Tuesday 23 December 2014

Brit Decor: Mid-Winter Walk

 All images / Mike Ahern

Waking up to another Winter Solstice at the weekend was a bit of an eye opener. I realised that somehow the rug had been pulled from underneath me and with it had gone 2014, almost.

Despite it being the shortest day of the year here in the UK, we decided to brave the elements and head outdoors for some much needed fresh air. It would be virtually impossible for me to write-up the weather conditions that we experienced without telling you it how it really was - bleak! However, we were not to be deterred by this and set out across the Somerset border to the village of Marshfield in Gloucestershire for an invigorating walk to blow away the remaining cobwebs from 2014.

This picturesque place holds such a very special set of childhood memories for me and is steeped in my family's ancestry - inevitably Marshfield still feels like a home from home. I can just about bring myself to walk past the old cottage in 'East End' which used to belong to my great Grandparents, where I remember playing around in their beautiful garden with my sister, before the sentimental pangs kick in. But it's not all about looking back...

There is the looking forward too. 2015 holds much promise and anticipation for me and no doubt for you too. Christmas is one of those guaranteed periods where I know that I will take some much needed time-out with my family and friends to enjoy all of the festivities, before rolling my sleeves up ready to take on the New Year.

This just leaves me with one more thing to write before switching of my computer until 2015, and that is to wish you all a very Happy Holiday, wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing.


Monday 15 December 2014

Brit Decor: Welcome to the house of Brissi

Images (from top) 1/4/6/10 Brissi 2/3/5/7/8/9/11 Mike Ahern

I recently received an exciting invite to attend an important house warming party at no.38 Milsom Street in Bath, now otherwise known as the House of Brissi. This, the Italian brand's sixth UK store, has taken over an entire Georgian townhouse in the heart of the city, and the intuitive layout instantly creates a sense of taking a peek into a private home.

Back in early Autumn I was curious to see this building in the throws of renovation works. Due to my long and enduring fascination with Georgian architecture, I cheekily stepped inside the front door (Health & Safety boffins, please don't read) keen to see the interior in it's shell-like phase. I was not disappointed by what I saw - the interiors had been stripped back to their original features with ornate cornicing, wooden floorboards characterised by centuries of footfall, and elegantly high ceilings, not to mention an ornate wooden winding staircase. But would these features remain in-tact once the new residents had moved in...?

Fast forward a couple of months to press night and I suddenly found myself transported into a world of Italian glamour and luxe living, set against a Georgian back-drop. It turns out that the original features, all still beautifully in-tact, lend themselves beautifully to the pastel grey walls and a sophisticated homeware collection. Floor by floor, room by room, I was totally immersed.

In the words of the brand's founders, Arianna Brissi and Siobhan McKeating; "It has long been a dream of ours to trade from a townhouse as this really allows us to help customers visualise how our products will look in their home, so we're thrilled to have found this perfect space in Bath".

Have you visited this store? I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Friday 5 December 2014

Brit Decor: Makes / 3D Christmas Copper Gems

All images / Mike Ahern

This weekend at the cottage we will be decorating the Christmas tree - much to the joy of our to mischievous cats! Meanwhile, I have finally found my way around to purchasing some Christmas cards, and my gift shopping is gathering pace. In amongst all of this Christmas prep, my favourite thing of all really is the tree decorating. 

This year I have been itching to find the time to bring some handmade decorations into the mix, so I decided to return to one of my most valued crafting books for inspiration, MiniEco. I love author Kate's, colourful 3D gems, which I chose to give the copper treatment for my own Brit Decor twist (see 'above').

Copper is grabbing many of the interiors related headlines right now and it's perfect for Winter with its warm and shiny glow - so with the help of some copper metallic paper, metallic thread, and the MiniEco template, I have created my very own 'on-trend' Christmas tree decorations. 

If like me, you are wanting to introduce some handmade touches to your Festive celebrations this year but are strapped for time, these easy to follow instructions mean that you can construct your own gems in no time at all. 

I simply cannot wait to see these decs dotted around the Christmas tree, shimmering their warm copper tones!

Will you be making your own decorations this year?

Monday 1 December 2014

Brit Decor: Instant Makeover/ Cali-style

All images / Mike Ahern

I have spoken on the blog before about how important it is for all of us to be inspired in some way, and no matter how or where each of us needs to look, we really should just go look!

