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Curating collections

My friend Holly likes collecting things. And she has a LOT of things. But collecting is an art, and she is good at arranging stuff, so it doesn't look like she lives like a crazed hoarder, or at a car boot sale. 

As Terence Conran says in his excellent The House Book, the 1974 edition of which I am somewhat addicted to: "The most disparate and surprising objects can be happily brought together. They may be related in shape, in genus, in colour of not connected in any way – there for the simple reason that their owner likes the look of them." Below, you'll see examples of most of those approaches.

The birds "Genus" grouped things give a sense of order to otherwise disparate objects – in terms of shape, colour, size and so on. The black and white pair, far left, are from Twenty Twenty One, priced £26.50 each. Maiden do an owl moneybox similar to the white fellow in the middle for £11.

Oh yes, and this is Holly.

In case you're wondering where you've seen that directionally coiffed chap behind her before, possibly in photos of my house.

We are the only people we know who has one, it was a sew-it-yourself doll that our mums both saved coupons for when we were little from a cereal called Force Flakes – hair man, whose name is Sunny Jim, was their logo. You can sometimes find them on eBay.

Plated up Holly's collection of side plates follow no rule except that they are all plates. Because they're all little, rather than dinner plates, even the pricey ones can be an affordable luxury. I like that they are a mixture of random charity shop finds (the Millenium plate, above, bottom left) and posh shop buys. Says Holly: "The London Eye plate [second row, centre, above] is the most expensive; I love that at first glance it's a classic 50s utopian style, but on closer inspection it depicts urban decay... and the London Eye. It's by Timorous Beasties – and I've  always been a fan of Robert Burns so their name just adds to the joy!" (It's part of TB's Toile range – you might have seen the fabric and wallpaper. Buy from £30 at Kitchen Critic.) Most of all, I like that they all have a story. This is what home is all about.

As for the other plates: "The elephant one was an unsought-for find when I was cutting through Peter Jones one day. It was under a tenner and I just had to have it. It's now got a little chip on it, but somehow that just makes me more fond of it." (This Emma Bridgewater design, commemorating the Jubilee, is similar – though bigger and pricier.) The cow types plate [bottom left in left hand image, above] is one of the most recent additions and my current favourite. I bought for 12 Euros it in Lisbon; it was in the window of an old-fashioned tobacconist's. We walked past it every day and I became totally obsessed. The lady in the shop seemed surprised I was so excited about it. When we walked past the next day, she'd replaced it with one showing different types of hot air balloons. The hearts plate was a bargain at 99p, from Tiger, my new favourite shop. It made its debut on Valentine's day when I gave my boyfriend his morning toast on it. The Spanish red tapas plate is the first I ever bought. It's from a gorgeous homewares shop in Barcelona – it was about 4 Euros and I love the bright 50s feel of it. The yellow tapas plate came from the same shop and the Banania one was about 2 Euros from a French service station on the road trip we took to get there, for some friends' wedding. Le Page De Dessin plate (bottom right, pale yellow) was my mum's – a gift from her oldest friend, years ago. I coveted it and last year my mum very kindly gave it to me." The top one, the face with the orange hair (she's called "Meg" and was a present from me because Holly is fond of ginger hair), is by Donna Wilson.

Get a grip Who needs matching cupboard doorknobs? I love how these add interest and colour to uniform, white bathroom cupboards. Not on the High Street have a decent selection, or do like I did to spruce up a plain Ikea set of mini drawers, and eBay as many as you need and collect slowly.

You've been framed An immense array of pictures work together because although all the frames are different, they are all black, and all the images are monochrome. Holly had previously had the wall behind them painted a paler grey, and they looked OK. But when she switched to this stronger shade the photo wall really came into its own. So think about what's framing your frames, too.

What a card The Penguin Postcards (£9.74 from Amazon, above right) I've featured before, as I have a set too. But I like how Holly's arranged them all in this double-sided frame (you can get them in Habitat).

