Subscribe     Basket(0)     Terms
"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
New year, new plans
15 January 2016


I fly south to Olhao and the glorious vegetable colours and textures of the Saturday market. Beans pods flecked with pink like a painter`s abstract  are a joy to look at let alone eat .

 More building is in progress at the house to open up the living/ eating space. I am moving a bathroom to what I call the monk`s cell, a poky inner room with a glass brick in the ceiling as the only light source; a not altogether unreasonable Olhao detail, as it is the coolest room in summer and warmest in winter. The new L shaped space has an open hatch to the kitchen. We couldn`t knock all the way through because the giant chimney on the roof above  would have no support, and I didn`t want to lose this traditional and  distinctive Algarve feature. I am looking forward to the delivery of blue and white  floor  tiles, in a simple checked pattern that are being made in the traditional way by Artevida  near Lisbon.















Tags: winter, olhao, simple, interiors. decoration, pink, tiles


Things I like this week....
02 February 2012

More good ideas from the Pure Style design files  



Being a lover of all things Portuguese -  and seeing that  Remodelista has gone  Iberian this week,  I wanted to show you some  inspirational and timeless   interior detail from the land of grilled sardines and  Pastel de natas; Above, are Azulejos, tiles from Sintra Design used by  hotelier Sean MacPherson in his NY kitchen (shown above  courtesy of The Selby).  



  Baixa house looks like the place to stay   if you want traditional  with a modern  update.  There are twelve rather wonderful looking apartments in this recently refurbished apartment hotel in Lisbon`s historic district.  ( See one of the  kitchens , above,  photo Fernado Guerra + Sťrgio Guerra Fotografia de Arquitectura.  and a  patio, below,  photo  Ana Paula Carvalho ) .  



Portuguese cotton blankets with wonderful earth coloured trimmings from  Anichini.  



Portuguese cotton blankets with wonderful earth coloured trimmings from  Anichini

Tags: colour, interiors, portugal, Spain


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


A simple chair cover
02 April 2011





Horrors! My weekly post is almost thwarted when I discover that my big green canvas sewing bag  with the chair cover I want to tell you how to make is missing. I stomp up  and down the stairs looking in every unlikely place because the shoots move my life  randomly from room  to room and sometimes forget to put it back again! A call is put out and I find  it has  accidentally  been picked up with another stylistís props. After a flurry of texts the bag arrives safe and sound before the clock strikes midnight.  The lost property thing  works, too, the  other way round  in terms of the  stuff  accidentally left here: lens caps, jackets,  I-phones, address books and once, a priceless  bracelet  dropped in the dog`s basket.  



Having  also removed the furry obstacle itís back to the subject of  how to sew  a simple linen tea towel cover,  a kind of  apron for  any  basic kitchen chair. MATERIALS  1 tea towel measuring 85x60cm, 2 metres white ribbon or cotton tape,  white cotton thread.



  Firstly (see above) ,  cut two 10cm slits in the tea towel where  the cover will bend up from the seat to the chair back.  Turn back and stitch narrow hems on  the raw edges of the  slits .  



  Press a  5cm turnover  to the wrong side and to the first slit,  on both sides of the tea towel. Fold the ribbon in half and attach  it  to the  centre of the top of the  tea towel.  Press  over  5cm  along the top of the  tea  towel (see above).  



  Stitch the top  turn over  to the first turn over  on each side of the tea towel (see above) but donít stitch through the front.  



  To carry the ribbon  ties  cut an opening through the turned over sides (see above)  on each side of the towel towel and  stitch  button hole style,  about  2.5cm wide.  Pull the  ribbon  through on both sides.  



Tie the cover on to the chair and use!  

Tags: get crafty, homemade, interiors, sewing, thrifty decoration


New blues
26 March 2011





Itís been a whirlwind of a week in location house land: the walls are purple one minute,  then  lavished with paper in stylish patterns, the next.  And thatís not including the 15 people  who organise the Queen of Craftís  natty  cushions and heart shaped jam tarts. Itís good to get out of the way of drying paint and have the first hits of the season on the tennis court.  I like Fabian the coach  because he says lots of  Ďwell donesí  unlike the  slightly  tutting new accountant who I meet to discuss the bulging packets of receipts. The air is marzipan-and-lemon-scented.  Spring has gone into overdrive in the last few days,  and  the white beads on the apple tree might blossom  too early if  this luscious warmth continues. Gardeners are always paranoid about the risk of frost at this time of year, but I for one, can only luxuriate in and enjoy the myriad hues of blue in skies that  have been  leaden for too long.



