Monday, 23 December 2013

Brit Decor: Happy Christmas

Image / Mike Ahern


Wow, Christmas is literally upon us and after a mammoth present wrapping session at the weekend, I think I'm just about there!

I have just arrived home from an annual trip to the local farm shop where I met with my Mum, my Sister and adorable baby niece. We traditionally buy last minute food supplies for the all important Christmas lunch, followed by a delicious slice of homemade cake and a cup of hot chocolate.

Feeling a little sentimental, as I always do at this time of year, I want to share a personal festive message  with you by including some of my most prized Christmas tree decorations. The vintage hand-painted glass baubles 'above' were given to me and my Sister by our amazing Gran many years ago for a miniature silver tinsel tree that we had both been given and wanted to decorate all by ourselves.

I am so glad that I kept these decorations over the years as they not only look enchanting when they catch the light on the Christmas tree but they also serve as a touching reminder of those people who are dearest to me. Similarly, the handmade wooden reindeer cuts a crisp snow white silhouette  against our own 2013 Christmas tree and was bought by my partner as a gift.

So wherever you are in the world right now and whether or not you celebrate Christmas (not forgetting my Israeli friends) I hope you have a very happy holiday and I can't wait to explore a brand new 2014 with you all!

Mike x

Friday, 20 December 2013

Brit Decor: Friday Brights

Image / Expressen / 1 Alpine hot water bottle £45 Seven Gauge Studios / 2 Starry Sky
cushion cover £45 Rob Ryan / 3 Tokyo blanket £300 Darkroom


I love the dynamic energy of this cheerful palette which is rather fitting for the last Friday before the Christmas break, right?  This setting is perfect for some holiday entertaining with a cosy sofa, plenty of  scatter cushions and the all important cocktail glasses! (chink chink)

The vibrancy of this gorgeous knitted Alpine hot water bottle (no.1) from the amazing Seven Gauge Studios is an accessory that I'd happily leave on view, and look at the warmth of the glowing orange print on Rob Ryan's Starry Sky cushion cover (no.2), I would love to see this set against a neutral sofa or armchair to create a really exciting contrast.

Talking of contrasting colours, the pixelated design of Darkroom's Tokyo blanket (no.3) really does ignite a colour spark with the yellow-blue combo and pale pink trim. Combine all of the above colours and you suddenly have a bold and uplifting Friday bright palette!

Enjoy the weekend friends.















Thursday, 19 December 2013

Brit Decor: Paper Lust

1/ Home, Orla Kiely 2/ The Hobbitt, J R R Tolkien 3/ The Kinfolk Table, Nathan Williams
 4/ Modern Rustic, Emily Henson 5/ The Great Fashion Designers at Home, Ivan Terestchenko
 6/ An English Room, Derry Moore 7/ Home Sweet Home, Tarek Malouf


In amongst the family visits, last minute shopping and social gatherings, I love to cosy down with a good book over the Christmas holidays in my never-ending quest for inspiration.  This year I have really embraced the kitchen after discovering that I actually do like baking (see the Brit Decor Food & Drink section for the evidence!) so I guess it is inevitable that two of my top seven book buys should be food related. There is, of course, a selection of interior related books too as one of my favourite simple things is to quietly flick through the large page images of a hardback and plan my next project whilst munching on one or two of my favourite chocs. 

Following the huge success of her first book, Pattern, Orla Kiely's Home no.1 invites us to peek inside the designer's own house as well as a series of British, Irish and Scandinavian examples photographed by Richard Powers. We also discover some of the mid-century designs which have inspired this iconic designer's work. The distinctive sleeve pattern design makes this a definite coffee table book!

I do love a good collector's edition don't you? That's exactly what you get with no.2, J R R Tolkien's The Hobbitt, which is the prelude to Lord of the Rings. This hardback edition includes brand new reproductions of all the drawings and all of the maps by Tolkien.

