Friday, 31 December 2010

For auld lang syne

My mother and I
December 1969, New York

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

But the Skin Horse only smiled.

In spite of everything... I shall be sorry to see this year go. Too much goes with its close.

Now playing: Joan Baez - Forever Young



Wednesday, 29 December 2010

La Belle...

Now playing: Happy Talk from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific 

Monday, 27 December 2010

A little late...

but, nonetheless Happy Holidays.

Now playing: Walking In The Air

Monday, 20 December 2010

Stocking stuffer

From the very talented curator of Chateau Thombeau (née Fabulon)

2011 Calendars,  Flora and City of Silence

Now playing: Neil Sedaka - Calendar Girl

Sunday, 19 December 2010

For those who have everything

The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China  

by Hannah Pakula

 By David Bouchard with illustrations by noted artist Zhong-Yang Huang

An illustrated fictionalised memoir of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi.

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty 

James C. Y. Watt(Editor) 






 Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer  

by Jay Jorgensen 





by Charles Churchward

Introduction by Richard Gere with foreword by David Fahey

Fornasetti: The Complete Universe

by Mariuccia Casadio

Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture

by Jonathan D. Katz

...companion volume to an exhibition of the same name at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, traces the defining presence of same-sex desire in American portraiture...

Now playing: Ertha Kitt - Santa Baby

Wednesday, 15 December 2010



Scissor Sisters - Invisible Light

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Yet more chairs

Italian 1960s armchair
  Nutwood, plywood with rosewood veneer, dour brown fabric 

North Italian dining chairs, circa 1825-30
Ebonised pearwood with brass knobs
The horse hair upholstered seats rather poorly replaced

Now playing: Cyndi Lauper  - Rocking Chair

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mission: Impossibly Smart

Bodo Rasch
Inselcafé chair, designed circa 1946
Beechwood, plywood, stained dark, nylon-work seat 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

What's wrong with Muriel Puce?

Only everything
Now, for the right sort of puce...

Little Silver Spray Rose

19th Century Chinese enameled dish


Auntie Mame (1958)

Now playing: Jeff Buckley - Lilac Wine

Before Mr. Chow

There was John J. Kan (1905-1972). More commonly known as Johnny Kan,  the man who introduced Peking duck to the American palate and also the man who taught Danny Kaye to cook. Originally a native of Portland Oregon, Mr. Kan was both a fixture and a force in San Francisco's Chinatown - his home since the age of four. 

This unusual photograph appeared in the March 1941 edition of San Francisco Life, a tourist publication that featured restaurants that paid for advertisements in the magazine. The photo was taken at Cathay House, 718 California, at Grant Ave., probably in January or early February 1941. - San Francisco Museum

In 1935 he opened the first large soda fountain and Chinese bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown and originated (what today would be called fusion) flavoured ices such as lychee, kumquat and ginger. In 1940 he initiated the Chinese Kitchen, a venture said to be the first delivery of Chinese food. And, after his service with the Army in World War II he opened Kan's Restaurant at 708 Grant Avenue. It was to become one of the finest, Chinese or otherwise, restaurants in San Francisco.

 In 1959 Mr. Kan commissioned artist Jake Lee (1911-1991) to paint a series of twelve watercolours depicting the ignominies and the glories of early Chinese American history. These paintings hung in the private  Gum Shan (Gold Mountain) dining room. 

Sometime after the death of Mr. Kan in 1972  the works disappeared. For decades they were believed to have been lost. That is, until eleven of the works surfaced at auction in Los Angeles in 2010.  Now, for the the first time in almost 30 years the complete series of paintings will be exhibited. On 12th February, 2011 the Chinese Historical Society of America will stage  Finding Jake Lee: The Paintings at Kan’s.

Now playing: Jerry Goldsmith - Love Theme from Chinatown

Friday, 3 December 2010

From the Age of Reason

Carved 17th Century armchair covered in stumpwork and petit point

Pair of Charles II turned walnut armchairs covered in tooled and painted leather

Pair of 17th Century carved walnut armchairs covered in highly decorative woolwork

Now playing: Tears For Fears - Head Over Heels

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


National AIDS Memorial, San Francisco
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images from Life

Among the all too numerous names can be found the name of one Tony Brich.
He was not yet 32 when he died.

The Fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law devine
In one another's being mingle -
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain'd its brother:
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea -
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

Love's Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Now Playing: This Mortal Coil - Another Day

Tuesday, 30 November 2010



From within the vault of things we hold dear,
Le Petit Train by Les Rita Mitsouko

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

From the Age of Enlightenment

The serpentine back and scrolled arms upholstered in 17th century tapestry fragments and later silk damask to the back, on cabriole legs with hoof feet joined by serpentine moulded stretchers, circa 1705.

The very same year Isaac Newton is bestowed a knighthood by Queen Anne. 

Now Playing: Grace Jones - I've Done It Again

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

à la française

Drawing Room Interior
Leopold Pascal (1900-1958)

French Hepplewhite mahogany show frame sofa of small proportions

Cotton and viscose brocade for sofa done with a fan edging.

Pair of French Hepplewhite mahogany elbow chairs, circa 1800, to be used directly opposite sofa.

 An uncut and cut velvet with a strie background for elbow chairs - done with a nail trim.

Pair of 18th Century French walnut armchairs for use next to sofa.
Nail and tape trim rather than double piping.

Linen and viscose textured moire
for chair faces (backs to be done in brocade) and curtains (lined in rose).

Lady's court dress and matching petticoat of pink striped and brocade silk.
French, circa 1760

Come to the edge, he said. 

They said: We are afraid. 

Come to the edge, he said. 

They came. 

He pushed them and they flew. - 

Guillaume Apollinaire



Now playing: Barbara - L'aigle Noir

Monday, 22 November 2010


A very good carved oak library table in the Gothic taste. The rectangular moulded top with canted corners raised on four octagonal carved ivy clad legs united by a central stretcher in the form  of a Gothic arch.

. . . the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain. - Mary Shelly

Now playing: Simple Minds - Alive And Kicking

Friday, 19 November 2010

would I were steadfast as thou art -

Bright Star (2009)
Written and directed by Jane Campion. Based on the last three years of the English Romantic poet John Keats' life, which was forever marked by his romance with Frances Brawne.

Ambrotype of Frances Brawne taken circa 1850

Lamia, Part 1
Lines 47 - 67

She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr’d;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries—
So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne’s tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman’s mouth with all its pearls complete:
And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?
As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love’s sake,
And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoop’d falcon ere he takes his prey.

John Keats

Now playing: Takacs Quartet - Schubert: String quartet no. 14 in D minor Death and the Maiden D810

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Spilling the 't'

Clément Massier, Golfe-Juan
Earthenware tea set glazed in running dark-red and green, circa 1900

Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast. 

Now playing:  Bryan Ferry - Alphaville

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Bare bones

Exquisitely carved late 19th Century ebony and ivory mememto mori

Skull of an Ankole-Watusi

Skull of a hippopotamus

 Congolese baboon skull fetish

Now playing: Fiction Factory - Heaven

Monday, 15 November 2010

Chair porn



Now playing:  George Michael - Outside

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Makonde body mask

Corset of the Tulu diety Sarala Jumadi

Yves Saint Laurent crepe georgette evening dresses 
 Copper body sculpture and cuff by Claude Lalanne
Fall/Winter 1969

Now playing: Bananarama - Venus

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Five minutes to eleven

Used this early 20th century (possibly 1950s) leather wing chair for a client who was less concerned with period than with effect. This type of clubby chair  was very popular up until the 1980s.

While visiting Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler another client expressed a desire to have this chair.  A chair of his own. In principle, I agreed. The room would benefit from the variation in height. However, this was not the right chair.

Searching for the right chair, I came upon this late Georgian example in Scotland. It needed to be relatively inexpensive, and luckily it was, to rationalise the cost of turning it into the right chair...

And here it is, exactly as I imagined it would be, traditionally reupholstered in a hand dyed and finished leather.  In fact, I am so pleased with the result I have decided to put it into production. With a couple of minor tweaks, that is.

There is always time for a smackerel of something.

Now playing: Yello - Goldrush