Decorating with Dropcloths

Decorator’s dropcloths — huge swathes of light beige cotton canvas used by painters to protect floors and furniture from paint drops — are terrific as curtains and slipcovers if you’re looking for a shabby chic or contemporary rustic edge to your interiors. And, at a fraction of the cost of designers fabrics, who’s to complain if you buy it from a hardware store rather than a upmarket fabric shop?

Real decorating is about thinking outside the box. It’s about creating beautiful interiors from honest materials; rescuing unloved cast-offs; and supporting talented craftspeople. Upcycling and recycling are certainly part of real decorating, as is trawling around flea markets and car boot sales. So is searching out local artists and artisans at craft fairs and using their talents to add unique accents to your home.

Here are some fabulous ideas for decorating with dropcloths, from curtains and blinds to slipcovers, cushions and headboards. Your only limitation is your imagination!

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Posted in curtains, inspiration, Interiors, Living Rooms, rustic, shabby chic, slipcovers, soft furnishings, upcycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

William Haines – A Man of Taste

I’ve long been an admirer of the 20th century American interior designer William Haines. He had a flair for creating interiors which combined simplicity and luxury — much like Chanel did for clothes. And the furniture he designed, many designs still available through www.williamhaines.com , are as covetable now as they were when the design first sprouted from Billy’s aesthetically atuned mind. One of Billy’s most famous quotes is “I would rather have taste than either love or money”. And taste is something Billy had in spades.

227751_409219152489290_548460250_n-225x300 william haines bill haines tux haines at home haines williamhaines_car Billy was talent scouted for Hollywood in 1922 and within a few years was an in-demand leading man. He was often cast opposite an up-and-coming flapper named Joan Crawford and the two became lifelong best friends. When he retired from movies in 1934, because the studio insisted he hide his homosexuality, something he refused to do, he opened an antique shop in Hollywood. It wasn’t long before Hollywood’s leading ladies, lead by Joan Crawford, were knocking on his door to have him design their homes in the new Hollywood Regency style he had invented in his own home — a style which brought together old world antiques with custom-made modern pieces, touches of Chinoiserie, exotic artifacts including animal skins and prints, and lots of mirrored and laquered surfaces…oh, and not to forget the luxurious velvet and silk curtains, swags and all. Billy pulled it all together into a look that was both glamorous and liveable. Genius. His new career as an interior designer was born.

Here’s Joan Crawford in her Haines designed living room in the 1930s…

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…and again, in the 1950s, where Haines’s signature tufted upholstery can be seen on the ottoman, and the upholstered chairs show Haines’s talent for simple but comfortable furniture.

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Here’s another friend, Carole Lombard, in her 1930s living room — an early Haines Hollywood Regency design, complete with antique crystal chandelier and swagged curtains. The perfect glamorous frame from a glamorous client. Even at this early stage we can see his affection for tufted furniture.

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My favourite Haines designs came later in his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, when he really came into his own with his timeless furniture designs which sat perfectly in the more stream-lined interiors of the day — and which still work so well in contemporary interiors.

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Some of his most famous furniture designs include the Brentwood chair, where he took inspiration from the ancient Greek klismos chair…

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…the Malibu chair and ottoman…

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…the Seniah chair (Haines spelled backwards), which came (and is still available through www.williamhaines.com ) in several models…

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…the Elbow chair, which Haines designed so that women in ballgowns could sit on then sideways without crushing their dresses…

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… tufted armless chair — a design classic…

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…and the Valentine sofa, designed in 1950.

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You can read more about William “Billy” Haines in the terrific book by Peter Schifando and Haines’s long-time assistant Jean H. Mathison.

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William Haines, another design great.

Posted in architecture, Colours, Contemporary Design, Hollywood Regency, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors, Living Rooms, William Haines | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome FamaLiving!

Am really delighted to hear that Spanish sofa and chair company FamaLiving finally has a showroom in London! I’ve been ordering from them for years. I love their comfortable, funky furniture and their wide selection of fabrics. Have a look at a sofa and ottoman I used in a client’s living room a couple of years ago.

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Photos: James Balston

I mixed up some of their fabrics with some I’d sourced for the cushions — they were most accommodating, sending me the cushion inserts for me to have covered in London. The client was delighted and went on to buy a house where we used more FamaLiving furniture.

