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Dear Ben, please may we see…

30 September 2013
Ben Pentreath
30 Comments

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.

But for various reasons I was heading up to London today. A few things up here to catch up on, including, for instance, a visit to my friends David and Chris whose house, around the corner in Bloomsbury, we’ve been doing up. The walls of their bedroom and dressing room have just been lined in the most beautiful muddy green woven fabric from Colefax and Fowler and there were a few details to check. It’s looking insanely nice.

I’d been down west all week, working on a few projects – some potential new development around a beautiful little First World War grass airfield near Salisbury, and then down in Dorchester and Weymouth.  It’s been good spending a week at the Parsonage, but was all the better, as a result, getting back up to London and to Queen Square. Not least because Helen, my cleaning lady, had been and converted a big pile of ironing and a bit of a mess from chaos into calm.

I remembered those requests on the comment page and thought to myself that now would be a very good time to take some photos.

And what have I been up to decoration-wise?

Absolutely nothing at all is the answer.  If I’m honest, I’ve been just a bit too busy combined with funds not just not entirely permitting. I’m sure you know the feeling. (understatement of the century). But anyway, here were are:

I don’t think a great deal has changed in my kitchen has it? Perhaps the addition of a yellow bookcloth blind from Marianna Kennedy?  Why I am dreaming of painting the floor boards pink or sky blue?

My friend Valentina gave me the ‘New Yorker’ cover for my birthday a few years ago. It’s from the date of my birthday. My actual birthday – the day, the year, the lot.  There’s a one in seven chance of being born on the day a New Yorker was published, if you think about it. Conveniently, I was.

The Hare & Burke Poster is something I designed a very long time ago indeed, when I was a student at Edinburgh.  For my old friend Ben Harrison when he was putting on one of his first plays at the Fringe.  Just in case you thought my obsession with 19th century typography was something new.

The Situation Vacant painting, by Marianna Kennedy, is something altogether more special…

And will one of these days doubtless be the subject of a blog all on its own.

Needless to say I cannot recommend my Eames mug and tray, from the shop, highly enough (well, I think we might be out of trays).  And I was particularly happy the other day when my kettle died and it was time to get a new yellow kettle. That yellow kettle was recommended by my friend Mo and it really cheers my mornings.  Who knew we’d be so easy to please?  I think that might be my first and last act as Prime Minister.  Issue everyone in the country, perhaps even the world, with a yellow kettle.

I am sure the photograph of the hall is relatively familiar?   The red chair you will recognise – it’s the same as the pair we used at Coed Darcy. The green on the walls, as you may be aware, is a 1950s colour from Papers & Paints, who have just mixed me the most beautiful in-between pink for my sitting room in Dorset.

It’s a good colour to hang your Barbara Jones or Kenneth Rowntree against.

I don’t think a lot’s really been going on in the sitting room since I got rid of the cluster.

My new cushion from the New Craftsmen seems very at home.  I can’t believe I bought that blue-and-chocolate-cross from Jonathan Adler in New York about 14 years ago now. It seemed quite expensive at the time, but divided by 14 it’s not so bad is it?  I don’t think it’s on to buy a Jonathan Adler cushion these days, but it’s okay if you got it while he still had just one little shop down on Broome Street (was it?).  And that tomato-soup-coloured cushion was also an NYC purchase years and years ago. As, I might add, was my sofa, which started life looking very different in Crate & Barrel. The legs and frame I designed to be detachable so it would fit in and out of my old flat in Great Ormond Street.

(I’ve added this photograph after reading a comment asking about this sofa). I suppose that’s also a good view of my London map (if the map fits, hang it…)

One day I’m going to deal with my stack of WoI’s.  This is not an easy task to cross off my list.

A few grey bits and pieces seem to have migrated to my Fornasetti chest of drawers, and seem to feel at home here.

There’s quite a cute book on the top of my reading pile at the moment.  The Monocle Guide to Better Living.  Deep in its pages, you might just find a photo of my sitting room.

