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WeSC & ALTEWAI SAOME LAUNCH HIGH END STREETWEAR

Following the wrap-up of Stockholm Fashion Week is the launch of a new collaboration between two Swedish fashion greats, skate/street brand WeSC and design duo Altewai Saome READ MORE...
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MADE LONDON RETURNS TO MARYLEBONE

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
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SEA LIFE COMES TO TORONTO AT RIPLEY'S AQUARIUM

It's called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (as opposed to Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto which would follow the format for their US locations), which is not helping the general READ MORE...
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LCM: BACKSTAGE AT ORLEBAR BROWN WITH TONI & GUY

I'm taking you backstage again! This time at Orlebar Brown's Covent Garden shop where the SS15 collection of tailored beach and resort wear was shown both in in the shop, and to the delight READ MORE...
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SHOWSTUDIO ILLUSTRATES THE MEN'S COLLECTIONS SS15

Each season Showstudio invites their favourite fashion illustrators to create their own unique view of the collections, then they present each series READ MORE...
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BOOK REVIEW: LAND/SEA VOL.1

I opened the cover of a new landscape photography periodical I had just received called Land/Sea and began browsing the photos and words as I walked into my kitchen READ MORE...
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LC:M BACKSTAGE AT MATTHEW MILLER WITH TONI & GUY

Yes, this is a men's fashion post. And it feels right. This season's London Collections: Men was my first ever thanks to an invitation from long-term London Fashion Week sponsor Toni & Guy READ MORE...
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August 30, 2014

WeSC and Altewai Saome Launch High End Streetwear

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Following the wrap-up of Stockholm Fashion Week is the launch of a new collaboration between two Swedish fashion greats, skate/street brand WeSC and design duo Altewai Saome. The 12-piece womenswear capsule collection of Neoprene, wool blend, jersey and fleece, would be welcome in my wardrobe; it's cool and comfy. You can move in it. Friends who never dress that way will ask to borrow your jacket. During my first visit to Stockholm I noticed that the people in the street just looked good. Their clothes didn't scream out for attention but they always looked well put together and without any fuss, as if they couldn't look any other way. Obviously they care, but it seems knowing how to dress is just in their DNA or something. As is design. Like that peachy skin they all somehow have. I'd like to wear the skate ramp logo dress around Östermalm and see if I blend. 

The collection is now available at wesc.com

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August 29, 2014

Five Festive Tips for an Alternative Christmas Celebration

Scandi-christmas-dining-roomFor a different kind of Christmas, try following the Scandinavian traditions - it's stylish yet warm and cozy. 

Come again? I know, it’s still summer, and you’re still wearing shorts. On the better days. Or at least around the house. But Christmas is coming and some of us might even be looking forward to it, just a little bit. If you're not, it might be because getting organised tends to happen at the last minute and it winds up causing more agony than joy, especially if you're hosting.  

You don't have to follow the traditions, though, and you can have a lot of fun with a celebration that is a bit different. The trick is to have some good ideas put into place early on, so that you don't get overwhelmed in the days leading up; and then you can enjoy the season as it comes. 

Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

1. Light

Our distant ancestors set fire to things at the darkest time of the year, in order to persuade the sun to return, and that's how midwinter festivals got started. Lighting decorations are an essential part of Christmas, but you don't have to have an illuminated Santa on the roof or go full Griswald. LED lights are a good choice, combining low energy consumption with a wonderfully twinkly effect. A door wreath made entirely of LED lights looks stunning, or you could use a string of lights to outline something unusual and eco-friendly, such as a bicycle.

2. Colour

Traditional Christmas colours are red and green, but there are plenty of other options. How about a purple theme, for example? It's a really festive colour. You could make a fabulous garland or wreath incorporating purple glass baubles (there are some lovelies at Christmas Lights Etc.). If you need a real talking point, the same company produces an upside-down Christmas tree!

3. Greenery

Another ancient midwinter tradition involves bringing evergreens into the house. For something slightly different, a Christmas cactus is a good way of adding colour (and humour - imagine the reactions of guests). These are easily-grown plants, native to Brazil, which naturally flower in December. Schlumbergera 'Purple Dancer' is a spectacular choice, which should keep flowering every winter if properly looked after. For the ecologically-conscious, this plant has the added property of absorbing poisonous formaldehyde from the atmosphere! As a focal decorative point, a real Christmas tree is wonderful, but an artificial one is admittedly much less trouble, and some of them also come pre-decorated if you'd rather just get it over with. You'll be forgiven. 

4. Food

Nothing divides families like the choice of Christmas food. On one side you have the traditionalists for whom nothing except turkey and pudding will do. On the other side are those who argue that turkey is dry and tasteless, and Christmas pudding is stodgy. If you want to do the turkey regardless, a way to please both might be to offer a unique stuffing, made with apricots or pineapple and nuts, to go with your choice of meat. A rich and festive ice-cream, whether home-made or bought in, might be more appealing to the Christmas pudding-haters. The greedy will eat both, of course – t’is the season, after all!

