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An article from Velvet Magazine that appeared in February 2020, to hopefully distract us for a few minutes from Coronavirus!

Cate Burren of Angel and Blume Interior Design shares her enthusiasm for incorporating flora of all types into our homes.

I am currently rather in love with a giant fiddle leaf fig tree that is sitting in the Colefax shop in Pimlico. Like a splendid work of art, it catches my eye every time I go in there and it is fortunate that it does not seem to be available for purchase as I have neither the cash nor the space in my home to buy a plant that is significantly taller than me and heralds from the heart of Chelsea. However, it is magnificent (and it knows it) as is the beautiful oversized basket that it lives in and it has single-handedly reminded me of what a great addition to our interiors plants of all descriptions can be.

The first things I would say is, because I can hear the mutterings already, is that if you really aren’t green fingered (I am not, an orchid once died in my car on the way home from the shops), there are some very hardy plants around and if that is still too much to entertain, there are some fantastic artificial trees, plants and flowers to be had. Artificial no longer means dusty silk roses that can be spotted as fakes at a hundred paces, modern artificial is almost impossible to call until you touch it and even then, you can be fooled. My own personal choice is to have a number of good fake plants and flower arrangements in my home and to also have a few real offerings that can be replaced as and when death occurs.

The trick with real is to know your plants – I would not insult you by offering horticultural advice but getting the right plant in the right place, and looking after it, I am told, will result in almost guaranteed success. I am currently carrying out just such an experiment with a Swiss Cheese plant (purchased from Homebase near the Beehive Centre in case you are wondering) in the front window of the office where there is plenty of indirect light and as I write, the Swiss Cheese is thriving. However, if you pass by and it is gone, please assume that I have moved it into another room, rather than unwittingly murdered it.

As important as selecting the plants that will thrive, is finding plants that fit with your interior style. The chances are that the flora you are drawn to will naturally work within your home but it pays to consider what you might want before turning up at the garden centre. If you have a modern feel to your home, you will probably want plants with a more contemporary feel – a snake plant or aloe vera for example. A traditional interior may call for something more in keeping such as lavender, hydrangea, cyclamen or camelia.

There are a few very natural fits in the home where plants are concerned. Citrus trees in conservatories or rooms where there is a lot of glass look very at home, as do herbs in a kitchen where they seem ready to leap into a recipe at a moment’s notice. I also think plants look great near a window that looks onto greenery of some description as they seem to naturally blend with the view, blurring the lines of inside and outside.

How you present your plants or flowers will have a significant effect on how they work within your scheme. Pots and vases come in endless shapes and sizes and making sure their look fits with the plant is as important as how they work in an interior space. Try to be creative with your container, thinking about both the plant and the surrounding it will be in. Remember that if you go for something non water or soil proof such as a basket, a plastic pot inside the container is the key. In fact it is often better as it makes watering easier. Remember in addition to look at the scale of the container relative to the plant – an over or undersized pot, basket or other will look odd, so try to get a balance between the two.

While we are on the subject of size, the overall height and width of your plant and pot needs to work with the space that it is in. An oversize plant can look fantastic (particularly in a large posh shop) but the minute it is even vaguely crammed into a space, it will look odd. Similarly a very small plant and pot probably needs to be arranged with other things (books, photos, lamps, other plants) so that it doesn’t get lost. If it is going to work on it’s own, it will probably need a window sill or other smaller space so there is something around it. Grouping plants together can work well but such an arrangement does quite quickly create a small jungle feel so I think it is better to try to find the right size plant for the space in question unless there is a good reason to do otherwise (a collection of herbs for example).

I haven’t intentionally avoided the subject of cut flowers here – my love of the big fig tree has only very temporarily distracted me – I think flowers in a home are wonderful and actually, similar rules apply. Artificial are now very good and it is great for both your time and wallet to invest in some good artificial and treat yourself to fresh when you can. I would also suggest sticking mainly to your style rules about modern or traditional blooms and having a collection of vases that work with your interior. Scent from cut flowers is one of the most delicious aromas in a home so find what works for you and place your blooms in a location where you will enjoy them most.

So as we edge into Spring and outside spaces come to life, think about bringing a bit of that green growth into your homes; it really will add a fresh new feel to your interior spaces.

 

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We’re always looking for creative ways to add interest into an interior, especially by using new and different design techniques. There are plenty of ways to add depth and texture to your interior, and one creative way to is to use carved and decorated pieces of furniture and accessories; from wood to metal. They are a popular style at the moment, with the patterns that these techniques create adding personality and texture into a room. I’ve picked some of my favourite pieces to share with you and give you an idea of how you could use the style in your home.

