Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Monday, June 29, 2015

LONDON: A Little List of Design Delights and Secret Destinations



So... there's good news and bad news. The bad news first: My recent England trip (which seemed to come and go in a wet blur of windy May days, quick meetings and blink-and-miss photoshoots) was long on London's usual dignified loveliness but very short on spring gardenalia.


Kynance Mews (left) and the Dior scaffolding (right)


The houses of Canning Passage (left) and the popular Orange pub in Pimlico (right)


England's spring came very late this year and most of the flowers weren't yet in bloom. Even the walled gardens seemed to be tucked up in their hibernated state. It was all quite underwhelming. So I'd like to apologise for not posting any roses, peonies, perennial-filled borders and other petalled delights but the sad fact is that—excluding the Chelsea in Bloom windows (above)— I didn't see many!


Some talented photographers managed to duck the rainshowers, bitter winds and grisaille-y grey days in order to capture the first of the aliums, the last of tulips and a few brave little bulbs poking their noses above the soil line. Jenny Rose-Innes' images of both Chelsea and a selection of country gardens were sublime — thelimewalk.blogspot.com — while Naomi at Coulda Woulda Shoulda did a witty recap of the show here — naomipicks.blogspot.com. (I missed Chelsea this year due to work, but grabbed some pix of the Chelsea in Bloom windows on King's Road, above.)


Paradise pub (left) and Designers Guild china (right)


A Chelsea florist (left) and Ralph Lauren (right)

The good news is, I was in London to finish shooting a future guide book and catch up with some business contacts, and the inclement weather couldn't prevent the city from looking grander and more glamorous than it's ever done. From the newly opened apartment of architect and collector Sir John Soane at the Soane Museum (which has been locked up for 160 years) to the profusion of petals and pretty windows around Chelsea and Pimlico for the Chelsea in Bloom festival (the fringe festival is almost better than the actual Chelsea Flower Show now), the city seemed to have dressed in its best for the start of the summer season. It's not surprising London has now passed Paris and New York as the most popular city for foreign visitors. The place was glowing like a newly polished silver tea setting.

The London book is a year or so away. But in the meantime, I'd love to offer you a few tips for places to see, shop or stay



Kate Spade's windows (left) and the view from the National Portrait Gallery's restaurant, over Trafalgar Square (right)

London doesn't give out all its secrets at once; it's a little old-fashioned like that. (I lived there for years and am still discovering corners I didn't know existed.) But persevere, because under the buttoned-up formality there's a surprising personality. The London I've come to know in recent years is witty, sophisticated, surprising, upbeat, unique and extremely kind. Those Parisian taxi drivers could learn a thing or two from London's cabbies' manners.

So here's a London list to bookmark for your next trip. I hope the skies are blue wherever you may be this month.



LONDON: WHERE TO STAY AND PLAY, SHOP AND DROP

London has a lot of spots that are considered 'fashionable'—any of the Firmdale Hotels (above), the Dover Street Market (above; a department store so cool  it doesn't do merchandising, windows or indeed decorating or displays), the new restaurant Spring by Skye Gyngell (formerly of the Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries), any David Collins-designed bar, any boutique in Brompton Cross, Bloomsbury, Pimlico, or Spitalfields, and anything with a books or botanica theme, such as the Ivy Chelsea Garden and Assouline.


A navy drawing room that was taken from a Mayfair mansion and reconstructed in a wing of the V&A


The Exchange on Gloucester Road – one of the best places to pick up cut-price Chanel


Leighton House's grand gallery of mosaics and tiles

But there are also a lot of London that go under the radar. The charming architecture and homes tucked away in Launceston Place, Kynance Mews and Canning Passage behind Gloucester Road. The extraordinary fashion archives of Blythe House (where the V&A stores all its archives and 'leftovers' from all their exhibitions and display). The hidden gardens. The unknown National Trust properties—such a 575 Wandsworth; truly one of London's greatest delights. The too-good-to-be-true price tags on consignment boutiques, such as The Exchange (above), where you can nab Chanel for almost nothing. All the memorable museums and the design secrets they hide—Sir John Soane's attic apartments; Leighton House (above); the Emery Walker Trust...

This is the London that's truly memorable. This is the London you need to find.

