Subscribe     Basket(0)     Terms
"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
Colour in Rio
29 June 2016


In May I packed my samba shoes and flew down to Rio where Gracie, the  youngest, is studying Portuguese.  It is an understatement to say the city is vibrant - it pulses with life. The classic lush green mountain backdrops plunging to vast  blue beach and seascapes are more than breathtaking.  And the whole city is washed in colour  from weathered Colonial mansions in faded pinks , blues  and ochres,  to spray painted street art in the favelas. 

What about Zika, did I get mugged ?  Sure, only a fool would walk around flashing their i-phone or go for a beach swim after dark,  and yes the mosquitos are tedious. But more testing is to ride pillon on a moto taxi up to Gracie`s hostel in Vidigal a recently pacified favela. Picture me grimly clinging to the driver`s middle as he roars up a near vertical gradient, taking bends like a Manx TTrider in slow motion, swinging  the bike a hairís breadth from head-ons with pedestrians, dogs, vans, and moto taxis on their way down.  Like Rio`s other favela shanty towns, Vidigal creeps up the hillside  a jammed and improvised  sprawl of basic breeze block homes, shocking wiring, open drains, and hole-in-the wall shops and bars. You need a good pair of knees to explore the labyrinthine passages. The views are stunning, as if from a plane, looking down at the very distant beach fronts of  Ipanema and Copacabana.  Children fly kites in the wind thermals, spots of  bright colour against the sheer rock face and limit of Vidigal`s extent.



Above, the lush garden at Marcela`s beautiful Air BnB retreat in Cosme Velho  (perfect if you`re going to the Olympics and want some time out) were we swam and read after a hard day`s sightseeing. It is a few minutes walk to Largo de Boticario (below) a hidden square of 19C Colonial architecture and colour.







Below:  Santa Teresa has many  nineteenth century Colonial mansions, plus trendy bars and restaurants.My favourite is Armazem Sao Thiago,

















Below: street life in Vidiga















  I must  note of course that Rio is also a city of fabulous  modernist and contemporary colour and detail.   I`m intrigued, for example,  by the  pure white and futuristic Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and built next to the waterfront at Pier Maua. 








 

Tags: Rio, colour,


Pure Colour Olhao
19 November 2015


London`s autumn streets swarm with black ant-like  crowds  dodging and diving from shop to shop as if buying has become as serious as life itself  Of course my well over 50  perspective is skewed but no way is my city as rough and exciting around the edges as it was in the 80s` when my dodgy Molton Brown bob and frilly white New Romantic shirt were cool. No Boris bikes to take me to our broken down Georgian wreck in rather grubby Spitalfields . Our youthful optimism and passion for rescuing beautiful architecture also unwittingly  prepared the scene for  the influx of the current hipster generation; you can hardly move between the foodie pop ups and designer handbag displays.  Thankfully Olhao, remains a  source of  solace and visual inspiration and the Saturday market with its life,  understatement,  colour and fabulous fresh produce beats any West End/East End foray. 


Glossy olives


Figs from the flat capped  owner`s garden - all shapes and sizes none of which would pass the supermarket test for shape and uniformity



Bees wax from a stall with honey, and honeycombs


Piri piri chillies, hot red and firey.



Sweet potatoes


Garlic in light and shade

Tags: autumn, Olhao, market, simple, colour


Pure colour 2015
06 January 2015


Pure Style colours 2015 via a  day glow yellow t shirt  and pink string from my present pile. You`ll see more inspiration  when my new Colour book comes out in April!




Frosted rose bud  is almost the very very last one before I take the secateurs and prune the rose bushes in time  for spring.




All the way from the balmy fields of the Scilly Isles : scented narcissi arrive packed in folds of tissue paper .




Lime green  paperwhite bulb shoots and moss bedding make me feel that there`s life and vibrancy even in early January grey gloom



There`s the promise of more pink scented  blousy rose blooms with 2  St Swithins  climbers  that I will train up the metal arches in the garden..

Tags: winter, colour, pink, yellow, garden, roses,


Pure Style returns
18 August 2014



Sorry for the silence but I have been pushing on with my new book and have a deadline for end of September!   Yes that`s me out there with camera slung round my neck,. sun hat, glasses (can`t focus through  view finder without)  ruck sack , notebook, tomato bun . We`ve been all over  the place  my camera and me , and next week we`re at home in London where I`m  painting  and shooting more  gorgeous colour inspiration. I am    moored to the keyboard,  but  food breaks are not  neglected- the only demand is  that ideas are  simple and easy to prepare.

Peach puree is a favourite:   Peel 5 or six large peaches, stone and slice and put in a saucepan with enough water to cover.  Add two or three tablespoons of sugar and juice of half a lemon. Simmer for 5 to 10m minutes. Cool, blend and refrigerate until use. Decorate with a scented geranium leaf, or not if you don`t have, and  pour over ice cream for a delectable summer pudding.




Have just said good bye to beach style for the season.... home to grey London skies I suspect.









Tags: Summer, home cooking, colour, blue, orange,


Domestic bliss
08 May 2014


  Spring nettle soup, home made granola, blazing fires, chairs to fall back and doze in and gorgeous  beds make Ett Hem in Stockholm  a  luxurious home from home.  I am hooked after spending the weekend in this intimate 12 bedroom hotel designed by Ilse Crawford.





   Elegant and understated  Ett Hem  is   a carefully curated mix of  modern, vintage and bespoke pieces with a Scandinavian feel.  I especially like the rustic  pottery tableware , above, by Birgitta Watz whose studio is in the city.

 One evening after dinner in the conservatory, we wrap up in blankets to sit by the brazier in Ett Hem`s walled garden decorated with   twinkling strings of lights,  tulips and daffodils.  Perfect!






   More  design inspiration at  Svenskt Tenn  where I tip toe through  Josef frank`s tulip prints.
 



Rugs the colour of Swedish summer berries and woods by Mart Maas-Fjetterstrom, see below,  in the window of a small shop not far from
Ostermalms food hall.




Twentieth century furniture, glass, see below, ceramics and  jewellery at   Modernity





We don`t  make it out to one of the islands of the archipelago  but we do run  around the shimmering canal by the royal park , joining  mothers jogging with strollers and longlimbed Vikings in lycra

 The organic garden at Rosendals  is heavenly. The orchard of native apple trees is bursting into leaf, a reminder of how far north we are. I like the pick your-own-tulips,  the scented Joseph Frank-like  border planting, and delicious biscuits at the cafe.









  Stockholm  foodie highlights:  classic herring plates  and crayfish toasts at   Lisa Elmquist  in Ostermalms  food hall  and the snug  Hip Pocket ( check out the simple patterned  blue tiles ). We are also  elegantly barside  at       Mathias Dahlgren   another  Ilse Crawford project,   where we feast on  modern arrangements of  tartare of fallow deer and salted whitefish roe ; grilled Swedish quid and cucumber, and fried white asparagus and black morels. Delicious.

Try here, below,  for daily bread






I recommend Skansen outdoor museum, with Swedish houses from every period, see 18C summerhouse below.  Disarming to be greeted at the door of the 1930`s house by a woman with shingled hair  boiling very smelly potatoes on the stove and  bemoaning the price of servants. Living history. 




Can`t believe how many kms we`ve covered- at last 15k according to the  distance app. Stockholm is a brilliant city for discovering on foot.  I`m not sure whether the experience would be so comfortable in winter. We have a taste of it with flurries of snow  at  Skogskyrkogarden woodland cemetery. The layout is stunning and contemplative: towering pine trees, grass and simple headstones . See one of the chapels below.




Tags: Sweden, Stockholm, spring, simple, comfort, domestic bliss, colour,


Spring break
18 April 2014


Up with the lark. 4.30am actually. Ring at the door bell. Dog barks loudly and wakes me from dream where a shoot is submerging the house in folds of paper. Stagger downstairs and peer through the knobbly glass door panel. Vague outline of  man in motorbike helmet. Panic. It`s a smash and grab raid?  "Who is it ?". ``Pizza". "Pizza, pizza who? "  I say.  "It`s paid for " he says, and hands over  a box from a thermal bag. "  " It`s 4.30, I didn`t order this, and it`s stone cold"  I say, and stagger upstairs.  Someone has messed up at pizza HQ.

Wish  the  `instant` of nocturnal fast food delivery , could be applied to building work.   One thing leading to another is what building is all about. The  attic bathroom project would have been  done and dusted but for this week`s discovery of a wasps` nest,  parts missing,  and paint colour  mixed with the wrong base. Plus the soggy fallout from the unfortunate incident in  the downstairs bathroom when X and X removed the lavatory as part of the panelling job, and flooded the ceiling below. `You`ll have to get in your plumber` they try.  Hmmmm. "You did say X and X  were competent at removing bathroom fittings" I remind the contractor.  And on, and on  it goes.

Oh well. There`s always the garden. My touchstone of sanity. Spring is at least a  month earlier than last year and we are  soaking up the scents of bluebells and frothy blossom like  parched drinkers.  Best job of the week has been raking  bag of grave  in the relining of  the pathways between the parterre beds.  They look refreshed, almost like clean linen. 













  Unsurprisingly, I`m longing for the weekend. I think that spring lamb will be on the menu for our  Easter feast. This recipe with roasted artichokes and spring greens is  from my book .




Tags: spring, colour, garden, homecooking,


Birthday tea
01 April 2014


Spring is springing and the first tulips are blasting colour in the garden. The snail and slugs are in retreat and all is well. 

