Muriel’s Musings: Colour Matters

  • Posted on: 19/04/2019

Coffee in Dalys

Yoohoo… I’m over here in the corner on the velvet covered seats reserved for Glasgow ladies of the most stylish disposition. I have just ordered another cup of coffee, Kenyan High Mountain, they get it in pour moi. I always think it is good practice to have a working relationship with one’s waitress. The danger otherwise is that one finds oneself at a table by the Powder Room or with a view of “Ladies Knitwear” and, much though it pains me to say so, it can attract the wrong sort.

I am sure you know what I mean, the type with “birthday money” and a hole in their pocket, with dreams of a flat in Hyndland, anxious to try on a cashmere twinset to see it they might cut a dash. Unfortunately a Scottish Borders-made twinset tends to lose its impact when worn with dyed platinum blonde hair and a chiffon scarf failing to hide three curlers still in at the front. Still that is the democracy of the department store I suppose. At least from the corner one can survey all the comings and goings. I took the liberty of ordering you a fruit scone.

Back from the Big Smoke

I have spent a few days in London seeing what is what in the way of colours and fashion for the coming seasons. I can tell you Polka Dots are in and belts have “made a return to fashion headlines” too, which is not necessarily good news for the more mature among us. Most are wide and decorative, rather like older women. Leather and suede is de rigueur and all colours are available. Noticeably buckles are mediocre, but I have already seen some rather nice handmade copper buckles in Edinburgh. I recommend the work of Mr Hugh MacLeod in Princes Street, he is a real craftsman.

The other big feature of this season are gloves of many different colours. Vogue has a feature this month. I suppose at least gloves take the emphasis off the waist. and I do love gloves. I treasure my dear Grandmamma’s kid gloves. As someone said to me this week, “Muriel a glove owned by a family member contains their imprint and one can connect with that”. I can connect with that too – it’s like taking her hand as I did when a child.

Looking ahead to the summer holidays, I am rather surprised by a trend when has already been featured by the B.B.C. that favours beachwear worn with woollens. “Nothing” they say, “says the British Summer like a sweater worn with shorts.” Furthermore, “who would think of going on a caravan holiday without packing an Arran turtleneck or a “daring Fair Isle?” Well me for a start! I wouldn’t go on a caravan holiday if you paid me and tell me honestly have you ever seen a daring Fair Isle? I am not even going to comment on the “wool two ply for dining and dancing.”

A Challenging Commission

I do rather need this coffee as I will have to cross the Clyde later to see Lottie. You know – Lottie Macaulay, wife of the Bungalow Builder and Cement King. She has commissioned me to design her new bedroom. To this end I will have to make regular trips to “the South side” . This is never easy for a Kelvinside Lady.

Regrettably on my last visit Mr Macaulay was at home, though he did not emerge from what he calls his “den” as he and Mrs Macaulay are not speaking. On more than one occasion I have had to escape Mr Macaulay’s clutches and sprint round the three piece suite. He has horrible grey hands. I suppose it’s all that cement dust. No wonder Lottie Macaulay wants her own “arbour of tranquillity”.

Outdoors – Indoors

We have decided on an outdoors-indoors theme. I persuaded her that Eau de Nile would be the best colour from which we should work, as Forest Green might attract insects. Against this will be some ornamental trellis work and silk flowers. The main focus will be a swing hammock in rose printed bark fabric, echoed at the windows. The wash hand basin will be in the form of a bird bath.

Lottie is a good client and has paid a substantial deposit for my services, but really she is as dim as a Toc H Lamp. She asked if she should get Percy Thrower to come in October or March to trim her bushes.” “Lottie darling” I said “these will be handmade rose bushes, with petals cut from the finest Japanese silk, wired and covered in gutta percha”. Anyway Jasper always says in Scotland it’s best to prune in March.

Strange Dreams

I must say I have been rather busy since my return from London. I had to attend a meeting of The Scottish Furniture Manufactures’ Association which was being opened by Lady Isabelle Barnett, who sent a message from David Jacobs asking if I might be a guest on What’s my Line. I had to speak on how I have given up the Queen Anne and discovered the ‘sticky oot leg’. I have subsequently heard that it is being considered a tour de force and that many a hardened French Polisher was moved to tears.

