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.
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.
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.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 18 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
To enquire about commissioning Sania for commercial or editorial projects, please use the contact form.