Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The third in an occasional series about necessary houses, bogs, WCs, comfort stations, garderobes, heads, johns, ladies' rooms, latrines, lavatories, outhouses, potties, powder rooms, cloakrooms, restrooms, thrones, washrooms, and bathrooms.

Answering a comment from JCB on Friday's post I had one of those paralyzing moments when the eye turns inwards, reality is berthed, and the topography of the past is the byway one takes - the kind of situation when on a too-familiar journey in the automobile there's little recollection of how one arrived at the destination - the body on one journey, the mind on another.

JCB had written that she was comforted to know someone else's reading list is just as randomly diverse as her own, and in reply I was going to mention how I'd grown up in a house devoid of books and there I was, back in my grandparent's living room seeing my grandfather, a fag between his lips, reading the local newspaper - "the pink" as it was known. And pink it was, the paper of that daily with its list of football league scores - vital information in a Lancashire cotton and coal town where winning the pools was an undying hope - a town, deep in a valley, where "thee" and "thou" were still used in its dialect, as were Norwegian words left over from the Viking raids of the 8th century. A town where working men's clubs, nonconformist chapels, darts and dominos, whippet racing, pigeon fancying, growing sweetpeas, joining brass bands and coal miner's choirs that sent Jerusalem, the Hallelujah Chorus and Abide With Me thundering out over the cobblestones, enriched the lives of those staunchly socialist men and women - lives that had been portrayed a generation earlier in Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, and in my youth in the films of the 1960s.

In this slide down the valley slopes of memory I have come a long way from my original intention of post about bathrooms so let me give you one more memory. My grandfather had cousins in the next town, who lived in a terraced (row) house without an internal bathroom. In the paved, walled area - the backyard - behind the house were two stone-built outhouses. One held coal, the other, the long-drop, or privy. I had never seen a water closet without a flushing mechanism and was totally charmed by the idea that not only was there a slate slab where wood should have been (hell-on-earth to sit on in winter, I would think), but also that the only way to flush it was to wait for the kitchen sink to be drained into it. I say I was charmed, but I waited till I got home, I seem to remember!

So via the flushing mechanism of my mind, I offer you the bathroom belonging to this house - I'm not necessarily continuing my theme of blue in decorating but I couldn't not show it.

Photographs by James Mortimer from article written by Elspeth Thompson for The World of Interiors, March 1994.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fettucini, fava beans, tomatoes and licensing

This morning I'll be at ADAC listening to a presentation by Barclay Butera that is being sponsored by Kravet. I attend many of these presentations but this one, having had dinner last night with Mr Butera, (as did other Atlanta decorator/bloggers Decor Demon and 64 in a box) I'm really looking forward to.

It is rare for me with my background in advertising to be able to discuss interior design business - I'm not talking about establishing a firm as that's pretty specific given the jurisdiction, or even the whys and wherefores of contract versus residential - just the nitty-gritty of designing, for design it is, interior design licensing, a subject of great moment in this economy.

It was a pleasure to dine with and listen to a successful man who together with the owners of Kravet is modifying for me the many negative implications created by the licensing excesses of the 1970s and 1980s - Famous Names attached to the most outré of products - it was refreshing, given the cynicism I once felt, to learn about the depth of a designer's involvement in fascinatingly complex design, production and quality processes.

I'm always engaged by processes and have never lost the impatience I feel when I have to listen to a procedure that begins at the beginning then interminably, to me, meanders to a conclusion. First tell me the result then let's really discuss what happened on the journey to that conclusion, and last night was interesting to me from that point of view. I already know the result - Barclay Butera licenses - and was delighted by listening to what is involved.

My entree at Ecco after shared hors d'oeuvres was fettucini with fava beans and cherry tomatoes. Ecco is a great space, well designed, comfortable, good waiters, good wine list, good food, and if you were so inclined, good people-watching.

Thanks to Peggy Flanagan, a friend to both me and to many a student I've steered her way, and Matt Hare, owner of the Atlanta Kravet and Lee Jofa showrooms, I had a very interesting, entertaining and fun evening.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hope or hype? Video killed the radio star...

What might well be photos of the last of Kalef Alaton's work caused in a roundabout way an over-a-glass-of-wine conversation about the role of blogging and its possible consequences for print. I wondered – and I realize I might be coming late to this discussion – if blogs are contributing to the decline of magazines.

