Listen up: TuneSmith’s musical recommendations for August

For this month’s selection of summer sounds, our esteemed TuneSmith, Rob Wood, picks out a surprisingly uplifting medley of melancholia, and an album inspired by one of Smith’s top honeymoon hotels, the Maldivian paradise of Huvafen Fushi


Boys Outside by Steve Mason

When? You’ve exhausted Beta Band and Hot Chip
This is the alpha Beta’s finest solo outing to date

There’s a black cloud hanging over this album that, in theory, shouldn’t be there given it’s produced by Richard X – the man responsible for frothing the pop of the Sugababes, Rachel Stevens and Liberty X. Yet the coming together of this musical maverick and Steve Mason’s heart-wrenching exposure of his own depression proves to be a masterstroke of music-making. As the former frontman of the revered Beta Band, Mason is no stranger to experimenting around the fringes of pop, dub, dance and folk (as heard on Smith’s Something for the Weekend CD series). Boys Outside is his best solo work so far. For all its sombre subject matter, each song is lifted by a shimmering electronic soul sound which floats above Mason’s delicate guitar and piano on a bed of dubbed-out electro pulses. It’s sad but rivetingly beautiful and instantly captivating. A record that’s sure to be championed as an under-appreciated classic in years to come.

Download now

Hotel of the week: Rectory Hotel

While our love for hotels knows no bounds, our feelings about getting from A to (boutique) B are slightly less rosy. When flying is involved, the prospect of lengthy waits, over-zealous security personnel and sinister-looking plane food can slightly dampen the hopes of even the most optimistic traveller. So, as everyone else jets off to far-flung locations, we’re skipping the fuss and making the most of the gorgeous weather right here in the UK by heading to Rectory Hotel, in the sloping hills of the Cotswolds.

We ask the questions: Q&A with fashion doyenne Amanda Wakeley

Amanda Wakeley at homeWith a look book that’s generally considered to be the last word in British bridal elegance, Amanda Wakeley (OBE, if you don’t mind) is renowned for her fashion finesse (not to mention after-dark attire, if Beyoncé’s recent Vegas clubwear and Florence & the Machine‘s choice of performance get-up, below right, are anything to go by).

Florence Welch in Amanda WakeleySince we at Planet Smith already worship at the altar of Amanda and recently picked the design diva’s brains for her weekend packing guide, we thought we’d delve further and uncover a few of her travel secrets for you.

We managed to catch the ever-busy Amanda in a tiny window in her hectic schedule, somewhere between judging the Scottish Fashion Awards, designing her S/S 11 collection and launching the new Amanda Wakeley online wedding planner, a tool to help stylish brides plan their big day.


What first inspired you to become a designer?

I have made clothes ever since I was a little girl… it’s something I’ve always done intuitively.


Which other designers or artists do you admire?

I love the work of both Madame Grès and Vionnet: women designing for women in the most innately feminine way. In terms of artists, I adore Rothko on the one hand; Tracey Emin is a friend, and I love some of her works, particularly one of the pieces in this year’s Summer Exhibition – the one that says ‘I love you but sometimes I don’t think’. I have also always enjoyed collecting black and white photography, and would love to own one of the large-scale Peter Beards.

Hotel of the Week: Stonehurst Place

We’re setting our sights stateside this week as we lay our affections on Stonehurst Place, a bright spark of a B&B in Atlanta, that would have been right up Scarlett O’Hara’s street a few years back…

Style Southern B&B belle
Setting Princely Piedmont Park

Why this week? Until September, a weekend at this 19th-century artwork-filled inn comes with one night free; Smith members can stay Friday and Saturday, and not pay for Sunday. Atlanta has a whole series in swing for summer, with jazz festivals, theatre productions and exhibitions taking place throughout the peach-filled season.

From DUMBO, now MADE in Mitte

Brooklynite in Berlin, graphic designer Ebon Heath, is the current artist in motion at concept gallery with a difference, MADE

This weekend, while lucky enough to be reviewing the fabulous new Soho House Berlin*, I was honoured to get an eyeful of Ebon Heath‘s typographical creations in the most inspiring art space imaginable – a ninth-floor studio in the sky.

