No room is more intimate than your bathroom. There is nowhere better to relax and get in the mood … to succumb to the sheer sensuality of soaking in scented water, indulging fantasies and anticipating future pleasures.
Your bathroom should be a place to feel beautiful in. to lacquer your toenails or finish a novel, henna your hair, water your plants or even paint a picture. No reason why it shouldn’t be your bathroom-boudoir-dressing-room-studio all in one. Even better if there’s room for a bed .. .
The bathroom is where you imprint your personality. Dare to be exotic with jungle prints, orchids growing in glass tanks. Or keep it cool with ice-white decor, stark modern art, a Japanese Bonsai tree.
Whatever your style, remember the importance of warmth, the comforting feel of thick pile rugs and heated towels. There’s no greater turn-off than getting goose pimples in a chilly cheerless bathroom. We photographed three highly individual bathrooms designed with great flair, and each styled perfectly for their owner’s lives. But all with a single thought in common—comfort.
The lure of the East for international fashion designer, Thea Porter. She designed her Mayfair bathroom with a Moorish interior in mind . . . wide built-in seats with heavily embroidered cushions. a little arch cut into the wall to display treasured objects. Thea doubles her exciting room as a studio, hangs her paintings around the walls.
If you want to please a man, model your bathroom on the one good-looking London businessman David Evers owns, with handsome polished mahogany fitted units, ivory backed brushes and green plants. David says the atmosphere reminds him of a St James’ men’s club.
The third is a fiery red hideaway, a fantastic design by Richard Ohrbach for New Yorker Cynthia Peltz. There’s more than a touch of the womb about this room—very comfortable after a hard day at the office …
‘The great thing about an Arab meal is its variety’
Thea Porter, painter and dress designer, whose shop in Soho and flat off Piccadilly are ports of call for the international set, writes about cooking Arab food.
I love my kitchen – from the neatly stacked Margaux (Brane Cantenac is a current favourite) to the painted Louis XIV cherubs smiling innocently from the shiny brown wall into the mirror shelves opposite, lined with Damascus spices and French herbs. Even late at night I enjoy boiling up an anti-hangover drink, and gazing at my cookery books before carrying one up to bed to plan some future meal.
But I also get inspiration in restaurants. Sitting in the ordered splendour of the Orangerie in the Ile Saint Louis (where the waiters all look like jeunes premiers among the flowers) I think of my kitchen, and wonder how to re-create the delicious sauces without bothering the chef. How do people con recipes out of restaurant owners ? I try to guess the ingredients, and then have to keep going back to make sure the proportions are right.
At the Orangerie they have enormous baskets of crudités – like cornucopias by Tiepolo – overflowing with mush-rooms, avocados, grapelike tomatoes and black radishes to go with smoked ham, and two different sauces. One, I think, is made with thin cream cheese (Gervita from Roche, 14 Old Compton Street, W1 will do) mixed with cream or yoghourt and chives. Their vinaigrette is also excellent – the herbs are so finely chopped it breaks my heart. This type of hors d’oeuvres is my favourite start to a meal. I quite often add tarama to go with the avocado, or a mixture of cream, finely chopped shallots and artificial caviar. Smoked salmon is an alternative : it rather depends on what one can find.
I never have time to shop in London, and usually send someone out with a list. This system breaks down when smoked trout instead of fresh trout is discovered sitting in the kitchen -but it is also fun to improvise at the last moment. I always have a supply of tins from Roche to fall back on, and a packet of paper-thin Greek pastry from the Hellenic Provision Stores to make burreks . These can be layered and stuffed with practically anything, then rolled into thin cigars and baked.
The best thing about raw vegetables, apart from their crisp texture with the melting sauces, is that they are so pretty. Nothing is so exquisite as plumed sliced fennel or cauliflower. (Edna O’Brien says she finds even sliced leeks that tendril round her fingers beautiful.) I pile them into a motley collection of Japanese bowls and plates and arrange them with bowls of flowers, although not as ambitiously as they do at Parkes, where roses nestle expensively by the melon. I think I must spend as much on flowers as on food. (If I’m cooking something really smelly, I find even lilies aren’t enough, so I light one of those Rigaud candles on the stairs.)
But if you have crudites for starters, and have to peel mushrooms and clip radishes, there is very little time left for preparing the main course. So it has to be something easy like sirloin, very rare with horseradish, served with tinned flageolets from Roche – either heated up with cream, or cooked the way Arabs cook broad beans, with fried onion and pounded coriander – delicious.
Arab food is ideal for the hard-pressed woman, torn between trying to call New York and attend to her guests, as it is always better the next day. I’m very fond of a Lebanese Lenten dish: spinach leaves stuffed and slowly cooked in oil and water. This is a delicate dish and should melt in the mouth if cooked long enough. Another Lenten dish is artichoke hearts fried in oil with onions and then simmered in water and lemon. Lebanese food has a lot in common with Provençal cooking, which means that I can start with an aioli with cod, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and salsify, and then go on to sfeeha – a kind of Arab pizza, spread with mincemeat and pome-granate seeds, and served with thick yoghourt and a sharp lemony salad of green tomatoes and cos lettuce. As a child I used to watch black-visored Muslim women on a Friday clustered round a waterfall, greedily stripping and eating cos lettuces the way people here eat chocolates at the theatre.
The great thing about an Arab meal is that there is always a large variety of things to eat – often all plonked on the table at the same time. So you can choose a spoonful of this and a taste of that – excellent when you want to talk and drink in a leisurely way, and easier than coping with a large plateful of the one thing you perhaps can’t stomach. It certainly takes quite a lot longer to prepare ten or fifteen small dishes, but to my mind it makes for a more exciting meal.
I try not to give food that I myself adore (like brandade de morue) to guests who may not happen to enjoy that very earthy taste, unless there’s another choice. Brandade de morue is rather a soothing thing to cook with the music programme full on : you slowly heat oil in one saucepan, and milk in another, then beat minute quantities of each in turn into the desalted and poached salt cod. Some people add mashed potato for instant smoothness.
As I’m extremely greedy, I find cooking soothing and enjoyable after working and thinking all day, and I enjoy every stage – breaking eggs and beating them into a smooth hollandaise to go with a pearly bass cooked with tarragon in champagne dregs, or chopping up cuttlefish and stewing it a la libanaise in its beautiful sepia ink to make a thick, wicked-looking sauce with an intoxicating smell.
French cooking is undeniably far more subtle than anything oriental can ever be, but you do need time the same day. I find the sauce cracks when I try and heat up a poulet en demi deuil , while Circassian chicken is just as good heated up.
These are two extremes of taste, and it’s difficult to find a wine that will stand up to highly flavoured food, but that still goes well with a subtle flavour. I do my wine tasting at the Jardin des Gourmets when I eat there, and can then usually find the same wines at a cut-price wine store, Milroy’s in Greek Street.
There are so many exciting things to eat, it’s difficult to choose – though it’s easier to prepare something you like enormously than to experiment. I sometimes regret not living in France because the matieres premigres are so good there: the first white truffles to make into a salad or to roast on skewers ; fresh, white, shelled and skinned walnuts soaked in salt water ; the endless herbs that are always around and that you do not have to hunt for. Alas, the herbs in my window boxes wither and die regularly, but I shall doubtless go on re-stocking them hopefully until I wither and die too.
Three Boyds on the wing, above. Three sisters from Devon. Paula, 19, in skirt and jerkin of red and grass green mixed up cotton prints. £15, by Foale & Tuffin, at Feathers. White voile shirt, by Leslie Poole, £5, at Countdown. Thea Porter bead and velvet choker. Patti, 25, Mrs George Harrison, in peasant dress, green butterfly chiffon, £50. Afghan choker, £16. Both at Thea Porter, 8 Greek St, W.1. Jenny, 22, in red and green calico flower appliqué skirt. 110, at The Sweetshop, 28 Blantyre St, S.W.10. Thea Porter white shirt.
Michael Szell is the Hungarian fabric designer who is introducing Iran to London via a new collection of designs, taken up by Thea Porter for her romantic and ravishing evening dresses. His own bedroom, opposite, is in rich emerald, turquoise and brown arabesqued linen, cool and grand by day but rich and warm by electric light, with 18th-century Eng-lish paintings and mirrors. His drawing-room, below, is turquoise with brilliant Persian prayer mats colouring the walls, 18th-century English botanical china, and a mixed forest of hyacinth and growing orchids, later bluebells and orchids. Iran runs through Michael Szell’s life like a thread. He began to visit friends and connections there while he was still a child, used every possible holiday to get there while he studied economics at Aberystwyth University, and later when he worked with Sir Nicholas Sekers. His love for Persian ceramics, buildings and woven carpets developed into a passion for early Islamic art in its formal, random, asymmetric period before it came to represent life in the 19th-century : a passion culminating in his opening his own furnishing fabric showrooms at 47 Sloane Avenue. He began selling silk signature scarves to Henri Bendel of New York in 1969 and has just produced his new Persian collection of fabrics. Thea Porter asked him to print his designs onto silk chiffon for her and made them in flowing evening dresses with yards of floating sleeve and skirt.
For the coronation of the Shahanshah and the Empress of Iran, Michael Szell designed curtains, chair-fabrics and an entire state banquet for the Golestan Palace. He has been asked again to help with the decorations for the great October celebrations—the twenty-fifth centenary of the founding of the Persian Empire. He will contribute designs for the interiors of houses and for some of the 500 tents that are planned, with their own marble bathrooms, for the royal and distinguished guests who will take part in the celebrations at Persepolis, the ruined city and ancient capital.
Mr Szell has also been asked to provide the fabrics for all the palace sets in the new Universal film Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth. He has an unrealised ambition to produce an absolutely modern collection of very cheap fabrics “from chair covers to plastic shower curtains”.
Kathleen and Kenneth Tynan live in Kensington with their children, Roxana, 5, and Matthew, 2, when they’re not abroad: they’re often either just off or just back – now it’s just back from four weeks in a cottage in Wales. Kathleen Tynan is an excellent journalist, specialising in arts features and interviews, and is working on her first book.
“You love your boyfriend and he’s left you. You’re alone in a big city and an empty apartment.” Kane had not yet picked up his camera, but Margrit Ramme was working on the sadness. She was also scared of the snake. The editors of Queen magazine had asked for an entire issue to be called “Art Kane’s New York,” including fashions, and he had said all right—but don’t expect to see laughing girls running down Fifth Avenue. He had just divorced his second wife, had not yet met Jean Pagliuso or photographed Larry Rivers, and felt fairly bitter.
If you want to call it Art Kane’s New York, he told Queen, you’ll have to accept pictures showing that the place right now is kind of empty for me. Righto, they said.
He left the studio and rummaged around for real-life locations. He had found the apartment on Gramercy Park, and decided to shoot the fashions there before the furniture came in. Truth is, he wasn’t motivated entirely by a desire to display his mood. Not only does training as an art director make him look for a theme when he has space for an essay, as against a bunch of random shots that just present the merchandise; Art Kane loves almost more than anything else to tell a story.
He also loves snakes. The first boy scout in the Bronx to get a Reptile Study merit badge, he kept 32 of them at home despite a mother who tried to make him flush the first one down the toilet.
This story would reflect the dilemma of a lovely woman—always beautifully dressed, of course—searching for a man, for identity, for something. A snake would be not only an obvious male symbol but also a reminder of a Garden of Eden to start it off. Since Kane had given, his collection to the Bronx Zoo when he was drafted, he called All-Tame Animals, a pro-vider of non-human performers in New York. They referred him to a snake owner in one of the city’s residential hotels, asking that he be discreet; she would be evicted if the manage-ment discovered that she kept a boa constrictor and a python in her room. So Kane was Uncle Joe when he called to ask about Cousin Bea: “She must be a really big girl by now. Oh, six feet six, that sounds good.” And Patricia? “Over eight feet tall? My goodness.” He went over to see them. Their owner showed him the boa in her bathtub and pulled the python out of a closet. “Terrific,” he said. “Bring them up to my place at 10 o’clock tomorrow.”
When she arrived with the snakes in a laundry bag, Kane was moving white window shades up and down, studying the way they filtered the natural light he would use all day. Morning light came softly through the west-facing windows of the living room. He arranged the python, then stood back to peer through a Nikon. Moving forward, back, left, right, he kept the model close to the center of the frame. He was using a 24mm lens, not only for depth of field that would keep the picture sharp from front to back but also to make objects near the edges seem to lean away, focusing attention on the center.
“Okay, Margrit, you’re unhappy, unaware, the two of you can never really come together. . . .” Bracketing—one shot at a normal exposure, one above, one below—he redesigned the picture as he moved. “That’s it, keep it, keep it,” he told her when he liked what was happening. “Now, hold every pose for three clicks and then change … Beautiful. Now keep that until I say stop. I want to explore this until we’ve eaten it up.”
Ninety minutes later he had eaten up the male-female situation (above) and moved to the bedroom (below) to set up an identity problem. A second model had arrived. “You’re clothed and you’re naked,” Kane said, “you’re really the same woman, trying to figure out who you are.” This time he wanted to stretch the image more alarmingly toward the edges, so he put on the 21mm lens that he had used to shock the editors of Vogue on his first fashion assignment.
Images originally published in Queen magazine .
(date not given but looks circa 1969/70 to me, especially given Queen merged with Harpers Bazaar in 1970).
Clothes are uncredited here but both look like Thea Porter to me.
Photographed by Art Kane.
Scanned from Art Kane: The Persuasive Image, 1975.
Japanese men are peculiarly affected by a glimpse of the naked nape of a Japanese neck. In Western cultures such excitement is generated by a panorama of bosom (as in this black chiffon dress by Thea Porter), or a smooth swathe of thigh. Here we show some revelations from the London autumn collections… hot numbers for the coolest of winter evenings.
All perfect for lockdowns, I’m sure you’ll agree! It’s also nice to be surprised by Ossie Clark every once in a while – with a corset being so vastly different in tone from what we would usually expect.
Photographed by Sam Haskins.
Fashion Editor: Cherry Twiss.
Hair by Paulene at Michaeljohn.
Scanned from The Telegraph Magazine, 8th November 1974.
Hairdressers are laying down their scissors saying: “We want to feel hair again – short hair is out”. If you’re growing your hair, you’re in ‘cos long hair is romantic and flattering. These styles show you what we mean.