Friday, June 17, 2011

London Diary Part 1

A slice of Charles and Diana’s wedding cake (£750) in original commemorative box.
Emily Evans Eerdmans – London Diary Part 1

While my work as an antiques advisor brought me to London for all the fairs, many other delectable treats lay in store – including massive gold epaulettes, a design legend or two, and my first taste of pigeon.

Getting down to business, I got off the red-eye from New York to whizz straight over to the Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Show. A designer’s preview was organized, and Marietta Himes Gomez and Bennett Weinstock were just two of the familiar faces. The buzz on the floor was that Rose Tarlow had already come through the evening before with the big O (as in Oprah). When the doors officially opened at 11am, attendees were literally running down the aisles to get first crack.

New York interior designer Garrow Kedigian with client in tow at the Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Show.
It’s a great looking show with everything from a slice of Charles and Diana’s wedding cake for 750 pounds to a Joan Miro from Barcelona’s Mayoral Galeria D’Art for $1 million.

We continued on to the Haughtons’ Art Antiques London which is held in a custom-built tented pavilion opposite Royal Albert Hall in Kensington Gardens. It absorbed the very popular ceramics fair and, only in its second year, it is still heavily ceramics-based with a large concentration of picture dealers. There is much talk about the proliferation of fairs after the demise of Grosvenor House and does it make sense to have so many.

That evening was my friend Rosie’s birthday and she and her husband, Lord West, invited me for drinks at the Langham Hotel’s Artesian Bar. It’s decorated a la Dorothy Draper with a huge pagoda-shaped cabinet bar by David Collins, who apparently is the hotel decorator du jour. We then went off for a delicious curry dinner in Pimlico.

The next morning my friend (and hostess) Lavinia and I were off to Oxfordshire to see Ashley Hicks at The Grove, the country house and gardens of his father, legendary designer David Hicks. I had just enough time to pick up a box of salted caramels at L’Artisan du Chocolat on Lower Sloane Street which Lavinia highly recommended. The staff is very generous with samples and I dare anyone to leave with just one box. After no luck at Peter Jones’s hat department – probably picked over because of Ascot – we were off on the M4 heading east.
The living room at The Grove, the country house and gardens legendary designer David Hicks.
The dining room. Ashley’s study.
First was a tour of the house itself where Ashley’s mother Lady Pamela Hicks still resides. She has kept the decoration intact, and when a carpet wears out, it is replaced as close to the original as can be found. For some reason, I wasn’t aware of how fastidious Hicks was – all the labels on spirit bottles had to be steamed off, all the covers of his books in his red library had to be red – be it leather or wrapping paper, depending on the moment’s budget – you get the picture. I was particularly enchanted by Hick’s disguising of a large television. It was set on the ground under a center table whose rotating top was covered with a tapestry. However one side was cut out so that the television was revealed when turned. The top itself had two “tablescapes” – the television side had only black and white framed photographs so as not to compete with TV viewing.

Lunch was delicious. Lamb ribs, roasted potatoes, and a berry crumble were prepared by Ashley’s "Man Friday," John. We sat in the dining room which is painted en grisaille with trees and rockwork by Ashley’s own hand. Ashley is a talented designer in his own right and his house is full of his creations, including a fabulous overmantle mirror with three monkey architects.
In kitchen with "Man Friday," John.
A caravan of Texan ladies pulled up in the afternoon, and we were all treated to a tour of the gardens, including the pavilion David Hicks designed as a birthday present for himself. It’s surrounded by a mini-moat complete with drawbridge which poor Lego, Lavinia’s Norfolk terrier, almost drowned in save for a vigilant Texan.

Hicks made explicit directions for his funeral which included being laid out in the pavilion. Having designed his own coffin without any handles, the two pallbearers – one at the front and one at the end – nearly had a heart attack themselves!
The gardens at the Grove.
Right: Ashley on the drawbridge (surrounded by a mini-moat) of the pavilion David Hicks designed as a birthday present for himself.
Back in town, Lavinia’s daughters – “the Shabsters” – and I ordered a Chinese feast fit for an emperor and then it was off to bed to be rested for lunch with decorating dynamo Nicky Haslam.
Emily Evans Eerdmans is a design historian and head of Corfield Morris New York.

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