The massively popular The Kinfolk Table no.3 from the creators of Kinfolk magazine reflects on the growing trend in the 'simple things' in life with a charming look at understated, unfussy entertaining. This cookbook profiles recipes for simple breakfasts, one-pot dinners or even a perfectly composed sandwich! 

Book No.4 Modern Rustic is a recent purchase of mine after I was lured inside by the gorgeous mid-twentiety century sofa on the cover image. This is a gem of a reference book for earthy colour palettes and rich textures. Emily Henson and Joanna Simmons take us through the various 'looks' including, Modern Rustic, Sophisticated Rustic, Bohemian Rustic, Quirky Rustic and Vintage Rustic.

This next book, The Great Fashion Designers at Home no.5 is a fascinating look at the homes of some of our most legendary designers such as Chanel's apartment at 31 Rue Cambon - another must-have coffee table book!

An English Room no.6 immediately sounds so quintessentially British doesn't it! This book is founded upon the adage that an English person's home is their castle, whether it is an actual castle, a modest studio or a middle-terrace, the home is sacred. Again, I love to peek at other people's interiors and in this book we get to see the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame) divulge where he likes to read scripts and the mastermind that is Stephen Fry invites us into his dressing room at the Apollo Theatre in London!

Finally, no.7 The Hummingbird Bakery's Home Sweet Home takes an indulgent look at over 100 new recipes which celebrate the art of home-baking including, custard cream cupcakes, pineapple upside-down cake, blueberry buns and even chocolate cake with vanilla meringue (my mouth is actually watering right now!).

What will you be reading this Christmas?







Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Brit Decor: Colour Report SS2014

Image / Yatzer

With 2014 just a few weeks away from us and the promise of Spring brights bursting onto the scene , I had to share this exciting colour palette preview with you from the world leaders in colour direction, Pantone and one of their top 10 colours for SS2014. Personally, I cannot take my eyes away from  number five on the list, 14-0852 Freesia Yellow.

I love how the chimney breast 'above' is elevated by the sunburst yellow paint which is so deliciously bright and inviting. The brightness and intensity of this florally inspired colour makes it the perfect choice for creating a statement and I am really excited about some of todays picks, which are sure to be the first of many freesia inspired home products for the New Year.

What better way to kick off this colour inspired shopping trip than this gorgeous Anyone Here? pillow by Peter Goes (no.1) from Society6, sporting the eye-catching combo of black and yellow. The warm golden tones of the Stockholm fabric (no.2) makes this value textile a fantastic gem especially when paired with the buttercup brightness of the bedside table (no.4) of the same name and both of these finds are from IKEA

The classic design of Habitat's perfectly formed Tam Tam stool (no.3) looks so energised in yellow whilst IKEA just keeps on delivering the goods for this palette with their elegant Stockholm rug (no.5) - sure to elevate any floor in this colour!







Monday, 16 December 2013

Brit Decor: Palette/ Festive


Image / Sarah Barksdale Design 1/ Godta mugs £1.25 IKEA 2/ New Gate wall clock £29.95
Bloomsbury Store 3/ Fair Isle cushion £20 John Lewis

I couldn't resist another walk around the shops on Saturday, gazing at each of the beautiful store front displays and eyeing up the tempting gifts (and there were many!). Myself and @simonwatsonpt even had a toy store stay open for us as I pondered over a last minute gift for an honorary niece, although we were totally unaware of this until I reached the checkout, we did feel a little bit like VIP's!  

It was such a relief to finally finish hand-printing and then writing out my Christmas cards, which are now just a post box away from being sent to my amazing family and friends. In the midst of the card making production line, the Christmas tree was finally decorated and so far we've only seen one broken bauble thanks to an over curious Siamese cat.

Although the UK weather is currently far from festive, the increasing number of prettily decorated houses and gardens, the sparkling town centres and general air of excitement are working wonders on my Christmas spirit, which led to today's classic Christmas palette of red and white. In reality this colour combo looks great at any time of the year, I'm particularly fond of mixing up the traditional blue & white coastal look by switching the blue in favour of red for a crisp and energised finish.

