A summer in the garden.

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I’ve spent summers in all of the Mediterranean, and however beautiful it is, none of them compared to a summer in my parents’ garden, not even the sea, although, who am I kidding here, the sea, I do miss, but having breakfast in a hotel, lying on a beach or at a pool, next to people draping their labeled belongings around themselves like an Egyptian pharaoh in his tomb, clinging to their bank accounts, their status is on display 24/7, all year, over-symbolized, logomania in extremis, but no heaven lies ahead here, deadly sinners, all of them, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for logomaniacs to enter the kingdom of God, yes, I’m a Catholic, no thanks, that’s not for me, at least not this year. My Hermès beach towels are off duty, I couldn’t relax anyway, I have to trim something in that garden left to my mother’s devices, planned as an urban jungle, too many trees, too much ivy, too much of everything, lush, overly lush, beautifully lush, hydrangeas emerging from unindentifiable green masses, roses emerge everywhere from ivy, so richly blooming they look like a bouquet, but before I trim something, I’ll look out for some shade, under an apple tree, or the walnut tree, or whatever tree appears inviting…

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Think pink. Think Camilla.

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Think pink. That’s what we learned from Funny Face’s Quality magazine’s editor-in-chief Maggie Prescott – Hollywood’s version of Diana Vreeland. Think pink. That’s what I learned from my mother. My life is quite unthinkable without her Pink Camilla china service, designed by Spode in the late 1700s. I grew up with it, took parts of it to my very first apartment, bought additional pieces myself, smashed dozens of cups and plates, some teapots, too, replaced it all, well, not all, only the pieces I smashed after making my own living, after turning 27, so to speak, I still have tea from a broken bouillon cup, its handle broke years and years ago, my doing of course, never anybody else’s, why that is I don’t know, I’m not that clumsy, believe you me, anyway, I had my cornflakes in it right before school and vichyssoise, game and charlotte russe on Christmas eve, lamb was served on it at Easter and strawberry extravaganzas on my birthday, it witnessed tears and laughter, the entertaining of dear friends and social obligation dinners, small talk and passed on top secret information, all over breakfast, lunch and dinner, over coffee, tea, wine and champagne, in summer and winter, in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the garden, in a nutshell, this china is part of my life, and however much I love my own Royal Copenhagen, Pink Camilla will always represent my home, my parents, my background. God bless her.

So, here’s a potpourri of pictures I took over my years on Instagram.

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Moving & Decorating Frenzy.

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So, I moved to Berlin. As a consequence, I found myself living with misplaced pieces of furniture and boxes, boxes, and boxes. Big boxes, small boxes, boxes containing other boxes, heavy boxes, really heavy boxes, and light boxes, boxes filled with books, lots of books, all of them to be alphabetised, I warn you, there are more authors with M than you might think, which you only realise when you’ve just successfully decorated the space between N and O, Neruda and O’Casey, and then you’re handed a box with more Mann, you had forgotten all about Thomas Mann’s letters, all of them, three big volumes, and hey, there is Golo Mann and Heinrich Mann and Klaus Mann, too, what did this family ever do besides writing, and if this wasn’t enough, all kinds of wrapped stuff was hindering my way to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the front door, to the bedroom, to the washing machine, to the balcony and off the balcony, I was going mad. Really. It took a lot of soothing Niederegger Marzipan and Lenôtre cakes from KaDeWe, Berlin’s fanciest department store, to survive it. You see, little did I know that unpacking these boxes would cause even more chaos. What to do with all this stuff you strangely acquired over the years? Where to put it? And why do you have to dust things you’ve just unpacked? And why is there always more of it? More things, more dust. But somehow I managed. My kitchen cabinets were very welcoming. But mostly because my 75-year old mother helped me. She’s a great organiser. She would have made it big in the military, she would have been made general in a week or so. Now, she’s gone home, advising her gardeners on how to garden her garden. And I am living in an apartment that almost looks like one. Thanks, Mummy!

