Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Brit Decor: Palette/ Grey & Green

Images (from top) 1/ Trendenser 2/ Aura 3/ Eve Wilson 4/ Petra Bindel

With the recent foggy mornings in my part of the world, there's been a lot of grey and green colour palettes to soak up. I love how the pale grey fog fades the lush green buds and Spring growth colours into a kind of surreal and very tranquil watercolour landscape.

This same grey-meets-green colour combo can make a great addition inside the home too - in muted pastel tones it has an incredibly calming effect, as demonstrated in the first image 'above', whilst bolder shades heighten the contrast between colours to create a high energy look like Aura's striking bedding (image 2) against the charcoal grey wall behind. I also love the teasing glimpse of aqua green as an accent colour in image 3, which provides very concentrated dashes of intense contrasting colour without upsetting this relaxed scheme.

The kitchen scene in image 4 provides a wider and more sophisticated palette of greens with the paler sage colour forming the 'canvas' of the room and partnering very effectively with the grey Italian marble splash-back.

The paler pastel approach tends to work best in lighter sun-prone rooms, whilst the darker shades look fantastic in shadier, North-facing spaces where their richness looks far more dramatic and warming. And because grey is such a versatile neutral, it allows huge scope to play around with your greens until  finding the right combination that works for you.

I guess a great analogy would be to compare colour picking to dating; you just need to find the perfect match!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Brit Decor: Storage Chic

Images (from top) / 1/ Muuto /2 Yellow Trace /3 Muuto

1/ Ferm Living Half Moon Basket £54.95 John Lewis /2 Wally Wall Organiser £115 Skandivis
3/ Restore Storage Basket £68 Really Well Made 4/ Organize Storage Box on wheels £55
Rose & Grey 5/ Fading Storage Tin Set £49.95 Idyll Home 6/ Ivalo Container £65 LSA

I always love featuring fresh ideas about storage on Brit Decor because it's oh-so relevant to many of us in this age of 'things' and 'stuff' that we now live in. Thankfully, storage is no longer just about a process of packing up select items and storing these away in cardboard boxes, instead it's about a whole new wave of stylish alternatives, many of which you will actually want to keep out on display rather than hide away. In a funny kind of way, storage has become a new form of artwork don't you think?

Ferm Living's simple and chic look is clearly evident in their 'Half-Moon' basket (no.1). Storage bags and baskets are so versatile and perfect for that softer, more relaxed look. Scandi-style is one of my favourite when it comes to beautiful storage alternatives like this striking charcoal grey 'Wally' wall organiser from Skandivis (no.2) which is great for organising clutter in a truly stylish and minimal way.

The concept of turning to boxes and tins for storage purposes is nothing new, however, the fresh blonde graphic look of Rose & Grey's clever 'Organize' box on wheels (no.4) is very current, as is the trending ombre-effect of this set of three tins from Idyll Home (no.5). Finally, I stumbled across LSA's new range of 'Ivalo' storage containers last week and fell in love with their simplicity and style (no.6), proving that not everything needs to be hidden away.

So let's take control of the clutter! Have a great week...

Friday, 25 April 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes / Cheesy Twists

All images / Mike Ahern

Yes you would be right in thinking that savoury recipes are few and far between on Brit Decor as I am, after all, a self-confessed sweet-tooth. However, yesterday I whipped together these little cheesy treats for some tasty snacks to accompany pizzas. The puff pastry means that these are perfect for those tear and share moments with friends too, or 'sociable snacks' as I like to think of them! 

As with many of the bakes on the blog, this one is very time-light but also quite therapeutic. I love the process of rolling out the pastry and the light and fluffy feel of the grated cheeses and freshly chopped Thyme, and finally the really fun part of gently twisting the pastry strips. 

