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Christmas Creep


I do love Christmas but if I start getting into it too early I feel like it will spoil the specialness of it.  The downside of ignoring it until well into December is that all the early birds have snatched the juiciest worms and what's left can be a bit meagre.  Yesterday I had to pass through the wonderland that is the John Lewis xmas decorations department, relentless Christmas music and all.

On impulse I decided to have a proper look and was really taken with some of the things I saw - I even went so far as to make a few purchases.  Most people who are interested in design and interiors tend to go through an internal battle each year, prevaricating between adding to and enhancing their existing decorations and throwing them over completely and going with something totally different.  There are now so many different looks you could go for that you could spend a fortune each year if you wanted to ring the changes.

I prefer to stick to a core look but add a few new pieces to keep it fresh and up to date.  The things I've chosen below, I think, will go with most looks from very traditional to Scandi and a big area in between.

Let's start big with this LED lit tree that can be used indoors or out.  The bright white base will only look good if it is indeed outside in the snow.  If you have any old tester pots hanging around you could spend 10 minutes painting it in almost any shade of browny, beigy, grey and it would look much better.  They are priced at £95 or £50 depending on size. The image on the site is better than mine, so click on the link below my image. 


If you have space on shelves and tables or a generous window ledge, you could do a lot worse than fill it with one of these natural wooden laser cut buildings which are lit by LED lights.  This is the double spire church at £15:


This train station is also lovely as so many of us associate Christmas with arriving and leaving:



Keeping with this lovely woody look, I succumbed to a few of these glitter stars.  They are generously sized at 40cm and really well-priced at £6 each.  I think I might use them on the doors in my house.  They could even work as an alternative to a wreath on the front door, especially if you live on a street (as I do) where passing late night revellers (sounds so much better than drunks!) might decide to swipe it. 


A lot of my existing decorations are glass and mercury in silver and gold.  I really love these glass pieces in a much warmer bronzy brown shade and I think they'll add an interesting touch to my mantelpiece.  It is also quite an inexpensive way of adding some height to a Christmas display.  The trees come in two sizes, 30 cm high at £15 and 38cm high at £18.


I'll pick up the lovely warm brown colour in the glass tree with one of these rather fine looking sitting reindeer (£8, 16cm high):


If you, or indeed I, start to feel that it is all perhaps a bit muted, we could have some fun with some lovely colour in a particular area of the house - a landing, the utility room or downstairs loo or in a child's room.  These oversized paper baubles would provide quite a bit of bang for your buck.  They are a larger, brighter version of the kind I remember from childhood.  They are 42cm high and are £6 each.


Hope you're not too horrified at my making you think about Christmas in November and that you can benefit from a little foray into the decoration department while there is still lots to choose from - maybe wear some earmuffs though to block out the Christmas music.


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Drinks but no Dinner


I'm not doing terribly well on my Boot Camp blogging.   Just managing to read all the fab ideas but not implement them.  Never mind, the peaks of work are usually followed by troughs, or at least brief periods of relative tranquility, so I shall put some of those ideas into action before too long.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a current small obsession, that of home bars.  Not the kind where someone actually has a bar built in a room in their house - a look that is very hard to pull off if you don't happen to live in LA - but the more casual, improvised kind using a tray or a shelf or, if you're really going for it, maybe a trolley or a cabinet. 

It's perhaps a slightly surprising obsession for me to have as I don't ever drink alcohol myself but I do love the idea of the lifestyle a drinks trolley suggests.  To me it is a sign that you are the kind of person who invites friends round for drinks and has friends who will just pop in for a drink and a chat.  I don't know about you but I don't seem to have the knack of this.  I tend to feel I have to invite people for dinner which then turns into a bit of a big time-consuming and expensive event which, by definition, you can't do too often.  The creation of my drinks trolley is the first step on the road to introducing my new policy of short and sweet social gatherings.

The contents of my drinks trolley, image above, are just things that I had to hand.  The actual trolley is a rather lovely vintage French piece from my stock ( http://www.kittyfishersfinds.co.uk/view_post.php?postid=1000000035 ).  When that's sold I'll just transfer my drinks to a tray on my sideboard, also a perfectly good look.

In the image below from Beckwith Interiors, Nashville, USA on Houzz, they've put a simple shelf to good use:

Below, most of a cabinet is given over to a drinks bar.  Lots of cabinets would lend themselves to this.  This one is from Houzz, Tim Cuppett Architects, Austin, Texas, US

If you want to create your own bar but don't think you have the spot for it, I think you should take inspiration from the two images below.  The first one is a snap from a shop display in Anthropologie.  They have created a little bar on a mirror - a lovely bit of improvisation.  The second image is from The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman - a lovely, encouraging book you might like.   As the image is so sketchy it may help give rein to your imagination when looking round your own home for a good spot for a bar.



