Sunday, 3 August 2014

August holidays

Hola! I'm taking an August blogging break. Back in September...

Happy holidays all, whatever you're doing.

Image: Thomson Airways adverstising archive

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Buy the contents of this Brighton house next week

Juliette, a very dear friend for many years, is throwing open her front door to sell pretty much everything in her colourful, 1950s-styled house. 

The sale happens over this coming bank holiday weekend. Take a nose around her place, and find out what's prompted her to make such a mad move...

"I've been collecting 1950s homeware, clothing and accessories for more than 20 years," she says. "When my husband was told he was being made redundant last month, we decided to move to France – not that random, as he happens to be French. Two days later, he received a job offer from a company in Madrid. We have no idea where we're going to end up, but the house is already on the market and we’re down-sizing our possessions like crazy in readiness for the move.

"We can’t take everything with us as we’ll be renting in either Spain or France for at least 12 months. We’ve had the space in Brighton to keep collecting, but it’s beyond ridiculous how much stuff we’ve got. I love every piece, but I’d sooner it go to a good home rather than be hidden in a box for a year. Plus, we are considering building a house in France, in which case we’re going to go totally the other way – instead of a 1930s house filled with Mid-Century collectables, we’ll have a sleek, modern cube house and only one room for my ‘mad bits’, as my long-suffering husband calls them. By that he means my vast collection of flamingo ornaments, Sylvac woodland animal vases and china poodles. Those are the pieces I’ll never sell!
"It might seem a bit strange to open your home to complete strangers, but I think it’s a nice way of making sure our much-loved pieces go to a good home, and it’ll be much easier to part with the things I love in person."

Go and help Juliette out by snapping up some of her cherished collectibles. Prices will start from £10 and goodies she's got lined up to sell include everything from poodle bookends and dinner plates to handbags and furniture. Details below.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Barbara Hepworth retrospective – and how to buy her art for £75

I'm a little breathless about yesterday's news that a big Barbara Hepworth retrospective is coming to Tate Britain next year. 

I saw Hepworth's work some years ago, in a show at Tate St Ives (in the town so dear to me): the Tate Britain show promises to be very good indeed, but the Cornish branch was possibly the most spectacular building in which to view her curvaceous, earthy work – and not just because it was the mid-century sculptor's adopted home and workplace.

If you've been to the beach-side gallery, you'll know the central plinth inside the front of the building, beyond which you can see the waves crashing into Porthmeor Beach beyond, sand, sky and water lit up with that unique, luminous St Ives light. Imagine now looking at that view not just through the circle of the windows, but also through the void in the middle of a giant Hepworth artwork. Magical.

The Tate Britain show, opening in Summer 2015, will be the first Hepworth retrospective in London since 1968 and will feature more than 70 works, including rarely exhibited pieces, pre-war carvings that survived the bombing of her studio and the artist's use of photography and film. (Random fact unconnected to Hepworth, but connected to St Ives and the war: my dad was a small boy in the 1940s and, while in St Ives visiting his grandmother, had to hide behind rocks on the little beach next to Tate St Ives as enemy planes flew overhead and shot at him and his father.

I'm digressing wildly. And this isn't just an excuse to publish images of some of my favourite pieces of her work. If you can't wait until 2015 to come to the big smoke and get your fix – did you know that John Lewis is currently selling a collection of beautiful reproduction Barbara Hepworth prints (pictured above and below)?

They're £75 each and are exclusive to John Lewis as part of the celebrations of the store's 150th anniversary.

The artworks were chosen because one of Barbara Hepworth's sculptures, Winged Figure, commissioned by John Lewis and installed in the early 1960s, adorns the exterior of the flagship London branch. You can see and read about the interesting story behind the six-foot sculpture on the excellent My Friend's House blog.

But don't go yet – you can also see some of Hepworth's rarely-seen drawings in this archive post by contributing ed, Abi.

Happy weekend all – and I'm off for a couple of weeks, partly taking little break in the sun and partly obsessing over what DIY chores around the house I can get stuck into. That's just how some people relax. You of all people should understand...

The Barbara Hepworth retrospective takes place at Tate Britain next summer; also part of the Tate's 2015 programme are major exhibitions including Jackson Pollock, Frank Auerbach, Marlene Dumas and Alexander Calder, kinetic sculptor and inventor of the mobile. 