Well. I do have plans for my sitting room, I promise you. I want to line the walls with some sort of slubby grey hessian or grasscloth. If I can find such a thing. I’m looking to design an ottoman with a needlepoint cover (I’m in the middle of designing some cushions for the brilliant charity Fine Cell Work, which is very exciting indeed, and will also surely be the subject of a blog one of these months). For some reason, I think the green library chair might be retired to the country. I bought an old chair in a junk shop about 18 months ago which has been sitting in the workshop of our poor upholsterer Esen while I decide what to recover it with. I can’t decide.

Here’s a corner of the bedroom. Walls in F&B Brinjal, which I really love sleeping in. The last Dahlias from Dorset. Now, what on earth would you do as a curtain in this room? Thoughts are very welcome. There is a blind to cut out the light but something else is needed I think. I’m channeling Muriel Brandolini printed cottons at the moment.  Watch this space.

One of these days I might get around to making a lampshade for that old table lamp that I bought in a junk auction. Nine months ago? Maybe more.

Sharp eyed obsessives will notice that crazy splodge of blue on the wall. I’ve got bored of the dark red walls in the hall.  Something’s going to happen there.  I think not quite the cobalt blue.  It might turn out to be the same Plum as I am planning for Dorset.  Or maybe something else.  Can you tell I’m feeling indecisive?   Shocking Pink?  Orange?

Frankly I’m pretty bored of my F&B Mizzle Bathroom too.  Fine to move in with, but something’s got to happen here.  I can’t quite predict what. It would be nice to make a lampshade for the wall lights.  Well, I’ve only been here a year. It’s not very high on the priority list…!

The guest bedroom is saved, just about, from being far too old lady by the pair of Rob Ryan (for Spitalfields Life) china dogs.  Guests might also add that the camera makes the bedroom seem far bigger than it actually is. It’s actually tiny.  So, anyway, what curtains would you make with that lovely Morris paper?  I can’t decide.  Perhaps exactly the same as the wallpaper, that kindof 70s vibe?

What’s really been happening is happening outside. I’m half way through, with the help of my friend Mike from Dorset, of getting some planters going on my little roof deck.

The water tanks came from one of my friend Will’s old projects.  I snapped them up. They feel very at home on the roof. You can imagine that I was slightly glad that it was Mike not me who carried about 100 bags of compost up 5 flights of stairs, to fill them all up.

On the upper deck, my raised beds will hopefully next year become a veg garden. Greening the city! Now, you may well argue that I don’t need more space to grow vegetables, and that would be a sensible thought. But I quite like the idea of growing some beans and rocket and courgettes on my roof, I’m afraid.

For some reason my horrific vertigo manages not to kick in when I’m up here. Of all the things in my flat, nothing’s going to make me happier than getting my garden planted!

Something tells me that I’ve posted a whole load of nearly identical photos already some months ago on the blog.  If that is the case, I’m sorry – but it rather proves my point. There’s a minor case of the cobblers children having no shoes. Not entirely, for sure. But I’m quite looking forward to trying to find the time to finish things up a bit. At which point, I can tell you that something has happened. Not yet.

30 comments on this post

Dorothysays:

Hi Ben,

Beautiful photos! I was wondering if you remember where you got the carpet from? I’ve been looking for this type of carpet and had heard it’s difficult to keep clean, so was advised against, was wondering if you agree?

Many thanks
D

Annasays:

Thank you Ben – it didn’t disappoint!

Sybillesays:

Dear Ben Pentreath,
It is a long time since I wanted to leave a comment, actually since I read your post about your experience as a teenager when you had to eat a lovely rabbit in Normandy… As a French living in Normandy I felt so sorry and that I had to kind of apologize…
Thank you so much for the photos of your flat. The use of dark and bold colours on the walls is fantastic ! We recently got bored of our blue ground (F&B) walls in our dining-room and painted them in Orange Aurora by Little greene. It is both warm and bright.
Congratulations for the new partnership with Bridie. I will be in London in November to visit my sister (http://www.quindry.net) and I will pay a visit to your lovely shop.
Regards.
PS : can’t wait to see your parnership with Fine Cell Work !

