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Archive for the ‘Ponderings’ Category

I love visiting London, particularly if I’m able to travel there by train. On each occasion, my excitement mounts as we draw nearer to Paddington as there is always something new to discover in the big smoke, whether it is a ‘must have’ item of clothing (Oxford Circus is my first stop, for Top Shop and Uniqlo!), or a fascinating exhibition or show. Travelling by tube is the quickest way of getting from A to B if time is short but the best way of seeing London and really experiencing it is, like anywhere, by foot.

If you happen to wander down any side street from the main thoroughfares of the city, you’d be surprised not only by the relative calm and quiet, but also by the interesting architecture that you’d find. I had some time while I was in London last winter and decided to walk back to my hotel rather than catch the tube. It was a fair distance but very much worth it.

The rows of red brick houses in a residential area just behind the main shopping areas of Knightsbridge were a sight to behold – what a lovely place to live! Row after row of multiple storied terraces snake around the back streets, perfect examples of Victorian architecture.


They remind me of typical Amsterdam canal houses!

Just look at this doorway too:

Not far on my walk, the shape and look of the buildings changed. The ornate design of these streets gave way to the more subtle charm of beautifully presented Georgian period homes, of which this was a lovely example:

It’s hard to believe that such homes lie only a stones throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city!

On my travels I was also excited to happen across the Bibendum restaurant, of Terence Conran fame. See the wonderful stained glass windows featuring ‘Bibendum’ himself, otherwise known as the ‘Michelin Man’. I love that he is holding a cigar, just like Mr Conran is wont to do:

I would have liked to have had the opportunity to have stopped for a bite to eat or at least to have viewed the interior, but I was in a bit of a rush by that point, what with all my walking and pausing to behold the interesting sights. Oh well, there is always next time…

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Also see my ‘Interiors advice’ page!

There is a lot of road in California and I was lucky enough to travel on what is probably only a tiny portion of it.  But still, the occasional endlessness of it was so inspiring, like anything seemed possible.

After climbing out of Death Valley we were plunged into another valley and the straightest, longest road I have ever seen, with mirage-like layers of salt flat and brown rock, climbing towards a mountainous summit. We passed probably one car in that whole stretch of road.

On another road, driving towards Tecopa from Las Vegas, we didn’t see another car at all, let alone a house or settlement of any kind – for over 150 miles. To be so far from civilization was liberating but, I admit, also scary. Those days of long lonely roads stay with me – The Eagles on repeat in the CD player, the relentless sun and heat, the dust, the strange, crater-like landscapes, gradually becoming lush and tree-filled, the desperate need to pee, but most of all, the wonderful feeling of wanton adventure mingled with an electric fear of what was so unknown to me.

Road

Other roads we travelled were rather more ‘populated’, but it was the more unusual sights that made me dive for my camera. This water tower looked like an alien ‘Tripod’ about to clamber over and stamp on us.

Water tower

We passed many wind farms but this one was the most photogenic. I was mesmerised by the repetition of pattern that went on for miles and miles.

Wind farm

Seeing this wonderful big St Bernard dog in the back of a flat-bed truck really made me smile. It was one of the many times when I thought to myself ‘I love America!’

St Bernard

Joshua Tree National Park had a profound effect on me. It was again like we were the only humans for miles around. We hardly saw another living soul at all, apart from the funny little creatures that may or may not have been kangaroo rats that popped up everywhere during our hike.  I was, however, nursing a perhaps irrational terror of bumping into a rather less cute and cuddly animal, or, should I say, arachnid. Others might think that tarantulas (I can barely type and look at the word) are cute and cuddly, but not me. I actually asked a gentleman at the Death Valley NP visitors centre about the likelihood of coming across a t-word. He said that they are in their burrows under ground during the summer but that in the winter it is common to see them crossing the road. He didn’t notice my shudder and went on to ask if I had a ‘special interest’ in them…

Joshua Tree NP

The open road became so second nature to us that even when civilization really was limited to a handful of trailers at the side of a dusty road, we weren’t really that shocked.

Tecopa

From the blazing heat and dust we moved into altogether different territory as we crossed the Sierra Nevada. The dry desert valley roads  gave way to alpine mountain passes, complete with a large helping of snow which in places was still over 6 feet thick, even in late May.

Sonora pass

These roads, in turn, gave way to farming country – straight, Roman-style roads lined with trees and green fields that stretched to infinity. The barns, unusually shaped to me, really caught my eye.

Barn

So, on we went from farmland to Napa Valley, from Napa to San Francisco and from there to Los Angeles, via the Pacific Coast Highway. The cold grey weather could not dampen our spirits as we crept along route 1, the waves crashing against the shore to our right.