 Party of the year in Battersea Park for Bertie`s sweet 16 walk and birthday tea.  Everyone was there.  Regrets were sent from Khan who was  sad because the vet  said he must rest his leg. He sent love. The weather  was perfect. There was  much frolicking and ball playing. For the most part the guests behaved impeccably, apart from Rosie who  slurped melting ice  from the champagne bucket and Lola the black pug who ate too much birthday cake and delivered it back on the rug. The party boy managed to stay the course and tottered home  happily across the grass as the sun dipped beneath the great  chimneys of Battersea Power Station .


Justify Left


Much to be inspired by in the coming season of blossom and light evenings.  I have my eyes on Gallery   Libby sellers  for  eye provoking  design in a  curated environment;  Ben  and Winifred Nicholson`s very domestic take on early  20C art and life at  Kettles Yard ;  creamy Welsh goats`  cheese logs  from Mootown sold at Sunday market in Herne Hill; and my first bath in the new attic bathroom which will be opened for shoots as soon as the last lick of paint has dried.

Here are pictures of the latest blasts of colour in my  garden, shot this morning soon after the fairy mist had lifted and the sun  had broken through.








Tags: tulips, spring, colour, garden,


The garden beckons
25 February 2014


There`s fun in a workout  with  fork and spade in the fresh air . As good as a punch bag (it has been one of those weeks) .Happily ,weeds growing super fast in the warmth, and infesting snails are at the receiving end of my energies.
 I  dig and  thoughts come, like how there is sanity in the unpredictability  of nature.  Give me this  violet (above) pinging with unseasonal  colour and  vigour over a mush diet of commercial uniformity.  Bring on the super green alliums bursting with early green shoots  and,  over there , a  radical  forget met not,  glowing with delicate  cobalt blue flowers  And even though  I canít tame nature  I can attempt to work with her.





 The hazel hurdles are up. Easy to mount the stakes in the boggy soil and they should  make a good backdrop  for  garden shoots this spring.  Iíve recycled the worn out willows ones and put them in the vegetable patch (see below).   Theyíll look good with sweet peas curling up  in summer.





  I am planning a new shoot bathroom in the attic and to line the downstairs bathroom in  tongue and groove mdf cladding.  Iíve my eye on a cast iron bath with feet for the top room  and  Pigeon  dark grey  to give it warmth and contrast  to my mostly white house. 

 On the fabric side of things, I  have recently seen luscious  colours in sleek contract textures  designed by  fashion designer Raf  Simons for   Kvadrat . And there  are interesting retro prints   in Heals` first fabric collection since the seventies`.




I seem to need more raw food at this time of year, something to do with winter depleting our bodiesí stocks of nutrients maybe, or simply a desire for crunch and colour. Here Ďs a simple winter salad, from my  recipe book that you might like to put together
2 or three carrots, peeled and sliced into thin sticks.
200g red cabbage finely sliced
1 head of chicory finely sliced
handful of pomegranate seeds
handful of chopped mixed nuts
few mints leaves, to garnish ( my local Turkish shop has a steady supply all through the year)
for the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp Seville orange juice or lemon juice
 1garlic clove finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the vegetables, pomegranate seeds and nuts in a bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the olive oil and orange or lemon juice until amalgamated. Add the garlic and season. Add the dressing to the salad, mix and garnish with mint.

Tags: winter. home cooking, garden, colour,


New colour new year
06 January 2014

 Today I will squeeze into trainers and have a quick jog to the seafront and back.   New year, new promises and fabulous colour in Christmas earrings and new green cotton t shirt.   Small splashes of colour can be as dramatic as an all out colour assault whether it`s in the wardrobe or for decorating a room.



  A trip along the coast. Down cobbled steps fringed by tumbling purple convovulus  and  cactus plants with paddle  shaped limbs  green succulent, and deadly spiked.  Eating springy bread  buns with hunks of sweet  tomato and  goats`s cheese on the  grey  wind and rain  spattered  beach is more  Bognor regis than the Eastern Algarve, but  we are  also feeling  the whirling effects of the UK`s fierce winter storm.

  I am glad to be off major cooking duties for a few days. But it was hugely satsifying over Christmas to produce  Elizabeth David`s, Carbonade Nimoise and La Daube de Boeuf Provencale from  French Provinical Cooking.  Both essentially hearty stews cooked long and slow, the former involves  lamb  and potatoes with a typical southern taste and smell , and the latter  beef with more  rich  southern  juices  flavoured with orange peel and herbs .







At the Saturday market  there are mounds of cabbages and greens -  rich in winter nutrients and fibre for little more than a few centimos. Wish I could carry back furry quinces for membrillo,  but would be at expense of reading matter . No I don`t have a Kindle, but maybe I should for  the
quince`s  sake.













Sunday, and it`s Fuzeta  fleamarket.  No I don`t want a bucket of golf balls or a  bobbled polyester dressing gown,  but I do have my eye on a couple of retro aluminium jugs for olive oil. Five euros each. Not bad I think, but do I really need them?  But do we really need most of the stuff we have.  Buy them,  says the daughter  and dedicated shopper of her generation in my head   I go back and have a another shifty  look. No. I`ll save my money.  In  the car on the way home. Regret. I  should have bought them. So useful and such great shapes.





Anyone for a hammer?




Pots , pans , simple china and utilitarian junk like these mesh filing trays  are what make Fuzeta a rich source of pickings  on a sunny Sunday morning.





Tags: winter, colour, Olhao


Some ideas for christmas
14 December 2013

 I have escaped  the Christmas hysteria for a long weekend in Olhao. Bathed in  warm sun the Saturday market is a rich source of edible seasonal goodies. I can only look  and sigh at the honey- it wouldn`t make it past the xray scanner  but I load up on  piri piri peppers, nuts and figs for simple stocking fillers.




Two small girls are selling chestnuts  with their brothers from a barrow with a basic charcoal oven and a box of sea salt for flavouring.  They keep their wares   tucked up  like dolls in  a blanket of  sacking. I buy a bag for 2 euros and the nutty burnt flavours  evoke the  Christmases  we spent in  the Andalucian sierra.






Over coffee and a pastel de nata I consider more ideas, some practical, some  fanciful for my Pure Style Christmas wish list:

A scented rambling rose for summer blooms.
A pile of warm wool welsh blankets
 Cashmere socks
A cataplana for making Portuguese fish and rice stew.
Anything from Labour and Wait, especially a pot mat a stout work apron and a shiny new saucepan;
More kitchen knives.
A substantial linen tablecloth
Something simple in pottery
Just about any Aesop products but especially my favourite moisturiser
A new project like this one
The true version of this table rather than my Ikea rip off
A subscription to  visual inspiration at the Royal Academy.
A year`s supply of Bendicks  bittermints

Tags: Christmas, natural, colour, winter


Bulbs in
02 December 2013



Leaves are strewn like golden paper plates  over the garden. Summer`s die back is a challenge and I need to chop, weed and clear to make space for bulb planting.  Past four pm and the day is closed and so it is easy to ignore the untidy goings on in the garden.
I have a gardener friend, Simon ,who says  Jane your task is to get all those beds weeded, and then the job`s done.  So I  take his advice and do it . He does the  heavy stuff and is ace at pruning and keeping many other  local flowering spots neat and under control.
 You know my Label hate, but I need a new pair of wellies and the pigeon  grey Hunters at  TKMaxx are cheapish at £40.00 (they`re seconds ) compared to  £79 up the road at Morleys.  I don`t  even feel comfortable at spending this on a boring pair of rubber boots, but I have to say they fit like a glove and  as with  my favourite rake and spade, it`s good to have practical functional items with which to garden. I suppose I`ll be hiding them from the festival goer next summer.



Away from the screen,  solicitor`s  letters , leaking  sink pipe, and   the general  impermanence  of things,  I  feel contentment  digging snug earth beds for the alliums, and tulips.  The afternoon is quiet , blue wash  sky going into pink  and a blackbird on the fence. 




Cradling each bulb ,laying it down in its nest bed I think  optimistic pleasing thoughts.  I think about the garden in spring decorated with fluffy allium balls,  a sea of purple and pink.. I think of the summer grass  warm and herby and the  sun setting behind the apple tree




The whole thing of putting Christmas together is great, I love to do it for my family  but what I do rage over is the  commercial relentlessness  which began somewhere back in September with  cut price  chocolate snowmen on sale at the Co-op.  Out in the garden there`s none of that  and I am grateful to all the growing things for that





Good things are also cooking in the kitchen to keep the household stoked up because  I`m being frugal with heating. My daughter and I went went on a morning`s quest for pigs trotters, ingredients for  pork pies.  Herne Hill market saved the day when  there wasn`t a pigs trotter to be had between Pecham and Streatham.  She worked from the recipe in  Pie  a brilliant book, and no doubt why said pies won lst prize at the  classroom staff bake off. I`ve  been having fun with mackerel fillets coated in oats and fried in a little olive oil great brain food tasty and economical . I also  bought silvery and fresh wild sea bass to be baked with herbs`s from  wonderful fishmonger,Pauline . Sadly she is moving on  because greedy greedy shortsighted landlord wants to get fatter and fatter and lease to another betting shop or pawnbroker.