When it comes to accessorizing a home bar, once you start looking, you will see that there are masses of lovely, glamorous possibilities.  Here are a few that I particularly like because they are stylish or witty or both: 

 Chicago Bar Accessories from John Lewis priced between £23 and £40

Hammered bar accessories from John Lewis priced between £7 and £40
I love the fun of these accessories:

  If you search "decanter" on the Anthropologie site you'll find several candles in shapes that would look good on your bar and add a bit of fun.  Here's one to start off with:

Is a duck decanter from Zara Home a step too far?  Each of us must answer that question for ourselves. Available in store - hurry while stocks last!

Just in case this post comes across as an advert to encourage the consumption of more alcohol, let me also suggest you check out this video on YouTube - Every On-Screen Drink in Madmen - where even the suave and beautiful people in that world look rather sad and needy when they overdo it.   



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Cambridge Snapshot


I am aware that a lot of my posts, ok, all of my posts, are quite wordy so this is a post that will consist mainly of images.  I spent the weekend in Cambridge with one of my loveliest, closest friends and her lovely family (you know who you are, Charlotte - Andy, Peter and Rose ).  I don't get to go often enough and when I do I am always blown away by how gorgeous it is.  There is so much stunning architecture that I could have spent the whole time snapping away with my friend's superior camera, instead of eating ice cream at Benet's and having my "cackle" admired by a seven year old.

I settled for some quick snaps of glorious and intriguing doorways (I love doorways and gateways) and a few improbable creatures. As promised, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Clare College

Gonville & Caius College

Great Court Trinity College

Great Court Trinity Over Gate

Trinity College

Doubly intriguing gateway...

Improbable Creatures in Cambridge:

Hope I've reminded you how lovely it is, or, if you've never been, I hope I've planted the idea of going.


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Meet My Prettier Friend


I feel today a bit like a rather plain girl who is introducing her boyfriend to her somewhat prettier friend.  I'm proud and pleased to introduce her but a little bit scared he might like her better.  From a list of twelve possible homework topics set by my blogging course I've chosen the one that suggests I talk about one of my favourite blogs in my field.  I was always intending to share this with you (honest), as it would have been mean not to, but maybe a bit further down the line.

The blogger and blog in question is Annabel Bird at  http://insideology.com/ A quick glance at the home page will show you how beautifully presented and well-organized her site is.  It manages to be decorative and packed with information without being at all cluttered or distracting.   

For me Annabel's blog is one of those that sets the bar on the standard of posts I'd like to achieve.  Her posts vary in length but not in quality.  She takes great photos but does not rely too heavily on them to make her blog interesting - she has so much more to say than, Isn't this lovely? 

When I'm asked what a blog is by people who don't read blogs (such as my mum and my sisters) I usually say that it is a bit like a magazine article but on the internet.    I realize that this is a very lazy definition that omits a crucial element of any good blog:  That is the notion of the personality, voice, opinions and world view of the blogger. On Insideology these things come through very clearly in each post.

It is at times uncanny how often her views echo my own.  Quite often she expresses beautifully things I've thought in a rather fuddled way - see her post http://insideology.com/2012/09/26/class-war-and-cushions-in-the-english-home/ for a perfect example.

She is generous in what she shares about herself, from her struggles with her KLC course to her guilt about loving old episodes of Poirot, and in the practical things she shares, such as a great piece of equipment or a good source.

She demonstrates her trust in her readers by showing them examples of her work that she doesn't think are perfect but knows will interest us.  Her reward is that we are interested and we trust her right back - a lesson for those of us who are still finding our blogging feet.

I love her incisive book reviews because she is not trying to show us how clever she is or even sell us the book, rather she is trying to help us establish whether this is a book for us.  That is what I mostly want to know from a book review.

Anyone who visits London really would do well to read her posts as the city figures very largely and she helps you to see it through her eyes.  Having read her post on Claridges I now feel I could go there without fretting that I do feel a bit like a country mouse in a palace.

Inspiring is a much overused word, I use it sparingly for fear of diluting its power.  Insideology truly does inspire me:  It makes me want to go places and do things.  It makes me feel less alone in many of my views and reminds me that what so often passes for the norm in the world of interior design is not, in fact, law.  What more can one ask from a blog?  Thanks Annabel!

Here are some images from Insideology:

See London from Annabel's perspective:


One of the delights of Liberty store in London:


A London treat, Claridges:

A sample of course work Annabel shared on her blog:


Sharing her feelings (we've all been there):


If there is a blog that any of you really like I'd love to hear about it.


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Not a Boot Camp Kind of Girl


My blogging life seems to be speeding by even more quickly than my real life and that is going by at a terrifying rate of knots.  I can hardly believe I've been blogging for four months now.  I've managed to keep to my fairly modest aim of blogging once a week and have really enjoyed doing each post.  I feel like I've got to grips with the practicalities and technicalities of blogging and can afford to be a bit more adventurous with my posts.