So here are a few of my London 'favourites', from sublime design destinations to fantastic fabric finds.


MAGGIE OWEN
Located next door to man-of-the-moment Ben Pentreath, Maggie Owen is not only Ben's friend but a brilliant jeweller. Her store, above, is as pretty as her trinkets, which are the kind you can wear during the day and then out the opera at night. Flashy but far from tacky, they take costume jewellery to a new level of sophistication.
www.maggieowenlondon.com


L. CORNELISSEN AND SON
If you're an artist, this is going to be your new happy place. This 100-year-old art store is filled with irresistible pigments, beautiful brushes, incredible history and of course creative inspiration. All the artistic greats have bought their bits and pieces here. The best part is the timber cabinetry and panelling; it's as beautiful as the paints. Don't miss the antique drawers full of coloured pastels at the back: you'll want to start drawing even if you don't know how.
 www.cornelissen.com


COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKETS
Don't go to Columbia Road just for the flowers, although they are fabulous to see and smell. There are also a dozen or more gorgeous shops, including this cute garden boutique, above, which stocks everything from the now-ubiquitous Kew planters to herb signs and hats. There are also lovely little stores selling fashion, fabrics and more. The key is to go on Sunday, as that's the only day that many of the stores are open. The atmosphere of the market is wonderful, too. All in all, it's great thing to do on a Sunday morning.
www.columbiaroad.info


GEFFYRE MUSEUM
A little known gem in London's East End, the Geffrye Museum is dedicated to period interiors and gardens. It's set behind a grand garden but it also features it own charming garden at the rear, which is divided into various period gardens — Victorian; Edwardian, and so on. The key is to read all the small signs and plaques; they're where the interesting bits are hidden. One large board, that was almost lost behind a door, showed in fascinating detail how gardens became popular with the upper-middle class. Even the small signs in the medieval herb garden are enthralling. I didn't visit for many years because I'd heard it was dull. It's not at all. 
www.geffrye-museum.org.uk



THE FABRIC STORES OF FULHAM ROAD AND BEYOND
I love browsing fabric stores, especially those along King's Road (Cabbages and Roses, Designers Guild, and William Yeoward, above). But on this trip, I also discovered Fulham Road, where you can buy Manuel Canovas at Colefax and Fowler without needing an interior designer's trade card. And then there's the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, a veritable Who's Who of Textiles, from Tissus d'Helene (my favourite; a wonderful jumble of sumptuous stuff) to Brunschwig & Fils, Kravet, GP and J Baker and Samuel and Sons. There are more than one hundred fabric houses here, so leave a few hours. Some are trade-only, but my friend gave me a tip: ask for samples of your preferred fabrics (which comefree), and then sew a lovely big quilt out of them. What brilliant thinking.
www.dcch.co.uk


THE SECRET ROSE GARDENS OF REGENT'S PARK
I won't say too much about Queen Mary's Rose Garden, except try to time your visit for mid or late June, when the roses are in bloom. It's one of the largest rose gardens in England with more than 12,000 roses. Take a picnic or a packed lunch, or grab something to take away from the little cafe. On a sunny days, it's a scented heaven.





THE RIVERSIDE PATHS, PUBS AND HOMES OF CHISWICK
I discovered Chiswick on this last trip. I went to visit the Emery Walker Trust before it closed for renos (a wonderful shrine to William Morris), then realised there was an entire neighbourhood of design finds, from William Morris' own house, above, to enchanting cottages and pubs like The Dove, above, which has the smallest bar in the world.  There's a riverside path you can wander, which takes you past rowers racing down The Thames, riverfront mansions and historic cottages, a leafy vista to look at on the other side, and gardens that look like they should be in the countryside. 

And then, when you've finished, there are all the lovely boutiques and restaurants of Chiswick High Road to visit. Don't miss The Old Cinema for antiques and High Street House for a drink. One of London's best-kept secrets. No wonder Colin Firth and others have bought homes here. It's a pocket of pure bliss.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Glorious Gardenalia


 THE ART OF GARDENING

Like many gardeners, I came to gardening late in life, after the passions for fashion, shoes, socialising and foreign cities had waned. Both my mother and my grandma had beautiful gardens but the plantswoman's gene seemed to skip over me. The closest I ever came to gardens in my twenties and thirties, working abroad as a journalist, was admiring Gucci's floral frocks.


