Tag Archives: london

Dennis Severs’ House

Yesterday, I had a long time wish fulfilled. Wishes being fulfilled are magical in themselves, but this wish was extra special. For many, many moons I have wanted to visit 18 Folgate Street, the former home of Dennis Severs. Yesterday, as a glorious ending to our Thanksgiving weekend and as a start to our Christmas celebrations we headed out to Spitalfields, in the biting Sunday morning air and joined the already formed line waiting to enter behind those coal black doors.

You are not allowed to photograph inside the home; the image above is my only snap of this building. The house belongs to itself, it is its own person, it has its own soul. Yesterday, was their first Christmas opening day. The gas lantern outside was bedecked with pine boughs and red satin ribbons. Christmas trees stood guard at either side of the entrance. It was charming and felt very Dickensian.

You enter into the house in small groups. As you travel through the rooms, you make your way in silence. Your journey takes you through time. The fireplaces are lit with wood or coal. The only light sources in the house, come from a combination of natural light through the windows and the flickering glow of candles.

Each room is its own experience. The smell of a fire in the kitchen, intermingled with the heady scent from the bowls filled with raisins and citrus on the main table, soon to be turned into something delectable by the cook, no doubt. The tapping of the faucet in the sink was a cheery kerplunk, as vegetables waited in a strainer to be washed. There was fresh bread, a slice already cut off, ready to be stabbed with a toasting fork and held over the fire. A gingerbread man garland was strung above the fireplace, their faces smiling out at you from the candlelight glow around the room. It was cozy, it was warm and inviting after waiting outside in the cold, it was the kind of place you would want to come and have a cup of tea and a chat, or simply curl up by the fire in a chair.

As you made your way up through the house, each room had its own sights, smells and sounds. I was even lucky enough to spy Madge, the resident cat. Who was sitting so perfectly still underneath a chair with the white winter light streaming over her fur, for a moment, I thought she wasn’t real. But, her ears twitched and I bent down to rub her silky ebony fur and was rewarded with a long purr before she dashed down the hallway.

As you enter each room, it is as if the occupants of that room have just slipped out a hidden door and you are trespassing into their world. A letter half finished on the table, the ink still wet on the nib, a cup of tea going cold or the sound of carriage wheels going by. Every element in each space works to create the perfect atmosphere for it to exist within.

The house has a motto: Aut Visum Aut Non!: “You either see it or you don’t.” I saw it. This house spoke to me in such a way. I understood her. I was fascinated watching others travel through the house, who didn’t appear to get it. Or maybe to them, they were getting it. But I think they were seeing, but not really “seeing”.

Etched into the wall of one room in particular is a pyramid. If you didn’t stand in the right place, you might have just missed it. There was a hole in the wall above it and as I peered through a glowing eye was looking back at me. No other person seemed to take that in. They seemed to move about with quick glances. Maybe it is the art historian in me that makes me stop and study? Each room was like a painting. It told a story. It was a puzzle to dissect.

The final room on our journey was the Victorian Parlour and it was so gorgeously decorated for Christmas. The strawberry red velvet curtains against the heavy floral wallpaper were the perfect backdrop for the tabletop tree that was bedecked with ornaments and candles yet to be lit. A box of glass ornaments sat patiently by, waiting for their turn to be hung. A holly and pine garland was strung over the mantel and along the walls. The green leaves with twinges of white gave the room an even more inviting warmth.

As we left the room, I noticed Dennis Severs’ baseball cap sitting on a little corner table, it made me smile. We made our way back down the entrance hall, that from one wall to the other was strung across with boughs of pine and red satin ribbons, that would dance in the breeze every time the door opened. We thanked one of our gracious hosts and out the door we went into the harsh winter light and as the door closed behind us, the spell was broken. Like Alice, in reverse we had stepped through the looking glass back into our world, but I wanted to step back into the world of 18 Folgate Street.

We took a moment to don hats and gloves and then made our way to Spitalfields Market. Everything was too loud, too many people; I wanted to go somewhere quiet to sit and think about all I had just seen. This house spoke to me, I’m still pondering it this morning. I think I will be pondering the magic behind those doors for a long time to come. I am utterly enchanted.

See images from inside the house via their Instagram account.

