Having worked as a textile designer, one of my great loves is embroidery, either by hand or on the machine. It was when my mother was renovating her little house by the sea on the Dalmatian coast that we discovered these beautiful embroideries. We were looking for interesting decorative elements to add character to the holiday house and at the local antique bazaar in Zadar we found two of these hand-stitched embroideries and a bright rug amongst a pile of folded old fabrics.
They have so much Slavic character and charm in a simple, understated way. I am not sure what they were used for, (we use them as hangings between doors) but we bought one each. I rarely see them for sale in the markets or in piles of vintage fabrics and embroideries, so I count myself very lucky to have one. My mother’s hanging has embroidered writing on both sides and mine is plain at the top. The script translates as “Look, my darling, at these red roses, they’ll be yours when you come to fetch me.”
The colours are bright and bold, the traditional Croatian deep red and white combined with interesting combinations like peach and turquoise. The burgundy colour acts as a neutral to the other brighter colours.
The other side translates as “Long live the joyful Anica Speht” (a lady’s name). Perhaps it was made as a gift for a loved one or she is simply congratulating herself on her accomplishment at finishing the embroidery.
I photographed them alongside the simple furniture I had available, flowers from the garden and fruit bought from the village market to give a cacophony of pattern and colour.
I wanted to share a little post to celebrate Easter and Spring time. With a few days off from work and the school run I managed to take lots of new photos. I took these pictures on Easter Sunday when the dinner was in the oven and the children were playing quietly in the other room, I hope you like them. As a child I always decorated plain, hard-boiled eggs with my mum and brother at home on the day before Easter and since then have always associated eggs with Easter (and no, not just the chocolate variety!). These patterned eggs reminded me of those times.
As I prepared dinner I watched two tiny robins in my garden. They were busily flitting back and forth to feed their chicks in a nest in my hedge. This got me thinking in a different way and reminded me I had these beautiful quail eggs in my fridge. I had come across them in my local Waitrose and couldn’t resist buying them with their unique, natural patterns. They were so small I wondered if a thimble could be used as an egg cup. As an avid collector, I have several vintage thimble varieties and one fitted perfectly. And so my little photo story began. I grabbed my camera, a few props and spent half an hour trying different arrangements and taking photos.
I cooked one as a soft boiled egg, rested it in an up-turned, flat-bottomed thimble and sprinkled some salt on top. It just needs some mini toast soldiers to dunk in and a tiny spoon! The silver spoon in the photos was my British grandmother’s and is a treasured possession and favourite prop. The vintage thimbles I picked up over the years from my Croatian grandmother and flea markets. They almost look like mini salt shakers to go with the mini eggs.
The white bowl is by Brickett Davda whose gorgeous ceramics I love. Another collection I have slowly been feathering my nest with.
After taking the photos I cleared away and got back to feeding my own two little chicks.
I hope you had a lovely Easter. x
PS A couple of thank yous…
I took these photos in my bathroom a while ago and thought I would share them as it shows how a little display can bring daily pleasure. Mixing my new perfume bottles alongside vintage ones and other coloured glassware makes a pretty display by the window. I love the way as the light comes in it refracts through the faceted, prism-like bottles, reflecting off the metal and shining coloured light onto the sink and tiles. This was the inspiration for one of the shots in my story in Heart Home magazine.
My Stella McCartney fragrance and an old scent, that I bought in Japan ten years ago and kept as I love the bottle design (I think it is Shu Uemura), sit alongside vintage perfume bottles and a red glass shaker bought at Kempton Antiques Fair and car boot sales. The vintage Venetian Murano glass vase was my grandmother’s.
Glassware and polished metal make wonderful displays when positioned so that the natural sunlight enhances their qualities. And mixed with items you may use or look at on a daily basis, it can bring a little visual pleasure every day.
Simple but beautiful.
