Wreath Rustling

“Last night someone was so pathetic as to steal the wreath on our door that I had made a few days earlier.
Such pointless thieving!! If you see this on another door, let me know as I’d quite like it back!” F.B.

Taken from a post this week on  local website Nextdoor Portobello:

Very bad karma to the thief, but sadly, maybe  not so pointless . Today, the humble wreath has been upgraded into something of serious  monetary value. Wreaths are now priced anywhere from £50 to £250, unsurprising  given the amount of materials and craftsmanship involved

Propertyferret has noticed and enjoyed the surge in the creativity, beauty and consequent value  of handmade wreaths.In this neighbourhood, about six years ago , the birth of the artisanal wreath as a work of art was jump -started  by  local beauty and florist Kitten Grayson, who made and sold a few exquisite wreaths on a stall in Portobello. Nothing quite like this had been seen before, they rapidly sold out, and today Kitten presides over her successful floristry and events company https://www.kittengrayson.com.

A wreath from Kitten Grayson

 

This Saturday, on the trail of the missing wreath,  Propertyferret visited Harper and Tom’s flower stall  on Elgin Crescent. Florists Alex and Sophie were making up bouquets in freezing conditions, and trying to figure out whether waterproof gloves with the fingers cut off were the answer, as wool fingerless mittens just became sodden and were worse than nothing.

“Have you heard of anybody having one of your wreaths stolen”, I asked?

“Yes, I have” replied Sophie.  “We sell wreaths to most of the homes in the streets round here, and each one is usually different, so I remember them. One  day last week I saw a guy selling some very familiar wreaths on a stall on Portobello. I asked him  where he had got the wreaths, and he told me he had made them himself. I told him that this was a likely story, as it was in fact  me that had made all of them, but I did not take it any further as I didn’t think the police would be interested”

So here is an alert to all shoppers in Portobello market.  If you see some very fancy wreaths being sold off by an unfamiliar trader without a proper stall, think  about whether they may have been rustled and do not buy one. Should you recognise your own wreath – call a policeman!

A wreath displayed at Harper and Tom.

 

On a happier note, wreath making classes held by established  florists such as Kitten Grayson, are becoming increasingly popular, as a slightly less expensive way of having a beautiful creation hanging on your door, and also as a very enjoyable  way to spend an evening working with your hands on natural materials learning a new craft.

Last week the church of St Simon Zelotes in Moore Street Chelsea  hosted  a wreath making course as a fundraiser,  held by top florist  Juliet Glaves. www.julietglaves.com. In the candlelit stone apse of the church,  tables were laden with greenery and branches  brought in by Juliet from her flower farm in the country: spiky  branches of larch, mounds of ivy, mistletoe, rosemary, glorious bushels of fresh greenery and plump red berries.

Starting off

Spectacular results

The wreath has a history going  back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who crowned the victors of the battlefield and competitive games with circlets of  laurel.  In the West a wreath is traditionally hung on the front door during Advent, showing that the household within is  anticipating and preparing for a joyful event, the birth of a Saviour. This appears strange when we reflect that the other main use for  a wreath is as a floral tribute on a grave, so it is both a symbol of joy through new life  but also of  death. The answer lies in the shape,  a circle with no beginning and no end, the Circle of Life, in the Christian tradition representing the triumph of eternal life over death, but carrying within it  the symbol from earlier cultures  of renewal of life through nature represented by a circle of  green leaves.

The joy of a snowy wreath this morning –  safely  inside the garden walls

 

 

By |December 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Wheatpaste Street Art

Apologies from Propertyferret for the lack of posts, but the tragedy and sadness that has surrounded us in North Kensington this summer has made for a pause for reflection rather than writing.

Despite the gloomy predictions of disaster, Carnival came and went as normal, and when the Carnival tide went out it left behind this striking graffiti image, one pasted onto  what remains of Propertyferret’s famous hoarding, and another onto the flank wall of the Gate Cinema. This image is as strong as whatever is sticking it to the hoarding, so  Propertyferret  did some research into  how it might have been made.