80g Parmesan cheese (grated)
100g Swiss Gruyere cheese (grated)
1tbsp Fresh finely chopped Thyme
Ground black pepper
250g Raedy-made puff pastry
1 egg
Plain flour for dusting

How to make
Preheat your oven to 1800C and line two trays with baking paper. Gently beat the egg in a small bowl and place to one side. Lay the ready-made pastry onto a lightly floured surface and roll-out into a rectangular shape, then glaze the surface with the beaten egg mixture. 

Finely chop the fresh Thyme and add this to the grated cheeses - mix together before sprinkling onto the puff pastry. Gently press the topping into the pasty to help keep all of the ingredients in place. 

Take a knife and cut out approximately 12 strips before twisting each one and placing onto the trays. Cook in the oven for around 15 minutes. Serve with ground black pepper (to taste).

Are you a tear and share person?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Brit Decor: Ochre Yellow

Images (from top) / Country Living / Nice Things Daily / Muuto / Studio Pepe

During my extended Easter break I took plenty of time to soak up my surroundings and take note of the colour palette around me. From the darkening Daffodil petals as they withered and aged, to the golden wrapping of those oh-so yummy Easter eggs, there were plenty of rich and deep yellows to be had, which in turn got me very inspired about Ochre Yellow.

This earthy colour may have been used in interiors for centuries but it can still bring a very current look to your home. With the strong 2014 trend towards yellows, this is a great time to explore Ochre Yellow.

For a truly contemporary look, mix this intensely rich colour with whites and neutrals to instantly add warmth and depth. Or for a more dramatic contrast, set the ochre against a palette of moody greys for an effect not dissimilar to a ray of sunshine bursting through dramatic storm clouds. This shade can also make a stunning choice for a colour-blocked feature wall but with slightly less energy as some of the brighter yellows, this can offer the perfect choice for a more calming result but without sacrificing the intense warming effect.

For a truly sophisticated ochre palette, try experimenting with accessories; apply whites for a brighter and more uplifting Summer look, and greys for a deeper, richer Winter feel. Either way, the final scheme will look incredible.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Brit Decor Bakes: Devil's Chocolate Nests

All Images / Mike Ahern

Devil's Chocolate Nests
Easter has become a particularly spectacular time for chocoholics like me, temptation stares out at me at every turn in the supermarket, it's leaping out of adverts all around me and, crucially, it's in my refrigerator (yes I like mine chilled). So when I created this latest batch of cupcakes especially for the Easter break, I thought it very apt to name these 'Devil's Chocolate Nests' because they may look like sweet and innocent little chocolatey nests, but these are seriously sinful! But we all need a treat now and again, right?

The combination of the chocolate sponge with the contrasting white chocolate chunks, topped with the silky smooth chocolate frosting and crispy coated mini-eggs is definitely suited for one of those 'I'm going to sit down and seriously indulge' moments. Of course, you can easily redeem yourself by sharing these devilish treats with your friends.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

150g Unsalted butter (softened)
150g Caster sugar
160g Self-raising flour
15g Cocoa powder
3 eggs
100g White chocolate

For the frosting:
150g Unsalted butter (softened)
250g Icing sugar
2 tbs Cocoa powder
2 tbs boiling water
100g White choc mini-eggs

How to make:
Preheat your oven to 180oC and line a 12-section cake tray with paper cases. Chop up the white chocolate into uneven chunks and leave to one side. Meanwhile simply place all of the other cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk together for a couple of minutes until smooth. Add the white choc chunks to the mixture and stir gently with a spoon. Divide the mixture evenly between the cases and place in the oven to bake for around 20 minutes.