Images: John Lewis, and Hepworth Estate for the photograph of Barbara Hepworth in the Palais studio in 1963 with unfinished wood carving Hollow Form with White Interior, taken by Val Wilmer.

Post by Kate

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

(Ridiculously kitsch) Object of the day: John Hinde tin box

I'd gone out to buy something from the DIY store, but it had just closed.

On my way back to the car I had to pass the farmer's market, which sells all sorts of random stuff, not just food. Serendipitously I thought (always a good approach to impulse buying) I passed a stall I often linger at, full of enticing old bits and pieces. No need to feel sad about the closed DIY store – here, surely, was the real reason I'd left the house. I just didn't know it till I saw it...

My love for John Hinde postcards from the 1960s-1980s era, as several readers will know, is large, especially the Butlin's series, as seen on the sweet tin above, which the lady from the stall sold to me for £8. I was too excited to haggle.

These images and many more were immortalised in Our True Intent is all for Your Delight edited by Martin Parr, an oft-flicked through book round my house. The equally colourful story behind the richly hued photographs is one I wrote about in a piece in the Independent a few years back, in case you're interested.

Meanwhile, since these tins aren't common (a quick trawl of Ebay and Etsy revealed nothing, I'm afraid) I can at least lead fellow Hinde fans to a some alternative resources for a photographic fix.

There's the above-mentioned book (the photos from which look great in frames – as seen in my recent radical loo makeover), and also Surface View, where you can purchase giant prints of various JH postcards, in all sorts of formats. There's also the John Hinde Collection, a site set up by even bigger fans than I, where you can buy original prints, lovingly restored and stripped of their trademark technicolour tints. Well worth a look.

As for me, I just have to decide what to keep in my new tin. Any suggestions?

Post by Kate

Monday, 28 July 2014

Hacking Annie Sloan

These stools, which have nearly been chucked out several times over the years, have had a radical makeover this weekend. 

But before that, a little back-track about their transformation.

When, recently, I was offered a place on an Annie Sloan painting techniques course by Rigby & Mac, a mini chain of interiors shop local to me in south London, I was intrigued and dubious in equal measure. 

I'm sure most of you have heard of Annie Sloan's chalk paint range. But in case you haven't, a big for the Oxford shopkeeper's own-formulated organic, water-based range, is that you're supposed to be able to slap it straight onto anything from plastic to gloss-painted furniture – to peeling metal stools – without a whiff of sandpaper. 

The no-prep angle is pretty seductive. 
Too good to be true? I was keen, via the workshop, to find out if it was. However, it does sound more plausible when you look at Annie's paint project books. The most recent, Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More, is a good-looking tome, though it is packed with shabby chic, upcycled French Provencal country house-style projects with aged-look finishes. Totally not my style. So what, if anything, could the Sloan offer me?

The half-day course took place in an airy side room at a southeast London cafe. Alongside a friendly bunch of fellow paintees, I learned a number of techniques using the paints, and Annie's clear and dark waxes, to give furniture different aged looks. You can see a taster of these above right, completed, and below, in progress (this technique is called the 'one colour aged look').

I won't run through them all as they're very well documented online – for the effects shown here, try googling Annie Sloan along with: 'two-colour aged look'; 'crackling'; 'colour crackling'; 'colour wash', or 'gilding'.

All I wanted to know was whether you could use the paint for a smooth, traditional finish – and still dispense with the arduous prep work. Our teacher said that yes, that was do-able, it would just require watering the paint down a little and, probably, applying a few coats possibly with a roller rather than a brush. I thought of my scabby garden stools...

They have been on my DIY list for about five years. But the thought of grappling with all that peeling paint, priming with special metal paint and the rest provoked serious procrastination. Perhaps this was what Annie Sloan could do for me?

Despite the promise that a non 'distressed' look could be achieved, I still had doubts, and I didn't want garden furniture that looked like it'd been plucked from a repro chateau. So I just bought a tester pot – with some watering down it might even do all three stools, and at just £5.95 (full-size – one litre – pots are £18.95) it was worth a punt. 

I went for Antibes Green, which I'd fallen for in the workshop.

The peeliest parts of the stools got a light scrub with a wire brush; the paint may have stuck to the flakey texture, but that wasn't the effect I was after. 

