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Architects Architecture Design People Town Houses

Nancy Mitford + 7 Rue Monsieur Paris

Love in a Temperate Climate

She adored Derek Hill (the painter) and couldn’t stand Le Corbusier (the architect). She wrote the biographies of Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire and Louis XIV. She was the cousin of Clementine Lady Beit, last doyenne of Ireland’s great house Russborough. Her nephew Desmond Guinness co founded the Irish Georgian Society. She had a pet chicken and cat. She wrote bestselling novels Highland Fling, Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love among others. And she loved Paris. Enter Nancy Mitford, our favourite female English novelist.

She lived in the 7th Arrondisement on the Left Bank. “A very charming flat between the courtyard and the garden,” was how she described her French home. “The days go by and I have no desire to move from my house and garden.” Her sister Diana Mosley said, “As soon as possible, in 1945, she got a flat in Paris, where she lived for 20 happy years.” She never lived in England again. Nancy wrote to her mother, “I am so completely happy here… I feel a totally different person as if I had come out of a coalmine into daylight… Oh my passion for the French!”

It was a charmed existence. “The houses she visited ‘glittered like miniature Wallace Collections’ and the women were generally ‘glittering with jewels’,” records Harold Action in his 1975 biography of Nancy Mitford. He offers tantalising glimpses into her Parisian life: “Highly diverted by the difference of French and English social conventions, full of admiration for General de Gaulle, enchanted by the details and incidental episodes of the Parisian scene, she became ardently Francophile, yet she remained English to the core.”

“For the next 20 years, the happiest of her life, Nancy settled in Paris. Even before settling there she had put these words into the mouth of her hero Fabrice: ‘One’s emotions are intensified in Paris – one can be more happy and also more unhappy here than in any other place. But it is always a positive source of joy to live here, and there is nobody so miserable as a Parisian in exile from his town. The rest of the world seems unbearably cold and bleak to us, hardly worth living in…”

“Always a strenuous walker, Nancy was able to familiarise herself with the intimate old Paris behind the boulevards and the Hôtel de Ville, the quays and narrower streets with high roofed buildings, with the venerable Place des Vosges and the classical mansions on the left bank of the Seine so long inhabited by French nobility whose names had inspired Balzac and Proust. Balzac’s Madame de Sauve might even have suggested Nancy’s Sauveterre. The British Embassy was full of her friends. Our Ambassador Duff Cooper and the glamorous Lady Diana made it sparkle as never before with poets, painters and musicians.”

“Before the end of 1947 she had the good fortune to discover an ideal apartment, the ground floor of an old mansion between courtyard and garden in the Rue Monsieur, which she referred to henceforth as ‘Mr Street’. ‘I’ve got a perfectly blissful and more or less permanent flat,’ she informed in December 1947, ‘Untouched I should think for 60 years. I spent my first evening removing the 25 lace mats with objects on them mostly from Far Japan (dainty). The furniture is qualité de musée – such wonderful pieces, now you can see them.” Her character Cedric sounds positively autobiographic in Love in a Cold Climate: “In Paris I have an apartment of all beauty. One’s idea of heaven.”

Little wonder Nancy was a Francophile and honorary Parisian. Aren’t we all? Rue Monsieur is the Lad Lane of Paris. A tranquil oasis surrounded by all the action. Where Rue Monsieur tips the louche sounding Rue de Babylone to the north of Nancy’s pied-à-terre is the intriguing looking La Pagode. Under wraps for now, this oriental building was built as a community hall in 1896 to the design of architect Alexander Marcel before improbably becoming a cinema in the 1930s. Presumably our favourite female English novelist caught the odd matinée at La Pagode.

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Architecture Art People

Ranger’s House + Park Blackheath London

Sloane

Blackheath Houses © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pirouettes and marionettes and silhouettes. A silent metronome ticks to the galliards and sarabands of our lives. And so we arrive at a large villa or small mansion. Ranger’s House in, at, on, and opposite Blackheath. It was built around 1700 by Captain Francis Hosier, Vice Admiral of the Blue. Our destination, our desirous subject of the day, is a red brick two storey over raised basement block with later brown brick single storey over raised basement bow fronted wings. The southern wing is bowed at both extremities lending symmetry to the front elevation; the northern wing is missing a bow robbing the garden elevation of symmetry. 

