20 June 2014

Where the hollyhocks grow on every corner… London Diary, Part I

When Mario Buatta, Il Principe di Chintz, wondered if I might be going to London anytime soon, I pounced on the opportunity to tag along.  London in June is glorious – the weather is that civilized state of sunny but not scorching; hat shopping for Asc't is in full gear (as you know, fascinators or any headgear under 4" circumference will not get you inside the royal enclosure), and the art and antiques scene is buzzing with shows and sales.

Speaking of which, Mario and I rendez-voused at the opening of the Haughtons' Art Antiques London fair.  The show originated as a much-acclaimed ceramics show and it continues to be particularly strong in that category.

While a monkey caught Mario's eye on Brian Haughton's stand, I was gobsmacked by this unusual 18th century faience boar's leg tureen.  German, of course.

A stand hung in the vein of John Soane

Mario thought this aristocratic gentleman resembled our mayor Bill de Blasio.

The opening night benefited Princess Eugenie's charity Children in Crisis.  Throughout the show and outdoors, a somewhat bizarre note was struck by a company of actors circulating in Dickensian dress.  After quaffing a glass of Champagne and Victorian lemonade, Mario and I hopped it over to Mayfair to dine with old clients and friends at George, the most informal of Mark Birley's clubs.  I knew I had to order the roast chicken when I saw it was accompanied by bacon and mashed potatoes.  Afterward, we window-shopped Neame across the street where Mario spied a promising pagoda-topped mirror during which an at first amusing but then disconcerting man with a passion for chickens engaged us in conversation.

The next day Mario lectured at the Olympia show, followed by a shopping expedition on the Fulham Road.  He is currently working on a sprawling Palm Beach residence which he says is his last project ever.  After lamenting how many of the shops are no longer there or even selling antiques, he repaired to his hotel room while I met my friend Rosie West for a drink at Bibendum.  Rosie and I had serious business to discuss as I am hoping to commission a portrait of Joan Crawford from her.  Of course, there was so much to catch up on, we still have yet to hammer out young Joan, shoulder-pad Joan or cowboy Joan.
Before Rosie took me to dinner at the House of Lords (such a treat), we stopped by Nicky Haslam's flat to celebrate the London launch of Maureen Footer's George Stacey and The Creation of American Chic.  The book is as attractive and diverting as the authoress, above with Min Hogg (founder of the sublime World of Interiors), and I can't recommend it highly enough.  (Click here to see more photos of Nicky's chic chic chic (I know it's a tired word, but it so applies here) flat.

Jane Churchill & Mario

 Cecil Beaton biographer Hugo Vickers & Rosie

There were so many lovely people there.  I particularly enjoyed meeting designer Vere Grenney (whose shell pink living room I dream about and is the cover of Carolyn Englefield's forthcoming to-die-for book for Veranda) and dealer Valerie Wade.  Valerie got her start with Geoffrey Bennison.  She told me how Bennison, decorator to Rothschild and exalted others, used to go out on the town cross-dressed and in a wig as Big Carol (after Carol Channing).

After a delicious dinner made all the more so by the company of Rosie's husband Lord West who has a fascinating BBC radio program Britain at Sea currently broadcasting on the Royal Navy in the twentieth century (listen here), it was time to head home to Pimlico and the Shabsters.

Part II: Behind the Scenes at Colefax and Fowler…

Reading List (so far):
Terence Stamp, Double Feature (for more on Geoffrey Bennison in a wig)
Maureen Footer, George Stacey and The Creation of American Chic
Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features
Hugo Vickers, Cecil Beaton
Carolyn Englefield, Veranda: A Passion for Living (just saw the proofs yesterday - trust me, you need this)
and shamelessly, Mario and Moi's book


Dean Farris said...


How fabulous! Am green with Envy! If you see Mario again please let him know I did get his phone message- and plan to visit NY in the Fall!

So glad you enjoyed London and look forward to the part deux!

Dean Farris

Pigtown*Design said...

Don't you just live Rosie & Lord West!!! Hoping to see the in the fall. And his BBC show is brilliant!

The Devoted Classicist said...

How fun! The snapshots are much appreciated. I can hardly wait to hear & see the rest.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, this was like a delicious letter from Lady Ottoline! Cannot wait to read more. London in June. Is there any place more divine? Have fun! xo

MJH DesignArts said...

Thank you for keeping us all in the loop. NH is the absolute King of Chic. Great Spaces.

Chronica Domus said...

Hello, I'm a fist time commenter on your blog but could not help myself, seeing as you are in my hometown (I now live in San Francisco), and enjoying it in June, a glorious time to be there. Alas, no visit for me this summer as my passport has expired and there is a terrific backlog debacle ensuing. I shall live vicariously through your lovely blog posts. Looks to be a heavenly time, and the Soanian booth is right up my alley. I hope the Londoners treat you well. Enjoy your visit.

Karena Albert said...

Emily what an adventurous and eventful weekend with some of my favorite people!

So happy to add to my reading list. (Just finished Maureen's George Stacey and the creation of American Chic!)

The Arts by Karena