November 18, 2012 in handmade goodness, interior styling
I had the pleasure of popping over to Scottish jewellery designer maker Grainne Morton’s house whilst in Edinburgh and thought you would love to see it too. Grainne and I were at art college together and although we studied different subjects, we have kept in contact over the years. I bought my first piece of commissioned artwork from her to commemorate graduating from my BA as Grainne completed her MA. It now hangs in my daughter’s bedroom and I still love it. Every now and again at certain times in my life I try and save up and treat myself to commemorate an important event or achievement, and this was the first time. Grainne combines miniature found objects, often vintage and antique collected items, into exquisite unique arrangements set in precious metals – from small items like rings and cufflinks to necklaces, bracelets, brooches and jewellery artworks.
Grainne and her husband’s home has a lovely feel, full of character and warmth and that evening was filled with flickering candles, kitsch, dark and moody, fun and flippant but sophisticated too. So many unexpected items and objects to give little surprises and pleasures when you saw them. Gorgeous vignettes everywhere you looked, like a giant version of her jewellery. Luckily I had my camera and Grainne was happy to let me take some photos to share as her other guests arrived.
It was the Saturday evening when we popped over to her family home, filled with friends for a little bonfire and Halloween party, the children bobbed for apples hanging from strings, there were hollowed out pumpkins, marshmallows toasted over a fire, hot sausages in rolls and a homemade Halloween piñata followed by fireworks – a perfect evening, thank you Grainne!
I also took a few photos in her studio where her window and desk look onto the garden. I loved to see all her materials so beautifully organised, so much to play with and surrounded by inspiration.
The next treat I bought from her was when I had just finished my first book and I saw Grainne at a show in London and bought a flower brooch from her. I love it and it is a beautiful reminder of an achievement I was proud of (you can see the brooch here). For a special birthday my husband bought a gift voucher for me to choose something from Grainne’s collection and while she was exhibiting at the Made London design and craft show I chose a beautiful necklace and ring. I love them and have had lots of complementary comments while wearing them already.
You can find out more and see her work on Grainne’s website and her blog. Grainne’s work is also available to buy online at Seek & Adore. So if you fancy treating yourself to something special or putting it on your gift list this Christmas I highly recommend Grainne’s jewellery.
If you’re lucky enough to live near Edinburgh you can pop along to Grainne’s open studio and sample sale on 1st and 2nd December where there will be 15% off her current collection and well as sale items, and for those in London you can see her work at the Primrose Hill Designer Sale on the 8th December. Find out more here.
I hope you love her house and her work as much as I do.
November 14, 2012 in inspiring places
Over the half term school holiday recently we took a family trip to visit my old stomping ground of Edinburgh. I lived there for three years while studying printed textiles at the art college and we decided to take a city break up in Scotland and visit some friends. The train journey from London to Edinburgh Waverley whizzed by in a flash, as the countryside did through the mud-splattered glass of the windows. I took a little time taking experimental shots out of the window playing with blur and focus, and as the views changed so did my abstracted countryside. It began to rain towards the end of the journey and turned grey and dark, but the rain on the window added another layer to my images and made us really quite pleased to be in a cosy carriage.
Edinburgh is made up of the most beautiful architecture. The old town is Medieval and the new town is Georgian. Everywhere you look the architecture of the buildings is either fairytale or grand and sophisticated and even the new builds are contemporary and architecturally interesting and seem to fit in. For such a large, old city the countryside and sea are so close. Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, juts upwards from almost the centre of the city, the Scottish Parliament at its feet and giving you the most amazing 360 degree views from its peak.
The first morning we walked up Calton Hill where, as a student, I used to visit the Beltane Fire Festival which marks the beginning of summer. At night fire would be carried in procession, drums banged to a rhythm, dancers writhing between columns wearing next to nothing. A pagan celebration that was really quite ‘other worldly’ and magical. In the daytime, it is still an impressive place to visit with large monuments, an observatory and a great view over Edinburgh. When we reached the top, my children pointed straight across to Arthur’s Seat and said “come on Mum, let’s go!”, so this was the morning of two hills. The view from the volcano’s peak was even more staggering, you had a wonderful view of the sea and other surrounding hills and countryside. Wandering around the rest of the city we saw the statue of Greyfriars Bobby and I told my children the sweet tale of this Terrier who sat and guarded his master’s grave for 14 years. The masonry in this graveyard was rather gruesome though, but perfect as it was Halloween.