To this end, I've signed up for the Blogging Your Way Boot Camp.  I'm definitely not normally a boot camp kind of girl,  but as the course is run by Holly Becker of decor8 and I survived her basic course, I know I'm not going to end up trying to do press-ups with my face in a muddy puddle, whilst being shouted at by a guy in uniform.  You can find Holly's blog on:
Over the next month I will be trying to impress my teacher with interesting and varied blog posts - I'm hoping you'll be impressed too.  Do feel free to comment on the posts as we go along.  I'd be glad to have your feedback.  

I'm constantly taking photos and making notes about things that I think may be of interest but when I write up a post I like to be at my desk at home.  I thought you might like to see where I am when I'm posting a blog.  This is my study:

The desk was supposed to be temporary.  It is made up of two Ikea metal office cabinets and a red glass table top from Habitat that used to be in the kitchen of my old house.  I've grown to really like the expanse of warm red that brings out every little bit of red in the rest of the room.  I've also borrowed a fab chandelier from my stock that saves it all from looking too cheapy and makeshift.

By the way, that isn't me sitting in that chair.  That is just a cushion with a woman's face on it.


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Buy Art Fair Manchester


I couldn't be mistaken for an art expert but I took myself along to the Buy Art Fair last weekend, as I am always on the look out for interesting, attractive and appropriate things to adorn the walls of clients' homes.  By appropriate, I really mean that I'm hoping to hit upon artwork that will reflect some aspect of a client's personality or history; perhaps it is something rooted in their own culture, or ties in with their hobbies and interests, or maybe just illustrates their particular sense of humour.  That way, a piece ends up being more than just decorative and takes on a deeper meaning which will intensify the pleasure of owning and looking at the work.

I'm unlikely to help anyone buy a work of art that they can count on for their pension pot, but I aim to help them choose a piece that will give them great pleasure for a long time and may become a treasured family possession.

With all this at the forefront of my mind, these are the pieces that particulary stood out.  Perhaps you can conjure up an image of the kind of person who may find these appealing and in what setting.
The first works to catch my eye were these paintings by Laurence Amelie Schneider. According to her gallery entry, she paints what moves her, which seems to be fabulous flowers and frocks.  If I also say that she uses rather a lot of soft, if not totally pastel, colours then you might pigeonhole her work as being a bit sugary and suitable for little girls' bedrooms only.  Whilst many of her pieces would fit that bill, paintings of tutus being an obvious candidate, I do think her work would look stunning in many more grown-up settings.  I'm particularly drawn to her large canvases which I think would have a big impact without being overwhelming.  She works with acrylic paint on canvas, using a technique that she learnt from her father, Swiss abstract painter Gerard Schneider.  Wish my dad had taught me something as cool as that - how remiss!  

You can find her work through the friendly and helpful Lucy Berridge:
A shot of her work appears in the rather inspiring and much reviewed book, Creative Walls by Geraldine James. 

The photographer who created the beautiful pictures for that book, Andrew Wood,  was on the stand as I took this snap - I never said I was a photographer: 

The works seemed to be priced in the low £1,000s

From frocks to coats - well, a lot of my clients are women and they don't apologize for liking frocks and coats.  The Buy Art Fair tries to cater for all pockets, so if you can't stretch to an original painting, you might go for a screenprint like this one by Adam Hemuss, bearing the pleasing title, 24 Coats.  He was represented by Art Dog London:

 Priced at £200 unframed
These pencil drawings by Hondartza Fraga changed the mood quite drastically.  They look beautiful displayed like this,  unframed as a grouping.  Her work is definitely worth a closer look:

Couldn't see anything so vulgar as a price tag

A slightly sinister and somewhat mischievous note was struck by these works by Alison Erika Forde.  Would they give a child nightmares?  I can imagine Lemony Snickett fans being drawn to these works.

Fit the title to the image: Bearly There, Beauty Ritual, Bloody Stump.

Priced between £700 and £850

This is the artist's take on an Alaskan Shame Pole.  Apparently these are created and used to shame debtors who don't pay up.  The person who is owed the money puts such a pole outside the house of the debtor.  Better pay that paper bill....

These two images by Yu-Chen Wang, who was born in Taiwan but lives in the UK, combine the botanical with the mechanical.  An unusual pairing that is surprising and interesting.

Yu-Chen is connected to the Chinese Arts Centre in the Northern Quarter:

Priced roughly around the £1,000 mark framed.

So much of the success of a piece of artwork in the home depends on choosing the right piece for the right spot.  What looks ghastly in one place can look stunning in another.  Many galleries and artists will bring work to your home for you to see in-situ.  You shouldn't be afraid to ask for this service, as it is the most likely way to lead to a happy outcome for all concerned.


