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Category: Favourite High Street stores (page 1 of 6)

Dash Of Orange

Step into spring with a flamboyant dash of orange.

My recent venture into town really demonstrated a massive head on collision between fashion and interiors.

This was particularly noticeable in Anthropologie where their footware and furnishings sat side by side.

Unable to resist a bright and cheerful colour I was seduced into trying on this wonderful selection of  tops and sweaters in Mint Velvet.

London Design Week at Chelsea Harbour didn’t miss a trick either as many of the showrooms were brought to life with this lovely colour in lively prints.

Even the horticulture followed the theme.

A more mystical Morrocan theme was on show in this particular window with its gorgeous bronze coloured wallpaper and lighting.

Loaf, in the newly opened Tunsgate Quarter in Guildford, had its fair share of paprika coloured cushions and couches.

Meanwhile this Clarins advert used the colour of the season to great effect to promote its bronze-lidded peach-coloured jars of exotic face creams.

Neptune also adopted a subtle tone in their range of home accessories. 

Candles, throws and artwork incorporated a pinky hue which worked beautifully with these light and dark greys.

A similar matching was found in this rug in Sofa.com.

And if grey isn’t to your liking then navy is a very smart alternative. The combination seen here at Sofa.com demonstrates how they have worked this season’s trend by teaming a navy sofa with orange scatter cushions and footstool.

Another collision between fashion and interiors was evident in Jigsaw where orange and navy clothes, shoes and bags, were displayed together in perfect harmony.

So whether your preference is for bright or subtle, home or fashion, there appears to be something for everyone in this season’s colour.

Tunsgate Quarter Guildford OPENED

The Tunsgate Quarter in Guildford opened its doors yesterday to reveal its brand new occupants.

To the sound of a 4-piece jazz band I manoeuvred my way around the bright, light, sunny, precinct.

The first retail outlets to take up space in the recently revamped centre are Bobbie Brown, Cath Kidston, Loaf, Lululemon, OKA, and The White Company.Cath Kidston’s jaunty shop front was a sea of patriotic red, white and baby blue bunting, celebrating their 25th anniversary.

Next on my list to visit was Loaf. Having only ever seen their products in a catalogue I was keen to see it in the flesh.

It didn’t disappoint. Greeted by a giant coir mat complimenting me on my shoes I couldn’t wait to get my feet inside the door, and get stuck in! 

I’m not sure that I would be offering tubs of ice-cream to visitors who were specifically here to look at sumptuous sofas but Loaf did and it was a welcome treat.

I carefully devoured by raspberry sorbet as I perched on this rather gorgeous squishy corner unit. It was certainly as comfortable as it looked and comes in a variety of combinations and colours.

With my appetite for sweet treats and first hand experience of Loaf’s lovely array of furnishings fully satisfied I made my way to OKA.

Again, another retailer who’s catalogue I receive regularly, was far better in real life.

Bold, lavish, and with exquisite detailing, this is a brand that would bring a sense of drama to any home. 

I took a particular fancy to their lamps, shades, and glassware, none of which I had paid particular attention to, before seeing it off the printed page.

My final port of call was The Ivy restaurant which is due to open its doors on Wednesday April 4. For an inside scoop go to Surrey Life’s website .

By Invitation

I had hoped to be writing a stunning account of the “by invitation” Neptune Warehouse Sale that I took time out to attend yesterday. Sadly, this isn’t going to be the case as, having arrived at the appointed time, the car park was full to overflowing and the queue for the event already stretched out beyond the warehouse gates.

Optimistic queue

My only optimism was that the queue did appear to be moving so my partner and I decided to join the already chilly masses. After fifteen minutes of remaining static we decided that one of us should go back to the car as it was parked on double yellow lines, and one of us remain in the queue to preserve our place. We both checked that we had a phone signal and agreed that we would update one another electronically as the queue progressed towards the building.

Within moments the queue surged forward and I quickly sent a text to that effect. Dutifully my partner returned and stood by my side as we came to a rapid standstill! He left – and returned to the car.

I made small talk with the other people in the queue. How had I heard about the event? Was it the first time I had been? Had I travelled far? It would seem that although the event was not publiscised on the Neptune website it was not the exclusive event that we had imagined.

Our hopes lifted as people started to appear leaving the warehouse laden with bargains. They quickly loaded their cars and drove away, leaving one or two parking spaces in the now very crowded car park. I sent a message – “there’s a space now – bring the car round”. The response came back “they’re stopping all the cars from entering – it’s manic out here”.

Another surge in the crowd, and suddenly I’m through the gates and almost entering the marquee which was obviously erected, to provide shelter, for the attendees. I sent a message “we’re on the move – come now”. This time, my now very bored partner, arrived with provisions – Kit Kats and water – and joined me in the queue. Not long now, I thought.

Forming an orderly queue inside the tent

Once inside the tent it became apparent that there was no comfy seating, hot drinks, or friendly welcome, just several aisles ensuring that everybody remained in an orderly line. A smartly dressed Neptune employee did arrive with an armful of brochures, I presume for anyone who needed to be reminded why they were stood in a queue on a cold January day looking at the backs of several hundred people who all thought they were there by “invitation”.

My spirits lifted as the queue moved forward quite quickly and we were now only about numbers 101 and 102. We circumnavigated a basket of “treats” that had been thoughtfully provided, but I passed on these as I had been lucky enough to have an even more thoughtful partner who provided the much needed chocolate fix.

Sweet ‘n’ treats

We continued to wait patiently – surely it would be our turn soon. Another surge – no, just a small handful of people are let out of the holding area and into the warehouse. We seemed so close, yet so far. My feet are starting to get cold, and those around me without coats are beginning to shiver. The clouds are gathering in more ways than one.

After two hours of queuing realisation is beginning to hit. Is there going to be anything left by the time we are admitted to the revered warehouse? Is the queue to pay for any purchases going to take as long as the time it has taken to get in?

At last, we start to move again. We are the very last ones that they allow through on this particular turn and we hurriedly make our way up the steps before they have a chance to turn us away.

On entering, we are greeted by the sight of a very normal warehouse. Floor to ceiling racking full of large brown boxes, each concealing their contents, but being tended by hi-vis clad staff. Another member of staff in a pink hi-vis jacket informs us that if there is anything in the way of furniture that takes our fancy we should ask for the help from one of the “pink” assistants.

We look around. The floor space in front of the racking is sparsely populated with around a dozen similar sofas, a handful of dining tables, quite a number of partially boxed dining chairs, and a few random stools. As we venture beyond this immediate collection we find that there is a bedroom section to one side and a kitchen section to the other.

My heart sinks. My carefully made notes of the items that I might like to acquire is useless as nothing here matches my aspirations. We wander into the “accessories” area where I had hoped to pick up a rug, and perhaps some ex-display curtains. There were none; rugs had all gone, and I didn’t have the heart to ask about window dressings.

On the bright side, there were numerous faux flowers, candles, and lampshades. There was however yet another queue to pay, and when we enquired as to why we had spent so long waiting outside, we were told that it was due to the fact that it was taking so long to process payments.

We left. Any enthusiasm I had had when I left home that morning had evaporated. We had driven for and hour and half to get there which is why I felt it imperative to at least see what was on offer. My partner, by now, was really relieved when I resisted temptation and didn’t pick up a token purchase just to make the trip worthwhile.

Neptune showroom

Instead we wandered into the adjacent showroom, admired all of the beautiful room settings, used their facilities and made our way back to the car. On inspection we noticed that we hadn’t received a parking ticket, so at least that was a bonus.

As we unlocked the car in readiness to leave a reporter from the local paper asked whether we had been to the Neptune sale? Had we bagged ourselves a bargain? We held out our hands wearily demonstrating that we had completely failed in our plight. He asked how far we had travelled and gave us a sympathetic look as he scribbled some shorthand on his reporter’s note pad. Word of the sale’s popularity had obviously provoked enough interest for the Press to become involved.

I’m not knocking the Neptune brand at all, nor the fact that they chose to hold a two day sale to clear the decks for new and exciting stock. What I am a little disappointed about was the lack of communication on the day with regards to wait times and expectation. In future, I will know, that if I receive another “invitation” I will make a phone call and seek clarification with regards to what it actually means. At least that way I will be able to make an informed decision as to whether it is worth my while attending, or not.

By the way, I did ask my partner, if we could stop at the Reading Ikea on the way home. I can’t actually print his reply!

The Country Brocante Store

Earlier in the year I was invited to the Country Brocante Fair at the Cowdray Estate but unfortunately due to a prior commitment I was unable to attend. To make up for this missed opportunity I wrote a note to self to visit The Country Brocante Store in Midhurst, West Sussex.

The Country Brocante Store, Midhurst

As summer has drawn to a close I found myself not far from Midhurst and decided to make a small detour to the store. I was not disappointed as it housed a lovely mixture of antique and vintage pieces, lots of pretty textiles and an abundance of decorative arts. 

The store, which opened in April 2016, gives small businesses a permanent and affordable home on the high street.

Whilst browsing I discovered that the next Country Brocante Fair will be held at Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire on Saturday, September 23rd from 9.30am.

This is one in a series of five fairs that are held across the UK throughout the year. These include the Big Summer and Winter Shows held over two days, which are hosted in prestigious venues such as Petworth Park, the Cowdray Estate and Daylesford Organic Farm.

I have now made a note in my diary to attend the Big Winter Fair which is being held at Cowdray Park on Friday 24th to Saturday 25th November. I am sure this will be the perfect place to purchase some truly unique and exquisite Christmas gifts.

For more details and to purchase tickets visit: https://www.thecountrybrocante.co.uk/the-big-winter-brocante

 

Packhouse, Tongham

In a ramshackle building in the tiny village of Tongham you will find Packhouse. I’m not sure how it’s name came about but it describes perfectly this “house” which is completely packed with stylish hand picked items. Even the outside yard is full to overflowing with decorative garden miscellany.

Packhouse Antiques Tongham

Venturing there on a Saturday afternoon my first port of call was Bears Restuarant which serves a variety of light meals and refreshments. Sitting in the alfresco dining area in the summer sunshine I enjoyed a freshly made salad before embarking on my shopping expedition.

Miscellany

The Packhouse is a series of rooms spread over three or four floors and each room appears to be the domain of an independent retailer. This arrangement provides an enormous selection of gifts, furnishings, and clothing, as well as genuine antiquities. It is the ideal venue to buy original and unusual items for the home and garden, or to procure the perfect present.

Colourful curiosities

My particular indulgence was a new lampshade to revamp an old table lamp and some faux flowers to add to an arrangement that fills a Laura Ashley jug that sits on a chest of drawers in my guest bedroom. Delighted with my purchases I made a note to self not leave it so long before my next visit.

For opening times and directions visit www.packhouse.com

Neptune in Weybridge

Weybridge High Street is in my DNA. I’ve lived in close proximity for most of my life so visiting recently with my mum, who retired to the south coast a number of years ago now,  brought back lots of childhood memories. We strolled through the park where we used to share a picnic and paddle in the pool, and then exited via Springfield Meadows and arrived on Baker Street.

We gently reminisced about the stores that have long since been replaced with designer boutiques and and showy shoe shops and commented all on the new residential properties that were being squeezed in in-between the characterful old buildings.

Arriving on the High Street we made a beeline for the homestore where we could buy some essential cleaning agents before commencing our stroll back to the car park.

…… that was until I spotted the entrance to Neptune. A quick reverse turn and we were over the threshold in an instant.

Corner seating

Although I have seen full page advertisements in glossy magazines promoting Neptune’s products I had never had the opportunity to step inside one of their stores. I was struck from the moment I walked in by the shelves crammed full of beautiful home accessories and the neatly displayed room settings.

Country style kitchen

What I hadn’t expected was the sheer extent of this particular store. We walked through room set after room set admiring natural woods, upholstered chairs, perfectly placed pictures, and much, much more.

Contemporary kitchen

Eventually our journey ended in the sitting room at the rear of the shop. This was a lovely combination of dark smoke walls; cream highlights; and mustard cushions. It was a very comfortable and welcoming environment.

Living room

An extremely pleasant sales person  asked if we needed any help, and when we replied that we were only browsing,  were quickly offered a handful of books which told the Neptune story and catalogued their current range.

I’m not going to share the contents of these books with you in this blog as a visit to one of their stores, or a search of their website, will enlighten you to their amazing success story. The one thing I will say is that in times of on-line shopping Neptune is a really exciting addition to our High Street.

Paint colours

Ripley Village

If you ever find yourself at a loose end on a sunny Saturday morning why not pop along to Ripley Village in Surrey. Set amongst the pretty cottages is a bustling High Street and immensely popular village green.

I had the pleasure of being in Ripley recently and was lucky enough to coincide my visit with that of the  Farmer’s Market  which is held on the second Saturday of each month between 9am and 1pm. Situated on the village green there was a huge variety of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to rural crafts.

Ripley Village Green

A short stroll from the market is the High Street with its lovely collection of craft shops, traditional pubs, and classy restaurants.

The Clock House restaurant

The Clock House, formally know as Drake’s, is open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday.

Nest

If you prefer something a little less formal another popular eatery in the village  is Nest Café where you can stop for a stylish bite-to-eat. Serving seasonal, local, freshly made food it is certainly the place to be seen!

As well as the café, Nest has a home and gift shop where you will find a unique selection of ever-changing antique and vintage treasures.

Miss Bush bridal wear

Right next door to Nest is Miss Bush bridalwear. Set inside a converted Victorian Chapel with stained glass windows and high vaulted ceilings, brides-to-be can choose from a selection of the best contemporary bridalwear.

Flowers and gifts

The reason I found myself in the heart of the village on a sunny Saturday morning was to visit a favourite shop of mine, Richardsons.

Here I knew I would find a selection of the freshest flowers and stylish planters filled to the brim with seasonal blooms. Not only is this a truly gorgeous florist but it has a fantastic selection of gifts, toys, cards, and wrapping. This is definitely a place where, for every one gift you buy for a friend, you have to buy at least two for yourself!

Jo Downs handmade glass

Last, but by no means least, is a visit to the Jo Downs handmade glass gallery. Here you will find beautiful gifts and decorative interior pieces. Commissions are undertaken as well, and the gallery is the perfect place to drop in to discuss your ideas.

Blue Sky Thinking

Walled garden at the Medicine Garden Cobham

I think I have Spring fever! This recent spell of unseasonably warm weather coupled with being outside in the garden led me to believe that spring, and possibly summer, were on the way. Inspired by the blue skies I wanted to spread the good vibes by sharing some of my favourite “blues”.

Spring bulbs

These lovely vintage flour pots planted with narcissi and muscari remind me of my mother’s garden where the grape hyacinths overflowed onto the pathways as the weather became warmer. I didn’t know then that they were called Muscari, but always remember being fascinated by these little blue flowers that resembled miniature bunches of blue grapes.

Curtains and blind

This pair of bedroom curtains and coordinating hand-tied rolled blind made from Laura Ashley cotton mix fabrics are perfect for bringing the colours of spring flowers indoors. Sadly, I no longer have them as they were sold with the house but I kept the matching Regatta cushions which are now in my guest bedroom.

Blue gingham

This blue gingham tablecloth, blue Ikea bowls, and delphiniums fresh from the garden, provide a casual country setting for an early summer al fresco lunch.

I love this collection of vintage milk jugs which were on display at an Arthur Swallow antique fair at Loseley Park.

Blue and white jugs

And last, but not least, are these wonderful photographs taken at Su Gologone in Sardinia. During our stay, in the latter half of May, we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this wonderful experience hotel. Whether we were relaxing by the spring-water pool , sipping cocktails in the Magico Tablao bar, or star gazing from the Terrace of Dreams, it was truly captivating and the perfect venue for an early summer escape.

Bar Tablao

Café

Shabby chic entrance

Joules Inspired Cabinet

Inspired by the colours on a Joules carrier bag I decided to revamp a rather sad bathroom cabinet to something a little more jaunty. With the Annie Sloan chalk paint™ sample pots that I had in stock I decided to mix the colours myself. The pink was a combination of Emperor’s Silk, Antoinette, and Old White, whilst the turquoise blue was a mixture of Florence, Provence, and again, Old White.

At the outset I painted the whole cabinet Old White to cover the original paint colour. Having decided on a design I painted the drawer fronts pink. The next step was to mask the parts of the cabinet that I wanted to remain white before applying the turquoise.My pièce de résistance was to be the door front which I thought might look rather appealing in a beach hut type stripe. Once again I applied masking tape to the areas that I wished to keep white and then applied the blue mixture to the remaining areas.Allowing an overnight drying time I was very excited about peeling off the tape the following morning. I shouldn’t have worried as the end result was as I had hoped.I rubbed some of the edges with a fine sandpaper to reveal the colour beneath before applying a coat of clear wax to protect the finished  paintwork. The addition of a pink ribbon tied to the key brought the whole scheme together. Lastly, as a nod to the pattern that inspired this design in the first instance I lined each of the drawers with a flower cut out from the Joules bag. I love taking inspiration from the simple things around me and often the High Street leads the way.

Top Drawer

It’s often difficult to take time out of the office but this week I had the perfect excuse as I had been invited to attend the Top Drawer exhibition at Olympia. With a strap-line claiming “Adventures in Design for Creative Retailers” I found this too good an opportunity to miss.

This is an exhibition for trend spotters as it gives a keen insight as to what will be coming to the High Street and on-line stores in the coming months. Divided into four distinct areas for Home, Gift, Fashion, and Craft, it was an extremely busy show with exhibitors filling the ground floor and overflowing onto the mezzanine above.

One of the most imposing stands was manned by Nick Ronald of Grand Illusions. I have fond memories of attending one of his furniture painting courses at the shop in St. Margarets and still have the aged wooden coat pegs to prove it. Having recently published a book entitled Paint Vintage the stand was a chic piece of architecture housing a range of painted furniture brought to life with sophisticated accessories, and of course, the Grand Illusions range of Vintage Paint.

Another of my favourite on-line stores was present, Nkuku. Specialising in Fair Trade Homeware and gifts, this was another imposing stand, mainly featuring tableware, lanterns, and soft furnishings.

On a more frivolous and colourful note the Tintin stand, and Lake District based Herdy products stand, both caught my eye. 

Gifts, homeware, and accessories, designed to raise a smile, were originally based on the lovable Hardwick sheep. The Herdy Fund helps support local sustainable rural community and upland fell farming projects.

Realising that time was moving on, and that there was still work to be done back in the office, I grabbed my coat from the cloakroom and headed back to the train station.Only as the train pulled in did I realise that the Newgate clocks all differed in time and that perhaps I could have stayed a minute or two longer.

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