When are you going to blog again?

5 July 2020

There was a rather forlorn, but kind, comment posted recently on my last blog: “When are you going to blog again?”. And I’m sorry it’s been such a long time….

A second month in the country

17 May 2020

How’s it possible that four weeks have drifted by since my last blog? Partly – work has been weirdly busy… from time to time, intensely so. Partly, Charlie and I…

From the virtual world, back to the real one

19 April 2020

I titled my last post: Life, suspended. As the days and weeks drift by curiously quickly, yet simultaneously slowly, I think we may all know what I mean.  And now,…

Life, suspended

13 April 2020

A week of more walks, doing the vital daily round; of more long days, with early starts, working harder than I’d somehow imagined possible right now (which makes me feel…

I think it’s going to be okay

5 April 2020

We’ve had another week of beautiful mornings – although cold, with a biting east wind. But our daily round of getting up and taking the dogs out as the sun…

The chip at the end of a bar of soap

29 March 2020

The title of this blog will make sense only if you ready to the very end. But I wonder, is your week more a tiny bit settled at the end than…

The View from Here

25 March 2020

This evening, I’m sitting in the kitchen. The dogs are on the sofa, Charlie’s cooking, it feels like any normal evening in Dorset.  This was the view on our walk…

Making a difference when it matters

16 March 2020

This is the 442nd blog. That’s a long, long time of writing blogs. I’ve just counted up, and in so doing, I’ve spanned 11 years of writing, of memories, thoughts…

How can architecture help make places beautiful again?

14 March 2020

On Friday, possibly, I guess, the last such gathering for a little while, I spoke at a conference in Cerne Abbas organised by that brilliant organisation, the CPRE, the Countryside Charity,…

Going nowhere

8 March 2020

As the world, literally, loses its head, I’ve somehow been finding mine. I’ve gone nowhere and done nothing. The routine has been simple. An early morning walk to the cricket…

Three weeks in the country…

1 March 2020

Actually, that’s what’s about to happen. Charlie has gone to New Zealand, last week, to visit his family – and for various reasons this time I’ve stayed behind. I decided…

Norfolk spectacles and Dorset storms

9 February 2020

W E E K   O N E It was a brilliant bright day as Charlie, Ruth (aka the Bible of British Taste – by the way, have you checked…

Quiet times in Scotland

27 January 2020

We’ve had the quietest weekend in Scotland and it’s been so good. Charlie and the dogs left from Dorset on Wednesday, and I got up on Friday morning after a…

American classic

19 January 2020

We’ve been on a whirlwind visit to America… we arrived in Washington on Wednesday evening, late. On Thursday morning, very bright and early, on a crisp, clear, wintry day, we…

The turn of the year

5 January 2020

Are you reading this at the beginning of the first day back to work?  I’ve called this blog the turn of the year, but of course, it’s the turn of…

Waiting

8 December 2019

The shop is sparkling now… looking so beautiful, dressed for Christmas.  Thanks to all those who came for the Lambs Conduit Street Christmas Party on Thursday last week…. And for…

Peace on earth

2 December 2019

After lengthy trips to Dorset and Cornwall last week, I took the train back up to London on Thursday afternoon and caught the sleeper train from Euston in good time….

Week of contrasts

24 November 2019

It’s been a week of contrasts.   I can’t really make the connections between the dots, except by a narrative of very separate events and moments.   I. On Wednesday,…

For the long term

21 November 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a speech to a packed audience of American architects and interior decorators who were over in London for the Design Leadership Network Summit…

New rhythms to life

17 November 2019

For all sorts of reasons, I find I haven’t written a blog for weeks. The month of October slipped into November quietly… and Charlie and I have found ourselves in…

Rest amidst the storm

21 October 2019

I started the week with a lost voice. Talking too much? A sore throat? Probably, all of the above, and then just spending too much time whizzing here and there…

Thanksgiving

14 October 2019

It’s been a good week, and a productive one, but it felt like quite long at times too. I got back from Scotland on Sunday night. A very busy few…

En route….

6 October 2019

This was meant to be a blog about moving into Scotland. But I’m 100 photos in and we just arrived at the bothy.  So, that will be another blog, because…

Two favourite places

22 September 2019

P A R T   1  : N E W   Y O R K Somehow, there aren’t many more views in the world as thrilling as this…. the towers…

High Summer weeks

8 September 2019

It seems weeks ago that I got down to Dorset at the end of one of the longest and craziest weeks in the office in a fair while – three…

Progress at Tornagrain

22 August 2019

This will be a blog of many pictures and few words, designed to give everyone who’s not able to get themselves to Inverness a good look at the emerging town…

The mid Argyll Show

11 August 2019

Charlie and I have been up at the bothy for a progress meeting with the builder. Things have moved along amazingly in the last three or four weeks since we…

Holiday reading

4 August 2019

Yet again, a month has gone by.  My autumn resolution is to get writing weekly or fortnightly – there is something about the rhythm of the blog that needs the…

The consolations of nature

7 July 2019

This was meant to be a blog about a beautiful weekend Charlie and I had had in Scotland – and the week before that, in Suffolk. We’d arrived in Scotland…

Small moments of peace…

10 June 2019

In my memory, maybe it’s right, maybe not, this time last year we were having a bit of a heatwave. Not this June. I left London this morning in a…

Family Gathering, Cornwall calling

2 June 2019

We’ve been down in Dorset all week, since the bank holiday. I’ve had work in Poundbury. The evenings have been dreamy…  Strange to think that last autumn, Charlie dug up…

Time flies when you are having fun….

27 May 2019

At the end of every weekend for the last month I’ve been saying “oh golly I’ve got to write a blog”. And at the end of every weekend either something…

Spring break

28 April 2019

It’s been that magical moment since I last posted…. when spring breaks.  The Easter weekend was beautifully hot and still in Dorset, but nonetheless the leaves on the trees were…

West Country to East Coast

15 April 2019

We were in Dorset during the week…. always a pleasure. It was Dad’s birthday supper on Tuesday; I visited local job sites on Wednesday, including a meeting for the church…

Going away and not doing too much at all

8 April 2019

Thank you for the kind, thoughtful, beautiful comments on the last post; there’s no doubt whatsoever that the thoughts and prayers of friends – and of those who read the…

Life

2 April 2019

It’s been six or seven weeks since I’ve written. Those that follow me over on instagram will already know that Mum died suddenly, of a heart attack, on the evening…

Quiet Times

17 February 2019

We got back from America and have had the quietest time… Recovery and catching up.  But… we also collected Enid. Oh golly.  For those wondering, she’s not a relation of…

One week in the Deep South

2 February 2019

We’re back! We had a fantastic time… thank you to every single blog reader that we met who made us so welcome. Charlie and I are having the quietest weekend,…

The promise of January

21 January 2019

I’m writing on what has officially been labelled, by people who label things, as the most depressing day of the year. In fact it was a beautiful day in London,…

Time Flies, Year Turning…

6 January 2019

I am sorry – that’s all I can say. I can’t believe quite how much time has passed since I actually last wrote… time has been flying; since I got…

Now we are ten!

3 December 2018

Hello from New Zealand.  I can’t say it is the warmest summer I’ve known here, but can you imagine how wonderful it is to be transported into long days and…

A time to remember

18 November 2018

It’s been a sensational two weeks, although I’ll confess I got back from Scotland and down to a project in Cornwall and promptly got the cold that’s been doing the…

Old and New Memories

4 November 2018

The autumn colours have been extraordinary this year. A couple of weekends ago, we had our friend Amy staying – the day was bright but the wind was bitterly cold…

West Country week…

22 October 2018

I’ve been out of London for the last ten days. It’s a rather strange feeling waving good-bye (metaphorically) to the Thames and Somerset House on the bus on the way…

One month later….

16 October 2018

You blink, and a month has whizzed by!  What happened? Well, I’m still alive, at least. What happened was, I got far too crazy to blog.  Thank you for everyone…

Early Autumn in Dorset doing nothing very much at all

16 September 2018

The garden has reached that peak early autumn moment – wild and ebullient, blowsy, waiting for the first frost. I arrived on Dorset on Friday evening, and we had a…

Decoration position available

10 September 2018

There’s no blog this week, but there is a job being advertised in the Interior Decoration office! We are looking for a bright and enthusiastic new assistant in the studio….

It’s Showtime!

3 September 2018

From Italy, back to the green of England. It’s been amazing how a couple of weeks of normal temperature and a bit of rain make everything completely green again.  Last…

Dreaming of Italy

28 August 2018

I’ve only been back a week, but Italy already feels like a dream.  Summer is shifting now; here for a week or two longer perhaps, but that moment of new…

Pootling about

5 August 2018

PART I I followed Charlie back from Stockholm a day late, and had a beautiful day heading to Richmond Park for our friend Monica’s birthday. London steamed in sultry heat,…

Swedish Classical

22 July 2018

I’m just back from a wonderful few days in Stockholm.  Yesterday, I was giving a talk to the Engelsberg Summer School students – and that prompted the thought that Charlie…

In suspension

17 July 2018

Wednesday evening was not good. Here is our friend Ruth Guilding (author of the incredible Bible of British Taste) and Charlie, at the Pineapple, Leverton Street, which was the perfect…

The endless weeks of summer

10 July 2018

I can’t quite remember anything like it, and I’m not talking about our mad politics. In the ten years since I’ve lived at the Parsonage, there have been some wonderful…

Two weekends in High Summer

24 June 2018

The heat has been amazing. The earth is dry. It feels as if we are hurtling into late summer already. Walking this morning felt like being in Italy in the…

In a New York State of Mind…

17 June 2018

It’s a strange thing about time, isn’t it? Ask me what I was doing last Thursday week and frankly I’ve got no idea.  Ask me what I was doing 19…

Summer passing

4 June 2018

The late spring and freezing winter is forgotten. Summer has burst upon the valley and, blinking in the early, early mornings, we realise that we are only a few weeks…

Wedding Weekend

21 May 2018

It seemed as if England basked in sunshine and happiness.  I got down to Dorset on Friday evening to find the Parsonage glowing. Suddenly summer is upon us. 

Monumental landscapes

15 May 2018

We have had our friends Spencer and Austin staying over from New York. Always an opportunity for a monumental tour – which started with a visit to Chettle House, our…

Spring into Summer

8 May 2018

I remember one of the things I found strangest of all living in New York was the absence of a proper spring. Well into April, ice cold winds could blow…

Where have the weeks flown?

29 April 2018

One minute, it was winter.  The next minute, it was high summer.  And I’m writing this evening, at the Parsonage, next to a fire, with cold grey clouds scudding across…

Thanksgiving

8 April 2018

No – not the time of year – but our amazing response, in the village, to the appeal that I made at the end of the blog last week.  Everyone…

Glimmers of hope

3 April 2018

Regular readers of the blog will again be aware that a post hasn’t popped into their email address boxes for a week or two. I am sorry…. it’s been a…

Snow expected & snow unexpected

18 March 2018

Charlie and I went skiing last week for a few days, to France. It was the first time I’d been in years, and it’s always reassuring to realise I’m not…

Thaw

4 March 2018

The snow was wonderful.  I love the sense of disruption: a bit like the flu, when you have to cancel carefully laid plans left right and centre; but this time,…

Hello Sibyl…

25 February 2018

Oh golly, this has been one of those incredibly happy weekends that come once in a blue moon.  You know what I mean? Sibyl our new corgi was arriving.  Charlie…

Small moments

11 February 2018

If you are driving along the lanes not too far from us, just to the west of the village of Long Bredy, you will see a beautiful display of snowdrops…

Staying put

4 February 2018

I suppose when you’ve been a very long way, the best thing of all is not to go very far at all. I’ve had a fortnight to get used to being…

The wide open spaces of Summer

28 January 2018

So January has nearly disappeared and we didn’t even blink! What happened? I’m afraid it’s taken me a week to get back to the blog – as I’m sure you’ll…

Renewal

1 January 2018

I hope you’ve had a really peaceful Christmas and New Year. Charlie and I headed down to Dorset on the Thursday before Christmas, leaving behind a deserted London.  The countryside…

Scotland calling

13 December 2017

Charlie and I are just back from a beautiful few days in Scotland. While the rest of the country was blanketed in snow, we had freezing, clear, sparkling days. We…

Into Winter

4 December 2017

Nothing’s really been happening – which is nice: a moment of peace before we tip headlong into Christmas. I got sick momentarily, cancelled meetings and went to bed for a day…

The Yeovil and District Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Welcomes Everyone

19 November 2017

If you’d spotted Charlie and me at a little after two o’ clock on Saturday afternoon, you might have been a bit surprised. This is where we were, in Yeovil….

Autumn in Venice

12 November 2017

We arrived in Venice to sparkling blue skies and sunshine. The moment when you first catch sight of the spires of Venice across the lagoon is always breathtaking. 

Temples of delight

9 November 2017

Yet again you will be wondering where the blog has gone. If you are, by any chance, a new and budding ‘blogger’, you will know that the first rule of…

Out of Season

16 October 2017

We’ve been trying to find a weekend to visit our friend Ruth Guilding down in Cornwall for months. Regular blog readers will recall Ruth not only as author of the brilliant…

Harvest song

9 October 2017

It’s been a village weekend. Autumn is settling over the valley. On Friday, Charlie was teaching a flower course at the Parsonage, with our friends Bridget and Henrietta, of the…

One month

1 October 2017

It’s been the craziest month. You might have been wondering where I’d gone. Was I ever going to blog again? The truth is we’ve had a wonderful but manic month,…

You cannot get too much of a good thing

3 September 2017

I’m on the train back up to London – a dark evening, pouring rain – never good on a Sunday night at the best of times – and the weekend…

Morning and Evening; Summer’s end.

28 August 2017

The main event was the Melplash show, and don’t miss reading about that here.  But it’s been the most amazing long weekend in Dorset – well, everywhere, I think –…

Melplash Revisited

27 August 2017

We arrived at the show after a quick pub lunch to be greeted by a wonderful clown on a hobby horse. It was going to be that kind of a…

Facendo nulla

24 August 2017

(is Italian for ‘doing nothing’). I’m home from Italy. Back here, Charlie’s been manically getting ready for the Melplash show. As I write, he’s still over in the Horticultural Tent…

Scottish sojourn

16 August 2017

I’ve just come back from a few days in Scotland. Heaven.  It’s about that time of year when Charlie starts getting itchy feet to travel north, like a homing pigeon…

Life cycles

30 July 2017

In amongst the torrential rain, it was a lovely weekend at the end of a busy old week. On Friday, I popped over to see Mum & Dad, on the Isle…

Weeks of endless Summer

24 July 2017

Where has the time gone?  I’m afraid you must have been wondering if I was ever going to blog again, but at the same time, I also know that you…

Dedication…

2 July 2017

The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that my first book, English Decoration, was dedicated ‘to Anthony Sykes, who understands more about English Decoration than anyone I know’.Later, we’ll see more of…

The View from Here

28 June 2017

Apologies for those who use this blog as a way to ease themselves into the week ahead on a Monday morning.  Last week, for some reason, I couldn’t quite think…

Mexico is the….

12 June 2017

Well, I couldn’t have said it better than this jacket in the bar of the restaurant we went to one night!  Too right. We’re back! We had the best time…

Two weeks go by

29 May 2017

I realise a couple of weeks have passed since I last wrote; it’s Monday evening, at the end of a quiet Bank Holiday, and I’m on the late train back…

By pastures green

15 May 2017

One of the strange things about renting two houses is that you spend a lot of time travelling between the two. I suppose that my weeks, in the main, are in…

Happy times, in two parts

7 May 2017

P A R T   O N E The blog was on a bank holiday last weekend. Did you notice?  It’s not that I’d stopped keeping my eyes open, but…

Tangier, revisited

23 April 2017

PART I – Tangier It’s been a mad old week. More than once this weekend, Charlie and I were pinching ourselves thinking “this time last week we were….” to which…

Time standing still

9 April 2017

It’s been a strange experience, this weekend, to have an almost intense summer heat before the leaves on the trees are beginning to unfurl.  But the garden is exploding.

Staying put

2 April 2017

Spring is springing. We were sitting in the garden this evening, in warm sunshine, at half past six, thinking how strange it is that only a month ago it would…

Spring calling

26 March 2017

It’s been a perfect weekend in Dorset.  The end of a pretty hectic week – a weekend of peace and quiet had never been more welcome. On Friday evening I…

Chatsworth

22 March 2017

M I D W E E K   E X C U R S I O N Charlie and I have been at Chatsworth today. Neither of us had been, and believe…

From a vision, to the start of a reality

20 March 2017

It’s Monday evening and I’ve just come back from two brief, glorious days in Scotland. Charlie stayed in Dorset with Henry and Mavis, to which end, time and again, I…

In the high places of Dorset

13 March 2017

If you want to write a blog on a Sunday evening, don’t bump into your friends Jasper and Oisin on the train home that afternoon to London from Yeovil Junction….