Over to Holly to explain the display on the left: "The V&A shop sell these funny limited edition boxes of tiny prints, every one is different. They had one displayed in a frame and I loved it so nicked their idea. Itt took bloody ages but was worth it." The V&A shop still sell them, they are by Tom Martin, and the box-full costs £25.

Well padded Holly is a demon crafter. One of her crafts is making cushions – which is why she has so many. It gives her something to do with all the fantastic fabric she collects...

Date for your diaries: cushion sale, London, Saturday 14 April
Holly's having a sale of around 80 of her designs on April 14 in central London. I'll post  more about it nearer the time, but put the date in your diaries if you're local and drop by for details in the next couple of weeks (you can always sign up in the subscription box, top of the column on the left hand side of this page, to get posts delivered direct to your inbox if you don't want to miss it).

Here's one of her beautiful creations in solo glory.

I will also be running a cushion competition – so definitely sign up if you want to be in with a chance of winning one, as well as some other hand-made goodies for runners up.

And of course not everything needs to be part of a collection. Some things just look lovely on their own.

Kitchen: before and after

As part of my ongoing quest to ease DIY guilt with some then and now pictures (I'm not the only one to start renovations with gusto and then feel a bit tired and spend several years making lists about tackling all the unfinished bits, right?) here are some snaps of my kitchen before and after I got around to doing it. 

Of course, the kitchen was something I couldn't do myself, bar some painting and arranging of stuff, which is also why it's finished. Though of course all I can see are the little bits I still need to do... I shan't point them out.

Stylish holiday let in Morocco

Who's going on holiday this year? With the weather so lovely here, it seems a shame to venture abroad, but I'm thinking ahead and considering a trip to the sunshine as our autumn draws in. And as I started looking at some options, I found this gorgeous place in Essaouira, Morocco, a fishing port on the Atlantic side of the country. 

Stylish holiday lets are few and far between; houses tend to be filled with the stuff the owners stash in their garage, or cheap but functional furniture with little design value. And injecting soul into a house that isn't a permanent home must be a challenging thing for any holiday let proprietor. But the people behind this stunning place have got it just right.

I'm not generally a big fan of the Moroccan look – at least not the stereotypical version we get in the UK in restaurants or specialist shops that focus only on fiddly lattice-work metal lanterns or twirly carved wood chairs. So this house is refreshing in the way it mixes up styles and injects a bit of mid-century modernism among more traditionally local style. Particularly love the bright Fifties-style artworks, below left, the vibrant yellow factory lampshades in the kitchen and the  atrium tiles, top image. It all really works, doesn't it?

You can hire this place for between £750 and £1200 per week, depending on the dates (it sleeps 8). And it is for hire through my favourite estate agent The Modern House (if ever there was a website to get lost in a fantasy 'imagine if I lived here...' world, this is it). And – to boot – two minutes down the road, you get this...

Has anyone else stayed in a particularly stylish holiday let, either here or abroad? I'd love to hear about it if so...

Jonathan Adler's
candid canisters

I'm a big fan of Jonathan Adler's ceramics, particularly his very Fifties-y Menagerie range. His new pottery collection, candid canisters, couldn't be more different – and I love it. 

Humour is something so important to have in one's home I think. Who wants to live in a po-faced place? But what do you think of these?

They appeal to me in a similar way to my Gilbert & George Swear Box, below, which was a gift from a good friend. Lucky me – it's a real collector's item now.

Old and Cold's ingenious
book hanger

It's not often you come across an object with an everyday job completely re-thought and done differently. It's most refreshing and, in the case of the piece of furniture below, designed by Copenhagen-based Old and Cold, aka Agusta and Gustav, it is also very beautiful.

