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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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