28 November 2007

Mimmi O'Connell

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White walls, symmetry, tufted ottoman used as a coffee table, ticking used for upholstery, black iron accents, seagrass matting: elements used over and over again.


In the 70’s - there was a designer in London who started a trend that lives on, 35 years later – the cornerstone of this trend was oriental furniture imported from the far east. The young designer combined these eastern pieces with large accessories: wooden boxes that doubled as coffee tables, bowls, blue and white porcelains, and eastern baskets, to name a few. She used mostly cotton tickings and rolled up mattresses instead of bolsters. Her beds were made of black iron and they usually were four poster. Her look was one of high contrasts: lots of darks and lights. She used red as a neutral, her walls were always white, her rooms always had black accents. Her look was new and fresh and very innovative. It still is today. Her name is Mimmi O’Connell.

Mimmi was never a household name in the United States. Most images of her work come from English books and publications. Through the store she owned, Port of Call, she started a look, the fusion look, that is still going strong today. She combined relatively inexpensive eastern furniture that she imported with inexpensive fabrics to produce a look that was strongly visual and rich, texturally. Through her design work, O’Connell was the force behind using seagrass and bamboo blinds in settings other than orangeries and sunrooms. Her look has spawned hundreds of imitators, her business helped launch others: OKA in England comes to mind immediately. Her use of cotton and linens and tickings is oft copied today – you would never see a room that O’Connell designed using chenille and mohair and brocades. It’s just not her style. Despite the enormous impact she made on design today, O’Connell rarely receives press or recognition for her work. Apparently, she’s still active, still in business, but it’s been a while since any current work of hers has been seen. So, take a look at her portfolio and keep in mind, many of these images are from years and years and years ago. And remember, the next time you see a room with an iron four poster bed swathed in tickings or oriental chairs mixed with bespoke upholstery on seagrass, give a nod to Mimmi O’Connell, wherever she is today.


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An iron four poster bed, hallmark of Mimmi's style. High contrast black and white.


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Traditional Mimmi: white walls, eastern chairs, blue and white porcelains, large, spare accessorizing

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The previous room seen from the other side. Large, tufted ottomans are often used as coffee tables.

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Heaven to Mimmi: rolled bolsters, blue and white ticking, plaids, iron furniture, seagrass. The striped poles seen in the corner are frequently used in her designs.

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High contrast black and white, iron furniture, highly edited spaces.

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Red is another favorite, as is wicker.

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Outdoors styling: black iron, oversized votives set a romantic atmosphere.


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Quintessential Mimmi: black iron canopy, white walls, ticking, plus white bedding.

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Her Italian country home in a restored school house.

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Mimmi at her best: symmetry, black iron, high contrasts, oriental furniture, tufted ticking, oversized accessorizing, baskets, corner poles, black iron curtain rods, and white wallss.

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Italy meets Zen.

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Port of Call merchandise: antique oriental furniture and accessories.

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Mimmi: iron day beds used as sofas, ottomans used as coffee tables, iron bistro chairs, ticking, tufting, garden seats, symmetry, oversized accessories.


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Again and again - her recognizable design.


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Here the architecture becomes the design: high contrast black paint vs. the ever present white walls, seagrass matting, reds mixed with black ticking.


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A Mimmi kitchen: eastern influenced chairs and table, eastern baskets and buckets, the plates provide the usual symmetry and black color, iron drapery rods, white walls, red checks for curtains.


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A departure for Mimmi: aqua painted chairs!!!!

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This room looks Rose Tarlow-ish to me. Notice how even in a library/dining room, the ticking is present, the walls are white, the symmetry is intact.

30 comments:

  1. Wow - I have never seen any of these images before. It seems so very un-British...and so current. Those iron beds are so popular now!

    Wonderful, thoughtful, and educational post.

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  2. Joni~
    This was an especially interesting post. I love the way you manage to be so educational without boring us. Great photos to illustrate everything! Love those black iron canopies.

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  3. I totally agree with the two previous posts ( Things that Inspire and Annechovie), I never even heard of this designer before. Thanks for the education! Love the look-strong yet,liveable.

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  4. how refreshing to see something different..........this is my most favorite post to date!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. I had to laugh. I'm redoing my living room, with white walls, tufted ottoman, black accents, seagrass
    ... All the time I thought I was copying Victoria Hagan.
    Who knew?

    Thank you Joni and Mimmi.

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  6. I've been loving things like this for years, and particularly think of this as a european look, but never knew her name. These rooms are amazing.

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  7. I had know idea about her, Joni! Thank you for introducing her!

    These rooms are gorgeous!

    Pat

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  8. Totally agree with everyone. Best post since the ash-colored villa. Love your gentle tutoring of details. And I can't help wondering how you discovered her and where images came from?

