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Architecture

St Mary’s Cemetery Battersea London + Pique

Necropolis in the Megalopolis  

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Chapels © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s a sculpture park in a wild garden. What’s not to love? St Mary’s Cemetery in Battersea may run parallel with the busy shopping street of Northcote Road but it’s an elevated world away, a sanctuary of foxes and squirrels running amok among the crumbling statues and long grass. A place of reflection, one can almost hear Montserrat Caballé’s Prayer floating through the dense foliage. It’s also the perfect setting for a Savannah style picnic provided by local supplier Pique. Named by Tatler as one of “London’s most luxurious readymade picnic hamper companies”, Pique is based beside the former Von Essen Hotel Verta at Battersea Heliport.

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Gravestones © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Trees © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Branches © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Roses © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Gravestone © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Lancet Gravestone © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Angel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Rose © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Urn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Wild Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Figure © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Tombstones © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Grave © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Nameplate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Columns © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Mary’s Cemetery was laid out in 1860 to 1861 on part of the Bolingbroke Grove House estate which had been sold two years earlier. Burials had ceased in the churchyard of St Mary’s which is situated two kilometres away along the Thames next to Montevetro. Parish surveyor Charles Lee was appointed to lay out the ground and design two chapels and lodge.

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Cross © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Survey of London Volume 49 edited by Andrew Saint states, “The little twin mortuary chapel range remains the chief feature of the cemetery, a building of simple charm and quiet Gothic details. The chapels, one for Anglicans, one for other denominations, are placed on either side of a tall pointed archway, above which sits a meagre bellcote. Each chapel is lit by a lancet at one gabled end and a rose window at the other, but these are switched round so that the east and west elevations are asymmetrical.” The Church of England chapel and the ecumenical chapel each have a gross external area of 39 square metres.

St Mary's Cemetery Battersea London Name © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Art Country Houses Design Developers Luxury People

Lavender’s Blue + The Irish Times + The Gloss

Russian Unorthodox

Lavender’s Blue. A Vision | A Residence | A Blog. Our Gesamtkunstwerk. A decade of collecting and arranging. Irish country house attic style. So where better to celebrate in print than The Irish Times? Better again, The Gloss supplement. An A3 splash in Ireland’s glossiest A1 publication. Style Editor Aislinn Coffey gets it: “Your project and home was such a breath of fresh air, I adore it!” Virtuosic studies in light and shadow. Nothing’s really ever black and white (unless like us you’re under contract for the technicolour snaps). All things considered really, Lavender’s Blue is worthy of a retrospective at the Grand Palais. Clearly, we were an oversight by the National Gallery’s Monochrome exhibition gallerist.

Why the name Lavender’s Blue? Apart from being good with colour and enjoying the paradoxical phrase (surely lavender is purple to the masses?), there are geographical reasons for the naming of the vision that became a house that became a collection of essays that became a lifestyle that became an obsession that became a romance. This part of Battersea, back in its rural Surrey days, was awash with lavender fields. Nearby Lavender Hill and Lavender Sweep pay testimony to its perfumed history. Sweet. Oh and the Marillion song is pretty nifty too.

Step inside, and the rooms could be anywhere (or at least anywhere pretty decent); there are no visual references to its location in southwest London. Unless you count an 18th century threaded collage of Kew Palace. The street facing windows are opaque while the rear of the house reveals itself only onto a private cobbled trellised courtyard overlooked by absolutely nobody. A little piece of secret London. There are subtle hints of the Ireland of yore: a diorama of the long demolished Antrim Castle in the hallway; a framed envelope from the Earl of Kilmorey in the drawing room. But really it’s an international collection: no antiques stall or flea market or second hand shop or vintage pop-up was safe from plundering for the last 10 years. Amsterdam, Belfast, Bilbao, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Lisbon, Paris, Paris again, Rotterdam and of course Savannah.

The naïve mirrored mini portico is one of several purchases from Savannah. We visited the Deep South’s finest after devouring Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The events in John Berendt’s book happened yonks ago but Savannah is still oh so magical. Meeting antiques dealer Charlie Brown, he gave us fragments of a chandelier from Jim William’s home, Mercer House. Jim was the central protagonist. The chandelier was smashed to myriad pieces when he shot his lover dead. We’ve slotted the crystal pieces into a standard lamp. Perfection.

The tiny mirror framed with horns is also from Savannah. The tinted photograph of General Lee came from an antiques arcade. It’s faded so his features can only be seen from certain angles like a shimmering ghost. “The family were glad to rid of it!” the dealer proclaimed. “He’s a bad omen!” Despite being swathed in bubble wrap, the picture split down the middle in our suitcase, hopefully dispelling any malignant spirits in the process. En route to Savannah we simply had to stop off in Atlanta for “Funday Sunday”. Margaret Mitchell’s flat where she wrote Gone with the Wind was a must-see. It’s also a late 19th century building – roughly the same size as Lavender’s Blue.

It may all look a little shambolic but there’s method (occasionally) and sanity (mostly) in the madness. Chicness amongst the shabbiness. Collections within collections include 18th century wax silhouettes hung in a group in a dark corner of the drawing room. “Darker again!” we ordered our ever patient decorator. And so he added another layer – or was it four or five? – of purple paint to the drawing room walls. At night, and even during the day, the walls merge into the charcoal grey ceiling. Antlers cast mysterious shadows by night. A tiny internal window over the recessed bookcase yields yet more mysterious lighting.

