Min Hogg + The Seaweed Collection of Wallpapers + Fabrics

Finding Material

Min Hogg © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s sort of feeble really,” says Min Hogg. “Open the property section of any newspaper and you’ll see page after page of boring beige interiors. I blame technology. People just want to switch on this and that but can’t be bothered to look at things like furniture and paintings.” Her own flat is neither boring nor beige. Quite the opposite. It’s brimming with antiques and art and personality. And magazines. “The red bound copies on my shelves are from when I was Editor. The loose copies in boxes are all the subsequent issues.” Min was, of course, founding Editor of the highly influential magazine The World of Interiors.

Min Hogg Seaweed Collection Wallpapers© Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My mum would have made a brilliant Editor but she was awfully lazy,” confides Min. “She always made our houses really nice without any training, none of that, she just did it. She was a great decorator. You bet! So was my grandmother.” Min’s first plum role was as Fashion Editor of Harpers and Queen. Anna Wintour, who would later famously edit American Vogue, was her assistant. “We hated each other!” Min recalls, her sapphire blue eyes twinkling mischievously. “I was taken on by Harpers and Queen over her. She really knew I wasn’t as utterly dedicated to fashion as she was. By no means!” Nevertheless, Anna was the first to leave.

Thank goodness then for an ad in The Times for “Editor of an international arts magazine” which Min retrieved from her bin. She applied and the rest is publishing history. The World of Interiors was a roaring success from day one, year 1981. “I submitted a three line CV,” she laughs. “I didn’t want to bore Kevin Kelly the publisher with A Levels and so on!” It didn’t stop her being selected out of 70 candidates. “I sort of knew I’d got the job. I ended up having dinner with his wife and him that night. I think probably of all the people who applied, I was already such friends with millions of decorators. Just friends, not that I was doing them any good or anything, I just knew them because we were likeminded.”

Studying Furniture and Interior Design at the Central Art College must have helped. “Well it was too soon after the Festival of Britain and I really didn’t get it. The only person who taught anything was Terence Conran. He was only about a year older than any of us actually. But you could tell he wasn’t into Festival of Britain furniture either which, I’m sorry, I don’t like and never did.”

“Come and have a look at the view from the kitchen, it’s really good,” says Min stopping momentarily. “It’s like living opposite the Vatican,” pointing to the plump dome of Brompton Oratory. Back in her sitting room, the view is of treetops over a garden square, a plumped up cushion’s throw from Harrods. As for choosing an interior to publish, “If I liked it, I’d do it. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t! I came to the job with this huge backlog of interior ideas. We never finished using them all. I’m blessed with a jolly broad spectrum of vision, and as you can see, although I’m not a modernist I can appreciate modernism when it’s good. I don’t like Art Nouveau either but I can get the point of a really good example of anything.”

Appropriately Min’s top floor which she bought in 1975 looks like a spread from The World of Interiors. “I don’t decorate, I just put things together. I’m a collector,” she confesses. Eclectically elegant, somehow everything fits together just so. “John Fowler was an innovator. He was frightfully clever.” So is Min. She laments the disappearance of antique shops. And junk shops. “London used to be stuffed with junk shops. Now it’s seaside towns like Bridport and Margate that have all the antique shops. There’s nothing left in London. Just the few grand ones.” Interiors may be her “addiction” but Min is interested in all art forms. She’s been an active member of the Irish Georgian Society ever since it was founded by her friends Desmond and Mariga Guinness. “I love the plasterwork of Irish country houses,” she relates, “Castletown’s a favourite.”

With her vivacity and an email address list to die for, it’s little wonder Min’s parties are legendary. She even makes a fun filled appearance in Rupert Everett’s autobiography. But it’s not all play between her Kensington flat and second home in the Canaries. She’s still Editor at Large of The World of Interiors. Plus a few years ago she launched the Min Hogg Seaweed Collection of Wallpapers and Fabrics. It began with Nicky Haslam telling her: “I need a wallpaper for an Irish house I’m decorating. You know about colour and design.” So Nicky gave Min an 18th century portfolio of botanical seaweed prints for inspiration and off she went.

Mike Tighe, the former Art Director of The World of Interiors, joined me,” she explains. “For me it was a physical thing, cutting out paper patterns by hand. Mike did all the computer work. I learnt to do a repeat and everything else. It’s funny how you can learn something if you’re interested. By pure luck the finished result looks like hand blocked wallpaper. If someone gives us a colour we can match it. I like changing the scale too from teeny to enormous.” It’s a versatile collection, printed on the finest papers, cottons, linens and velvets. Prominent American interior designers like Stephen Sills love it. The collection may be found in a world of interiors from a Hawaiian villa to a St Petersburg palace. But not in any boring beige homes.

Min Hogg Seaweed Collection Fabrics © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Spring Restaurant Somerset House + Skye Gyngell

Summer at Spring

Somerset House The Strand London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

At a Lavender’s Blue dinner with a Park Lane ambassadress, a Green Park restaurateur and a Beverly Hills realtor, the conversation naturally turned to Lisa Vanderpump. But it was the combination of the interior and food – good taste and tastes good – that proved the hot topic in the cool surroundings of Spring. Even if Ruby Wax was within earshot of our table. Spring is the best of the six dining rooms in the people’s palace, Somerset House on the Strand. That’s why it’s full and we’re full on a Monday night.