Fast-forward a decade and how the earth turns. Not only have most of my friends become mad about everything botanic-y and begun ordering their Le Chameau boots (each one is handcrafted by a ‘maître bottier'; reportedly the Duchess of Cambridge is a fan), but I, too, have started to realise the sheer, Elysian joy of being in a garden. Suddenly, I'm obsessed with old roses, and the Diggers seed catalogues, which I've just discovered, have overtaken Cabana and Porter magazines in the weekend reading heirarchy. (Seed catalogues make you think that your garden will look like Mottisfont, above, but of course that never happens.)


The curious thing about gardens—the thing that nobody ever tells you—is that once you start, it becomes quietly addictive. An obsession, even. 


When I photographed Carolyne Roehm's garden a year or so ago for a future book (still in production), the most interesting thing wasn't her enormous picking garden and its elegant obelisks and wicker planters (see above) but her immaculate planting schemes on her potting shed desk—each flower image carefully cut out and pasted in a garden plan to show how they'd eventually look in the spring beds.

The attention to detail was astounding. It made my trug stuffed with random bulbs look like an amateurish mess.


And when I photographed designer Jeffrey Bilhuber's weekender in Oyster Bay, Long Island, for a design book, it was his stunning kitchen garden that made my day, rather than his beautiful, rather Gatsby-esque mansion. You can't go back to a mere vegie patch after wandering through Jeffrey's potager (Please forgive bad pic above as it's one of the off-cuts.)


LEARNING FROM THE GARDENING GREATS

After that, I began studying Gertrude Jekyll's garden plans at the Lindley Library in London, trawling Instagram for garden inspiration, and reading Russell Page, Claus Dalby, Anna Pavord, Monty DonDamon Young (above), even the eccentric but expert landscape designer Sir George Sitwell (a great character who tried to paint his cows in blue Chinese willow patterns because they looked better in the green landscapes. A fantastic bio of him is here. You'll adore him.)

Perhaps the biggest thing I learned—the thing I love most—is that gardening is good for the soul.  Winston Churchill (himself a keen gardener) once said that we shape our building and then they shape us but I suspect he was also referring to his beloved gardens. We try to create our green spaces by giving them form, depth, dignity and character, but in the end, I think it's our gardens that give those things to us.


PEEKING INTO OTHER PEOPLE'S GARDENS

For the past two months, I've been organising garden tours, not just for friends who requested personalised itineraries but also a small private group of people. (Note: The tour this year was a small private affair, but there may be professionally-run ones next year: please email me or see www.gardenesquetours.com for details.) I have also seen gardens on my own; gardens that have been so beautiful they almost seemed painterly. Like a Pierre Auguste Renoir study. Others felt more 'real'—Dame Elizabeth Murdoch's garden, above, was surprisingly pragmatic. (For all the Murdoch money, she abhorred expensive beds and 'show-off' plants, such as Prunus Elvins, which I quite like and have in our garden but am clearly Doing The Wrong Thing.)

The language of gardens was very important to Dame Elizabeth and her gardeners still use her terms today, including "slips" (cuttings). The underside of a tree was called a "skirt", and while some skirts were "too lovely to hem", others faced a trim. "We need to trim some of the branches to show that tree's good legs" was her oft-said instruction.

"Language brings a garden to life," she used to say. "It creates characters within that garden. It gives a garden dignity and respect." Just as Churchill used to say.


This Friday, I am off to see yet more gardens, this time in England, that grand, green, gardening Mecca. After a week of business appointments in London, I'm off on a lovely, loose, so-casual-it's-not-even-really-planned garden tour of picking gardens, potagers and private idylls. (NB Will try and post pix of all the gardens seen, past and future, here, when time permits.)


As always, feel free to follow on Instagram here —https://instagram.com/janellemcculloch_author 
or here (LINK).


LONDON IN MAY

London is exploding with gardenalia at the moment, as it does this time each year, with the Chelsea Flower Show, the Russell Page exhibition at the Garden Museum, Buckingham Palace's exhibition Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, above (link) and of course the Chelsea Fringe Festival, which gathers strength every year.

