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Have you noticed how many things that were absolutely finished have proved to be anything but obsolete and are now really rather fashionable in our lives and homes? Remember how cinemas were going to die out when the DVD (or VHS machines for those of us of a certain vintage) came along, or when records were taken over by tape cassettes and then CDs and then music was just simply downloaded. And finally the beloved book was going to be replaced with a kindle or tablet or phone. Thank goodness that none of these predictions have come true and indeed we seem to now have the best of all worlds available to us as LPs make a huge comeback, cinemas thrive (in fact most of us seem obsessed with not only going to the pictures but trying to recreate both the surround sound and the size of the screen at home) and books sales, including eBooks, flourish. How wonderful to have choices and to not lose the old, whilst embracing the new.

I am well aware that I am a sucker for books. I have always loved them and seeing a well presented, personal collection of books really does lift my heart. Just occasionally I encounter a home without books – more often this is a holiday cottage or a guest room where the owners just haven’t thought to leave any books – and I am surprised how characterless it can feel without them.

Presenting your books is a somewhat trickier business than you would imagine. I like to think that being able to access your books (by which I mean comfortably taking them off the shelf) is crucial to good usage of your collection so you need space in front of them to get to them, a good orderly system that means if you remove a few tomes, the whole row doesn’t fall over and some sort of order to where things go (subject matter, alphabetical etc. – but more of this later). The late lamented Karl Lagerfeld was a notorious book collector with purportedly over 300,000 books in his collection. He claimed that he had no room left in his house to collect anything other than books and he stacked them high and sideways (if you look at ‘Karl Lagerfeld book collection’ in google images, you will see what I mean). Whilst this was typically dramatic, I can’t think that if you are searching for that one book that you need, you are going to be able to easily lay your hands on it, or indeed extract it from the bottom of the pile should you stumble across it.

Displaying books so they look good is a different matter (and I suspect presentation was high in Karl’s mind but I could be doing him a disservice). I think books of similar heights work well on bookcases and not having too much wasted height between the top of the books and the shelf above is generally an aesthetic bonus. Fortunately, types of books (novels, cookery books, gardening books etc.) seem to have approximately similar heights as I have witnessed regularly in bookshops so you can make your collection look good and still have some sense of order. I have occasionally seen books arranged by colour of spine (in overly stylish interiors magazines) and this seems a step too far, unless of course you really can remember the colour of the spine of all the books you own so you can find them again, in which case you may need to get out more, as indeed does the arranger of books by colour.

On a more practical note, a client of mine made a very good and obvious point, when you think about it, that if you put children’s books low down where they can reach them, or better still use a bookcase where they can see the fronts of them, they are more likely to be tempted to get them out and read them. And not just in their bedrooms, in communal household spaces too – it may be a long shot to think that a book would catch their eye and they might end up reading rather than watching telly – but it is surely worth a try.

For similar reasons, I am a very big fan of books in bathrooms and kitchen – we tend to think that books don’t really live in either room (apart from the collection of current trendy cookbooks arranged ostentatiously within an open wall unit) but I think they should. I have an ever-changing selection of books in my bathroom which I browse when bathing and a large bookcase in my kitchen which I like to think distracts me from eating, although unfortunately this is one bit of multitasking I do seem to be good at.

Of course, an actual library in your home is a wonderful thing – to have a calm space, surrounded by books, comfortable reading chairs, appropriate lighting is a slice of heaven, but I think that libraries can be created even if you don’t have a room to allocate to it, as most of us don’t. A dining room can double up beautifully as a library, as can a spacious landing or hallway, or sometimes just a corner of a room with well-designed built in bookcases can give a library feel and add interest to a room. Thinking about how best to house your collection of books – precious or otherwise – will mean that you get the most from them and they will add character and familiarity to your home.

