Friday, 27 June 2014

Brit Decor Bakes: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

All images / Mike Ahern

In the full heat of Summer I am often drawn to the zesty freshness of citrus flavours, and this is one of those sentimental Summer-inspired bakes that I really wanted to share with you, but with a twist, of course.

Lemon Meringue pie was a childhood favourite of mine and as the only other member of my family who liked this dessert, I hold fond and vivid memories of eagerly sharing a slice or two with my dear Gran. The silky texture and sharp taste sensation of the lemon curd combined with the beautifully baked peaks of meringue  are some of my essential memories and tastes of Summer. So how would these crucial ingredients taste in the context of a cupcake?

(For the cakes)
150g Caster sugar
175g Self-raising flour
150g Unsalted butter
3 Eggs
3tbsp Lemon juice
Lemon curd

(For the Meringue)
150g Caster sugar
3 egg whites
2 tsp Cream of tartar (optional)

How to make:
Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a baking tray with 12 cupcake cases. Mix together the caster sugar, flour, butter and eggs, followed by the lemon juice until you have a batter. Spoon half of the mixture into the cases and then place a tea spoon of lemon curd on top of each one. Add the remaining cake batter on top of the lemon curd. Place in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Whilst the cakes are baking in the oven quickly whisk together the sugar and egg whites for the meringue (I like to add a couple of tea spoons of cream of tartar for some extra fluffiness but this is entirely optional). Once your mixture resembles fluffy peaks, add this to a piping bag and remove the cakes from the oven. Add the meringue topping to each cupcake and then return to the oven to bake for a further 10 minutes. Happy baking friends!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Brit Decor: Cobalt Blue

Images (From top) / Mike Ahern /  Designers Guild /  Refinery29

Following on from a glam-packed night out to a Bath Spa University graduate fashion show last week, I felt compelled to make a fashion statement of my own after viewing some truly awesome collections, including that of Graduate Fashion Week winner, Grace Weller. So this week saw the delivery of what has become my new favourite Summer driving shoes from Zara Man (pic no.1 'above'). The vivid Cobalt Blue suede was just the kind of high-energy colour pick-me-up that I needed to get me through a very manic week, and this brightest of blues also provided a great accent colour for my staple navy blue wardrobe. 

In truth, my home is sadly lacking in cobalt colouring, which may need to be addressed at some point because this truly is one of my favourite blues, and the energy that it exudes is incredibly uplifting. Blue ombre is beautiful in every way but the choice of Cobalt (pic no.2 'above'), takes this colour-effect to another level by adding a distinctive depth to the walls and window dressing of this exotic looking interior, peppered with strong cobalt accenting, such as the striking spikes of detailing on the rattan chair. A super-fast and easy way of adding an uber-cool ombre effect to your home is to dip-dye some fabric, letting the ends of some plain material gently soak up the colour.

If you are looking for a show-piece to take centre stage in a room or you have a favourite item of furniture which needs a facelift, how about the compact cobalt sideboard 'above'? This scene also shows just how well blue works against a white backdrop, and the owner of this home has cleverly worked in some playful multi-layering with secondary colouring such as the brilliant yellow books, the zesty green plant and the aqua blue print - spot on!

Due to the intensity of Cobalt blue, perhaps you might feel that colour-blocking in this shade my be too much for your home? All is not lost; think small, add in some cobalt accessories and group these together for higher impact or spread apart for a subtle but nonetheless beautiful result. Check out some of my cobalt inspired shopping finds below...

1/ 'Drink Me!' book by Matt Walls £12.99 House Envy / 2 Mini Mugs & Jugs tea towel by Anna Dent £10.00 The Tab Collective /3 Notebook €8.50 Cachette /4 Designers Guild "Rokechi' cushion £60 Amara /5 Palmero tiles £12 Bert & May /6 Pantone Coasters (set of 6) £15 Amara 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Brit Decor: Stationery Crush

All images / Mike Ahern

There are some things, quite a few actually, that I just cannot be without in my home. One of my must-have items has also become a little bit of crush; stationery, or to be a little more precise, notebooks. I prefer a handy pocket size version so I can take it around with me and scribble inspirational little notes wherever I am because my brain simply can't remember every little detail.

Speaking of inspiration, a print called 'Cellardyke' owned by the lovely Mr Bright Bazaar, recently caught my eye with its minimal styling and eye-catching lines. The print in question was by the refreshingly original Lovely Pigeon and when I learned that this small but perfectly formed brand produced stationery too, I hurriedly  clicked onto their web store. With gorgeous colours to choose from and each notebook temptingly matched with copper and brass foils, the geometric shapes look truly awesome.

