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384 posts categorized "Design matters"

16 May 2012

Fancy Hotel of the Week: Four Seasons Seattle

 

When the sun does come out in Seattle there is no more beautiful place on earth.  The unfortunate thing is, that, unless you have your own yacht, there are not so many places to just lounge and enjoy the view.

 

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Yes, there are the lakes and the cold ocean beaches, but there are very few loungers and margaritas types of places, and, as you have probably guessed, I am very much a loungers and margaritas type of girl.

So when it became apparent on Thursday that temperatures were set to soar in Seattle for the Mother’s Day weekend, we decided to throw caution to the wind and book into Seattle’s Four Seasons hotel for a ‘staycation’.  The Four Seasons is unusual for Pacific Northwest hotels in having an outdoor infinity pool, with breathtaking south-west facing views out over Elliott Bay to the Olympic mountains beyond, which reminded me of the similar views we had from our downtown apartment when we first moved to Seattle.  

 

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The pool area also features a hot tub and fire pit and is protected on three sides by the hotel and other high rise buildings, so I would imagine that it would still be very pleasant in the cooler months of the year.

The beautiful spring green planting creates a little rooftop oasis and exactly matches the beautiful spring green umbrellas, which looked amazing against the blue sky and turquoise water.

 

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The pool itself is heated to 85 degrees and also gently salinated, which makes the water deliciously soft and somehow bouncy, and there was plenty of room for the Minx and the Husband to practise their synchronised swimming routines.

 

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Inside the décor is luxurious, clean and contemporary, with an emphasis on natural stone and woods, soft autumnal hues and organic shapes, with lots of interesting artworks and glass.

 

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In the lobby, slatted wood walls are juxtaposed with intricate stone floors and striped carpets to give a clean, modern almost Asian feel.

Oh and the breakfast wasn’t bad either.

 

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We were also really impressed with the welcome given to the Minx.  When we booked they asked for her name and age, and there was a welcome pack waiting for her in the room, with a little treasure hunt questionnaire for her to complete.

 

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It’s the first hotel we’ve ever stayed in which provided a mini kids robe and slippers, to the Minx’s enormous delight and to cap things off, they also gave her a little pink sock monkey, from which she became inseparable. And yes, I do know that my daughter is INCREDIBLY spoiled.

 

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Here is ‘Chaussette’ lounging by the pool.

 

We left feeling incredibly relaxed and asking ourselves why on earth we haven’t done this sooner.  Truly that view is good for the soul.  Four Seasons Seattle, we will most DEFINITELY be back.

 

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Thanks once again to the lovely Sheri at Pacific Northwest Journeys for arranging our stay.   We paid for the hotel room ourselves.

   

26 April 2012

Go Love Your Room: The House that Houzz Built

 

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I realise that recentGo Love Your Rooms’ have been rather same-y – white backgrounds, pastel-y accents, eclectic mix of furniture and objects, yadda yadda yadda, rinse and repeat etc.

So loving a very modern house is a bit different for me.  Once upon a time Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen were doing up their long low modern bungalow in Palo Alto and bemoaning the lack of online resources to save and share remodeling inspiration. So they founded Houzz.com. As you do.

 

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Warm and cosy

Several things strike me about this room.

Firstly modern houses can very quickly get ‘boxy’ – lots of square furniture in lots of square rooms – but in this house they’ve very carefully added circle shapes to add contrast. Not just with the awesome swing seat, but also by adding the circular tray and the circle pattern on the pouffes.

 

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Circles and squares

 

There are still a lot of squares in the room, but they are also made more interesting by playing with scale – the big square picture, the medium cube pouffes, the smaller cushions and the even smaller cubbie shelves inserted into the wall.

Next they’ve gone for texture and comfort.  So many modern houses are beautiful but also seem sterile and cold. Here the cushions, the awesome rug, the pouffes and the swing make everything seem cosy, comfortable and FUN (though the pouffes do look as if you’d have to perch rather than lounge if you used them for seating).

 

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The light in this room must be amazing
 

And finally there’s some colour!  So many modern day architects seems to believe that the only colours available are black, white and brown, so the pops of orange, red and purple are extremely welcome.  I like how the books in the cubbies are arranged by colour, there’s so much scope to change stuff in and out of those shelves to create different wall ‘art’.  I’d love to know where their proper book storage is though.  I’m assuming this house has a giant basement where all the crap is stored.

 

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Needs more colour?

Pulling out more that amazing light fitting brings more circles and spheres into play, which is good as the dining table and chairs would otherwise be very angular and stark.  I can’t help feeling that the dining area needs something more, maybe even something as simple as a coloured runner on the table.

 

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I’ve always loved those Ligne Roset Togo couches though I wish in this case they’d gone for the coloured version or maybe a coloured throw. But again, they look so deliciously lounge-y and comfortable.  I like the pops of colour in the kitchen and the shiny black floor grounds the whole space wonderfully.  The row of chairs finds echoes throughout the space too – the row of skylights, the row of vases on the dining table, the double row of book cubbies.

Still have no clue where all their STUFF is though.

 

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The bedroom is saved from monochrome minimalist boringness by the use of overlapping textures – bumpy mosaic, smooth shiny cupboards and embroidered throws – and by that phenomenal wallpaper. This feature wall – which adds texture rather than grabbing attention -  is one I can definitely get behind.

 

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All photos by Matthew Millman for The New York Times

What do you guys think? Too modern, too shiny, too stark?  And tell me honestly, could you actually live like this?  I know me and my family wouldn’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of being this tidy.

Back blogging now. Next time I know to get guest bloggers in to cover the couple of days after a trip when I’ve taken one look at the overflowing cases, laundry basket and email inbox and am lying gibbering in a darkened room.

   

17 April 2012

WTF Monday: Wenlock and Mandeville

 

Only three days late.  One day I’ll get good at this ‘blogging to schedule’ malarkey.

So we touched on this in the comments to a recent post, but I thought it was time we properly dealt with London’s Olympic shame.

When it was announced that London had won the Olympics bid, I was looking forward to my home town showing the rest of the world why it is a capital of style, creativity, incredible design and all round fabulosity.

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And then the mascots – Wenlock and Mandeville -  were unveiled (the logo I can’t bear even to talk about).  They are apparently supposed to be one-eyed drops of steel from the construction of the Olympic stadium, with London taxicab lights stuck on the tops of their heads.  Of course.  As an aside, I can’t find any reference to why Mandeville has apparently peeed his pants.

So, really, aren’t these more scary than attractive?  Is anyone going to buy them/collect them?  Aren’t they just embarrassingly lame? 

I did do a one kid focus group with the Minx and she thought they were ‘cute’, so maybe I’m not the target market here. Though the Minx’s strange taste is already on record. 

What do you think? What do your kids think?  Are these an embarrassment to London? UK peeps, are the mascots much in evidence in the run-up to the Olympics or is everyone just trying to pretend they don’t exist?

Buy Wenlock and Mandeville here if you must.

   

12 April 2012

A Shopping Trip to Portland: Part 2

 

Here’s part two of my shopping guide to Portland.

You can see where I went with my girlfriends on the Friday in Part 1 here.  And pictures from  Portland’s Japanese Garden are here.

Here’s what we did on Saturday after the family came and met me on the Friday night.

After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel (we stayed again at the Nines, which is worthy of a separate blogpost), we wandered off to the Portland Saturday market.  To be perfectly honest I wasn’t terribly impressed. There seemed to be a lot of tat and not a huge amount of originality.

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We then tried to get into the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts. The magic may indeed be in the hole, but weren’t going to stand in the mile-long queue to find out. I sort of regret that now.  Instead we jumped in the car and headed to the Farmers’ Market at Portland State University. This was more like it, on a par with the best of the Seattle farmers’ markets, but with new and different producers to try.

After the market we headed back downtown for lunch and went to Habibi for Lebanese food. It’s a cuisine I miss a lot from London, as I can’t find any very good exponents in Seattle, but here it’s done well – the food is fresh and tasty, with excellent rice, hummus and breads, though not particularly imaginative.

 

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From there we went back to a couple of shops I’d visited the day before and possibly my two favourite shopping finds in Portland so far.

 

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Woonwinkel focuses on colourful and graphic contemporary craftmade pieces – it’s the shop I wanted mirrormirror to turn into. They call it ‘new modern’: warm, inviting, tactile, quirky.  Modern with soul. I loved it, though left without purchasing.

 

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Alder & Co also does beautiful everyday items, with a clean, almost Japanese aesthetic.  I bought the most stunningly smooth and tactile (and stunningly expensive) stoneware Japanese butter dish and some beautiful wooden measuring spoons.

We then headed for Powell’s Bookstore, where I have to admit that I spent a lot of time surreptitiously photographing the covers of books that look good for later download on my Nook.  I sort of hate myself for doing this, though we did slightly assuage our guilty consciences by buying children’s books for the Minx. But please tell me how I can reconcile my love of independent bookstores with my Nook love?  I really haven’t figured this out yet.

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All the guilt was making me thirsty, so we headed over to Portland’s Ace Hotel for coffee in the downstairs Stumptown coffee shop. You buy your coffee and then can take it into the hotel lobby. I was intrigued to see the décor after my recent stays at the Ace in NYC and the Ace in Palm Springs.  Again they’ve done a great job of matching the Ace’s hipster aesthetic to its surroundings.  Not as smart as the NYC hotel, nor as carefree as the Palms Springs one, this was quirky, funky and yes, most decidedly hip.