In addition to   the widely seen  freestyle spray painting and stencils,  street art styles include Roller, using house paint with rollers on long poles for big spaces,  Clipped, when an image is partially obscured by a newer piece, and Childstyle, where the artist works in the manner of a kid’s painting . There is also Legal Wall, which features a great deal round here over the carnival weekend, where artists are paid to do the work. Propertyferret asked a guy  painting up an expanse of boarding  on the Friday before Carnival  if it was as satisfying working legally, and he said absolutely not, but he needed the money!

The image you see here is  a Wheatpaste Stencil.  The artist is CODEFC http://www.codefc.org/stencils/. The image is very strong. A dominant, formally dressed male figure with a camera for a head.    On the website there is a sculpture of this image, and more works featuring cameras, eyes,  and surveillance.  This has to be a natural preoccupation and subject matter of street artists, as anyone spraying buildings with paint can be arrested under the Criminal Damage Act of 1971 and can be fined or imprisoned for up to ten years if the damage caused is worth more than £5000. However, it is more than that.  With CCTV cameras everywhere, these images ask us to think about how much being watched  on our streets we can  bear in order to feel safe.

 

By |October 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|4 Comments

Modern Craftsmen: 1. wreathed handrail maker

One of the exciting byproducts of  the current fascination with interior design, and the high proportion of personal wealth that is poured into the property market,  is the resurgence of  beautiful hand made products for the home.  With the ever increasing demand for new  built homes,  these can be bland and featureless, lacking  the original features of period properties.    As a result there are a number of secret craftsmen working here in London to produce the exquisite door handles, staircases , paint effects and details that provide a house or flat with   interest and personality.

Today’s featured craftsman is Dinos Constantinou ,  who I met on site as he fitted a curved English oak handrail. The wooden tool  to right of the pliers is a carpenter’s mallet Dinos inherited, made of an  exceptionally hard wood called lignum vitae.

Propertyferret  seized an opportunity for a short interview.

PF.  Dinos, when a client looks at an architect’s plans and sees a big ticket item called  “wreathed handrail”, what is it exactly?

Dinos:  This will be a a craftsman built handrail which will have to be specially commissioned.  Hand-railing is not carpentry or joinery. In fact it is a specialist combination of very accurate geometry and wood turning.

PF.  How did you get started in the business and learn your craft?

Dinos:  I originally joined my brother-in-law’s firm H. Brettell & Sons , as a salesman. H. Brettell was Britain’s oldest wood turning firm, my brother in law being fifth generation. I was always keen on geometry at school and did  geometric puzzles for fun, so  I became fascinated by the geometric hand-railing the firm was making, tried my hand and it went from there

In the workshop working on  a challenging turn in the handrail

The finished article.  Beautifully crafted in a very tight space and waxed with natural beeswax.

 

 

By |May 28th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Cavalry picnic on Portobello

Early in the morning, about once every six weeks, a small number of riders from one of the cavalry regiments trot up Portobello Road, presumably en route to ride out at Wormwood Scrubs or maybe just hacking round the streets.
Recently, on a sparkling spring morning, I heard the officer call a halt behind a MOD owned block of apartments that backs on Portobello. Out from the building came what I guessed to be a senior officer, and two pretty women carrying a picnic breakfast. There were pastries and coffees for the men – and even bowls of chopped carrots for the horses! Despite enquiries with ex-Army friends, I have been unable to establish which regiment this might be although I gather the Lifeguards ride black horses so this is one possibility. Any information readers can provide  is very welcome.

 

Chivalry is not dead! Watch carefully (apologies for the edge of the window in the frame) and see  one soldier dismount to give a female colleague a leg-up!

"Half turn right" - and off they go

 

 

 

 

By |May 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Mothering Sunday

Flowers from Scarlet & Violet

 

Did you know that Mothering Sunday is not the same thing as Mother’s Day in the States only with with a different date? Our Mothering Sunday falls on the third Sunday in Lent and is more a Christian tradition than a celebration of motherhood.

One explanation has it that Mothering Sunday originated in the days when women and girls in service were allowed a day off to visit their mothers. Another is that it was a tradition that on this lenten Sunday people should attend their own “mother” church.

Whatever the truth may be, the greater truth is that all women share in the miracle of being born of a mother. Whether or not we are lucky enough to have children or a mother still alive, or alive in our memories, this is a day to give thanks, and also to reflect on the fact that so far nobody has managed to put us out of business in the USP of being able to give birth, although I suspect we should watch that space.