Somerset House has a surprisingly coherent architecture considering Sir William Chambers’ 1770s masterpiece has been tinkered with ever since he laid the cornerstone. James Wyatt to Sir Robert Smirke then Sir Albert Richardson have all had a go at it. Five wings spread out from the Strand Block like a cyclopean crustacean (crab with nduja and yellow polenta £16 or grilled lobster with curry leaves, tomato and bhatura £34). Spring is in the New Wing. Newness is relative – it was designed by James Pennethorne in 1849. The restaurant is chef Skye Gyngell’s latest enterprise in London. Australian born Skye was previously head chef of Petersham Nurseries, the restaurant with a garden centre attached.

Horses for courses although we’d prefer not for main course (halibut with spinach, chilli and preserved lemon dressing £32) and course after course at Spring is not coarse of course but rather seasonal – and sensational. Crisp but not autumnal (fritto misto of prawns with lemon pinwheels and foraged herbs £16). Cold but not wintry (rhubarb and rye tart with crème fraîche £8). Pantaloon and stripy sweater clad waiters resemble – dare we say – Venetian robbers. Perhaps later they’ll nick a gondola to sail home along the Thames.

Spring Restaurant Somerset House Pudding © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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The Darlings + Crevenagh House Tyrone

Omagh Gosh

Crevenagh House Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Country House No Rescue

Crevenagh House Side © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

At the turn of the 21st century Edenderry Church of Ireland published a short history of its parish in the Diocese of Derry. Or Derry-Londonderry-Derry. The authors were Sue Darling and David Harrow. Back then Mrs Darling was châtelaine of Crevenagh House on the outskirts of Omagh County Tyrone. Not long afterwards she sold the seat and the furniture in it, innit.

Crevenagh House Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

First Sight

Crevenagh House Column © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Darling Harrow, ‘In 1656, John Corry purchased the manor of Castle Coole from Henry and Gartrid St Leger. His great granddaughter, Sarah Corry, in 1733, married Galbraith Corry, son of Robert Lowry and, about the year 1764, assumed the name Corry in addition to that of Lowry. From this union are descended the Earls of Belmore, and, most if not all, the townlands of the parish passed to the Belmore family. In 1852 and 1853, the following townlands were sold to the Encumbered Estates Court: Arvalee, Aghagallon, Cranny, Crevenagh, Edenderry, Galbally, Garvaghy, Lisahoppin, Recarson and Tattykeel.’

Crevenagh House Stables © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Townland and Country

Crevenagh House Workshop © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

P McAleer in Townland Names of County Tyrone and their Meanings, 1936, writes that Crevenagh means ‘A branchy place’. It still is. Like most Irish townlands, the name has had a few variations: Cravana, Cravanagh, Cravena, Cravnagh, Creevanagh before landing on Crevenagh.

Crevenagh House Fireplace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Family Album

Crevenagh House Horseshoe © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Crevenagh House was the seat of the Auchinleck family. David Eccles Auchinleck was born on 16 October 1797 and died on 3 March 1849. He was the youngest son of the Reverend Alexander Auchinleck and Jane Eccles of Rossory, County Fermanagh. In the early 19th century David bought land at Crevenagh from Lord Belmont Belmore to build a home. Later he bought more land from the good Lord to build a church, Edenderry Church. Said church was consecrated two years before David’s death.

Crevenagh House Fender © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Ghost

Janice Porter © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

On 16 January 1837 David’s eldest son Thomas Auchinleck was born. He married Jane Loxdale from Liverpool. Thomas died on 1 February 1893, leaving Jane a widow at Crevenagh House for the next 24 years. Their son David married Madaline Scott of Dungannon. He was killed in action at Ypres in 1914 while serving with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. His widow stayed with her mother-in-law until she died in 1921 and then on her own until her death in 1948.

Matters of the Heart

On the demise of Mrs Auchinleck (Aunt Mado to all) her nephew Colonel Ralph Darling inherited Crevenagh House. He got hitched to Moira Moriarty of Edenderry. In 1953 the Colonel and Mrs Darling threw a Coronation Party for the young people of Edenderry Parish. Ralph died five years later.

Going Home

Gerald Ralph Auchinleck Darling inherited Crevenagh House from his father. Although he continued his career as a barrister in London, Gerald considered Crevenagh his home, returning there as often as possible. In 1954 he married Susan Hobbs from Perth (nope not Scotland). They had two children, Fiona and Patrick. Gerald retired from London in 1990 six years before his death.

Mixed Blessings

Gerald was a cousin of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, 1884 to 1981 (The Auk to all). The Auk was a frequent visitor to Crevenagh House. The Field Marshal is commemorated in Edenderry Church: ‘The plaque, the design of which is identical to the memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral, was erected beside others to members of the Auchinleck family, most of whom were killed in action.’

1 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fine Things

2 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Crevenagh House is an architectural delight. Pure joy. Tight and bipartite and tripartite and quadripartite windows shimmer against cut stone walls that dramatically darken in the dripping Irish rain. Crimson coloured window frames and doors resemble the red rimmed eyes of an aging beauty peering across an unsettling landscape, weeping as time goes by. The charming formal symmetrical entrance front gives way to quasi symmetrical side elevations before finally wild abandon bleeds across the asymmetrical rear elevation.

