovering Georgian colour schemes. The staircase had been repainted bright orange!”

Island Hall Topiary © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s an Irish Georgian Society London Chapter tour and the entrance hall which fills the central three bay block, front to back, is laid out with rows of chairs as it can be for weddings. Island Hall is available for hire. A choir of clocks chimes. “The house was built in the 1740s by a Mr Jackson for his son John’s combined 21st birthday and wedding present. The Jacksons went bust two generations later when another John described his home as ‘this family wreck’. It’s just like Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode engravings in our hallway. Money, fortune, affairs, debts.” Limbo. Christopher continues, “A certain Mr Fisher was a debtee of my great great grandfather Jacob Julian Baumgartner, a naturalised British citizen of Swiss birth. Island Hall was for sale at an auction in nearby Huntingdon and Mr Fisher bought it for £2,008 and 16 shillings. Island Hall fitted the bill, the debt! My ancestor was given the house by Mr Fisher on condition he paid 50 guineas to John Jackson. My family settled here. I come from a long line who did no Victorian or 20th century improvements. John Jackson would recognise the pale green colour of the entrance hall walls.” Save perhaps for the Quinlan Terry style stone dressing up of the central windows sometime in the 19th century. This relative lack of change to the house may be in part explained by a predecessor who didn’t believe in primogeniture, dividing the estate in 1874 between his 11 children. “We’ve been poorer ever since!”

Island Hall Urn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Island Hall Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Island Hall Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Island Hall Bridge © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Even though there are 250 acres of flooding meadow nearby we’re situated above the 100 year flood level,” he continues. “The Georgians knew where to build! Island Hall was built on a brownfield site – a tanner’s yard and two or three timber framed houses. It was positioned to enjoy east and west vistas.” The east vista across the road in front of the entrance front has long been redeveloped but the west vista still stretches across a croquet lawn and on to the rebuilt rococo Chinese Bridge leading to the two acre island after which the house is named. “We redesigned the gardens to incorporate borrowed vistas,” says Christopher. “We’ve had a lot of fun. To quote Sir Roy Strong, ‘At least we didn’t have to resort to flowers!’ Our 32 years living here have gone by in a complete rush.” Topiary sculptures contrast with shady informal corners. Green is the new black.

Island Hall Staircase © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Grade II* Island Hall is perfectly symmetrical, save for the attached dormered mews house topped by a cupola and weathervane, and unusually both main elevations are the same. No bows, no bays. An architectural spot the difference – trick question, there aren’t any. Its face to the world, village facing, is the same as its face to its owners, island facing. Two storey two bay wings abut a three storey three bay pedimented breakfront. The dentilled pediment floats on plain corbels set in from the corners of the projection. This is just one of many quirky charms of the architecture. Perhaps Mr Jackson himself had a strong say in the design?

Island Hall Dining Room © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The panelled interiors are quintessentially English, grand yet intimate, majoring in studied elegance. Heaven. A metal urn in the hallway piled high with trilby hats balanced at jaunty angles is a foretaste of what’s to come. Mixing toile de jouy wallpaper with mirrored Indian furniture in one bedroom illustrate Christopher’s originality of talent and taste. Debretts, after all, lists President of the International Interior Design Association among his many accomplishments. The first floor drawing room stretches across the middle three bays of the entrance front and is decorated in rich tones of crimson and burgundy. The walls are lined with gilt framed oils of ancestors. Christopher is a direct descendent of the Gunpowder Plotter Thomas Percy. His great grandmother insisted the family add her surname Vane. Lady Linda’s family are the Grosvenors. Her father was the 5th Baron Ebury and her brother is the present Earl of Wilton. “Island Hall is important,” finishes Christopher, “but the people it has nurtured are absorbed into the very fabric of the house.

Island Hall Peer's Robes © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Categories
Architecture Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Sinabro Restaurant Battersea + The Beaumont Hotel Mayfair London

How Many Tears to Babylon?

Battersea Rise © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

First things first. Clapham Junction is not in Clapham. Never was, never will be. When the railway station was first built in Battersea, the Victorians had the bright idea of calling it after Clapham which is 1.5 miles away. The former was a no go zone; the latter as respectable as could be expected south of the river. How things change! Local campaigns regularly erupt proudly claiming back Battersea to where it belongs. Take note Clapham Cluttons on Northcote Road. Never mind all that. At least agents agree the best real estate in SW11 is “Between the Commons”. It’s a heated up toast rack of roads lined with handsome houses cushioned betwixt Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common. For Wandsworth read Battersea. So no matter what side you’re on you’re a winner. As for the Clapham Omnibus it’s long been replaced by the South Chelsea Tractor. This is after all Yummy Mummy Nappy Valley Uppity Middle Class central. Upmarket has gone downstream.