Tags: Tulips, alliums, autumn, baking, colour ,


More fruitfulness
11 November 2013

 
One red onion is beauty in itself don`t you think?   It should  should be called  purple , deep mauve , fuschia even, anything but red. I bring a paper bagful home from the market to make an edible autumn display on the table. This  depletes over the week with glossy fried onions for gravy with sausage and mash,  stirfry with   crunchy sticks of carrot and white cabbage and Sunday`s last beef slivers.  I`m addicted to Sharpham Park pearled spelt, and it is just the thing for making a risotto with chopped red onion,  beetroot  and goats cheese. 





  Lido blue sky, Jerk chicken on the breeze ,  and through the park gates a  fluttering  gold horizon on the hill , Sunday in Brixton is just as freeing and refreshing as a walk  in country woods. I am a country girl in my  heart but for all the delights of  rural  beauty and peace  my  head soon  tires of  petrol hikes to the shops and  sinister ice on winter lanes.  Give me the people life of  urban encounters:  a  late night war story  from an Eritrean  minicab driver, fellow dog walkers  smiling in four legged connection;  a close  friend and glass of fizz  one road crossing away; or Antonia and Casey at  Beamish and Mcglue who dispense good coffee  and local chat.   And from the spreading rash  of betting shops in the high street to a potential  feast of films in a new Picture House cinema, these are  all elements of my village life in the city.

 It`s  been a good week for  exhibitions: : Whistler`s  fog scenes on the river at Battersea; more  colour at Tate Modern with  Paul Klee and  then to Albermarle Street and       Tim Wright`s   powerful  painted  figures .

GARDEN NOTE : Apart from a  few floppy pink rose heads. colour is leaching from the garden beds. But the sycamore is flaming and the grass  thick and rich green, a last growth spurt before winter draws it  back into the earth to wait for Spring.   Boxes of tulip and allium bulbs are packed in the cool of the larder.I have a weekend earmarked for planting them and  putting the garden to bed. NB see great pictures by   Caroline Arbour`s  in a  new book  on Virginia Wolf`s garden .





  Inspirational autumn  colours in the park  above,  and pink  Cosmos,  below, growing in the Community  greenhouses, below.




 QUINCE JELLY:   I simmer  the  dentist`s quinces  in  water for a couple of hours  and let the cooked  fruit  drip pink juice  through muslin into the pan.   I add 500ml  juice to 600ml of sugar and stir  the mixture over the heat until setting point .The hot jelly cools and sets in jars by the fridge. The dog sniffs but doesn`t touch,  too  hot.  I  plan to  share the jelly  out to foodies  at Christmas. It`s so good to eat with roast meat or to stir into gravies.














Tags: onions, autumn, colour, market


Things I Like this week
18 October 2013


More local finds at Herne Hill market on Sunday: hand dyed green vintage  Witney blanket from a stall laden with  blankets and throws (every other week )in great colours; a flagon of cider delicious. aromatic and alcoholic   from  Core Fruits 01227 730589  to go with a brace of pheasants  I roasted from the next door but one stall; just round the corner is Lowie, with great handknits and vintage rails  amused to see Lady Di -style  frilled high - neck Laura Ashley frocks






Cheered by  vibrant pink, whether its lipstick or roses (see the  last of  the John Clares in the garden  ) I like the idea that  warm coats in pink sorbet colours are fashion themes this winter. Which reminds me, you should go to   Vanessa de Lisle`s blog for some of the best fashion wisdom in the business.





It`s good to  see the Pure Style borders featured in this month`s copy of the World of Interiors




  Simple idea: nature lamps from Dan, who`s looking for stockists. Contact Danartland@yahoo.co.uk.





Simple pleasures: the dentist`s quinces look so beautiful I don`t want to cook them. And I`m reading  Rakesh Sarin and Manel Baucells    where the   `fundamental question ` of wellbeing is  happiness equals reality minus expectations. Cool!



Tags: blankets colour texture roses


Garden moods
31 May 2013


My garden has moods and textures that change with the time of day, the quality of light, and whatever the  elements are supplying.
  
On a late afternoon in May the garden is a visual intoxication of light and shade: low long beams  track the brilliance of the tulips, the green gloss finish of the grass, and the bees that dangle and dodge on the highways of rays.

Like a sleek well fed cat sprawling  in the sun, the garden seems to exude a kind of contentment which washes over me as I weed, plant or sit by the shed thinking  about nothing in particular.





Late afternoon  tulips in the sunshine curl and unfurl  in a siesta of translucent languorous petals.





The alliums shimmer and fizz in purple brilliance,  edible  pompoms for feasting bees





I want to eat it up, the deliciousness of the garden;  it primes the appetite for taste and smell for the visual and the sensual.  This is the time of day to sit under the blossom of the apple tree in the dappled shade and  eat meringues, cream and raspberries.





NB the wallflowers - especially the lipstick pink ones, see below - are spectacular this spring!








  Garden Mood 11
 On the other hand, or perhaps I should say something more garden-like like spade, or trowel,  the dullest no-show-of -sun-day, gives the garden  a rather wonderful saturated matt quality, like a fabric or a Hockney landscape.  And all  the  colours  and textures of leaves and petals seem to advance and intensify  against the grey canvas of sky,  see pictures  below




 

  Beetroot ripples and stripes of  a `Triumph` tulip,  below






Silvery green grey Globe artichoke foliage is on my  list to become a Pure Style paint colour





  Over the last day or so  my moveable feast of a garden is more a green and purple scene  of alliums, nodding and swaying in the breeze as the remaining tulips wither and shrivel .





A grey day, but  the rich colour  of Mr Campbell`s bluebells almost sings in contrast.

NB Mr Cambell`s bluebells are the descendants of those that were  flowering  here in the garden when  the previous owners Bernard, and his parents did all the things that people did  before technology, like taking  afternoon tea in the shed,  or sitting  in deckchairs in  Flannels waiting for Cook to ring the bell for luncheon.




Tags: Pink, garden, spring, colour


Tiip toe through the tulips
13 May 2013


Took these pictures a week ago, and didn`t want to leave it too long before I uploaded to show you all how exuberant  the tulip show has been this year. The combination of cold and rain this winter seems to have encouraged particularly lush grown in all areas of the spring garden: the bluebells are bluer and the forget -me- nots  more  luminous and  pale blue porcelain-like than ever.





I had  moments of heart in mouth when a shoot came and the child models used the tulip patch as a football pitch. Only lost three specimens  (see salvaged Match Point tulip example above) but it`s an  aspects of house hiring  that brings out the rant in me. 





  There`s the excitement of the apple tree coming into blossom at least a month late, but oh so worth it for the froth of white and pink petals which may be  a harbinger of plump golden apples if frost stays away. 







Writing now from Olhao where the final whitewashing, brushing up and dusting down of the house is in progress. Really pleased with a junk bench  stained in glum brown varnish  that after  sanding and painting white  reveals its  good looks. That`s the fun of  tracking down old junk  of trying to visualise its potential. Heading home tomorrow  and hoping that  weeds and snails have not taken over.




Tags: spring, tulips, flowerpower, pink, colour


Blue highs
04 March 2013


The psychoblurb where blue equals down, miserable.... blah blah blah is daft, really. When I get the blues,  it all feels rather ragged London pigeon grey. Rippling cobalt blue sea or a  first day of spring blue  sky can only help to lift my mood.   So pleased to see on the  Style Court   blog  that although the Pantone  colour of the year is Emerald green, there`s much to get excited about blue, too. How about the new blue and white ceramics exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Art,  the cobalt blue cover of the new Anthroplogie spring collecton  or  Cornflower  one of my new Colour Band borders - see above ?




 More highs:  his little pot of grape hyacinths is just as I found it at the local flower shop perfectly co-ordinated with blue plastic pot  for 1.50 and, so far, 10 days of indoor Spring beauty.




  Cobalt blues on old Portuguese tiles,  a street feature in Olhao  as everyday as grilled sardines .




Funny, isn`t it  that this gorgeous sludgy blue in my sitting room is called Parma Gray?   At night it feels snug, along with the heat from the new Morso  woodburner.  (Yes, yes, yes, pluck me from the  Periodic Table of the  Middle Class Handbook ).  During the  day this colour is serene, all very period Dutch domestic interior, like being in a scene from the Girl with the Pearl Earring.  Nothing depressing about that.


Tags: colour, spring, blue, paint, bulbs, colour band


Things I like this week ....
19 February 2013

Email with  Silvana of the Foodie Bugle who`s finding it hard to track down artisan kitchenware made in Britain; too much manufacturing  has gone East. I`m also on the case for home grown products such as this simple, functional pouring bowl I  picked up at Herne Hill Farmer`s market by local  potter Jan Pateman. (website coming but I have an email contact)  Sheer beauty for 8.00, far too cheap really. Definitely, one for your shop Silvana!




The first snowdrops, on dogwalk at Lyte`s Cary, Somerset





Simple faux tongue and groove panelling painted with white emulsion knocked up by  Keith the builder for a new bedroom at my location house.




Emma Prentice is the girl to go to if you want hip   sari silk shirts in great colours.





Since  writing a  recent piece for Elle Decoration on Danish architect Pernille Arends`  home with its` covetable retro Danish look I wouldn`t say no to eating my daily  toast and jam beneath a classic PH Snowball lamp by Paul Henningsen from Louis Poulsen  





Another family birthday, and therefore no excuse for buying flowers and making coffee cake.



