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4 posts from October 2010

26 October 2010

70's Tile

Doncha just love these.....

70's tile 1 70's tile 2
...tiles from the 1970's, spotted in the stairwell of an otherwise anonymous building in East London.

You can keep all those tasteful, textured stone, tessellated rectangles: I want swans, and moons and sailing boats.

25 October 2010

All Fur Coat And No Knickers

The Town Hall hotel in London's East End, recently visited while filming in Bow. And a very beautiful design job, where Rare Architects have deftly preserved and enhanced all those fine, solid features you would expect to find in such a building, like miles of hardwood panelling, polished marble floors, a great big sweeping staircase and brass rails and door plates burnished by the press of a million human palms. (I even spotted a sign for the Assembly Rooms - though on investigation the door was sadly locked.) This stately legacy is then balanced with thoughtfully chosen contemporary fittings and finishes, including a stunning brass "origame" front desk, the whole gently subverted by a witty art collection. 

The "apartment" (suite) I was given was also easy on the eye, though I question the wisdom of a wardrobe that is just 30 cms wide for what could be 2 people for more than 1 night, and that's when you can find it. There was even a kitchen concealed behind concertina doors. And I soon realised why a kitchen was required. 

The Town Hall Hotel is perhaps most famous for its Nuno Mendes restaurant, Viajante - I even spotted Mr Blumenthal in the lobby en route - so it must be good.

But bugger me if you can get a table. Even as a guest of the hotel. And in advance. The alternative, if you are a business traveller - tired and hungry, is eating tapas in the cocktail bar alongside all the East End groovies (too draining) or choosing from the almost contemptuous room service menu: a burger (with crisps only); a sandwich (For supper? In the winter?); a salad (Again. For supper? In the winter?); a very basic tomato pasta (for the kid's tea, right?).

So if you're planning to stay bring some groceries with you (and any condiments you might fancy - a request for Tabasco threw the kitchen into the same sort of spin that they went into when  I asked what the soup of the day was: it turned out to be the soup of the previous day too - so not really the "soup of the day" then guys) so you can cook yourself something nice and comforting and/or healthy to eat in the kitchen, though whether you would want to sleep in your room afterwards is a different matter.

And don't think of sounding this discordant note in an otherwise symphony of elegance. I really thought the days when Londoners had to suffer at the hands of  old-fashioned Eastern European "we serve you right" attitudes were over. The front desk is stunning, but the service is stunning for all the wrong reasons.

If I were Rare Architects I'd be rather disappointed.

14 October 2010

A Stone in the Hand.....

I've just been asked to give some tips on how to give kitchens and bathrooms a "designer look" for a magazine: what does this mean? Everything manmade is designed. 

IMG00155-20101014-1108 IMG00154-20101014-1108
Even this Neolithic flint skinning tool, found in my garden this week.....which was nice!

09 October 2010

Grand Designs and Grace

Just had delish din dins with Aidan Walker, curator and writer, and Johnny Grey, kitchen designer, here at the Malmaison in Birmingham.  Good gossipy chat in advance of our talk tomorrow on design with emotion. Thank goodness for good food as emotional content of Malmaison design heavily influenced by bruised, brothel-coloured corridors, capricious electrics and poor maintenance. They have handy men in Birmingham right?

Was reminded by  "computer says no" tone of voice at front desk, plus trip today to Birmingham in v nice Virgin train, that emotional content of design in service environments is largely mediated by staff.

Charlie our train manager - I know his name because he kept telling us over the intercom what it was - first watched me struggle onto train with case size of train and second was v rude to fellow passenger when she realised she had the wrong ticket. Shame, as design of carriage is really lovely and luxurious but service certainly is not, which compromises entire experience.

Four of us will be speaking in 13 hours time - Heavenly Kevin, Johnny Grey, Theo Williams from Habitat et moi- deftly hosted by Aidan. Likely to be a blast.

It's been quite a week. Last Saturday was the Stirling Prize and me guest of the wonderful DSDHA. Heavenly hosted. I wore a hat. 

Then filming all week, making some really gorgeous and super helpful films for a favourite DIY store, full of cool decorating ideas and top DIY tips. It's so damn easy I'm even thinking of doing my own decorating in new home. 

In fact maybe I should offer my expert handywoman services to hotel?