Historically, before London completely engulfed this part of semi rural Surrey, it was the home of architects Sir Charles Barry and Thomas Cubitt, authors Samuel Pepys and Graham Greene, saints Zachary Macaulay and William Wilberforce, and typographer and sinner Eric Gill. Not all at once. Battersea Rise forms one of the outer edges of the grill or grid. To the north, Lavender Hill may not have its mob anymore but gentrification, yes Sixties sociologist Ruth Glass is to blame for that term, hasn’t quite taken over. Yet. The same cannot be said, to put it mildly, for south of Battersea Rise, the tract of land once owned by the 1st Earl Spencer. Here, a Parisian meringue pâtisserie qualifies as a corner shop. Byron is the chip shop. Dip & Flip is the burger joint. The Bolingbroke Pub and Dining Room, the local. Quids in, it’s not for the price sensitive. Everyone’s moneyed in The Bank. There are as many red cords, pink sweaters and yellow jackets on the street as Roderick Charles’ shop display. Welcome to Paradisian Battersea. It even gets a couple of mentions in The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook. Half the time Made in Chelsea is made in Battersea.

Between the Commons © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Aside from Battersea Rise the other boundaries of this low rise swathe of bedknobs and broomsticks land are Clapham Common West Side to the east, Bolingbroke Grove to the west and Nightingale Lane to the south. Social distractions aren’t new. William Wilberforce lamented in 1791, “I find that I must as little as is really right ask people to Battersea Rise to stay all night as it robs and impoverishes the next morning… in this way I love my time, and find indeed that less is done at Battersea Rise than elsewhere.” The competition’s stiff, but really, for boys who brunch there’s nowhere quite like Sinabro at 28 Battersea Rise. It’s a reality. It’s a dream. It’s a paradox. Welcome to Parisian Battersea. Francophile Marianne Faithfull’s As Tears Go By aptly plays softly in the background. Do turbot and merlot rhyme? Halibut and Malibu? In Paree do you drop the t? What about Moët? Hard or soft t? But soon life’s perpetual worries and other first world concerns subside and fade away.

Sinabro Battersea Rise © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sinabro © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Yoann Chevert © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sinabro Amuse Bouche © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Siabro Egg Celeriac Mushrooms © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sinabro Sea Bream © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sinabro Baby Gem Salad © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“We moved to Battersea three years ago,” relate Yoann Chevert and Sujin Lee, the owners of Sinabro. “We fell in love at first sight with this area because of its urban and suburban mix. We didn’t so much choose Battersea Rise for our restaurant as it chose us. We’ve been looking for premises for four years in London and had several abortive cases.” Sinabro is Korean for “slowly but surely without noticing”. Manager Sujin, originally from Seoul, explains, “This pure Korean word resembles us. We work hard as ants or bees collecting their foods by instinct!” There are just 29 covers in the sparely decorated restaurant: 16 at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, eight in a private space to the rear and the remaining at small tables overlooking Battersea Rise. “We have two, three and six course menus,” says Chef Yoann, originally from Loir-et-Cher. “Eventually it would be good to keep only the six course tasting menu. Our customers say each of our ingredients in a dish have strong intense flavours yet are delicate.” The Michelin Guide says, “Confidently prepared dishes that rely largely on classic French flavours but are modern in style.”

Sinabro Bavarois © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The two course lunch (£25.50) of liquid potato amuse bouche then egg, celeriac and mushrooms followed by sea bream, cabbage and mustard sauce with baby gem salad (£3.50) proves to be just that. Why stop there when there is fennel bavarois, strawberry and lemon sorbet for pudding (£6.90). The wine list is helpfully categorised. “Crisp and Mineral” includes Château Carbitey 2010 Graves Bordeaux (£44); “Rich and Medium Bodied”, Weingut Von Winning 2012 Pfalz (£37); “Leafy and Savoury”, Domaine Raymond Morin Saumur-Champigny 2010 Loire (£30); “Fruity and Supple”, Domaine La Ferme Saint-Martin Beaumes de Venise 2012 Rhone (£42); and finally “Big and Bold” includes Château Puy Mouton 2008 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (£58). “Frédéric Simonin in the 17th District is our favourite restaurant in Paris,” says Yoann. “We worked together for eight years! He is such a talented man.” Yoann’s Parisian experience included a stint at Michelin starred establishments Taillevent, Le Meurice and La Table de Joel Robuchon. He met his wife and future business partner Sujin at Le Cordon Blue. Yoann was formerly Sous Chef with Hélène Darroze at The Connaught Hotel.