Tags: winter , colour, danish design , simple, functional,


A splash of colour
29 January 2013

I feel starved of colour . The tide mark of mud on my shoes is the perfect shade of  Drab for January. Varifocals magnify the general dreariness: consumptive shoppers under supermarket glare,  greasy pavements spattered oil slick black. But a fifteen minute dog trot from home, the florist  is an oasis. Dog pokes her nose hungrily amongst cheery buckets of tulips and and I choose bunches of cut hyacinths in brilliant Yves Klein blue.






There`s birthday cake for tea. A chocolate and coffee layered Victoria sponge that looks suitably partyish dressed in day glow orange ribbon. Now that`s  a good splash of colour on a depth of winter day  The cake stand is one of our best buys declares my son not usually known for  complimenting his mother`s choice of purchase. Bought from a shoot, I have to say, said cake stand elevates even a pile of currant buns to greater  visual pleasure.



















Tags: winter, colour, simple, home cooking, chocolate


Home produce: things I like this week
22 January 2013


 Simple country inspired  chair and geometric  rug from British designer Matthew Hilton`s new collection.





 Sourdough and other good bread for winter toast by The Old Post Office Bakery, from my  local Sunday morning  Brixton Farmers` Market





The New Craftsmen  curates  brilliant craftsmanship from the British Isles. Above, contemporary Orkney chair made by  Dalston based furniture maker Gareth Neal, and traditional Orkney chair maker Kevin Gauld. Below, Gold plated dressmaking scissors from Ernest Wright
Photos by Tif Hunter




Below, Simple cotton prints from Fermoie by the duo behind Farrow & Ball








Yum!  Malden oysters from Essex : a Saturday treat from Whittakers  my local fishmonger,





Ceramic tealights  from   Maud and Mabel  , pint sized Hampstead emporium where 99% of the stock is British





Tags: winter, simple, country style, colour


Long Island light and shade
06 December 2011





  I feel the air miles  when a man with a festive beer in a plastic cup offers a seat on the packed late train  to Ronkonkoma  and questions with some incredulity  " You`ve come all the way from England for Thanksgiving ?"  I have  and  it`s my first.  The  blazing fire,   turkey with a turkey flavour  from a North Fork organic  farm and the warmth of the Foley family to whose  Long Island Thanksgiving I am invited the next day will  meet all of my expectations and more.  



  With my body clock somewhere after lunch, I wake   rather suddenly   to the crack of  gun shots from the  duck hunters across the lake. ( It is never wise to think the countryside is peaceful)  But it`s tranquil enough, absolutely blissful in fact,  drinking hot coffee on the  porch ,watching  the  melting  pale pink early morning sky  and all around the earthy woodiness  of damp leaves.  I`m at  the white house, the  simple white  wood clad home (and location space) of  Trish Foley the American  queen of white and  natural  decorating. Her first book the Natural Home published in 1995  was  ahead of its time, and is as inspirational today.  



  Trish`s 3rd  pop up shop event for her New General Store takes   place  with soup  cider and cookies over the Thanksgiving weekend. It  features  white and natural home ideas on sale in Trish`s  studio and white cabin tucked amongst the surrounding  winter thin woods.  



  There`s a gang of us  to pull the  last minute threads  together:  stirring the spicy pumpkin soup (cumin, coriander, chilli,  toasted pine nuts and croutons make this a particularly delectable pumpkin idea),  wiping down the thick glassy beads of  overnight dew from the  outdoor  benches and  sweeping leaves off the  huge outdoor  plank table.  The sun feels warm again on my face, a remnant of summer  and as in London, everyone is saying how unseasonable the temperatures are.  



  Matthew Mead sets up his stall in the  White Shop,  and signs copies of Holiday magazine- his  brilliant and  visually  inspiring  take on crafting and making that comes out quarterly.  







    I have my eyes, on white pots filled  with bulbs and moss,  but can`t exactly see getting past airport  security  A narcissus- scented candle will do very nicely instead.  And there is a gorgeous collection of  vintage white Ironstone china,  platters, cups and bowls, that I could also happily pack to take home - if only.  



  We say clothes pegs you say clothes pins.  



  As well as delicious flavoured vinegars and olive oils, there`s  flowery and scented Rugosa Rose jelly  made by The Taste of the North Fork.  I have some  dollops of it  on toast with butter  for breakfast to keep me going.  



 



  I am on duty  signing books in the studio, suffused with the scent of flowering  paper white narcissi, and bathed in the  long low sunlight pouring  through the  south facing wall of glass window panes. It`s  good to meet  the New York/Long Island crowd and find that there`s  common ground - simpler living is as much on the agenda in the economic  downturn as it is at home.  I`m glad that all my favourite things:  parrot tulips,  rhubarb,  roses,  chestnuts and lemon meringue pie seem to be  appreciated across the pond.  The books are a sell out and  so I celebrate with walnut shortbread baked by Michael Jones.  



  The next day I`m 0n the road again, heading to my next signing at Loaves and Fishes, in Bridgehampton.  This is a wonderful treasure trove of a cook shop with the best of its type,  from  coffee making machine and  shellfish picker to sharp knife and dinner plate.  Run by the charming and welcoming Sybille van Kempen  Loaves and Fishes is also noted for its food shop and cookery school and is  as much a  Hamptons  landmark as all the gorgeous beach houses*.  It`s Sunday lunchtime, and so my samples of  chocolate and chestnut cake are a great crowd drawer,  and another of the book`s recipes that seems to travel rather well. *   Ralph Lauren  designer, Ellen O`Neill`s  heavenly red and white house  ( American country house style meets Bloomsbury ) is another Long Island   location shoot`s dream.  



  Time for some  R and R and I head off to the City via the Long Island Rail Road  ( it`s all so American-  the toot tooting  of the train when it passes  the  unmanned barriers reminds me of every cowboy  movie I`ve ever seen)  and Penn Station. The avenues of Manhattan await me and my wheelie bag.

Tags: Christmas, colour, home cooking, scent, Simple, white rooms, winter


See Pure Style on Design Sponge!
05 October 2011





  I wanted to show you this great piece on my home that`s just gone live with Design Sponge. Thanks so much to Keiko for taking such glamorous pictures!    

Tags: books, colour, garden, homemade, interiors, Simple, thrifty decoration, white rooms


Things I like this week.......
03 October 2011

More brilliant ideas from the Pure Style design files.



    Mellow yellow:  simple Daisy pattern wallpaper from The art of wallpaper.  Also comes in a good sludgy blue, brick red, and charcoal.  



      The clocks will be going back soon and there will be a great excuse for investing in a really good desk lamp - I love this one from Anglepoise.    



  Blue and white striped Cornishware mugs feature in all the kitchens that I have lived in over the years. I love their utilitarian cheerful feel. From recently rescued TG Green Ė and also in red.    



  Indian summerís over Ė itís time for tea and toast. This smart glass jar comes with spiced fig jam, from Toast. Recycle it for your own jam making efforts.      



More autumn leaf yellows (THE colour this season) in wool knit by Danish company Kvadrat cover this 50ís Scandinavian style easy char in oak, from Healís. It also comes in leather, but Iím not so sure that works so well.      



  Yes I know linen sheets almost need a mortgage, but treat them like investment dressing and save up for a set from Volga Linen to last and last.  



  I love the way denim fades when you wash it. Get the look with this squashy bean bag made in the UK and covered with indigo denim woven in Lancashire, from Ian Mankin.  

Tags: autumn, colour, fabrics, home cooking, interiors, Simple, wallpaper


Things I like this week ...
28 September 2011

  This is my new weekly post where I share inspiring pictures and ideas from the Pure Style design files.    



  Retro look for keeping warm this winter: wool blanket ĎMadison Goldí from Melin Tregwynt.  



  With 20% off from 1st October Scottish fabric designer Donna Wilsonís Eadie armchairs at SCP are potentially more than just a textile-dream.  



  Just launched at the London Design Festival is Studioilseís Companions bedside table in oiled chestnut and cork for De La Espada.  



  This olive oil crushed from Arbequina olives, by Spanish food specialist Brindisa is really mellow and nutty - I think itís brilliant for making mayonnaise.



  Iíve had my Le Creuset cast iron casserole pans for over 20 years - but wouldnít mind adding a cream coloured one to my kitchen kit.  



Feathery white parrot tulips are essential in my spring garden. Definitely putting in another order this season from Crocus.  



  Itís time for dealing with the fading roses. Great for pruning are Swiss made Felco secateurs.

Tags: autumn, colour, flower power, garden, interiors, Simple


Natural beauty
09 April 2011





The garden is growing growing growing. The warmth and sun of the past week has kick started the spring juices and the little beds in the parterre/potager are greening and filling out fast. The tulips that started as a flop of leaves have developed slender stems with tight buds. The first to flower is the variety Lilac Perfection (see above) in fabulous bowls of fuschia pink petals.



This natural beauty in my backyard is a kind of antidote to all thatís commercial and mass market: ads that make us want more even though we donít need whatever is being pushed, or the TV mush of American teen soaps and celebrity dining shows. This, and my desire to live more simply and without so much fuss is also where I am at with my Pure Style philosophy. I think I must be on the right track when I read that my design hero Terence Conran has a buff label on his desk with the words ĎPlain, simple, useful` and says that we should apply this attitude to everything we own and use. I am also a fan of John Laneís Timeless Simplicity - in which he explains how to live more creatively in a consumer society.



