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November things

Freddie and I are off to Poland this week for some quality grandparents time, it’s going to be very cold but sunny, the autumn is very beautiful with maple and chestnut trees in abundance. The little one will get spoiled and I will probably enjoy some free time to read and eat a lot of good food.

One of my all time favourite photographers, Henri Cartier Bresson, is at Somerset House, make sure to enjoy a tasty sandwich at the newly opened Fernandez and Wells cafe afterward.

I don’t like BBC’s Paradise, I think it is offensive to say it is based on Zola’s wonderful novel but ITV teamed up with Andrew Davies and we will soon enjoy a better department store drama – Mr Selfridge. The dates are still to be announced due to TV stations topical clash.

Even more exciting TV news, BBC comes back with The Hour this week!

Egyptian cats, Rodin, Brancusi, Hepworth, Roman thinkers and Nigerian statues - Bronze at Royal Academy is a very well edited exhibition that covers all eras and most continents.

Ice rink at Somerset House is opening soon, make sure to get your tickets fast.

Go to Wisley for a splash of autumn colours and the Contemporary Craft and Design Fair 21-25 November.

Donna Wilson sample sale, 30th November at 10.00 till 2nd December at 16.00 at Unit 12, 10-14 Hollybush Gardens,  E2 9QP. Come dressed as one of Donna’s creatures and get a free goodie bag.

As they say in Tilling, Au Reservoir! I will be back next weekend with some Dickens, cookies, last bits of garden and Christmas treats.

 

 

Friday’s Favourites

If you ever look for a special gift head to Ninainvorm’s Etsy shop where you can get spoiled for choice. Everyone probably knows of Nina already but I would like to share few of her beautiful products here anyway. Nina is a Dutch artist specialising in ceramics and screen prints, she takes vintage and new items and transforms them with her ingenious designs into something unique. I just love the colours and patterns. How nice would it be to commission a tile with a newborn’s name for a friend?

If this wasn’t enough loveliness have a look at her wonderful home on her blog and swoon.

Friday’s Favourites

Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favourite illustrators and designers, the very talented Alice Melvin. I first came across Alice’s designs at Tate Britain where I always get sucked into the children section and find the best edit of books and craft materials ever.

One of her clever projects is a map and guide of the Scottish capital, where she is based, not only it takes you to the best spots of Edinburgh but it also allows you to make handy notes and mementos.

Alice’s Aviary is a series of 12 screen prints of British Birds and I would just love to own the green woodpecker or the barn owl.

These two craft projects are going right to the top of my list of Christmas gifts for little girls, how fantastic are the glove puppets and the department store?

If that wasn’t enough Alice also writes books, designs stationery and bird mobiles.

You can buy Alice’s works at Tate Shop and directly from her. The full list of stockists is on Alice’s website.

 

 

 

British Design at V&A

British Design Innovation in the Modern Age 1948 – 2012 (years between the two Olympics hosted by London) is the perfect show for anyone visiting the capital this summer.

It showcases the best of car design, street signs, china, poster, fashion and furniture. Right at the start you are introduced to Robin Day’s chairs and benches he did for the 1951 Festival of Britain, bit further down you can admire his wife’s, Lucienne Day’s, most famous textile pattern – Calyx. They were to Britain what the Eamses were to America.

There are beautiful couture dresses by Galliano and Kane, and Mary Quant minis. Examples of Wedgewood’s Homemaker china, which is always funny to see because I have a plate from the line and you can often find it in antique shops as well as buy the reproduction and various modern spin-offs.

For anyone visiting from abroad and loving design this is a must see (apologies for going so late, it ends on the 15th). If you miss it here are my top picks from the shop.

The kiddie souvenirs:

 

 

V&A toys

 

Patrick Ryland’s rattle £5
David Mellor’s dinner set £34
Clara Button and the Magical Hat £5
Wooden London Bus £12
And for the grownups:

 

V&A

Keep Britain Tidy print £9.50

Trimphone £40

Matt Sewell’s Little Owl £85

Just like the Homemaker plate, I have seen it all before, well, almost. There were two artists who attracted me: Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden. I absolutely loved seeing their prints which I have only seen in books, I was taken back in time to London streets buzzing and the old-fashioned shops, that disappear every day, still full of life.