Starcarved Nightstand by Anthropologie

This simply shaped beside table from Anthropologie has been given a charming front design in a handcrafted star motif. If you don’t want your bedroom to be too busy; adding a smaller detailed aspect like this nightstand is a great way to insert some personality without being too distracting. The drawer and open shelf also give you lots of options for storage so that the top doesn’t get too cluttered.

Another beautiful piece of carved furniture is this sideboard from Loaf; the hexagon carved detailing at the front is an unusual style, making the piece feeling unique. If we were to think of carving details on furniture we might be tempted to think of rather traditional ornate designs, or the sometimes overdone oriental style, but these contemporary versions are a really fresh take on the technique. This piece would look elegant in a hallway or a modern dining space for storage.

Grand Orinoco from Loaf

Carved details are also fun to add to your accessories, like this wooden frame mirror from H&M Home. The white lines would really stand out on a dark painted wall; giving a contemporary look with a touch of bohemian style.

Mirror with a Wooden Frame from H&M Home

This etched detailed tray by the House Doctor, available at Amara, is a really subtle way to add in the carved style into your home. The brass tray is given an antiqued look from the etching; it would make a lovely feature on a dining of coffee table.

Carved Tray by House Doctor from Amara

A more natural interpretation of the grooved look is this driftwood headboard from Tikamoon. The uneven pieces are placed together to create a calming, relaxed design that still makes a strong statement. This piece would look lovely against a neutrally decorated room with a few extra textural details on the bed to make a soft bohemian style atmosphere.

River Driftwood Headboard from Tikamoon

This ceramic vase from H&M Home is a simple, contemporary way to include a carving detail into your interior. The asymmetrical top is an interesting element, making it a feature in a room even when empty.

Ceramic Vase from H&M Home

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, a pair of this wooden spoons would make a lovely addition to the table as salad servers. The wings have a great flair of personality and as well a playful sense.

Hand Carved Wooden Spoon from Rockett St George

Seville Sideboard from Swoon Editions

Moving back to furniture, this sideboard has a fantastic two-toned pattern, creating a really graphic, retro effect. The groove detail is the perfect design to catch your eye whilst still working harmoniously amongst the rest of your belongings.

Carved Black Resin Box from Graham & Green

This box’s pattern gives it a real sense of style, and makes it the perfect focal point at a dressing table. A great place to keep jewellery or those little bits and bobs you can never seem to find a place for.

This plant pot is a lovely balance between a simple and intricate design; the stretched diamond shapes are a lovely feature; this would make a great piece for a little bit of decking or on a balcony of an apartment.

Round Diamond Embossed Plant Pot and Tray from Graham & Green

Carvings, grooves and etchings are a great way to add in some details and textures into an interior, giving it more character and personality without being too over the top. Whether you want to go big or small, it’s a chance to get creative and play around with different techniques.

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At the moment in interior design we’re seeing a lot more of raw or organic shapes and materials being used. This is a great trend for those who love contemporary and diverse looks in their home, and want to experiment with different types of material; from metal, stone, wood, cork and concrete to natural forms. Take a look at some of these design to see if you might want to add some rough edges to your interiors.

This natural, pebble shaped mirror from Oliver Bonas takes the luxurious of the rose gold frame and plays it down with the relaxed shape, which is an interesting alternative to a formal rectangular mirror; making it a great buy if you want to soften a glam setting.

Full Length Rose Gold Pebble Mirror from Oliver Bonas

Break up a seating area with this raw shape petrified wood coffee table from Houseology. It appears like a slice straight from the trunk of a tree, but with a beautiful finish. It’ll add a diversity in texture and break up the space, as well as adding a natural element but in a formal and luxurious way.

Eichholtz Barrymore Coffee Table from Houseology

Offset the wooden coffee table with this agate top side table from Andrew Martin. The roughness of the agate edge contrasted against the angular brass legs give the side table a dynamic look that’ll add some unexpected glamour to a room.

Rosalie Side Table from Andrew Martin

If you want to add some natural motifs to your interiors in a larger way, there are a whole range of interesting wallpapers you could look at. This cement brick wallpaper adds a touch of industrial charm; it could look great in a sitting room with an added a cosy element like some textural sheepskin cushions completing the look.

Atlantis Cement Wallpaper from Andrew Martin

These pendants by Tom Dixon at Amara are perfect if you’re looking for something with an organic shape but still has a really glamorous touch. The finishes feel like precious metals and look like they’re melting, malleable to the touch. They would add a really vibrant edge to a room, over a dining table or hanging in a stairwell.

Melt Copper Pendant Light by Tom Dixon from Amara

Alternatively, finding products that used raw materials but take a contemporary shape can be a great way to give a room more texture when combined with other materials like velvets, paint or linen. This light made from concrete has a modern, simple shape, allowing the material to be the focal point of the design.