The striking marrying of a house and a collection occurred at the beginning of the 21st century. Ranger’s House was missing artwork and furnishings. The Wernher Collection was homeless. English Heritage acted as matchmaker. The collection of Sir Julius Wernher once graced the interiors of Luton Hoo (his Bedfordshire country house) and Bath House (his London townhouse). The former is now a glitzy hotel; the latter, long demolished. Sir Julius (1850 to 1912) and his business partner Sir Alfred Beit (1853 to 1906) made their fortunes from gold and diamond mining in South Africa. The Beit Collection is housed in Sir Alfred’s former country house, Russborough in County Wicklow, and the National Gallery of Ireland.

Sir Julius’ will was the largest ever recorded at the time by the Inland Revenue. Sir Alfred was reckoned to be the richest man in the world of his time. The tycoons’ busts flank the entrance to the Geology Department of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in Kensington, founded in 1907 with a donation from Werner Beit + Co. There is another Irish connection. The late 5th Duchess of Abercorn, “Sasha” Alexandra Phillips, was the great granddaughter of Sir Julius Werner. Her sister Natalia is the Dowager Duchess of Westminster. Luton Hoo was sold in 1997 following the death of their brother Nicholas. Their mother Georgina Lady Kennard (née Wernher) was a close friend of the Queen.

Our tour of Ranger’s House with John O’Connell, who designed the interiors of the Wallace Collection, begins. “A portico can be expressed or suppressed, nothing else. The ultimate expression is a porte cochère. Here, it is suppressed as a temple front. We love the expressed aprons and rubbed brickwork!” Moving indoors, “The timber staircase would probably have been painted to resemble stone. Three balusters per thread is very noble. The panelled stairs below denote a basement of consequence.”

There are 700 items spread over two floors. “It is one of the best English Heritage collections with some knockout pieces,” John explains. “The Pink Drawing Room has most emphatic Inigo Jones Whitehall Palace style ceiling plasterwork. The interconnecting door to the Entrance Hall is missing its enrichments on top. The Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait, disposed to one side of a wall composition, should be moved and placed centrally. There would have been pier mirrors and tables between the three windows.”

The Grade I Conservation Practice Architect points to a desk: “This is a Jean-François Oeben wow piece! Mr Oeben was a great craftsman. He would have made the woodwork but the guild system wouldn’t have allowed him to make the metalwork. That would have been executed by another craftsman.” Pointing to an earlier more modest piece of furniture: “This work table illustrates the development of specific pieces of furniture for rooms, the search for comfort.”

“The Adriaen van Ostade is a typically allegorical 17th century Dutch painting. The gentleman playing cards suggests profligacy. The lady gazing out the window is showing disloyalty. And the 1617 Gabriël Metsu is wonderful, an absolute beauty, a very important painting. The broom is symbolic of spiritual cleansing. The lapdog represents loyalty.” Our tour continues through the reception rooms. “Such ravishing marble matching mantlepieces and hearthstones. That’s what you get at a certain moment,” admires John. Completing the tour upstairs: “The corridors remind us of Castle Howard.”

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Architects Architecture Country Houses

Colebrooke Park Triumphal Arch Lodge Fermanagh + William Farrell

The Miniaturist

Over dinner at Ashbrooke House, the very neoclassical dower house of the very neoclassical Colebrooke Park, the notable Fermanagh architect Richard Pierce remarks that, “Of course, William Farrell designed Regency gothic buildings too. St Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Monaghan is an example of his Regency gothic work.” Stylistically versatile, in other words.

Next to the triumphal arch is Colebrooke Park’s principal gatelodge. Kimmitt Dean gives it a mixed review in Gatelodges of Ulster, 1994:  ‘In stuccoed brickwork with its fair share of Tuscan pilasters rather a poor relation of the chaste example at Ely Lodge. Single storey building on a T plan, its three bay front elevation dominated by a bow shaped hall projection. With its high ceilings and entablatured parapet concealing a hipped roof, it is truly an ungainly design. All the openings have classical surrounds but inexplicably the front door head does not line up with the rest. To compound an already unworthy design the pair of chimney stacks rise together diagonally in the most incongruous Picturesque manner. These chimneys are located at the junction of the back return and the main block, a favourite ploy of Farrell’s which he first employed in the two lodges for Ely Lodge…’

Stylistically eclectic, in other words. With a bulbous porch bursting forward to enthusiastically greet guests, this microcosmic mansion has a Grecian air save for the jolly Tudorbethan chimneys which met with Emmett’s consternation. Batty and delicious, Colebrooke Park Triumphal Arch Lodge is now an Irish Landmark Trust holiday home. John O’Connell – architect of among many other things the Montalto restoration, The Carriage Rooms and The Wallace Collection – calls it, “A very special holiday let.” And then some. The gatelodges of nearby Ely Lodge might still be there but the main house suffered a rather ignominious fate. It was blown up in 1870 to ensure the 4th Marquess of Ely’s 21st birthday went with a bang (demolition for structural reasons was the alternative less amusing excuse).