Playing with Castles

7 March 2017

We’ve been in Wales for the weekend, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, in a little dreamworld. With our friends Brandon and Will (and their dog Lewis) we’d rented the…

The Echo Chamber

26 February 2017

It’s a stormy, windy night in Dorset. A gale is tearing through the valley, and Charlie, Mavis, Henry and I are sitting by the fire hearing the rain dash against the…

Dream world

19 February 2017

Apologies for not posting last weekend.  I hope you didn’t miss it.  I arrived in London early on Monday morning to find I’d left my camera in Dorset. So the…

Meandering by the river

5 February 2017

We were in London for the weekend. On Friday night we had our office Christmas Party. It’s become a bit of a tradition at Ben P towers that Christmas Parties…

Quiet days are the best right now

29 January 2017

We’ve had the quietest weekend. Nothing happened at all. Bliss. Today, it’s rained all day – great swathes of rain washing over the valley, the skies dark and wintry. I’ve…

Morning and Evening

23 January 2017

A bonus blog this week. Today, Charlie and I were down in Dorset – heading to Devon for my great-uncle’s funeral, where it was a sad but wonderful day learning…

Prelude

22 January 2017

This blog starts with a prelude to great things. We went to Bridport early on Saturday morning. The market was quiet but Charlie and I came away with a haul…

Melancholia

15 January 2017

This was the first ever photograph I took of Percy….  and so, so sadly – this is the last. Taken the day before New Year. On Monday, a week ago, very…

Something Old, Something New

8 January 2017

It’s not blue Monday yet; that’s next week. So we can still say, Happy New Year! But if you’re like me, the holidays seem a slightly distant memory. Suddenly, this…

Looking back, and forward

18 December 2016

Yay! Charlie’s back, after a wonderful but so-quick-trip to NZ, and we’ve had the quietest week down in Dorset with Henry, Percy and Mavis. The day he arrived home, he was knocked…

Into the mist

12 December 2016

This week has been about not very much at all. The time has flown by. It’s Monday morning in Dorset; Monday night in New Zealand, and I’ve just spoken to…

Quiet times

4 December 2016

Mavis and I don’t entirely know what to do with ourselves. Yesterday afternoon we drove Charlie to the airport and said a sad goodbye as he headed off to New…

In Preparation

27 November 2016

I’m afraid this is going to be the shortest blog ever, partly because the week has whizzed by quicker than ever.  Here’s a photo of the house this evening, a…

The best things never change

20 November 2016

We had Bridie, and our friend and neighbour Gabby Deeming (of House & Garden fame) staying for the weekend… and had the quietest time you could imagine. The kitchen sofa…

In a New York State of Mind

14 November 2016

Charlie and I are back from the most wonderful trip to New York – we arrived home on Wednesday night, but it already feels like a dream. I’m sure I’ll…

Home and Away

30 October 2016

I think I wrote in my last blog, about Lisbon, how a hidden purpose of travelling to new places is to realise how much you love the familiar.  A couple…

A weekend on the tiles

16 October 2016

LAST WEEKEND Last weekend Charlie and I went to Lisbon. It had been high on our lists for a while.  We got in late on Friday afternoon and rolled into…

Modern art on a hangover is not a good combination

4 October 2016

We had our friends Brandon and Will staying.  Friday night was quiz night in the village hall. No-one was very good at the answers but as usual we were good…

Pictures not words

25 September 2016

PART I Hanging on the wall of my office is a poster I bought a few years ago at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, by Andy Warhol. I…

The Melplash Show

11 September 2016

I have that feeling that I am taking a step back in time, and yet only by a two or three weeks. How quickly summer slips in to Autumn, but…

The Great Fire Bonfire….

4 September 2016

I was planning to blog about the Melplash show, and Charlie’s dahlias, this week – but that is going to have to wait a night or two. Tonight – an…

A month in the country

29 August 2016

I’m back in London for the first time tonight in a month. I realised, when I was chatting with Charlie this morning, at the end of our wonderful month in Dorset, that…

Classical Landscapes

15 August 2016

This, too, is a blog in parts, so that you can dip in and out when you wish. I F O R D Last week, Charlie and I were in…

The joy of the everyday

7 August 2016

Last week was one of those weeks (as some of you will have noticed) where I entirely ran out of time to post a blog. Events had conspired. No matter….

High Summer

24 July 2016

Time is flying at the moment…. but I suppose the way to calm it down is to stay still, in one place, for more than a minute.  I got down…

Too nice to leave

18 July 2016

It was a lovely weekend. I’m writing a day late – it was that nice. We had our friends Jamie and Richard staying, who are themselves old friends of one…

A year ago today….

11 July 2016

Charlie and I were throwing our wedding party down in Dorset. Rather than writing something new this morning, I’ve been enjoying just thinking about what really was one of the…

Business as usual

4 July 2016

In the interests of business as usual, here is a blog about nothing particular at all. I’m glad to say that some things don’t change in Dorset…. Charlie’s huge flower…

Everything will be alright

26 June 2016

From time to time there are moments in life when I feel quite calm, completely clear-headed, even managing amongst it all to find a vital sense of humour, when everyone around…

Back home

19 June 2016

I arrived in Dorset late-ish on Friday night, at the end of a very long week. There is nothing in the world more happy than being met by Charlie at…

West Coasting

13 June 2016

We’ve just got back from a wonderful, happy few days North. We called in on the way up with our friend Issy in the Scottish Borders.  Heaven. June feels like…

Village Celebration, in Seven Acts

5 June 2016

This is a story in seven acts. It was the village celebration for the Queen’s 90th Birthday this weekend.  Okay, okay, a week earlier than everyone else in the Country,…

High Summer, already

30 May 2016

It’s been a rare bank holiday of beautiful weather from start to end. When did that last happen? Dorset has fallen headlong in to summer. 

Weekend in Rutland

22 May 2016

We’ve been in Rutland for the weekend – for a wonderful wedding of our friends Connie and Tom.  In a strange sense, Connie is familiar to every one of our…

Early summer days

15 May 2016

The sun has shone on Dorset this weekend. I’m writing on a quiet Sunday evening after the most fantastic couple of days. We’ve had our friends Will and Brandon (and…

Pottering about in West Dorset

9 May 2016

After the washout of the Bank Holiday weekend in Cornwall…. enjoyable as it was…. it was nonetheless rather a rare and lovely feeling to be arriving in Dorset on Friday…

Happy times in Cornwall

2 May 2016

You might have been wondering where I went again….. but in this case it was just another manic week. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to get…

Slow recovery

17 April 2016

Some of you may have been wondering where I’d gone. The day before we were meant to go to Lisbon, I came down with a really horrible flu. I woke that…

Time flying

4 April 2016

Where’s the blog gone, you’ll have been asking… and time has been rushing by. It’s been one of those moments where I have just had to get my head down…

Small details

13 March 2016

I can’t tell you how many hours I seem to have spent being stuck in a traffic jam on the Marylebone Road. For those that don’t know London, this great…

Wighting

6 March 2016

We’ve been on the Isle of Wight for a weekend with Mum & Dad. I know. We went on a tour of the Island to show Charlie some of the…

Days lengthening

28 February 2016

Sorry for no blog last week. The trouble is, life’s pretty busy from time to time, as I’m sure you know. So there will be the odd intermittent delay –…

Work in progress

14 February 2016

Regular readers of the blog (and of a particularly lively comments page) will remember that a few weeks ago I caused minor consternation in benworld by announcing that the garden…

The Art of Interior Decoration

8 February 2016

I’ll be honest. If you asked me on most Sunday mornings, I never have a clue what I’m going to blog about that evening (well, in fact, it’s early Monday…

Local museums

31 January 2016

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always preferred a small local museum to the big boys. Something about the charm of the displays; the often rare survivals of…

London meandering

24 January 2016

We had such a nice day, on a walk we must have done fifty times but where you always discover something new. I’d been completely laid out this week… not…

Home time

18 January 2016

When you’ve been away – there’s nothing nicer than getting home. And nothing nicer than being in Dorset on a crystal clear sunny morning, with a heavy frost in the…

Summertime, and the living was easy

11 January 2016

So we got back safe and sound on Friday…. and it’s been a very quiet weekend. There’s no doubt it takes a little while for the brain to catch up…

L.A. story, in 36 hours

7 January 2016

Happy New Year! Sorry for the strange timing but it’s been wonderful to keep my laptop shut, as I am sure you can imagine. Charlie and I are slowly floating…

Slow recovery

13 December 2015

Well, we were never going to feel very well this morning – but it was BAD.  Charlie and I went to the amazing, beautiful wedding of our friends Jasper and…

Kentish Town with Ruth

6 December 2015

Sorry for no blog last week. We still had no internet in Dorset. I can’t tell you what a joy that is. And we had no car, for various reasons,…

First Frost

23 November 2015

It’s a very short blog this week. And late. Apologies! Do you know why? Because our internet is down in Dorset. Complete bliss. I didn’t so much as  up my…

A Tale of Three Cities

16 November 2015

This blog was going to be called A Tale of Two Cities; London, and Amsterdam. On Friday night, Charlie and I were in Amsterdam on a tiny break, happily celebrating my…

Perfect weekend, London, in two parts

2 November 2015

BLOG PART I PERFECT SATURDAY It was the last day of Charlie’s pop up shop…. But we were closing early. At 1.45 the dresser was being packed up…. But a last…

To Kelmscott

25 October 2015

Earlier in the week, I found myself with a spare hour or two at the end of a meeting in Oxfordshire. I could either jump straight into the traffic back into London…

Westward to the Malvern Hills

18 October 2015

Charlie and I went to Ledbury for the weekend… to see our friend Phoebe Clive and, at the longest lastest, to visit (amongst other treats) her beautiful shop Tinsmiths.  We…

Harvest song

12 October 2015

The flower ladies were in the church on Saturday morning, decorating for the Harvest festival.

Pictures not words

4 October 2015

It was a beautiful morning in Dorset… pale sunshine, filtered mist. This blog (you’ll be glad to hear) is one of those which has not very much to say –…

Indian Summer days

27 September 2015

First up, an apology. Where was the blog last weekend, I guess you are wondering?  It was all written in my mind – but Bridie, at the last minute, got…

Workroom Profile VIII: Marianna Kennedy

15 September 2015

Marianna Kennedy was born in Canada but has lived and worked in the Spitalfields area of East London for twenty-five years. Her work reinterprets traditional forms, suffusing them with a…

Box of treasures

14 September 2015

This is a short blog this week…. Partly, because yesterday I was writing an article for the FT, and there’s only so much writing you can do in a day;…

Autumn Turning

6 September 2015

This is a strange tale, but very funny… If you happened to read last week’s blog, I said I’d be posting some photos of the new shop. Last weekend, Bridie…

Changes of climate

31 August 2015

It’s a strange thing isn’t it… how one minute you’re there, the next minute you’re here.  On Monday, Charlie and I were near Lucca, for Valentina’s birthday.  The plan had…

Late Summer landscapes

23 August 2015

I remember some friends of a friend coming back from a long holiday in Tuscany one August to announce that the time “had been characterised by rain and conversation”. Which sounded like…

Two Florentine Gardens

18 August 2015

As you will know, the blog is on holiday. I hope you might be too… or at least, I wouldn’t try reading this all at once. It’s a blog in…

Incidental details

9 August 2015

We’d been out near Henley for lunch today. A beautiful day and a delicious time. And then, Charlie had to head down to Dorset to get permission from the garden…

High Summer in Oxfordshire

2 August 2015

It’s been a perfect weekend in Oxfordshire, of high summer gardens and the blue moon.  We were staying at Wardington, but on the way, leaving London lazily on Saturday morning…

The Church will be locked overnight…

26 July 2015

There was a slightly ominous tone to the rules of the Long Bredy Flower Arranging Competition flyer that had been dropped through our letterbox a week or so ago. Especially…….

Getting back to normal (a day or two late)

20 July 2015

We had the quietest weekend down in Dorset… Once Friday night was out of the way – there was a huge party in the village, our neighbour Glen & Mandy’s summer bash…

The best ever blog?

12 July 2015

Okay, I should probably never blog again after this. Don’t worry – I’m not being serious…. but you may remember, if you are a very keen reader, that I said…

There’s a box on my street

5 July 2015

If you know me well, you’ll know that one of my favourite films of all time is the movie Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s incredible essay on a dystopian, bureaucratic future which from…

Summer Evening, West Dorset

28 June 2015

I’ll admit to finding something deeply special at this time of year, just after midsummer, at the particular time of day as the sun is about to set and the land…

New friends

21 June 2015

This is another blog a little bit about books. You will see why. But then again, can there be too many? I wrote last week about the wonderful world of…

Lost and Found

14 June 2015

It’s been an extraordinary weekend. So apologies for a long blog, but you will understand why. We had our friends Maggie and Stephen staying (or should I say, Maggie, and…

Sunset at Wardington

8 June 2015

Charlie and I were staying in Oxfordshire this weekend – at Wardington, which I’ve written about before… the beautiful house owned by his friends the Elworthys and which has become…

Evening time

31 May 2015

This is a short blog. It’s all about pictures, not about words. It’s about the moment, on the turn from Spring to Summer, as we rush towards the summer solstice,…

The Functional Tradition

27 May 2015

It’s not often I write two posts in a week… but yesterday was an incredible day. We’re working on a wonderful project on the south coast where we are planning…

Become our neighbour! Pop-up to let.

26 May 2015

Have you ever fancied yourself as a shopkeeper?

Meandering home

25 May 2015

It was sort of a quiet weekend; sort of action packed. I’m sure you know what I mean.  Friday started bright and early, with an amazing visit pre-gates opening to…

Fleeting moments…

21 May 2015

I thought I’d put up a little mid-week post, before we forget it, of the beautiful window that Charlie has done for the shop this week. It’s Chelsea Flower Show…

Tourists in our own town

18 May 2015

It was a bright and sunny Saturday.  We were in London, for no particular reason other than we wanted a change of scene. Charlie got up at dawn for Portobello; I…

What’s waiting around the corner?

10 May 2015

Hasn’t your week flown by? It’s something in the air of spring. No sooner had we blinked but it was Friday night, and a delicious, mad, funny dinner with our neighbours the…

Weekend wanderings and unexpected pleasures

4 May 2015

Rain and mist swept across Dorset this weekend, but it didn’t seem to matter. We needed something to remind us it was a bank holiday, after all. Charlie and I…

Tulip time… in London

26 April 2015

I have a strange feeling, from time to time, judging from the comments pages, that some readers might have decided to lie in bed for a whole weekend, turn off…

Spring Days on the Isle of Wight

20 April 2015

Charlie and I went to visit Mum & Dad on the Isle of Wight this weekend, for two days of beautiful spring sunshine. The talk was of New Zealand travels…

Workroom Profile VII: David Mitchell Printmaker

16 April 2015

In the early days of the shop we had a few of David Mitchell’s ‘Play on Words’ prints for sale and had always talked about something bigger, ‘an exhibition!’ we…

Pictures without words

13 April 2015

We’re back!  I hope you haven’t missed the blog too much.  (I haven’t… heheh). What can you write about New Zealand?  We saw so much, did so much, met so…

Workroom Profile VI: Leeds Pottery & Middleport Pottery

26 March 2015

After last week’s final call on the Wedgwood Museum Ravilious mugs, it is with a very heavy heart that I have to tell you our beloved Hunslet Creamware has now…

Relative values

15 March 2015

I’m about to go a very long way and I’m getting so excited I can’t tell you. Charlie’s been home in New Zealand for a few weeks now. As I…

Staying still

8 March 2015

I haven’t felt like moving very far this weekend. And I haven’t moved very far at all.  I walked down for tea with my landlord yesterday, and across the road…

Come home soon

1 March 2015

Charlie’s away. He’s in New Zealand (as some of you may have already guessed. Did you work out that Charlie wasn’t around last weekend?). He has two weddings of friends to…

Fifteen minutes…

22 February 2015

It was springtime at Columbia Road. (that’s a little photo from my instagram posts. If you are not familiar with Instagram, may I just tell you how addictive, and fun,…

Snowdrop time

15 February 2015

“…….Oh B, I’d really like to see some snowdrops this year” said Charlie, a couple of weekends ago. I had a quick think, and called my erstwhile builder Raymond Williams, who…

Workroom Profile V: Melodi Horne Soft Furnishings

11 February 2015

I am sitting down with Melina Blaxland-Horne, newly installed in unit 17a Rugby Street here in Bloomsbury, surrounded by her beautiful silk ikat lampshades and cushions. The first question I…

Winter turning

8 February 2015

There’s always a false dawn around this time of year, but I can’t help but wonder if winter is turning. I’m noticing how much lighter it is in the mornings…

Meandering on the Somerset border

2 February 2015

We had a fantastic weekend. There is not a lot to write, but a lot to look at. Bitterly cold winds swept across Dorset, but accompanied by bright sunshine –…

The kindness of strangers

25 January 2015

One of the amazing things about writing a blog is the number of people, who were once strangers, who one gets to know from all over the world. Some I’ll…

Are you a Roundy or a Squary?

18 January 2015

….Phew… well that was the most commented-upon-blog-ever-by-a-very-long-way.  THANK YOU.  Amazing. I guess we’re all pretty amazed! A few months ago I mentioned that I wanted to write a blog about…

Love letter to Charlie

11 January 2015

Six months ago this week my life was turned upside-down. I had the amazing fortune to be introduced to the most wonderful person I’ll ever meet… the most wonderful person…

New Year glow

5 January 2015

This blog was going to be a bit of a rant. I’ve been staring at too many friends’ photos on Instagram showing beautiful Caribbean beaches, and it’s been getting me…

London Special Double Billing…

28 December 2014

I hope you’ve had the best Christmas ever. We were down with Mum and Dad on the Isle of Wight, and had a lovely time. But this time, the blog…

Have the Happiest Christmas with love from all of us

24 December 2014

Here is a little sneak preview of the next blog; a photograph of Peter Hone’s drawing room – which in its own fragile white way is about as Christmassy as…

A day late, a day early…

13 December 2014

The blog is getting very erratic these days isn’t it? A day late, a day early. How does anyone know where they stand? But  we’re down in Dorset, waiting for…

Late Night Christmas Shopping

11 December 2014

We are open until 8pm every Thursday until Christmas.

Better late than never…

8 December 2014

It’s a funny thing. I meant to post on Sunday night… having driven down from London to Dorset, arriving at the Parsonage after dark, after an unexpectedly wonderful weekend. But…

I’d like you to recommend yourself

1 December 2014

This is a bit of a trip down memory lane. If blogs had existed when I lived in New York, getting on for 12 to 15 years ago now, this…

Soft late November

23 November 2014

From time to time you stop on the roller-coaster of day-to-day life and think to yourself: how can time be spinning so fast? I suppose, really, there are only 52…

Hudson days

18 November 2014

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been? Instagram followers were one stage ahead. Needless to say…. A couple of short lovely days in New York…. staying with Valentina,…

Golden and silver Valley

10 November 2014

The weekend got off to a shaky start for some. It was bonfire night in the village, where we watched a fantastic display under the stars… and then the real…

Late Indian Summer

2 November 2014

It’s been a hectic week. It was bliss to get to Dorset and to finish a long day of meetings on Thursday, and collect Charlie on the late afternoon train,…

RIP Ben’s Blog

26 October 2014

I was terrified to read a comment posted by Jess last week that said “RIP Ben Pentreath’s Blog, thanks for the good times, you’ll be missed”. You realise what happens…

The best things are the least expected

13 October 2014

I’m afraid the blog has had a cold today and yesterday. I’ve been in bed all day.  So, sorry for being late. Can I say, before kind offers of sympathy,…

The heartbeat of London is singing

5 October 2014

We set off incredibly bright and early to Columbia Road this morning. We’d had a happy boozy night with Bridie and Andy and it felt a little too much of…

Village thanksgiving

29 September 2014

Can you believe this autumn, shifting softly from September to October without a whisper?  I am not sure I can remember a more quietly beautiful time as this. I got…

Autumnal moments

21 September 2014

On Friday night, Charlie and I drove back to Wardington… that magical garden in Oxfordshire that you first caught sight of on the blog a few months ago now, Glimpses…

Quiet days are made of this

14 September 2014

A bunch of flowers for Monday morning. The dahlias are in their final flourish… I suspect that in a couple of weeks they will be almost over. So it was…

We’ve got the shopfront, now please bring your apron…

11 September 2014

The beautiful pink and green and gold shopfront on Rugby Street is dazzling every passer-by.   But now we need a new shop manager to come and look after it!…

Paris mornings

8 September 2014

It’s that Paris time of year. It’s always a little crazy, just when you’ve got home from your holidays, to find yourself jumping on a train again, and this year…

dream world changing

1 September 2014

We’ve been back for 2 days and I’m in a dreamlike place. Do you ever have that feeling that however fast an aeroplane can travel, your mind only moves as…

Absent with friends…

14 August 2014

No words, no image… and above all…with apologies to regular readers: no laptop. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I’m off to Greece. Back to London in time for that magical…

Island revisited

11 August 2014

One of the annoying things about a meeting out of London at 9.30 on a Monday morning is that the blog is unlikely to happen, as normal, on a Sunday…

Lie of the land

3 August 2014

It’s been a beautiful weekend in Dorset, but I’ve been a touch reclusive as well. Those who fell victim of my hermit-like nature know who they are, and they know…

Workroom Profile IV: Ged Palmer Signwriter

30 July 2014

It’s almost been a year since Ben and I signed on the dotted line and decided the fresh start needed a fresh sign. I’ve just realised the original design we…

Summer cure

27 July 2014

Well, thank you… for a lot of amazing comments at the end of the last blog. Life’s a lot more cheerful this Sunday than last, I’m glad to report. What…

Glimpses of things

20 July 2014

It’s a strange thing, isn’t it, how you sometimes don’t understand the whole picture but merely see, very clearly, glimpses of things. Do you know what I mean? And if you…

Seaside jaunt

14 July 2014

I’m always highly conscious when it’s 9am on a Monday morning and I haven’t yet posted a blog. The fact is I’m a whole 24 hours off, this weekend. Yesterday…

Who flicked the crazy switch?