Another day we wandered through the New Town to Stockbridge, popping in to to see my friend Michelle at the Open Eye Gallery where there was a show of prints by Victor Pasmore, an artist I love. We then walked along the beautiful river of Leith through ancient villages to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where it was the first day of the new S J Peploe exhibition, one of the Scottish Colourists who are a favourite of mine! It was a perfectly crisp sunny, autumn day and a perfect expedition to end a wonderful trip to Edinburgh.
Above is the view across the old town, with the Castle in the distance at the end of The Royal Mile. The Georgian grandeur of the adjacent New Town streets is gorgeous and virtually all of them retain their original windows and doors. Many still have the family name on a plaque on the front door which really gives the houses personality.
Below are the views from Calton Hill, across to Arthur’s Seat that we climbed, the countryside and out over the Firth of Forth estuary to the North Sea.
We also visited a jewellery designer friend at her home and some more friends who had opened a new shop a few days before we arrived, both of which are wonderful. I have those posts to finish and am looking forward to sharing them with you.
If you’ve never been to Edinburgh it’s a great place to visit, full of history and creativity, and you can walk almost everywhere. Just remember to wrap up warm or before you know it you’ll be popping in to one of the many pubs for a wee dram of whisky to warm you up.
October 29, 2012 in inspiring places
We visited the charming seaside town of Hastings on a day trip from Hawthbush Farm where we stayed a couple of weeks ago. It is a favourite place of my fathers and we have friends here too so have visited a few times in the past. It is a working fishing town, with tall, imposing shiplap huts lining one end of the sea front. These towering wooden structures, where the fishermen hang their nets to dry, have the most beautiful, functional hand-drawn graphics painted on them and it was this that I captured with my camera.
Among the net huts were smaller sheds and shacks where fishermen would unload or fix machinery and some were selling fresh fish and seafood where we stocked up on cockles and winkles, pints of prawns and dressed crab for our tea. I love the buildings’ ‘no frills’ simplicity and utilitarian quality.
The new Jerwood Gallery has just opened in a stunning contemporary building clad in gloss black tiles, mirroring the black shiplap huts next door. As we were wandering with the children on the beach and around the old town we ran out of time to go inside, but my parents went in and loved it. It made us want to return soon.
Hastings old town is quaint with narrow streets, independent and interesting shops, cafés and a great selection of secondhand and antique shops. Some of the best ones I popped into included Made in Hastings selling handmade goods, Alastair Hendy‘s gorgeous Home Store and also Butlers Emporium. All are worth hunting out if you visit.
There was also a wonderful old sweet shop selling all the types of sweets I had when I was little. The children’s eyes grew huge at the sight and we all left happy with liquorice sherbert dips, planning our return trip to Hastings.
October 15, 2012 in flowers, interior styling
As a flower and plant lover, it was a joy to be asked by Waitrose earlier this year to work with talented photographer Karen Thomas and style the photographs for their Autumn flowers and plants range . My brief was to create the environment for the flowers and plants to sit in with an autumnal feel, rich and moody and deep in colour. Other shots were for arrangements that are available all year round, so needed to look brighter and less seasonal.
The floral arrangements and plants are the products, designed by the Waitrose team and available to order for delivery online and by phone. All of the plants come in their own containers and many of the flower arrangements are sold in clear vases, boxes, bags or jugs. I sourced vessels and vases for the arrangements that don’t come in a container to display them in the shots.
I took the little images above on my phone whilst we were shooting. They show a few behind-the-scenes shots of table set ups ready to be photographed, props ready to be styled, large quantities of the flowers placed along a wall of the location house and my spotty shoes next to a huge bucket of roses.
You can see all of the images we shot with the Waitrose team for the Autumn floral range as well as the plants which are now available to order on the Waitrose Direct website. Amazingly Waitrose’s history goes right back to 1904 when a small grocery shop – Waite, Rose & Taylor – opened in west London, not too far from where I now live! It became part of the John Lewis Retail Group in 1937 and is now one of the UK’s leading retailers. More of Karen’s photographic work can be seen over on her portfolio website.
October 12, 2012 in inspiring places
Last weekend we escaped London along with my brother’s family and my parents, to Sussex to celebrate my father’s big birthday. There were ten of us in all and trying to find a suitable holiday house for a few nights had been hard. After several days searching we came across Hawthbush Farm and one of their converted barns – The Cowshed. It looked perfect so we booked it. It had the right number of rooms, a large living area and kitchen, decorated in a style that would appeal to the grown-ups and lots of land, farm animals and woods for the children (big and little) to explore. We picked the children up from school and headed through the Friday evening traffic to our destination. And it didn’t disappoint.
