Friday, 31 October 2014

Brit Decor: The Autumn Edit

All images / Mike Ahern

I absolutely love blogging for so many reasons, not least because I get to share my thoughts, ideas and inspiration with you guys! However, sometimes I tend to completely immerse myself in this and other creative projects without coming up for air, so urgent action was recently required to remedy this and take some time out for a breather and re-charge...

Living in the Somerset countryside, I really am spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful places to visit, and sometimes I completely take this for granted - does anybody else do this too? So I decided to grab @simponwatsonpt (pictured above) and head for the mythical Glastonbury Tor because I fancied some fresh air and couldn't wait to take in the stunning views of the Somerset levels and beyond - plus this ancient landmark is just over a 30 minute drive from the cottage so there really was no excuse.

Naturally, as a Personal Trainer @simonwatsonpt was up for this too and most likely took some sadistic pleasure from our trek to the top of the Tor, a staggering 158 metre climb, staggering by my standards at least but I did quite well to conceal my breathlessness and perspiration! In actual fact this impromptu cardio session turned out to be breathtaking in another way - from the sight of the incredible panoramic views that we were rewarded with at the top. If you haven't  seen these views firsthand, I strongly recommend it if you ever get the opportunity to.

If you are wondering about the incredible texture and colour of the weatherbeaten door 'above', it's the front door of a picture postcard cottage in Glastonbury which we passed en-route to the Tor, and I just had to stop and snap it to share with you all. Autumn was most certainly in the air and all around me with a rich palette of golden yellows and browns set against the lush green of the farmland and Tor, hence my Autumn edit selection 'below'. If there's beauty outside, bring it into your home and I hope this wish list shows how we can do this by colour matching nature with gorgeous home accessories.

So did this little time-out trip help to clear the cobwebs? Absolutely, bring it on workload! I hope that you find your very own inspiration this weekend, wherever you are and whatever you decide to do.

1/ Small ceramic brown clay jug £50 The Conran Shop 2/ House of Rym blanket £60 Starling Store
3/ Badger cushion £72.50 Donna Wilson 4/ Coloured flat basket £29.99 Zara Home
5/ Silvered Prisms rug (from) £398 Anthropologie 6/ Tiny board £8 Jamie at Home

Friday, 24 October 2014

Brit Decor: Shower Power / Mira Showers

1/ Moeve Brooklyn Herringbone towel £37.80 Amara 2/ Mira Beam divider panel £540 Mira Showers 3/ Round stand mirror £4 Matalan 4/ Mira Platinum dual wireless controller £153.60 Mira Showers 5/ 20z Cassia stone soap £7 The Conran Shop 6/ High Society Rockefeller tile £27.54 Fired Earth 7/ Scented candle £6.99 H&M 8/ Grey marble tumbler £12 BHS 9/ Hay Volet coat hooks £20 Selfridges

When devising any interior design scheme it's a huge plus for the designer to have a strong focal point to work with. Bathrooms can prove to be a particular challenge with potential limitations on space and balancing these with the need to create functionality and, of course, style. However, the pay-off from creating a dream bathroom is worth every second of the planning process! 

For many of us, a crucial part of modern bathroom living has to be the shower; it's fast, convenient and best suited to our busy schedules due to its 'wash-and-go' function. Therefore, choosing the right shower enclosure is crucial to the overall success of your bathroom. So today's focal point is brought to us via these stunning Shower units from Mira showers. My favourite enclosure (by a tiny margin) is the Beam divider panel (no.2 'above'), due to its clean simple lines and minimalist-look, but having said this, I also love the rather curvaceous lines of Mira's Beam alcove enclosure (no.2 'below'). 

Of course, with any strong design statement like these shower units, you need the accessories to create the perfect design statement in your bathroom, right? Based around each Mira shower enclosure I have created two trending themes to compliment these; Before Colour explores my continuing love affair with monochrome, which I have softened with stylish greys in a selection of clean and minimal lines. Then there's my Copper Cool palette, which in contrast to the monochrome styling exudes warmth and energy with earthy reds and shiny copper metallics - the perfect Autumnal palette!

I love the herringbone-meets-chevron design of these tempting towels from Amara (no.1 above) and for that added slick and techno-cool design feature, I couldn't resist including the slick Beam divider panel, also from Mira (no.4 'above'). The elegant hexagonal detailing on Fired Earth's beautiful High Society Rockefeller tiles (no. 6 'above') deliver a high-end finish to this scheme (I gotta get me some of these!). And on the subject of sharp lines, I love the black Cassia soap bar from The Conran Shop for those quirky design details that are oh-so important to the overall finish of any room. 

What is it about Copper that is driving the design world crazy right now? I only have to take a glance at this warm and glossy material to know why - it's simply stunning. If you are looking for a warm and inviting palette, this could be the one with these med-style Alicante terracotta tiles from Mandarin Stone (no.5 'below') which will also offer the perfect contrast to a pure white bathroom suite. I have to admit that I am pretty captivated by this copper toned glass mirror from Heals (no.8 'below) - for that unique design feature. For value interiors fashion accessories, there's the striking copper-effect metal storage basket from H&M (no.3 'below') because storage is another crucial factor to creating a successful bathroom. And for that luxe-feel, I am smitten with Habitat's clasp leather laundry bag (no.4 'below').

