Friday, 28 November 2014

Brit Decor: #HabitatSS15

All images / Habitat

Due to my long-term fondness towards this British brand, it was always going to be good day when I received an invite to Habitat's first online press launch event for their Spring/Summer 2015 collection #habitatSS15. The event itself (if you missed it) was a visual feast with plenty of new and innovative designs, and for country folk like me, it was great not to have to make the trek to London for a press event (not that a trip to the big smoke is a bad thing!)

If not a little biased, my overall verdict is a resoundingly positive one. What's not to like about spring-fresh greens, sunburst yellows and a multitude of exuberantly bright colours, which sit in perfect contrast with delicately pale Scandinavian blonde woods and some much welcomed mid-twentieth century-style furniture pieces? 

However, I am really not going to harp on about the merits of the collection, as I think the images 'above' speak for themselves and I am sure that at least some of these pieces will be making further appearances in Brit Decor's future shopping selections. 

I hope you enjoy the collection as much as I do but please let me know your thoughts...

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Brit Decor: Reinvent / The Up-cycle Edit

Images (from the top) 1/ Second Shout Out 2/ Style Lovely 3/ Style Files 4/ Losing You 5/ Paulina Arcklin

For a growing number of us, it's no longer enough to buy a shiny and new readymade piece of furniture. Up-cycling is a new type of ownership, one that allows individuals to create their very own creative accessories and furnishings, and to truly own the creative process and the final, unique result.

If like me, you are 'time poor' but rich in creative ideas, we shouldn't shy away from the thought of up-cycling projects. Even for larger scale furniture items, sometimes all that is needed is a creative eye and spatial awareness to create a high-impact piece in next to no time at all. Take for example the army regulation metal crates (image 5 directly above), where simply stacking the boxes to form an industrial-style sideboard, brings a graphic punch to this living space - I love the detail created by the white stencilled graphics, and these boxes offer a great storage facility too.

The owners of the bathroom in the first image (above) really have mastered the art of up-cycling. Here they have applied some savvy sourcing skills to create this incredible vintage-look bathroom. Scouring auctions and vintage stores is a great way to pick up some ex-industrial pieces like the compact drawer unit installed underneath the sink, or the vintage metal bucket - now used as a design detail waste bin. The sliding doors are also re-claimed and bring a wall of texture to the space, and did you notice the vintage milk bottle, now serving as a simple but elegant vase?

For those of us with a little more time to spare or a readily available carpenter to hand, the striking minimalist worktop in image 2 brings an up-cycled look to this monochrome kitchen. Palettes are relatively inexpensive and easily sourced - you may even get these for free from a local warehouse if you ask nicely! Here, painting the wood black has sharpened the overall look and created a dramatic centre piece.

Image 3 offers another easy style solution with this recycled door, which has been sanded down to create a beautiful dining table. Doors actually provide a good solid base for a table top and bring plenty of character to the table - a great conversation piece for dinner parties. Trestles or metal frames are easily available from IKEA and other stores, and these bring a contrasting 'edge' to the final piece. To really accentuate this look, incorporate mis-matched dining chairs or a reclaimed bench for added variety and interest.

The Nordic-style bedroom setting in image 4 goes all out on the up-cycling front. Using reclaimed wooden palettes to construct this stunningly textured headboard brings instant warmth to the space. Dressed with simple white cotton bedding, the contrast between softness and texture is at its most powerful. I love how these home owners have also incorporated  recycled wood into the custom-made desk which is rich in texture and detail.

So have you recently indulged in any up-cycling projects? I'd love to hear about it...

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Brit Decor: Top Ten / Ways to love your kitchen

Images (from top) 1/ Mooi Wat Planten 2/ Houzz 3/ The Artisan's Daughter 4/ Paper Blog 
5/ Birch & Bird 6/ The Design Chaser 7/ At Home in Love 8/ Sugar Cube Basics 9Patchwork Architecture 10/ Academy Tiles 11/ The Kitchen 

In the run-up to the Festive food season many of us will be faced with the prospect of cooking for guests, not to mention keeping them entertained with our wit, charm and of course, our stylish homes! During this period of heightened social activity, the kitchen is likely to become a flashpoint in proceedings - it's the platform from which we can shine as domestic gods and goddesses as we feed the 'masses' or the select few.

Therefore, now is probably a good time to make any cosmetic changes to our kitchen spaces so these are primed and ready for Christmas (unless you have a very fast-working builder, the window of opportunity for larger scale projects this side of festivities, may have already passed you by).

Here's some of my top suggestions on how to quickly and effectively inject some love and that all important style-factor into your kitchen...

1. Wall tiles can bring a wealth of texture, colour and pattern to a scheme. In makeover terms, my choice of tile varies depending on the quality of the kitchen units and worktops. If these are of a high quality and look great, then I tend to opt for natural tones with little or no pattern. For units which are looking a little tired, try applying the distraction technique and introduce interesting tiles to draw the eye away from less desirable elements in the room and focus on the eye-catching instead.

