As an interior designer and stylist it’s impossible not to be inspired by the Bloomsbury group and Charleston House the country retreat of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Over the course of half a century the house became the location where they gathered with many of their friends, artists, writers, including Vanessa’s sister, Virginia Woolf and intellectuals of the day.
I was lucky enough to finally visit Charleston a couple of years ago and it was, and still is, the most incredibly exciting and creative home I’ve ever been into. Everything about it shouldn’t work, but it does, beautifully. Practically every surface is painted with colour and pattern. There is pattern layered upon pattern. Painted plates and portraits hang on every surface and furniture is covered with more patterned fabric and cushions, designed by both Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
Ever since I visited Charleston, I’ve been inspired to bring elements of it into my own home and I’ve become more aware of designers that have also been influenced by their style and have built their own signature around this use of pattern and colour and eclectic way of decorating.
Hall is himself, like some modern day Duncan Grant, creating his own ceramics, fabrics, furniture and accessories for within his interiors.
Both these designers use elements from the era within their own designs, such as prints by Jean Cocteau and Matisse and salon walls of portraits and still life paintings on brightly coloured or patterned surface backgrounds, with a mixture of country house style furniture, tribal art and rugs and of course Staffordshire china which is all reminiscent of this eclectic style that has become synonymous with the Bloomsbury Group.
Another interior designer whose work I love and who also brings elements of playful painted furniture and colour into her work is Beata Heuman. Some of her work can be seen below and the bedroom design reflects the influence of the Bloomsbury artists with echos of Charleston house within the painted cupboard doors.
If this fun use of colour and pattern is something that you’d like to explore more in your own home, and I know I am itching to recreate something like this in our home, then look no further than Annie Sloan paint. The great dame of painted furniture has recently collaborated with Charleston House to produce three new colours of paint which have been sourced from similar colours used within the house. Firle a vibrant green, Tilton a warm ochre and Rodmell a soft aubergine are all now available from her website.
To fully create the Bloomsbury style in your own home though, the one key to it all is art and lots of it. Portraits, still life paintings, landscapes, plaster reliefs and painted ceramics. The more the better. If you want to find out a little more about where to buy good examples of art, you can read my recent blog post that I wrote about the subject here. There’s also a mood board I’ve collated below which pulls some of the other elements together to create the Charleston House look, which includes some textiles that have been reissued by Charleston house, copied from the original designs within the house and of course, a painted ceramic jug for those cut garden flowers which were always on display, brought in from the beautiful gardens at Charleston and the influence for so many of those still life paintings created by the owners and visitors to this wonderful house.
As we approach week 9 of lockdown in the UK I think I’ve started to relax now into accepting this new way of life. The frustrations I felt over the last two weeks, when I think we all hoped some sort of normality would resume, has now subsided and I’ve realised and come to terms with, what we have now is our new normality, for some time to come.
I’ve been spending some of my time during my last post, connecting online with writers, musicians and creatives who are reaching out to the public with different and innovative ideas and ways to entertain us.
Obviously all festivals and concerts have been cancelled for the future, but many have gone online to share talks and live mini concerts streamed from their homes. It’s a real worry for many people that live venues will be closed for an unknown time scale, As one musician I watched online last night said, for many people going to a live gig is like going to church for them. Many musicians are now unemployed and it is a depressing prospect for many of us, that this is part of our life might not resume as quickly as we would like?
Anyway as promised in my previous post about sharing some of the things that I have enjoyed, which have entertained or enriched me over the last two weeks, here’s a round up of some more, that you might enjoy as well?
Atelier magazine is a downloadable lifestyle magazine sharing creatives and their work from all around the world. The magazine is the work of Michelle Mason, owner of one of my favourite shops and instagram accounts, Mason & Painter. You might recall that I’d read Michelles book a few weeks ago in my last post about lockdown here. The book shares how Michelle combines the antique and salvaged treasures she sells in her shop, with the art of displaying flowers from Columbia Road Market, where Mason & Painter shop is located. Atelier magazine was designed to raise money for a local hospice during lockdown, but issue one was so successful, that issue 2 has now been written and is available to download for a small fee of £3, the link is in the Mason & Painter instagram profile. It’s a lovely read full of the stories of small brands and creatives and what led them to pursue the life they lead.
