Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Demystifying The Auction Process...With Cheffins Auction House, Cambridge!

Despite having worked in the fashion industry for over twenty years, I have never been one to follow trends.  Trends can be beautiful?...Undoubtedly!  Stylish? - Certainly!  Perfectly matched to ones own design philosophies? - Of course... but then - there's the thing.  If something is perfectly in tune with ones own aesthetic, then surely it stops being a trend - and simply becomes something that we like, that happens to popular with a lot of other people at that precise moment in time...

Me surrounded by my quirky mix of new, vintage and antique
Surely it's better to surround ourselves with things that we have discovered ourselves and genuinely love, and then watch happily as they enter in and out of popularity with the ebb and flow of fashion, knowing that for as many times as we are behind with a trend - we are certain to also be propelled unwittingly into the forefront again at some point?

Take the furniture and artwork that we use to fill our houses for instance.  Is it really practical to keep replacing major items on an annual basis, simply because a particular period of history is currently 'on trend'?

I personally believe that a mix of modern and new, vintage and antique is the perfect mix for me and my lifestyle at Hill House.  I like to be surrounded by things that have a story or a heritage behind them and I particularly like to be surrounded by things that are built or made to last.  This can of course to relate to new things just as well as old.  There are many wonderful sofa and furniture companies who take pride in their workmanship and have no desire to give you reason to repeat buy within a matter of a few years. Their intention is to create the heirlooms and antiques of tomorrow, and their skill and care is reflected in the final product - and often, regrettably, the price.

So, if one is looking for solid, well made, beautiful pieces of interest for the home, without necessarily wishing to spend an absolute mint - where can we go to get the same feel, without remortgaging our houses as a result?

Why auction houses of course!

Now, mainly in part due to the stereotypical image of the blustering comedian accidentally bidding on a several million pound Van Gogh by yawning at the wrong moment during bidding time, auctions have suffered from a nerve inducing reputation for some people.

Nobody wants to find themselves in an awkward situation, and combined with the mystery that surrounds how, when, and where to bid, many feel that perhaps buying at an auction isn't for them...

Well, let me tell you - most people are therefore missing out on an absolute treat as well as the regular opportunity to bring home a bargain.  Whether it be fine art, object d'art, good solid furniture, vintage mirrors or a perfectly aged antique rug that you're looking for, auctions offer the ability to find something of such incredible quality and often, history,  that it really is doing ourselves a disservice to strike them off our interior hunting grounds.

Now, interior designers have know this for years.  It's a well kept secret within design circles that a sure fire way to achieve an expensive looking, heritage look is to purchase at auction rather than visit a luxury antique shop (after all, auctions are the first stop for every luxury antique shop owner - so imagine the amount of middle men your favoured antique shop item has passed through!)

The first time I set eyes on 'Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin' by The Hon. Marion Saumarez
This is why, when Cheffins Auction House in Cambridge approached me to discuss the idea of helping to demystify the whole auction process, it was an appealing challenge that I felt was a valuable 'public information service' if not an actual duty to my interior lifestyle loving readers who may not be familiar with them.

The Cheffins Warehouse - Pre Auction Day.
Now, as a lover of vintage furniture, which I often paint and sell, I am no stranger to auction houses and auction sites.

However, Cheffins is a step away from the average vintage emporium.  At their auction room it is very possible to spend several thousand pounds if one wishes,  but it is equally possible to part with a fraction of that as well...

Cataloguing Lots for Auction Day.
Sophie, the lovely head of PR at Cheffins, initially invited me along to the showrooms to take a look at the items that were on offer, and that would be appearing in the upcoming December auction.

Some extremely handsome and distinguished gentlemen heading off to Auction!
We decided that it would be a fun exercise to choose a few of the potential Auction Lots and bring them home to Hill House to see how they would look.

Auction warehouses can sometimes be rather overwhelming with the amount of pieces intended for auction day, so it was a wonderful excuse to get a feel for some lovely pieces of art and furniture against the backdrop of a real family home.

Seeing How 'Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin' would look in a normal home'
I am a massive fan of oversized pieces and romantic looking art, and so this painting entitles 'Self Portrait Of Artists A Her Violin' by the Hon. Marion Saumarez caught my eye immediately.  We are so used to seeing large posters and prints in houses, that it's easy to forget, that original pieces of art were actually intended to achieve the same dramatic result in real homes rather than sit art galleries.

'Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin' looking perfectly at home standing atop my dining room sideboard!
'Dog on Tiger Rug' by artists Lionel Edwards
Another pieces that caught my eye was the of a 'Dog on Tiger Rug' by Lionel Edwards.  A fun piece and certainly a good choice for the many dog lovers among us.

You can just see the inlaid table fitting in nicely to the right of the sideboard.
Finally came the inlaid wine table, which despite its ornate depiction of peacocks and feathers was an easy piece to place that could fit into any room and provide much beauty and interest on top of it's intended functional use.

When I first saw the inlaid wine table at Cheffins warehouse - the retail is remarkable.
Sadly for me, all of these pieces were destined to return in time for auction day, and so having fallen in love with the 'Self Portrait Of Artist With A Violin" in particular, it was time to see how she would fare in the actual auction...

Auction day at Cheffins HQ in Cambridge.
Auction days are always a hive of activity at any Auction house.  The public are invited to come on viewing days prior to the auction and are welcome to leave advance bids on items of interest if they are unable to attend the auction in person.  One thing that Cheffins are keen to promote is that there are numerous ways of placing a bid to suit everyones comfort zone - AND time zone! When convenient,  I personally find it exciting to place my bid on the day and watch the auction unfolding in person.  I like to enjoy the moment, and the excitement that one feels when securing the winning bid is like no other.  It's also extremely interesting to watch the bidding process and see which items prove popular, and which ones end up going for a song.  Often the result isn't always as expected...

The Bidding has begun!
However, we all live busy lives and for those in a different location or countries, it is encouraged to phone through a bid, place an advance bid or place a bid online.  For the nervous among us, these are also all ways in which one can control, set and stick to a spending limit, since you are able to set your top price level, walk away and wait to see what happens....

Another beauty that caught my eye on auction day!
It's important to note that even if you win the bid and end up with your chosen piece, you will not necessarily have spent up to your top price level.  If nobody has bid against you, OR competing bids dropped out early, then the end price that you pay will be set at the start price or where the bidding stopped.

The original Cheffins sign.
I didn't end up getting my 'Self Portrait Of Artist With A Violin'.  She proved to be a most popular piece and I imagine has ended up in a suitably loving home.  I'm happy with that result - watching the bidding was immensely exciting and a thrill to watch, and it's quite satisfying to see a piece you love being loved and coveted by others - even when it doesn't end up coming home with you!

It's true to say that the entire process is quite fascinating and addictive in the most positive and enjoyable sense, and I would highly recommend attending an auction to all of the vintage, antique, art and furniture lovers out there - even if the first few times you attend are purely to test the waters and get a feel for what it all entails.  Always feel free to ask the auction house staff to clarify anything for you - they are more than willing to help, and will even help you place a bid if you require.  They are also a fountain of knowledge and can talk you through any piece that catches your eye.  For the time strapped among us, you can also request an auction catalogue in advance and/or view it online which will give you the basic information of starting bids, the predicted range of bidding and some history on the item.

Also, do look on the Auction House websites (you can find Cheffins Here).  There are usually set dates for various types of sales and you will be able to plan your visit based on the auction calendar.  It's not all about old furniture either.  If your interests lie in a more modern vibe, then there will definitely be something for you.  I've seen beautiful Mid Century Modern pieces sat happily next to Arts & Crafts as well as Edwardian and Georgian pieces at various auctions.

The fact is that Cheffins in particular, hold auctions covering everything from fine art and furniture, to old books, and even houses and cars.  They even hold farm equipment sales if that's your thing.  Personally, I like to dip my toe into a bit of everything - just to see what's what.  One never knows when you may find yourself to be the only bidder on your dream item - although perhaps it won't turn out to be an undiscovered Van Gogh...although who knows - a lady can dream after all!

Until Next Time,

This post was sponsored by Cheffins Auction House.  With special thanks to Sophie Richardson.
For details of the Auctions throughout the year, please visit www.cheffins.co.uk
The Next Interiors Sale at Cheffins Auction will take place on Thursday 24th January 2019.
The Next Fine Art Sale at Cheffins Auction House will take place on 6th7th March 2019.
Find Cheffins on instagram Here.


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

My Long Love Affair With Farrow & Ball Paint Colours!

