HIRE STAFF Owen Muir’s other company, Mrs Hunt’s Agency (020 7937 1788), can provide you with permanent or temporary staff Perfect if you want a lady who knows how to iron, launder and mend. It is also an excellent number to keep handy for cooks, butlers, waiting staff and housekeepers.
MEND YOUR WINDOWS There is a company called the Sash Window Workshop (01344 868668), that can overhaul, draught-proof, replace and double-glaze windows. The overhaul leaves you with sash windows that make an expensive “whoosh” sound rather than that all-too familiar rattle. And after paying to get them mended, don’t forget to get a window cleaner in, too.
FACE UP TO YOUR DESK Don’t be intimidated by the mountain of paper and unopened brown envelopes on your desk call Hire Intelligence to sort it all out for you (020 8487 9450). This excellent company will organise your life, download your address book on to your computer, book your travel arrangements, arrange your bills, and leave you with a working filing system.
HAVEYOUR CARPETS CLEANED Arrange for the carpets to be cleaned while you are away for Easter and, while you’re at it, have industrial cleaners wash all the walls and woodwork. Owen Muir (see above) can arrange this, and Hire Intelligence (see above) can even arrange Owen Muir…
BIN OLD POT POURRI AND ALMOST-FINISHED CANDLES and delight in replenishing them all. Current fabulous candles are Comme des Garcons’ Palisander and Diptyque’s Violette and Narcissus candles (best burned together).
CLEAN DUSTY CANDLES Do this with a little white spirit on a cloth and remove the black smoke from around the top of the glass. It is amazing how manky candles get. If their wicks have got lost in the wax and old matches have disappeared into the mix, then for goodness’ sake throw them away.
ARM YOURSELF WITH SPONTEX There are two essential tools for any spring-clean, both by Spontex. The first is called Window Wonder, a green cloth that cleans glass beautifully without using a product. You dampen it and it wipes off grime from your computer screen, pictures, the oven door or windows, without leaving Gnet any smears. It is amazing. The other is called Rub Out, and is a white block that removes marks from walls as if by magic.
RE-HANG YOUR PICTURES –and clean the glass in the frames at the same time. Spontex Window Wonder cloth is perfect for this.
HAVE YOUR SOFA CUSHIONS REUPHOLSTERED Very often a sad-looking sofa just needs its seat cushions replaced. Eighty per cent down and 20 per cent feather is a very good stuffing.
CLEAR OUT YOUR BOOKSHELVES Take any books that you don’t care about to a charity shop, making way for new reading. Use any gaps you have to wedge box frames of photographs or pictures between books. David Linley does a great box frame.
IMPROVE YOUR BEDROOM LIGHTING Bedroom lighting is often very bad, ranging from drab to austere. If yours falls into this category, you need to go shopping. Pretty lamps and good shades are essential to the overall loveliness of a bedroom. Light must be golden and not surgical. Shades should never be lined in white; instead, for bedrooms, use champagne hues.
CELEBRATE SPRING WITH FLOWERS Choose jugloads of daffodils and paper whites. Hyacinths are divine, too, and if you can find them in some of the more unusual colours, so much the better.
BUY CHEERFUL CERAMIC FLOWER NIGHTLIGHT HOLDERS from The Cross. A yellow one is perfect for a mantelpiece, or use masses of them in mixed colours down the dining table.
BUY UP BEAUTIFUL BOTTLES AND GET A STASH OF OLIVE-OIL DRIZZLERS Find the bottles at markets and get the drizzlers from any cookshop, then decant everything that comes in a nasty bottle or carton: milk, olive oil and washing-up liquid.
GET IN A STOCK OF FUNKIN FRUIT PUREES AND HALF OR QUARTER BOTTLES OF CHAMPAGNE These purees (strawberry, white peach, raspberry and passion fruit) are utterly delicious and perfect for Bellinis. Having drinks with friends before lunch or dinner at the weekends.