Once the baked cakes have cooled, mix together the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and boiling water with an electric mixer. Whisk until smooth and creamy before piping onto the cupcakes. Finally, decorate with the mini-eggs and lightly dust with some cocoa powder.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Brit Decor: Homage

Clockwise (from top) 1/ PS 2014 cushion cover £10 IKEA /2 Multi-stripe Patio Cushion £25.99
Zara Home /3 Hip Hip Hooray card £2.80 Yoke /4 Bright Bazaar Book £16.95 Amazon UK
/5 Chip & Dip bowl £14 Starling Store 6/ Grande Gatsby cushion $49.95 Aura 7/ Calum rug £900
Bluebellgray 8/ Signal S1333 table lamp £235 The Conran Shop 9/ Yellow bottle vase £19.99 Zara Home

Train tickets (check), new T & smart jeans from Zara (check), freshly printed business cards (check). Today is a rather busy day because I am hurriedly preparing to make the journey to London where I will attend a very special and significant event; the eagerly anticipated launch of Bright Bazaar aka Will Taylor's, Embracing Colour for Make-You-Smile Style. The reviews of Will's debut book are as bright and glowing as his blog posts and I will be sure to pick up my very own copy - yes even a minimalist like me is inspired by his exhilarating #MakeYouSmileStyle!

However, today is about more than just a single event, it's about a young gay guy boldly flying the flag for creativity and British talent, a 'gentleman hooked on hue' who is helping to define a colourful new and exciting era of blogging around the world. As a relative newbie to blogging, I have received some great advice and mentoring from Will, for which I am eternally grateful. If there's one thing that we should take from this book, it's that if you work hard enough for something, your dreams can come true - just ask Will.

So in homage to the king of colour, I have today stepped away from the greys (almost) and simply couldn't resist embracing a colour-burst palette of shopping brights 'above' from some of my all time favourite stores, which I hope you will enjoy.

I feel in the mood for a celebration, don't you?

Monday, 14 April 2014

Brit Decor: Desktop Chic

Images 'above' / 1Lady 2/ Husohem 3/ French by Design 4/ The Design Files

/1 Set Square Beaker £12 Present & Correct /2 Cactus sticky notes £3 Paperchase /3 Harte
LED Lamp £15 IKEA /4 Colour block notebook £5.50 Present & Correct /5 Archive Hill
3 tier storage £115 The Conran Shop /6 Dino notes £10 Urban Outfitters

Many of us who sit at a desk will know that this often very personal space can, at times, feel like a mini-home of its own. I like to think that my desk is a piece of my own identity, from the two little Moomin badges given to me by a dear friend, to my gallery wall of inspiration, including a  treasured watercolour & gold leaf print from Venice. These little touches not only transform my workspace into something very personal and homely, they inspire me and in turn help to fuel my creativity, which is what I'm all about.

Don't be afraid to be playful with your desk space - once you have all of the practical equipment in place such as a computer, peripherals and storage, begin to think about layering the space up with one or more interesting task lights like IKEA's Harte lamp (no.3), maybe some fun desktop items such as these cactus sticky notes from Paperchase (no.2) and the quirky Dino note dispenser from Urban outfitters (no.6) to inspire and make you smile, or perhaps join the growing trend for houseplants and breath some Co2 into your working day with a cute little potted plant?

Other vital ingredients for me are a selection of my favourite interiors and lifestyle magazines to hand, some great books to dip into for those all important screen breaks and some colourful plush cushions to hand for occasional comfort breaks. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, consider throwing a feature wall into the mix directly behind your desk. Colour blocking works well, or choose a bold patterned wallpaper for interest, impact and for conveying a very clear message; that you are a sophisticated worker!

Whatever you are doing today, I hope you find the inspiration you need to make it a good one.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Brit Decor: Project Throwback/

Images 'above' M&S Home

When I was recently approached to work with Marks and Spencer on a 'Throwback' project involving their Summer 2014 homeware collection, I jumped at the chance! This opened up a sentimental journey of reflection as I scoured through old photos but at the same time this process  awakened a sense of moving forward towards the excitement of Summer.

The brief for this project was simple; to find a photo of a room in a previous home and to give that space a makeover using my own selections from the new M&S Summer collection, easy...right? Not quite; it actually struck me just how few precious photos of my previous homes still exist. Prior to having an iPhone glued to my pocket, I tended to snap more exterior shots and landscapes with my trusted camera. It seems that, back then, I sadly neglected to record my life once inside of the front door.

