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  • Lavender’s Blue: a little piece of secret London


17 / 10 / 2018
What does one see upon entering the inner world of Stuart Blakley? Broad temporal and spatial references and the thoughtful organisation of a passionate collection. Somebody cultured, because of the elegance and knowledge that makes itself apparent. Singularity and extravagance define Lavender’s Blue: a hidden refuge inspired on the Irish country houses named after the lavender fields in the 18th century. A “little piece of secret London” that invites guests to be part of an immersive and unique experience.

How long have you been living here?
I bought my house 10 years ago. I live with Zelda my cat but the house is always full at the weekends of friends and family coming and going!

From the outside, the splendour of this house is completely hidden. Your Irish roots inspired you to create this unique corner?
I like the idea that from the outside, the house doesn’t give away any of the secrets of the interior. The windows at the front have opaque glazing as they are right onto the street. The cobble-stoned courtyard to the rear is completely invisible from anywhere except the air! My French doors open onto the courtyard but only the brick windowless backs of other houses face onto the courtyard so there is complete privacy. Childhood memories of visiting Irish country houses – I am from County Tyrone near the Atlantic Ocean – inspired the design.
How is the sense of nostalgia reflected in the space and the objects that you chose to furnish it with?
Memory and imagination are the calling cards of this interior. While the overall look is Victorian, really Lavender’s Blue is timeless. It mixes pieces from many periods in original ways. The furniture and artworks have been collected over a decade so the space has grown together rather than being “designed”. That way, it is more akin to a country house.

It is also a place that gathers frames from the places you have visited. Can you give some examples of how each city is represented in the house?
I have used my blog Lavender’s Blue as a record of places I've visited and the photographs and notes have acted as memory jolts and inspiration for my interior design. The kitchen is my Portuguese room. I visited Lisbon last summer. The miniature tiles forming a mural of a lady came from the shop of Medeiros e Almeida House Museum. The wall of blue and white tiles was inspired by my visit to the Fronteira Palace. Architectural fragments from flea markets in Lisbon embellish the walls. The bedroom has a French theme with framed toile de jouy and a Christian Lacroix shirt has found new life stretched across two square canvases. A little bit of Paris!The bathroom is quintessentially English and London in particular. The bath is actually an Edwardian children’s bath which is why it’s on stilts. It is still though the size of a modern day bath. The loo and basin are reproductions designed to look Victorian. I decided rather than tiling to apply a super-high tongue and grove panelled dado. This dado, plus the cherry red walls and ceiling, lend a cocooned feel to the bathroom. The brass curtain rail with crystal ends is functional: it’s handy for hanging shirts to dry during winter! The framed napkin came from the original Ivy Restaurant in London before it was refurbished. The bathroom door has beautiful stained glass which creates lovely lighting. The naïve mirrored portico in the drawing room is one of several purchases from Savannah. I visited the city in the Deep South after reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The events in the book happened decades ago but Savannah is still very magical. I met antiques dealer Charlie Brown who gave me fragments of a chandelier from Jim William’s home, Mercer House. Jim was a central protagonist. I've slotted the crystal pieces into my standard lamp. The tiny mirror framed with horns is also from Savannah. I bought the tinted photograph of General Lee in an antiques centre. It’s faded so his features can only be seen from certain angles like a shimmering ghost. “The family were glad to rid of it!” the dealer said. “He's a bad omen!” Despite being swathed in bubble wrap, the picture split down the middle in my suitcase, hopefully dispelling any malignant spirits in the process. 
Which sensations do you want to provoke in your guests?
It is an immersive experience entering Lavender’s Blue. I want guests to forget all their 21st century worries and relax in a bohemian period interior. Several visitors have thought it feels quite haunted, especially at night, when dark shadows appear across the rooms.

In which room do you spend more time and why?

The drawing room is the most used room in the house because it is multifunctional. Reading, playing the piano, entertaining guests – everything happens here! Its mood changes dramatically: it faces southeast so gets a lot of sun during the day when it is bright and cheerful. By night time, as there is no central light, the ambience is set by a series of lamps. Light reflects in the mirrors casting shadows over the dark walls and ceilings. A tiny internal window over the recessed bookcase creates more mysterious lighting.

Finally, how do you find order, I mean tranquility and peace, in this beautiful chaos? Do you define your home as an art gallery?
My home is indeed an art gallery as well as being somewhere to live. It’s an immersive experience; a Gesamtkunstwerk. The pictures, paintings and mirrors in themselves are artworks but so is the carefully thought arrangement of them all. Most of all, though, it is a place to be enjoyed. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, everything in Lavender’s Blue is either beautiful or functional. Despite the large collection of objets d’art, peace and tranquillity are to be found as they contrast but complement each other.

Find more about Stuart Blakley's world here.
This article is only available in English.  

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