3 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Wine Dark Sea of Homer

4 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A perky pepperpot gatehouse signposts the main entrance to the estate. The house is approached via a gently curving driveway up the hillside. To the left, views of it romantically unfold. Unusually, Crevenagh is twice as deep as it’s wide thanks to one owner ambitiously fattening the size of the original block. Over to Mark Bence-Jones,

5 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Echoes

6 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘A two storey house built circa 1820 by D E Auchinleck, great uncle of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck. Three bay entrance front with Wyatt windows in both storeys and projecting porch. Three bay side with central Wyatt window in both storeys. A slightly lower two storey range was subsequently added by D E Auchinleck’s son, Major Thomas Auchinleck, behind the original block and parallel with it; its end, which has a single storey bow, forming a continuation of the side elevation, to which it is joined by a short single storey link. The principal rooms in the main block have good plasterwork ceilings, and the hall has a mosaic floor depicting the Seven Ages of Man. There are doors made of mahogany from the family plantations in Demerara.’

7 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Middle Temple

8 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lot 1a Crevenagh House (12.56 acres): ‘A tree lined avenue leads from the public highway to the house which faces south and west over its own grounds. The Georgian house, built circa 1820 for the Auchinlecks, is a fine example of a period residence, set in rolling lawns and woodland. The house has remained in the same family ownership since it was built.

9 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cinque Ports

10 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There is a self contained and separately accessed staff or guest accommodation to the rear of the house. To the south of the stable block there is a south facing walled garden of approximately two acres surrounded by a brick wall, stone faced on the exterior. The southern boundary is formed by a pond.’

11 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lots and Lots

12 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lot 1(b) Stable Block (0.25 acres): ‘The stables are located within the grounds of Crevenagh House and provide an opportunity to purchase and develop attractive stable buildings and a yard for residential purposes. Planning permission was granted on 26 October 1999 for conversion into three residential units.’

13 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Going Going Gone

14 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lot 2 Hill Field (9.84 acres): ‘An area of south sloping pasture land divided into two fields. The fields are zoned for housing within Omagh development limits: Omagh Area Plan, 1987 to 2002. A planning application has not been submitted and prospective purchasers should rely on their own inquiries of the Planning Authority.’

15 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pegasus

16 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lot 3 Orchard Field (8.92 acres): ‘This area of approximately nine acres lies to the east of Crevenagh House and is bordered by woodland. The south facing lands are not presently allocated for development but there may be longer term potential.’

17 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Until the End of Time

18 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lot 4 The Holm (9.73 acres): ‘This field, with access from Crevenagh road under the old railway bridge, is bordered by the Drumragh River. The lands are presently used for agricultural and recreational purposes. Parts of this Lot will be affected by the new road throughpass but a portion of the remainder may have some development potential, subject to planning approval.’

19 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Seasons Change

20 Crevenagh House Omagh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Sir John Soane’s Museum + Lavender’s Blue

Soane Near So Far

Private Keep In! Lavender’s Blue on a private view of Soane’s private apartments. We’re so like hello on model behaviour.

Mrs Soanes Morning Room © Gareth Gardner

  • Photo thanks to Gareth Gardner
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Fu Manchu Clapham + Rosewood Holborn

Opium for Mass | High Street | A Patchwork Quill | Solomon’s Mines

SW London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone 

When King Lud plays chess… Until lately Clapham High Street was lookin’ a tad down at heel, a touch downmarket, a trifle unpalatable. The chattering classes first discovered it in the Nineties. Gnocchi was knocked back and dotcom bubbly guzzled in minimalist restaurants. Consuming consumé against an appreciation of a consummate command of line. That was, until they sniffed out Northcote Road and jumped one mile west and several notches north up the junction | property ladder. Clapham High Street went down the two sewers tubes (both of them). The clattering bells of St Mary’s cloud splicing spire, the only constant. Yummy mummies and faddy daddies retreated to the ‘burbs, tossed with lilacs and red may, blind t’ the unflattering stare of charity façades. Meanwhile multimillionaires’ rows, they became chocca. Now the High Street is doin’ a Blur, having a comeback, a stationary tour. Waitrose? Yep. Byron. Yes. Protest free Foxtons? Yeah. The Dairy and its monosyllabically subtitled menu (Bespoke | Snacks | Garden | Sea | Land | Sweet | Cheese)? Yah.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come

Fu Manchu Clapham High Street © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Aspire to a cornucopian diet of multi layered Michelin starred musings. Rediscovered Clapham’s gone all Louboutin heel and Saturday farmers’ organic food market and sherry trifle on a plate. Yup. Even the gents have been gentrified. The WC conveniently next to Clapham Common Station’s been sanitised to become Wine & Charcuterie. North London’s got The Ampersand. South London’s got an ampersand. Thankfully there’s still a bit a’ danger lurking ‘neath the railway arches. We’re off to the hard launch of Fu Manchu for some moustachioed mischief and fiendish plotting with Lavender’s Blue new intern, blonde babelicious Bristolian Annabel P. “Life’s a beach. No make that a stage.” Quadruple doctorates aren’t a prerequisite. A lust for life is. We give good party. Fu Manchu attracts shady characters. Yep that’s us, we’re on our way. Time to play bridge and tunnel with our arch enemies in a deadly game of Cluedo. You don’t have to be in Who’s Who to know what’s what. But it helps.

