Last August I was delighted to be asked design the dinner setting and co-host a very special evening with Jemima Burrill, curator of NOW Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula, to celebrate women in design. The event, that we themed ‘texture’, saw some of the most talented female designers in the UK come together to celebrate and discuss their work, including Sonnet Stanfill, curator at the V&A and Helen Arvanitakis from Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio.
The evening opened with a talk from fashion designer Phoebe English, whose work was was shown in an accompanying exhibition. In conversation with Jemima Burrill she spoke about her journey from student to fashion designer and her love of using traditional ‘forgotten’ crafts.
The dinner was held in the Tom Dixon show apartment at Greenwich Peninsula. I set three long dinner tables with charcoal linens, hand-drawn chalked lines and bespoke place settings using my original ink drawings. I designed the table setting to complement Phoebe English’s exhibition and her largest installation to date.
The evening continued with garden designer Alys Fowler describing her inspiration for the design of the new gardens at Greenwich Peninsula which is rich in texture and flora. We then heard from Helen Arvanitakis from Tom Dixon Studio who spoke about her design concepts and inspiration behind the studio’s work and the products that feature in the show apartment at Greenwich Peninsula. The evening’s last speaker, Sonnet Stanfill gave guests an insight into her role at the V&A as a curator and a buyer of 20th century design for the museum.
The table settings were created from stitched paper place mats, hand painted place name cards, ceramics from Flow Gallery and Yuki Sugiura, candles from Tom Dixon and vases that I wrapped with leather.
I invited one of London’s leading florists Simone Gooch of Fjura to create beautiful floral arrangements.
The event ended with a wonderful night of informal discussion and amazing dinner provided by michelin-starred chef Stevie Parle and his neighbouring restaurant Craft London.
The evening gave women from many design disciplines a rare opportunity to come together to informally discuss their work and the design industry in a relaxed, inspiring environment. It was a wonderful evening enjoyed by all, that stimulated debate and celebrated the wealth of female talent in the UK creating exceptional design.
A very big thank you to all who helped make the evening such a success.
NOW Gallery is a new public exhibition space for contemporary art and design on London’s Greenwich Peninsula. A permanent, free gallery which features work by a programme of unique three-month commissions from established and emerging artists, designers and other creative practitioners. Find out more.
The Tate Modern gallery is one of my favourite places to visit. I am not alone in thinking this as it is the second most popular musuem attraction in the UK after the British Museum and the 4th most visited art museum in the world. Five million people visit it every year. Not only is the art it houses world class, its industrial architecture is stunning too. The galleries are housed in the former Bankside Power Station and the scale of the Turbine Hall is awe inspiring and the views from the sixth floor overlooking the Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline are breathtaking.
The enormity of the building and the views from the upper floors looking downward to the Turbine Hall floor captured my imagination. I photographed the concrete to lose its sense of scale and confuse the eye, making the people below seem like ants at my feet. A fun photographic trip to Lilliput.
If you live close enough to make regular visits, annual Tate membership is brilliant value as you can access all the big name exhibitions for free, the members’ cafe and get discount at the great shop. We’re looking forward to returning soon for the Matisse Cut-outs show which opens on 17th April. Can’t wait!
London is such a busy, vibrant city with so much to see and do that we don’t always have time to do everything that is on offer, especially with young children. As an interior stylist living in London I travel all over this wonderful city and know the shops well, it is part of my job after all, but when it come to relaxing and enjoying the other side of London to where I live I am always in a bit of a rush. So one weekend, when the children were on a sleepover with their grandparents, my husband and I headed East for our own Saturday night sleepover and saw our city in a different, relaxed way. Rather than jumping on a plane to another city, we hopped on the tube in West London and an hour later we were there, perfect. We saw sights, shops and restaurants that we had meant to visit for a while, but simply had not got round to.
We stayed at the newly opened Ace Hotel on Shoreditch High Street. It was the perfect bolt hole – well designed with a really good urban aesthetic, great service, a buzzing bar and a spacious lobby with a coffee bar and restaurant called Hoi Polloi. Our room was creatively designed in a cool colour palette of greys with indigo and a splash of mustard. It also had their signature old school record turntable and selection of LPs, I just couldn’t help myself dancing away to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The pricing is very reasonable for London considering the quality of the hotel and I would recommend having a look if you’re considering a stay in London and want to visit the creative hub that is the East End.
The Ace have collaborated with a number of brand names to produce items you can use during your stay or purchase as mementos, such leather goods with Ally Capellino and the bicycle above with Tokyobike who have a stylish store in Shoreditch too.
The hotel’s interior is by London-based interior design and architectural practice Universal Design Studio.
On Saturday afternoon we meandered down Redchurch Street, popping into Tracey Neuls (my favourite shoe store), APC, Hostem with its inspiring interior and couture womenswear upstairs, Aesop and Labour and Wait. We wandered around Arnold Circus and into Ally Capellino (my favourite bag store – can you spot a trend here?), the sweet Luna and Curious and Leila’s Shop. We stopped in at fab interiors store SCP, Artwords Bookshop and went on to Brick Lane market and the various vintage stores. Saturday evening we started with a drink at the Electricity Showrooms (a bar we frequented when it first opened in the 90s and was something different, although now it is more of a traditional pub unfortunately), followed by a wonderful dinner at renowned The Clove Club and finished off with drinks back at The Ace Hotel bar which was busy with Saturday night revellers and DJ playing.