As well as enjoying the bundles of  grape hyacinths (see last week)  I walk the dog through glades of delicate  blue  Scillas  (above, and  another cousin of the hyacinth  family) that is so much a part of spring.  Iím a blue girl as much as a green one when it comes to having splashes of  the colour around  the house.  I love old faded blue and white floral china (above) it looks great against white walls.  Coastal blue and white Cornishware stripes are always smart.  I buy  it both new,  and  secondhand when I can find it at a good price. Readers of my books canít fail to notice my passion for blue and white checks. I think  small  check patterns  are easier on the eye for  accessories such as cushions and pillow cases.  See an  example here on the  new  Swedish style bed from Feather and Black. This is the  one that replaced the vast low slung circular  Ikea number that was  great for 12 year olds on  sleepovers, but hopeless for arthriticky  relatives.



PS. No thanks,  I don`t want any more royal wedding paraphenalia in my inbox: "A bed that is fit for a Queen, King sofa and Queen armchair`, or,  believe it or not `Knit Your Own Royal Wedding`  etc etc. But I don`t mind reading the low down on clever Emily Chalmers of Caravan whose new book, Modern Vintage Style, is out soon.

Tags: colour, homemade, interiors, scent, thrifty decoration


Spring greens
18 March 2011





The new greens are in season. Whatever else might be thwarting my daily progress, young bean green shoots and fresh bright spring green grass are reassuringly sprouting and budding outside the kitchen window. I canít resist bunches of  Ďmuscari Ď grape hyacinths (see above) delicate blue flowers on equally delicate lime green stems. They are packed fresh from the fields in a box propped up outside the florist with the logo, Cornish flowers on its base. At £1.25 a bunch I am surprised that by lunchtime the sales woman says that I am the first to buy some of these vibrant and colourful pieces of spring.



With its potent link to nature, green is one of my favourite colours to have about the home. (Have a look at the exciting greens for faux suede by Designers Guild). Its presence as a decoration tool can be as minimal, as a flash of a lime green painted flower pot to brighten up the bedroom, or as all encompassing, as our lime green painted loo. The latter idea is a very good way for me to incorporate a rich green colour in a house that needs to make its living being painted white almost all over!  And I have also managed to make way for some muted greens in the tv room and garden shed as the shoots are very keen to use them for backdrops to simple and natural still lives. As soon as thereís a day with the faint burn of spring sunshine my thoughts turn to picnics. I like to head for that south facing spot on the tussocky slopes that frame our walks along the Somerset valley on visits to my father. Feta cheese, basil and cucumber is one of our favourite fillings in hunks of sourdough bread that come freshly baked via our local corner shop.



Tags: colour, flower power, garden, home cooking, interiors, Simple, spring, thrifty decoration, white rooms


My kitchen update
05 March 2011





The kitchen needs an update. Not only is the paint peeling off the drawers, but one of the white cupboard doors refuses to shut, the sink blocks and the cooker is ailing and working at half speed. Then thereís the location element to think about. Iíve been told that I will get more kitchen shoots if I have an Ďintegrated Ď dishwasher (the dishwasher door is faced in a panel to match the other fitted door fronts). You see itís not very Ďlifestyleí in the advertising world to have kitchens with all the ordinary workaday things on show. I must say itís never bothered me that the dishwasher is on view, but then I have always rather resisted the concept of a fitted kitchen that might be fabulously organised and clean, but looks completely clinical and soulless.  



  Hereís the plan: I wonít be starting all over again, that isnít my thing, and neither do I have the funds. I am very fond of the existing white tiles, now rather worn wooden worktop and recycled white shelf. After all, these are the simple and textural details which make my kitchen feel personal and look individual.  I need some new units, but where to get them? I canít face the flat pack experience of Ikea. After trawling the web for cheap kitchens I come up with a surprise -  Magnet, which appears to have  undergone a wonderful metamorphosis.   ( Ten years ago, no, even two years ago, design sensitive souls would not have been seen dead with  one of their  mass market models. ) Thus I find myself at the local showroom, desiring a very pretty pale duck egg blue range (see the  finished effect in my kitchen  above and below) that is simple, classic and looks great. (Except for the chunky handles which you donít have to have because there are plenty of other shapes to choose from. )  ďHow much is your  limit ?  says the salesman hopefully,  "some of our customers spend £30,000Ē. He  seems a little downcast with my  minimal  budget for a modest  kitchen run of about 3.5 metres, but is  helpful ,  attentive, and comes up with a good price.



A couple of weeks later and the big  day has come, a breather between shoots, blog posts, and garden tidying, for the ripping out of the old and the installing of the new.  The most important thing is that I have lined up a builder type to fit it all. It would soon be like a scene from Danteís Inferno if my husband and I attempted to grapple with rejigging the plumbing, fitting a new sink into the old worktop and marshalling all the Magnet components into place. Bar three knobs which havenít arrived, and for which I have to dash out back to Magnet for replacements, all goes according to plan. Itís a tough job though,  sorting out the stuff Iíve unloaded from the old cupboards which now lies in untidy greasy swathes across the kitchen floor. I wade through and dispose of half empty packets of flour, corks, old chopsticks and other kitchen junk that no one else in the family would think to edit. The cherry on the cake is filling up the new pale blue duck egg drawers to look neat and housewifely (how long will that last?), and cooking a big plate of roast vegetables for lunch in half the time that it took in the old oven.  