6 July 2014

It’s taken me a whole weekend to recover… and that includes a whole afternoon lying in bed watching the tennis final… do you know what I mean? What am I…

Sienese dream

30 June 2014

I arrived home last night after 2 nights in Italy with Valentina and my friend Catherine. It was one of the happiest holidays I think I’ve ever had, and it…

Workroom Profile III: Ed Kluz

25 June 2014

I am constantly bombarded with emails from enthusiastic artists and makers, introducing their wares and strongly recommending that I contact them immediately to place an order or organise an exhibition. I…

Days out are made of this

23 June 2014

It was a fun Friday in the office this week. Very, very sadly for us, it was time to say goodbye to Ruth, who’s been with us for a few…

We’re just crazy for Brazil…

15 June 2014

…over here at Ben P towers. I imagine that the combination of ‘readers of this blog’ and ‘people who are interested in football’ must be about the smallest venn diagram in…

Rest

8 June 2014

I’ll admit, I woke up this morning feeling rather healthier than last Sunday. That’s the difference between having the decoration office, and Mum & Dad, to stay at the Parsonage…

All work and no play…

1 June 2014

…Is no way to run a life. We all know it, but it’s hard to remember sometimes. I think it’s true that just now life feels busier than it has in…

The nicest thing about the blog

26 May 2014

… Is the rare experiences that it brings from time to time.  This was an email that I received not too long after writing the other day about that great…

There’s a lot I’d like to show you

19 May 2014

…this week, but I can’t.  Lots has been going on, but my camera has been unusually quiet. I went to stay with Jasper Conran at dreamy Wardour Castle. “Of course…

Ten out of Tenn

12 May 2014

Mmmmmm. Stockholm. Civilisation. I’m back in London and the whole thing feels a bit like a dream. We had a wonderful time. It rained and rained, and everyone kept apologising,…

Workroom Profile: Peter Hone, Master Plaster Caster

8 May 2014

I’m never normally overwhelmed but on first walking into Peter Hone’s flat with Ben around five years ago, I was dumbstruck, my jaw hit the floor – I couldn’t believe what…

On the cusp

5 May 2014

There’s a moment, around now, when I suddenly realised that spring is on the brink of summer. I’m never quite ready in my mind.  Are we nearly half way through…

English Style

27 April 2014

If you’re anything like me, you buy a lot more books than you have time to read. My shelves are groaning. My bedside table is laden with books that could…

Tangerine dream

21 April 2014

It’s Monday, I’m back in London, and I’m in a bit of a daze.  Not just the effects of a weekend of expatriat-scale-cocktail-drinking after six weeks of Lenten abstinence. There’s…

Dreaming of Heat…

13 April 2014

There is honestly nothing, nothing, in the world that I love more than that moment – which I think happened this weekend, down here in Dorset, when there’s a tipping point headlong…

Rain doesn’t stop play

7 April 2014

I arrived in Dorset on Friday afternoon to find the house and garden bathed in remarkable sunshine. It felt like a midsummer evening. Will and Maggie were driving down for…

In praise of… Habitat in the early 70s

30 March 2014

It’s nine o’ clock and I can’t believe where the evening has gone. Well, that’s what happens when the clocks change. But it’s also what happens when you’ve had a…

Workroom Profile: Bridie Hall at Home

26 March 2014

Beginning a blog featuring our many and varied suppliers has been at the pinnacle of my ‘to do’ list for the last three months. I must admit to suffering from…

Never go back…

24 March 2014

…was the wise advice Will gave me a couple of weeks ago. So true. I’d been asked by the Soane Museum to give a talk, last Monday evening. “What’s it…

Back to Normal

16 March 2014

It’s been a bit of a secret of mine, really, but since last summer, around about the time I came back from Italy, the garden has been completely out of…

Morning at Franklin Farm

12 March 2014

If I ever get around to writing another book, one of the reasons will be to publish photographs of my friends Kim and Pip’s farmhouse in Hampshire. I was staying…

Grand Budapest…

9 March 2014

I’m afraid it’s a very short post today. So, I am sorry to upset your routine… but I’m on the road for work after a lovely weekend with Mum &…

Hockney Spring

3 March 2014

You’d have felt a bit sad to be an old gold-framed Old Master hanging at the Dulwich Picture Gallery this weekend. The people were queuing to see Hockney. I’m afraid…

Close to Heaven

23 February 2014

It’s been a weekend of houses and wide landscapes. I’ve been up on the coast again, in Norfolk. It was a dreamy, bright day on Friday, driving up to Norfolk…

New sales manager required

19 February 2014

We’re really sad but Sophie is moving on.  Sophie, it’s been great having you and we wish you all the best in your exciting new job! But this means we…

Days Lengthening

16 February 2014

Well, who knew we’re an eighth of the way through the year already?  At this rate it will be time to plan your Christmas holidays. Just when you thought we…

Events Spectacular

9 February 2014

I’ve had my friends Ed and Simon staying – Ed Kluz, the artist, who we exhibited in the shop back in 2012 (and who has another show with us this…

Cyclical worlds

2 February 2014

It’s been back to reality with a vengeance. The noise of Mexico City and the peace of Tulum seem an age away: hard to believe I’ve only been back a…

It’s strange to be back…

26 January 2014

….and to welcome you to gloomy old London and a bright new home for the blog!  I hope you all find your way around. As you will recall, we had…

New Year, new broom…

5 January 2014

I’m afraid the photography is going to be the most basic ever. Ever!

Bridie and I have spent the entire weekend having a massive clear out. I don’t know quite why yesterday afternoon at about 2pm was the moment when I suddenly decided that the shop needed a huge shift around and a tidy up and the many-headed monster that is our tiny and out-of-control stockroom needed slaying… but it just was. Needless to say this coincided with the first Saturday of our sale (and what else is London going to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon than to go sale browsing?) much to the amusement of many of the customers who suddenly materialised from nowhere the minute I tried to start the reorganisation.

The between time…

30 December 2013

Sorry – I almost forgot it was Monday.

I find the days between Christmas and New Year quite strange… curiously lethargic… not helped, perhaps, by another huge storm blowing across London today. I’m back up here now, and pretending not entirely successfully to get on with a mountain of work that needs to be done before I’m away on my (proper) holiday and a serious dose of sunshine and change of scene in… oh, less than ten days’ time, which is something to hold on to at this time of year.

Happy Christmas!

25 December 2013

With love from the Blog. Yay! I found the vibe!! Nothing nicer than time with family. I hope you’re having a really happy day, wherever you are, whoever you’re with!

Here are some photos of Christmas past.

The cobbler’s children have no shoes…

22 December 2013

(Or… it takes a long time for decorators to decorate their own home).

I’m not quite feeling the Christmas vibe yet. I’ll be honest. Something to do with the fact that I’ve still got rather a lot of work to do, maybe? Or the weather, which I’m finding unseasonably mild? Or the general feeling that I seem to get every year that I really only begin to feel Christmas when I’m with my family and not one second before? Or the fact that this year has flown by faster than ever before… basically, I’ll be ready for Christmas in a month.

Gloom rising

16 December 2013

For those that like to read the blog early on a Monday with their morning tea, in bed, please blame my friends David and Chris for throwing their annual Christmas Party last night.  Which meant I was in no state to write a thing when I got home.  More depressingly, it meant that I also had to get up very early indeed to, um, retrieve my car (why had I driven to their party when they live just around the corner, you’re asking? Because I was calling in on my way back from Dorset, and I positively knew that if I went home to Queen Square first I would never actually leave again).

There’s a reason why…

8 December 2013

….. why What?

Before I tell you what I really want to write about today, here’s some gratuitously beautiful photos of a walk on Hampstead Heath this morning, with my friend Robin. We went to look at Kenwood, gleaming in the sunshine and in its new coats of paint like a piece of cake sugar.

The blog…

2 December 2013

Has a cold. It’s enjoying lying in bed taking a honey and lemon listening to Woman’s hour.

I will write soon!

Christmas news

28 November 2013

Christmas comes but once a year and we like to make it as memorable and as fun a celebration as possible.
We’ve gone to great pains putting together a selection of glass Christmas baubles that can be passed through the generations, along with designing our very own Christmas crackers, perfect for the festive table. Our mercury glass votives and candle sticks will sparkle and shine bouncing around the golden light of our ever-cheerful dinner candles. There isn’t much that isn’t suitable for Christmas or any other time of the year at Pentreath & Hall, take a look around and see what we have to offer. If you have any questions or need help, please don’t hesitate to contact us

Days from Heaven

24 November 2013

“I just love this time of year”.

It’s an expression I’ve heard time and time again recently. I suspect there is something of the autumn in all of us; that turning point of the year (like spring) which is somehow always more full of the optimism of hope and change than the reality of the dead of winter, or the burned out heat of summer.

Contrasts

17 November 2013

I think the blog is divided between people who like weekends in London and weekends in the country. Which are you?

I love both. Part of me would have loved to be waking up on a clear, frosty Saturday morning in Dorset, but I think looking at my diary I’ve got 3 weeks in a row coming up down West (for Dorset lovers, please note: normal services resume next week); and I’ve got to say I’m loving autumn weekends in London just as much… perhaps more? Is it possible to love multiple experiences equally? I think it is. Each enriches the others.

It’s time to say thank you

15 November 2013

We’re putting out the balloons at Ben P towers (thank you to Mr Tim Walker for the fantastic, dreamy image – Eglingham Hall). We’re five years old this week, but I also wanted to say a few thank you’s (Ben’s Oscars speech, please… run for your handkerchiefs now).

It’s about the time of year…

10 November 2013

When I realise just how much I love living in London. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might remember one or two little odes to the place I live and love… London, beautiful city, for instance, and today was another of those sparkling autumn days when the grey bricks and mortar of sprawling London town come alive.

Recharge

3 November 2013

I love quiet dark Sunday evenings in the winter. And it’s amazing how dark it suddenly was in Dorset this afternoon. A storm is blowing in, and as I write rain is lashing the house, the shutters are drawn, a low fire is burning and apart from the sound of the wind in the trees and the rain spilling over the gutters, everything is completely silent.

Winter evenings in a new coat

27 October 2013

I’m a creature of habit, and I also love the regular things of life when they happen. I think you know this. That moment of turning the clocks back is as welcome today as the arrival of summer time hours when they come. I love these weeks of autumnal leaves as much as I crave the break of spring.

Interlude

21 October 2013

Do you ever have one of those days where you get out of the wrong side of the bed… and nothing goes according to plan? That was this weekend. I had planned to be in Dorset, but painting work was running on (note: I now have a scary purple dining room. Watch this space). So I stayed in London and woke up on Saturday morning a bit too late and a bit too hungover (as a friend of a friend used to say at this point: “no details”).

Scraping the surface

13 October 2013

Drama on Rugby Street. On Friday, I got a message from the shop that sink holes were opening up in the street. What?!

I think I’d vaguely been aware that re-surfacing works had been planned. They were due to happen, starting on Friday, for a couple of days. We were even rather looking forward to having some smart new tarmac about the place.

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

6 October 2013

I woke up this morning with a rare thought. I sort of had nothing to do. I mean, there’s a ton of stuff on my list, but I decided that most of it could wait.

I was back in London for the weekend after what had been a very sad afternoon on Dorset on Thursday – the funeral of one of my neighbours, in the little church. Almost too much to bear, but an amazing number of people were there to pay respects to Annette Hallett… with probably 50 or so having to stand outside the church by the time I arrived, at the last minute, from the train. The rain had lifted, the sun was shining across the valley, and the churchyard had never been filled with greater meaning, and sadness, for me at that moment. It was a beautiful but very sad service. Annette had been a champion bowler, and as the superb eulogy read by one of her bowling colleagues concluded: ‘Well played, Annette’.

Dear Ben, please may we see…

30 September 2013

What’s been happening up at your flat in London?

Is a question that – if you happen to follow the comments section of the blog – comes up from time to time. Let me indulge you.

Well, it would be wrong not to have one or two photographs first of the beautiful autumnal morning in Dorset.

Really New Beginnings

22 September 2013

I’ve been hinting, from time to time, about some exciting developments in the shop.

And they’ve all happened this week. For ages and ages, Bridie and I have been talking about some new collaborations. A few months ago, we had a brilliant brainstorm down in Dorset, in a perfect weekend that culminated in our discovering a beautiful spring woodland – doesn’t that seem a long time ago now? Although in another sense, only yesterday.

New beginnings

15 September 2013

I love this time of year. I’ve probably written it already in the last couple of weeks;

I’ve missed you

9 September 2013

…It’s been a long time, as some loyal readers of the blog have taken to commenting on (which, I would say, is a fair comment), since I was in Dorset. So you can imagine, on Saturday morning – Bridie and I got back from Paris the evening before, where we’ve had a very exciting and (can we say it ourselves?) successful mission finding new stock for the shop…so, on Saturday morning – how happy I was to be heading west.

Dome with a view

5 September 2013

A small post for a Thursday evening. When I wrote my brief blog about the Pantheon, I had a very interesting email from a reader, an architect, Tom Matthews, in Colorado – who sent me these photos of students of the American Academy in Rome. Not quite sure when they were taken. The title of this blog is, after all, Inspiration, and I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite so inspiring in a while. What would you give to be there? Thank you, Tom.

Roman Mornings

2 September 2013

I have a feeling that one of two readers would like to see what’s up in Dorset (judging from the comments section). And I must admit, so would I. From time to time, there are moments where I’d dearly like to be in two places at once.

The floor polisher of the Pantheon

29 August 2013

You won’t find me getting up early for the Sales. I slightly look down on (can I admit it?) that peculiarly British habit of getting up very very early to get in the queue for… name your event… the Last Night of the Proms, the Royal Wedding, something to do with Wimbledon.

But I will get up very early to go and look at a building.

Call me predictable (you’re welcome, I think predictability is a very under-rated attribute) but the Pantheon is probably not just my No. 1 building in Rome (it is, of course) but shall we go a bit further and put that on the world list? So without doubt I know that when I’m in Rome I’m going to make a visit at some stage. And by and large I like to get up early to get there.

La Citta Ideale

27 August 2013

It’s strange how time flies on holiday. I’m lying in my hotel bedroom in Rome, in the middle of a massive thunderstorm (during which I could not of course resist running down to see the rain pouring through the open oculus of the Pantheon, which must be one of the most thrilling sights on earth, even if you do get completely drenched on the way)… at the end of an incredible day and a half of walking and walking, and it’s only a matter of days since we visited Urbino, and already it seems another life away. I love the time warp that happens when you take on too many new sights and sounds all in one go.

Thank you…

24 August 2013

To everyone who has very kindly entered my international conspiracy For Valentina’s birthday and placed an order from Many Kitchens… it’s worked! I am so grateful… Birthday going well…

Here, meanwhile, is a little taster of some of what we’ve been up to.

The best things in life don’t change…

18 August 2013

I realise that it’s a year ago to the day (18th August) that I wrote a little blog about the Siena Palio that… how can I put it?… set the temperatures soaring. Well, I know I said that the blog is on holiday (and it is… after all, I’m writing this in the little cafe in the little square in the little town, Gaiole-in-Chianti, which is basically pretty close to perfect)… but I couldn’t help but let you know that the Palio was even…hotter… this year. So I hope that it’s true to say some jokes are worth repeating.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear…

13 August 2013

Just when I’d said my farewells…

Answered all emails. Check. Booked taxi for early morning departure: check. Said goodbye to everyone… check. Found out which day my niece’s A-level exam results arrive (Thursday). Check. Packed. Not quite, but about to…. sort of ‘check’. Checked the temperature in Siena. Check (it’s going to be very very hot).

What have I forgotten to do??

Year Turning

11 August 2013

I’m writing on Sunday evening, at the Old Parsonage. It’s completely still and quiet. Perhaps the stillness is exemplified by the departure, earlier, of my friends Tom & Masie and their two beautiful little children Moss and Vera. All I can say is… I don’t know how parents manage. I love it when my friends with children come to stay. There’s a dimension – a richness and unpredictability that is simultaneously, curiously, combined with a total simplicity, that’s entirely missing in the rest of my life. But… wow… I’ve got respect for everyone who’s got to carry on looking after their little guys… ALL THE TIME. I’m not sure I could manage. I’ll be honest. I don’t know how you do it. It’s 9.45 in the evening, and I’m in bed already.

North Norfolk Coastal

4 August 2013

I left London on beautiful, baking hot Thursday morning. I was making my way to the coast – to Cley-next-the-Sea, where we’ve been asked to help on a fine small Georgian house in the village. Knowing, as I do, that I never get up to my old stomping ground of the North Norfolk Coast – it’s literally years and and years since I’ve last been – I have to admit I was full of anticipation. I was staying not too far away, with old friends, and as the miles sped by would it be too much to say that the years slipped away with them?

