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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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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.

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A few weeks ago, Kettle’s Yard reopened after years of renovation. On opening day the queue wrapped around the street corner, proving just how much Cambridge had missed the gallery and house. I choose to visit a few weeks later and it was great to see the new gallery space and interesting pieces being featured, but my heart still belongs to the house and it was a real treat to go back there again.

The house, was the former home of art curator and collector Jim Ede and his wife Helen Ede. The pair lived in the house from 1958 to 1973 and during this time the house was filled with some truly beautiful pieces of art, artefacts and furniture. The house has been kept as a time capsule and an insight into the couple’s life; filled with art from renowned names, such as Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis, who were also the couple’s friends, Jim and Helen Ede would open their home to Cambridge students making it the most intimate of art galleries. The home’s aesthetic is a cool, contemporary, almost minimalist style with the perfect dose of bohemian touches.

Dining nook in the Ground Floor of the cottage

This dining nook area is beautifully simplistic. The solid wood table and benches are rustic and strong, while the gold candlesticks and decorative plates add an understated air of glamour.

View of the fireplace in the Ground Floor of the Cottage

Close up of the ornaments displayed on the fireplace

The main fireplace as you walk into the house is unfussy and perfectly decorated with soot build up along with trinkets and ceramics. Jim and Helen Ede would hang some of their artwork at a lower level than expected so that they could be look at comfortably from an armchair.

Sitting area in the Ground Floor of the Cottage

The room is filled with interesting and meticulously placed artefacts and objects. A single lemon placed on a metal dish, a display of pebbles in an ombre effect and a handful of wispy feathers are just a few of the unusual items you’ll find.

An artistic display of a single lemon of a metal plate

An ombré pebble collection

An assortment of feather on display

A sculpture, a painting and a single book makes up this satisfying display next to Jim Ede’s bed. The exclusiveness of the display speaks for Ede’s admiration of the artists; his faith and love for these three simple objects, expresses more to an audience about the items and the feeling of the home than a whole row of items could ever, creating a strong and commanding statement.

A minimal display shelf featuring a sculpture, a painting and a single book

As you move through the house, up to the first floor of the cottage there is a lovely run through the house into the extension. The length of the house creates an interesting feel, delicate sections and areas are carved out of the main body, making sweet, intimate spots. My favourite is known as the “dancer’s room”, due to the beautiful sculpture that sits on the table, and when hit with sunlight creates a silhouette on the wall. The area is filled with gorgeous rugs and painting, giving you a never ending supply of things to look at.

A traditional rug laid over stairs

A look at the “Dancer’s Room”

A selection of paintings from the “Dancer’s Room”

Once in the extension of the house, there is a gallery up top and below a more open space, for hosting guests. This area feel much more contemporary then the previous space, with seventies characteristic. I love the proportions of this section of the lower floor. From the all-white plates to the black and white abstract art, to the beautifully made slate top and wood leg console table, it all works together to create a serene view, with everything in its place.

A side area in the Lower Level of the House

Whether you’re looking for something to do in Cambridge, or interior inspiration, or fancy a little vintage walk back through time, the house at Kettle’s Yard is truly a lovely way to spend an hour or two.

 

For more information: http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/

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A few years back, Angel + Blume had the wonderful illustrator Angela McKay draw the exterior of our office in her painterly style, which we still love and use today.

The Angel + Blume office by Angela McKay

Her style perfectly shows off the quirkiness of Cambridge, and she’s recently done some illustrations of some of Cambridge’s most iconic buildings, which we thought we’d share with you.

King’s College by Angela McKay

Cambridge is filled with some amazing architecture, like King’s College Chapel, which means every route tends to be the scenic route. Here, Angela depicts the grand stature of King’s chapel from a side alleyway, a great way to capture the essence of Cambridge.

I love the way Angela’s style tones down the neo-classical, imperial architecture and softens the buildings, giving them the inviting character that Cambridge most certainly has.

Entrance to King’s College by Angela McKay

Finally, a lovely illustration of St John’s College, with its medieval style and mighty towers; Angela has even included another famous part of Cambridge, with a little bicycle resting against one of the towers.

St John’s College by Angela McKay

For more information and to see some of Angela’s other work, visit www.bytherealmckay.com

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Art can be an intimidating business. It shouldn’t be because the purpose of art is primarily about pure delight for the eyes of the beholder but I do understand the home lovers’ dilemma when it comes to what to hang on your walls. In the back of most people’s minds, and I include in this even the most confident of us, is ‘what are other people going to make of the pictures on my walls?’. I’m not going to tackle the enormous subject of how to select your art here (although I am gearing up to this topic so watch this space) but what I am going to talk about now is the incredibly good news which is that, and I really mean this, how you present and hang your art is almost, indeed dare I say as important, as the art you choose.

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These lovely simple botanical drawings make a huge impact hung in a group and against the backdrop of Fired Earth’s delicious South Bank paint colour. The clever addition of the bench and cushions picks up the colours in the paintings and visually anchors the artwork.

 

When I hang art for clients, which is a task I love because it makes such a difference to how an interior looks, the first thing I ask them to do is to get all the art they have out (and this should incorporate everything – original paintings of worth or not, prints, framed posters, family pictures, sculpture, home-made craft projects and so on) so that we can look at it and discuss what they actually like and what they are less keen on but may have a good reason (or not) for keeping. In this exercise I am primarily interested in noting what their most loved pieces are which should be displayed in key areas (master bedroom, entrance hall, main living room – wherever a household spends time) and what is less loved but can find a home in a lesser used area of a house (cloakroom, guest bedroom, back entrance hall). Once we have had this frank conversation, which is not always easy, I then start to think about where to place artwork in the home.

