John and I are thrilled to be penning a column, so pull up a seat (a Louis XIV-style Oly Studio siege incongruously upholstered in Colefax & Fowler’s Bowood) and a cool martini — dirty, like us — and get ready for a few tales from Madcap-land. With some luck, we will offer a bit of sparkle and wit to cheer your day paired with some social commentary that’s just north of nice but not entirely naughty. Just remember to keep that aforementioned martini firmly in hand: The more you drink, the more akin to Oscar Wilde we shall appear.
The Madcap gents have just returned from two weeks in London and Venice. And, yes, we braved the Venetian floods. And while not quite Biblical in proportion, the pervasive puddles left us thanking the lord that we had packed our Hunter boots even though the extra 30 pounds in our suitcase practically gave us a hernia at Gatwick.
To quote John, “Would you maybe help carry the suitcase, mon petit chou. Stop preening a la La Dolce Vita. There are no paparazzi awaiting our arrival.”
London was a deluge, too, but more of a maelstrom of pre-election Sturm und Drang. There was “NATO this” and “Boris that” and Corbyn conundrums and Prince Andrew’s pesky peccadilloes, so John and I avoided our intense passion for Civics and focused more on noteworthy hotels, restaurants and design outposts rather than lolling about the Houses of Parliament like Home Counties hangers-on. Speaking of Civics… To quote the much-missed and misunderstood Princess Margaret, “Disobedience is my joy!,” so John and I followed the royal decree to the hilt. We sipped too many flower-bedecked cocktails at the high-octane, devilishly fun Circolo Popolare restaurant and kicked back tea aplenty at Fortnum & Mason washed down with crisp Champagne.
John and I hightailed it out to Windsor by the ever-democratic train line and toured the ever-renovating castle before an extensive hike to the royal estate’s farm shop for tea and sympathy. The stroll — “a damn marathon,” was my precise in-the-moment sentiment, if I recall — was a bit redolent of “merde de vache” but at least the clotted cream and organic, free-range raspberry jam helped soothe the sensory onslaught. Cow poop be damned! At least it was royal cow poop.
Nina Campbell — the design doyenne — invited us to dinner after cocktails at her heavenly jewel box of a home in Chelsea. I considered pinching an ashtray or small accessory Chez Campbell but one must have manners on occasion, as granny — a notorious restaurant bread-basket thief — would remind me as she emptied her hobo bag overflowing with rolls and sesame breadsticks, noting that she didn’t nick the Saltines. Nina is so funny and unassuming for being so very famous. Plus, she knows everyone. Like for real. Nina wouldn’t spill the tea on the Queen, of course, and I forgot to ask her about Sarah Ferguson and those horsey daughters in Phillip Treacy hats. Next time. I felt like I was at the hairdresser’s reading Hello! magazine with a side of cheese Danishes. So enchanting.
And then it was to La Serenissima for five days of wandering the sinuous byways and sucking up the city’s divine design scene. In the aforesaid boots. And, no, there were no death-in-Venice woes. The city was brilliant, bustling and bright. And open for business.
Keen to promote the rather damp local economy, John and I sipped a bucket of vodka at the glorious Bar Longhi at the Gritti Palace Hotel; we clomped about the city’s incredible house museums such as Ca’Rezzonico and the Fondazione Querini Stampalia; we ordered a custom chandelier at the fabled Ars Cenedese glass factory on the island of Murano; we scoped the city from the rooftop of the luxe, luxe, luxe Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store and said hello to the hordes of Asian duty-free shoppers pouncing upon the Gucci goodies like Costco shoppers seeking flat-screen TVs on Black Friday; and dined upon fish, fish, and more fish. Every restaurant in Venice features the same food, it seems, just some a lot more expensive than others. With a side of squid-ink pasta. Thank the lord for meat-centric eatery La Bitta just off the Campo San Barnaba.
“Gracias a Díos. Steak. And más vino, pronto!” yelped Jason, a true polyglot decked out in paisley.
More champagne. More vodka. Rinse. Wash. Repent. Repeat.
And then—just like the sun setting over Santa Maria della Salute church in a Canaletto-like flash—the adventures ended, and we headed home to High Point to recuperate.
So what were the design takeaways from our journey?
- Sicily is having a big “moment,” from the native, highly colored pottery to the kicked-up cooking and the island’s eclectic, multi-cultural vibe. And Sicilian lemon-inspired patterns are everywhere, from table linens to wallpaper.
- Macaron-hued colors such as pale pinks and pistachio greens can be found everywhere in Venice and are essentials in the Madcap Cottage palette.
- Florals are blossoming in London stores that once only highlighted mid-century modern.
- Everyone is doing dog beds—from Liberty of London to Fortnum & Mason. And not just in solid colors—but florals and graphics.
- Tabletop is going from solid colors to florals and fruits and vegetables with whimsical shapes.
- Chintz is back. Hurrah!
- Granny chic is the new black. Think quilts, matelassé, shaped lampshades, and painted furniture. Head to Liberty of London for a crash course.
- Prosecco with fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice is the new Aperol Spritz.
And there you have it!
Wish you were here.
Full stop. Send.