One has written to me saying that he had the strangest dream that night, and it might have been the devilled eggs, but in his dream it was 60 years ahead and that petite moi was now known as “The Queen of the Mid-Century Look” and that men with skinny trousers, beards, work boots and electrical sanders were selling my designs to people who lived in old biscuit factories in Bermondsey.

He also dreamt that there were TV programmes (not on ITV I trust) hunting through rubbish dumps for Muriel lamps and in jumble sales for ‘Chez Nous’ fabrics. It seems his dream ventured into nightmare when he added that Mrs Travers’ aprons would fetch astonishing prices and Jasper’s Museum in a Shed became a national obsession. I doubt it somehow, but so sweet.

In Such Demand

I received a call from the Secretary of State for Scotland  this morning asking if I could “do something about Scottish Industry”. “Well” I said, “it is obvious to me that we are using pre-war machine tools  to produce post-war products and nowhere is this more obvious than in the furniture industry.” “Unfortunately”, I said ‘the you-know-whos’ in the last Unpleasantness didn’t bomb the right bits” whereas we had bombed their right bits and now they had new factories and would soon be competing with us on every level.”

He quite agreed with me as people tend to do and wondered if I might call round this evening. I said this was not convenient as I am taking Grace who does some of my heavy work to the cinema to see Gigi with Leslie Caron as it has just won 9 Oscars. I have promised to call in at St Andrews House later next week when I visit Edinburgh and the George Street branch of ‘Chez Nous’.

The Power of Colour

He has asked me to consider colour as “an aid to lighting in the factory” and as “a stimulus to morale and output”. It is of course quite simple, not that I am going to tell him that. Firstly in terms of interiors and light reflection, white reflects 90% of light whereas grey, green and blue return 50%, they are in short – light robbers.

In terms of mood, we do not fully understand the impact of colour, but the terms “browned off” and “feeling blue” are used for a reason. Cheerful shades make for better workers. I am all in favour of orange and yellow. Cadbury’s, the chocolate makers, are very advanced when it comes to factory colours at their Bournville plant. They know that light pastels are best but pillars should always be darker as this psychologically says “support”.

A Love of Pineapples

Talking of colour, I popped into the Lady Artists’ Club, in Blythswood Square this morning, where there is an exhibition of Still Life and abstract work. The critic in the Glasgow Herald says that “all too often all woman shows err on the side of a rather empty, if not amateur pretension”. Well I shall be sending a strongly worded letter to the editor for allowing this sort of thought in correspondents. Male of course. Having said that he does at least agree that this exhibition is an exception and that Maud Sumner’s Still Life with Sea Urchin is “charming” and Rosemary Cameron’s Abstractions are “evocative”.

I particularly liked Mary Fedden’s Yellow Still Life and Thelma Carstensen’s Still Life with Pineapple. I adore pineapples, and I don’t mean the tinned cubes or rings. My family on the MacCavity side were among those who tried to bring them back from the West Indies where they farmed and even grew them here on their estates after a fashion. One of my ancestors even had a Pineapple renting business. We have always been entrepreneurial.  To the Georgians they were a symbol of hospitality, as I believe they still are in parts of the land across the Pond.


“Thank you Mrs Wylie. I did enjoy the film Leslie Caron is wonderful as Gigi and Louis Jourdan is so handsome.”

“I quite agree Grace, he can leave his slippers outside my room any day.”

“Oh Mrs Wylie you are naughty!”

“Well Grace it is 1959, after all I have a nephew who is very theatrical and I have adopted the sticky oot leg as the new look for furniture. I have become contemporary.”

“In that case Mrs Wylie can I tell you something?”

“Of course Grace”

“You are aware that I come originally from the West Indies?”

“Yes of course and it is so nice to have that in common, as my ancestors were also in the West Indies, planting things and trying to send pineapples home.”

“ We have more in common than you think Mrs Wylie, you see the MacCavity fortune built on fast boiling sweets and dental surgeries was built on the work of my people, but we did not choose to do it. What is more Mrs Wylie your Great Great Great Grandfather is also mine, we are cousins.”

“But Grace you are…….”

“Yes Mrs Wylie, I am also not suited to suede belts or caravan holidays.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

April 1959