The voice of the turtle is heard in our land

Fu Manchu Clapham North © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fu Manchu Clapham Launch Night © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fu Manchu Cocktail Clapham © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood London Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Calum Ducat’s Fu Manchu’s Events Manager. “It’s not a generic venue. When you enter Fu Manchu it’s like your own little world. Clapham’s secret. Las Vegas’ Tao Asian bistro and night club. In SW4.” A rim of light installations by Louisa Smurthwaite, beloved by Alison Goldfrapp and Grace Jones, periodically illuminates the exposed brickwork. In between it’s dark like the tents of Kedar. The tall, lean and feline waiter seductively suggests lovely steamed Tai Chi Bo Coy Gow (£5.80) and baked Wai Fa Chi Mar Har (£4.50) dim sum. What a devious mastermind. “That’s going to happen.” Duty bound we help ourselves to a portion or four. Pure evil. Immortally hypnotic cocktails infused with Chinese essence and Asian flavours as fragrant as Jeffrey Archer’s wife. The Kiss of Death’s (£9.50) liquid rejuvenation, elixir vitae. Pure genius. Mancho’s Mind Control’s (£10.00) peril incarnate. Pure fear. Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices. DJ Andrew Galea takes to the decks. Time to play the Sax Rohmer. Yo. Let’s indulge in some insidious dancing; monopolise the floor, a game of risk, human Jenga, conscious coupling, connect two, crimes of passion and, eh, rumbustious rumblings (trains overhead anyone?), by the watchmen of the walls, under the unhaggard midnight sun. Pure lust.

O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved 

Rosewood Holborn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

From a Victorian opium den to an Edwardian five star. Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy dinner at the Rosewood Hotel. If it’s not on your radar you need to quickly recalibrate. The hotel’s Holborn Dining Room is where it’s all going on, a macédoine of next seasonness, fashion fastforwardness. A recipe for excess. Forget trays or envelopes or woe betide by hand; bills in books are just so now. Rosewood might be a chain, but more Tiffany than Travelodge. If you could perfume glamour, it’d come up smelling of Rosewood. Money can’t buy dinner with the Right Honourable David Lammy in the Regency Carlton House Terrace (truffle arrancini, kale Caesar salad, asparagus wrapped in grilled courgettes and summer pudding washed down with Laurent Perrier Champers, Châteauneuf du Pape 2005, Mâcon-Lugny Louis Latour 2011 and Château Raymond Lafon Sauternes 2010). Pure gold. 

Arise, our love, our fair one, and come away

Rosewood London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Strawberry Star + Dorian Beresford + Hoola Royal Victoria Dock

Towering Ambition

Dorian Beresford CEO Strawberry Star © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

On the record over champers and canapés, Dorian Beresford CEO of Strawberry Star, at and on and in his latest development in partnership with HUB. Hoola. It’s a blisteringly hot afternoon down by London’s Royal Docks. Overhead a net of transport modes zigzag across the marine blue sky. London City Airport and Emirates Cable Car dominate either end of the Docks. Hoola is the latest cloudscraper piercing the capital’s skyline.

Millennium Dome © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“We do end to end at Strawberry Star. Funding, acquisition, implementation, development, management and transactions. The whole nine yards! One – that guarantees results. Our market leading results prove that. Two – it allows us to be passionate about service. An independent psychologist’s report exposed 76 percent of people in the UK as a whole and 88 percent in London have had a bad experience with estate agents. Our agency fee is two percent but you decide whether you want to pay the full amount or not. We help our new homeowners get set up with utility companies too.”

Royal Victoria Dock © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“I grew up in New York and also spent some time in Liverpool. Strawberry Star’s offices are in Mayfair. I commute from Oxfordshire. At the start of my working life I trained as a croupier before opening two casinos. Gradually I moved into property. I’ve been CEO of Strawberry Star since November last year.”

Emirates Cable Car © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hoola Model © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The catalyst for Royal Victoria Dock taking off was the Canning Town regeneration. That and the Olympics. And now Asia Business Park and Crossrail. Canary Wharf is 10 minutes away; Bank’s 20 minutes. Planning permission has just been granted for the £3.5 billion Silvertown Quays project on 62 acres next to the Royal Docks. It’ll deliver offices, a tech hub and 3,000 new homes. By 2028 the population of this area is set to double – an increase of 103 percent compared to 16 percent for London over all. This area is in transition. You can use the water in the docks. So many sporting opportunities.”

Hoola Royal Victoria Dock © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hoola is a new gateway to the Royal Docks. HUB’s architects CZWG have designed two towers with a landscaped area by Churchman Landscape Architects in between. The 23 and 24 storey towers stand on a hill – 360 apartments with 360 degree views. Two world class iconic towers.”

Hoola Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The carbon footprint of Hoola is really really small. The development is super insulated and is shaded by louvres. Heating and hot water is provided through a shared energy network using surplus heat from the nearby ExCel Exhibition Centre. The wrapped balconies are curved but the rooms are regular shapes. CZWG have planned well spatially. Strawberry Star is fully invested in the scheme. We’re even opening our own retail estate agency on the ground floor. We’ve a real focus on quality. Together with developer HUB we’re bringing Zone 1 style to Zone 3!”

Dorian Beresford Property Developer © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Morpheus London + The Pavilion St John’s Wood

It Is Cricket

Lord's Cricket Ground © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In an exclusive preview, Lavender’s Blue tour Morpheus’s latest ultra prime residence. It’s an architectural moment on a roofscape, reimagined for the opening decades of the 21st century. A great swathe of entertainment space lies behind a grand sweep of terrace, a cow shot from Lord’s Cricket Ground. A double hat trick. Side on is a hawk eye view of The Regent’s Park, good for rabbit and ferret spotting. Penthouse doesn’t quite paint the picture. This is about placement. Welcome to The Pavilion, St John’s Wood.