However, I was thrilled and relieved to discover a handful of pics from my flat in Bath. I moved back to the World Heritage City in around 2002 and rented this central Georgian apartment (above) after a surprise viewing. I still vividly remember that rainy day and how I fell head over heels for the huge sash windows with their ornate wrought iron balconies and epic ceiling heights! So my flashback makeover today involves a light-filled Georgian setting with an exciting injection of deep Mediterranean blues, nautical stripes, engaging patterns and moody greys, which would have been perfect for this apartment's south-facing aspect.

With light and space in abundance, and strong architectural features dominating this room, I love how there is so much potential to play with a selection of opposing patterns here, which in this case will be brought together by a palette of blues. From the exotic beauty of the Moroccan tile print cushion (no.1) to the stormy looking fade-effect vase (no.7) and the chunky Bamboo textured table lamp (no.3), there is a strong depth of colour and texture at play in this selection.

For some strong anchor points in my scheme, I have opted for bold prints such as the Rope rug (no.6) and its distinctive pattern which is echoed in the on-trend Nautical stripe cushion (no.5) which will look great when sitting against the chalky white Maui armchair (no.8). Meanwhile, the Crackle coaster (no.2) reflects the must-have SS2014 quartz look and adds a touch of glamour and exuberance to the palette, especially alongside the beautiful Indigo blue platter (no.4). Place all of these  gorgeous accessories against a fresh clean white emulsion to maximise the light and suddenly my old flat has been transformed into an exhilarating and uplifting get away! #GoodTimes

/1 Moroccan tile print cushion £29.50 /2 Crackle coaster £15 /3 Textured bamboo table lamp £59
/4 Indigo platter £25 /5 Nautical stripe cushion £19.50 /6 Rope rug £169 /7 Tall colour fading
vase £35 /8 Maui armchair £649. All M&S Home.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Brit Decor: Spring/ Howkapow!

Images 'above' / Howkapow

There are so many things to be positive about right now with Spring in the air and one of these has to be Bristol-based online store Howkapow. I stumbled across this brand on Twitter several months ago and this is undoubtedly one of those feel-good stores with a range of quirky and bold designs, which always bring a smile to my face. Of course, this is helped along by the equally smile inducing owners, Rog and Cat How - now we're beginning to sense where the name Howkapow came from, right? Add their love of loud and flamboyant design and you have How-meets-Kapow!

Following Cat's graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2010, the creative duo launched Howkapow, and together with their creative team, Rog and Cat work from the studio-meets-showroom in Bristol's Artisan quarter, Stokes Croft. (Oh and they're on the look out for a the perfect shop location too!). The images 'above' were taken from their recent pop-up shop at the city's Cabot Circus shopping centre and gave a tantalising taste of what me might expect in the future, with exciting gallery walls, pick-me-up products and a collated collection of fun and exciting works from new talents, including one of my favourite Illustrators, @luciesheridan.

Whilst there is a multitude of colour to explore at Howkapow, today I'm in the mood for some high-contrast with Spring-bright yellows and daring reds, so here's what I picked out 'below'. I love the sharp red triangular detailing of the 'Big Top' cushion (no.1) and the bumblebee palette of the aptly named 'Sensation' print (no.2). My stationery addiction is showing no sign of letting up and no wonder with this 'Daring' notebook (no.3); red and grey are another favourite colour combo of mine!

The faithful owl continues to be a must-have home accessory, and this oh-so cute walnut owl (no.4) needs to find a place to nest in my home! Fun, quirky, mid-twentieth Century style, this 'Sunshine Dip' (no.5) lamp ticks all of the right boxes and would look awesome placed on a sideboard. Finally, I defy any kitchen not to look brighter with this gorgeously sunny yellow 'Silk' canister (no.6).

