My mum arrived at my house this week to stay for the Easter break. On walking in the dining room she exclaimed “show off”!
Of course, being my mum, I couldn’t argue with her and it is perfectly true that I have followed the trend for “showing off” my colourful array of alcoholic beverages.
I’m not entirely sure when if first became fashionable to have a drinks cabinet or trolley.
Ironically, my parents did indeed have a trolley in the 1970’s, and I was reminded of this when I recently stumbled across it in their loft.
Similar in style to the one below (although not quite as glam) it was home to the go-to drinks of that era; Babycham, Advocat, and Cinzano Martini.
I suspect the trend for these fabulously showy items of furniture started long before my parents’ days. In my mind these images conjure up bygone days of the roaring 20’s and fabulous cruise liners.
A good friend of mine has actually inherited her parents’ cocktail books which date back to pre-war days.
I love this circular art deco style. The mirrored shelves add a reflective quality to the glitzy display.
Julian Chichester offers a more masculine style trolley. With its solid dark wood frame it looks like it means business.
Of course it’s not just these items of furniture that have once again become fashionable but the drinks that adorn them too.
Gin has made a serious come back and gin cocktails appear to have taken over from the much loved Aperol Spritz.
Many independent distilleries have appeared in recent times and offer a vast selection of colours and flavours.
Only recently I attended a gin tasting evening hosted by my favourite off licence in Burpham on the outskirts of the Surrey Hills. Here we sampled gins distilled by Simon Sherlock who has a small distillery in Ripley, Surrey.
Without doubt my favourite was the limited edition Valentine gin which changed colour from blue to pink once tonic was added.
Funnily enough my new found fondness for this botanical delight has lead to me trying a variety of tonic waters and as a consequence I often choose these over an alcoholic drink.
Presented in a gin glass, with the addition of fresh orange slices, juniper berries and ice cubes, Fever Trees’ pink aromatic tonic is currently my favourite guilt free tipple. It is sugar free, refreshing, and 100ml contains a mere 25 calories.
If my mum thinks my modest display of bottles and glasses is a little pretentious I’m not entirely sure what she would make of this Great Gatsby inspired bar at Turnell & Gigon.
Complete with ostrich feathers and the finest champagne I think it she might describe it as a little ostentatious.
In the same room-set at Turnell & Gigon this sleek trolley was prominently displayed in the showroom window.
I can’t help but think that the drinks’ trolley is merely a passing phase. A drinks cabinet might provide a more permanent place for one’s home bar.
I photographed the one above in a bar in Amsterdam. It has the air of a much more classy piece of furniture which could be adapted for use in a domestic situation.
Attending London Design Week (LDW) never fails to inspire. From the romantic, opulent, to the downright quirky.
Here are some of my OMG moments…..
There was nothing low key or understated in the Turnell & Gigon at Home showroom. Inspired by “The Great Gatsby” and orchestrated by designer Katharine Pooley there was not a single ostrich feather or crystal out of place.
Audrey Hepburn was the inspiration for Perrin & Rowe’s window. Created by floral designers Studio Sorores it’s a scene that is reminiscent of summer, romance, and glamour.
This quirky collection of wall coverings by Cole & Son immediately transported me to a fantastic dream world.
Set against the backdrop of a city loft apartment, Trevor Wilson, of the Beaufort Collection, explored the ins and outs of window dressing designs and styles.
Handmade, with the most extraordinary attention to detail, Beaufort’s range of soft-furnishings add a touch of luxury to residential and commercial interiors alike.
Just by coincidence I arrived at StudioTex as proprietor, Stephen Doughty, was unpacking a brand new range of HBF fabrics.
Eager to share he quickly laid out the colour-ways for these geometric patterned textiles, “Moving Forward” and “Caddy Corner”.
Amidst the rushing around I did manage to sneak into two of the scheduled workshops.
Over in Design Centre East, Kay Chattun, co-founder and creative director of Lacaze presented a masterclass covering the fundamentals and processes of upholstery. Covering everything from materials, to fire treatment, to ergonomics this was a compelling talk.
The end of the day brought one final treat and that was the launch of Kit Kemp’s new book; Design Thread.