2. Give plastic the chop - opting for wooden chopping boards and accessories can create a more natural rustic-look. Wood also equals warmth in terms of colour psychology, and it brings texture to the mix too. I'm a big fan of wooden kitchen accessories peppered throughout a minimal design scheme, as this cleverly adds softer pulses of warmth and character.

3. Lighting is key to any successful kitchen due to its practical usage. Take time to consider your space and the key work areas which will need the most light, once you have sussed this, it's time to hunt down the perfect style of light fitting. If you are concerned about compromising style aesthetics for practicalities, why not opt for the best of both worlds? Concealed under-cupboard lighting can bring light to the areas where you most need it, which then allows you to focus on unleashing your full creativity on ceiling lights, without the need for any compromise on style.

4. It really is ok to display! Even in more minimal and clutter-free kitchens, carefully curated displays of favourite kitchen or dining items will create an instant style statement and inject some personality into the space. It's touches like this which can really set a kitchen apart from everyone else's.

5. Add a touch of luxury. Don't worry if funds are tight with the onslaught of Christmas shopping, because creating the luxe-look doesn't mean that you have to go OTT with your kitchen makeover. Simple additions such as a marble chopping board, or glossy metal accessories with brass, copper or gold finishes can bring instant glamour and will potentially leave you with enough funds to splash out on some bubbly!

6. Free-style it. I love how handwriting brings instant energy and personality to a design. Chalkboard paint instantly comes to mind - the jet black colouring makes an immediate bold and powerful statement and encourages some free-hand creativity. Chalk walls also serve a great practical function for jotting down shopping items or recipes.

7. Stainless steel used to be the preserve of industrial kitchens but has long since been welcomed into domestic settings. This material makes for strong, durable and stylish surfaces and appliances. I love how the example 'above' shows how a tiny nook has been transformed into a sleek and concealed steel kitchen area.

8. If you are looking for high-trend touches, raw materials are rocking the world of interior design right now. I am seriously tempted by the plywood look after seeing some sleek blonde custom-made sideboard units in Sir Terence Conran's newly designed Thames-side apartment. For the ultimate industrial look - fuse this with another powerhouse in raw materials; concrete. To slightly soften and de-formalise this style, introduce some subtle clay and ceramic accessories.

9. Whether it's potted plants, herbs or freshly cut blooms, if your kitchen is feeling a little bland or sterile, adding some foliage is one of the quickest and most effective means of breathing life into a scheme, it's also one of the most economical makeovers in my top ten!

10. Love your cupboards inside and out. It's easy to give priority to the external aspects of a kitchen but good design considers every aspect of a scheme. Have you recently looked inside your kitchen cupboards - I mean, REALLY looked inside and considered how effective the storage aspect is? I find that the occasional review of how I use a space, albeit one that's away from general view, can be useful and as a result, I often make a fews changes to the way in which I store items. For those larger kitchen storage spaces such as larders, why not inject a shock of colour into this space? This will help to brighten your day every time you delve into your cupboard, even if you are in a hurry!

How important is your kitchen at Christmas time? Will you be cooking Christmas lunch? I'd love to know...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Brit Decor: Autumn Crush

All images / Mike Ahern

My weekends seem to be flying past faster than the Red Arrows we saw at Fairford, back in the Summer. I had been meaning to pencil in some time to pick up my camera, grab @simonwatsonpt by the scruff of his neck, pop on our wellies and head outdoors. Living in the countryside is a novelty that never wears out for me and it's always there, beckoning to be enjoyed, so that's exactly what we did at the weekend. 

This year has been no exception and we have once again been spoilt with awesome views of fiery coloured trees burning like beacons on the Autumnal landscape, much of which is now at the tail end of this display and this cyclical spectacle has now shifted underfoot with carpets of leaves and pine needles cushioning every step.

I love how Autumn is now shifting into a new phase - one of architecture and winter decoration with trees now shaping statuesque moves and pretty red berries glistening in the hedgerows. I even spotted the familiar milky white globes of Mistletoe on our walk - now that's a prelude to Christmas, right?!

The weather during our walk was typically British in its changeable nature, ranging from dramatic dark clouds to glimmers of misty sunshine, which gave me opportunity to get some good contrasting shots, which I naturally wanted to share with you.

During our walk back to the cottage, it dawned on me just how much inspiration a little break can bring - just stepping out of one environment and into another, even if only for a short time, can be so inspiring, especially for us creative types. This brought to mind a quote from Author Paul Arden; "If you get stuck, draw with a different pen." And that's exactly what our walk did, so I am now suitably inspired for the week ahead.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Brit Decor: Christmas with!

I am generally one of those people who gasps in horror at the sight of any Christmas paraphernalia hitting my eye-line before the month of November, although I do concede there are benefits to forward planning! However, now that Halloween and, for us Brits, Guy Fawkes night, is behind us, I am rolling up my metaphorical sleeves to begin the task of thinking about which gifts I might buy for loved ones this Festive season.

I know it's a much joked about problem but actually - what do we buy the person who has everything? Seriously? My dream scenario would be to have all the free time in the world to devote towards creating my own unique gifts, customised for each very special and individual recipient. Of course the reality is very far removed from the fantasy because individual 'make' projects take time, and lots of it, in fact more precious time than most of us have to spare.