So in complete contrast to my recent inspiring country walk, last week I decided to soak up some interiors ideas with hundreds of other kindred home-loving spirits. Braving IKEA on a Friday afternoon could have easily descended into a stressful episode, however, perhaps owed to the #BlackFriday madness unfolding in some other stores, this Swedish gem was thankfully quiet, which enabled me to browse at leisure - the best kind of shopping, right?

I am surely not alone when I say that it's difficult not to pick up at least a few stylish home accessories from IKEA, and last Friday's trip was no exception for me. I was looking for a quick visual fix to deliver a feature with impact, which ideally needed to include some foliage!

The rear of the cottage is South-facing, so the set of three Cacti (above) were the perfect choice for the Summer feel I've been yearning for since the nights began closing in here in the UK. My monochrome-loving eye was also immediately drawn to the striking Tickar plate (also above), so my mind was made up on the spot - I would create a sun loving feature to deliver pattern, texture and Co2.

I love how the stark contrast of the mono-stripes pushes the spiky green foliage to the forefront for what is a very graphic look. I could just picture this little arrangement in a boutique LA hotel!

In case we needed a reminder; makeovers need not be expensive, as this one cost less than £10 to create, and with minimal effort.

Happy December my friends!

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Brit Decor: Christmas with Zazzle.co.uk!

I am generally one of those people who gasps in horror at the sight of any Christmas paraphernalia hitting my eye-line before the month of November, although I do concede there are benefits to forward planning! However, now that Halloween and, for us Brits, Guy Fawkes night, is behind us, I am rolling up my metaphorical sleeves to begin the task of thinking about which gifts I might buy for loved ones this Festive season.

I know it's a much joked about problem but actually - what do we buy the person who has everything? Seriously? My dream scenario would be to have all the free time in the world to devote towards creating my own unique gifts, customised for each very special and individual recipient. Of course the reality is very far removed from the fantasy because individual 'make' projects take time, and lots of it, in fact more precious time than most of us have to spare.

That's why I recently jumped at the opportunity to team up with the lovely folk at Zazzle to collate a collection of 'Christmas-cool' with a unique selection of gifts, which I have chosen from their extensive range of original products. I love how this online store allowed me to be creative and run wild with the wealth of customisable options available, including choice of colour palettes, editable text, and I could even upload my own images, which were then cleverly applied to my chosen gifts. Note to all my instafriends - you may be excited to learn that Zazzle can also apply a selection of your favourite Instagram photos to products like cushions and in a design of your choice too. Imagine turning your favourite pics into stylish home wares!

With a huge and exciting collection of trending chevron designs, graphic prints and the latest home-wares styles to click and scroll my way through, Zazzle has definitely made it into my little black book of interiors goodies.

So thanks to Zazzle, this year I won't be experiencing any of the usual pre-Christmas gift buyer's angst, because I have found the perfect shopping solution. This way, I can still apply my own creativity to each gift but I get somebody else to do the making part - it's a win-win situation! 

Starting with my first selection shown 'above', here's my 2014 Christmas shopping list...

1. Merry & Bright Christmas photo card £1.55
2. Monogrammed Christmas ornament £17.95
3. Instagram throw pillow £25.95
4. Pastel rainbow personalised tote £8.00
5. Grey chevron luggage tag £9.00
6. Nautical Damascus Reason Espresso cup £12.95

And here' are my picks from the selection 'below'...

1. Wood grain grey pine tree cushion £26.95
2. Finlay Pinback Button £3.25
3. Chevron zigzag pattern wrapping paper £18
4. Rain rain rain iPad case £40.95
5. Vintage Aztec Tribal wood Maple iPhone 6 case £38.95
6. Chevron Chic monogram mug £10.95
7. Vintage Art Deco travel poster £9.30

I hope this selection has inspired you to put some Zazzle into your Christmas! I'd love to hear how you add your own creative touches to Christmas gift buying. 

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Apple & Cinnamon Loaf

All images / Mike Ahern

At the cottage, Saturdays tend to be grocery delivery day - but until that point during the afternoon when the delivery van pulls up, supplies can sometimes run a little low, and its on these occasions that I need to be extra creative with cooking ingredients when whipping up those much anticipated weekend treats.

