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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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LANVIN-TOM FORD JAPANESE HORROR-INSPIRED FASH FILM

Here's a little horror-inspired fashion viewing for your Monday morning! Directed by Trevor Undi and styled by Takafumi Kawasaki, the film follows model Jun 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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STOCKHOLM: THE FERRY TO VASA MUSEUM

One day in Stockholm we took the ferry to the island of Djurgården to visit the Vasa Museum, one of Stockholm's most popular attractions. 'Vasa' refers to the Swedish warship READ MORE...
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MISS KIKI SALON CHANNELS ASIA WITH INUI

Miss Kiki Salon is a collective that creates wearable art inspired by the beauty the find in their every day lives. Their latest designs form the Inui capsule collection READ MORE...
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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!

August 09, 2014

Toronto Sea Life: Ripley's Aquarium

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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 notion down south that there's nothing in Canada but a few things. (Hey you're from Canada? Do you know Dave from Canada?) I guess they don't plan to open any other locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal.... 

Odd naming choices aside, Ripley's Aquarium - as in Ripley's Believe it or Not That's the Ticket Price (ok rant is really over now, my holiday from blogging has made me come back with some pent-up feistiness) is a pretty cool place. Located in the CN Tower complex, it's a very busy attraction, especially at the height of summer for tourists and locals alike, so plan for that if you go. What impressed me were some particularly beautiful displays, such as the stunning anemones whose tank was so pretty and serene in its colourful and varied arrangement it appeared to have been styled, as well as the jellyfish which pulsated and plunged to a succession of changing lights in bright hues which coloured their translucent bodies. And I saw some things I didn't know existed, such as a bright blue lobster (which unfortunately just would not photograph clearly for some reason), and one of the coolest things I've ever seen, a Sea Dragon, part of the Syngnathidae family which also includes seahorses.  They float as if in a state of suspended animation. I wonder what they're thinking. If anything. 

Here's a tour from the outside in starting with the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere at 553.33 metres (which I've never been up because I'm scared crapless of heights and that's never, ever going to change):

  

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(Get your scrolling finger warmed up, there's a ton of fishy photos and they get better as it goes along)

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Lion Fish

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Starfish

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Seahorses

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Sea Dragons (so cool)

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Anemones

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This picturesque tank marks the entrance of a sea tunnel which you are taken through on a conveyor (and probably will wander off it to get better pictures of the other side of the tank, but nobody is there to chastise you)

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Inside the Tunnel

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Sharks 

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Rays

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Jellyfish

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This is the kind of jellyfish (below) I see washed up on the beach where I live by the North Sea, in the hundreds. It's not often but it's a scene I've come across many times, both sad and beautiful. From what I've read, it seems high winds bring in the jellyfish from warmer waters and high tides deliver them to their final resting place.  The biggest I've seen is a little bigger than your head and I've seen them as small as a 10p coin. Poor little things. The seagulls get the little crabs early in the morning and leave their legs scattered all over, but they will not touch these guys. They're not good eatin' I guess, maybe poisonous. Though the aquarium tanks have the coloured lights, the four rings in the centre of these jellyfish's bodies are coloured exactly as they appear - almost a neon purple against a mostly opaque, white, firm gelatenous body when out of the water. These ones don't have tentacles, I've never seen any and even turned one over to investigate; their bodies are very streamlined, like jelly disks. 

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Finally, before being dumped into the gift shop on the way out, we saw the area with the tanks that regulate the delicate balance needed to sustain the various species living in the aquarium. They've made the tanks look pretty cool:

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Goodbye aquarium:

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And CN Tower (which I never realised gives a light show at night)

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Photos © The Swelle Life

Transseasonal Dressing: The Asymmetric T-Shirt Dress

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As mentioned many times, I like to fill my wardrobe with pieces I can wear beyond a season, especially in the UK where you're never really sure what season it's supposed to be. And storage is at a premium for most of us. It's just smart. So no, I don't have a rainbow selection of cut-offs filling my drawers. (For various reasons.)

My newest favourite that fits the bill is this asymmetric t-shirt dress in blue dip-dye jersey from Label Lab. House of Fraser invited me to select a piece from their womenswear range, and I almost went for a tank maxi in orange to wear for my summer in Canada. Then I saw this dress, and knew it was the one. I could wear it all year round for all kinds of things. I don't dress up much and tend to be on the casual side but never want to look like I don't care. (The actual look of me really not caring is frightening. I could never go out like that!) Extreme asymmetric hems can look outdated, but cut on a slight angle across the knees and in a fitted, t-shirt style, it just always seems current for some reason. Kind of edgy. The body is cut so that the waist gathers on one side which is much more flattering than the straight t-shirt dress which doesn't transfer from warm to cool seasons, but this one does. The jersey has a bit of weight to it which is important. A trans seasonal style means nothing if the fabric is so sheer and delicate that it looks like Tinkerbell's tissue.

Wear the asymmetric t-shirt dress with sandals or flip-flops for summer; ankle boots, tights and a biker or bomber jacket for autumn and winter. Done! Those cool blue are season neutral, and ombre doesn't seem to ever go away - it always looks good if the colours are rich. At just £34.30 (regular price £49), this dress offers a lot of long-term options without breaking the bank. 

