Farrow & Ball Adventure Part II

Off to the Races!

I had always wanted to visit Blake’s Hotel in South Kennsington, so was delighted to learn that we’d be guests there for remainder of our trip, while we tore around town taking in design and art fairs, antiquing, going to museums and, of course, eating, drinking and carousing along the way.

Blake’s, a boutique hotel, where each room was individually created by much celebrated hotelier Anouska Hempel, did not disappoint. Blake’s design scheme is all about the power of BLACK and bold stripes with hits of emerald green and Chinese red thrown in for contrast. Black lobby, black lacquered furniture, black and cream striped wallpaper, black-you-name-it! Exotic Oriental accents from alter tables to silk wall hangings abound. The rooms are- yep- dark and moody and on the tiny side but- my goodness- what they miss in grandeur of size make up for in their attention to design detail and dramatic flair. I was smitten! I stayed in two different rooms, the last one being my favorite and, coincidentally- the smallest room in the entire joint- a “Parisian Single” (pictured above in both images on right).

“A Parisian Single”

Hardly a garret but it was fun and romantic pretending I WAS single and just starting out in this wondorous world. There was a place for everything plus light to read and write by and I got to look out onto the back buildings with their charming terraces and feel like a local artist holing up at my rich, eccentric English Auntie Nouskie’s townhouse, who -good luck would have it-has the most exquisite taste imaginable! The food was healthy and delicious, too, in the ridiculously chic and-you guessed it- BLACK dining room (pictured Above: upper left.)

Starting the day with a daily brisk walk through nearby Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park before settling down to a divinely poached egg with avocado on whole grain toast for breakfast was, well, a treat (pictured above: lower left.) That probably deserved… an exclamation point.

London Decorex 2016

We hit the ground running our first morning taking the Tube to Decorex, an annual design fair showcasing the latest and greatest in international products for interiors from lamps to furniture and textiles to tiles and carpeting. We were greeted at the entry by rare Exmoor Horned sheep (pictured above: upper left) to remind us of the starting point for many of the products we were about to see…WOOL! The Exmoor Horn was developed in Exmoor, Devon in the 19th century, but is a descendant of sheep that had roamed on the moors for several hundred years.

There was much to take in but I fell in love with these smart swing arms that come with hip, customizable macrame shades from Naomi Paul (pictured above: lower left.)

I was also thrilled to find another source for fresh patterns of Moroccan tiles that I had never seen before from Habibi Interiors (pictured above: upper right.) I usually order from Mosaic House in New York, but am always thrilled to find new resources!

Being the textile FREAK that I am, I found myself drawn to two textile booths- Tibor LTD, founded in 1946, known for its unusual yarns and wovens and influenced by the interdisciplinary principles of the Bauhaus movenment, Tibor LTD is run by the lovely Sam Reich, who has charmingly inherited the company from his grandad. Tibor Ltd. notably wove the original textiles for the seats on the Concorde, Hermes and several commisions for the Royal Family (Tibor samples pictured above: lower right.)

Soie de Lune is owned and operated by Designer Anou Thammavong and investor Daniel Marcus out of London, specializing in luxurious, hand-woven upholstery cloth for sale to the high end trade. I look forward to visiting Lauren Hwang Bespoke, where they are represented in the US, later in the Fall and showcasing her gorgeous, sensitive lines more thoroughly in another post.

As we were leaving the tent, Soloman & Wu, a company celebrated for their unusual metal finishes on table tops and panelling, grabbed my attention with a pink and blue enameled table top that reminded me of a cross between a giant Sweet Tart, spin art, and the splatter works of Jackson Pollack (pictured to the right.)

After Decorex, we scuttled over to a provocative grad student show, called Brain Waves at St Martins School of Design, one of the world’s leading art and design colleges. The exhibit features the cutting edge work of star students as they examine the future of design. Some of which was beautiful and much of which was clever though not always pretty. In fact, Cathy Kinkaid, one of the talented designers from Dallas on our trip, excused herself to go in search of an iced tea after seeing a headless plastic baby in one of the projects, quipping, “I just don’t need to see that!” The rest of our gang soon after joined her for a “pint” at a nearby outdoor cafe to take in the late afternoon, September sun and share our favorite moments of the day, before racing off to our next event. (Pictured from left to right: Katie Leede, Christos Prevezanos, Nicole Hollis, Eileen McComb, Caleb Anderson, Cathy Kincaid and Antonino Buzetta.)

London Design Biennale 2016

Little did I know that my favorite moments of the day were yet to come as we arrived at Somerset House, a large Neo-classical building on the banks of the Thames, that is currently hosting the London Design Bienalle entitiled Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility- a year long celebration and coming together of 36 nations through art and events to explore the theme of Utopia.