Eric Ravilious prints and book.

Eric Ravilious
And some Edward Bawden. I am putting Edward Bawden’s London on my Christmas wish list.
Edward Bawden

 

 

Birthday

It’s my birthday today and this calls for a big chocolaty in-your-face celebration cake. Recently I found a lovely blog called What Katie Ate, she makes food, styles it and photographs it beautifully, she even got herself a book deal with Penguin. When I first looked at her blog I saw this amazing looking cake and decided to bake it. The icing was over the top sweet but it contrasted the cocoa-rich sponge well.

Hubby surprised me with few gifts, Kindle and a lovely set of a cup, a plate and a cake stand by Royal Doulton called Royal Albert, designed to commemorate the 1950 Festival of Britain.

Design Heroes: Finn Juhl

This Dane was trained as an architect but he truly excelled as a furniture and interior designer.

His first pieces were made specifically for his own house but Juhl’s talent soon became obvious and his fame spread worldwide.

His style is light and fresh but far from the Scandinavian ‘clinical’ design we are use to. His interiors are airy yet cozy and warm. There is a beautiful balance of color and textures making for very homey spaces.

The famous Poeten sofa in a whimsical setting.

The Chieftain chair.

He designed many functional desks and tables.

I definitely share his love of organic shapes.

Ministry of Food

Lately I have been reading a lot about Utility design and rationing, a very fascinating topic.

Utility Furniture and Fashion 1941-1951 is a great little book explaining all the stages of the rationing era: how the utility furniture was designed, what pieces of clothing were allowed, there are examples of fabric design and the best posters ever. Simplicity is a must, but simplicity makes those things aesthetically appealing to me.

The Dig for Victory campaign is probably one of the best pieces of advertising ever made, clear message and striking imagery.

Fabric patterns:

Posters:

When I visited Imperial War Museum back in January I almost screamed for joy when I saw the poster for the upcoming Ministry of Food exhibition. So yesterday I paid a visit.

To start with I wanted to buy everything from the exhibition shop, there were recipe books, candles, aprons to name a few, all very attractive looking.

The exhibition shows all aspects of food making process.

We start in a gardening section with a shed and accessories that wouldn’t feel out of place at Labour and Wait.

We had rationing books and examples of food rations – it was not a lot! There was also a shop with the most amazing packaging display, a lot of the brands are still available now.

There was a kitchen with very little on the table.

I will take this as a house inspiration.

I saw few examples of the most popular dishes and I can only imagine how dull it must have been with a Woolton pie being the most exciting thing on a plate. But I admire people for creativity, I remember potato stamps which used to amuse me as a child and got chucked afterward, back in the 40s after having a creative afternoon the stamps were cleaned and cooked for dinner.

The exhibition ended on a high note in a sweet shop.

The fashion was pretty amazing too, corduroy jodhpurs, shirt and a preppy v-neck worn with socks and lace up boots. Chic Land Girls are my new style inspiration.

This is one of the most informative, interesting and inspiring exhibitions I have ever seen.

Design Heroes: Ernest Race

Ernest Race, a prolific British furniture designer who managed to combine Victorian and Modernist styles with enormous success.

Race trained as interior designer at Bartlett’s School of Architecture and was later snapped by a lighting company which allowed him to meet his great contemporaries like Walter Gropius or Isokon’s Jack Pritchard.

Later on he spent some time in India helping his missionary aunt to run a weaving community which resulted in opening a textile and carpet shop in London, all of which he designed himself. The shop closed its door in 1939.

He spent the war serving bombed London as a fireman.

After the war he started to design furniture which was very challenging due to the Utility Scheme and lack of material. For the V&A’s 1946 exhibition ‘Britain Can Make It’ he designed clever, easy to transport, simple in design aluminium BA3 dining chairs and tables. These were hugely popular and massive orders soon followed.

BA3 chair

Bigger success was to come in 1951 at the Festival of Britain where Race’s most famous designs were exhibited: the Springbok and Antelope chairs.

Antelope chairs

Springbok chairs

I always wanted the Antelope chairs and bench, they are so elegant and cheerful, no wonder they were a huge post-war success.