5. Activity

There are families for whom the television set is the focal point of Christmas Day, and others who cover it with a blanket. It's a good idea to get outside at some point, and even a short walk will help with the digestion of all that food. Quizzes and games are traditional but can be fun, at least if board games such as Monopoly don't get everyone fighting. For a truly memorable break from routine, though, you could consider offering your services as a volunteer.

Many charities and caring organisations need extra help over the Christmas season, and volunteering can be fun and rewarding as well as useful. A good place to start would be timebank.org.uk who are in touch with many organisations needing Christmas volunteers. They do point out, though, that charities need to plan ahead, so it's best if you offer your services in good time.

With months of planning left until the big day, there’s more than enough time for you to get cracking and make your festive season truly unique. Rather than repeating the same cycle year on year, these ideas will hopefully provide you with enough inspiration to make this Christmas truly one to remember - for the right reasons!

August 27, 2014

Design and Craft: Made London Returns to One Marylebone

 

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 highly original makers and designers from the UK and Europe, the show offers visitors the opportunity to view and buy unique hand crafted pieces in a friendly, informal and beautiful atmosphere. Long established and well known makers mix with emerging makers to offer a selection of works that are truly varied and exciting.

At the fair you'll find a vast range of expertly crafted items including colourful glassware, soft knitted textiles, functional ceramics, beautiful jewellery, classic furniture as well as great fashion. A full list of exhibitors can be seen here.

One Marylebone is a stunning church conversion in central London near Regents Park. MADE LONDON will occupy all three floors, including the double height crypt and mezzanine.  Be sure to stop by the cafe in the crypt to relax with a drink and a treat!

For more information you can visit www.madelondon.org

August 26, 2014

How to Add International Design Influences to Your Space

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One of the greatest aspects of travelling is discovering other styles of interiors that reflect a life and culture different from our own, then trying to recreate them at home. Local designs tend to be influenced by the colours and materials present in the surrounding environment. Take India; the bright desert sun and the red earth are reflected in their colourful saris, the great rainforests of Indonesia provide the woods for their furniture, and the lushly decorated temples inspire the use of gold and luxurious silk.

Scandinavia is another region that represents one of the most distinct interiors aesthetics, rooted in simple, practical design that is emulated well beyond its borders. Light is a factor thanks to the long, dark winters, and vast, sustainable forests makes wood the natural choice of material for just about everything, often painted white for ceilings and floors to brighten interior spaces. Decorative items are placed to add colour and form, but used sparingly to keep the space clean and calm. Reindeer skins finish the room with texture and warmth.

A Scandinavian feel can be added to more traditional or eclectic interiors through wall murals in pale greys or blues to create a subtle nod to nature.

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In direct contrast to the Scandinavian coolness is the Arabic interior style. Strong patterns and vivid colours are mixed freely. Although dark wood furniture is popular, the blazing heat makes tiles a popular material for both floors and decoration. Moroccan tiles are the King of Tiles, and although the genuine  article is expensive, they are as gorgeous as they are timeless. Ornate mirrors and colourful Turkish lanterns abound. Persian rugs complete the picture. To create an Arabian room with a contemporary feel, you can paint the walls white and let the colours of the furnishings do the rest.

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In Chinese interior design, more is more. Furniture with wood carvings, gold accessories, red silk lanterns, and ornate table cloths all find their way into the Chinese room. 

The principles of fengshui govern what goes where in the room and water features with gold fish and wooden bird cages with a colourful resident are there to bring good fortune. Jade ornaments introduces a rich green colour into the gold, dark wood and red. Yellow was once a colour reserved for royalty only, but it has been making its way into ordinary homes. Laquerware is popular both for furniture as well as boxes and trinkets.

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Reproducing any of these styles for your own home is easier than you think. Use your creativity and start with a clear idea of how you would want it to look. Then take your time and make sure to search for items that will make your room look authentic. With just a few stand-out pieces, your new, world-design room will emerge. 

August 19, 2014

My Home Extension 'Before': Finishing and Rookie Mistakes

The-swelle-life_13There's a newly built room waiting for me back in England that isn't quite finished but now has honeycomb blinds that lock down, a floor, modular sofa, and dining table. And a huge TV mounted on the wall - a bit of an eyesore but I'm not going to pretend I don't watch TV! It's a great space of mostly windows, a raised glass ceiling, and there's even some garden to spare after a fairly substantial extension of the house off the kitchen. It was a scramble to get it painted and the flooring installed before heading back to Canada for the summer; I think I narrowly avoided an aneuryism. 

As for the paint, I wanted a clean, pale grey - to me that means a cool undertone that is as neutral as possible - that delivers depth and works in every kind of natural and artificial light. I didn't want 'colour' per se, opting for light and airy but didn't want to go with white which seems to be the default colour for so many orangeries and conservatories. Luckily I found my shade, but I got a surprise when painting. (It was a DIY job because a decorator would have had to have been booked about six months prior and the extension wasn't even conceived of then. I don't recommend it. Painting an entire room, especially one with so many windows and boxed electrics, is hard. I didn't need my lower back anyway.)

Back to the surprise. It became apparent once the primer was on and the first coat of that lovely grey was being applied, that the plasterer did a terrible job. Shameless, actually. I could live with a few imperfections but we're talking floor to ceiling moon craters. I guess I just hadn't looked closely at it, taking in the entire room and not scrutinising the walls. The construction is very sound - I watched it being built and it was pretty cool to see how it's done - but all it takes is one sloppy guy to ruin it all. (And I made him so much coffee! The cheek!) Luckily that part is fixable, though extremely frustrating to have to do so after the (very expensive) paint is on. (I'm downplaying this part a bit, the truth is I freaked.)

In contrast, the floor was a success story. Thank goodness. As you know from previous posts, I laboured over what type and style of flooring to go with, and at the time underfloor heating was to be installed first. It turns out that UFH can be a lot harder to source than you'd think (actually I hadn't a clue what's involved with that), especially on a time crunch, and after two false leads it was just easier to find another heating solution. (And save a ton of money in the process.) I chose laminate flooring in a 'white' wood grain from Homebase to keep with the light and airy feel, and was able to find a very good installer at the last minute - how rare is that? 

First, I went to the store to see the flooring I picked out online to be sure I liked it and also to compare it to others. It remained my number one choice and I bought a sample to take home. It looks funny, but I put it under the legs of our dining table hoping to get a sense of how it would work. Hey, you have to try! 

The-swelle-life-14 (1 of 1)(Little Coco thinks this room is hers.) The table is my first Magis piece, and the chair was just a spare I put there for some reason. I still haven't decided on the chairs but they definitely won't have metal legs. I also tried my Eames DRW with dark maple legs which adds a bit of warmth to what is going to be a cool, minimalist room, so I might buy three more of them to liven things up a bit. 

As the flooring was being installed I was hopeful, but nervous. I liked the floor, but would it work with the room? Would it feel right? Would I want to live with it for years? I told the installer it looked good so far and he began to tell me about a recent customer, then said, 'Maybe I shouldn't tell you.' I told him to go on. He continued, telling me she chose a similar looking floor and was also redoing her entire downstairs, and when it was done she said, "I hate it. It's a lovely floor and you did a good job, but I hate it." I groaned good naturedly but was secretly imploding at the thought of feeling that way with even this one room, never mind the kitchen and hallway as was the plan. But when it was finished I was really happy with it. It delivered the look and feel I wanted, complementing the walls and the platinum shade of the blinds. Hopefully the disappointed woman felt differently after a few days; I think changing a large space so drastically can be very disconcerting and a strong emotional reaction is normal; we're profoundly connected to our homes and I think we don't realise how much a change can throw us off until we're faced with it. 

I'll be coming back with a 'reveal' post after I return to England. It will take a little while to complete the room but you'll be able to see how it all works together with the modular sofa. 

In the meantime, benefit from my rookie mistakes and avoid them when building and finishing a room in your home:

  1. Check that the concrete foundation has set evenly. Walk on it. Look for slopes. If it doesn't feel consistent throughout the room request it be fixed. A floor consists of very thin underlay and the flooring itself is generally not especially thick so it will not compensate for obvious imbalances in the foundation. Your installer can't do anything about it so take care of it before the floor goes down, or be prepared to live with it. 
  2. Inspect the surface of the walls when the plasterer tells you he's finished. This will be the last thing that's done. Depending on the light, some flaws are discernable to the eye, while others only to the touch, so run your hand over the surfaces. I can attest to the fact that priming and painting does not smooth out even the slightest of imperfections; in fact it seems to amplify them. This room has spotlights in the boxing which essentially showcases every flaw that falls below them!
  3. Are the edges of the boxing sharp and even? Sometimes where two sections of boxing meets there's an overlap. I'm not clear on how easy or not this is to fix once it's done, and it's not really obvious unless you're looking for it. But if you're a perfectionist it will probably bother you after the fact so keep an eye out before painting. 
  4. Check that any crown moulding is secure and doesn't show any cracks. 
  5. If you're looking to wall mount a TV, have about three metres of HDMI cable ready BEFORE the drywall goes up. This way your cables are hidden. (Luckily this wasn't a mistake and may seem like a no-brainer, but easily forgotten amongst the chaos.) 

Be firm about anything you want fixed; there's no reason things shouldn't be perfect!

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