Dear Ben Pentreath…

30 July 2013

… It’s June 29th. Where is your Monday morning post? I love beginning my week by reading your faithful, regular entries; a little glimpse of home for a homesick Brit in the US. Have you any idea how much we all look forward to checking in with you? Unless you’re hospitalized, please write soon and don’t be a tease.

In a perfect world…

21 July 2013

It was a serene Friday morning when Lucy and I left London, early, to drive down to our decoration project near Devizes. We’re working on a dreamy old stone manor house in Wiltshire. The sky was blue, the air was warm, the sun was shining and the traffic was light. For once in a lifetime, we were going to be a tiny bit early (it seems that most of the time I’m running late).

The real way of doing things

17 July 2013

“That’s a nice website you’ve got there, Ben”, said Jim when we spoke this morning to talk about bricks. “Did you really take all those photos? Is that your garden? We looked at them in the office and we loved them”. Well, Jim—here’s loving you back.

High Summer morning

14 July 2013

I’ve got some interesting things to be writing about this week, but tonight, I’m very sleepy and I’ve got what you might call an early start in the morning. I’m rather looking forward to waking before dawn. I remember years ago, when I was about 10 or 11, at prep school – how I used to love waking incredibly early in the mornings, while everyone else was fast asleep, and climbing out of the attic dormer window and lying behind the wide stone parapet of the old country house (which had been turned into a school just before the war)… and watching the world waking… wildlife on the lawns… alone. Probably the only time in 10 years at school that you could find to be truly alone. And perhaps that’s why I still love getting up really early in London… that sense of feeling you are one of such a small number of people awake in the city. I don’t know: it must be so numbing… to only experience London between the hours of 9am and 9pm – the London that belongs to everyone, not just to you.

In the beginning and at the end

7 July 2013

Summer arrives: full-blown, blowsy, full of heat. The year tips imperceptibly… just beyond its half way point… and suddenly—as if by magic—the countryside is filled with the sounds and smells and misty haze of high summer; and long winter nights and miserable spring chills are forgotten and abandoned and the premonition of early autumn is not yet in the air or in mind; we are embraced by the soft orange light of quiet sunsets, we glow from the heat of the long day, friends are staying, and all seems—well—pretty well with the world.

Just in case…

2 July 2013

I don’t know about you, but I suffer from horrific vertigo. I really should be a designer of bungalows. So, it was particularly troubling and yet deeply compelling to watch James’s videos, which I think are some of the most incredible things I’ve seen in 2013. Thank god I like to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Edwin Smith at the Fry

30 June 2013

Life is a journey of discovery: of making connections, working out your interests, finding the common threads that create the rich warp and weft of your particular piece of cloth.

What I’m fascinated by is the disparate nature of everything that somehow… hangs together. When I was a young guy, first working for the architect Charles Morris in Norfolk, I was partly a blank piece of clay, partly already moulded by my short years and experience. I was about 20 when I first did work experience with Charles, and then he gave me his first job, and in so doing he became my first – how can I say – real mentor. Charles and his wife Rachel took me under their wing. My learning curve was exponential. And it must have been in one of those early years that we took a trip down to Saffron Walden and discovered (for me, for the first time) the Fry Art Gallery – which I have loved ever since.

On the Isle of Portland

25 June 2013

What do you do in Dorset if it’s midsummer and blowing a gale? (yes, yes, enough about the weather).

Mum and Dad were staying this weekend. A huge wind was blowing, grey clouds rolling across the sky, and waves of rain coming in from the west.

We decided to head to Portland Bill.

The pleasure of your company is requested…

24 June 2013

Rugby Street surely is the finest street in Old London Town: we don’t make that claim lightly! Have you ever seen anything as short and sweet? The twitter of streets. Everything you need in 140 characters… well, three characters really. We love our Rugby Street Traders’ Association meetings… that would be Maggie Owen London, Thornback & Peel and Ben P towers.

Classical Hipsters

17 June 2013

Thanks to the lovely people over at Tinsmiths for drawing these rather clever pictures to our attention, which I suspect are doing the rounds on the internet. Classical… Modern (for those who were wondering what that meant?!). From Leo Caillard, photographer – check out his wonderful photographs here, and Alexis Persani. Superb. I’m looking forward to my trip to Rome even more this summer.

Ugly Buildings

16 June 2013

This is probably going to turn out to be the longest professional suicide note in history.

I really should be writing about how good the irises are this year.

On various ways of catching up

10 June 2013

I’ve had the quietest weekend you can imagine.

Valentina called from New York yesterday, for a catch up; and other than that phone call (p.s, Val’s mum, just in case you read my blog more often than you check out her Many Kitchens website, yes, she has updated it, and YES IT NOW WORKS AMAZINGLY BETTER, and yes, best you don’t tell her again that you hadn’t noticed anything new)… well, other than that call, and a quick chat with the supermarket checkout guy (…Q: “hows your day been?” A: “quiet”), I didn’t really speak to anyone all day long.

Alternative realities

3 June 2013

I don’t often find myself writing about work. Partly, I suppose, because this blog is about things that inspire me, and just on its own terms, that’s a slightly different angle; partly, perhaps, because if you wanted to find out what we’re up to, I’ve always been of the view that it’s a few clicks over to the architecture pages where I am sure a few readers have had a browse from time to time.

Why I love Dorset

26 May 2013

I went for a spin this afternoon – in my Morris Minor, which, to be honest, has been a little under the weather for months. My friend and neighbour Mike has done a brilliant job gradually nursing the elderly car back to health. From time to time we wondered if we’d ever get there. Every time we (by which, I mean, of course, he) fixed something, something else went wrong.

Through the Woods

19 May 2013

One of my favourite books, that I find myself returning to from time to time, is H. E. Bates’s Through the Woods. Years ago, I used to spend a lot of time with my great friends Jane & Johnny Holland at the house they had in North Wales. In those days we were rather eccentric. Our idea of a good time aged 24 was to get pretty drunk then lie on the sofa in that wonderful house (without electricity, central heating, or running water) and read extracts from Through the Woods, sometimes for hours, by flickering candlelight.

Normal Service Resuming

7 May 2013

We are pleased to announce that normal service has resumed. No more politics, no more sadness. It was a beautiful early Summer weekend in Dorset and the blog contains nothing more than images of the garden, of houses and landscape. Which is really what we all like. I had my old boss and friend Charles Morris and his wife staying, and their friend Charlie, and Will.

The Politics of Architecture

30 April 2013

A lighthearted midweek post. Honest.

For those American readers who’ve never heard or understood of weird British politics, let me explain a few things. We’ve got two main political parties, just like you. Labour and Conservative. Both of which turn every year more and more American; in style, image and lack of substance.

Syria my heart is bleeding for you

28 April 2013

I spent the afternoon in the garden, doing simple things. I cut some hazel rods for the broad beans, and earthed up and planted potatoes. It was a chill, grey day in Dorset. Spring arrives, then eludes us. I had other things on my mind. With the news, that I read today, of the destruction this week of the beautiful minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo, my thoughts turned yet again to Syria, and I am so sad I can’t bear it.

I didn’t know you but I miss you

22 April 2013

I haven’t long to write – because soon I’m off to the station and then to the airport, to Inverness – visiting our projects up there – both the re-working of the castle and the new town of Tornagrain. Today, in the sparkling sunshine, I went for brunch with Maggie to the new ‘Balthazar’, recently opened in Covent Garden as I am sure you will know. I love Balthazar in NYC, and I’d been looking forward so much to a little patch of NYC in London. Will turned up, and a friend of his too. So far, so good.

Dormant Spring

14 April 2013

…On the other hand (for those who’ve just read my last post), one of the things I like most about this blog, for me, is that it weirdly now acts as a little visual diary of what was going on a year or two ago. This weekend, down in Dorset, has been grey and cold… rain sweeping in from the West all day yesterday. I know, I know, I hear that London has been basking in sunshine – I suppose my only consolation is that I’ve sort of caught up with work having been out of the office for quite so long. But frankly I’d have rather been in the garden.

Family Album

One of the nicest things about settling down with my family last week was that Mum & Dad brought along a bunch of old photo albums. They make one realise that the pictures I take on this blog are all very well—but in 30 years time the only ones which will be of any interest at all are the ones with people in them.

Coastal Spring

6 April 2013

A few days amongst the narrow-laned, softly rolling hills of the North Cornwall and Devon coast are drawing to a close. It’s been a wonderful time, with my whole family – celebrating my Dad’s 80th birthday (which is officially next week), and my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary (which is officially in a few weeks time).

Happy Easter!

31 March 2013

The blog is on an Easter Holiday today.

Walking the High Line

25 March 2013

Oh man! What’s the best thing thats happened to New York since I left?!? (please, excuse the pun).

The High Line. Regular readers will recall my blog a couple of years ago now about this extraordinary new park (which explains a bit about the history of the Highline), but last week Valentina took Maggie and me for a stroll up there… the first time I’d been. I couldn’t wait to visit…

In praise of…John Derian

24 March 2013

I think not a lot of people know that when we first opened the shop in London it was all a bit of what you might call a drugs front. I really needed more space for the architectural practice. We’d taken on a couple more people and we were running out of room. For a year or so I’d been watching two empty shopfronts on Rugby Street from my office window, feeling how sad they looked… and it was Will who came up with the bonkers idea that I should rent them. While, in fact, we were lying by the pool of my friend Valentina’s house in Italy (just in case you were sick and tired of winter and needed a summer holiday booking to dream about…).

New York City, I love you…

23 March 2013

“I’m not so in love with New York anymore” said my friend Thomas the other day, and I can’t remember who else it was I was chatting to recently who was totally down on the whole NYC deal as well. I have a suspicion that the fashionable view is that the really creative stuff’s happening in London right now… an idea which, coincidentally, rather often seems to be promoted by really creative people who, um….happen to live in London. Geddit?

And then there was one

18 March 2013

Do you remember holidays as a child, which seemed to stretch for an eternity? Time is a weird thing, I find. How is it that days and nights move so slowly or so fast, for no apparent reason? Do you, like me, have moments when you think ‘how could that have possibly only happened yesterday – it seems weeks ago?’, time moving simultaneously so quickly and so slowly. And other times, the hours and days shift as if nothing is happening all day.

In like a Lion, out like a Lamb?

10 March 2013

Well, it’s certainly a freezing start to March. I’m in London and as I’m writing, a snowstorm is threatening to blow in; and I’ve got to admit, without trying to sound smug, which is close to impossible on this blog from day to day and week to week, but never more so than right now: I’m rather glad to be leaving town for the Bahamas for a week. There, thanks, I got that one out quickly.

Oh no, the sun came out…

4 March 2013

I was quite happy with the freezing grey weather. In just over a week, I’m heading off to New York, and for a quick trip with my best friend Val to happy Harbour Island, and – quite frankly – I’m swamped. Do you ever know the feeling a week before you’re off on holiday, wondering why the hell you thought that was a good idea 4 months before? The closer the departure date gets, the earlier you have to start in the office; the later you go home. 10 hours in the office slips into 12 or 14, until you realise that really exciting feeling that you’ve spent longer at your desk than you have away from it. I already had my first dream last night about not remembering to pack my suitcase. Why haven’t I packed my suitcase?! Because…. I’M NOT LEAVING for 8 days. But try telling that to my subconscious at 3am in the morning.

Thinking of colour

24 February 2013

For a little while now I’ve been thinking a lot about colour. Super-keen readers might recall a blog I wrote last summer about House and Garden Magazine in the 1960s, which you can read here, or, more recently, about fabulous Living in Vogue (I hope you found your copy).

Spring turning…

17 February 2013

I was sitting at my drawing board this afternoon, in Dorset, having dropped off my friends Tom, Maisie, Moss and Vera at the station. And I suddenly realised something. It was 5.15 and still light. When did that happen? It wasn’t long ago that it was pitch dark at 5.15. In the blink of an eye…don’t you get that feeling that a cold, wet winter might at last be passing?

Rena Gardiner: Chronicles of Dorset

10 February 2013

Those keen readers who have discovered my friend Ed Kluz’s website and blog will already know the discovery that he made when he and Simon were staying with me the other week. You may remember, too, my post about Bridport Books and Rosie Young, and the hectic happy evening we had when Rose and Gracie & Andrew came over for supper? That day.

Subliminal power

7 February 2013

I had an extraordinary day today. I know that I said, at the end of the last blog, that normal service will resume next week – and I am sure it will. But in the meantime, can I share a few photographs of something more inspiring than I’ve seen in a long time? I happened to have a chance to visit a 1960s power station that is potentially to be decommissioned. Have you seen anything more strangely beautiful, and impressive, in a very long time? In a word – no, you have not.

And I’m happy to say that…

6 February 2013

that particular vote passed.. and, yes, I’m happy. Now it’s on to the next stages in Parliament, and doubtless lots more arguments, so I am afraid I can expect a few more months of little plastic men photos in the press, but there we go.

I’m sorry, but…

3 February 2013

… I’m going to choke if I see another ‘gay marriage lifestyle’ photograph, euphemistically illustrating a newspaper ‘think piece’ about, um, gay marriage.

Swiss modern

28 January 2013

Where’s the best place for a traditional architect to go on holiday? Nope, it’s not Italy, I’ve realised. And not even a stay in a nice old English town. If you want a truly relaxing time, where your mind can empty and you can find time to think about other things: it’s a good place to go somewhere where you’re not constantly thinking ‘help, they did it better 300 years ago’.

Monochromatic

20 January 2013

There’s a proper blog here, for those that are interested (and thank you for your interesting comments, already)…

But we can’t let the snow pass by without saying how much we love snow, can we? Dorset is beautiful in the snow, of course, but nothing beats the first few hours of a snowfall in London. And particularly on a Sunday.

A Manifesto: In Praise of the High Street

18 January 2013

I am sure you couldn’t avoid the collapse of HMV earlier in the week. Farewell, His Master’s Voice – but if you’re like me, you got a bit bored of pundits and commentators bemoaning the collapse of the High Street under the barrage of ‘evil’ Amazon and their ilk.

Making connections

13 January 2013

If you had a look through the bookshelves at the Old Parsonage, the chances are, I suspect, that several hundred of the books you would find had been bought over the years from that brilliant bookshop in Bridport, jointly run by Rose Young and Caroline MacTaggart, called (with a pleasing honesty) Bridport Old Books. Here are just a few that were immediately to hand:

Spring song and Summer song…

6 January 2013

What is it about these dark January days? Yes, maybe, like me, you’ve noticed the mornings getting lighter, just slightly… yes, perhaps there is a blackbird that sings from time to time outside my bedroom window; but there’s just something about these two or three weeks in January that make me feel as if we are lying in the never-ending depths of winter. Not even a sparkling frozen winter; just grey.

Quietly welcoming the New Year

2 January 2013

Three quiet days in Dorset, with closest friends, to ring out the old and welcome in the New Year. I was sad to see 2012 go; a strange year in many ways, but can I be honest and say I liked the typographical symmetry of two 2’s? I am not convinced 2013 will look so good; personally I’m very happy about the idea of 2014 when it comes, for the same reason. In the myriad newscasts about fiscal cliffs and stagnating economies and general gloom, which I have to confess I don’t particularly see myself when I look around the place, I’m surprised no-one has thought to mention the problem of a 3 at the end of the year. You read it here first.

Classical Landscape, with Memories…

26 December 2012

I hope you have had a fantastic Christmas – if you’ve been celebrating. Mine was quiet, but very very happy; in London, with Mum and Dad, and my neighbour Maggie, yesterday; and a superb carol service at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Christmas Eve – one of the memorable moments of the year will be the remarkable peal of bells that rang out across old London as 2,500 people were leaving the cathedral that night. And tomorrow off to my brother and his family in Bath for what will be a really happy and long overdue and doubtless rather overfed catch-up.

Happy Christmas!

24 December 2012

Have a really happy, safe, peaceful Christmas, with best wishes from Ben.

Colours of Winter

16 December 2012

It’s been a simultaneously quiet and hectic weekend in Dorset. Perhaps an occupational hazard for the time of year?

I went to three birthday parties, no less: my lovely neighbour’s 70th birthday party, which completely proves that being 70 today is roughly being like 50 a few years ago; my godson’s 6th birthday, which proves that nothing is more exciting if you are a bunch of 6 year old children than a visit from a crazy guy who owns hundreds of giant spiders, lizards and snakes (and if you live in the southwest, you can book him here); and today, to a friends 50somethingth birthday that proves that, well, there’s nothing like a kind and happy person to make sure that if you turn up to his party where you know hardly a soul, you still have a brilliant time. Then I drove to London (giving a lift to one of the party-goers, my new friend) and went to another party, this time a Christmas Party in a tall Bloomsbury townhouse, which proves that… you can probably go to too many parties in one weekend, however fun they are (and it was fun).

Answers on a postcard please

9 December 2012

Last week I was lying low, I guess the result of a slightly hectic week. And this week it all caught up, and I’ve been ill. Once I admit to it, I quite like being ill; not too ill mind you, just ill enough to be too ill to get up but not ill enough not to watch weird videos on you tube all day long. Tell me, for instance, that this didn’t put a tear in your eye:

Lying low

2 December 2012

It’s been a weekend of lying low. We had a crazy party in the Social Club on Friday night that I could have done without on Saturday morning…. do you know that hungover feeling. Oh dear.

You can’t judge a book by its cover…

26 November 2012

“Do you have Living in Vogue (1984)?”

…was the enigmatic pencil-written note on the back of old postcard that arrived from my friend Ruth (she who was putting me off Calendar Shots last weekend).

“If not, you will like it”.

Intrigued, I began a little research. Thank goodness for the internet, hey? Within a few minutes I had an author…well, two: Judy Brittain & Patrick Kinmonth; and within another couple of minutes I had placed an order through fantastic Abe Books and my book was winging its way to me. ACROSS the English Channel. The only copy I could find was in France. Hello?! Crazy.

Beautiful Britain November 1984

18 November 2012

“OH GOD BEN” said my friend Ruth, this morning, at breakfast, “YOU’VE GONE AND TAKEN A CALENDAR PHOTO”.

It’s true. It was a ridiculously beautiful morning in Dorset and I woke up early to find a deep frost had gripped the still, autumnal valley. An hour or so later, we wandered down to the lake where a gentle mist was rising in front of the glowing copper golden trees.

