Monday, 31 March 2014

Brit Decor: Skyline Style

Images (from top) / Planned Space / April & May Studio / Fennel & Fern / Lagerlings /
Home DIY Centre /

Here in the UK the growth of our cities and re-development of existing centres, marches onwards (and upwards) at both an exciting and sometimes alarming pace. I am a huge fan of architecture, old and new, but perhaps the country boy in me always looks for that little bit of greenery when I'm visiting the 'big smoke', whether it's a simple window box,  a tree-lined avenue, or a beautifully manicured park.

I should be careful here not to come across as being too evangelical about gardening because I have always been captivated by it.  I love how tending to my cottage garden offers up so many benefits; a workout, food, colour, scent, and the perfect outdoor room on those Summer days.

However, a growing number of city dwellers and businesses are embracing green spaces and gardening too by reaching for the skies in search of their very own little piece of England. No matter how small, there is a garden to be had by everyone, even down to the smallest of window sills there is an opportunity to develop some green fingers - albeit very stylish ones!

I am quite taken with the notion of a city rooftop nook with some simple containers for plants (scented are best for maximising that escapist feel), mixed with a scattering of simple cushions and seating with a few dashes of ambient lighting; an oasis of calm.

For my selection of garden goodies 'below', I have kept it very simple and affordable too, leaving more funds available for investing in that perfect bottle of wine to enjoy in your new outdoor room!

Are you a fan of gardening, or maybe you have a rooftop garden of your own?  

1&2 / Seat Cushions £9.99 & £7.99 H&M Home 3/ Element string lights £10 Wilko
4/ Diamond hanging planter £39 Not on the High Street 5/ Grasmaro 3-piece gardening set £3
 IKEA 6/ ELHO planter £35 Wilko 7/ Popptorp chair £45 IKEA

Friday, 28 March 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Rum Truffle Crackles

All Images / Mike Ahern

Rum Truffle Crackles

Happy weekend everyone, well nearly! I have rustled up the perfect remedy for those chilly nights when you need a little bite of comfort food to accompany a nice warm drink. Of course, you know me by now, this is another quick and easy recipe for those of us who are pushed for time (just a little).

Not only do these taste great with their crunchy sweet exteriors and soft chocolatey inners, I think they look  really cool too. I love the cracked texture which is accentuated by the frosty white icing sugar coating. Compact and bite sized - almost too easy to eat!

100g Caster sugar
30g Cocoa powder
90g Plain flour
30g Unsalted butter
50g Icing sugar
1/2 tsp Baking powder
10ml Rum
1 Egg

How to make
Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. In a bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Then mix in the butter to form a breadcrumb-type consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix the rum and the egg together before adding this to the breadcrumb mixture. Combine all the ingredients together to form a dough before wrapping this in cling film and placing in your fridge for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 180oc. Now roll the chilled dough into small 4cm balls. Tip the icing sugar onto a plate and roll each ball around it until fully coated. Transfer the balls to the trays and bake for 10 minutes. Yum!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Brit Decor: Emerald Green

Images (from the top) 1/ Interior Porn 2/ Re-doit Design 3/ Cristinahh 4/ Remodelista

1/ Gemma Tickle Pop Print 1 £200, Dark Room London 2/ Tulum cushion $19.95 Linen House
3/ Silver Birch shower gel £18 Molten Brown 4/ Paper clip pot £18.50 Present & Correct
5/ Moleskin pocket notebook Plain Oxide Green £10 London Graphic Centre
6/ Sanderson Manilla wallpaper £52 John Lewis

Why not treat your home like a gem, quite literally? I'm talking Emerald green; such a vibrant and uplifting colour which can bring oodles of energy to any space. This really is one of my favourite 'power' colours for strong accents or colour-blocking, it also works well within a palette of complimentary greens, from paler mints, to smokey moss greens.

I am really taken with Gemma Tickle's geometric balloon 'Pop Print' (no.1) from Dark Room London, with the vivid green chevron shape taking centre stage. For a colour explosion of greens with some contrasting hues thrown in, I could look no further than Aussie brand, Linen House's, 'Tulum' cushion (no.2).

Molton Brown is an old favourite of mine, especially if I feel in need of a little treat, and this aptly coloured 'Silver Birch' body wash (no.3) is so refreshing - perfect for Spring too! There's something about the blonde wood against the emerald green lid of Present & Correct's paper clip pot (no.4) which makes it look so much fun - I can imagine feeling very cheered by the sight of this little beauty sitting on my desk.