The Beaufort Brown Hart Gardens © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Connaught. One of London’s oldest hotels, it’s the perfect pit stop for a sybaritic Bolly or four before full steam ahead to the soft opening of London’s newest hotel. The Beaumont. Fedoras at the ready. Restaurant royalty Jeremy King’s and Chris Corbin’s first hotel, the Art Deco styled Colony Grill Room is painted with Twenties American sporting activities. The adjacent Cub Room continues the theme but with a fine line in American whiskeys stops hospitably short of Prohibition. A Hemingway Daiquiri (£11.75) of Maraschino, rum, grapefruit and lime juice hits the spot. Across the bar sit modern writers Dylan Jones and Caitlin Moran. Overlooking the discreet oasis of Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair, but just a Celebrations Cracker’s throw from Selfridges, The Beaumont possesses that frequently sought yet rarely achieved blend of intimacy and grandeur. The 73 bedrooms and suites range from £395 to upwards of £2,250. Breakfast is included.

The Beaufort Hotel Mayfair © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Architecture Country Houses Design Luxury Restaurants

B + H Buildings Clerkenwell London

Reconstruction of the Country House

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We are not an invention of your twilight hours

Clerkenwell has more architects per square metre than anywhere else in London. Take Bowling Green Lane. Tis the address of heavyweights Zaha Hadid, CZWG, Ian Simpson and Wilkinson Eyre. The density of pubs and restaurants is equally high. Handy presumably for wining and dining clients. This is after all the birthplace of the gastropub and the home of Exmouth Market. Round the corner on the corner of Northampton Road opposite a corner of leafy Spa Fields, an attractive 20th century Georgian revival block (as double fronted as the fireplaces inside) has been reborn as B&H Buildings with more than a sniff of Greenwich Village Manhattan sidewalk. What’s not to love? Clerkenwell links central London to the east end. Kind of. It was discovered by early loft pioneers before most Shoreditch hipsters were even born. A variegated skyline harks back to earlier glories: the 2000s polemical pyramidal Park Hut; the 1960s cliff face of Michael Cliffe House; the 1880s bastioned basilica of Our Most Holy Redeemer; the 1890s shadowy chateau of Kingsway Place; the 1790s spiritual spire of St James.

B&H Buildings © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We will make you feel young again

While there’s a smattering of architects at the launch and a plethora of alpha types wearing Omega watches, a broader social mix – beta, zeta, eta, theta – reflects the appeal of an all day brasserie and bar from the people that brought us Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar, Reverend JW Simpson, Blitz Party and Prohibition. Fewer beards more socks less attitude than Hoxton. The brand’s offices are upstairs, hence the name. “If you don’t feel decadent you’re doing something wrong,” maintains that sage of New York, Sonja (JP) Morgan. Haut monde, beau monde, demimonde, tout le monde. It’s time to mingle; bring on that decadence. Whether vernissage or finissage, tastemakers or savants, we’re trailblazing our esoteric odyssey through town. The Music Box (golden section) apartments launch hosted by Gordon Ramsay. The Wallace Collection’s Great Gallery (golden frames) reopening. Wrong for Hay’s press lunch at 35 Queen Anne’s Gate (golden postcode). The Wish List (golden wonder) after party at Ognisko Polskie Club. Brunch at Sinabro on Battersea Rise (golden egg cocotte). Fortieth Anniversary of the Destruction of the Country House Exhibition (golden age) at the V&A. On canapés overdrive, little wonder The September Issue is always the fattest.

We are the children of a lost era

Ah! Country houses. The V&A exhibition featured Breathless Beauty, Broken Beauty by Vanessa Jane Hall, a hauntingly evocative video triptych of country house ruins and restorations. Her cryptic murmurings provide our standalone quotes. We have form. “The interiors of the B&H restaurant and café capture the idea of an abandoned country house where the gardens and staterooms have slowly grown into one another,” explains Lou Davies of Box 9 Architects. An inside-out outside-in design emerged from her collaboration with the in-house creative team and Lionel Real de Azua of Red Deer Architects. Lionel calls it “a dramatic transformation” although the spaces are purposely not overdesigned. Trailing creepers and hanging baskets frame wicker seats grouped around cast iron tables. A white marble mosaic bar looks good enough to dance on. Head Chef Alex Visciano, former Sous Chef at the Connaught, delivers some fine culinary moments. Cod tempura bites with pea sauce and red bell pepper and thyme cake. Yum. Cider Rose (Somerset Cider Brandy, blackberry and champers) and Eton Fizz (Rathbone Gin, strawberries, lemon, honey, Greek yoghurt, egg white and soda). Complex cocktails, easy to drink. What’s the verdict on B&H Buildings? The jury’s in. No double takes. Or mixed metaphors. Just oxymoronic single entendres. B&H stands for burgeoning brilliance and a harbinger of happening.