It quite a revelation, to see that itís not the first time there has been a reaction to the consumerism in society. Go and see the V&A`s exhibition Escape into Style, `The cult of beauty: The aesthetic movement 1860-1900í which is about the late nineteenth century revolt against Victorian industrialism by artists and architects who wished to create a new ideal of beauty in wallpaper, painting, architecture, textiles and poetry. NB: Although it`s really all about middle class family angst - and a rather too close to home portrait of it too, I recommend the film, Archipelago, to see some truly mesmerising visuals of the natural beauty on the wild and windswept island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly.



Tags: books, colour, flower power, garden, Simple, spring


Colour love
18 February 2011





Ha Ha! I am right on trend in my several-seasons-old canary yellow buttoned J Crew cardigan,  as the March issue of Vogue proclaims Ďfashionís new love for colourí. Of course we all know itís not really new, as fashion is all about an ongoing passion with colour in some form or other. But there is something particularly resonant about the  newness and vibrancy that Spring brings to everything. A sense, too, of optimism and possibilities - from the leggy amaryllis by my kitchen window (see above) about to unfurl in a whirl of striped pink and white petals, to the Spring pages of fashion mags  washed in bright shades of tangerine, raspberry and quince. (I look forward to the first swim of the season at the lido and have my eye on a hyacinth blue retro spot halterneck swimsuit in the Boden catalogue that plopped through my letter box last week.) When I havenít seen my children for a while and we meet   after a fortnight  away or longer,   thereís a sense of seeing them as new people, almost like getting to know them all over again. Thatís how I feel, in a way, when I hold the neatly bound sections of the new book, all ready to be sent off to the printers in China. Is it really three months since I turned in the final acknowledgements? I am excited, because I now see the book with a fresh eye. Itís not tiring to scan the spreads that I checked over and over  during the editing process. I hope it doesnít sound puffed up to say itís looking good!



  Feeling buoyant I am inspired to revisit a piece of half finished patchwork that has been lying in my large turquoise canvas remnants bag for the last year or so. Itís made up of blue and white pieces cut from various sources:  pairs of worn out childrenís pyjamas and tattered jeans. Thereís also a bit of floral Liberty print from a dress that I cut up because I grew tired of its shape. (Although quite expensive, I also like the idea of pre cut Liberty patchwork squares sold by the bundle.) Foot on the accelerator I motor along on the rather battered Elna Lotus SP that my parents gave me for my 21st birthday. The process of pinning and stitching, trying to  steer not only a straight path but  also fingers away from the dagger effects of the speeding needle,  are all good for freeing the mind of muddle. As good as digging the garden, or beating egg whites to frothy peaks. Once everything is sewn together I hem the edges of what is to become a kind of patchwork loose cover for the seat of the chesterfield. I say, loose, because the dog, and the cat, are very fond of this surface, and it would soon look very sad, very quickly if I couldnít whip it off to be washed and revived. NB Must catch the British photographer E.O. Hoppeís modernistic portraits (Vita Sackville West, John Masefield) at The National Portrait Gallery. NNB I made pheasant and pea  (frozen petit pois are delicious) risotto  last night, with the leftovers and  home made stock  from  a brace of pheasants  from the Farmerís market. Itís good not to have to be a hunting shooting fishing type in order to enjoy the mildly gamey flavour, and lean texture of these  inexpensive birds.  



Tags: books, colour, flower power, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, interiors, scent, Simple, spring, thrifty decoration


Spring and eggs
11 February 2011





  This feels like spring. A brilliant sunlight filled day and a plate of Daisyís eau de nil and chalk white eggs fresh from her hens. I check outside and even the bare flower beds have little patches of brilliant green where the chives, and tulips are having a go at bursting forth. I know that the doom mongers say thereís plenty more foul wintry weather to come, but you canít ignore the fact that it stays light until teatime. And as it turns dusky velvet blue, the sky has the luminous feel associated with softer, warmer and longer days ahead.      



  I like to bring the spring feeling inside even if it hasnít quite got going outside. There are inexpensive bundles of daffodils, or pots of delicate grape hyacinths at Jayne Copperthwaiteís fragrant flower shop which she recently opened in Balham, south London. Itís my daughterís 17th birthday weekend and so thereís every excuse to come away laden with bunches of blue hyacinths and sweetly scented white narcissi.          



  I prefer my flowers to sit in containers that donít shout: simple glass vases, pint beer gasses even, or the white enamel bowls that I fill with bulbs and layer with moss.



  I lay the table with a suitably spring green cotton cloth made out of a furnishing fabric remnant from my store cupboard on the landing. Later at the birthday dinner, there are candles, pink fizz and large slices of chocolate cake. (I feel very short amongst the beautiful gazelles in high heels.) NB: Before I push Publish, I must say how really cross I am that the Government wants to close hundreds of libraries (481 libraries, 422 buildings and 59 mobile libraries are under threat according to Public Libraries News). As an 8 year old, it was a first taste of independence, wheeling my bike back from Earlsfield library with an Everlasting Toffee strip and a  bagful of books dangling from the handlebars. The shiny parquet floors and hushed atmosphere made the library seem all at once very grow up but somehow calm and comforting. Choosing books from packed shelves, rows and rows, was like being in a kind of sweet shop of words and ideas, and all the better because you could take them home for free. My current local library at West Norwood is a brilliant source of everything from thrillers, to the latest Booker Prize winner in a pristine dust jacket. There are mothers with young children getting their first taste of reading books, old people who come to read the newspapers, seek some companionship. Even the disruptive teenagers calm down in this airy, peaceful environment.  And in common with other libraries around the county, it is also a lifeline for the one in five people who do not have the internet at home and need their local library to look for jobs. The libraries must stay open.

Tags: books, colour, flower power, garden, home cooking, homemade, spring, thrifty decoration


Cake and cabbage
28 January 2011





If I think too hard about writing I canít write, and similarly at the Zumba Latin beat dance class I part company with the group rhythm when I concentrate too hard on getting arms, legs, and body to co-ordinate. When I relax and let the beat take over I may not look like an extra from Dirty Dancing, but boy do I feel like it. Shaking oneís booty is a good way to dissipate the stress after talking with Pete from Thames Water who calls to let me know, a touch triumphantly perhaps?, that I still have a leaking water pipe. In as even a tone as I can muster, (Pete has the mildly pompous and intimidating air of a customs official so it is hard not to feel ruffled) I say Iíve spent nearly £1,000 for 20 metres of shiny blue plastic pipe, (and a mud strewn garden) to rectify the problem. The workman returns and confirms a miniscule drip where the new pipe meets the stopcock. I call Pete who says heís going to send out another engineer, to test the repaired repair. What happens, I wonder, if our waterís running when he does his secret testing by the front gate? Wonít this show up as leakage? Thames Water, you see, donít seem to Do appointments and check with the householder that their water supply is actually turned offÖÖ.. Not all is utterly frustrating. My successful domestic repairs are a replacement tile, cut perfectly to size by Adorn Tiling, for our Victorian tiled hall floor. And my daughterís Spanish riding boots, battered more by life on campus than anything horsey, which have been given a completely new lease of life with a new stitched sole and heels thanks to our local branch of Timpsons.



Happily itís time to bake a cake for my sonís birthday. I use my default Victoria  sponge recipe of equal parts of self-raising flour, (some of the flour substituted with cocoa powder), caster sugar, eggs and butter.) I use an electric hand mixer for the sugar, butter and eggs, and then fold in the flour with a metal tablespoon for lightness. When the mixture is a gloopy paste I dollop it into three well greased round sandwich tins.



After half an hour or so I turn out the steaming and springy cakes and leave them to cool on my mumís wobbly pre war metal rack. I make chocolate butter icing Ė after sifting the icing sugar and combining it with sifted cocoa powder and softened  unsalted butter. I add a little water and beat it with a fork to make it light and fluffy. I use a palette knife to smooth it over the cake. And then decorate it with silver balls. (NB Check out my definitive recipe for a good cake in my forthcoming new book.)



Nature is inspiring a kind of natural decoration guru all of her own. The cabbage is a case in point, all beautiful glowing green and purple frilling leaves Ė the chicest interior decorator couldnít do better. If you want your cabbage to retain its colour and texture remember to steam it lightly and only for a few minutes.



I hope to be buying my cabbages and other fresh-from-the-farm veg at our proposed new street market in West Norwood, which is following hard on the heels of the fabulous Sunday morning farmers market in Brixton. This is an uplifting project and positive stuff when all the papers are saturated with comment and data about Britainís increasing irrelevance on the world stage. I think about the future for my children. Eerily, these stories echo those that framed my teenage world Ė one in five young people unemployed, and lives strained to breaking point by shrinking state support Ė in the national decline that so gripped 1970s and early 1980ís Britain.



 

Tags: books, colour, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, interiors, Simple, winter


Winter figs
14 January 2011





I squelch around the soggy garden mentally choosing new planting ideas for spring.  Smooth red rosehips and little purple figs, relics of last summer, on the tree in a frost-cracked pot are just about the only other colours in a palette of greens and earth browns. In the long, low illuminating rays of a sunny winter`s  afternoon it is clear that the house is in need of a good scrub. My tools are thick gloves, bucket of hot water, mild detergent, a good wooden scrubbing brush and elbow grease. With the Radio 4 play for company itís not too long before the white floorboards look less dingy and the bare pine boards in the kitchen feel smoother, and cleaner underfoot.