The style of the barn really appealed to me, the sludgy colours, the exposed beams, the lighting, paintings and vintage finds, all making it feel like a home from home. The large kitchen with huge old table surrounded by school chairs was perfect for long family meals and lots of chatting. The decor had wonderful touches like these doors and cupboards made from reclaimed wooden planks left in the original state, and wooden beams stripped back to reveal their history and character.
Simple utilitarian lighting feature throughout, with exposed bulbs hanging from red cord, draped and wrapped around the barn’s old beams. The owners, Toby and Lisa, have renovated and decorated in an eco-friendly way with organic linens too, fitting in with the working organic farm that they are sited in.
Mr P, the very friendly and rather enormous and fluffy farm cat, was a welcome addition and the children just adored him.
The views through all the windows were picture perfect and it was a pleasure watching the sheep grazing in the field behind us. It was a little grey and drizzly when we arrived but the weather turned the next morning and was glorious for an early October break. Perfect for exploring the woods and disovering all kinds of mushrooms, toadstools and other types of fungus and berries. Wild plants and flowers silhouetted against the evening sky and a rich warm glow from low autumn sun.
Apart from the other converted barns and the owners’ amazing farmhouse you couldn’t see any next door neighbours (apart from the sheep, cows and chickens) in any direction, just fields and woods. It was such a change from our usual urban weekend in the city. There was even an outdoor wooden hot tub, steaming away overlooking a field of sheep which was a lovely touch. If glamping is your thing there are also old shepherd huts and a 1950s caravan in fields nearby, with interiors decorated in a similar style. You can also camp, have an event or wedding here and there is studio space that can be rented for day courses and retreats. Something for everyone.
We really did have a lovely weekend here, with a couple of trips to the seaside at Hastings and Rye too which are both close by. We all enjoyed the peace and complete change of scenery and the children were happy splashing in muddy puddles and exploring the countryside. Real family fun.
There are lots of photos on the Hawthbush Farm website and you can see photos of the amazing renovation of the dilapidated farm on their Facebook page.
October 2, 2012 in inspiring places
At the end of the summer holidays I spent a joyful two weeks back at art school, listening to lectures and painting with a friend. It was a wonderful experience to have the freedom and time to paint. I usually fulfil my creativity at home by making, stitching, photographing and painting furniture, or for work it may be painting onto canvas as props for shoots but it’s not usually just painting art. I do get strong urges to paint, but it’s only on rare occasions (like here and here) that I have been able to make a few hours at a time to do it – so to have two weeks dedicated to this was bliss. I also wanted to discover my painting voice. Having worked as a textile designer producing over 500 hand painted designs a year, I could work in many different styles to suit different markets and trends but now I wanted to find a particular direction to paint in.
We learnt so much, like how to mix pigments and make our own paints and were pushed to experiment and try new ideas and step out of our comfort zones. I have always worked in acrylic, a medium I am comfortable working with, so I have also now bought some artist oil paints and am trying these too.
The building itself was beautiful and working in such an environment could only be inspirational. Corridors with high ceilings and huge windows letting in light onto the simple white and grey interior. I loved the paint splattered chairs and furniture that were everywhere, proof of the creativity of the hundreds of students that had worked in these spaces over the years.
I stepped away from my usual colour palette and started with some brightly coloured abstract paintings that were quite expressionistic, inspired by the colours of the Adriatic I had seen on holiday. I gravitated back to the more subdued palette of my current favourite greys and indigos with the occasional pop of mustard yellow or dusky pink. Some of my “work in progress” is below.
The joys of college life included mixing paint colours, canteen lunches, wearing old painterly clothes (or one of my husband’s old shirts!), standing up in front of the class and being critiqued, the camaraderie of fellow class members, having a break outside with a cup of tea on the steps, reminiscing about being an art degree student, listening to fellow students’ ideas and passions and the joy that comes when you paint a canvas that you are really pleased with. It was lovely to share it all with a good friend too. (Thank you H for taking the pic of me below!)
It’s almost twenty years since I left art college and it was great to be back. I don’t believe it’s ever too late to learn, there is always something new. I really enjoyed this time and now have lots of paintings stacked around the house. I can highly recommend going back to school and studying again and I think I am hooked. Taking a new course may well become an annual summer event.
