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 only possibly be read through some strange process of osmosis, as if by sleeping with this pile close to my head I’ll somehow absorb the contents. Don’t even think of giving me a glass of wine in the evening and putting me next to amazon.com or abe books, or letting me loose on a lazy Saturday afternoon in a perfect, cluttered, well-stocked and civilized second-hand bookshop in a small market town.
I suppose if I’m honest, a lot of the books I buy are about architecture, or decoration, or gardening, or art. And one of the things that’s nice about those sorts of books is that you don’t have to read them. You can just look at the pictures.
But let’s face it, I still buy more books that I can look at. I think this is a particular problem for people who like cook books. If you’re a cook-book-kind-of-person, you just can’t stop buying cook books, can you? When you think about this, it’s absurd. When are you ever going to have time to cook half of the recipes in half of the books that you already own? Yet, just somehow, when that beautiful seductive new book emerges, with a tie-in in the Guardian or FT magazine, or an attractive offer on the shelves of the supermarket…. well, it’s hard to resist. The reality is a bit more basic. Has anyone ever cooked more than one recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem? No, really, they have not.
Well, it’s almost as bad with decoration books. I think you’ll agree. You buy one, you buy ten. Which is why it’s a rare pleasure to come across a book that you just know you’re going to go back to again and again.
I had to wait a while to write this blog. I bought a copy of Mary Gilliatt’s English Style rather a long time ago. I can’t quite remember how I discovered it, but I had. It eventually arrived from Abe books, from a bookstore in New York State. At which point, on opening the covers, I instantly realised it was the perfect birthday present for a friend of mine (who is almost un-buyable for when it comes to birthday presents). I immediately ordered a second copy, this time from Cleveland, Ohio. Somehow I missed the email telling me they couldn’t find the copy so the order had been cancelled. Finally, I got a copy from a bookshop in Illinois. I somehow needed to wait before the birthday present was wrapped and dispatched before I could alert you to the FOUR REMAINING COPIES that I can spot on the internet. Well, now it’s time.
I think I’ve got to say it – I reckon this is one of my favourite decoration books of all time. I adore the bold opening graphics…
…the punchy Foreword by Paul Reilly… and the elegant layout of the content page:
John Bigg, I’m not sure who you are, but nice job.
The book is divided into themed chapters. The opening chapter is ‘The Post-Festival Influence’.
See what I mean?
Followed by ‘Sturdy British’, a paean of praise to Conran:
I love these wardrobes in Conran’s London house, and these views of his Suffolk cottage:
Or these marvellous apricot walls in the home of architect Nicholas Johnston. Funnily enough, I came across the houses of his practice Johnston Cave a few days ago, and I liked them.
Roger Dyer’s phone nook:
Kitchen, and sitting room:
(Here’s another strange co-incidence. A few years ago I worked on a huge new leisure centre in Dorchester where the lead technical architects were the ‘Dyer Group‘. Strange to think that that giant behemoth of a firm started out with a little phone nook like that).
A chapter on ‘The Purists’ follows:
And then ‘The New Wave’:
Ooooh, metallic wallpaper on the stairs of your Georgian house anyone?
You won’t be surprised to learn my favourite chapter is called ‘English Style’.
Oh god that has to be my favourite room for a long time. Beautiful wallpaper.
Sir Leslie Martin’s restored Mill is providing the inspiration for our new architecture studio renovation (which starts next week… could this be more timely? No, it could not.) Check out that beautifully detailed handrail…
I sort of fancy a couple of Bacon’s in the dining room.
OH MAN Leslie Waddington’s Sitting Room table. HELLO?!?!?! perfection.
Well, then, the delights of ‘Old Houses Renewed’:
Hello Kensington Palace… Princess Margaret’s dining room… and Lord Snowden’s dressing room:
Lynn Chadwick’s dining room:
David Hicks at Britwell Salome:
And one of my favourite rooms in the whole book, Bennett’s Hill Farm in Somerset, owned by the painter William Scott, and his wife.
Jayne’s Court, in Gloucestershire, is a serene house with a mad interior:
Don’t you dream of a day bed like that in your London garden?
Finally, ‘The Decorators’:
More Hicks in London. Wow:
I love this drawing room by Billy McCarty, and the dressing room following:
Jon Bannenburg’s bedroom:
(there’s a brilliant BFI archive film of Jon Bannenburg right here. If you do one thing this week, watch this film. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. I love his vibe).
And the sublime interiors of Hardy Amies’ drawing room by Colefax & Fowler’s Michael Raymond:
You remember that name don’t you? Mickey Raymond is now retired in Tangier, and you can read that New York Times article again, all about him, here!
Here’s Geoffrey Bennison’s entrance hall,
Or look at this cool cool cool room by Fello Atkinson, architect:
You see? Oh Fello, I like your combinations:
And your dining room:
Which brings us neatly full-circle to the cover of the book.
You see what I mean? Get your copy now. If you can.
I feel like this blog really belongs over at our friends The Peak of Chic. Hi Jennifer from over here…!
Bridie and I had a weekend in Dorset having a massive plan-out for the next year of the shop. What I’m calling the brainstorm in the rainstorm. There was so much rain. But idyllic moments of sunshine in between.
It’s always nice when it’s the Parsonage at the end of the rainbow. I hope you’ve had a great weekend too. And happy reading, or, for that matter, just looking.