On Sunday we began with brunch at Terence Conran’s Albion, followed by a wander down Columbia Road for the flower market, shops and stalls. We popped in to House of Hackney, Present and even managed to buy a new sofa on the spur of the moment – a 1960s Danish design 3-seater in grey felt from the always excellent Atomic Antiques. We took time to wander around the streets near Spitalfields, where there are beautiful old Georgian silk weavers’ houses. One of the weekend’s highlights was visiting Denis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street, which has been on my to-do list for years but with limited opening hours I had never quite made it. It is a recreation of a silk weaver’s house in the 18th century and part historical re-enactment, part art installation, part stage set. You walk around in silence while candles and fireplaces burn, and food and drinks are out on tables as if the residents have just left the room. It is filled with atmosphere and character and after a short queue to get in it was a wonder and really quite magical. So much so we returned at New Year with our children.
Shoredtich, Hoxton, Brick Lane, Spitalfields – they are all filled with amazing Georgian buildings in varying states of repair and surrounded by street art and a mish-mash of newer architectural styles, from bland 60’s offices to cutting edge glass towers. I love that contrast.
It was great to have a little holiday in our own city but it has given me a hankering for an urban city break further afield.
Hmm, The Ace Hotel New York… now there’s an idea!
February 22, 2013 in my london
As a continuation of my ‘through the window‘ photo series that I thought I would share a day trip with you we took as a family, from Wesminster to Greenwich by boat on the River Thames. Our goal was to see the Cutty Sark, restored and open to the public once more, as we had taken our son when he was a toddler before it closed for the renovation and it was almost lost to the terrible fire. As usual I had the camera with me and I abstracted the views through the window while we all took in the amazing views. It was an extremely dark and rainy winter day, but in the boat it was cosy and fine.
We hopped on a Thames Clipper at Embankment pier and the half an hour boat trip took us past so many of London’s landmarks. We travelled past the Millennium wheel, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the South Bank, past the Gherkin, the Globe theatre, the Tower of London, under Tower Bridge and on past Canary Wharf to Greenwich. There are so many historic sights on either side from the middle of the river.
We had a long look around the Cutty Sark and made our way to the Ansel Adams exhibition a short stroll away in the National Maritime Museum. Walking back we had a wander through the crafty weekend market and pressed our noses up against the windows of the traditional old pie and eel shops, and admired the Georgian architecture. Greenwich is rather beautiful, even on a grey, rainy day.
By the time we reached the pier to wait for our Clipper, the sky had turned an extremely dramatic dark blue-grey and the lights of Canary Wharf and the City glowed like jewels under its weight.
I would highly recommend a trip down the Thames by boat, come rain or shine.
May 20, 2012 in my london
April and May are usually rainy here in the UK but it’s been especially wet for the last few weeks, making up for the fact that there wasn’t much rain earlier in the year. On one particularly dark and wet Sunday last month we hopped in the car and drove across London to Tate Modern to check out the Damien Hirst exhibition. It’s a pleasant drive on a Sunday as the traffic is less, you can park on the back streets for free and we get to see the amazing architecture on the route, from the historic landmarks to the new architectural structures.
Shooting from the car whilst moving meant my shots were abstract and blurred, reducing London to a range of grey tones with splashes of red – post boxes, telephone boxes, buses and traffic lights glowing in the monochrome views.
Maybe it’s why I love the use of grey, it surrounds me in my every day London life. I painted my front door dark grey about six years ago and with a slate front path and basalt chippings, my house often matches the the stormy sky.
We have the annual family membership which give you access to the paid exhibitions like Picasso, Kusama and Hirst at all of the Tate museums. If you live close enough to visit regularly it is brilliant and will pay for itself many times over.
Even a run down the steps to the Turbine Hall in the rain became fun and my kids loved it. We all enjoyed the Damien Hirst exhibition and although it was very busy, it intrigued and amazed the children and my husband and I enjoyed it too. It is well worth a visit.
We’ll be back again soon for more artistic inspiration, especially on these rainy London days.
This morning we hopped in the car and headed over to East London to one of my favourite places, Columbia Road, for the weekly flower market. I don’t think I’ve been since my daughter was born so it was a treat to visit. It was a beautifully crisp, sunny November morning perfect for wandering with the family, bantering with the market traders and looking in all the arty, handmade and vintage shops and stalls that line the road and the streets around it.
There are so many independent, creative, quirky shops over there it’s always a pleasure to visit. I bumped into lovely Emily Chalmers of Caravan, popped into Rob Ryan‘s shop, nipped round the corner to Ally Capellino, Luna & Curious and Leila’s Shop then on to SCP on Curtain Road.
Among my fresh, floral purchases I couldn’t resist a bunch of my favourite roses – Amnesia. I love its delicate, dusky pink with tones of green and brown coming through. Just gorgeous with a vintage but stylish feel.
Columbia Road flower market is every Sunday from 8am to 3pm, though get there early as it gets very busy.
I couldn’t resist taking a few photos when I got home. A perfect Sunday outing.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 18 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
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