I will definitely be continuing my painting and my dream would be to have an exhibition in the future, but who knows. It’s good to have dreams and goals.
September 30, 2012 in interior styling
A few people have asked me what it is like behind the scenes on a shoot, so I thought I would share a glimpse behind the camera on the Cox & Cox project I worked on. I remembered I had taken a few quick snaps while we were photographing the wrap and stamp section at my house, which was used as a location for one of the shoot days.
I always start by working out and drawing individual shot ideas in advance, so that I can make and source all the props needed for the different shots and to save time on the day of the shoot. Then whilst shooting, it becomes a collaboration between photographer, stylist and art director with help from the assistants, especially when there are a lot of products and shots to be completed. In front of the camera everything is set out for the shot with alternative options nearby for flexibility and to ensure the final shot works. On the periphery, out of shot it can look like a muddle with camera equipment, computer screen, laptops, props, reflectors, backgrounds, shot lists and sketches – plus all of the products! It can look a little chaotic but is all rather organised. You can see how the website version of the shot above turned out here.
September 19, 2012 in interior styling
Here are some more of my favourite images of my styling work for Cox & Cox, taken from a cross section of categories, including Decorative Home, Wrap & Stamp and Bed & Bath. There are so many more images to see, so if you like these do have a look at their website.
Cox & Cox was founded in 1999 and aimed to be different to the normal mail order companies by personally choosing interesting products for individually-minded customers who didn’t want the same old high street items. As an interior stylist and author of craft books, I have bought many of their products over the years, especially the craft items. As they say on their website, they embrace the heartfelt philosophy that it’s possible to create a home that is both beautiful and practical and I have to agree!
I am always using their rubber stamps, such as the vintage-style numbers set (£22.50) and alphabet (£18.50) and have featured them on my blog before. My husband has bought a box of gorgeous ribbons for me in the past too, so It was a joy to create shots using them all. My aim was to give customers ideas on how the products could be used, as well as showing the actual product itself, providing inspiration to get creative and try them for themselves. For instance the blank cards and envelopes (£12.50 for 50) I felt needed to be decorated and I tried to show how this could be done with their washi tapes, stamps and labels. It is the same idea with using their tapes and tags in the images with the wrapping and tissue papers, combining their products to greater effect.
Whilst I was making the props at home, my daughter was inspired by all the materials surrounding me and wanted to help me and make her own versions. We used some of her and her brother’s little creative additions in some of the images!
A good stock of blank cards, papers, tags and tapes, means you are never caught out when you remember a birthday, a celebration or just need to say thank you.
If you love to make, have a look at the Cox & Cox Wrap & Stamp section and hopefully the images will inspire your creativity.
September 19, 2012 in interior styling
One of the jobs I worked on in the run up to summer was styling for the new catalogue and re-designed website for Cox & Cox, the home interiors mail order company. Some of you may have seen their stylish new catalogue which dropped through letterboxes recently (if not you can request a catalogue here). I styled for three of the four weeks’ intensive shoot with a lot of prep work done in advance. Each shot was planned before hand, making sure that each item was given a little story or twist to help to make it different. I introduced creative aspects like chalk drawings, painted leaves and props, stitched cards and hand-stamped tags to give each shot its own personality. Part of the brief was to bring a new look to the collection, which includes new products for autumn and winter, and working with Cox & Cox and photographer Emma Lee I hope we have.
I thought I would share some of my favourite images and products that I styled and to begin here are some of my personal favourites from the Domestic Diva section.
My foodie assistant Chrissie baked biscuits with the C&C Cookie Cutters (from £4.50) while I made chocolates in these fab Leaf Chocolate Moulds (£10.50).
Fun Cutlery Wall Art (£50.00) for your kitchen (also useful if a giant pops round for tea).
There are lots of great products for kids too.
I will post some more of my favourite images later today, and some of the Christmas images in a couple of months’ time as it’s far too early for the C word!
If you don’t already have one then you can order a catalogue here and there are dozens more images on the new-look Cox & Cox website. They are also running a competition for a chance to win £500 to spend on their products!
Did you receive a copy of the catalogue already? I would love to hear what you thought.
September 13, 2012 in interior styling
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working on this six page story for Elle Decoration Magazine which you can see it in this month’s bumper October issue, a wonderfully heavy issue as a lead up to the London Design Festival and the Elle Deco British Design Awards. It started after I submitted some ideas to the editorial team and this Japan-inspired story – with my working title of origami – was given the go ahead. One of the pleasures of working on a feature like this is you are free to be inventive. Another is working in partnership with a creative photographer, in this case talented Uli Schade who I have worked with on many previous Elle Deco shoots.
