Friday, 28 August 2009

Dining room lantern

It's the chain that's playing hard to get......

Inspiration from HM Luther in NYC - - who also has a pair of Swedish chandeliers designed by Ellis Bergh, which are equally inspiring

So many things to want in life.

Fleeing to the country.........

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Charles Townley's Library in Park Street

Further the pair of carved Roman marble bulls - perhaps by Vincenzo Pacetti - it is interesting to note the pair being bothered by angels on the top of Charles Townley's bookcase.

What a marvellous room.

Still charging

This is the picture that started this bull thing off - bought for stock but now propped among my Indian collection of pictures whilst we debate if it will fit in with the late 18th / early 19th collection of topographical landscapes in our drawing room.   This image does it no justice, though it is in fact the only image I saw of it before buying it 'blind', in the flesh it has a depth of paint that gives it fantastic charm and suggests a more capable hand than expected.

I have always wanted one of Francois Pompon' (1855 - 1933) Indian Runner Ducks but this is pretty wonderful too, though I cannot work out what the streams down the sides are?

Utterly spectacular - Ancient Persian.

I do not have a picture at hand but the painting would, now I think about it, sit very well beside a pair of polychrome painted carved Nandi bulls bought in my favourite Sri Lankan city of Galle - decided, it shall remain! 

What was it AAl "de" or not to de (missed that but was directed by the capable Little Augury - my thanks)

By Jove I'm Feeling Bullish

Jupiter as a Bull.   Parian, circa 1800.
Ancient Greek with script to flanks.

Marble bull in the plot of Dionysios of Kollytos 345 - 338 B.C. Athens.

Roman, circa 1800.   Perhaps from the Workshops of Pacetti.

Goats & Dogs are usually my thing but these are phenomenally covetable - bar, perhaps the first Parian 'Jupiter as a Bull' which just fitted the Jove reference - along with my serious need for a good Indian carved Nandi Bull (more to follow).

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Egyptian Capital......

.....has set me thinking about what other unexpected architectural treasures pop up in unexpected places.

Virginia Water in Surrey has a little piece of North African Classicism in the form of columns and cross-bars from Leptis Magna

Photo courtesy Len Williams

These have recently been restored and the local paper in true dumbing down / PC spirit give the upper images here the caption 'The ancient Leptis Magna ruins, which were donated to the UK by Libya in 1818' in fact - Christopher Woodward's book In Ruins is the best place to learn more - they were 'removed' from their original site and given to George IV.

Then there are the most obvious of misplaced architectural gems - the two 'Needles' one gradually rotting on the Embankment in London the other in NYC, also apparently rotting though it stands, as it was intended, on bronze crabs (I think?).

Central Park, NYC
The Embankment, London

My memory defeats me but I shall post more when it's feeling more generous!

The Nineteenth Century Picturesque

I was waylaid by Mary Howitt's 1856 publication 'Illustrated Library for the Young' this weekend. Having a stray magpie gene, my eye way caught by the scarlett morocco leather cover with punched gilt tooling and it had to be opened; how refreshing to find a book in our shelves that had not had a few of the choicest illustrations removed and framed or used in a scrap album. 

Oddly, it was not the Cobra - though a marvellous specimen he is - that caught my attention; it was the fallen Egyptian capital.   Entirely secondary to the scene, it, to my eye at least, stals the attention totally.   And so the pictures went on

A pack (?) of Hyena's strolling across an Ottoman hillside amongst the turbaned tombstones of Turkish men or

A magnificent fountain in the middle of a wildfowl strewn lake.

Totally bewitching.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Dining room lights

We have inherited ceiling mounted spots with our dining room (previously a bedroom) which are utterly loathsome; how to resolve?

The walls are painted one of the multitude of whites available on the market - Paper & Paints I think - with the woodwork, coving and pair of multi-paned sash windows all in a deep rich dark(ish) blue.   The room is square with a chimney breast on one wall (next project to remove and replace existing surround) and is waiting on the perfect round dining table:

a)   Because I don't like our existing one

b)   Because it will limit the numbers she insists on inviting; I can only really manage 6 - 8 at a max.   Am I terribly dull!

c)   Because it gives me good reason to hunt.....

So back to the lights.   The spots will go to be replaced by what?   There are obviously a number of options - as many as paint colours on the market - however I do have some old friends kicking around in the stores which. I feel, need to move from project-in-the-offing to project on the bench and with a home to go to.   One of these is a silver-plate hexagonal framework for a hanging light like this one in Cindy Crawford's house, decorated by Mr. Smith

Mine is slightly more elegant and most likely English but lacks - and here's the rub - chains, light pendant and most of the material, it does, however retain a wonderful sliver trim

which would hang about the bottom of the fabric 'tube' - I envisage this being blue to match the woodwork at the exterior and white inside to shine a pool of light onto the table top........

Then nothing more than candles on the table and side lamps around the room.