It helps to bear in mind that artwork does not have to match an interior scheme, in fact I like a picture to bring something different and eye-catching to the look of a room, but it does have to look comfortable in the space, not overpowering everything else or being overwhelmed itself.

I often feel rather shame faced when I visit the fabulous Fitzwilliam Museum because I tend to head for the first floor galleries which I love and as I try hard to concentrate on the artwork I find my mind pondering exactly what colour the wall behind the great masterpiece is and examining the way the lighting has been achieved. I know I am supposed to be looking at the artwork, but actually it is the whole experience of those rooms that makes me love the galleries and whilst the rooms are certainly not pretending to be domestic interiors, I find the combination of the artwork with the rich background colours, the dark wood flooring, the lighting and the occasional pieces of furniture is what makes me very happy. The moral of the story is that an interior is a collage of many elements and if you get the balance right, the effect is glorious; out of balance and beautiful things suddenly can’t come to life in the way that you want them to.

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Putting a treasured painting in a master bedroom ensures it is regularly seen and enjoyed.

When you have got an idea of where you want your pictures to live, the art of hanging them well starts with checking the space around the piece – they need enough space to be seen and to shine on their own merit but also some reference to other furnishings or pictures. For example, a piece of furniture under a picture usually helps to visually anchor the artwork – you need to leave enough space between the furniture and the picture to allow some accessories on the surface, the picture should not hang so low that accessories obscure the picture and not so high that it is hanging in mid-air with no reference to the things below it at all. The best way to hang pictures is to get someone (one or more people depending on the size of the work) to hold the picture in place and then get them to go higher, lower, right a bit, left a bit until you find the place that the picture looks comfortable and hopefully before the holder’s arms start shaking and a row beings to brew. I generally find that pictures are hung too high – go as low as you dare and try to remember that being able to see the painting comfortably, even when you are sitting down, is also an important part of the exercise.

I cannot emphasise how important framing is and this decision includes whether to frame or not, as certainly not all artwork needs framing. Spend time, effort and money (as necessary) on making the absolute best of your artworks by considering how best to present them. A clever framer is a very good friend of the interior designer and I always make sure that I ask the advice of my framer as a starting point, who will generally consider the right approach to make the best of the picture, but then I may add an opinion on the look that we are creating in the interior. We tend to agree somewhere between the two which should ensure that the final approach adds to both the artwork and the interior.

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This very favourite painting is displayed in full view in a well used space

Moving pictures around is a surprisingly effective way of giving your home a bit of an update. I would like to say that I do this regularly but realistically it only really happens when I buy a new picture and move current ones around to accommodate it, but I am always surprised at the impact that a picture’s surroundings has on how the artwork itself is perceived. I recently acquired a lovely bright yellow velvet occasional chair which has found a very happy home in the corner of my bedroom. Interestingly three people who visit the house regularly asked, on completely separate occasions, whether the picture above it was new. In fact the picture has been there for quite a while and features quite a strong dash of yellow and I can only assume that the new chair combined with the painting draws the eye to the corner of the room more than before. Whatever it was, it is interesting that even a small change around can suddenly bring artwork, and it surroundings, to life.

Much as I love to see beautiful photography in an interior, which should be hung with the same consideration and principles as your other artwork, I also like to see personal photographs in a home as they so instantly individualise a space. These will probably not be the beautiful specimens that the great photographers produce and so need to be handled accordingly. Groups of photos (either in standing frames or wall hung) can be a good way to display images of family, holiday or a general hotchpotch of memories and should be thought of as an explosion of emotion, rather than a focus on one particular shot. A group of photos can also be added to and changed as life moves forward, which keeps your display up to date. Don’t feel you have to include every image, or record every event, or heaven forbid, have a photo of every family member (although you may have to swap pictures in on critical occasions so as not to cause a family dispute) – personal photos in your home are not an absolute record of your life, but an accessory that should lift your heart when you glance at them.

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This delightful tiny artwork is given a great presence by using a large mount with a simple frame and
being hung on a dark painted wall

Lighting is crucial for artwork (indeed for interiors generally and is a huge topic in itself). Think about what light you need for your artwork in daylight (which might still include artificial lighting) and what you need at night. You don’t have to only consider the traditional picture light – a light from the ceiling or a floor-standing uplighter can work really well too. Just as lighting art well is important for enjoying the work, shielding it from the sunlight is important for preservation purposes and should also be considered carefully.

Finally, I wish to joyfully dismiss the idea that you can’t hang pictures on wallpaper. You can and you should. Wallpaper is a splendid backdrop to your pictures, you will just need to be careful that the wallpaper doesn’t overpower the art either in terms of colour or pattern or both, it should be a backdrop so ensure that your art, not your wallpaper, is the star.

I have realised whilst I have been writing this piece that there really are a multitude of considerations when hanging artwork so what I say to you is don’t be overwhelmed by the task – get your picture hooks and hammer out and have a go. Unless you are wildly wrong, in which case you will have to get a pot of paint out, the new position for the picture will cover the first (and subsequent) hanging attempts and if you live with your efforts for a few days, you will soon know whether you got it right or not. I have rarely seen an interior that doesn’t benefit from having artwork on the walls so be brave and get those pictures hung.

This post appeared in the July edition of Cambridge Magazine

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