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People Restaurants

Masterpiece London Preview 2015 + The Wallace Collection

Total Eclipse of the Art

Adam by Richard Hudson @ Leila Heller Gallery MPL15 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It was as if Elizabeth Bowen was in Masterpiece London and not The House in Paris: “Heaven – call it heaven; on the plane of potential not merely likely behaviour. Or call it art, with truth and imagination informing every word.” Now in its sixth year, Lavender’s Blue have covered the last four but as Liz B declared, “Any year of one’s life has got to be lived.” Red carpet Dysoned, #MPL2015 has arrived. The greatest show on earth is back in town. Millennia of masterpieces filling a groundscraper marquee (12,500 square metres), a pneumatic Royal Hospital Chelsea, full blown Wrenaissance, Quinlan Merry, painted canvas under printed canvas. Arts and antiques gone glamping. Something to tweet home about lolz. An upper case Seasonal fixture and celebration of unabashed luxury. Masterpiece is truly the cultural epicurean epicentre of civilisation, from now (Grayson Perry’s Map of Days at Offer Waterman) to antiquity (Head of a Young Libyan AD 200 at Valerio Turchi).

Eamonn Holmes MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Everyone’s here at the preview party, the upper aristocracy and upper meritocracy of globalisation chic to chic. Royalty with their heirs and airs, gentry with their seats and furniture, oligarchs with their bodyguards’ bodyguards, Anglo Irish with their Lords and Lourdes, nouveau riche with their Youghal to Youghal carpet, celebrities with their baggage and baggage, Londoners with their Capital and capital. And a very bubbly Eamonn Holmes. Stop people watching. Stare at the felicitous ambiguity of Geer van Velde. Wonder at the dense opaque impasto of Freud. Gaze at the transparent golden glaze of Monet. Study the descriptive precision of Zoffany. Blog about the parallel lines of Bridget Riley. Instagram a selfie beside The Socialite, Andy Warhol’s portrait of New York realtor Olga Berde Mahl shyly making her first ever public showing courtesy of Long-Sharp Gallery. Better late than never.

Tomasso Brothers Dionysius Bust MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“If you think about it the clue is in the name,” muses artist Anne Davey Orr. “Masterpiece – a creation that is considered the greatest work of a career, or any work of outstanding creativity and skill. And Masterpiece is certainly the best in its field. From the faux façades to the faux colonnades, and the exotic festoons by Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart, Masterpiece exudes a professionalism which avoids the tackiness that sometimes attaches to other art fairs. The accompanying directory of 300 high end galleries alone, contents apart, sets it in a league of its own.”

Steinway Fibonacci MPL2015 @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Newly introduced Cultural Partners such as the Wallace Collection lend added weight to #MPL2015. Every discipline in the design art market is represented. The reflection is so perfect in Edouard Lièvre’s rosewood mirror in Didier Aaron. Hot on the jewel encrusted heels of Wartski is a cool £22 million Bling Ring’s worth of rubies and diamonds at Van Cleef and Arpels. “It’s hard to find rubies over five carats,” notes PR Joan Walls. “The Vermillon earrings are 13.33 and 13.83 carats. Their pigeon blood red colour is so rare, so wonderful. They’ve pure consistency with very few inclusions. The Vermillon earrings are underscored by corollas of pear shaped marquise cut diamonds.”

Another Masterpiece first is a piano. Cue Steinway and Son’s 600,000th instrument The Fibonacci designed and handcrafted by Frank Pollaro. Random renditions of Für Elise aren’t recommended. Sipping Ruinart and devouring pea and mint canapés while chatting to Stephen Millikin is. “Fibonacci is a geometric representation of the golden ratio. It’s found in nature and art, brought together in this piano,” Stephen explains. He’s Senior Director of Global Public Relations at Steinway and Sons, based at 1155 Avenue of the Americas, New York. “The piano is made from six logs of Macassar Ebony. A Fibonacci spiral is inset in the veneer. This motif resonated with Frank Pollaro.” At £1.85 million it’s not going for a song but nor should it. The Fibonacci was four years in the making from concept to completion. Maths star piece.

