A DECORATIVE GARDEN OF EDEN: CRESSIDA BELL’S CHRISTMAS OPEN STUDIO








Last Saturday, A-Gent of Style travelled to Hackney in North London to attend Cressida Bell’s Christmas Open Studio. A-Gent has always been very much aware of the artist and designer but also Charleston House in East Sussex and of course Bell’s famous lineage, so without hesitation, he enjoyed a jaunt to Clarence Mews,
“a bucolic enclave in the heart of Hackney”.




A-Gent of Style was thrilled not only to see for the first time under one roof the colourful, bold and highly patterned artefacts Cressida Bell is renowned for but also to meet the designer and visit the enchanting studio where she works her magic.




Cressida Bell is a direct descendant of the major members of the Bloomsbury group; her grandmother was the artist Vanessa Bell and her grandfather the critic
Clive Bell, her great-aunt Virginia Woolf and her father, the critic, author and artist Quentin Bell. Bell studied fashion and textile design at St. Martins School of Art followed in 1984 by an M.A in textile design from the Royal College of Art.
Despite being exposed at Charleston to paintings, painted walls, stained glass and textiles all designed by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and being unconsciously influenced by the Bloomsbury artists, Cressida Bell has managed to forge her own identity and style and has drawn her inspiration from many sources such as African and Indian cultures.




The studio is everything you may have imagined and much more. It felt a bit like being in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul with its exquisite eclecticism and richly embellished, contrasting patterns and vibrant colours. The overall look and aesthetics of Cressida Bell’s style is also somehow reminiscent of René Matisse,
Jean Cocteau or Cecil Beaton designs who too liked to paint the surfaces of their surroundings and created unique and original pieces of art.

Just as imagine Charleston House to be (A-Gent has to admit he has yet to see the iconic Sussex country retreat of Bell’s well-known Bloomsbury Group forebears.
A road trip last summer was aborted but it is now at the top of the 2014 resolution list), every inch of the studio is decorated or covered by something; painted doors, furniture or clocks, bespoke rugs, sketches, drawings, invitations, announcements illustrations, cookery posters, plates, fabric shreds, test sheets, paint pots, brushes and printing screens. That weekend, there was a plethora of tantalising treasures all for sale such as hand-painted lamp stands and shades, stationery, greeting and Christmas cards, and Bell’s ten-metre long printing table – Bell screen-prints herself – was strewn with silk, wool or cotton scarves, ties, cushions. And last but not least, her ready printed sheets of icing and eye-popping, edible cake decorations – Bell’s latest artistic pursuit – were on display (and feature in her book Cressida Bell’s Cake Designs: Fifty Fabulous Cakes.)




























































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ARCHITECT TO THE CROWN: JAMES WYATT





Today’s subject is less contemporary (we are going back three centuries) and slightly more scholarly than Monday’s (see A-Gent of Style‘s review of the new and fascinating exhibition on fashionista Isabella Blow) but it concerns another tastemaker who hopefully will be equally appealing to you all.







On Monday, A-Gent of Style was delighted to be invited at lunchtime
by Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler – the distinguished interior design and decoration company – to a Press Preview at their legendary offices on Brook Street, W1 for a special exhibition organised between them and The Georgian Group commemorating the bicentenary of James Wyatt (1746-1813), one of the most accomplished and fashionable English architects of late 18th century, and celebrating his life, career and achievements in furniture, interior decoration and architecture through some of his most important projects such as Windsor Castle, Fonthill Abbey, Goodwood House, Heaton Hall, Castle Coole
and Heveningham Hall.



 “James Wyatt: Architect to the Crown and Designer of Complete Interiors” opened on Tuesday to the public until December, 6 (Monday-Friday 9.30am-5.30pm, free entrance so no excuse) and will be hosted at the Sybil Colefax & John Fowler headquarters, 39 Brook Street, London W1, a rare surviving Grade II example of a Regency house, in the very same house altered and extended by James Wyatt’s nephew and pupil, Jeffry Wyatt (later Sir Jeffry Wyatville). After being used as a ballroom later on, the upper floor gallery was then redecorated in the late 1950s by the legendary John Fowler as a drawing room for Nancy Lancaster, the then owner of the company, resulting in the iconic ‘Yellow Room’.

