Decorum Loves: Charles Pétillon’s Heartbeat

I have to admit, I’ve never been one for public art displays. They often strike me as slightly gaudy, too quick to make a statement and cause controversy. With my cynic’s hat on, I’d say they’re often more about securing publicity for the artist than providing the public with something meaningful. Not so for Charles Pétillon’s Heartbeat installation in Covent Garden, which I visited this weekend. Featuring thousands of white balloons, subtly lit from within in a changing pattern, Pétillon has managed to transform the space – introducing a sense of serenity to one of the country’s most notoriously tourist-heavy spots.

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Being no stranger to Covent Garden Market (it stands just around the corner from my university, and I am frequently called upon to be tour guide for visiting friends), I have to disagree with Pétillon’s underlying philosophy for the installation, in his words: “I want to change people’s point of view, their perspective of a place they see every day and never really look at… most of the people who come here, they forget that this place has a history that stretches so far back. Most of my photos talk about this idea of forgotten memory, so again with Covent Garden I wanted to connect people with this past of this place and remind them of all the history that makes this such an iconic place.”

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I would argue that Covent Garden is actually one of the tourist centres in London which places its history front and centre. From the vaulted ceiling, original brickwork, cobbled streets and gilded placards bearing the old trading rules of the market, filling the space with his exhibition seems more of a distraction from the clear evidence of the market’s past than a thought-provoking contrast. This is most clearly evident in the contrast between the retailers who inhabit the central market versus the surrounding streets. Even with the most modern approaches, the market still trades on its reputation as a bastion of heritage brands. The concept of provoking us to look again is far better in Pétillon’s other photographic work, where the balloons are a true oddity, and prompt reflection. Covent Garden’s flocking visitors expect this sort of spectacle.

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But nevertheless, it is a display which holds a sort of ethereal beauty. It takes something quite special to cause people to stop, and marvel in the atmosphere of a space amidst the noise of street performers, cafés and fellow shoppers, and this is one piece of art I will be happy to see filling my Instagram feed until it closes on September 27th.

Decorum Explores: Leighton House Museum

Leighton House Museum is one of the many hidden artistic and architectural gems of London. From the exterior the building’s dome is somewhat unusual but the red brick re-assures you of a typical Victorian dwelling. You may believe that it will have been stripped bare like so many of its time and will contain White Cube inspired interiors, the seemingly favourite design of our time.

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On this assumption when entering the building you may gasp in surprise. Apart from the ticket booth and shop memorabilia situated in the first room, you feel as though you have been transported back through time. You have entered a home that would be recognisable to its owner who died in 1896. Leighton House would have been exceptional even during Frederic Leighton’s lifetime!

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The crowning glory of the house is visible at the beginning of your tour. The Arab Hall is exquisite. It was built as an extension after Leighton’s travels to Turkey, Egypt and Syria. On these trips he collected textiles, pottery and other objects that he wanted to display. The space is modelled on an interior contained in a 12th-century Sicilio-Norman palace called La Zisa at Palermo in Sicily. A group of well-known contemporary artists contributed towards the Arab Hall interior: William De Morgan, Walter Crane, Edgar Boehm and Randolph Caldecott.

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As you walk to the end of the Hall and stand under the golden dome, you are surrounded by hundreds of beautiful tiles. The space contains over 600 tiles from Syria, 230 tiles from Western Anatolia, present day Turkey and a small number of tiles made in Persia and Egypt. It is incredible that these tiles were created centuries before they were transported and placed on these walls, the earliest date from the thirteenth century. The space also features an indoor fountain, reminiscent of Roman times. The Arab Hall is a tranquil space, you can imagine Lord Leighton sitting here, reading a book and drinking a cup of tea.

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The house is a feast for the senses; it teems with rich colours and textures. The architecture and its decorations make this house wonderful, but the important art collection is worth visiting in its own right. The photo above is taken from one of the largest rooms in the house, designed by Leighton to be his perfect artist’s studio and a space to entertain friends.

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When Leighton died in January 1896, almost all his own collections and the contents of his house were sold at auction at Christie’s in London. In 1900, following the conversion of his house to a museum and with no hope of bringing these collections back, the Leighton House Association decided to create a representative collection of Leighton’s own work to hang in the ‘new’ museum. The museum has a collection of 76 oil paintings by Leighton as well as many more works on paper.

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In addition to Leighton’s own work, the museum holds a small collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture by his contemporaries. This includes paintings by John Everett Millais, George Frederic Watts, Frederick Sandys, Byam Shaw, Charles Fairfax Murray and Solomon J. Solomon. There are also drawings by recognisable names such as Edward Burne-Jones, J A M Whistler and George Howard.