I'm not one to necessarily follow the new trendy colours of the year, I know what I like and I like what I know.  However, when a brand such as Farrow & Ball decided to bring out a range of new colours - something that they only do once every a few years, then I tend to sit up and take note.

The New Farrow and Ball Colour Range
You see, I've been using Farrow & Ball paint colours for over twenty years - ever since buying my first apartment with my husband.

We have subsequently used them in every home that we've owned.

It helps, that every home that I have lived in has been a period property, and the range of Farrow & Ball colours, particularly those with their flat finish are particularly - although by no means exclusively - suited to period properties.  In fact many of them are based on heritage and existing colours from certain periods in history - and as a history buff, it makes perfect sense to me to use paint from a company that uses titles such as 'Card Room Green', 'Manor house Grey' and 'Dead Salmon'!

Not so long ago I had the privilege of visiting the Farrow & Ball factory down in Dorset.  It's where all of the magic happens, and is an incredibly close knit and hands on operation considering that the paints are highly respected internationally and distributed world wide.  The Farrow & Ball team pride themselves on working to small, highly controlled batches made to small orders, so that each colour mismatched to perfection.  Of course the formula to the exquisitely chalky, yet rich depth to the finish that I love the most  - is a highly treasured and well kept secret, and with good reason, as I've never seen a rival to it yet.

My Fellow Bloggers (L-R Nat, Me, Kat, Cara, Reena, Sally, Anna) and I posing at supper on The Farrow and Ball Trip with our lovely host Kat.
I recently made quite a dramatic change to the room that we call our Drawing Room at Hill House.  After years of a rich, deep red wallpaper, I decided to return to a tried and tested old favourite combination of mine, naturally from Farrow & Ball - French Grey on the walls and Bone on the woodwork.  I'd used this palette previously in that first flat and then again in our old London house before we moved to Norfolk - yes - I am a creature of habit, but I also feel that when something works beautifully and makes you feel happy, why not surround yourself with it!  After enjoying the cocooning, Victorian study style deep red for so long, the light and fresh feel of these lighter more muted colours was an exciting and uplifting change.  However, rather than use one of my familiar colours for the ceiling, where I tend to go lighter, I decided to try out one of the colours from the new selection at Farrow & Ball.  Namely, School House White.  I already new that I was in love with this chalky white, reminiscent of school chalk, because I had already painted two dining room side tables in this gloriously fresh colour, to highly pleasing effect.

The New colour scheme in painting progress!
Second coat on!
All done! Now to put things back!

I think that the combination of this trio of colours has been a wonderful success, and the fact that I was safe in the knowledge that my existing furniture would work perfectly against the new palette (I've had several pieces - including the red check chair - for many, many years), made it an especially enjoyable experience.

However, I did love the deep red, richness of the previous red, and so when Farrow & Ball asked me whether I'd like to take part in a fun project based on the new colour launch,  I jumped at the chance of using their "Preference Red" in honour of the dark richness of the 'old' style drawing room.

The brief was to take one or more of the new seasons colours and give an interpretation of them in my own distinctive way.

Well, as a known lover of old houses and period architecture, and the fact that Hill House, built in the Georgian era itself is often compared to a Dolls House due to it's classic, perfectly symmetrical proportions, I decided that a Georgian Style dolls house painted in Preference Red with furniture painted in School House White, would be a fun and perfectly fitting interpretation for me.

The resulting images make me think of childhood Christmas's past and present.  There is an air of nostalgia about a traditional wooden dolls house, and the creamy chalkiness of School House White against the deep richness of the Preference Red really shows off the depth of colour in the Farrow and Ball finish to great effect.  It was a wonderful project tom take part in, and the joy that I and the - admittedly teenage - children have taken from revisiting our younger years and playing with the dolls house in front of the Christmas tree has made the experience all the more festive and pleasurable.

In fact, now that the tree has been taken down,  right here, playing in front of the fire is where I think I may stay for the foreseeable future!

Until next Time!

(This is not a sponsored post, but some of the paint was gifted.  All views are my own.)


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A Woodland Inspired Autumn Table!

One of the main reasons why I insist on keeping a separate dining room - when we also have a large family room table adjoining the kitchen - is that I love to entertain...  Of course the whole point of hosting a lunch or dinner party is the pleasure of wonderful guests and convivial company, the enjoyment of good food and whatever tipple takes your fancy...  however, if you're anything like me, there's also an immense amount of pleasure to be had from simply dressing the room and table beforehand...