Goodbye, cluster, goodbye empty frames with vintage postcards

11 November 2012

It’s a strange world isn’t it.  You would expect, on a glorious sunny day in London, as it was today, that I would be writing this evening about what a gloriously sunny day it had been in London.
You might even expect me to be writing about the fantastic Tim Walker show that I finally got to at Somerset House, which itself was glowing in the warm November sunshine…

Our Spitalfields Life

7 November 2012

Opens this evening – please come!
This evening at the shop, we are expecting a crowd! And if you can’t make it, be sure to visit the Spitalfields online shop here – updated regularly.

Absolutely nothing happened

4 November 2012

It was a few years ago, in Charleston, South Carolina, that I found a little metal plaque on the side of an old Georgian brick building that read ‘on this spot on XX June 17XX (to be honest I forget the date) absolutely nothing happened’.   There’s something nice about hearing a joke for the first time. I am sure that it gets a little wearing after a while, and a quick internet search suggests that this sign is not quite so original as you might have thought. Although it was amusing, in Charleston, where every single building has a little historical plaque on the wall telling us something or other.

My Spitalfields Life

31 October 2012

So I won’t quite say that I lost my virginity in Spitalfields, because that wouldn’t quite be true, but it was certainly the first time I had real fun.  That would have been when I was 22 or 23, and by fun, I think I mainly mean no guilt afterwards.  Eugh, what is it with guilt – that most useless of emotions, especially when we’re young. (that’s what I mean by things not being so easy then). Well, the circumstances were a little random. And perhaps the fun moment was something to do with the early Georgian panelling, who knows…! haha. (Okay, Mum, perhaps it’s time to stop reading)…

Welcome to the centre of the universe

29 October 2012

“It’s all very well coming from the capital”, said the taxi driver this morning, “but what does it feel like being in the centre of the Universe?”

About a farm…

22 October 2012

Years and years ago, I guess when I was sixteen or so, I went on a French exchange along with a few other boys from my class at school. We set off in a coach at the beginning of the holidays and many hours later, after a weird ferry crossing that reminds one how, well – historic – the early 80s now feel, we arrived in Bayeux where, weary-eyed, we were collected by the various families we were staying with.

Decoration in dreamland

14 October 2012

I’ve just been doing a bit of reading. I’ve been asked to design a house by the sea, in a remarkable location, and for various reasons we’re looking at John Nash and the Picturesque. This morning I’ve been looking at J B Papworth’s 1818 Rural Residences which conveniently has been scanned and placed online by some crazy organisation called the Internet Archive which itself gets slightly mind-blowing if you spend too much time browsing there.

Fleeting moments

8 October 2012

I arrived down in Dorset yesterday and had my friend Mary over for a great lunch and a long chat. But after she left, for a walk down the valley with friends, I went to bed and fell fast asleep. You know that sort of blissful, deep afternoon sleep that you hadn’t been expecting but evidently needed?  That sort of sleep.

The wonderful world of Mr Walker

30 September 2012

I’m not normally one for fantasy. I like to keep my feet planted on the ground, I guess, and I’m more interested in reality than dreams.

But this week, can we make an exception? Browsing in my favourite magma bookstore on Clerkenwell Road, I found (a week early) the new Tim Walker book that is the catalogue for the much-anticipated Story Teller that will be arriving at Somerset House in October.

A Statement of Intent

25 September 2012

I don’t often write about architecture on this blog, or what we do in the office, but I thought you might be interested this exchange. And you might have noticed in the last few weeks that we’ve reorganised our website so that the master planning, architecture, and interiors branches of our small and close-knit team here in London are now all on show in the same place.

Golden Valley

24 September 2012

It was a perfect evening when I arrived in Dorset on Friday; a remarkable, clear evening light shone across the valley.
The sun set softly through a golden sky and the Bride Valley felt otherworldly. I love late September evenings.

The following morning was bright and clear. A brief moment in the garden, though, and I was off – to Salisbury Cathedral Close, where I was meeting one of my clients for a visit to beautiful Mompesson House, owned by the National Trust, and one of my favourite houses of all time. If you haven’t been, try to go.

Indian Summer days

16 September 2012

Don’t you love these days as late summer slips into early Autumn; not quite frosts, yet, but heavy, wet dews and misty mornings and then burning hot afternoons? My good friend George came to stay with Barnaby & Wilfred, his two boys, and it was just one of those weekends. Saturday dawned with beautiful mist rising through the valley.

The best things in life don’t change

10 September 2012

Sharp eyed readers will be able to play spot the difference in this post. And be grateful that there isn’t any!

I know that somewhere deep in this blog you will find (almost) this photo, the beautiful lettering on the old Didot Type Foundry, on Rue Jacob:

Yes. We were in Paris this weekend, buying for the shop, and it was time for a wander around St. Germain.

Dahlia Time…

Regular readers of this post will know I’ve got a bit of a thing about dahlias, which you can read here, or here or indeed here (that was a nice trip down September memory lanes for me).  There’s something about them, and I’m not sure what it is, that I am in love with – the rich, saturated intensity of colours, the fantastic shapes.

A bit about the book

2 September 2012

It’s a funny process writing a book. I can’t even remember how long ago it was that my friend Alison, then an editor at Ryland Peters & Small (and where she is greatly missed) asked me if I’d like to think about writing a book. Ages.

Getting lost in Siena…

28 August 2012

After my previous post, you might have thought I had an ulterior motive for getting lost in Siena. But no, this time, I am afraid, the visit was all about streets and buildings. On Thursday evening we went in for a walk, a drink and then supper—not least to show beautiful Siena to our friend Adam’s friend Sarah, who was staying in Tuscany for the first time.

Quiet days in Chianti

27 August 2012

There is something amazingly relaxing about going on holiday to the same place every year.

I’m not quite sure what it is. I suppose that because you can anticipate, with such certainty, the rhythm of the days, life takes on an inevitability which is absolutely and utterly calming.

And so it is – thanks to the great generosity of my friend Valentina, and her beautiful farmhouse (which you can of course stay in, more details here), where I’ve been on holiday for more years than I can almost remember – that the days take on that gentle pace: waking early, visits to the local town, doing nothing at all in the heat of the day except sleeping, reading in the shade, or swimming in the pool; drinks, sunset, amazing food, games and conversation deep into the dark warm evenings.

It’s hotter in Siena

18 August 2012

I’ve heard there’s bit of a heatwave in London this weekend… but I can’t help feeling it might have been hotter in Siena. We arrived on Thursday afternoon for the Palio—the first time I’ve been in quite a few years. The streets were thronged with excited Sienese making their way to the Campo…

If the map fits, hang it…

15 August 2012

Well, a lot of comments on the previous post seem to be to do with my map of London… I can sort of understand why!

I can’t quite remember when I began to wonder if the Roque Map that’s been hanging in our office hallway for a few years now might just, well, exactly fit the end wall of my sitting room. Probably on visit two, and I couldn’t quite believe my tape measure. Because I think I found myself measuring about 15 times to see if it would fit, and slightly scratching my head each time. Yes, I had to move a radiator; yes I had to move a couple of sockets, but I think that’s a price worth paying, don’t you?

Moving pictures

6 August 2012

Well, apologies for such brief postings; I can at last download photos again! And in the middle of Olympic-silent London, this weekend, I have moved. It was a fun if slightly exhausting day – if I’m entirely honest, a lot more exhausting for Chris, Darren and Doug from the brilliant A Van Man (who do all our removals for the shop, should you ever need a recommendation) than it was for me.

Deserted London…

30 July 2012

Did you ever see (Sir) Danny Boyle’s film ’28 Days Later’? The brilliant opening sequence as the hero walks across Westminster Bridge to find he is the only person alive in London…. Well, I won’t say that London is entirely deserted… but it is a bit of a ghost town out there.

Sitting Down Sports

I will blog a bit more about the week’s doings (for instance I’m about to move the first bits and pieces into my new flat…) when I’ve fixed my camera. Or, rather, the means to download photographs into my photo library, which (at time of writing) might have taken a trip into neverland. Which I am staying calm about.

The Walled Garden

23 July 2012

Is there anything more beautiful in the world than a walled garden? The answer we all know to be no. There is something so contained, so benign, about a walled garden; in which patterns of brick walls and grass paths, glasshouses and vegetables take on a glorious life of their own, enveloped in a gentle micro-climate that disparages the worst the weather can throw at it and nutures and brings things on in just the way they should be.

And to Rousham…

16 July 2012

A couple of weeks ago, to Garsington; and yesterday,  to another dream Oxfordshire garden, Rousham. I am sure this needs no introduction to most readers, and in a sense I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to visit – the problem being that I’m not very often headed towards the Cotswolds, I suppose. Still, there it is. The best things are to be discovered by those who wait; and is this the best garden I’ve ever visited? It could be.

House and Garden in the early 60s

9 July 2012

One of my obsessions? House and Garden Magazine in the 1960s. This is probably not the time to start rehearsing in detail the brilliance of the magazine’s fantastic editor, Robert Harling, who brought to it such extraordinary eclecticism, skill, knowledge, and breadth of understanding of traditional and contemporary design, typography, materials and the sheer, zany, rich complexity of the English Interior.

Apres moi, le deluge…

…or in the case of the Bride Valley this weekend, après le deluge, le soleil. A massive rainstorm swept through the valley yesterday; water poured off the hills, the River Bride burst its banks, and the low lying villages were flooded out.

We were a bit luckier, although I’m not sure I’ve seen so much rain ever. Yesterday, thank goodness, broke bright and clear; and glorious sunshine (at last) baked the wind-and-rain-swept garden. I walked over to some neighbours for lunch and marvelled at the vivid green landscape. Even if the summer is made of snatched days like these, there is something rather amazing about England in the full blown leaf of July.

I’m afraid…

7 July 2012

that at Ben Pentreath towers we might be supporting Federer tomorrow.

To Garsington

2 July 2012

And then, from the Isle of Wight, I caught the train to Oxford, where I was met by Will and Alexa, and we drove to my friend Catherine’s house at Garsington, where she was putting on a brilliant concert in the Great Barn (get your tickets for next weekend and the one after here). Is there anything more beautiful, in the world, than the garden at Garsington in early July? No, there is not.

Messing about with boats

I think a very large part of my childhood was spent on the water. I guess that’s what comes from having a dad in the Navy. Every year our summer holidays were spent on the boat, sailing around the coast of Brittany, or up to the west coast of Scotland. As a result I have particularly strong childhood memories of French coastal towns, but my knowledge of anything more than one mile inland would be less than zero. Later, Mum and Dad sailed their boat out to the Mediterranean, which coincided perfectly with my four years at Edinburgh University. Free two-month-long holidays in Greece or Turkey were quite a welcome distraction!

Waterloo Sunset

25 June 2012

It was a beautiful evening in London last night. The light was amazing (and it is a beautiful morning as well).

I felt the need to get out and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine. I popped up to St. Paul’s on my bike. Partly, it is true, because for ages I’ve been wanting to take a closer look at some of the carved stone work. We’re doing a project in Oxfordshire where I am hoping to design some new stone urns, in collaboration with a young carver, Thomas Merrett, and I wanted to have a good look at the original carved fruit and vegetables here, which are of course superb.

Making progress

My new flat has caused quite a bit of comment on the previous post; I am grateful for your thoughts and gratified by the interest!  It’s taking shape and here are a few more photos.

A blank canvas

18 June 2012

But really what is on my mind at the moment is this. I am moving flat. Not very far; about 2 minutes up the road, to Queen Square… which will have the effect of tripling my commute; from a one minute walk to work, to three. (I think a good thing – you can in fact be too close to work).

Flaming June

Do you ever have the feeling you’re in the wrong place? I had made a vague plan to be in London for the weekend, but waking incredibly early on Saturday morning (I’m slightly looking forward to the nights getting longer, I’m finding all this daylight at four in the morning a bit much… but can you believe it is the end of June already?) I realised that really where I wanted to be was in the garden. I got up and jumped in the car. Driving through a deserted city in the grey morning light, I was soon on the open road and down in Dorset in near record time… putting a coffee pot on the stove I would say at about 8.15am. Well, it was an early start…

Drenched…

11 June 2012

I hope you didn’t get too drenched on your way to work this morning. London is soaking. For those of our readers overseas, I know we have a reputation for being grey rainy London; so needless to say I love (being me) to point out such useful statistics as London’s average yearly rainfall: 601mm; while Rome is 834mm, and Sydney 1175mm.  The fact is, it doesn’t rain so often in London (although the skies are rather often grey). I could even rattle out this drivel during the Royal Jubilee washout.

Evening Mist

7 June 2012

Some photographs of the garden on a misty evening over at the fabulous new Gardenista website… brought to you by our friends at Remodelista.

Jubilee Village!

5 June 2012

It’s pouring with rain, the valley is drenched, and we’re all exhausted. But it’s that happy sort of exhaustion that comes from knowing that you’ve just put on the best party ever – and that the weather was on our side. Because after two days of rain, yesterday afternoon the clouds parted to reveal a brilliant golden evening, casting our village Jubilee celebrations in the most amazing sparkling glow you could imagine.

Jubilee Hall

3 June 2012

What is that splash of vivid red I spied out of my bedroom window when I woke up early this morning? Hmm. I was not particularly thrilled that the black poppies I’ve ordered have all come out today – and appear to be bright scarlet! But what is not great for the borders here at the Old Parsonage is strangely rather appropriate for the Jubilee weekend.  A red-white-and-blue flower arrangement (the first and last time, I suspect, that that will ever happen) in a rather rare Ravilious Coronation mug – one that never got the pink and yellow decoration.

Happy times are here again

1 June 2012

Of all the photos that have filled our papers and screens of the Queen, I can’t help but love this one taken by Patrick Lichfield in 1971.  Inspiration!

Brilliant Grayson

28 May 2012

Don’t you love the cover of the new Royal Academy magazine by Grayson Perry?  A wry and gentle commentary on the demographic, tastes and products of the RA’s Summer Exhibition visitor… be honest, is this not rather painfully true?!   Of course just as we love to shop at Waitrose, use Farrow & Ball, pack my bags in Mulberry and cook with Le Creuset, I’m very much looking forward to visiting this week…  The only thing I hate is the Proms, oh dear, I am sure I can be persuaded…!

May evenings

Don’t you love this time of year? And when summer finally arrived—with a brilliantly hot, sparkling week—the garden, like the countryside, burst into life. I’ve been missing Dorset so much having been away for three weeks now. So when I got down on Thursday evening it was magical to find things moving forward, the spring garden shifting into early summer. Day by day more irises unfurled and alliums opened. (I had forgotten we had planted quite so many alliums).

It’s all in the details…

23 May 2012

We know this to be true, don’t we? The smallest details matter.  This is as true of one of our architecture projects: the architrave around a door, or the design of a chimney piece, as it is in our urban design – the shape and materials of a Square, or the width of a street, or the precise relationship of one building to the next. In decoration, it might be the colour that we pick out mouldings in a cornice; or the shape of a turned chair leg, or the backing material for a cushion.

Worth a second look

22 May 2012

It was rather nice to get recommendations, posted both here and on twitter, for the better-looking Moscow. Now I look forward to a next visit and some proper exploration. In doing a bit of reading around, I found this painting of Red Square before the great fire of 1812, and was amused to see the same tourist stalls as we had encountered on Saturday morning (well, I would prefer to scrabble around in these ones).

Weird…

20 May 2012

Just when you think you’ve seen enough weirdness to last a lifetime, Moscow would get weirder. Ruth, from the office, and I, went for a 36 hour trip to meet our new clients for whom we’re designing a house in woods about 2 hours from the centre of the city – if you’re driving that is. I feel like we spent most of the journey trapped in an enormous, snaking, gridlocked traffic jam that ensnares the city centre and environs in a way that makes driving into the centre of London feel like quickly popping in to your local village in Dorset. And conversely, when the traffic isn’t gridlocked, it rushes along through the city centre – in 4 or 5 or 6 lane urban motorways – at such crazy speeds as to mean two sides of the street are completely isolated from each other, were it not for the eerie, granite-lined, dimly lit network of pedestrian subways.  No – traffic did not feel like Moscow’s strong point.

Keeping up to date…

13 May 2012

“But you enjoy blogging” a friend said to me this evening. “Well I do, but it’s hard to keep up when there’s so much to blog about, and no time to write”. That’s been the problem in the last couple of weeks. I was in Dorset over the bank holiday, with friends, but no sooner had we come back to London than I leapt helper skelter into a crazy week that involved Ed Kluz’s fantastic exhibition opening, a lot of work and a lot of drawing. Then on Friday I went up to Scotland, to see our project up there – and back to London today.

Behind the Scenes at the Theatre…

4 May 2012

We’re getting very excited about the exhibition of new works by Ed Kluz next week! Ed has kindly sent me a few photographs showing him at work in the Studio recently, and of several of the drawings, collages and other works that are on their way to London this weekend. I thought you might enjoy a sneak preview. Quite aside from the drawings, I’m not sure I’ve seen such a beautiful corner of a room in a while. Can you get over how nice Ed’s bright red Caramite chair (by Vico Magistretti) is? Looks familiar? – you’ll find the same ones in blue at my friend Valentina’s house in Tuscany.

Lakeland meanderings

28 April 2012

I am sitting writing this at the end of a fantastic day at the end of a fantastic week in the perfect lakes: an area that I have longed to visit for years and have only driven past en route to or from Scotland. So I can’t describe how thrilling it has been to come at last.

Any colour so long as it’s black?

22 April 2012

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a bit of a thing for black tulips. Queen of the Night, Black Parrot, Black Hero. Well, to be honest, for all tulips of all colours. As a result things were beginning to look pretty hectic down in Dorset this weekend.

Jubilee Jollies from Ben and Bridie

16 April 2012

Over here at Ben P towers, we’re obviously great supporters of The Royal Family in all their glory, as you will have learned from previous posts: Prince Philip chic, anyone? Or Princess Anne chic, here… Needless to say deep down we’re really shouting out about the Queen. I don’t think there’s a lot we can add to the thousands of column inches and happy photos that fill our papers, or cheering crowds that fill the streets… but to celebrate the jubilee, Bridie did insist we do something a little bit extra special.

Easter garden

7 April 2012

The garden’s gone a bit bonkers in my absence in Scotland last weekend. I’m not sure if it is super-happy-exuberant or bordering on municipal authority flowerbed, but the tulips are coming out with a vengeance. In fact since taking these photos I’ve got to admit to picking some of the brightest orange and yellow varieties, so it’s all a little calmer now, but there’s nothing like a bit of good bad taste to wake us up at this time of the year.

Dreaming of Italy

5 April 2012

I don’t know what it is about Easter time and the fact that I’m sitting in my kitchen in Dorset FREEZING. What happened to the balmy spring? Hello?!?