Je T’aime is the love story of Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin and their hell raising adventures throughout their relationship as one of the celebrity power couples of the 1960’s and 70’s. Its a beautifully written and interesting book by Veronique Mortaigne. If you’re feeling the loss if Normal People from our screens and need to dive into another intense relationship to fill that hole, then this is the book for you.
Graysons Art Club in which Grayson Perry and his wife Pippa invite you into their home and Graysons studio to talk to celebrity friends and members of the public about what art means to them and how it has helped them throughout lockdown. Every week Grayson sets a new theme and showcases some of the artwork that has been made to this theme, choosing some of his favourites to enter his exhibition at the end of the show. It’s brilliantly heartwarming and entertaining as all of Graysons shows are.
Each week Jules broadcasts live from his own studio in Greenwich and invites guests from the music world to stream live from their homes to chat to him about their life stories through their choice of music and invites them to choose some of their favourite footage from the Jools Holland archives. I’ve only watched episode one up to now, with Christina from Christina and the Queens but it was entertaining and really interesting. Christina is a warm and charismatic person and you got the sense of a real empathy between her and Jules. Highly recommended.
Charleston House Festival, home to the Bloomsbury Group should have gone ahead in May but of course, it was cancelled. The artistic team at Charleston have however, brought together a series of talks from some of the presenters that would have been live at Charleston House which can be watched via their website. Guests include writers, artists and creative thinkers, of the sort that would have been invited to Charleston for the weekend by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
That Summer is a beautiful short film, made in the summer of 1972, by friends of Lee Radziwill, sister of Jackie Kennedy, and her boyfriend of the time, photographer Peter Beard. The film documents the shambolic lifestyle of her cousin Eadie Beale and her daughter who have lived in grey Gardens since 1924, barely leaving the house for years. For anybody that has watched and been inspired by Grey Gardens, a film made three years later about the eccentric duo, this film was the pre cursor to that documentary. The footage was not seen for 45 years, until recently rediscovered and was available to watch on BBC4 which we had recorded last year. unfortunately it’s no longer available for free but can be bought from Amazon. It’s a brilliant film of a time which seemed long forgotten, but which we can probably all identify with a little more since lockdown. Big Eadie and Little Eadie were the original lockdown queens.
Eating & Cooking
We’ve been eating quite a bit of Lebanese and Greek food recently, maybe as a way of trying to bring some exotic eastern and mediterranean vibes to Manchester, particularly as travel will be off the agenda for much of the year? We’re also using this time to push our culinary boundaries and cooking abilities and this type of food is both easy to make but incredibly tasty. The flavours and textures of crushed spices, pulses and numerous dips & sauces, make a real feast for the senses. A favourite book that we bought a while ago but rarely used is Olives, Lemons & Za’atar with lots of simple recipes for Middle Eastern cooking. Even something as simple as homemade hummus, takes the shop bought variety to another level.
I know there seems little point parting with your money when there’s no where to go or no-one to see but sometimes a purchase for yourself, just lifts the soul a little and brightens the day when that parcel arrives. I’ve made a few online purchases that have been just perfect for the current situation.
Sans Ceuticals skin & Hair oil from Object style has been just the thing my skin and hair needed after spending weeks walking and sitting in the garden in the glorious spring sunshine we’ve been having. It’s a light dry oil which smells of orange blossom and a little applied to my skin and dry frazzled ends of my hair, really make a difference.
A perennial summer favourite of mine, just for that nostalgic, schools out summer feel and they look good with anything. They’re also the perfect summer shoe for a walk around the neighbourhood, when birkenstocks just don’t cut it. I ordered two new pairs in black and sand from La Redoute with 35% discount!