And in our hearts we will paint these ashes as shining white snowflakes

B&H Buildings Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Architecture Country Houses Design Luxury People

Cadogan Hall + Inchbald Private View London

Hip to be Square

Hermione Russell Inchbald © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Is it just us or does the world really revolve around Sloane Square? Is it seriously the epicentre of gravity and gravitas? Everybody knows everybody in Café (Colbert) Society. There are no Sloane strangers. First it was the Chelsea Flower Show. Then Masterpiece. Now Inchbald. We’re off to Cadogan Hall to discover the next Sister Parish and Gertrude Jekyll at the end of year show. Well past its half century, the Inchbald School of Design has been instrumental in raising the profile of design in this country. Its founder Jacqueline DuncanMrs Duncan OBE to you – is reining principal. Not content with founding the first interior design school in Europe, she soon expanded the syllabus to incorporate garden design courses. Past lecturers have included David Hicks and alumni frequently reach single name status: Henrietta, Nina, Zaha.

Cothay Manor, a star of Country House Rescue, is revisited by Postgraduate Diploma in Architectural Interior Design student Hermione Russell. Ever since her History of Art BA, Hermione has focused on country house architecture. “I’ve reimagined Cothay Manor, which dates from the 1400s, as a bed and breakfast in the countryside. I wanted to instil a sense of belonging into the interiors,” she explains. “I’ve sandblasted the beams of the low ceilings to make spaces appear more airy.” Her drawings reveal a contemporary reinterpretation of Edwardian notions of sweetness and light. Think Lutyens at Knebworth or later Aileen Plunket at Luttrellstown Castle. “The bedrooms are named after wild flowers,” says Hermione, carrying on a country house tradition. Take Dundarave, Northern Ireland’s finest estate on the market. It sticks to colours for the names of the seven principal bedrooms. The Blue Room, Pink Room, Green Room, Yellow Room, Red Room, Brown Room, Bird Room (which begs the question what hue is the plumage?). The 12 secondary bedrooms remain anonymous.

From the great indoors to the great outdoors. Postgraduate Diploma in Garden Design student Anastasia Voloshko’s exhibition is entitled Seam Maze Limassol Promenade. “Limassol is Cyprus’s most international city,” says Anastasia who has also studied interior design. “It’s a crossroads of different cultures and languages. My concept was to use the spectacular background of the sea and translate its deep mystery onto the land.” An organic flow of contours and materials emerges, connecting the rocky shore to the modern city. Again, a reinterpretation of traditional forms – a rock garden, pool, box hedging – creates a refreshed language, a new geometry for our times. “I am inspired by many things,” she ponders. “A nice mood, the sky, a song, a painting… sometimes my best ideas come out of nowhere!”

Seam Maze Limassol Promenade by Anastasia Voloshko Lavender's Blue

Two very different projects. Two very different voices. Yet both Hermione and Anastasia tell us, “Going to Inchbald was the best professional decision of my life!” Inchbald School of Design continues to equip new generations of graduates with the skills to create houses for gardens and gardens for houses and places for people.

Anastasia Voloshko Inchbald © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Architecture Art Country Houses Design Luxury People

John O’Connell + Montalto House Ballynahinch Down

A Treatise on Georgian Architecture

In Five Paragraphs 

L. V. B. R. T. P. I.

1 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

The Ghosts

“Riddled!” shrieked the 5th Countess of Clanwilliam, after years were already gone since irony, when faced with the prospect of sharing her matrimonial home Gill Hall with more ghouls than an episode of Rent-a-Ghost. “Simply one damned ghost after another!” A card game later, or so the rural myth portends, the lucky Earl won neighbouring Montalto House from a gentleman surnamed Ker. “Phew!” she exclaimed, sinking into a sofa in the first floor Lady’s Sitting Room with its Robert West stuccowork of scallop shells and a brush and comb and a cockerel and fox. The only spirits ever at Montalto are the Jameson bottles rattling on drinks trolleys. Over a wee dram, it’s worth catching sight of the resident albino hare in the 10 hectare gardens on the 160 hectare estate. His son the 6th Earl, in between sewing tapestries, demolished the ballroom and a chunk of the servants’ quarters, shrinking the size of the house by a half. Under the ownership of JP Corry, a famed timber merchant, the east wing and rear apartments also had to be chopped following a calamitous fire in 1985.