I am really taken with the 'above' Fair Isle knitted cushion from John Lewis (3), which puts me in mind of one of Mr Bazaar's festive knits! How cute and fun are these patterned glass Godta mugs from IKEA, perfect for a drop of winter warming hot chocolate with a shot of ginger!? I am also rather partial to a notebook as I find it very therapeutic scribbling down notes and ideas for future blog posts and how nice would it be to pull one of these fetching designs 'below', also from John Lewis (6) out of your desk drawer?

I hope your week ahead is full of bright festive cheer and inspiration!


Image / Design*Sponge 4/ Rox footstool £65 Habitat 5/ Snomys candles £5 IKEA
6/ House exercise books £4 John Lewis




Friday, 13 December 2013

Brit Decor: Party Season

Image / Greige

These days everyone seems to be partying throughout December and into the New Year and long may it continue! From those slightly embarrassing moments at the work's Christmas party to those unforgettable nights out with friends, just rock your own style and do it with a touch of class. Well that's my advice anyway!

That Friday feeling is pretty good in any week of the year but there seems to be something extra special about the festive-feel Fridays in the lead up to the holidays - a distinctive air of excitement don't you think? So in true Brit Decor fashion, here's a celebration of Festive Fridays - palette style. A sophisticated blend of smokey evening pinks and purples with bolts of fresh white lights to enliven the senses. 

I love the suspended ceiling pendant decorations on coloured chords as they float amongst the dreamy metallic balloons like no.2 from the Wedding Mall.  Candlelight is a 'must have' for that party-meets-dinner look and this beautiful Tallow candle (no.4) in a luxurious Burgundy really fits the bill and is available from The Conran Shop. With so much hype currently surrounding the roaring 1920's the Grande Gatsby cushion makes a popular return to Brit Decor but this time in 'Majestic Purple' from Aura (no.5).

To really celebrate in style, the party would not be complete without the bubbly so time to bring on this very seductive Devon champagne glass (no.1) from Habitat and of course, a festive party really wouldn't be the same without these vibrant handmade Christmas crackers (no.3) from Not on The High Street!

Happy partying!



Thursday, 12 December 2013

Brit Decor: Lighting Report










Images (from top) 1/ Design Milk 2/ Unburro 3/ Muuto 4/ Europaconcorsi
 5/ From Scandinavia with Love 6/ Rue Mag 7/ Emma's Design Blogg 
8/ Design Milk


Lighting is so important because it really can make or break a room, the wrong choice will affect colours and even mood. Here is a selection of simple task lighting with an emphasis towards metals and the still trending industrial edge. However small, each lamp in this series has an architectural feel - sleek, dramatic and functional.

The table lamp in image 1 provides incredibly subtle detailing and the choice of chalky grey blends perfectly with the surrounding coastal-look decor. If you are wanting to take the colour coded approach, try this elegant handmade in Britain BTC Hector Pleat table lamp from Heals in a beautiful pastel green. The desk light in image 2 not only serves as a vital task light but also provides an accent colour in apple green. For a simple & very affordable desk light, try the timeless metal Tommy lamp from Habitat in black or vibrant yellow, currently at £12.

How dramatic do these monumental ceiling shades look in image 3!? I am huge advocate of low hanging lighting in a dining setting but with lighting of this scale be sure to have a dimmer option to tone down the brightness in favour of a more relaxing shade for dinner. Equally dramatic is this Skygarden 1 pendant shade by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders and available from The Conran Shop - I love the contrast between the glossy black exterior die-cast aluminium and the softer relief pattern inside.

The monochromatic look continues in the strikingly slick kitchen design 'above' which is accentuated by the simple wall light as it creates a silhouette effect against the brilliant white wall in image 4. To replicate this look, try this New York wall light from Bodie and Fou - the twisted arm and the pairing of black and copper colours is stunning. The beautiful copper pendant lights in image 5 bring an instant luxe-look to their settings and have that oh-so popular distinctive mid-twentieth century style. For a truly luxurious feel, try grouping together several pendant lights. This Tom Dixon copper pendant from Heals has all the style and glamour of an early James Bond movie! I adore copper objects around the house at this time of year, it's such a warm coloured material and the reflective qualities serve to bounce light around a room like copper flames.  

