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Posts Tagged ‘interior design’

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

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

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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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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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