Having praised the interiors programmes on Discovery Travel & Living last week, I now feel a need to point out how much I dislike the ones that do instant makeovers on a limited budget. Not surprisingly the results are usually cheap and tacky, and if I was ever subjected to such an experience I think I would physically harm the so-called interior designer. The work in these projects usually revolves around a theme. In the one just endured, the poor unsuspecting parents were lured to Las Vegas, (aka Loss Wages...the only amusing piece in this seriously worrying programme), whilst the "designer" Chase Dakota creates a Hawaiian-themed bedroom for them , based on the premise, provided by their daughter, that they love Hawaii, and are considering retiring there. The dreadful confection that follows is not even worthy of a school play stage set, and the subdued response at the reveal speaks volumes. I only hope there's a clause that allows the original, (however dull it was) to be reinstated. The Columnist rants.....this picture is of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. Corinthian, of course.http://www.napoleonguide.com/aquote_nelson.htm
In this dining room I used a limited palette of colours: orange-reds, gold and cream silk. The scheme was based on the Burmese begging monks (C19th) which are rendered in gold with red. This idea fed well on the red lacquer Regency dining chairs, the Chinoiserie wallpaper fragment, the gold with red trim of the picture frame above the chimneypiece, and the vibrant saffron coloured firescreen. I will display different pictures of this room to highlight these features, over the coming days.
Back in a previous life I was determined that CDs were not an attractive item to have around en masse, so I redesigned the Chinese lacquer trunk to make them fit CDs, and then "antiqued" them. They still work effectively today and the vibrant and different red-orange colours add interest to a room's design scheme. With the advent of the iPod and related gadgets, they are probably not as relevant as they once were, but their pleasing visual image enables them to be used for other storage, once the compartment feature is removed. And I haven't yet found anyone to download my faves from CDs or the internet onto an iPod, so CDs still rule in our house. I'm pleased to report we moved on from LPs and cassettes, (although I have to confess to still having a trunk load of the latter...and a player too. How retro, it's almost fashionable!)
These orchid plants are sold in boxes of 20 and cost USD5. They usually flower for two months, and once placed in a glazed pot, make a stunning display in various rooms, including the kitchen, which we use as a bar area where guests receive their drinks, and where they seem to linger. (Staying close to the fridge seems to be the desired M.O.)
I also place a couple of the plants in a large cut glass goblet, which rests on a mirrored stand to give it extra height. These two items come from one of the most exciting interiors shops in Bangkok, which is appropriately named "Incredible". It is a veritable treasure trove of eclectic pieces bought by its owner from all over the world, some in their original form, and some re-worked to give them a new and exciting lease on life.
The famed Bangkok weekend market, Chatuchak opens on Wednesdays and Thursdays to sell plants, and like most visits, yesterday's hot sun was no exception to the plan to go and find what you need as quickly as possible, and to return to air conditioned comfort. The initial joy of seeing less people in the afternoon, is tempered by the increased temperatures.
Along the mighty Chao Phraya River, on the opposite bank of the Grand Palace (see below) is this derelict building, in the European "colonial" style, (although Thailand was never a colony), surely the ultimate "fixer-upper". This compares to a number of unwelcome reminders in Bangkok of the 1997 crash - "dead buildings", in their eerie skeletal form, which are the remnants of high rise buildings, on which the banks, (the lending variety) have not foreclosed. Happily in the intervening decade many have now been completed, but a few still remain, as a reminder of oversupply, a lesson that has been forgotten as soon as it was learned. Whether the current turmoil in the USA will bring that lesson to the fore again remains to be seen, but certainly oversupply appears to be in evidence.
This magnificent palace complex is no longer the residence of the Thai Royal Family, but is used by them for official receptions, and significant royal events. Construction on the complex began in 1782, during the reign of King Rama I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Palace
It isn't exactly Versailles, but the grand entrance way concept can be effected by drama, and using mirrors and glass achieves this well. Reflections from highly polished black granite floors enhance this and create a further illusion of depth, on top of the space enlargement from the mirrors and sandblasted glass. In this design shown, I used both of these devices to also reflect the light coming through from the main natural light source into the apartment.
I know The Royal Maundy Service is held on the Thursday preceding Good Friday, but I only thought about it today, Monday, as an opportunity to show another picture that I purchased recently at auction, of the Royal Maundy Service in 1936 at which King Edward VIII presided over the one and only service of his brief reign. The picture is by William R S Stott. In the present reign the service is held at cathedrals throughout the United Kingdom, but previously, (as in this picture), it was held in Westminster Abbey. The service which took place on Thursday 20th March this year was held in Northern Ireland: http://www.nio.gov.uk/the-queen-attends-royal-maundy-service-in-historic-visit-to-armagh/media-detail.htm?newsID=15101
Now I've found at least one contemporary Thai artist who's pictures inspire me. His name is Natee Utarit: http://www.nateeutarit.com/ and conveniently one of his recent pictures is of a rabbit, providing a helpful segway to wish everyone a happy Easter, and introduce a great talent. Two of his works will be auctioned at Sotheby's in Hong Kong on 8th April, with estimates ranging from USD19k-20k.
Saturdays are without doubt the best daytime viewing for me on Bangkok's only cable television channel, which carries Discovery Travel & Living. There are a few interior-related programmes which are sufficiently uninspiring to allow a decent window to have a late lunch or a very late breakfast, and what I want to watch doesn't start until after 1.00pm, which is truly accommodating for recovery from a late Friday night.
I particularly enjoy Living Etc, (although it is somewhat self-indulgent and a plug for the magazine), Material World (the antics of a group of American interior designers, who are so bizarre they fall very succinctly into the stereotype of what an outsider would expect) and The Wow Factor, a repetitive format slot for a bossy London-based designer, who is however talented.
