Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Brit Decor: Midnight Florals

Images from top: 1/ Amanda Prior 2/ House and Hold 3/ Daily Dose of Stuf 4/ Divaani 

After recently embracing my 'dark side' when I painted a feature wall in Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue, I can see the benefits of incorporating darker, richer shades into a design scheme. Deep and dark tones can make an incredible statement in the home by creating alluring backdrops for furnishings, textiles and accessories, as well as providing richness, depth and contrast to a room. 

A new and emerging trend in interiors is a genius pairing of pale and elegant florals set against defiantly dark colours, including the ultimate; black. The resulting effect puts me in mind of a Renaissance painting with an enticingly dark background and still-life flowers blossoming at the forefront of the classic composition. 

One of the best examples of this 'Midnight Floral' style is in the exquisite range of wallpapers from Ellie Cashman (no. 5 below). It's no surprise that Ellie studied a Masters in Fine Art, and I especially love how she's translated those skills from canvas to print press and produced these show-stopping wallpapers. Similarly, Marks and Spencer have nailed this style with their sensational 'Feast' cushion (no.1 below). To really make your midnight floral scheme the real deal, be clever about it and sneak in some beautiful room scents like this Magnolia candle from Fate (no. 6 below) - finishing touches are so important! 

For a a more free-form organic midnight floral interiors scheme, we can always look to nature for inspiration - offsetting dusty pink and ethereal white petals displayed in simple jars and vases, against deeply dark backdrops. Richer and darker shades are perfect for creating a dramatic Winter scheme.

I hope you've been inspired today!

1/  Feast floral cushion £25 M&S 2/ Wooden candlestick £9.99 H&M 3/ Triangle Trivet £75
Fate 4/ Hick's Blue paint from £20.50 Little Greene 5/ Ellie Cashman wallpaper 
6/ Magnolia candle £35 Fate 7/ Anenome Buttercup wall chart £89 Wallography

Friday, 26 September 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Italian Hot Choc

All Images / Mike Ahern

It's been one of 'those' weeks where crazy circumstances outside of my control have nudged my thoughts back to happier times in Rome. I think we call this 'escapism'?

Asides from possessing an inherent ability to dress themselves immaculately, there's one thing that Italian's always do so well; take time out. Work or no work, there's always time for a cappuccino or a sociable afternoon glass of wine. Sure we can grab a take-out coffee here in the UK but it in comparison it all seems so hurried. I need to take note.

So today I am rolling it back and taking time out to remember my recent trip whilst indulging on a devilishly rich cup of Italian hot chocolate - definitely not for the faint-hearted! It's actually a favourite afternoon tipple of mine at my local Italian deli, Roscoff's in Bath, but here I decided to make my own version.

Wherever you are in the world right now, I hope you make some time for a 'you' moment.

200g Good quality dark chocolate
100ml Single cream
2 tsp Icing sugar

How to make:
Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl along with the icing sugar and a drop of cream. Once the chocolate has melted and the icing sugar dissolved, add the remaining cream. Pour a small amount of the hot chocolate into a cup (I used espresso cups) and serve: Perfezioni!

Tip: for a super-rich dessert, pop a cup into the refrigerator to chill!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Brit Decor: Focus/ Ikat

It's such a thrill to see the vast array of fabric dyeing techniques, some of them so intricate and time-honoured, filtering onto our high streets from every corner of the globe right now. For me, one of these is currently standing head and shoulders above the rest, and yes you've guessed right, it's Ikat.

In textile terms, this eye-catching graphic pattern is created through a resist-dyeing process, where certain fibres are tightly bundled together in a particular pattern and then dyed (there's even a 'double Ikat' technique for the highly skilled amongst us!). After the colour has been applied, the threads are unbound and woven into cloth to produce eye-catching products, which are undoubtedly worth an invite into our own homes.

This year, more so than ever before, I have really begun to embrace pattern at the cottage, with deliberately eye-catching flash-points working in tandem with simple neutrals to create highly effective contrast and detail. However, one thing lacking in my home is some Ikat love! So here's an exploration of this graphic print trend and how we can make it work for us too.

Standalone or as a lively partner, this pattern works well in many different situations. Work in some polka dots, stripes and florals to truly mix things up for a scheme that will shout 'PATTERN' to anyone within listening distance, like the bedroom setting in image no.4 above (from the top). Alternatively, we can opt for safety in numbers by grouping together a selection of Ikats to reinforce our commitment to the Ikat cause, as shown in image no. 1. A co-ordinating cactus is going to get my vote every time (image no.2)! Plants not only breathe Co2 into our homely atmospheres, they also make great accessories and accent colours, as shown with this luscious Khaki-green patterned sofa.

I felt like a spoiled child whilst I was searching online for some hot Ikat finds, and I could have easily overindulged on this look. There is no shortage of exciting designs out there, but 'below' I have chosen a few select accessories to hopefully inspire and get you in the mood to flirt with Ikat - if you haven't already.

Check out my top Ikat shopping picks below - I think my absolute favourites have to be the Ikat Medallion mug from Society6 and the electric blue cushion by Mariska Meijers at Amara, but I could easily fid a place for every one of these in my home!

I'd love to know if you have Ikat in your home and if so, where and how have you used it?

Shop the look/ 1 Ikat Glam wall clock $30 Society6 / 2 Thomas Sunny Day cereal dish £13.60
Tablewhere / 3 Ikat Medallions mug $15 Society6 / 4 Mariska Meijers electric blue cushion
cover £135 Amara / 5 Organic chevron duvet pieces (from) £8 West Elm / 6 Yastik by Rifat
Ozbek £328 Amara / 7 Ikat Tote $22 Society6

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Brit Decor: Monochrome Nomad/ Event with Joss & Main

Lately on Brit Decor I have been swooning over the meteoric rise of the monochrome trend. I have since lost track of the number of headlines proclaiming in the interiors press that 'Black is the new white' and vice versa, but I wonder if we really do need to be that specific when it comes to monochrome? To truly maximise the potential of one of these opposing colours, surely we need the other? I figure that marrying black with white is one of the strongest colour unions you can get, so let the wedding commence...

Recently, an exciting opportunity to explore the monochrome-look in greater depth, landed on my (white) desk. I was approached by members-only interiors store Joss & Main, who asked if I would  devise a theme and then work with their incredible buying team to guest curate an entire home collection for the home.

Like a cat on heat, I jumped at monochrome as my chosen theme, eager to play with black and white, but also mix things up a little with some pastel greys and natural wood for warmth. The resulting collection is based on my idea of a nomadic interiors lover, travelling the globe and collecting inspiring monochromes (and the in-betweens) with an eclectic array of pattern and texture. This isn't standard monochrome, it's something much more informal and meaningful.

I've selected just a tiny handful of some of my favourite picks from the Monochrome Nomad collection 'below' but I hope you'll be inspired to check out the full collection over at Joss & Main, where it's completely free to become a member.

To shop the Monochrome Nomad event is oh-so simple, just click here.

1/ Ningbo dining chair 2/ Tia table lamp 3/ Nero Leaf lamp 4/ Petralla coffee table 5/ Xayabury cushion 6/ Glare chair 7/ Ilaam cushion 8/ Abigaiel rug. All available from Joss & Main

Friday, 12 September 2014

Brit Decor: Spotlight/ Celina Mancurti

I am an unashamed lover of linen. This beautifully tactile material is no stranger to Brit Decor, last seen gracing the pages of the blog in my Linen Crush feature back in June. So imagine my delight when I had the chance to talk textiles with the very talented Celina Mancurti! 

The Argentinian textile designer is now based in the USA but still channels her proud heritage into her designs with a strong leaning towards organic fibres, handcrafted fabrics and sustainable designs. The result; an elegant collection of handprinted pure linen products. What do I like about this collection? In a nutshell, the sheer beauty of the natural fibres combined with energetic patterns - simple style with impact, which pretty much sums up the Brit Decor ethos too.

Naturally, I was intrigued to know more about the designer herself, so here's how our conversation unfolded...

What made you decide to start up your own business?