It suddenly occurs that it might appear like we were having a seance every dinner party!!!!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Niall Hobbhouse, Hadspen in it's previous clothing.

I've been back to look at all of these images after a posting by An Aesthete's Lament, who posted a wonderful picture of Antoine Potier, circa 1790.   The question / statement was the amazing freshness of an interior (exterior to be strict) depicted two hundred years ago & how still we use and remain fascinated by the exotic; something I am entirely subject to.   As were, evidently, Blackmer & Hobhouse.   However, Blackmer is sadly no longer with us though pieces from his house do periodically pop up on the market & Hobhouse seems to have de-cluttered; the contents of Hadspen (Somerset) were sold through Christies last year.

Will I de-clutter.....ever?   I get closer and closer with each day. 


Guest bedroom in the Athens Apartment.

I have only posted three of the pictures as the scanner drives me loopy but they each make me smile each time I look at them and as I only usually look at them in the May 1983 issue of World of Interiors, it's a fairly rare occurrence - basically I do not want to grow tired of the pleasure it gives me to flick open that particular issue!

Harry Blackmer, Athens continued

Favourite houses

The Entrance of Harry Blackmer's apartment, Athens.   Photographed by James Mortimer for World of Interiors in May 1983. 

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Studio Job's Factory

I have to get myself one of these!

This is one Studio Job's - a Dutch based design duo -  pieces from their Robber Baron series which I had come across early last year and then forgotten about. I rediscovered the work whilst researching the US embassy's planned move south of the river and got totally sidetracked by the Power Station.

Isn't this legendary, it's also pretty expensive but as a piece I'd rate it high on accruing major value over the years - a future antique.

The other piece I'd get from the five piece collection is the Cabinet:

Which appears to have gotten on the wrong side of a loaded canon!   It reminds me of a rather plain bell tower in Bratislava with a Napoleonic era cannonball lodged in its side - much like a rather fetching beauty spot.

I may have to find myself a Boulle cabinet to sit as the pair to the piece!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Cambodian zoomorphic betel nut boxes

"Now the Peke, although people may say what they please, Is no British Dog, but a Heathen Chinese."

From 'The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles' by TS Eliot

This is what immediately sprung to mind on seeing this box and it isn't far wrong - not a heathen Chinese but a rather fine piece of silversmithing by Cambodian Khmer.   It is fashioned from sheets of solid beaten silver - in this case unusually large at a foot long - into a storage box for betel nut or the accoutrement needed in its chewing / preparation.   Five will find their way onto the List, alongside this one, a deer, a large turtle, a bird and a smaller version of the one illustrated here.   They all date from between 1920 and 1950, the height of their popularity being between the wars.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Stella Snead

Stella Snead was a British - but US based - surrealist painter and photographer who died, at the age of 96, in early 2006.   Relatively unknown as a surrealist artist, she was taught by Amédée Ozenfant (alongside Leonora Carrington) at his eponymous art school in London from 1936.

There is a long chronology of Stella Snead' life - written in the first person  - on the following website:

Which should give an insight into her better than I am able to do briefly.   However, my interest is in her photographs a number of which I shall be uploading to

Snead's move from painting into photography was triggered by the death of her mother and a renewed wanderlust, in 1956.   She settled in India in 1960 and remained there until 1971, when these works were probably taken and developed by Snead.   It seems likely that they were used to illustrate any one of the five books that Snead either wrote or was responsible for supplying photographs for.   The following is the front cover image of the University of Chicago Press's 'Animals in Four Worlds - Sculptures from India' this is almost certainly a contemporary image to the one above:

(With thanks to both the UCP and Amazon)

Howard and Sons

Images courtesy of Christies.

These three sofas have all sold at Christies in London over the past six months - the drab upholstered version in late 2008 - with estimates of £2,000 to £3,000.   All were made in the first 30 odd years of the 20th century by Howard & Son of Berners Street.   All of them are supremely comfortable but do they warrant the prices they achieved at auction; the 1st made £16,250, the 2nd made £13,125 and the 3rd £8,125.   All need re-upholstery and lets assume that they probably require their frames re-glueing too.....perhaps another £2,000 plus each.

The firm were a well-known and patronised cabinetmakers throughout the Victorian era, stamping nearly all their furniture, which was of a good if not spectacular quality.   However, it only seems to be recently that their real forte has begun to be appreciated; the supreme comfort and elegance of their sofas and armchairs.

So why the huge prices for old sofas that have been copied by everyone from George Sherlock - - to Soane - - which are nigh on identical and copied exactly from the originals.   Why these huge prices?   Sadly, I'm unable to give an answer but it intrigues me.   I've sat in them and they really are the perfect place to watch television from but........   Oh and I'd forgotten that we are supposed to be in recession and only the most important works of art and furniture are still making majot prices.