Coming up with a theme is relatively easy when there's a festive occasion such as Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas to guide the decor, but what about those in between moments such as the weeks after Halloween when your pumpkins are past their best, and before the glitz of Christmas decorating officially starts?  What if you still want everything to look season appropriate, stylish and jolly but without going down the whole Christmas route a tad too early?

To help me with this styling conundrum, I was lucky enough to be able to choose a few pieces from the Autumn/Winter range of iconic British brand OKA,  and together with a few vintage pieces and accessories from textile designer Sophie Allport, I came up with my version of an Autumn table with a touch of woodland mixed in...

My colour palette consisted of a mix of green, blue, natural and blush colours, and was inspired by the colours in a beautiful bunch of faux flowers that OKA made up for me a few months ago. You can find similar Here...

As a massive fan of mismatched crockery, I love mixing colours and patterns that may not at first be an obvious mix, yet they somehow, inexplicably compliment each other.  It often helps to look around at planting schemes and every day combinations that occur naturally to gain inspiration as to what will work with what, and so seeing these colours work so well together in 'nature' reassured me that my greens, blues and pinks would work equally as well on my Autumn table.

The crockery is a mix of my favourite vintage cabbage ware, some new OKA green leaf side plates (I also have the equally luscious and much larger dinner plates), my recently purchased 1940's vintage Flow Blue china and some elegantly pretty pink striped OKA dinner plates that I bought last year in the sale...

However, the 'piece de resistance' - and the real prompt for the idea of a 'woodland' theme are these amazing OKA 'Cornamenta' faux antler candle holders, made from polyresin and painted by hand.  (There are matching napkin holders that are currently on my Christmas list for when we're deep in snow and I want to go the whole hog with a full on alpine theme!)  The dramatic addition of four of these candle holders, combined with their flickering tapered LED candles, created a magical and otherworldly atmosphere that was in keeping with the woodland fantasy...

The napkin rings are vintage and the napkins and tablemats are from Sophie Allport in her delightful Artichoke design.

The pink stripe and inky blue of the plates sit together perfectly, and the two colours are mirrored elsewhere in the room...

...As can be seen here with another warm and Autumnal addition - these stunning pleated linen lamp shades and matching scatter cushion are in OKA's Sotota print.  The blue and rouge tones against a neutral background add a pared back yet exotic bit of colour to the otherwise pale background, and provide a lovely contrast to my red check Ian Mankin fabric on a side chair.  See below.

Above all, I adore colour as much as I adore having a bit of fun with my table settings.  Of course, there is so much more that I would love to add - more plants, more playful accessories, more colourful dishes, a complimentary table cloth perhaps (although I do love the look of the table setting on bare wood)... and then I remember that my guests also need room to sit and eat amongst the woodland landscape - and I reconcile myself to the fact that occasionally - but not always - less can more....So life sized Bambi be gone - and now I'm off to plan a belated menu! Ah well!

Until next time,


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Interiors Spotlight - The Hamptons with James Michael Howard!

It goes without saying that holidays can be wonderfully invigorating,  joyful and restful occasions. With any luck, we come home feeling refreshed, renewed and ready for fresh challenges...

...Exploring new places and seeing foreign cultures at first hand can be incredibly exciting, or perhaps your idea of the perfect holiday involves sampling foreign cuisine and trying out local restaurants or visiting museums and places of architectural interest and fully immersing yourself into the lifestyle of your chosen vacation spot...

Our home for the summer, designed by owner James Michael Howard 
I am all for everything listed above.  Architecture and food are definitely on my top priority list...

However, being somewhat of an interiors addict, I find that for me, the most successful holidays are the ones where I stay somewhere that inspires me and opens my eyes to new interior ideas and ways of living that I can bring home with me to reinterpret in Hill House...

Me & My 'nephew' Jake!
Our recent trip to The Hamptons was a perfect example of providing something for everyone in the Sutton household.  My family enjoyed the delights of the pool, the beach, the fabulous restaurants and glamorous shops...

