Monthly Archives: February 2012

Interior design clichés

In my seemingly endless pursuit of the perfect bathroom mirror, or working out what the hell to do with my kitchen cabinets, I trawl a bunch of online shops (SCP, I’m looking at you), pore over property blogs like Curbed (including the celeb homes) and scour the pages of Elle Deco. And while there are many creative ways of decorating and arranging a room beyond the boringly super-matchy looks of “luxury” “apartments” and new-build display homes, interior design sometimes go too far the other way.

A new rash of tumblrs successfully skewer the cliches of modern interior design, from the self-conscious quirk of homeware catalogues (Catalog Living), to the mindless dependence on design classics (Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table), and the unfettered whimsy of certain retailers (Anthroparodie). I’m slightly worried someone will come up with a tumblr mocking my own stuff-from-Ikea/stuff-my-dad-found/trying-to-hide-stuff-behind-stuff aesthetic, especially as these blogs already mock the putting-books-in-colour-order system I’ve got going on. Damn, looks like I’m a cliché too…

In search of the perfect magazine

There’s a growing stack of magazines and newspapers piles up next to my armchair, on top of the coffee table and on my desk – testament to my ongoing serach for interesting stuff to read and glorious stuff to look at. For space and the environment’s sake, I wish I could get it all in one perfect publication. Instead, I  read Vogue, Esquire, Wired, Elle Deco, Fire & Knives, Grazia; plus the New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian and The Atlantic online; and blogs like Jezebel and The Hairpin to get a fix of all the things that interest me.

I was discussing it with a clever friend the other day, who decried the opportunities for intelligent and beautiful women’s magazines. Like me, she’d thought that The Gentlewoman would be the answer. And if you read the erudite editor’s description of it’s reader here, you’d think so too: “A woman who oversees traditional ambitions and expectations of her gender, has good taste, likes interesting reads, and has an expansive view of the world “. Doesn’t that sound perfect?

But it just ends up being another fash mag, this time focusing on industry insiders, rather than the celebs of its newsstand sisters. And with a lot more black-and-white. In frustration, she plumps for trash fash mag Elle, which doesn’t attempt to be anything cleverer than it is – a bunch of nice, glossy, silly fashion stuff. Marie Claire attempts wider issues, but it just ends up being dull. In contrast, Tyler Brule vanity project Monocle manages to combine design, travel, luxury, grooming, international issues, serious features, and even a comic in one beautiful binding.

But rather like the old trope of men being single-minded and women being multi-taskers, Men can get it all in one magazine like Monocle or Esquire, and women have to skim many. Perhaps the continuing power of the women’s magazine market is not due to ladies’ voracious appetite for celebrity gossip and make-up trends, but due to the fact that women are buying a bunch of different magazines that each address a different need.

But the women’s magazine market is dwindling, and as advertisers’ spend increasingly goes online, there’s not much money around to launch a beautiful, clever, funny and fascinating print magazine.  The obvious answer seems to be iPad apps like Flipboard or Editions, which pull together elements from lots of different online publications according to your interests, and can even learn what you like. All very clever, but perhaps it’s old-fashioned of me to want a print magazine, with creative use of paper stocks, incredible typography, great writing, powerful photography and thought-provoking ideas. Or maybe i’m just too mainstream these days to plough through the shelves of RD Franks in search of the niche magazine that’s “just right”. If it’s out there, do tell…

Mannequin just got real

In the seminal 80s movie Mannequin, a young Kim Cattrall stars as a shop window dummy who comes to life, bounces round a failing department store in a series of bright and embellished body-con outfits, and saves it (along with Andrew McCarthy). Now, Tokyo department store Takashimaya is hoping a lifelike robotic mannequin will do the same (without the McCarthy bit).

Created by Dr Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, she’s (bafflingly) being used as part of the store’s Valentine’s Day promotions. She yawns, she smiles, she fidgets, she sits primly with designer bag on knee and smartphone in hand, looking for all the world like your average bored Tokyo chick, but each movement is a response to the actions of passers-by, thanks to Kinect technology.

It’s all a bit uncanny valley, but apparently, it’s the future of visual merchandising. I hope they get her messed-up-looking legs sorted out before then, mind: they look like they’ve been hobbled by Kathy Bates, and that is not a luxury look.