After some deliberation over colours, I opted for the concrete grey notebook with brass foil illustration because I love the luxe look of the foil set against the minimal grey card. However, to my utter delight, the notebook also arrived with a stunning copper foil postcard (also 'above'), which now takes pride of place in my study at home, along with my newest piece of stationery, of course.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Brit Decor: Makes/ Cherry & Amaretti Ice Cream

All images / Mike Ahern

Do you ever get that sudden burst of inspiration whilst shopping for groceries? The very moment when you spot what could be a key ingredient for a knockout recipe? Well I had one of those 'light bulb' moments recently when I spotted a punnet of fresh cherries! I was immediately drawn to their perfect glossy forms and could literally taste them. So not knowing exactly how I would put them to good use, I hurried to the checkout...

Several hours later I decided to take a gamble on the all too unpredictable British Summer and hedge my bets on a spell of warmer weather ahead, with some ice cream. I just so happened to have a bag of Amaretti biscuits crying out to be used and I knew that their distinctive Almond flavour would be the perfect match for the cherries and bring some texture to the ice cream.

I guess it's therefore rather fitting that today should be a gloriously warm and sunny day here in the UK!

120ml Double cream
50g Granulated sugar
2tsp Caster sugar (for the cherries)
2 Large egg yolks
80ml Milk
200g Ripe cherries (stoned)
100g Amaretti biscuits
Ice cream cones (optional)

You will ideally need an ice cream maker for this recipe.

How to make:
Begin by beating together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the milk and place into a saucepan on a low heat (it's important not to boil this). As the mixture slowly thickens into a custard, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place the cherries into a pan along with 50ml of water and the caster sugar - cook until softened. Then pop the cooked cherries into a blender and allow to cool. (I kept back the cherry juices from the saucepan to refrigerate and use as a topping for the ice cream). Then crush a handful or around 100g of Amaretti biscuits and place to one side.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until light and fluffy. Add the cooled custard, the chopped cherries and the crushed Amaretti to the whipped cream before placing in the ice cream maker.

Once frozen, serve with the optional extras of some additional finely crushed Amaretti and/or some of the cherry juice saved earlier.

Happy ice cream making!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Images 'above' 1/ Manton Cork 2/ Ideakon

Durable, tactile and very much in fashion this year; Cork is once again hitting the design headlines with its warm and glowing tones - right on cue for the Summer! I remember owning a cork pin board as a child, which served as a mood board to show off my favourite pop star posters and magazine clippings of the moment, but since then cork has undergone a metamorphosis from a merely practical and somewhat dated material, into something much more considered and beautiful. 

Cork will work as a great choice for a feature wall with its soft-to-the-touch inviting tones. It has all the potential to make a stunning backdrop for a carefully chosen mid-20th Century piece of furniture for a truly that retro chic-look. There are also some fantastic cork inspired accessories available to adorn our homes with too, and as we've been discovering with other materials such as marble, there are now clever and playful alternatives to the real thing. Take for example the extremely cute cork fabric bear (no.4), the cork-inspired iPhone cover for the ultimate Summer accessory (no.8), or the cork-effect wallpaper (no.6) which I'd simply have to touch, all pictured 'below'.

If you are still not sure if cork has a place in your home, take a quick peek at the underside of a coaster or kitchen pot stand - the chances are it will be cork-backed. If so, flip it over and use as a mini tester material to see how it looks against different surfaces and colours in your home. What do you think?

1/ Vitra cork stool by Jasper Morrison £313 Heals 2/ Hello cork coaster $10 Michelle Dwight Designs 3/ Menu Norm water carafe £42 Heals 4/ Cork fabric giving bear £15 Not on The High Street 5/ Drifted stool £180 The Conran Shop 6/ Wallpaper £16.13 Bricofloor 7/ Bouche table lamp by Seletti £124 Made in Design 8/ Cork board iPone 5 skin $12.99 ebay

Monday, 9 June 2014

Brit Decor: #Decorex100 2014

Well my friends, it's not every day that I receive a tweet from @Decorex_Intl informing me that I have been nominated for the #Decorex100 - the top 100 most influential interior design tweeters!

Since taking the decision back in August 2013 to develop Brit Decor into something bigger and better, to push my creative boundaries, challenge my confidence levels and share the creative love, I think I have come a long way. But there is still so much more to do and days like this only make me want to strive to work even harder. More importantly, none of this would have been possible without the encouragement and engagement I have received from you; my awesome readers!