Ten years ago, I decided to leave my home and career in Buenos Aires to follow my husband to the United States.  I searched for jobs in the fashion industry but had no luck.  I eventually landed a job as an instructor of textile courses at a major university.  I enjoyed teaching and getting to know my students, but through it all, the dream stuck with me; I knew I had to pursue it.  During one of my trips back to Argentina, I packed a couple of flat screens and some buttons from my grandmother's sewing box to come back with me to the States.  When I returned, I bought a large wood board and following my passion for textiles, I began printing fabrics in my basement. 

During the 2008 holiday season, I printed my first tablecloth adorned with my grandmother's buttons and sent it to the lovely town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.  The feedback was positive and overwhelming!  In April 2009, I opened an Etsy™ shop with six tablecloths and walked into stores to seek opportunities to sell my linens.

Was it a tough thing to do at the time?

To be uprooted was life-changing; it was like starting my life from scratch. 

What advice would you give to other creatives who are thinking about setting up their own business?

It took many experiments and a lot of hard work to transform those six tablecloths into the business I have today; a fully handcrafted eco-friendly Table & Kitchen Linens collection, a hand-printed fabric line, and my latest project, the Wedding Collection.  To get to this point, I have learned to be patient as well as not to wait to have everything in place to move forward with a project or idea because there is always more to do, more to accomplish.

Please describe your workspace / studio

My workspace is where my visions became a reality.  Fittingly, the printing table is the centerpiece of the room.  The walls are filled with flat screens, squeegees, inks and linen rolls while my desk is stocked with draft designs, color samples and supplies that keep my inspired. 

(To find out more about Celina's workspace, check out this video by clicking here)

Why Linen?

I have been influenced by organic fibers and eco-friendly notions turning my vision toward a more sustainable product. I wanted to create simple and practical linens that would be in the families for generation to come…
Linen is one of the oldest textiles in the world. It is made from the fibers of the flax plant and flax is considered eco-friendly by nature thanks to its ecological essence. It is very absorbent and has exceptional durability and drape.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

I do not have a specific way and/or place to find inspiration. I get inspired by unexpected things like vintage stores, travels, food,  people in the street, a book, a blog, a draw from my kids, something that someone says, a movie….everything would be the starting point for a new idea!

Can you name three of your favorite pieces of work and explain why you chose them?

Love my dishtowels – why? They are simple and practical; they can be used as placemats, small tablecloths, you can wrap a gift and or just dry dishes!
Tablecloths & Napkins - I want my designs to move people to create special moments that would stay with them forever.  I want my creations to inspire them to wear an apron and cook for their loved ones and to set the table with a lovely linen and cloth napkins for your everyday meals.
Where NEXT? 

By continuing to add unique designs to our collection, we hope to increase our customer base to include interior designers and wedding/event planners.

As a special limited offer for all of my Brit Decor friends, if you buy any products from Celina Mancurti quote BRITDECOR and you'll receive a whopping 20% discount. Offer closes 19th September 2014.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Brit Decor: Travels/ Rome

All Images / Copyright Mike Ahern

After my my long-awaited maiden trip to Venice last August, I realised that Italy had ashamedly been overlooked during my travels and urgently needed to be explored. Fast forward twelve months and last week I found myself touching down in Rome with @simonwatsonpt, and we were ready to explore this vibrant capital city!

The history and culture of this place is epic as it continues to reverberate throughout the city even today. At times my emotions on seeing some of the ancient sites such as the Pantheon (re-built in 126 AD) and Michelangelo's frescos at the Sistine Chapel, were almost overwhelming, whilst St Peter's Basilica literally took my breath away with it's awesome scale and beauty - that's the true power of art and architecture.

Wherever possible I found myself scrambling to the top of various vantage points in the city in an attempt to soak it all up, put the various landmarks into context and listen to the cosmopolitan hum all around me. One of my favourite parts of the day in Rome had to be the evenings when the intense heat of the day gave way to a cooler air and the cafes and restaurants came alive with laughter and music and, of course, the smell of freshly cooked Italiano cuisine - oh and Prosecco is definitely my new 'tipple' of choice!

Our apartment was set just a stone's throw away from the charming and bustling Piazza Navona with it's sculpted fountains, restaurants and a museum, which meant that I was able to drift off to sleep every night to the sound of people having fun - tourists and locals alike. We both loved the romance of the frescoed ceilings in the apartment and the classic shuttered windows, which looked out onto the scorched roof tiles in a sea of terracotta and burnt umber. And the central location meant that we were situated in the heart of the city with many of the famous sites within walking distance.

I also have to mention the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary set in amongst the ancient ruins of a temple  (where else in Rome?). Missing our own two cats at home in the UK we would try and include this cat playground in our schedule as much as possible, just to play 'spot the cat' and to say hello. My heart was completely stolen by a particular little waif (above), which is so typical of me.

Would I visit Rome again? Absolutely, there is still so much more to see and after hearing a guide describe the rare sight of snowflakes falling through the open roof in the Pantheon during Winter, I am determined to try and see this for myself some day. I hope you've enjoyed this trip too!

Thank you to @simonwatsonpt for being my very own Paparazzo for the week and more importantly, for being there and here.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Marble Circle Cake

All images / Mike Ahern

Brit Decor Bakes / Marble Circle Cake

I remain fixated on marble as it sweeps through the British high streets like a gust of, albeit stylish, Autumnal wind. The 'look' as we've already seen in my Heavenly Marble feature, is generally cool and sensual but this is not the case with my marble cake and it's warming free forming swirls of light and dark sponge. This is also a great example of how many trends don't just begin and end in one area of the creative world, they morph and evolve through fashion, interiors and food - Amen to that!

I actually put together this fashion conscious bake to celebrate my sister, her husband, my adorable two year old niece, and not forgetting Nellie the sheep dog, visiting the cottage last weekend. The sponge was light and springy to the touch (just how I like it) and the combination of the vanilla frosting fused with the dark chocolate chunks, really made it an indulgent treat. 

Here's how you can get a slice of the marble action too...

350g caster sugar 
350g unsalted butter (softened)
350g plain flour
6 eggs
2 tbs baking powder
3 tsp cocoa powder

200g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter (softened)
several drops of vanilla extract
30ml milk
50g dark chocolate

You'll also need a 25cm ring mould for the cake!

Preheat the oven to 170oC. Place the sugar and butter into a bowl and mix using an electric mixer, adding the eggs gradually. Then add the flour and baking powder to the mix until it's of a light and fluffy consistency. Carefully add the cocoa powder to the mixture and use a fork to swirl the cocoa into the mixture - you decide how much you want to mix but be careful of over mixing and losing the marble-effect. Place in the oven for approximately 35 minutes.

Once the cake has cooled, whisk together the icing sugar, vanilla extract, butter and milk to make the frosting. Then chop or crunch some dark chocolate pieces. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the frosting onto the top of the cake and finally, sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the top.

Wishing you all a huge dose of Friday love, all the way from Rome!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Brit Decor: Loves/ Rifle Paper Co.

I think it's safe to say that my crush on Stationery will never end, largely due to the highly diverse and exciting assortment of all things paper currently gracing our shops and stores. My curious designer's eye is always quick to glance at the back of any greetings cards or stationery that I am lucky enough to receive or buy, which brought me to this edition of 'Brit Decor Loves'.

Today I want to take you Stateside to meet Rifle Paper Co - the gift and stationery brainchild of creative duo, Nathan and Anna Bond, based in Florida. Like many creative businesses before and after them, the Bonds started small and began working from their apartment. However, today it's a different picture entirely with the brand now international in its reach - don't you just love a good success story!

If like me you are concerned about more than just aesthetics, then you've got to hand it to this company for using recycled content in their papers and environmentally friendly printers. The designs take on a quirky and vibrant hand-drawn feel with the option to personalise some items, and there has already been one collaboration with French Author and Illustrator, Garance Dore.

And there's more! For all those interiors junkies there is a 'watch this space' in progress for the possibility of Rifle paper Co moving into homeware too (yes please!) and judging on their wallpapers (above) this can only be a good thing.

I'll leave you with Nathan and Anna's own statement which encapsulates the brand beautifully; 
We strongly believe life's personal stories and moments are best told through the gift of a handwritten card or note, and hope that our goods inspire you to share these moments with others.

Visit the Rifle paper Co. store here.
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