Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Object of the day... Louise Wilkinson plates

These plates are just two from a small collection by designer, Louise Wilkinson. 

I'd like them all, but these – marginally – are my two favourites.

Nice aren't they? In dinner plate size they cost £19.50 each. Below are a couple of the sweet side plates, priced at £14.50.

Louise launched her range at Liberty in 2012 and will be exhibiting at Tent London later this year. See more and buy at

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Spotlight on... the Dala horse

I bought this little chap from a second-hand shop near my house as a Christmas present, but he never made it out of the house. 

I should have known myself better, given my love of all horse-themed house items.

At the weekend, as part of my more houseplants mission, I picked up the leafy example you can also see in the photo below (from the Morden Hall nursery – a very nice place, by the way, with parkland and a cafe attached, if south of London is within your reach). And a little shelf revamp involving the horse came about.

I thought I had nothing that the bright red horse would go with. And so he'd been camping out in my office, all the better to remind me he was not mine to keep. But I've given in, as it seems I do.

The Pony picture is actually a bar mat that Abi gave me (it reads: "The little drink with a big kick". I have yet to discover where one might taste it...). With its red detailing it goes especially well with the Dala horse. The Sunny Jim stuffed toy – also handily in good colours – is very, very old and came from a 1980s packet of Force Flakes cereal (he was the logo). There's also a flash of red in the excellently named incense (it's called Strong Love) bought in a voodoo sort of a shop in my local market. The black and white photos are of my parents and the building in a frame is a paper bag from the Barbican cafe that I picked up after doing an amazing architectural tour there.

The horse fits in too well, and has even less chance of being gifted now...

You'll have seen these wooden horses all over the place: they're called Dala horses and became somewhat of a culturally significant symbol in their country of origin, Sweden.

They've got a long history, dating back 400-odd years but became prominent more recently. In 1939, a giant version of one of the distinctively carved beasts, painted in bright colours, was displayed at the Swedish Pavillion at New York's World Exhibition. It was popular and the following year, little versions were shipped out to New York to be sold.

The primitively carved figurines originated in the country's central Dalarna region, in around the 17th century, when men working in the forests carved them for children to play with. The horses were also sold in local markets and became popular enough to create a trade for many families. One such family formed a business making the horses in 1928 and relatives still produce and sell the models today.

Now you can find Dala horses online from the Swedish Wooden Horse Company. They sell the brightly painted – more traditional – versions too, but I prefer these muted grey ones. They also come in soft white. Prices start at £16.95.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Object of the day: M&S melamine

You could of course use these bright and beautiful melamine plates for a picnic, as intended, but wouldn't they look wonderful hung on a drab wall?

They are eminently affordable and available in the Summer range at Marks and Spencer.

Rio Dinner Plate, £3.50

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may already have spotted a mini gallery of plates on walls. If not, and you're after some inspiration, do take a look.

Rio side plate, £3

There is more in the range – not so hangable, alas – but too good to get out only for the summer season.

Rio Flower Tray, £9.50

Rio Cereal Bowl, £3

Friday, 11 April 2014

Friday Edit #8: illustrated homes, super shelves, a super-cool table and some surprises

Apologies for last week's lack of Edit, in case anyone noticed. 

But it's back! (And with bigger pictures and everything.)

Still Life Interior blog
Do you know the OK Corral online shop? You must! Run by photographer Holly Joliffe, it's a proper treasure trove. Now her mum, Joy, who designs lovely cushions sold through Random Retail, has started a side project: Still Life Interior blog. It's only two posts in but I'm already hooked on her objects with stories.

Room For Rent
Mike Ellis, Toronto-based illustrator for The Boston Globe and New York Times, among many more, drew some pictures of his friends' houses. They're brilliant. You can see more at It's Nice That. He drew them for an exhibition and displayed the pictures inside 3D dollshouses, lit up with LED lights.

George W Bush paints
In case you missed this week's news to this effect, it is indeed true. He's been skillfully painting world leaders in oils (or copying them off Google images, according to one art critic). Read about them all over the place, including

At home with Out of the Dark
The new issue of beautiful quarterly online magazine, Heart Home, is just out – and it features a house tour of the home of Jay and Jade Blades, founders of my favourite furniture reviving company/social enterprise, Out of the Dark. How beautiful is that black-topped kitchen table? Love it. And if you want to read about the time I went to High Wycombe to meet the couple at their workshop, click here.