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There are many reasons to visit this museum. It is wonderful, but I am a little biast as I am a lover of everything from the 19th Century. As well as a museum, you cannot forget that it was once a home. The creation of this purpose-built studio-house took half of the artist’s lifetime and he never parted with it. Leighton’s sisters wrote a Letter to The Times, 26 January 1899: ‘He built the house as it now stands for his own artistic delight. Every stone of it had been the object of his loving care. It was a joy to him until the moment when he lay down to die.’

The museum opens daily except Tuesdays: 10am – 5.30pm. The address is 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ.

You can find out more information on the Leighton House Museum Website.

Decorum Explores: Faceted designs

I’ll start with a confession. This is what my kettle looks like:

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It’s a Delonghi Brilliante design – when I bought it from Amara I couldn’t have been more excited – it was faceted and shimmering, masculine and black. And although now I’m swayed much more towards Delonghi’s vintage range there’s still something I love about faceted designs… It must be their sharp and clean lines and the resemblance to the origami models which I spent hours playing with as a child.

The most on-trend choice of faceted design has to be planters. It seems that these days we all have at least a couple of succulents at home and definitely we all own a plant terrarium by now (if you don’t, fix it now with these). And as creative folk, we all give our plants designer pots they deserve.

Etsy has a plethora of faceted planters – the one below is made of spalted Alaskan birch and comes in three different shapes.

faceted designs daily decorum etsy planters Vondom gives your cacti a sophisticated look with Marquis planters and their polished surface reminiscent of diamonds.

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Moving on to bigger objects, I find Jake Phipps’ Stellar designs mesmerising with their intricate surfaces and shimmering reflections. Although they might not be suitable for our SE25 Victorian house, they’ll make a statement in West London’s chic townhouses.

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And what happens if you add dimension to usually flat surfaces? Innovation of the highest calibre.

Giles Miller Studio offers a diverse range of surface solutions that marry architecture with beautiful interior finishes. Their work, using materials such as ceramic tiles, cast metal, veneered timber as well as leather, can be admired in luxury hotels, restaurants and bars. My favourites are the studio’s Rosaic designs, available in brass, copper or stainless steel finish.

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Lastly, could you consider a faceted floor? Although it sounds unlikely, Esti Barnes, a renowned rug designer, managed to marry the sculptural design with the form of a floor covering, in her 3D collection for Topfloor. Surface carving has now become one of Esti Barnes’s most popular trademark techniques.

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Esquire is collection’s most recognised design, also recognised by Elle Decoration UK as British Design of the Year a few years ago. The pile of Esquire is sculpted with sharp edges, following its inspiration of sand dune and cut crystal. The idea might seem a simple one, but the execution is very demanding, requiring a high degree of skill, with all of the surface carving painstakingly carried out by hand.

These are only some of the most striking examples of faceted designs – can you see them in your home?

Decorum Loves: Wedgwood Home by Blendworth

The first of several Wedgwood Home collaborations, Wedgwood Home – Fabrics & Wallcoverings by Blendworth partnership sees renowned British fabric house Blendworth interpret six of Wedgwood’s  iconic ceramic designs – past and present – to produce a versatile range of  fabrics and wallcoverings.

Blendworth Wedgwood Home Fabled Crane Wallpaper.

Blendworth Wedgwood Home Fabled Floral Wallpaper Blue

As well as classic Wedgwood blue, the more traditional designs like Fabled Floral Wallpaper (shown above) have been given a modern update with contemporary colours, including a darker palette which shows that this collaboration is right at the forefront of current interiors trends. Combine this with statement, high-gloss furniture from brands like Minotti, and you have a seriously edgy look:

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Blendworth Wedgwood Home Tonquin Dark Blue

The collection will be launching at Decorex this September, coming at a relevant time as the theme of this year’s show addresses the future of luxury and the industry turns to re-evaluate the position of luxury pieces in today’s modern market. Wedgwood Home by Blendworth is clearly leading the way to show that heritage brands needn’t sacrifice tradition to be contemporary, and still hold a strong and deserved place in the modern interiors industry. The Tonquin fabric print (shown above in blue) is based on a Wedgwood pattern originating from the 1830s, but its updated colour palette makes it look as relevant in boutique hotels as in a stately home.

Blendworth Wedgwood Home Tonquin Weave Chairs

Blendworth Wedgwood Home Fabled Floral Yellow

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This collection shows off the best of the Wedgwood archive in a way which feels fresh and relevant. The geometric upholstery weaves Renaissance and Intaglio are examples of bold, confident design while Pashmina (shown below) is an artistic pattern featuring details highlighted in delicate embroidery.

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wedgwood blendworth fabrics wallpapers

Blendworth and Wedgwood have produced a special collection here. Adapting ceramic patterns to create striking fabric and wallcovering patterns, the collaboration has been thought through to produce contemporary designs in a range of colours which will without a doubt appeal to the fashionable market. It will be exciting to see how this range is received at Decorex next month and what further Wedgwood Home collections will emerge in the future.

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