2 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

The Arts

Country houses form distinctive works of architecture, with appropriately furnished interiors, and considered as part of a demesne, conceived in all its complexity as a picturesque ensemble of gardens, woods and buildings, they represent what is justly described by John Harris in The Destruction of the Country House as ‘the supreme example of a collective work of art’. But whatever else a country house may symbolically constitute, it was always conceived to be decorated and furnished quite simply as a habitation, and it is that incomparable sense of home that the restitution, restoration and refurnishing of Montalto has sought to preserve for today and tomorrow. The Earl of Moira commenced construction in 1752 by which time a prosperous Irishman could have confidence that his home would remain his castle without having to look like one.

3 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

4 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

5 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

The Orders

Ballyfin is the Montalto of the South, beloved by the KanyeKardashian kouple and all known cosmopolitan denizens. It is no coincidence both houses have benefitted from the hand of heritage architect John O’Connell, plucked from a slim pantheon of heroes. Nor does he spin. Ballyfin is the Morrisons’ masterpiece. John also led the restoration of Fota, another Morrison great. Both Fota and Montalto have Doric porches. He designed a Doric temple for Ballyfin. Order, order! First there were the three orders of Vitruvius’ treatises: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Architect George Saumarez Smith, himself author of a treatise, calls Doric “solid and muscular; Ionic “graceful and light”; Corinthian “grand”. Then Renaissance men Alberti, Filarete, Palladio, Serlio and Vignola added Tuscan (a plainer Doric) and Composite (a hybrid Ionic and Corinthian). The five orders became the established canon, a sacred alphabet related to the laws of nature. Now that’s a tall order. Return to Montalto. Tall round headed windows and niches cavalierly skim the carriageway like crinoline skirts. The central shallow porch is set in a canted bay. In 1837 unlucky owner David Ker excavated the rock under the house promoting the basement to ground floor. Not without precedent, Hilton Park and Tullylagan Manor are other examples of the elevation of an elevation. Tripartite windows and more canted bays on the sides of the house overlook nature tamed as topiary taking the form of spherical shrubs and conical box hedges. The rear elevation with its generous wall to window ratio is a 20th century repair following fire and demolition. Its sparseness, bearing the greyness and eternity of a cliff, recalls Clough Williams-Ellis at Nantclwyd Hall.

6 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

The Interior

A sense of order framing majestic comfort prevails indoors with eight pairs of Doric columns guarding the entrance hall, sentinels in stone. It’s flanked by the dining room and library. Straight ahead the staircase leads to the long gallery, of more than average beauty, an axis in ormolu, a spine of gilt. Trompe l’oeil and oeil de boeuf and toile de jouy abound. The interior, like beauty, is born anew every hundred years. Montalto is a sun, radiant, growing, gathering light and storing it – then after an eternity pouring it forth in a glance, the fragment of a sentence, cherishing all beauty and all illusion.

The End

7 Montalto House Spa Ballynahinch © Stuart Blakley

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Art Design Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

The Cristal Room Paris + Baccarat

The Truth is Plain to See

Cristal Room Baccarat Hall © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Like a forest fire, raging, sparking, keep ‘er lit, l’enfer, burning everything in its way with gusto, the desire, the lust, the greed, no make that the need to be and see and be seen and be paid to see and be paid to be seen… at the latest greatest eating house as it consumes London. London’s burning. Just as every other developer in town introduces his high density scheme as “inspired by the meatpacking district”, so the Manhattan trend for chasing restaurants for a fleeting 15 seconds has well and truly arrived in the English capital. Last year it was Balthazar, last Christmas it was Il Ristorante, last month it was Hoi Polloi, next month it will be Ham Yard. Now, very now, so now, right now, right on, it’s Chiltern Firehouse. Right?