Timewashed in Scotland

4 April 2012

I got back from Inverness on Monday night, after a fantastic, head-spinning day picking paint colours and making plans for the huge, romantic castle that I am beginning to help with a bit, in the Highlands. On Saturday, my friend James and I had gone out to one of the most amazing houses I’ve seen in my life. Newhailes, in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and will be opening up again in time for Easter. So a few days before everyone arrived, we were lucky to be given an extraordinary behind-the-scenes tour by the curator, Mark McLean, one of the most enthusiastic and knowledgable people I’ve met. Thank goodness for people like Mark.

The Selby wants to be in your place…

26 March 2012

Do you follow one of my favourite websites, The Selby is in your Place?  I’m sure you already do, but if you don’t, have a little browse.

A tale of two lives

One of the things which makes me happiest, I think, is being able to combine life in the country and in London. From time to time I get worried about headlines like “SECOND HOMES CRISIS HITS DORSET” and wonder if it’s really practical, or for that matter fair, for me to be running the Parsonage down there and my little flat up here in London all at the same time. But what I do know is this. If I lived in London full time, I’d go mad, and if I lived in Dorset full time, I’d probably go mad, but for different reasons. Life is all about contrast. I guess I work pretty hard to keep it all together, and perhaps it would be nicer not to spend quite as much time as I do on the M3 motorway or savouring the delights of the slowest railway journey ever from London to Dorchester South.

Spring stirring

21 March 2012

It’s been a busy two days in the office and I haven’t had time to post a few photographs since getting back from Dorset.

It was a sparkling happy weekend of sunshine and showers; I’m back down again there late tonight and in between meetings left right and centre will be spending as much time as I can in the garden.

Bulbs are coming everywhere; first early potatoes are in, and have you seen anything as beautiful as the extraordinary pink stems of rhubarb in the forcers? No, you have not!

Changing colours…

16 March 2012

What’s one of the most inspiring things you can do? Change your colours. As many of you know, we recently did a bit of a revamp in the shop, which at the back is now a glorious Indian Yellow thanks to Farrow & Ball. In front, a lovely smoky ‘Charleston Gray’ makes a perfect foil to the new collection of Bridie Hall at Home, which we officially launched on Wednesday – here are a couple of snaps:

London my beautiful city (2)

11 March 2012

A little while ago, back last autumn, I took a walk across London on a sparkling October day.  I called that post London, beautiful city. A moment when I, for one, had a look again at this fantastic place that surrounds us and which we live in.

Worth the wait…

8 March 2012

I’ve been in Scotland, back up in the Moray Firth for a few very happy days working on our architectural project there – shaping the early development of a new town near the coast just to the east of Inverness. An amazing project, the sort of thing that doesn’t come around so often! Anyway, long days drawing out the master plan and visiting site meant that, well, there wasn’t a lot of time to blog. So for those of you who make a habit of checking in on a Monday morning, my apologies. I hope it will be worth the wait. Some photos will follow.

We hope you like…

29 February 2012

Our new look home page. The website elves (well, specifically, our brilliant web designer Joe Smalley) have been hard at work making a few tweaks which hopefully will make it a little easier and more pleasant to find your way around. We’ve tried to get rid of unnecessary clicks to get between pages, and for those of you, like me, who like to be able to see everything on a page, the entire stock (department by department) can be browsed by scrolling down towards the bottom of the page.   What’s news and the latest blogs are also around and about up front. Hopefully all self-explanatory. The old departments can still be found by following the various links to those pages.

Valley and Sea

26 February 2012

It was the sort of day in Dorset that you dream of. We woke to clear, brilliant sunshine and after breakfast went down to the sea, for a walk on Chesil beach. The sun was remarkable, beating hot, and we lay on the stony shingle and listened to the great, slow drumbeat of surf rolling in, while Max, Bridie’s dog, sniffed new smells around the shore. The views up and down the coast were intense—one could see for miles, from Portland to Golden Cap, and the sun shimmered on a clear blue sea that looked out of a Mediterranean summer.

Would you like to join us?

22 February 2012

Don’t you love the perfect simplicity of this advertisement, which I found on a little browse around Google this morning?  (And which came from a rather extraordinary, very simple, one page website which you can find here).

Visual treats

19 February 2012

A tiny bunch of flowers for the Sunday lunch table; will you look at how beautiful the crocus and snowdrops are?
But what I really wanted to write about this weekend was a book, which has been a bit in mind recently (I’ll explain why at the end). I first came across this book years and years ago, staying in Dedham with my friend George. I well remember him putting by my bedside table one time; George is that thoughtful sort of person who likes to think what you might enjoy reading that evening or with a morning cup of tea. Well, W. S. Cowell’s A Book of Typefaces has stuck with me ever since.

Dorset, the beautiful

12 February 2012

It was a beautiful weekend in Dorset. It feels like a little while since I’ve been at the Old Parsonage, and towards the end of last week we were getting busier and busier in the office. So,very early on Friday morning, when I was finally able quietly to slip out of London and escape on the second morning train, and head west, I could feel life getting calmer by the minute.

David and Celia

6 February 2012

What’s on your coffee table right now? A few weeks ago my friend Will produced a ticket to the Hockney exhibition. It was interesting to see (noting, I have to say, my friend Chris’s comment on twitter yesterday: ‘Want to see the sharp elbowed middle classes? Glance at the Hockney queue for the ticketed…’) but… I think we slightly missed the quiet, careful purity of early Hockney—the world of A Bigger Splash. Although we loved the films of ballet dancers—happy, meditative, playful, flirtatious Hockney of old.

Quiet days

5 February 2012

Don’t  you love quiet weekends in London? If you are anything like me you anticipated the snowfall last night with a little hint of childlike excitement. Is it, perhaps, the muffled silence of the city under a blanket of snow that we enjoy? Or maybe the white, bright simplicity of the streets and pavements? But needless to say, this morning, when I woke up… Great Ormond Street was under inches of wet muddy slush. The story of our lives, I wonder?

Down Time

29 January 2012

“A few people are worried you’re working too hard” said the text message from my friend Ben. Hmmmm, I thought. Okay. They have a point. Except that if you’re quite as busy as we’ve been in the office for the last few weeks, it kind of doesn’t help to be told you’re working too hard; it’s easier just to get on and do the work.

A tight fit

22 January 2012

One of the advantages of living in the tiniest flat in London is that you don’t have to go very far for things. I tumble out of bed early and in two footsteps I am making a cup of tea. Having previously walked two steps into the bathroom to run my bath. People don’t really believe me when I say I live in 350 square feet (especially, I have noticed, estate agents), but I do (this dimension, incidentally, includes the wardrobe space), and I love it… let’s face it I will have been here on Great Ormond Street for 8 years this summer.

Sean & Lisa Ohlenkamp

20 January 2012

Did you see their animated bookshop posted by Simon Lewis over at all things considered? If not, I think you might love these films.  The third really made me smile!

Recording Britain

15 January 2012

I’ve been travelling a little this week—two days in Scotland, on the Moray Firth, at the fantastic project we’re about to get going on up there. As we were driving from local town to town, visiting the best places for inspiration for the new development, I was struck by how mutable, and yet simultaneously how unchanging, the landscape is. I am thinking of small, perfect towns like Cromarty, in the Black Isle, which hardly feel touched by the twentieth century (and are perhaps the better for it).

Getting ahead again

I heard on the radio yesterday morning that unless we have some serious rainfall, a drought is to be declared within weeks. You see? It doesn’t rain nearly as much as we think it does. And I have been taking advantage of this dry, warm new year to get ahead – again.

Getting ahead…

9 January 2012

I was going to be helping Robin in the shop this weekend. We’ve been taking it all apart and putting everything back – repainting, fresh carpet, and a good New Year change-around – as well as getting everything ready to open the interior decoration studio later in the spring.

Drawings for a beloved wife

5 January 2012

In this morning’s Guardian, a beautiful series of drawings by Ronald Searle, who died last week, which he produced for his wife Monica in the 1970s while she suffered from a rare and virulent form of cancer.

Green Shoots stirring

2 January 2012

I’m not a great one for New Year’s resolutions. But I would like to start this New Year with a story.

Christmas Quiz Competition

27 December 2011

….And the winners are:

Christmas Alphabet, Christmas Quiz

24 December 2011

It’s been a beautiful day in Dorset. We went for drives in the  Morris 1000. The sun is now setting along the valley. Maggie, Roland, Will and I have just a delicious lunch. Mags & Roland are off to Cornwall as we slip into a quiet afternoon listening to the carol service from Kings College.

Winter sunset

23 December 2011

An extraordinary sky this evening, as drenching rain and storms cleared just at the close of the day. Then it was time for cake and mince pies by the fire with Mum and Dad; my friends Maggie, Roland and Will are stuck in traffic on the motorway but making steady progress. It’s beginning to feel like Christmas time!

E is for Emily Sutton

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, which I would entirely understand, but might like to, you can here) you will have noticed that I’ve been particularly excited in the last couple of days about the beautiful St. Judes production of Random Spectacular – a truly beautiful, and fascinating, thing. I’m afraid all copies of No. 1 have sold out (within 48 hours) but may I recommend you sign up now so that you know when the next Spectacular will arrive?

I don’t know about you…

19 December 2011

But I’ve been baking.  All those flipping “GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS NOW” Blogs to live up to.  Yikes. How do they do it?  Hang on… how do I do it?

What to Look for in Winter

18 December 2011

Earlier this morning, I was having a bit of a clean up. And came across this little book… Immediately I was propelled back 30 years or more. When I was about six or seven it was one of my absolute favourites. I loved the ladybird books—interesting to see how (for all of us early 70s children) they have suddenly started appearing at street markets and bookstalls—but of all of them, these Nature series illustrated by Tunnicliffe were ones that I returned to again and again.

Christmas Rose

I arrived in Dorset last night, late. I’m glad to say the AGA man had at last done what he needed to do, just in time for winter. The house was no longer freezing. I woke this morning to a bitterly cold, clear, frosty valley.

By the fire with the FT

17 December 2011

You can read my little blog for everyone’s favourite newspaper here. Happy weekend…

Christmas Windows

9 December 2011

What a fun night last night! All the shops were open for a bustling evening. Wine flowed and mince pies were consumed and it was great to say hello to many old friends and lots of new ones.  Max was the star of the show, followed by Robin (who had banished Simon his identical twin to the packing room for fear of confusing the customers). Bridie sparkled almost as brightly as the christmas lights. Happy Christmas everyone, and we hope to see you on Rugby Street over the next weeks if you can. If not, the elves in the internet department are working overtime to wrap beautiful packages and dispatch to all corners of the kingdom. Last orders – 20th December.

Happy Christmas with love from the Street!

7 December 2011

On Thursday 8th December, Lambs Conduit and Rugby Streets are hosting our very own Happy Christmas Street Party  -where all the stores will be staying open late, offering seasonal goodies and special one-night-only discounts.  We would love to see you here!  Ben, Bridie, Robin & Fred.

Morph

5 December 2011

It was a weekend where one thing morphed into another. Rob, one of my colleagues, and I got back from one our of projects in Scotland late on Friday evening. On Saturday I visited a rather handsome house, in an architectural square in Islington, which a client is potentially thinking of buying—well it’s always fun looking around houses. I pottered around Islington and wandered home. The afternoon merged into early evening; I lit a fire and snoozed and dealt with emails and then had an evening catching up with back episodes of Mad Men. Quadruple billing. Perfect.

Happy days are here again

28 November 2011

‘I thought you said you wanted a leaf green Porsche?’ said my brother Tim.  ‘I thought you wanted a Porsche’ emailed my friend Paul when I told him. Yup—in a sense. But what I really really wanted was a Morris 1000.

Crackers about Crackers…

23 November 2011

So, what is tomorrow?

Happy Birthday… to me

Um, so I promised that we would get organised, and we did.  My great friend Simon who takes all the brilliant photos for our shop very kindly snapped a few at the Courtauld the other night.

Blessed are the Printmakers

20 November 2011

You may remember that last year I wrote about the  Whittington Press.  Yesterday afternoon I have spent the day with a remarkable new book that John and Rose Randle have published, in collaboration with the architect and artist Andrew Anderson.

Aftermath…

13 November 2011

Just in case you were wondering what the kitchen looked like this morning… after a great great night for my 40th birthday party yesterday evening.

Paint the town pink

10 November 2011

For those of you that have followed this blog for a while, you may have guessed that I’m quite partial to pale pink. I’m thinking of my sitting room, which I wrote about here, or the magnolia tree outside St. Mary-le-Strand, here.

May we introduce….

9 November 2011

Franco Falconetto, the comic author?

I wish I’d been in Oban…

7 November 2011

Where, owing to a technical glitch, the half an hour-long fireworks display went off in the first minute.
A 5th of November to remember.

My kind of afternoon…

6 November 2011

It was a beautiful day yesterday in Dorset. My friend George is staying with his two boys, Wilfy and Barnaby. With a bit of help from George, they raked up all the leaves in the garden (while I fell fast asleep). The sun streamed into the house. In the afternoon it was time to sit by the fire, eat tea, and then watch the fireworks on the village green. Perfection on a plate.

The Desmond Guinnesses

31 October 2011

A friend emailed me this morning with a copy of the Sunday Telegraph’s ‘20 Best Interiors Blogs‘. It turns out I’m number 4 on the list, goodness, I thought, how exciting… before realising that they are alphabetically arranged (so I am glad that, unlike school, first names come first).

Melancholia

It was a grey weekend in Dorset. I returned to London this morning. Standing on the platform at Dorchester South at ten to seven (not nice), I did think to myself it’s a very good thing the clocks had changed – the gloom was deep still and it would have been rather unimaginable for it to have been that dark at ten to eight… Hello Autumn, hello winter.

Oh, What a Lovely War…

24 October 2011

I wonder if we are living in extraordinary times? Can I admit that events unfolding in Europe leave me scratching my head a bit—the beautiful sunshine we have had in London today feels remote from the trouble I’m reading about in the paper every day.

London, beautiful city

15 October 2011

‘Your blog’s getting really boring’, a friend said to me the other day. ‘Enough already with pictures of hills and your garden in Dorset’.

I’ve got to admit – it’s been getting a bit repetitive recently. In fact, life’s been getting a bit repetitive – too much work, and not enough play. It shows…. I mean, there’s only so many dahlias we can take.

Autumn light

9 October 2011

Doesn’t the heatwave seem a while ago?  Two weeks ago my good friends Alison, Julian and Charlotte were staying. We went for a remarkable walk across the hills (to pick up more wood turned candlesticks from Edmund – new stock in store soon!).

The Jewel garden

30 September 2011

I think it was Monty Don (who’s book, The Complete Gardener, is one which is by my bedside a lot) who coined the phrase the Jewel garden. When I drove down to Dorset this afternoon – through the hazily beautiful, brilliant last day of September (one to remember for years) – I arrived at the Parsonage as dusk was settling across the valley. The garden was glowing in the extraordinary light and no description was more apt.

Cabinet of Curiosities 2011

29 September 2011

Autumn Parsonage

18 September 2011

I drove down to Dorset late last night. It felt so good to be back at last. I woke to a morning of pouring rain, but this afternoon the clouds parted and brilliant autumn sunshine set the valley on fire.

It’s not often…

14 September 2011

…that you have a feeling that you have walked into a World of Interiors magazine. But I think the Villa Palagonia, in Bagheria, does it for me.  Do you see what I mean?  Incredible.

Where are all the happy old guys?

Try as I might, and I’ve been looking out since I’ve been back, but I haven’t seen a single happy, contented old guy, just hanging out with his friends, in London. Hmm. What a difference to Sicily. Have a look at the photos below, to see what I mean.

Sicilian Baroque

11 September 2011

It’s quite strange being back in London; soft, green and damp. If I show you some photographs of Sicily, do you know what I mean?

I don’t think life is going to be quite so interesting back at home. The final two photographs show the view from the little house we rented…. something I might miss for a while.

Tipografia Sicilia

A little while after arriving in Sicily, I realised one of the most amazing things I was seeing was typography. Everywhere. Beautiful street signs. Three dimensional shop signs. Art deco and 19th century store fronts. Shaded fonts. Name plaques for Geometra and Notaries.  I started taking a photo or two. By the end of the holiday, there wasn’t a lot of room for anything else.

I’m sorry, but…

21 August 2011

… I think it’s time to get out rainy England for a few weeks. Can you believe this is summer in London?

Someone asked me the other day who’s going to water the garden while I’m gone. Frankly I think that’s taken care of at the moment.

Sicily (via Tuscany, Perugia, and a crazy road trip down Italy) beckons. Back in September!

Symphony in Grey and Green

15 August 2011

So, not Whistler’s famous painting, but some photographs of Edinburgh—where I spent the weekend. Was I the only person in the city not there for the festival (oh dear, I’ve got to admit, I’m not a great one for ‘culture’ in any form of inverted commas)? Having been working in East Ayrshire for a couple of days, we made our way to a soft, grey Edinburgh, where I went for a long walk around old haunts on Saturday. Here are some pictures.

Anyone for coffee?

9 August 2011

I didn’t think…

I’d ever need to post this photo in seriousness. I think some Londoners are going to need this spirit right now.
Frankly, we’re horrified by the scenes from the London boroughs. Of all the images – especially heartbreaking, this photo of Aaron Biber, 89, assessing the damage to his hairdressing salon in Tottenham on Sunday morning. What’s the point?

Just in case…

8 August 2011

…You were feeling a bit depressed by mindless violence in the London burbs tonight, you might enjoy this video for STA by Australian Film maker Rick Mereki, and staring Andrew Lees. Who also happens to be rather cute, I think we might all agree.  Can we enjoy that nice smile this summer? Um, yes we can!

High Summer in the Garden

7 August 2011

I’ve had a crazy few weeks, really, and I don’t think it’s going to get any less crazy until I’m off to Italy (to stay at my friend Valentina’s beautiful house, and then for two weeks in Sicily, which is almost even more exciting) in a fortnight’s time.

All I want for Christmas…

4 August 2011

Is a Spencer Ivy Electric bicycle. Cute, no? Even if they go in for a rather eccentric type of male model.

Help! Where has your energy gone?

28 July 2011

Do you remember my writing about the Energy Cafe?  Well, I don’t know if it was an evil reader of the blog or merely an opportunistic ne’er do well, but the ENERGY CAFE HAS BEEN STOLEN!

High Summer Suffolk coastal

24 July 2011

I’m staying with my old friends Charles and Rachel for a couple of days, while I’m up here on the Suffolk coast taking photographs for a book that I’m writing and which will be coming out next year (watch this space…)

Would you like to join us?