The simple white floor lamp in image 6 is so unobtrusive and also a source of beautiful ambient light - great for that softer bedroom feel. Why not create a studio-style look with this sophisticated Fortuny 1985 floor lamp from twentytwentyone? I couldn't resist slipping two floor lights into this feature so the second example in image 7 has a strong architectural design as it towers over the sofa and links perfectly with the simple black picture frames. I love how the stylist has softened the masculine monochromatic elements by adding elegant white flowers and a soft wool rug. For a minimal look, how about this elegant and statuesque white Steel Knuckles floor light from French Connection Home?

So do you have a favourite type of lighting?












Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Brit Decor: Industrious Living

Image/ Lotta Agaton /1 Reflections cushion £60 /2 Gasometer cushion £60 /3 Gasholder wallpaper
£120 /4 Gasholder light shade £45 /5 Ductile cushion £60 All products via Anthony Hughes Designs 

Some exciting new interior products from Leeds based surface designer, Anthony Hughes, crossed my path recently and I just wanted to share them with you. Anthony's debut collection is called Industrious Living and features digitally printed wallpapers, cushions, light shades and a small selection of greetings cards.

I really love Anthony's graphic style and his designs are sure to make a statement wherever they are placed in the home. Above are just a few pieces from this collection and it's great to see another talented designer flying the flag for British design!


Monday, 9 December 2013

Brit Decor: Lemon Circle Cake





Images / Mike Ahern

My weekend was pretty disappointing due to the onset of man-flu, which has come at the most inconvenient of times. However, not to be beaten by the sickness blues, I decided to bake up the perfect 'pick-me-up' with this Lemon Circle cake.

I love the sweet citrus flavours and the the slight crunch to the  the lemon syrup coated base (poured into the cake mould fresh from the oven) and doesn't the grated lemon zest look vibrant and uplifting? This baking project also gave me the opportunity to use my newly purchased fuchsia pink silicone cake mould from Habitat, which worked a treat!

So here's how I did it…

Ingredients:

Circle Cake
3 egg whites
2 tea spoons of baking powder
1/2 tea spoon salt
85 g unsalted butter
245 g caster sugar
165 ml milk
235g plain flour
11/2 Lemons (for the grated zest)

Lemon Syrup
50 g caster sugar
Juice & zest of 1 lemon

Lemon Glazing
Juice of 1 lemon
250 g sifted icing sugar

24cm ring mould.

Preheat the oven to 170 oc (Gas mark 3).

Add the sugar, butter and lemon zest to a mixing bowl and beat before slowly adding in the milk. Then gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat these ingredients until the mixture is light and fluffy. Whisk together the 3 egg whites in a separate bowl until they form stiff peaks then gently fold  into the cake mixture. Pour the mixture into the mould and place in the oven for around 30-35 minutes.

Whilst the cake is baking in the oven, it's time to make the lemon syrup. Add the lemon juice and caster sugar to 100ml of water and bring to the boil in a small saucepan until it has the consistency of a light syrup. Take off the boil and allow to cool slightly.

Once the cake has been removed from the oven, pour the syrup over the top (bearing in mind the cake will be upside down) and allow to cool slightly. Then tip the cake out of the mould and allow to cool through on a wire rack.

Finally add the juice of 1 lemon to 250 g of icing sugar and mix thoroughly until smooth and pourable.
Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake and decorate with any remaining grated lemon zest. There you have it, a lemon circle cake!





Friday, 6 December 2013

Brit Decor: Weekend Projects

1/ Gingerbread house cutter set £4.99 Lakeland 2/ Christmas dolls sewing kit £20 Hunky Dory Home
3/ Christmas craft white Angel £5.50 Not on the High Street 4/ Freya & Frankie Fox craft kit
£8.25 Hunky Dory Home


For me, Christmas has always been a time of making, even as far back as my early childhood I can vividly remember assisting in the ritual making of the Christmas cake with my Gran and sister. Of course back then my main interest was in the final exciting stages of decorating the snow white icing with miniature fir trees and a waving Santa Claus!