With the onset of Winter, I find that comfort food takes on a new larger and warmer appearance, compared to the smaller and lighter treats of Summertime, and last weekend was no exception. Although the weather was still extremely mild, psychologically, the bare trees and dull light told me that a comforting bake was required, so that's exactly what I made.

This Apple & Cinnamon loaf is a simple bake that tastes delightful when eaten fresh from the oven and looks great too for that rustic good food look. 

How to make:
300g Self raising flour
150g Brown sugar
125g Unsalted butter
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Large eggs
2 roughly chopped apples

1x loaf tin

How to make:
Peel and core both of the apples. Mix the flour, sugar and butter together until you have a crumb-like consistency. Then add the eggs, chopped apples and cinnamon. Mix together thoroughly and then place into the loaf tin, sprinkle some brown sugar and flour over the top and bake at 150oc for approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday 24 October 2014

Brit Decor: Shower Power / Mira Showers

1/ Moeve Brooklyn Herringbone towel £37.80 Amara 2/ Mira Beam divider panel £540 Mira Showers 3/ Round stand mirror £4 Matalan 4/ Mira Platinum dual wireless controller £153.60 Mira Showers 5/ 20z Cassia stone soap £7 The Conran Shop 6/ High Society Rockefeller tile £27.54 Fired Earth 7/ Scented candle £6.99 H&M 8/ Grey marble tumbler £12 BHS 9/ Hay Volet coat hooks £20 Selfridges

When devising any interior design scheme it's a huge plus for the designer to have a strong focal point to work with. Bathrooms can prove to be a particular challenge with potential limitations on space and balancing these with the need to create functionality and, of course, style. However, the pay-off from creating a dream bathroom is worth every second of the planning process! 

For many of us, a crucial part of modern bathroom living has to be the shower; it's fast, convenient and best suited to our busy schedules due to its 'wash-and-go' function. Therefore, choosing the right shower enclosure is crucial to the overall success of your bathroom. So today's focal point is brought to us via these stunning Shower units from Mira showers. My favourite enclosure (by a tiny margin) is the Beam divider panel (no.2 'above'), due to its clean simple lines and minimalist-look, but having said this, I also love the rather curvaceous lines of Mira's Beam alcove enclosure (no.2 'below'). 

Of course, with any strong design statement like these shower units, you need the accessories to create the perfect design statement in your bathroom, right? Based around each Mira shower enclosure I have created two trending themes to compliment these; Before Colour explores my continuing love affair with monochrome, which I have softened with stylish greys in a selection of clean and minimal lines. Then there's my Copper Cool palette, which in contrast to the monochrome styling exudes warmth and energy with earthy reds and shiny copper metallics - the perfect Autumnal palette!

I love the herringbone-meets-chevron design of these tempting towels from Amara (no.1 above) and for that added slick and techno-cool design feature, I couldn't resist including the slick Beam divider panel, also from Mira (no.4 'above'). The elegant hexagonal detailing on Fired Earth's beautiful High Society Rockefeller tiles (no. 6 'above') deliver a high-end finish to this scheme (I gotta get me some of these!). And on the subject of sharp lines, I love the black Cassia soap bar from The Conran Shop for those quirky design details that are oh-so important to the overall finish of any room. 

What is it about Copper that is driving the design world crazy right now? I only have to take a glance at this warm and glossy material to know why - it's simply stunning. If you are looking for a warm and inviting palette, this could be the one with these med-style Alicante terracotta tiles from Mandarin Stone (no.5 'below') which will also offer the perfect contrast to a pure white bathroom suite. I have to admit that I am pretty captivated by this copper toned glass mirror from Heals (no.8 'below) - for that unique design feature. For value interiors fashion accessories, there's the striking copper-effect metal storage basket from H&M (no.3 'below') because storage is another crucial factor to creating a successful bathroom. And for that luxe-feel, I am smitten with Habitat's clasp leather laundry bag (no.4 'below').

So which palette are you? Copper Cool or Before Colour?