Margaret Powlingsays:

A joy to see inside your apartment again, Ben. I didn’t think anyone had as many magazines as I have, but you’re getting there!
First of all, no to that idea of hessian or whatever on the wall! I suppose you missed out first time, in the 1960s/1970s when this was very popular, but it looked ghaaastly (as Craig Revel Horwood would’ve said) then and it would still look ghassstly now. All the coffee bars went in for it, but if that is the effect you are trying to achieve, then go for it. Bear in mind that hessian, having that slubby-ness, attracts the dust, too.
Next, no way could you paint the hall cobalt, again ghastly. I also think rich deep yellow would look stunning, with echoes of Brinjal in picture mounts, ceramics, and so forth. I like the idea of a full length curtain (in the bedroom) pulled to just one side and caught back (but of course, this would involve shifting the rad.) Love the fireplace in your sitting room, by the way.

Claresays:

Hi Ben! I have just decided to drop into your blog for a feast of your glorious photos of your houses, garden etc – always a perfect way to round off a day! I have just had one wall of our sitting room painted (by the wonderful Mike) in almost the same shade of green as your kitchen – just slightly greener, I think – with the adjoining wall a very slightly lighter shade. I’ve had an overwhelming hankering to have a spectacularly green room for ages. Now I have another hankering to try out Little Greene’s “Mischief” – ?would one call it a powdery puce ? or could this possibly be just what your are looking for in your flat?!

Now, speaking as a mere mortal, I’m having nightmares about all that compost on your roof garden ….. falling through……. no no no!! I shall go back to my colour charts and look forward to seeing the next wonderful Ben instalment. Hope we may bump into you over the weekend if you’re down in the village.

BTW your houses are such an oasis of calm and serenity compared to our totally chaotic. glue-besmattered, sellotape infested home – but nevertheless, Jacoby’s light creations (70 table lamps and counting) still never fail to amaze and fascinate me. Love and best wishes – Clare and Jacoby

Well done Ben !
I got onto your fabulousness in opening your book in a Cape Town bookstore .(and buying it )
You are a delicious breath of fresh air my good sir . None of that airport lounge business which is so pervasive .(boxy furnitjah and no colour )

When in need to have a breath of fresh air as well as a smile ; you are invited to visit my site ; http://maakmooi.wordpress.co.za

Have a happy autumn and all success with your new venture.

Ellen Spencersays:

I love Fine Cell Work and can’t wait to see your designs for them. When do you think they will be available? Will they be needlepoint kits or ready-made? Also, I was in Yorkshire last week, visited Sledmere, my ancestral family seat (several generations ago), and spied a Fine Cell Work needlepoint pillow on a sitting room chair!

Hi Ben, love the photos of your sitting room. Where are those cushions from? They’re beautiful x

Isissays:

Such a treat to walk around your flat in the ether. Your artwork looks so good against the paint color in the hall. I wonder if there is a Farrow and Ball color that is similar because Patrick Baty is not available in the US.
The Mizzle bathroom IS dull and Scott is right to thank you for being generous and thick-skinned. Many thanks.

scottsays:

Dear Ben, interesting blog as always. I love a decorating quandry! Nice to know that even the experts have them. What about moving the palladian chest down to where the WOI monument is, with a hefty bulls eye mirror above it, and balanced with the lamps from the willow bough room? The slubby wall covering sounds good. I’d love to see the fireplace wall mirrored to reflect the wonderful map wall. It is spendid, and truly serendipitous that it fitted so well. Could you cram in a couple of Howard chairs and a chinoiserie standard lamp/table to keep the bizarre Edwardian chimney piece company. It appears so very gentleman’s clubbish, and a little like the elephant in the room, you know, the one that no-one mentions! I’d love to see a huge, round, billy the 4th table piled with some books or a single good bronze, and teamed with some gutsy chairs in place of the 70’s Danish table…prejudice, having lived with some similar stuff in Australia. The ottoman idea sounds great, just right to bung the tea tray and papers on. Yum, you are clever. Thanks again for something to look forward to on monday evenings, Scott.
ps where are you signature white geraniums? Fill that lovely window with them..the world needs more white geraniums!!!
Cheers, and sorry to be so very bossy, bloody rude really..but such a great pleasure to have your blog to play houses in! Thank you for being so generous..and thick skinned.