As we walked back home I saw this bicycle stand outside a cupcake shop.  I’ve no idea whether the cupcakes are good or not, but the bike stand just summed up Portland for me.

 

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Tired but happy, we ended up heading back to the Nines for dinner, where the whole family sat in the king-sized bed, ordered burgers and mac’n’cheese from room service and watched Hugo on the big flat-screen telly.  I digress, but what a totally gorgeous and moving film that was. I’ve never been a big Scorsese fan before, but wow.

09 April 2012

Things I Am Loving : Demakersvan Lace Fence

 

This is one of those design ideas which seems so obvious you wonder why no one’s thought of it before. Dutch design company Demakersvan combines the ancient craft of lacemaking with industrial chain link fence.

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DEMAKERSVAN'S LACE CHAIN-LINK FENCE_

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Demakersvan’s website is here. Their ‘Lace Fence website is here. And you can even buy lace fence in various panel sizes here.

It’s making me want to build a dark wooden wall somewhere in my garden, just so’s I can install a lace fence trellis.

   

29 March 2012

Teeny Trend: Warm Pastel Pink

 

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I’m seeing it a lot at the moment -  a warm, sophisticated, not-at-all-girly shell pink, which is almost a neutral. 

Sunglasses by Stella McCartney (I have a pressing need for these).  Room shown in Dutch interiors magazine VTWonen.

   

26 March 2012

Mad Men: Don Draper’s New Apartment

 

Zou Bisou Bisou.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get that song out of my head.

I trust we were all watching last night?  The big news of course is that Don Draper, apart from getting himself a sexy little package of a new wife -  who I predict is going to be nothing but trouble – but has also got himself a sexy, new, not-so-little apartment.

   

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Don now lives in the big city, away from Betty and her suburban angst and her suburban furniture (remember her er, lovely ‘fainting couch’?) in an apartment big enough that his kids can come visiting and where his wife can host wild surprise parties.

It’s a clever set.  Instead of filling it with mid-century icons such Saarinen tables and chairs and Arco lamps (unlike Roger’s office with its shipped-in style), it just feels very comfortable and of its time, very sixties, but not ostentatiously so. 

The colour scheme of burnt orange and turquoise is kept to the periphery and the accents  -  the aqua curtains, the seating out on the balcony, the orange kitchen cabinets and the gorgeous throw pillows, but the main body of the set is very brown, very boxy and very wood-panelled, with even the pattern on the curtains seeming quite subdued.

   

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A little light relief is offered by the white cupboard doors, the white feature wall and of course the infamous white rug, with the occasional dark red painted door or panel, but in general the main body of the set is kept quite spare and neutral.  Even the art on the walls is quite dull and nondescript.

   

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Which makes sense of course if the marriage-threatening surprise parties you hold are such a riot of sixties pattern and colour.  Weren’t the costumes in these scenes just awesome?

   

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I managed to spot a few Sixties icons dotted about – the Catherine Holm enamel bowls, the Eames lounge chair, the Murano glass and the zebra-striped cushion. Did any other Sixties paraphernalia catch your eye?

   

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And I have to give a shout out to the exquisite chandeliers in the entrance way, and that lovely low-hanging blue lamp.  What did you like most about the set?

   

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These images show how the designers had fun with costumes, party accoutrements and accent pieces to create a mood.  I’m sure we’re going to see that mood darken as the season progresses.

   

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I am certain the Husband had eyes for nothing but that glorious aqua Sixties vacuum cleaner in this scene.

   
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So did you watch? Did you enjoy it? What did you think of the new apartment? Any particular objects you were coveting?  I’m enjoying how the new Mrs Draper is quite literally leading Don by the balls.  I’m sure that’s going to end up well.

Zou Bisou Bisou.

   

23 March 2012

Go Love Your Room: Vanessa Bruno’s Paris Apartment

 

This week’s Go Love Your Room – where I take a room, house or apartment and analyze why it really, really speaks to me – features French designer Vanessa Bruno’s apartment in Paris.

I actually blogged about this briefly back in 2007, but it has haunted me all this time and I recently came across a great set of photos.  I thought it would be interesting to examine what I love about it, and see whether it has stood the test of time.

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The space itself is cheating of course.  It doesn’t take much design talent to make those high ceilings and rustic beams look good.

The sugared almond colour scheme of lilac, celery green and dusky pink is still very attractive and feminine, though a perhaps a little sweet for my taste nowadays.  Though the colours, the sprigged embroidered cushions, the fresh flowers and the garland artwork are unashamedly girly, I love how Bruno keeps everything else spare and plain to avoid it tipping over the edge.

 

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The low picture shelf is a lovely touch (that Diane von Furstenburg could learn from) as are the rustic wooden frames that echo the beams. And I like the echoing triangles of the side tables and the chair legs. And is that just a plain, pistachio green canvas propped up to give an additional hint of colour?

 

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Pulling out a bit the red furry (beady?) artwork on the wall is a touch of genius, providing an emphatic focal point,, emphasising the symmetry of the room, dirtying up the colour scheme and providing a much needed touch of luxurious texture.  I also like that, unlike last week’s room she’s used a huge floor rug to cosy things up a little and ground the spindly-legged and rather insubstantial furniture, even at the cost of covering up those marvellous floorboards.

The string of paper lampshades, which Bruno apparently put together herself, is also a fabulous touch.

 

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The coloured lampshades over the table are clever too, bringing the colour palette into the dining area and echoing the shades on the other side of the room. And I absolutely love how the central one is elliptical and not round to prevent a surfeit of balls everywhere (and that’s never a good idea).

The hefty wooden table and industrial chairs again counteract the girliness and the substantial table legs contrast well with the flighty nature of the surrounding pieces. I’m not sure about having the table and chairs half on and half off the rug though.

 

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I like here how the sculpture on the secretaire reflects the painting above. 

This room is another study in geometric shapes – it seems I’m a sucker for them – the aforementioned triangles, the square cushions and dining chairs, the rectangles of the windows and the big round balls.  And also a study in contrasts – romantic v industrial, light v substantial, rough v smooth, spare v ornate. 

Though I think nowadays I’d add a bit more punch to the colour scheme and maybe some more graphic elements, I think this has stood the test of time very well and I certainly wouldn’t mind moving in tomorrow.

What do you think?  Too feminine or just right (or not feminine enough?)  Do you think it looks dated? Where can I get a red fuzzy thing to hang on my wall?

See how the sun is streaming into the rooms above?  It’s a photographer’s nightmare, but that’s what’s happening in Seattle at the moment.  It’s going to be a great weekend.  Have fun wherever you are.

   

22 March 2012

Teeny Trend: Cut Up Union Jacks

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Today’s Teeny Trend features the newly-unveiled Team GB kit designed by Stella McCartney and a cushion I’ve recently had my eye on. 

I do like the idea of using portions of the Union Jack in designs – it’s still iconic and cool without going full on into Rule Britannia territory.  And thank goodness the Stella McCartney designs, while a bit dull, aren’t hideously embarrassing, unlike the godawful Olympic logo. I still have no clue what they were thinking with that one.

We’ve booked our flights out to London for the Olympics!  We don’t have tickets to any events, but I still wanted to be there to join in the party.  Can. not. wait.

   

19 March 2012

Fancy Hotel of the Week: The Ace Hotel NYC

 

While in New York I had a great time at the Ace Hotel.  It was fascinating to stay there since we’d enjoyed ourselves so much at the Ace in Palm Springs and I was intrigued to see how their aesthetic would translate to a New York setting.

 

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And what they’ve done is very clever. The free-wheeling hippie chick of Palm Springs has smartened herself up for New York and become a little more glam and a little more polished, while still being a bit rough and ready around the edges and retaining her creative rocker vibe.

The refurbishment of the 1904 midtown Hotel Breslin is not exactly to my taste, but it’s hugely clever and hugely comfortable, and, as you would expect, full of thoughtful and quirky touches which add greatly to the pleasure of the stay.

 

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Our room featured tattoo art (and super comfortable beds) a guitar (of course, every hotel room should have a guitar) and a full-sized fridge, a working record-player and water bottles in the shape of gin bottles (I loved those).

 

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Downstairs in the lobby everything was dark and a little seedy, with glamorous filmstar lights, polished vintage woods and antique ceiling lights, while the funky graffiti wallpaper echoed the tattoo art in the bedroom.

 

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Using vintage artifacts and furniture everywhere, while retaining the worn mosaic floors and chipped plaster ceilings made everything seem a little louche and decadent, while being respectful of the building and its history.

 

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And someone had had huge fun with the graphic design (and having the address written so prominently on the keycard was super useful when grabbing a cab late at night).

 

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The food was good, the coffee was great, the bar was jumping and staff couldn’t have been more pleasant, helpful and friendly.

All in all a fun, comfortable and reasonably-priced place to stay in New York.  I will be back.

   

16 March 2012

WTF Friday

 

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New location-based phone app Highlight was apparently the breakout star of SXSW this week.  I personally have no idea what is does because I just can’t get beyond the gruesome, migraine-inducing logo. 

Is causing acute physical pain in your customers a new corporate trend?  It’s not even a good logo – rendered smaller and without the colours - as it probably will have to be for mobile devices etc. -  it’s just not memorable in any way.