Dutch Bone Cradle Concrete Pendant Lamp from Cuckooland

Insert some a natural component and a little fun into your interior with this cork stool from Heal’s; it’s a playful when to add in some composition to a room, as well as having some back up seating when needed.

Cork Stool Model A from Heal’s

This could be contrasted nicely against this dark concrete mirror from Cult Furniture. It’s smart enough to be worked into a formal setting, but the added interested of the concrete means it can be toned down too.

Abra Modern Round Wall Mirror from Cult Furniture

This garden stool from Made is made from beautifully smooth concrete; it would look lovely in a juxtaposition against the green grass or on a minimalist desking. It could also be work inside the home as well; just add a little softness with a throw of cushion nearby.

Edison Garden Stool from Made

For a clean, strong look in the bathroom, using raw materials can create a dynamic look that plays to both masculine and feminine themes. This caddy from Next is made from a grey stone, and would look great added into a contemporary bathroom setting.

Pale Grey Stone Toothbrush Caddy from Next

For a larger touch of marble effect, this electric marble wallpaper is a giant textural feature. The orange tones against the dark bark almost glisten, making this wallpaper perfect if you want to create drama in say a dining room.

NLXL Piet Heim Eek Blakc Metallic Marble from IWOOT

From big drama to little drama, this pendant has a traditional style but made with a contemporary metal, to give it a stunning contrast. Two of these over a long dining table or as bedside lights would be the perfect finishing touch to a contemporary glamorous look.

Light & Living Alarice Pendant Light from Houseology

Whether you’re interested by raw forms or raw materials given an elegant finish, both are great ways to add texture and further depth to your interiors, so get out there and see how you can customise your own space.

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Just like any other room in a house, creating the perfect kitchen is all about making sure that the final details are in place to make it feel like home and full of style. A few final kitchen accessories that are both pretty and practical, and will help give your kitchen that individuality it may be missing, giving your kitchen that all important character.

Tansui Glass Bottles from Nkuku

These beautifully shaped glass bottles from Nkuku are perfect for storing your olive oil or balsamic vinegar and they make a lovely companion for a rustic or country style kitchen.

I came across these ceramic spice spoons and instantly fell in love, what sweet little designs! Hang them in a row above you cooker, so that they’re in a handy spot but also become an interesting but simple design feature.

Ceramic Spice Spoons from The Future Kept

If you want to give your spices and herbs even more individuality, empty them from the store jars and into some fun like a vintage jar; there are loads of Etsy, both in sets and single items. I love this emerald green pot, which would like great on the counter, and could be even be used for other kinds of storage.

Vintage Poole Pottery Spice Jar from Annascupoftea on Etsy

To accompany your jars, a handy utensils pot won’t go amiss, this one from Garden Trading is made from raw marble and looks fantastic; a great option if you want a minimal look. Your utensil holder will be the perfect place to store these beautiful gold serving spoons, they’ll look good on the table and in the kitchen when not in use.

Utensil Holder from Garden Trading

Brushed Gold Serving Spoons from Not on the High Street

I love this silky looking sugar bowl from Holly’s House, the pearl-like coating and cute gold button handle make it great for everyday use and pretty enough for those special occasions. It also has a matching pot and milk jug if you want to complete the look.

Powder Sugar Bowl from Holly’s House

Who could resist this little dotted pepper grinder from Anthropologie, the gold dots give it a playful nature against the cool marble.

Gold Dotted Marble Pepper Grinder from Anthropologie

Tea towels are made for practical reasons, but sometimes you just need a very pretty one to look at, like this adorably designed Clarke dish towel from Anthropologie.

Clarke Dish Towel from Anthropologie

Finally, for when you need to keep your cool whilst trying out a new recipe, or preparing a meal with all your family surrounding you, keep your cookbook firm in place with this gold wire stand from Rockett St George.

Gold Wire Cookbook Stand from Rockett St George

From big decisions to small accessories, making your kitchen special is all about finding its personality and presenting it to the world and yourself; as well as making it a fun, stylish place to be in.

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If you are after a lush piece of Mid Century furniture for your home, can I point you in the direction of Publik i based in their very lovely and recently transformed store in Beckenham, although of course they are online too. Publik i owner and founder Gary Dennie is about as passionate about great design as it is possible to be, and what I particularly liked is the way he mixes a love of the character and heritage of a vintage piece with a resolve to bring it up to date enough to make it look great in today’s interiors. Several of the upholstered pieces he had in his studio had been transformed by his fabric choices (it helps he has a great eye for colour) and he works with really good craftsmen to restore the furniture – they were there when I visited so I know!

 

There are a number of items on the website but if you are on the look out for something in particular, give Gary a ring as he can source items. Better still, drop into the shop the next time you are in the area – there is a lot of stock in the shop and it is an ever changing feast. www.publiki.co.uk 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inviting to look at and still room to sit comfortably. Chair, cushion and delectable fabrics all from Vanessa Arbuthnott.