The bedroom is all about pattern. More is more. So very Sister Parish. Sanderson wallpaper covers the walls and ceiling while a Christian Lacroix shirt has found new life stretched across two square canvases. Nothing is coordinated – matching is just too bourgeois. Ok, the blue and white theme of the kitchen is pretty controlled but that’s all. And we’ve got to live up to our Delftware. It’s an eclectic collection, a layered timeless look, nothing too contrived or designed. The collection is complete, right down to the Argentine spoon embellished with Evita’s face and the majolica vase next to the piano. We’re resting on our laurels in the courtyard. Ah, the courtyard. So very Lanning Roper. Scene of lively summer lunches (Selfridges catering) and even livelier autumn soirées (more Selfridges catering). So very Loulou de la Falaise. Mostly with Annabel P, Lavender’s Blue intern amanuensis, on overtime. It’s getting greener and greener and greener. Grey Gardens watch this space. Sorry neighbours.

So what do the literati and glitterati have to say? Their quotes benefit from a touch of upper class case dramatic effect and a dash of well placed irony. “The place has great panache,” says Rupert Thomas, Editor of The World of Interiors. His predecessor Min Hogg, now Editor-at-Large, thinks it’s “lovely”. “Your rooms are a triumph,” believes architectural historian Dr Roderick O’Donnell. “They’re brilliantly decorated.” Artist and country house doyenne Amanda Brooke agrees, “What a triumph your understated flat is.” Jacqueline Duncan, Principal of Inchbald School of Design, thinks it’s “Bohemian”. Reverend Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields, calls it “Baronial”. Astrid Bray, MD of Hyde Park Residence, loves it: “Wow! Quite a place.”

“LOVE it!” breathes model Simon Duke, simply and succinctly. Loving is a theme. “LOVE it!” repeats neighbour Emma Waterfall, MD of Cascade Communications. “Especially the William Morris inspiration in the bedroom. Fab.” Ok. “LOVE the purple!” raves interior designer to the stars Gabhan O’Keeffe. Still focusing on the drawing room, Nicky Haslam, man about town and interior decorator, is a fan: “That room is EVERYTHING I love!” Lady Lucy French, girl about town and theatre director exclaims, “I LOVE your interior design! Stunning!” The final words must go to conservation architect extraordinaire John O’Connell. “Very brave, very Russian, very YOU!”

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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 Design Restaurants Town Houses

Savannah Tour of Homes + Gardens

Midday in the Garden of Good and Evil 

1 Savannah Tour of Homes © lvbmag.com

Savannah may be famed for its St Patrick’s Day revelry, the second largest in the US, but hot on its heels every year comes another celebration: Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens. Presented by (breathe in) The Women of Christ Church and Historic Savannah Foundation in cooperation with Ardsley Park Chatham Crescent Garden Club (breathe out), this venerable tradition has been a highlight of the city’s calendar for more than three quarters of a century.

2 Savannah Tour of Homes © lvbmag.com

Each year, a selection of Savannah’s finest residences is featured on the tour. It’s quite a status symbol to have your home included. Crowds make their way across the city’s famous squares which mostly aren’t as large as you might think. More Soho Square than St Stephen’s Green. Like everything in Savannah, half the fun is meeting the people. Earlier in the day we got talking to the table next to us in Café Scad. “Eliza Thompson Inn,” we responded when asked where we were staying. “Ah – it’s haunted! Eliza? She’ll make ya dance!”

3 Savannah Tour of Homes © lvbmag.com

The formidable Women of Christ Church were no exception, revelling in their role as guides alongside the indomitable maîtresses de maison. “Y’all, we tell everyone that’s Vivienne Leigh’s grandmother!” exclaimed one, pointing to the portrait of a feisty brunette over the fireplace. “We’ve no idea who she really is!” Many of the homes were ideal for one way circular pedestrian flow thanks to steps leading up to an entrance door on the piano nobile and a secondary exit at street level. Woe betide anyone who walked across a manicured lawn. Or tried to skip a room on the heavily policed circuits. We accidentally – honestly – missed a front parlour. We were instantly summonsed back: “Y’all get back inside ya little lawbreakers!” Meek obedience seemed like the safest response, stopping to purposefully admire the oh-so-perfectly arranged Fabergé dinner set en route.

Every interior style – House and Garden, Period Living, Wallpaper*, World of Interiors – was represented. Behind one of the shuttered antebellum exteriors was a gallery of Jeff Koons sculptures. A colonial façade gave way to enough Beidermeier to stock a small museum. “A palm tree growing in a dust bin,” announced an august guide with a straight-as-a-poker face. “Just a typical teenager’s room.” A few doors down, an exquisitely apparelled hostess whisked us into her house with a powerful sweep of her modestly white gloved hand. “Welcome to the grandest house on East Jones Street!”

4 Savannah Tour of Homes © lvbmag.com

“I’ve painted the front door red,” stated another. “What’s the significance of red?” she demanded. “Eh, danger?” we gingerly suggested. “No, why no, it’s for Southern hospitality!” and swiftly guided us onto the pavement. With that in mind, we headed off into the afternoon sunshine for some grits and shrimps on Monterey Square, washed down with iced margaritas. Dinner – Cajun blend of crawfish at Alligator Soul or crab stuffed Portobello at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons? First world problem.

5 Savannah Tour of Homes © lvbmag.com