NB: It`s noon,  and a Country Living shoot is filling the house with summer colours and ideas. Thereís a handsome man in black cycling shorts dashing up the stairs with a handsome vase of summer petals and blooms from Scarlet and Violet and the bathroom papered in floral sprigs looks like a set from Lawrie Leesís Cider with Rosie.  Even our Tulse Hill cat looks like a country cottage puss dozing in the sunlight on a pile of Cath Kidston towels. Eyeing the props, I have fallen for brilliant floral cushions from the Conran shop, pretty pleated paper lampshades by Elise Rie Larsen and painted metal stools with rough wooden tops from excellent online resource, The housedoctor.dk. NNB. I ate delicious flat bread, olives, and delicately fried squid at Morito, the latest offshoot of Spanish/North African influenced restaurant Moro in London`s  Clerkenwell.

Tags: colour, home cooking, interiors, spring, thrifty decoration, white rooms


Spitalfields,rhubarb and tulips
25 February 2011





I am looking at pictures of the crumbling brick walls and rotten timbers of the early Georgian house (1726 to be precise) that we restored over 20 years ago in Spitalfields,  East London. There it is, our old home on the Spitalfields Life blog - just as we bought it, in its decrepidness, in Fournier Street opposite the soaring, glorious and soot stained Christchurch by Hawksmoor. The whole  place was derelict then a part of forgotten and run down London. The fruit and vegetable market though, hummed with life from midnight.  I remember the tramps who gathered at the crypt for soup ,  the hawks flying around the church spire  and the  rotten but aromatic smells of coriander and old potatoes, that lay crushed outside on the street And thereís the house again, itís classic beauty tentatively re-emerging, with bare wood shutters and new simple wood panelling. I supposed we needed true grit, and passion to restore one of these beautiful old houses built for Huguenot silk merchants. I remember a collapsing back wall, countless skips to take away debris, errant builders I had to fish out of the pub, and the joy of finding Bohdan the brilliant carpenter who reconstructed the panelling, and Jim who made our shutters and simple wooden bed. There are pictures too, of our home after the last piles of dust and blow torched paint flakes have been swept away. Itís good to see these `after shots`, of the light bright panelled rooms that I painted in sludgy creams, whites and greens. And there am I, pictured outside the house as it is today. I look quite cheerful but inside I was feeling, well,  rather  homesick   standing outside my old front door.  



  I need to get back to the present, and to dwell on the more immediate matter of baking some very seasonal rhubarb for pudding.  I chop the pinkest of pink stems into small chunks and lay them in a dish with a good sprinkling of sugar, orange peel, and orange juice.  I turn the oven to 150C and bake for about 25 minutes. This is delicious with crŤme fraiche, or  cream, or vanilla ice-cream.



And then there are the tulips - a half price bargain because they are going over, but thatís the way I like them all, floppy flailing petals. They also brighten my  reflective mood - which is as much from house moping as the effects of being late night taxi service at 1.30am - "mum I missed the last train". I must fly as cardboard packs of kitchen units are coming through the front door . All part of my budget revamp of the kitchen. Wish me luck. NB Before signing off, look at Ghost furnitureís great ideas for rescuing furniture and Wallace Sewellís ideas for more brilliant colour in shawls, scarves and other textiles.    

Tags: colour, home cooking, interiors, thrifty decoration, winter


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


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


Junk chairs and blanket stitch
20 January 2011





When people ask, how do you know what to chose when youíre putting together a new room or buying a piece of furniture ? I say that going with my instinct of what feels and looks right is usually successful. This is all very well, but if I am fussing or thinking about something else I may not always be properly alert to some wonderful new prospect that is staring me in the face. This is exactly what happens when I am cruising around the Brixton branch of the British Heart Foundationís chain of second-hand furniture and electrical shops.  There it is, a magnificent upright and elegant wing chair. A touch elderly-aunt-like in its plush velvet cover but this can soon be sorted out with an update in a simple blue and white ticking. And my goodness itís only 20 quid. I clock it as Ďbrilliant, should buy it, a great piece for the location houseí but the detail is  all made foggier in the domestic thought jumble. I am oblivious to precious minutes being lost as I fiddle with the messages on my iPhone. Too late! An eagle eyed young mum with child and a buggy also knows its potential value and snaps it up before Iíve even had the chance to press back to Menu.