I'm not sure what you'd call this – it does the job of book shelves, bedside table or clothes hooks. And more, I'm sure. On their Etsy shop, Agusta and Gustav call this particular design a book rack; but they have different sizes and configurations for use all over the home. The one pictured above costs £129 plus postage from Denmark, and is available in oak, wenge and beech, and with coloured hooks (see below). 

Here are a few more images to give you a better idea of how it works...

It can also be used as a 'side table', £71, above right. And, below, some more configurations...

As well as these designs, Old and Cold sell a well-edited selection of classic Scandinavian style homewares – from Bjorn Winblad wall plaques to sexy lampshades. 

It is a small but perfectly formed shop.

Kirath Ghundoo's new
wallpapers 2012

I discovered the surface pattern designer, Kirath Ghundoo, at last year's 100% Design – drawn over immediately to the striking, gorgeously coloured geometric wallpapers she had hanging up. 

Now she has just launched a new range – hot on the heels of being shortlisted in the final three of the Homes & Gardens Young Designer Award.

Kirath's trademark is that she creates designs that can be mixed and matched – making the whole process more sustainable, as it saves on waste, and cheaper as you can use everything up more easily. And this week she launched a new range of her lovely, very well-priced wallpapers (scroll further down to see the new designs), as well as a bespoke service – see above. The bespoke service papers, which involve Kirath creating for you a unique, personalised design, start at £100 per roll plus design fees.
Kirath's new MisMatch 12 range, below, features three colourways: as with her Mix n Match 11 range (which I still hanker after – so unusual and such great colours) the designs can be chopped up in a variety of different ways to create new patterns. She explains: "The mismatch pattern collection is uber cool. This can be created using a variety of colours, standard block repeat (which has been used for this collection), applied portrait or landscape. The possibilities are endless! The look is simple and creates a striking impact."

The MisMatch Collection – Kiwi Kiwi has been displayed in a boutique style hotel, with contrasting furniture and fabrics. This can be created using a variety of colours, standard block repeat (which has been used for this collection), applied portrait or landscape. This look is simple and creates a striking focal point for both residential and commercial spaces.

The MisMatch Collection – Sharon Sharon has been used for a bar and applied landscape for a portrait finish, which demonstrates the possibilities from one roll.

The MisMatch Collection – Chilli Chilli is a dark repeat that works well in large spaces to add warmth. This can be created using a variety of colours, standard block repeat (which has been used for this collection), applied portrait or landscape. The simplicity of the repeat creates a striking feature wall for both residential and commercial spaces.

All MisMatch rolls are 52cm by 10m and priced at £60 per roll. Below, some more of Kirath's designs, mixed up and also some more explanation of how the system works.

The Mix ‘n’ Match 11 Collection – Iso, Persia, Stack, Lavish, Aztec, Mosaic, Geo Still love this, from last year, very much.

100 Contemporary Houses, the new Taschen book

Yesterday I got hold of a copy of Taschen's new book, 100 Contemporary Houses. It would make a fantastic present for anyone even mildly house-obsessed. I shan't clutter things up with words, so just scroll down and enjoy a bit of house porn...

100 Contemporary Houses (Taschen), £34.99, by architecture writer, Philip Jodidio comes in two hardcover volumes. I couldn't ever afford to live in houses like these, but it's nice to pore over them, photographed so beautifully.

The books feature designs by new talent as well as globally renowned architects, including John Pawson, Richard Meier, Shigeru Ban, Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid.

A Pretty Dandy shop

I've just discovered a nice shop, Pretty Dandy, based in Nottingham and selling a small but very well selected range of simple things – both second-hand and new. 

The shop is run by Becky Morris Knight, who says that Nottingham has the highest ratio of artists per capita for a UK city. Which is a good fact to know. She says she hopes some of that creativity has rubbed off on her shop. I think so. So thought I'd share a quick bit of window shopping.

Original salt and pepper pots, created in 1968 by the designer Jessie Tait, for Midwinter.