Hand poured in the North of England, in Cumbria, made with ethical ingredients and sustainable packaging, they smell heavenly. The sort of earthy, woody fragrance that reminds me of holidays in Ibiza and the smell of burning Palo Santo wood brought home from the hippy markets. Lighting a candle every evening after, we have all finished our chores, work, walks for the day, is the sort of ritual that marks the end of another day and gives some sort of continuity to what feels like a very unstable world at the moment.
I hope you’ve all found some simple pleasures that have got you through the last 8 weeks? I’d love you to share them with me which you can do through the comments on my blog or by sending me a direct message or a comment on my instagram account which is @Karen _barlow.
I’ve long been aware of the work of designer Faye Toogood appreciating her work as an interior stylist for “The World of Interiors” magazine, which she worked on for 10 years. I’ve always admired her organic shapes and over sized scale of interior products which give them an other worldly appearance and so it was really interesting listening to her talk recently on a podcast for The Modern House.
What was particularly interesting about the conversation was that Faye was interviewed by her husband Matt Gibberd, co founder of modernist estate agents, The Modern House and so the conversation was very informal and light hearted but Matt also dug deep to investigate what really makes Faye’s brain tick when designing for either interiors, products or clothes through her studio collaborative Toogood.
In the podcast which you can listen to here, Faye talks about a memorable childhood trip to St Ives and particularly the spark that a visit to sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s studio and gardens ignited and it is evident from Toogood’s designs that this has been a huge inspiration in her work ever since.
From the simple neutral colour palette of Hepworth’s studio, to the use of honest materials such as stone and marble that she often employs in her work, even some of the figurative sketches that she has used on fabric designs, all are reminiscent of Hepworth’s body of work.
A photo I took from my last visit to The Barbara Hepworth Studio in St Ives
The Hospital sketches Hepworth made after her daughter was hospitalised in 1944
This is no patische of Hepworth’s work though, there are many other influences, most notably Ettore Sottsass of The Memphis movement. Toogood is an amazing designer in her own right. Her work exists in many museums permanent collections, including The V&A London and her clothes are stocked in 60 shops worldwide, including Dover Street Market Her designs will continue to be referenced by many future creatives.
What I particularly loved about the interview was that she describes her own home as a sanctuary and a personal space where she gathers together her collections of found objects and ephemera, which are so important to her. It’s something she’s done since a child and something I could totally relate to. Have a listen and see if you recognise yourself in what she says.
I also came across this video that was produced a few years back by interior designer Rita Konig for The New York Times Style magazine, in which she interviews Faye about her home and what it means to her, with a tour of the interior. It’s probably changed quite a bit since then, in fact I don’t think she even lives in this house anymore, but it speaks volumes about her as a designer and what she actually loves to surround herself with in her home. She’s obviously a great sentimentalist when it comes to her most precious possessions. Be prepared to be mesmerised. I was!
As we approach week seven of lockdown in the UK, I’ve found I’ve had a few difficult days and I know from talking to friends and people that I chat to on Instagram, many have felt it too.
I don’t think it’s because my resilience is running low, I think we’ve all been immensely resilient and resourceful. I know that this period of isolation and lockdown is for the greater good, but I think that the realisation that this new way of life isn’t going to be over any time soon, is dawning on us all now.
I know everyone has their different ways of getting through and everybody’s perception of this period will be different. For some it’s an enforced imprisonment, away from families, friends and work but for others it feels like a gift we’ve been given to slow down. A time to do the things that we never seem to get around to, to appreciate the little things that we don’t always see as we rush from place to place, from appointment to meeting.
I’ve enjoyed sharing and swapping recommendations for good films, recipes and podcasts with friends and so as I consider you all my friends, I thought I’d write a blog post with some of the things that have got me through this last week.
It might become a regular weekly or monthly post, or it might be a one off? You know by now how random and sporadic this blog of mine has become?
If you like the post though then hit subscribe so that when I post again , you’ll be notified by email and if I gather enough new subscribers, that might just give me the boost I need to keep writing.
So here is what I’ve been keeping myself busy with this week.
