House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Tara Bernerd

The design consultant spends a day in the retail field

Tara Bernerd

December 01 2011
Tara Bernerd

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

I often meditate on the way technology has impacted us – how radically we have moved forward, as much socially as in all other ways. I am curious, for those singles out there: would you chat someone up with the line, “So what apps do you have?” All this I am sure I will discover; however, in the meantime… what apps do you have? As a much-addicted newcomer, like a kid with my new pencil case, my iPad is certainly now vying for first place in my affections with my Blackberry.

The identity we stamp on these modern tablets is a telling one. Of course, we all have the FT and How To Spend It apps, and perhaps sneak in a few other journals and magazines for our news-and-views fodder. Then of course there is all the live news – CNN, BBC News and Ted. Among these grown up must-haves, my iTunes, Shazam, movies, TV Shows, writing and drawing pad apps are also part of my growing collection. However, let me be honest; each blog this week and my usual weekly round of emails are all still tapped out on my BlackBerry.

Tonight I am kicking back, going over some work, eating a cheeseburger (OK, no bun… who really eats the bun these days?) and mulling over the day.

It started with me in the field, so to speak – all project-related research, of course. Ralph Lauren was my first hit. With a current project needing accessories, I dove into the Bond Street basements where there are no clothes in sight, just room set after room set, Ralph’s visions and fantasies, with every style accounted for and matching glasses, sheets, towels, cushions, throws, silver and crocodile. It’s a shrine to stuff, and every once in a while with the help of Rochelle (Madame Fix-Anything at RL) a set of Bentley glasses doesn’t go amiss, or the odd “Christmas" candle for this time of year, or some big heavy throws. (A girl can’t always be seen in Hermès.)

In my case, Ikea and Camerich are also among my stable of top product, as it’s not always possible to work to sky’s-the-limit budgets. My clients vary enormously and with the climate as it is today, the high end is a small, precious bubble. Thankfully, these days product is exceptional across the board. Yesterday I mentioned a sliver grey wood floor. Today I am compelled to also share one of my top tips, which is wide-wood “floorboards” in a grey oak “timber” from Karndean – actually a vinyl roll-out floor that I am using myself for cost efficiency, and it looks incredible.

I still can’t quite do the antiques frames and bits-and-pieces at any store, and tend to always head to the markets myself and buy directly. I’ll often spot one of Ralph Lauren’s buyers lurking, and I can’t help having a little smile to myself. Alfies Antique Market in Marylebone is still one of my calling points; the Portobello Road may be packed and an unmissable tourist destination, but the truth is it’s still a working market, and I know a few of the guys on the stalls, so for certain leather goods I am straight there.

From Ralph Lauren it was on to Talisman, the lifestyle emporium of what is more current than old. Set in an exceptional art eeco building on the New King’s Road, it has the finest collection of retro and vintage pieces in town. On a personal note, having collected Murano glass for years, every time I walk in, I’m delighted by those exquisite vases and ashtrays just oozing colour and edge. They’re rather like the diamonds of a treasure chest to me, or the designers’ answer to Graff. As ever, Talisman was full to the brim with one seductive piece after another – fantastic Lucite lights and lacquer desks – and finally I had to tear myself away (but of course, not before running through my wish list with Ken for a certain hotel project).

Then it was to B&B Italia, which recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its heavenly Brompton Road showroom. There was piece after piece we are looking at; frankly I will sound like their PR if I go on about them, so I won’t. Purchasing today was swift, as key items just shone out. B&B Italia moves with the times, it’s up to speed, with an array of designers, yet it’s fairly often timeless. The Lens Table remains a classic, with a certain 1970s feel and a nod to Pierre Chareau’s Maison De Verre; there was also a great chaise by Jeffrey Bernett. With all needed orders in, I was reminded how reliable Heather Naylor and her team are.

By now I was late for my own internal design meeting, scheduled to run from 3pm till late – it was all about The Boat. All I can say is, there’s a reason why boats like this are called “mega”. There was a lot to get done: floor plans, elevations, and more. It’s a magnificent project and the afternoon flew by. It’s days like this when I pinch myself, with huge gratitude to be fortunate enough to live and breathe an industry I love.

Learning the yachting sector over the years has been an education in itself. Yachts are indeed fascinating iconic feats of design. Certainly Lürssen is one of the key players in terms of shipyards; but, gullets aside, the Turkish markets are firmly back in and making quite a statement. We work with CMB Yachts, an established practice and a collaboration that for us is quite a pleasure. Marine design is another world we are loving; interiors-wise, Jon Bannenberg was always a style guru, and today my respect goes also to Remier Tessier – and, it must be said, to Christian Liaigre when he takes an occasional dip into ocean design.

Tomorrow is set to be a fairly busy day. It’s been an utter joy for me this week not to travel; perhaps less exciting for you, reader, but I have to admit the prospect of no airports in my immediate future is sheer pleasure. I am beginning to think I should have made more arrangements these last nights, though, as I realise that I have been very quiet – so if How To Spend It doesn’t ask me back, I’d better get more apps!

All said, I still have the weekend; meantime, tonight it’s time for a cup of camomile tea.

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