Friday, 27 February 2015

Stoneywell: a magical Arts and Craft home

Last year when we went off for a little holiday down in the South East, we joined the National Trust. It's a year long membership, so we're on a mission to see as much as we can in that time.
Today we visited the most wonderful house; Stoneywell, an Arts and Crafts gem, designed by the architect Ernest Gimson for his brother. I love residences which are on a really domestic scale. It's much easier to see how people lived than in a great stately home.

This one is in the perfect location, set in the middle of the plot, with nobody else around.
Chanelling Fragonard's The Swing.

A swing from a tree is just so romantic, my dream house would definitely have one.

This was their summerhouse, where the family would decamp for the warm months, and the overwhelming feeling is that this is a house in which to have fun. The garden has tennis courts, a woodland for the children to run wild in and a garden which is the antithesis of formal.

Window seats, that's another one for the dream house. Add in open fires, and beautiful wooden floors and we're making some nice progress.

The house is build in a valley, on bedrock. The steps are hewn out of the rock. Everything about the house feels so organic. It's the lack of straight lines and the use of natural materials. All the walls are white as decreed by the architect, and there is lots of oak and stone from the nearby quarry.

The architect also designed a lot of the furniture. Everything fits together so well. I have a new found affection for this movement, the furniture is so simple in its lines, but beautiful in its handmade construction. Kind of reminds me of the mid century stuff which is so popular at the moment.
Imagine walking up those stairs to bed if you were a little bit tipsy! I love the red velvet cushions with the mossy green candlewick bedspread.

The front door. All the doors are made from beautiful pieces of wood and have so much character. That second door leads down into a pantry. You know that's going on the ideal home list.
This was a house built with children in mind. There are so many child sized nooks and crannies, there is so much room to run around in and, one of my favourite things; there are so many sets of stairs, that you could go up one set, run around and then come down another. As the house is built into the landscape, it ends up on different levels. In the master bedroom, you can climb out of the window into the garden.

Books arranged in nooks and crannies, and chairs everywhere for the family to sit down and get absorbed in them. I've never been much of a fan of William Morris textiles, but they fitted in well here. 
The eponymous stoney well. Prospective brides marrying into the family had to jump that well as a kind of initiation. Unless they were Olympians with the legs of Serena Williams, I suggest they all ended up wet. That little round building reminds me of buildings in France.
Vintage Austrian dirndl found on a day charity shopping in Bristol with my friends Helen and Sian. Clogs bought in Stockholm, neon pink tights from the market, stripy top and cardi from the chazza, bag from Em, gloves from Curtise
The inspiration for my outfit today was Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, when she was prentending to be a marionette. 

What do you see? You people staring at me?
Car picnic! We could have gone to the tea shop and had some cake, but instead we took our packed lunch and found some woodland to park up in. Flask coffee, one of my true loves. If you ever want to see me smile, simply offer me food.

I often think of houses as characters in their own right, with their own personalities. When I watch films, I pay as much attention to the setting as the characters and plot. This house was happy, fun-loving and very relaxed. 

How about you? I'd love to hear, what's on the list for your dream house?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

There is no reality, only perception

A friend described me the other day as someone who dresses up as a character and has my photo taken, like my mad friends.

Yeah, that's you lot she was talking about, you crazy kids.

So, when I was invited to go to the pub quiz, I thought, what the hell, might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb,  I'm going as Wolf Hall*
The imagery in Wolf Hall is all very dark, a lot of it shot by candlelight for that authentic Tudor experience
For those of you that haven't seen it yet, it's an adaptation of the Hilary Mantel novels, currently being aired in the UK. My two favourite periods of British history are the Tudors and WWII, but even for a devotee like me, it offers a fascinatingly fresh insight into everyday life in the period and a completely different perspective on certain key characters.
Centre parting, brocade dress with layers underneath, pearls, fur trimmed cloak, gemstone rings, CHECK. But look! ONLY five fingers on each hand. Phew.

Never before have I seen Thomas Cromwell in such a human, multi-faceted light. Up until now he was always the machiavellian politician of a lawyer. Here we are offered the view of him as a devoted husband and family man, a loyal friend, the son of a violent domestic abuser, a lowly born blacksmith's son who grows in stature and power courtesy of his intelligence and character.
Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, played by Mark Rylance. Image credit BBC
It struck me that this has parallels with what my friend demonstrated in her description. I see myself and you as having fun with clothes, using colour to brighten up our lives and make us feel better about ourselves; she sees us as eccentric characters. It's all about our perception, a concept which I have been exploring quite a lot recently.

Anyway, I decided that the quiz was going to contain a question about the Tudors, which would have been unusual, since it's mainly popular culture, music and sports. I was wrong, but there were three history questions, which you might enjoy having a go at. I'll put the answers at the end. For non-Brits, I apologise, they are heavily biased in that direction.

1 Which British King was known as The B*stard?
2 Which royal figure was beheaded at Fotheringhay castle?
3 What was the book carried by followers of Mao Tse Tung known as?
Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall. Photo credit BBC
For me, you can't talk about the Tudors without mentioning Anne Boleyn, that one woman whose allure and determination changed forever the face of this country. She's the one I'd most like to meet, she never ceases to fascinate. Would I see her as cunning, intelligent and passionate? Or would she be  devoted, charming, a pawn in her family's quest for influence and a victim of Henry's capriciousness?

How about you? Are there any periods of history which intrigue you or specific characters you'd like to spend a day with? And why? Do tell!

1 William the Conqueror
2 Mary Queen of Scots
3 The little Red book

* Wolf Hall was the name of Jane Seymour's family home