Destination: Coram's Fields / Persephone Books
I was struck by these tiles at Russell Square, and it turns out that Leslie Green, the fellow who designed the Gloucester Tube station (mentioned in my first "Hail Britannia" post) designed this one as well. He cleverly gave each station its own distinctive color scheme and tiling pattern to make it quickly recognizable to commuters. So smart.
Exiting the station, Luca and I stopped at a street corner to figure out how to get to Lamb's Conduit Street. As I was puzzling over my map, a voice called out to me and I turned to see a gentleman with his head out a window.
"Excuse me. Can I possibly assist you with directions?" he enquired. I was so touched. He was like a Dickens character come to life: twinkling eyes, cheery demeanor, kindly smile. When I asked him if I could take his photo, he giggled and said, "Am I going to be famous now?" It's memories like this that I file away for a rainy day. I never found out his name, but he is forever known to me as "Mr. Cheeryble", one of the benevolent characters from "Nicholas Nickleby."
Luca and I had one important stop to make before I took him on my pilgrimage to Persephone Books: Coram's Fields.
Located on the grounds of an 18th century foundling hospital for abandoned children, it boasts seven acres of grass, trees, climbing structures, wading pools and a petting zoo.
I knew that before I could expect Luca to keep his limbs still inside the teeny-tiny Persephone Books, I needed him to run/climb/swing off some of that boy energy.
He did. Over and over and over again.
After that, it was just a couple of hundred yards to my favorite publisher in London. You all know about Persephone Books, right? They reprint forgotten classics by twentieth century (mostly women) writers. In their words, "Persephone Books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget."
Their titles include novels, short stories, diaries and cookery books, all beautifully designed with a clear typeface, dove-grey jacket, "fabric" endpaper and matching bookmark.
I have purchased about eight titles so far, mostly online. But nothing compares to visiting the shop. The books are lovingly arranged on the shelves with their stunning endpapers on colorful display.
If you can't drop everything and rush here right away, their website is a wonderful substitute until you can. It features a complete online catalog, author bios, book reviews, archived issues of their Quarterly magazine, as well as a fortnightly letter from the publisher.
Tube stop: Oxford Circus
Destination: Liberty and Company
Yes, I know I've blogged about this store recently, but I haven't actually been there in a year and I desperately wanted to see what fabulous new wares they were offering.
Come inside with me.
Just inside the front door, this zebra stopped me in my tracks. I love the juxtaposition of the taxidermy with the soft textiles and that wall of art, all in white frames. It's romantic and edgy at the same time: Colette meets Isak Dinesen.
On the next floor up, we were greeted by a Busby Berkeley row of mannequins wearing an assemblage of spring couture. The ceiling above them goes up four storeys, and I was bound and determined not to rest until I'd explored every square inch.
Up another floor, and I spotted this delightful display of Penguin ware. Mugs, notebooks, every accessory an inveterate booklover needs. To me, there is inspiration in everything: here, I found the cobalt blue wall against all the orange refreshingly upbeat.
Are you gasping yet? I was when I saw this cozy nook. I love the unabashed irreverence in grouping all these diverse textile patterns together. It's "Gardens Gone Wild."
If you can imagine, this is a quilt comforter from this season's new homewares line. It's a printed illustration of the Liberty storefront. Opened up, it makes quite a statement and it was so, so soft. Silk, I think. Silk-ish, anyway.
Keep climbing with me. We have now reached the Haberdashery floor. They were about to begin a knitting session at that round table when I approached. I used to haunt this section when I lived here and go home with bags of embroidery floss in gorgeous hues that would set my head spinning.
Here's a sampling of Liberty prints from their renowned line. The entire floor was bulging with them, but I didn't want anyone to faint from overstimulation, so I offer you just a small dose here. Oh, the colors! Oh, the possibilities!
I was struck by this wonderful version of their peacock print fabric on this mannequin. I find the colorway to be extremely modern although the pattern is firmly rooted in tradition. Again, it's the visual tension between new and old that makes it work for me.
We're on the top floor now. Look around. In front of you is this grouping of "royalist" pillows, all of them made from vintage textiles. Love. But then you knew I would.
I own a suzani exactly like this that I bought on Ebay. Currently, it's just lying at the foot of my bed like a jetlagged dilettante. I love that instead of upholstering the entire chair, the designer used strategically placed pieces of fabric. Even the accent pillow is part of the pattern.
Here's another chair that uses pieces of ikat fabric to create a bold statement. You can find ikats on Ebay for reasonable prices. I also happen to have a serious crush on all of Robert Kime's ikat patterns. They are costly, but if you upholster a chair in this fashion, you wouldn't need endless yardage.
Liberty never fails to have a couple cheeky pieces that completely shake up your definitions of what furniture should be. Luca was obsessed with this pencil eraser chair.
It was surprisingly comfortable.
Along one side of the top floor are multiple little ateliers, showcasing fabrics and decorative items for the home. You can step up into a delightful little room and get down to brass tacks...or furnishing fabrics, as the case may be.
Now you're standing with me looking down into the four-storey atrium. It's like a miniature city below you, isn't it? As if someone has peeled back the walls of a fabulous organism housing only beauty and joy.
After all this excitement, Luca suggested we repair to the ground floor tearoom to partake of some liquid refreshment. (His actual words may have been "Mom, I'm thirsty.")
His tea was milky and weak. Mine was lemony and strong. There were two or three (or four) sugary-type treats ingested as well.
The tearoom chairs were upholstered in this Liberty peacock pattern. Again, it's the fearless pattern that gets me every time.
Our heads spinning with design inspiration (well, mine anyway; Luca's was immersed in "Beast Quest 2"), we emerged onto Regent Street and were greeted by a high-gloss London night.
My little man strode ahead of me, completely at ease in this bustling metropolis...
...wearing his newfound confidence like a Savile Row suit.