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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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I thought this article might be appropriate for New Year’s Eve or for anyone contemplating Dry January. Happy New Year everyone!

 

Cate Burren of Angel and Blume Interior Design considers the art of the bar cart

I’ve recently been trying to cut back on my alcohol intake (not for any particular reason than the obvious ones, and it’s not going too badly thank you) and as with cutting back on anything, it does make you slightly obsessed with what you are trying to avoid. What I have particularly noticed is just how many references there are to our supposed love of a tipple in our modern world. Greetings cards seem to be particular offenders – it feels that every other card in the shop has a humorous, or otherwise, reference to celebrating almost any occasion with an elegant aperitif, or by getting completely hammered, depending on what section of the shop you find yourself in. Our interiors are not immune either. There is a sea of opportunity available to pronounce yourself a fan of an alcoholic beverage. I was recently in a largish department store where I saw, all in close vicinity, a money box with ‘Mummy’s Prosecco Fund’ written on the side, a cushion proclaiming ‘Champagne is the Answer’ and a framed poster which somewhat aggressively instructed its audience to ‘DRINK MORE GIN’.

Drinks trolley from Graham and Green

I am certainly not going to make a (mildly) reformed person’s judgement on the content of these declarations but it does strike me as odd that we don’t celebrate other forms of high living with quite such gusto. You don’t often see a fridge magnet for example that says ‘It’s Steak O’Clock!’ or a birthday card saying ‘Lobster Thermidor Makes Everything Better’.

Given our great love of a little drinky, we do seem to be surprisingly coy about how we house our habit. Wine racks and wine fridges are much more present in our houses than they used to be but other drinks are often still relegated to the back of a cupboard. I grant you that few of us want a Del Boy style bar in the corner of our living room but there can be something very glamourous about a selection of drinks, glasses and accessories that are well-displayed and ready for use.

I think drinks trolleys (or bar carts as the Americans call them) can be very good edition to a sitting room or other interior space as they make such a heartening display. Although they have wheels, they are not designed to be pushed round the room like you are serving on an intercity train although a quick trip to the dishwasher at the end of the evening (or the following morning if we are being honest) is quite handy. They are often rather marvellous pieces of furniture in themselves and look great when fully loaded up and ready to serve.

Cocktail cabinets are more discreet and can look very innocent from the outside. What you find inside can be anything from utilitarian to utterly fabulous. They often feature a rack for hanging glasses, mirrored back or sides, slots for your accessories and sometimes more – mini fridges, a pull-out serving ledge, lighting etc. David Linley, the master furniture maker has a ‘Techtonic Bar’ which is a piece of art as much as it is a piece of furniture and incorporates secret compartments (for your bootleg liquor) revolving columns and a cigar humidor. Its utterly beautiful and should be at a price tag of £130,000.

Gin glasses from Graham and Green

There are also some fantastic antique cocktail cabinets to be had and many of them have a least a whiff of lost days of high living. Unsurprisingly many of the really good ones have an Art Deco flavour about them and look great when either discreetly closed or party ready. I could be wrong about this but I personally think that no good can come from having a world globe that opens into a drinks cabinet but perhaps I am no fun.

Whatever style you prefer at home, it is hard to argue against a large, smart tray that quietly does the job of a drinks trolley or cabinet. This is not to serve the drinks but to keep all your beverage paraphernalia in order. A lovely tray, well curated, on top of a sideboard or occasional table works both functionally and aesthetically and is certainly a good place to start if you are initially dipping your toes into the home bar arena.

Whether you opt for a bespoke piece of furniture or a humble tray, the contents are key. Good glasses, an ice bucket, your desired bottles and mixers, condiments (citrus fruit, olives, tabasco sauce, cherries if you must) and other essential tools – ice tongs, cocktail shaker, cocktails sticks, swizzle sticks (come on, you know you want to) – can all play a part and there is lots of style choices available from grown up glamour right through to party lover.