But hey, I’m talking about it and so is Business Insider, so maybe they know what they’re doing.  But does this count as good graphic design?

You’re getting this early because I’m off for a weekend in Portland early on Friday morning (not quite sure why as it is POURING with rain here in the Pacific Northwest). Any good shops or restaurants you’ve been to recently that we should try out?

   

01 March 2012

Things I Am Loving: Freshly Picked Desk Accessories

 

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The problem with Pinterest and Instagram is the constant stream of beautiful STUFF that is being constantly paraded under your nose.  How is a person to resist?

A recent Pinstagram-driven purchase was a lovely tan and gold leather mousemat from Freshly Picked, which I first saw on sfgirlbybay’s Instagram stream.

Susan from Freshly Picked makes the most beautiful tiny moccasins for babies (which almost make me wish the Minx was tiny again) and also the most delicious painted leather mousemats and pen holders, originally available in either a subtle gold, white or charcoal.

 

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I love my mat’s stark simplicity (which contrasts well with my floral desk) and the fact that it is high quality painted leather makes it easy to keep clean (er, quite a lot of food ends up on my mouse mat) and means it will only become softer and more supple with age.

Which is a bit of a bummer because I am now craving one of Susan’s new neon mouse mats rather desperately.

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Buy your mousemat here. Please don’t tell me if you get a neon one.

   

23 February 2012

I Heart Blogshop

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It’s taken me ages to put together my Blogshop review, mostly because I thought I ought to use some Photoshop to put it together and Photoshop still takes me an agonisingly long time. But the fact that I can do any Photoshop at all is a testament to the teaching skills of graphic designer and blogger extraordinaire Bri Emery and commercial photographer Angela Kohler, who together are the team who make Blogshop happen.

This workshop is billed as ‘where blogging and Photoshop totally make out’ and if you write any sort of visual blog, you’ll find the skills you learn here invaluable – from putting together photospreads and mood boards, to designing blog headers and social media buttons, to creating animated gifs and retouching photos (which is taught using professional photo portraits of the participants, taken by Angela). It’s the only course out then which focuses on Photoshop from the perspective of bloggers, so while it’s expensive it is so, so worth it.

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It was great to meet up again with some groovy local bloggers - Cassandra from Coco+Kelley who hosted the whole event, Erin from Apartment 34 and the inimitable Uncle Beefy, who made us some utterly delicious churros (of which more hopefully next week).  It was also a chance to make some new friends – Jennifer from Art & Lair, Lisa from With Style & Grace, Alisa from Alisa’s Garden and Shannon from Happiness Is… (who both sat at my table and were incredibly patient with my thousands of questions).

The amazing space (that turquoise wall is to die for) is the Fred Wildlife Refuge, a fabulous photography studio and event space on Seattle’s Capitol Hill; with all the props and accessories being provided by Scout Vintage Rentals. And I’ve already told you about the great goodie bag

The one downside, and this is just a very personal opinion, is that, although the course is billed as being for beginners, it’s really quite challenging if you’re as much of a Photoshop ignoramus as I was.  Bri and Angela and their two interns were patience personified, but I would have got more out of the course if I had previously been familiar with the layout and the buttons and the concept of layers etc.  I feel like I do understand a lot of the basics now, but I’ve looked at the notes for some of the more advanced techniques we were shown, such as masking, and I am still deeply confuzzled.

 

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But we’ll see, you may have noticed me using Photoshop in some previous posts and hopefully you’ll see things getting prettier round here over the next week or two. Just promise me that if you’re a complete Photoshop beginner and are thinking of doing this course that you’ll have a little play to familiarise yourself with the program first. This set of beginners’ tutorials from Mashable looks like it would be a great place to start .

Photoshop experts out there, how did you learn?  Are there any books, courses or online tutorials you can recommend? I really want to get this thing LICKED.

 

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On a final shallow note, Bri is just the most ridiculously photogenic person EVAH, thanks to her translucently pale skin, shock of platinum hair and the cute bright colours she wears.  Here she is with Jennifer from Trophy Cupcakes, who was here to do the course and also injected cupcakes and gift cards into the proceedings. .

Oh, and I was just about to hit ‘publish’ when I found this video of the Seattle workshop on the Blogshop page.  See if you can spot me peering in deep confusion at my screen (the silhouette above will give you a clue) or, if you’re really quick, the shot of me in a long ginger wig (additional clue below).

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BLOGSHOP - Seattle from GMP on Vimeo.

   

21 February 2012

Mary Katrantzou for TOPSHOP

 

Well I tried but all that was left on the website was a scarf and a pair of floral leggings and I think floral leggings are a bit too mutton-dressed-as-lamb even for me. 

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I’ve blogged about my love for Greek designer Mary Katrantzou before, so I was thrilled to learn that she was producing a limited edition capsule collection of nine pieces for TopShop.  And my goodness they’re beautiful and so surprisingly WEARABLE, particularly the figure-skimming silk tunic and blouse. 

I’ve started stalking eBay, but the prices are absolutely cray-cray. Please TopShop make some more!

Did anyone out there get any pieces?  Are they as lovely as they look?

   

17 February 2012

Go Fug Your Room? – DvF’s Manhattan Penthouse

 

I hugely admire Diane von Furstenberg’s fashion style and her inspired use of prints and colours, even though, as I don’t have much of a waist, her iconic wrap dress is just not flattering on me.

So I was fascinated to see online previews of a spread in March’s Architectural Digest featuring her incredible penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

 

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The penthouse, built over DvF’s design studio and flagship store, is absolutely stunning, with apparently incredible views through its transparent glass walls.

 

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But inside? Well, it all strikes me as just a bit too MUCH.

 

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Those chairs are gorgeous, the art is apparently priceless, but it all feels as if it just can’t breathe. The backdrop of the leopard skin rug really doesn’t help matters.  And who sticks art, however exquisite, on the windowsill, thereby obscuring the billion-dollar views?

 

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I love the Andy Warhol portrait, dislike  the table and am meh on the clashing animal prints. Again, I think this would have looked a whole lot better with a more neutral rug.

 

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I sort of admire her for attempting to recreate a pasha’s boudoir in her big glass eyrie -  just because the structure is ultra-modern, you don’t necessarily have to go ultra-modern with the décor. But I just don’t think this works, the attempted grandeur is overwhelmed by the ceiling and it just looks incongruous.

 

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Those screens round the bath are lovely, as is the bathtub itself, but I would be terrified of knocking over all those little tables and stools when I emerged dripping wet from my ablutions.  But maybe DVF is not as clumsy as me.

Although I can see that one would want to create private areas in such an open space, overall all the clutter and clashing patterns and different styles and objets seems to fight with the open space rather than celebrating it.  She’s tried to make it cosy, but I don’t think it’s the sort of space that works with cosy.

But what do I know?  She’s is DvF after all.

What do you think? Please show your workings in the comments.

   

09 February 2012

Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table

 

The best new Tumblr ever, well at least since Unhappy Hipsters, Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table calls out all the design clichés we all know and love from blogs and shelter mags. 

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Clockwise from top left: ‘Fuck your… knit pouf…card catalog…plate cascade… Saarinen tulip table’

I am happy to report that, with the exception of graphic pillows, I have none of the things they mention in my house, though that’s mostly due to lack of budget. I have to confess to having wanted most of these things at one time or another and I’m still determined to knit a pouffe one day.

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Clockwise from top left: ‘Fuck your…chair hodgepodge,,,  Keep Calm and Carry On poster…chalkboard backsplash…bookshelf with the books arranged by colour’

How many do you have in your house?  Are there any that you would still secretly covet?  How many of these trends were started by Domino? What other clichés should be on the list?

I would also respectfully ask the author if writing your blog in faux typewriter font isn’t one of the oldest design clichés in the book.

   

28 January 2012

Hotel Pelirocco – Knitted Hotel Room

 

I nearly put my back out straining to love this hotel room, which has received a bunch of publicity in recent months, but somehow I just CAN’T. 

The hip Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton commissioned fibre artist Kate Jenkins of knitwear and crochet brand Cardigan to create a knitted hotel room, and this is what she came up with.

 

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The ‘Do Knit Disturb’ room features a hand-crocheted bedspread and curtains, knitted cushions, a crocheted lamp and telephone and other whimsical crocheted artifacts appropriate to the seaside location, such as seagull soft toys, a knitted picture of fish and chips above the bed and a crocheted full English breakfast.

 

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I don’t like it because it just seems so expected somehow – all cosy and grannyish and whimsical and about as sexy as a pair of well-worn bedroom slippers.  Heck, the room is even a tiny single room because of course someone who liked knitting would never have a boyfriend.

 

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When you think of some of the cool and innovative knitted homewares other craftspeople are making out there, I can’t help thinking that they really missed an opportunity to do something contemporary, textured and elegant; something modern and abstract or even something downright sumptuous and glamorous. 

What do you think?  Do you like it? Would you stay there?  Is it the best job they could have done with knitting and crochet?  What sort of thing would you have done?

11 January 2012

Happy Keyboard

This gorgeous craft project by MiniFanFan popped up in my Twitter stream last week courtesy of Nicole from Making It Lovely – guaranteed to appeal both to my love of washi tape and my love of pretty keyboards

 

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I think it’s gorgeous and I would love to emulate it, if only I had a cool small white keyboard and and not an ugly black ergonomic monstrosity.  But I dunno, this might even be worth suffering the RSI.