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Elle, Gabrielle.

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Over the years, I bought a great many books on Coco Chanel. Not only because I’m into fashion, her achievements in fashion are more than just outstanding, she was the designer of the century, there was no competition to question that, Balenciaga surely was an artist, carefully designed perfection-to-wear, he was born to give Mona von Bismarck her raison d’être, and Dior gave the world the New Look, a look so very old now, so very démodé, visited today by millions in a museum in Paris, next to the Mona Lisa, a woman whose mysterious smile has turned into a grimace when it had become that liveless cliché it is today, a smile so rarely if ever smiled back at, merely admired, like moth balled haute couture on mannequins, but Chanel’s iconic inventions live on, they are out, on the streets, they breathe and move, they were born free, copied, reinterpreted, updated, backdated, timeless, but all of that, all these hats, buttons, pearls, fake and real, all these two-tone shoes, suits and little black dresses, all that comfy beige tweed and that refined soft lace, these numbers 5, 19 and 22, olfactory revolutions, all of it bears the same genes. Style galore. We owe it to the little black-haired girl from humble beginnings whose genius outlived it all: the Belle Époque, the wars, the Roaring Twenties, the rise and fall of countries, people and fashions, she met and loved Dukes and Grand Dukes, Englishmen and Russians, she encountered Picasso, Stravinsky, Cocteau, Reverdy, Diaghilev, basically le tout Paris of the last century. Two books by Isabelle Fiemeyer, published by Flammarion in English and French, introduce us to some of the traces such a life left behind, we are allowed a glimpse, however long, of private belongings, on letters and jewels, on golden artifacts and worn clothes – these intimate details are treasures not to be missed.

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Summertime and the shopping is easy.

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The living is easy in summer, so sings Ella Fitzgerald so very inspirational, and although no fish are jumping in Berlin, nor is any cotton high, but my daddy’s (almost) rich and my ma is definitely good looking, so I am in the good mood I’m supposed to be in. And what do (almost) rich father’s sons do on such a day in Berlin? They go shopping on Kurfürstendamm. There is no better time to shop in summer than in the morning, when the temperatures are still low, when the morning dew has just disappeared, leaving the air soft, when hopes are still high (just like that Southern cotton) that this day may turn out just fantastic. Kurfürstendamm is just a short walk from my place in Charlottenburg, and so I strolled through streets that Christopher Isherwood might have taken too when he lived here in the 1920s, enjoying the architecture, watching people on their way to the office and goods being delivered, and decided to have a long coffee first, as I was very well aware that no fancy store opens before 10 a.m. I was the only one who took a seat at Reinhard’s at Berlin’s Hotel Kempinski, the one that Romy Schneider was staying in when she visited the town, I still wonder why, why would you miss all the delights of this time of day in the city, the plays of light and shadow, enchanting patterns on the facades, the volatile splendour of reflections on Saint Laurent’s logo, it will be long gone in afternoon, carpe diem, folks, I want to call out – but the only guy who seems to enjoy this place at this hour was the postman at Chanel. Oh well. They have no clients, but at least they’ve got mail.

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Interiors.

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Some people have an inner child that they allow to, well, come out every once in a while and play, just to make sure they stay human, these guys are to be congratulated, for their wisdom, humanity and charm, I, however, whose inner child has never been locked up, whose emotional intelligence might be the one of Methuselah but whose behaviour is rather Calvinistic, and I’m referring to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes here, not to that repressed guy from Geneva, what am I to do? You cannot let out what’s already out, can you? So I had to come up with an alternative: I let my inner interior designer out, and I pamper him well. I frolic through stores, buy bowls, vases and pitchers from Royal Copenhagen or Lalique, overpriced flowers from fancy stores, those way cheaper tulips from your grocer won’t do sometimes, fruit and cookies and other stuff that just has to be remotely decorative to give me a thrill and there I go, a new arrangement on my Regency table, I’m happy as a child, sorry, as an interior designer and ready to cope with life, business and deadlines.