Monday, March 31, 2014


My extreme and particular interest in fashion has waned slightly over the last few years. That isn't to say it is gone, just that I may only be up to date with 40% of any given season rather than 70%. This decline in interest has probably been matched proportionally by an increased interest in interior design. This does make me feel super old but there is a degree to which it must be inevitable - as your living situation improves (which it hopefully does as you get older) you're going to be more concerned with making and keeping it nice. When you are living in disgusting, mouldy student accommodation and packing everything into boxes every nine months it doesn't make sense to buy furniture or make long term interior decisions. You work with what you've got and try to make it as pleasant as possible for the short year you are there with as much as you can fit in the back of your parents' car. We've been in our flat for nearly three years now though and I only want to nest more not less. I want to mould it into my perfect space so I can snuggle in and never leave (practical hermit impulses). I can scour ebay and etsy and junk shops for a rug here, a print there, some charming ephemera everywhere.

If I followed my natural instincts (and had bottomless pockets) I would acquire a beautiful but strange collection of stuff and styles that might initially be charming but would probably soon become scary and overwhelming as I blocked the way to the outside world with taxidermied animals and fan chairs and hand dyed wall hangings and mahogany dressers. [Man, that sounds awesome! Our flat is never going to survive this...] So in a partial attempt to discipline myself and learn from people with better taste than me, and also just to wallow in the loveliness/have a good nose, I've been browsing lots of design and interiors sites recently - design*sponge, freunde van freunden, the design files, coffeeklatch... 

There is lots of inspiration here and so many beautiful houses and such exquisite taste BUT but, far too often, no bookshelves!! Where do minimalists keep their books? Even those with more eclectic, cluttered taste often only have a single stack of coffee table books artfully arranged. I don't get it. I need books like breathing. Books make a home. All I want is to be surrounded by books at all times. So it is with great excitement that I save down the few and far between online who actually own and display their books. I bookmark them, if you will. These are the houses I most want to live in, the ones I could maybe one day see myself owning, in all their bookly glory.

Dosfamily : Swiss cheese plant, perfect reading chair, messy and eclectic shelf contents, perfect use of space (max bookshelves are always the best way to use space).

Lee Mathews - The Design Files : beautiful rug, sterling pillow selection, statement lighting (because you can't read in poor light), acres of books and vinyl.

Nicolas Schuybroek - CoffeeKlatch : mid century furniture, flowers and coffee table books, grand dark wood and precise book arrangement.

Our book situation is nowhere near as idyllic. There are no built in shelves and no possibilities for any such in the near or middle distance future. We only have two proper sized bookshelves (one of which leaned at a strong 45 degree angle until we finally replaced it a few weeks ago) and a great many floor piles. Still, our latest bookshelf is sizable and completely upright and I had a lovely chance to rearrange my shelves (that was a great night in, I am so supremely middle aged, it's bliss). I dislike colour coding books on principle and I didn't feel like mimicking my strictly alphabetical scheme from my family bookshelves. It's actually quite inflexible and difficult to work with on a small scale, you end up having to move the contents of three shelves to fit in one more G author and do you alphabetize the floor piles? Instead I went in rough sections - History & Biography, Cookbooks, Food & Travel, Hardbacks and favourites with spare paperbacks slotted into the remaining spaces. Read and unread are jumbled up and if I can't find something immediately I will learn soon enough. Then the deep shelves were filled up with favoured things and I smile every time I look at them. So much loveliness. How can anyone live without this?

If you have any shelving inspirations/favoured design sites do send them my way. This is an obsession I'm pretty happy to feed.

Chuck x

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pearl Maiden

The Girl with a Pearl Earring / Louise Brooks
Coco Chanel / Mary I with La Peregrina

I love pearls. I love their lustre and their cultural history and their unknowability. Given how much beautiful and important jewellery has been made with pearls in the past it is surprisingly difficult to find exciting, modern pearl jewellery. Pearls often get bogged down by the twinset association but Sophie Bille Brahe has made them irresistibly desirable. I want her entire SS/14 collection, it's so fresh. It is gorgeous and completely contemporary - cuffs, bars, mismatched piercings and doubled rings. Also, beautifully shot and styled. Presumably if I wear SBB's jewellery I will be as luminous as both her pearls and her model?

Chuck x

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Sunday Book: The Group - Mary McCarthy

Oh no... I lost my roll. I read The Group weeks ago and was totally intrigued by it but didn't write any notes and now I can't do it justice. To be a better, more observant, more punctual human. I'm going to patch something together though because the novel is bitter and hilarious and fascinating and more than worth posting.

Published in the 1960s and set in the 1930s, the novel traces the post-college years of a group of Vassar students. I read this book based on an online recommendation (can't remember whose, sorry) and it is a perfect demonstration of the importance and validity of online conversations about books read, enjoyed and considered. Occasionally I am struck by the feeling that my book posts are just vapid, narcissistic ramblings, white noise in a sea of white noise, and I should leave literary criticisms to the professionals - paid critics, academics, real writers. But it is unlikely that I would have stumbled across the original reviews (which were largely negative anyway) and few publications are rushing to discuss fifty year old writing by women. Based on the presentation of the current edition and the lack of professional critical conversation I would never have come across or picked up this book and that would have been a shame because it sharp and surprising and great.

