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Barbara Chandler

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Selfridges, Habitat, Homebase and more

07/20/2011

Diane Von Furstenburg's new bedlinen range at Selfridges I fetched up earlyish at the Selfridges VIP shopping suite to meet the legendary Diane von Furstenberg (pictured) – she of the wrap-dress fame. She was over from New York to launch her second collection of bed linen, this time with some lovely china as well, on asymmetric mix-and-match shapes. She launched her first homewares at New York Fashion week, decking out the VIP lounge and virtually taking furnishings down the catwalk – an industry first (well, two industries – fashion and textiles)
 
Diane showed me her latest collection of duvet covers, which will be sold draped over a rail, like the expensive dresses that inspired them. So you will be able to feel the fabric, which is soft and luxurious, and appreciate the richness of the pattern and colour. Such an obvious idea when you see it done – but then all the best ideas are like that, aren’t they? “I really don’t see any division between home and what I wear,” Diane confided. “it’s one single exercise as far as I’m concerned.”
 
Sheets aside, do get over to the South Bank, if you can. There are ongoing celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, including a cute little strip of sand masquerading as a beach. We had our photo taken in a booth for free, and then it was emailed to use as a postcard. There is lots of live entertainment on the sidewalks, plus a more formal programme at the Festival Hall (southbankcentre.co.uk) culminating in Wayne Hemmingway’s Vintage Festival at the end of the month.

  I’ve also been to the Park Plaza hotel just the other side of Westminster Bridge for the My View of London photo awards. The hotel, only opened last year, has a ritzy affordable glamour – well, affordable by the standards of London hotels. And it has its own sensational view from the lobby – look straight over the bridge, and then tell the time by Big Ben! I was a judge of the photo comp, and there were over 1000 entries – not that I had to go through them all. We judges viewed 90, and then put our top 30 in order of merit – still bit of a task, really, but very interesting. The competition is to raise awareness of the excellent eye research charity Fight For Sight. If you are reading this, then, like me, give thanks for eyes, such a precious gift. You can see the shortlist and the winning entries on myviewoflondon.org.uk.

Lyndsey Chadwick with her prize winning photographI loved meeting the entrants – a very diverse bunch, from “strictly analogue” Suzi Livingstone (shortlisted) who makes her own cameras, using film OF COURSE, to Lindsey Chadwick who had spent several days hovering around the Inns of Court to get a striking image of red phone boxes and a Union Jack umbrella, called “London Pride” which came second (pictured). The winning image was an ultra-moody shot of a just-visible Tower Bridge (“Dickens View” by Nick Gommon ) and I loved meeting the jovial John Kortland whose street shot of a ”Smash and Grab Wedding” made us all smile – and came third. A young Hungarian, Gabor Mate, submitted a romantic black and white shot of Piccadilly Circus (short-listed), which I remembered later, when I called by the Hungarian Photography exhibition now on at the Royal Academy.

A posh lunch at the lovely Lutyens restaurant in Fleet Street (in the old Reuters building) was hosted by Marc Bolland, chief executive of Marks & Spencer, who told us 21 million people visit his stores every week. It’s the sort of statistic you remember while standing in the queue. This event, oozing editors, was to preview the Conran range of furnishings which will come into the stores this autumn. We saw furniture and furnishings in that well-mannered but interesting style which is currently very British. Elegant and understated, colours included grey, indigo, mustard and kingfisher.

Sir Terence made an endearing speech referring to the designs as “Habitat for the 21st century.” A couple of days later we had the sad news that Habitat as we knew it has ceased trading. It was bought by Home Retail Group, owner of Argos and Homebase. Sir Terence was reported then as saying "Of course I'm sad that my love child, Habitat, appears to be dying, but I am more interested in the future of my own business and design projects - that is my focus."

Habitat’s three London stores in Tottenham Court Road, King’s Road, and Finchley Road carry on, but 30 others look set to cease trading. Homebase, will sell merchandise under the Habitat label, and, later still, I met Andrew Carnie, their trading director for home. Homebase were launching an amazing 1,500 new products in a showhouse they have in the West End. Andrew assured me that his company was seeking to fill Homebase with premium brands, and was not going “to trash Habitat but resurrect it.” He added that he “greatly valued” the Habitat design team, and would be working with them.

The exit to the Lutyens restaurant is bang next door to St Brides Church, with its famous wedding cake steeple, and I went to have a look around. Do go down into the crypt. When Wren built his church after the great fire of 1666, it was over no less than six previous crypts, which were re-discovered during the post-war restoration. On show are fragments of buildings, records, pages of old type and newspaper – it’s like a mini-museum, and there’s nobody there.

Right at the back is a tiny medieval chapel with just eight seats opposite a simple altar. This I found was a memorial to the Harmsworth family, and all the staff of Associated Newspapers and the Evening Standard who lost their lives in two world wars. Indeed in the Crypt Chapel next door is a Book of Remembrance with the names of the 36 Evening Standard journalists killed in the Great War and the 22 killed in the Second World War…and now we remember them again with gratitude in this our 21st century Homes & Property internet blog.
 
* All pictures by www.barbarachandler.co.uk - see more on http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbarachandler


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