Cristal Room Baccarat Entrance © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

With a three month waiting list for bridge-and-tunnel nonentities, the only alternative is to longingly gaze through the lead paned windows as girls-about-town celebrities Lily Cole, Lilly Allen, Lil’ Kim, bask in mutual glow, relishing the comforting closeness of riches and recognition, enjoying the peace and prosperity of the city. There’s always Monocle café across the street. At The Wolseley, Scott’s, Le Caprice, dining numbers dip slightly while the cameras flash outside The May Fair or Dabbous or The Ivy (weekend lunch menu Saturday 14th September 2002, £17.50, plus £1.50 cover charge in main dining room) and then it’s business as usual as Kate Moss, Kate Middleton, Katie Hopkins, return. In this feverish race to trip the light fantastic, skip the bright fandango, flip the trite almighty, moths fluttering up the lampshade of life, there are burnouts. Bistro K, where art thou? Senkai, why oh why? Enough. It’s time to tango in Paree.

Cristal Room Baccarat Staircase © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

The restaurant with a palace attached. No ifs, no buts. A ballroom (turn cartwheels ‘cross the floor) abuts the dining room abuts the marble staircase. A swimming pool fills the basement. More hôtel than hotel. Where the red carpet is always rolled out. Welcome to the Cristal Room at Baccarat, the hôtel particulier at 11 Place des États-Unis, 16th Arrondissement, a plumped up cushion’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe. Louis Quatorze, Quinze and Seize meet the current King of Design, Philippe Starck Première, Deuxième and Troisième. Where the past is never passé, lending a presence to the present. A place transcending our time, deserving of its own hard backed Assouline tribute. There are no equals.

Cristal Room Baccarat Light © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Cristal Room Baccarat Jaguar © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Cristal Room Baccarat Table Display © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Princess Grace Baccarat Invitation © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Cristal Room Baccarat Ceiling © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Cristal Room Baccarat Dining Room © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

The ghosts of the great and the good reside at no.11. They’ve all dined here. Not all at once. La Majesté Impériale le Tsar Nicholas II; Empereur de tautes les Russies; La Majesté Mozaffar-al-Din, Shah de Perse; Le Duc de Windsor et La Duchesse de Windsor; Comtesse Jean de Polignac; Monsieur Salvador Dalí et Madame Gala Dalí; Monsieur Alberto Giacometti; Monsieur Francis Poulenc; Monsieur Jean Cocteau; Monsieur Luis Buñuel; Monsieur Man Ray; Monsieur Marcel Duchamp; Madame Peggy Guggenheim; Mademoiselle Chanel; Mademoiselle Lee Miller; Mademoiselle Kiki de Montparnasse (ok maybe not her); Messieurs Lavender’s Blue. The crowd called out for more. Once the residence of les grands fromages Vicomte Charles de Noailles and Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, their descendants lease the hôtel back to Baccarat.

Cristal Room Baccarat Candle © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Mirrored lipsticked lips snogging niches shriek of decorative welcome from the leafy square. Staggeringly strange explosions of rarity erupt amidst terrifying grandeur. Like an emissary from a modernist future, a marble head utters eloquent profundities. A chandelier, Baccarat no doubt, drowns in a glass cube of water (dry chandeliers are priced €20,000 to €120,000). A jaguar (glass objet d’art, not a car) in the library is ours or yours for €25,000. A gargantuan chair lords it over the landing. Upstairs, ladies lunch (“You simply must come to Munich”), boys do late brunch, eating, meeting, sat in satin seating. Le ciel, c’est les autres. A social whirl, the dining room is hummin’ harder, metaphoric symbols of cymbals clash in ironic oxymoronic cacophonic supersonic discordant harmony. Crystal (natch), mirror, gilt, chalkboard, linen (a whiter shade of pale), scaglioli, marble, wood, exposed brick (au natch) and trompe l’oeil (the sky’s the limit) rise as a realised Piranesian fantasy. Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi, Sarcophagi… “Vous êtes là!” the waiter randomly points on our opened map. We are, we’ve arrived. On a sultry late afternoon in August, fellow diners desert post dessert and we embrace the dining room to ourselves.

Cristal Room Baccarat Mirror © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Appetites ablaze, we consume Michelin starred Guy Martin’s natural white asparagus, pecorino espuma and bresaolo in pesto garlic followed by Pollock fish cooked a la plancha with leeks and radishes in a dashi broth. C’est bon. C’est très bon. “Do you wish to continue outside?” Terrace for two, s’il vous plaît. Exquisite Harcourt is served alfresco. This is a light pistachio cream and crispy biscuit speckled with gold leaf as if fallen from the cornice. Let the rich eat cake. We call out for another drink, the waiter brings a tray. And so it was later.