April is the month to get to grips with all those chores you’ve been putting off and make yourself feel lovely again. Overwhelmed? Just follow Rita Konig’s failsafe advice
Revitalising your life is all about the peripheral things rather than the major ones: a great pair of shoes, a facial or, better still, a weekend away
GET A NEW FRAGRANCE This is the single change to one’s outward self that makes the biggest difference. It must be carefully chosen, though. Good hunting-grounds include Frederic Malle at Les Senteurs, Ormonde Jayne, Miller Harris, Guerlain (the old stuff or single notes only) or Santa Maria Novella. A bad hunting-ground is Duty Free.
CHUCK OUT YOUR OLD KNICKERS and buy new ones. There will be some good pairs that you want to keep but the everyday white or black cotton needs to be regularly renewed. Replace nasty G-strings with seamless cotton Strecker’s company Pants, and go to Prada for a really beautiful set.
THROW AWAY SWEATERS that have been washed a little on the hot side. It is no good keeping them for painting a room or a cold weekend somewhere. Those occasions never arise, and even if they do they never need to be accessorised with a shrunken sweater, how ever expensive it was pre-demise.
HAVE A WEEKLY PEDICURE. Go with a girlfriend to Princess Nails on Fulham Palace Road, where there’s a score of Vietnamese girls who do a brilliant pedicure and manicure for £30 all in.
INVEST IN NEW NIGHTDRESSES from the Monogrammed Linen Shop They have the most beautiful selection of satin or cotton to choose from. Try to spend as much time in them as possible.
VISIT THE BAMFORD SHOP on Mossop Street, the sister store to Ledbury Road’s Bamford & Sons. Here, you will find delicious cashmere as well as great everyday jewellery: wooden cuffs, seed-pod necklaces, chalcedony folic acid and fluorite rings, crystal necklaces – really exciting things to renew your wardrobe.
GIVE YOUR JEWELLERY A NEW LEASE OF LIFE There’s a jeweller at Erickson Beamon who makes charm necklaces by combining old charms, medals and badges with new jewels and curiosities. Look through your jewellery box for things to recycle – these necklaces are beautiful and will add new life to things that have gone by their past their sell-by date.
GET A NEW WATCH STRAP There is nothing better than a brand-new coloured strap to make you feel as if you have got a new watch. Cartier has the best selection, but will only do straps for its own watches.
SORT OUT YOUR MAKE-UP BAG Call the Handbag Doctor and a make-up artist will be sent to your house to go through your make-up bag, weed out things that don’t suit you any more and write you a “prescription” for what you need. She will also help with special-event make-up.
TAKE LONG WEEKENDS CLOSE TO HOME We are so fixated on exotic holidays far away, but think of Bruges or Brussels for a weekend of delicious food and fabulous antique shops, or even head to the British coast for blustery spring walks along the beach – Tresanton in Cornwall is lovely.
ORGANISE YOUR I POD Sandra Nerdrum will download all your music on to your iPod for you and will create playlists to suit every occasion.
A little home maintenance is usually needed at this time of year. Apart from the general open of windows and cleaning, more hardcore fixing is often essential. Remember, there is nothing more fabulous than when it’s all sorted…
BLITZ THOSE JOBS If you have lived in your home for any length of time, it will almost certainly benefit from having the woodwork repainted, and this is a very good way of giving it a tidy without the hideous expense of redecorating the whole place. Owen Muir of The Kensington Maintenance Company is the man to call. He’ll sort out your paintwork, plus he can make a list with you of all the other DLJs (dirty little jobs) that need doing in the house. A one-stop shop.
Never let it be said that office jobs are boring: Mackenzie Crook’s made him a household name, then paved his way to Hollywood. Now he’s getting serious in a West End play.
Mackenzie Crook is troubled by my rhododendron problem. He is looking intently at the traffic thundering by the restaurant we are sitting in. His brow is furrowed and his eyes dart from side to side, as if flicking through a mental gardening manual. The intense look on his face is all too reminiscent of his character in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s cult BBC comedy series The Office. You can just imagine Gareth Keenan, with his pudding-bowl haircut and mobile-phone holster, lost in this realm of deep concentration. The major difference, however, is that where Gareth would be worrying about the non-legality of handguns, his alter-ego is worrying about the non-acidity of my soil.
