Women Who Know

1970s, Hermès, Inspirational Images, interior design, interiors, Vintage Adverts, Vogue
Les femmes décidées vont jusqu’au bout… Jusqu’au Parfum.

Just a pretty flawless aesthetic which I felt needed to be noted.

Advert for Calèche by Hermès.

Scanned from Vogue, November 1971.

The Smith Spectacular

1970s, Christopher Vane Percy, Henry Clarke, interior design, interiors, leonard, Vogue, zandra rhodes
Maxine Smith in the bedroom, where the four-poster is set on a mirrored podium. Her satin nightdress and jacket by Zandra Rhodes. Hair by Celine at Leonard.

DRESSED BY ZANDRA RHODES STAGED BY MAXINE SMITH

Maxine and Gary Smith moved to London from New York in 1971. Since then, Gary Smith, American television producer and winner of several Emmy Awards, has been working with Sir Lew Grade on television spectaculars, and Maxine Smith has been planning their London flat with Zandra Rhodes. The combination of their ideas has worked perfectly, with one taking over where the other left off. Initially, Zandra Rhodes designed a series of fabrics. Maxine Smith then had them printed to her own colour pattern by Alex McIntyre, often using the same colourway and design on different fabrics so that texture changes have been subtly worked from cotton to felt to satin. Some sur-faces are flat, others gathered – as in the hall where felt blends with draped cotton. Throughout there is an instantaneous impact of colour, wit and comfort. As one becomes accustomed to the colours, one realises that the sitting-room is designed for midnight rather than midday, the windows permanently shuttered and the curtains drawn. One notices the enormous portrait of Lenny Bruce by Gary Smith, ‘twenties’ armchairs with covered feet found by Maxine Smith in Antique City, the Vogue needlepoint cushions all worked by her mother. In the bedroom, apricot satin and taffetas with a felt print ceiling and apricot-coloured cupboards, the bed set on a mirrored podium, and covered with cushions. Other points of colour are the red telephone, the amber carpet. Next, a completely cupboarded dressing-room. Then, the apricot bathroom. Downstairs, past a neon sign—”I love Max”—and other such illuminations, to the dining-room: originally a cellar, now a brilliant blue small tent. The kitchen has dark rust-coloured prints, the ceiling hung with a thousand cooking utensils and an enormous electric lamp bulb found at Selfridges. Just off the kitchen a bar, a platform bat on steps, with three-tier cushions as bar stools, and an embroidery of Whistler’s mother by Malcolm Poynter, which came from the DM Gallery, Fulham Road. London’s galleries and off-beat furniture shops have produced many other pieces of art and amusement, some of them transformed by Zandra Rhodes’ coverings, others untouched, all with a special blend of humour and art.

Photographed by Henry Clarke.

Scanned from Vogue, late April 1975.

The downstairs bar with Malcolm Poynter’s embroidery of Whistler’s mother in the background, cushions instead of bar stools.
Two views of the sitting-room, Maxine Smith wearing a Zandra Rhodes’ dress of the same print as the walls—”The dress came first, the walls followed.” All fabrics by Zandra Rhodes, from the range at Christopher Vane Percy, 5 Weighhouse St, W.1
The garden room leading off the bar.
The hall draped with cotton print.
The blue tent dining-room with candlesticks by Carole McNicholl

Mirror Mirror

1970s, hair, Hair and make-up, Honey Magazine, Inspirational Images, interior design, interiors, Vintage Adverts
Wella Spray – it holds and brushes out and holds and smells nice and holds and resists damp and holds… Wella – we know about hair.

I posted an alternate version of this, many years ago, but this one shows you far more of the amazing collaged wall behind the gloriously jumbled dressing table.

Scanned from Honey, June 1972.

On the sands of summertime

1970s, anello and davide, annacat, barry lategan, Bombacha, Brigid Martineau, Buckle Under, Casa Pupo, Charles Batten, chelsea cobbler, Crocker Wilson, Diane Logan, Early Bird, edward mann, Inspirational Images, jap, jeff banks, Joseph, Juliet Dunn, katharine hamnett, Ken Lane, kenzo, laura ashley, liberty, liberty's, Rayne, Rosie Nice, Russell & Bromley, sanderson, sarah frearson, Scott Adie, Sujon, The Purple Shop, Vintage Editorials, Vogue, wallis
Long and frilly flower print cotton frocks, all at Wallis main branches. Peachy, below left, a puff-sleeved shirt with deep skirt frill. £12.95. Pink, green, red, white chintzy parasol with sapling handle, £15.50, Crocker-Wilson. Straw with bright ribbon and flowers, Edward Mann, £3.40, at Barkers. Flower and bird glass necklace, £3.50, Bombacha. Flowered cream papier-mache bangles, £7 each, at Emeline. Peachy, below right, with wide sleeves and sash. £13.95. Green/white leafy parasol, £34.50, at Crocker-Wilson; Elle. Wide lacy straw with flowers, by Buckle Under, £11, at Lucienne Phillips ; Smiths, Bath. Cotton and lace drawstring bag, £4.50, at Rosie Nice. Bunches of sweet peas, by Novelty Import Co. Inky blue and brown frock, opposite left, extra beige and scarlet flowers, ecru lace and sweetheart neckline, £15.95. Red/white/green striped parasol, £19.50, Crocker-Wilson. Light blue glass beads, 80p, at Rosie Nice. Rough straw with chocolate velvet, creamy flowers, by Sarah Frearson, £13.75, Lucienne Phillips. Provençal cotton drawstring bag, £3.75, from Brother Sun. Sky blue, brown, natural frock, below centre, in two—camisole lacy top and skirt £15.95. Sandy lacy shawl, £8, at Scott Adie. Opaque amber glass fruit beads, about £28, from Emeline. Plum, blue, orange cotton, right, with lots of lace. £18.95. Sky blue lace shawl, as above. Flowered black chintz and tasselled parasol, £25.50, Crocker-Wilson. Enamel pansy brooch, on silver chain, £6.50, at The Purple Shop. Liberty print Country Cotton drawstring bag, by Brigid Martineau, £7.25, at Harrods. Canvas espadrilles, both pages, £3.50, from The Chelsea Cobbler.

Photographed by Barry Lategan.

Scanned from Vogue, May 1974.

