Christmas wishlists at Cressida Bell's Open studio next week.Read More
Appreciating Bletchley Park from an aesthetic point of view; from beautiful fonts, to desk lamps and paint colours. The brilliant code breakers who worked at Bletchley eventually cracked the Enigma code and brought an end to WW2.Read More
As a child I spent hours scribbling on bank slips with those pens stuck to the counter, waiting for my parents to do their personal banking. Fast forward to 2015 and I can count the number of times I’ve set foot inside a bank this year on one hand. Although, I’m still one of those ancient relics clinging onto my cheque book, only using it to pay the milkman. Even the plumber recently turned his nose up at a cheque in favour of a money transfer.
Whilst I might not miss lunch break branch queues and my own finances are a mere click away, I always make a detour to use Lloyds’ Law Courts Branch on The Strand, London. Because is this not the most elegant cashpoint you have ever seen? Do you not feel chic simply flexing your plastic overlooked by tiles designed by Doultons in a building which dates back to 1883?!
Having starting out life with two failed attempts at being a restaurant, the building lay empty until Lloyds bought it in 1895. Which explains why it boasted all Victorian mod cons; an artesian well, electric lights powered by steam engines and dynamos and air conditioning based on the means of ventilating ships. A cashpoint was a very modern addition in 1973!
And if like me you’ve always assumed the Twinings Tea shop next door is just for tourists, the historical connection goes much further back. Twinings opened the first tea shop in the United Kingdom on the Strand in 1706. Later on the company successfully diversified into banking which grew into a separate business, though still affiliated to the tea trade. In 1892 Lloyds bought out Twining and Co. after a struggle during the second half of the 19th century to compete with other banks.
So check your bank balance at the Law Courts branch and drown your sorrows nearby with tea at The Delaunay, the best modern ways to make use of two of the most precious commodities The Strand was built on.
A panicked WhatsAp from Clare at 3pm on Wednesday read:
“Lady I’m housesitting for in Highgate has returned two days earlier than expected, can anyone host tonight’s dinner party instead if I bring the food???” Which was how I found myself clip clopping the cobbled streets of the Middle Temple at 7pm on a Wednesday evening in mid August. The unseasonably cool weather gently edging towards autumn and the light just beginning to darken.
It’s an unlikely spot to find yourself in, despite being as central as it comes in London, tucked behind The Strand and next to the river. Unless you are a barrister, QC, or clerk working in this rabbit warren of Chambers, why would you venture here? Well if you love a good font and a bit of sign writing like me, The Temple has no end of good examples.
Sign writing seems to be having a long awaited revival, no hot new London restaurant worth it’s salt opens without a gold leaf number. I’ve been following Ged Palmer whose astonishingly beautiful work is at the forefront of this modern craft movement. There is a beauty though, in looking back at the traditional; the black and cream with an occasional flash of red here and there. Matt paint, skillfully worked onto redbrick in nostalgic fonts of yesteryear. Unfamiliar names painted on glossy ivory boards adorning doorways and entrances of various chambers.
I dawdled on the steps of Kings Bench walk, now a little bit late for my dinner party. Revelling in the unexpected way the evening had turned out and astonished by the unexpected silence, you could hear a pin drop.
And that’s where I leave you, because it was a bit rude to take pictures of Harry’s flat on such an impromptu evening. But I can confirm the inside, is just as lovely as the outside.
Are you pinned out? Sometimes I think the world has gone a bit Pinterest mad. Lately, it's inconceivable to plan a wedding, bathroom or kitchen extension without consulting our friend beginning with “P”. Don't get me wrong, I love it, and in my real job as a handbag designer it is an invaluable tool. There’s just a lack of middle ground with Pinterest, it swings from the ludicrously unachievable (unless you are a millionaire) to the “IKEA hack,” a world of “up-scaling” your Scandi sofa with teak legs -hardly the definition of creativity.
But what if you visited an interior quite like anything you have ever seen on Pinterest or likely to see again in your lifetime. An aesthetic born out of necessity - to cover up damp on the kitchen wall from the next door launderette. Humbly crafted from ordinary pine floorboards found in skips, by a man who dedicated every spare moment of twenty five years to carving decorations for his house No 575 Wandsworth Rd. At a time when the market wasn't flooded with cheap furniture and throwing Farrow and Ball at the walls wasn’t an option. This was no quick fix either, we are talking a lifetimes' work, not a passing fad.
On the day of my visit to 575 Wandsworth Road spring has finally sprung in London, and I'm bathed in optimism even as I crunch my way over last night's chicken bones. My own thoughts are drowned out by the deafening sounds of clapped out exhaust pipes on this busy stretch of South London. It's a bleak outlook; to the right desolate council blocks, flank modest Georgian houses, unloved and choking in fumes. I'm struggling to find the familiar green National Trust signage, until I see a tiny wooden board discreetly perched on the steps.
he house was bequeathed to the Trust in 2006 by the owner Khadambi Asalache, a Kenyan born poet, trained architect, philosopher and civil servant by day. On his death, The National Trust set about stabilising the property with the idea of giving tours to small groups of six people at a time owing to the size of the property and its delicate nature. Book your tour today people, you might have to wait a few months, but I promise you it is worth the wait!
The exterior of the house is unremarkable and gives nothing away of the private and exquisite fantasy world indoors. Little prepares you for what lays inside; a giant lace cobweb of wooden fretwork spans every surface, from ceiling to floor. From a distance, the woodwork looks delicate and fragile, seemingly symmetrical by design. Up close, it is crude and jagged, roughly sawn and modestly tacked to the wall. Your eyes play tricks on you as you realise there is no symmetry to the fretwork design after all. Ballerinas, giraffes, leaves, swans, African motifs and English Lustreware all randomly dance together in a celebration of European, African and Islamic cultures. Marks, splashes of paint and glue seepage clearly didn't bother Mr Asalache either.
I rather admire his style, which strives for perfection and yet none whatsoever, all at once. There is an undoubtedly obsessive whiff about the place too, the kind only a man with no family or television could possess, toiling away in the evenings after a day at The Treasury. All of which dovetails in with a niggling feeling I have, that we might look back on the age of social media and think we squandered our lives, when we could have been achieving something fulfilling. So there is a lesson learned here for myself and possibly some of you; that instead of slumping in front of “Poldark,”after my long commute, I should crack on with upholstering that ottoman I’ve been meaning to do for the past year. If you too are in need of some inspiration, 575 Wandsworth Rd might just be the place to spur you on to fire up the Black & Decker and fall in love with the modest versatility of wood.