18 Folgate Street {Wikipedia}

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up

Frida on White Bench, Nickolas Muray, 1939

A few months ago, Mr. Michie surprised me with tickets to the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up. She has long been one of my favourite artists and someone that I feel an unexplainable deep connection to. Our tickets were for an early morning entry, which was perfect. It was busy, but not too busy; so you had the luxury of lingering over a piece without the worry you were in someone else’s way.

The show was beautifully presented and laid out in manner that represented and reflected significant stages in her life. There were photographs taken by her father I had never seen before as well as some of her earlier sketches and drawings. There was film footage of her and Diego Rivera at their home, La Casa Azul in Mexico. The Kodachrome colours of the film gave it such a vibrant and dreamy hue.

Upon Kahlo’s death in 1954, her husband placed many of her personal belongings inside a bathroom in their home and locked them away. La Casa Azul later became a museum to Kahlo’s life. Shortly before his death in 1957, Rivera made a request to a close friend, Dolores Olmedo, that this room containing Kahlo’s intimate belongings should remain locked for the next fifteen years. Olmedo, seriously took Diego Rivera’s request to heart and decided to keep the room sealed until her death in 2002. It was only after Dolores Olmedo’s death that the museum was able to gain access to the sealed bathroom and then began the process of cataloguing the hundreds of items that had been placed within those walls and frozen in time. As a curator and art historian, that would have been a dream job to have been a part of.

As you moved into the last two rooms of the exhibition, her personal possessions were front and center. The six cases that held some of her most intimate things were laid out in two rows of three. It gave the impression of being within a dormitory as the display cases themselves were beds; replicas of her bed. The irony was not lost on me that her bed was a place that she spent a good deal of time within due to her injuries and multiple surgeries and now her possessions were laid out on a “mattress” between the four posters of these faux beds. The outer walls of this room were lined with photographs and personal letters.

Left: Prosthetic leg with leather boot, 1953 – 4, Mexico. Right: Plaster corset, about 1954, Mexico. Photographs by Javier Hinojosa. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums. Museo Frida Kahlo.

Compact and powderpuff with blusher in ‘Clear Red’; Seal-fast nail varnish top coat; Lastron nail varnishes in ‘Frosted Snow Pink’ and ‘Frosted Pink Lightening’; lipstick in ‘Everything’s Rosy’. Photograph by Javier Hinojosa. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums. Museo Frida Kahlo.

Just to name a few things, displayed within those cases were her Revlon nail polish bottles, lipstick, sunglasses, Pond’s cold cream, shoes, her plaster corsets that she painted, her prosthetic leg, crutches, and perfume bottles. It was extraordinary to me that these things still existed and the condition they were in, was astounding! If you are very, very lucky an artist’s palette or a few bits of paint that they used might still exist, but never in my wildest dreams would I imagine someone’s make-up still being in existence.

The final room of the exhibition contained a huge case in the center of the room, displaying her clothes, with self-portraits, jewellery and other objects along the outer walls. To see so many items of her clothing in person that she had been photographed wearing was phenomenal. To have stared at photographs of her for most of my life and then to see that very outfit in front of my eyes was almost beyond belief.

One thing that struck me in this room was a necklace that had been created out of different sized pieces of jade. At the center hung a carved jade hand that was formed into a fist. It was quite large and I wondered if the weight of that around her neck ever bothered her? Anything that would have put pressure on her spine must have been uncomfortable, but yet she wore the necklace any way.

In a way she curated her own life and her pain through not only her artwork, but her clothing. Each item carefully chosen, colourful lipstick and nail polish carefully applied. Her hair braided in a very specific way with ribbons worked into it. There was an intimacy to this show, it almost bordered at times on being too intimate, like I had snuck into a place I shouldn’t be and opened the dresser drawers and rifled through them. It was an incredibly unique perspective on a woman that I have long admired and in a strange way, seeing so many of her personal belongings almost made her more mythical than not.

*As I enter exhibitions it is sometimes difficult to take off my curator/art historian “hat”, in the back of my mind I’m always considering the layout, I watch how others interact with the displays, or move around the exhibition, I pay attention to signage and font usage… One thing I was fascinated by within this show were the mannequins that were dressed with her clothes. The video below is a captivating look into how the V&A created them. Enjoy!