“The secret is to select an interior you want to live with forever” – Kit Kemp
The hour long talk by Kit Kemp transported the audience through the pages of this tome; a colourful, textural world of private homes and exclusive hotels.
Each interior punctuated with quirky finds to ensure a truly original design.
A love of folklore and a collaboration with artisans is evident in these interiors.
Listening to this lady speak was truly inspiring and reinforced my love of colour and a sense of fun.
I’ve read-up on the participants so that I can make a beeline for the most inspirational.
All being well my current programme will commence at 2pm at Baker on the First Floor of the South Dome. Here KLC School of Design will present a storage and decluttering workshop.
From here I will make my way to the 3rd Floor of the North Dome where, at 3pm, the Beaufort Collection will be hosting a creative curtain talk. This ticks the box for me as I have a genuine interest in soft-furnishings and am always searching for new ideas for window dressings.
At 4pm I intend to make my way to the 3rd Floor of the Design Centre East in time for an Upholstery Masterclass hosted by Lacaze London.
I will grab a break between 5 and 6pm to mooch around the showrooms and get a feel for the up and coming trends for 2019 and beyond.
My last rendezvous will be at TALK on the First Floor of the Design Centre East to listen to Fiona McCarthy interview internationally acclaimed designer Kit Kemp.
I will ensure that I take plenty of photographs during my, all but fleeting, visit and keep you updated with my take on all that is current in the world of interior design.
Living in a cottage in the current climate of pared-back schemes and mid-century style furnishings is quite challenging.
I feel as though I want to push the walls out to achieve more space.
In my dining room I have addressed this by taking a few simple steps to gain a more up-to-date and spacious style.
It has been a gradual process but at last I have a room that, without looking cluttered, provides an armchair that overlooks the garden and a dining table that comfortably seats six to eight guests.
Comparing the two photographs above is almost like playing a game of “spot the difference” as many of the components remain the same.
One of the first steps I took was to replace the patterned rug and curtains for plain pale grey ones. Instantly one’s eye is drawn to the view of the garden making the room feel light an airy.
By swapping the yellow painted table for one with a plain oak top the room immediately had a more cohesive feel as the replacement table tied in with the existing dressers.
Part of my plan was to create a quiet, contemplative corner where I could sit and read a book, or where I could sit and gaze out into the garden as the sun rose in the early morning.
My John Sankey slipper chair seemed to be the ideal seat for his purpose however once in position it did not leave much circulation space which was a problem. It became apparent that the table could not remain central to the room; it would have to be moved away from the armchair to allow access to the door to the garden.
This created two issues; firstly the dresser would have to be moved and secondly the central light pendant would have to be taken down and an alternative light source found. These were not tasks for the feint hearted!
Moving the dresser was not too terrible. Once emptied I slipped a soft mat beneath it and was able to slide it across the floor. (I should add this did entail putting most of the dining furniture in the garden pro-temp but at least it was a dry day).
My solution for a replacement light source was to buy an arc floor lamp. There was a huge number to choose from but I settled for this moderately priced one from Heal’s. Putting it together was quite tricky so I was very relieved when its arc spanned the table perfectly.
Turning my attention back to the dresser I was really pleased with its new position below my lovely black mirror. A pair of black lamps provide soft lighting.
Quite by chance I stumbled upon an image on the Neptune website. The picture was of a row of console tables placed on top of a run of kitchen worktops. It was stunning and as a consequence my brain went into overdrive as I thought about the Baker’s rack that was sitting in my store collecting dust.
Without further ado I retrieved the rack from its dusty corner and measured its dimensions. Not wishing to take a chance I lay it on some cardboard on the floor and drew around its shape.
Armed with template I was able to determine how much adjustment the rack would need for it to provide the perfect home for my “bar”.
With the legs cut down and toughened glass shelves manufactured to fit the unit I placed it atop the dresser. Ta dah…
The last items to be sourced for the room were some new dining chairs. I spent much time looking at the options, even considering benches at one stage.
Finally I opted for six Charcoal coloured Stafford chairs from OKA. New this season they match perfectly with the black accessories in the room, including my much loved slipper chair. Their simple shape combined with velvet upholstery and metal studs match the room very well.
I also invested in a set of natural linen slip covers thus providing protection and/or a completely new scheme should I desire.
