Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Minimal lounging

Leather tub armchairs, anglepoise, and newspapers in the Saturday morning sunshine. Looks like some kind of nest of boho socialism in the middle of a 1970s summer of love. Was in fact taken in Anglesey in November 2010. Either way, I’m sure black and white photography makes it look more halcyon than it really was.

The white walls and tiled floor add to the sense of minimalism, while that strange crate-like coffee table (I don’t remember it at all, probably covered in papers) seems kind of ad hoc and studenty. I was looking at this picture because I’ll be moving house soon – yay – and the new place has a sort of enclosed space between the bedroom and the big south-facing windows. So with a lick of white paint, some tub-shaped armchairs (Ikea must make some!), and maybe a haphazard collection of books, papers and random interesting things for guests to read, I’ll hopefully have my own little socialist conservatory.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Afternoon tea

Teashops are very girly places, and are often so cute they’re in danger of becoming sickly. Now I’ll admit this tablecloth was a bit chintzy for my tastes (an uncomfortable looking male tea drinker compared it to an explosion in a Cath Kidston shop). I preferred the vintage white lacy one underneath, but I suppose it was less practical what with all the liquids and jams.

Mind you, I do love a bit of flowery vintage gold-edged china, especially when it’s all gloriously mismatched like this. Those proper 42-piece tea sets are lovely, but then you’d have everything you need. You wouldn’t be able to just pick up random bits from junk or charity shops, to create a sort of vaguely similar set, but where each piece has its own character and story.

I was also digging the tea paraphernalia like the silver strainer and sugar tongs. Just so you can take a good five minutes to prepare a cup of Earl Grey and hear the clink of metal on porcelain and think, “Yes, this is a lovely civilised Sunday activity for young ladies. I must do this more often. And do less of the beer and cigarettes thing.”

This was at Sugar Junction on Tib Street, by the way. It was wonderful.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Not all vintage things are nice...

I was at my Nain (Welsh grandma)'s house at the weekend and we needed a bottle opener - this is what she got out of the drawer. Apparently my mum and uncle brought it back from their school trip to Liechtenstein about 40 years ago. In case you can't see, it's the hoof and lower leg of some kind of deer, goat or (as my auntie believed when she was little) fox... yeah, I know.

I suppose it's a nice thought, and if it's been in the family that long it's something of an heirloom. And it's certainly 'vintage' in a kind of kitsch, gothic way. But... urgh.

Monday, 20 February 2012

William Morris Pomegranate wallpaper

William Morris Pomegranate wallpaper
Does it still count as vintage or retro if it's actually Victorian? Well, I think the whole Arts and Crafts movement style was a precursor to some of the later styles that I love, all about warmth and functionality, somehow natural and stylised at the same time. I'm not usually a fan of elaborate, busy designs, but this is different somehow – very organic and flowing, and using muted colours that would flatter vintage furnishings.

William Morris designs are influenced by medieval art, which I think is obvious when you look at them. The Pomegranate wallpaper could be a woodcut from an early Bible or something. The emphasis on tapestry and stained glass is also quite medieval, and it's easy to see similarities in the ways all three mediums were used – maybe that explains why the wallpapers look so rich and decadent.

Willow Boughs wallpaper
These pictures are all from a wallpaper sampler that was donated to the Brooklyn Museum, who kindly uploaded all the designs to Wikimedia Commons so we can all enjoy them/lust after them. I think Pomegranate (a.k.a Fruit) is my favourite, although you'd have to use it sparingly. The Willow Boughs wallpaper is also incredible, but doesn't have those lovely hints of orange and yellow.

Fortunately, it seems Morris & Co – the interiors firm the great man set up in 1861 – and its designs were bought out by another company, which still sells rolls of Pomegranate wallpaper. Something else to add to my list of things to save up for.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Cottage living room ideas

This little cottage in the Scottish wilderness is one of my favourite places in the world, not least because of the retro décor and furniture. Of course, it helps that there’s no electricity; it inspires a certain je ne sais quoi to know the paraffin lamps, log fire, wood-burning stove and candles are actually a necessity and not just for decoration. Your whole lifestyle goes back in time 50 years when you stay here.

What’s more, everything has to be transported there by boat across the loch. So it’s no wonder it’s all so ‘untouched’. There’s wood panelling on the living room walls (now painted sage green), that amazing fabric, ancient bellows and pokers, and decades of books, jigsaws and board games on a shelf above the picture rail.
When the wind howls outside and you know there is no civilisation for miles around, it’s so important to be in a comfy little den of cosiness. So, although I won’t be moving to the wild any time soon, the things I’d most like to replicate from this cottage are:
  1. An open log fire with plenty of accessories
  2. A well-stocked board game collection
  3. Vintage knick knacks that are actually used every day.