The Home-sewn Home

by sw on October 30, 2012

Cover of book The Home-sewn Home by Vanessa Arbuthnott with Gail Abbott.Vanessa Arbuthnott needs no introduction to fans of modern country interiors. From its beginnings on the kitchen table 10 years ago, Vanessa Arbuthnott Fabrics has grown to include the current fabric collections featuring natural and classic motifs, stripes and spots, plus co-ordinating wallpaper, rugs, runners, sofas, chairs and quilts.

The Home-sewn Home uses Vanessa’s fabrics as a basis for 50 projects – from curtains and blinds through cushions, chair covers, tablecloths and runners to hot water bottle covers and lavender hearts – providing step-by-step instructions so you can make them yourself.

For complete beginners, some instructions might prove somewhat challenging on first reading. A little more hand-holding on the basics, such as curtain and blind measuring, is helpful for those who have never tackled their own projects before, and a glossary would be a great addition to a future edition. For British readers, the US spellings and terms – cozy, miter and shade rather than blind, for example – can jar a little.

However, the projects themselves have generously sized illustrations as well as fabulous photography that make them easy to follow, and the range of soft furnishings covered mean there’s something for every confidence level.

The photography of the completed projects – beautifully styled by Gail Abbott and Sally Denning – is a great prompt to use the fabrics shown, but there are useful tips so you can select and team fabric designs with the same attractive results if you’re shopping elsewhere.

A resurgence of interest in making your own interior furnishings, and a desire to create the traditional comfort associated with country interiors wherever your home happens to be located make this book a timely addition to the sew-your-own section – and the interiors are inspiring enough to make this a great buy for your room design library even if you don’t fancy getting out the sewing machine.

The Home-sewn Home by Vanessa Arbuthnott with Gail Abbott, Cico Books

Mid-Century Modern

by sw on October 12, 2012

Mid-Century Modern book coverIt’s hard to turn the pages of an interiors magazine these days without spotting an iconic piece of mid-century design inside a real home or as part of a decorating scheme. Eames chairs, Ercol tables, Lucienne Day’s textile designs, Poul Hennigsen’s ‘Artichoke’ lamp for Louis Poulsen – shown on the cover of this book – are all familiar elements in 21st century homes.

Many of these celebrated designs have remained in production since they were launched, but mid-century modern was derided for many years, Judith Miller’s book reminds us. Thoroughly rehabilitated and objects of desire once more, your originals might now be worth a bob or two, as you’ll discover using the price guidelines here.

For those of us buying or admiring the newly made examples of these classics instead, this book will still prove a great guide to the work of designers from Alvar Aalto to Frantisek Zemek. And if the furniture and lighting of the late 1940s to the 1970s are more familiar to you than the glass, ceramics, metalware and textiles, it’ll sharpen your skills in spotting the designs of the period and its continuing influence.

Miller put this period in design history in its context as a reaction to what went before, and an antidote to post-war austerity. She examines how the availability of new materials and techniques also inspired designers, and how the forms visible for the first time through electron microscopes were reflected by the patterns of the period.

But if you want to feast your eyes on the designs as well as learning the history, there’s plenty for you, too with generous illustration of individual pieces.

Mid-Century Modern, Living with mid-century modern design by Judith Miller, Miller’s

Running style

by sw on September 27, 2012

Revolution Running crop top AW12Promising British design and manufacture, Revolution Running is a new clothing brand worth checking out.

As well as using hi-tech materials, and design that promotes comfort and performance, the range aims to be fashion-forward, and the first autumn-winter 2012 collection features a palette including block red, purple, black and white, including this purple crop top.

You’ll find both men’s and women’s clothing on the website Revolution Running.


Winning wallpaper

by sw on September 4, 2012

Teasels wallpaper, Earth InkeFor October’s Country Homes & Interiors, I wrote about the winners of the magazine’s country business competition.

Among the runners-up was Katherine Morris, who has launched her own wallpaper range, Earth Inke Wallcoverings.

Katherine’s designs are inspired by the landscape, including the hamlet where she grew up. Pictured here is her fabulous teasels design.

The wallpapers are all hand-drawn and printed in England, so you can invest in great design, a fledgling business and UK manufacture in one go.

Water, water

by sw on June 26, 2012

With flooding causing misery for many, discussing the wastage of water may seem at best untimely. However, our increasing demand for water as well as changing weather patterns mean this essential commodity can’t be taken for granted.

The National Home Improvement Council held a lunch at the House of Commons on 25 June to highlight the need to reduce demand and conserve water.

