Monday, 6 July 2015

Another Country Furniture at Award Winning Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester

Well after visiting the newly restored Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester back in May, which you can read about again here, I was delighted when it was announced, last week, that the are the rightful and worthy winners of Art Gallery of the year.
As well as being a great gallery to visit and  without sounding too shallow, I must tell you more about the amazing shop that is located in the entrance to the gallery. As well as the usual books, postcards and posters relating to the current exhibitions, that all galleries have, The Whitworth is also a place that you can buy beautiful homewares and it was on my last visit that I picked up a catalogue by furniture designers and makers, Another Country, who display some of their designs within the shop.
Another Country have been trading since 2010 and aim to provide sustainable and responsibly sourced wooden furniture, using traditional and modern craft techniques inspired by British country designs, shaker, scandinavian and Japanese.
Series One Range of furniture

I love their simple, beautifully crafted designs which look equally at home in a contemporary or traditional setting. Some of their designs can be viewed in situ within a range of projects designed by architects and interior designers on their website. A few examples of their designs are below.

Private project by Charles Mellersh Design

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Visit to Savage Beauty - Alexander McQueen Exhibition V&A London

So after all the anticipation I finally made it to The Savage Beauty exhibition at The V&A London a few weeks ago and I'm so glad I made the effort to travel from Manchester to view it.

The exhibition spans the designers entire collections from his first graduation collection in 1992 to his final unfinished collection in 2010. The range of clothes on display is amazing to see up close. From his first fairly simple pieces, which highlight his obvious talent for tailoring, learnt from his earlier career on Savile Row, to his later designs, which gradually become more experimental and clearly show his fascination with the dark side of life, his Scottish ancestry influence and love of English heritage and global culture, it's all in there!
The exhibition leads into a three tiered room, named the cabinet of curiosities, which perfectly captures the drama of his runway shows, with clothes and accessories, which he designed along with a team of specialists in their fields. Some items produced for his shows only and never intended to be produced, highlight his attraction to themes of fetishism and tribal cultures. The displays are enhanced with video interviews with the designer and  footage from his runway shows, layered with the loud sound of a tapping manual typewriter. I'm not entirely sure what the significance of this is but it all adds to the drama and it is a fascinating space in which you could spend hours taking in all the detail.

This space is a place to contemplate the brilliant mind of Alexander McQueen before you are led into the area which houses his final unfinished collection and his lasting legacy to the world of fashion. It's all very poignant and tragic and you are left with some of his final words which leaves you guessing if he felt he had given his all?
Advance tickets for the exhibition have now sold out but if you are in London over the summer you could take a chance as tickets may be available on the day and I was told by a member of staff that it has been such a phenomenal success that for the last weekend of the show, the V&A are extending their opening hours and the exhibition is remaining open for 24 hours a day over that weekend. I wish I could have taken more photos to post, but photography is strictly prohibited and I just snuck a few sneaky ones but go, be inspired and be amazed.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Summer Champagne Cocktails and vintage Cocktail Glasses

Nothing says Summer in this country quite like a champagne cocktail? Think of Wimbledon, Ascot and Henley Regatta all celebrated by the hoi polloi with a glass of champers in hand.

When Rose & Grey Interiors challenged me to style some of their vintage inspired cocktail glasses, my first choice was their beautiful, elegant, 50's inspired Champagne glasses, which come in a lovely gift set, complete with pretty coasters, matching straws and cocktail umbrellas and kitsch retro cocktail stirrers. Kushti!

As myself and Mr B both celebrated big birthdays over the last 12 months, we still have a selection of Champagne to drink, hard to believe but true, and eager to experiment with cocktail making in readiness for our Silver wedding celebration in September, again hard to believe, but true, I mixed, stirred and shook together some Cranberry and pomegranate Champagne cocktails for us to test, all in the name of research you understand?

Pomegranate Champagne


1/3 glass pomegranate juice
dash of cointreau
2/3 glass of champagne
garnish with pomegranate seeds

Glasses & Jam jar vase from Rose & Grey

Other lovely summery cocktails which I love are:

Created in 1930's Venice in Harry's Bar and named after Italian Renaissance painter, Giovanni Bellini, and of course immortalized by the Sex and The City girls!


Peach juice
Champagne or prosecco poured over ice
garnished with a raspberry

Invented in Florence in 1919, this is apparently the cocktail choice of the year.

Campari (all over ice)
Garnished with slices of orange

Last week my best friend and myself had a girlie weekend in London as we were attending the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at The V&A. After a long day in London, the perfect place to unwind was our hotel bar, The Malbar at Malmaison where we treated ourselves to a couple of cocktails. Lesley, being a lady of high standards and good taste, had the Old Cuban Malbar, a Champagne cocktail, of course. If you fancy making one yourself, here is the Malmaisons recipe.