St John's Wood Lord's Cricket Ground © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Alex Isaac is Head of Design at Morpheus. Previously he was Creative Director at Linley and before that he designed yachts. Mega yachts. “Of course Morpheus is highly regarded in the development world,” he commences, “but increasingly we’re also taking on private commissions. We deliver one stop turnkey solutions for refurbishments as well as building new homes. Our development at Pond Place sums up the Morpheus approach to interiors – luxurious, elegant, not intimidating, relaxing, a calm environment.”

St John's Wood Lord's Cricket Ground Finial © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

His experience designing mega yachts for Edmiston and Company is relevant. “The highest levels of design and craftsmanship are essential for yachts. But you only stay on your yacht about six weeks a year so it can be more ostentatious. It’s not your home!” When Jamie Edmiston acquired Linley, he took Alex with him. Alex’s parents are both interior designers. The Morpheus team includes architects, architectural technicians, interior designers and cabinetmakers. “We’ve got a vast database of suppliers,” he confirms. “And we design problems out at the very beginning, while keeping within budget and timescales.”

Morpheus Pavilion Hall @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

More on The Pavilion, all 3,600 internal square feet and 1,700 external square feet of it. Two lifts open into a central entrance hall lit by grand chandeliers. “It’s important to invest in fine pieces,” Alex believes, “to spend money where it counts. Sometimes we take inspiration from antiques to produce amazing timeless installations.” Beyond, to the front of the building is that entertainment space. A walnut floored reception area is balanced on one side by a dining room and on the other, a study. “Rather than one traditional desk,” he continues, “the study’s designed for hot desks but it’s still quite formal.” A wall of windows overlooking the 100 foot long terrace could prove distracting for getting any work done.

Morpheus Pavilion Sitting Room @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Morpheus Pavilion Dining Room @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Morpheus Pavilion Detail @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Morpheus Pavilion Bedroom @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Namibia white marble corridors of certainty. To the rear of the host building is a quieter zone which includes a cluster of family bedrooms accessed off an inner hall. Marble is complemented by an indulgence of soft materials: velvet, suede, leather and 100 percent hand tied silk carpets. The bedrooms enjoy direct access onto a 60 foot long terrace. The master suite is separately accessed off the entrance hall and also overlooks the rear terrace. A glazed winter garden occupying part of the terrace allows for all year round relaxation. The square cut symmetry of the floorplate is matched by the classic balanced interiors. “We design through the eyes of our clients,” says Alex. “The nature of our work means we approach every commission like The Pavilion in a tailored fashion. This informs the design language to address our clients’ desires, needs and requirements.”

Morpheus Pavilion Bathroom @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“I like to bring the detailing out of loose materials, such as pillowcases, and apply it to the architecture as well, to the walls,” he highlights. Style, comfort and technology form the golden trio of successful interiors. Alex notes an increasing desire by clients for long distance control of their homes’ environment: “These days Apple interface is usually requested.”

Morpheus Pavilion En Suite @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“At Morpheus,” Alex concludes, “we’re diverse. We don’t fall into the trap of a house style. Instead, each project takes on its own distinctive style. Projects are informed by choice and use of materials, restraint and patrician dexterity. Clients expect first class comfort as well as distinguished style and the latest technology. That’s what makes up our DNA!” So far, so good innings.

Morpheus Pavilion Winter Garden @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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The Pollocks + Mountainstown House Meath

Unbright Light

Mountainstownhouse Navan © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s a doll’s house on steroids. Toy peacocks guard it. So pretty. John O’Connell, RIAI accredited Conservation Practice Grade I architect and founder of John J O’Connell Architects established 1978, calls Mountainstown House, “A baroque box due to the use of the giant order. And this recalls not only Castle Durrow, County Laois, but refers back to the work of hero Michelangelo who used this device for the first time at The Capitol, Rome. The presence of the dormer windows is rare, as they were not used or decayed. It is also an essay in ‘duality resolved’, though there may have been remodelling when the house was fluently extended in the early 19th century.” John observes, “The design and the adornment of urns to the entrance door is very confident. The date is 1740, and I would say, not by Richard Castle.” Around the windows the house makes a solid frame.

Back in the days when Mountainstown was in the hands of Johnny and Diana Pollock, over supper in the kitchen Diana had said, “It wasn’t easy auctioning many of the contents of the house. But you can always buy back furniture and paintings in the future. Once you sell land it’s – well it’s gone. We kept the pieces with the closest links to the house.” Lot 1122: ‘A pair of composition urns, the vase shaped bodies with gadrooned socles and spreading fluted bases, on square plinths, £5 to £10.’ Lot 237: ‘An equestrian portrait of Mr Dixon, Master of the Meath Hounds, on his chestnut hunter with eight couples of hounds at heel, by Thomas Bretland, £20,000 to £30,000.’

Together the couple sunk the funds raised from Christie’s 1988 auction into restoring the house.They also let out Mountainstown as a film location. “The film September was set here,” she had recalled. “The house was filled with stars – among them Jacqueline Bisset, Virginia McKenna, Edward Fox and Michael York.” A generation and great recession later, one quarter of a millennium of Pollock ownership is coming to an end. Mountainstown was passed down to Arthur Pollock, Johnny and Diana’s elder son, in 2004. Arthur moved in with his wife Atalanta and their three children. They continued the restoration work, installing a new kitchen to the former billiard room wing and painting the staircase hall fawn. But now Mountainstown is for sale through Savills for almost £3 million.