Jake enjoying 'The Good Life'!
While I went around practically drooling at the houses, the immaculate planting, the perfectly tended gardens and the abundance of exquisite 18th century shingle buildings and estates hidden behind high boxwood hedges and swathes of bobbing hydrangea bushes...

Classically inspired landscaping.
As a lover of traditional houses with perfect symmetry, The Hamptons provided a visual feast of architectural periods, styles and interpretations all executed along this similar theme...

Being guests of my family who were leasing a house for the extended Summer season with a view to potentially buying in the region (Yes please - we want to come back!), we were able to throw ourselves fully into the joys of Hamptons Living - almost feeling like locals by the time we left...

For those who aren't aware, 'The Hamptons' is the name given to part of the East End of Long Island. It compromises of a group of villages and hamlets in the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, which together form the South Fork of LongIsland in Suffolk County, New York.

The house we stayed in is the vision of interior decorator extraordinaire, James Michael Howard, who worked with architects McAlpine to design what to me is close to being a perfect Hamptons home (although to be honest, similar to a child in a sweetshop - almost every home I saw was an exquisite example of a "Perfect Hamptons Home").  Not forgetting, the exquisite landscaping of the gardens and grounds done by Michael Derrig.

The Gardens.

Each room in the house - and there were many to explore and enjoy - is an interior design lovers dream - bedrooms included...

Me thinking about the bedding spree that I intended to go on when I arrive home!
What was particularly inspiring is how James Michael Howard has managed to give a contemporary feeling to the interiors, without compromising on a traditional and homely feel.  There were many interior details, bespoke pieces of furniture, and decorative groupings that wouldn't look out of place at Hill House despite our classic English Georgian design...

I like this idea for displaying books on my dining table when not in use for its primary function,
Me living the Hamptons Life!

In fact, the whole space was a perfect example of the synergy that exists between good classical design and good architecture.  I find that in most cases beauty is beauty, and when it is expertly executed, it can work well whatever the period of backdrop or location.

I have always loved a good 'grouping' of d'objects, whether in my case it be vintage food domes, a group of paintings or Victorian kitchenalia, so it was a joy to see the beautiful groups of collections featured around the house and used as a decorative feature...

A beautiful curated display of found turtle shells.
Artwork grouped to perfection and wall light beauty!
Classic architectural details and a love of symmetry play a big part in the overall cohesive beauty of the interiors...

The beauty of symmetry on an upstairs landing.
A 'Tudor' inspired shape for the front door - I love this nod to classic interiors.

The Main reception room with it's almost 'ecclesiatical' vaulted ceiling.
...As does a very evident love of modern as well as traditionally inspired lighting...

The dining area with its cleverly grouped contemporary lighting.
This wouldn't look out of place at Hill House.
...And contemporary art...

Contemporary art against panelled walls - a good example of James Michael Howard's clever skill at mixing styles.
..Yet, always with an eye for comfort and remembering that it's a family home...

This could be a detail from Hill House - but it's not! 
Of course, no Hamptons home is complete without an ultra glamorous kitchen...

The Kitchen Island - and the best use for a kitchen island below...

A particularly favourite area of mine - The breakfast 'nook'.

...and naturally the beauty and glamour was not just confined to the interior spaces.  The outdoor living spaces were treated with  equal attention to detail...

The decked bedroom terrace.
A Perfect outdoor entertaining space for Summer OR Winter!
Now I want 'festoon' lights just like these!
It's certainly a dog's life...
Nocturnal perfection.

Above all, I came home inspired - as well as several pounds heavier, but that's a story of 'gastronomique' excess for another post...) - and buzzing with fresh ideas on how to incorporate some of these Hamptons Style elements into my interiors at home, without compromising the integrity of Hill House - which is after all, an English country house, with its own merits, beauty and identity.

One of my main aspirations is to attempt to 'streamline' whilst still maintaining my collections and love of colourful English textiles and soft furnishings - however there is a fine line between 'collection' and clutter and I fear that I must remember that!   I loved how despite the abundance of art, lighting features, books and decorative items, the house always maintained a feeling of airiness, space and light.  It felt fresh and sophisticated, but still cosy and welcoming.  Now this could be due to the basic fact that there was a lot of floor space to be enjoyed, but in truth, it owed much of it's success to the lightness of hand of its interior designer / owner, James Michael Howard, who certainly knows how to turn a luxury house into a beautiful and liveable home.

Until Next Time!

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