Something you didn't know you needed
I was unfamiliar with taps installed above hobs. But Remodelista, this week, has educated me. I can't decide if they're a decadently brilliant idea or pointless wastes of money. This one looks beautiful though.

And in case you weren't around...
On the blog this week was a smokin hot French home (spot the sculpture that got mistaken for something altogether different...), Pretty Finnish prints inspired by Grandma's socks, some sewing activism and possibly my best interiors bargain ever.

May your weekends be full of inspiration. All going well, mine should be full of small children, old friends, sea air, junk rummaging and new picture frames. How nice!

Catch up on previous Friday Edits.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Object of the day: Hundreds & Thousands tray by Jonna Saarinen

These colourful laminated birchwood trays by Finnish designer, Jonna Saarinen, are like useful little pieces of art.

I have previously mentioned my tray shelves. They are waiting to be filled. One or two of these mini ones could boost the fledgling collection...

Aren't they cheery?

After spying these trays, I checked out Jonna's website to see what other nice stuff she'd designed. But first I discovered the story behind the designs – which also feature on trivets and tea-towels, below. I love this story.

Jonna, who completed her MA at the Royal College in 2010, grew up by the sea, near the Turku archipelago in southwest Finland.

The "long hot summers"of her childhood were spent "running around barefoot in the forest" with her late grandmother, who wore "amazing" woolly socks and aprons. Along with these memories, the region's vibrant colour palette, full of wild berries, flowers, rock moss and evergreen forests has fed into these designs.
Jonna explains: "The Hundreds & Thousands collection celebrates mis-matching styles, over printing, everything seaside, saying 'hurrah!' to way too many patterns." Like her grandmother would agree, she thinks, "you can never have too much of a good thing."

Hundreds & Thousand Breakfast Tray by Jonna Saarinen, £22 from Objets de Desir.

Post by Kate

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Real homes: design envy in the south of France

Today's post is by writer and family travel blogger, Amanda Pollard, who lives in the south of France and has been nosing around this incredible place...

When designers Elisabeth Vidal and Huub Ubbens moved into their Montpellier apartment two years ago it didn’t look like this at all. Uninhabited for five years, it was run down with thick patterned wallpaper everywhere. But they could see the potential and set about renovating the space with the help of some local architects. The result is a beautiful mix of classic 18th century features and original contemporary design.

Huub designed the sleek black chair visible in the background above. The metallic light was also designed by Huub, for Danese.

At the back of the room is a little family area with the children’s keyboard perched upon the couple’s vinyl collection. The album sleeve on the wall is mounted on one of Huub’s clever designs, an adjustable frame which he originally dreamt up as a way of displaying beautiful book covers.

Elisabeth and Huub designed the kitchen units themselves of course. The bright white helps to show off the open cupboards of painted shelves behind, full of crockery and collected objects (below). 

On the central island, below, are a couple of Elisabeth’s playful iemavases – each one has a different place to put your flower (the head, the shoulder, the stomach).

The adjoining living area is a cosy corner of interesting furniture. I love the pink Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec armchair.

Huub’s book holder sits on the side table. It cleverly keeps the page for you and can be carried to bed when you’ve finished reading in the armchair.

Huub’s favourite chair is this elegant, incredibly light, Chiavari chair from 1850 that he found while living in Milan and had restored.

The bright sunlight that reflects off the white building opposite and illuminates the hallway makes the bold colours they’ve chosen in the bathroom and children’s bedrooms look fabulous. Love the mixed palette they’ve used in their son’s bedroom, above.

And how about this for a sunny bathroom?

The couple wanted to extend the bathroom to put a shower in, but didn’t want to break up the floor. So they built this clever unit, above, raised from the floor on circular plinths that Huub describes as ‘black Edam cheeses’ from his native Holland.

In the master bedroom, Elisabeth’s temporary solution for the sloping floor was to put the bed in the centre of the room.

I think it looks great and the colourful bedside chairs behind the head of the bed add to the quirkiness.

But this has to be my favourite idea. Beneath their daughter’s mezzanine bed they’ve made a puppet theatre - just brilliant.

See more of Elisabeth and Huub’s design work at: and

Post by Amanda Pollard

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sign the sewing petition!

This is the sewing machine I was given for my 18th birthday. 

And I knew what to do with it only because I'd taken compulsory sewing classes for the first few years at my secondary school. I was not, however, a great student.