Find FamaLivin at Seriously Sofas in Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey. www.seriouslysofas.co.uk

See the launch video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxRjvHdOzqs

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The Divine Dorothy

I am a great admirer of Dorothy Draper. Born in 1889, she became known as “America’s most fabulous decorator”, and she helped inspire a generation of home improvement devotees with her 1939 book Decorating is Fun!. Dorothy was the antithesis of a minimalist. She was a lover of bold chintzes, bright “happy” colours, over-scaled furniture and floor tiles, rococo scrollwork, wide stripes, and Baroque plasterwork. Over the top? You might say so. Yes, you could definitely say so. But so much fun. Her rooms, like her, were full of verve and joie de vivre. Her rooms were iconic — a total rethinking of classical style which became known as American Baroque. She was all about bringing joy into people’s lives.

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One of Dorothy’s most famous designs was for The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia. The owners, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway company, hired Dorothy to redecorate the entire resort. She designed everything from the staff uniforms to the matchbook covers. The opening attracted the movers and shakers of the day.

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The Greenbrier. Signature Dorothy Draper style with the large black and white tiles, clear colours and chintz curtains.

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Hallway in the Greenbrier. Note the Baroque plasterwork and large-scale plant motif in the carpet. Dorothy particularly loved green and blue as these were the colours of nature.

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The Greenbrier.

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Beautiful enfilade at The Greenbrier. An expert’s eye at work.

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The Greenbrier. I love the turquoise walls and large-scale plant motif on the carpet.

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Photo: Courtesy Architectural Digest. David Hicks said Dorothy Draper was a great inspiration to him.

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The Greenbrier.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art cafe. Photo: circa 1960s.

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Fabulous wide stripes and oversized urn in the Greenbrier.

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Rhapsody in blue-green. A big room can take a big scale — the wallpaper and matching curtains really add life to this space.

Dorothy’s company continues under the guidance of Carleton Varney. www.dorothydraper.com

Posted in American Baroque, Colours, Dorothy Draper, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech

Yves Saint Laurent, with his partner Pierre Berge, joined the “in” crowd of the late 1960s — people like Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, fashion designer Loulou de la Falaise, J. Paul Getty Jr. and his beautiful wife Talitha — in Marrakech, where he could walk the dusty, chaotic streets unrecognised and indulge in his appreciation of Islamic art and architecture. Saint Laurent ended up owning several homes there over the ensuing years, and turned to designers like Marrakech resident Bill Willis and Jacques Grange for the design of these homes.

ysl morocco1 Yves Saint Laurent in Djemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech.

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The stunning Mauresque entrance hall.

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An interior fit for a Moroccan sultan.

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Sitting room in the Dar es Saada.  A blend of comfortable upholstered furniture and Moroccan details.

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Bill Willis took Orientalism to its zenith inthe library of Saint Laurent’s Dar es Saada.

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The blue bedroom and the library designed for Dar es Saada by Bill Willis — Willis said the library was his favourite of all the rooms he’d ever decorated.

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The stunning living room by Bill Willis — a harmony of blues and mauves. Willis was known for his intricate zellig tiled fireplaces.

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The blue and mauve colour scheme was used to great effect by British designer David Collins in his design for the Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel in London. It’s both tranquil and elegant.

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A detail of the living room’s fireplace. Willis worked out the design in intricate detail on paper before the tiles were specially coloured and fired, then cut out and fit my a master Moroccan tiler.

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Saint Laurent at his desk and Berge in one of the living rooms.

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I love the simplicity and the combination of soft blues and unexpected yellow on the ceiling and in the striped curtains in his Marrakech bedroom. It would be like waking up to the sun every morning.

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The guest bathroom — if I showed up as a guest and my bathroom looked like this, I’d never leave. I love the turquoise tiles around the sink and intend to use this idea one day myself.

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Saint Laurent in his garden. Far from the madding crowd.

Posted in architecture, Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Bill Willis, Colours, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors, Living Rooms, Marrakech, Morocco, Yves Saint Laurent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wow! Pow! Neon!

I’ve been out and about on the streets lately where I’ve suddenly turned on to neon.

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Maybe it’s the grey winter weather, maybe it’s just a general fed-upness with neutral interiors, but I just want that colour slam dunk right now. I’m talking full saturation, no holds barred, slap me in the face colour.

Dig those juicy greens in this children’s bedroom (aren’t those giant leaves fun?)…

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Fab wall panels and how about that carpet (below)?