 

Good grief – I’m going to need a much bigger vase

 

Just right.

 

Flowers from Scarlet & Violet – one of the great joys of living in Notting Hill & North Kensington

 

 

By |March 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|5 Comments

Return to Portobello Road Project

This week I invited myself for a cup of coffee with the client owner  for whom we acquired a charming house on Portobello Road as a fixer upper two years ago. To my surprise, the builder’s hoarding is still up. Painted a tasteful shade of grey, this squat wooden cabin is still planted firmly on the forecourt of the house and I have to ring the bell on the outside to announce my arrival.

As I am welcomed in, I see that the house is looking not only beautiful, but is to all intents and purpose, finished. “This looks wonderful, so why is the hoarding still up”? I ask Portobello client.  There is a short silence and then she slowly and slightly defensively replies “because………….I love it.”.

We sit down for coffee and I although I can tell this may not be a welcome question I lean forward to look directly into her eyes and ask “can you explain to me what it is about the hoarding you are so attached to?”

“Well”, she begins, “you have absolutely no idea of the extra uses of a hoarding and what you can do with it”. “No, I don’t and do please go on” I encourage her. Portobello client settles down with her coffee and warms to her subject.

“For a start, it gives you the cosiest feeling of security and privacy.  You can put a combination lock on the outside and then……..then you enter your own private world which shelters you and your front door from the street.  I find I can rummage peacefully for my door keys without being worried that I am irresistible to muggers while I dither on the doorstep. I can drop off my shopping and luggage at a quick punch in of the code then go and find a parking space.”

“Yes, I can see that”, I reply, “and what else can it do?”

“You can use the hoarding as a workshop for all those tasks that normally mess up your kitchen.  In early December I spent a blissful afternoon in the hoarding making a wreath and garlands for our first Christmas in the house, with carols playing and a large glass of mulled wine kindly given to me by our lovely street vendor neighbours.”

Now alight with enthusiasm, she continues: “a week later we had a full on yard sale, decorating the hoarding with Christmas lights and painting a huge yard sale sign. The half open door was like catnip to passers by and I achieved a pretty good clear out of old china and bric a brac from our old house. At the end of the day, exhausted, I didn’t have to cart the unsold things back into the house, I just shut the hoarding door, collapsed indoor and cleared up the next day. It was brilliant!”

“Did it come in useful over Christmas”? I asked. “My goodness yes, we filled the hoarding with lantern and green boughs and used the builders’ trestle as a bar. The family and guests loved opening the door to it, and said was like Narnia.  Very handy for the smokers, too!”

I had to ask I there were any downsides. Portobello client thinks for a moment, then continues “I suppose if you don’t like graffiti it could be a problem. I have enjoyed the work done by graffiti artists, but do you know, a hoarding is also a magnet for  people who are very, very angry and want somewhere to express this publicly.”Matt has herpes” is one of the less rude phrases that have appeared. One was so crude that my builders were embarrassed for me to see it and painted it out!  I keep hoping that Banksy may be passing one day but so far no luck”.

“This all sounds very lovely, but could the truth be that you are in denial about being exposed to the street ?- this can’t go on for ever you know” I gently suggest. The defensive look returns to Portobello client’s face. “Yes, I know, one friend has just sent me a card which says “Spring is coming – Hoarding Down!”  “I am sick to the teeth  of being nagged and I guess I will have to face up to it soon – but maybe one more week?”

I am now making a diary note to drive past in a week’s time, but secretly I am pleasantly surprised   to have had my eyes opened to the hidden delights of the builders’ hoarding With sheds having been overstyled and overexposed on Instagram, maybe now is the time to celebrate the sweet but fleeting charms of the humble builders’ hoarding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |March 12th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Propertyferrret up and running again!

Dear Readers,

Apologies for the lack of posts, but Propertyferret has had computer issues , owning an old  IMac computer, but a new phone and IPad, none of which supported each other.  This made posting anything with photos very difficult. All is now upgraded and  my promise to you for 2017 is:

To  post weekly on a Sunday or Monday to share with you  interesting places, people and property related writings that celebrate life here in London

Learn to take better photographs.  In the meantime, please bear with me!