Green, cream and red Liberty printed Tana Lawn halter dress, left, a salad of flowers shirred to the hips. with tiny frills. About £32, at Annacat: Harvey Nichols. Pink, white and blue glass beads, bangle, ring, from Rosie Nice. Cream and green cotton dress, right, trellised and bordered with flowers, flounced and bordered with lace. By Earlybird, about £14.95, from Earlybird; Fenwick. Glass flower necklace, £12, The Purple Shop. Blue bird’s nest earrings, £1.50, Bombacha. White nylon openwork gloves, by Kir, about 95p, John Lewis. Flowers by Novelty Import Co. Deep green and red night-flowering smock, right, each tier with creamy lace. Liberty Country Cotton, by Sujon, £23, Liberty; Parkers of Hampstead; SuperStar; Leeds. Matching green flowered hand-bag with wrist strap, by Brigid Martineau, £7.75, at Harrods. Green/red bird sparkling necklace, Bombacha, £3.50. Espadrilles, £3.50, The Chelsea Cobbler. Hair by Christopher at Vidal Sassoon. Sanderson Wallpaper. Smilax leaves from Pulbrook & Gould. Bird-cage from Casa Pupo. Budgerigars from A1 Studio, 164 Princes Gdns, W.3.
Pale blue, ivory, light terracotta Liberty print Tana Lawn and lace flouncing skirt, above left. Cap-sleeved top. By Sujon, £24, Liberty; SuperStar, Leeds. Long frilled white petticoat, £4.75, at all Laura Ashley branches. Lacy straw, with harebells, by Buckle Under, £10, at Lucienne Phillips;’ Smiths, Bath. Glass beads and flower necklace round wrist, £3.50. Bombacha. Embroidered white espadrilles, £7.99, Russell & Bromley main branches. Black and bright red flowered white jacket; frilled skirt,: above right, piped in black and white. By Jeff Banks, £14.50, £13.50, at Selfridges; Adele Davis. Petticoat, as above. Straw hat, £14, at Diane Logan. Blue bead bracelet, 80p, Rosie Nice. Espadrilles, as above. Blue, scarlet, cream Liberty print Tana Lawn flowered shirred top and skirt, opposite left. About £13, £19.95, at Annacat; Harvey Nichols ; Unicorn, Birmingham. Ribboned straw, Edward Mann, £2.50, at John Lewis. Flowered cream papier mache bangles, £7 each, Emeline. Lacy shawl, £8, from Scott Adie, Flower necklace, £2.50, at Bombacha. Cream chocolate laced boots, £13.95, Anello & Davide. Powder blue, green, pink cotton pleated skirt and cap-sleeved crossover top, cenre. By Jap, £25.95, £16.95, at Jap & Joseph. Espadrilles, £3.50, The Chelsea Cobbler. Lacy shawl, as above. Straw hat, Buckle Under, £11, at Lucienne Phillips. Powder blue, cream, beige tiered pleated skirt, right: Liberty print Tana Lawn with creamy lace and matching button-down bodice. About £23, £14, by Juliet Dunn, at ZigZag; Adele Davis; Smiths, Bath. Green straw with flowers, £14, at Diane Logan and Hampstead Bazaar. Cream laced espadrilles, £6.50, front Rayne at Harvey Nichols. Mother-of-pearl leaf necklace, about £15, Emeline. Hair by Christopher at Vidal Sassoon. Fishing gear, front Harrods. Picnic hampers and raffia bags, all from Habitat. Liberty print Dick Whittington bags and care shopping basket, all from Liberty. Stripy parasol, £19.50, from Crocker-Wilson.
Rose crepe de chine dress, far left, flowered brightly red and white. With V neck, slightly gathered sleeve. Jeff Banks, about £21, at Jeff Banks Shop ; Puella, Croydon, Purley and Reigate. Pale straw bowler with flower-painted brim, Diane Logan, £8. White beads with red and white flowers, Rosie Nice, from a selection, from 60p. Gold locket engraved with flying bird, Goldmine at Woolworths. Rose and cream flowered Liberty cotton and leather purse, Chris Trill, £13, at Flight Studio ; Jap & Joseph. White nylon gloves, by Cornelia James. Sunglasses, Elle. Eau de nil crepe de chine dress, centre, stippled with beige and white flowers. Jeff Banks, about 823.95, Jeff Banks Shop ; Puella, Croydon, Purley and Reigate. Blonde straw with a bunch of harebells, Buckle Under, £10 at Lucienne Phillips ; Smiths, Bath. Mother-of-pearl leaf necklace, about £15, at Emeline. Flowered glass brooch, £1.50, at Bombacha. Eau de nil leather purse with quilted flower sides. £30, to order from Clive Shilton. Eau de nil and grey silky cotton gloves with violet/blue embroidered cuffs, £5 Browns. Clear flower-patterned Perspex sunglasses, £25.95, Elle, Bond St and Sloane Square. Snake bangle, £2.50, Mulberry Co at Selfridges. Gold bangle, £16.75, Andre Bogaert. Gold rings, from £5.50, at Ken Lane. Sepia flowered crepe de chine dress to mid-calf, left. Sujon, £15, at Liberty ; Image, Bath ; Super-star, Leeds. Flat straw with cream petersham, £7.50, Charles Batten. Mother-of-pearl hat pin, £1, Diane Logan. Pale cream, yellow fake orchids, Crocker-Wilson, £1.65 a pair. Seed pearls, Corocraft, from range at Peter Robinson. Raffia purse, Chris Trill, .E7.70, at Flight Studios ; Jap & Joseph. Speckled cream net gloves, by Katherine Hamnett for Tuttabankem, £3, Browns. Ivory, gold and diamond, pale amber rings, £4, £25, £4, Andre Bogaert.

Move in, Move on

1970s, cosmopolitan, Dominique Depalle, interior design, interiors, Michael Boys
Dominique’s bath can be replumbed when she moves; a wall-hanging can be more easily removed than tiles.

You may hate to be tied down by your possessions, but naturally you get attached to them. For a more flexible life-style, learn from Dominique Depalle and choose furnishing that moves where she does.

