Madeleine Castaing’s hard to copy style was whimsical and original. A trailblazer for individual style, Castaing had the ability to put together items that should not go together (in theory) to create a cohesive and well thought through scheme. She is probably the only interior designer who could pull off combining leopard carpet paired with neoclassicism and bold wallpaper without the result looking like Joan Collins‘ boudoir!
I share Castaing’s passion for antiques, and like how she mixed a range of different periods and styles; from English Regency to the heavy, romantic interiors of Balzac.
Ever looking for the unique and pushing boudaries she mixed highly valuable pieces with cheap materials such as rattan and was quoted ‘‘sometimes you need a little bit of bad taste’‘. Castaing was a creative person who liked what she liked, no matter what the price tag or convention said. It’s no surprise that she was friends with both Leger and Picasso and a keen sponsor of many artists including the expressionist Soutine.
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For a sprinkle of Castaing je ne sais quoi, it is possible to buy some of Castaing’s flamboyant fabrics by Brunchwig & Fils. Their collection features some beautiful and daring fabrics, amongst them Rayure Fleurie.
Chintz was for many years shorthand for dated, overbearing taste. But with the recent trend in craftsmanship and traditional designs, the floral pattern is back with a vengeance. The floral look doesn’t have to be frumpy – it can be bold, daring and very interesting indeed.
The name chintz comes from Sanskrit and means ‘coloured or spotted’, but today it is synonym for a floral cotton or linen fabric which has been glazed. Chintz was originally an import from India in the 17th century, but the mid-1800s, English mills were manufacturing the fabric on a large-scale, making it available to the middle classes. Over time, synthetic dyes replaced the original natural ones, and the designs become more westernised (and floral). The fabric became an indicator and symbol of wealth and refinement; the better chintz one could afford, the higher up the social ladder. In other words, the more chintz the better.
The decline of everything floral
Chintz remained highly popular until the early 1990s when fashions changed. With the mass market embracing minimalistic designs, the glossy floral pattern no longer had a home. Indeed, the word itself became shorthand for frumpy, frilly and overbearing. Swedish furniture maker IKEA tapped into the sentiment and famously run an ad campaign in 1996 ‘Chuck out your chintz’.
The raise of maximalism
In a world where minimalism is seen as a bit boring and devoid of personality, chintz has made a quiet return. Indeed, chintz can bring personality and warmth to a room and add a sense of nostalgia. But today’s designs are not the same as yesteryear.
In recent years, uber-cool House of Hackney have reinvented the chintz look, making the patterns bolder and bigger – and avoiding the twee factor. Their Dalston Rose is based on a classic English rose print, which has a subversive quality, making floral rebellious rather than the shrinking violet of the past.
I inherited two Bauhaus style chairs from my late grandfather, who had a great eye for design and a passion for quality. The chairs were originally upholstered in deco green leather, but I’ve recently upholstered them in a zebra print ”Le Zebre” from Brunchwig & Fils. This handprinted linen fabric goes well with the streamlined design and the chrome finish. Using animal pattern was popular in the 1920s when the chairs were originally made (Le Corbusier’s Chaise Longue was covered in cowhide). It is remarkable to think that these chairs are nearly 100 years old and still look so contemporary.
Dreaming back to the magnificent Bar Palladio in Jaipur where Italy meets India. Here owner Barbara Miolini and designer Marie-Anne Oudejans have created a fairytale environment with tented garden seating, turquoise floral murals and delicious textiles. It is the Italian take on India (think Harry’s Bar meets a maharaja’s palace), taken from a picture book from yesteryear. I am a huge admirer of this eclectic style and of Indian handicraft so was totally mesmerised.
When we moved to Barnes, I felt I had come home. I left Sweden 20 years ago to get away from the small village I grew up in, yet always felt slightly homesick and proud when I thought about my beloved Lyckorna. In Barnes, I found a village, in London, a home away from home. I know we’ve been here just for 6 months, but it feels like longer. It’s like when you meet The One; like you’ve been together for ages and it’s meant to be.
Beaverbrook Hotel is the stunning country residence of the press magnate Lord Beaverbrook. This boutique hotel has all the trademarks of classic British interiors (plenty of chintz, cozy armchairs, grand entrances), but without feeling dusty or stuffy. Interior Designer Susie Atkinson (Soho House) has captured the glamorous era of the 1930s with plenty of florals, lavish textiles and lots of beautiful detail. I am in love with the African appliqué pouffe in the library – it is such an interesting way to break up a very traditional interior and giving it a modern twist.
I love setting the table, and am a firm believer that you eat with your eyes as well as with your stomach. As always, I like to create a look by combining items I think look pretty together. Last year I combined a cheap Zara table cloth with Oka napkins (bought in sale for £5), glassware from Orrefors (The Nobel Dinner range), crockery from IItala and vintage cutlery that I bought in Portobello Market. The tulips came from Borough Market and the rosemary from the garden.
When we moved into our new house, I decided to invest in new Christmas decorations. Over the last few months I’ve hunted down the perfect baubles which come from The Conran Shop, Liberty of London, National Trust, TK Maxx and Marks & Spencer. The Swedish Yule goat underneath the tree from IKEA (old). The tree is finished off with bunches of Baby’s Breath – a more natural and elegant alternative to tinsel.
I also invested in a mini tinsel tree from Petersham Nurseries. I used to have one of these when I was a little girl and couldn’t resist getting one for my son! The lanterns also come from Petersham Nurseries and the silver bowl is a 1960s vintage piece from Orrefors of Sweden.
This year I’m matching our new front door in Farrow & Ball Black Blue with a simple green wreath, made from holly, ivy, rosemary and eucalyptus branches. It is an homage to the original owners of the house, who made their living from a smallholding, selling fruit and herbs to wealthy Chelsea residents across the river. And it also matches the modern, shiny chrome door furniture.
Making a wreath is simple – all you need is a few twigs and branches, garden wire and a bit of patience.