Thanks for the inspiration @howkapow

1/ Big Top cushion £40 /2 Sensation print £20 /3 Daring Mood notebook £15 /4 Walnut Owl £28
5/ Sunshine Dip lamp £115 /6 Medium Silk canister £12

Monday, 7 April 2014

Brit Decor Bakes: Hot-Cross Biscuits

All Images / Mike Ahern

Brit Decor Bakes: Hot-Cross Biscuits

If somebody had told me a week ago that I would soon be spending over 24 hours in bed, I probably would have laughed and then possibly rather liked the idea of some much needed down-time. However, in reality I picked up some kind of nasty virus towards the end of last week, which left me totally incapacitated. Far from being fun or extravagant, those 24 hours in bed were painful, boring and very frustrating. On the plus-side, there was something slightly liberating about surrendering my body and mind over to complete rest, and this gave me plenty of time for reflection. In short, I think I burned out which made me susceptible to any old germs that were going - lesson learned (the hard way).

I'm feeling more human again now and it's a great buzz to be back with you, albeit at a slightly slower pace, but then we could all probably benefit from downshifting a gear or two every now and again, couldn't we? I am now focussed on the approach to the Easter break - that great half way marker between Christmas and the Summer, so in the spirit of that Spring holiday feeling, I couldn't resist cooking up these hot-cross biscuits for you - a traditional favourite with a crunchy twist! These have all the exciting spicy taste of the bun version but in a biscuity format - and delivered in a lot less time, which will leave you a little bit more 'me' time.

150g Plain flour
30g Cornflour
125g Unsalted butter (softened)
40g Light brown sugar
40g Caster sugar
1 Egg yolk (keep the white to one side for later)
2 tsp Finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp Mixed spice
1/2 tsp Ground ginger
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
80g Currants
60g Icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice

Piping bag
7-10cm cookie cutter

How to make:
Start by preheating your oven to 200oc and lining two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Add the  butter and sugar to a bowl and mix together. Now throw in the egg yolk (keeping the white to one side) and mix well before adding the spices (Mmm love that smell), flour, and the cornflour. Mix in the currents and the lemon zest - your mixture should be taking on a dough-like consistency but if it feels a little dry at this point, add a tiny drop of the egg white.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of no more than 1cm and use the cookie cutter to cut-out your biscuits. Lay these onto the trays and use the remaining egg white to lightly glaze the tops of the biscuits. Pop into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes before removing again to cool on a wire rack.

Now mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice before piping the mixture onto the fully cooled biscuits - if you don't have a piping bag to hand, just drizzle the icing from a teaspoon, there's more fun in imperfection!

So on that note, I wish you all a very happy, very chilled, Easter break.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Brit Decor: Likes/ Print Club London

All images / Print Club London

So I was thinking...wouldn't it be great if there was a really cool place where likeminded creatives could get access to some professional studio space, maybe exhibit some work, be able to peruse some great artwork to buy, or perhaps take part in some print-related workshops? Wait a minute, there is such a place!

Print Club London was given life in 2007 and is now run by Managing Director, Fred Higginson and Director, Kate Higginson, in Dalston, London. Both Kate and Fred work closely alongside Illustrator and Creative Director, Rose Stallard, with her 70's style artwork and graphics. Today the enterprise goes from strength-to-strength with their edgy style sought by big brands such as Nike, Stella McCartney, Channel 4 and Selfridges, to name but a few.

So what would a studio-seeking creative get from a place like this? Apart from oodles of inspiration, the facilities offer members 24:7 access to fully equipped print studios! There's also rentable creative desk space at the neighbouring Millers Junction with access to a library, gallery space and free print workshops.

I am huge fan of this type of concept, where artists and designers can come together to learn, work and most importantly; create. Attending exhibitions here or browsing the shop is also a great way of discovering new artists and fab pieces for your home. Whilst this scheme is echoed by enterprises such as Spike Island in Bristol, we certainly need more of this in the UK- Bring it on!


1/ Bling Ring, Anthony Burrill £60 2/ Rooftops at the Royal Albert Hall, Clare Halifax £350
3/ Nina Simone, Anthony Peters £40 4/ New York Bagels, Dominic Clifford £40
5/ Tropical Red Sea, Stu Ross £50

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