If you’ve spent longer in France than a weekend, you’ve probably noticed that most French girls have a greater sense of style by the time they are twenty than the rest of us will ever acquire. Instead of always trying to beat those clever ladies in the style stakes—and not quite succeeding — we should swallow our English pride and learn from them. Take Parisian Dominique Depalle, for instance, who has cunningly transformed a drab studio flat—the equivalent of a big-city bedsit or rented flat in a dingy Victorian house—into a warm, feminine home that looks as though it might have cost a fortune, but didn’t, thanks to Dominique’s experience as an antique dealer. She has a sharp eye for spotting bargains in junk. Dominique recently gave up her job in advertising to turn her hobby—collecting antiques—into a full-time occupation. Like Dominique, most girls in their late teens and twenties expect to swop flats, jobs, even cities, several times. Dominique decorates on the sensible principle that if she’s going to move on, she should be able to take all her favourite possessions with her when she goes. There’s not a fitted carpet, built-in cupboard or roll of wallpaper in the place. Dominique chooses every item with infinite care because she knows that each object will last a lifetime… like the Victorian bath, which could easily be transported with the help of a friendly lorry driver, and replumbed in another flat ; the huge tiger wall-hanging, not as practical as tiles, maybe, but then you can’t start taking down the tiles every time you have an altercation with your landlord. A bundle of small objects—baskets, ornaments and framed photographs—will pack easily into a suitcase. And by keeping walls plain wherever she goes, Dominique can be certain that her intricate wall-hangings, pictures and flowery bed-coverings will blend with every setting. Dominique dreams of eventually having a proper house—with a staircase, a loft and a cellar for apples and wine. Meanwhile she longs for adventure in her life and is thinking of going to live in Africa for a few years. If you, like Dominique, get itchy feet after more than a few months in the same place—but still want somewhere pretty to come home to —remember that your possessions should be as mobile as you are.

Photographed by Michael Boys.

Scanned from Cosmopolitan, July 1977.

Favourite objects show off Dominique’s individual style.
With plain walls, flowery fabrics blend in any room.
Dominique sells antiques at work and buys them for a hobby. Evenings at home are spent restoring her miniature replicas of old furniture

You know how good it feels (Part 2)

19 magazine, 1970s, Austin Garritt, biba, David Anthony, Deco Inspired, Inspirational Images, interior design, interiors, Jane Goddard, janet reger, Simpson of Piccadilly

As promised, the follow up to yesterday’s post featuring a stunning image of all the prizes which were available in this competition. A satin Biba lounging outfit, Janet Reger underwear and a dozen bottles of Laurent Perrier champagne is probably still my idea of covetable luxury!

Modelled by Jane Goddard.

Photographed by David Anthony.

Scanned from 19 Magazine, July 1974.

Liberty on the tiles

1970s, bill gibb, Elle, interior design, interiors, James Mortimer, liberty, liberty's, Sarah Campbell, Susan Collier, Vogue
The Countess Emma de Bendern’s dining-room and kitchen, left: Terrace wall and floor tiles to match cotton union curtains, green as green. Paint, Carson’s Grassy green no 7Q. Emma’s dress, a Liberty print Bill Gibb, to order from Elle, her hair cut by Karin of Derek Roe.

Liberty has covered another few indoor acres with flowers and trellis and the acres are acres of tiles made by Fired Earth. Refreshingly pretty as might be expected, with fabrics to match exactly or very nearly. The _project was initiated by the late Blair Pride, co-ordinated by Susan Collier, Liberty’s design consultant, who with Sarah Campbell produced the designs. Here they are in situ.

Photographed by James Mortimer.

Scanned from Vogue, May 1974.

Designer’s Liberty, above. Susan Collier’s Primrose tiled kitchen, the table set for an Easter tea party on matching Primrose Cloud cotton cloth. As her daughter Sophie said : “The kitchen’s so lovely I’m almost jealous of myself.”
The Collier house is Queen Anne, the oldest in Clapham, but the corner room, right, is a Victorian addition, with Kazak tiles, Karabag blind and cushions of luscious Mercury satin from Susan Collier’s Summer Dance Collection. All tiles in Liberty pattern by Fired Earth, 6 or 8 ins square, from £16.50 a sq metre four days delivery, from 102 Portland Rd, W.11. Fabrics from £2.45 a yd, 48 in wide, at Liberty.

Dinner with Thea Porter

1970s, Food, harpers and queen, interior design, interiors, thea porter
Thea Porter (right) and her daughter Venetia. On the richly decorated table are some of Mrs Porter’s favourite Lebanese dishes.

‘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.

Photograph by Michel Molinare.

Scanned from Harpers and Queen, April 1972.

It’s what a man wears underneath that counts

1970s, interior design, interiors, Lyle and Scott, Mensday, menswear, telegraph magazine, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, underwear, Vintage Adverts

One in my now very, very sporadic ‘Mensday’ series. This one doubles up as an interiors post as well, with Mr Freedom-influenced stars and stripes bedding (it might take you a while to focus properly).

Scanned from The Telegraph Magazine, March 17th 1972.