There is a battle raging in our households and it concerns the quite intense emotions elicited by the humble cushion. Many sane, sensible and fair minded couples that I visit in my capacity as their interior designer can quickly lapse into not only passionate opinions but also surprisingly petty bickering when the subject of cushions is mentioned. I am going to horribly generalise now so please forgive me if you don’t fit into my unsubstantiated gender stereotyping, but seems to me that it tends to be us girls that love cushions and it’s the boys who really don’t.

My investigations into anti-cushion behaviour have found some recurrent themes. The first and most virulent relates mainly to cushions on the bed. “Where do they go at night?” the boys cry “we have to throw them on the floor”. Ok, I understand, they need a place to go when they are taken off the bed and the floor is not it. A simple solution would be a chair, window seat or ottoman at the end of the bed that they could reside on over-night.

The second complaint is normally about the number of cushions on the sofa. “We can’t even sit down without taking some of them off and throwing them on the floor” (are you seeing the ‘throwing them on the floor’ pattern emerging?). It’s a valid point, you need to be able to sit on your sofa, but this very rarely means you can’t have any cushions on it at all. Really, have you felt the comfort a cushion offers?!

Even I have to admit (and on a personal level you may have guessed that I am an extreme cushion lover) that the purpose of cushions in adornment. Some comfort for sure but primarily adornment and is there anything wrong with that? The key really, as with all things interior related, is the balance of style and functionality. A contemporary muted minimalist space will be spoilt by brightly coloured highly patterned cushions but will be enhanced by a limited number of plain cushions adding a layer of texture and comfort. Similarly a room that is verging on the bland can be hugely improved with a burst of colour, pattern, texture and a visual hit of inviting comfort.

Cushions do have an advantage that they are easier and cheaper to purchase than larger items such as a sofa or carpet. However, this does not mean that you should not take the time and effort in choosing your cushions, or that you should opt for cheap if you are not sure. A ‘make-do’ cushion is a waste of money as it is highly likely that you will want to replace it almost as soon as you get it home. If you buy a cushion you really love you may well have it for life so it represents much better value for money whatever it costs.

Contemporary cushions from Andrew Martin bring colour and comfort to a grey scheme.

Fortunately, there is now a very good selection of ready-made cushions available on the market. One tip I would give you when looking for off the shelf cushions is to find a fabric or accessories company that you really like and see what cushions they have on offer. I find that high street store cushions are often incredibly middle of the road and quite depressing because of it, whereas a company that isn’t trying to offer all styles to all people can be a lot more inventive. For example, Chelsea Textiles (www.chelseatextiles.com) have a wonderful range of cushions for those of a more traditional bent and Andrew Martin (www.andrewmartin.co.uk) have lush designs on offer for those of a more contemporary sensitivity.

If you do go down the route of having cushions made (and I warn you now, it is an additive business), you have a world of opportunity at your fingertips. Key decisions include size and shape, fabric obviously but you might want to use a couple of different fabrics, say one on the back and a different one on the front, or a different fabric as a side or decorative panel, and then of course there are trimmings. Trimmings are the interior addicts’ sweeties and are a joyful business to pick and often are what makes the cushion special. The key with having cushions made (and actually any bespoke item) is to find the right craftsperson and make good friends with them. As with many needlework tasks, cushion making sounds very simple but to get it right is always more complicated that you think. You need to find a soft furnishings maker who knows what they are doing, will listen to what you want and has a good level of patience. Thinking through the design before starting is vital and no detail should be overlooked, as cushion disappointment is not pretty.

As I write, I suspect that those amongst us who have yet to realise the true worth of the cushion may be feeling slightly light-headed, if not enraged, by my encouragement for spending hard earned cash on the decorative end of the soft furnishings palette. I would say sorry but I wouldn’t mean it so what I will do is to send a grovelling apology to any man who really does appreciate a cushion. That said, I do believe it is thanks to the female of the species that the cushion thrives. Without us the boys would all be sitting slightly uncomfortably on their sofas wondering why their rooms look just a tiny bit bland.

This article first appeared in Cambridge Magazine, April 2017

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I attended a wonderful brunch event at Catesbys (Green Street, opposite Bills) this morning and the company, the breakfast but most importantly, their current stock, was all a delicious delight. I highly recommend a visit for a browse at their home furnishings and accessories followed up by a restorative visit to their first floor café. Thank you Neil and Jonathan, look forward to seeing you soon. X

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We have a few of these bowls in the office – very handy for sweeties

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I didn’t know before this morning how much I want a pair of sleeping lions

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Stylish dishes

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…and more stylish dishes

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