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Posts from the ‘London’ Category

Christmas Comes Home: Party time!

I’m not ashamed to spend many an hour making my home wonderful for Christmas just for myself and my partner to enjoy. Who else really matters? After all, it is us who get the ultimate pleasure of waking and sleeping to lights twinkling like an enchanted forest all around us. Nevertheless, there is something of the Nigella in me, and I can’t help but revel in the opportunity to share my winter wonderland with friends. So in this last post extolling the virtues of my home at Christmastime, why not take a glimpse of the flat all trussed up for a small soiree we held last weekend.

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Central to the event was the table. A vase at its centre hosted a flurry of discarded Clapham Common tree branches. What the wind had cast asunder, I recycled, creating the perfect skeleton for a cornucopia of lights and dazzling gold and glass decorations. On those branches, our glass treasures from Venice have never looked so beautiful, hanging freely, suspended in mid air, rather than getting caught up in the denser gathering of Christmas tree branches. Beneath this composition, a plethora of festive food gathered: a cheese board bedecked with berries and nuts, freshly cut meats from Italy and, best of all, the “Merookies” (a cross between meringues and cookies) recently featured on the newest Christmas episode of Nigella Lawson’s At My Table series. With an exquisite salty pistachio balance to the sweetness of the meringue and the rich depth of chocolate chips, I was completely sold on these Nigella creations. So was everyone else – they disappeared in seconds.

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I love Christmas parties. I love sharing with friends. And I love seeing my home so pristine in its presentation for a night out on the town. But even more, I love the clearing up at the end of the evening – when empty champagne flutes tell of hours of merriment enjoyed, and the crumbs of cookies and Christmas biscuits intermingle with fallen shards of glitter flickering in the dying candlelight. Home sweet home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Christmas Comes Home: St Petersburg Palace

Christmas is in full swing. Ridiculously there’s only a week to go! While that makes me panic ever so slightly, the best tranquiliser is to switch on some Christmas carols (or Nigella Lawson’s Christmas series on TV…oozing pure aesthetic) and sit in the warm glow provided by my beloved Christmas trees. Last week I shared with you my new kitchen-inspired carrot-laden scheme. Today I want to take you to frostier quarters, where elegance reaches an all time high: my tree inspired by a St Petersburg Palace.

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Replacing the annual real tree whose needles played havoc with my cream carpets, this year we have introduced a new 7ft snow sprayed false tree adorned with warm lights and begging for the fake polar-bear throw which is wrapped around the base of the tree and provides a wonderful soft landing for all those gold and white presents. On the snowy white branches, I added golden fern leaves for embellishment, and thus set the scene for my favourite ever set of decorations: an abundance of whites and golds and blues of every shade, all in homage to the glory and opulence of a Russian Christmas.

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Choosing Russia as a theme meant a stark contrast to the interior design of the bedroom setting which is very Mediterranean in feel. But what better way to get cold blue and warm gold into a tree theme than to translate the tones of a Mediterranean beach into the frosted splendour of a St Petersburg Palace. With its onion-roofed houses, night-sky baubles, glass whales, white nutcrackers and elegant Russian dolls, I love the way this design has pulled together. It is the ultimate bedroom tree and a true delight to both see out and see in these festive wintery days.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Christmas Comes Home: The Kitchen Tree

I am ashamed to see that the last post on my blog is entitled “An Autumn Overview”. It’s shocking testimony to the fast passage of time. Now in mid-December, the comforting glow of Autumn leaves have been replaced by ice and snow. But December brings with it a very joyous respite from the arrival of cold in the form of the festive season – simply my favourite time of the year. And while work has largely prevented me from hanging out on The Daily Norm, it has not precluded me from that most important of annual tasks: decorating the Christmas tree.

Regular readers of The Daily Norm will know that I love Christmas decorations, to an almost obsessive degree, and while I always make a few small tweaks to my scheme as each year goes by, I enjoying taking out the old familiar decorations year on, year out. However, this year, as if in celebration of our return to London and the house redecoration that accompanied it, I’ve shaken things up a bit in the Christmas decoration department.

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The modernist black trees of old went into black bags, and out came an altogether more traditional look. Sage and forest greens now host warm oranges, berry reds and a little silver and black (a small nod to the modern surroundings). Glass carrots and green glass mushrooms bring something of a culinary vibe, while ravishingly regal cheetah heads sit proudly upon their festive boughs. And as if to complete the animal theme, underneath the tree, fox furs and presents round off the scheme with a cosy but finessed twist.

And that’s just the lounge. In the bedroom we’ve gone all white and frosty, like a scene from Dr Zhivago. But I’m going to save that until next time…

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

An Autumn Overview

Time is moving fast. I opened my eyes the other day and suddenly realised that Autumn was already being displaced by Winter. The tree opposite our apartment is clinging pathetically to its last remaining leaves which will be jealously snatched away by Winter winds in a matter of days. And the heavy fall of foliage is gradually being reduced to a new layer of mulch as rains and morning frosts start the process of decomposition before Spring.