Live Single and Love It

1970s, Andrew Logan, interior design, interiors, luciana martinez de la rosa, miss mouse, Over 21, Prudence Walters, rae spencer cullen, Tim Street-Porter, Ursula Yeardye
Rae Mouse

They say you can’t miss what you’ve never had, but you can. And, you can be very misguided about it. Take the time when you’re on that twilight trudge home from work and you pause, for a fraction of a second, in front of a lighted window to envy a couple immersed in conversation. It’s a moment of exquisite, self-indulgent, single-girl melancholy. A very wise person once said: “Be careful of what you want in life. You may get it.” Living in tandem comes to most of us in the end — but spend the intervening time merely waiting for this state and you’ll miss out on a period of absolutely justifiable, selfish please-yourself that is the unique bonus for being single, when you can choose, unfettered by any taste other than your own. You can paint the bathroom puce or lettuce green and have only your own hangover to tell you you’ve boobed. You can work out your own furnishing priorities — like a good, thick carpet to sit/lie on and some decent sound equipment — and cut down your food consumption drastically for a few weeks, or months, to achieve them. You can use the time you might have spent cooking doing something sensational to jumble sale jetsam. You can be poor in style, because time and energy can make a pretty good substitute for money. None of the single women on these pages has money. What they do share is a strong, single-minded sense of their own individuality .. . It’s something they take for granted, but it shows in their lives and in their homes.

Wonderful to get an insight into the home of the slightly mysterious Rae Spencer Cullen, and what a home! Then again, magpie that I am, I would happily live in any of these beautiful pads.

Interviews by Penny Ragord.

Photographed by Tim Street-Porter.

Scanned from Over 21 Magazine, October 1976.

Rae Mouse

Rae Mouse should be prescribed in small doses to anyone with single-woman blues. Small doses because what she gives out is strong stuff, and it’s not sympathy. “People make far too much fuss about their own per-sonal aggravations,” she says. “And they expect someone else to come along and rescue them. But no man, woman or child can do that, and the sooner they realise this, the sooner they’ll be able to get on with life and stop letting their hang-ups get in the way of having a good time.” This would be hard to take from someone who’d had it easy. Rae hasn’t. She is ‘Miss Mouse’, a fashion designer who, with one colleague, started her own design/ manufacture business from one room in 1970. For four years they managed to keep going, making everything themselves in the early days, and the ‘Miss Mouse’ label became very well known. Then came the slump, the bank manager lost his nerve and the business folded. But Rae didn’t give up. She got herself, and her name, bought up by a big manufacturer and carried on, in a posi-tion of considerably greater security and with her design free-dom very little diminished. But it’s still hard work. When we met, she’d been up since five for the umpteenth morning, working against a deadline to get 60 prototype designs completed. She works from her own home in Putney, just south of the Thames, in an amazing room that is sombre, rich and fantastical. It’s furnished with plum velvet sofa and chairs, dominated by a vast black tulip sculpture by Andrew Logan and crammed with religious statuary and knick-knacks, including an old harmonium hung with macabre, artificial arum lilies. “It’s not that I’m particularly religious,” she explains, “they’re simply beautiful in themselves as objects.” Her taste is obviously and totally individual — “although I’m very influenced by my friends, especially the creative ones. But,” she adds, “I’ve never found that having pretty strong ideas about what one likes causes any conflict. In fact, people rather like it. They know just where they are.”

