Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A weekend City Break in Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon is a city I've thought about visiting for years, but for some reason, never have? So when my friend Bev asked me to organise a city break for a group of girl friends to celebrate her 40th birthday, her main criteria being "make it some where none of us have been"  Lisbon seemed to fit the bill.
It's a perfect summer destination for a short city break, being only 2 1/2 hours from the UK, warm & sunny but with an Atlantic coastal breeze, keeping it comfortable enough to sight see and shop and it's also incredibly cheap compared to other European cities.

I found our apartment through Booking.com and it was exceptional in style, size and location, right in the heart of the Baixa district, close to everything. The photos on their website, although good, don't entirely do it justice. On entering, it felt like we were walking into the pages of an issue of Elle Decoration, it had beautiful wooden floors, Scandi chic furniture and high ceilings and was fitted with every modern convenience you could want, dishwasher, air con and power showers in both bathrooms.
 Above, one of the apartment bedrooms and the Street it was situated on  

After arriving late on Friday evening, we dropped our bags and headed out for something to eat. The area we found ourselves in was going toward the Alfama area which is rustic and authentic, with a sense that this is where the locals eat and drink. The restaurants and cafes are cantina style, not designer at all but with good honest food and a friendly atmosphere. We explored this area again on the Sunday night when the city threw its biggest party of the year, in celebration of its Saints day. The area is not picture postcard pretty but it is a mix of faded grandeur style buildings with small twisting alleyways, climbing up to the top of the city. It had such a fantastic atmosphere, it reminded me of how travel to Greece and Spain first felt 30 years ago, when as a teenager, I made my first trips overseas. Lisbon has a real feeling that their true culture exists and that what you are eating and drinking are what the locals are too.
On Saturday we shopped, but first we ate breakfast in downtown Lisbon in a local bakers. As a coeliac this was a challenge,as pastries are the main breakfast staple, but after a salad of smoked salmon and Feta, with freshly squeezed orange juice and a strong coffee for €6, it did the job. We climbed up and up towards the Bairro Alto district, wandering past a viewing platform with an amazing Cityscape view, stopping to capture photos and drink home made lemonade from the street vendors. We carried on walking through a pretty park, which was the location for a local artisan market and found some beautiful clothes and interior shops.This is probably Lisbon's most popular area for tourists but again its not aimed at tourists, it's just a hive of activity, shops, bars, restaurants, markets & parks.

After a long rest in a small square, drinking chilled rose wine, we jumped into a tuc tuc back down towards the sea front. This area is lined with restaurants and bars and grand maritime buildings and colonnades still decorated with the original cast iron street lanterns, which are hanging from practically every building in the city.

On Sunday we took the No.28 tram up to Chiado. The number 28 tram is apparently the best tram ride to take if you take no other during your stay. It travels all the way up to the Estrela district and gives you a lovely scenic tour of the city. You can buy a 2 day ticket for just over €12 which includes any form of public transport which is much cheaper than the open top tourist bus, which is a one off trip. Many of the trams, which are all over the city, are the original wooden trams from the 1930's. They look so lovely as the rattle up and down the hills of the city, painted yellow on the outside, with polished wood interiors. I can't actually believe I didn't manage to take a photo to add here of my own but you almost take them for granted while you're there!
Chiado is another lovely old area above the city, full of beautifully tiled buildings and home to the oldest coffee shop in Lisbon, Cafe Brasilia where we ate breakfast on Sunday morning. It was originally the theatre district and still has a feeling of grandeur. I would have liked to have spent more time in this area, but we were only there for 3 nights, 2 days and the time went so quickly.
Cafe Brasilia in Chiada

 After our quick visit to Chiado, we took the No.15 tram to Belem, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the location from which Christopher Columbus set sail to find undiscovered parts of the world. It is a lovely place to spend the day, particularly on a Sunday, when the area was full of families chilling in the surrounding park, riding bikes along the cycle path and sitting along the water front eating ice creams or sipping cocktails from the many retro vans selling street food.