And just a final thought for you which is perhaps not totally interiors related but is a reminder to you from me, just as a book lover. We all love Amazon. We like the speed, the price and the Amazon delivery person arriving on our doorstep with exactly what we ordered. However, I am going to say to you what I regularly say to myself. Try to resist, or at least, try other approaches as well. Bookshops are magical, wondrous places and feeling the book in your hands, sampling its contents at your will and looking at its pictures will lead you to books that you would not necessarily be drawn to online. And whilst I am doling out advice that I am not qualified to give, I am also going to encourage you to think about second hand books – a book with a rich history, an interesting smell, a heritage is an individual object that only you have. Really, I would defy any who truly loves books to enter the Amnesty bookshop on Mill Road and not leave clutching a purchase that feels like an absolute treasure.

This article first appeared in Velvet Magazine 

The Chapel, Harrogate

Somehow Rightmove knows that I like looking at properties that I can’t afford and they recently sent a real peach of a home in their weekly email. I have spent rather too long gazing at it and googling it, so I am now passing on that baton to you. It is a glorious Grade II listed converted Methodist Chapel and I think someone has done a great job on the restoration and creating a beautiful and creative dwelling within.

A balcony from one of the bedrooms overlooks the main living area

I love the pendant light which has just the right proportions for the space

A brave and beautiful colour that emphasises those glorious windows

You can just see parasols hanging from the ceiling – I love it!

The Chapel is currently for sale through Strutt and Parker and there is also a website with yet more delicious pictures to view at thechapelhg1.com/

Home Front

The February edition of Velvet Magazine is out and it is looking lovelier than ever! Here is a little taster with the contribution from Angel and Blume.

Drowning in stuff? Cate Burren reflects on the ever-increasing number of possessions we have in our homes.

‘I tried hard to resist the temptation to raise the topic of decluttering our homes at this time of year – it seems as big a cliché as offering diet tips or holiday ideas – but then I read a truly compelling article about the average number of things we have in our homes and it has stayed with me ever since. Go on, guess how many (think books, DVDs, shoes, teaspoons, general stuff in drawers – each thing counts) keep going, keep going – ok, I will tell you. 300,000. My initial reaction without really thinking about it was that I don’t have nearly that number of items but when I started to count, I was less sure. In the name of research, I have been testing the number out on those around me and several people have been unsurprised, or guessed a higher number. One of my colleagues was utterly unmoved when I revealed the answer to her and announced that she thought her husband had 100,000 items in his shed alone.

Of course the right reaction would be to think that we can’t possibly need 300,000 items in our homes and the truth is that we don’t, in our modern world most of us have just ended up with too much stuff. Before I move on, I’ll just hit you with a few other eye-openers along the same lines. These are my favourites but there are loads to choose from:

• The average American home has more TVs than people (2.86 sets v 2.44 people) and I’ll bet we are only fractionally behind them.
• British children have an average of 238 toys but regularly play with just 12
• 1 in 10 Americans rent a storage locker, some of which are abandoned and dismantled when the rental invoice isn’t paid. (My husband did this before he met me – twice – and I am ashamed to say that I am far more obsessed with what was in the storage lockers than I am on questioning him about any other parts of his previous life).

Image by Peter Bennett Photography

I think I have made my point. The question is, short of binning much of what we have worked so hard to accumulate, which doesn’t really seem to address the problem anyway, what can we usefully take from this for the future? I have pondered this recently, mainly on the way to the Milton Recycling Centre, and my thoughts are as follows:

1. Much has been said already about the throw-away society we are currently in and I think that this in absolutely true in our homes. Shops like Ikea, Homes Sense and T K Maxx allow us to buy things for our home cheaply, which is good, but does lead to us to not buying the right item in the first place, something which will last, can be repaired/mended in future, that we can to take to future homes and then pass on to others. We buy items on the basis that we will probably throw them away when we find, or can afford, the item we actually want. It is hard to wait, save up, make the right choice and then keep the item for a long time, but it is much the best way to do things. Buying quality and keeping things doesn’t de-clutter our homes but it is ultimately cost effective and better for the planet. It also means that we have something we like in our homes rather than an interim piece which we don’t really like and will probably stay with us for longer than we originally intended.

2. If you have decent quality items (and sometimes even if they are cheap to start off with), you can have them mended when they are worn or damaged. I am constantly amazed and delighted to find craftspeople who can undertake repairs to items that we think are beyond help. In Cambridgeshire alone, we have Restorers, French Polishers, Seamstresses, people who will repair enamel on baths, people who will repair metal work and so on. Just as it is worth buying something you like to start off with, it is worth repairing something you like rather than immediately thinking of buying a new one.

