GOING COCO FOR COCOMAYA





Self-restraint and self-control are de rigueur when you are a self-confessed chocoholic and also live above one of the most delectable bakeries and chocolateries in London.




 It is not unusual for A-Gent of Style to smell from his flat the mouth-watering and quite frankly mesmeric concoctions made on site that permeate the house day and night. The intoxicating smell is enough to sate your appetite but more than often, the allure is too much to resist.

Located in the heart of Connaught Village in W2 between Marylebone, Notting Hill and Mayfair, Cocomaya is an Alice in Wonderland, a Midsummer Night’s Dream or a Tim Walker-shot cornucopia of succulent delicacies and dainties.




An artisanal bakery with an adjacent chocolate boutique round the corner (both decked out with continental-style tables and chairs on the pavement, themselves embellished by seasonal shrubs), Cocomaya has the power to enthrall any visitor with the sheer spectacle of its hand-made delights and its welcoming atmopshere (the staff are ever so charming).

Renowned for its exquisite quality – only the best organic products and South American cocoa are sourced here – and creativity, Cocomaya attracts a returning and loyal clientèle and has become a stopping place for gluttons gastronomes in search for one of the best cakes, pastries and chocolates the capital has to offer.

Cocomaya is the brainchild of two fashion and lifestyle players – accessories designer Walid al Damirji and former Liberty Head of Concept Joel Bernstein – who decided to follow their heart and their passion for fine chocolate and created Cocomaya in 2009 and masterminded the whole concept as well as the interior design.

The Bakery, Connaught Street

 

On one side, you will find the bakery with its entrance on Connaught street. Sheathed in pale, bleached timber on the floor and on the walls, the chalet-like room has tastefully and gleefully been decorated with various touches: cool white marble to top the piled-up displays and the tables (there is one oblong communal table and one bar-like table), bright olivey green paint in the niches, joyful packaging (I particularly like their chocolate boxes fronted with vintage postcards) and charming sets of unmatching antique crockery and cake stands.

Expect to find ‘Morning Cakes’ (my ‘to-go’ morning choice), pistachio polenta cakes, cinnamon buns, chocolate fondants to name but a few as well as seeded breads, savoury and fruity salads, healthy sandwiches amongst the more traditional pastries and the newly arrived ‘Cronut’, that sinful, hybrid version of a donut and a croissant – A-Gent of Style tried every flavour so far (chocolate, coconut and salted caramel) purely in the name of research…






The Chocolaterie, Porchester Place

 

On the other side, on Porchester Place, is the chocolaterie – the campiest and kitchiest of the two spaces (ergo my favourite). A bit more Mad Hatter Tea Party, this parlour is an Aladdin’s cave replete with irresistible chocolate creations that sparkle like jewels as they rest on pretty plates or marble slabs. Whilst some of them remain more classic in their shapes (truffles, nut clusters, bars) and flavours (white, milk, dark, bitter dark), others take on a much more experimental and quirky turn: mechanic tools boxes, coins, daisies, edible glittery lizards, skulls and stilettos, and the chocolates are available for instance in Bramley Apple, Sea Salt Caramel, Garden Mint, Sicilian Lemon, Banoffee, Sour Cherry and many other scrumptious characteristics.

There is a long English country wooden kitchen table and chairs often used for customised tea parties (Keira Knightley celebrated her hen party here) in front of a magical mural adorned with an other-worldly scene featuring a giant pelican and butterflies on a olivey background. Set at the back of the room is a mirrored vitrine abounding in beautiful vintage crockery and ‘curiosities’ (for sale), with wild branches and flowers on top to add to the wonder.

 Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed that “Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”, an adage A-Gent of Style has to reluctantly remind himself every day.



L’ELEGANZA DEL DESIGN: GABRIELLA CRESPI (PART 1)





Just like “The Poetess of Metal” Line Vautrin, Gabriella Crespi is as relevant today as she was back in the 1960s and 1970s and has found in the last 8 years a renewed interest all around the world. According to Liz O’Brien, the New York dealer, her work is more difficult to find because ”people still treasure it.”






A-Gent of Style came across the famous Milanese artist, designer and sculptress a few years ago when he was sourcing with Veere Grenney in Paris for his clients. Working for such a distinguished Interior Decorator meant A-Gent could extend his search to Gabriella Crespi, then already in high demand amongst collectors. We found this fantastic travertine coffee table with two extending table tops which fitted perfectly well in the clients’ sitting room. A love affair between A-Gent of Style and ‘anything Crespi’ then ensued.



Imagine A-Gent of Style‘s delight when he spotted in May this year at the Artcurial’s Design auction in Paris the acrylic and brass base ‘Pyramid’ table lamp and saw it go under the hammer for €4,547.




At the age of 91, Crespi is still working and her simple yet highly covetable quality lighting and furniture have achieved a renaissance and still look young and is admired today by Ambra Medda, Lenny Kravitz or Stella Mc Cartney for whom she worked on a limited reissue of some of her jewellery collection from the 1970s, then at the acme of her career.



I particularly love Crespi’s art because it represents the perfect balance between design and sculptural abstraction which “unites strength and flexibility”, as she would say. She uses also some of my favourite materials – metals – either in silver or gold, highly polished, brushed or mirrored, and geometric, sharp or sensuous curves play a huge role. She never fails to surprise and delight me with her innovative and distinctive furniture and their iconic openings, closings, compartments, extensions, rotations and swivellings. Multi-functionality has become her trademark.