Atty explains, “It was a huge decision and not one that came easily. But we don’t want the children to struggle to keep it, y’know. We want it to be enjoyed to the full by a new family. Somebody who would use all this amazing pasture – and permanent pasture, 120 acres of it. Someone who has an interest in horses. Maybe someone who likes hunting. I mean there are copious stables, a lovely yard.” She knows the history well: “Samuel Gibbons who built the house, after he died an impression was taken of his face and it was embossed onto the ceiling in the hall.” As for the wild boar image which appears throughout the interior, Atty comments, “The story is and it may – it may well be true, that the King of France was being charged by a wild boar that they were hunting and Lieutenant Pollock killed it with an arrow. So he was given a crest – the family crest. And the house has so much personality cause you see all over the house this motif of a wild boar recurring.”

Atalanta Pollock reminisces, “We’ve had really memorable parties here. We filled the house with people and friends. We’ve had lots of people to stay the night which makes for much better parties as we all know. And it’s been a fun place to live in, yeah. It’s been a lot of work but it’s been a lot of fun as well.” Hopefully Mountainstown will remain a private house whoever buys it. Surely Ireland has reached country house hotel saturation? That said, one country house hotel has never looked better. After languishing on the property market for several years, Castlebellingham finally sold for £1.25 million, a quarter of its 2008 asking price. The Corscadden family have since spent over £3 million on a convincing restoration.

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Origin Gallery Dublin + Noelle Campbell-Sharp

Change of Art

Noelle Campbell Sharp Eating a Godiva Chocolate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Several of her famous original social set including a former Taoiseach are dead but Noelle Campbell-Sharp is well and truly alive and kicking ass. The Charlie Haughey era is history but Noelle is the very present face of a successful Dublin art gallery and Kerry artists’ retreat. Today, that face is framed by green glasses and fiery red hair with a yellow flame curl. Just over 70 now, she still looks like Vivienne Westwood’s hotter sister. Noelle is getting ready for the next private view in her relocated Origin Gallery: “The key is attracting some of the brightest artists in the world.” Like its forerunner the gallery is in a Georgian townhouse. That’s where the similarity ends. The new gallery is… drummer boy roll for understatement… calmer. Wedgwood blue ceiling, navy carpets, white walls.

Origin Gallery Dublin © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

As for the original original Origin… ah, Noelle’s steamy love affair with Napoleon. Above the gallery, her library was a full blown homage to the homme. His heraldic birds and bees were sewn into the carpet and painted on the shutters while eagles balanced on the bookcase columns spreading their wings ever wider in a clockwise rhythm round the room. A double barrelled stripy fabric billowed from the ceiling like the sails of the French general’s ship. Among the miscellanea on display was an original drawing of the imperial arms of France. “What any French museum would give to get their hands on all this!” envied Karl Lagerfeld when he set eyes on the loot. A jib door in the trompe l’oeil wall led through to a bathroom decorated with the naughtiest mural in Dublin. It was enough to make sailors blush, although seemingly not the Napoleonic soldiers in action.

“I’ve fallen out with Napoleon. When I was a child I discovered tea chests in an attic brimming with his letters, jewels and toy soldiers. They sparked off my obsession. Actually I still sleep in an attic! I like to surround myself with antiquarian books. I can’t pass them by. WB Yeats, folklore, Empire period… maybe I am still just a bit in love…” Noelle is soldiering on with her autobiography. Five chapters completed so far. Counting Karl, Yves Saint Laurent and David Bailey among entries in her little black book; Robert Maxwell definitely not, he owed her £10 million before he toppled over portside; and with rock band manager, press baroness, socialite, arts patron and gallerist on her résumé, presumably there’s enough material for a few more chapters.

Noelle’s dashing. Tomorrow she’s off to Cill Rialaig, the deserted rural village she transformed into an artists’ retreat with the help of urbane architect Alfred Cochrane. “It’s on the last road in Ireland. New York is caviar compared to getting to Kerry!” That doesn’t stop artists coming from far and wide – Argentina, Italy, Russia and so on. “There’s a selection process,” Noelle reassures, “but really it’s down to whoever spins the best yarn.”

Origin Gallery Dublin Noelle Campbell Sharp © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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The Sweeneys + Castle Grove Ramelton

Weathering Well 

Castle Grove Ramelton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Maidin mhaith. Tiree, Stornoway, Lerwick, Wick Automatic, Aberdeen, Leuchars, Boulmer, Bridlington, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic, Greenwich Light Vessel Automatic, St Catherine’s Point Automatic, Jersey, Channel Light Vessel Automatic, Scilly Automatic, Milford Haven, Aberporth, Valley, Liverpool Crosby, Valentia, Ronaldsway, Malin Head, Machrihanish Automatic. For the uninitiated that’s the pure poetry of Radio 4’s shipping forecast, a rhapsodic melodic episodic late night cruise circumnavigating the coastlines of the British Isles. Gotcha. The penultimate location, Malin Head, is the exposed most northerly point of Ireland teetering on the tip of the Innishowen Peninsula in view of the Aurora Borealis. The ultimate location in this neck of the island is Castle Grove. Unlike windswept Malin Head, next stop Iceland, this timid estate lies huddled off the Wild Atlantic Way in the sheltered mid southwest wiggle of Lough Swilly, the waterspace separating the peninsula from the mainland.