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Add an Autumnal Glow with Zara Home


It's been a beautiful sunny day in Manchester and I dragged my partner out from behind his desk for an hour just so we didn't let it pass by completely uncelebrated.  Still, there is no escaping the fact that Autumn is in the air.  I do love Autumn.  I much prefer winter clothes to summer ones - mainly due to not having to expose pale skin or grapple with fake tan.  At home I love lighting candles in the evening (or the afternoon on dark, damp days) and making things glisten and glow.  

While I was in London on Tuesday I took the opportunity to pop into Zara Home.  I love their homewares and can't for the life of me think why they don't have them in more Zara branches:  Manchester would be the perfect place for them - Zara please hear my plea!  Anyway, I spotted some lovely accessories that are pretty affordable and would look super in candlelight - not my only selection criteria but a good start.

These glasses, with their substantial gold rims and nice shapes, are pretty and useful:

Only spotted these two on the website. Priced at £5 and £7 each: 

The glasses would work well with these glamorous trays, both with foxed mirrored bases and pierced filigree silver sides.  I love both these shapes but I think the octagonal one just has the edge:


Mercury-style glassware really comes into its own in the winter.  It's been fashionable for some time now and most people have some pieces in their home, even if it's only a tealight holder.  I think it is timeless, as a bit of glamour and glow never goes out of fashion.  These canisters are in a richer, warmer tone to the usual silver of mercury glass but would work beautifully with your existing pieces:


This openwork box is made of resin and looks like it is covered in lots of tiny beads.  I think it would go really nicely on a coffee table or on a hall console as a place to put your bundle of keys:


If you are keen on timeless pieces - I like to make sure I spend most of my money on them for obvious reasons - then mother of pearl is a great choice.  Is it my imagination or do mother of pearl photoframes flatter the image?  I also love this box - think I have a thing about boxes.  




I hope there are some things there that you might like for yourself or to give as a gift to some lucky person.  I'm off to light some candles and enjoy the glow.


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Decorex 2012


I spent a long and quite happy day in London yesterday.  As if to confirm all cliches about Manchester weather, I left home in sheeting, relentless rain and arrived at Euston to a sunny welcome.  The sunshine was wasted on me for most of the day, as I spent several hours roaming the stands at Decorex, an up-market interior design show held annually at Royal Hospital Chelsea.

I have to confess that my main motivation for visiting this fair each year is that I want to quell the feeling that I'm missing out and all the interesting interiors stuff is happening in London.  My natural allegiance is with the Bennett girls in Pride and Prejudice who are sneered at for their provincial fashions.  In reality, in the age of the Internet, it is not hard to keep abreast of the latest developments and product launches.  The provinces do not have a monopoly on dated interiors and bad taste - London can hold its own there.

That said, it is an interesting, often inspiring, exhibition.  The amount of time, money and effort put into each stand by the exhibitors is quite touching, if that is not too sentimental an adjective to apply to some of the most expensive furniture and interiors companies in the land.  However fancy the company, (and they are not all fancy, many are struggling to get established and others struggling to stay in the game), there is no escaping the fact that some people in that company will have worked really hard getting ready for the exhibition and then they, or others like them, are working really hard on the stands to ensure all the effort pays off.

The high price tags associated with most of the pieces on display tends to mean that it all feels rather serious and, I hate to say, pretty stuffy.  I couldn't help but feel attracted to those stands that had a more relaxed vibe, even if their wares weren't necessarily the most affordable.  Once you start looking you notice that there are actually quite a lot of stands that aren't too uptight and I've covered just a few.

Probably the most photographed thing at the show was this shameless eye-catcher from Christopher Guy.  A company, which according to their website, is responsible for the interiors of  many a swanky hotel, showroom, and even film set - hence the sense of drama perhaps:


I enjoyed the wit on this stand where the pieces are striking and cheerful, though not, I suspect, cheap - you can't have everything:



The MissPrint stand was a breath of fresh air.  I love their lamp shades and cushions but haven't yet had chance to use their wallpapers.  I could picture their style working beautifully in a girl's bedroom, or being used when the playroom needs to be a bit more of a grown up hang-out, or a relaxed creative studio set-up....mmm.


When I spotted the Pinch Design stand I realised that I often admire their furniture when I see it in magazines.  I love the way it looks modern and original without trying so hard to be different that it becomes quirky.  It is serious, well-made furniture with personality.  My photo doesn't do it justice so do check out their site:

An old favourite of mine was the Graham and Green stand.  I'm often really grateful to them as a place to go to get affordable, really usable, good-looking pieces.

