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.
My visit to Top Drawer 2019 proved quite challenging as I decided to drive to Olympia rather than take the train. My Sat Nav estimated a travel time of 50 minutes and indeed that is how long the journey took. I was so pleased with myself as I navigated my way along the A3 and across the Thames at Hammersmith to my final destination.
It was only on arrival that my bubble burst as it turned out that both car parks were fully booked. All parking had been prepaid and it hadn’t occurred to me that I might not be able to leave my car anywhere!
Fortunately, there was help on hand in the form of a gentleman in a hi-vis jacket. He advised that there would be roadside parking not far from the exhibition venue. With renewed confidence I headed off in the direction in which he pointed and I very quickly managed a nifty bit of parallel parking. I paid my dues (by phone) and headed off to the show.
Top Drawer, a biannual trade exhibition for the home, gift, fashion, craft and hospitality industries is a delight. Showcasing new product lines from around the world it is a must for anyone with half an eye on up-and-coming trends.
As ever my main reason for visiting was to review the Home section which had an abundance of furniture, soft furnishings, accessories and lighting.
By far the most impressive stand was that of Coach House, the UK’s largest trade only supplier of furniture and giftware (according to their website).
Their creative room-sets were the epitome of international glamour with a strong colonial influence.
The luxurious reflective surfaces combined with strong animal imagery were in striking contrast to the surrounding stands.
Palms, rattan, and rich dark wood furniture were reminiscent of a bygone era.
Exquisite ivory coloured velvets and stunning glass orbs set off this black circular dining table whilst the coral coloured lampshade and framed print added an air of the orient.
Pastel coloured linens set against this intensely dark backdrop on the Also Home stand gave me pause for thought. I have ambitions to create a soft pink table setting in my own home and the blush table cloth and napkins were an absolute favourite.
I was also struck by these stoneware table-top items which are one of the main product-lines of Danish interior design company Bunaglow ApS. The combination of shapes, texture, and pattern really appealed.
Venturing upstairs to the The Craft sector I was met with a selection of beautiful handcrafted one-offs. My favourite stand here was that of Peter Lanyon Furniture which exhibited a collection of sustainable furniture made in his workshop in South Devon.
These intricate bronze casts displayed on the Pomarius stand were truly extraordinary. Capturing the intricate details of original organic specimens these ornamental collections were painstakingly beautiful.
Unfortunately, like Cinderella, the clock was ticking and my 2 hour maximum on-street parking slot was about to expire. That said I had had an amazing time and was pleased that a rather dull Tuesday had been brightened by my expedition to the last day of Top Drawer 2019.
For a long time I have been pondering what colour would spice up my rather beautiful, but tired, wardrobe that greets visitors when they arrive in our hallway.
Neptune provided inspiration with their seasonal offerings in their Autumn/Winter 2018 Directory. Revisiting an existing paint shade, Chestnut, and pairing it with Nutmeg, sparked my imagination.
With our bold striped Crucial Trading carpet running the full length of the staircase in the back ground and our crazy orange and cream spotty carpet from Ikea on the in the foreground, using these Neptune colours to tie the scheme together seemed a no-brainer.
Our first task was to dismantle the wardrobe and to add an undercoat to ensure the top coat would adhere to the surface. This was no mean feat as I’m sure you can imagine.
We left the undercoat to try and applied the first coat of Nutmeg eggshell that same afternoon and left it to dry overnight.
The following morning I was up at the crack of dawn to apply the second and final coat. Using a sponge roller actually made the task much quicker and easier and again I allowed a 12 hour drying time to ensure that the paint had gone off completely.
Once all the elements were put back together I was stunned and delighted with the results as we now have a truly smart piece of furniture which smacks you in the face when you enter our home.
My only residual concern is that it it represents a bar of Green&Blacks’s dark chocolate which is an absolute favourite of mine!
Now that our hallway is neat and tidy, this weekend I have enjoyed adding some seasonal decoration in anticipation of the festive celebrations.
Gathering some branches from our golden beech tree and cutting the dead heads from our climbing hydrangea I have added some seasonal dressing to our lovely new cupboard.
Our final task is to paint the entrance vestibule with Chestnut emulsion but for the time being I am basking in the glory of completing this initial restoration.
It’s a sure sign that Christmas is coming when you walk into a bar and there’s a tree suspended upside-down from the ceiling. The one below was seen at The Bugle in Brading on the Isle of Wight last weekend.
Full marks for novelty, although maybe not so many for practicality.
The Bugle, Brading
The first of December spurred me on to buy our family Christmas tree. Having seen this room set at Neptune in Guildford I decided to buy a table top Nordmanniana from the Farm Shop Lyne.