3. I think we often buy something new because it makes us feel better – it’s a treat – but we justify it by saying we need it. As an example, I constantly buy books (interior design books, cookery books, novels etc.) when I have shelves heaving with books of each type that I haven’t read yet. Stopping ourselves before we buy anything – books, clothes, toys, tellies – and asking ourselves if we really do need it or whether we have something in the home already that could be used – may produce surprising results.

4. Often we have things in our homes that we feel we can’t get rid of because they have sentimental value, or because we are storing them for other people (children are a primary example). It is hard but I think you have to be strict on this. The home should be for the people in it, not a place to store items that are not wanted by the inhabitants. Be creative with how you do this to avoid upset. e.g. ‘We are going to sell Great Auntie Margies sideboard that she loved but is not quite our thing and buy a picture we do like to remind ourselves of her’ or ‘We love you and support you but we don’t want to house your childhood teddy bear collection any more – can we help you to move it to your (trendy minimalist) flat?’

5. Don’t immediately bin things – so much can be released back into the wild. Many things can be sold if you take a little time and make the effort to find the right place. It doesn’t have to be Ebay, which is useful but labour intensive, places like The Curtain Exchange, Willingham Auctions and Cheffins Antique sales will all give you honest advice on the item and will do the work for you, for a fair share of the proceeds. In addition, giving decent quality items to charity shops (try think of which charity could make best use of the item you are donating) will make you feel good and will genuinely help others.

I am sometimes guilty of giving advice that I don’t always follow myself (do what I say, not what I do) but I was actually so shocked, and frankly depressed, by what I read about the amount of stuff we have that I am determined to make changes to slowly reduce what I own. I have a feeling it will be rather liberating.’

Interior Design Classes

We have a whole new format for our classes this year with sessions on Friday and Saturday mornings. We have five to choose from (not including the Christmas special at the end of November!) and if you are able to attend one or all, we would love to see you.

We are covering a range of topics that people have asked us for in the past and areas of interior design that we know are tricky. Things like planning your new bathroom or kitchen, sorting out your lighting, selecting your colours and thinking about how you want your home to look and work.

The classes are being held in our studio at 17 Emmanuel Road and we are only minutes from masses of restaurants and shops so you can make a day of your visit to central Cambridge!

In all areas, we hope to simplify, inform and to have fun. So whether you are planning a minor update, a major project or you are just interested, there are lots to choose from. More information, dates and times on the website.

We look forward to seeing you!

Happy New Year

A very Happy New Year to you all. I hope you had a good Christmas break and are settling back well into old and new routines. At Angel and Blume we are all marveling at how clean and fresh everything looks now the Christmas decorations are coming down and with that in mind, I have been starting to think about freshening up our website.

We were very busy at the end of last year photographing a few of the projects we have been working on recently. One of the first to go up on our website is this beautiful central Cambridge home and you can see more images on the portfolio section of our website.

This spacious kitchen dining room has a wonderful view of the newly re-modeled garden and a stylish and practical table and chairs from Joined and Jointed looks great in this space.

The glorious sitting room window is not only a lovely place to sit but is also a huge sash window that pulls up to allow access to the garden – a discovery we were rather thrilled to make!


The clients had some lovely photographs taken by a member of the family and these worked beautifully in the study room along with a statement sofa and rug.


We love designing children’s rooms and this was no exception. Animals were a bit of a theme here including a rather fabulous Love Frankie Leopard Walk lampshade.

Watch this space for more projects to follow as the year unfolds!

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very happy and restful festive season and a good year to follow, from everyone at Angel + Blume.

KingsRowChristmas-1KingsRowChristmas-3.jpg

Images taken at one of the homes at King’s Row, Ely, a development by Palace Green Homes. Interior design and show home by Angel + Blume. Photography by Peter Bennett.

Article by Cate Burren, of Angel + Blume, for Velvet Magazine (August 2018)

Cate looks at the thorny question of whether big is beautiful when it comes to the house you choose to live in.