I think it is important, both in terms of the look of your house but also for your own sanity to remember that you are not actually a bar, neither boutique hotel nor local boozer – you do not need to have every spirit, mixer, soft drink in the world to offer your guests. I think serving a drink or two that is appropriate for the time of year and day, that goes with the food you are going to serve, plus a quality non-alcoholic alternative or two, is perfect. Having a wide selection of dusty bottles, some with questionable sell-by dates, is a bit grim. After all, you select a meal for your guests rather than offering them a menu of choices (I hope) so why would you not do the same with the pre-dinner, and indeed during and post dinner, drinks.

And whilst we are talking about planning your drinking, quantity is as important as quality – sending your guests home plastered is not doing them, or you, any favours. Of course you want to have a great time and be a marvellous host/hostess but part of that is keeping an eye on the intake – serving four large G&Ts before feeding anyone will end badly. In addition, taking as much care over your Mocktails as you do over your Moscow Mules will encourage enjoyment over drunkenness. Lots of people don’t drink alcohol at all, or are restrained, and non-alcoholic drinks really can be delicious but it does take both effort and imagination.

So on that note, and before my best laid plans to drink less and behave better are too challenged, I would like to say it isn’t hard to glam up your drinks stash, so have fun, let your hair down and here’s to all our good health.

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Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and all good things for 2020

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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 

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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.’

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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!

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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!

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If you want to make immediate improvements to your home, accessories are your most powerful tool! Discover just how much you can transform your home with accessories during our six week evening course starting in October. Find out where to place things, what you need, where to buy and what to get rid of. And the great news is that you can start to make changes as soon as you get home. Click here to go to the website for more details. www.angelandblume.com/courses.php

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Whether you are having an impromptu get together or a friend drops by for a catch-up, it always makes great welcome to have a favourite drink on offer and I think a well stocked drinks cabinet makes an attractive home accessory, particularly if you are like me, partial to a tipple or two.

Rockett St George drinks trolley

A drinks trolley is not only practical but can be super stylish and this one from Rockett St George is one of my favourites. In brass and marble, it has just a hint of Art Deco in it’s fab shape.

 

Jonathan Adler Delphne mirrored bar 2Jonathan Adler Delphne mirrored bar

 

A cabinet is even better than a trolley especially if your home bar is extensive and I love this glorious and yet so practical mirrored drinks cabinet from Jonathan Adler.

 

 

 

David Linley Tini time cocktail cabinet

This beautifully designed and constructed piece from David Linley is surely an antique of the future, and in the meantime it will make you the party host with the most. Private commission from David Linley

Paolo Moschino for Nicky Haslam

A charming and elegant drinks trolley from Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam which holds more than you think and is perfect for topping up drinks at a party.

 

Ralph Lauren Duke bar

Inspired by the 1930s and yet would look so comfortable in our current contemporary interiors, this glorious piece from Ralph Lauren in Rosewood and stainless steel is beautiful and functional.

Chaplins bar cabinet

If a statement piece is what you are after, look no further than the Classic Line bar cabinet from Chaplins. It also comes with optional lighting, castors and refrigeration.

Sweetpea and Willow Dolly Drinks Trolley

Finally and although possibly the simplest of the offerings on show, this is the one that I have my eye on. It is a beautiful piece and takes me right back to the seventies and my parents’ very formal dinner parties with my brother and I in the background eyeing up the drinks trolley. Say no more.  www.sweetpeaandwillow.com

Chin, chin everyone.

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Our summer term classes are on Interior Designing your own Home and are starting on May 5th. Held at our office in Emmanuel Road, they will cover how to find your own style, how to get the best layout for your home, lighting, using colour, how to pull your schemes together and finally how to manage your project to get the best results. If you are updating your home there will be vital information about how to achieve the results you want , and hopefully some fun in the process. Get more information on our website www.angelandblume.com.

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