Luciana Martinez della Rosa

“People who only see me at parties think I do nothing,” says Luciana Martinez della Rosa. This, in a roundabout way, is because she’s an extremist. Predominantly a painter (so far she’s exhibited in mixed shows in New York and Rotterdam), she also makes extraordinary and beauti-ful bead wigs on commission. And the reason people think she’s a very decorative do-nothing is because she buries herself at home, working for days and sometimes weeks on end, and then explodes into the much needed relief of a short, sharp, burst of social life. Her finances tend to be extremist too: long periods of scraping by on an over-draft until she suddenly sells a painting, pays back the bank and the rent — and spends the rest. It’s a very deliberately chosen way of life, and in some ways it’s a lot tougher than a stultifying but secure, nine-to-five job. “I could do things that would earn me a lot more money,” she says, “but then I wouldn’t have time for the most important thing, which is my work. Even a part-time job would break up my day and my concentration.” For the same reasons, anyone with whom she becomes involved, on an emotional level, must be as independent as she is herself. So she shares a house with another painter, Kevin Whitney. And she points out that being single and living alone are two separate concepts: it’s obviously good to have a friend around to sympathise with successes and disasters. But her part of the house has her own character and taste written large and uncom-promisingly across it. “People who work away from home, and then probably go out quite a lot in the evenings, seem to need less personal surroundings. But I spend a lot of time here, so it has to be very me.” Her bedroom says it all: scarlet, and over-flowing with Art Nouveau pieces, old fabrics and furs. She’s been a jumble sale addict since she was 12, and they’re still the major source of her wardrobe. “But they never look like old clothes,” she says. “Because of what I do to them. If I could, I’d have every-thing, clothes and furniture, made specially for me.” It was as a child that she started buying up all the Victoriana that no one else wanted. “My mother thought I was mad.” Not so mad now, because, although she swears that nothing in the room was expensive when she bought it (“Except the bed. That cost £40”), its contents would make a market stallholder weep with avarice. “I suppose some people might find it all a bit overpowering,” she says. “Especially a guy. Not too good for his ego. But I think you tend to gravitate towards people who like the same sort of things as you do. And anyway, I get a lot of pleasure from seeing other people’s places. I hope that it works both ways.”

Luciana Martinez della Rosa
Prudence Walters

Prudence Walters is Welsh, an only child with a convent up-bringing. At 18, she left home for art college in London, and she hasn’t really looked back since. In her time, she’s been a magazine fashion editor. Currently, she works as a stylist, freelancing for photographers who need the right look for a session. It’s hard work, and quite well paid — if and when people get round to paying. The big advantage is the free-dom, finance permitting, to organise your own working life: deciding to work every day for four months and then take two months off. Prudence lives in a basement flat, complete with cocktail bar, that is uncomprisingly set in the 1950s, a style that she genuinely loves. She obviously treasures her independence, seems to know exactly what she wants in life and to be very contented with what she’s got. This doesn’t preclude men, but they have to accept that her way of life is as important as their own. “I’m a bit ruthless,” she admits. “I have lived with people and I do like it. But I tend to get bored with people quickly and I don’t really like getting to know anyone too well.” The bit that gives her the real horrors is the extra housework that dual domesticity inevitably brings with it. “I probably wouldn’t mind doing it all if there were compensations, such as someone else keeping me in the standard of living I’ve been able to achieve for myself.” But since she can, if she chooses, earn as much as most of the men she meets, or more, the idea of being breadwinner, cook and bottle-washer doesn’t appeal to Prudence Walters at all.

Prudence Walters
Ursula Yeardye

Ursula Yeardye has been through two marriages and out the other side. At the moment, she’s very much biased towards the single life. “Somewhere,” she says, “there may be a man who doesn’t simply want to be looked after, and it would be nice to find one, but both my husbands merely wanted mothers. I tried to fulfil that role, modelling myself on my own mother. But it’s no good to either of you if you become a martyr. I’ve always needed my independence and there simply wasn’t enough of it. I had to get my conditioning about marriage through my system and then get out before I got too damaged and lost sight of my own potential.” Before her first marriage, she studied mime with Marcel Marceau in Paris and toured the States for two years with the company. Now she’s running a small commercial firm in London, but she’s started retraining as a keep-fit leader, studying modern movement and yoga, with the aim of teaching some time in the future. She knows the disadvantages of single life: “I like going to places by myself, but people still look at you strangely if you’re on your own in a restaurant or a cinema. They either steer clear of you or approach you, and both for the wrong reasons. The social structure is still against you. You’re swimming against the stream!” But the advantages are there too: “You have complete freedom. You go home, sit down and think, ‘What do I want to do next?’ And if you don’t want to go home, you don’t have to. There’s no one sitting in front of the ‘fridge, waiting for you to cook them a meal.” Since she’s been single, she cooks far less —except for entertaining, “and that’s cooking for fun, it’s really great”. She lives mostly on fruit and vegetables, and the money she used to spend on what she calls `man’s food’, she spends mostly on her home, which has become something of a symbol of independence. After rent, her salary leaves her enough to do a little more each week. She paints, sews, upholsters, renovates, and what she’s done to the top two floors of a rather dilapidated terraced building is quite remarkable. “It took me a long time,” she says, “to learn that it’s no good living for the past, or the future —always hoping that it’s going to get better. You must live for the present, and enjoy it as much as you can.”

Ursula Yeardye.