In the same Alexanderplatz high-rise that houses hip bar and club Week-End, a group of visionary Berliners – Philip Gaedicke (below left), Nico Zeh (middle), Tadi Rock and Luise Biesalski – are taking art to a new level, as I have previously blogged about for the New York Times.

The New York graphic designer is the latest creative to be embraced by German art gallery MADE, and the Dumbo resident is here in Mitte working on his jewellery and mobiles in situ. And in style…

Turning left to New York

Virgin Atlantic London to New York press trip, July 2010.
Part one: pre-flight delights
and a boutique boudoir in the sky.

Do you remember that competition to win the ‘best job in the world’ last year – when Australia‘s Tourist Board was looking to find a caretaker for a palm-fringed white-beached island in Queensland? Anyway, I felt like a contender for that dream employment title when Virgin Atlantic invited me to come and experience Upper Class on a flight to New York for a stay at super-stylish 44th Street hip hotel, the Royalton. ‘Sip Champagne, from a flatbed in the sky, you say? Then spend two nights at one of our favourite hotels – in the name of travel-writing duty?’ It’s a tough job, etc, but I felt I was up to the challenge and I joined fellow intrepid explorers (OK, spoiled sybarites) Amanda (Style Bible), Varun (Inside Luxury Travel), James (We Heart), James (I like boring things) and lovely Maxine (V Travelled) in the taking task of road testing unadulterated five-star treatment in air and on land.

Hotel of the week: Residenza Napoleone III

There are times when less just simply isn’t more. Bored by minimalism and modernity, we’re hankering after the kind of extravagance that would make a maharajah blush. We’re talking grand beds with marshmallow-plump bedspreads and squashy silk cushions, lofty ceilings with ornate frescoes, walls bedecked with paintings of stirring scenes and haughty miens and bathrooms so seductive, you’ll be tempted to forsake dry land for a lifetime of bathing bliss. Right now, only a Roman palace will do – luckily, our Hotel of the week, Residenza Napoleone III (owned by a bona fide principessa) fits the bill.

Why this week? Play at being regal Romans for less – the Residenza’s boutique hotel offer means that you can stay for three nights, and only pay for two (leaving all the more euro for living la dolce vita).

Cocktails at Callooh Callay

‘You are now
In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more.
Yet in its depth what treasures!’
(Percy Bysshe Shelley, letter to Maria Gisborne, 1820)

It’s easy to fall out of love with London life – the city’s din and dirt can get to even the most nonchalant native – but with a little urban rummaging, it’s equally easy to fall right back in love again. Just the other week, Caroline and I found a London treasure worth writing home about; a bar called Callooh Callay, recommended to us by one of our trusty Smith reviewers.

Immodesty Blaize talks dirty weekends

Here at Mr & Mrs Smith we love Immodesty Blaize – not just for her looks, but also her travel savvy. While the glamorous burlesque star may not be the most inconspicuous guest, she was the ideal person for us to send incognito to review Il Salviatino in Florence. For more fantastic luxury travel advice, see p102 of the August issue of Country & Town House as Ms Blaize features in my monthly travel column for the glossy magazine. Meanwhile, here’s the uncut version of Immodesty’s globe-trotting fantasies…

Whisper to us your top tips for a sexy escape…
A dirty weekend is no time for budgeting – you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the hotel, not sightseeing, so splash out on the hotel. Go for romance and choose a room with an amazing bathroom or Jacuzzi, or a fabulous view. Even if it’s just a hut in the countryside, make it memorable. Imagine you’re in your own movie and play the part you’ve always dreamed of from start to finish. And, if you can, give yourself plenty of time to plan your weekend bag as travelling light is a strategic art, and you’ll want to feel your best.

Hotel of the week: Stoke Park

May merged into June, June slipped into July; suddenly summer’s upon us, and all we can think about is sunshine and siestas. Our great escape…
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