We spent a few hours sitting in the sunshine sipping mojitos and had a lovely long lunch in one of the water front pop up restaurants, a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon with good friends. As well as the historical Belem tower, the area is the site of Jeronimos Monastery built in the middle ages, which is a stunning building.
The festival on Sunday night was exciting and crazy, the air was filled with the smell of sardines smoking, Portuguese Fado music played and bunting lined the streets every where. After about an hour of the mayhem we took a quick taxi ride back to Bairro Alto where the celebrations continued but in a slightly more relaxed environment. As we sat drinking cold white wine with a plate of tapas on our knees, watching the lights of the city below us, we all agreed we loved Lisbon and we would choose it over other Mediterranean city breaks such as Barcelona for it's pure authenticity, lovely people and unbelievable value for money. But that's our secret, don't tell everybody for fear it will be spoiled :)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Attending a floral workshop and becoming even more obsessed with flowers (if thats possible?)

As a stylist, a big part of my job is propping shoots with flowers and plants. Although I have never had any form of training, I have always loved working with flowers and am secretly a frustrated florist at heart. This was confirmed after my first ever floral workshop in November at Kirstie Allsops Handmade Fair, when my friend Lynsey and I attended a Christmas wreath making workshop with the Fab - U - Lous Kitten Grayson.

You can imagine my excitement then, when I was invited by fellow blogger Old Fashioned Susie, to attend a floral workshop she had organised with amazing florists Frog, based in Manchester's uber trendy Northern Quarter. Now when  I say florists, Frog are much more  than that. They actually brand themselves as Floral Artistry, which is exactly what they do, creating amazing floral designs for private customers, events and fashion and bridal photo shoots. We couldn't have been in better, more experienced and professional hands.

Frog is run by David, a wonderful, charming and quite eccentric French man, and I know he won't mind me saying that! Along with his team, we were warmly greeted into his showroom and introduced to Susie, who was going to take us through our paces. Before I go on to tell you about the workshop, I must tell you that the showroom is no ordinary florist shopfront. Inside it is dark and seductive, accessorised with Abigail Ahern Lamps and vintage mannequin heads, animal skulls spilling with flowers and stuffed parrots dangling from industrial lights. As I said no ordinary florist.

After all the bloggers had introduced ourselves to each other, David & Susie, led us downstairs to the workshop space. The workshop had all the atmosphere and ambience of a creative studio where magic happens. A light bright space filled with buckets of fresh flowers, fairy lights trimming the walls & Ibizan chill out music playing.

Each one of us had been supplied with an apron, scissors and florists tape as well as fuel to help us along with our work in the form of Champagne and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As we chatted and sipped our bubbles, getting acquainted with one another, Susie, our tutor for the day, explained she was going to teach us how to make a hand tied spring bouquet and foliage garland.

Susie was an excellent teacher, showing us the techniques required to achieve an effortlessly looking hand tied bouquet and letting us into tricks of the trade to keep flowers fresher for longer. Some of the pictures I took of her are a little blurred as she moved quickly threading and twisting the flowers to achieve a bouquet that not only looked good from all sides and above, but from inside the vase as well, with symmetrically arranged stems. 
There was such a wide selection of flowers to choose from and we were allowed to choose as many different types as we wanted, no restrictions at all!

This was Susie's finished bouquet then it was our turn! 
Work in progress! 

After the bouquets were all finished, much harder work than Susie made it look, I might add, we were taken through the steps of how to achieve a professional looking foliage garland, which could be applied to various seasons, Christmas etc or turned into a simple headdress.

The workshop ran for three hours and I can't recommend it enough. Susie said they run regular workshops for all types of occasions and events, from bridal flowers, to workshops for hen parties and birthdays. It's such a lovely way to spend an afternoon or evening, meet new people and learn a new skill and you come away with the most beautiful memento of your day! 
Full details of future courses can be found here or ring and speak to one of the lovely Frog staff members for further details.
Here's the bouquet & garland I made and I couldn't have been happier with it.
Thank you again to Old Fashioned Susie and Frog Flowers for such a wonderful, inspiring afternoon.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Eternal Style

I am very lucky to work with some incredibly creative, stylish and forward thinking young people and one thing many of us share, apart from a love of interiors, is a love of clothes.