The panel wallpaper works beautifully with their stuff:


I concede that the Helen Green stand was neither relaxed nor witty, though quite friendly, as were all of the exhibitors in this blog post.  However, I do like a glamorous and understatedly luxurious bedroom and, for me, the lovely shapes and finishes of this furniture really fit that bill.  It's the kind of furniture a woman might aspire to in her thirties and possibly afford in her forties.  Look at the lovely curves on this dressing table:

I love the elegance of these chests of drawers:


My final mention from Decorex is just to share with you/remind you of the wonderful Chloe Alberry.  There doesn't really seem to be anywhere else where you can choose from such a good selection of beautiful knobs without spending a small fortune.  Thank goodness for them:


You can find out more about Decorex from their website.  It is a trade show but they do have a day when they are open to the public - think it might be tomorow but there's always next year.



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A Bed Worth Making


I don't know if it's mild sleep deprivation brought on by being woken too often by hard rain on the velux windows, but I've been thinking a lot about beds recently.  I see so many that are very bland and rather uninspiring.  Antique French beds can be so attractive.  Doubles are relatively easy to find and are great in spare rooms and, I think, for children's bedrooms, where they are great for sleepovers, can do double duty as guest beds and will still be suitable after the chick has flown the nest.  Single beds and twin beds (not as rare as you might think) are, of course, also great for kids' rooms.   It makes me wonder why more people don't buy antique beds that are bound to have more character and, more often than not, more style. 

It's probably not the cost because, on the whole, they don't tend to cost more than a new bed.  I don't think it is because people don't like the style as reproductions abound.   I  think it may be a combination of fear of the unknown and the fact that you so often see them "in their juice", i.e. before they've been restored and smartened up to suit their new owners.  You do sometimes have to be fairly determined and have a good imagination to see past smelly, dirty fabrics and grubby paintwork.

If you can see past these factors you could end up with a stunning bed that will make the modern versions look pretty cheap and shabby.  I thought it might help if I gave you a bit of guidance on what to consider when looking for a bed.

Firstly, check that you are buying the whole bed, i.e., headboard, footboard and the two sides.  Sometimes the sides have gone astray.  This doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't buy the bed but it should be reflected in the price, as you will have to have these made and they will be lacking the originality you're after.   I should also mention that if you would prefer the bed to be longer, you could have the sides re-made in a longer length but keep the originals safe in case you sell it on in the future.  Also, check that the original bed bolts come with the frame - these can be surprisingly hard, though not impossible, to find.

Secondly, if the frame looks grubby, try to ascertain whether it needs re-painting or just cleaning.  If it needs cleaning you can probably do it yourself at the cost of some elbow grease.  If it needs painting, and you can't do it yourself, you'll have to factor in that cost.  The upside is that you can have it painted in the colour of your choice.

Thirdly, if it is upholstered it is likely that it will need re-doing.  Clearly the more upholstery there is, the more it will cost to do.  If you are on a tight budget you might be better to stick to beds with no upholstery or with just a headboard to upholster.  The classic French corbeille bed, with a rounded headboard and a rounded footboard both covered in deep buttoned upholstery, is probably going to let you in for quite a bit of expense when it comes to reupholstering.

Finally, don't expect an antique bed to automatically come with a base.  They almost never come with the original base and they work perfectly well with very simple wooden slats - rather like Ikea beds used to be - which a joiner can easily make for you.  The comfort of the bed is mostly in the mattress you choose.

I don't tend to stock many beds myself but often find them for clients.  Here are a couple of my favourites: 

This is a beautiful king size bed.  The frame is painted and gilded - both the paint and the gilt are beautifully faded.  It just needed a little bit of cleaning and, of course, reupholstering in a suitably luxurious fabric.  It really adds character to a room that has few architectural features:

The bed below is a relatively unusual style which keeps it from looking at all cliched or boudoir (if I'm allowed to use that as an adjective just this once).  I like the fact that the end is open but still has those low posts which make it clear that it isn't just a headboard attached to a base.  The finish of the frame is quite distressed; it retains enough gilt to make it interesting but the gold is a lovely aged shade.  Only the headboard needed upholstering which kept the cost down:

I love the bed I found for this boy's room.  It looks quite masculine and super smart.  It's a good size and could see this little boy into adulthood.  As both ends are decorative on both sides and are the same height it could also be used later as a day bed:


I thought this was a nice example of a painted Louis XV-style bed in a traditional but pretty setting.  The wood on these beds is often so beautiful that you won't want to paint it but they do look good painted.  They look very dramatic painted in darker, more daring shades.  It is hard to find king-size versions of these but they do add a real punch to a guest bedroom.  The one below is from:


I thought I'd show you an example of a basic slatted base so you can see how simple it is to make if your bed doesn't come with one:

There are a great many places on the internet where you can find antique beds from very DIY affairs on ebay to very pricey sites that will deliver a totally restored bed to you and everything in between.  Here are a few sites to start you off:




If you do decide to go for a reproduction make it something truly original in its own way like this from the ever imaginative Squint:


Sweet dreams.