That's why I recently jumped at the opportunity to team up with the lovely folk at Zazzle to collate a collection of 'Christmas-cool' with a unique selection of gifts, which I have chosen from their extensive range of original products. I love how this online store allowed me to be creative and run wild with the wealth of customisable options available, including choice of colour palettes, editable text, and I could even upload my own images, which were then cleverly applied to my chosen gifts. Note to all my instafriends - you may be excited to learn that Zazzle can also apply a selection of your favourite Instagram photos to products like cushions and in a design of your choice too. Imagine turning your favourite pics into stylish home wares!

With a huge and exciting collection of trending chevron designs, graphic prints and the latest home-wares styles to click and scroll my way through, Zazzle has definitely made it into my little black book of interiors goodies.

So thanks to Zazzle, this year I won't be experiencing any of the usual pre-Christmas gift buyer's angst, because I have found the perfect shopping solution. This way, I can still apply my own creativity to each gift but I get somebody else to do the making part - it's a win-win situation! 

Starting with my first selection shown 'above', here's my 2014 Christmas shopping list...

1. Merry & Bright Christmas photo card £1.55
2. Monogrammed Christmas ornament £17.95
3. Instagram throw pillow £25.95
4. Pastel rainbow personalised tote £8.00
5. Grey chevron luggage tag £9.00
6. Nautical Damascus Reason Espresso cup £12.95

And here' are my picks from the selection 'below'...

1. Wood grain grey pine tree cushion £26.95
2. Finlay Pinback Button £3.25
3. Chevron zigzag pattern wrapping paper £18
4. Rain rain rain iPad case £40.95
5. Vintage Aztec Tribal wood Maple iPhone 6 case £38.95
6. Chevron Chic monogram mug £10.95
7. Vintage Art Deco travel poster £9.30

I hope this selection has inspired you to put some Zazzle into your Christmas! I'd love to hear how you add your own creative touches to Christmas gift buying. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Brit Decor: Vintage Office Crush

Images (from the top) 1/ Girly Me 2/ Standard Studio 3/ Like That One 4/ VT Wonen

If you have missed the current trend for vintage styling, whether it's shabby chic, industrial cool or sheer mid-twentieth century sexiness, it's just possible that you've been on a very lengthy vacation to a faraway place! My personal favourite vintage look has to be the iconic classics from the period spanning 1950-1970, with the signature style epitomised by streamlined Danish and classic British furniture pieces, frequently adorned with bold coloured metal lamps and ceramics.

Today's post focuses on how to bring the vintage look home to create your very own workspace. I absolutely adore how the desk in the first image (above) takes centre stage and is at the heart of this living room. The warm grey wall colouring works in perfect tandem with the rich wood grain of the desk to create an incredibly subtle warming effect. This is further accentuated by the addition of the mustard yellow chair. This setting is also a great example of why adding small and curious accessories to the desktop, is a fantastic way of adding instant character and key points of interest. The gallery wall achieves a similar result same but on a larger scale.

Setting no.2 shows us how a vintage desk can create an incredibly enduring sense of style, even in a modern minimalist setting. The colour palette is far more muted and simplistic but nonetheless delicious with the chalky white walls and clear vase. I love how the natural twigs and wild flowers soften the formality of this working desk and bring an organic architectural look to the room.

It's strange to think that so many industrial furniture pieces are laying redundant and in some cases rusting away, when they can make vibrant domestic pieces full of character. In image 3, all that's needed here are no more than a few very simple additions like the steel swivel stool and retro desk lamp. I love to introduce a pot plant or two to my work space to help breathe some life into my working day - here the easy maintenance cactus does the job elegantly.

Re-vamping classroom furniture is another highly effective means of bringing the vintage look to your living space. The super-strong metallic framework in image 4 creates the perfect structure for painting, and I love how this sharp turquoise colour blends with the towering industrial drawer unit to create an uplifting palette of aquas which are cleverly fused with sparks of gloriously sunny yellows for that fun factor.

Which is your favourite?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Apple & Cinnamon Loaf

All images / Mike Ahern

At the cottage, Saturdays tend to be grocery delivery day - but until that point during the afternoon when the delivery van pulls up, supplies can sometimes run a little low, and its on these occasions that I need to be extra creative with cooking ingredients when whipping up those much anticipated weekend treats.

With the onset of Winter, I find that comfort food takes on a new larger and warmer appearance, compared to the smaller and lighter treats of Summertime, and last weekend was no exception. Although the weather was still extremely mild, psychologically, the bare trees and dull light told me that a comforting bake was required, so that's exactly what I made.

This Apple & Cinnamon loaf is a simple bake that tastes delightful when eaten fresh from the oven and looks great too for that rustic good food look. 

How to make:
300g Self raising flour
150g Brown sugar
125g Unsalted butter
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Large eggs
2 roughly chopped apples

1x loaf tin

How to make:
Peel and core both of the apples. Mix the flour, sugar and butter together until you have a crumb-like consistency. Then add the eggs, chopped apples and cinnamon. Mix together thoroughly and then place into the loaf tin, sprinkle some brown sugar and flour over the top and bake at 150oc for approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown.

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