Recently I contributed to a little post for my lovely friend Elisa Rathje for her tried and true series. Elisa’s blog Appleturnover is full of “stories of the pleasures of the handmade, the perennially useful object, the things your grandmother taught you, the rediscovered solutions, the skills you might have had one hundred years ago.” It got me thinking… what single item would I consider tried and true? I have lots of things I rely on or have used for years, but after some thought one item stood out. An item that has been constantly with me for years and years – my stainless steel rule.
I have a love of rulers. New and old, metal and wood, from small ones like these to huge ones, like the vintage surveyors’ staffs I display in my living room (which you can see on the cover of Decorate), I seem to have amassed quite a collection over the years. I love their practicality and purpose as well as the graphic quality they possess.
It all began with my 12 inch/30cm stainless steel ruler. I bought it because it was on the list of must-haves sent through from the art college I was about to start at after I left school. I’ve managed to keep it and use it all the time. I also have a one metre long steel ruler, which I use frequently for larger scale work. It helped trim down paper designs at art college, was used at my final degree show in textiles at Edinburgh College of Art and all the way through my professional textile designing days. It’s been used to trim down mood boards for photo shoots and whilst making projects for my books. It works as well now as it did when I first bought it many years ago. Unlike cheap plastic ones or wooden ones, which dink at the edges after a scalpel blade has sheered off parts of the sides, my steel rule is still straight and true.
Vintage rulers always catch my eye. If I see one at a flea market or car boot sale I will snap it up and add it to my ever-expanding collection. Many are hinged and a little rusty, so not as practical, but still look beautiful lined up on my windowsill for me to admire in front of my desk. You can see more of my collection in a previous post here.
A steel rule is an investment that will last a lifetime and the patina gained over the years simply adds to its character. It is a tool that I would be lost without.
Do you have something tried and true?
If you love homemade stories do have a look at Elisa’s blog – Appleturnover. Thank you Elisa! x
Whilst waiting for some guests to arrive last week I had a quick play around with a display in my kitchen and took a few photos. This little recess had been empty as my husband and I redecorated the room a couple of weeks ago and had painted it in the same dark grey as the kitchen table, which is similar to the riven slate floor. I wanted a change as it used to be white and filled with dozens of my children’s little drawings blue tacked to the wall which had made it grubby. It makes a perfect frame to display within.
My starting point was this old woodblock, a recent gift from a lovely family friend who I have known since I was a little girl. It is believed to be a vintage Liberty print block.
I then placed a pretty primula in an old pot from The Conran Shop, adding a bright, graphic splash of colour against the grey, followed by a selection of my collected treasures.
A gift, some flea market finds and new items in complementary tones and tactile textures, set with a natural floral pop of contrasting colour. A few little things displayed at home that make me happy.
My children’s drawings will undoubtedly start to build up again as they stick them to the wall, but that will just add to the charm.
Over the last year I seem to have collected a rather large selection of old watch and clock faces from car boot sales and fairs. I love their graphic quality and can’t resist them, using them in projects, displays and as ornaments. Following on from my wristwatch post and the purchase of a new graphic tea cup while in Whitstable, it occurred to me that the larger ones could become a perfect coaster for my new cup and protect the surface of my freshly painted kitchen table.
I now have a large selection including some much larger clock faces too which would look fun in the base of a circular tray.
This time of year is my favourite for flowers, with beautiful new blossom available in my local florist. I couldn’t help but include it in the photos.
My pretty, striped new cup is a ‘tea bowl’ by ceramacist Vicky Hageman and was recently purchased from Frank in Whitstable, Kent – a little memento of our visit. In the top photo the sugar bowl is from Arne Jacobsen‘s Cylinda Line series by Stelton and the small spoon was from Muji. My well-used Ikea kitchen table that they are sitting on has been refreshed in Farrow & Ball No.46 Downpipe grey. The little milk jug in the image below is from Priscilla Carluccio’s Few and Far, a lovely store which is sadly closing.
A quick and simple idea for a little bit of fun at tea time. Now where’s the biscuit tin?
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.