The last time I saw my grandmother –– two months before she died –– she looked so beautiful and serene. Her hair was short and silver and her skin was porcelain white. Everything about the scene, the softness of her face, the pale green of the walls around her, the stillness of the winter view outside her bedroom window, was peaceful. Irving Penn’s flower series, currently on show at Hamiltons Gallery in London, made me think of my grandmother, and how heart-breakingly beautiful a thing can be just before it dies. “I can claim no special knowledge of horticulture…. I even confess to enjoying that ignorance since it has left me free to react with simple pleasure just to form and colour, without being diverted by considerations of rarity or tied to the convention that a flower must be photographed at its moment of unblemished, nubile perfection….”
The most fabulous homes I’ve ever been to, exude warmth and style the moment your foot steps across the threshold. The entry hall sets the tone of what’s to come. At least, it should. One apartment that I spent much time in as a teenager had a gorgeous claret red silk sofa by the front door that you couldn’t help but flop into. That’s if the family’s Jack Russell, who sat on it like a throne, allowed you to. But Bob the dog aside, the entry way was warm and decadent, with heaps of flowers in vases, photos in frames and scented candles burning. This entry hall is so bright and cheerful, and of course, I adore the mismatched prints, punchy colours and lovely natural light. I think it would be hard not to want to be a guest in this home. Even with a yappy, snarly dog there to greet you.
The Guardian ran a piece about the future of knitting and textiles a few weeks ago, spotlighting a company called Unmade, which uses coding to power knitting machines as though they are 3D printers. “You press a button and a garment comes out,” says one of the founders, Ben Alun-Jones. It’s the love and time that my mother-in-law pours into each piece that she knits for her grandchildren –– a mint green cardi and hat, a fisherman stripe sweater, a cream cable knit blanket –– that makes them so special, but the instant gratification of a bespoke piece does appeal. “We are building a completely new experience for the customer where you can be part of the creation process. We have made our own file format that is like an MP3 is to music –– we have created a .KNIT which is a file format for knitting,” says Alun-Jones. The Unmade website is up, and a temporary shop has popped up in central London in time for Christmas with an in-store knitting machine that will knit you a pully or a scarf on the spot. “Ultimately we are trying to create the highest personalized garment you can have,” says Alun-Jones.
We woke up this morning to a thin layer of powdery snow on the ground. I’ve seen snow all my life, but the first snowfall of the season never seizes to amaze. It reminds me of the delicate powdered sugar we sprinkle on sponge cakes, pizzelle and Turkish Delight. I’m no baker, but this weather makes me want to put on a pinny and fry up some fancies for afternoon tea.
My first pair of two-tone Chanel flats was a gift from my father in my late 20’s. I wore them for years, even with holes as big as two pence coins in the soles. I’ve kept them, of course, for gardening and jaunts to the sandbox. They’re so grubby and tattered, but I don’t have the heart to throw them away. In the meantime, my mother bought me a second pair a couple of years ago, that I’m doing my very best to keep looking chic and new. The key is regular visits to the cobbler. It’s easier to fix a heel, than to work a small miracle on a whole shoe. They’ll get a rest over the winter, because the nude on black only really looks good with bare legs. Little feet and long legs, that’s what all girls dream of. Clever Coco.
If I could add anything to our home right now it would be a guest loo and a working fireplace. It’s this time of year –– when the days are short and the air is chilly –– that I lament not having one. The sound and scent of crackling wood is wonderfully reassuring. Plus, my mantle would be chock full of candles, photographs, books and Euonymus branches in jewel-toned glasses. In the meantime, I’ll settle for this. While I dream about this.
With my first child, the love didn’t come flooding in the moment she was born. In fact, it didn’t come flooding in at all. Instead, it trickled in like tiny grains of waterlogged sand. And then it happened, that I felt so full of love for her, that even when I thought I was miscarrying her brother a year later, I said to myself, “it’s okay, I already have everything I need.” But then my son was born –– and boom –– I couldn’t imagine the world without him in it. This time I was already a mother –– my daughter had shown me how –– so the love was natural, and it did come pouring in. A few years later came our third, a gift of a girl, who made me feel love mightier than a gale force wind. That’s how I felt as I pushed her tiny body out of mine. Three children, three births –– three very different loves.
Once upon a time I smoked and wore lipstick and carried a clutch when I went out at night. These days, I walk out the door with a credit card slipped into my iPhone case, and that’s it. If I were to bring back the evening bag, Katrin Langer’s hand embroidered clutches are the perfect size for my pared down necessities. Plus, they’re just so charming and dainty. Now, how to choose just one?
On days when you feel like hiding inside a giant teacup, I suggest you put the kettle on, and take a trip down the rabbit hole that is Lissy Elle‘s weird and wonderful imagination. The Canadian photographer takes those inexplicably surreal moments we all have and turns them into beautiful images filled with emotion that is as alien as it is familiar.
As much as I appreciate the ultra-modern, streamlined kitchens that grace the pages of Dwell, there’s something about the warmth and character that bursts out from every corner of a cluttered, mishmash of a kitchen that I just cannot resist. A cup of tea and a well-buttered scone at Indian Knight’s kitchen table is pretty close to my idea of bliss. This gorgeous cocina in the Madrid home of Carolina Herrera de Báez –– the designer’s daughter, and the creative fragrance director of the eponymous brand –– is pretty blissful, too. The beautiful crystal decanters and silver sugar bowls; the mix of prints on the cushion, table cloth and tiles; photographs and flower seeds stuck to cabinets; I love it all. Now, I’m not sure how she pulls off dinner for ten in this tiny kitchen. But, I bet she does it. And I bet she does it with aplomb.