With the exception of the Christmas cake toppers (sadly lost in action years ago) not much has changed as I still love to make and create at Christmas time. So far this season I have created my own hand printed Christmas cards, featured on Brit Decor in November. However, I still feel the urge to make my first ever gingerbread house as well as finish a restoration project on a treasured ottoman handed to me by my Great Gran #Sentimental, following some sterling advice from @dsjon at The Cantin' Patch.

So in the spirit of Christmas creativity I have selected a handful of fun projects all of which would make fantastic gifts or something nice to keep for yourself! I first spotted this charming little gingerbread house cutter set (no.1) in Lakeland whilst on a shopping trip with @micholoughlin and it's something that I just have to try making. 

Hunky Dory Home is a must see store for crafting projects with this vibrant Christmas dolls sewing set by Jane Foster (no.2) perfect for scattering on the sofa to add some festive cheer or a sweet playroom decoration for the kids. Also from the same store are these cuter than cute Freya & Frankie fox characters which come complete with full instructions.

If you are still looking for finishing touches to decorate your Christmas tree this year, how about making your own? This Christmas Craft white Angel by Little Ella James may be just what you need and is available from Not on the High Street.

The next few weekends could be busy…









Thursday, 5 December 2013

Brit Decor: Storm Surge

Image / Alessandro Puccinelli / 1 Pantone bauble £8.39 National Colour Supplies 2/ Cotton
blanket £95 Folklore 3/ Fox Tea Mug $15 Society6

With a storm surge of Artic winds and high winter tides due to hit much of the UK today I thought it only right to feature this stunning image from Alessandro Puccinelli! Stay warm everyone.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Brit Decor: Accent/Blue





Images (from top) / 1 Harvey Faircloth / 2 LisaSorgini / 3 An Indian Summer / 4 Brit /
The Design Files Open House / 6 Maria Barros


I really do love a good accent! Last month's feature on aqua accents proved so popular that I was inspired to explore this exciting blue palette even further. Adding a flash of colour is a hugely successful and pretty easy way of updating a room and this is the reason why I fell in love with the 'above' series of eye catching images.

This stunning collection demonstrates that smaller accent colours can work just as well as large blocks of the same hue in terms of making an impact, however subtle. I tend to look at accent colours as volume dials, you can turn them up or down depending on how loud you want them to be! Take for example the inviting royal blue armchair in the first image with its classic blue and gold colour combo and then note how this vivid blue upholstery draws in the beautiful painting behind and the blue stripe of the multicoloured sofa cushion.

The 1950's style sofa in image 2 is simply stunning and so on-trend in the smokey petrol blue upholstery, this slightly muted accent colour adds a certain sophistication to the room and happily accommodates the eclectic array of vibrant patterned textiles but this smokey fabric would also work well with moody grey velvet cushions.

The clever mix of black and blue woodwork in the striking dining room setting in the third image really caught my eye - I love how only one chair has been painted in a sea blue accent, which perfectly partners the textile wallhanging, colour matching is so cool!?

Image 4 delivers a huge burst of colour blocking with this gorgeous emerald blue accent wall colour. A single wall painted in a vibrant colour is guaranteed to make a statement and offers endless opportunities to colour match with accessories like the rich velvet chair and glossy turquoise coffee table.

The deep and uplifting Med blue wall panelling and sideboard in image 5 provides a dramatic backdrop for this quirky room. The intensity of this hue means that it's a good idea to counterbalance with some pale neutrals like the rich cream woven rug or the brilliant white wall to the left - the contrast this creates, adds to the drama. 