Vaulted boulevards of dreams, deep white fissures, lead to panoplies of intense colour. Galerie Chenel’s Pompeiian red, empire yellow and lavender’s blue niches fade to black in the shadows of exquisite statuary. There is no vanilla at Masterpiece. Lacroix clad Lady Henrietta Rous and Suzanne Von Pflugl rock up to Scott’s (Mount Street has decamped from Mayfair to Chelsea for the week). The conversation is fashion houses and fashionable houses. “I’m wearing my Ascot hat!” proclaims Lady Henrietta. “I tried on all the hats on King’s Road! Ossie Clarke was a good friend. I edited his diaries.” Annabel P recognises mention of Suzanne’s childhood home now lived in by her brother, Milton Manor House. “It’s perfect for weddings. At the last one Henrietta was still going strong on the dancefloor at 2am!” jokes Suzanne. “It was the vintage music!” blames Lady Henrietta.

Brun Fine Art MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Tamarisks flying past the rainy windows were some dream,” imagined Elizabeth Bowen, “not your own, a dream you have heard described.” Carriages; horses for courses. All aboard golf buggies to vacate the Royal Hospital estate. Not so bound the Honourable Mrs Gerald Legge, Countess of Dartmouth, Comtesse de Chambrun Viscountess Lewisham, Viscountess Spencer. A Rolls Royce pulls up and Raine slides into the back seat. Blacked out windows slide up, no time for a Snapchat. And so, the chimerical layering vision that is Masterpiece London, so emblematic of a progressive spirit, is over for another year. Here’s to #MPL2016.

Lady Henrietta Rous @ MPL15 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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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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People Restaurants

Keith Goddard Chef + Munch Food Company

The Scream | Bringing Home The Bacon 

1 Keith Goddard chef copyright lvbmag.com

On a return visit to the Violin Factory at Waterloo for the launch of Grohe’s new Blue classy collection of taps, we caught up with London’s hottest Michelin starred chef Keith Goddard. Classically trained – he studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York – 33 year old domestic god Keith has worked with Tom Aikens and Oliver Peyton at the Wallace Collection. After his much lauded stint at the restaurant 101 Pimlico Road, Keith’s latest venture is Munch Food Company.

3 Keith Goddard chef copyright lvbmag.com

“If you want fine dining experience in the comfort of your home or for your business event, Munch is the answer,” says Keith. “We love the challenge of creating exquisite one-off menus. We’ll happily do it in your kitchen or at your chosen venue. Either is good for us. Just tell us how many people we’re catering for, what your tastes are, and we’ll come up with something that’s fit for a king.” Or queen.

Working up a sweat in the Violin Factory kitchen, Keith reveals, “Equally if all you’re after is a platter of sandwiches or Munch pizzas followed by homemade brownies, banana and maple syrup flapjacks, and elderflower refreshers to show your employees how much you appreciate their hard work, then order a Friday afternoon treat they won’t forget!” There’s always room to Grohe.

2 Keith Goddard chef copyright lvbmag.com

Why a chef?

“I became a chef by accident while training in New York at the French Culinary Institute. My intention was to learn all I could about every aspect of the restaurant business before embarking on a career that would hopefully have led me to become a successful hotelier or restaurateur. Although I absolutely loved cooking even then, the idea of spending 16 hour days in a hot kitchen didn’t appeal to me. However, one week into my Culinary Arts Degree I realised I’d found my vocation.”

Where’s home?

“Paddington in London with my girlfriend.”

Why Munch?

“At the time when 101 Pimlico Road shut its doors I’d spent six straight years in restaurant environments doing anything up to 100 hour weeks. I certainly didn’t want to change industry but had a plan in my head as to where I wanted to be in my mid 30s. This involved not only a restaurant of my own but a catering division that would allow us to provide a service for many of my customers who’d inquired about it in the past but to whom I had to say no to as we just didn’t have the capacity. On top of that, event catering is a very different skill. I figured the time was right to make the move into it before I got back into another restaurant.”

Favourite dish to cook?

“Strangely I love cooking soups, particularly authentic soups from various parts of the world. In a similar vein I like slow cooking things like daubes, stews and tougher cuts of meat.”

Best advice?

“Don’t mess with the classics!”

2 Keith Goddard chef lvbmag.com

Eating out?

“I like to vary things to be honest. We’re extremely lucky in London as in one week we could eat pretty much every cuisine in the world. I occasionally like to go high end to Michelin star restaurants but the rest of the time to anywhere that has identity, that isn’t trying to please everyone. Other than French and Italian, I like Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese and Indian food a lot.”

3 Keith Goddard chef lvbmag.com

London or New York?

“I lived in New York for two of the best years of my life. However London is tough to beat.”