17 July 2011

The very second posting on this blog was made what seems like a very long time ago, back in May 2009. How time flies! And I remembered that photograph when I was thinking about our little shop and how we’ve grown in the last two and a half years.  I still love that happy undaunted shopkeeper in the middle of World War Two (and I still love our shutters).

Sunshine and showers at the seaside

It’s been a strange weekend hasn’t it? I don’t know about you but I’m not really rating these summer storms very highly.  My garden is blown and soaked to bits.

It’s hotter in London

14 July 2011

Well, I know that right now it’s sweltering in New York. Who would be there if you could help it?

Stands the clock at ten to three?

10 July 2011

It was only after I had taken this photograph that I was reminded of Rupert Brooke’s poem, The Old Vicarage, Granchester…. one of those instances of English literature where the last lines are by far the most famous:

Farewell to an Old Face

I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite sure what to make of the News of the World debacle. Good riddance the evil Murdoch empire, maybe? Sad that our Sundays will not be quite so interesting? A little while ago, we were quite surprised in the architecture office when our project in Truro made it to page 17, for reasons that I will go into another day.

Time to Escape

3 July 2011

If Monday mornings are inclined to get you down, may I recommend your morning cup of coffee is accompanied by a 1968 copy of Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People, photographed by Horst?

Please don’t forget

29 June 2011

That everyone is invited!

Broad bean green

One of my favourite things about this time of year is walking out to the garden and picking broad beans before they are really ready. Pea sized beans somehow just taste better. But most of all – I am in love with that colour.

Midsummer mist

26 June 2011

I woke up very early this morning – my ears still ringing after a crazy, fantastic night of dancing until the small hours to the sounds of the brilliant Slipped Disc at my neighbour’s birthday party… who needed Glastonbury anyway?

May we recommend…?

20 June 2011

Potiche. Very, very silly, on the brink of bonkers. A little flawed. But a lot of fun.

Getting your ducks in a row

Yesterday morning I suffered a terrible hangover – thanks to a good evening the night before with my friends Mo, Eyre & Sherbert, down the valley. I woke feeling grim at about quarter part four at which point the sun was nearly up. Groaning, I went back to bed and thankfully slept it all off for another few hours.

Midsummer approaches

14 June 2011

I find it hard to believe that in a week it is midsummer’s eve. How the year is flying. Can you cope?

Summer Party on the Block

10 June 2011

Without a doubt…

9 June 2011

This is my favourite new website of 2011.

The High Line

It was back in 1999, or maybe 2000, when I was living in New York and working for a small firm of architects in the Meatpacking District, that we got invited to the launch fundraising party by the ‘Friends of the High Line’.

The Dark Side…

6 June 2011

We had supper at the weekend with my friends Jane and Edward Hurst, whose old house may be remembered by sharp-eyed readers of World of Interiors from December 2006. They have now moved and Jane is planting the most amazing double border I have seen in a long time.

Staying still

30 May 2011

I’m longing to have a moment of staying still. Today – I’m off to a wedding of a very old friend, which is exciting; tomorrow – a trip back up to Scotland where the foundation stone is being laid on a development of new houses that we have been designing on the estate at Dumfries House, that sleeping, dream house that Prince Charles rescued 3 years ago.

Signs of the Times

22 May 2011

It’s been quite an exhausting week in the North, and I’m still waiting to unpack my camera when all our stuff gets delivered back down to London next week. So despite having a perfect London weekend, drifting in the late May sunshine around Marylebone, I thought instead that I would post a photograph of that fleeting cow parsley moment that I snapped down in Dorset on the way into the village last weekend. I absolutely love this time of year – the combination of cloudy white verge and intense green hedgerow is, basically, perfect.

September to May

16 May 2011

I was just leafing through some old photos from last year – looking for something else. I couldn’t find the picture I was after (if you must know, of the town hall and clock tower in Bodmin, Cornwall – getting ready for a presentation I’m giving tomorrow up here in Scotland… I know, weird).

High five

14 May 2011

A slightly different sort of post this morning, but I couldn’t help but smile when I watched this – taken by chance by a 24 year old Californian mum of her son Elliot and her neighbour’s daughter Bowie. She sent it to her mum and a few friends – and within a week it’s been watched by 9.5 million people! Including you.

Earl Grey or Builder’s?

To find out the answer to this and other vital questions, you can have a little look at the Telegraph Fashion pages: ‘What is British style? Four experts have their say’.

Early morning

Why is it that gardens are at their most beautiful early in the morning or at dusk?

Either way, here are a few shots from very early this morning. Shortly afterwards clouds rolled in across the valley. I am not sure if I haven’t seen the best of the day, but I think I’ll be in the garden whatever the weather.

Zeitgeist

9 May 2011

It’s not all the time that I pay attention to the Google doodle. But I was very happy this morning to see that they are celebrating the 76th birthday of Roger Hargreaves, author of the Mr Men.

Pastorale

8 May 2011

Having decided not to return to London tonight, I went for a run along the valley at sunset. The cows are back in the pasture and after a fleeting rain shower the sky was extraordinarily clear.

Spring Clean

Why a picture of my cleaning cupboard this weekend? Because Bridie and I have been having a bit of a spring clean of the website.

We’ve slightly reorganised the Departments, so hopefully it should be a bit simpler to find your way around. Welcome also to the new Kitchen & Utility page. And we made a new section, which we are very happy to have, called New In. Fairly self-explanatory. Do have a browse, and let us know what you think.

A Room with a View

Yesterday was one of those sort of perfect days. A soft rain most of the day, at last; and after a bit of rushing around from one end of the country to the other (Scotland one day, Cornwall the next), it was time to do nothing. So I went back to bed and read old Worlds of Interiors from the early 80s and watched a Room with a View.  You can’t really go wrong with that sort of day.

News from the North

5 May 2011

I have just returned from a couple of days looking at a new project in Scotland, where the Lowlands meet the Highlands in the wonderful country just to the east of the Trossachs. The weather was perfect; clear skies and distant views to crystal blue mountains.

The necessities of solitude

2 May 2011

A short blog for the FT How to Spend It can be found here

Spring Green…

1 May 2011

1st May. I love England in May at more than any other time, I think. There is something about the colour of the landscape, this first week of May, that I find extraordinary — like diving into a painting by Howard Hodgkin or Mark Rothko.

Iris time

My first iris unfurled this evening. It’s early days for the iris bed. But this gives me hope for the years to come!

Royal Wedding Village

Despite my usual cynicism, I haven’t met a single person who didn’t love the Royal wedding. Even people who thought they wouldn’t. (I wasn’t too hopeful myself). Here we are in the village hall on Friday evening – having one of the best nights I think I’ve known down here in Dorset.

God Bless Grace

29 April 2011

I was very happy to hear a little while ago that my friend Henry’s niece, Grace, was going to be a royal bridesmaid. But who knew that young Grace van Cutsem would be the star of the entire Royal Wedding?

How to…

24 April 2011

… enjoy it. You can read a little post for the Financial Times How to Spend it here, about the garden one evening this week.

The Energy Cafe

It’s a bit of a shame that my friend Mo is in Ethiopia for Easter (Happy Easter by the way), because I think she would have loved this little set up. Her friend Rachel, who is pretty bonkers and who runs the brilliant Prick your Finger, herself has two completely bonkers friends called Emma Gibbs and Amy Plant who have set up The Energy Café. Travelling a converted horse-box, the café brings its own particular blend of… post-fossil fuel chic… to various strange places along the way.

Tulip Time 2…

One advantage of having too many tulips in the garden… is that you can have too many inside. A case of when too many is never enough.

A week…

21 April 2011

Is a long time in the garden. The wisteria is in flower, the copper beech in leaf.  I’m not sure I can get over this weather. It’s a bit scary. Have a happy Easter!

Tulip time

16 April 2011

It has been one of those weeks here at the Parsonage…. Not much to say, but a lot to look at!

In the Pink

13 April 2011

No, not my pink sitting room (which, for those who were wondering, I am really in love with). But, yes, I have been asked to give you a link to the FT How to Spend It website today. The photo below, of St. Mary-le-Strand a couple of weeks ago, will make sense for those who make it to the bottom of their page…!

“It’s a fine line…

10 April 2011

…between too much and not enough”, as a friend of mine in New York used to say.

So. I got back from Berlin and straight to work for a rather gruelling week. Only on Thursday night did I manage to get down to Dorset and after another day of meetings finally I made my way into the garden in the late afternoon sun.

Old and New: Berlin Spring

Sorry (to regular readers) for not posting for a little while. Not just because we wanted to join Princess Anne in admiring her rowers… not only that… but also because it’s just been one of those pretty busy times.

Nineteenth Century Skyline

25 March 2011

If The Prince of Wales had happened to find himself strolling across Waterloo Bridge yesterday morning, at about 6.15, I think he might have been quite happy.  By a bizarre coincidence of clouds, mist and proximity, the only building visible on the skyline of London was St. Paul’s Cathedral. The City towers were completely hidden in cloud.  Canary Wharf… Invisible.  Turning west, the Houses of Parliament were swathed in blue grey mist.

Spring sunshine

20 March 2011

It has been a beautiful weekend down in Dorset. As a result, lots of things that I was meant to do haven’t quite been done. But who wants to do boring tasks like writing invoices when you could be out in the garden?

January 1987

Would anyone like to help fill a gap? What is that obsessive compulsive pile of magazines in the landing outside my bedroom (see below….)?  Yes, I have spent a bit of time recently sorting out various piles of World of Interiors magazine. It appears that January 87 is the only one that I’m missing from the entire 1980s.

I’m very scared…

14 March 2011

I have just come back this evening from the St. Pancras Hotel – which opened today. Not being the sort of person with time on their hands to do the sort of things in London that one should, I never made it on one of the tours while this veritable old lady was being restored. So I had to wait until this evening – when the hotel opened its doors again for a second time.

Roman Holiday

13 March 2011

I have left my camera in Dorset. Which is a shame, because in the last week or so I’ve seen rather a lot of little scenes in London that might have made their way to a screen near you.

Signs of Spring

6 March 2011

Did you realise the clocks change in three weekends time? No, I didn’t think so…. (put a note in your diary for 27 March).

Rhubarb crumble

Okay, I have a confession to make. The following photos are not garden grown rhubarb, although I did have a look in one of my forcers yesterday and I suppose I am a week or two away from my first crop… But nonetheless, I did so much enjoy the colour of the rhubarb crumble I made for lunch today, that I thought I should take a photograph.

Which came first?

For a few years now I’ve been enjoying the website of a young graphic artist called Kyle Bean who graduated from Brighton Uni in 2009 and within about 5 minutes of leaving was designing beautiful windows for Liberty’s and others. It’s worth a good browse. This morning I came across Kyle’s latest creation. Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

Royal Wedding Chic

4 March 2011

What is every best dressed kitchen wearing this March? A Francis Terry Royal Wedding tea towel.  Who knew?

Hello, Cupcake

2 March 2011

The other day I went for a cup of tea with my brother and sister in law, and was greeted by my youngest niece Daisy who had made quite an impressive array of cupcakes. When did you last get to use every jelly bean in the house to decorate your baking?  They were delicious (if a little sweet).

Dictator style…

27 February 2011

I don’t know if you, like us at Ben P towers, find events in the Middle East a little hard to keep up with. Talk about shifting sands.

There is much anguish about Blair’s meeting with Colonel Gaddafi. But so far I haven’t seen any column inches devoted to the extraordinary tent in which they embraced. I am glad to see change in Libya. Let us pray for the best replacement. But am I the only person in the world who has noticed this textile? I would like to know more.

Your comments please (for assistance you may refer to Peter York’s superb if bizarre book published in 2005, Dictator Style.)

Prince Philip chic…

15 February 2011

Move over, David Hicks. Talk to the hand, David Mlinaric. No, I am afraid without doubt that my new style icon is the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke has of course appeared on this blog before, but now for something rather more distinguished.

Weird….

8 February 2011

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve taken delivery of this week?

Pink Spring

1 February 2011

Have you noticed the mornings getting lighter, and the evenings longer? No? Well, I think they are. It’s subtle, but signs that spring is on its way are here at last. I think they are bit more noticeable in the country than the city. I was in the Cotswolds yesterday at a house and saw a huge carpet of celandines about to flower under a stand of beech trees. I’m afraid I didn’t have my camera, but it did make me happy.

Hello, Mr Happy

23 January 2011

Well, it can only get better after Monday. As you probably all know, January 24th is officially the most depressing day of the year. (Well, actually there is some question as to whether it’s the 19th or the 22nd or the 18th, but this year I definitely vote for 24th). We’ve all run out of money after Christmas and it’s at least a week until pay day. The weather is at its gloomiest, we still only have February to look forward too, we finally broke our New Year resolutions last weekend… and frankly it couldn’t be more depressing.

Kitchen typography

17 January 2011

Yesterday afternoon I was having a look at a couple of beautiful cookbooks I found at Bridport Old Books on Saturday. They prompted me to think how nice 1940s and 50s cookbooks are, with their covers by Bawden or Faber & Faber typesetting (although maybe you can spot Rose’s Aga Recipes, which is a stalwart of the Utility Room?).

Green shoots

10 January 2011

It’s probably a false promise of spring, but one couldn’t help but be cheered by the day when I arrived in Dorset this morning. Opening up the shuttered house for the first time since I left on Boxing Day, the brilliant sunshine streamed in and the Parsonage, well, breathed in the warm clear air. Birdsong from the valley and a sense of optimism humming in the sky.

Changing scenery

4 January 2011

I suppose one of the best things about going on holiday, as I did with my best friend Valentina, to Italy, the day after Christmas, is having a new view to enjoy each morning. Here are some from last week. We had a week skiing in San Cassiano and a day in Venice on the way home.

Morning and Evening

23 December 2010

A beautiful but freezing day. It is good to be curled up by the fire writing this. And even better this afternoon that the oil company – amazingly – brought an emergency delivery on the back of a 4 x 4 all the way from a depot in Devon. All the oil in Dorset has run out. So we can turn on some radiators again…(Disadvantages of remote villages in Dorset in snow, no. 1: running out of oil).

Landscape under snow

22 December 2010

I arrived in Dorset this afternoon to find a bleached, white, silent landscape… and felt I had entered a dream. Nothing moved in the valley.  The village has been completely cut off for days.

Helpful hints no. 39: Corner Fireplaces

19 December 2010

Well it’s not often that we get such a nice email as that from Anna, a New Yorker living in Berlin… commenting on snowy streets and my fireplace here in my flat in London that I posted yesterday. More importantly, Anna wanted to know what to do with a corner fireplace, because apparently this is how things are done in Germany.

Happy Christmas with love from London!

18 December 2010

Its been a beautiful day in London. Well, not if you were trying to fly home from Heathrow airport, like my neighbour Daniel.

Planning a trip to the theatre…?

11 December 2010

Student riots notwithstanding (yes, Bridie and I are quite happy with our shutters these days), I can’t help feeling that there are better ways of driving down crowded Regent Street in December than in a 1977 burgundy high top Rolls Royce Phantom VI, even if you do have the benefit of some police outriders. Could I suggest that Princess Ann and Joe Bradley offer a much cooler way forward from now on?

Winter sunshine

5 December 2010

When the holiday pages in the paper promise winter sun, it is true that I sometimes dream of baking on some faraway island just now. But can I be honest? I think there is no better winter sun than our own home-grown variety.

What is it about sport…

4 December 2010

That leaves me completely uninterested? I do not think that I can have been alone in, um, not caring very much who gets the World Cup 2018 except to hope it is as far away from London as possible. The rather pathetic irony of the ‘Three English Lions’ doing their little bit for English football made me wonder if they would have done more good visiting a safari park.

The World of Interiors

29 November 2010

Today was a happy day. After a quick trip to Columbia market, a delicious lunch with my friends Ruth Andrew and Georgie (Georgie is our apron model). It was very exciting to sit next to Min Hogg, and  to chat about her beautiful new papers and cloths; about Peter Schlesinger and London in days which, well, frankly, were a bit more fun; and of course about the World of Interiors.

Christmas early-bird special offer

27 November 2010

Shortly arriving in store, 48″ 3D flatscreens ideal for your Christmas viewing. Free glasses to all pensioners living within 5 miles of the shop.

Robinson in Ruins…

21 November 2010

If you knew that I am the sort of person who loves a film like Notting Hill (I really do), or EVEN like Love Actually (yes, I secretly do), would you have been a bit surprised to find me at the Renoir cinema this lunchtime to settle in to Patrick Keillor’s brilliant Robinson in Ruins?  You would. But I must admit that two of my favourite films ever are Keillor’s London and Robinson in Space, so on a cold, gloomy but soft late November afternoon in London, nothing could have given me greater pleasure than to lose myself in ‘Robinson in Ruins’, which I think exceeds even the first two films; quieter, even more elegiac, and with small scenes of stunning intensity. Catch it while you can.

Three Classicists strike again…

19 November 2010

Do you remember our exhibition in May? And the film that went with it?

Winter evenings

15 November 2010

Am I alone in being happy for winter afternoons drawing rapidly to dark evenings?  The weekend has been wet, grey and cold. It was my birthday yesterday… a delicious dinner cooked by my friend Mo and eaten in happy company with best friends.

Just My Type…

7 November 2010

What have I been doing all morning, when I should have been drawing? Lying in bed reading Just My Type, by Simon Garfield. I am not sure why it is, but this might be the most compelling book I’ve read in a while.

Two skies

6 November 2010

Driving back across Eggardon Hill from Jane and Johnny Holland’s, I had to stop a moment to drink in the view. Dorset at her best.

Autumn Mornings

I don’t know about you, but I think there is something particularly amazing about Autumn this year.  A year ago last weekend, I realise, I moved in to the house. Now that it’s time to put the veg garden to bed, it seems strange to think that in March it wasn’t there. The cycle of the seasons seems to be moving a bit fast for me just now!

Through the Woods

31 October 2010

I think it was Vita Sackville-West who wrote of ‘autumn leaves moments’ – those visceral times of such great pleasure – that we get from trampling through a pile of autumn leaves whether we are five or seventy five.

Home for lost Gnomes…

One of the more curious curiosities that Bridie gathered into the shop was a marvellous collection of Gnomes. At the end of the fortnight, they have all found new homes, but I suspect that none are going to be happier than a little chap who for some reason (I cannot think why) has been christened ‘Ben’ and moved last week to Wimbledon. We are told that he will be living within earshot of the All England Club and will be eating strawberries and cream every June.  Lucky Ben!

The landscape around us

19 October 2010

On Sunday, we went for a walk across the valley to Top Parts. I don’t know that I have seen the air so clear, or the light so sharp on the autumn hills.  If people are not sure why I love Dorset, a day like this might explain it.