Beautiful balloons

Although having flowers about the place is gloriously cheering, as previously discussed, balloons are even more chipper. They have that brilliant youthful silly thing that evokes surprise parties and picnics and being off your face on sugar. When they’re not accompanied by clowns or sticky party favours, that is. But most balloons are those garish metallic cartoon-franchise things sold by slightly iffy-looking men on the street. What is the fun-loving aesthete to do?

Thankfully, I came across these beautiful balloons on the WGSN tumblr. They’re from North London company Bonbon Balloons, and they come in a rainbow of bright and breezy colours, each with a pretty hand-made decorative paper string, and packaged in a box full of confetti. They can be ordered online, plus there’s a bespoke service to make the balloon even more awesome. These are totes going to be the gift of choice for any new babies that cross my path from now on, or anyone else that needs proper congratulating…

WinterWear heroines

Brr, it’s cold in here. There must be some Toros in the atmosphere. It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice, that its bleedin’ cold outside. Although this is entirely normal for this time of year, I find myself  – again – woefully unprepared.  Aside from buying all the Uniqlo thermals and on-sale COS knitted accessories I can get my hands on, I’m also taking inspiration from ladies of the silver screen who totally rock cold-weather clothing.  None of these looks are going to make it into the V&A’s forthcoming Hollywood Costume exhibition, but still, these unlikely winterwear heroines can show us “How Things Are Done”.

Now, some may look to paparazzi pictures from Sundance to see how stylish women dress for the cold. But me, I look to Shelley Duvall in The Shining. Her wardrobe of tall straight boots, A-line skirts, corduroy and thick knitwear in murky mid-tones is a paragon of style for winter. Stick to that, and you can’t go wrong. Don’t do the screaming, though.

A more recent inspiration might be Legally Blonde. Although the general pinkageddon in this film makes my eyes ache, Elle Woods’ Harvard ensemble offers jewel tones, thick shawl collars, jacquard pencil skirts, tall tan boots and cats-eye specs – all fully brill.

For those that have worked in fashwan, this one is no surprise. Edith Bouvier Beale, subject of the documentary Grey Gardens  (and later TV movie thereof), is an icon of make-do-and-mend dressing. To emulate her look, take a full-length moth-eaten fur, pin on a cardigan as a skirt, and wrap a jumper around your head. As Little Edie herself would say, “This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand.”

Have I missed anyone out? Do tell…

Brills, thrills & skills

Without wanting to sound like the “other” Gwyneth and her weekly mail of overly entitled niche-luxe hippie recommendations*, I though I’d offer a little round-up of things that I think are good that you might also think are good…

Brills

From the US is a whole wave of blogs wittily describing the offensive, awkward and demented fellows a modern lady might encounter while wading in the murky pool of online dating. This Is Not OK, Cupid showcases the strange messages sent by users of leading US site OKCupid to one young woman. Poor thing. The An(n)als of Online Dating goes further, collating messages sent to online daters across the US, and rating them according to use of language, creepiness, offensiveness and all-out craziness. Some of them are Haiku, which you have to at least appreciate for the effort. I haven’t come across any such sites from the UK, but given the amount of people doing online dating in the UK, and some of the stories I’ve heard, isn’t it time someone started one?

Thrills

The Cornshed Sisters (above) make glorious sounds, even while singing of crazy people and pies or covering Prince, that are simultaneously uplifting and chilling, in the great murder ballad tradition.  LIPS Choir had the honour of performing on the same bill as them last year, and as the Cornsheds are out on tour in advance of their album release in April, I heartily recommend you check them out. They’re playing at The Windmill in Brixton on  13th February. Or if that’s super-far or something, you can download their first single here for free, for real.

Skills

Great vintage furniture is an absolute essential for the Elle Deco-reading urban aesthete, but yet super-hard-to-find, and hideously expensive when you do. The answer is new services like Among My Souvenirs, who not only run a lovely online shop and appear at vintage fairs across London, but have a finding service and they can even re-upholster that amazing Ercol sofa you’ve found with the hideous covers (srsly, what is up with that, Ercol? I think that’s called a disconnect).

Anyways, their taste is impeccable, their handiwork is immaculate, and their prices are totes reasonable. They’re going to be at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair at Spitalfields market on Saturday 4th February, along with some other nice things. (full disclosure: I bought a burgundy leatherette clock from them, which is brill. I also sometimes drink Casillero Del Diablo with them. They are nice.)

*I actually love and hate Goop in equal measures, but I never miss it. Especially the baking recipes…