Pacific Coast Highway

Our road trip came to an end when we arrived back in LA, although the freeway driving obviously added to the whole experience. However, it is those human-free desert roads that I think of and remember when I want to get that feeling of freedom back. You would need only to have seen the delighted expression on my face as we zoomed along those roads, the wind in our hair, to know why…

wing mirror

Now, you might have been wondering what a blogger on interiors and architecture is doing sharing such experiences as these! Well, it is because my design ideas are informed by so many elements, and not least the natural world. I have indulged in my fond memories in the hope that it will inspire you in some way too.

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Also see my ‘Interiors advice’ page!

Last night I saw the most amazing sunset. There were layers upon layers of different weights of cloud, from wispy to thick and heavy, and in between each layer shone every shade of orange and blue – peach, violet, blood red – all of varying intensity. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, so much light and colour!

I saw it when I was out running across the fields towards Wells.  It sounds strange, but there was so much sky, it felt like the sunset was surrounding me! It really inspired me and lifted my spirits just when I was starting to flag…

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Pink House 1

Also see my ‘Interiors advice’ page!

I was on my annual visit to Dartmouth Royal Regatta last week. It’s always an enjoyable way to spend a few days and this year was no exception. As usual, it was a good opportunity to go wild with my camera and, in particular, focus on the way that the people of Dartmouth decorate their homes for Regatta as well as the way their homes are decorated all the year around. One of my previous posts talked about the ice-cream colours beloved of seaside residents and I loved these pink houses, seen whilst enjoying the Regatta festivities.

Pink House 2

I also loved the festoonery of bunting and flags that adorned many of the homes! Well done, people of Dartmouth – you gave us a lot more than the sailing, rowing and air displays to admire!

Bunting 1Bunting 2

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DSC04243This time I’m not talking about wild flowers, but gold old dahlias. I got this little bunch for £2.50 from a flower stall in Bath last Thursday and they are still very much going strong! They are so pretty, the pleasure they are giving me is priceless!

If I had my own garden, I would grow dahlias and sweetpeas and peonies (my other favourite flowers), as well as honeysuckle and big colourful roses. Hmm, I can dream…

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Also see my ‘Interiors advice’ page!

Alek, of ‘From the Right Bank to the Left coast’ threw down the gauntlet big style to interior designers the world over to find one picture that most closely represents our interior style. I’ve spent many an evening poring through my back catalogue of Elle Decoration, Dwell, Living Etc., Metropolitan Homes, Diseño Interior, Ideat and Casa Viva magazines, as well as files stuffed full of interiors ripped out of newspapers and supplements over the years and my many books. I came up with a shortlist of favourites but none were quite right – apart from two, that is. Yes, I know that is cheating, but both represent slightly different sides of me. One is my ‘reined in’ side, which aspires towards understated perfection and sleek glamour, the other is my more ‘everyday’ side, which loves laid back-ness and comfort. Not as much of a contradiction as you might expect!

So, the first room I have chosen is from a relatively recent Elle Decoration from February 2008. There are elements that I greatly admire about this room that reflect my own style, but there is also room for my own touches of improvement.

Style Picture 1What do I love about it? Well, firstly I love the pendant light shade, its architectural shape and the sense of whimsy it adds to the room – who doesn’t love a bit of whimsy? I love the light airiness of the space, the colour – monochrome brown, black and white, the use of wood which adds warmth, the texture of the surfaces, the structure of the kitchen and furniture layout, the clever use of structural space, allowing for the double-height ceiling and mezzanine level. I love the chairs and simple dining table and tableware with the teak salad bowl. The repetition of rectangular shapes in the kitchen space which is continued to the stairs and the wall of the mezzanine, as well as the way each step has two layers is a great touch. I also love the abstract picture next to the oven, oh, and the way the oven is mounted on the wall. The wonderful black and white portrait and anglepoise lamp, as well as the (just seen) red flower fairy lights tumbling out of a ceramic vase on the mezzanine add personality to the space.

What would I change? Not much! I perhaps would have installed more texturally-interesting tiles as the ceiling-high splash back in the kitchen space. An architectural shaped plant, perhaps a Swiss cheese plant, would look great on the mezzanine level to the right of the chair. A ‘barely there’ runner on the dining table patterned largely in monochrome but with a splash of dark green. In the winter, I’d throw some small sheepskin rugs over the dining chairs and line the stairs with tea-lights and the table with candles in a mid-20th century Danish stainless steel candle holder.