Castle Grove Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A mile long drive sweeps through 350 acres of bucolic parkland as composed as a Derek Hill landscape; a wave of anticipation rises, then behold, a house kinda four square, an abiding place of great and unsearchable things. Like two faced Clandeboye, the principal elevations stand proud at right angles to one another. Face to avenue, face to sea. Castle Grove isn’t like Edward Lovett Pearce’s poppet of Palladian perfection Bellamont Forest, Ireland’s Mereworth (currently on the market for less than £1 million, 1,000 acres included, the price of a two bed flat in Battersea), designed to be seen from every angle including a drone. Nope, it’s country house front, farmhouse back. The four bay façade with central Tuscan porch qualifies Castle Grove as an older rural cousin of Belvedere House, Drumbo, a “middling sized house” splash in Charlie Brett’s Buildings of North Down. Precious cornerstones, sure foundations.

Castle Grove Lough Swilly © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Subsumed within its solid footprint dwells an older house dating back to 1730 and 1695. A radical makeover brought Castle Grove bang up to date for the swinging 1820s. As the Groves went up in the world, onward marching in the direction of the neoclassical vanguard, so did the height of their windows and ceilings. The resultant idiosyncrasies only add to the house’s charm. Four of the windows on the south facing entrance front are higher outside than in, highlighted when the shutters are pulled and a dark gap appears above them. A shuttered cupboard in the Samuel Beckett Room was once a window on the original east elevation. The shutters are set at a cute acute angle on one side of the dressing room (now en suite) windows of the replacement 1820s east elevation, maintaining symmetry. As do the two blind windows An antique porch astutely fills the vacancy of the central axis on the entrance front. A conservatory, the 19th century equivalent of today’s cinema room, was added to the side. Castle Grove now looks like “a beautiful Regency house” says leading heritage architect John O’Connell. It is a country house repurposed, just, as an airy hotel and restaurant. The eponymous erstwhile owners the Groves are long gone. The hospitable able hosts the Sweeneys are here to stay. Breezily braving the elements alone with nature – and paying guests.

Castle Grove Gate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Tráthnóna maith. The eclipse has come and gone; spring equinox is here. Snowdrops have disappeared, daffodils are in full bloom, primroses on their way. It’s time to talk to Mary Sweeney, châtelaine of Castle Grove since 1989. She and her husband Raymond bought the house and estate from Commander Peter Colin Drummond Campbell and his wife Lady Moyra Kathleen Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn’s sister. Commander C inherited it on the death of Major James Grove. Incidentally (there are always lots of incidents in life) Lady M was one of Queen Elizabeth II’s five Maids of Honour at her Coronation. “The land steward and housekeeper kept Castle Grove in good shape. For the first year we lived in the house and opened it as a B and B. We wanted to develop it but not spoil it. The house, it was a real challenge. We wanted to keep the characteristics, the symmetries. We again looked and looked at it. In the end we pushed the entire house back into part of the rear courtyard. The stable wing was already lofted so we retained its front and added a corridor behind linking it to the main house. We didn’t want guests having to go out in the rain. The bedrooms in this wing are just as big as those in the main house. We reroofed the conservatory. We never demolished a wall in the original house. Instead we adapted windows as doors or indoor mirrors. I feel a great obligation to maintain Castle Grove.” This is not Grand Designs or Changing Rooms. This is heritage. This is history. This is Hibernia.

Castle Grove Ramelton Pets Bruce and Dusty © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“When we applied for a dining room addition the planning officers wanted it to be a conservatory. But that part of the house faces northeast and rarely gets direct sunlight! It took a year to resolve, to get our sympathetically designed extension approved. We didn’t want the corner sticking out in views from the driveway so it’s chamfered. We turned the original sideboard recess into double doors under a fanlight. A local carpenter built the doors to match the 1820s double doors between the two main reception rooms. The fanlight is based on the one between the entrance and staircase halls. The original dining room is now the Red Drawing Room and next door is the Yellow Drawing Room. The marble fireplace in the new dining room is a replica from my old home. I jokingly asked Portadown Fireplaces if they could remake it based on a photo and sure enough they did!” The house is filled with modern Irish paintings. Appropriately there are seascapes and mountainscapes aplenty. “Buying paintings from young artists exhibiting their work on the railings of St Stephen’s Green in Dublin in summer stemmed our interest. Artists like Maurice Wilks, Liam Jones, Brendan Timmons. Derek Hill gave us his oil painting Donegal Late Harvest. Derek brought many guests here. Really such a humble man and so friendly.” The house is filled with antiques. “We have some stories to tell about auctions! Newark Antiques Fair is good. So is the Mill at Ballinderry. The bed in the George B Shaw Room came from Seventh Heaven outside Chester. The beds are unbelievable there! That bed was made for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. When we bought the four poster in the Jonathan Swift Room we used saddle soap and toothbrushes to carefully clean it before using French polish. Beds and food – they’re so important!” As for the chandeliers, Sia would swing from them.