I've also secured, with much luck, entry to a few amazing, slightly secret, places, and will post about them so you, too, can try to snavel a visit on future trips.



MUST-SEE GARDENS IN 2015

High on the List of English Country Gardens To Visit This Year is Mapperton Garden in Dorset, which is where the new Carey Mulligan film Far from the Madding Crowd was filmed (released this month), based on Thomas Hardy's famous tale.

There's a helpful website here trailer and a trailer for the film herewith a haunting song sung by Mulligan with the ominous line—"Beware, beware keep your garden fair".

Oh yes, because we know what happens in Hardy tragedies.


Curiously, Thomas Hardy described Dorset and its landscapes as “partly real, partly dream”, although modern journalists have been more brutal—Bridport (now home to residents like Martin Clunes and Ben Pentreath — IG link here) has been called "Notting Hill on Sea" for its glamorous boutiques, restaurants and hotels such as the Pig on the Sea (which a friend tells me has its own kitchen garden, above, as glamorous hotels do).



Also on the Country Garden List is Iford, the garden created by my new gardening deity, Harold Ainsworth Peto. (link) It's an Italianate garden and although it features Italianate touches—colonnades, terraces, cloisters—it's also deeply romantic. Many gardeners say it's their favourite.

There's also Woolbeding, the garden of the late Sir Simon Sainbury (of the supermarket family), reportedly one of England's best-kept secrets, which is rarely open but apparently worth the trouble.

Plus several other hidden horticultural treats. I wish I could take all of you along.


TULIP FEVER

If you can't get to the northern hemisphere this summer, there's another flowery treasure in the form of the new film Tulip Fever, starring Judi Dench, based on the bestseller by Deborah Moggach. (No trailer yet but a link to author's site here.)

Set in early 17th-century Holland, during the period of the Tulip mania that gripped the Dutch in the 1630s, it's about an artist who falls for a married young woman while he's commissioned to paint her portrait by her husband. The two invest in the risky tulip market in hopes to build a future together. As one does.


On her author website, Deborah Moggach explains that the story is a "love-letter to Dutch painting and that lost world of serene and dreamy domestic interiors".

Judi Dench will no doubt be beautiful and brilliant. But it's the tulips I want to see.



ARNE MAYNARD

There's another glorious book due out soon in the form of Arne Maynard's much-awaited monograph (one of my favourite garden designers), which is published by Merrell in September 2015.

 If you're visiting England, you can stay at his Welsh home and garden, Alt-y-Bela. Details here – link.

He seems like such a lovely man. All gardeners are lovely, I think, but Arne seems particularly personable.


OUR NEW BLUE GARDEN

Another man who's won my heart is my partner. While I've been pre-occupied by various work projects these past few months, my darling other half has installed a new cutting garden for me. Cutting gardens (or picking gardens) are all the horticultural fashion at the moment, although some people prefer potagers: mixing flowers and produce together.  I longed for a blue garden—like Gatsby's—and when I heard that they're best planted outside a sunroom so the view is cooling to the eye on hot days, well, there was no saying "no". Out went the grass and in went the beds. I even found some blue anemones for it, above.




This is it in the early stages, on a wet winter's day as the grand Elm tree sheds its leaves. It doesn't look much now, but come spring, all of the bulbs and plants, including the salvias, roses, lavender and nepeta, will hopefully be flopping with gay abandon over the raised beds. I wanted a simple garden because we have a simple two-storey, Georgian-style house (this was shot from a top window), with Georgian-style geometric lines, and this clean-line style of garden seemed to suit it. I was going to plant Chanticleer pears along the border but have been told they're horticultural pests. So we're still considering the outer framework.

We've already sat out there on sunny evenings, drinking in the golden light and relishing life. It's been well worth all the hard work! (You can see the other potager/picking garden behind the grey picket fence, which has been planted using shades of pink and red.)


We also had lots of figs from the fig tree's bumper crop this year, which I tried to give away when I could. Friends and neighbours were a bit figged out this year, I fear.


ARTHUR STREETON'S 
IMPRESSIONIST GARDEN

Lastly, I want to leave you with a gardening story. It's sad but it's enchanting too. I think you'll like it. It involves art, gardens, life, longings, and other enriching things.

