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The nicest thing about the blog



Ben

… Is the rare experiences that it brings from time to time.  This was an email that I received not too long after writing the other day about that great book English Style.

I am not sure if you got an earlier appreciative e-mail I sent for your kind words about my 1967 book ‘English Style’. Anyway, I was most grateful and should certainly visit your shop soon and, if you are there, perhaps I could take you to lunch? In any case I’ve joined up for your blog and am now inspired to restart my own which someone of your commentators said was lively! Alas, I stopped it three years ago when one of my daughters got gravely ill and required my full time attention. But you’ve made me think about it again

Kind Regards, and again thank you,

Mary Gilliatt

You see what I mean? It really is a nice thing. So we made plans and on Thursday, in between torrential thunderstorms and one or two equally stormy meetings (it must have been something in the air that day), Bridie, Will and I took Mary for lunch at Cigala, opposite the office and shop, over on Lambs Conduit Street. It was one of the most civilised moments I’ve had in a very long time. Mary is completely brilliant. We talked and talked about every decorator under the sun. She knew them all. Billy McCarty was, I think, her favourite; we learned everything you might want to know about Princess Margaret, David Hicks, Terence Conran. As lunch came to a close, all too soon, we whipped out several copies of English Style for signatures, and Mary & I had a little book-swap. I’m now engrossed in her brilliant memoir, Fabulous Food and Friends, which we all agreed (she brought it up) had a not very good title (not her choice) and a worse cover but do NOT be put off.  I can’t wait for Mary’s blog to restart.  I don’t think it will be very long. If you like reading Inspiration, I think you’ll find it’s a staple.

So this is a blog about three books.

My next Mary purchase, from Abe books, was A House in the Country. Quite a few more copies of this around, I think.P1030199

Obviously it lives in Dorset but you’ll understand why it’s in London this week. It needed an autograph.

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Mary, you old flatterer…

More beautiful typography, and photographs:

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Totally cool:P1030203

Serene; further views of the house owned by William Scott:P1030204 P1030205 P1030206

Terence Conran:P1030207

A stone farmhouse in Somerset with beautiful decoration by the owners Sir Brian and Lady Horrocks:P1030208

Angus Wilson’s cottage in East Anglia:P1030209

The gothick cottage Ornee at Audley End. I went there years and years ago:

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Decoration by David Hicks in Kent:
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Comfortable Country:P1030214 P1030215 P1030216

One of the most beautiful houses I ever went to was this one, owned by the architect Jim Cadbury Brown and his wife, Betty. I was taken to see them by my friend Alan Powers, and we sat in the garden and drank Whiskey sours:
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Something about this house reminds me of my grandparents’ house on the Beaulieu River. In vain I keep on asking my family if they have any photographs. DO YOU HAVE ANY PHOTOS?P1030219

Anyway, quite a book. We love Mary.

So, now for this week’s second book.  Did you notice my friend Robert Gladden’s comment on the English Style post? About that other perfect book from the mid 1960s? First Slice your Cookbook.

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It was written by Lady Arabella Boxer, daughter of the Earl of Moray. Now the strange thing is, the current Earl is our client over in the architecture office. We’re designing a new town for Moray Estates, near Inverness, which you might find me writing about from time to time, and in decoration Luke & Lucy and I are also working on remodelling their romantic castle. So I must remember to ask. Aunt or cousin, or something?

Here she was. COOL cover.

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Even cooler cover when you take the slip case off.

Other blogs will write better than this one about Arabella, or her recipes. Obviously we’re all just here because we just love the flipping design. (Literally flipping, you will see what I mean).

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Perfect Typography.  The book, incidentally, is set in Bell Monotype.  It was designed by her husband Mark Boxer, who went on to become the famous cartoonist Marc.

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The crucial bit comes in the next instruction, about colour coding. Read carefully:

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Because then the book quite literally slices into three:

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The colours and typography are insanely beautiful:P1030182 P1030183

The drawings by Alan Cracknell are a perfect period piece:P1030184 P1030185 P1030186 P1030187 P1030188

The recipes are beautifully simple too.P1030190 P1030191 P1030192 P1030193 P1030194 P1030195 P1030196

Perfect. I remember my Mum cooking from First Slice your Cookbook all the time. In fact, it’s probably one the earliest books I can actually remember. P1030197

I recommend you find a copy if you don’t already have one.

Book number three, by contrast, was published just the other day. I suspect it won’t necessarily be blogged about in 50 years time, but it’s brilliant for right now. “What the hell is that and why don’t I know it?” was almost the first thing my friend Rita said last week when she came round to the flat. It’s got one of those covers you can’t ignore.

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I’m a bit jealous of Decorate Fearlessly! It’s brilliant.

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For a start there is no text, just captions. Can you imagine? Just how I like a book to be (remember, I bought a poster by Andy Warhol in Stockholm that says I never read books, I just look at the pictures). There’s gloss blue from Miles Redd:P1030223

Brown and yellow from Mary McDonald:P1030224

And you can’t really go wrong with Eric Cohler’s Manhattan living room can you?P1030225

You see what I mean?P1030226 Well, we’re decorating a house up in Hampstead. It’s a lovely old arts and crafts building and we’re working with the owners and their architect on the restoration. But we’ve been thinking a lot about the basement pool that is being built. It started life a little bit deco. Then went for the New York gym-meets-Soho-loft look. Worthy, but, um, just a bit predictable. “What about a crazy 70s interior?” I said. No-one really got what I was talking about. The idea was quietly dropped.

So what a joy to open up this double-page spread (Jonathan Adler’s living room) just as I was discussing a few house ideas with Becky, the owner. “THAT’S what I wanted to do in your pool”, I said. “70’s glamour pit.”
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Well, 70’s glamour pit it is.  A pool for parties, not for exercise. It’s happening. And it’s going to be fun.P1030229

Okay, okay, I’m not completely mad about the next room, but I am mad about the yellow zebra print cushions, of course (read about it here if you don’t already know):P1030231

As I am about the green palm leaf paper viewed through the soft pink archway:P1030232

Or Stephen Gambrel’s powder room:P1030233

It’s not necessarily what you’d do, but I love the attitude:P1030234 P1030235 P1030236

If anyone can tell me this wallpaper they get a bonus prize:P1030237 P1030238

Cool, huh?  But then as you know, I love a bit of Josef Frank Svenskt Tenn:P1030239

I know there’s an embargo on out there, but here’s my own bit of fearless decoration. And that’s a sneak preview of one of our Pentreath & Hall Fine Cell Work cushions, stitched by prisoners… which are looking incredible. We photograph the prototypes next week and they launch this autumn at the London Design Festival… P1030240

Watch this space.

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