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High Street Blues


Here's a nice blog post for you if you are on a budget (or not), want to update your accessories and love shades of deep blue.  I've felt quite cool towards blue for a number of years now but the deep shades (cobalt, indigo, denim, navy) that are around at the moment have slowly won me over.  This week I've been in a few high street stores and thought I'd pass on to you some of the pieces that really caught my eye.

One store that often comes up with good pieces at incredibly good prices is BHS.  This season they have several attractive accessories but these three items are particularly noteworthy, as the colour is on trend and would add a contemporary touch to a room.

Skandi Photoframe £8:


Blue Earthenware Vase £25:


Three Tealight Holders £15:


Good old John Lewis (as it is so often called) can always be relied upon to come up with desirable accessories.  They usually have a pretty good selection of cushions but, with one notable exception, their current stock of blue cushions doesn't do much for me.  The exception is this gorgeous Andrew Martin one at £60 that's been around for a few months now.  It would look quite unexpected and really wow in a sitting room or add glamour and fun to a bedroom:


For a more traditional take on the blue these lamps are nice examples of their kind and very reasonably priced at £60 and £45:


The other striking blue items in John Lewis all come under the heading of kitchen and dining.  This Kitchen Aid would be an expensive though very beautiful ornament, but if you were thinking you might need such a thing it might as well be as gorgeous as this:


You might not want to ditch your perfectly good casserole dishes for pricey but lovely Le Creuset but you might stretch to a couple of these mini versions or the versatile pots. They don't seem to be on the website but they are around £13 in store:

If your everyday crockery has got one too many chips in it (no breaking things deliberately, that's cheating) you might consider these spots or stripes:



A few pieces from the Design House Stockholm range would look very smart and be a pleasure to use:


Interiors magazines and Sunday supplements often glibly advise updating your cushions every season  as a cheap way of freshening up your home.  Given the price of a lot of cushions and the fact that you usually need several this could easily add up to hundreds, which is why I'm always delighted when I spot really nice cushions at very low prices.  M&S have some good candidates at the moment at £15 and £20.  The colours in this one were so perfect for my sitting room that a couple of them made it home with me:


I picked up a couple of these striking blue on off-white flatweave runners at Ikea about two weeks ago now and they were selling them off at half price but had plenty of them (reduced from £30 to £15).  They are 80cm wide x 300cm long. They are called Bolbro.  I've folded the end under and put two together to make an area rug.  I've not tried to hide the fact that there are two and I think it looks fine. 

Just those two purchases, the butterly cushions and the Bolbro rugs, have really refreshed the look of my sitting room.  Not bad for £60.  Just need to find the time and energy to paint those walls a darker colour.  Dark enough to make the room feel cosier and show off my things a bit better but light enough to keep the landlady happy.  I'm favouring French Grey Dark by the Little Green Paint Company at the moment.


My final high street blues finds are from one of my favourite stores in all the world, Anthropologie.  It's a little unfair because they are not exactly on every high street but if you do go to London (or New York, fat chance!) it is a shame not to visit.  I'm cheating a bit here because I spotted these items ages ago but two of them are on their website and the third, I think, was only available in store but is a bit special and worth knowing about.

This piece is really fun for its shape and motif.  Note its 5cm depth which would mean you could have a really striking flower arrangement with relatively few stems.  What a great gift this would make:


This lovely vase made it home to my mantelpiece (and injected a bit of je ne sais quoi into a client's cloakroom):


I love the quirkyness of this vessel (vase?) from Anthropologie.  I think it was around £130:

Hope there's something amongst those items that really grabs you as they grabbed me.


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Book Recommendation: London Style Guide


Hope you all enjoyed the bank holiday weekend and didn't allow the rain to get in the way of a good time.  I was lucky enough to be invited to a rather fabulous birthday-cum-garden party that could have been a mud bath but ended up being bathed in sunshine.  This summer has left me so weary of being anxious that the weather should be fine for special events, that I find myself just wishing Autumn would arrive and put an end to any overly-optimistic expectations.

To the matter in hand.  Despite being very much a city girl, I always used to find London quite overwhelming and exhausting.  It was only when I started to heed the advice of people who knew better and treat the city as a collection of villages that I really was able to get to grips with the place.  If you want to explore London an area at a time (the only way to cope with it, in my view) then this is the perfect book to help you do just that.

The author, Saska Graville, is a Londoner who knows her city really well and sincerely and generously wants to share the places she loves with others.  Not only that, but she also gets other Londoners to share their favourite places.

Each chapter of the book covers a different area of the city and opens with a simple map of the area being covered.  The subtitle of the guide is Eat, Sleep, Shop.  It is telling that, whilst these headings are well covered throughout the book, not every chapter covers all three of those topics.  She hasn't tried to shoehorn in a hotel in every area just for the sake of the structure of the book.  Clearly, if she doesn't love a place, it doesn't make it as an entry - very reassuring.

