Last Friday I helped out as a volunteer for Living Etc magazine’s House Tours. If you’ve ever wondered what some of London’s grandest houses might look like behind their elegant façades, then this annual event offers you exclusive access to step inside and have a peek.
In the morning I helped look after a five bedroom family home in Bayswater. Five floors of light filled, pared back, clean lines designed by architect Michela Bertolini. I did my best to answer some of the questions from visitors. I had learned that the flooring was Dinesen oak with a lime wash and most of the large format photography in the house was by French artist Noemie Goudal.
In the afternoon I went off to see the rest of the curated tour of beautifully decorated and renovated homes. From a house filled with a riot of colour and pattern, to another with a calm country cottage feel. All tastes catered for and a great opportunity to find ideas for styling your own home, and indeed, feeling inspired I went straight home and rearranged the ornaments and furniture in my lounge.
I visited Ham House over the Easter weekend. Sitting alongside the Thames just outside Richmond, this grand 17th century house is famous for its eclectic collection of well-preserved paintings, furniture and textiles from its 400-year-history. Wandering through the very simple spaces “below stairs”, to the more comfortable living chambers and ostentatious reception rooms upstairs, there is certainly much to see.
In particular, I loved the Green Closet – a rare survival of a Cabinet Room designed for the private display of small pictures and miniatures. Ebony and gilt frames are set against beautiful green silk damask wall coverings and upholstery. A real lesson in the art of display and inspiration to recreate my own gallery wall of memorabilia at home.
Although previously thought to bring bad luck, the peacock feather became an icon of Aesthetic style in the late 1800s and its iridescent Teal hues have provided a source of decorative inspiration ever since. It’s a colour I’m finding myself drawn to more and more of late. Perhaps because we’re seeing the first hints of a warm spring and its richness reminds me of tropical seas.
Dulux named Teal its colour of the year for 2014. It may have taken me a few months to catch up, but I love how Teal pops when teamed with coral or ochre, giving it a mid-century modern edge, or the way it can look opulent and sumptuous when combined with its analogous colours of greens and blues, or the way it can bring Scandinavian freshness when mixed with creams and whites. It’s versatility is endless.
As the legendary British designer Paul Smith says: You can find inspiration in everything (and if you can’t look again). The trends of the catwalk and latest couture shows often provide inspiration for interior styling and the parade of glitz and glamour rocking the red carpet at this week’s Oscars were no exception. The impeccably dressed Cate Blanchet wears a bold turquoise necklace to lift her slinky black number. Similarly, here in David McCauley’s design, the turquoise velvet chairs and accessories illuminate the black walls, curtains and furniture to stop it looking too dark and gothic, creating a very elegant look.