Calhoun Sumrallsays:

Hi Ben, please forgive me if you’ve answered this before;what camera do you us for your interior shots?
Yours always have a wonderful light quality and are in focus. Both of which I am unsuccessful at times with.
Your post are always an inspiration! Warmest regards, Calhoun

Sally Leesays:

What is the fabric hanging on wall , behind bed, in the bed room? Looks Turkish. Do you know who made it?

THANKS

Peter Crispsays:

The bedroom window: move the radiator, hang the curtain full length but on one side only and tied into the corner. Robert Kime’s classic Jardinieres Cotton perhaps. No puddle but touching the floor. A lovely set of rooms.

Nicolasays:

Even your flat’s outside space is compact, terraced and gorgeous. On the subject of the hall paint, I would first like to see what you have in mind for the Parsonage, as the Brinjal bedroom colour is so magnificent and demands an equally worthy companion. The blue, or a variant, might well be a contender. Not a fan of the dried blood/Etruscan red anyway! Too museum-like. You did ask!

Hello Ben, I always enjoy the beautiful photos on your blog, thanks for that. For the Brinjal painted room I would add curtains in the exact same color as the walls in a luxury velvet! Cheers, Beatrice

Haydn Spicersays:

I loved looking at these photos. Your home is beautiful and such an inspiration. I like the way you effortlessly blend modern with old which sit so comfortably together. Regards, Haydn.

ECsays:

What a wonderful set of photographs; always a delight to see inside Pentreath Towers. What are the prints behind your blue/grey sofa, the ones that look like architectural drawings/reconstructions? I, for one, really like the red in the hall. What about adding a cornice rather than repainting it? It might also balance the prints you’ve hung there.

Maggiesays:

I love the glass candlesticks on your dining table. Are they sold in your shop?

Nigelsays:

I know exactly where your WW1 airfield is (I should do, I used to fly from there!) did you know those hangars are listed buildings, built by German POW’s? Such a shame they’ve knocked down the guardroom, it would have made a fantastic bolt-hole with polished red lino, big bookshelves and a coal fire etc.
Many thanks for the Rex Whistler tip off, caught it with a week to spare – ultimately a tad cloying? although if he’d followed his later style….

sconesays:

I’m seconding the “yellow” suggestion. It will work with your pictures and other stuff, like it did for Soane. Doesn’t have to be a screaming yellow. I am having good luck with a simple mix of .5 oz. bright yellow, .5 oz. yellow ochre, backfilled with white. Don’t put any black or grey in it, and don’t add any more ochre, because it will flatten the color and kill the luminosity. This is very pale, with a lot of color shift from pale green to cream to gold. If you want a little more depth, you could add maybe .25 oz. orange. Don’t add red, or you get a Barbie doll “flesh tone.” Voice of sad experience here.

Jo Ssays:

Where are your lovely (empty) planters from? Jo

Sylviesays:

Love it!! absolutely love it! My own collection of WoI began in 1991… so that is how bad it gets?? frightening.