Finally, the room was guest ready and the first diners enjoyed supper at our’s at the weekend.
Occasionally, very, very, occasionally, when travelling abroad on business I might manage to take some time out to experience the local culture. A trip to Paris earlier this week was indeed one of those very rare occasions when my schedule allowed me sufficient time to wander the streets of this fabulous city. Ooh la la.
I stepped out into the early morning sunshine after alighting the Eurostar at the rather grand Gare du Nord. After a brisk 30 minute walk criss-crossing the city I arrived at the Royal Palace Gardens.
Here I was struck by the perfect symmetry of the avenues of trees. Bereft of leaves or blossom they looked particularly stark against the bright blue sky but perhaps even more regal because of the contrast.
Considered to be the most beautiful gardens in Paris I marvelled at the stunning architecture which enclosed the grounds. These striped black and white cylindrical plinths which rose from the ground like sticks of Brighton rock added a touch of informality to these paved areas.
Striding out towards the river I marvelled at this stunning arch with the horses and chariots atop galloping out into the wild blue yonder.
My next port of call was La Louvre gallery situated on the Right Bank of the Seine. Prior to this visit I had only ever been able to marvel at this magnificent structure from the back seat of a moving vehicle.
The controversial pyramid entrance was part of an overall modernisation that took shape in the mid-1980’s. It’s design was the brainchild of Chinese architect I.M. Pei who was appointed by former French president, François Mitterrand.
The gallery, one of the largest in the world, houses one of the finest collections of art including the infamous Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
She wasn’t the only beauty on display. Another that caught my eye was this portrait by Goya.
Monolithic statues stood on gigantic plinths creating focal points on a grand scale.
It was only as I was leaving the Louvre that I learned that it had been built on the ruins of Louvre Castle which was eventually demolished in stages to make way for the palace.
In and around the immediate vicinity there are a host of coffee shops, bars, restaurants and shops, all vying for the tourists’ trade.
Inside this chocolate coloured facade was a whole host of colourful cookies in beautifully illustrated gift boxes.
This tower of pastel coloured macaroons took the biscuit!
A little further on the competition was selling a selection of freshly baked bread whilst street artists were busy plying their trade.
As the afternoon drew to a close a walk to the bottom of the hill took me past the much talked about Moulin Rouge. Sadly there wasn’t sufficient time to take in a show as my exploration was coming to an end.
An early evening stroll back to the Gard du Nord was all that there was between me and my return train journey home.
Sitting aboard the train it is apparent why this city draws so many visitors. Its colour, scale, spatial planning, and a respect for the past makes it a joy to visit.
When trying to save space or create sleek lines benches might well be a good option.
Whether used for informal, formal, or alfresco dining, benches not only save space but add an air of sociability. When not in use the backless ones can be stowed away beneath a table thus providing easier circulation. Even those with backs look more neat and tidy than a row of single seats.
My research revealed that benches come in all shapes and sizes and in a vast range of finishes. They might be quite basic or beautifully upholstered in luxurious fabrics. Even the wooden ones can be made more comfortable with the addition of a purpose made seat pad, cushions or a sheepskin rug.
My recent visit to Top Drawer underlined how popular and versatile this type of seating can be. It is a style that I particularly favour as it conjures up cosy “elbows on the table” type suppers with friends or family, or perhaps both..
Particularly practical for children as they like to hop up and down from the table, but perhaps less so for people with restricted mobility. To cater for both a mix of individual chairs and a bench might be the answer.
Something to bear in mind is that backless benches may prove less practical for leisurely lunches as they are likely to become less comfortable as the meal progresses. Even the ones with backs may be not be a winner as guests might feel confined and restricted.
Choosing the perfect bench
When choosing a bench the same considerations should apply as when choosing any dining seating. Dimensions are critical, particularly seat height in relation to the table height.
Width should also be taken into account when deciding how many seats can be accommodated.
Overall height is important with regards to sight lines and of course quality should be checked to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
Whilst looking at various options I particularly liked the contemporary style of the Arundel oak bench and matching dining table at Neptune.
For a more luxurious finish I discovered an extraordinary selection of upholstered dining benches and chairs at Angel & Boho all of which are fully customisable.