Friday, 28 November 2014

Christmas Scented Candles 2014

Todays mini Christmas blog topic, about everything decorative for your home, features scented candles. For me, a home at Christmas is as much about the smell of it as it is about the look? Nothing beats the scent of fresh pine needles on a cut tree, the smell of an open fire or Christmas treats baking and cooking in the kitchen. But fear not, if none of this is happening in your home over the Christmas period, you can still bring in the smell of Christmas with some of these beautiful fragrant candles.

Here are just a few of my favourites which I happily sniffed for you all as I browsed around the festive laden shops.

Winter by The White Company blending cinnamon, clove and orange

A trio of winter fruit fragrances by The White Company

A personal favourite Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone 

Marks & Spencer Frankincense & Myrrh decorative votive, currently on offer at 3 for 2!

Joy by Archipelago from Selfridges

Village Christmas by True Grace comes in a glass candle holder or tin for a more contemporary look

Not essentially a Christmas scent but a delightful heady smell which would make a wonderful Christmas gift to give or keep all for yourself and the copper container is perfectly on trend for this season!
London by Tom Dixon

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Christmas Stockings 2014

Now that we are almost in December and Christmas is racing towards us, I thought I'd feature a few small blog posts of some of my favourite finds to decorate your home this Christmas.

As we all know, Santa arrives in our homes down the chimney and he expects to find a stocking hanging there, so what better way to start my round up with some of the simplest and most stylish stockings I have found, all available on the High Street or online.

You can of course, if you have the time, make a stocking using your own fabric. There are lots of simple tutorials online to watch and they are very easy to make, even for the novice sewer. Just don't do what I did when I made my childrens matching stockings years ago and cut up a Victorian quilt, that I later learnt was worth about £250.00, oops! They will definitely now be passed down the generations to become new family heirlooms!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Small independent hotels-Artist Residence

When I book a hotel for a short break in the UK, I always try and book a small boutique hotel, something as far removed from the large corporate chain hotels, as possible.

My best friend lives in St Ives Cornwall, a truly beautiful part of the UK and although we sometimes stay with her when we visit or camp in our trusty VW campervan, its sometimes the comfort of a hotel that you need. The perfect hotel that I've recently heard about is Artist Residence in Penzance Cornwall.

The hotel is owned by Charlotte Newbury and Justin Salisbury and as well as this lovely small hotel in Penzance they also co own a further two hotels in Brighton and Pimlico London.

Beautifully stylish and furnished with finds from salvage yards and antique shops, they offer dining and bar facilities with the home comforts and informal atmosphere, that makes them feel like a home from home. They have, it seems, all the right things in all the right places!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Etsy Christmas Pop up Shop London

Etsy is many peoples, go to, online store for creative, bespoke, one off gifts and items. When my niece got married in Greece and asked my to style her wedding with her, we bought many beautiful wedding and table decorations from all around the globe on Etsy.

Last year the people behind Etsy launched their first pop up store in New York which was visited by over 20,000 people and this year for three days only they are visiting our shores.

The pop up store will be located in Covent Garden London from 5th December until 7th December and is sure to have everything you could possibly want for unusual and inspiring Christmas gifts.

Here are just a few of my favourite items browsed on their site. These won't necessarily be available on the day but there will be lots to tempt us to part with our pennies, I'm sure?

Im not sure if I love this bear because he's called Kris like Mr B(different spelling but you know?) or I just love him anyway?

My friend Lynsey, a fab, foxy knitter, would love this.

My daughter Amber would love this, all other letters are available.

Perfect for any cooks kitchen and its nautical colours and hand thrown style remind me of the artists of St Ives Cornwall, my favourite coastal town.

Comfy, cosy and stylish, what's not to love? Lots of other colours and styles available.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Supporting Local Libraries "6 Music Celebrates Libraries"

As a lifelong lover and user of my local libraries, I was saddened to hear that the government intend to close 10% of British Libraries in a cost cutting exercise and replace some of the knowledgeable trained staff with volunteers.

Some of my earliest memories are of visiting the local library with my parents, both avid readers, and choosing a book for the week, which I would spend ages doing, carefully taking them down from the shelves and sitting quietly flicking through the pages of each book until it was time to leave. It was my first experience of independance being allowed into the childrens library alone and being able to make my own decision on something.
Later in life, the library at University became my second home, where I would leave with arm fulls of design books under my arms as well as videos for further research on my chosen subject. It was also the place where we could read hard to get and often expensive, design magazines, all for free.

After graduating I gained some work experience at an architects practice in the centre of Manchester, where I was given the task of researching the worlds best libraries in order for the team to pitch for the redesign of a large city library, which they then successfully went onto to win after their brilliant design of the new wing of the cities famous John Rylands Library had been built and so well received.

Manchester's  John Rylands Library which is reminiscent of Hogwarts inside

The new extension by architects Austin Smith Lord, blends the old and new seamlessly.