I would not describe myself as house-proud - always fussing and tweaking the cushions in a Stepford Wives kind of way. But I do feel  a certain self-consciousness on behalf of my home in its role as a location house - like the protective mother of a willowy model daughter at the mercy of fickle art directors. The other day, it was turned down because our beds were too ĎEuropeaní. I would be the wrong person for the job if I took this as a personal insult. All it means is that the space isnít right for that particular job. Getting the detail up to scratch is all-important. I overhear a comment about a clientís visit to a location, that was so shabby chic, the door handles were stuck on with sellotape. Feeling slightly like a child about to be caught in the act, I make a note to remedy our interior malfunctions. Preparation for photography means an enormous session with the washing machine. I love the dog and cat but not their muddy paws that decorate the white cotton sheets and covers as soon as Iíve made up fresh beds. So I am very strict and un-dog-and-cat-lover-like and banish them from the bedrooms until a shoot is over. All of the folding, ironing, and hot water and bucket work is not in vain, when the first client of the year announces that they would like to come and live here.



When the thigh-high reflective waders are pulled out I know the ongoing water leak situation is not so rosy. Soon the front garden is looking like a floodlit crime scene from a Henning Menkell thriller as Carl the plumber digs down in search of an elusive and broken water pipe.  Neighbours pass by and look pityingly at our muddy excavations.  Several more holes and mounds of earth later, the verdict is a whole run of replacement tubing and great expense. At least larder supplies are stable as the older two have returned to university. And I am no longer burning my fortune away in gas after discovering that the house was unbearably hot not because of the wonderful capabilities of the new boiler, which of course are undeniable, but because the thermostat had been turned up to 75C in order to quick dry a load of washing over radiators before the return to penniless student life. In between everything domestic, I am back at my desk writing Christmas thank yous with beautiful black and white cards Ė photographs of long gone North Devon rural life by James Ravilious from the Beaford Archive. (I must also tell you about the inspiring pictures on show at the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery.) With many more evenings, and afternoons, of electric light before the clocks change, I am thinking of trying out what must be the first, and only stylish looking low energy light bulb: the Plumen bulb uses 80% less energy and lasts 8 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Meanwhile, it is good to see spring is advancing with my indoor pots of sprouting amaryllis and hyacinth bulbs.



Tags: books, colour, flower power, homemade, interiors, Simple, thrifty decoration, white rooms, winter


Everyday inspiration
06 January 2011





I am woken in the ink of night by a rumbling on the stairs. The adrenalin washes away as I see the cat careering downwards in pursuit of a mouse. Next morning there are five blood spots where she has exercised the law of the suburban jungle.  Sleep disturbances (there has been a teenage party, too) donít go well with my new year plans for super organisation and lists of things to get down. However, it is worth the numbing experience of a trip to Ikea to stock up on new white box files. Just lining them up on the office shelves, freshly folded and empty is enough to make me feel strong enough to tackle almost anything. Even the rather alarming threat from the water company that they will pursue legal action if I donít mend the small leak outside on the pavement within the new few days. Heavens, Iíve only just got over the drama of my boiler and British Gas.



This is the bother of long festive breaks, you have a wonderful time being cocooned with chocolates, fairy lights and going out to eat (Vietnamese noodles, seafood and mint at Battersea based Mientay) and a refreshing tapa of fennel, feta, and pomegranate seeds at Camberwellís Angels and Gipsies). Then, itís over, like the proverbial rug stripped from under your thick socks, and back to the grind to pay for it all. Still, thereís something rather appealing about returning to everyday duties. And even if it means sharing our house with the new seasonís sofas, a cotful of model babies, and photographers with caravans of staff and equipment, it is all part of an industrious rhythm that I seem to thrive on. Well, as long as it doesnít get too hectic....



With the pompoms back in the Christmas box stored up in the attic and the tree dismembered into aromatic kindling for the fire, the house returns to a feeling of calm simplicity that is really welcome after all the festive stuff.  I know that white is my passion - white walls, white plates, white you-name -it - but I also couldnít live without the simple everyday qualities of blue and white striped ticking cotton (charcoal-coloured, seen here) much of it from Ian Mankin that I use as cushion and chair covers, and assorted tablecloths. Similarly visitors to the house will find all sorts of blue and white checks, for wool throws, for more cushions, and my favourite blue and white check mesh shopping bag from an old-fashioned Spanish hardware shop. This is the sort of everydayness that is as important to me as cloves of garlic and good olive oil for a simple salad dressing or a thick piece of buttered toast and tea. And  I mustnít forget a good book too. Reading a Sunday review where publishers mope about the ones that got away, I can see thereís some rich material. The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips (Virago), and Deceptions by Rebecca Frayn (Simon&Schuster) look to be just two beguiling novels that will distract me from the new year paper piles and form filling.



Tags: books, colour, interiors, Simple, white rooms, winter


A thriller and the garden
30 December 2010





From almost-hysterical queues to silhouettes of trees and church towers against white fields: this contrast from urban shopping frenzy to rural peace has been one of the best things about our Christmas, spent in the depths of Somerset. Charades, a melee of dogs plopped in front of the fire, and Blackadder on the TV are pretty good festive ingredients, too.



Thereís a feeling of relief that all the present searching and sorting is over. I am using the post Christmas calm to get stuck in to Before I Go To Sleep With a bizarre form of memory loss as its key theme, the story is a gripping psychological thriller which kept me up all night, because it was too tantalising to close the pages and not get to the clever ending. But enough of the adrenaline. I am thrilled with my copy of Second Nature: A Gardener`s Education by Michael Pollen who brilliantly promotes the garden rather than the wild as the most appropriate place for rethinking our relationship with nature. He says that a garden is the place for being in, rather than looking at. Lawns, for example are not part of Pollenís landscape: ďThe more serious about gardening I became, the more dubious lawns seemedĒ he writes and goes on to say ďFor however democratic a lawn may be with respect to oneís neighbours, with respect to nature it is authoritarianĒ. I know what he means, but you do have to tough it with nature too - Iím thinking of the groundelder and lemon balm that engulfs my summer garden, of which I have no qualms at hacking down to maintain order.



With more musing on my unseasonal train of thought I do so miss the summer herby lavender scents of my garden which is looking so spare and flattened now that there is a bit of a thaw in progress. The closest I can seem to get to a summer sensory experience at the moment is the gorgeous Primrose Facial Hydrating Cream with lavender, sage and rosemary from Aesop. I donít usually find huge words of praise for beauty treatments (having worked as a beauty editor some years ago and tried out products that came with extraordinary claims, even more extraordinary prices and yet didnít seem to be any better than E45 cream from the chemist) but this cream is delicious in fragrance and good to my frazzled winter skin. Whilst Iím on the subject of beautifying I shall keep you posted with the effects, if any, (who me, sounding a touch cynical?) of my Yuroll which bills itself as a jade facial massager Ė not unlike a small rolling pin on a long handle Ė and is supposed to ensure a ďlean re-contoured wonderfully unlined face: thoroughly toned and with improved elasticityĒ. I canít see anything, apart from a very large dose of Botox improving my Ďlaughterí lines and general wear and tear, much of which occurred when I sunbathed furiously in my teens. But, hey Iím going to give it a go!



Weíre all nursing extremely full stomachs, and yearning for something lighter and more fragrant than Christmas turkey fare. My sister in law gave me a jar of her preserved lemons, which I canít wait to add to a spicy tagine with some fluffy hot couscous. I must also pay a visit to Persepolis our local taste of Persia in Peckham, where there are many aromatic middle eastern delights. After an extremely bracing walk across Hampstead Heath, it wonít be over indulgent in this season of indulgency, to enjoy some ice cream at Marine Ices in Camden, a family tradition that goes back to when my children were small and seemed to disappear behind their two huge scoops of chocolate tottering on wafer cones.

Tags: books, Christmas, colour, flower power, garden, home cooking, homemade, scent, Simple, winter


Bulbs in the shed
26 November 2009



dsc_0035leave-nov-09.jpg

It has been a glorious Indian summer of an autumn: crisp golden leaves catching in my hair and tumbling across the grass as I walk in the park. But now the clouds have burst to soak the leaf fall which pastes the streets like papier mache. London is good at this time of year quieter, more mellow. In the deepening shadows the city squares and churchyards seem more secret, invitations into the past.

dsc_0019autumn-rain-09.jpg

At weekends it`s hat, scarf and ribbed tights weather. Dark sunday afternoons are for eating cake and idling at an exhibition. I really really recommend the visual magic at The Museum of Everything, showing unseen artists, who create their work outside the eyes and ears of the art world. Take Judith Scott, who made sculpture from household objects entirely hidden by being wound-about over and over by wool and yarn. Scott had Down`s syndrome, and only communicated through these things. They`re very convincing, together with the spirit drawings of medium Madge Gill, and the ceramic recycled kingdom of Indian roads worker Nek Chand. The works are unintentional, delicate and profound. What a contrast at Tate Modern where Pop Life: Art in a Material World is billed as a foray into the world of the celebrity artist. It includes Andy Warhol wallpaper, Damien Hirst`s golden spot paintings, a reconstruction of Keith Harings`s Pop Shop and some unappealing top shelf stuff in the over 18s` room. The artist as commercial brand continues to flow into the shop where Tracey Emin white mugs are a whopping ¨®¨£15.00. It all left me feeling rather flat and anxious to go home and do something nourishing like collect the bean and nicotiana seeds from the pods I`ve been drying by the boiler.

