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Posts Tagged ‘interior design’

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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How They Decorated is a wonderful book filled with beautiful stories and inspiring images. The book tells the tales of ‘Great Women of the Twentieth Century’ and their incredible homes. As you move through the book, from the homes of nobilities to artists, you’re taken on a journey and though the styles and ideas change with time, one thing that is always present is impeccable and daring taste.

In the hallway, with the sitting room to the side, in Lady Diana Cooper’s London home is an unconventionally located bar with the owner’s portrait placed above for all to see. There’s an inviting sense of informality about this bar that juxtaposes the exuberant nature of the house itself; it brings together an idea of elegance with a dose of playfulness as well.

Another way Lady Diana shows off a relaxed approach to her home is with her faithful accessory, the hat, piled on top of one another, bar one that is placed upon a bust of herself in the centre of a chest of drawers. Lady Diana is quoted as saying, “I like bedrooms best… with a big bed and tiny dog”, continuing the sense of light-heartedness in her style.

Considered the “true queen of American style”, Evangeline Bruce’s interiors were timeless and soulful. Her private library has its walls and cupboards covered in fabric, giving the whole room a gloriously over the top effect.

Sybil Connolly was a celebrated fashion designer, and it’s evident that her love of fabrics filtered through to her home as well. The fabric effect papered walls of her Dublin house is something that practically no person, nor home could pull off, but somehow it turned out beautifully, paying homage to her lifework in one simple, but bold move.

There is something extremely enticing about this overly bejewelled mirror from Gabrielle van Zuylen’s home in Paris; it’s glamour at its finest.

Babe Paley, a New York socialite, had some truly fascinating interiors. This living room that is full to the brim with colours, texture and style is said to have been “the sum of what Babe herself personified – polished, sophistication, and legendary style.”

Another brightly coloured home is that of the writer Fleur Cowles. It’s the kind of home where everything stands out in its own right, and yet perfectly fits together in one flawless ensemble.

These footstools at designer Pauline Trigeres’ home in Westchester County in New York are just beautiful creations; the gorgeous mother-of-pearl inlay looks divine against the bold emerald green tops.

This garden room below is a one-of-a-kind vision that takes your breath away. It belongs to Bunny Melon in Virginia, and everything in it from the trelliswork to the arsenic colour, to the array of pots and baskets forms perfectly together to make a beautiful haven.

The home of Georgia O’Keefe respects the history of its location, New Mexico, as well as reflecting the modernist characteristics of herself and her work. The cool clay walls and long incorporated seating area are met with pops of colourful cushions and green plants, which gives the room a relaxed, understated but collected and assured atmosphere.

This book, from start to finish is a journey through homes and history. It perfectly sums up the idea that a home tells its owners story, and through this book you can see that these women lived great lives, in fabulous homes.

 

How They Decorated is available by Rizzoli

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In light of Mother’s Day coming up, and any other occasion where you need a thoughtful gift, opting for something from the homeware department can go a lot further than just a scented candle. Buying gifts for the home can be a great way to give something that’s long lasting, sentimental and unique. Whether it’s a house warming present, a birthday or holiday, or just something to show someone you care, a thoughtful home accessory can be the perfect gesture.

There are two ways you can look at it when it comes to gifting home accessories to a close friend or family member; adding to their already existing theme of pieces and ornaments, or giving them something a little outside their comfort zone, something they wouldn’t ever get themselves. When giving homewares there is a chance to get creative, have a little fun and give a touching present.

Typically, when it comes to the big touches in a home, the owner will want to make that call on their own, so when giving homeware as a gift it’s all about the small, but special touches. This sweet blackbird tea towel from Angel & Boho is an ideal gift; the adorable print takes away the functionality aspect of the gift, making it a great addition to a kitchen, to be displayed as a bohemian design feature.

‘Blackbird Tea Towel’ from Angel & Boho

Sticking to the bird theme, a simple way to add some life to a garden is with a bird feeder. This rustic piece from Catesby’s is the perfect way to decorate a garden and entice from real birds as well. The piece is great for adding a little charm to an individual tree or a small garden or balcony area.