I have written before about my disdain for the decisions made in the marketing of books by women and this is a prime example. I would never have picked this book up on it's own because it looks like drivel. The inside and outside of this book (my edition, the current Virago edition, specifically) are completely contradictory! This book should not be presented as chick lit - it shouldn't have a gossipy cover or an introduction by Candace Bushnell or pull quotes from Marian Keyes and Cosmopolitan. I actually have a lot of respect for Keyes and the introduction might be great (I didn't read it because I was too annoyed by the misleading SATC tie in) but they convey a very different kind of book to the one between the covers. Presumably this kind of down-selling makes for good sales but it must also make for a lot of disappointment; those who buy it for some fun, sexy Cosmo adventures are going to be disappointed and those who might actually enjoy it are going to overlook it...

"Married, single, career driven, or just working to pay the bills, the girls all struggle with their own challenges, and none is truly fulfilled in what they do or with what they have. Too intelligent and ambitious to be content with mediocrity, their tragedy is that the world they live in is not equipped to offer them the opportunities they long for, and they realize too late that happiness and fulfillment are not as simple to achieve as they once so naively believed." Rachel @ Book Snob

This isn't a chatty, flirty tale of love and glamour in period New York. This is a brutal examination of the disappointments in store for college educated women in the 1930s. It is engrossed in the gritty reality of these girls' lives, it is a dark, honest look at birth control, unpleasant sex, failing marriages, stumbling careers and shitting babies. There is an almost clinical attention to detail. I was very interested and surprised by how explicit much of it was, not erotic explicit but unflinching, we think we're so much more advanced and open than the 30s/60s but it is a long time since I've read anything so devoid of euphemisms and soft focus.

"It all rang true. She opened a further door into brutal frankness. There was something so crisp and clever and bold about her writing." Claire Tomalin

Oh, and on top of the content, which is remarkable and still feels depressingly relevant, the form of the novel is completely unexpected. This isn't a single linear narrative but a weaving of loosely linked stories. Time skips back and forth and chance encounters, memories and conversations spark each new chapter and connection. There is no heroine, no lead protagonist even, all the girls' lives have roughly equivalent weight although they make very different decisions. You hate them all for their flaws (and your own) and you love them for their moments of charm and honesty. It is beautifully human.

"The Group is easily a masterpiece, a satiric epic depicting in a nuanced, acute prose replete with uncommon wit, a great American tragedy: the unrelenting attack on female ambition. [...] In a brilliantly structured narrative that moves seamlessly forward in time while variously interweaving the lives of these eight women, McCarthy describes in rich and astonishing detail their mundane benchmarks: first love, first rejection, first job, first orgasm, first fight, first diaphragm fitting (which itself has to be a first in literature), first husband, first child, first breast-feeding (best thing I've ever read on the subject), first separation, first divorce, first death. There are no heroines. Each woman is flawed, a product of her particular time and place, striving to be her best, succumbing to her weaknesses with greater regularity. As we follow their overlapping trajectories, we witness each Vassar graduate have -- or deny -- the realization that the only voice she will ever have in the world is confined to denigrated female-identified domesticity. How successful a woman is must ultimately be measured by how content she is to dwell in a world apart. The Group recounts the everyman story of thwarted ambition from the female point of view and it is riveting stuff." Bookslut

If you are interested in reading about women's lives (and why wouldn't you be??) or twentieth century history or simply sharp, funny, truthful observations then I'd recommend checking out The Group. It is a great pleasure to be surprised.

Chuck x

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lady Jam: Kelela

Currently crushing on Kelela. Her mixtape Cut 4 Me has been my go to for the last couple of months and it's flippin' great. Some words: dark, moody, electric, bass, sultry, nu-rnb, stripped back, awesome. There is a really stark sonic weirdness to the tracks that I love. Excellent use of negative space, floating vocals, play it loud. I don't really feel like talking in full sentences but she is great. Download/get excited.

Chuck x

Monday, March 3, 2014

Arsenic Blues

Publication: The Wild Magazine
Issue: #5 Spring 2014
Title: Arsenic Blues
Model: Codie Young
Photography: Nicolas Valois
Styling: Guillaume Boulez
Hair: Roberto Pagnini
Make-up: Topolino

There have been a lot of words on this blog recently and I'm proud of that but I couldn't pass up the chance to reblog this editorial. I am in love. It is just so beautiful. It is really stretching it to call this a fashion shoot, given the lack of clothes, but the artistic references are delicious. Codie's ethereal weirdness is utilised wonderfully, the colours are fantastic, it is creepy and serene all at once. I can't stop revisiting these images.

Chuck x