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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

Book Friday: Country & Russian Textiles

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One benefit of all of the April rain is the lush greens of grass and the vibrant, feel-good flower colors that greet us in May.

The books this week perfectly illustrate and celebrate everything natural, colorful, and full of life.

Jasper Conran’s Country, published by Octopus Publishing Group and photographed by Andrew Montgomery, is a surreal yet realistic view into true country living as it exists today.  This book reminds us that the pleasure that can be found in country landscapes is something that humans innately desire.

Conran -- one of the UK's most talented (not to mention successful) designers -- gives the reader a down-to-earth look at country and asserts that a “country life” is a state-of-mind and does not require fame or fortune.

Refreshing, given Conran himself has achieved greatness designing interiors, furniture, clothing, costumes, jewelry, ceramics, and crystal.

Accompanying the beautiful collection of earthy photographs, Conran explains that the purity and honesty of nature can be obtained by the yearning, searching, and understanding of a simpler kind of life that connects us with how people used to live.

The worlds of true country people that the book explores only deepens your appreciation of nature and will increase your anticipation of the coming months.

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1 "'Country' is an idea -- a texture, a flavour, a state of mind -- and can be perceived in many different ways" (Conran 6).

This classic country space lends its identity to the eclectic mix of objects from both the past and present.

2 This classic country space lends its identity to the eclectic mix of objects from both the past and present.

What a surreal and breathtaking landscape.

3 What a surreal and breathtaking landscape.

The incredible chinoiserie wallpaper in this country house study is known for having been wrapping paper holding imports of tea.

4 The incredible chinoiserie wallpaper in this country house study is known for having been wrapping paper holding imports of tea.

This calm creek resting under this old stone bridge is nothing short of enchanting.

5 This calm creek resting under this old stone bridge is nothing short of enchanting.

The details of this bench nestled in a stone nook are so charming and unique.

6 The details of this bench nestled in a stone nook are so charming and unique.

Country living is nothing without animals, who according to Conrad, bring a broad and interesting perspective into the world.

7 Country living is nothing without animals, who according to Conrad, bring a broad and interesting perspective into the world.

It's hard to believe that this old Elizabethan manor -- enveloped by romantic wisteria and built from local stone -- is not straight out of a fairy-tale.

8 It's hard to believe that this old Elizabethan manor -- enveloped by romantic wisteria and built from local stone -- is not straight out of a fairy-tale.

A hardy country kitchen ideal for throwing together delicious meals, made from home-grown ingredients of course.

9 A hardy country kitchen ideal for throwing together delicious meals, made from home-grown ingredients of course.

Nowhere else besides the country will you find an old working bathtub secluded in the corner of a cottage garden.

10 Nowhere else besides the country will you find an old working bathtub secluded in the corner of a cottage garden.

Conran explains that English gardens are not only places for solitude day-dreaming, but also for pride-filled, community-wide social entertainment.

11 Conran explains that English gardens are not only places for solitude day-dreaming, but also for pride-filled, community-wide social entertainment.

This gorgeous shot captures the

12 This gorgeous shot captures the "love that is to be found in a garden" (Conran 155).

This photograph captures proof of nature's brilliant and mysterious power in epic proportions.

13 This photograph captures proof of nature's brilliant and mysterious power in epic proportions.

Look at how deliciously fresh these vegetables look at the Royal Bath & West Show, an agricultural show held in Shepton Mallet.

14 Look at how deliciously fresh these vegetables look at the Royal Bath & West Show, an agricultural show held in Shepton Mallet.

One of Conran's subjects finds great joy and contentment in foraging the countryside for 80 to 90 different kinds of wild foodstuffs.

15 One of Conran's subjects finds great joy and contentment in foraging the countryside for 80 to 90 different kinds of wild foodstuffs.

The large hall of a restored medieval manor in Bristol becomes a place to house everything that the owners love and cherish.

16 The large hall of a restored medieval manor in Bristol becomes a place to house everything that the owners love and cherish.

The next book provides us with pages and pages of incredible floral prints, revealing a world of unique mastery and vivacious color.