‘Hanging Bird Feeder’ from Catesby’s

The great thing about giving or receiving homeware as presents is that it’s an opportunity to get an item that you might not be able to justify getting for yourself. Buying something fun, with perhaps just a hint of kitsch that makes a fabulous finishing touch to a home. I love these pin-up candlestick holders from Ark, ideal for putting a smile on someone’s face and lighting up an area of the home, perhaps a table or dresser, giving the space a bit of humour and life.

‘Show Girl Candlesticks’ from Ark

As with many people my age, I’m just being to start a collection of homeware pieces that I’ll (hopefully) treasure forever, so receiving items that I can add to this assembly of ornaments is a great way to give the collection some diversity and give myself new ideas about what I like. Pieces like these multi-coloured candle holders from Habitat are quite a particular style, but if you have someone you know will love them, or someone you think can take on the challenge then they’re a great, creative gift that goes a step further than the typical candle themed gift.

‘Odela Multi-Coloured Ceramic Candleholder’ from Habitat

My mother has always had a love for flowers and nature, whether it’s in the garden or in the home, so giving her pots and vases has always been a sure-fire way of getting her something she likes (and will use), whilst still being able to get her something with an unexpected design or style. This speckled jug from Catesby’s is a versatile piece that can be used as its primary function, or as a vase. It would make a great accompaniment for some fresh spring Daffodils, with the electric blue and yellow contrasting perfectly.

‘Speckle Ware Jug’ from Catesby’s

For more of a rustic feel, these antique French pots from Baileys would make amazing gifts, for vases, planters or just ornaments. The individual nature of them means that you can give a few in an array of shapes, styles and colours.

‘Old French Poitiers Pottery’ from Baileys

If you have a friend, or maybe a son or daughter who has recently bought their first home, or renting their first grown up flat, they may need a few things to help get them started. Whilst a lot of necessities can be bought from places like Ikea, buying some pieces that can give the home a few special touches can make great presents, especially if it’s for someone who can’t justify getting it for themselves. A simple bowl like this one from French Connection is a great starter piece for those finding their style footing. It’ll look great against some simple chinaware sets and begin to add some character to a home.

‘Green Stone Bowl’ from French Connection

On the contrary, if you know this person has quite an experimental kind of style, and is always keen to try new things and be surprised, an item like this flamboyant tray from Porcupine Rocks is not only a fantastic gift, but also full of flair, making it a real statement piece.

‘Shine Shine Tiger Tray’ from Porcupine Rocks

Finally, if you’re searching for a gift for someone that already has it all, then something frivolous and fun may be just the ticket. This lollipop holder from Jonathan Adler ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a present with a sense of humour, individuality and a hint of madness. It makes the perfect addition to an already fruitful collection of eclectic ornaments.

‘Mohawk Lollipop Holder’ from Jonathan Adler

Buying gifts for loved ones is a great way to express your appreciation from them, and give them something they’ll love. Deciding to give them homeware means choosing something that they can treasure forever, giving sentiment to their home and help add to the collection of wonderful items. Whether it’s an antique item, something a little outside of their comfort zone, something sweet or an item that encourages them to walk on the wild side of interior design, there is so much fun to be had with picking out gifts, you’ll just have to refrain from keeping them all yourself!

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In this contemporary scheme, a comfortable statement sofa worked well to bring a relaxed feel to the room. Photography by Simon Whitmore

It’s weird thing that sofas are so hard to get right, but they really are. Furniture is generally easier to select than say redesigning a bathroom or commissioning joinery but over the years I have heard many sorry stories of profound disappointment on receipt of an eagerly awaited sofa. With this in mind, I often find myself using the 3am worry slot to agonise over an impending sofa delivery. However much I know that we have done exhaustive investigation, double-checking and confirming on behalf of, and involving, our clients in the run up to placing a sofa order, it is always a few hours prior to delivery that I decide that we have definitely overlooked something.