During that research it became apparent to me just how important a part of the community libraries are. As well as hosting events such as Rhyme time for young parents to take their children and meet other parents and carers, they are also a meeting place for the older community where they can read the daily newspapers for free, have a coffee and a chat and spend time in the company of others. Libraries are also used for hosting events such as craft sales, charity fundraising cake and coffee mornings and talks and presentations by guest speakers. I went a few years ago to our local library in Urmston Manchester, to listen to a talk by professional photographer Kevin Cummins, on his career photographing some of the cities famous musicians such as Morrissey, The Smiths and New Order. The event was small and intimate and more importantly free, so inclusive to all who applied for tickets on a first come first served basis.
My local library in Urmston which is a new build and very well used by all the community.

Getting behind the movement to stop our local libraries being closed is another Manchester musician, Guy Garvey, front man of the band Elbow. It was his brain wave to start "6 Music Celebrates Libraries." For the next two weeks live shows will be broadcast from a series of libraries and 6 music presenters will be choosing a book from which they will then compile a playlist.

For more details on the events and Guy's reasons for wanting to highlight the closures you can read his interview for The Independent here. His show was broadcast last Friday from Manchester's refurbished Central Library, which opened to much acclaim from the residents of Manchester. I went along the week it was reopened and was thrilled to see original parts of the library had been left and juxtaposed with areas that had totally been brought up to date, a fantastic achievement by the designers and architects involved.

Manchester's Central Library after its sensitive restoration.
If you are worried about your local library being under threat of closure, you can start a petition and spread the word on social media. Surprisingly members of staff are not entitled to be able to do this themselves so our help is vital. Of course the best way to avoid closure is by us, the public, continuing to use them.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

New Chalk Paints by Grand Illusions

Back in the 1990's when Mr B and myself bought our first house, there was a company called Grand Illusions, who brought the trend for French shabby chic furniture to our attention for the first time. The painted and distressed furniture, which is now available practically everywhere,was, at that time, something we had only ever seen on our summer trips to France and the beautiful chalky finish was otherwise, unattainable unless you bought an original piece, which was of course very expensive.

Fast forward a couple of decades and everybody it seems is adept at upcycling and transforming old pieces of furniture with a lick of paint and some briwax. Of course the finished product is not only down to the technique but the materials used and I was delighted to find that Grand illusions have relaunched their vintage chalk effect paints, with a new range of 27 colours.

I picked up my copy of their paint chart last week whilst in The Hummingbird in Altrincham Cheshire, who are stockists of Grand Illusions paints. This is a lovely new shop, which is a collaboration of florist and shabby chic gifts and furniture. Both Hummingbird and Vintage Angel were previously at Traders Outlet which I blogged about earlier in the year and they have now joined forces and opened a beautiful new shop together.

You can find your nearest Grand Illusions paint stockists here.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Crafts Council encourage Crafts back into Schools

I was delighted to read today about the Manifesto written by The Crafts Council to encourage UK schools to bring back making and crafts to the school curriculum. The subjects have steadily been on the decline since 2007 and the Manifesto to bring the subjects back, is being backed by, amongst others, Sir Terence Conran, Grayson Perry and Kevin McCloud.

Considering we are world renowned as a nation of crafters and makers since the Arts & Crafts Movement, started by William Morris and John Ruskin, it is surprising that these subjects are no longer encouraged. The Arts and Crafts movement, as we know, grew out of concern for the industrialisation of design and it seems that we appear to be on the cusp of a similar problem, with the effect of design technology threatening to take over a hands on approach? Morris and Ruskin put a great value on the joy of making and the natural beauty of honest materials and I remember myself as a child, with my first efforts of cross stitch at school and being taught to crochet by a neighbour, the immense feeling of pride and achievement you have as a child when you have made something yourself, can not be matched.

As well as spawning some of the giants of the arts and craft world, such as sculptors Dame Barbara Hepworth and Sir Henry Moore, we continue to produce amazing artists and makers, Thomas Heatherwick, Anthony Gormley and Edmund De Waal are just a few.
Henry Moore's work can be viewed in the beautiful surroundings of Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Sculptures by Dame Barbara Hepworth in her former gardens St Ives Cornwall.
If you visit The Tate St Ives you can buy a dual ticket which gives access to Hepworths studio and gardens, truly breathtaking.

Some of the work by British Ceramicist Edmund De Waal

British hand made furniture continues in its demand with design team Pinch, winning awards for their hand crafted pieces and Ercol have risen from the ashes to reinvent some of their iconic designs in new ways for a younger audience.

Lowry cabinet by Pinch

I was really impressed to read that Ercol are one of the sponsors of the young furniture makers competition which as well as entries from University students, have a category for school children.

If you want to read the Manifesto in full, you can do so here and I sincerely hope that their bid to bring back crafts into schools is successful. As a mother of two children, I think we should encourage the next generation to keep up these important skills. Whether they decide to study it as part of their education and make a career out of it or just if it teaches them the virtue of patience, it is an important asset for everyone to have.