recent posts

social media menu

Elphick's online art shop

It's a day of discovering lovely new things... Isn't this the sort of shop you want to just rush into?

Elphick's, in east London's Columbia Road, run by the artist Sharon Elphick (you can see her flowers in a vase picture in the window) is packed with the owner's well-chosen collection of art, including her own – and at very affordable prices.

I'd heard about the shop but have never been - but the online version is almost as exciting. There's so much great stuff I don't know quite where to start. Without doing an inventory of the entire catalogue, I'll attempt to self-edit and pick out a few highlights you might like the look of. But do check out the shop for yourself - there's a lot going on.

I really like this print, called Tuba, by Helen Lang aka Madamsange. It reminds me a bit of one of my favourite children's books, Patrick, by Quentin Blake, which has equally joyous visions of flowers growing where you least expect them, and shoelaces turning into giant ribbons. But Helen's boxy figure feels much more Fifites/early Sixties than the fluid, 1969-published lines of Blake. The print measures 30x40cm and costs £55. See more of Helen's work at her Wet Paint website.

Not sure if Russell Loughlan's work is still at Elphick's but it had its debut there last year. And I like his work so much I thought I'd include it - plus a link to his site, above, just in case. I know Russell, but hadn't seen his work until it appeared at Tales from a Park Bench, a special pop-up shop/ performance art/writer-y thingy I took part in. But back to Russell, who combines illustration, found imagery, vintage postcards, antique maps and pop culture. Elphick's were selling them in recycled frames for £145 each.

I tried hard not to feature one of Sharon Elphick's lovely bird artworks and picked this postcard montage instead (are those John Hinde cards?). A woman after my own heart, not only does she cherish old postcards, but seems to share my love for bird ephemera. (In my house, from where I'm sitting right now: I can see one money-box - a 1970s brown owl; one lamp - one of Ed Carpenter's pigeon lights; a sticky-in-the-ground wooden garden ornament (from Brazil) and my Ikea outdoor bird fairy lights.) Wish You Were Here, at her more expensive end, is £350.

I love Charley Harper, as old-school followers will know. But I've struggled to find prints of his work –in desperation I bought a Harper memory card game from the Saatchi Gallery shop and framed the whole pack of little squares. I like it, but I also like this print, which is one of about ten that Elphick's is selling – it's £40. And I also now know why I had struggled to find Harper prints before – Elphick's is the only place licensed to sell them.

Seamstar's fabulous fabrics

Seamstar is my new favourite website for window shopping. The fantastic fabric shop has such great taste - and they sell their wares in lots of handy types of package, such as this tonal bundle of small pieces of fabric, perfect for fronting cushion covers. 

I can't believe I'd never heard of it, but it was my friend Holly's birthday the other day and her friend and sewing buddy, Deborah, gave her a bundle of of Seamstar's finest as a present. Being exceptionally stylish, she went for the Echino bundle, by the Japanese designer Etsuko Furuya - all edgy prints of things like bicycles and glasses 
(see a few Furuya prints below or click on the link for Seamstar's selection). I was almost as excited as Holly was. Now all I need is to learn to sew. Or, rather, learn to have the patience to perfect my very basic sewing skills. Hmm. Meanwhile I'm enjoying the final suggestion on the website's tips about what to do with your chosen fabric bundle. Nice idea...

Seamstar says
- Perfect for making a quilt as each bundle comes colour coordinated and includes plain fabrics
- Due to their complimentary tones, they look great made into separate items on craft stalls
- They are great for just stocking up your fabric stash in some of your favourite colours
- No time to make stuff? Our bundles look lovely piled high on bookshelves and in sewing rooms

Polish designed warmer cups

How lovely are these funny little things? They're called Wycinanki warmer cups. Why so unpronounceable? Well not so if you're Polish. This morning, via the marvellous medium of Twitter, I came across a great new homewares shop, Beetrootonline, based in Poland but selling over here. And these cute 10cm-high drinking ceramic vessels, with black or cream tops and removable felt sleeves in traditional Polish papercut designs (or wycinanki) are just one in a whole website full of tempting stuff. 

What I really love about them, apart from the sweet folksy design is that, say Beetrootonline designed for you to 'fill with warm vodka tea on a cold day: enjoy'. Sounds good, even though I have yet to discover the specifics for making vodka tea. Better still, they cost just £18.50 each. 

Below, here are the matching coffee pots (£45) and sugar bowl (£12.50). A nice xmas present for the stylish design geek in your life?

Affordable Art Fair in actually affordable shocker

It's a shocker to me, anyway. I can't believe I've never been to this weekend's Affordable Art Fair (22-24 October) in south London's Battersea Park. It's only round the corner. No excuse. Except I think I've always thought - yeah, but it's not really affordable, is it?

When my parents bought a huge, stunning oil painting of a couple snatching a secret moment in a bar a few years ago, I thought perhaps I should give it a go. Then they told me how much they'd paid for it - the Fair's range is £50-£3000 which is cheap in the art world, but not necessarily in the post-recession world.

But now, rather excitingly, I've just discovered the AAF is part of the Own Art scheme, meaning you can buy an artwork and pay it off in interest-free instalments over 10 months. So, above, this collectable Pam Glew (in the Autumn AAF, her work sold out in one night) works out at just £49 a month. While, above, Rob Ryan - whose work has previously filled the Christmas window display at Liberty and appeared in Vogue - can be snapped up for £200 per month. Get in.

Donna Wilson's beardy man plate

Loving Donna Wilson's range of crockery - and am particularly drawn to this lovely beardy man plate, which you can buy for £20 from the Donna Wilson website

His name, by the way, is Bob. He's the boyfriend of Meg, who is also rather yummy. I could spend hours browsing the knitwear designer's colourful, quirky wares.