Can’t tell you how much better I feel this morning after seeing your stacks of magazines. A true kindred spirit. And I love the Morris paper no matter how old lady it labels me. Also, the colour on the kitchen walls is inspired. I tried to make it to your tempting shop whilst in London last week, but only had Sunday free. Next time!! xo

Hi Ben,
I’ve recently been to Charleston, Harbour Island and the South of France for work, where it seemed every house was painted a bright colour and all three cities were incredibly beautiful for it. England’s colour palette is slightly more subdued and subtle, of course, but some ideas might be:
– A Mayfair blue for the bathroom (a handsome mid-blue, much like your ‘Situation Vacant’ sign). It’s almost like a Wedgwood blue, or sky blue, and makes a room feel like it’s outdoors. A wonderful shade to wake up to.
– A muddy mustard yellow for the hall. We saw yellow everywhere overseas — NY, Nice, Savannah — and it was glorious. I really feel yellow is an undervalued colour. It looked particularly amazing in the grand period rooms of Charleston’s historic houses. Failing that, turquoise would also look dignified in the hall, peeping out from behind the plum red walls of your bedroom, but it would have to be the right shade. I’m sure you’d figure it out
– Lastly, please don’t do Schiaparelli pink. I adore this colour but painted my walk-in wardrobe in it one weekend and it was like looking into the gates of Hell. Very scary.
Whatever you decide will look gorgeous, I’m sure.

Dear Ben,

Thank you for the delightful ramble through your London digs. No matter if some pics were repeats, all is new in a new context. Kitchen floorboards, pink or blue? As an accomplished photographer, I suggest printing out that photo, twice, getting out the colored pencils or markers, and coloring one floor blue and one pink. Presto! Not as “real” as paint splotches on the floor, but you can get a gut reaction. Personally, I think neither is ideal. If it were mine, I would want a deep, dark color, darker than the walls, with lots of sheen to cast reflected light about. Or yellow, to match that kettle?

I once had a cornflower blue kettle, that I felt the same about as you do your yellow. Kettles are such cheerful critters, don’t you think? Benign and rotund, speaking to us in a friendly whistle, whilst providing us with warmth and cheer and a cuppa. If I were a Brit, I’d definitely vote for the yellow kettle platform.

Boring (?) red hallway, please, not the blue! It will clash with the color of the bedroom walls! Won’t it? Maybe a lighter blue? Or cheerful yellow again? I love purpley colors with yellow. Dark colored hallways are the pits, unless sky-lit. What about a patterned paper? Oh dear, I’m getting carried away…(which you probably wish someone would do with me!)

Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure it will work. You have the gift of creating contemporary interiors that are intelligent, multi-layered, warm and inviting. Have at it!!

Hugs,

Diane

PS, thanks for the untypical Dorset photos. Where is that beautiful old gate? Is it on your property? Lovely.

Annsays:

As a Virginian transplanted in the SF Bay Area, descended from British nobility of some kind, my house has always been decorated as some iteration of English country (not that I thought of it as such)…but finding your blog has kicked me into a bit of design high gear (albeit with no budget). I’ve been making wall clusters of prints, photos, little oils and plates…some from family, most not. Reading your post today about getting rid of your clusters I was relieved to see that there are still many around the place, just not over the sitting room sofa….But the worst of my new obsession with your design aesthetic is that I am now devastated not to have a Georgian mahogany secretary in the living room. I have been slavishly stalking ebay, craigslist, onekingslane and 1stdibs. Alas, the ones I fall in love with are between $10,000 and $20,000. The ones that I can come close to affording are the horrible American federal-style with the swan’s neck pediment when all I want is a beautifully simple cornice…I’m ruined…

lovely, complex and warm, thank you for sharing ben
this american anglophile is headed to dorset for my annual monthly stay. cannot wait to see those stunning views, yours are magnificient
cheers
debra

Nicola Barriesays:

Thank you Ben. I loved looking through your London home (the Dorset garden pics are gorgeous, too). I am sure I spied a new lounge/sofa in your sitting room – retro looking?) I love the green chair in the sitting room. My eye was drawn to it and I had just thought it ‘made’ or ‘lifted’ the room – then read your comment about it migrating to The Parsonage. I also love the cobalt splash in the hall. I look forward to seeing your new colours – and the needlepoint ottoman.

Regards

Nicola

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