I was taken by the simplicity of the decoration of this tree and by the glass vase in which it had been planted. Both struck a chord with me as I have spent much of 2018 aiming for a more pared back interior in our cottage.
Container grown Nordmanniana
Here you can see a close up of our tree along with some of the snow globes that I have made for the craft fairs that I have been attending this season. The one shown below is my most recent addition.
“Bringing the tree home” snow globe
Using a glass yoghurt jar, a miniature truck bought from Hobbycraft, and a mixed bag of bottle-brush Christmas trees bought on-line, I created a minute replica of these Ikea filled vases that I saw for sale at the Country Living Christmas Fair last month.
Giant truck snow globes
The homecoming truck laden with an oversized tree has been a popular image over the past few years. It seems to have been particularly prevalent this year and, with this in mind, I couldn’t resist buying this M&S bedding set which depicts the tree being brought home on the roof of the family car.
M&S bedding set
I waited for the rain to stop today, and for the sun to emerge, before taking photographs of this lovely set along with our little tree and a selection of snow -globes.
Aside from snow globes and homecoming trees another popular decoration this year is the humble pom-pom. They have adorned everything from handbags to jewellery and have now been seen being used in Christmas decorations.
Handcrafted snow globes
The wreath shown below was one of my favourites and was spotted in the Giraffe & Custard gift shop in the Rectory Mansion, Brading.
I am now really excited about next weekend as I hope to plunder our loft and revisit my ever expanding supply of decorations. That said, I hope to honour my paring back strategy and use a mixture of fresh foliage and simple baubles.
I look forward to sharing the end results with you and hope that this blog has inspired you to start thinking about the season and the delights that come from the preparation for the big day.
Our pumpkin crop was a big success this year. Brought on early by the long hot summer our first, and biggest, pumpkin was ready for harvesting in August.
Encouraged by our budding gardener, Finlay, this was our second year of growing these giant vegetables from seed, and it was far more successful than the first.
Keen to show Finlay the benefits of growing his own food we decided to turn some of our later crop into soup. We selected two of the smaller pumpkins as they didn’t look as though they would make very impressive lanterns, and set to work.
We combined two recipes to come up with our final concoction:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
800g pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
700ml vegetable stock
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Half a teaspoon cumin powder
Half a teaspoon mild curry powder
150ml double cream
Fresh bread to accompany
Gently heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in thick-based saucepan.
Once the oil is hot add the onion and garlic, frying them on a gentle heat until the onion softens.
Add the diced pumpkin to the pan and cook until it starts to soften, about 10 minutes.
Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is very tender.
Add the cumin and curry powder and stir in.
Pour the cream into the pan and bring back to the boil.
Remove from the heat and purée with a hand blender.
For an extra-velvety consistency pour the soup through a fine sieve.
Garlic and onion ready for the pan
Peeled and diced pumpkin
Extra-velvety pumpkin soup
I’m pleased to report that everyone enjoyed their autumnal treat even though our Indian summer prevailed and temperatures were unusually high for this time of year.
If you are looking for an alternative to unicorns and superheroes then take a look at Romo’s showroom at The Design Centre, Chelsea Habour. Situated on the first floor of the North Dome, they have an area dedicated to children’s décor.
Instead of pastel coloured ponies and muscle bound macho men, here you will find images of child-friendly characters, leafy trees, and stretched yellow limos.
A diverse range of wall coverings, fabrics, and soft furnishings, provide a fantasy backdrop for the new born through to their older siblings.
Children’s décor at Romo’s showroom
Whimsical bugs and butterflies spread their wings amongst the summertime flowers in this magical garden (below). This scene conjures up a warm summers day, alive with the hum of insects in the air, pollinating the enticingly colourful plants.
Woodland creatures tentatively explore the forest floor as a gentle breeze awakens the sleepy forest.
Punchy pops of colour and circus like beasts provide a vibrant edge to this carefully curated corner. This desperately dark blue cupboard bursts into life when its doors are flung open to reveal its sherbert pink interior.
Conjuring up stories of faraway lands it will fire up the imagination of the young traveller.
Illustrator Christopher Corr’s fabrics and wallpapers will take the intrepid explorer from the pink city in India, island hopping around the Med, to the hustle and bustle of the night time city scape of Manhatten.
Villa Nova have collaborated with these three illustrators, Yuval Zommer, Frann Preston-Gannon and Christopher Corr to create their Picturebook collection. The end result is a host of fabrics, wall coverings, and accessories which bring to life the fantastic world of the story book.