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  9. Joni, love this. I recognize at least one of the bedrooms from a book I have. You're inspiring me to go back through all my Caroline Clifton-Mogg books too, to hunt for more samples of Mimi's work :)

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  10. Thanks everyone for your sweet comments: like I said, I've been a fan for about 10 years, but never could find anything online. I hate to scan and the scanned pix never look as good as those from the interent. Searches came up nothing - forever. Then, I decided to do what I've discovered lately - aol search/google partnered is NOT google search! A pure google search is so much better than an aol search, it's a crime. Google search turned up her web site! Bingo! Thanks google, and I understand that Dogpile is even a better search engine than google. I wish i wasn't so lazy and would scan in some of her magazine articles. they're wonderful too.

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  11. Fantastic rooms! My favorite is the one labeled "Quintessential Mimmi"! Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Joni-
    Can't believe I have NEVER heard of Mimmi!!! I could move into that living room at the top of the post!
    Thanks for all of the great information as usual!

    Dana

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  13. on the border, by the seaDecember 2, 2007 at 10:40 AM

    Thanks, Joni, for all the work on this latest posting. Every photo is just deliciously clean French inspired rooms! What magazines? Please, tell with dates!

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  14. These are fantastic and the beds are all soooo wonderful! Thanks Joni!!

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  15. I agree with everyone, LOVE the post, and the fresh clean decor mixing with antiques. There is something marvelously timeless about ticking, it's sort of modern and reassuring.
    Thanks for your visit, by the way would you like to exchange links?
    xoc

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  16. Joni - jumping on the band wagon on commentors - these are fab. Thanks for the continuing ed.

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  17. I love, love, love all the photos of this designer's work. Great inspiration and great post Joni.

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  18. Thank you for these great photos and the education!
    I've been trying to get here but for some reason your blog loads very slowly for me and sometimes crashes my internet connection. :-( So forgive me for always being late!
    I enjoyed all the photos, really inspiring!

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  19. Dear Cote de Texas,

    Living in Hong kong - these mages are very relevant to me - I often see this look in expat homes - mixing east & west with heavy cottons - very elegant.

    Antique Chinese furniture is beautiful -and not always cheap - just go to a Christies or Sothebys auction in HK to know!

    I am right at home here - excellent & very educational post on a contemporary topic :-)

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  20. My favorite post so far!!! Love the aqua painted chairs!

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  21. Joni, what an incredibly beautiful and well-documented post. Thanks for bringing her name to my eyes (and ears). I love the look, the more I look at it! And I owe you an email! I just realized you emailed me about sconces and headaches and I didn't email you back about either!!! Bad me. Somehow your mail got lost and I saw it again last night. I feel terrible!

    I don't think I am ready for scones yet because my style is still changing every day. As soon as I am ready I will email you some pics.

    About the headaches, I have chronic tension type headache, meaning I have headaches almost every day, but have migraines about 4-6 days a month on top of that. Your poor hubby! It truly sucks. How does he cope??

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  22. Wow this was a great post with great photos. I was especially inspired by the outdoor styling and the antique chinese furniture. Very educational.

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  23. What a beautiful, wonderful post! So interesting to read and lovely to look at-- and I'm crazy about the the beds. And you're right--her style is definitely still going strong today.

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  24. Joni, Great, educational post. Love the black, especially the photo showing the two staircases. I would never have thought to do that traditional decor in black. It's so effective, where white would have languished.

    Ticking: LOVE. I had a seamstress make covers for all my down pillows with a zipper. When I grew up, mattresses and pillows had ticking. I love to see the ticking when we change linens. I want my den bath upholstered above the wainscoting in ticking.

    Also love the lanterns, big and black.

    Great post and thanks for the designer to research!

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  25. Hard to add anything else, all of the images were so divine! especially fond of the large lanterns around the pool if I ever have the opportunity to recreate that I will!

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  26. Gee, I thought I had left a comment, but probably not, now that I think aobut it. But I meant to! I really did! I love this look! I read this the other day and thought how great is this?!? Cozy, sophisticated, liveable, perfect! Great post Joni. Thanks again! :)

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  27. Joni, thanks for the introduction to Mimmi...her work is really eclectic and global.

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  28. I keep coming back again and again to look at all the details of these pictures. Beautiful!! Thanks again for such inspiring photos- as usual ;) Happy Holidays!!

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  29. Hello, I loved to read your article about Mrs O' Connell. I am lucky because I went to her shop years ago in the 1990's and I met her. She is a very beautiful and talented woman and has created a style that indeed has inspired a lot of designers. I began blogging a month ago and enjoy it. I will mention you in a future blog that I will write about Mimmi O'Connell. I have about 5 or 6 interiors from her that were published in European magazines. I will scan them and send them to you if you want.

    I also like very much Mac II. cheesy Rainer and the houses of Mica Ertegun.

    Wish you a nice time

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