July 18, 2014

Sibling Gives the Jacob's Tin a Fashion Makeover

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Designer collaboration is the way forward for brands who want to inject style into their products, and now baked snack maker Jacob’s has teamed up with British knitwear design trio, SIBLING, to create a limited edition cracker tin that will fit nicely in any fashionista’s kitchen cupboard. (I kind of love the idea of food brands working with high-end designers to bring their packaging into another realm.)

SIBLING, who are well known for their strong use of colour and love of traditional knitting techniques, have used their unique knitwear designs as inspiration for their redesign of the traditional Jacob’s Cream Cracker tin.

Twenty of the limited edition leopard print tins are now on sale on eBay, with all proceeds going to FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity. 

I had the opportunity to interview SIBLING Joe Bates (wearing the great hat, right) about the project and his own work:

TSL: Sibling is an 'in the know', unique, high fashion brand; not the typical choice for collaboration for such a ubiquitous company such as Jacob's - someone there knows their fashion! When you were first approached with the idea did you see it as an opportunity to introduce Sibling to a wider market?

JB: SIBLING are always keen to reach as broad an audience as possible. We get approached by many companies to collaborate so we have to be very careful who we choose to partner with. Jacobs came with a fun proposal that made us smile....so choice made.

TSL: You referenced Jacob's packaging colours for your striking argyle and leopard print tin design - was this combination an obvious choice or did you try other patterns and textures first?

JB: Colour is a fundamental to the SIBLING DNA, we embrace it wholeheartedly so utilising the Jacobs livery was not a challenge we couldn't meet. The patternation was based on our usual play on historical and traditional knitting, then we put that together with a bit of rebel spirit.

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TSL: What is it like designing as a trio?

JB: Lovely, it means there's always someone to confer with which makes it great for expanding ideas very quickly. 

TSL: I hear Sibling are big snack fans - what is your favourite Jacob's snack? 

JB: The Cream Cracker of course, the original and the best. 

TSL: Where do you take inspiration from for your designs?

JB: Most often the inspiration will start from a single image. Being very passionate about reportage photography means that it is normally a single photographic portrait that will really fire things off. 

Sibling_finale_ss15TSL: What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created?

JB: The most recent is the finale piece from S/S15 SIBLING menswear catwalk show. It's a giant raffia piece, a real show stopper in red raffia, it was representative of the feeling of being 'cock of the walk' when you're dressed to the nines in your youthful rebellion stage. 

TSL: Who would you most like to wear your clothing?

JB: We have a litany of celebrities who have worn SIBLING, in fact some of our real heroes, Debbie Harry bought a SIBLING dress when she played Manchester, you can't top that in our book. 

TSL: Any words of wisdom to share with aspiring designers?

JB: Work hard and be nice to people. 

What great advice. Thank you, Joe! 

You can buy your own Sibling-designed Jacob's cracker tin here, and keep up with Jacob's at #SnackHappy.

FareShare is a unique charity fighting hunger and its underlying causes by  providing food to more than 1,290 local charities and community organisations across the UK, including homeless shelters, children’s breakfast clubs, women’s refuge centres and luncheon clubs for the elderly, helping to feed 62,200 people every day. 

Transform Your Bathroom With These 3 Simple Ideas

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Your bathroom may not be the biggest or the most glamourous room in the house but it is one of the most important to keep up-to-date and fresh. Along with the kitchen, the master bathroom is the most valuable asset, and making sure that it looks good and works well can increase the selling price of your home. 

The bathroom is also a great place to unwind and clear your mind, especially if you're a bath person. So you want the décor and ambience to make it as inviting as it can be. In this guest post we take a look at some of the easiest and most cost effective ways to transform your bathroom to give it that enjoyable and relaxed feel.

Re-Paint Or Tile The Walls    

The simplest and most effective way to make your bathroom look fresh is to update the paint. A new coat, even if it is the same colour, can go a long way to making your bathroom look and feel brand new again. If you want to change the colour, keep it light to make it feel as open and airy as possible. 

Add Ceiling Cladding

Bathroom-ceiling-cladding-dbs-bathroomsOne of the most overlooked areas is the ceiling as it tends to be considered too expensive to change. However, specialist retailers, such as DBS Bathrooms,  are starting to supply new product such as ceiling cladding that can be designed to fit any area while making your bathroom stand out with style.

Ceiling cladding is perfect for the fluxuations in temperature in your bathroom, and unlike paint it won’t suffer from damp in a poorly ventilated area. The cladding is easy to install and with a variety of styles to choose from you can give your bathroom an instant lift. 

Select the Right Lighting

In the majority of bathrooms, the main lighting source will be overhead and usually attached to the ceiling. While this is often the most practical place for the lights, it is not necessarily the best place if you spend a lot of time using the mirror. By adding a lighting source around eye level next to your mirror you will be able to see what you are doing – perfect for applying make-up or shaving, especially if your space is lacking in natural light.

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While changing the electrics is better left to a professional, it is still possible to do all the ground work of mounting the light. It’s essential when working with electrics, or indeed any aspect of your bathroom, to have the right tools. Quality is important for effectivness, longevity and safety, so use a specialist retailer like The Big Tools Shop for equipment to help get you on your way to updating your bathroom. By using one or all of these simple and cost effective tips you can keep your bathroom looking fresh and up-to-date without breaking your budget. 

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