There are a lot of things to consider before buying (or commissioning, more on this later) a sofa. Firstly, you need to think about what style of sofa is going to work in your room – do you lean towards a contemporary or traditional feel, mid-century modern or shabby chic? You don’t need to put a name to the style you want but if you are unsure of what look you prefer then you are not ready to enter a sofa shop yet. Fabric choice is important too and hard to consider in isolation. Building up a picture of the final scheme including wall colour, flooring, other items of furniture, curtains or blinds and so on will help you to avoid a fabric choice that you find hard to match to or that is a bland disappointment. There is a raft of other decisions to also be considered and these crucially include size – a measure of the room with consideration to other items of furniture is vital – and comfort levels of which height of back, depth of seat, filling and how the sofa is constructed all play a role. There are lots more decisions that are important but I won’t go into all of these for fear that you may decide that your hand-me-down, battered sofa that you hated when you started reading is perfectly all right. However, I will say that it is better to consider a lot of these decisions prior to spending that nightmare Saturday morning trailing around high street furniture shops and ending up feeling overwhelmed by information, underwhelmed with what you have seen and temporarily less keen on the loved one that you left the house with that morning.

Can I also at this point, strongly steer you away from the idea that buying a cheap Ikea sofa with the plan to bin it in future and get the one you actually want is a sensible decision. This thought has been shared with me in my professional capacity more times than I care to remember and it is a notion that is riddled with flaws, the primary one being that all you are doing is delaying doing the work to get the right sofa and in the meantime putting up with a piece of furniture that isn’t right because you haven’t given proper consideration to what you do want (whether it ends up coming from our fine Swedish friends or not.)

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A traditional sofa in a plain fabric looks very happy in this country drawing room. Photography by Simon Whitmore

Once you have done your homework deciding which sofa is perfect for you, there is the possibility that you won’t be able to find what you want on the high street. Retailers are undoubtedly getting better at offering flexibility on size, fillings, legs, fabric and so on but I do find that we often have to commission a completely bespoke sofa in order to get what we want and this route is available to everyone. A good sofa maker is able to make or commission a frame to an agreed size, shape and style and then upholster it to your requirements which means that the world is your oyster. It also means that you are speaking directly to the expert, the person who is going to actually make it, so you should receive excellent advice. I know that you will be thinking that this all sounds very expensive and although it is not a bargain basement option, I always think it is less expensive than one would imagine, which is a reflection of not paying for a middle man and normally not paying for a swanky showroom and a glossy brochure. Although there are many excellent sofa makers all over the country, for historical reasons many are located in and around Nottingham which is where our ace upholsterer is based. There isn’t a chance that I will reveal his name but if you find a workshop with stressed looking craftsmen looking at an order and muttering ‘what on earth are they asking for now’, you may be in the right place.

What I will share with you are a few of my sofa related tips drawn from many years of professional sofa buying, some more painfully learnt than others, that I hope will help you in your quest to avoid sofa disaster:

  1. I’ve mentioned checking the size of the room but the other key measurement is the size of the doorway/staircase/sharp turn from corridor to room etc. A beautiful new sofa that won’t go into the room is not a pretty sight and if you think your proposed sofa won’t fit you may be able to have it delivered in pieces (removable legs or arms etc.) but you need to check that carefully.
  2. Don’t rule out the idea of an antique sofa that may or may not (if you are really lucky) need recovering. Often the frames (and sometimes the fillings) are well made and antique sofas can offer something a bit different. As an example, there is a company called Pelikan in Haverhill that buy original mid-century sofas from Denmark and restore and recover them. If your style leans in this direction, and you are in the market for a sofa, you should visit them immediately.
  3. Sofabeds are much better now than they used to be when neither the sofa nor the bed were all that comfortable. They are a good option if you are short of guest sleeping space but remember to consider how the room will function when it is transformed into a bedroom – do you have to move furniture in order to unfold the bed, where does bedding live, where do guests put their things? – often sofabeds are not used as beds because the room doesn’t really work as a bedroom, so it may be better to concentrate on sofa comfort rather than incorporating the bed facility.
  4. I hate hard and fast rules from interior designers because there is normally an exception but I am going to stick my neck out on scatter cushions made from the same fabric as the sofa. I genuinely can’t think of a situation where they are a good idea. The purpose of a scatter cushion (not back cushions or any cushion that is part of the sofa) is primarily decorative and small square cushions that blend into the sofa are apologetic at best.
  5. Lastly sales. Panic buying leads to mistakes. It is great to get a bargain but it is not a money saver if you immediately want to change it. There are many sales throughout the year and I guarantee that if you miss a sale bargain, there will be another tasty offer available sooner than you think.