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Love this citrussy room by Jonathan Adler (above) — good enough to eat.

Photo: www.thecolourfield.net

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A bathroom not for the faint-hearted — and don’t I just love that. That pink in the bedroom is the perfect contrast to the electric green.

Photo: www.carpettheworld.org

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See how the walls in neon green just add va va voom to this dining room by Jonathan Adler?  And how about the roman blind and chairs in this brown study below? Also by Jonathan Adler.neon jonathan adler 6

I adore this space below by Michael Craig Martin. Talk about using your imagination…and having an adventurous client!

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Photos: www.michaelcraigmartin.co.uk

If I were a young girl, wouldn’t I love a bed like this one below?

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Photo: www.stylisheve.com

If you don’t want to go whole hog, just add a touch of saturated colour — how about some vibrant pink bookshelves (love those peacock shades) or a door painted lime green? Photo: www.bicyclette.co

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What a great kids’ area in this public library below. Neons are an under-used choice for children’s space.

cheerful-kids-playroom-ideas-500x376 A zing of yellow adds punch to this neutral room….

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Photo: www.decoist.com

And now for some luscious oranges and pinks from Jonathan Adler…

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…sometimes even just one feature item like this orange sofa below adds the stand out accent that makes a white room come alove (photo: www.decoist.com ).

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…just gotta love that zap of orange in this room designed by David Hicks…

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….and vibrant blues, pinks and reds…again by uber 1960s designer David Hicks….

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….and I pay colour hommage to the fearless Jonathan Adler who came out all guns blazing for the Barbie Dream House….

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…more Jonathan Adler for the Barbie Dream House below….

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And below… j’adore!

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Photo: www.stylisheve.com

There, that woke you up, didn’t it?

Posted in architecture, Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Colours, Contemporary Design, Dining Rooms, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors, Living Rooms, neon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A House of Her Own

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Photo: Architectural Digest.

Over the holidays I read a biography of the twentieth century American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, “How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living” by Karen Karbo. This was a woman, who, once she listened to the thing inside of her that she must do while she was on this earth, spent her life doing it, tenaciously, single-mindedly. She drew, she sketched, she painted — expressing her experience of, and response to, the wild world which inspired her so much.

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She chose New Mexico as her home, entranced by the arid desert and the flat-topped Padernal Mountain which she could see from her home, Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu. She said, of the mountain: “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”

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And, as much as I enjoyed her story, and admire her art, I was almost even more fascinated about how she chose to live. Georgia choice of home was as uncompromising as the other choices she made in her life. Ghost Ranch was an unpretentious adobe home in the middle of an arid desert landscape. Upon buying the ranch she had large windows installed so she could look out over “her” landscape, and participate in its changing moods.

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georgia o'keeffe house 2Above photos: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

What I love about Ghost Ranch is its comfortable place in the landscape, and the use of simple, natural building materials — adobe, wood, stone. Having been in many Berber homes in Morocco, it resonates with the same simplicity and honesty, but, unlike the inward-looking Berber homes, it is unashamedly extrovert with its outward-looking windows which invite light, air and the landscape to participate in the experience of living in this unique piece of architecture. For me the landscape becomes an intrinsic part of the architecture of Ghost Ranch. Without the dialogue between the landscape and the structure, the building would lose its unique essence.

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Photos: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Another thing I admire about Ghost Ranch is the clean-lined mid-century furniture combined with ethnic rugs and large canvases of Georgia’s art. It’s contemporary and unexpected, especially when one considers the rustic exterior. But there is an artist’s eye at work in these spaces — the furniture useful, the design exhibiting a modern aesthetic sensibility, and it is placed to balance, just so, the vast amount of clean, white space. But it is not pristine. It was her home, after all. Georgia brought her collections of stones and skulls and baskets and local pottery into the spaces, lining them up on ledges and along windowsills. She was not against putting a comfortable old wooden chair in amongst the modernity — if it had a shape she responded to and a useful purpose, then it, too, could find a home here. As could an ethereal mobile by Alexander Calder.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack.

I admire this easy, almost careless, mix of old and new, combined with honest, natural materials, space and light. And art. If I were to be asked about my dream home, the answer is easy. Ghost Ranch. Hands down.

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Photo: Architectural Digest.

Posted in architecture, Contemporary Design, earth, georgia o'keeffe, Ghost Ranch, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors, nature, New Mexico | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments