The wilder shores of taste
Recently, I went to stay for the first time in a restored farmhouse in the West Country — one side off a square, the others linked to barns. As I stepped into the entrance hall, I felt as if I had been there before; I seemed to stepping onto the wilder shores of taste.
On the striped stone flag floor, a monumental round George II table sat on a richly patterned rug. The walls, with original panelling, were painted simply in a warm white. It was the curtains that gave it away: Indian-influenced with their paisleys and squiggles on cream. I knew that, if he hadn’t actually physically decorated the house, Robert Kime had had a great deal to do with it — particularly in thinking through the proportions that had delivered huge spaces to the lucky owners. ‘Get rid of that beam and that wall must go,’ was heard there more than once, I was told. You don’t argue with Robert Kime.
La Gonette, Provence, 1999: Robert Kime is seen in the library seated in a chair covered in Art Deco velvet. The 19th-century English bookcase
has its original green paint; on top of it are Roman pots and a Turkish Iznik plate. Further Turkish notes can be seen in the larger of the two carpets and the brass lamps. The chest , a 19th century copy of an 18th-century chest, was purchased in New York. The hefty frame of the mirror above it was made from a fireplace. © Frances Lincoln Limited 2015. Text © Alastair Langlands 2015. Photographs by Tessa Traeger © Tessa Traeger
There’s a new book out on Robert Kime that is a must. I grew tired of ‘decorating’ books a long time ago — they all seem — at least those published recently — to be about black floorboards, white walls, grey upholstery and his ‘n’ hers Warhols. This book, however, is definitely different.
La Gonette, Provence, 1999: Robert seated in the library, but at his Arts and Crafts desk. In front of this are a black table designed by
Charles Voysey and an 18th-century French chair. On the wall behind is a 19th-century painting of the Avon Gorge, Bristol, and a bust of Shakespeare. The loose-covered sofa is strewn with 19th-century French cushions. The curtains are made of 18th-century silk velvet; they hang from one of a set of three 19th-century English decorated wooden pelmets. © Frances Lincoln Limited 2015. Text © Alastair Langlands 2015. Photographs by Tessa Traeger © Tessa Traeger
Why? Because of the truly astonishing diversity of Kime’s work — in arranging rather than decorating. Together with David Mlinaric, Kime really counts. Inspired by the antics of Geoffrey Bennison, who was an antique dealer first and an ‘arranger’ second, Kime’s work ranges from a careful sprucing up of the Queen Mother’s old residence, Clarence House, for her grandson Prince Charles, bringing numerous aristocratic houses such as Goodwood and Floors Castle back to life, through to the casual charms of his own rustic farmhouse in the Lake District, his cottage in Ireland and a friend’s gnarled stone house in Provence.
Combe Longue, Provence, 1999: The atmosphere of this house comes entirely from the owner's desire to give new life to a ruinous dwelling while making
as few alterations as possible. Visiting Robert Kime, she was able to choose, from his extraordinarily diverse collection of furniture at Upper Farm. The spirit of this room is strong and comfortable, arranged with geometric shapes and subdued colours. The walls are distempered around the cupboard doors and the chairs covered in kilims. © Frances Lincoln Limited 2015. Text © Alastair Langlands 2015. Photographs by Tessa Traeger © Tessa Traeger
But in all these schemes, whether they use existing furniture or wonderful pieces Kime has found, there are common threads: the colourful plethora of antique Oriental Middle Eastern prints and weaves (suzainis, ikats, kilims, and the dying rose red of faded Turkey), Donegal carpets, and the faint aroma of Arts and Crafts certitude visible in the bold, sturdy, patinated wooden furniture he loves. Definitely an Ottoman treasure from the wilder, but never vulgar shores of taste.
Robert Kime (2015) by Alastair Langlands is published by Frances Lincoln, £40. Photographs by Tessa Traeger
Rare 1915 films of Rodin, Monet, Renoir and Degas
The dashing young French actor Sacha Guitry made a 22-minute silent film called Ceux de Chez Nous (Those of our Land) in 1915. Through his lens you can see major artists of the time in their studios, in their houses and just out walking around Paris. Open Culture posted the footage before separately, but now they have uploaded them to YouTube in one time frame. Monet is at work, smoking like a chimney out in his garden at Giverny, while Rodin is shown at work in his studio — a sculpture, hammer and chisel firmly in hand. Sacha Guitry (who also appears in the film) watches for the nearly blind Degas and waylays him in the street.
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