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It is always exciting to go to Brook Street; A-Gent of Style hadn’t been back since last year but still marvelled at each of the beautifully decorated rooms replete with truly exquisite furniture and objets as he made his way upstairs
to the ‘Yellow Room’. The room has been specially transformed for the exhibition but still has the ‘wow factor’: as soon as you step in, the high-gloss lacquered yellow walls give you this feeling of wonder and awe. And the yellow silk curtains are simply ravishing.



Designed specifically to complement the interiors Wyatt created at
Heveningham Hall, a selection of pieces of furniture are the focus of this collaborative exhibition designed by George Carter, and thanks to the generosity
of English Heritage, chairs, tripod flower stands, demi-lune tables, torchère and mirrors are on display for the first time in thirty years (the furniture was acquired by the government in the 1970s when Heveningham was sold by the Vanneck family) and it is a delight and a privilege to such beautifully crafted objects.
Their neo-classical refinement and delicacy (there are some clues to Gothic Revival too) bring freshness and seeming simplicity. It is worth noticing that much of Wyatt’s furniture was painted rather than carved and gilded, enhancing its delicate originality. And the palette of pastel colours and their combinations are magnificent (green and blue being one of them).











1778 chair by James Wyatt

1778 chair by James Wyatt


“Many of Wyatt’s furniture designs for Gillows passed into the hands of George Hepplewhite, a Gillow employee” explains the Georgian Group. They were published posthumously by Mrs Hepplewhite without any acknowledgment of the true designer. This plagiarism helped to immortalize the Wyatt style of neo-classical furniture design, as Wyatt himself never published his own work”.













Other items such as Wyatt’s original working drawings, sketches, engravings and some silverware made by Matthew Boulton (a couple of tureens) are on show as well as twelve modern watercolours of Wyatt interiors by Royston Jones, which are for sale. There is also a spectacular architectural model of Fonthill Spendens still in great condition. And if you have a close look at the model, you will see a small fountain in the courtyard. Don’t miss it.

Silver designed for Matthew Boulton

Silver designed by Wyatt and made by Matthew Boulton






To further your interest and knowledge about James Wyatt, three special lectures have been conceived to complement the exhibition:

21st November 2013 – Lecture / From Wyatt to Wyatville: an Architectural Dynasty, by Charles Hind, Chief Curator at The Royal Institute of British Architects

25th November 2013 – Lecture / James Wyatt, Furniture Designer, by architectural historian Dr John Martin Robinson

Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start at Colefax & Fowler, 39 Brook Street, London W1; £20 to include a pre-lecture glass of wine, which can be book by calling the Colefax Group Press Office on 020 7493 2231 or by email pressoffice@colefax.com



 
The exhibition is curated by Dr John Martin Robinson, an architectural historian and foremost expert on the Wyatt architectural dynasty. He is the author of a recently published and beautifully illustrated book, James Wyatt, Architect to George III, which has received great critical acclaim and will be on sale during the exhibition. Also on sale are postcards and tea towels featuring designs of commissions and furniture by James Wyatt. Perfect stocking fillers for Christmas!






Thanks to this fascinating, informative exhibition and series of lectures,
James Wyatt is given the recognition he highly deserves.

Make sure you attend!



– All photographs of the exhibition and the ‘Yellow Room’
by Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler with the Georgian Group –




DELUXE RUBIX CUBE



 

Today, A-Gent of Style would like to share with you of one the objects of his desire: the Pixel cabinet.




Created by the Portuguese brand Boca do Lobo  (or ‘Mouth of the Wolf’) which specialises in high-end, bespoke furniture, Pixel is a masterpiece uniting craftmanship and design.

This distinctive and ravishing bijou cabinet combines an astonishing 1,088 mirrored facets shaped in gloriously colourful triangles made from a diversity of woods (ebony veneer, African walnut veneer, zebrano veneer, poplar veneer, palisander) and various finishes (silver leaf, gold leaf, coloured lacquers). The doors are finished on the inside in a diamond quilted blue silk fabric and the nine drawers with gold knobs and a cabinet space are themselves finished in aged mirror. The decorative base is made in solid polished brass and is intertwined by squares and a circle that looks like an oversized gold ring.

This tour de force of design with its unique personality and level of sophistication would stand proudly on its own and in any collector’s urban and eclectic interior.
Any takers?

























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