The paint – mixed with water at about a ratio of 1/8 water to paint – went on quite patchily at first, but it stuck. With two coats, the effect was a little 'aged', but in the garden I could live with that (or give it several more coats). The only problem? It was only at that point that I realised the colour totally clashed with the existing garden furniture... 

Back to Rigby & Mac for a rethink and some new colours. The strong, vibrant pink I had newly decided upon didn't figure on the AS paint chart,but easy paint mixing is another big Annie Sloan selling point: with her trademark effects, colour uniformity is not the aim and so you'll never need to find a shade's exact match. A little trickier if you're trying to pimp in a more vanilla way, but if the painting is so easy I can always start from scratch if they need another revamp. To achieve my fantasy pink, I bought Emperor's Silk and Antoinette – and hoped for the best.

And I quite liked the result...

But first I cheated – and scrimped on the chalk paint – by covering the green with one coat of a home-brew of odds and ends I found in the garage. The result was pink-ish and just meant I wouldn't waste any of the good colour de-greening the stools.

When using chalk paint on exterior surfaces, it's advised that Annie Sloan lacquer is applied to waterproof them. But it only comes in one-litre pots and is nearly £20. I had some outdoor wood varnish in the garage. What harm can it do? There's a chance it might yellow a little, but hopefully it should stick to the paint. We'll see. 

Here's the pre-varnished version anyway, which was all I had time for this weekend. A scabby corner transformed for the better, don't you think?

And they go with my new outdoor rug, a bargain at £14 in the Habitat sale last week. But don't let all that fool you: pan out from the artfully styled decking area and you'll see there's still a bit of work to do elsewhere.

Next project: bidding farewell to my beloved, seventies un-chic crazy paving to make way for some fake grass. Watch this space...

The paint workshop I did takes place regularly in southeast London, and costs £99. It can be booked via

Post by Kate

Friday, 25 July 2014

Airbnb: from Berlin to Nashville to Trafalgar Square

Do you Airbnb? A year after helping a friend do up his Berlin pad for that purpose, I had my first guest experience at one of the website's homes-from-home last year while on holiday in Nashville

We were lucky enough to be able to stay at the home of a very cool country singer while she was on tour (and where else could you possibly want to stay in Nashville? We got very lucky...).

Above: the not at all glam but seriously cool front porch at our Nashville Airbnb

Above: our host's cowboy boot collection

Airbnb might be getting some bad press this week, but ever since our Nashville stay, and my friend's Berlin success (he's always fully booked), I've been a little bit obsessed with how brilliant the concept is (and this was before I'd seen the company's incredible HQ). I have spent many an hour browsing profiles just for the hell of it, fantasising about holidaying in some of the glam/homely/mad homes advertised. And this year, we're gearing up to be hosts by sprucing the spare room so we can pimp it out with the company.

So I was very happy to learn, earlier this year, that Airbnb is collaborating with the London Design Festival (13 – 21 September) on its Landmark Project this year, with an installation in London's Trafalgar Square (an impression of how it could look, above).

The event, A Place Called Home, will feature the work of four designers – Brit furniture/product creator, Jasper Morrison, pattern obsessives, Patternity, furniture innovators, Raw Edges and Studioilse run, of course, by Ilse Crawford, former editor of Elle Deco – who will be creating a room each, to illustrate their take on what "home" means.

Morrison has promised to present the imagined abode of a pigeon fancier, while Raw Edges are creating something with MC Escher-esque intrigue in its flexible approach to space. Studioilse aims to get visitors to respond to the question "what does home mean to you?" with cute multimedia tricks including a soundtrack of noises such as a kettle boiling, doors slamming and cutlery rattling, as well as a fragrance it is developing specially to evoke homeliness via the nose. Patternity, meanwhile, are going to be getting busy with giant kaleidoscopes. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, if any of you are seasoned Airbnb hosts, or guests, I'd love to hear your tips for the impending guest room in my house...

Post by Kate

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Throwback Anaglypta wallpaper – from just £8 a roll

Anaglypta might conjure up visions of 1960s interiors, but the wallpaper company behind the original textured wall embellishment was established in 1887. 

And Anaglypta is currently channelling those early years with Book 39, a re-release of some of its elegant designs from the late 19th century and the 1930s.

They add gravitas to a room, don't you think?

Quite a different effect to the retro range the company also sells (I'm not sure I could live with any of these babies).

