The Stylist Alphabet: P is for…
P is for…
Paint instantly changes the mood of a room, and the bolder the colour choice, the more dramatic the transformation. And the beauty of paint: if you don’t like it or tire of it, you can start all over again. If you’re feeling super confident with a paint brush, try a two-tone wall. Click here for my painting guidelines.
The ghost of once was, the memory of times & people gone-by in an object; its history & past use revealed in its wear & tear.
One of the cheapest and most rewarding interior design options is paper and paper products. Stationery, envelopes stuffed with old letters, books, souvenir postcards and those bought at art exhibitions, posters, magazines, newspapers in a foreign language… wherever you go, whether it’s the local school fete or a market in a far-flung destination, look for paper in varying textures, weights and colours. Seek out quirky, handwritten items and printed matter with unusual fonts and typesetting. When you return home, the possibilities will start to present themselves as you begin framing, tacking and hanging them to walls.
The art of passementerie refers to one who makes and sells trimmings made of silver, gold and silk. My friend Morrison Polkinghorne (yes, great name) is a passementier; he makes the most beautiful tassels, trims on 18th-century French looms & with his clever knowledge of knots, wefts, warps, threads & all the amazingly romantic things I don’t know about.
Patterns & blueprints
These come in many shapes, materials and forms. At present I’m into old blueprints, which are more of an artwork for me. I’ve even seen some in brown.
I like the idea that things can be created more than once, each time with a different hand and perhaps ideal or set of skills. The product of someone’s decision-making process to create a template of all their thoughts and ideas – some kept, some rejected – to finish with a final pattern, mould or plan. I attempted dressmaking when I was young, but it was not to be. I was way more interested in the paper that the pattern was made from. A soft tissue with printing all over it, which is great for wrapping presents or papering a wall. I have since expanded on this, and love the more professional patterns of thick brown card that hold their form for multiple uses.
Hand-tooled, whittled & carved, each wooden peg has its own character and function. My mother once gave me a gypsy peg: split wood with a band of thin brass at the top and tiny nails to keep the pieces together. A peg is a utilitarian object that reminds me of a time when crafts were an everyday part of life. I imagine them travelling in an old chipped enamel bowl in a colourfully painted caravan, and used to peg up many layered skirts on a line strung between the trees by a river.
I have a bundle of pencils wrapped in brown paper, all identical, a supply for a far-flung isolated place, such as the South Pole.
On one of my first trips for an American magazine, I was sent to Little St Simons Island off the coast of the US state of Georgia. The story goes that, in the early 1900s, a pencil baron bought the island for the oak trees that thrived on the growing land (it’s a sand-shifting island that is constantly growing). What a treat for me, for once it became apparent that the oaks were too gnarly & windswept for pencils, the island was converted into a private residence & retreat for the family.
I write my notes with pencils sharpened with knives.
Pierce [things that]
Nails, pins, tacks, hardware & stationer stores on foreign shores fascinate me and I cannot help but peruse their aisles to see what the locals are using. Hand-forged nails from Baileys, T-pins from the States, brass-dome-topped tacks, upholstery tacks both decorative & functional, dressmakers’ pins, tiny bead pins, thumb tacks etc. Each has its own personality suitable for specific display requirements.
Eye patches, seafaring scoundrels, swordsmen, looters & wooden legs, parrots, ships & sailing the high seas. I feel like I’m part pirate, and celebrate that sailing spirit in my crockery range.
My paper obsession saw a new outlet when I began to collect porcelain versions of classic-shaped paper vessels. A strawberry punnet, a hot chip container, espresso cup: I love that something usually tossed away after one use suddenly has a longer life by being made of something precious. I first saw this approach by Australian artist, Nicole Lister. After buying her cups, I found other curious pieces in NYC, London & Paris. I stick to white, and let the pieces speak for themselves in their simplicity. I like the surprise element of the traditionally disposable becoming permanent.
Look upon stamps as miniature works of art with an historical timeline. Cut them from old envelopes – glue marks and all – or letters from international friends, or save a few from your own round-the-world-journeys. Stick the here, there everywhere.
Prizes, rosettes & other rewards
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to win an award of some description. I haven’t won enough in my life, so I have to improvise and make or buy my own. Although self-anointed, I still feel every bit the winner and suggest you follow my lead. Make your own brown paper rosette, award yourself a gold star and stick on your forehead, purchase a porcelain trophy and felt tip your name on it or tie a beautiful ribbon on your arm and write ‘you’re the best, chuck out the rest’.