It’s nice when things are done properly, don’t you think? When costs aren’t cut, when shortcuts aren’t taken, when no one says, ‘that’ll do’. It gives you a lift, discovering that some people still give a damn. At least it does me. As a magazine, we flitter around life’s finer things. The clue’s in the masthead. But I’ve always avoided asking anyone we interview for their own ‘definition of luxury’. It’s an awful question. And everyone always has the same answer. ‘Time.’ Bleh.
The answer I’d give, if only someone would ask, is ‘anything that’s been done properly’. Anything that’s been done to an obsessive level. Anything that’s been agonised over. Anything that’s kept someone awake at night (you don’t mind losing sleep, when you really care). It has nothing to do with price. Or cost. It’s about giving a toss. It shouldn’t be. But it is.
Thomas Heatherwick gives a damn. Not for him the race to the bottom. In October 2023, the British starchitect and founder of Heatherwick Studio – the mastermind behind London’s Coal Drops Yard, Hudson Yards’ Vessel, and Cape Town’s kooky Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa – launched ‘Humanise’, a campaign against what he calls “boring buildings” and “soulless cities”. Bleak buildings, Heatherwick argues, are increasingly contributing to people’s poor mental health. Stacks of research backs him up. Heatherwick is calling on people to get involved in architecture at a grassroots level. You can start by sending pictures of dismal-looking buildings in your area to ‘The Boring Building Index’ via humanise.org. If developers have to be shamed into giving a toss, then so be it.
Compiling this issue was an uplifting end to the year, because it involved speaking to people who give a damn, often to a neurotic level. Jimmy Choo would design more than 100 pairs of shoes for each of his collections, even though he knew only 15 or so would sell (p.82). Madeleine Mantock put herself under so much pressure during her interview for Hamnet that she was convinced she wouldn’t get the part. She did. And now she’s the talk of the West End for leaving it all on the Garrick stage each night (p.34). One developer who has spent a career sweating over the finer details is Finchatton co-founder Alex Michelin. His compulsive obsession will be writ large in Portland stone when he opens Six Senses at The Whiteley next year (p.116).
Other things in this issue that you can tell have been excruciated over: Bentley’s Flying Spur Mulliner (p.22), the menu at Mayfair’s new L’Atelier Robuchon (p.18), the position of the copper bathtubs at Berkshire’s Elcot Park (p.28), the secret bookcase door at Blackheath’s Granville House (p.130), and everything in our fine-dining-inspired Christmas gift guide.
This year, choose gifts that have been done properly. You’ll find a tablescape of suggestions after page 50.
See you in the new year.