There is a touch of the obsessive-compulsive about Mackenzie Crook. He says so himself. He has, he confesses, been gardening solidly for the past few days — “in a kind of frenzy”. The 33-year-old feels totally happy in the garden of his new Art Deco semi in Muswell Hill; not least because it has a cherry tree in it that was planted by one of his heroes, former resident Peter Sellers. As Crook gardened, every so often his beloved 18-month-old son Jude would toddle out to see what he was up to. “I’m having the time of my life,” he says eagerly, nervously and with the faintest of smiles. “But I wish I wasn’t too late to plant sweetpeas.”
We are in Muswell Hill, in his local restaurant, Pickles, which was inexplicably named after the small dog that, in 1966, discovered the stolen World Cup under a bush in faraway Norwood. This is exactly the type of thing that amuses Mackenzie Crook. He is not a gag-cracker by any means. Like so many masterful comedians, he is quiet — shy almost — with a palpable intensity. And yet the more you tune in to his quiet mutterings (not, it is worth noting, with any hint of Gareth’s West Country accent), the more you hear his humour — in every aside, every understatement, every deadpan declaration. “You should never go husky racing,” he says totally out of the blue, and with a worryingly serious expression, at one point. “They don’t stop to shit, you see. They just shit as they run and it all splatters up into your face.”
This season’s fashionable alternative to wearing your heart on your sleeve? Wearing your jewels on your handbag. At Marni, sparkly strings were slung across shoulder bags, while Pheobe Philo added charms and chains to Chloe’s gold evening purses. Another great excuse for more jewellery.
Tucked away in Paddington’s Chilworth Street, Saturday has a fan base that has been growing slowly but surely since its birth last May. The shop may only open on Fridays and Saturdays and, as its co-founder Sherry Lamden puts it, “must seem terribly indulgent”, but the set-up seems to work. With a hairdresser out back, cla side effects limited edition and exclusive designs by Seraph, Double Identity, Jessica Ogden and Eley Kishimoto, and an eclectic mix of furniture and fittings, there’s a real homespun feel. Make a note to stop off.
Anne Valerie Hash is not one to take her fashion lightly. The 27-year-old Parisian designer describes the need to develop her creative vision as “an emergency”. The concept? Transforming ultra-classic items of traditional men’s clothing into elegant pieces for women (think a dress made from a suit jacket, a lab coat cut into a sleek shirt). “I love playing with the codes of our society,” she says. “I take menswear, divert it and still end up with a classic item.” The most sophisticated take on cross-dressing.
LUELLA BARTLEY’S COLLABORATION WITH MULBERRY: BAGS SO DESIRABLE THAT GISELE BEGGED TO TAKE HERS HOME AT THE END OF A SHOW.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ANDREW BOLTON
WHO IS HE? A curator of groundbreaking fashion exhibitions
WHERE’S HE COME FROM? His first passion was for studying Eastern civilizations, rather than evening dresses. After jobs at the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology Cambridge and The Commonwealth Institute, he moved to the V&A in 1993
WHAT’S HE KNOWN FOR? His exhibitions at the V&A, including Men in Skirts, which managed to look beautiful as well as treat fashion as a serious cultural player. His new book, The Supermodern Wardrobe (V&A Publications, £25), looks at urban dress. “I’m not a stylist,” he says. ” I’m just trying to put these things into a cultural context”
HIS NEXT MOVE? In March, Bolton was lured to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Expect him to create as many waves there.
With the rest of the world going football bonkers over the World Cup, even the fashion industry has come under the sporting spell. Cue a range of treats —from Evisu’s tiny football strips to Celine’s wallet featuring red and yellow cards. You can get excited about them even if the game leaves you cold.
Parisians have gone crazy for a metal hairpin. Catwalk hairstylist Odile Gilbert’s “Barette” curves around a bunch of hair to secure it. It’s also hypoallergenic and comes in metal, chrome or 18-caratgold. Who needs chopsticks? MC Hairpins, by Odile Gilbert, from 135 each
Give your stilettos a break: cool feet have moved on to the babouche. The Moroccan slipper has been given a small heel and groovy prints by hip French label Babouche. Madonna recently showed up in a S18-carat goldipes pair, while Marc Jacobs has been spotted wearing a pin£35iped version. MC From £55, at Aime