Moleskin notebooks have always been a staple item of my stationery hoard and there are so many colours to choose from - a different colour for each day of the week would be too excessive, right!? Nonetheless, I am loving this 'plain oxide' green notebook (no.5) from London Graphic Centre. High colour impact doesn't have to involve even a tiny drop of paint when there are so many beautiful wallpapers to choose from, like Sanderson's 'Manilla' wallpaper (no.6), available from John Lewis.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Brit Decor: Weekend/

All Images / Mike Ahern

What an amazing weekend! Why? Because on Saturday I received an incredible gift from my dear old Gramp; his old 1930's Kodak folding Brownie Six-20 to be precise. This camera captured history, travelled with him to Egypt during his time serving in the Royal Airforce, recorded the growth of our family and has now ended up in my hands - how cool is that? 

I absolutely love everything about this vintage compact camera, from the concertina lense to the old scratched leather carry case, there is something very special about the entire process of releasing the latch and unfolding the lense, as opposed to the super-fast convenience of simply pressing a button on a camera phone. 

I can also vividly recall sitting with my Gran and going through the many white bordered photos that this camera produced, each photo had its own story, which made it all seem so magical. However, I confess that my knowledge about this camera is very limited but I am hoping to be able to continue the family story and use it to take some photos of my own, so if anyone knows if I can still even buy film for this model and get it processed, I'd love to hear from you!

So did anything special happen to make your weekend amazing?

Friday, 21 March 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Berry Messy Cake

All images / Mike Ahern

Berry Messy Cake
Even though we are a long way from Summer here in the UK, last weekend I couldn't help but feel several huge strides closer to those long sunny days! A phone call from my folks announcing that they would be popping over to the cottage for afternoon tea in the garden, sent the kitchen into a hive of hurried activity. Luckily, the sunshine came to the rescue by providing my inspiration; a simple summer sponge cake. Sponges are so easy to whip up and bake and with limited time for decorating, this cake offers all the sweet treats with minimal effort. My kind of bake!

For the sponge
200g softened butter (softened)
200g self-raising flour
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1tsp baking powder
2tsp milk

For the filling
150g unsalted butter (softened)
200g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2tsp hot water
5tsp good quality blueberry jam

For the topping
A sprinkling of dried cranberries
Dusting of icing sugar

How to make
Preheat the Oven to 180oc. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper.
Beat the eggs before adding the flour, sugar, baking powder and a drop of milk. Mix these ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.

Evenly divide the batter between the two tins and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until the sponges are a beautiful golden colour (the sight of these always makes me smile and feel very homely!).  Empty both sponges onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the filling, place the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and mix together until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and the hot water and continue to beat all the ingredients together.

Spread the blueberry jam over the base of one sponge and then add the buttercream filling on top, be as messy as you like and don't spend to long smoothing out the fillings! Then, simply place the second sponge on top and lightly press downwards, allow the filling to ooze out a little. For the topping, dust with icing sugar and sprinkle over some dried cranberries. This recipe is easily adaptable to your own choice of berries.

Will you be baking this weekend?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Brit Decor: Pattern

1/ Saru Indigo wallpaper, Designers Guild 2/ Lisel wood effect fabric £5 p/m IKEA
3/ Butterfly House wallpaper, Osborne & Little 4/ Diamond throw in bright yellow $169 Aura
5/ Odhni wallpaper, Designers Guild

1/ Harebell cushion £70 Bluebell Gray 2/ Dungeness Coach Denim wallpaper £50 Minimoderns
3/ Scion Berry Tree wallpaper £35 Heals 4/ Prussian rug £900+ John Lewis 5/ Pacific cushion
£15 Habitat 6/ Tranquil fabric, Harlequin

Textiles and wallpapers are essential ingredients as they can make or break a scheme. I love working with these elements because they are so interchangeable - it's incredibly easy to change a cushion cover or add some exciting new curtains, and the impact is immediate. Blues are featuring heavily in the world of interiors in 2014, from the moody indigo block print Saru wallpaper, no.1 above, to the deep watercolour blues of the Harebell cushion, no.1 below. 

My two favourite picks today have to be Aura's striking Diamond throw, no.4 above (vivid yellows are a must this season!) and Habitat's blue sketch design Pacific cushion,  no.5 below. My top tip is to fully explore and exploit whichever colour palette excites you the most and try to incorporate this through a combination of textiles such as cushions and throws. Once you have chosen colours that you are happy with, explore the possibility of adding a feature wallpaper in a corresponding colour.

Do you have any favourites? 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Brit Decor: Graphic Lines

Images (from top) / 1 / K Gilbert Design 2/ The Minimalist 3/ LIA Leuk  4/ Apricots & Apples

Occasionally we just need a little structure in our lives, right? Perhaps a new exercise routine, a  shake-up of personal finances, or a fresh design brief for the home; something that brings order and stability...some visual structure? Personally, I love some order in my life, so today we're playing with grid lines and sharp mathematically inspired patterns for that fresh and structured home look.