Superheroes

This morning, we awoke to the news of another terrorist attack. This one was at our back door, in our beloved London.

Lately, I feel that we need superheroes more than ever. Never doubt their existence. For it was superheroes walking among us, who last night in the onslaught of the attack, ran to people’s aid.

On Friday, we had an afternoon movie date to see the new Wonder Woman film. It was WONDERful! I have long been a Diana Prince fan. I grew up watching the gorgeous Lynda Carter, spin into Wonder Woman over my morning bowl of cereal as a kid.

Personally, I feel that Wonder Woman’s message is one of extreme paramount importance. Her message is that you can be strong and powerful, but kindness and more crucially love are equally valuable qualities to possess.

Therefore, each time we wake up to another atrocity, we must continue to stand strong and walk forward with kindness and love. We will not cower. We will not back down. We will continue forward, for it is the only way to go.

{Image: Found}

A Birthday Dinner at Dishoom

Well, we had a birthday in the Michie household yesterday. And, the Birthday Boy requested a new pair of sneakers, as he has literally run through his other pair and his birthday dinner request was to eat at Dishoom. Well, we made that happen.

We had to wait to be seated, but that is never a problem. We were lucky and got a seat at the bar. Watching their bartenders work, is like watching a magic show. I ordered my favourite, an East India Gimlet. Delicious!

We truly feasted! We started with lamb samosas and for dinner we ate mattar paneer, naan bread, Awadhi lamb biryani and raita to cool everything down.

For dessert the Birthday Boy had cinnamon ice cream and coffee. While, I kept to my usual choice, the Gadbad Mitha and a chocolate chai. Happiness is…

The birthday day out was a great success!

{P.S. I do have more to share with you from our time in Denmark, so stay tuned!}

Ice & Hot Chocolate

jennifer-michie-ice-1

It was 25°F when I headed out for my walk this morning. The pond was frozen over, but one little patch by the reeds still remained swimmable, as a lone duck was paddling about. Tonight it is supposed to get even colder.

jennifer-michie-ice-2

I made my way down to the edge of the water to look at the ice. I’m always fascinated seeing how it forms. This was a contrast of angles and rough edges. It was almost feathered in some spots. I love peering at things under the ice as well. One Christmas in Denmark, we were out for a stroll and I noticed that someone had dropped a bit of a tangerine peel in a small dip in the street. The water that was resting in that dip had frozen over and the peel lay underneath. You could see crystals around it’s edges, almost like sugar. There was a beauty to it, frozen underneath the blueish coloured ice. I never photographed it. I wish that I had. I think of it often. A strange thing to think of I know, but there was a quality to the light that day and a beauty to what lay beneath our feet.

I ran errands during lunch and treated myself to a gingerbread hot chocolate. Happiness is…

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Dishoom

jennifer-michie-dishoom-1

This weekend we tried a restaurant that has been on our list for a long time, Dishoom. All I can say is WOW! We got in just in time, when we left, the line was at least 60 deep heading down Kingly Street.

We sat in the bar while we were waiting for our table. I had an East India Gimlet and it was heavenly. The restaurant itself is old world charm meets 60s kitsch. The music was making me very happy! They even played one of my favourite songs, “Jaan Pehchan Ho”. (I don’t truly know if I love the song or the dancing scene in the film better. It’s just too good! Even my niece loves it. We’ve had a few dance parties on the rug together to this tune.)

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We feasted on lamb samosas and far far, while we perused the menu. We decided we would mix and match dinner and share, so we had the best of both worlds. I ate the “Chicken Berry Britannia”. YUM, doesn’t even begin to describe it! Mr. Michie had the “Chicken Ruby”

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I made sure I saved room for dessert and tried the pineapple crumble. Everything was just wonderful. We can’t wait to go back! I think I just might have our date night for this week already planned! 😉

Goodbye July

Jennifer Michie Queen of Sweden Rose

I can’t believe that July is already coming to a close. How can that be? I’m definitely running behind this year because we haven’t even had our “Christmas in July” party. Maybe we can just do it in August instead?

Yesterday we spent arm in arm walking around one of our favourite parks. The roses were in full bloom and this pinky peachy apricot beauty bred by David Austin, called Queen of Sweden, was particularly alluring. It’s smell was just delicious.