You win some, you lose some. Happily, I return to form when I spot  a pair of  pretty  armchairs (see above and below) lined up on the pavement outside the junk shop in Streatham Hill.  Like the lost wing chair, they have promise  in spite of unappealing covers.  A quick barter with the fag-in- hand, peroxide blonde attendant and the chairs are  mine for under 40.00. Their new home is the blue room where I think I have made them look a little more dashing with linen shawls from Volga linens.  I find the use of a throw is a very handy trick to cover up ugly prints or threadbare seats, and to protect a more precious fabric from muddy paws or childrenís feet.



Also related to a too fast, too multi-tasking existence  (as seen with wing chair experience above) I read in the newspaper that the emphasis on knowledge in our culture, is taking us further away from using our hands. Too right. I think itís so important to feel the physicality and satisfaction of creating something oneself.  My main proviso is that nothing should be too complicated. One of the best ways, for example, to update a simple dining chair, is to give it a lick of paint. (For those who are like my friend Marjorie and think that being handy is an anathema, look at Howe London to see some clever ways with old-fashioned Windsor chairs.) My favourite colours for sprucing old chairs are duck egg blues or plain whites. This is how you do it: Sand the chair with a medium grain sand paper, and then again with a fine one. Remove all loose bits of old varnish or flakes of old paint to leave a smooth surface. Apply one coat of wood-primer or undercoat as evenly as possible. Allow to dry. Apply one layer of eggshell paint. Allow to dry thoroughly before applying a second coat of paint.



I also love the idea of rescuing worn out linen and blankets with the needles and thread from my desktop sewing kit. Itís a wonderful and practical distraction from the screen to repair a favourite blue and white check blanket that has lost some of its blanket stitch edging. (You can see lots more simple sewing examples in my book Sew Easy). It feels productive, and calms me. Just as an afternoon digging in the garden does, or stirring the aromatic golden marmalade which is on the list for this weekend. Oh yes, one other good thing is that although the garden has been left looking like a rugby pitch on a wet Saturday afternoon, the leak is mended and I no longer live in fear of Thames Water  spying on our pipes in the early hours.

Tags: colour, garden, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, interiors, Simple, thrifty decoration, 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


Hot puddings and warm cardigans
21 December 2010





Tobogganing at great speed in the park (well it seems like it to me as I am given a rather alarming shove to get going) is one way of getting rid of excess adrenalin brought on by the run up to Christmas. Itís Alpine conditions here still in south London and I seem to be permanently dressed in bobble hat and my very thick hand knitted granddad style cardigan from the Brixton branch of Traid, the brilliant charitable organisation set up by Wayne Hemmingway that recycles clothes and textiles. On the subject of all things sub zero it seems rather typically dotty and British if not plain mad that itís the annual open-air cold water swimming championships at the local lido in a few weeks time. Weíre keeping warm too with a spot of mince pie making. There is readymade flaked and short crust pastry in the fridge to get them out in double quick time. And Iíve stocked up on jars of shop bought mincemeat which can be customised with more flaked almonds, orange and lemon zest and slugs of brandy.



Thereís absolutely every excuse in our draughty house to make a log fire and sit beside it with a slim volume of Ten Poems about Puddings which arrives by post complete with a lucky sixpence to stuff in the Christmas pudding. If Iím on a lap top itís always worth a quick visit to see whatís new in interiors on the decor8 blog . My log baskets are Spanish and made from plaited esparto grass, but if I didnít have these I think Iíd go for something English and traditional in woven willow. I prefer the elemental feeling and flickering heat of an open fire but am considering a wood burning stove because theyíre a more efficient way of storing heat. Weíll see. War is waging in the garden as the big birds - crows, magpies and fat woodpigeons scare the little birds Ė robins, sparrow, and bluetits away from the survival rations of seeds and nuts that I have scattered across the garden table. We must try and keep the robins alive, especially as their numbers were depleted in last yearís hard winter. A squirrel has hidden a boiled potato in the rose standard. I know because I went and checked it out this morning, hoping it wasnít one of the tulip bulbs. The snow shows up the gaps in the lavender planting and I make a mental note to go to my favourite catalogue and order more for the spring.



Slip sliding my way around the West End crush in search of very specific make up requirements for the sixteen year old, I think about the beauty of online shopping. But because mother nature is holding up deliveries during this mad freeze I can see I will be out hunting and gathering right up to the big day. At Liberty there are the most gorgeous Liberty print scarves, investment buys, yes, but brilliant colours in timeless style. And even if it didnít arrive until after Christmas it would be worth waiting for one of Volga Linenís lightweight woven shawls in olive or duck egg blue that is half price, and as good to look at thrown across a chair, as it is wrapped around you. If I could have a new set of cutlery for the Christmas feast I would go for the classic sixties stainless steel knives and forks from Robert Welch - really beautiful and streamlined. It would be good too, to fill a large white bowl with the fat juicy oranges that are now in season in the market in Olhao.



Tags: books, Christmas, garden, home cooking, homemade, interiors, winter


 
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