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.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Brit Decor: Bathroom edit/ 6 ways to accessorize

Images (from top) 1/ New Stories 2/ Hearth 3/ Scandinavian Love Song 4/ SRTA Pepis 
5/ Ferm living 6/  Marianne Evennou 7/ Remain Simple 

The New Year often ushers in exciting new plans for updating our homes in what can often feel like a fresh start in so many ways, and of course, there are plenty of January sale bargains to be had when it comes to funding home improvements. 

Almost one year ago at the cottage, I was eagerly planning a complete overhaul of our bathroom, which consisted of ripping out the old suite and completely renewing everything right down to the bricks, pipework and electrics. This was in part due to a minor water leak that had gone undetected for many months but had escalated into a major problem by the time we discovered it.

On the plus side however, it felt good to strip everything back and essentially start over again. We had been tempted to opt for a wet room, and we looked in detail at installing a My Bathrooms wet room kit but in the end, we opted for a minimal shower enclosure and wooden flooring (the wet room remains on our wish-list along with a larger bathroom!).

Key to the success of either a brand new bathroom or a makeover of an existing room - is accessorising. Get this wrong and the entire scheme just won't add up and will lack a cohesive style. So stick with Brit Decor for the Bathroom Edit as I run through my top six tips for accessorising your way to a perfectly styled bathroom...

No.1 Go Green 
It really is a good thing to see the re-emergence of houseplants on the interiors scene right now, but don't overlook the bathroom when applying the green finger to your home. The typically warm and humid climate can be ideal for tropical plants such as Anthrium and Caladium. Foliage will add colour, texture and an organic feel to the room.

No.2 Reflect on it
Mirrors are crucial to the overall success of any bathroom. On a practical level they deliver a visual tool for those essential vanity tasks, whilst in spatial terms, mirrors create the illusion of increased space and help to reflect light around the room - particularly effective for those more confined bathroom spaces.

No.3 Go Spa-Style
You shouldn't have to visit a spa just to feel pampered! Indulge in a selection of favourite lotions and potions to bring that luxury feeling home to your bathroom. There is such a plethora of products to choose from and you can even colour match with your scheme!

No.4 Wax works
Candles not only look great in a bathroom, they can aid relaxation too. Opt for scented candles for increased ambience but either way, this is a win-win accessory.

No.5 Tile-talk
The end result is not such quick fix as the other accessories featured in my top six, but Tiles can offer a relatively fast makeover, depending on how much coverage is needed. Adding a simple row of patterned tiles can sometimes be all that's needed for that extra special design detail. For a unique accessory, consider sourcing handmade or vintage tiles, which can make stunning individual candle and soap stands!

No.6 Sit pretty
Due to the limited floor space in many bathrooms, seating is frequently overlooked in our bathrooms. However, all it needs is a small stool or chair to add instant character. Natural woods offer a neutral and versatile look. 

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, 12 December 2014

Brit Decor: Loves/ Merry Metallics

Image (above) / H&M Home

For those of you who haven't yet decided on a suitable theme for this year's Christmas decorations, the next couple of weeks is actually a good time to buy new ones as many retailers will begin to reduce the price of their festive collections in an effort to shift stock before close of Christmas.

If you are stuck for style ideas, metallics are deservedly hitting the headlines in the world of interiors, and these shiny materials lend perfectly to Christmas decorations. At the Brit Decor cottage, I have already indulged in a dose of metallic magic with my handmade copper 3D gems - featured here on the blog last week.

So here is a small selection of my top metallic picks to help bring that all important style-statement to your Christmas:

Glass skull decorations (box of 4) £12 Paperchase
2 Asteroid gold bauble £2.50 Habitat
3 Zuz antique copper decorations (set of 3) £9.50 House Envy
4 Marble & Gold 24 gift tags £9.50 Rockett St George
5 Golden Christmas tree print £29 Not on the High Street
6 Tippie bell heart decoration £13 House Envy
7 Copper glass star votive £6.95 Idyll Home

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Brit Decor: Interiors Detox with Loaf.com

Harley pouffe, from £175 Loaf

Marmalade sofa, from £1195 Loaf

Gilbert lamp £95 Loaf

Pascale wardrobe (scuffed grey) £1395 Loaf

Quill desk £695 Loaf

Workshop pendant lamp £65 Loaf                                                All images / Loaf

The importance of finding some peace and tranquility in our lives is for most of us, more crucial now in the run-up to the Festive period than at any other time during the year. The magic of Christmas can all too easily seduce our thoughts, routines, shopping habits and our homes, with some of us (allegedly) already experiencing Christmas prep fatigue. 

At the cottage we welcomed in a new but temporary style last weekend, with the addition of a Christmas tree. The Christmas cards are beginning to trickle in via the post and soon the festive feel will pretty much dominate our lounge. Upstairs, my study has been transformed into a mini-Santa workshop of gifts, wrapping paper and tags, but nonetheless, the festive spirit still prevails in our home despite the loss of precious floor space.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that I am feeling the need to preserve a corner of tranquility in the house, where I can press pause, relax and momentarily opt out. 

This really isn't a slur against Christmas, or some over-reaction to one of the most magical times of year, it's merely a reminder of how easily we can accrue clutter. Christmas is merely an example of a much broader process where we accumulate new things and clear out some of the old, or as I like to phrase it, 'interiors detox'.

So today I have turned to my friends over at Loaf.com for some inspiration on stripping it back and celebrating a simpler, cooler and sophisticated style...

To undergo a successful detox of your home, think about selecting a limited 'edit' of your favourite accessories to pepper around - don't worry if this means storing other items away, you can keep switching with those already on display to create a constantly fresh and updated look.

Clear space in the home and set aside time in your diary; the sofa is a big deal, it can be one of the largest items in our living rooms and one of the most expensive, so it is imperative to get this right. Achieving the perfect balance between style and comfort isn't always easy but I love how Loaf's Marmalade sofa (above) achieves this in spades. The feather wrapped foam cushions are not only super-comfy, they also require minimal plumping, and this sofa is also available in an incredible 89 gorgeous colours!

As with the sofa, one of those simple luxuries in life can be putting your feet up and grabbing some comfy time. I am really taken with these Harley pouffes, which are bulging with comfort and constructed in a deliciously light and unobtrusive geo patterned fabric. Pouffes and foot-stools are hugely versatile furniture items - they can also be used as impromptu seating for those extra guests, or pop a tea tray on top and you suddenly have a stunning temporary coffee table.

The key to successfully tidying away, is of course, storage. Simple lines and curves bring a touch of elegance and sophistication, whilst pastel colours tend to make larger items of storage furniture, like this Pascale wardrobe (also above) finished in 'Scuffed Grey', which looks totally effortless.

Here in the UK during the Winter we are plunged into darkness for what seems like too many hours during these shortened days, and interior lighting suddenly takes on a new importance. Lift up a room scheme by flooding it with light (cold or warm). Darker and shadowy room schemes can feel enclosed and cluttered, so I tend to counteract this with a selection of smaller decorative and task lighting, like this Gilbert desk lamp, or feature pendants such as the industrial inspired grey Workshop pendant, both featured 'above'.

Sometimes just sitting at my desk seems to clear and focus my mind, making it a surprisingly tranquil place to be, despite the hive of activity that also takes place there. I love the bureau-style design of the handmade Quill desk, with a beached timber finish this has a very natural and simple beauty. There is also plenty of storage to be had here - perfect for aiding that detoxing process and hiding away clutter.

I think I may just start my 2015 with a fresh start, but how do you like to detox your home? I'd love to hear your tips!

All items shown above are available from Loaf.

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!

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