1/ Copper soap dispenser £29.95 Dwell 2/ Mira Beam alcove (from £624) Mira Showers 3/ Copper-effect metal basket £6.99 H&M 4/ Clasp leather laundry bag £150 Habitat 5/ Alicante Terracotta tile (from £1.57) Mandarin Stone 6/ Scion Mr Fox towels (from £10) John Lewis 7/ Collier copper toilet brush £22 Habitat 8/ Menu Gridy Me Clear mirror £71 Heals

Friday 17 October 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Bacon & Maple Syrup cupcakes

All images / Mike Ahern

It's unusual for me to be torn between sweet and savoury as the former usually wins hands-down. However, last weekend I found myself craving both! A nice crispy bacon 'butty' is one of my all time favourite weekend snacks - the freshly cooked bacon always offers one of those comforting homely smells.

Another thing I love about bacon sandwiches is the speed at which one can be put together and then devoured (very handy for feeding unannounced guests at the cottage on weekends). So in the spirit of keeping things easy, speedy, and combing sweet and savoury, I decided to make some bacon and maple syrup cupcakes.

The fluffy sponges gently emit the mild spicy nutmeg and cinnamon flavours, which are offset perfectly by the sweetness of the caramelised maple syrup which coats the bite-sized bacon pieces and forms the central flavour of the maple frosting. Mixing bowls to the ready my friends!

Cupcake Ingredients:
150g unsalted butter (softened)
150g caster sugar
180g plain flour
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Caramelised bacon:
3 rashers bacon
Drizzle maple syrup

60g unsalted butter
4 tbsp maple syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
150g icing sugar

Here's how to make:
Preheat your oven to 180oc & line a 12 case cake tray.

Place the softened butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and flour into a bowl and one-by-one add each egg, mixing as you go along. Then add the vanilla extract,  cinnamon and nutmeg and mix together until you have a smooth and creamy batter.

Add the mixture to the cake cases and place in the oven for around 18 minutes.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven, take the rashers of bacon and drizzle with maple syrup until coated. Then grill the rashers on medium heat until golden brown. Leave to cool.

Once the cakes have been removed from the oven and cooled, prepare the frosting by mixing together all of the ingredients until these are smooth and creamy. Using a tea spoon, distribute the frosting onto each cake. Cut the bacon into small bite-sized pieces and place in each topping. Finally, drizzle some maple syrup over each cake and serve.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Brit Decor: Basket Love

Images (From the top): 1&2/ Mike Ahern 3/ Design Milk 4/ Alma Van Harskamp 5/ Bend  

At the weekend it suddenly appeared that Autumn had finally crept up and plonked itself upon us at the cottage. Falling leaves are now beginning to litter the paths whilst the nights are increasingly chilly. My aesthetic attention had been biased towards outdoor living over the Summer months but this has now shifted focus to the indoors and 'padding the nest' for Winter. I guess if I stop and think about this annual ritual for a moment, there's probably still a primitive instinct in all of us to proactively gather, store and reach for those warmer clothes as we move into colder times, right?

Helping me along with my Winter prep is my latest purchase from favourite affordable fashion retailer, H&M Home. The beautiful grey felt storage box (see images 1 & 2 above) was just what I had been looking for to hold some kindle for the wood burner. I also purchased a larger version to store old newspapers, also for the fire. So now I feel properly kitted out for Winter!

I've definitely been warming to the latest trend in basket accessories, from wire frame to bronze, recycled paper, to traditional seagrass, there's something for all of us. Sticking with H&M, I love the luxe-look of the bronze basket (no.2 below) for those glamorous nights in and a sparkle of light for the darker days ahead. Equally dazzling is the traditional 'Magga' shopping basket from The Conran Shop (no.6 below) - woven from beautifully rustic seagrass but with a contemporary dip in cobalt blue - a pleasant reminder of a Greek island holiday perhaps...?

Alternatively, if you're looking for a winter project, try sourcing a low-cost basket or up-cycling an  old basket with a splash of vibrantly coloured paint for a contemporary-meets-rustic look straight out of an interiors magazine!

1/ Crossover Bloomingville basket lampshade £69.50 Debenhams 2/ Bronze metal basket £14.99 H&M 
3/ Magga seagrass basket £7 IKEA 4/ Graphic grey baskets from £20 House Envy 5/ Black wire
baguette basket by John Rocha £12 Debenhams 6/ Wicker basket £60 The Conran Shop
7/ Cohen recycled magazine waste paper bin £10 Habitat
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...