Of course the light at the end of this cold and windy tunnel is Christmas, and it’s already close at hand. In London, the streets are sparkling with wall to wall lights and glowing shop windows exhibit more and more extravagant festive displays. And in my own home I am giving myself over to plans of how to diversify my customary Christmas decor to match new interior designs.

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But before The Daily Norm immerses itself once again in the festive season, I thought it an apt time to review a few photos I took of the stunning autumnal colours which graced London this autumn. My shots are largely collated in Clapham Common, the large expanse of grassy planes and tree-lined paths which we are lucky enough to call our front garden and to enjoy every day of the year. I don’t know whether it was a combination of climatic factors, but something about the colours of autumn really excited me this year. And I didn’t have to go far to find them.

So let us enjoy a little last glimpse of Autumn in these final months of November. Very, very soon the Winter will be upon us…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

London, Rediscovering My City: Hampstead Heath

There are a surprising number of places in London that I have never visited. Before moving to Mallorca, I lived in London for 12 years, and yet the closest I have ever come to Notting Hill was the image of Hugh Grant’s droopy eyes in a book shop and his scantily clad lodger jumping around in front of a widely grinning Julia Roberts. I’m determined to explore the whole city, when time allows, and one place that I can now cross off the list is Hampstead Heath.

London viewed from Parliament Hill

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Located in the far North of London, the Heath is famous for many things, amongst them its bathing pools (men’s, women’s and mixed), sprawling countryside, the setting for Kenwood House, and fantastic views of London from Parliament Hill. Hampstead Heath has been the setting for various outdoor pursuits, water-sports and bucolic perambulations for years, and I’m not just referring to the less salubrious kind. It’s not difficult to see why the 700 acres of greenery are one of Londoners’ favourite places to spend recreational time: the sprawling landscape is so diverse and verdant, including vast forests, open heathland, rolling hills and various ponds, that a stroll within the park feels like a weekend away to the far reaches of the Kingdom.

Rolling countryside minutes from London

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But Hampstead Heath is not just a pasture of green and plenty. For the North-most extent hosts a grand and lavish manor house whose pearly white stucco and delicately embellished facade glimmers against its verdant surroundings. This is Kenwood House, once seat of the Earl and Countess of Mansfield, and today home to one of the UK’s best kept art collection secrets. Including one of Rembrandt’s most striking self-portraits, light-infused works by Vermeer, rococo masterpieces by Gainsborough and moody weather scenes by Turner, it is a veritable treasure-trove of art history’s greatest stars. And what’s more, the collection can be seen for free.

Kenwood House

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Less easy on the wallet perhaps are the homes which surround the Heath. Palatial, detached properties overflowing with rose-bordered gardens adjoin this leafy landscape, and are undoubtedly some of the most desirable homes in all of London. While my back pocked literally ached at the thought of what they must be worth, I dreamed myself a little dream that one day such a property could be mine. In the meantime I spent a little more within my means: on coffee in Hampstead’s other great treasure: it’s chic village High Street. One day…

Hampstead Village

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My urban balcony garden: revived and revisited

Back in 2012, I wrote a post on The Daily Norm extolling the virtues of my little slice of urban garden paradise. Full of mature blooming geraniums, passion flowers and the sweet smelling sensation of my tropical brugmansia, the balcony adjacent to my London flat has always been my pride and joy. Wouldn’t all of us love an extensive green space, but this close to the city, such a paradise would be hard to come by. But here, in the South West I benefit from the green spaces of Clapham as well as my own little slice of the great outdoors. It was one of the reasons I was so sad to leave home when we moved to Mallorca back in 2014.

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When we returned to London earlier this year, one of our main priorities was to return our balcony, then stripped bear, to the same little piece of paradise it had been before. The centrepiece of it all, our brugmansia, was just about holding on to dear life after a spell down at my parents’ in Sussex, but our olive tree, also moved Southwards, had prospered. As for the rest, this was a project in starting from scratch, and as Spring moved into summer, we started introducing climbers, grasses and the red geraniums which have always characterised our urban garden space.

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Now as summer moves into autumn, this little urban balcony garden is entering its leafy, flower-bursting prime: a last hurrah before the cold weather moves in and reduces it to a skeleton of its summer self. At this time of year, moments in the creamy sun of late summer are a pure joy. As I laid back in my lounger yesterday morning, book in hand a coffee in the other, I looked around me, full of pride of the restoration we have achieved in only a small number of months. Only one thing remained to be done: to share it with all of you.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part VI: The Abstract

There is often too much pressure on artists to stick to one particular style. Collectors like the work of an artist to be immediately identifiable – too much wavering from that course is never a good thing, they say. And while I suppose there is something inherently identifiable about the way an artist applies his or her brush to canvas, each is capable of doing very different things. Look at Gerhard Richter for example. He would paint vast stark abstracts one minute, and sumptuously emotional portraits the next. And good on him. For I am an artist who doesn’t like to stick to the same narrow path. As much as I have enjoyed painting more abstract scenes of late, I have also enjoyed reverting to the traditional.

Having said all of this, two very divergent painting styles needn’t be kept apart. From each traditional painting, I believe there is an abstract interpretation just waiting to emerge. And that is just what I did when I finished my traditional landscape of Windsor: I set about paintings it companion in abstract.