Two good prints. Town colour-it-yourself print, £14.95, and A3 in size, would make a sweet DIY present for a child – they simply colour in and then you can hang it on the wall (fits a standard, off-the-shelf frame). And it's nice and big, so as good for clumsy little fingers as well as older children.

This Storm Would Pass Me By collage print, £14.95, A4 size, is by the Cologne-based illustrator, Sabrina Tibourtine. Nice colours.

Taborah Metal Wire Bowl, £8.95 (small) and £11.95 (large).
These white wire bowls stack neatly inside each other. You could also use them for stashing dressing table bits. 

Original Midwinter Stylecraft gravy boat, £9.95. I do love a gravy boat, and this one is a particularly pleasing shape, and a classic bit of 1950s British pottery with a pussy willow pattern (apparently). 

Patrick Rylands toys

These beautifully tactile objects would look pleasing on a shelf as decoration... but, in fact, this aesthetically pleasing pair are children's bath toys, from the V&A shop's new season range.

Designed by Patrick Rylands in the 1970s, the simply named 'Fish' and 'Bird' plastic toys have just been reissued. Rylands, who trained as a ceramicist before going on to win many awards for his well-designed toys, is also responsible for PlayPlax, below, another vintage plaything (1966) that would look rather good on a shelf. Bird and Fish cost £19.90 each.

Robin Day chairs:
a design classic

Midcentury modern designer chairs don't come cheap. Or do they? These wonderful Polyside chairs, below, and Armchairs, further down, designed by functional, stylish furniture hero, Robin Day, between 1963 and 1967 go on sale this month at the V&A shop... for under 70 quid. 

Robin Day Poly Side Chair, £55
The colourful chairs are made using what was, in the sixties, a totally new technology of injection-moulding polypropylene to create a single form for the seat shell. The chairs, manufactured by Hille, become global best-sellers and these versions have been given a little makeover for 2012.

When is an Eames not an Eames or an Eames fake? When it's Robin Day's Armchair, which was launched in 1967 following the success of the Poly Side chair, but this time with rolled arms and a broad seat. Apparently the chair, which shares some curves with its more iconic – and luxuriously-priced – peer, the plastic Eames – it is very comfortable. But Day was all about affordable, useful design (hence all the public furniture he made, including very familiar school chairs most of us will have sat on at some point in our lives). As such,  his chairs budget-friendly; this range also fits a variety of different Day-designed bases, including one that swivels, so you can mix and match. The most popular version was on the original A frame base (as pictured here) which can be supplied in a chrome or powdercoated finish. I think the chrome looks a little too modern here, so I'd probably go for powder-coated.

You can also buy the chairs direct from Hille, where the powder-coated options are just £59, for the armchairs, or £49 for the side chairs.

More before and afters

I'm still trawling through my way through a vat of unfiled photographs. I'd forgotten I had so many of my place when I first moved in. So here are some of them – followed by how things look now. This time, the bathroom...



I moved the shower from the left hand end of the bath to the right; it made it feel more spacious as you suddenly didn't have a shower curtain in your face when cleaning your teeth.

I'm obsessed with storage, and so used the gap next to the sink to add a bit in.

The colourful things above the window are packaging from foreign soaps and chemist finds, stuck (empty) to the wall.

 The room is not huge and before I redid it the overwhelming thing was how dark and small it felt: everything was boxed in (as well as being dark or oppressive colours). So I freed things up and opened whatever I could. The sudden sense of space and air was dramatic.

 I tried to find a nice bath panel everywhere. They were all either vile and plastic or super expensive. So I used some of the very nice wood left over from my garden decking. If only it was still that lovely rich colour outside. Time for some wood treatment I think, once the sun returns...

Sadly Pedlars, where I got this fantastic print ('Will Patrons Kindly Refrain' from 1980s public swimming pools) doesn't sell the prints any more. But they do sell tea-towels featuring the same design. I bought one for a friend who put it in a frame. And it looks great.