In the UK, we flush 30% of our domestic water down the toilet, with 21% used in bathing and washing, and 12% in showering, explained Tony Rheinberg of Ideal Standard.

We don’t think we’re using as much water as we do, either, estimating our usage at about a quarter of what it actually is.

Modern bathroom fittings designed to minimise water usage without compromising on the efficiency and luxury we’re after are part of the answer. Look out for the Water Label to find efficient buys.

With only around a third of us in the UK on water meters, it’s hard to focus on water usage in the same way we might on our electricity and gas. But it’s worth remembering that if you get through less hot water, you will save money on your energy bills and there aren’t many of us who’d pass up that opportunity in the current financial climate.

But wouldn’t it help if the government created incentives for homeowners to install water-conserving options? A toilet scrappage scheme isn’t glamorous, but it would save an awful lot of water.

Stuck for storage?

by sw on May 16, 2012

British homes don’t offer storage for essentials, such as the vacuum cleaner, reveals an Ipsos MORI report for the Royal Institute of British Architects, released today.

The report, called ‘They way we live now: what people need and expect from their homes’, looks at how people use their homes, what they look for when they’re choosing, and how they think the experience of choosing a home can be improved.

People like to have an element of open-plan living, the report reveals. The downside of this desire, of course, is less walls can mean less opportunity for storage. If you’re going open-plan, think about low room-dividing storage for your possessions that won’t block the view but will create a place to stash your stuff.

Hemnes bookcases, Ikea

Look, too, for whole wall units that will make use of the area floor to ceiling on the remaining walls.

When you’re looking for a new home, don’t forget to view with the place you’ll put your vacuum, ironing board, clothes airer, the rubbish, the recycling and all your shoes in mind. These places don’t need to be there already, but you do need the potential to include them.

Pale flooring

by sw on April 5, 2012

Porcelain floor tiles from CP Group

Portia porcelain tiles, CP Group

Light coloured flooring is an easy way to make your room feel bigger – but the thought of keeping up with the cleaning can be off-putting.

I investigated the latest pale options for the May issue of Beautiful Kitchens and discovered that there are plenty of space-expanding choices that won’t have you cleaning marks off every five minutes.

The best advice? If you’re going for tiles, think about a design that minimises grout lines as this needs to be kept looking good, too. Large format is a great solution, as are tiles with rectified or super straight edges.

The beautiful polished Mono White porcelain tiles, pictured, have a contemporary high gloss finish. They’re from the Portia collection at CP Group.

Jubilee colour

by sw on March 16, 2012

There’s an extensive choice of Diamond Jubilee-themed buys for your home on offer this year. But if you’d like a more understated take on the celebrations, what about a regal purple for your walls? Teamed with grey, it makes for a sophisticated scheme that will continue to look fabulous long after the bunting has been taken down, and the last cup cakes eaten.

The beautiful Velvet above the dado in this room is part of the 2012 range of paint colours from Wickes, and is teamed with Slate, below the dado.

And while you’re on a royal theme, there’s also a Royal Sapphire shade that will remind you of last year’s big event.

Race for Life 2012

by sw on March 5, 2012

Those who have just started running, or are thinking about starting, often find a goal helps motivate them. For women and girls, what better target than the 5k Race for Life  events that take place across the UK this summer in partnership with Tesco?

Race for Life raises funds for the work of Cancer Research UK  in tackling over 200 types of cancer, affecting both men and women.

With a choice of over 235 events across the the UK, finding a convenient venue shouldn’t be too hard. Getting a group together for one of the races means you can train together as well as support each other as you complete the distance. And of course, if you’re not ready to run that far yet, walking is fine, too.

Gorgeous greetings

by sw on February 21, 2012

Economist Ian Senior told Radio 4’s Today programme  this morning that ‘the sad truth is that the traditional letter is only there for people who can’t send emails’.

I don’t think we’ve reached the stage where an email can take the place of a personal letter or a card sent for a birthday, special occasion, or just to say hello.

New venture the Illustrated Paper Company, which has a roster of talented artists creating its cards, would definitely say that sending by post isn’t a lowly second choice.

The company’s designs range from the unique creations of the company’s co-founder Emma Cowlam to the colour-filled illustrations of Elijah & Hatty, currently eight and 13 years old, with plenty of other fabulous options on offer. Wrapping paper and postcards are available, too, and all the products are made in the UK.

Email is easy and convenient, but I can be pretty confident that all of the company’s card designs you send through the post will please the recipient a whole lot more than an email.