 

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Fortunately I can continue to indulge my love of pretty tape.  This bowl of lovelies comes from Lotta Jansdotter’s new shop. And yes it is an Instagram photo.

 

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08 December 2011

Things I Am Loving – Wooden Christmas Trees

 

We’ll be putting up our Christmas decorations this weekend and I would love to be able to justify buying this utterly fabulous ‘Superstar’ Christmas tree by Modernica, available in either a full-sized floor-standing version or for the table top.

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In the absence of a significant lottery win between now and Christmas I’m going to have to content myself with my much-loved and much cheaper Muji mantelpiece version. For some reason these never seem to be available on the US Muji site, though they do have them online in the UK.

The one on the left is the version we have, I’ll snap a picture of it in situ when we get it out this weekend. The one on the right is the current version, which is maybe a nicer shape, but has far less charming decorations. 

 

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06 October 2011

Orla Kiely for Babies

 

I’m wondering if the Minx would still have such appallingly bad taste if I’d started her off on these?

 

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These great new baby gifts are available here.  I WISH Orla Kiely would open a US online store. 

23 September 2011

Missoni for Target

 

So have you got over the much-hyped, much anticipated PR-disaster, retail extravaganza which was Missoni for Target? If you ended up disappointed you may want to stop reading this post now.

 

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Given the exuberant pattern, colours and Italianness of the Missoni aesthetic, you would be right in thinking that the collection was right up my alley, and I made a resolution to get up early on the 13th and get in line.  I even went through the lookbook carefully to plan my shop, with the fabulous espresso cups at the top of my list.

Of course I forgot all about it (I’d be such a crap fashionista) and only remembered when I got on Twitter at 8.30 am.  I decided to make an unprecedented effort, MISSED BREAKFAST, and chased up the freeway to my nearest Target.  When I arrived at 8.45 am the whole place was picked clean. No womenswear, no homewares, no menswear, no. espresso. cups. Just long lines at checkout of women with their carts piled high with thousands of dollars of Missoni stuff.  I picked up a couple of skirts and sweaters for the Minx, two pairs of socks for me, nearly had a fight with the woman in the check out line who tried to pinch my meagre pickings and returned home feeling that being a shopaholic really is much too much like hard work.

I halfheartedly opened the website and was of course greeted by the irritatingly cute dog.  So I thought no more about it and got on with grumbling about Target on Facebook and Twitter.  And then my habit of not closing a browser window paid off, when the Target website flickered tantalisingly to life around 11 am.  And there was still lots of stuff left because no one else could access it either.  Not much womenswear, not much dinnerware, no. espresso. cups, but bedding and towels, and kidwear and poufs.

So I may have got a little carried away. 

 

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It’s all surprisingly well made and extremely good value for money.  I hope Target can find a way to restock in a month or so, as there are still a few bits and bobs I wanted (women’s ballet flats, tumblers and loopy pillow).  Harriet likes it too.

Did you wait in line that morning? Did you get what you wanted? Do you think this has been bad PR for Target? I have to confess to doing what I never do, and resorting to Ebay for the espresso cups which are apparently on their way.

07 September 2011

Decorate!

 

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Holly Becker of Decor8 fame has been an online friend for the longest time. I started blogging a little after she did and she was one of the very first people to comment on this blog nearly six years ago. 

I’ve done her Blogging Your Way course and cheered her on from the sidelines as she has gone on to her incredible and very much deserved success.

Holly is one of those people who is always generous with her time, her encouragement and, latterly, with the enormous reach and power of her blog.  She’s one of those people who always seems to have time for a friendly word or blog comment, however phenomenally busy she is and has created a huge network of friends, followers and devoted admirers across the globe.  And I’m not sure whether she ever sleeps or manages to have any leisure time as her output and the number of projects she’s involved in has always been prodigious.

I find her inspirational on so many levels and have always been sad that she managed to skip to Europe not long after I arrived in the US.  We’ve never been on the same side of the Atlantic for very long.

When plans for her book tour were finalised, she invited me to come down and see her in San Francisco. And at first it seemed like a crazy idea to fly down just for a book-signing and a dinner.  But a little voice in my head kept saying ‘why not’ and then Virgin America was offering great deals on flights from Seattle and before I knew it I’d booked flights and a hotel and was lined up for my first night away from the family in ages.

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Holly and yours truly

And, all you mothers out there, I seriously don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. I had totally forgotten the joys of plane travel without a fidgety six-year old; of mooching aimlessly round shops without being in a terrible rush or having to march a six year old to the toilet; of eating a most amazing lunch (thanks Boulette’s Larder) without having to worry whether the Minx had brought her DS or a book.  For 36 hours I was single again, and goodness it was BLISS.

Holly’s book signing was at Anthropologie (beautifully decorated with these garlands and bunting from Paper Source. Note to self, must buy for the Minx) and she was accompanied by Leslie Shewring from A Creative Mint, who had also taught on the Blogging Your Way course.  I also got to meet the very charming Victoria, of sfgirlbybay fame; the delightfully effervescent Alix (who had been a very fun team mate on the Blogging Your Way course) and Dottie from Modern Kiddo; the lovely Maja Brugos from Tikoli and Crystal Gentilello of Rue Magazine among other luminaries of the San Francisco design and blogging world.

 

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Leslie Shewring and Alix from Modern Kiddo with Holly

All in all I had a fabulous couple of days and came away tremendously inspired to work more on this blog and throw myself more fully into the design world.  It’s time for this Mamma to have some ‘me’ time. 

Oh and the book?  Well, it’s fabulous of course.  Unlike many decorating books which are all about recreating the author’s own style, Decorate is all about uncovering and developing your own personal style and vision.  It is chock full of gorgeous pictures, inspirational quotes and tons and tons of innovative, accessible and eminently do-able ideas for every room in the house.  The book is sitting on my nightstand and is perfect way to unwind with a little bit of pretty at the end of a long day. And my house will definitely benefit in the long term. 

As for Holly herself, well, she is as warm, charming and thoroughly lovely as her online persona. But then you knew that already.  And also very tall.

And now I really must stop gushing and have a lie down. All this being nice does not come naturally at all.

18 August 2011

Fancy Hotel of the Week – Melenos Lindos

 

Ha! You thought you’d got away with no more Greek holiday snaps. Unfortunately it remains my intention to bore you all into submission. After all, what else is a blog good for?

I mentioned that we liked to stay in little unassuming hotels while in Greece, but we decided to break that rule for the first few days by booking into the Melenos Lindos, high in the acropolis of the ancient town of Lindos in Rhodes. This hotel gets so many fabulous mentions, that it seemed churlish not to try it out.

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Images from hotel website

Unfortunately they contacted us a few days before we left and said that there had been a double booking and they had no space for us.  They pulled out all the stops to secure alternative accommodation (which, thanks to its enormous swimming pool and spacious grounds was actually much more suitable for the Minx) and offered us a free dinner on their beautiful outdoor dining terrace.

Architect Anastasia Papaioanou and Australian artist-designer Donald Green worked together to recreate a traditional  multi-levelled, multi-terraced Lindian mansion, decorated in a timeless way using traditional local crafts and antiques.

Here are some of my photos from our dinner, supplemented by the couple above from the hotel’s website, as I didn’t have my wide-angled lens with me.

Enjoy the spectacularly pretty.

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04 May 2011

Fancy Hotel of the Week - L’Auberge Del Mar

 

We wanted to go to Southern California this year to a) escape the miserable Seattle ‘spring’ (I use this term loosely) b) visit my elderly aunt in Dana Point, an hour or so’s drive south of LA and c) take the Minx to Disneyland.

I was told by friends on Twitter and Facebook that Del Mar was fun and it was suggested that we try the newly-refurbished L’Auberge Del Mar. When we discovered that my very favourite discounted fancy hotels travel site www.luxurylink.com was offering a deal, our fate was sealed.

And we had the most wonderful time.

L’Auberge Del Mar is a historic hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean and right on Del Mar’s attractive main street.

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The hotel was completely refurbished in 2008 by interior designer Barclay Butera who has done a great job bringing a historic building bang up to date.

We were lucky enough to have a room overlooking the main courtyard of the hotel, which was been designed as a series of little ‘rooms’, cabanas, terraces and courtyards centered around the small but luxurious pool and jacuzzi area. There’s the kicking Bleu Bar, a scenic terrace for breakfast and informal suppers, cosy hidden cabanas and even space for weddings, all with an ocean view.

 

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The themes of the décor are soft and muted sage-y greens, brown and white stripes and the most breathtakingly lush white planting – white roses everywhere you turn, undulating seas of fragrant jasmine, and hedges of rosemary and box.  

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To be perfectly honest we hardly left the hotel all week.  The place comes into its own at night, when the surfers come in from the beach and le tout Del Mar comes out to party. We dined one evening in the hotel’s top notch restaurant Kitchen 1540, where the cured meats, golden beet salad and frozen key lime pie will live on in my memory. We drank superlative cocktails at the Bleu Bar every night. The hotel is beautifully lit with fires and burners everywhere to take the chill off the evening air as the sun sets over the ocean.