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Architecture Art Design Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Clea Irving + sketch Mayfair London

A Play on Words

Sketch Mayfair Parlour Ceiling © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

sketch, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is, “A rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.” Or, “A rough or unfinished version of any creative work.” Or, “A brief written or spoken account or description, giving only basic details.” Or, “A short humorous play or performance, consisting typically of one scene in a comedy programme.” Or, “A comical or amusing person or thing.” sketch is also Mayfair’s most up for it eatery with so much art and music it’s institution as installation. If art makes what was not there before, sketch creates what was lacking.

Sketch

“Over 50 artists are represented here,” relates the beautiful Art Curator, Clea Irving, gazing at Annabel Karim Kassar’s Trophée Stag Light, Mark Lawson’s Bell Ash Tray, Ron Gilad’s Dear Igo Spider Lamp. Names, names. “My job is curating, assisting artists – sourcing plates!” she laughs. A conduit. Melbourne born UCLA educated Clea also arranges Sunday evening art classes in the Parlour from life drawing to lessons on design. The salon reborn. “It’s a Grade II listed house. It was previously the home of a balloonist, suffragettes, occupied for a spell by Dior, then RIBA. We’ve 190 staff but no elevator, just the original staircase. As the bar is being cleared at 4am, the pastry chef arrives. We’re 24 hours, front of house, back of house. It’s a little bit Downton Abbey.”

Sketch Martin Creed Gallery © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Glade is a verdant decadent fecund indoor garden brimming with 1950s French rattan furniture. “It was dreamt up by partners slash life partners Carolyn Quartermaine and Didier Mahieu, both artists,” explains Clea. “An enchanted fairy tale forest in central London. A postcard provided inspiration for the découpage walls.” Mrs Delaney on weed. The Gallery, a colourful cavernous cacophony by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, is about to be revamped, given a rollercoasting makeover by Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley. Both downstairs restaurants serve Viennoiseries and afternoon tea with Dubonnet and Gin, the Queen’s favourite tipple. The menu is decorated with images from the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalogue.

“Restaurateur Mourad Mazouz oversees the interiors,” explains Clea, “And master chef Pierre Gagnaire looks after all the restaurants including the two Michelin star Lecture Room and Library upstairs. The interiors personify Mourad’s style and taste, his sense of humour. They’re purposely over ornamental, over the top, exuberant, playful, funny, tongue-in-cheek, about performance. Unlike Christo and Jeanne-Claude revelation through concealment, sketch’s décor is extrovert!” A barrel vaulted coffered kaleidoscope, a translucent tectonic Teutonic tartan, hovers over a pale monochromatic moonscape. Enigmatic eggs, USOs (Unidentified Stationary Objects), hatch humans (completely out of the loo). Blue steps for boys; red steps for gals.

JP Eating Afternoon Tea at sketch © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

She suggests, “People like to feel intimate when fine dining. Even though there are 46 covers in the Lecture Room and Library, the padded walls create that effect, softening the acoustics, adding ambiance.” Designed by South African born London based Gabhan O’Keeffe, burnt amber upholstery merrily zigzags across carpets and chairs, a marble Adam fireplace adding a moment of sobriety. Found and reflected objects fuse to become an eclectic whole. The restaurant as gallery, the Gallery as restaurant. Visual stimulation for digestion. “London’s where it’s all happening. There’s access to the best history, teachers, media. We’ve five of the best art schools in the world: Central St Martin’sCourtauld, Goldsmiths, RCA, Slade.” And with that, Clea finishes filling in the outline of sketch. The picture is complete.

Easter at sketch London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Architects Architecture Design Developers

SCABAL + Christ Church Spitalfields London

Raising the Profile

2 Christ Church Spitalfields © SCABAL @ lvbmag.com

It appears in paintings, guides, novels and Gavin Stamp places it on the front cover of his latest collection of essays Anti-Ugly. Hawksmoor’s Grade I listed Christ Church Spitalfields is about as high profile as a building can get. Jon Buck of Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects (SCABAL) considers it to be, “A strong white stake in the dissenting soup of different interests of early 18th century London. ‘Here I am!’ it proclaims.”

A row of buildings including the original Christ Church Primary School once stood next to it on what used to be Red Lion Street, now Commercial Street. The school moved to nearby Brick Lane and the adjacent churchyard was decommissioned in 1874. An informal garden emerged along the vacant frontage and by 1970 a youth centre occupied part of the site. Nine protected London Plain trees date from the decommissioning.

The current Rector, backed by the London Diocese, has a vision for this sliver of urban space sandwiched between Fournier Street and Fashion Street. Geographically and symbolically, Rev Andy Rider sees the church as a meeting place of creative East London and the financial City to the west. An integral element of this vision is the new nursery and community building which provides much needed accommodation while opening up twice as much usable outdoor space. For instance, the northern flank is much shorter than its predecessor resulting in a more generous space next to the church.