dsc_0039beanseed-nov-o9.jpg

I wake up to the door bell and a postman (something of a rarity during the recent post strikes) bearing a cardboard box with perforated holes from Crocus. It`s the tulip bulbs: Lilac Perfection, Tulipa White Parrot and Tulipa Violet Beauty. All to be planted asap. Six inches isn`t too deep too keep out the the foxes and squirrels who enjoy a crunchy bulb or two..or three....or more. By the way, bulbs are poisonous if eaten by humans and can be irritating to the skin.

dsc_0030hyaciunth-09.jpg

A couple of weeks ago I planted up of bowls with specially forced bulbs of hyacinths, paper whites, and crocuses so we will hopefully be surrounded by gorgeous scent and colour over christmas.The secret is to keep them cool and in the dark to let them develop good roots before bringing them into the warmth and light.

dsc_0027blue-bowl.jpg

Now for some trumpet blowing: Remodelista editor, Sarah Lonsdale has voted my blog as one of her top ten eclectic design blogs. And I`m `Queen of Simple`, no less, in Grazia magazine where there`s a piece on the house in Olhao. Speaking of which, hooray! hooray! almost a year to the day, we have the licence to start work on The Room on Top. Who knows what will be in store, once Mr Martinho`s gang arrive and start the heavy work? I will keep you posted.

dsc_0008tvroom.jpg

A room isn`t a room without Farrow and Ball`s `Teresa`s Green`, it`s my current passion, having just re-painted the tv room. A room isn`t a room without a dog, but unlike paint which can be painted over if you get fed up with it, a dog is for life. Should be, but round here `weapon` dogs roam the streets with hoodied youths who can`t look after themselves, let along something on four legs. We found a sad, abandoned and emaciated staffie with sores and trailing claws who clambered wearily into the back of the car and let me take her to Battersea Dogs Home. If you want to rescue her she is Brindle/White SBTX

dsc_0024pressing-flowers-nov-09.jpg

What with all the leaves pouring off the trees it seems a little unseasonal to be to picking remnants of a summer flower garden: a few rose heads, nasturtiums and so on. I hope it`s not because of climate change. But then Pepys describes roses blooming in his London garden in the middle of December, and that was hundreds of years ago before we`d begun to stifle the planet. Anyway, it`s good to press the petals between the pages of the telephone directory for simple decorations that you can stick on your christmas cards.

dsc_0008press-flowers-nov-09.jpg

The warm conditions followed by wet this autumn have been a fungi foragers dream. My family really got into searching for porcini, (penny buns) field mushrooms, chanterelles, blewitts and parasols when we lived in Spain. These are edible mushrooms that are quite easy to identify. The locals there were crafty so and sos and thought nothing of raiding their neighbours` fields before daylight.

dsc_0065parasol-nov-o9.jpg

On a stroll through Berkshire parkland we found parasols (actually umbrella shaped) poking up beneath gnarled trunked oak trees. They`re very tasty fried in a little butter with parsley, but as with all edible mushrooms you shouldn`t eat them in large quantities because they`re hard to digest.

dsc_0084parasols-on-toast-09.jpg

Tags: autumn, colour, flower power, garden, home cooking, Simple


Beautiful and Useful
18 October 2009



dsc_0042apples-09.jpg

I am on a no waste campaign after listening to Tristram Stuart at a Studioilse Kitchen Table Talk, about the shocking way in which we waste food. His book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal reveals how much food gets chucked away right across the food supply system. Consider just this one fact: from the bread and other grain-based products that British households throw away each year, Stuart estimates it would be possible to alleviate the hunger of 30 million people. That sounds at first like an improbably large number āńŲ?—?® until one considers that British households chuck away 2.6bn slices of bread each year. I was brought up with the concept of not wasting food because both my parents were world war 11 children, but my daughter sees little harm in binning a perfectly good but one day out of date yoghurt, "Mum, you`ll give us all food poisoning" she protests, sinking her teeth into a Big Mac. Tristram would give the thumbs up, though, to my apple gathering in the garden. We have had three apple puddings and as many crumbles in the last fortnight. Not only have copious sheets of the Guardian been recycled, but the trays of newspaper wrapped apples in the cellar will last weeks.I`m planning to send a specimen - fruit and leaves - to the National Fruit Collection who for a tenner, will attempt to identify it. The tree`s pretty old so I`m hoping its some long lost variety.

dsc_01156junk-tablejpg.jpg

The 19C architect and designer William Morris`s belief `Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful` is a resourceful, and anti-waste idea to embrace now. That doesn`t mean you have to buy exquisite and expensive: think of the humble pudding basin, it looks good and serves its function for very little money. Similarly, a useful junk piece with intrinsically good bones, can be given a facelifit with a lick of paint. See my latest Youtube where I perk up a rather gloomy looking side table, rescued from a local skip. This is a good way, too, of using up paint that you might have left over- another way of reducing waste. Don`t worry if all you have is emulsion. I know that paint purists wouldn`t approve but I use it all the time to paint bits of furniture. A water based primer, and two top coats of colour is all that you need. Here I`ve used Little Greene`s Salix which is a pale greeny blue colour. When I do get around to mending things, the relief and sense of purpose, and happy thoughts of money saving are so huge that I don`t know why I didn`t do it long before. For the last year or so, the dog has been regularly falling through the Salvation Army Ercol sofa because the webbing has worn through in the middle. Being lightweight, the cat doesn`t have this problem, and humans know how to avoid the caved in bit. So I am so excited to have come across the Upholstery Supply Man who is sending me replacements.All I have to do is fit them......

dsc_0068dahlia.jpg

My last swim at the lido was two weeks ago: the day golden and still with maturing shadows; the air warm but with a chill; the water sparkling and fresh. Wistful, now that there won`t be any swims until spring. But to look on the bright side of things there are the dahlias: old English teatime flouncy petals that make me think of Erdem`s digital floral printed dresses, one of which to waft about in, top of my current wish list.

Tags: autumn, colour, flower power, garden, get crafty


The September issue
20 September 2009



dsc_0017zinnia-blog2.jpg

I have had an action packed summer: six teens and me, in Olhao. ( No time to paint my nails, let alone get a new blog post out) The heat, beach and three meals a day keep them out of trouble. There are a few ups and downs: livid red grazes from a failed mission to rescue a smartphone, another you-learn-by-your-mistakes- episode with drinks in pretty colours, bags with keys and money left at shops, and spectacles washed away whilst frolicking in crashing waves.

dsc_0086market.jpg

The food side of things is more of a challenge Not that the gang are fussy, in fact they lap up everything from crab to clams but the sheer weight of daily supplies is in danger of destroying the Rolly Rolser shopping bag on wheels. This trusty accessory joins the fleet that Olhaons trundle over cobbles to the daily fish and vegetable market. Saturday is best when local farmers bring their own produce and I come home with exquisite olives, sprigs of mint, garlic strings and brilliant zinnias, one euro a bunch. I am keen to get to grips with grilling sardines, and hang around peeling white washed alleys where old ladies and fishermen expertly fuss over their door step bbqs. The story: gray charocoal, not too much of it and a cup of water for damping unruly flames. This ensures light crispy skins, rather than the oily black charred offerings if the charcoal is red hot. As for preparation, the daily catch is so gleaming and rigid with freshness there`s not need to gut them. Salad to go with sardines includes our take on Italian panzanella made with stale bread, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion , parsley and a dressing with oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Then there are lemon quarters to squeeze over the fish and bring out its flavour.

dsc_0011panzanella.jpg

The teen gang leave with the exuberance with which they arrived, in a whirlwind of Kate Moss scent, suntans, tangled salt hair and flip flops. The house settles back into itself again, with the air of post party relief that comes from from sending everyone home in one piece. I have a few delicious mornings in bed with Alan Bennett`s witty and self deprecating memoir Untold Stories . Then it is planning the Room on Top project for which, 8 months on, I finally have planning permission. The very last little bureaucratic hurdle is the 3 month licence, which should be through next week. More finger crossing.

dsc_0030olhao-geos-bedroom-blog.jpg

As I pack away t-shirts and cool dresses, I muse that that it`s one thing to have visual records of Olhao`s unmanicured charm, but another to convey the pot pourri of smells: overworked drains, rotting fish, the waft of a honeysuckle in a hidden courtyard; beery fisherman, lingering herb cologne, home cooked stews, the ozone and saltness of the sea air. They`re so evocative, so of the place, it`s hard to conjure them up mentally but London suburbaban street air seems so bland in comparison, even when the foxes have been having a party by the dustbins.

dsc_0028arvest-festival.jpg

Back at the ranch in Tulse Hill, the house has been earning its keep and host to shoots, including one for SMA baby milk of feature film proportions (apologies to my neighbours) with baby models, back-up baby models, and crates of plastic flowers; the latter draped all over the garden to make it look more colourful. My son says why can`t it always look like that. I give him the look reserved for similar utterances about things not meeting his exacting standards. Actually, the house is looking a bit bashed up after all the babies, cables, and cameras. So I am planning to do a bit of tidy up: repaint floorboards, and renew floor coverings with simple tactile rush matting, the sort we had at home in the sixties`. I am also debating one of Atlanta Bartlett`s white country tables from her new online store Pale and Interesting. The vegetable garden has survived a month of sporadic watering and nurturing from family members who remained to look after the shoots. The lettuces didn`t stand a chance, but the potatoes (Pink Fir Apple) and (International Kidney) are plump; we eat the first earthy diggings, boiled in mint and tossed in butter.