Susan Meller’s Russian Textiles, published by Abrams, holds a collection of exquisite Russian representations of nature in printed cottons made for the Bazaars of Central Asia.

Over 250 works are displayed, giving us a look into the history of this prized craft from 1860 to 1960.  These textiles also give the reader an idea of how nature was interpreted by and for the region of what was once known as Russian Turkestan.

Together, these titles reveal two interesting viewpoints on nature; one as a “universal aspiration” and the other as a model of inspiration.  Either way, our natural surroundings are a powerful force that cannot, and should not, be taken for granted.

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In

1 In "Russian Textiles," Susan Meller reveals her personal collection of incredible Russian textiles, photographed by Don Tuttle.

This photograph from the Library of Congress, focuses on a fabric merchant in Samarkand, surrounded by brightly colored merchandise.

2 This photograph from the Library of Congress, focuses on a fabric merchant in Samarkand, surrounded by brightly colored merchandise.

The colors in this country palace for the Bukhara Emir are incredible.

3 The colors in this country palace for the Bukhara Emir are incredible.

Made in Moscow around 1930, this Turksib depicts the

4 Made in Moscow around 1930, this Turksib depicts the "Turkestan-Siberia Railroad" and the "Daily Life of the Peoples of the East."

This pre-revolutionary roller-printed cotton cloth follows a star and crescent motif, made towards the end of the 19th Century.

5 This pre-revolutionary roller-printed cotton cloth follows a star and crescent motif, made towards the end of the 19th Century.

Here is an early 20th Century woman's munisak lined with beautiful and ornate Russian printed cotton.

6 Here is an early 20th Century woman's munisak lined with beautiful and ornate Russian printed cotton.

An interesting choice of color on this lining of a silk brocade munisak.

7 An interesting choice of color on this lining of a silk brocade munisak.

A lovely example of the Russian Art Nouveau style.

8 A lovely example of the Russian Art Nouveau style.

This woman's munisak from Uzbek was created with chartreuse handwoven silk and four other lavish patterned cloths.

9 This woman's munisak from Uzbek was created with chartreuse handwoven silk and four other lavish patterned cloths.

Such an appealing pattern in this lining of a boy's coat from Bukhara.

10 Such an appealing pattern in this lining of a boy's coat from Bukhara.

Here is a post-revolutionary machine printed cloth in a popular pattern from the mid-twentieth Century.

11 Here is a post-revolutionary machine printed cloth in a popular pattern from the mid-twentieth Century.

Another fantastic machine-printed cotton cloth that was used on the back of an Uzbek embroidery.

12 Another fantastic machine-printed cotton cloth that was used on the back of an Uzbek embroidery.

This post-revolutionary-modern cloth made for a unique horse saddle cover from the 1930s.  Many of the designs are specifically Soviet symbols.

13 This post-revolutionary-modern cloth made for a unique horse saddle cover from the 1930s. Many of the designs are specifically Soviet symbols.

A Russian early 20th Century print that was inspired by the romanticism of European home design.

14 A Russian early 20th Century print that was inspired by the romanticism of European home design.

The particular design of the peacock, branches, and large roses suggest that this Russian lining was inspired by a Manchester design for India.

15 The particular design of the peacock, branches, and large roses suggest that this Russian lining was inspired by a Manchester design for India.

This block-printed cotton chit from Uzbekistan from the 1920s-1930s is characterized by repeating floral motifs and borders.

16 This block-printed cotton chit from Uzbekistan from the 1920s-1930s is characterized by repeating floral motifs and borders.

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Comments (1)

  • Good morning Kevin, back in Kuwait went for my dad's birthday to Beirut, was so busy with the family and missed your beautiful posts. Mother's Day Makeover was so inspiring, and I love the salute to May 5. Happy Cinco de Mayo! post.
    Both books Look amazing!
    I would love to share these photos I took of our Cherry Blossom trees in our gardens in Mount Lebanon. http://flic.kr/s/aHsjuFE1zm
    I want to wish you a wonderful weekend.

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