C is for…
My curiosity for cutlery knows no bounds. You can gauge my trips by the variety and material of hand-carved spoons I have: made from wood, shell, mother of pearl, snails, bamboo and horn from various ports around the world. It’s no surprise that I would be drawn to the work of the cutler, the early cutlery & knife maker. B in my Alphabet of Arcane Trades focused on the bonesetters, so what a perfect progression to learn that the first cutlers were cave-dwellers, who created utensils out of bone. Casting our eyes a little further forward, Sheffield emerges as the home of cutlery as we know it. The workshops of cutlers featured grinding wheels, from which came rudimentary blades for harvesting crops, which then evolved into knives for the table, though we have skipped a few notches on the timeline. I’m always interested in dining & cutting utensils, especially those that have passed through the passage of time, with extra points for patina and evidence of handmade. I recently returned from Korea with a bundle of razor-sharp knives, their wooden handles with small characters marked on the handle caught my eye.
I have mentioned my total dislike of downlights before, so I thought I’d share some alternatives that I often use in my spaces. I do not like to be in a spotlight, blinded by misdirected lighting. Everyone looks fabulous in soft ambient lighting, so why not make a prettier & happier world?
I have picked up old & new lights the world over and love the immediacy of clipping them onto a chair, or hanging where I want them to hang. Note: Don’t be deterred by different voltages, make friends with an electrician who can MacGyver them to suit your country code.
This old lampshade has been customised with a bedtime phrase, but you could pen a nursery rhyme, poem or favourite saying.
Don’t feel like you must stick to the classic lamp beside your bed. A hanging pendant makes a sculptural feature and also keeps your table clear for books, spectacles and glass of water.
The light above your dining table takes centrestage. I love how this take on a candelabra acts as a crown to the central entertaining zone and adds a sense of occasion.
An old brass light switch found at a salvage shop makes an interesting change from the modern, mass-produced version.
Think outside of the box when it comes to your home’s lighting and make sure you give your lights more responsibility than simply function.
noun /ʃiːld/ 1. a large, flat object made of metal or leather that soldiers held in front of their bodies to protect themselves 2. something or someone used as protection or providing protection.
The history of the shield is long and rich, spanning from fearless Roman gladiators in the Colosseum to romantic visions of medieval knights in shining armour. Shield sizes, materials and designs often varied to suit the wearer’s needs for protection. One small and light variety of metal shield called a buckler could easily by worn on the belt of a soldier, and eventually lead to the use of the term ‘swashbuckler’, a word every good pirate is familiar with. Shields were also used as a way of identification; painted heraldic symbols and coats of arms became very handy in the confusion of the battlefield.
Whilst today one does not often valiantly run into battle, shields can have diverse uses. The icon for my shop is a shield based on an old enamel school badge, similar to the one I used to wear. I have always admired the shape of shields and now that it is so synonymous with my brand, I use them liberally in interiors and logos I design, and even the jewellery I wear.
Although traditionally made of metal, this shield on the bolster above is cut from denim, embroidered & appliquéd to ticking. It adds textures & layers to a plain linen sofa, as well as recording your personal stories and important dates.
Take home one of our little shields today, as a reminder to live like a swashbuckler & barricade against negative thoughts!
Mexico is just bursting with inspiration for more than just your interiors. Here are some of the ways I translated the vibrant atmosphere of Mexico into my styling.
Make things festive by simply tacking up Day of the Dead paper flags; use a giant yard game as sculpture (or to use) and pull your lime green cow hide outside.
I have rolls of vintage wallpaper, which I use in all sorts of ways. Line the inside of a cupboard with something colourful to create a decorative background. Create a shelf liner (mine is out of waxed baking paper), a rather naive reminder of the paper cut-outs of the Day of the Dead. Stack with all your favourite finds – leave the cupboard door open or even take off the doors.
A cool collection of old school maps becomes wallpaper. Hang them randomly as you acquire them. An old cane daybed is given new life with a slick of white paint and colourful throws. Use it inside or out.
Plastic mats that look like rugs (hunt them out at interiors shops), folding chairs and some flowing stripy fabric sets the tone with colours and finishes found while bicycling around the DF.
A past assistant made this fantastic mural years ago for a window display in the Flatiron Building. You can do one on paper, but I love that this is on reuseable plastic, and has travelled from NYC to Australia. The colours are perfect for Mexico and give this terrace house a cool studio feel. Don’t worry about not having carpet or rug large enough, as you go and line them up.
A hanging cane chair reminds me of sipping cocktails at sunset on the roof terrace of Hotel Condesa DF.
Tune in next week as I share more interiors inspiration gleaned from my Mexican jaunt, as well as some tips of things to see and do.
B is for…
I love bones – not all bones, mind you. They have to be a certain shape, but I’m not usually fussy about which animal they are from: the fineness & fragility of seafaring birds’ bones found on the beach; the oversized thigh bone of a camel; or the dried-out vertebrae of a snake my brother gave me from his farm, which is a sculpture unto itself. This is probably the reason I’m drawn to the practice of bonesetting. Perhaps we can think of these characters as early chiropractors. These unlicensed healers were tasked with setting dislocated bones and joints and “balancing the skeleton”. In India, bonesetters would also wear a slightly botanical hat, as the use of herbs was key in their healing. My fascination with the skeleton and all manner of fragile and intricate bones loves the existence of this trade and makes me hear a distant echo of yesteryear.
The Alphabet of Arcane Trades:
A is for…
1. Wear many hats
In any one week, a stylist can be a builder, artist, upholsterer, framer, cook, seamstress, narrator, calligrapher, carpenter, photographer’s assistant – even model. Every new shoot I do sends me down the path of a new field of expertise. When it comes to your own interior decorating, it pays to do the same, as these skills, too, are the foundations of styling. Read books, search the internet, interrogate tradesmen and talented friends. Learn to hang a picture and thread a sewing machine, discover the nuances of different paint finishes and adhesives, perfect stain removal for second-hand fabrics. The more adept you are with a hammer, nails and paintbrush, the more you’ll have to spend on things you love.
2. Inspiration comes in unlikely forms
Open your eyes to inspiration from anywhere and everywhere: the shade of a vintage French shelf liner could be your perfect white, a cocktail umbrella or paper patty case exactly the shade of blue you’ve been looking for.
3. The past has much to offer the present
My love of preloved objects is twofold. First, the patina of age gives so many things – fabric, furniture and paper, tableware and ceramics, wood and metal – unique textural and colour markings. Look at the way a silver tea set tarnishes or linen on a hardback book fades in the sun. Feel the crumbling paint on a second-hand chair or the smooth handle on an old hammer. these imperfections are hard to mass produce and the marks of age tell a story of a life lived. This is my second reason for being drawn to things of old. I look at the teacup stains on a table and wonder what conversations occured around it. I pick up a discarded leather suitcase from an op-shop and imagine the journeys it’s been on. SO many stories, so many styling opportunities.
4. The simple things can be the most endearing
A little sticky putty plus a lots of paper equals an instant art installation. Begin by rummaging through your own drawers and storage boxes for invitations, cards and other memorabilia or start a collection from scratch. Seek out printed matter such as sewing patterns, maps, flashcards or loveletters made interesting by the passage of time or desirable by he idiosyncrasies of the paper itself. One of the cheapest and most rewarding interior design products is paper and paper products.
5. Your history should inform your style
Every stamp in my passport is evidence of an adventure or memory. Let your home be a place to tell stories. By surrounding yourself with objects & translations of your very own travel & day-to-day observation, you create a place full of your memories: a unique, authentic space that reflects your personality.