I am utterly thrilled just to be nominated for this but if you'd like to vote for me and Brit Decor, please visit this link or tweet the following:

"I'm nominating @mikeahern_ for the #Decorex100 top 100 influential interior design Twitter users"

This is in no way meant to read like some presumptuous winning speech, but rather, today's exciting nomination has served as an overdue reminder that it's only right to thank everyone around me for their un-dwindling support and love. You know who you are.

This year Decorex International 2014 will be held at their new Syon Park venue in September, with a contemporary interpretation of the Georgian era, which I am really excited about having lived in and just outside of the Georgian City of Bath for most of my life! Maybe I'll see you guys at the event too? I hope so...


Friday, 6 June 2014


All Images/ Mike Ahern

Lately I have been filled with the urge to make, bake and create, and in no particular order. Unsurprisingly the cottage frequently resembles an messy art studio, but who cares, I'm having so much fun experimenting and letting the creative juices flow through my veins.

As my Instagram followers will know, my partner and I try to grab as much time as possible in the garden during the warmer months, planting, growing and kicking back to enjoy the fruits of our labours. However, as a result I tend to dismiss the potential of the indoors for planting, so this week I decided to do something about it.

This Geo plant pot project draws some parallels with many of the of Brit Decor bakes; it's quick, easy, inexpensive and huge fun. It has also done nothing to satisfy my insatiable desire to make!

I bought three simple terracotta pots for 49p each, along with some cute little succulent plants at just 99p per plant, all from Homebase. After a rummage through the garden shed I found some Farrow & Ball Cornforth White, that we recently used to paint the bathroom - I used this chalky neutral as a base coat for the pots.

Once this subtle grey had dried, the pots were ready to be masked off in various geometric patterns. I then took a small sample pot of Yellow Cake paint (also Farrow & Ball) and used this as the feature colour to paint over the masked areas. I decided to go freestyle on one of the pots with a drip effect by turning the pot upside down and letting the paint slowly run downwards.

Once completely dry I filled the pots with compost and added the little succulents and voila, I now have some sun-bright geo pots and greenery in my home. Which colour combo would you choose? I'd love to know...

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


Images (From the top) 1/ Lovely Home Idea 2/ H&M Home

Today's crush is all about Linen, which is definitely one of those lightweight fabrics that we tend to associate with Summer. Linen's cool and breathable properties make this a popular fashion textile with a seemingly timeless quality. Whenever I see a chalky pale linen suit, it evokes a neutralising sense of calm, which reminds me, where did I store those linen shorts over the Winter!? 

Linen is also a fabric that has a tendency to morph itself from crisp and fresh, to crumpled and 'lived in', almost instantaneously. Personally, I think this characteristic works best in the home, as shown in the second image 'above' from H&M's linen bedding collection. The simple sight of a creased linen cushion on a sofa, or a crumpled bedspread, immediately suggests that its home really is lived in, and a place for kicking back and relaxing.

Whilst the popular neutral tones of this elegant fabric really hit the spot for a minimalist boy like me, my pulse does begin to race when I stumble across some exciting colour variations to the popular greys and whites, such as the stunning turquoise pixels on this tote bag (no.1) 'below' via Society6. This also applies to the energetic fluro detailing on Mora Approved's 'Paleolochic' cushion (no.4) with the contrast between stone and day-glow green. For a beautifully dressed and very tactile notebook, the linen covered safari-style 'Zanzibar' notebook from Paperchase (no.3) is a further example of how well Linen works in pattern form too. 

Perfect for those warm Summer evenings is H&M's linen dressing gown (no.2) in stormy grey - I love the cooling, soothing effect of a linen dressing gown after I've showered! Finally, I just had to include LSA's clever take on this dreamy fabric with their 'Black Linen' vase (no.4) which would make a great feature accessory, with its exaggerated weaved detailing . 

I am also a big fan of using linen outdoors, with a selection of comfy scatter cushions which I place over our garden seating; great for that relaxed and inviting look, particularly after a hard day at the office.

So will you be flirting with Linen this Summer?

1/ Linen Gingham by Nezz $22 Society6 2/ Linen Dressing Gown £24.99 H&M 3/ Zanzibar A5
slim flexi linen notebook £9 Paperchase 4/ LSA Black Linen Vase £85 Tomic & Daly
5/ Paleolochic linen cushion £24.95 Mora Approved
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