Perhaps it’s my love of collecting Danish tableware (stainless steel and teak) that provides the same attraction for me to this space. I love the room’s sleekness, with its nods to classic Scandanavian as well as retro style and its wonderful architectural pieces, full of movement. It is modern but also personal with carefully chosen objects that are genuinely beautiful and well-designed. It is not surprising that the owner, Maria Löw, and architect, Gun Ahlström are both Swedish. I couldn’t get further from being Swedish myself, but this room reflects my own personal taste and aspirations as closely as it is possible to get. Until the next picture, that is…

Picture two, ripped from the Saturday Times magazine, probably a good five years ago (don’t have the date, unfortunately!), is one that I discarded for being, on the face of it, too boring, but I kept coming back to it. It’s actually a perfectly laid out multi-functional space that works wonderfully and includes interesting structural elements which are happily married to the modern sensibility of the furniture.

Style Picture 2I love the space, the huge amount of natural light that just saturates the space, and the positioning of the furniture to naturally define the different areas. The exposed brickwork of the walls and fireplace and, of course, the fact that it is all painted white, is also extremely appealing to me. The wood floor off-sets this, as does the pale blue painted kitchen wall. I love the Louis Poulsen pendant lamp hung low over the super long dining table and the colour scheme of the items in the room in general which provide warmth against the white backdrop. I love the shelves in the window, and the way that the storage scheme cleverly makes use of every nook and cranny. I love the casually slung table cloth and the wonderful architectural shapes of the flowers on the table. I love the kitchen cupboards and black unit top. I love the owner’s desk area and the black painted radiator.

I would only change the (visible) sofa as I can’t imagine that the low back would make it very comfortable, despite its good looks, and, to me, comfort really matters. I’d also exchange the three cushions for two with different patterns. The dining chairs are almost there but I’d prefer the Eames DSR chairs (with Eiffel Tower base!) in this space.

Apart from these things, this room pretty much says ‘me’!  It also has a loose Scandanavian element to it, and the use of natural materials and texture, as well as the white and dark wood, is similar to that of picture 1. My Danish party-ware would sit perfectly in this space and it is also open to the addition of more vibrant colour – more so perhaps than the more minimalist scheme of picture 1. I can see my cockerel collection being quite at home on the higher shelf to the right of the desk!

So, that’s me anyway. I love poring over and collecting these images because I have a passion for seeing how other people live – some would call it ‘noseyness’! I’m always looking for ways of improving spaces and taking inspiration from little parts of things that just sing to me. Remember that I’m talking about my own personal taste in both of these pictures, too. I would never try to influence a client against their will and would make sure that their space reflects their own unique taste. There’s also nothing wrong with mixing in a bit of aspirational magic in with your personality too, though (I’m thinking of picture 1!), as what would life be if we couldn’t dream?

Other pictures that were considered but did not make the final cut:

Style Picture 3Style Picture 5

From Easy Living and the Saturday Times Magazine respectively, I love the beautifully displayed sombrero collection, the low shelving, the exposed brick work of the first picture (and the presence of a cockerel collection!) and the wonderful dining chairs, black painted floor and rosy under unit light of the second picture.

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Also see my ‘Interiors advice’ page!

I recently spent a weekend in Torbay, Devon, and as we drove through Teignmouth, I was struck by the prettiness of the architecture. Houses are really different by the seaside to in land. In my neck of the woods, I’m surrounded by either Bath stone, rough stone, or red brick. The seaside buildings of England’s ‘Riviera’ display a host of ice cream colours and shiny white cast iron swirls of balcony and gable, like icing.

In Torquay, vast Victorian manor houses, now retirement homes, hotels, or split into apartments, line the hillside outside of the town, with beautifully landscaped gardens. We walked part of the coastal path there and stopped for a drink on the terrace of the Osborne Hotel, a bright white Georgian-style crescent, looking out to sea.

We walked the breakwater in Brixham and beheld the higgledy piggledy terraced houses nestled into the slopes leading up from the harbour, painted every colour in the rainbow. They looked like little jewels in the evening sun, the windows glinting in the light.

Beach Huts, Broadsands_WmThe beach huts that line part of the sea front of Paignton are all white clapboard with the doors and roofs painted in different colours. They are extremely photogenic and just delightful to see in their long rows. Alek, on her blog ‘From the Right Bank to the Left Coast’ recently commented that it would be wonderful to live in a hut by the sea,  and illustrated this with pictures of a fabulous contemporary beach hut. Well, these little huts are too small for living in, but they’re lovely for a day at the British seaside – just add a deckchair and bucket and spade!

http://www.fromtherightbank.com/2009/07/contemporary-beach-hut/

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