Flower market Botanical Style At Home by Mason & painter business owner Michelle Mason. This books mixes Michelle’s inspiration from the location of her shop, Columbia Road London and it’s famous flower market, with her amazing vintage and salvaged items she sells, as she demonstrates how these lovely pieces can be reused to display seasonal blooms and foliage. Michelle owns one of my favourite shops and Mason and Painter which was one of the inspirations for me to launch my own vintage store The Old Potato Store and I loved pouring through the pages of her beautiful book and became inspired all over again.
This seasons issue of 91Magazine landed through my letter box this month and it was such a joy to read as always, with articles and photography from some of my favourite creatives on instagram. There was also a lovely home tour of @clarenicolson stylist home. Interesting fact (well interesting for me) I used to sell vintage textiles to Clare back in the day when she was a textile designer and I sold vintage clothes & fabrics, around 2001 and now we are both interiors stylists! If you want to order a copy of this seasons edition you can do here.
Corey Hemingway from The Modern House springtime playlist on Spotify. If you love jazz, 70’s funk and chilled easy listening summer tracks while you’re sitting in the garden pretending you’re by a pool somewhere exotic, you’ll love this laid back playlist.
Tate Walk Podcasts where some of my favourite writers take walks through parts of Britain discovering, with art experts, the lives of the famous artists who lived and worked there. Dolly Alderton walks through Turners London and Emma Gannon disembarks the train in St Ives to discuss the works of Alfred Wallis and Terry Frost. Shoreditch and the lives of the YBA’s was a particular favourite.
The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed. This podcast with Simon Armitage interviewing friends and guests from the shed in the bottom of his garden in the Peak District, is such a lovely soothing listen. The perfect quiet morning, with a pot of tea conversations that I love. A particular highlight is him and mate Guy Garvey talking and laughing over many a shared experience. An absolute gem!
The Calico club is a series of online talks hosted by House and Garden in which they interview industry professionals. The talks are ticketed events through Eventbrite and tonight Wednesday 6/5/20 I have a ticket to listen to Rita Konig Interior designer talk about how to decorate a room with what you already have. This is obviously very on topic and I can’t wait for her nuggets of wisdom. To buy a ticket to listen to the talk live tonight at 6.00pm click here.
We’ve all been really enjoying the live streaming, here at Barlow Towers, that some of the worlds top dj’s have been doing to raise money for the NHS and we’re all huge fans particularly of hacienda legend DJ Paulette, who still dj’s around Manchester if you’re lucky enough to catch her at Cultureplex and Albert Schloss. This Friday she’s live streaming with her old colleagues from The Hac to bring us Hacienda Classics. Something definitely to look forward to this weekend!
Normal People adapted for TV from Sally Rooney’s best selling book. No words needed really, just magical, addictive, compulsive viewing and if you’ve not yet watched it, why not????
Museums in Quarantine with Alistair Sooke is the closest thing we’ll get to a major exhibition probably this year. Although I’m not a huge fan of Andy Warhol’s work, I enjoyed the walk through Tate Modern with Alistair and I thought allowing the cameras in to some of the leading galleries for screenings of exhibitions we were all looking forward to this year is such a great idea.
Gluten free Lemon Drizzle Cake
Ok I’m not professing to be a baker, in fact my lemon drizzle cake, baked for my son George’s birthday last week, was so unphotogenic, that I couldn’t possibly let you see it, so this is not my photo, but I’ll share the recipe with you as according to the kids, it tasted bangin!
Side note, I added 3 large lemons zested and I think it benefitted from it??
Bake of the week has to go to my daughter Amber. This tastes off the scale! It’s ridiculously sweet but just delicious and so easy to make. Put it this way my daughter, who is 18, can’t even put oven chips in without setting the smoke alarm off usually and she created this! This is the photo of the one she made. It looks as impressive as it tastes so if you want a show stopper desert for a lockdown birthday or special celebration, I would highly recommend this!
Hello there, it’s been a while hasn’t it since we last chatted and what a lot has gone on since then. I do hope you’ve all stayed well and not gone too insane since lockdown although it’s been difficult in so many different ways for us all.