The internal décor is luxurious too – all sage greens, soft browns, seashells and comfy seating.  I loved the ridiculously rococo shell-encrusted side tables, the beautiful mother-of-pearl smothered lamps, the green toile cushions and the enormous shell planters full of orchids.

There were little touches of wit and humour everywhere – the wait staff had foodie quotations printed on their tee-shirts and Sofie, Kristy the Marketing Coordinator’s pretty little dog, had a sign at the front desk telling us when she was ‘working’ and available for cuddles. 

 

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Finally, and most importantly for us, L’Auberge trod that extremely fine line between being super relaxed and kid-friendly (with unbelievably kind staff and a great kids’ menu) and sophisticated and happening enough for grown-ups – thanks to a fabulous bar, gorgeous spa and secluded lap pool. The Minx adored it and the Husband and I are longing to return.

Truly I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

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05 April 2011

Things I Am Loving – Alessi Tigrito Cat Bowl

 

I promise that I’ve completely stopped buying expensive cat accessories, though I’ve been horribly tempted by the Tigrito Cat Bowl by Alessi, mostly because, with its grey fur and white paws,  it looks so much like Flora.

 

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It does however cost $90. so let’s just admire it from afar, shall we? (Though it appears to be on sale via Amazon in the UK).

Instead, here is a picture of the real thing, looking rather nonplussed by the fake Tootsie Roll cat poop we made to play an April Fool trick on the Minx. It worked like a dream, particularly when the Husband ‘cleaned it up’ and started licking it. Never have you seen such a grossed out six year old.

 

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Truly if you ever need to make fake poop, Tootsie Rolls are your friends (sorry, I don’t think there’s an equivalent in the UK). Just a few seconds in the microwave and a bit of sculpting required.

   

04 April 2011

KK Outlet Wedding Plates

 

There’s twenty four days to go until the Royal Wedding, so I’m continuing our round up of rather brilliant souvenirs. In fact you’ve all been sending through such fabulous links I’ll put together a proper round up post in the next day or two.

In the meantime, these plates are extremely special and deserve a post of their own. London-based communications and creative agency/gallery KK Outlet commissioned up and coming designers to create a collection of unofficial commemorative china for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  They’re available online here and they’ll ship all over the world.

 

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30 March 2011

Soraam Cushions, Mats and Cupcakes

 

Last week I did my first ever paid photography assignment.  Soojin, the graphic designer behind Etsy shop Soraam saw my photos with Uncle Beefy’s cupcakes and asked me to do a little product shoot with her.

 

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Here are some of the results.  Her pre-washed linen placemats and cushion covers - hand-printed with her own beautiful designs - really are stunning. I particularly love the placemats, which are designed to look equally good with or without plates.

The cupcakes are again courtesy of Uncle Beefy, as I’d fortuitously frozen some of the previous batch (cupcakes freeze really well by the way).

‘Soraam’ means ‘take a look with a smile on your face’ in Korean. You really can’t help yourself can you?

 

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22 March 2011

Fancy Hotel of the Week–MyHotel Brighton

 

Last week I was idly flicking through pictures of the MyHotel in Brighton, the English seaside town known affectionately as ‘London-by-the-sea’.

Designed by New Yorker Karim Rashid and opened in 2008, the design brief was apparently to create a space ‘where Freddie Mercury might meet the Maharishi’. 

I really wanted to hate it after reading that, but unfortunately I just can’t.  From the photos at least it’s a shiny, sexy, glamorous, somewhat pretentious shag palace, perfect for all the London media types that Brighton attracts and the sort of place that I adore staying in. 

I’m sorry, just shoot me now.

 

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I was very much enjoying my wander through Rashid’s trademark colours, curves and kitsch (and fishtanks) until I came across this picture.

 

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Isn’t this the scariest, most nightmare-inducing hotel room you’ve ever seen? Imagine waking up and seeing that across the way. They’ll be decorating rooms with clowns next.

   

11 March 2011

Owls - Yay or Nay?

 

As you may remember I’m rather inexplicably – given that in real life I’m a bit phobic about birds -  into owls round these parts.

Commenter eM, on the other hand, said in a post below that a surfeit of owls is one of the reasons she’s stopped reading design blogs.

 

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Twitwooshkas – fabulous papier mache nesting owls from Niki Jones in the UK. They’re handpainted in Northern India and cost £100. I’m sorry but I still like these.

 

What say you? Has the owl motif reached overload? Are other birds acceptable?  Do I have to give up my dream of ‘Aviary’ wallpaper? Are we all just hipsters with scarcely an original thought?

 

All profound thoughts for a Friday. I’m still rather shaken by news from Japan. Sobering to think how fragile life is around the Pacific Rim. Count your blessings today. Every. Single. One.

10 March 2011

Things I Am Loving – pEIpod Pet Bed

 

After six weeks the kittens are starting to calm down a bit - in fact they’re not really kittens any more but rather small cats. Which is just as well, because they were turning me greyer than the Minx ever did.

 

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By the same token I have calmed down in the purchase of expensive cat accessories, though I did want to share one last extravagance with you.

The pEipod (‘ei’ means ‘egg’ in German) is an egg-shaped plastic pod available in two sizes,  three colours – pink, mint green or ivory -  with a cotton padded cushion in your choice of either pink or yellow. So you should be able to find a combination which suits your decor.

The bed is suitable for small dogs, cats or even bunnies.

 

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Ours has become one of the most commented upon bits of furniture in our house and I’m loving how it looks in our living room.

 

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The best news of all, given how much it cost,  is that the cats actually use it all the time – one or the other can generally be found sleeping there.  Might even have to get two.

 

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The pEIpod is available from here for $129.

09 March 2011

Go Fug Your Showhouse – Elle Decor

 

Elle Decor recently created its first showhouse in a San Francisco suburb – working with ten different Bay Area interior designers to ‘turn a classic 1920s Mediterranean-style home into a showcase for contemporary style’.

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That’s some beautiful house isn’t it? Unfortunately these designers seemingly run the gamut of decorating styles from boringly humdrum, via fussy and old fashioned through to suicidally depressing, and managed to transform the house into something not only monstrously ugly, but, to my eye at least, not remotely representative of San Francisco style.

I’m really interested to here what Bay Area peeps in particular think of this. 

 

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The living room was created by Gary Spain, and all the heavy, gloomy clutter, weird artifacts and strange cross-cultural references makes it look like a junk room at the British Museum.  And those dark wing-backed chairs would make even the Dowager Duchess of Downton uncomfortable.  In fact the whole thing looks about as relaxing as a dentist’s waiting room. Like the black fireplace though.

 

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The TV watching area of Erin Martin’s media room below at least has some wow factor – I like the screen and that curved chair -  but all the darkness is making me want to switch on my lightbox.  Does all the black really say San Francisco to you?

 

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The other end of the room with its huge spider (is that what it’s supposed to be?) light fitting  and hideously uncomfortable seating area and mirrored fireplace is, however, the stuff of nightmares.

 

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If the unremitting terror and gloom is getting too much then you can always escape to Will Wick’s library. Except that is probably the most scarily gloomy and depressing room of all. AND it has a zebra-stripe rug. Seriously didn’t that decorating ship sail a very long time ago?  But no matter, it also features a helpful saw thingy in an alcove, making it super easy to kill yourself, or at the very least add authenticity to games of Cluedo.

 

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Steven Volpe’s dining room is another unremittingly cheerful place – you can just hear the stylist yelling for ‘oranges’, ‘maple leaves’ ‘ANYTHING’  to relieve the gloom.  But at least you know that extra light bulbs would make a thoughtful hostess gift.

 

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The house’s vampires should avoid the breakfast nook decorated by Palmer Weiss, as here at least the sun is visible and the chairs are lovely.  But the birdcage light, ferns on columns and busy curtains make this look contemporary to 1911 rather than this century.  Or is Downton Abbey spearheading an Edwardian revival?

 

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And I’m so relieved to see a little bit of colour in this home office designed by Kendall Wilkinson, that I’ll forgive it its totally impractical and uncomfortable seating.

 

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I suppose Jay Jeffers master bedroom is not too bad in a personality-free luxury hotel sort of way.  I do like the artwork above the bed and the interesting bedside lamps. Note that the turquoise bench at the foot of the bed provides a little pop of colour, but mysteriously disappears in the image below.

 

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While the Dowager Duchess would be right at home in this guest bedroom by Suzanne Tucker. Contemporary style, really? Really?

 

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The decorating cliches are back in force in this room for a teenage girl, with more zebras, and a brightly coloured Moroccan pouf. And I’m sorry, but covering up a stunning De Gournay wallpaper with framed pictures of RPatz has to rank as one of the worst possible decorating crimes against humanity.

 

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So what say you?  Does this house showcase the best contemporary design in San Francisco and the US? Or is it just fugly? 

 

 

Pictures from Elle Decor, Casa Sugar and Merida

08 March 2011

Beefcakes & Doilies

 

Uncle Beefy, as well as being one of the best bloggers on the Interwebulator, also makes the most incredible  cupcakes I’ve ever tasted anywhere. 

 

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His cakes are perfection in a mouthful – not remotely dry and with a satisfying crumb that is neither too stodgy nor disappointingly ethereal.  Each is topped with the precisely the right amount of not-too-sweet frosting, exploding with fresh authentic flavours.  I truly have never had a better cupcake, my own sadly included.

 

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And they are oh so pretty. On Sunday he gave me one box of lemon cupcakes with fresh strawberry frosting and another box of chocolate chip cakes with a creamy caramel frosting, which was brushed with golden lustre dust, and the same champagne colour as extremely expensive satin underwear.

 

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Unless we can persuade Monsieur LeBoeuf  to open a worldwide mail order business, you may never get to taste these beauties, but I though you might at least want to look and drool.

The beautiful linen tablemat is from Soraam on Etsy.  I met its creator Soojin Yum at a recent Seattle foodie event. Her gorgeous linens are all handprinted using water-based inks on natural materials and come in lots of beautiful designs. Well worth checking out.

   

04 March 2011

The Minx’s Bedroom

 

Pssst!  Want to peak inside the Minx’s newly painted bedroom?

 

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In the end we decided to go for a Maxtrix loft bed with girly playhouse panels and a slide.  It’s not as cool and funky as those other loftbeds, but it was within our budget and has potential to be raised higher with a desk underneath when the Minx is older.  The full interchangeable Maxtrix system - comprising beds, slides, ladders, playhouse and castle panels, desks, shelving, trucklebeds and underbed storage is available here. We ordered online and were delighted with their quick delivery and excellent customer service. The bed arrived in eleven separate boxes, so you need to have someone who’s handy with a screwdriver in the house, but is sturdy and well made for flat-pack furniture. Most importantly the Minx and her friends absolutely adore it.

 

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The colour scheme for the rest of the accessories is a bit more pastel and girly than I would necessarily like, but it was somewhat dictated by the pastel bed curtains. I was ecstatic with how well her old accessories fitted into the scheme.

The cool lights above the bed are from Ikea, the sheer curtains with pink ribbon details are from the Land of Nod, the quilt and pillow is from Pottery Barn, the green circular rug and the daisy rugs were, I think from Target, but I can’t find them online, and the family portrait was commissioned from Auntie Cookie.  The knotty pine chest of drawers was bought at a junk shop in the UK years ago though we added glass knobs from Chloe Alberry on Portobello Road. The embroidered sampler above was picked up on Ebay.

 

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The chandelier was another Ebay find. You can’t see very well, but it has little green and pink glass daisies on it and it makes a super cool shapes on the ceiling. The pink daisy flowers make everything glow pinkly when lit.

 

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The pink rocking chair by NurseryWorks came from Tottini in Seattle, though I don’t particularly recommend it as it has a very violent and potentially dangerous rock.  The daisy cushion came from some sidewalk sale and the pistachio green beaded cushion featuring a fluffy Westie with a pink diamante’ necklace is from mirrormirror. The fairy wings are from the Minx’s extensive collection.

 

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The Minx is a voracious reader, so underneath the bed we put the mattress from her old bed, her Land of Nod bookshelf, various blankets and cushions and another Ikea Smila Blomma light, this time in white.

I love this because it hides the not very aesthetically pleasing bookshelf (we’re lucky enough to have a separate playroom for her, so toy storage in the bedroom is not an issue). 

The Minx just told me that she loves it because she gets to read in peace without having to listen to me yelling.  The cats also love it, but they haven’t told us why.

 

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It also glows very excitingly in the dark.

 

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Before pictures are here.  

01 March 2011

Things I Am Loving - Aviary Wallpaper

 

Phew! I think I’ve just about got the Oscars out of my system.  I was on the brink of comparing Nicole Kidman to an armadillo, but stopped myself just in time.

In other news, Liberty London Girl just tweeted about the fabulous wallpaper in the bathrooms at the Soho Grand Hotel in NYC.

 

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It’s called Aviary by F Schumacher, and the pattern was designed by Saul Steinberg, who was a cartoonist for The New Yorker in the 1950s.

Here is is in situ at the Soho Grand.   I may have to stay here next time I’m in NYC, just so I can sit in the bathroom.

 

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This wallpaper needs to be in my life somehow as a matter of urgency.  Time to work on the downstairs bathroom? It’s also available at Decorator’s Best.

{Found via Liberty London Girl’s Tumblr.  Additional pictures via Remodelista and Tea For Joy}

   

28 February 2011

Separated At Birth – Annette Bening Oscars 2011

 

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Annette Bening                                                                                                     A Skeleton

 

She was my pick for Best Actress (though a lot because I can’t BEAR Natalie Portman) and she generally makes good red carpet choices, but there was something rather too anatomical about this rhinestone-encrusted dress. Though a 50 year old who can wear something that draws all eyes straight to her midsection is a brave woman indeed.

   

25 February 2011

Funky Loft Beds

 

For the past few months we’ve been in the market for a cool loft bed for the Minx.  The problem was a familiar one – all the beautifully designed loftbeds that I actually LIKED were phenomenally expensive, while the ones we could afford were all cheaply made, old fashioned, plain ugly or only available in Europe.  Why does great design have to be so flipping spendy and why is all the funky stuff in the US imported from Europe in the first place? Where are the American designers doing cool contemporary design for kids?

Here are some of the beds we loved and had to reject because of cost.  Next week I’ll post pictures of the bed we finally chose.

This is the Alex Loft Bed system by DucDuc. It’s available in a range of cool colours and is American designed and made, but you’ll have to fork out $2,850 for just the top bed and armoire before adding a the desk or a bottom bed etc.

 

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All you get for $2,850

 

The felt-covered  German-made Perludi ‘Amber in the Sky’ is also rather splendid, and available here for a cool $2599 (down from $3,450).

 

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The Azor loft bed below is also imported from Europe but comes in at a slightly more reasonable at $2150, including, I think, the desk.

 

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My absolute fave was this picture I found on OhDeeDoh. The link is now broken, it looks like the bed was also super expensive, and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else,  but I love the diagonal footprint, so am adding it here to sigh about what might have been.

 

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Did I say my most favourite? Actually that accolade probably needs to go to these Tiramolla loft bedrooms from Tumidei of Italy which I believe are available through Roche Bobois. I didn’t even bother to enquire as to how much they cost (I’m sure the answer would be ‘your first born child’ which would rather defeat the object) but they sure are molto bello.

 

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Images from the Minx’s new bedroom coming early next week. I know you can’t wait.

   

23 February 2011

Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival

 

So the week before last I headed up to Vancouver BC with three friends – Viv from Seattle Bon Vivant, Tracy from AlDente and Mari  -  to attend the first ever Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival.

 

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This was, of course, just an excuse, for four greedy women to spend 36 hours eating their way round Vancouver, ably abetted by Stephane Mouttet, the charming and hugely knowledgeable concierge at the Shangri La hotel.

Having had such an enjoyable time when we stayed there last, I recommended the Shangri La to the others and it was such a relief when our stay was even better than I had remembered.  If there are friendlier, more helpful, more informative hotel staff anywhere in the world, I’d love to meet them.

Our first stop on the Hot Chocolate Tour was Thomas Haas in Kitsilano. Haas has world-level patissier credentials, most recently as Executive Pastry Chef at the Four Seasons in Vancouver and the sumptuous chocolates and exquisite pastries in his shop were metaphorically, and probably literally, to die for.

Their hot chocolate was the best we tasted on the tour and the almond croissant was the best I’ve ever had anywhere in the world – the perfect combination of crisp savoury outer shell, perfectly toasted almonds and dense squidgy, not too sweet almond filling.  The macarons I brought back for the Minx (who has expensive tastes) were as good as Laduree.

 

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Later that afternoon we visited Mink Chocolates and indulged in yet more hot chocolate and a decadent individual chocolate fondue. The speciality here is individual bars of premium quality iPhone-sized ganache-filled chocolate with super cool names, such as Ruby & Tawny Are Friends, Open In Case Of Emergency, Pas De Deux or Mermaid’s Choice and funky colourful packaging.  Their striking beauty, and the individual bold statement chocolates in the shapes of hearts and lips, reflect owner Marc Lieberman’s fine arts background – he does all the graphic design himself, as well as develop the chocolates.  I bought a stack of chocolate bars for the Husband’s Valentines’ present and can confirm that they are  pretty darn wonderful.

For supper Stephane at the hotel recommended ReFuel, again in Kitsilano, which specialises in fresh local ingredients and did fabulous things with charcuterie, marrow bones, BC spot prawns, chalkboard art and funky light fittings at a very reasonable price.

 

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Another highlight of the trip – though my photos unfortunately didn’t turn out too well -  was our trip to Bella Gelateria. We had every intention of trying the hot chocolate but after James the owner talked to us at length about the wonders of his pistachio gelato, made from specially-ground paste, using pistachios from the slopes of Mount Etna, we changed our minds. I consider myself to be something of a pistachio gelato connoisseur – it’s been my flavour of choice since I was a kid and I’ve eaten it all over Italy - and this really was incredible.

Finally here are a few more photos of the splendours of the ShangriLa, featuring their signature chandeliers, their smiley staff, an immense afternoon tea (with OMG! REAL clotted cream) and a doozy of a breakfast, including my first ever taste of congee, which I adored.

 

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And a couple of pics of the incomparable Stephane at work, who did so much to make our trip one of the most fun and memorable I’ve taken in ages.  Merci beaucoup!

 

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We had a lot of fun posting pictures and tweeting and checking in from all Vancouver on Facebook and Twitter and will definitely be back again next year to check out all the chocolate stops we didn’t make it to this time round.

If you’re on Twitter you may want to follow @thaaschocolates @ShangriLaBC @bellagelateria @CityFood_mag @refuel_bar @minkchocolates or my lovely friends and travel companions Viv @bonnevivante, Tracy @choicemorsel and M @bitterbiscuit.

And of course I can be found at @mirrormirrorxx or on www.facebook.com/mirrormirroronline

10 February 2011

Cute Pet Tags - Blanket ID

 

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Unlike fancy pants litter boxes, here is a cat accessory we can all get behind.

Cate is a long time commenter on this blog and runs a Blanket ID which provides super smart  ID tags for dogs and cats. 

Her idea is as nifty as it is simple. Each tag comes with a unique code number which you use to register your pets details online. If anyone finds your pet, they simply go to www.blanketid.com, put in the code number and lo and behold, they can find all your pet’s contact details and any other useful information such as special diet or allergies and vet contact details. 

 

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It’s better than microchipping (though our cats came chipped from the shelter) as the tags can easily be read by members of the public, and the online data storage allows you to store a lot more information than would fit on a normal collar tag.   It’s also easier to keep information such as phone numbers and email addresses up to date rather than having to have collar tags re-engraved.

As final bonus, if your pet does go missing, the online service means you can quickly print off ‘Lost’ posters, and BlanketID automatically contacts vets and shelters in your area. Your first year’s registration on the site is included in the price of your tag. Thereafter BlanketID charges a small annual subscription that includes a donation to their own pet charity.

Aside from all this goodness, the tags are also beautifully designed, and come in a bunch of colours and styles.

The Minx of course chose the girliest ones she could find for Flora and Harriet, which proved to be a bit of a mistake as we have recently found out that Flora is in fact Prince Florian, though we will still be calling him Flora for short (yep, you’re probably as confused as I am, and he is, by this).

Here’s Harriet modelling her tag.

 

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I think Flora, on the other hand, may be rather embarrassed by his, as this was the only unblurry picture I was able to get.

 

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Full Disclosure : Cate sent me a couple of tags to try for free. Don’t tell her but she didn’t need to do that as I think it’s a fabulous idea and would have bought some anyway. Thanks Cate!

   

07 February 2011

Goldilocks and the Sky Blue Ceiling

 

Welll, that was trickier than I thought it would be.

Last Friday the walls of the Minx’s room were painted in Benjamin Moore’s White Vanilla and from the picture rail upwards in BM’s Morning Sky Blue. However, when it was done, the ceiling read much lighter than the tops of the walls and looked more like a greyish white than a true blue. 

So then we painted just the ceiling and not walls in the next darkest colour- Benjamin Moore’s Tear Drop Blue. And this time the ceiling was very obviously a darker blue than the tops of the walls.

So finally we mixed Morning Sky Blue and Tear Drop Blue in about equal percentages and again painted just the ceiling. And this time it was just right. 

 

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It’s interesting how the angle of the light changes everything. 

Here’s a reminder of what the room looked like before. That purple (chosen by the previous owners) could look very dark and forbidding on a gloomy Seattle day, such as we have very occasionally in the winter months (hahahahahahahahaha).

 

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There’ll be more updates from the Minx’s room as we piece it all back together and assemble her super duper big girl loft bed.

02 February 2011

Things I Am Loving – ModKat Litterbox

 

So I’m a bit embarrassed about this one.

I haven’t had pets since Bubbles the goldfish committed spectacular suicide by throwing himself out of his bowl when I was a kid, so I’ve launched myself into the world of pet accoutrements with some trepidation.

 

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When you acquire cats, the very next thing you need to buy is a litter box, and if you’ve been in the market for litterboxes recently, you’ll know that, although they come in all shapes and sizes, they have one thing in common.  They’re all remarkably, hideously ugly.

With one exception that I’ve been able to find.

 

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The Modkat litter box is the iPhone of litterboxes – a cool piece of thoughtful modern design, and available in an array of contemporary colours to match your decor or your cat.

The cat climbs inside the box to do its business and then has to walk on the litter catching tray on top to get out, so excess litter is caught and it reduces tracking and mess to a minimum.  It comes with a sturdy reusable tarpaulin liner and an integral scoop that clips to the side.

 

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I’m a firm believer in making sure that things that will be on display in the house are as nice to look at as possible (especially for something like this which we will hopefully have for the next fifteen-twenty years), so of course I bought one.  Even though it costs $180.  Yep, $180 just to buy a litterbox that is well-designed and doesn’t look like sh*t as well as smell like it. 

Fortunately we love it. It’s big and sturdy, looks great, is super easy to clean and does a great job of reducing litter mess to an absolute minimum. Which is a good job as I think we’re going to have to get two – Harriet refuses to do her business anywhere near where Flora has been.

 

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But why does good design have to be so freaking expensive?  Am I crazy or would you buy this litter box too? 

If you’re tempted, you can buy the litterboxes at Modkat.com or with free shipping at Nest Living.

 

 

 

   

20 January 2011

Life Calendars - BrigadaCreativa

 

I’m trying to work out whether these ingenious poster-sized Life Calendars from BrigadaCreativa are a fabulous or downright scary idea.

 

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You can start on any day of the year, and every day you fill in the appropriate emoticons until you end up with detailed pictorial record of your year, before your eyes.  In black and yellow.

 

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Even more terrifying is the The Love Calendar, where you’re supposed to fill in portions of the hearts according how much conversation, caresses, time together and sex you've had with your partner that day.

 

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I can see this becoming exhibit one in divorce cases the world over.

 

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If you’re brave enough to get one of these, (and I’m actually tempted to get the emoticon one, as it would certainly be extremely revealing), they’re available from Brigada Creativa’s Etsy shop. Go on, I dare you!

   

09 December 2010

Facebook Page Giveaway – Atelier LZC Mirror

 

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I have FINALLY managed to get my act together and set up a ‘Page’ for ‘mirrormirror’ on Facebook. This is a page for fans of both the blog and the shop and I’ll be using the space to post up news of new product arrivals, our progress in opening the shop in the US and exclusive offers and giveaways just for Facebook fans.  Come and ‘like’ us here.

 

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First up we will be giving away your choice of an Atelier LZC Screen Printed Mirror worth £36 (approx $57) when we get 150 people ‘liking’ us on Facebook. Here’s the link to the mirrormirror Facebook page. Please hit the ‘Like’ button and also share the link with those friends you think may be interested.  When we hit 150 ‘likes’ we’ll do a random giveaway to all Facebook fans.

 

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If you want to buy the mirrors instead they’re available in the UK shop. We’re offering free delivery on all mirrormirror orders – international or otherwise - to Facebook fans too. Simply choose the ‘Free Delivery’ option when it comes to check out and mention ‘Facebook’ in the the ‘How did you hear about us’ section of the order form. We will double check you against the list of Facebook ‘likers’ though, so do make sure you’ve signed up.  Here’s that link again.

I’ve been terribly neglectful of the shop this year, but I’m now back to it with a vengeance. Expect lots of new products in the New Year.

I’ve also finally been cleared to work in the US which means I will also be opening the shop in the US, probably some time in the summer AND I’ve been accepted to do a course in Advanced Intereactive Marketing at the University of Washington over the first six months of the year, so hoping to get a ton of new ideas. Very excited for what 2011 will bring.

Oh and one of the items on my 101 Things list is to ‘set up a Facebook fan page and get over 1000 fans’ so you’ll be helping me out with this as well. There’s still rather a long way to go on that one!

   

02 December 2010

Things I Am Loving – Orla Kiely Reusable Shopper for Tesco

 

So US peeps, you may not want to read any further.

162762_169875396379221_108965912470170_407386_5717365_nSee this beautiful reusable shopping bag by Orla Kiely? Well, it’s apparently a Limited Edition reusable shopper available only through Tesco’s (one of the big British supermarkets) in the UK. The price is £4 with a portion of the proceeds going to some of Orla’s favourite charities.

Has anyone in the UK seen one yet to report back?  I have a horrible feeling that a lot of these will be going straight to Ebay.

Speaking of Orla, we had the last of our stuff in the UK shipped over last month (yes, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that we’re here in the US for the foreseeable future) and I used the opportunity to ship over some of the gorgeous Orla Kiely bedding they have at Heal’s.

 

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Here’s a crappy picture of it on our bed this morning (yes, it does look better ironed) and here is a picture of the beautiful boxes the duvet cover and pillow cases came packaged in, which are almost nicer than the bedding itself.

20 November 2010

Things I Am Loving – Jonathan Adler Pop Menagerie Christmas Ornaments

 

It would be so easy to go crazy over Christmas decorations, but every year I try and limit myself to one very special ornament for the tree.

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This year I have fallen in love with Jonathan Adler’s Pop Menagerie Christmas ornaments, even though I must have missed the bit in the Christmas story which mentioned the Christmas lion, the Christmas elephant and the Christmas peacock.

 

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The good news about these ornaments being not remotely Christmassy is that they can sit on my mantelpiece for the whole of the year. The even better news is that they come in the most gorgeous coordinating patterned boxes, which are almost more desirable than the creatures themselves for a packaging sucker like me.

Honestly, they saw me coming a mile off.

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Pop Menagerie Ornaments $28 each from www.jonathanadler.com

15 November 2010

Knitted Wreath, Candle Holders and Vases

 

Or the art of wrapping knitting around things.

A regular and lovely commenter round these parts, Lou, from Happy Serendipity, has just taken up knitting (you may have seen us discussing knitting in the comments) and decided to make a winter door wreath she had seen. Bear in mind that this is just her second or third EVER knitting project.

If it had been been me I would have been getting into a pickle trying to knit in the round, increasing and decreasing etc. etc but Lou just knitted this

 

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pinned it like this

 

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and hey presto! created this

 

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so much quicker, easier and cleverer all round, and just goes to show that you don’t need to be an expert at all to create beautiful things.

With the remaining yarn she made this candle holder, which I think I love even more than the wreath – its chunky, simplicity seems very cool and modern somehow. 

 

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Check out Lou’s tutorial here for more details.

It seems also that Ferm Living is getting in on the act, recently introducing a range of chic knitted vase covers.

 

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They’re available from Ferm Living here and also from Velocity Art and Design in the US

 When I get out from under the sock monkey, I’m thinking of designing a few knitted home accessories, maybe for sale in the shop. Very inspired by all these ideas.

04 November 2010

Go Fug Your Room? – Paola Navone

 

Oh we haven’t done one of these for ages, have we? So let’s get our bitchpants critical thinking caps on and get to work.

 

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My first name, courtesy of my Italian mother, has always been a source of great consternation to me – as so few people in either the UK or America have any clue how to pronounce or spell it (for the record, say ‘Pow-la’ in your best Italian accent and you’ll come pretty close) and I’ve had some pretty creative versions of both over the years.

Because my name is so unusual in English-speaking countries (Paolas are ten a penny in Italy) I’ve always had a soft spot for famous Paolas such as er, Queen Paola of Belgium and Italian product designer Paola Navone.  In the latter case, it’s not just because of her illustrious name, but also because she designs some super cool stuff.

So I was very excited when September’s Livingetc featured her Milanese apartment – an old Parmesan cheese warehouse that was apparently in miserable condition until Navone recently rescued it.

 

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The problem is that I’m not exactly thrilled by the interior design. The overlapping blues and greys, are beautiful in and of themselves, but there’s just too darn much blue everywhere and, coupled with all the hard tiling on floor and ceiling, it just looks so cold and uncomfortable, like living inside an icecube. 

That might be appropriate in Morocco, or Greece, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Milan, and in winter it is often as dank, cold and foggy as Sarah Palin’s brain.  The ceramic Moroccan stools;  smooth, shiny Moroccan pouffes and Asian ceramic busts only add to the chill. Am I the only person who wants to add some snuggly orange cushions or thick, shaggy deep red rugs to the mix?

Also, and this is probably just me, there’s just a bit too much Moroccan going on in here.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Moroccan design in and of itself and I love combining elements from an eclectic mix of cultures in a single space, as Navone mostly does to great effect. But the pasha’s boudoir above has strayed into ‘theme-bar’ territory and the Asian busts just seem incongruous and out of place.

 

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But the real story here is the monotone colour. The blue is absolutely unrelenting, permeating every room in the apartment, though she goes wild and adds a little green to the kitchen, which, I’ll admit, I would kill several close family members to have in my house.

 

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In isolation, each of these rooms is beautiful, as are many of the pieces in them. It’s just that the whole just seems so chilly and hard and the monotones are just well, monotonous.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the stylist had to, both literally and figuratively, turn the fire on, so as to liven up the spread.

 

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You may be interested in Paola Navone’s other houses. Her Greek island home, which is a study in white,  is here and her stunning Paris apartment, which is mostly white, with pops of colour, is here.  I am obviously not remotely insanely jealous of anyone who has homes in Paris, Milan and Greece.

21 September 2010

Things I Am Loving – Mary Katrantzou Spring 2011

People often say that what’s seen on the catwalk will show up pretty soon in interiors, but it’s not so often that interiors inspiration shows up on the catwalk.

Greek designer Mary Katrantzou gave her first stand-alone collection at London Fashion Week, taking as her inspiration old pictures from The World of Interiors and Architectural Digest.

 

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Katrantzou heightened the colour and symmetry of the images in creating her digital prints, ending up with surreal but stunning patterns, colour combinations and abstractions.

She then went a step further by embellishing her prints with interiors-inspired accessories – chandelier necklaces, pelmet shoulders and curtain-like drapery, though it does start getting a bit silly when she goes into lampshades-as-skirts.

I adore these to pieces and would wear one of those little suits in a heartbeat if I were much taller, younger and skinnier and had been invited to a swanky gallery opening or some such. I’d also love to be able to buy the prints themselves to hang on the wall, or maybe made into separates or bags. And I bet Katy Perry is wetting her knickers just looking at these pics.

Magical stuff.

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The whole collection is worth looking at here. I first found it on my beloved TLo. {All images by Yannis Vlamos / GoRunway.com via Style.com}

Oh and it’s lovely to see from all the London Fashion Week reports, that the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo is being put to good use. I loved that architecture.

27 August 2010

Things I Am Loving - Jme Foods for Williams-Sonoma

 

Or, more precisely, I’m loving the labelling, since I haven’t tried the foods themselves yet.

Jamie Oliver has just launched his Jme range of artisanal British foods in the US in conjunction with Williams-Sonoma. I’m definitely going to be trying the mango chutney, mint sauce and marmelade as it’s difficult to get good versions of these oh so British delicacies over here. (Though I’m also noting how flippin’ expensive they are in comparison with the same products in the UK.) I’m hoping that at some point his full range of British products finds its way over here.

 

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What I’m most intrigued by, though, by the packaging.  It looks very British - as in so many things American packaging can get very busy and very ‘more is more’ - whereas this is simple, old-fashioned in a modern way, if that makes sense and quite austere.

I love how the simplicity and retro styling makes everything hang together, despite using a  mishmash of different packaging shapes, fonts, label styles and colours.  It looks like a very idealised version of how my mother’s pantry might have looked in the Mad Men era (in her dreams haha!). Interestingly the actual branding is very subtle, the only thing the have in common is the sixties-style  ’J’ on the labelling.  I’m also loving that he’s calling a biscuit a biscuit.

I’m most intrigued by how this reads to an American audience. Does the styling make you want to buy the food? Or does it just seem too plain, too old-fashioned and unappealing?

26 July 2010

Go Fug Your Room – Sebastian Conran

 

Or, when designers don’t decorate.

I opened my new copy of Livingetc with some excitement as the front cover promised me an ‘at home with Sebastian Conran’.  I knew he had one of those huge Victorian wedding cake houses in Notting Hill and this would surely provide some great material for a ‘Go Love Your Room’ post.

For those of you in the US who may be unaware of them, the Conrans are pretty much design royalty in the UK.  Designer Sir Terence Conran founded the Habitat chain and the Conran Shop, has published a series of seminal works on interior design and owns a string of beautifully-designed, fabulous food-serving restaurants in London. He almost single-handedly dragged Britain out of the chintzy Fifties into the fab Sixties interiors-wise and has been a giant on the UK design scene ever since.

His children from various marriages are also successful designers and foodies in their own right – fashion designer Jasper, Notting Hill restaurateur Tom, interior designer and foodie Sophie and product designer Sebastian.

Sebastian is well-known as a product designer, probably most famously as the design brains behind Nigella Lawson’s Living Kitchen range, though as you can see from his website he has a number of great products to his credit.

 

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And there’s no denying that he’s got some great STUFF.  Wink chairs, Le Corbusier lounger, antique rugs, Arco lamp, interesting art, iconic Sex Pistols  and the Clash poster artwork (designed by Conran as a student).

 

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AND there’s no denying that he has, as you’d expect, paid a lot of attention to detail. The units, for example,  are painted in a colour Sebastian created from a gouache of stainless steel, “I wanted a shade that had the same tonal value as the metal to give cohesion to the mix of materials”.  A lot of remodelling has been done – hallways widened, door frames raised, huge French doors installed at the back and the sightlines adjusted to make sure the vistas through the house were perfectly aligned.

 

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And yet, and yet, I can’t help feeling that this looks a bit like a student bedsit, with white walls, mismatched chairs, posters on the walls and rumpled rugs (albeit a student with access to a phenomenal amount of money).

Everything seems somewhat haphazard and studiously UNdecorated – no interesting curtains or cushions (except in the bedroom and you can bet they belong to the stylist), no unifying colour scheme or much colour of any description, no flashes of wit, no striking arrangements, no interesting light fixtures. It’s the home of someone who celebrates form and function over everything and as such seems both curiously sterile, strangely uncohesive and not particularly comfortable.

What do you guys think?

 

 
 
{All images and Sebastian Conran quotes from Livingetc August 2010}

21 July 2010

Things I Am Loving - Moomin Wallpaper

 

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The Minx and I spent a lot of time on our recent holiday reading Finn Family Moomintroll (which was aces, just as cool and fabulous as I remembered it) and I’m wishing I had the courage to decorate my kitchen with these gorgeous wallpapers from Photowall (though it looks like you’ll need to grapple with Swedish to buy them).

 

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As an aside, can anyone recommend good chapter books for a five year old ? We’re currently hugely enjoying Junie B Jones, who regularly makes us cry laughing, but I’m finding it difficult to find books suitable for a fluent reader, but age-appropriate in content (and no, not the vile Rainbow Magic fairies, which the Minx utterly adores, and which I couldn’t loathe more if I tried).