Did you know that the word "anaglypta" comes from the Greek? "Ana" means raised and "glypta" means cameo.

The best bit? Rolls of the stuff – which is all paintable – start at just £8. But does its affordability sell the revived look to you?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Object of the day: Rose & Grey golden pineapple

It's quite pointless and a little silly, and way too on-trend.

Three great reasons to love the new golden pineapple ornament from Rose & Grey.

And I know you'll like it, since people got very excited by the decorative fruits in the the mad, bad and beautiful Les Trois Garcons chateau sale I covered a while back.

But don't stop here, because pineapples are the new foxes, which were the new owls etc. And they're everywhere right now. From left to right, above: Paperchase has a banana yellow one for £10, there are heaps of old golden ones, mainly ice-buckets, like this one, on Etsy, while Joy has a salt and pepper set inspired by this mighty fruit, for £7.50.

Find the golden pineapple at Rose & Grey, £28.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Spotlight on... writer and stylist, Joanna Thornhill

I've been meaning to feature Joanna Thornhill's excellent budget-savvy interiors book, Home For Now, ever since it came out, earlier this year. 

Worth the wait, I think: I quizzed Joanna all about the project, her surprising Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen love, her own "home for now" – and rinsed her for lots of clever tips for style on a shoestring. 

The beautifully designed and photographed book, pictured next to Jo, above, and published by Cico, is all about how to spruce your rented pad without incurring the wrath (or damage deposit) of your landlord, as well as how to make your first owned property look lovely even though buying it has probably bankrupted you. (And do look out for this fabulous flat, which you may remember reading about right here).

Below, Jo answers some questions – but first, here's a little teaser from the book, in the form of five of her favourite tips...

1. To get the look of open shelving in a kitchen with wall-mounted cupboards, without doing a refit, simply remove the doors and stash them out of the way (under the sofa or round the back of the bed) until you want (or need) to reattach them. Run a strip of colourful Washi tape along each shelf ledge too, for good measure.

2. If you don’t have space to store oversized items, like a tall ladder for example, try instead to incorporate them into the your decor. An old wooden one leant in a corner could double as a handy receptacle for toiletries in a bathroom or even act as a towel rail. 

3. For an alternative feature wall, cover one entire surface in ephemera, such as postcards or even pretty tea packaging. The key is to really go for it, and layer up from corner to corner for added impact, so it looks eclectic-chic rather than student-digs.

4. If you’re scared of adding colour to your walls (or your rental restrictions prevent it), add it to your furniture instead! If you’d rather keep it reversible, decoupage a piece with wallpaper offcuts, securing with double-sided tape so you can remove it in the future.

5. If your workspace is in a living area or in your bedroom, enlist an old bureau to house your computer and work paraphernalia, or even customise an old armoire or wardrobe by fixing a few shelves in it.

That way you can literally shut up shop at the end of the night, or if you work in your bedroom, you won’t wake up in the night confronted by the sight of your bulging in-tray!

Now that we're all feeling inspired, tell us a bit about yourself ...
Well, for my 'day' job I'm a freelance interiors stylist and writer. I pull together features and photoshoots different magazines and websites, from House Beautiful to Woman's Weekly and many in between. I also style and write for commercial clients. I started out ten years ago as a TV runner before moving into art department and props roles, and eventually ended up involved in the wonderful world of styling!

And what you do when you're not working?
I've been busy doing up my own home for the past two years (a busman's holiday!) and when I'm not stripping woodwork I do enjoy getting out and about in London to make the most of the cultural and foodie delights it has to offer.

Where did the inspiration for the book come from? 
I was a serial renter myself until recently and always tried to personalise space without spending much money or upsetting landlords. But I always dreamed of the day I'd finally own my own place and be one of 'those' people with bi-fold kitchen doors and a co-ordinated colour scheme. When I finally got on the property ladder in 2012 it came as something of a shock to realise that I had no cash left to really do anything major. Increasingly, I found myself turning to decorating tricks I'd used in my rentals and collecting ideas on Pinterest and figured there must be plenty of other people in a home-for-now, looking for ways to make the most of their space...

What's your own place like? 
A work in progress: it's a tiny two-bed Victorian terrace, which would be very pretty from the front if it wasn't blighted by ugly pebbledash and unfortunate glazing. It had been very crudely 'modernised' when we bought it (basically, they'd sloshed white paint over everything and put down a cheap laminate flooring throughout, apart from the stairs, which were carpeted in dirty beige and smelt of wet dog). 