In the final image, the colour volume is turned down several notches with dreamy pale pastels (so calming don't you think?) which immediately put me in mind of a restful holiday retreat in foreign climbs. This pale turquoise makes for a beautiful accent sofa fabric and works a treat with the elegant lampshade in co-ordinating colours. Of course, turquoise isn't the only accent colour at play in this setting with the delicious coral pink cushions and elephant wall print, proof that more than one accent in a scheme can work brilliantly too.

Do you have a favourite?














Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Brit Decor: Laid Bare

Images (from top) 1/ The Fickle Fox 2/ Rusta Upp 3/ Interier Magazin 


It is so good to see that many designers are ditching wood veneers in favour of the real thing with a clear move towards solid wood and traditional craftsmanship. So today's post is a celebration of this age-old natural material and its wide reaching relationship with interior design.

Let's start with the beautifully texture-rich look in the first image (above) and the striking dark wood flooring, which takes centre stage in this room. The warm tones of the wood grain provides the perfect palette when mixed with the lighter tones of the mid-twentieth century furniture pieces and look how these colours are mimicked in the rich copper shaded upholstery with a strong emphasis on warmth and glowing tones. When faced with such incredible depth from the flooring and furnishings, a neutral wall paint seems the only way to go for that statement finish!

The second look is clearly defined by the pale 'blonde' wood in this Scandinavian-style room, which would make the perfect setting for yesterday's selection of Scandi-style Christmas decorations! I find there is a distinctive purity to lighter woods which can create a refreshing look without feeling cold. Mix these blonde woods with bright whites like these Eames chairs and you have a stunning contemporary Nordic setting.

Finally, incorporating wood into an interior scheme doesn't have to be all about neutrals as the third image clearly shows, painted wood can be equally as beautiful. For knock-out texture, use a distressed paint technique to reveal layers of colour as well as adding character. I love the pale mint colouring of the wall panels combined with the fuchsia pink of the roses!!

Of course today's feature wouldn't be complete without a shopping list of real-wood accessories to compliment the 'laid bare' look. I hope you enjoy!



1/ Birds £34 Story North 2/ Pixoss Lamp £175 FolkLore 3/ Mineral Matches $4 Leif Shop
4/ Square colour chip box $68 Leif Shop 5/ Elm board £35 Hampson Woods 6/ Dorm
House shelf £79.95 Pretty Dandy


Monday, 2 December 2013

Brit Decor:ate #3


Image / Splendid Willow


Christmas is almost here and I know that whilst some of you are already sporting this year's festive trimmings, others are still holding back and resisting temptation. I always remember my horror as a schoolchild when a friend revealed that his family always delayed bringing a fir tree into the house until Christmas Eve! I prefer to make the most out of the festive look by decorating a couple of weeks in advance so I really get a chance to soak up the each and every decoration but everyone has their own way of doing things, right? 

It is also a tradition in our household every December to cosy down to a viewing of Meet me in St Louis with the fir tree lights twinkling away, the log burner gently glowing and all presents wrapped and safely tucked away under the tree. It is at this point that I truly feel like Christmas has arrived - pure magic!

Speaking of traditions, which nicely brings us to the third in this series of festive styles with a look at one of my all time favourites, Scandi-style. I love the use of natural materials in the selections below which are so heart warming with their distinctive handcrafted look with subtle reds and off-whites. How cute are the wooden tree decorations (no.3) from Habitat? And from the same brand is the stunning pine cone garland (no.7) great when combined with the warm reds of these papier mache baubles (no.4). True to its Scandinavian roots, IKEA brings us this fetching Santa Claus advent calendar, which you can fill with your own choice of little gifts year after year.

If you wish to compare all three styles in this series, you can find part one, Simplicity here, or part two Colour Burst  here

So when do you begin the festive decorating in your home?



1/ Merry Christmas Wooden Postcard £4 Starling Store 2/ Fox decoration £4.45 Hunky Dory
Home 3/ Wooden Character £5 Habitat 4/ Papier mache baubles £10 Habitat 5/ Willow wreath
£19 St Aidan's Home Store 6/ Snomys advent calendar £25 IKEA 7/ Pine cone garland £8 Habitat

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