Castle Grove Ramelton @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Saol maith. It’s time to talk to Mary’s daughter Irene who is managing reception (the former flower room). “The weather is unpredictable in Donegal or perhaps that should be predictable – it rains a fair bit! Donegal may be right off the Atlantic but we’re very inland here. The house has a warm, loving presence. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere. Whether this is us as a family, or the building, I’m not sure. The Groves were extremely good landlords, especially during the famine when they fed and educated local children in the long barn. Perhaps this generosity and goodwill has over the centuries seeped into the walls. There’s houses before you know the history, they’re chilling…”

Castle Grove Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Donegal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Entrance Hall Cornice © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Yellow Drawing Room © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Yellow Drawing Room Cornice © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Chandelier © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Red Drawing Room © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Fireplace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Bed © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Castle Grove Stool © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Fenja, No. 69 Cadogan Gardens (not to be confused with No.11 Cadogan Gardens and not especially chilling) was a flouncy 1980s London hotel. Its 14 chintzy bedrooms were named after English artists and writers like JMW Turner, JS Sargent, Rossetti, Jane Austen. “Our main bedrooms are named after Irish writers including WB Yeats, James Joyce, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde. There are 15 in total, eight in the main house. The exception is the Daniel O’Connell Room. He actually stayed in the house. Daniel wrote back to the Groves after his visit, referring to his ‘answer to the Irish problem’. Mr Grove introduced him to the House of Lords. General Montgomery also stayed here. Mrs Grove invited him from Dublin to stay. We can accommodate 120 guests for a wedding in our Michelin recommended restaurant. Or 150 if the adjoining Red Drawing Room is used too. The bar was once a breakfast room and the TV room a library cum office. We still use the original kitchen. We grow organic vegetables, fruit and herbs in our four acre walled garden.” Here are some incidental stats. The George B Shaw Room measures 14 feet wide by 18 feet deep by 10 feet tall. The wall between the entrance hall and Yellow Drawing Room is 2.5 feet deep. The Yellow Drawing Room mantelpiece projects by a foot. The George B Shaw Room bed is seven feet wide (double queen size?). Then there’s the Yellow Drawing Room cornice. Why have one cornice when you can have five? Reeding, ribbons and garlands, egg and dart, Greek key, squiggle. Not so incidentally, Castle Grove is three miles from Ramelton, Ireland’s most beautiful Georgian town.

Castle Grove Bedroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Irish economy has sailed through pretty choppy waters of late but at Castle Grove the outlook’s bright. Now for a Grove family tree, or perhaps that should be sapling. William Grove, High Sheriff of Donegal, built the 1730 house. His son Thomas was also High Sheriff but died heirless. William’s second son James married Rose Brook. William’s sister Dorothy Grove married John Wood of the 9th Light Dragoons in 1802. They lived in Castle Grove. Their son James Grove Wood was born a year after they married. He became High Sheriff and a barrister. James married Frances Montgomery of Convoy House which is 20 miles south of Castle Grove, close neighbours in gentry terms. The 1806 building accounts of Convoy House record estate leafage of 300 Alders, 200 Scotch Firs, 200 Beech, 300 Larch and 200 Ashes. Their daughter Dorothea Alice married Rev Charles Boyton of Derry in 1871. Dorothea Alice’s brother John Montgomery Charles was born in 1847. Yet another High Sheriff, he was land agent of Convoy House for three years starting in 1890. John married the daughter of Major General William Gabbett, East India Company’s Artillery. John and Lucy’s children included Lucy Dorothea and her older brother James Robert Wood Grove. He was born in 1888, joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1908 and served in the First World War. James married Eileen Edmonstone Kirk of Thornfield House, County Antrim. They were the last of the line to live at Castle Grove. Finally, some mouth watering early 19th century recipes from the Grove family archives. Lots of sic. Strangely, none of them are served anymore. Oíche mhaith. 

Castle Grove Ramelton Bedroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘Marrow Bones

If too long to serve undivided saw them in too; cover the open ends with a lump of paste and a cloth floured and tied close. The paste must be removed before being sent to table. Boil 1½ and 2 hours according to size. Put a ruffle of papar round each & serve in a napkin, with very hot toast. The marrow is spread on very hot toast & seasoned with pepper & salt.’

Castle Grove Lady @ Donegal County Council Archives Office

‘Raisins Chutnee

Raisins cleaned & minced 2 lbs. Sugar 3½ lbs. Salt 8 ozs, green ginger 8 ozs red pepper 2 ozs garlic ½ ozs. These with the exception of raisins & sugar to be separately well pounded then mixed. Add to them the raisins & sugar & lastly 1 bottle of vinegar. This quantity will make nearly 4 bottles. Fill & leave them in the sun in India but at home cook for about an hour.’

Dorothea Alice Wood Grove October 1861 @ Donegal County Council Archives Office

‘White Milk Soup 

1 onion. 1 carrot. 1 turnip. 3 cloves stuck in the onion. A little stock made of rabbit vial, fowl or mutton (best of the three first). Put the vegetables in the stock & boil for an hour and a half to two hours. Strain salt through a verry fine hair seive. Then warm 1 pint of new milk and add all these together. Season with pepper and salt. This soup must be made just before using as it will not keep – the vegetables turn the milk sour.’

Convoy House Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘To Prevent Bed Sores

10 grains of the nitrate of silver, to 1 oz of water, to be applied by means of a camel hair brush over every part exhibiting the highest appearance of inflammation, 2 or 3 times a day, until the skins has become blackened, afterwards only occassionally.’

Ramelton Donegal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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