Although I am a mother of two children, one of who is older than some of the people I work with, this holds no boundaries when we talk about clothes, our latest purchases or our current style crushes and why should it? Well it shouldn't, but for many years it did. It was a widely held belief by many, particularly advertising moguls, that after a certain age, fashion wouldn't or shouldn't be on a woman's radar. Luckily that belief is slowly becoming redundant and many forward thinking companies are using models and celebrities of varying ages to head their campaigns.
Joni Mitchell heads the campaign for Yves St Laurent

I remember thinking when I was in my 20's that I would never dress like some of the marginally older people I knew! Not for me would be the elasticated waist trouser or drip dry dress and thankfully as I have arrived at that age, those days are long gone and our role models are style setters such as Caroline De Maigret, Kate Moss, Carine Roitfeld and Isabel Marant. Not surprisingly, most of my style crushes are French, they know a thing or two about ageing stylishly and gracefully non?
La Moss

Isabel Marant

Carine Roitfeld

Caroline De Maigret

Some brilliant blogs that I follow are written by women who love fashion and have a fantastic style of their own. They share their secrets and knowledge of fashion through their blogs and although they have reached the mid point age shall we say, they are not afraid to rock a leather skinny jean, a faux leopard print coat or the latest highly sought after trainer.


They are not alone, as the generation that was brought up by Margaret Thatcher to believe we could be anything we choose to be, listened to music made by Patti Smith and Debbie Harry and raved all night in fields in secret locations, we were never going to be told what is age appropriate to wear by the men in suits?

When ever I'm stuck in a style rut and wondering if something is just a little inappropriate to wear at my age, I look to pinterest and see what my style icons are wearing. Pinterest is a great way of collating ideas and looks for those moments when you have a style wobble and lets face it we all do, from time to time, what ever our age?

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Tibor Reich Mid 20th Century Designer Exhibition Manchester

As an interior design student, I became fascinated with the work of some of the best known mid 20th Century designers, Charles & Ray Eames and Robin & Lucienne Day amongst others. One designer who had escaped my attention was textile designer Tibor Reich, whose centenary exhibition is now showing at The Whitworth Gallery Manchester.
When I visited the exhibition, last week, I was amazed at how prolific and talented a designer Reich was but also how relatively unknown he was? As a Hungarian immigrant, Reich set up his mill in Stratford Upon Avon and began to introduce colour into the homes of post war Britain. Inspired by the colours of his National costume, his designs were produced in yellows, greens and even pink, which was a huge departure from the greys and browns, British homes had previously been decorated in.

As an avid photographer and artist, examples of this work are also on display, he was inspired by shapes and accents of nature. The influence for his most famous carpet design came from a photograph he had taken of the cracks in the dried earth and he went on to design for various important projects including the QE2, Concorde and The festival of Britain.

The exhibition includes textiles and examples of furniture upholstered in his fabrics, short films and photographs as well as personal tools of his trade and pottery he designed initially for his own home, but which became so popular it was later produced by Denby.
If you appreciate any form of mid 20th century design, this is a fantastic exhibition and insight into a truly talented designer.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Colour Trend - Mint Green

Following on from my previous blog, another ice cream sorbet colour that has been trending lately is mint green. Similar to the Pantone colours of the year, it's also a perfect companion to grey and takes it from a cool sophisticated colour choice to something brighter, fresher and very contemporary. The perfect colour to welcome spring in?

Again I've done a little snoop around what the retailers have got for our homes in this colour.

  1. Scallop mint duvet set - Urban Outfitters
  2. Block print Cushion - H&M
  3. Quatro Cushion -Aura
  4. Rug - H&M
  5. Eglo Vintage style light - Dusk Lights
  6. Chelsea lounge chair - Wayfair 
  7. Dip dye basket - Ollie Ella
  8. Orbit Side Table - Red Candy
  9. Oak topped wire basket table - Ferm Living

I'd love to know what you think of this colour and if you could imagine using it in your own homes?