A few weeks ago, a close friend emailed to let us know our old neighbour Roger Streeton (whom she also knew) had died. We had lived near Roger for several years in Range Road, Olinda, and had kept a (neighbourly) eye on his property when he was away. Roger was the grandson of the famous Impressionist painter Sir Arthur Streeton, and his house, our neighbouring property, was Arthur Streeton's former home, 'Longacres', where he painted many of his masterpieces, which now sell for millions.

Streeton bought Longacres in the Olinda hills so he could paint en plein air but also so he could find peace and contentment in his life.  He had achieved career success at the Royal Academy in London and the 1892 Paris Salon, but what he really longed for (as many of us do) was a garden and pastoral views.  He had found himself in middle age without a wife and family, a home or even financial security and Longacres was his quiet gift to himself. It soon became his escape; his idyll, and also his inspiration.

Streeton painted much of his best work at Longacres, ensconced in its garden studio or the gallery inside the main house, which was lit by three large skylights and featured a 20-foot ceiling, fabric-covered walls (a luxury at the time) and an unusual picture window that created the illusion of viewing the outside garden as a painting. He also planted an Impressionist's garden, much like Monet's at Giverny, and filled it with drifts of delphiniums, foxgloves, larkspur, lupins, hollyhocks, violets, primroses, bluebells, daffodils and snowdrops, narcissus, lavender, and a grand avenue of Linden trees.

It was there he could be found most days, in his artist's smock, capturing the botanica in light brushstrokes. The garden eventually became so extensive, he built a gardener's cottage, and hired a gardener, Mr Griffin, to manage it.

Streeton died in his bedroom at Longacres in 1943. His clothes, easels, paintbrushes and even tubes of paint, are all still there. My friend (the one who emailed) remembers visiting Longacres 15 years ago, 60 years after Sir Arthur Streeton's death, and said Streeton's painting were still stacked in piles – "just  exactly as he left it..."


Streeton's garden, however, didn't fare so well.  Many of the plants, perhaps out of shock, died with him. When his grandson Roger Streeton (our neighbour), took over Longacres, he faced a derelict and long-forgotten place, with a garden that had been lost to blackberries. Locals often said they saw the old artist's ghost, forlornly wandering the overgrown paths. (The house has the dubious distinction of being classified by the National Trust as an official “haunted house”.) Roger Streeton spent the next 15 restoring it, with the result that buildings and garden are now both classified by National Trust and Heritage Victoria. (link here)

Roger Streeton's death last month makes me wonder what will happen to Longacres, and to Sir Arthur Streeton's garden? My friend walked down our old road on the day that Roger died, to pay her respects, and said the heavy carpet of woodland cyclamen made the grand old trees look like they were growing out of pink snow. When she stopped to admire the estate, a huge stag stood, very still, at the top of the drive, all alone in the empty property. "He was magnificent," she said, clearly moved by the sight.

It made me wonder if he, too, paying his respect to the father of Australian Impressionism? A painter who became a gardener, and a man for whom gardening, rather than art, made him truly happy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Assouline, Iris Apfel, Cabana, the Chelsea Flower Show, Lanvin and More



I don't know about you, but March was a seriously mad month for us. I faced several big publishing deadlines (the new Paris book has finally been written and designed) while juggling a few new work projects and the logistics for a big overseas work trip. There were a LOT of 3AM nights here, I can tell you! Some mornings I even saw the sun rise.


On one of these nights, over Easter, I was trying to do two things: edit the final copy for the Paris book, which had been sent by the copyeditor (who was also working over Easter), while searching for an email for a New York contact in my archive of 4243 emails. (Multi-tasking: it never works!) It was then that I stumbled across all these beautiful, thoughtful notes and emails from people, many of whom read this blog. Re-reading them, I realised, with a jolt of gratitude, just how stunningly, stupendously, wonderfully lovely people are. It was an email epiphany. Right there at 3AM.

This past year, perhaps the past two years, I've seen all kinds of outrageous behaviour, not just in my life but in the media and society in general – outrage seems to be the default reaction for many people, don't you think? – but I think the tide is turning finally. Kindness is coming back into fashion. People are realising they don't want to be nasty or snarky – I certainly would never want to be remembered for being a nasty person – who would? – and courtesy and compassion are easing back into our lives. If I ever had any doubts about this, this wonderful archive of emails proved it. 