Each chapter ends with an interview with a Londoner in which they are asked very specific questions about the places they love and use and are inspired by.  Each interview contains around 10 questions and the interviewer approaches the subject from different angles with the result that even those  who may have been tempted to mention places that made them look cool or sophisticated  have given some revealing and informative answers.

Having said that, the Londoners in question are mostly pretty cool people anyway.  Many of them own very trendy small businesses focusing on fashion, interiors or food.  There are a couple of well known interior designers (Kit Kemp, Abigail Ahern) and a property developer who was involved in the restoration of St Pancras, Harry Handelsman. 

I know quite a few of the places that are featured and many others have been on my list of places to go for some time.  The lovely photos make me want to go to so many places that I might need to consider relocating.   

The guide packs a lot into quite a compact book.  Just about small and light enough to carry around:

Each chapter opens with an introduction to the area and a simple map:

There are dozens of very individual and independent shops.  These two are in Islington:

I definitely need to pop into this pub in Kensal Rise for a drink and a gawp at the decor:


40 Winks B&B in Shoreditch has long been on my hit list.  Need to book well in advance though:


The interviews with Londoners offer lots more insight:

This is such an interesting, varied and accessible guide that I think it will prove indispensable, once purchased, for Londoners and visitors alike.

If you like to buy online you can pick it up very reasonably at Amazon and Waterstones:   



Take a chance and buy yourself a copy.  If you don't love it, you will know someone who will.


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Ikeatastic: Rugs


Love it or loathe it, you probably have to agree that Ikea come up with some pretty good, occasionally really good, products at very reasonable prices.   My focus today is on the rugs they have in store at the moment.  The right rug is so hard to find if you are on a tight budget.  If money is no option, your main problem is choosing one from the array of gorgeous designs that are out there - you need only take a quick peek at The Rug Company website to get an idea of the beautiful rugs available.  However, good-looking rugs tend to come with a rather high price tag that can put them out of the reach of most folk and often means that people decide not to use a rug at all.

When I was in Ikea a couple of days ago I was most struck by the Rand design which I felt like I'd been seeing around for ages and hadn't really registered that it was from Ikea until a visit a few months previously.

As it turns out there is a very good reason for that:  Madeline Weinrib, a purveyor of rather lovely but fairly expensive rugs, does a very similar version of it called the Buche.   The Rand rug, and the Buche, have featured in many a roomset in magazines and on the internet.  I've got at least a couple of images stored in my own files.  I'm sure the Buche will be a better quality item and Madeline Weinrib will also make them in just the size you want, but as a budget version the Rand doesn't look half bad.  Here's a close-up so you can get an idea of the texture:

Here is the link to the Madeline Weinrib Buche:

And here to the Ikea Rand
It gradually dawned on me (I can be quite slow) that the similarity in these two rugs can't have struck only me, so I did a trawl on the net this morning and came up with this excellent blog post on just this matter from two years ago!  Check it out.  You may be inspired by the variety of settings it is shown in:


Another Ikea rug that wouldn't look out of place on the Madeline Weinrib site is the Alvine Ruta, pictured here:


Both the pattern and the colour are fashionable at the moment but also quite timeless - everyone's favourite combination as noone wants to spend money on a flash in the pan.  The yellow is quite ochre in tone which I think makes it easy to live with.  The link below to Houzz.com shows it in a couple of different settings, though I'm not totally convinced about its placement, it does add interest to these rooms.

If you fancy a bold design but don't want to commit to a colour, you might consider the Lappjung Ruta (you've got to love those names):

It doesn't have the greatest texture but it makes a bold statement, without being overpowering, is square rather than rectangular, which can be useful, and is an amazing price:
If you're feeling like you want to be bold with colour, there are quite a few strong candidates:  I'm really enjoying the vibrant and bold blues that are having a moment and I could see Ikea's blue Triangel rug working beautifully with some of the blue accessories in Designers Guild. Would be a bit more of a financial investment but have lots of impact.


Check out their site for inspiration on how to put the look together:
Too much blue in the Triangel?  What about the Eivor Cirkel in blue? (not keen on it in the red):


Will just end with a couple more colourful examples that may just float your boat:



If you prefer something very traditional and think Ikea isn't for you.  Take a look at this photo of one corner of the Ikea rug department and see if it gets you thinking they might be worth a look:

Please don't count the number of times I've used the word "rug" in this article.  Can't think of a true synonym and don't want to torture the language by getting round it.






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Don't Hide it Away


Hope you're all enjoying the warm glow cast by the sunshine and the success of the Olympics.  There is such a holiday mood in the air that it seems noone should be working at all at the moment.  If you are working, I hope it is as rewarding as the job I was doing this week.  I spent a very happy afternoon overseeing the implementation of a scheme for a playroom-cum-music room.  It is so lovely to see imagined rooms made real.  One detail of the scheme triggered the subject of this post, which is that of displaying musical instruments.