There's a certain air of perfection about these cool and edgy symmetrical designs, and whilst I don't consider myself to be gifted with a mathematical brain, I can appreciate the beauty created by the precision of these graphic lines. In fact, I love it!

Grid formation wallpaper or tiling can also form a great foundation for a room layout, it you are looking to create a big symmetrical statement, use the lines to guide where you place furniture and accessories but balance this formal look with some soft textiles and contrasting freestyle patterns.

My 'Shop the look' picks below show that maths can be fun and stylish too. Whoever said that the Sciences and the Arts are worlds apart?

Were you a numbers or an Arts person at School?

1/ Multiplication chart £17.50 Present & Correct 2/ Peg Board Rug £35 Urban Outfitters
3/ Storage Sack Black Triangles £29 Future and Found 4/ Cat Shelf £100 Urban Outfitters
5/ Op Art Coasters £48 Jonathan Adler

Friday, 14 March 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Contrast Crunches

All images / Mike Ahern

Contrast Crunch Biscuit Dips

Late one afternoon this week and with the sun still shining,  I rushed home in the mood for a bake-off! After a hard day's work, I love to sink into the sofa with a cuppa but sometimes those precious moments of unwinding just need that little something extra...

These biscuits are thin, crunchy and utterly delicious! Feel free to dunk in your tea or simply savour the flavours and textures on their own. The rolled oats create a lovely biscuit crunch texture, whilst the contrasting silky smooth white chocolate adds a touch of decadence to these bite-sized teatime treats.


1 tsp Nutella
1 tsp treacle
50g rolled oats
45g plain flour
80g unsalted butter
200g good quality white chocolate
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g dark brown sugar

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 170oc/Gas mark 3 & line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Bring the butter to the boil in a saucepan before adding the sugar. Reduce to medium heat and keep stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Then reduce the heat to 'low' and add the Nutella and treacle. Once these ingredients have melted, add the vanilla and the bicarbonate of soda. Remove from the heat.

Add and mix in the flour, oats and salt to create a thick fudge-like consistency. Divide the mixture and roll into small balls. Once these are placed onto the baking trays, flatten the balls to a thickness of around 2-3mm and make sure they are spaced approximately 4cm apart. Bake for around 8-10 minutes but keep a close eye on these wafer thin bites as they will burn very quickly!

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Melt the chocolate and leave this to cool slightly before dipping each biscuit and then allow to set.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Brit Decor: Blues 2014

Images (from the top) 1/ Paper n Stitch 2/ John Lewis 3/ Boligliv 4/ Colours of Design

Blues are a regular friend of Brit Decor so it's a real thrill to know that this colour palette is featuring big on the design front in 2014, with a particular emphasis towards navy blues (navy and white are my perfect Summer combo for interiors and fashion wear too). So is navy the new black? Quite possibly!

Turquoise offers a great intro to that Spring feeling with a fresh and uplifting look. I love a strong and concentrated shot of this shade as a colour-block feature wall. Wherever possible, work your blues in conjunction with some white detailing for the ultimate crisp contrast.

My hunt for today's 'shop the look' accessories, below, was huge fun and a welcome dose of retail therapy. IKEA's Ljusas Uvas table lamp (no.1) is a must-have with its show-stopping vivid blue glass base and corresponding shade. I am a huge fan of notebooks and love to have one on hand to jot and doodle, particularly following my recent decision to abandon my iPhone notes in order to appreciate the more traditional approach. This Anchor's Ahoy duo from trendy stationer, Paperchase, really floats my boat (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!).

No's 3 & 4 are both from Mini Moderns, but I could have selected so much more from this loveable British brand! Their Washed Denim emulsion offers a darker and more sophisticated look, whilst the Peggy wallpaper in Lido blue is fun and fresh. Australian store, Aura, provides us with look no.5 with their Crosses pillow case - I absolutely love the turquoise piping detail! Finally, I was really taken with Amara's Willow Love Story salad plate (no.6), which not only combines the striking contrast of blue and white but it is also based upon the classic willow pattern design. We love an update of a classic, don't we?

So will you be styling in blue this year?

1/ Ljusas Uvas table lamp £26 IKEA 2/ Anchors Ahoy notebooks £5 Paperchase 3/ Washed
Denim Emulsion £30 Mini Moderns 4/ Peggy Wallpaper (Lido) £45 Mini Moderns
5/ Crosses (Marine) Pillowcase $49.95 Aura 6/ Willow Love Story Salad Plate £11 Amara

Monday, 10 March 2014

Brit Decor: Color Flash Weekend

All Images: Mike Ahern

My weekend was was filled with sunshine and colour, quite literally! Everything was bathed in golden light and the mood was that of Springtime. We had two of our friends come over to the cottage for dinner on Saturday evening, and after a major panic over dessert and a last minute change from what should have been a luxury Italian trifle, I managed to pull everything together after whipping up one of my moist chocolate cakes!