I kept for years the pencil skirt we were required to make – but which I never finished before the end of term – convincing myself that I would one day, very soon, sew those final seams. This wasn't to be. But I loved my Frister Rossmann all the same, and keenly sewed all sorts of useless things at home instead. Fabric Rizla cases perhaps being the most ridiculous. Happy days.

So you'll notice the machine is not plugged in... Yes, I have been useless at keeping up with sewing anything for years. But this old thing was in a dusty box for a very long time and my first step to getting back into making stuff is – I hope – getting it out. Now I just need to plug it in.

The reason for posting about the old girl today is that I got an email last week from Hobbycraft saying that they had, last year, launched a petition to get sewing back on the national curriculum. Brilliant idea.

The petition has almost reached its signature target – so if you agree, sign it too at

Monday, 7 April 2014

Spotlight on... Vernon Ward

Here is my bargain of the month. A beautiful Vernon Ward framed print... for just a quid!

I found it in Suffolk countryside, for sale in the on-site shop at an amazing converted barn we stayed in (more of which another time). It's my second print by the same artist.

Vernon Ward lived from 1905-1985 and was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. Though he was born in London, many of his paintings depict Cornish seaside scenes. Vases of flowers were another of his recurring subjects.

But it's his Cornish works that most appeal to me, as it's a part of the country I have close links to. And you've got to love the feeling you get from looking at seagulls flying about somewhere you might rather be than at your desk.

Pictured above is the first print I bought. I had it displayed among the chaos that is my home office wall. But once I got it together with its friend, I realised the print had been rather lost where it was, and that the two ought really to be together. But where?

I'm not sure this will be their permanent home, but this is where they've landed up for now. I never intended to have a themed beach wall. But somehow it happened.

The new print, with its old friend, are on the same wall as another few cherished things.

The postcards are a set of paintings of St Ives. They ought to go in more substantial frames really.

Above is a painting my grandma did of a Cornish beach scene. It is painted onto tiles and framed. She had it hanging in her bathroom in her house in St Ives for many years. Apparently the blond boy in the foreground was my dad as a little boy.

The lovely ceramic seagulls were a present from my brother and his wife.

You can browse some of Vernon Ward's originals, all sold at auction, on Originals can go for £300 up to around £1000. The cheaper and easier to pick up prints, part of Ward's vast body of commercial output, were popular decoration for greetings cards, jigsaws, trays and more, as well as in frames.

And if you like Vernon Ward's work, a good source of quite a few of his prints is the always inspiring and ever affordable OK Corral, which gets them in frequently and currently has a VW trivet on sale for just a fiver. Love that shop.

Post by Kate

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Real homes: inside an Eric Lyons span apartment

I'm a little bit obsessed with the architect Eric Lyons' work. The 1968-built house I live in is my local authority's version of his celebrated (and now listed) 1950s designs for Span Developments.

If you were a fan of the BBC's Great Interior Design Challenge a few months back, you'll have seen the kitchen makeovers the contestants did on the kitchens in a Span development.

The characteristics of a Span development include large windows and lots of green space – the idea was to build a houses and flats within gardens and to exclude cars. It was all about the homes feeling connected to nature. My own copy-cat house has incredible wall-to-wall windows (which makes up for the frames having been replaced with uPVC before my time) and is one of a set of properties built around a large communal green with lots of trees. Access is via a quiet, cobbled mews (stuffed, of course, with cars). It still ticks lots of the boxes though, and how brilliant that the council took such care with the design when so much social housing built in that era was positively inhuman: tiny windows, Kafka-esque corridors, poky rooms.

But I'm digressing. The stunning flat you are now looking at is at Eric Lyons' Grade II Listed Parkleys development in Ham, just outside south west London and built by Span in the mid-1950s.

And it's currently for sale... £355,000 will buy you two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living / dining room, a kitchen (ohmygod, the kitchen! See below...) and an external storage room plus additional shared space to keep bikes or buggies.

Parkleys is one of the first of the Span developments.

Love the use of glass panels to boost light inside the flat. I've already restored the original windowlights (the ones above the doors) in my place, as the glass had been replaced by boards. But now I'm looking at this and wondering which entire walls I could have in glass too – despite all the windows, our hallway is constantly gloomy... Sadly I think all the walls in that part of the house are doing important supporting jobs. Ah well. 

This reminds me of the stunning original kitchens in another modernist flat near the Barbican that I wrote about last year, designed by boat-builders in order to be compact. This woodwork is spectacular – what incredible draining boards... And that's not something you get to say very often.

Find out more about this property at

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