Most musical instruments are so attractive that it seems a shame to hide them away.  I took this snap just after we'd hung the vintage articulated wall light (to light up the sheet music for the pianist) and the three beautiful violins:


I seem to have quite a few clients with musical talent and often get to use guitars, especially in the bedrooms of young people.  I was particularly pleased with how well this guitar went with the other elements - can't claim to have chosen the desk etc. with the guitar in mind, any guitar would've worked, but it does coordinate uncannily well:

The guitar in this image packs a great punch in this young boy's room.  I also like it because, as in the images above, it really injects something of the personality of the user into the room.   The image below is taken from:
http://www.housetohome.co.uk/childrens-room/picture/modern-boys-bedroom  A good site for getting ideas and a taste of a variety of interiors magazines.

The display and positioning of this cello is really rather clever:  The box base is very simple but looks secure and though this is quite a large instrument. by positioning it next to the window it doesn't feel like it impinges too much on the room.  The chair and the music stand are also lovely pieces - music stands so often are rather beautiful.

This image was taken from http://www.houzz.com/      A site that covers such a variety of styles it is bound to offer something of interest but should be used with care for that reason too. Definitely worth a look though. 

One of the trickiest instruments to accommodate is the drum kit.  I'm just grappling with one at the moment.  In the absence of a free spacious corner in a room, I think the set up below is worth considering:  Have the drums (or percussion instruments) next to the wall and have the drummer sit facing the wall.  This means that you don't have to leave room for the drummer to get in behind the kit and you could also keep and use the stool in another part of the room  when it is not in use.  I would seriously consider adding a wall mirror here so the drummer can see the room rather than just the wall. A device often employed for piano players in bars.

The image below was taken from  http://remodelista.com/  An excellent source for interiors inspiration.  The designer is Annabelle Selldorf:


Finally, if you or your child get fed up with a rather attractive drum kit you may like to put it to good use.  This is such a simple and clever idea by designer Rebekah Zaveloff:

As for pianos, well that is a whole other chapter.  I think I'll leave those for another post.



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Art for All Including the Small


As the long school holidays are now well underway and the rain is still falling at regular intervals, I thought I'd proffer a suggestion for a day out with the kids indoors.  When I was a schoolgirl I'd occasionally spend the lunch break (we called it the "dinner time" then, but I digress) wandering around Whitworth Art Gallery which was on the same road as my school.  I would happily have spent a lot more time there but I never felt very welcome or comfortable and seemed to be viewed with suspicion.  What a shame and what a far cry from how galleries view visits by children now.

This week, at the instigation of a switched-on client, I visited Salts Mill (Saltaire) in Shipley, Yorkshire.  It's a very large and rather attractive mill (not at all dark, satanic or forbidding) and it houses art galleries, focusing on David Hockney, shops and cafes.

My visit rather reminded me of the ad campaign run by the V&A a few years ago:  Great Cafe with Museum Attached.  I went on a Tuesday and the main gallery was closed so I spent most of the time in the diner and the shops.  It was not a great hardship.  

We started off with lunch in The Diner.  This is not a place to visit if you're feeling a bit delicate or hungover:  It is noisy and full of life and colour.  You'll see in the photo that primary colours, beloved of children, are used in the chairs, light fittings and in the artwork on the walls.  Even the lovely fresh flowers on every table were in varying colours.  The background noise is that echo and clatter associated with a big canteen but the food and table service are not at all canteen-like.  Everything we ate (burger, fries, salad nicoise - not saying who had what) was really tasty and nicely presented and the service was friendly and efficient.

The book shop next to The Diner is one that couldn't fail to appeal to you if you enjoy my art and interior design.  They had lots of my favourite interiors books and a few I'd never seen that looked interesting - it was a struggle to restrict myself to one reasonably justifiable purchase.  The books in the other sections seemed to have been chosen not just for their content, which was interesting and varied, but for the beauty of their covers.  The poetry section was particularly gorgeous and I would have loved to have bought whole collections of titles, so stunning would they have looked on a bookshelf.  I was worryingly drawn to a book of poems about murder but I managed to restrain myself.

Perhaps of most use for your interiors is the section of the shop that sells good quality prints of some of Hockney's work.  The client I mentioned allowed her art-loving 11 year old to choose a poster for his room and he chose a piece that was as perfect for the room as anything I would have selected. 

There is another huge area on the floor below this book shop which has art exhibited on the walls and books and art supplies for sale.  There seemed to be quite a few interesting shops but there is a limit to how many shops I can drag my man around before he starts looking distressed.

The very lively, colourful and excellent diner:


Great bookshop:



Love this palette table:

My best effort at an external image of the mill:

Titus Salt, the man who built the mill:

 I do hope you can get there, with or without children, but best go Wednesday to Sunday so you don't miss the main event.



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