Our friends arrived bearing a stunning bouquet of Iris, which I couldn't wait to share with you (above). These sumptuous purple flowers with their golden centres really brought the sunshine indoors and instantly freshened the lounge. Meanwhile, my study revelled from a party-feel with an amazing gift  from Moonberry with a set of their vibrant and fun garland lights, which in reality have already been earmarked by my sister for her incredible daughter (proud uncle talk). Speaking of amazing little people, my heart is always warmed by the handprint canvas on my office wall, created by all three of my awesome  godchildren - and how did they know I love grey so much!? Original artwork is so very priceless, right?

I always find that my creativity levels shoot skywards when the sun is shining and so I decided it was the perfect time to begin renovating two vintage dining chairs, which my Gran kindly gave to me when I moved into my first ever home. They have travelled with me on a sentimental journey ever since but I have long felt that I needed to give these chairs a little more of the limelight. With a coat of chalk paint  some subtle strips of colour via Farrow & Ball's; All White, Hardwick White and Arsenic, the difference was immediate and so much fun to work on. The next step will be to add some linen upholstery to the seat pads to complete the transformation and allow the chairs to take pride of place at the kitchen table.

I hope that your weekends were filled with inspiration and chocolate puddings too!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Brit Decor: White brick wonder

Images (from top) 1+2/ ArchInspire 3/ Groovin' Heads 4/ Indoors Outdoors 5/ SF Girl By Bay
6/ Apartment Therapy

In the world of design, the Industrial vibe is still very much riding the crest of an interiors wave, so today's white brick look represents a transition from something very raw and edgy, to a slightly homelier and more tranquil feel. From converted lofts and warehouses to country cottages, this look is surprisingly versatile.

As a decorative feature, the abundance of texture delivered by bricks creates an instant impact and point of interest. Furthermore, it's as easy as a brushstroke to control the level of depth and texture that you want to achieve; less paint delivers a highly textured look with flashes of the original baked brick clay peeping out from underneath, whilst a fuller covering of paint provides a softer, brighter finish. Either way, the end result is a knock-out style statement.

For lounges and bedrooms, mat-finish white bricks look great when contrasted with generous layers of textiles such as bedlinen and cushions. In the context of kitchens, colour flash point accessories work really well when set against white bricks, as does a sprig or two of luscious fresh green herb foliage!

Do you have exposed brickwork in your home? What's your style?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Brit Decor: Bring on the Spring!

All Images / Habitat

There's change in the in the UK we are moving towards Spring with open arms and turning our backs on Winter, light is pushing away dark and it's all about new growth and rejuvenation. Just as much as I look to nature for inspiration; from the delicate minuscule whites of budding hawthorn twigs, to the classic sunshine yellows of Daffodils, or a subtle sprinkling of Snowdrops on a grass verge, I also  seek out new inspiration from the latest homeware collections. This might simply be for new finds to share with you, or a little treat accessory, or two, as a means of breathing new life into my own home. Either way, today I have immersed myself in the latest Spring collection from my old favourite, Habitat.

I am all for embracing simplicity in this often complicated world, and that is just what's on offer here; Clean lines with a subtle palette of Spring greens and mustard yellows, such as the Lula yellow metal table lamp (no.1) with some gorgeous dipped-effect ceramics like the Balto Safron (no.5) and Maury large green spotted (no.6) vases. Not forgetting the welcome addition of some bold and exciting textiles - I love the Codi black and white striped rug (no.3) with its striking contrast yellow detailing, which would look great sitting underneath the sleek Nic glass and yellow metal trestle desk (no.4), and by the way, glass desks are a genius solution for smaller rooms, as they create the illusion of taking up less space!

Finally, we all know the importance of having that little spot where we can put our feet up and enjoy a good book, right? I particularly like the Marni armchair in navy blue as it adds depth and makes a stunning contrast when partnered with the mustard yellows in this collection.

Wherever you are and whatever new Season you are making the transition into, embrace the change and usher in new ideas!

1 Lula yellow metal table lamp £25 2 Marni blue fabric armchair £550 3 Codi black & white 
striped flat weave cotton rug £70 4 Nic large glass and yellow metal trestle desk £270
5 Balto Safron yellow ceramic bobble vase 6 Maury large green spotted clay vase £20. All
available from Habitat.

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