Marilyn Neuhart's
Benny Casa in print form

This Benny Casa print is one of heaps of Marilyn Neuhart goodies on the wonderful House Industries website. Lots of it is a bit pricier, but this sweet lion (640mm x 508mm) is but $40

On the site, you can also - when it's back in stock - buy the 3D stuffed toy version of Benny (see below), which is gorgeous (if several times more expensive) and read all about the relationship between Neuhart, Ray Eames and folk artist, Alexander Girard.

House Industries is a new-found treasure trove of style - check it out and let me know your favourite items. I shall be posting more about them soon.

Tricia Guild's tips for living with colour

Images from
A few weeks ago I interviewed Tricia Guild OBE, whose colourful shop and design business Designers Guild, has been going for 40 years. Chatting with Guild over coffee at the King's Road showroom in London was hugely inspiring (I posted some snaps of the shop at the time) but, as I am still haunted by the garish orange I once painted the front room in my first London flat, wanted to ask the expert for her tips on getting some colour back into my life without creating a headache-inducing mess. Here's what she said...
  • White is fine if you’re decorating somewhere dark – but if it’s dark it’ll still be dark afterwards, just whiter than it was. But it might be wonderful painted a bright colour
  • There’s an idea that in a small room you shouldn’t use pattern. Why? It can be like a little treasure box
  • Don’t use colour on absolutely everything – perhaps have a neutral wall, bricks, an organic sofa, or sisal floors. I usually have pale ceilings – and I do like height and I think it does help the space
  • Using different patterns doesn’t equal clashing – but make sure the colours work between one pattern and another
  • Having said all that, I really don’t like rules, because you can always find a way of turning them on their head
Tricia's new book, A Certain Style is £27.47 from Amazon and features 14 of her interior design projects, all vastly different - but all exquisitely colourful. Really makes you look at things differently at home - or it did me, see below...

Lovely 'Lucky' Bunting
by Xtina Lamb

There's something marvellously nostalgic about a bit of bunting. But as nostalgia has become big business, so the revival in bunting has often gone a little twee, girlie girlie and floral. Nothing wrong with any of that - but I've just seen so much of it. 

So I was excited to discover illustrator Xtina Lamb's 'Lucky' bunting - a lovely set of cute illustrations symbolising good luck, from four-leafed clovers to black cats and horseshoes, on unusual shaped pieces of fabric. The flags cover a length of approx 150cm, with extra tape of about 70cm at each end (you can also request longer tape ends) and cost around £24. You can also commission specific designs. 

Great for a stylish well-wishing party - or why not just hang above a kitchen window or bedroom mirror, to help you to feel lucky every day?

Xtina's Etsy shop, Printed Wonders, has some other nicely illustrated goodies too. 

Pretty paper lanterns
for the table

Paper lanterns that you can also send as greetings cards? 
How very clever.

For £9.50 (free p&p and everything), you get a pack of seven of these vintage-esque lovelies - and if you're not wrapping them around a glass holding a tealight for a cosy evening glow, you can leave them unfurled and write a message on the top or bottom, then post one to a friend, so loved ones can bask in stylish light too.

Oh I know, I only posted about Winter's Moon yesterday - but it really is my new favourite shop, you'll have to bear with me.

I'm a little bit obsessed with birds (might have to do a gallery of pictures of the vast number I seem to have accumulated in my house... perhaps another day). So it's no surprise that I'm rather taken with these endearing stone birds from Cocoboat. They cost £132 for the whole family but only £32 for the little quail on his own (10cm high). Not bargain basement prices but not expensive, especially considering that they're stone, so should last forever, and that each bird is handmade to order in Devon made "by Tony and Doreen". Aww. I like that.

Adorable vintage felt doggies from Winter's Moon

OMG. I so want these super cute vintage felt pooches.

They are a bargainous £18 for the pair (who measure 18cm long, Mr Scottie, and 26cm long, Mr Dachshund), from my new favourite online store, Winter's Moon.

Bjorn Wiinblad wall plaques

While browsing Pip's Trip yesterday (to post about those nice 50s ceramic dishes), I discovered the site also has a selection of 1970s Danish Bjorn Wiinblad wall plaques.

One just like this featured in the gallery of my hall/office recently (second image down in case you're interested) – and it's just £18. (Mine, lucky me, was a present from my cool friend, Camilla.) There is a whole array of other lovelies of a similar ilk for sale on the site too. You have been warned...

1950s Villeroy & Boch
dish from Pip's Trip

Love the simple graphic design on this original 1950s Villeroy & Boch dish from Pip's Trip, which is one of those websites I can easily spend hours on - it's like a posh carboot sale, with only the good bits - but heaps of them. 

Not that easy to navigate if you don't know what you're looking for, which is perhaps why I seem to spend so long window shopping there...

This dish, which measures 13.5cm across, is quite a funny shape - there are side-on images on the website: it looks a bit like a candleholder, without the bit to hold candles... it could be a nice shallow soup dish, or something to throw the Hula Hoops in at parties (there are three more of them on the site, in different mid-century shades - so you could get a whole set). Check them out at the ceramics section of Pip's Trip.

Stylish, affordable, cool Christmas cards from the V&A

I'm never very organised about Christmas cards - I tend to remember just before last posting date and resort, in a rush, to the least offensive box-full in WHSmith. They're never awful, but never that memorable - and what you hang up around your home during the festive period is just as aesthetically valid as what you hang up the rest of the year, so why inflict drab, style-free cards on your friends and family...

Especially when you can get a 12-pack of these sweet little things from the V&A shop for just £4.50. A very simple idea: they're photos of vintage tin toys (a 40s/50s wind-up turkey, and a 60s/70s Santa Claus train and Babycham-esque deer) on a clean, white background.