Race was contracted by many companies including P&O to design deck chairs for their upmarket cruise liners.

The Neptune deck chair

His other designs included stylish simple coffee and dining tables.

Rocking chair.

Beautiful Unicorn chairs.

Heron chair.

And the Penguin Donkey which I would so love to have with all the vintage Penguin books.

Design Heroes: Ernö Goldfinger

Ernö Goldfinger, the creator of one of London’s most iconic buildings – The Trellick Tower. A very self-confident, controversial and prolific urban modernist. And yes, the James Bond villain was called after him, this was Ian Felming’s payback for building a modernist terraced house in Hampstead. Ernö didn’t have it easy. But he did a lot for London and I really appreciate his buildings.

He was a follower of structural rationalism, creator of simple and functional spaces that worked.

Balfron Tower

Inside Balfron Tower

He designed few tower blocks like the Balfron Tower in Poplar where he actually lived and worked on improvements for his next structure. Tenants were invited for champagne and a chat about the building with Ernö and his wife, Ursula. Whatever he learned from his experience at Balfron he implemented in his next building – the Trellick Tower in North Kensington.

Trellick Tower

Ernö with kids at Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower was one of the most sophisticated tower blocks in the 60s London, it had its own nursery, doctors’ surgery, shops and Goldfinger himself had his practice there for some time. There is a great story by JG Ballard called High-Rise which is inspired by the building.

The Elephant & Castle development was another hated creation – soulless, scary and dangerous.

Elephant and Castle development

I find those buildings very interesting, light and elegant but I can understand how people hated them back then.

Ernö built his family house in Hampstead at Willow Road, now in hands of National Trust.

1-3 Willow Road

The moment I saw it I fell in love, it would be my dream to live there. He designed most of the furniture himself too as well as children toys. I have written about my visit here.

2 Willow Road

2 Willow Road

2 Willow Road

2 Willow Road

2 Willow Road

The house is very warm and almost feels familiar, there are even shelves of condiments in the kitchen (Ursula was the heiress of the Crosse and Blackwell fortune). As the Goldfingers had many friends in the art crowd there are few amazing works of art in the house.

Goldfinger was a very important post war architect, not afraid of criticism and facing tough challenges.

Ernö’s other buildings include Daily Workers HQ in Farringdon, Carr & Co offices in Birmingham, a number of shops, office buildings and schools.

Looking at post war buildings around London you can very often spot Ernö’s influence: large windows, low spaces, clean lines and easy access.

Day in East London

It was time for M’s haircut in Spitalfields (who is now sporting a positively Orwellian look) so Diana and I decided to have tea and cake at Market Coffee House.

Banana, chocolate and pecan cake and gun powder tea accompanied by D.V. was a delightful hour.

Afterward we headed to Shoreditch High Street via Brick Lane popping to pick up some chai latte on route.

Visiting new places continues and this weekend it was Geffrye Museum which I enjoyed a lot.

The museum is housed in 18th century almshouse, it shows domestic interiors of English middle class in London through various periods starting with 17th century dining room and ending in a modern 90s apartment.

All the interiors are very well described, there are timelines of the crucial events that influenced design among other things. There are also notes on the domestic customs like doing the accounts in the afternoon and visiting Carnaby Street for fruit and veg in the morning.

Lovely wallpaper.

I live in Art Deco building so it was very exciting to see how our apartment should really look like.

This beautiful chair would really work well in our place.

My favorite period in interior design the 50s-60s. Pete and Trudie Campbell would feel here at home. I love the briefcase left next to the table, father is home, get the old fashioned ready!

Woolworth’s Homemaker cup and saucer.

Beautiful Art Deco coffee set from Shelley Potteries.

Art Nouveau vase from Royal Doulton…

…and ‘The Book of the Home’.

Funky TV and coffee set.

Great place, I highly recommend it. I will be back later this year to visit the garden.

Feeling hungry we decided it was time for lunch, off to Pizza East for portobello mushroom and egg ….

…and Margarita.

The day got rather nippy so I was glad to head back home, curl up on the sofa and immerse myself in more wisdom of D.V.