C is for Cat’s Cradle Chair

The working drawings for the design of the Cat's Cradle Chair were made by Edward James in 1936, following a suggestion by Salvador Dali. Also known as the Hand's Chair, it was produced specifically for James' residence, Monkton House, on the family West Dean Estate, near Chichester in West Sussex, which he transformed into an extravaganza of surreal fantasy.

James had begun experimenting with interior design during his time at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Betjeman, Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton, in 1926. Waugh would later commemorate these years in Brideshead Revisited. Here James painted walls purple and hung them with silk and contemporary posters, alongside imitation 17th century tapestries. His curtains were a William-and-Mary design in red. In the mid-thirties he continued to transform Monkton House with incongruous juxtapositions of dissimilar objects, including the Mae West Lips sofa.

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Monkton House

Monkton House was originally built by the British architect Edward Lutyens for William James in 1902. The hunting lodge which was given the James-Dali treatment. The brick-and-tile house was transformed into purple and green and the clock tower showed the days of the week, and not the hours of the day. Edward James worked within the structure of the original Lutyens house, but with the architect Christopher Nicholson, his assistant at that time, Hugh Casson and Norris Wakefield, he transformed it into a Surrealists hermitage. Additions included an aquarium for tropical fish, visible through a glass-panelled bathtub and also through a porthole when ascending the stairs.

In 1986 when Monkton House was put on the market after Edward's death, it was publicly acknowleged to be Britain's most remarkable example of environmental surrealism.

James and Dali collaborated on a number of ambitious projects for interiors including the Mae West Lips Sofa and the Lobster Telephone, each feeding off the ideas of the other. With the passion of an artist and his imagination, rather than practicality, James created some of the most successful and harmonious examples of avant-garde architecture and interior decoration of the 1930s, a hybrid of the theatrical and the surrealist state of the marvellous.

Laz Pozas

Edward James led his life as if it were a creative activity from his interior designs to the creation of a 'Garden of Eden', Las Pozas, deep in the Mexican Jungle.

Edward James embraced the avant-garde. In an interview a couple of years before his death James said,"One is an eccentric against one's own will…(It is) something one is born with".

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