Where the hollyhocks grow on every corner… London Diary, Part I


When Mario Buatta, Il Principe di Chintz, wondered if I might be going to London anytime soon, I pounced on the opportunity to tag along.  London in June is glorious – the weather is that civilized state of sunny but not scorching; hat shopping for Asc't is in full gear (as you know, fascinators or any headgear under 4" circumference will not get you inside the royal enclosure), and the art and antiques scene is buzzing with shows and sales.

Speaking of which, Mario and I rendez-voused at the opening of the Haughtons' Art Antiques London fair.  The show originated as a much-acclaimed ceramics show and it continues to be particularly strong in that category.


While a monkey caught Mario's eye on Brian Haughton's stand, I was gobsmacked by this unusual 18th century faience boar's leg tureen.  German, of course.


A stand hung in the vein of John Soane

Mario thought this aristocratic gentleman resembled our mayor Bill de Blasio.


The opening night benefited Princess Eugenie's charity Children in Crisis.  Throughout the show and outdoors, a somewhat bizarre note was struck by a company of actors circulating in Dickensian dress.  After quaffing a glass of Champagne and Victorian lemonade, Mario and I hopped it over to Mayfair to dine with old clients and friends at George, the most informal of Mark Birley's clubs.  I knew I had to order the roast chicken when I saw it was accompanied by bacon and mashed potatoes.  Afterward, we window-shopped Neame across the street where Mario spied a promising pagoda-topped mirror during which an at first amusing but then disconcerting man with a passion for chickens engaged us in conversation.

The next day Mario lectured at the Olympia show, followed by a shopping expedition on the Fulham Road.  He is currently working on a sprawling Palm Beach residence which he says is his last project ever.  After lamenting how many of the shops are no longer there or even selling antiques, he repaired to his hotel room while I met my friend Rosie West for a drink at Bibendum.  Rosie and I had serious business to discuss as I am hoping to commission a portrait of Joan Crawford from her.  Of course, there was so much to catch up on, we still have yet to hammer out young Joan, shoulder-pad Joan or cowboy Joan.
Before Rosie took me to dinner at the House of Lords (such a treat), we stopped by Nicky Haslam's flat to celebrate the London launch of Maureen Footer's George Stacey and The Creation of American Chic.  The book is as attractive and diverting as the authoress, above with Min Hogg (founder of the sublime World of Interiors), and I can't recommend it highly enough.  (Click here to see more photos of Nicky's chic chic chic (I know it's a tired word, but it so applies here) flat.


Jane Churchill & Mario

 Cecil Beaton biographer Hugo Vickers & Rosie

There were so many lovely people there.  I particularly enjoyed meeting designer Vere Grenney (whose shell pink living room I dream about and is the cover of Carolyn Englefield's forthcoming to-die-for book for Veranda) and dealer Valerie Wade.  Valerie got her start with Geoffrey Bennison.  She told me how Bennison, decorator to Rothschild and exalted others, used to go out on the town cross-dressed and in a wig as Big Carol (after Carol Channing).

After a delicious dinner made all the more so by the company of Rosie's husband Lord West who has a fascinating BBC radio program Britain at Sea currently broadcasting on the Royal Navy in the twentieth century (listen here), it was time to head home to Pimlico and the Shabsters.

Part II: Behind the Scenes at Colefax and Fowler…

Reading List (so far):
Terence Stamp, Double Feature (for more on Geoffrey Bennison in a wig)
Maureen Footer, George Stacey and The Creation of American Chic
Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features
Hugo Vickers, Cecil Beaton
Carolyn Englefield, Veranda: A Passion for Living (just saw the proofs yesterday - trust me, you need this)
and shamelessly, Mario and Moi's book