This type of photo shoot is created from scratch with a location or studio researched and all furniture, products and materials sourced and created to fit with the concept. Each shot is throughly considered in advance, though there is always improvisation and flexibility on the shoot as each shot is created.
I especially love the day bed by Another Country and the pleated paper sculpture by artist Richard Sweeney in the image above left. The concrete wall is in fact wallpaper by Tom Haga which can be produced to fit your wall size exactly.
There is a conscious mix of items in this story to appeal to all budgets, some are of a higher price, some high street and others can be made or customised at home. The desk legs in the shot above for example are simple £5 Ikea trestle legs but repeated at varying angles to create a geometric pattern under the untreated pine £35 Ikea table top painted with Fired Earth paint. I always like to make some unique objects too, to give the story its own personality and to encourage readers to do the same. Items that can be made or painted at home that cost little but create individuality. The photos below I took at home and show some of these items.
Some of the simple, untreated wooden blocks were placed in water first and then into indigo ink to create a two tone ombré look. Others were painted with acrylic paint in different flat colours on their sides as a contrast and to complement the overall colour palette.
The canvas above was painted spontaneously and freely with indigo ink and a Chinese brush that I bought in Hong Kong many years ago. The large canvas below from London Graphics was painted with Fired Earth emulsion and then I stitched an origami folding diagram through it with embroidery thread, an easy way to create art at home.
This rug took a few hours to make with the help of my assistant Polly Ord, and transformed a simple £20 Ikea rug into something unique that fitted with the story. It creates a graphic but fun optical illusion on the floor.
To read the full story, see Uli’s images at their best and find details of all of the products, you can buy the October issue of Elle Decoration in newsagents now. You can get the lovely subscriber-only covers like the one above if you subscribe. Elle Deco also has a Facebook page and you can follow editor Michelle Ogundehin and the team on Twitter too.
And as we roll into the fabulous London Design Festival I’m looking forward to hitting the shows. I hope to see some of you there!
September 4, 2012 in inspiring places
Whilst on holiday in Croatia we are always surrounded by boats as a large part of island life is spent in and on the water. All types and sizes of vessel are moored up in the village harbour, alongside jetties and in the port and marinas on the mainland. Some of the boats are pristine and others well used, from weathered and rusty fishing boats to little, hand-painted putt-putts and enormous super yachts, where you wonder which billionaire magnate is on board.
The repeating geometric patterns of masts and and colours and textures of hefty ropes and weathered wood all caught my eye and I thought I would share a few more photos from my summer.
Graphic lettering and registration numbers stencilled onto the side of quaint traditional wooden fishing boats with gulls circling overhead, hoping for the scraps to be thrown overboard. Natural monochromatic colours combine with washed-out tones and hints of rust while painted whites pop with splashes of blue, the traditional boating colours.
Whilst growing up my brother and I would take out my grandfather’s little boat and row to town or along the coast to hidden little coves, and now our children are enjoying the water and boats just as we did.
Seeing these boating influences each summer was one of the inspirations behind the children’s play sail and pirate flag project in my book The Homemade Home for Children. And some of you may recognise the cheeky little captain of this boat.
Aye aye Captain!
August 31, 2012 in diy craft projects, homemade
Homemade ornaments like this fabric-wrapped coat hanger heart are simple to make and add little touches of personality to a space. I made this whilst on holiday to hang from a nail on an otherwise plain wall in the children’s bedroom in our Croatian holiday home. This is a variation of the technique used in Goldfish Bowl Mobile project from my latest book The Homemade Home for Children and the fabric-wrapped coat hanger project from my first book The Homemade Home, both books have full instructions if you would like to try it at home.
To make: Firmly bend the wire of the coat hanger into a heart shape with your hands. Select thin strips of fabric or pieces of ribbon and secure one end with double-sided tape. Twist the ribbon around the wire, when you have run out start again with another piece using double-sided tape to secure again. Continue until the wire is completely covered.
I bought the straw hat in the photo from a market stall in the local village, I couldn’t resist changing the ribbon to a grey and white spotty one! The heart-shaped leaf was actually picked straight from a climbing vine growing up a tree by our terrace, such a perfect shape.
A simple, little decoration that helps bring personality and fun to my children’s bedroom.