It’s hard to explain just how fantastic the exhibits are as many of them are interactive and are meant to elicit a dream state in the viewer/participant that transcends easy explanation.

But the overall message of almost every exhibit from every country was one of hope and possibility: imagine a better world and we can create it. I left feeling elated and challenged to re-think how we might live, work and play in more harmonious ways and support more positive visions of life on our shared planet. Cannot recommend this experience enough!

Afterhours Fun

I THEN peeled off from the group and spent the evening catching up with my dear friend and legendary rug designer Christopher Farr at the annual World of Interiors bash held at the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, this year designed by Danish Architect, Bjarke Ingels. The pavilion looks like an enormous snake , a huge undulating structure composed of thousands of fiberglass boxes stacked on top of each other. Interestingly, Bjarke Ingels is the architect of “no. 2 World Trade Center” which, when completed, will be located just across the street from the original Twin Towers.

After supper, the decorating boys back at Blake’s were up for late night pubbing in Soho so off we went to Comptons, one of the oldest gay pubs in London, which sadly was closing down for the night so we improvised and managed a margarita night cap (can’t take the Texas out of this girl) at the clubby Dean Street Townhouse Hotel Bar before jet lag began to catch up with us and it was “nightynite for now” for all. For more, if I haven’t exhausted you, see next post!

Day 3 : Antiquing

Given that I hadn’t been in London for years, I decided to spend the next day solo, madly dashing from one favorite antiquing haunt to another. I figured best start to the day would be a wander down the wonders of Pimlico Road, a street full of curious furniture shops showcasing unusual (codeword for pricey) antiques curated by shopkeepers known for their keen eye and sophisticated aesthetic.

On the walk over to Pimlico Rd via Fulham Road, I happened by mere chance to pop into a happening new art gallery called The Dot Project, which- turns out- is owned by a former design intern of mine, India Whalley (pictured here) and showcases the work of up and coming artists (perfect for young collectors of the posh set.) I had forgotten it was thanks to India that my textile and wallpaper collections are represented in London by Simon Playle, Ltd., whom she had shown them to when she moved back to London a couple of years ago. What a small, wonderful world it can be!

Pimlico Road

Rose Uniacke’s light- filled space took my breath away with her artful, spare vignettes of handsome antiques coupled with contemporary upholstery and lighting pieces of her own design. Less IS more here. Each piece is given space and power. It’s more like going into a Church of Design and Rose is the High Priestess, (pictured above: upper left).

Right down the road, Jamb, offering exquisite chimney pieces, Michael Smith textiles, and all manner of eccentric menageries of stuffed creatures perching on broad- shouldered library tables along with stone busts of long-forgotten, Roman senators resting on the floor, is a raucous joy to visit in comparison. Don’t miss if taxidermy and FIRE is your thing (pictured above: upper right and lower left).

And a stumble into the even more relaxed shop Howe next door with its’ overflowing treasures thrown haphazardly together had me smiling again (pictured above: lower right). Charming owner, Christopher Howe, asked me to come back for a party that night, perhaps because he saw I was enjoying his space (and wonderful custom lampshades) so thoroughly. Ah, well, next trip maybe I’ll have more time! After popping in Soane Britain and Bennison to pick up last minute samples of their latest fabric designs, I took a peek in Ramsay’s window (pictured below: upper left) and ogled the clever animal etchings on offer before managing a final swing through Lamberty (because you never know what sort of far flung vintage find might be lurking about their floor, pictured below: upper right.) Sure enough there was a gilt and marble sea horse cocktail table from the 70’s that might just inspire a copy!

As a side note, I did manage to take a breath from all the rushing about and pretend for a moment I was in Santa Monica with a juice bar on every corner by ducking into Daylesford Organic for cold-pressed Green Juice (pictured above: lower left,) which kept me humming along back to the hotel for a quick clean up before last supper with the troops at. Thank you Farrow & Ball and Interior Design Magazine for hosting such a yummy, happy affair with colleagues I now call close friends. Funny how close you can grow and so quickly when you share a love for beauty and adventure.

After supper, we had drinks at German Gymnasium, a muscular, impressively designed double- decker, lofty restaurant with lots of steel, brick, leather booths, and designer cocktails to go with. Fittingly, it had originally been built as the first gym in London (pictured below: on right.) The only thing left to do after such a jam-packed day was HIT THE HAY!

Next morning we were for big good-byes and hugs and wishes to be reunited again and SOON somewhere Stateside. Will keep you posted on the meanderings of this impressive crew!

Final note of the day: Other shops of note along the route today included Godson and Coles, Julian Chichester, Se (pictured below: left), Collier Webb, Pablo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam, Hilary Batstone, 88-Gallery, Portuondo, and Hemisphere.