So here, in gratitude of all the lovely letters, notes, emails and Instagrams you've sent this past year, are a few lovely things in return. I hope the kindness keeps going around.


As always, you're welcome to receive updates on my Instagram here – LINK 

Or here:  https://instagram.com/janellemcculloch_author


IRIS APFEL – A NEW DOCO

It was about time somebody did a doco about Iris Apfel! Directed by the late Albert Maysles, who passed away this March at the age of 88, this fantastic new film shows this remarkable fashion icon in all her glorious sartorial layers. It's worth seeing as much for her wit as her wardrobe. I loved these little snippets:

Iris: "I don't have any rules because I would only be breaking them, so it's a waste of time."

Iris: "I can't judge other people. It's better to be happy than well dressed."

Iris: "We're not supposed to talk about the White House."
Iris's husband (low voice): "We had a problem with Jackie."
Iris: "STOP!"


Ms Apfel is 93. Can you believe it?

Released this month. The trailer is here – LINK


(Two other great films out this month are Dior and I and A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman, about the life and love of Versailles' legendary garden design Le Notre. 
Both are in cinemas now.)


JEANNE LANVIN – THE EXHIBITION

One of the most anticipated fashion exhibitions this year is Jeanne Lanvin at the Palais Galliera (the newly renovated Fashion Museum) in Paris. 

The oldest French fashion house (it just beats Chanel), Lanvin has gone through a spectacular revival these past few years, mostly under the inspirational direction of Alber Elbaz, and has emerged as a major player in the fashion world. This exhibition looks at the history, style and of course the ornate detail of Lanvin's collections over the years, and is certain to be packed with fashion peeps this summer.

LINK 
www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr/en/exhibitions/jeanne-lanvin‎



THE NEW BACCARAT HOTEL

For those heading to New York this year, one of the most talked-about new hotels is the Baccarat Hotel (above), the sister hotel of the famous Paris property. As you would imagine, there's a lot of crystal but there's also a lot of view – look at the vista from the library above. Baccarat describes it as "as fusion of glamour and artistry". All I know is that the prices are a fusion of zeros, so be prepared.

20 W 53rd St, New York, NY. 
www.baccarathotels.com



BLOODLINE / NETFLIX
(THE NEXT HOUSE OF CARDS)

Ever since we subscribed to Netflix my partner has, like almost everyone we know, been binge-watching House of Cards. Well, the next Netflix series to pique everyone's interest (the Huffington Post called it "the next Netflix Obsession") is Bloodline, a series starring Kyle Chandler, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek and Australian Ben Mendelsohn in a must-watch role.

It's filmed in one of my favourite places in the world, The Moorings in Islamorada. (We've been lucky enough to have stayed at The Moorings three times.) The story focuses on a respected Florida family who live on a beautiful island in this beautiful 'village' of islands deep in the Keys, and whose fortunes are threatened by a black-sheep son (Mendelsohn) who may or may not expose dark secrets from their past.

The trailer will HOOK you in, trust me. 


And if you go down and stay at The Moorings (themooringsvillage.com), say hello to the general manager Thomas Gibson and all the staff. They're the epitome of kindness.


THE TRUGMAKER'S GARDEN AT CHELSEA

Details of the Artisan Gardens at this year's Chelsesa Flower Show are slowly being released to the media (the grand Show Gardens are all locked in and have been well covered), and one of the most delightful looks like being The Trugmaker's Garden.

(Note: When I googled this, a line appeared that said: Did you mean drugmaker's garden? 
WHAT THE?!! Who would google a drugmaker's garden?)

The Trugmaker's Garden (with a 't) was inspired by the dying art of handmade garden trugs, and by one particular artisan trugmaker Mr Smith, who became famous in the 1850s while exhibiting at The Great Exhibition. Mr Smith was asked by Queen Victoria if he would create several trugs as gifts for her family. The trugmaker was so proud of his trugs he put them in a wheelbarrow and walked them all the way from East Sussex to Buckingham Palace to deliver them in person.

Now doesn't that sound like the kind of garden you'd like to see? 
There's also the Lavender / Provence garden, but I'm looking forward to seeing this one more, I think.