Finally to anyone who has made a mistake with a sofa purchase, and my heart goes out to you if you have, don’t add to the problem by matching to the mistake. I have had customers say to me that they have a sofa they hate but for whatever reason it has to stay so we need to build a scheme round it. This is not a good plan. My approach would be to design a scheme that we love without considering the offending sofa, and implement it, which will hopefully dilute the impact of the mistake. We may add a few accessories that tie it into the scheme and then we wait for the day the right sofa can be put into the room and the sofa mistake can be found a new home somewhere that it is welcome.

This article first appeared the February edition of Cambridge Magazine 

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

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

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

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Stylish dishes

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…and more stylish dishes

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According to the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA), 24% of households own a dog and 17% own cats, that’s eight and half million dogs and over seven million cats! With this many furry friends running around there’s bound to be a few households that have a constant battle between keeping the place looking nice whilst keeping it comfortable for a pet, there is always a slight conflict if you love your home as much as your faithful companion, nothing is more troubling then the sight of a newly upholstered sofa covered in fluff, mud and scratches!

Maintaining a beautiful home and having a pet seems like an unlikely combination but nowadays there are some absolutely fantastic and surprisingly stylish pet accessories and furniture that will completely kit out your home and take it from shabby to chic! Whatever your style, be it traditional or contemporary there are some wonderful products that you’ll want to buy even if you don’t have a little terror running around.

Edison Orange Harris Tweed Dog Bed from Love My Dog

Love My Dog is a fantastic company full of adorable ways to spoil your dog rotten, I absolutely love this Harris Tweed dog bed especially in this vibrant orange, but there are plenty of other colours if you’re looking for something to complement the rest of your home. This dog bed would look perfect placed in the corner of a kitchen and is the ideal style to go with a traditional looking interior.

Igloo Dog Bed in Grey from Mungo and Maud

For something a bit more contemporary and versatile this igloo style bed from Mungo and Maud is just right, it’s relaxed design means it’ll work anywhere and with any style and it’s a great little cosy spot for a small pooch!

If you get the impression that your feline companion is a bit of a fashionista the place you need to head to is Style Tails, a fantastic company with products for both cats and dogs. They stock some amazing contemporary designs that will make the perfect hangout for a cool cat.

Geobed Cat Cave by Catissa from Style Tails

This geometric cat basket is a design marvel, its stylish nature means that instead of a cat basket being a nuance and taking up space it can actually become a rather interesting feature of the house, it also comes in white and a natural wood too to suit a whole range of interiors.

If you want something to go above ground-level this fancy basket will look great in any location of the house and will allow your cat to watch over you from their stylish boudoir.

Anello Cat Basket by Mia Cara from Style Tails

Pet accessories aren’t all about their beds, there are some lovely bowls around that might just make their food look a little more appetising! This lovely ceramic set of bowls from The Stylish Dog Company are stunning, they come in various colours and a few spotted designs. Plus they are specially designed for spaniels and other floppy eared dogs to avoid an ears in the food fiasco.

British Blue Spaniel Bowl from The Stylish Dog Company

For a modern design, these bowls in a wooden structure from Mungo and Maud are brilliant, they’re perfect minimalist chic and will help avoid that awful sound of a metal bowl being scrapped around the floor as the dog tries to get every last bit of their dinner!

Double Wooden Dog Bowl from Mungo and Maud

If you want to keep your dog’s food safely hidden away, so that you don’t have to see garish packaging and so the dog can’t weasel its way into it, keep it in a stylish container like this one from Mungo and Maud, it’ll look good especially if your short on space and need to keep your dog’s food in the kitchen.

Dog Food Storage Container from Mungo and Maud

If you want to spoil your pet and maintain a beautiful home in the process there is a whole market out there for keeping your pet (and your home) stylish. With so many styles and ranges to choose from you’ll be wanting to update your dog’s style as much as your own!

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