Her creations range from the ‘metamorphic’ tables, to libraries that become room partitions, the innovative seats convertible into beds, and her focus on nature translates in whole collections made of natural materials, in the creation of zoomorphic objects with a real ostrich egg or hand-blown glass.







Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.47.39



”I was in love with Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright when I was young,” and some of her more bulky pieces remind me as well of Paul Evans, her then American contemporary.


by Gabriella Crespi

by Gabriella Crespi

 

by Paul Evans

by Paul Evans



Crespi had a fascinating life and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting the pieces of the jigsaw of her life together during my peregrinations. When I go to paris and visit my favourite antiques dealers, I always learn an anecdote about her. Thrilling.




Gabriella Crespi comes from one of the richest families in Italy (who owned a textile empire and a major Italian newspapers) and became one of the foremost designers in Italy. Incredibly, she did not have a factory, or even a separate studio. She would make detailed drawings at home and bring them to various artisans around Milan, where, in those days, a designer could dream up a sensational piece and quickly have a prototype made, sometimes overnight, by a fine woodworker or metalsmith. At the height of her success,the beautiful and glamourous socialite maintained a showroom and warehouse in Milan and a showroom and elegant apartment in the historic Palazzo Cenci in Rome. She became very prolific and her work graced the residences of her famous clients Dior House, Elisabeth Arden, Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, Gunther Sachs and the Shah of Iran.

The seating and cocktail table in the entry are by Gabriella Crespi, and the Persian rug was a gift from the Shah of Iran to Prince Emanuele Filiberto’s parents

The seating and cocktail table in the entry are by Gabriella Crespi, and the Persian rug was a gift from the Shah of Iran to Prince Emanuele Filiberto’s parents






In 1985, she released the last interviews on her work as a designer before abruptly stopping everything in 1987 and setting out on a new life completely devoted to the spiritual quest in the Himalayas, a path she follows to this today. ”I rid myself of everything,” she said. ”The showrooms, the warehouse, the Rome apartment, the house in Sardinia. Everything.” She lived there until 2005 before returning to Europe.




Gabriella Crespi now lives in Milan, practices meditation daily, and is considering new creative projects.

And has she found infinity – the theme to her whole existence? ”Oh, yes,” Crespi sighs joyfully. ”But it is never-ending.”

Aren’t we just lucky!

 

Lenny Kravitz's 'Apartement particulier' in Paris

Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Apartement particulier’ in Paris

 















stools

stools

 

vitrine coffee table





















Aerin Lauder's NYC dressing room

Aerin Lauder’s NYC dressing room

 































sconce

sconce

vase

frames




vase

vase

 

 



letter tray

letter tray

 

 

candlesticks

 
























Stay tuned for Part 2 where A-Gent of Style will be revealing soon the latest events and collaborations in the life of the ageless Gabriella Crespi…






ULTRA NECESSAIRE




A-Gent of Style made it. Finally.

London was blessed with sweltering hot weather last weekend and A-Gent of Style was joyous at the idea of starting his Saturday morning surrounded by opulent luxury and jaw-dropping beauty. How often can you say that an exhibition was one of the best you ever saw? “Ultra Vanities, Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour” was definitely one of them.

This year summer’s exhibition“Ultra Vanities, Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour” at London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall celebrates a unique, private collection regrouping 300 bedazzling and astounding make-up boxes from the 1920s and 1930s – the Art Deco golden era of bejewelled and enamelled boxes – to the 1970s by some of the world’s most revered jewellery houses, such as Bulgari, Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chaumet.






Displayed in a setting enveloped in a lush, raspberry crushed velvet and reminiscent of a French salon, these “nécessaires de beauté” (capable of carrying everything a woman might need hence their name), minaudières (from the French verb minauder meaning to simper with great affectation and mannerisms, invented and coined by Charles Arpels of Van Cleefs & Arpels in 1934 to replace the evening bag after he saw a friend’s wife carry her make-up and several loose items in a tin box) and compacts (for they were very small. Birkins they were not) epitomising the age of glamour gives a mesmerising insight into the luxury fashion and design trends of the period and their social mores, as well as the miracles of miniature engineering that went into these masterpieces’ interior fitments which left A-Gent marvelling at their exquisite workmanship, artistry and creativity for hours.

These stunning objets d’art incorporated everything a society lady such as Mona von Bismarck or the celebrated American decorator Elsie De Wolfe who was recorded in 1921 as owning one of the earliest boxes, created by Cartier: a powder compact, lipstick, comb, cigarette holder, mirror and, occasionally, note pad and pencil, and were the perfect appurtenance and adjunct to a couture outfit.

Some of these Pandora’s boxes were utterly captivating: lift the lid and a portable dressing table is revealed, complete with mirror, four compartments and removable powder compact.

Made from expensive materials such as precious and semi-precious stones, mother of pearl, lacquer, and tortoiseshell, they required jewellers, enamellers, goldsmiths, stone-setters and engravers who would handcraft them with the same attention to detail as a piece of haute joaillerie. They were built for function and practicality but were also used for showing off showcasing wealth and social prominence as they sat delicately on cocktail bars and dinner tables.

Today’s clutch bags seemed a little lacklustre in comparison…








N65-1 - Janesich, c 1920-25 (closed)


































Goldsmiths’ Hall and its Ultra Vanities in situ:

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The associated book “Ultra Vanities – Minaudières, Nécessaires and Compacts” written by Meredith Etherington-Smith is on sale during the exhibition. Meredith Etherington-Smith is editor in-chief of Christie’s Magazine and the director of Double-Barrelled Books, a specialist arts publisher.





A-Gent of Style knows who he will be going to bed with this week…




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