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Windsor Abstract (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2017 – acrylic on canvas)

So what you see here is a work which is created from the same natural palette of browns, greens and blues as used in my landscape, and which is based upon a simplified version of the same shapes of trees and paths, strata and clouds, but all set into a very jumbled abstractive composition. Its much the same as my abstract interpretation of Las Meninas by Velazquez, except this time I am interpreting my own work.

I’m not sure I can say which of my Windsor works I prefer – this or the traditional. I believe there is a place for both. And together, they are even better.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

A Windsor Weekend, Part V: The Landscape

Ravishing greens, resplendent sweeping hedgerows, and the dappled light of richly verdant, leafy trees at the end of their mighty display of seasonal prowess…such were the impressions left upon me as we strolled from the imperial statue of George III in Windsor Great Park into the wealth of bucolic pastures beyond. However what really struck me about this particular spot were the two groups of trees which accumulated to make two perfectly oval collectives, almost like green mushrooms or large rosettes of broccoli.

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Windsor Landscape (©2017 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Utterly mesmerised by the sight of these rounded groupings, together with the composition of fields, green strata, and an old fallen gate, I started collecting images which would later inform a quick painting of the scene. Painting en plein air this was sadly not, but I started this small landscape as soon as I got home, when the mesmeric joys of these idyllic Windsor pastures captivated me still.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

A Windsor Weekend, Part IV: The Park

The true might and scale of Windsor Castle is best appreciated at a distance. When approaching by train, the station at Windsor and Eton Riverside gives the appearance of a toy town construction as it sits in the shadow of the mighty castle silhouette on the skyline behind it. From the river, the great Castle pervades all watery reflections as a mirror image in the Thames doubles its impact. But best of all is the Castle viewed from the vast grounds which surround it, as the sprawling regal complex stands at the apex of a 2.65 mile perfectly straight road which cuts through Windsor Great Park: a true demonstration of its domination over the land.

Windsor Great Park is great indeed, humongous in fact. Had we wanted to explore each of its 2020 hectares we would have been exhausted indeed. And it would almost certainly take weeks to do it all. For these great hunting grounds of monarchs past are today the site of sprawling forests, vast landscaped gardens and agricultural land, and contain some of the most beautiful unspoilt countryside within the outer reaches of London.

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We restricted ourselves to the closet section of the park to Windsor town centre, namely the Long Walk and the land around it. Stretching from the Castle at one end to a grand imperial sculpture of George III upon a stallion at the other, the path is at the centre of a stunning tree and lawn lined avenue which seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. When setting off, the equine statue appears to be at the end of the world as it appears, tiny like a speck of dust on the far horizon. But as you proceed upon the Long Walk, admiring a progressively more bucolic scene unfold on either side, the true pomp and  enormity of the sculpture becomes clearer as behind, Windsor Castle shrinks in size.

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It was a hard slog, but we eventually reached George III, with the final efforts of our ascent to the base of the statue aptly rewarded by the most dazzling view of Windsor Castle far off in the distance. But turning the other way, we saw an idyllic landscape of rolling hills, woods and fields unfurl into the distance, and unable to resist a little embrace of this less landscaped scene, we delved into the forests and fields, snacking upon beautifully sweet forest berries as we did so. Here, only the unfortunate sound of Heathrow aircraft interrupted us. Otherwise the world was utterly still, and we found ourselves wonderfully at ease in this most heavenly of natural surroundings – the playground of the many Kings and Queens who have enjoyed the very rich landscapes which surround their home at Windsor.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part III: The River

We are not the most social pair, my partner and I. When it comes to the choice between a crowded room or an empty field, we will always go for the latter, finding beauty in the tranquility of nature, rather than the bustle of a hyperactive grouping. Perhaps it is the after-effect of city life – I remember sometimes feeling the opposite living in Mallorca, when the loneliness of the stark mountain scenery had us wishing for civilisation and the safety that comes with being one of a crowd.

Given that it was the bank holiday weekend, Windsor was pretty packed, and when it came to that same choice between a crowded high street and the contemplative remoteness of nature, we embraced the latter to the strongest possible degree, even when it took real efforts to do so.

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Chief amongst those endeavours was our determination to rise early and enjoy the town, and more particular the banks of the River Thames, without the interruption of crowds. And so by 7:30am, we were already to be found down by the mirrored surface of the water with only swans for company. And what a lot of swans there were. At one point, when we wandered under a bridge onto a tiny peninsular literally loaded with swans preening themselves, sleeping and feeding, we empathised perfectly with how Edgar Degas must have felt, when he walked into the dressing room of the Opera Garnier in Paris, with countless ballerinas preening themselves in preparation for their stint on stage.

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The River Thames was very much the perfect swan lake for us that golden early morning, and with very little else to disturb the silence, we enjoyed a walk of utmost tranquility before the imposing silhouette of Windsor Castle. Gradually, as the hours ticked on, more people appeared: jogging, walking the dog, and getting ready for the day. But having had our fill of nature enjoyed in the quiet peace of daybreak, we were once again ready to face those burgeoning Windsor weekend crowds.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.