Well, I did preface it all with the likelihood of being in a subdued state...what better way to deal with that than some easy viewing?
There's something truly grand about double doors into reception rooms. This picture shows the view from the drawing room to the hallway, and the grand effect is preserved this way round too. This element reinforces two of my favoured techniques - symmetry and drama. They are especially important in entrances, both to a residence, but also to the room. In this particular house beautiful teakwood shelving has been installed and has been used for the doors aswell.
Creating drama in table settings can enhance a dinner party mood. I have always enjoyed a passion for good glass, and silver (flatware). I began collecting both from a relatively young age, with generous friends giving me Waterford Curraghmore stemware, which I have recently made up to 10 of the requisite glasses. They have become a rarity, with replacements now having to be ordered directly from Ireland. Whilst they were never cheap, they are now on average about USD150 per piece. As a result I wash them myself, so that any damage is my fault. The champagne flutes, which one tends to use to serve pre-dinner drinks are often taken to places around the apartment which make me shudder, such as the wooden slatted bench on the balcony. But I'm not wary of asking guests to leave glasses on safer surfaces, however fussy it may seem at the time! With the silverware, I patronised a shop in Edinburgh, Goodwin's and have made up an entire set of the rat tail pattern. One portion of these was an unused set of knives which were a hundred years old. Other portions are newly created. Again hand washing, and individually, tends to prevent them scratching; it's a question of enjoying them, but looking after them, not always priority combinations of those who help and serve.
As for serving food, there are several schools of thought, but I subscribe to the one that adheres to serving from the left and clearing from the right. Wine is poured from the right, because of easier access to where the glasses are placed on the table. Nowadays, because of less formal rituals, and because we like to cook ourselves, we ask guests to help themselves from the kitchen, which both saves on being a waiter all night, and also allows them to pick and choose, and believe me it's not always easy to anticipate dietry requirements, although sometimes they expect you to have psychic powers.
Thai Spirit Houses are found in the grounds of every home in Thailand. I purchased two antique ones when we first came to live in Bangkok, and they now reside at opposite ends of the largest balcony of my apartment. Their purpose is to house the spirits who would normally live in the celestial heavens. I am not a worshipper of spirits or animism, but they are attractive as decorative pieces, and this is their purpose for me. At night the spot lighting creates interest in two areas of the long balcony. Symmetry at work in Thailand...spooky indeed! One of them also sits on top of a weather-proof wooden aircon condenser cover, which makes a useful base. I am in the process of creating a black perspex base (to mimic an illusion of black marble) for the one with steps, so that it can be visible from the sitting room, and be given its "higher" status, in accordance with normal practice.
The great design of the neo-classical used order and symmetry, and these work well in a modern setting too, benefitting from the clean lines which they allow. Throughout projects I have re-used this simple technique, and here is one example, using a red lacquer chair in the Regency style, with a white urn atop a piece of glass. This placed with its pair creates the drama and formality of an entrance hall, with the mirror backdrop creating a further illusion of space.
In my first posting I made mention of my recent auction buys of pictures and this is one of them, an autumnal forest scene, with a peasant woman picking up pieces of kindling. It was bought from an estate sale in Paris, but thus far the provenance is unknown although its canvas and the state of the oil paint suggest it is from the 1920s. However, I believe its colour palette evokes an air of easy calm, and provides inner contentment. For my own collection I enjoy art that provides this feel good factor. Art that depicts scenes of war and horror of course have their merit, but they are not necessarily images that I need to see on a daily basis in my own living environment!
This term was invented by the famed interior designer David Hicks, of whom I was a great admirer. http://www.dezignare.com/newsletter/davidhicks.html My style has been much influenced by him, and if any comparison were to be made, I would be truly flattered if it was with his style. I met him with friends over lunch in Hong Kong in the mid nineties.
I will show a series of tablescapes, but start with this perspex pigeon hole frame, which I designed for small objetsd'arts. Some pieces are intrinsically valuable, others sentimentally so, and some not at all, but the intention is that the overall effect creates an interest to the viewer. This display is enhanced by the lighting that falls from the lamps on either side with their chrome shades.
The flower market in Bangkok, Pak Klong Talaat provides a large variety of exceptionally pretty flora, especially but not unsurprisingly, of the orchid species. And all for a very reasonable price. The lime green variety cost just under USD2, and the coral coloured bunch about USD5. These cut flowers last a week, and sometimes up to ten days, which almost seems too long, as a change is often preferred. However, at these prices this is easily and inexpensively achievable.
We called in at the market on our way back from the Silpakorn University Graduate Art Exhibition, next to the famous Bangkok landmark, the Grand Palace. The standards were very high and predominantly contemporary. They are part of a planned education for me to better understand contemporary Thai art. I have been buying pictures recently at auction, but they are 1920s European expressionist. I would like to think that they might sell well in Thailand, and I had hoped to open a gallery. However, I'm having to think this through a lot more. One of my Thai friends, who also has similar interests, (but more in the aforementioned contemporary field), asked me when I first raised the idea, whether I wanted to make money out of the proposed venture. I said that I would not be averse to that, (my understatement, for "yes"), but I think in retrospect he probably meant: was I willing to lose money?
It's a very fickle industry, and I am a complete novice. My principle interest lies in interior design, where I have had success, limited only by my lack of exposure and inability to decide whether I want to make it a full time career, or to play at it like a hobby. My style is contemporary classic, and I think mixing new with old, and utilising the principles of Georgian symmetry, creates a stylish formal setting, enhanced by dramatic pieces. Obviously my appreciation of art thus far falls into the more conservative realm. I think both can work together, but the underlying principle must be that you like the pieces.