25 January 2011

London Diary: Finale

Less than 48 hours left in Londontown, and, yes, I was running out of steam.  We were still in bed recuperating from the long boozy night before when Maeve rang.  A pub lunch?  Why yes, that sounds just the thing.

 photo from Flickr here

Not any old pub of course, but the Black Friar which retains its 1904 Art Nouveau interior, complete with pink and green marble walls and bronze bas-reliefs illustrating how a life dedicated to God doesn't mean neglecting earthly pleasures.  A hair of the dog indeed as I sampled a pint of British ale along with a scrumptious shepherd's pie. We parted ways and I hopped on the tube to Sloane Square for my date with the Emma Hope shoe sale.

My heart was in flutters and my palms moist as I anticipated all the beaded, embroidered low- and mid-court pumps waiting for me.  Sadly it was not to be as not one pair successfully seduced me.  I was bereft only for a moment as I had an even bigger delight waiting ahead.

Just behind Peter Jones is a cobble-stone paved road lined with old carriage-houses - it is here that Nicky Haslam has his design office

 The sensationally chic Colette with Nicky Haslam

While Nicky (if I may) was sensibly in Mustique, his brilliant design director Colette van den Thillart poured glasses of port all around.   Behind Colette's desk was the most thrilling inspiration board displaying her penchant for everything from surrealism to John Fowler.  (Click here to discover what's on her mind this very second.)

While she strangely didn't pick up on my hints that I would be quite happy to live in one of the office's closets, she did show me Nicky's office.

Utterly charming watercolors of proposed interiors by Nicky's hand hang on the wall and made me think - is there anything this man can't do?

Our last dinner in London was in bohemian Islington.  Our friends Jake and Lindsay Attree who were in town from Yorkshire joined us for a fabulous Italian meal at Canonbury Kitchen.  If the waiter insists on sharing his advice on the menu, take it - he will steer you to the heavenly rather than just excellent.

 A painting by Jake Attree

Jake is a Royal Academy-trained artist who - subversively? - embraces the idea of beauty and sees the fine and decorative arts as equal.  He passed along this quote of Agnes Martin: "All art work is about beauty.  All positive art work represents it and celebrates it.  All negative art protests the lack of beauty in our lives."


You will be shocked to read that our very last meal in London was McDonald's.  I know.  Clearly it was time to go home.  But wait - as we were exiting, Mr EEE spied a sign with an arrow to Dr. Johnson's House.   We followed the covert passages to the c. 1700 brick house where Johnson wrote the first English dictionary between 1749-58.  

The curators have used a light hand in furnishing the rooms, which is all to the good.  The result is that one experiences the space more directly and - so one feels - authentically.  Off to the airport, our step hastened by this statue of Hodge, Johnson's kitty cat, 

which reminded us of our three guys waiting at home.


Thank you for indulging this account of a very special trip.   If you are still reading, you get a prize!  It is Colette's "special haunt": the Dennis Severs' house which has been described to me as a work of art.  It is only open Monday evenings for candlelight tours so arrange your trip accordingly.  I didn't, so please tell me everything when you come back.


Paul Gervais de Bédée said...

A very special trip, enjoyed going along. I've been to the Severs house, one Christmastime several years ago. i was attracted to it because the imaginary French Huguenot family who'd once lived in it was called Gervais. It was a stunning old world of Christmas decor with dried and fresh candied fruit and spices strewn in every corner. Quite an experience!

Susan said...

Emily - meeting you at Nicky's office was a feast. Send all my love to BK. Even though I rarely did venture off the island, she does have a special place in my heart.


Rose C'est La Vie said...

Emily, what great remaining London days! And I see it takes a visitor from across the pond to inform me about Dr Johnson's house. Must get there pronto. The website has an agreeable tone about it.

Colette said...

Dear Emily, was a delight to meet you. It made the rain, or monsoon rather, entirely fun. Thank goodness for the bottle of port on my desk...and Nicky's Sloe Gin didnt hurt either did it?? Severs house next time - in fact i shall blog about it in order to lure you back quickly!! x Colette

Bruce Barone said...

What a wonderful and charming (and fun) post!

Was it Johnson who said:

I consider very day a loss in which I do not make a new acquaintance.

I love that thouhg!

The Ornamentalist said...

the shoes!!!

Brillante Interiors said...

Thanks for bringing me along in your exciting trip, even if only virtually. What a feast must have been, art, food, design, Haslam's office!...

Anonymous said...

I am just back from a whirlwind trip to catch the Gauguin show at the Tate Modern, the Canaletto show at the National Gallery and the Lawrence show at the Portrait Galley, but i did manage to squeeze in a visit to the Geffrye Museum (http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/)in Hoxton - have you been there? A charming series of period rooms emphasizing interiors of the middle class through time from the 1600s to 1990. Well worth a visit - and I am sure even nicer in the spring when the four period gardens are at their prime.

Christa Pirl Interiors said...

Oh EEE, I would like to live your life!

Karena said...

Such a treat Emily, such fabulous spots to visit and dine!

Colette was gracious enough to send me the Canadian House & Home magazine featuring her home; along with a note on Nicki's letterhead.

Would love to spend time with both of them!

Art by Karena

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily,

I came across your blog while admiring the interiors of Doris Duke's estates. I love the objects and interiors you've featured - your blog is a tightly curated masterpiece.

Since you seem to be a fan of auctions I'd like to tip you off to a good one coming up: the Belle Epoque auction at Doyle. Full disclosure, my uncle's art nouveau dining set is in the auction, but other than that I am not affiliated with Doyle in any way.

But the auction has a great many treasures, there is some outstanding furniture in the auction. And in recent Doyle auctions, many items sold well below estimate, so it's a buyers market. It would be nice to see such beautiful things go to good homes.

pve design said...

How much longer are you there? I have a friend with a stately home...and a wicked wit...sure I could arrange a tour for you....one of whimsy and charm.
If not this trip, next.
Love your London Diary and shame on me for not visiting...more frequently.

Bart Boehlert said...

Wonderful trip and wonderful tips to remember!

EFT Therapy said...

Great pair of shoes! I love those!