dsc_0006poatoes2.jpg

Cherry tomatoes, yellow courgettes, garlic and shallots have all performed far better than I`d dared hope, and I shall plait together a bundle of garlic for my friend`s birthday. Thanks, in part, to Lambeth council: it is their free compost bin that is the receptacle for the nicely rotted contents from the kitchen peelings.

dsc_0003garlic2.jpg

Despite the jolly hard work of nurturing and tending to the nursery of delicate seedlings that started life next my desk, it is pure pleasure to see last year`s bean seeds curling and climbing up the wigwams, heavy with slender green pods.

dsc_0057french-beans-blog.jpg

Even the temperamental basil, that threatened to expire when I brought it outside too early is keeping us in supplies for pesto. The magical notion of producing so much from so little is exquisitely shown by a border of leggy nicotiana plants, whose delicate white flowers release intoxicating scent at nightfall. Weeks of sensual and visual pleasure from a packet of seeds is truly gratifying.

dsc_0063.jpg

London might not have the laid back charms of a Portuguese fishing town, but there are more than enough autumn shows and exhibitions to divert post holiday blues. I am looking forward to the new ceramics gallery at the V&A , settles and benches by Studioilse on show at Leila`s Cafe, part of the London Design Festival , or booking a table at local home dining room the Salad Club. Don`t miss life on planet fashion in the endearing and irreverent documentary, The September issue which chronicles Vogue editor Anna Wintour`s preparations for the September 07 issue. I am agog because I once worked in an office below the Vogue fashion floor, and was terrified by the svelte things that tended the sample rails upstairs.

dsc_0031blog-seating.jpg

It`s the time of year, too, to think about hunkering down with warm blankets and cushions by the fire. I use a mix of calico and cuttings from Liberty floral cottons to make simple patch work covers. See my trusty sewing machine in action on my latest Youtube video which shows you how to make a simple bobbly trimmed tray cloth: an idea that could easily be put in the pipeline for diy christmas presents. And if all you do is go for a walk, take a bag, the trees are heavy with fruit: crab apples, plums, sloes and so on, for a spot of autumnal jam making.

dsc_0057bobble-trim.jpg

Tags: autumn, colour, flower power, garden, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, summer


A visual tonic
07 October 2008



dsc_0005blog-shots-nov-05.jpg

The park glittered in the still clearness during my early morning dog walk; the light as intense as the sweet liquorice smell from the dried fennel sprig I picked and crushed in my hand. The autumn fall of leaves this year is a breathtaking chemical wonder of nature, suspending belief that summer is over. So much colour. So many variations on yellow, burnt orange and brown. This visual tonic is more energising than herbal Floradix, the liquid plant food for humans, that my friend Bea swears by when she needs perking up.

dsc_0046.jpg

I say `day-lee-a ` you say `dah-lee-uh`. Whatever the emphasis, dahlias are another last blast of gorgeous autumn colour before the dankness begins. This native Mexican flower imported two hundred years ago has always been a mainstay of the allotment garden, to pick for the table along with the cabbages and beans. I remember grandpa, fag in mouth, carefully tying his prize purple spiky blooms to stakes with green hairy string. In high-up garden circles though, the frilly dahlia was long considered rather vulgar. I`m glad the style bibles and garden columns have made them acceptable again in and outside the vegetable patch, and there are a wonderful array of varieties for any border or pot. On of my favourites is `Noreen` a flirty rich pink pompom shape. keeping warm

sew-easy-blanket.jpg

Got to think about keeping out all those beastly draughts this winter, as I don`t want a repeat of the heating bill we ran up last year, especially when energy costs are supposed to rise another whopping 40 percent. Something thick and sensible, but nonetheless good looking, like a curtain lined with a blanket,is going to be a good way to deal with the gale that blows in under the front and side doors. There is a very basic pattern for one, using some tough pink corduroy in my book Sew Easy. It`s based on the same lines as the old insulating curtains we found in the house when we first moved here. chocolate and chestnut cake I know I`ve posted this recipe before, but it is too, too delicious, and, because chestnuts are gluten-free, might inspire anyone who has an intolerance and is missing gooey cakes. I admit to being partisan but you must try the peeled organic chestnuts my husband produces at his little factory in Andalucia, South Western Spain Base:400g peeled chestnuts, 125g caster sugar, 125g chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids), 100g butter Icing: 15g butter, 125g chocolate, as above, 15ml fresh orange juice, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind Process peeled chestnuts and sugar until smooth. Melt chocolate and butter in a large saucepan. Add chestnut/sugar paste and mix until smooth. Turn into a greased cake tin. Icing: melt the chocolate with butter, orange juice, rind, and stir until smooth. Spread over the mixture and chill in the fridge overnight.

dsc_0030.jpg

Tags: autumn, colour, flower power, get crafty, home cooking, thrifty decoration


A new term
17 September 2008

It`s September. It`s swallows flying south. It`s sun tan washing off in the bath. It`s back to school. It`s polished shoes, timetables, and a brisk swim at the lido on a mellow Sunday morning. As my children get down to their books with the vigour only seen at the start of a new year I, too, am enthused with ideas for colours, new spaces, and what to plant in the garden. August under cloudless Algarve skies has filled me up with positive thoughts, like a well stocked fridge. Ballast against the coming grey afternoons that darken before six. Not that I am tiring of white, but I am experimenting with more colour around the house. Last week, aided by the muscle of my 19 year old, I rollered and brushed away the pale retro green in the north facing room which until now has been used for the rowing machine and ironing. Now it has a new rich olive green look or `citrine` as described on the paint pot. It will go with white and is very seventies`, like one of the rich funky colours that society decorator David Hicks used. I think he was so clever at making stuffy grand houses look hip with the injection of something bright and outrageous like lemon yellow armchairs, or shocking pink and orange wallpaper. My secret plan is to annex my new green room as a snug winter sitting room/study.

dsc_0067.jpg

Olhao is an ongoing project near the top of my list of things to do. For the last two years we`ve been restoring an old townhouse, in this Portuguese coastal town with it`s specific aromatic tag of grilling fish, drains, and salty air. This where we come in the holidays to eat sardines so fresh they are rigid, swim in clear unpolluted sea reached by ferry boat, and live at a slower pace.

dsc_0145.jpg

Using local builders we have repaired and renovated walls weeping with salt, and woodwork blistered and warped by sun and rain. I have sourced handmade terracotta floor tiles, still produced by an ancient factory up in the hills, and poked around in dusty warehouses to find the perfect sized white tiles for the kitchen and bathroom. The interior is plain, with tongue and groove detail, high ceilings and tall double doors. On the flat roof, typical of the town`s North African architectural feel we`re adding a room, a white cube, with a bedroom, wood burning stove and shower. This will be a cool retreat in summer without electricity, candles will do, and there`ll be a solar panel on top for hot water. This is where to watch storks glide and breathtaking sunsets. . As my grasp of Portuguese is at best, limited, my hands will held by a Portuguese architect friend. I hope we will not need to seek planning permission as the building will remain in the permitted height restrictions. Ho hum, I`m not counting on anything though. E-mails are being pinged back and forth refining the original layout, which I paced out one sizzling morning, eyed by a scraggy black cat. Fingers crossed, completion should be by next Spring. I`m off to seek more architectural inspiration over the Open House weekend when all kinds of extraordinary buildings, public and private are open to the public in London. Last year we stayed local and explored a windmill, an amazing eco house, and a fabulous but faded art deco housing estated called Pullman Court.

dsc_0011.jpg

Apples, apples and more apples are waiting to be gathered in the grey metal bucket. If I am organised there will be crumbles and apple sponge for pudding. The garden has that overgrown and dying back look of autumn. The effect is monotone and washed out like the moody Vilhelm Hammershoi canvases of landscapes and interiors I managed to catch on the last day at the The Royal Academy of Arts.

dsc_0025.jpg

Tags: autumn, colour, garden


 
Categories
 

autumn
frost
garden
homecooking
recipes for every day
scent
simple
simpleliving
spring
valentine
winter
alliums
apples
archtiecture
autumn
autumn crabapple jelly resourceful
baking
barbados
blankets
blankets colour texture roses
blue
books
bulb
bulbs
cak
cake
chocolate
christmas
coast
colour
colour
colour band
comfort
competition
cotton
country style
crabapple jelly
danish design
decoration
domestic bliss
e home cooking
fabric
fabrics
floral fabrics
flower power
flowerpower
flowers
frost
functional
garden
garden
garlic
get crafty
golden
green
holiday
home cooking
home cooking
homecooking
homemade
homesewing
interiors
interiors. decoration
lido
lime green
linen
market
market
marmalade
melbourne
natural
natural fabrics
olhao
olives blue summer
onions
orange
paint
paper borders
pink
portugal
pumpkins
pure style borders
purecolour
purestylecolour
purple
rhubarb
rio
roses
scent
sewing
shed
simple
simple decoration
simple decoration
simple design
simple update
simpledetail
simplestyle
simplestyle
spain
spring
stockholm
stripes
summer
sweden
swimmming
thrifty decoration
ticking
tiles
tulips
tulips. japan. location shoots
wallpaper
white
white paint
white rooms
winter
winter
winter simple decoration white retro vintage
winter. home cooking
yellow
yellow

Archives
 

I like
 
Website design by ph9