So which palette are you? Copper Cool or Before Colour?

1/ Copper soap dispenser £29.95 Dwell 2/ Mira Beam alcove (from £624) Mira Showers 3/ Copper-effect metal basket £6.99 H&M 4/ Clasp leather laundry bag £150 Habitat 5/ Alicante Terracotta tile (from £1.57) Mandarin Stone 6/ Scion Mr Fox towels (from £10) John Lewis 7/ Collier copper toilet brush £22 Habitat 8/ Menu Gridy Me Clear mirror £71 Heals

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brit Decor: New Cool / Wool

Images (from top) 1/ Deas Og Mia 2/ My World Apart 3/ Scandinavian Deko 4/ Deas Og Mia

Here in my little corner of the world it's been a bit of a roller coaster ride in meteorological terms with an unseasonably mild start to Autumn. One minute I am following my human instinct to cosy-up, like I would in any normal October - preparing logs for the wood burner (and writing about it in my 'Basket Love' post), whilst the next minute I find myself placing the thick woollen sweaters back in the wardrobe for a currently unknown length of time...

However, in stylistic terms we can usher the new cool in interiors into our homes at any point in the year. Despite its sometimes Wintery connotations, wool now officially rocks, whatever the Season. I am currently obsessed with the new trend for super chunky knits (just check out the enormous crochet hook from the hip NY store Loopy Mango - all nine inches of it!). I love the architecture created by these, which can bring both structure and comfort to a home (see 'above') and there's now literally a colour to suit everyone. Tip: Try indulging in a rich colour palette of wools this Autumn by mimicking the colours of the rusting leaves outside.

In terms of colour timing, I tend to ebb towards lighter, brighter wools for Spring/Summer interiors and darker, richer tones for Winter, like this stunning Pewter Moss Stitch throw from House Envy (no.1 below). Or if you are missing the sight of the golden sun beaming down upon you, then consider a palette of yellow wools to add richness and energy, like the grey/yellow combo knitted cushion by Catherine Tough (no.2 below) or the insanely rich Mellow Yellow yarn (no.7) from the pinnacle of 'wool cool' - Wool and the Gang.

So my friends, do you want to join the cool gang...?

1/ Pewter Moss stitch throw £69.95 House Envy 2/ Knitted cushion grey check £62 Catherine Tough
3/ Knitted friend Bandit the Racoon £38 Not on The High Street 4/ Giant Crochet hook
$26 Loopy Mango 5/ Hand knit slipper sock £49 Toast 6/ Say my name beanie £62 Wool &The Gang
7/ Shiny Happy Cotton (Mellow Yellow) £9 Wool & The Gang

Friday, 17 October 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Bacon & Maple Syrup cupcakes

All images / Mike Ahern

It's unusual for me to be torn between sweet and savoury as the former usually wins hands-down. However, last weekend I found myself craving both! A nice crispy bacon 'butty' is one of my all time favourite weekend snacks - the freshly cooked bacon always offers one of those comforting homely smells.

Another thing I love about bacon sandwiches is the speed at which one can be put together and then devoured (very handy for feeding unannounced guests at the cottage on weekends). So in the spirit of keeping things easy, speedy, and combing sweet and savoury, I decided to make some bacon and maple syrup cupcakes.

The fluffy sponges gently emit the mild spicy nutmeg and cinnamon flavours, which are offset perfectly by the sweetness of the caramelised maple syrup which coats the bite-sized bacon pieces and forms the central flavour of the maple frosting. Mixing bowls to the ready my friends!

Cupcake Ingredients:
150g unsalted butter (softened)
150g caster sugar
180g plain flour
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Caramelised bacon:
3 rashers bacon
Drizzle maple syrup

60g unsalted butter
4 tbsp maple syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
150g icing sugar

Here's how to make:
Preheat your oven to 180oc & line a 12 case cake tray.

Place the softened butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and flour into a bowl and one-by-one add each egg, mixing as you go along. Then add the vanilla extract,  cinnamon and nutmeg and mix together until you have a smooth and creamy batter.

Add the mixture to the cake cases and place in the oven for around 18 minutes.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven, take the rashers of bacon and drizzle with maple syrup until coated. Then grill the rashers on medium heat until golden brown. Leave to cool.

Once the cakes have been removed from the oven and cooled, prepare the frosting by mixing together all of the ingredients until these are smooth and creamy. Using a tea spoon, distribute the frosting onto each cake. Cut the bacon into small bite-sized pieces and place in each topping. Finally, drizzle some maple syrup over each cake and serve.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Brit Decor: Simple Folk

Images (from top) 1/ Etsy 2/ Design is Mine 3/ The Design Files

Folk-style isn't just about a particular look, it's also how traditional methods are applied during the design and make process, such as screen printing and tapestry, to arrive at a vibrant and well-crafted solution. So it's actually very refreshing so see a huge revival of Folk arts emerging in some of the latest AW2014 fashion and interiors collections. It's also a perfect Winter-look with playful scenes filled with woodland animals and playful patterns.

Today I've incorporated my signature simple-style into a folk-inspired narrative to create 'Simple Folk'. Here we immerse all the eclectic pattern into a calming pool of nordic calm, and a sea of pale neutrals. In a nutshell; it's the new modern cool.

To help kickstart the 'Simple Folk' look, 'below' I've made a section of my favourite picks from the cyber high-street to adorn our homes with. Happy shopping friends!

Simple Folk Shopping1/ Screen print by Laikonik £10.95 Etsy 2/ Scandinavian geometric
mountain coin purse £9.59 Etsy 3/ Folklore blue enamel tea pot £14.95 Bloomsbury
4/ Dreamscape notebook £9 Paperchase 5/ Ary trays folk stripe tray £25.50 Amara
6/ Doft Ware spirale cushion £79.20 Made in Design 7/ Pennsylvania bed spread £200
Vintage Folk

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Brit Decor: Basket Love

Images (From the top): 1&2/ Mike Ahern 3/ Design Milk 4/ Alma Van Harskamp 5/ Bend  

At the weekend it suddenly appeared that Autumn had finally crept up and plonked itself upon us at the cottage. Falling leaves are now beginning to litter the paths whilst the nights are increasingly chilly. My aesthetic attention had been biased towards outdoor living over the Summer months but this has now shifted focus to the indoors and 'padding the nest' for Winter. I guess if I stop and think about this annual ritual for a moment, there's probably still a primitive instinct in all of us to proactively gather, store and reach for those warmer clothes as we move into colder times, right?

Helping me along with my Winter prep is my latest purchase from favourite affordable fashion retailer, H&M Home. The beautiful grey felt storage box (see images 1 & 2 above) was just what I had been looking for to hold some kindle for the wood burner. I also purchased a larger version to store old newspapers, also for the fire. So now I feel properly kitted out for Winter!

I've definitely been warming to the latest trend in basket accessories, from wire frame to bronze, recycled paper, to traditional seagrass, there's something for all of us. Sticking with H&M, I love the luxe-look of the bronze basket (no.2 below) for those glamorous nights in and a sparkle of light for the darker days ahead. Equally dazzling is the traditional 'Magga' shopping basket from The Conran Shop (no.6 below) - woven from beautifully rustic seagrass but with a contemporary dip in cobalt blue - a pleasant reminder of a Greek island holiday perhaps...?

Alternatively, if you're looking for a winter project, try sourcing a low-cost basket or up-cycling an  old basket with a splash of vibrantly coloured paint for a contemporary-meets-rustic look straight out of an interiors magazine!

1/ Crossover Bloomingville basket lampshade £69.50 Debenhams 2/ Bronze metal basket £14.99 H&M 
3/ Magga seagrass basket £7 IKEA 4/ Graphic grey baskets from £20 House Envy 5/ Black wire
baguette basket by John Rocha £12 Debenhams 6/ Wicker basket £60 The Conran Shop
7/ Cohen recycled magazine waste paper bin £10 Habitat

Friday, 3 October 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes / Mini Lemon & Poppy Seed Cakes

All images / Mike Ahern

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Mini Lemon & Poppy Seed Cakes

I was recently inspired by an episode of the BBC's #GBBO (it's difficult not to be, right?) where a contestant made some scrumptious-looking doughnuts filled with lemon and poppy seed custard. This reminded me of one of my all-time favourite muffins in the same flavour, so I immediately began yearning for the refreshing taste of the lemon flavouring combined with the delicate crunch of the tiny poppy seeds...

On my to-do list for some time has been mini-cakes, and prior to today's bake I had never made these cheery and rather cute little miniatures before. Asides from the lemon zest, I wanted to add some silky smooth texture complete with frosting to contrast with the fine crunch of the seeds, I also like the pale primrose yellow colour too, but that's just me.

In the end, these cakes are just the right size for two to share, which only adds to their charm - so grab someone special and enjoy these bakes!

220g caster sugar
270g self-raising flour
220g unsalted butter (softened)
1 lemon
20g poppy seeds
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
4 tsp milk

For the Frosting:
2 tsp lemon juice
150g unsalted butter (softened)
200g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring
1 lemon

You'll need:
Baking tray (30 x 23cm)
9cm circle cake ring (or whichever size you prefer)

How to make:
Preheat the oven to around 180oc, line and grease the baking tray. Grate one of the lemons and place the zest in a mixing bowl before adding all of the other ingredients. Using an electric mixer, blend together until silky smooth. Scoop the mixture into the baking tray and level off. Place in the oven for around 25-30 minutes until the bake is golden brown on top. Once the cake has cooled, remove from the tin and then use the cake ring to cut out your circles.

For the frosting, place the softened butter and icing sugar in a bowl and mix until smooth, add in the lemon juice and colouring until these are mixed in too. Frost your cakes accordingly and finally, grate the second lemon and sprinkle the zest over your cakes.

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