It's been a real labour of love restoring it all: we've stripped floorboards, freed up the fireplaces and are stripping all the woodwork, too. I'm naturally drawn to vintage and retro styles, but with so many period features to contend with, I've tried to sneak in the odd splash of bright colour or modern piece, so it doesn't look like an actual granny's house! 

What's your fantasy home? 
I do love a period property, though perhaps saying "a bigger version of what I already have" is a bit boring. Maybe fantasy-wise I'd go for converting an old commercial building of some sort, but retaining as much of its original character as possible, even the rubbly bits.

Do you secretly lust after extravagant, luxury interiors? 
Ha. Well, although I can appreciate that style, and it's a (rare!) treat to stay in hotels with that aesthetic, I have to say that for my own home that really just doesn't do it for me. 

If you have a heap of money to throw at a property then yes, it can be easier to get a stylish finish but for me, that's not what makes a home. Those personal touches are something money can't buy. Having said that, if money were no object there are a few design classics I'd love to treat myself too, like a Saarinen marble table and an Eames lounger for the boyf's man cave (I'd have to also actually build him a man-cave first). 

Fave shops? 
I love a trip to Anthropologie, for the displays as much as anything. And when I'm out propping, you don't need to twist my arm much to get me in to Liberty, Zara Home, Heal's, Habitat and The Conran Shop. I'm also a vintage addict and feel my heart a-flutter whenever I pass a second-hand/charity shop or reclamation yard. 

Fave blogs and websites? 
Shopping-site wise, Rockett StGeorge, REfoundobjects and Cox & Cox for their beautifully displayed collections and broad range of stock. Etsy and Notonthehighstreet are often my first ports of call for handmade or vintage, though I find they're best used when you know what you're looking for, otherwise it's easy to lose hours to them. 

I don't have as much time to read blogs as I'd like so I tend to just follow my favourite bloggers on Twitter or Instagram so I can dip in sporadically. Though I do always enjoy reading My Friend's House for their refreshingly witty and honest posts, and Junkaholique for the beautiful photography and general-lifestyle-envy (plus this fab blog, of course!!).

Your best interiors bargain? 
You can't really get a better bargain than a freebie, and I've been known to lug street finds home and take stuff BACK from the tip on more than one occasion – fave free finds include an original 1950s pin-up girl tray, a vintage spice rack and a beautiful old Victorian table base, which I've repurposed as a pot stand. 

Your interiors idol? 
I actually have a lot of love for Laurence Llewelyn Bowen – growing up watching Changing Rooms was what first made me want to get into the field myself, and one of my career highlights to date is still working as a runner on one of the shows, circa 2004, which he was presenting. His style is very different to mine but whatever you make of it, he is insanely knowledgable and passionate about the subject and its history, which is admirable. 

Did you learn any memorable tricks you used on your own place while researching the book?
There are quite a few I still want to try out Рmaking macram̩ plant pot hangers, above, and upping my collection of house plants generally) is next on the list.

Also I'm hoping to do something with my kitchen and dining room next and really like the idea of cladding some shelving fronts with patterned fruit crates [below], which also features in the book – it looks so striking yet is simple (and practically free) to do yourself.

What was one of the most inspiring spaces you saw when writing the book?
There were so many, but I think the home of Finnish blogger NinetteBahne had to be the one that really stopped me in my tracks. What she lacks in funds she more than makes up for in creativity. She pretty much made, repurposed or upcycled everything in her home – from her kitchen worktops to her patio paving bricks.

There was an old dress lying in her fabric pile when we went to photograph her place, and I used it in one of the shots to throw over a bedside stool. She liked it and vowed to sew it into a proper fitted cover. She did it, like, the next day. I'd have years of I've-got-no-time procrastination, despite the fact it probably only took her an hour or so. When I got home, I genuinely felt inspired to rethink a few of my own projects and came up with some crafty workarounds rather than simply outright replacing things I wasn't happy with. I still have little "what would Ninette do?" moments now before I resort to buying new stuff for my home. 

Check out Joanna's own blog at Stylist's Own and at her styling website – and, of course, buy a copy of the book! Home for Now, £16.99,  is out now, published by Cico Books.
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