The perfect house

What a weekend. It’s been a hectic few days – following the wonderful cabinet opening (more will follow in a day or two) I was down to Dorset… where I think we had one of the most beautiful weekends of the year.

Curiouser and Curiouser!’, cried Alice….

8 October 2010

Why is there a photograph of Camilla Shand and Captain Parker Bowles on the wesbite all of a sudden?
No, not because we’ve turned into ‘The Monarchy of Britain.com’ (although of course, all of us at 17 Rugby Street are great believers in the august Institution)…

Inspiration

3 October 2010

Well, this post is called our Inspiration, but from time to time I wonder if it should just be renamed things we like?
Last week was a slightly manic. I was down in Poundbury, Prince Charles’s new town on the edge of Dorchester, where we are getting going on designing houses for the next big phase of development – about 500 houses. The masterplanner of Poundbury, Leon Krier was in town, and we had two long days of tiring meetings. On Friday, I was up early and down to Truro, in a massive rainstorm, where we are working on designs for about a hundred houses – some in the form of a grand stone crescent overlooking beautiful country to the east of the city.

Border control…

A year goes quickly, and nowhere more so than in the garden. It’s strange to think that I’ve been at the Parsonage for a year now… it seems about five minutes ago that I moved in on a wet late October evening last year. And so this week, when I’ve been down in Dorset for work (not much time for gardening) I had a nice walk around the garden early one morning and thought back to everything that’s happened.

The Cabinet of Curiosities awaits…

28 September 2010

Have you noticed how busy Bridie has been recently?  At strange times of the night I get short emails describing delirious and crazy schemes… and to be honest, I’m not sure if Max is getting his walks every day….

Better looking brothers

27 September 2010

With all the talk about those Milibands, and lurches to the left or who’s getting ready to leave Britain, I’m reminded of that expression UK politics is celebrity for weird people. No, I take that back, The Milbands are no William Hague (we were all very relieved in the office when he came out as being straight).

A star is born…

24 September 2010

For a little while, Bridie and I have reluctantly admitted, in private, that the biggest attraction on Rugby Street these days was no longer the shop. No, not the latest Peter Hone plasters; not delectable Marianna Kennedy lamps. Certainly not my Parsonage candlesticks, and not even Bridie’s stamp plate decoupage.

Autumn windows

19 September 2010

Autumn is in the air, isn’t it? What a beautiful weekend it has been in London. Yesterday afternoon, after a morning of running very satisfying errands, I went for a fantastic walk on Hampstead Heath with my friend Stephen and his dog Hector and I wondered if September is my favourite month.

Italians are better dressed

17 September 2010

I’m sorry for not posting for a while. It’s been a busy few weeks – architecture life is undergoing a bit of that autumn rush that always seems to happen around this time of the year.

Sneak preview…

5 September 2010

On Tuesday, as you will know if you follow this blog, Bridie and I reopen the doors after what can only be described as a new term reorganisation. We’ve metaphorically got a nice shiny new pair of shoes, put a new notebook and pencil case in our bags, and turned over a whole new shop!  Sophie and Jessica will be joining the team. And we’ve been hard at work sourcing a lot of new ideas and getting ready to open the expanded shop, including the new Utility Room.

A first harvest

This weekend I was meant to be working. Tomorrow morning, Monday, my client will find out that I haven’t done the drawings that I promised to get down. Oh dear. The problem was the weather – it was too beautiful.  Sorry Michael – but I think you of all people will understand.

Simple pleasures, Part 2

A while ago, I seem to remember writing about the simple pleasure of a grapefruit. Thank you to those of you who sent Bridie and me pictures of your simple pleasures.  On Monday, I had a similar little moment, looking at the laundry on the washing line.

Late Summer days

Did you have a good bank holiday? It feels a long time ago… a busy week down in Dorset.

Signs of the Times

24 August 2010

If you had been wandering down Rugby Street early on Sunday morning, you would have encountered a cheerful chap on a ladder, outside the shop, painting our new sign. Wayne Tanswell drove down from Suffolk in his little red van and got to work bright and early – making the finishing touches on our facade refreshment (now that we are taking over the little shop at 17a Rugby Street, next door).

I was just…

20 August 2010

Looking at my holiday snaps. So, I know, the other night, I denied everyone photos of Sienese churches and misty hillsides (although I do have a few of those). Well this evening I thought the better of such holiday-photo-snobbery.

Gli Anni di Cocktail di Gamberetto*

18 August 2010

(*The Prawn Cocktail Years)

Now and then…

1 August 2010

Next week, I’m very excited to be heading off to Italy for a couple of weeks with my best friend Valentina from New York.

Dahliamania

29 July 2010

Forget tulipomania. (well, at least until next spring). Tonight I picked the first dahlias. 

The view from here

It’s perfect this evening. At the end of a pretty busy day, I’ve spent a couple of very quiet hours in the garden. The sun is setting with just a light breeze blowing. Here is the view from here.

Evening and morning

Yesterday evening, I left London but not without taking a snap of my flat mate William’s lilies… the new ephemeral attraction of Lambs Conduit Street. Pop by and look up – they’re on the balcony (they smell even more amazing than they look).

Of Cabbages and Kings

26 July 2010

Oh dear, I feel like I’m turning in to Sarah Raven. Basically, I love Sarah Raven, although I think it could be a finely balanced thing as to whether I might suddenly start not liking her. But for now, I’m very happy to start mistaking myself for her.

Reddish for ever

16 July 2010

This morning, I was driving to Dorset via a new site in Wiltshire. I got a little lost on my way down, and chanced upon the incredible valley west of Wilton – Broadchalke, Bowerchalke, Fifeild Bavant, Ebbersborne Wake.

Town & Country

Have you noticed something incredibly exciting arriving in London? I can’t say I hate Boris, I can’t say I love him – but I do love the new London bike scheme. All over London, for the last few months, I’ve seen weird square things arriving in the footpaths. And this week – they turned into bike racks. When do they do all of this stuff? In the middle of the night? 

Something old, something blue…

5 July 2010

A little while ago, I found a sad old chair in a junk auction, falling to bits and covered in a revolting greasy chintz. Not very encouraging, but there was something about its shape, length and line that I liked. (I’m afraid I don’t have any before photos).

Heaven is a garden

3 July 2010

What did you do for gay pride on this sunny Saturday?

Farewell, Leonie Highton

I saw a really old friend the other day for the first time in years. He was just off to the farewell party for Leonie Highton, associate editor at House & Garden for as long as I can find a masthead of that august magazine. I don’t know Leonie well but she’s been to one or two of our parties at the shop and she’s always, well, just lovely. (In fact, I haven’t met anyone at H&G who isn’t lovely, and that is saying something I think!).

Do you mind?

1 July 2010

If I post a couple more pics of the valley and the veg patch, taken the other evening?

Contrasts at Mottisfont

It’s been a busy couple of weeks… but a little while ago, on a beautiful June evening, I went with friends to Mottisfont. June is Rose month at Mottisfont, and the National Trust open the gardens in the evening for a couple of weeks each year.

Really Plain English…

14 June 2010

I was sitting having my cup of coffee just now and was thinking a bit about kitchens. In the new age of modesty (sounds a bit friendlier than austerity, doesn’t it?) perhaps there’s something we can learn from my kitchen down here in Dorset.

Evensong

13 June 2010

Rain clouds rolled through the valley at the end of a hot day. At dusk, the sky cleared and I went for a short walk through the village. Here are a few photographs of a quiet, beautiful evening.

Salad Days

It was a lovely weekend of friends down in Dorset, visits to Bridport Market, Forde Abbey, and lots of neighbours around for supper – where we enjoyed bowls of salad and the first new potatoes from my veg patch. Yes, it’s quite annoying to hear ‘there’s just nothing quite like fresh picked veg’ – but then when you do… you realise it is just a little bit true.

The Whittington Press

How nice to receive an email this morning from John and Rose Randle at the Whittington Press, announcing their handsomely designed new website, which you can link to here.  It is a fascinating read.

Midsummer chimneypiece

10 June 2010

My friend George Saumarez Smith (who I did the RIBA drawings with – see the posting in May) sent me this photograph of his fireplace at home in Winchester saying ‘a shame I don’t have a blog, to post this photo’.

Margery Street Estate

9 June 2010

I went for a little walk up to Amwell Street this evening. What was this vision of English country house planting on the corner of Lloyd Baker Street and Farringdon Road?

Memory of a View…

7 June 2010

Considering cities, as I just was, I had a long, happy think back about my years in New York. Too many friends and memories to write about just now, but one which I would like to share. For years I lived in a railroad apartment on the top floor of a six storey walk up, on King Street, just between the Village and Soho.  I don’t think I miss my six flights of stairs every morning and evening. But I do miss the view.

In Praise of the City

I suddenly began to get a nasty feeling that the blog was all about a rural idyll. Believe me, if I lived in Dorset all the time, I would go mad. I am sure life is all about contrast. So I thought it might be nice to remind ourselves how much we love cities. Here are just a few random photos to show why.

Patterns in the Garden

It was strange to think that a few months ago my new veg patch was a field.

The King Penguins

I was thinking at the weekend about King Penguins. If you don’t know these books, here are a few examples – ending with my very battered copy of Life in an English village, with beautiful lithographic illustrations by Bawden.

Cow Parsley and chives

31 May 2010

Did everyone have a good bank holiday weekend? 

A pastoral moment

22 May 2010

Earlier this week, at the end of a fairly exhausting few days of meetings at the end of a fairly exhausting month, I went for a little stroll through the valley which reminded me why I think from time to time that West Dorset really is the most beautiful place on earth (sorry, everywhere else). It’s back to London next week but for now I’m happy to be with the cows.

And so to the Parsonage…

As if exhibitions, drawings, lectures and boring old work hasn’t been enough.. what about the most important thing in my life right now?  My veg patch!

RIBA drawing day

A few days after our exhibition opening, George, Francis and I spent the day at the RIBA and drew a massive drawing on the wall. A little crazy, and a lot of fun. Here are some photos of the work in progress, and here is a link to the five minute film that my cousin Ben made of the event…!

Too busy to write?

It’s been a bit of a crazy month. For those of you who follow the blog (hello Bridie, and hello Bridie’s mum!) you may have been wondering if we were okay. A few things have been happening!

When?

31 March 2010

Is winter going to end?  Bridie is off skiing, lucky her. For those of us left behind, I’ve put an easter display in the window but it all feels, well, very wintry.

Wide skies

30 March 2010

Back to London from a quiet, happy weekend in Suffolk, near the coast. Life in Dorset (or indeed in London) makes one forget those wide skies and soft blue grey, dove gray, olive green Suffolk palettes.  How fine to see wide skies and flint churches again. Here is a small snapshot of the great church at Blythburgh, and the Blyth estuary as the river rolls down to Southwold. Could the relationship between building and place be more finely attuned?

French letters

What is it about those French? A little while ago, Bridie and I had a lovely weekend in Paris, looking for inspiration. We found it in many places, but for me, nowhere more so than in the handsome shop signs that we encountered at every corner.

Getting ready in the garden…

28 March 2010

We’ve been hard at work in the garden at the Old Parsonage… and last weekend it was time to bring in the muck! Ian and Denise, my lovely friends who run a local biodynamic farm, supplied the best manure you’ve ever seen, David from the village somehow got roped in to helping shovel shit, and here’s Liz (who will be helping me in the garden) kindly offering a helping hand and a wheelbarrow too.

A different view

2 March 2010

I am having some chairs reupholstered. These chairs cost me £10 each.  I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something a little wrong in the world when these two chairs cost £20 (okay, they needed new seats)… but I’m not complaining.

Simple pleasures

The other day, I sliced a grapefruit in half for breakfast. Here it is. I don’t know about you, but I found something so pleasing about that grapefruit, sitting on that shell edge plate, on that particular cotton table cloth, that it was almost too good to eat.

A steampunk moment…

21 February 2010

I was recently chatting to my good friends the Hamilton clan, who are publishing the catalogue of a forthcoming exhibition of drawings at the RIBA that I am putting on with a couple of friends in May (watch this space for more details)… and they mentioned a rather crazy craziness called steampunk. Do you know about steampunk? No, nor did I. What better to do on a rainy Sunday morning than a little web browsing. I must say I was delighted by what I have found so far…

Desperately seeking… seagrass

18 February 2010

Am I alone in thinking Desperately seeking Susan is one of the great films of the 1980s?  Look at Madonna, while she was still, well, charming…

Spring stirring…

Just as the snow and pouring rain continue to make Bridie and me wonder why we don’t shut the shop and go to the sunshine all winter long… a glimmer of hope.  

Will you be my….

5 February 2010

I’m not a great one for sentiment or symbolic gestures but there is something about the shape of a heart that makes me come over all funny. I don’t know what it is, that it’s just a perfect shape and very pleasing to my eye or that it is a symbol of love? Am I more of a romantic than I think I am? I don’t know. But in the lead up to Valentines Day when we are all assaulted by everything that comes with it commercially, I have to admit I like seeing all the love hearts around, a lot.

Long dark days

13 January 2010

Although Rugby Street, bizarrely, seems to have escaped the winter weather with little more than half an inch of snow, we have heard from time to time that the rest of Britain is stuck in a snowdrift. So it seemed like it might be a nice idea to remember that summer does exist. And we thought you would like these photographs I took a few years ago, of Charleston Farmhouse, the Bloomsbury’s bolthole in Sussex, and Christopher Lloyd’s remarkable Great Dixter a little way up the road… and for good measure, Villa Cetinale near Siena.

Ben Pentreath Ltd Christmas Window

17 December 2009

I wanted to take some really atmospheric photographs of the shop Christmas window yesterday while it was snowing, but it was so freezing I couldn’t concentrate and here is my best effort. Sorry about that.

Cabinet of Curiosities

11 December 2009

For those of you who didn’t make it to the innagural Ben Pentreath Ltd ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, here are a few choice images to take inspiration from. 

Christmas Shopping Evening Thursday 10th December

3 December 2009

We’ll be open for this, promise.

Buy Nothing Day – Sorry – and thank you…

30 November 2009

So, I have a confession to make. When Bridie and I decided to close the shop for International Buy Nothing Day, on Saturday…

Rugby Street Thursday 26th November

26 November 2009

Christmas is coming…..

17 November 2009

….and we have the perfect way to count down to the big day.  The Victorian Advent Calendar!

Number 18 Rugby Street

11 November 2009

On the 21st of September we had a rather special gathering at Ben Pentreath Ltd. It was the publication date for ‘Timmy the Tug’.

The Old Parsonage…

2 November 2009

I know there is a bit of a fan club out there for the Old Parsonage (hello Bridie’s mum & Rob Rae!!!) so here before I go to sleep are a couple of pictures which I took on Sunday evening. A massive storm in the night passed to reveal a soft quiet autumn morning on the first of November. The mist slowly cleared, and low slanting late afternoon sunshine shone in to my new sitting room while a fire flickered in the grate. I think it’s true to say that that first weekend was not far short of heaven.

A Cabinet of Glamour…

A fantastic balmy air last week on Rugby Street…. as the shop was transformed by Bridie into a magical and marvelous wunderkammer of delights.  Here, as a little taster, is a photograph taken by our friend Simon Bevan of the crowd around the shop that night.  Simon will be back soon to record the cabinet in situ, for everyone who can’t quite make it – but for those that can, we look forward to seeing you in the shop, selecting a piece of Bridie’s coral, indulging in some ferny plates, or merely feeding a little cucumber to Winston (Bridie’s tortoise, for those that don’t already know) who is very happy in his fireplace and has now moved in to the shop.

The Cabinet of Curiosities is opening!

28 October 2009

I know exactly where I’d rather be right now…

14 October 2009

I love my job, but I have just spent the last couple of hours arranging and re-arranging the new stock of blankets Eleanor Pritchard has bought in, and at the moment, I would much much rather be at home curled up in one of these. With a fire, cheese on toast and a really good book.

Goodbye Summer…

8 October 2009

I think we can all say that summer is slipping slowly away. The autumn leaves are turning down in Dorset. Lovely days of pouring rain here to stay in London. Bridie and I are manic in the shop, finding christmas treats (yes, that happens now) and excitedly preparing for the CABINET of CURIOSITIES which opens on the 28th – more to follow very soon….

The Rugby Street Film Club!

28 August 2009

Here is a massive thanks to everyone who made our film night such a success – George and Sarah from Pyjama Pictures, Winston and Dr John the Camden sound engineers, Vats Wine Bar, Cigala Restaurant, Starbucks for the free coffees, Green & Blacks for Ice creams, Maggie and the cigarette girls from French’s Dairy, Anastasia & her red T shirted fire marshalls for everything…. anyone else we forgot to mention…. and to everyone for turning up and making it such a great night!

Amelie on Rugby Street

19 August 2009

What is that yellow poster on the corner of Rugby Street & Lambs Conduit?

The Hone Museum

15 July 2009

Recently, we installed a collection of Peter Hone plasters on the back wall of the shop. The outcome being far more impressively dramatic then we expected lead us to rename the area ‘The Hone Museum’.

The Rugby Street Summer Party

29 June 2009

A beautiful warm evening last Thursday, and a big thank you to everyone who came along to the shops and made for such a fun night!

A Lease of life

21 June 2009

The still of evening; a quiet, soft pink sunset on the longest day of the year. At the end of a wonderful weekend, I have just spent an hour alone at The Old Parsonage, in a tiny village tucked away in a valley in far West Dorset, and at the house on which I have today taken a ten year lease.

Attention All Stationery Enthusiasts!

18 June 2009

Passers-by have been stopping in their tracks outside the new window display of Tessa Fantoni Photo Albums, Box Files and Magazine Boxes. Those who’ve then come in have been heard muttering that it really is time to start getting organised, eyes glazed over no doubt fantasising about immaculate desk tops, pads of crisp white note paper, jars of freshly sharpened pencils and now Tessa Fantoni box files and magazine boxes.

Dreaming of Alphabets

18 May 2009

If you were wondering what is the same price as a family car, a lot more fun, and infinitely more beautiful, try this Alphabet tapestry by Peter Blake.

Would you rather be on Eggardon Hill?

15 May 2009

My best friends Jane and Johnny Holland have just embarked on an amazing project in the beautiful Dorset village of Powerstock.

Our Window is Broken but not our Spirit

A little while ago, Bridie saw this photograph in the archive section of the Times Newspaper.

Can we possibly have enough of Elaine?

Due to popular demand we have extended the duration of  Elaine’s photographic exhibiton for another fortnight; the closing date is now Saturday 30 May. The reception the work has been getting…