Down a cobbled back alley in the heart of East London, set designer Tony Hornecker lives, works and plays in an environment that he continually reinvents, edits and adds to. Twice a year his live/work space turns into The Pale Blue Door, a dining...
For over seven years now Tony has invited the public into his secreted-away abode. The floor is swept, tables are laid, cutlery polished and candles lit as the magic begins with a soundtrack of personal favourites wafting in the air. At first it's hard to know where to look, as the place is adorned with seemingly endless ramshackle detail... A crinoline hanging from the skylight, pre-loved dolls, abandoned paintings, a disused telephone, glitter balls and chandeliers, shoes that could tell a few tales, all held together against a framework of roughly nailed together wood.
From the back of the room Tony Hornecker appears in his chef apron, knife in hand - he's prepping his set menu, a starter of beetroot, tomato and feta salad. In some other life Tony tells me he trained as a chef, although in his real world Hornecker's name pops up on fashion and installation hit lists. He did Ashley Williams's spring/summer 2017 show. He also built numerous sets for Lou Stoppard's Mad About The Boy installation at LCF last year. His work has taken him near and far, travelling to (amongst others) Bogota to set up his unique environments.
The Pale Blue Door has travelled across six countries. Friends and fans of London-based The Pale Blue Door take the trip enthusiastically, returning year in year out. They relay stories of past dinners that have turned into adventure stories. Samara Tompsett, a fellow set designer and prop-maker, was there at the beginning, "I came in one day and Tony proclaimed that he was going to open a restaurant in the house. We began making menus, receipts, Tony wrote poems to describe the placing of each table and what the experience might be like to sit there. There was a bit of planning, but when we opened we just went with it, it had a life of its own. I don't think the menus, receipts etc. got used after the first night. We weren't expecting to do more than a few nights, but we did a hell of a lot more than that!"
As the evening unfolds, diners take their seats and wet their whistles with a little something from the makeshift bar, decanted wine, perhaps a G & T, the show begins with performances from drag artiste A Man To Pet. In between courses a tale unfolds to much hilarity. As this is Christmas, a surreal story develops with Tony's entire team doubling up with cameo roles. If it's your birthday, be prepared to suddenly become the centre of attention!
What is the secret behind The Pale Blue Door? When you enter its realms you are immediately transported into something otherworldly. Tony Hornecker's passion is part of its story and when you join you become part of the substance of the place - in essence part of The Pale Blue Doors' captivating legacy.
So, what are you waiting for? Book yourself a seat at the table now.
Photography and film by Joseph Wilson