Christ Church Spitalfields © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

SCABAL won the bid. Jon believes in responsibility to the past and future. Part of the planning application was a 168 page tome of a Conservation Management Plan. Architecture is too often pastiche (Ecclesiastes 1.9: ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun’) whether neo Georgian, recycled modernist boxes or Accordia-lite. Not here. SCABAL has produced something original, subtle referencing in place of derivation. Sensitive handling instead of intrusiveness.

The barn-like pavilion is, appropriately, tripartite in plan. Clusters of rooms to the north and south are linked by glazed central multipurpose hall. With low eaves and reclaimed London Plum bricks similar to those of Fournier Street Rectory, the northwest and southwest corners are treated as a walled garden. Jon explains, “The plan arrangement is derived from that of Christ Church: 12 metres describing the nave; 5.5 metres, the aisles. In its humble way, the central gathering place is nave-like and lofty.” Large spans of section posts and beams maximise flexibility of use. Rooflights avoid overlooking in response to the sensitivities of diverse cultures. Low level windows in the nursery are child-friendly.

Lime mortar is a subtler reference to the church than using dressed stone. “Copying Christ Church would look cheap,” believes Jon. “This building is next to, but not a fragment of, the church. It’s small but generous, different… ground level heroic.” An asymmetrical plan dictates the irregular shape of the half-hipped roof with its timber frame overhangs. Too shallow a pitch for slate, zinc picks up the reddish hue of the bricks.

Hailed as best practice in action by statutory bodies, it’s staggering that Spitalfields’ lowest profile new building (the church is 14 times taller) is gaining a high profile. A local group is seeking to have it demolished. Meanwhile the sands of time are sinking and the lessons of Gavin Stamp’s essay Hawksmoor Redivivus go unnoticed. Until this disagreement is resolved, the nursery and community building lies unused next to the overcrowded school.

462_A020_SITE PLAN 2013.dgn

  • Drawings © SCABAL
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Architects Architecture Art Country Houses Design Luxury People

David Linley + Highclere Castle Hampshire

Inside the Box

2 Linley © Stuart Blakley

Thanks to a certain Sunday evening wind down from the wild weekend historisoap, Highclere Castle is as recognisable as the Houses of Parliament. Golden Bath stone Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite pilasters framing corner turrets ascend to a parapet – a tumultuous riot of strapwork, tracery, heraldry, pinnacles, plaques, coronets, colonettes, rosettes and finials. Jacobethanaissance architecture with Perpendicoco interiors. Handiwork of Sir Charles Barry, circa 1840.

A drawer in an upper floor of the V+A contains a perspective drawing commissioned by the architect to show his client Lord Grantham Carnarvon how the redesigned castle would look. It was originally displayed at the Royal Academy. Who says artists’ impressions and exhibitions are recent tools of self promotion for savvy architects? Architectural models are another tool. British design company Linley has developed expertise in creating scaled down versions of buildings – with a twist. They are functional, whether a humidor, bureau or writing desk. Robert Smythson meets Frank Smythson.

Linley Highclere Castle © Stuart Blakley

Mavisbank, Monticello, Monte Carlo Casino, Marino Casino. The latter a miniature in wood of a miniature in stone. Chairman David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret, nephew of the Queen, drops his title and abbreviates his name to David Linley in business. “Something of lasting value is most important,” he says, “beautifully made with the best possible materials. We search out wonderful woods.” Accuracy derives from photographs, drawings, surveys and even aerial views from helicopters.

Highclere Castle is the latest building to receive the Linley treatment. Honey I shrunk the treasure house. It’s a jewellery box. Constructed of maple, 11,000 individual pieces of marquetry have been meticulously selected and pieced together by highly skilled craftsmen. This architectural box, lined in faux suede, has three main drawers plus a trademark secret drawer. Costs £65,000, price of a car or parking space.

At Lavender’s Blue we’re good with colour. So is Linley. Upmarket London shops must have their signature colour. Liberty: regal purple; Selfridges: canary yellow; Harrods: Pantone 574c greenLinley: aquamarine blue. David says, “We needed a striking colour to stand out cause, in a senses, the logo needs to be something you can see from far away… so that when you see a bag being carried down a street you know it’s that colour. Therefore it must be Linley. It’s rather nice when you see one – oh, that bag’s come out of the shop.”

1 Linley © Stuart Blakley