If you're partial to a cocktail or two then why not register for London Cocktail Week? The event costs £10 for your wristband which then enables you to visit all of the participating bars and sample cocktails for £4 a pop! Details can be found here. Sounds like another excuse for a few days in London to me?

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Toast Summer 2015 Bright and Bold Jewellery

I love the collections put together by Toast and this year is no exception.

Top of my wish list this season are their colourful bohemian jewellery offerings. Large colourful wooden blocks and beads and macrame earrings by Helena Rohner form the basis of the collection, the perfect accessories for taking your poolside kaftan straight through to dinner.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Shed Decor Inspiration for your Garden Room

When we were in St Ives recently for a Spring holiday, which you can read about here, we visited the gardens of sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, always an inspiration. Although we have seen the gardens and her former studio several times, it was the little wooden house, situated in the garden, where she used to sleep whilst working on some of her larger pieces within the gardens, that held our attention more this time around. Now that we are through our child rearing years, or certainly the part where they require every minute of our attention, perhaps we would benefit from a garden room we pondered? Somewhere we could read, sit with a glass of something, write, play the guitar or just chat with friends or each other? I always remember, as a child, being fascinated by our rather bohemian neighbours, Mr & Mrs Jones, two retired art teachers, who had a similar wooden structure in their garden, and thinking how romantic it was, spending the summer months, practically every waking hour, in their summer house.
The idea was put to me by Mr B, who was particularly inspired with Dame Barbara's little wooden shed, that maybe he could design and build one for us? Not one to put him off his subject, I promptly came home and ordered him a copy of Shed Decor by Sally Coulthard, which is full to bursting with ideas and inspiration for the perfect outdoor garden room or glorified shed ideas.

Here are some of my favourites and I'll keep you updated on any progress at chez Barlow.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Summer essentials for your Garden and Outdoor Living

Spring and the approach of Summer always brings with it the promise of hot sunny days and balmy evenings sitting in the garden, not always the case in Britain but, as I said, the promise. This year, in particular, gardens have been very much on our mind as we finally embarked on a renovation and taming of our front garden, which was becoming so wild and overgrown, that visitors had to fight their way through the shrubs to the front door.

The reclaimed Victorian stable bricks were purchased from Beeston Reclamation and Reclaimed World.

That together with the RHS show at Chelsea, televised every night, the week before last, and the longest summer night, drawing ever closer, has turned my mind to what makes the perfect accessories and must have items for a perfect midsummer night's dream! See what I did there!

A hammock if you have the room is the perfect bohemian accessory for this summers 70's vibe.

This one is available from Anthropologie

Continuing with the retro 70's vibe is this gorgeous hanging chair and of course macrame hanging planters. Did everything hang from something in the 70's?

Macrame hanging planters Graham & Green

To create a magical atmosphere as the sun goes down, light a fire pit and place candles on any available space.

 These hanging metal tea light holders and fire pit are both available from John Lewis.

To avoid any breakages as you stumble about in the candle light it's always a good idea to use plastic crockery, which is now available in some beautiful designs, almost unrecognisable from the real thing.
This fresh summery collection called Santorini is available from BHS

Finally, if the weather isn't as balmy as we hoped, all we need are some warm cosy blankets to wrap around us. The summer is short, but the nights at this time of year are long and it's a real treat spending time outdoors if the rain holds off. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong equipment!

Toast Basket weave blanket available from a selection

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Spring break in St Ives Cornwall

For many years as some of you will know, who have been regular readers of my blog, we have holidayed in St Ives Cornwall, but in recent years, mainly due to the British inclement weather, we have holidayed further afield, drawn to more sunnier climes.

This year though, mainly from pressure from our daughter, who was missing her beloved Cornwall and also because myself & Mr B were also curious to see if we had missed it as much as we thought we had, we decided to swap our week in the sun for a gamble on the Cornish coast. Amber, our daughter, was excited to be taking one of her best friends, since birth, Molly, to show her around, what she considers to be, her second home and before we could change our mind or look at the weather forecast, we had booked a week for the Spring bank holiday, in a self catering property with far reaching sea views.

St Ives hasn't changed that much since my last blog post, which you can read here, it of course being, a very traditional Cornish fishing village, but, as with any town or city during the recent recession, businesses have come and gone and favourite shops and restaurants are no longer operating. So for anybody considering a Cornish escape this summer, here is a little update and some of the places I can highly recommend, due to having been there myself or through recommendations by my best friend, who also happens to live there.