A few weeks ago my blog was hacked and contaminated with a malware virus which was not what you want to happen when you have lots of time on your hands to blog and no technological expertise of your own to clean the virus from it. Anyhow I managed to get a suburb local business, The Smart bear, to sort things out and within an hour it was up and running again and I’m quite embarrassed and shocked to say, it was only then that I realised I haven’t written anything on here since January, despite all my good intentions to get back to blogging on a more regular basis.
So yesterday I found myself rehanging some artwork in the lounge, like you do when you’ve had six weeks off work and ideas to entertain yourself are wearing thin. I remembered then, that I’m often asked, as a stylist and dealer of vintage and antiques and predominantly artwork, where I source mine? So I thought a blog about that very subject might be of interest to some of you?
I love art, It’s a passion of mine and I’ve collected it ever since I bought my own home for the first time over 30 years ago. I seek it out wherever I am and I’m always on the hunt for a new piece to add to our collection or to sell through my online store @Theoldpotatostore
To me filling blank walls with art is what truly makes your home individual. It says so much about you and truly makes your home feel like yours. Every piece we own tells a story or evokes a memory of where we were when we bought it. It’s very subjective and personal and therefore, it’s so important to only buy what you love. If it makes your heart race or it’s a memento from a special holiday or exhibition you saw that you loved, your favourite words to a song or phrase from a well loved book, then that’s every reason to buy it, dependant on budget of course. For me buying art is visceral and immediate. When buying for my online store @theoldpotatostore, I can buy four pieces of art within less than 5 minutes. If I have to decide if I like it enough, I just don’t buy it. For me it’s as simple as that.
We have a favourite print that we bought from the Jean Cocteau museum in Menton in the south of France on our honeymoon, titled Les Amoureux and it’s hung in our bedroom since we bought it, in one home or another. It always reminds me of a time and a place, of the people we were then, of the years that have since passed, and it always makes me smile.
Collections should grow over time and be added to organically. We have a mixture of contemporary work picked up on holidays, many from the fishing village of St Ives, famed for it’s artists and plethora of galleries and the location of many happy family holidays, prints from exhibitions visited, amateur original artwork painted by friends and vintage art, some painted so long ago that only the sitter would know who the artist was.I also love collecting vintage black and white photography by unknown artists. For me, there’s something so thought provoking about a moment captured in time with the click of a camera? All are meaningful to us though and that’s the point of art. It might not be somebody else’s jam but it’s yours.
Although I’ve never bought a piece of art because it matches a colour palette of a room at home, going back again to the heart skipping method, artwork does work very effectively to bring a room together in much the same way as a rug or cushions and with this in mind don’t only limit artwork to paintings, prints or photography. A beautiful textile framed, religious icons or vintage advertising signage or metal typography all adds to the interesting mix. I often sell pieces of antique architectural plaster mouldings through my store which also look amazing hung on walls as this beautiful shot demonstrates.
Think beyond the walls of a room when displaying your pieces. A selection of layered examples on a shelf or mantlepiece, larger framed pieces propped against a wall or art hung high over and around a door frame, all look great. Mix up the style of frames for added impact and interest. A contemporary print, in an antique frame, really elevates the piece from looking too High Street.
If you are hanging a gallery wall, then limit it to one wall in the room to avoid the space becoming claustrophobic. Even the most dedicated maximalists homes are carefully edited displays when done well.
So now for the bit you all want to know. The secret spots that only stylists and antiques dealers know where to buy the best art? Well I’m sorry to spoil that myth but there aren’t any as such.I’m constantly also trying to find those places, that may or may not exist. My best advice is listed below. Some of my favourite dealers with the eye for the type of artwork that I love, some of the best online one stop websites who promote both antique sellers and contemporary artists and some great art fairs where you can find new, emerging artists, but there is no secret source that I know of. I wish there was but then, doesn’t that make the hunt all the more exciting?
Catawiki.com – A great auction site for contemporary photography + more
Well I hope this has been of some use or interest and hopefully it won’t be too long before I post again. Now I have this much time on my hands I really have no excuse. Stay safe, stay well and stay home XX