So, if one compares a blog to a magazine it is clear that there are similarities: each has a distinct personality... generally speaking there is something to be seen or read not available elsewhere... expectations in terms of subject and style are fulfilled and, with luck, the envelope is pushed – but not too far... there is consistency from issue to issue yet there is something new each time... an editor picks good stuff that appeals and presents it, along with some analysis, critique or background... and there is reliability in terms of frequency (be it monthly or weekly).

In short, a well-curated balance of the expected and the novel: in this way is a loyal following created.

So what about this is distinct from what a blog does? (I'm not even talking about those blogs that are so commercialized they are nothing but advertorial.) Are blogs competition for magazines?

To some extent I think they are, but do not expect this competition to be deadly. If one looks at past predictions of the imminent demise of this or that industry, it's clear that whatever was hoped or hyped did not come to pass. The movies did not kill live theatre. TV did not kill the movies. And neither has YouTube killed TV - we still watch them all.

There are two distinct differences between blogs and magazines, which encourage me to believe that both can co-exist. One is that most magazines are graphically better designed than the average blog – though there are notable exceptions. The second is that magazines look good on the coffee table and even the best-designed blog has a hard time doing that.

Talking about graphic design reminds me of another example of the overnight demise of a vast part of that industry caused by technology and software advances. A generation ago, it became possible to be one's own graphic designer. (Some of you may not be old enough to remember that it was ever any other way!) The problem is, it ain't that easy to be a graphic designer without the training - look at any locally produced magazine - Photoshop might make it easy to create but it does not teach one about communication or aesthetics. Today, the same is happening to video - look at YouTube – and when you do look at YouTube, you'll notice that although it's fun and all, actually making a compelling video is not that easy. So it is with blogging - templates enable but do not guarantee clarity of communication or compelling content.

The foregoing notwithstanding, many dearly loved magazines have bitten the dust recently – and the same has happened to newspapers. The causes are different, though both have to do with economics and advertising. Producing and distributing a glossy magazine or a newspaper are both expensive endeavors. In the case of magazines, advertising dollars vaporized with the drastic shrinking of the luxury market – but this is at least in part reversible as the economy revives. Newspapers, on the other hand, are imploding because the advertising they rely on has moved to the internet - to eBay and Craigslist, for example – and because the internet provides timely news updates better than a printed newspaper can. And those are changes which are not reversible. Where newspapers remain valuable is in their synopses, opinion and analysis... although these roles, too, are increasingly being taken over by online media. In fact, one might contend that, in this aspect, blogs are a greater threat to newspapers than to magazines.

Blogs may have given magazines some degree of competition by allowing anyone to become a writer, publisher and editor. But still, most magazines do it better in terms of aesthetics, content, advertorial and advertising than even the commercialized blogs I've seen. In the same way, YouTube does a brilliant job of showing that good video is actually hard (and usually expensive) to make, thereby proving it is no competition for TV. However engaging the umpteenth cute kitten video or Lady Gaga lip-sync, at a certain point one just wants to sit back and luxuriate in the professional production values of, say, True Blood.* And let's not forget that blogs also provide a proving ground for new talent that magazines are now beginning to cultivate.

Photos by Tim Street-Porter to accompany text written by Pilar Viladas for House and Garden, August 1989.

* June 13th, people!

Bitter oranges, Porcelains and Peacocks

Kendra at Porcelains and Peacocks has awarded me the Creative Blogger Award and rather than ask me to relate seven things about me that you might not know, and which I had done once before, she asked for seven favorite reads. I hadn't planned on posting this week but this gets me off my mental backside.

My favorites are always those books I'm busy with at the moment and here is the list.

Ottolenghi: the Cookbook was a birthday present to my partner and I'm looking through it for soups suitable for hot weather. I'll probably hand it back to him saying that there is a cake recipe he might use - he's the fancy cake baker in this house whereas I limit myself to fruitcake and gingerbread. Fruitcake mainly because its a requirement each weekend with his cup of tea and on occasion an early breakfast (just to get one through to the real breakfast, you understand), and gingerbread is something to tide one over in case the kitchen has been a bit tardy in topping up the supply of fruitcake. A small remnant, a crumb really, of Dundee cake inhabits the same cake tin as the very tasty seed cake he made last weekend two hours before announcing we both need to go on diets. Oh, and by the way, having thrown away what must have been a king's ransom in stale spices and herbs over the years, I now keep all in the freezer.

Having just found bitter oranges, to my great surprise and dread (normally they should appear in the market early in January and when they didn't I thought I'd been let off the hook), I took from the shelves Harrods Book of Jams, Jellies and Chutneys - a book I've had for absolute yonks and keep only for the marmalade recipe I knew I would need. Bitter oranges are the essential component of a good marmalade - none of that ordinary oranges and a lemon nonsense in this house. So, the cook will be busy with the dreadful task of preparing marmalade all the while trying to steer the course to a slimmer, more lovely form. At this point I might as well tell about the other requirement from the kitchen - chutney. Each autumn I make enough of Elizabeth David's recipe for green tomato chutney to last a year and when that last pot is opened I know the summer is over and it's time to bake, preserve, pot, wrap and store all over again.

Billy Baldwin: an Autobiography I first read years ago when I was a graduate student and haunted the university library, and it came to mind again when I was writing about Arthur Smith his erstwhile assistant, partner and successor in Baldwin's business. It's a charming read, if a little stilted when Mr Baldwin is quoted - the book is titled an autobiography but it was actually written with Michael Gardine - and, as with many autobiographies, the other people in it are what make it really interesting. Sometimes it can be hard to separate puff from substance and Baldwin's autobiography to me whilst interesting is not of great moment.

George, Nicolas and Wilhelm is an account of three royal cousins and the road to World War 1 that I bought at Crawford Doyle last Friday between breakfast at Sant Ambroeus and lunch at Jean Georges. I began to read it in the plane home and finished it within two days - I won't say I could not put it down but I can say I did not want to put it down. It is fascinating - as fascinating as the foie gras brulé in rhubarb sauce at lunch was delectable. I cannot resist foie gras, despite the anti-cholesterol medication I take, when I see it on a menu and neither, seemingly, can I rebuff thick history books. Which brings me to me to the fifth of my week's reading:

The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400 - 1000 - a book that has been described as dry and dry it is but in the way that a well-baked ciabatta crust or a piece of shortbread is dry - it gives one a good chew whilst ruminating. Last night, reading in bed after dinner with the Celt's step-mama who'd had her flight from New York to Scotland cancelled by volcanic ash and was able therefore to spend a few days in Atlanta, I realized that utterly enthralling as Merovingian Gaul and Germany were in 500 t0 571 CE I needed to be as switched off as the bedside light was going to be. Dinner by the way was risotto with mushrooms and truffle and I was reminded that though the risotto was as al-dente (the ideal comforting chew as everyone googles, tweets and texts around one) as it should be I don't find truffles interesting. They taste faintly of soap to me - not offensively so, but there again, I do wonder who really likes soap.

In this house books are categorized into what he reads and those I read and generally speaking there's not much crossover. But The Elegance of the Hedgehog, parts of which were read to me on the plane to New York, is one of the rare exceptions. I'm not strong on books where there's a lot of inner-landscape spreading flatly and confoundingly nowhere, and though my fear was that this book would be like that, the first chapter captured me.

Dick Francis is not an author that springs to mind when I'm asked what I like to read but I can honestly say that each time I have read one of his books I have thoroughly enjoyed it. So it is with Longshot the book I was trying to read on the plane to New York. I didn't finish it in the hotel as planned and the other books on this list have intervened but now there's time for the remaining eleven chapters.

So, that's it - my list of books I'm reading now. If you wonder how I have the time to read so much I can only say with a certain diffidence that I'm on vacation for the month of May and after a long semester there have been days when I have not left the flat.

Next week I shall resurface - we are going together with an old friend flying from London, volcano permitting, to Pittsburgh from where we'll day trip to Falling Water and Kentuck Knob and then a few days later go back to New York for theatre and, in my case, foie gras.

I forgot, thus I'm editing this to write about the blogs I read all the time - there's not a day that goes by without me opening my blog page without a sense of expectation. My blog roll is perhaps a truer list than a limit of seven and further to that I will say this: blogging has become such an essential component of my life, the whys and wherefores of which I find very hard to analyze. I recognize we are members of a club, we are like-minded, we share values and value what we share, and we are polite with each other and the world in general.

So, if you are on my blog roll, you can be assured that I read you each time you post - with great pleasure and expectation.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The great wide blue yonder

I end my week of blue with this beautiful photo of the hydrangea horseshoe outside Groote Schuur, the house of Cecil Rhodes. Between blue heaven and blue earth, the blue haze of Table Mountain and Devil's Peak.

Photo by Alain Proust to accompany text written by Graham Viney for The World of Interiors, June 1986.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sweet peas, honeysuckle, climbing geranium and a bridge too far

I cannot say that these are the photos that began it all, this love of mine for blue, but I remember coming back time and time again to look at them during what must have been the typically wet grey short days of winter, and on many a day since, winter or not.

We'd moved recently to Amsterdam after a sojourn in Eindhoven, then a town singularly lacking in charm and interest - it had been bombed flat during Operation Market Garden and the town liberated from the occupying forces by the US 101st Airborne Division a year before the War ended - uninteresting to me, but yet a town that gratefully remembered its liberation each 18th of September with a parade frequently attended by US and Canadian veterans. Dour brick, what we would call today mixed-use, buildings lined the pedestrian-only streets heaving with crowds, most of whom seemed to be on bikes, and the minute the sun shone, whatever the temperature out came the sidewalk cafes, many heated by infra-red lamps, further narrowing what were reasonably wide pathways.

I cannot say those were the happiest days of my life but looking back it was the beginning of the path that led me, via Amsterdam, to where I am today, my love of blue intact, and more importantly the new adventure then being forged with my partner also still intact - and for this I am immensely grateful. Those were the days before cell phones, CDs had just been marketed and word-processors ruled.

Apropos word-processors we watched Julie and Julia yesterday evening, after pizza and salad by the pool, in a friend's home theatre - and this was a 24-seat (about as many as can fit around his dining table) theatre with an HD screen the size of a wall - in which Julia Child types chapters of Mastering the Art of French Cooking with carbon paper and onion-skin copy paper. Those were the days ...

Climbing Geranium, the Colefax and Fowler chintz on the chair in front of the blue-painted cupboard, remains one of my favorites though I'm not even sure if it is still sold. My only regret is that there never was a blue version - unimaginable to me despite the fact there aren't any actual blue geraniums - and had there been a blue colorway I would probably have ignored the ban on floral fabrics (our bridge too far) in our house. That blue geranium, real or not, shines in my mind's eye with all the glamour of a sprite.

Tomorrow we're going to New York for a long weekend of family, theatre, museums, lots of walking and lots of blue skies.

Photos by James Mortimer to accompany text by Jane Lott for an article in The World of Interiors, February 1985.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't it make my brown eyes blue

To continue my theme this week of blue in decoration, and also to continue the occasional series of favorites begun in June last year, here are photos of a room Chester Jones designed in the mid-nineties in London. Jones is definitely a decorator able to blend traditional furniture, tribal forms, contemporary art, color, space and light (see here and here) into rooms with a completely modern point of view. This interior is twenty years old, has not to my eyes dated, and could have been created either side of the pond. In other hands such a mix would drift into being a hodgepodge.

In most of the rooms I choose to write about, even the historic ones from the 1980s and 1990s, I see a similarity - not of style, necessarily, but a regard for architecture, history, affability and idiosyncrasy. Some are grand, some apparently simpler, some more tailored and polished than others, but all are courteous, approachable and urbane. I could look forward to coming home to any of them.

I don't know if anyone else would say the same, and maybe it's my imagination but there are so few birds. I sit now at my dining table looking out to the tops of trees and see hardly a bird. A hawk wheeled by and there are a couple of swallows swooping around. I don't want to give the impression that the sky has exactly been a maelstrom of wings, but what I don't see is worrisome enough to make me wonder if it's just this city, a wider manifestation or, as I say, I'm fantasizing.

Photos by Andreas von Einsiedel for an article written by Elfreda Pownall in The World of Interiors, October 1996.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The second day of a self-indulgent indulgent week when I post about the color blue in decoration and, coincidentally, the third in an occasional series about bathrooms. I don't have a lot to say about it - my enthusiasm for blue has already been declared - but, as with the room yesterday by Mark Hampton, I could roost very comfortably here.

Let me give you a taste of Christopher Gibbs' text about the owner of the house, Piers von Westenholz.

"Piers and his friends looked back before the baleful blanching-out of Syrie Maughm, the thoughtless dragging, stippling and obliterating of architectural framework, the revolt against historicism, the ghastly chic of Evelyn Waugh's Mrs Beaver in A Handful of Dust, the litter of tawdry gewgaws and 'antiques' restored beyond any interest, quality or atmosphere.

"It was time to return to old England, England before the Industrial Revolution and mass manufacturing spawned that nadir of designed depravity, belle époque. They searched out, dusted down, revived and refreshed the true orthodoxy, anchored firmly this side of the Channel, grounded in ancient harmonies, preserved in our architectural traditions, and in the use of materials felled or mined in our islands.

"What was despised by the taste-makers of the past decades - oaky gothick, Tudorbethan, the sternly architectural and archaeological - is cherished by Westenholz. These foundations are garnished by often earlier, more familiar pieces - painted, or in mahogany, walnut, even satinwood - and by drawings, paintings and sculptures by his friends and contemporaries such as Book Bantock, Rory McEwan and Nigel Waymouth .... "

A fine piece of writing that, despite the patriotism, is full of heartfelt detestation of modern manufacturing and it's consequences.

Photo by Jonathan Pilkington for an article written by Christopher Gibbs for The World of Interiors, October 1997.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Given the chance ...

... was my answer when earlier this year I was asked if I always wore blue. Seemingly I had worn blue shirts and blue sweaters so frequently, probably daily given my predilection for the color, it had become a matter of remark amongst my students. I've checked in my closet and of the forty-three shirts hanging there twenty-two are blue or blue and white. Simply put, I like blue.

Imagine then the effect this room had (partial photo, I'm afraid) when I turned the page to it. Of all the beautiful interiors in Mark Hampton, an American Decorator, this room is probably the one I would have requested of Mr Hampton had I had the chance.

Mark Hampton, an American Decorator is a book long-awaited - it does not disappoint and lives up to the fanfare. One cavil: there is a pretty major proof-reading glitch - a large chunk of text repeated and a misnaming of a chair - beyond that, perfection.

Nowadays there's an apparently unending stream of books by and about modern decorators in which it seems to me there's little that is not trite. Lack of originality is a accusation levied at Mr Hampton but this book should give the lie to that, if only from the point of view that originality is a quality much hyped in this business but of which little is ever seen.

Photo by Eric Boman.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

... an haughty spirit before a fall

Today I rewrote a post, Breakfast, in which I was precisely what I railed against last week - unkind. An haughty spirit, indeed! Not, though, the figure below.

I first saw this bronze figure of a monk three years ago when as a member of an ASID committee I arrived at the event we'd arranged and this figure, seemingly the firm's talisman, captivated me. Then it was unavailable, but last week I was able to secure it and here it sits, temporarily, on the bench in the hall, too heavy for me on my own to lift, twenty-seven inches tall and with an expression of such trusting enquiry on its face - I hesitate to say his face, as the calvinist in me makes me wary of idolatry - I cannot but look at it every time I pass by. The figure has such presence, its almost haunting. There's no haughtiness in that monk's spirit.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A reward

Yesterday's lecture and books signing by Mr John Saladino was all and more that I expected. That he would show slides of his latest book Villa was predictable. (I overheard someone in the queue for the signing exclaim that the contents of the book were the same as the slide show.) But I must tell you these slides – although whoever had digitized them for Mr Saladino should be ashamed of letting them out of the door – were accompanied by photos of other work, equally impressive, as driven by profound knowledge of architectural principles and as masterly decorative as might be expected from this man – a man for whom the whole room stood and applauded on his entrance. Mr Saladino warned his audience that the lecture would take about an hour, but because of his photos, his knowledge, his humor, his enthusiasm, his self-deprecation and wit, it seemed by the end too short a time.

Below a photo of the elevator shaft I mentioned in yesterday's post - not green or verdigris, as in my memory, but stone. It was the archway that had been treated to resemble oxidized bronze.

The title A reward? Mr Saladino mentioned a number of times axes at the end of which were visual rewards, eye-catchers.

Photo of elevator hallway by René Stoeltie from Style by Saladino, The Monacelli Press, 2000.

Photo of Yummy Scrumptious and Mr Saladino courtesy of my iPhone and my lack of reading glasses.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Grades are done and posted, the vacation begins today and there are two trips to look forward to. The first to New York to meet up with my mother-in-law coming in from Scotland, and later in the month together with an old friend flying in from London, volcano permitting, to Pittsburgh for Falling Water and Kentuck Knob and back to New York for theatre and fun.

A more immediate occasion to look forward to, and I so wish my new blazer was ready, is breakfast this morning at the Ainsworth Noah showroom to meet the designer of this room from 1983, Mr John Saladino. I don't think this room was the first interior of Mr Saladino's I'd seen way back when - there was another with a large square column shaft, green in my memory, doing duty as an elevator hallway, that impressed the hell out of me - however, first or not, I found this room magical and to a great degree still do. It is of its time and yet timeless.

All the elements of interiors created by him over the last nearly thirty years are in place: the classicism, the relish for the antique, the understanding of architecture, the apprehension of light, the enlistment of baroque form and texture, the acknowledgement of proportion and, quite simply, the erudition of it all.

I already have his new book, Villa, and am a bit self-conscious about schlepping it to be signed, so I probably shall not. If you haven't got the book in your library I recommend you put it there. It's not a book that will fit a shelf easily, large and squareish, bumptious even, that it is, it really requires a place on a table - preferably a table draped to the floor with a large oriental carpet.

The carpet draped table is something straight of a Johannes Vermeer or Gabriel Metsu painting, something I had not seen in years, certainly outside of the Netherlands, until last week when visiting an acquaintance I saw his large work table covered to the floor in a large carpet and topped with a large Apple machine and keyboard. That juxtaposition of modern technology with an artifact of such ancient provenance was immensely stylish. In fact, the whole place was full of interesting adjacencies - a bust of Pallas Athene atop a glazed medical cabinet in use as china storage, for example - so much so, that it was obvious he had decorated, curated is probably a better way of looking at it, only for his own visual enjoyment and I found it both ritzy and rakish. They were rooms that, if one took the time to understand, said so much about the owner - a rare quality, I feel.

Apropos ritzy and rakish, I found this recipe tucked away in the cocktail cabinet this evening.

Negroni sbagliato

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
1 ounce dry spumante
orange slice for garnish

Over ice but added in this order - Campari first, then the vermouth followed by the spumante. Stir gently.

For the second time this week I cannot attribute the photographer, though I do know the photo is from a 1983 issue of Architectural Digest. I shall seek the name of the photographer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Grading, grading, grading. I have a little grading ....

The peonies we bought last week are at their most lavishly wonderful peak and their diminutive scent seems to hand around the room in bubbles that one walks through in most unexpected places, one of the pleasures of finals week - grading is upon me and lamentations and bitter weeping are heard in the hallways.

What is occupying my spare time is the brilliant book about Mark Hampton written by his widow. Mr Hampton really was one of my favourite decorators and I'm so pleased to have this compilation of his work. I awoke this morning at 4:30 and my first thought on creaking out of bed was to sit in the living room, read this book and wait for it to get light.

Last week I mentioned the New York Times bad-boy review of this book as part of a post about kindness in blogging and now I have this book I wonder again why anyone might be begrudging about Mr Hampton or his widow. Let me recommend this book if you don't yet have it, for in it are some pretty staggering interiors by this admirable decorator - a man whose work I have held in high regard for longer than I would care to admit at this fragile time of day.

Photo of book from as is the book itself. Slightly unfocussed photo of peony courtesy my iPhone. Coffee, WholeFoods' Morning Buzz has yet to be made as Rory is still abed. A glass of water and a niceness pill suffices.

Monday, May 3, 2010


This week I want to deal with what I see as timeless interiors, and if this involves some of the forgotten decorators from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, then all the better. The interior shown below is by one such - Ruben de Saavedra - from the 1980s.

Whilst selecting these photos it occcurred to me that one of the many changes over the last 3o years – besides the fade to a neutral palette – is that, generally speaking, when color is used today it is much cooler in tone than that of the 1970s and the 1980s. Reds, oranges, yellows and greens, the potency of which seems to blare off the page, were commonplace. Not for those decorators the smirk of disengaged white or beige - they had fun with color.

Ruben de Saavedra's interior has endured with little to date it: the Edward Fields rug, perhaps, the wallcovering in the bedroom and the large lights in the lowish ceiling are of their time. It could be argued that lighting as a profession really began in the 1960s and 1970s, both decades when drama – thus dramatic lighting – prevailed in interior design. Uplights and downlights were pretty familiar by the 1980s and track spotlighting was ubiquitous especially in homes where there was significant furniture or important art - investment as aesthetic - significant and important being routine, if lax, hyperbole used by magazine editors and art advisors of the period.

So what is it that stops an interior from being passé? It cannot be an intrinsic quality but rather a matter of perception, of training and of preference. It may be the answer lies in the roots of the word classic for Mr de Saavedra's design is a classic, if not downright classy. With that word classy you're getting to the root of the matter in one of two senses: the first, meaning adhering to established standards and principles and the other belonging to the highest rank or class.

A further question: how does one tell now which rooms will stand the test of time - and there's enough puffery in books and magazines suggesting it is possible - or does true classic design only reveal itself with the passage of time?

As with many an inanimate object the magazine, Architectural Digest, has winked temporarily out of existence. When it returns I shall post correct attributions for photographer, writer, issue and date.