What Spring Means to Us
Katherine Crum is Chartreuse & co's Buyer and visionary. She transforms and curates the barn each month alongside Virginia for our events. She is incredibly talented and brings to life the meaning of Spring. Katherine, what does Spring mean to you?
For me, spring is all about one, single color: green. Vibrant, muted, and everything in between. This season, all other colors are relegated to the role of demure attendants, for green is the color of life, and, in its essence, that's precisely what spring is: rejuvenation. This month is all about stepping back out into a lush world as it renews itself. Get ready for verdant vines, colorful blossoms, and curious little creatures just waking up from their long slumbers. For myself, I often take inspiration from history, and I've got my eye squarely set on three (admittedly) very different historical inspirations, all coming together to bring to life one awesome aesthetic for the greenest of seasons.
The first aesthetic centers on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. An ancient Wonder of the World, legend has it the hanging gardens were born from a king's adoration for his queen. Babylon, this legend tells us, was centered in a desert clime, but the king's new bride had been born amongst mountains towered with green -- flowers and trees and verdure wherever the eye fell. The queen was desperate to see her beloved greens once again, and -- employing the greatest engineers of the day -- the king decided to make her dream a reality, transforming his city of brown and red into a world brimming with living color. Expect vines, blossoming flowers, ornamental trees, and skies of streaming blue (oh, and that just-right pop of indigo as a nod to Babylon's famous lapis lazuli-toned gates).
The second aesthetic is the bucolic world of Georgian/Regency/Napoleonic England. The outdoor world of Jane Austen (and, yes, I am not immune to the iconic visual influences of 2005's Pride & Prejudice and 2020's Emma), the English countryside, was dotted with charming stacked stone walls, trees of ancient provenance, little lambs springing about on wobbly new legs.
Architecturally, the glory of Baroque-and-Gothic Burghley House; the moving Jacobean cues of Groombridge Place and Chavenage House; the stately Neoclassical lines of Basildon Park House, Chatsworth House, and even Firle Place. Most inspiring of all, however, is the conversation between interior and exterior as embodied by this setting: doors and windows thrown open to invite enchanting breezes, cotton high-waisted gowns that swirl in the breeze, brilliant-hued ribbons uniting straw hats to pretty heads for outdoor excursions (upon which, no doubt, your star-crossed lover will come striding across an early dawn meadow to profess boundless adoration, once and for all). This is a world of sweet pastels, of sumptuous textiles, of tarts good enough to make even Paul Hollywood drool, and -- perhaps most of all -- of a profusion of wildflowers bursting into a cacophony of exquisite bloom.
The third inspiration (I swear, this is the one to tie the others together!) is an intrepid explorer. This person, (who I conceive of as a scholar/archeologist in the mold of the unforgettable Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell,) lives her life in two worlds: one, dust-covered, ivy-strewn, sun-soaked, seeking out truths long forgotten. Her dig sites are studied, expert. With her hair tied up, she dons her trousers and pops stylish glasses on. She means business. Standing with her hands on her hips, her curious gaze drinks in the splendour of bygone eras. She is sophisticated, charming, perceptive, and utterly unstoppable, bringing back ancient knowledge from the past to the world into which she was born.
At home, her world is a library, a dinner party, a museum. It is the roaring '20s, the glitzy '30s, the bold '40s. This second world is adorned with books dating back to Mr. Bennet's own library, boasting pressed flowers of vinca and poppy fame; crackled-leather, wingback chairs of crimson; handwritten letters sport exquisite penmanship; her desk is scattered with papers, with artifacts, magnifying glasses, cabinets chock full of ancient and scientific curiosities; her maps date between now and the ages when the likes of Cyrus the Great ruled within the walls of Babylon. In her dark-paneled library, she puts her field experience to work, scrambling up ladders to unearth a body of books that will help her locate her next discovery, unfurling a legion of rolled maps to plot her next adventure's course. She peoples glamorous dinner parties in her best attire, illuminating her friends, cultivating supporters, and extolling a future bright with ancient wisdom. She strolls authoritatively through her museum, her shining eye alighting upon art, artifact: the preservation of knowledge her intrepid, curious soul has enabled. Here, she once again finds herself up a ladder, helping to lovingly place her latest find at an apex where all the world may view the once-lost treasure; here, she gives speeches to eager crowds, offering a glimpse into the daily life of days long gone, momentarily stepping backwards in time.
In her person, our intrepid adventurer unites time and place: the ancient majesty of Babylon; the rolling hills of Napoleonic England. When she has a spare moment, she walks into the verdant meadows dotting the countryside and lies in the sun upon a checkered tablecloth, a simple picnic lunch ready to hand. Her world transmutes to a bouquet of wild grasses and florals, springing to life all around her. She smiles, the softest of laughs on her pink-toned lips. "Here comes spring!" She's ready for a fresh adventure.