Velvet Magazine (August 2018)

When choosing a house to live in, it is tempting to default to the premise that bigger is better. Those forays into the estate agents windows when on holiday or a sneaky glance at Rightmove when you have no intention of buying, tend to end up at a castle with its own fishing rights, or an extensive double fronted Georgian townhouse, imaging how idyllic life would be if one where the master or mistress of such a property. But I think it doesn’t take much of a reality check to imagine the headache of assuming responsibility for such an undertaking. Some years ago, Channel 4 followed Sarah Beeny as she wrestled with owning the crumbling 97 room stately home Rise Hall. The series started with the dream of paying £435k for an (admittedly crumbling) palatial estate where children and friends frolicked in the extensive grounds but quickly moved into revealing just some of the headaches of restoring and maintaining such a home. Beeny was brutally honest and managed to achieve an astonishing restoration, although the property is now used as a wedding venue in order to make it viable. The compulsivity of the viewing was about putting yourself in her shoes, with faint jealousy turning quickly to admiration then private horror at what was entailed, which included time away from family, legal battles, relentless hard graff and the requirement for a bottomless pit of money. This is obviously an extreme case but owning a large (even moderately large) home comes with cost consideration, and not all of them are monetary.

Christ Pieces from Cambridge Council via Pinterest

At the other end of the scale smaller homes and apartments, which make up so much of city centre housing, requires a different approach to living. You don’t have nearly so much maintenance, repairs, cleaning, general outgoings and responsibility for a property. You do however, rely on good public facilities which are vital if you are live in a compact space. A well maintained park nearby can become a fantastic alternative to a small or non-existent garden. My experience of close proximity to Christ’s Pieces is that it is better than any garden I have ever owned, or will ever own, but I had no idea of the investment required by local government to keep it that way. The Lido is a brilliant alternative to having your own outdoor swimming pool – admittedly you would never have to queue to get into your own pool but at the same time, you also don’t have to maintain it throughout the year. The same can be said for going to the cinema versus that fabulous media room you are just dying to build in the basement – and so on.

Jesus Green Lido from Pinterest

There is no right or wrong to how much space you want (I am not talking about the space we need which is an entirely different debate) but I think the ‘bigger is better’ assumption can be naïve and could lead you to a home that is too big and therefore not what you really want at all. So how do you decide how much space you do want to live in?

 

1.First of all, as with designing the functionality of any interior space, the question of what you are going to use the space for is crucial. Many of us have, for example, built wonderful extensions to our property only to find that parts of the old space become somewhat redundant as we gravitate towards the wonderful new parts of the building.

 

2. We all like to think we love the people we live with but how much time you want to spend with each other in the same room is worth considering. My experience is that we all live very differently – some people love being in close proximity at home and others much less so. It’s a personal choice but needs to be recognised.

 

3. How much space are you going to use for storage? Being honest about what ‘stuff’ you have, and want, in life is vital. The honest truth is that if you are a bit of a hoarder, you are going to need more storage and therefore more space.

 

4. I am always interested in how spaces can be used flexibly because I think we often end up with too many rooms (not necessarily too much space which is different) because we assume that rooms can’t be used for different things or by different members of the household. For example, you may well have lots of guests to stay sometimes but you don’t need to have endless guest rooms that are unused when a guest isn’t in residence. If planned well, a guest room can double up well as dressing room, a study, an additional sitting room/TV room and so on.

 

5. What public facilities are nearby and the quality of them makes a huge difference. This is not just true of urban spaces. Recently some friends of mine moved into a similarly sized house to the one they were leaving but with a much smaller garden. They are now in the middle of the countryside rather than the town which they enjoy and use regularly the surrounding rural space rather than a garden they would have to maintain.

A Guest Room/ Study Combo from Terry’s Fabrics via Pinterest

Owning any property takes some level of time, money and headspace, however small. If you are the homeowner, you can’t ring a landlord when something goes wrong. And it is a sliding scale – bigger may or may not be better, but there will certainly be more for you to do. You may well want the responsibility that comes with owning a huge house but it is worth taking the decision that it is what you want before committing to giving up the level of resource required for the ownership of a property without realising what is really involved.