This blogging lark's becoming a little compulsive; one delves into a favoured site and then discovers their favourite sites and on and on it goes until the day has wasted away and you've a headful of things like am I going to add arches into my bedroom corridor or does the cheapness of a  Goan sisal carpet warrant buying flights to India?

This mornings aimless wanderings took me to and her discussion on lack of signal / old-school telephones something of an Off the List favourite.   This little tablescape sat at the top of the stairs at home last winter.   However, I'm now going to have to track down the pink version in Slim Aarons' photograph of Joan Collins for all you girls out there.

Image courtesy of Habitually Chic - Merci.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Island life.

Victoria > Gatwick > enough time to listen to a song and a half on the pod > Jersey St. Helier > a five minute drive > a large vodka & tonic on the beach.   All in three hours!   And golly what a beach.........who needs the Caribbean?

And if this wasn't enough the sun shone and we gorged on crab & lobster and cooked on beach BBQ's.   Utter heaven.   I ignored it at the time - I was in the thick of sand castle building - but on Saturday afternoon the draft came through for the new Off the List website (minus the deposit invoice, hurrah!) which should be up n' running by the end of the month; hopefully with as little whip cracking as possible.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Bastardising the old

Hollister Hovey's blog ( has just flagged up the coolest iPhone case around - a home-made alligator skin cover - which reminds me of how many Victorian & Edwardian cigar cases one sees kicking about boot-sales & antiques markets; can these be bastardised????

It's not the greatest shot but you get the gist....apparently the guy who made it has also done a version in shagreen - that I'd love to see.   Out with the needle and thread tonight!

Still in the dark.....

 ....... as to what has been added to the coffers; all that returned to the house last night was a cake stand!   Not an addition to the emporium but an apparently essential tool at an upcoming Hen - the house is to be transformed into a coop for a weekend of female revelry; I shalln't be seen for dust!

I had a sudden moment of clarity during the storms last night and put a face to a memory.   Whilst at a wedding a couple of weeks ago in the basking sun (remember that bright, heat generating, carcinogenic thing in the sky?) we dropped into Port Isaac for lunch and discovered a gem of a shop there called Hooper & Shaw "An Emporium of wonderful things".

 Run by a couple of creative souls, they supplied us with the perfect 30th birthday present for the Boss' NBF (new best friend) - I've known her for years but have been entirely written out of earlier history - a 'Love me love my dog' screenprint in lipstick red with a perfect Dachshund in white.

Anyway, we had a long chat and all the while I was thinking 'I know these people' and even their names rang a cut a long (no doubt boring) story short they used to live above a shop I worked in in Fulham by the name of RK Alliston.   The ultimate gardening shop.

My visual memory - once again - triumphs over the part that recalls names!

Most importantly however, is how I can use their design skills to add a little 'je ne sais quoi' to Off the List.   Answers on a postcard.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Brave New Additions.......

.....are in the process of being purchased - without my guiding hand!!!!   As I swelter in the office, 'the boss' is off in the Midlands stocking up; this is the benefit of having a boss that disappears for August's entirety.   At 6am this morning instructions were given to text / email mobile phone images - not one has been received.   Argh!   Whilst fully trusting (ish) I just want to be in on the act, even if it means virtually!

What can one expect to appear in the shopping trolley?   Yup, a granny wheeled one.


There I was rambling on about the capabilities of my web designers when with a rumble of the tummy I potter off South of the river to gorge at the fantastic Captain Corelli's - delicious Italian (Roman) cafe - the alia e olio arrived at the very same time as aforementioned Tekkstyle alongside my brother-in-law.   A North-Londoner seeing the brighter side of the city and one of its better eateries; huge bowl of pasta, a rather sickly tutti-frutti ice-cream (a first and last) and an espresso for eight quid!   Oh!   The sun shone too.   A very suitable Thursday.

I'm also keen to have a links page to other sites of interest - not the competition of course - to aid both their and our causes.   One of the first shall be GG Print, the delightful duo who supplied our wedding invitations masterfully.   They now do our thank you note cards too and I've great intentions to send more their way.

The jury is out on other suitable candidates and I'm quite sure that most of them will have no bearing on the Off the List brand itself, just sites and companies that 'flick my switch'!

New improved Off the List

Last night the decision was taken to blow the budget and build a new website for Off the List.   We have shed our puppy fat and are now aiming for the full orchestral range of bells & whistles - described like that it's not going to sound too good but should look superb.   The wonders at Tekkstyle are going to build my equivalent of Father Christmas' sack.

From the end of August we should be able to take payments online, remind subscribers of all of the important birthdays for which presents are a must, send fortnightly fireworks displays of new arrivals to the site and do a hundred other things that I'll never understand.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

And a life-size terracotta Buff-Orpington is a fabulous thing - it nests under our hall table.
Or a beautifully lacquered 'Vide poche' in the shape of a fish.
An early Twentieth Century French Green Leather Dog Collar for one