The Queens Hotel

For a great Sunday lunch and regular live music,The Queens Hotel ,which has undergone a renovation in recent years to become a gastro pub. The Sunday lunch consists of local meats and veg and with children eating for only £6 can't be beaten. For another great value carvery all day Sunday, try The Western Hotel. The surroundings are not as boho but the food is great value, home cooked fare, with as much as you can eat for £10.00, children half price.

The Halsetown Inn

This well known landmark next to the Balnoon camp site, has been rebranded by the owners of Blas Burger, which I wrote about in my previous St Ives blog. We couldn't secure a table on our visit due to it being fully booked, which speaks volumes and my friend assures me it is excellent local home cooked food.

The Black Rock

Serving freshly caught fish and seafood, this restaurant has been around for quite a few years now, enough said in this ever changing town.

The Rockpool Seafood cafe & Bar

Newly opened this season, the location in Gwithian is perfect for watching the sun set on the sand dunes and we ate fresh fish and seasonal vegetables, beautifully cooked in a friendly fun setting, perfect for family dining as children's portions of anything on the menu are half price and the large decking area and beachside location make it ideal for younger children to wander freely.

The Vintage Store and coffee shop

A vintage store and coffee shop in one, with a harbour side location and beautiful harbour views from the elevated position. Everything in the cafe is available to buy including the original ercol sofa we sat on. The homemade cakes and lemonade went down well with the girls and the choice of vinyl tracks being played made it a place you want to linger.


Too many to mention here but two new favourites recently opened were:
Port of Call

Opened by the people that own Academy clothes shop, which is probably the most stylish place to buy clothes in St Ives if you don't want surf wear or SuperDry. Port of Call is based on stylish items for the home, including beautiful throws, cushions and candles with a range of hipster magazines and books such as Kin and Cereal and skin care by REN.


Nautical themed accessories for the home such as ships lights, port hole mirrors and luggage racks, beautifully crafted in chrome or brass, with a range of ceramics and household linens. They have a comprehensive website and can ship anywhere in the country and also have a small selection of, equally stylish, self catering holiday lets on their website.

FishPye Pottery

Located on Back Road East going towards Porthgwidden beach, this ceramics shop and studio has been in St Ives for over 20 years and everything is hand made by the owner of the shop. From simple earthenware plant pots to dipped dyed vases and glazed decorative wear. A true piece of artisan St Ives to take home with you.


The weather, as anybody who holidays in England knows, isn't always great so to keep your small people entertained I can highly recommend two activities that we have tried and tested with our two.
I Should Coco

This is a fantastic chocolate shop where everything sold is made by hand on site and can be bespoke made to order if you so wish. As a way of sharing the magic of being a chocolatier, the owners of I should Coco open the shop after hours, mainly during the school holidays, to children, where the run chocolate making and decorating workshops. The workshops last for 1 hour and everything your little ones make during that time can be taken home with them. Check their website for dates, times and conditions.
Original photograph from St Ives Holidays

Kidz R Us Theatre

This is an award winning amateur dramatics society, that put on amazing shows throughout the school holidays that are some of the best I have seen, other than by a professional cast. Our children have been supporters and avid theatre goers since their friends moved to St Ives and joined the group but even though they no longer perform, we still thoroughly enjoyed our evening. Last week, the show was West Side Story and was so professional, that the cast got a standing ovation. If you are looking for some alternative entertainment rather than just eating or drinking, I can highly recommend the shows and defy you not to be entertained.

The Tate gallery has a varied range of exhibitions and installations, some including the works of the St Ives artists such as Alfred Wallace and Ben Nicholson. The main exhibition this summer focuses on Images moving out onto Space, with a bulk of the work on display by Brigit Riley. Whatever your personal thoughts on the exhibitions, you can not argue that the building and the space, with its stunning sea views of Porthmeor beach and the Atlantic are some what spectacular and if the works of art don't float your boat, the rooftop cafe and gift shop are excellent.

Probably St Ives most famous resident to date, Dame Barbara Hepworth's studio and house are now a museum which you can visit. Walk around her gardens which house many of her sculptures and take a peek at her studio, left pretty much as it was on the last day she worked in it. This is one of my favourite places to visit in St Ives and one I never tire of. A real insight into the life and work of a major artist and a tranquil hidden garden, staggering in its botanical beauty all enhanced further by her monolithic sculptures. You can purchase a dual ticket for access to The Tate and the Barbara Hepworth gardens.

Located at The Western Hotel, every Tuesday evening from 9.00pm, this renowned Jazz Club, started in 1998 and this year won the Parliamentary Jazz award for best venue!

I hope this is a helpful insight into the many wonderful things that St Ives has to offer.