Crossing @ Great Marlborough Street

After a rather energetic shopping spree at West End, I had a tea break at Yamchaa, Soho.
Planting myself at the table by the window overlooking Great Marlborough Street, I indulged myself with people-watching.

The people were crossing the street from all directions & manners…

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By the way, Yamchaa’s lemon drizzle cake was gorgeous…

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The flavour was tangy and fresh. A great match with my Darjeeling…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Hard time @ Hardware store

Oh no, a magnetic catch on the cupboard door has just fell apart.
After more than 10 years of service, it gave in finally…

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We bought our present apartment as a shell in 2001.
The reason why we wanted the place  was because of the ceiling height – over 3.5m.  Especially for Hubbie, who was significantly taller than the average Brits, this apartment was a dream came true. I remembered his exclamation, ‘This is it!’ By the way, we viewed more than 40 lofts / warehouse conversions by then. And I was just happy and relieved that the search was finally over.

However, everything comes with the pro’s and the con’s.
Because of the ceiling height, all furnitures except loose ones, such as sofas and tables, had to be custom-made.
For the cupboard which separated the vestibule, I wanted it to resemble a monolith…

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The cupboard is accessible from the vestibule, by the way…

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The side, facing the living / dining area is clad with shuttering plywood panels.
Shuttering plywood is an inexpensive building material and is chiefly used for putting up a temporary enclosure around construction sites.

The prominent grains of the plywood always fascinated me. In my eyes, they appeared organic as well as artificial.
On its own, they were beautiful. So I was determined to utilise them somehow when I had any opportunity.
And the opportunity arrived when I was designing the cupboard.

I discussed with the carpenter how the colour of the panels could be darkened without losing the grain. He suggested that it could be lightly sanded and stained, instead of applying emulsion.
Once the panels were dry, they were varnished…

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The process has brought out the subtle irregularity of the plane which can be seen when the light hits the surface.
The light vanishes all the colour except the texture of the grain…

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The graduation of black hues reminds me beautiful zen gardens of Kyoto.
I am very glad that I manage to highlight a beauty out of ordinary / normally-ignored objects.

Now, let’s get back to my present problem – a magnetic catch!
Where from can I get it?
Hardware shops are hard to find around me nowadays.

I remember there used to be a large builders shop on the north end of Tottenham Court Road which I frequented during my time in UCL. The shop was fairly large for the Central London average and stuffed with power tools and bits & pieces for building trade.
As any architectural student, I had assignments in UCL’s basement workshop a few times per semester. One of the tasks was a shopping trip with my own shopping list, hunting for suitable materials.
I was blissfully ignorant then and must have been a pain to deal with.
8 out of 10 times, I ended up coming back from the shop with useless rubbish.
I can still visualise it like yesterday – the tutor  tut-tutted me, his eyes rolling while me, red-faced, wishing to be somewhere else…
I was brought up in the country where consumers were king  & customer was always right, therefore, I didn’t understand or agree with their ‘Let’s them learn the lesson in a harder way’ kind of attitude. It may have been because they were a bunch of misogynist or practical jokers or both, I had no idea.
Still, the shop assistants were there to advise me, instead of knocking their heads off with a hollering laughter after I innocently left the shop, thanking their so called ‘help’…

BTW, the hardware shop was replaced by a smart eatery along Itsu and Pret a Manger while I was unaware.
One thing I am alarmed in Central London nowadays is the amount of food related business occupying every street.
How many sandwich bars or coffee places do we need?! Especially those chains, such as Costa, Starbucks, Nero’s, Pret a Manger, EAT, etc, they are just ubiquitous.
This phenomenon is a definite threat to the identity of each London street.
Traditionally, Tottenham Court Road, notably the south end of it, was a must area to hunt for electrical & computer goods. But the street no longer has enough electrical shops to claim as such.
Or how about Charling Cross Street?
The street was lined with secondhand bookstores in all sizes when I first arrived to this city two decades ago. Now, those treasure troves are replaced with cake shops and cafes. Rubbing salt in a wound, TK.Maxx occupies the address which used to be a large bookstore. How sad…
Call in Mary Portas or anyone! We must stop this decharacterization of Central London street by high-street chain giants. Even that ‘slippery’ hardware store on Tottenham Court Road, it was adding some sort of flavour / character to the area, no matter how sour it was…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gems of Bloomsbury

My favourite route to home from Hubbie’s office is through Bloomsbury area.
From Tottenham Court Road – one of my least favourite streets in London. Apart from Heal’s and Habitat, there are no places of interest for me –  I turn into Torrington Place.
From there, I carry on walking eastward via my favourite Byng Place & Gordon Square.
Passing a rather dreary looking Tavistock Hotel on the right, I proceeded towards Tavistock place.

On this street, there is a handsome landmark, Mary Ward House

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Playfully arranged windows above the entrance grabs my attention.
Then, my eyes are drawn to the details – the masonry work with organic curves which strongly suggests the influence by the Art & Craft Movement of the 19th Century.
Also the sign above the left entrance, painted in the same black as the double leaf doors below, reminds me of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s…

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The golden lettering which is bordered with uneven oval dots has the uncanny charm of Art Nouveau.
Apparently, the building is up for hire for cooperate events.
Through their image gallery, the state of the interior becomes apparent.
Alas, most of the rooms are devoid of the original features!
The walls are painted in lighter shades instead of William Morris style wallpaper or dark stained wood panels.
Apart from Dickens Library which preserves beautifully glazed tile fireplaces as well as the dark wood panelling which divides the wall surfaces with the distinctive geometry of the Art & Craft style, the building has been modernised in a rather bland manner.
Oh well, even historical buildings have to earn their own keep somehow nowadays.
I understand…

From Tavistock Place, I turn into lively Marchmont Street.
Then, skirting around Brunswick Centre, I head towards Lambs Conduit Street.

Lambs Conduit Street is crammed with independent shops, mainly men’s / unisex fashion retailers.
Most of the shops were closed when I walked through the street last time.
So I had to be content with peeping through the darkened shop windows.
How do you find this display case?

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Instead of treating the cabinet too preciously, they rejuvenated it with a playful use of magazine clippings.
What a great idea!

On nearby Rugby Street, there are a few places you shouldn’t miss when you are visiting the area.

Ben Pentreath Ltd on 17 Rugby Street…

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Shame that I can’t show you their beautiful shop window.
It is obvious that the items they sell are chosen with love and care.
I find most of them quintessentially modern British. Refined, yet left with a hint of handcrafting. Sophisticated, yet approachable. And not cheap, yet the price worth paying for.

Another shop never to be missed is Maggie Owen

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They specialised in costume jewellery.

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You mustn’t underestimate it only because they are not fine jewellery.
Maggie Owen’s offerings are costume jewellery with gusto.
Until visiting this Aladdin’s Cave, I never knew that costume jewellery could be this opulent and flamboyant.
The intricacy of the work involves does reflect on the price. However, the impact which a lucky wearer gives to her audience is well worth paying for.

I shall revisit the area once I’ve recover from the surgery.
So please watch out this space…

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