interior design

Poems about Photographer Lee Miller

Jacqueline Saphra has written a series of sonnets about the colourful (even in black and white) life of Lee Miller: “A bargain with the Light, poems after Lee Miller”.  This book has 17 days left to sell a few more copies to raise the sum to publish it.  It will be in a limited edition of 300, each signed by the poet, and containing photographs by and about Lee herself.

Jacqueline Saphra explains what inspired her to write the book – unfortunately the still frame chosen does not reflect the interest of what she says!

Who is Lee Miller?

Lee was a pioneer – a New York model who went to Paris to learn how to photograph with Surrealist pioneer Man Ray (whose muse she became), a Surrealist artist in her own right, together with her husband Roland Penrose they were friends of Picasso, indeed hosting him on rare visits to Britain (where their young son famously bit the artist).  Lee also knew dark times as a survivor of childhood abuse, the obssessive love of an artist and her own work as war photographer including the liberation of Dachau concentration camp whose horror marked her.  An extraordinary woman in extraordinary times.  She both observed and recorded it in her camera but lived through it in a way only she could.

War Photographer

This video (below) takes you round the very exhibition which inspired Jacqueline Saphra to write the book of poems.  Our guide for this is none other than Katie Adie, BBC war correspondent, a TV broadcast journalist with a lifetime of reporting war and its atrocities.  She was a byword for covering the most difficult and dangerous overseas assignments – “They’re sending Kate Adie in” was a jokey expression in common use –  meaning that things in an area must now have become incredibly violent and dangerous if Kate was being despatched.  Because of her own career, it’s very appropriate that Kate Adie shows us around the War Museum’s exhibition.

Lee Miller’s house and Photographic partnership with Man Ray

Anthony Penrose, son of Lee Miller, takes us around parts of the family home and explains the photographic and personal partnership of Lee and Man Ray (he is recording this specifically for a forthcoming exhibition of Man Ray’s works).


Further Creativities:


I hope that by this point you are seriously considering purchasing a copy of the book “Bargain with the Light”.  If the poems and photos intrigue you to find out more, there are a few biographies of Lee Miller


Visit Farley Farm House in Sussex, where Lee Miller lived with her husband Roland Penrose – it has a wonderful address: Farleys House & Gallery, Farley Farm, Muddles Green, Chiddingly, East Sussex, BN8 6HW

Their house had many famous artist visitors who were also friends:Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington, Antoni Tapies, Eileen Agar, Kenneth Armitage, William Turnbull, John Craxton and Richard Hamilton  – and the house is full of paintings and photographs by not only Lee and Roland but by their visitors.  There is also a sculpture garden.

“For the most part the house is just as it was when it was occupied by the Penrose family. Lee Miller’s kitchen looks as though she has just popped out to gather vegetables from the garden and Roland Penrose’s study only lacks the aroma of his cigar smoke.” – House website



There will be a surrealist picnic at Farley House on Sunday 27th August 2017, 4-7 pm  – limited availability so you must book (£10 each) and you are encouraged to dress in a Surrealist way and bring surreal food:

Bring your own picnic, bubbly, blankets & chairs for a late summer’s evening in our beautiful sculpture garden with stunning views of the South Downs. Advance booking is necessary as tickets are limited.

Picnic Suggestions: Pink cauliflower breasts, blue pasta salad & Muddles Green green chicken.

Or what dish could you invent which would be suitably Surrealist?



You may want to feast your eyes on the house, to get inspiration for your own interior decor, colours and art.  Certainly the house is a great example of living with vast quantities of visual art and books in an interesting yet informal and at-home way.

Even if you live too far away to visit the house, Anthony Penrose has written a book The Home of the Surrealists: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose and Their Circle at Farley Farm House” (published last year, 2016)

Try writing a sonnet about someone whose life you greatly admire?

Make a Surrealist photo of a friend or a family get-together










Living in David Hockney’s Old Flat…. (4 minute tour)

Tchaik Chassay and Melissa North live in David Hockney‘s old flat – layout unchanged since he left…. to be fair, Tchaik was his architect and designed the space originally, beautifully.  It is gorgeous – see around, in this brief video (under 5 minutes) filmed for Apartmento magazine

Watching this film felt a little deja vue for me, because I’ve previously seen the flat in a documentary about David Hockney.  And it truly is very little changed.  Although one difference in the artist’s documentary was that a young, blonde David Hockney casually strolled along the hall naked, with only a towel.  (Those familiar with David’s work will (more…)

3 problems with open-plan living, and some solutions

There are lots of beautiful benefits of open planning:  increased light, a sense of openness and space, the cook is not separate from the living room, it lends itself to entertaining….  However, speaking from personal experience – I have lived in two open-plan houses – I’ve found 3 problems with open-plan or loft-living.  And you can’t see it from the glamorous photographs of such places.  The problems are:

  1.  untidyness
  2. smell
  3.  noise


  1.  Untidyness: there is no one room in which to hide the flotsam and jetsom of daily living.  Something on a flat surface making it look untidy is effectively making all three spaces (cooking/eating/sitting) untidy at the same time.  I haven’t yet solved this myself, but investing in storage furniture is a help, and especially using smart storage solutions in the kitchen area which also look appealing to you.
  2. Smell: burnt the dinner?  That smell will now drift across the dining area and into your sitting room also.  Opening windows and emptying bins frequently helps, as well as an extractor fan working well.
  3. Noise: this is the real downside.  Especially if you share the space with other people.  But even if you live on your own, the important thing is the noise of your kitchen appliances.  I once lived in a very swish (rented) house where they had skimped on the cooker – result: a huge, generous, glorious living space dominated by a prima donna oven which sounded like a Boeing 747 engine.  When the oven was on, the television sound had to be cranked up substantially and phone calls were impossible.  Two simple strategies (yes, involving money but trust me, it’s worth it): (a) buy kitchen appliances on the basis of lowest decibel levels while working and (b) invest in a cordless headphone set which can plug into your television. This last item means the living space can be peacefully shared with someone viewing loud sports events/computer games/Second World War Movies and someone sitting quietly doing a crossword.  It is also a real help to keep the peace if one person’s hearing means the TV is put up too loudly for others sharing the space.  Simply let the hard of hearing person have the headphones and listen at a level which is right for them, without deafening everyone else.