THE RESURGENCE IN VIRGINIA WOOLF

A lovely friend Andrina keeps me in the loop about great books, places and things, and has highly recommended the new book Vanessa and her Sister, about Virginia Woolf. 

It's a fictionalised story based on real letters and archives – much as The Paris Wife beautifully brought to life Hemingway and his wives – and centres on the affair between Virginia and Vanessa’s husband, the art critic Clive Bell.

There's a great review here – LINK.


There seems to be a spate of Virginia Woolf books, with Adeline being the other big one that's making headlines.

I was lucky enough to visit Virginia and Leonard Woolf's home, Monk's House last year, and fell in love with the garden, the rooms, the whole romantic atmosphere of it. It's a small property but terribly moving. The garden, which was Leonard's great joy, was the highlight. 
If you're going to Sissinghurst, it's only a short drive away.




MAISON ASSOULINE'S BEAUTIFUL NEW LONDON BOOKSTORE 

French publishing house Assouline has gained a reputation for designing bookstores that are as glamorous as its coffee-table tomes, and its new Piccadilly store is the latest spectacular space to wow browsers. 

A bookstore to rival Rizzoli (which is also opening a stunning Art Deco bookstore in the Flatiron in June), Maison Assouline's latest creation is part sophisticated bookstore, part chic cafe, with lots of antiquities thrown in for good measure. It's a must-stop if you're visiting London this summer.


They're also very nice, linking to me on their Twitter feed recently. 

Thank you Assouline.


SONIA RYKIEL AND THE SAINT-GERMAIN LIBARY

Sonia Rykiel's new artistic director Julie de Libran (ex-Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton) has been creating media headlines lately for her spectacular changes to the formerly elegant but occasionally staid French fashion house. She only accepted the job of artistic director late last year and has already produced a brilliant show against a backdrop of a pop-up library of 30,000 books in Sonia Rykiel's Saint-Germain boutique.

Anyone who combines books with fashion so beautifully is bound to  have a brilliant career.

There's a lovely little interview with her HERE


COLLETTE DINNIGAN EXHIBITION

If you were saddened by the closure of fashion designer Collette Dinnigan's stores last year, the good news is that she's returning with renewed energy and new fashion projects this year AND she's planning an exhibition for later this year. 

It will open at Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (The Powerhouse) in September. No details yet, but keep checking The Powerhouse website closer to the date.


BLAKES HOUSE SINGAPORE

Anouska Hempel, the beautiful, stylish Australian designer who became famous for her groundbreaking London hotel Blakes (the world's first boutique hotel and still loved by celebrities) is working on a new Blakes Hotel project. 

This one is set in Singapore, in five heritage-listed colonial shopfronts, and will feature Ms Hempel's signature style, which mixes cabinets of whimsical curiosities with antiques, stripes, swathes of billowing silk, books, prints, Louis Vuitton trunks, and lots of old-style brass, polished nickel and silver. It's due to open late 2015 and will certainly be a serious competitor for Raffles Singapore. 
(No website yet.)

There's a great interview with Anouska Hempel HERE. 

And if you haven't yet bought her recently published monograph book, do search for it: it's one of the most beautiful design books out at present.


CABANA MAGAZINE

Last year, I posted about the new Cabana magazine, which I stumbled across at Colette in Paris. 

It's only published a few issues but the production values are incredibly high and the content (interiors, places, textile, design) is fascinating. It's an Italian magazine but the stories mostly consist of images and the captions are in English. The newest issue features Portugal and all its glorious tiles and textiles. 

Cabana's Instagram account is HERE.


OTHER WONDERFUL BOOKS AND EVENTS SCHEDULED FOR THIS YEAR:

Yves Saint Laurent's partner Pierre Bergé's  is auctioning his personal library via Sotheby's later this year.

André Leon Talley is working on a new tome about the life and fashion of the late Oscar de la Renta, due to be published later this year.

Manolo Blahnik is releasing an enormous tome of his work through the decades, also due to be published later this year.

Sara Gruen, author of the bestselling Water for Elephants (Reese Witherspoon was brilliant in the film version) has released her new novel At The Water's Edge, set in Scotland during the war.

*****


Hope to bring you more news through the year. In the meantime, you're welcome to follow on Instagram – HERE

OR here – https://instagram.com/janellemcculloch_author

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