P.F.

 

By |March 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Paint It Black

“I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore, I want them to turn black”

Walking into Powis Square where Nick Roeg filmed Mick Jagger in “Performance” and where there is a veritable storm cloud of sultry,black -painted houses

Want to make your house look cool? Paint it black. A little bit dangerous, a little bit rock and roll. Car owners have been doing it for years: Range Rovers, Maseratis and Jeeps have been getting the matte black paint job, and houses are next to get the treatment. Does it work? Are you the owner of the coolest house on the block, or are you a bit try-hard?

powis square black house 1800 wpowis square black house 1800 w2

This massive Doberman Pinscher of a house looks fabulous in true Notting Hill tradition. The rest of the houses in this terrace vary from lime green to screaming pink.

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Purple Haze. Referencing another one time resident of Notting Hill?

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It really works on mews houses. Killer combination with the ivy and wisteria.

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Contemporary garden house. Painting it black has avoided the pitfalls of twee or naff to which garden houses are prone. It wipes the visual floor with the cute Gothic one on the right.

These houses show black paint does what it is intended to do, but only as long as it does not become commonplace. A whole row of black painted houses would look decidedly funereal. Some greenery or good planting next to black paint really adds to the look.

Seen any fabulous black-painted houses in your neck of the woods?

By |November 27th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fifty Shades of Anything But Grey

In the last few years every developer has been decorating with the same palette. It is a take on Scandinavian design, which appeals very widely, and usually involves wood floors with a greyish wash, grey walls, a grey kitchen, and, my pet hate, a slightly shiny grey quilted bed cover. It has got to the stage when looking at photos of a new property I simply can’t tell if I have been to see it or not. I search desperately for a red chair or yellow coffee table to give me a clue.

I believe that we are at last seeing a reaction to Nordic gloom, and interestingly, it seems to be starting with the floors. Beautiful encaustic and ceramic patterned tiles are being used for bathrooms and entry halls, and in some kitchens. As floors are some of the most expensive features of a house to alter, I believe this is a real trend, where developers and owner occupiers have invested in the belief that it will appeal to the market and have some shelf-life. You have only to visit the incredibly cool showroom of the booming flooring company of Bert and May in the East End to see how London has taken taken patterned floors to its heart.

Rugs in glowing raspberry, greens, and teal (and you can pay a great deal for these from the best dealers such as Luke Irwin) have slunk under the grey sofas and Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs. However, the off white Berber rug which has been centre stage in every interior picture for the last couple of years is so over. In fact, probably time it featured on fuckyournoguchicoffeetable.tumblr.com

I am hopeful that the general market, which has been conditioned to be afraid of anything that is not neutral, will be brave enough to have the courage of their convictions and opt for buying property with beautiful colour. Check out Abigail Ahearne’s website. The roaring success of her design and paint business is another testament to the increased use of powerful colour in interiors.

Beautiful house in Queen’s Park decorated by stylist extraordinaire Marianne Cotterill (marianne@mariannecotterill.com)

Country house in Morocco designed by Sara Oliver of China Coast Interiors (www.chinacoast.co.uk)

By |July 1st, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Portobello Project

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This is a house we have recently found off market and acquired for a client. It is super cute, with a small garden at the back, and a beautiful terrace facing West over the Portobello Road on the top. The owner wanted to be right in the centre of everything, so had made up her mind to take a relaxed view about the incredible footfall of tourists down the road on a Friday and Saturday. She had not reckoned on the effect that her Morris Traveller car would produce. Every other tourist stops and takes a photo. One has pinched the windscreen wiper…. She is considering either selling the car, or taking a course on mindfulness to maintain her positive attitude towards the crowds…

While researching the provenance of the house on line, we discovered the amazing “Bomb Sight” which revealed that the house had been on the site of an old Watneys pub, the Queen Alexandra, which was bombed during the war   While investigating the state of the foundations, the owner’s builder has now discovered the floor of the old pub cellar . Apparently it was common practise during the war to shovel the rubble of a bombed building into the crater, or the cellar below if there was one, to avoid having to cart it away.

We are really looking forward to seeing the renovation of this very funky and cool looking house – watch this space..

By |June 4th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments