Cheerio in Los Feliz
Artist Lisa Borgnes Giramonti stamps her brand of old England style with a modern touch.
Artist Lisa Bourgnes Giramonti in the living room of her house. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
"I'm a huge Anglophile," Borgnes Giramonti says. "I've always wanted to go back to England, but it's not going to happen, so this is how I'm re-creating that."
And by "this," she means almost every aspect of her life: her Los Feliz house; her much-followed blog, A Bloomsbury Life; and her art, which involves presenting old-school embroidery as a modern-day form of social commentary. "Stitching Up the Noughties," a show featuring Borgnes Giramonti's twist on traditional 17th and 18th century cross-stitching, recently opened at the Acme Gallery in Los Angeles and runs through May 29.
With meticulous stitching on burlap, Borgnes Giramonti's pieces at first glance look like they would convey biblical verses or quaint homilies. But take a moment to read the text, and one discovers her reflections on a culture that genuflects to TMZ, "it" handbags and the quest for eternal youth. The result feels like Jane Austen took a ride through "The Hills." After reading about reality TV star Heidi Montag's plastic surgeries, Borgnes Giramonti wrote in one of her pieces:
When you grow up,
Who will you be?
A plastic, smooth divinity?
Or choosing age
and softened grace,
Reveal your life
upon your face?
"It really disturbed me that someone so young and pretty would feel that she had to so drastically alter herself," Borgnes Giramonti says. "And I wondered how a parent would feel gazing down at his or her sleeping daughter and wondering if her young face would be allowed the gentle privilege of growing old. It's not a given anymore."
Borgnes Giramonti has a similar Botox-free attitude toward houses.
"The same way a cast-iron pan has traces of all meals, a house has a sense memory of everything that's happened to it," she says. "You want to layer it with not just furniture, but with experiences."
Which is what she has done in her 2,500-square-foot house. She decided against major architectural surgery when she and her husband, Piero Giramonti, purchased it five years ago. Instead, she focused on blending London past with Los Angeles present.
"This house is like a little eccentric manor house. It feels like a Lilliputian version of Gosford Park," says Borgnes Giramonti, 46, who calls herself a "domestic explorer." An American born in Belgium, she has lived in Norway, Sweden and New York, but it was her time in London, as a child for two years and later as an adult with her husband, that have left the most lasting impressions.
She has imported those cherished influences throughout the house. In the kitchen and breakfast nook, she used Scottish company Timorous Beasties' Thistle HS wallpaper and upholstered a bench cushion in a tartan. The decorative cherry on top? A Union Jack pillow nestled in the corner.
"I was thinking of the Sex Pistols meets Vivienne Westwood meets country manor for this room," she says. "I can be here even in July and feel like I'm in the north of England. I find a palette and then I don't worry too much about all of the pattern matching."
Although each room seems to have its own collection of objects and colors, the visual through-line is literary.