Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
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Fur. The mere mention of the word makes many cringe. In western urban culture, it's a contentious topic that divides us into two groups: those who deem fur fashion READ MORE...
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Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily READ MORE...
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The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's READ MORE...
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The BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) has teamed up with London College of Fashion to establish a new fashion film strand at this year’s event, showcasing READ MORE...
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Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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January 03, 2013

A Twist on 'Moving House'

What would it be like to live in a house that follows the sun throughout the day? And folds into different configurations to take on up to eight shapes? (And here I thought I was doing well to have deep window sills for my plants.) Actually, no one knows what it's like to live in that house, the Dynamic D*Haus is still in the concept stage. According to Dezeen, The D*Haus Company originally planned this home with Lapland residents in mind, to deal with extreme temperatures - hot in summer, freezing in winter. (Sounds just like Ontario.)

See Dezeen for more views of this house with rooms that would, theoretically, fold out on rails so that interior partitions become exterior walls during warmer seasons. The UK-based designers are still trying to figure out how it will work in reality (that's the tough part).

November 27, 2012

Make Mine Multi-Faceted


I know what I want for Christmas. Forget diamonds, I'll take my facets in the form of water-based blue resin, please. (I wasn't going to get diamonds anyway but it's still a compliment.) I've been looking for decor pieces that are different from anything I have. My living room is in need of a minor transformation, and I like to buy things that aren't just space fillers but unique and beautiful and the kind of piece I won't be looking at in a year saying 'I am glad I am no longer the person who thought this was a good idea.' But these things of enduring significance tend not to come cheap, so it's a slow process building that collection. (If bookmarked web pages and blogs count as a collection, I'm already there!)

These Faceture vases, which I think are better without flowers - the way the light catches the facets is beautiful enough - are made by Phil Cuttance, a New Zealander who manipulates each object's form with a turn of the hand before casting, making every piece genuinely unique (you can see how he does this in the video above). Phil says:

“I like the idea of people knowing where products come from, and what goes into making them. I think a lot of products are now seen as ‘throw – away’ as they are made on a mass scale, in places far away from where they end up, and out of sight. There was time when people commissioned a local maker or craftsman to make an object, which gave it an inherent value. I like that model.”

Yes, us too! The vessels and the rest of his Faceture series, which includes lamps and sidetables, are sold at Australia-based shop, my new obsession. The lamp is just awesome, but I like the slender design of the vessels so much that, for me, the the sidetable's chunky approach can't compare. (It's still cool though!)

This small vase is a limited edition colour called Summer Mint. That totally has my name on it.


The vases in two sizes, lamp and side table. I want to touch them for a long time.

October 12, 2012

Le Meridien at Frieze: A Preview

Andersen's Contemporary Art, Copenhagen

I've just come back from a whirlwind three days in London as a blogger guest of 'Le Meridien at Frieze', an art-inspired event of discovery and celebration centred around Frieze Art Fair and the work of the Outset Frieze Art Fund to benefit the Tate collection (OFT).  I just have to come out and say it: I love Le Meridien. What they've done for us lucky bloggers at Piccadilly isn't exclusive to us, but rather an opportunity for first-hand insight into what the Starwood chain of luxury hotels offers everyone who stays with them: world class art through partnerships with local galleries (in London we are especially spoiled), and an extraordinary approach to food and comfort, the details of which are so artfully crafted by their handpicked LM100 members, whose muses range from perfume to the coffee bean. Le Meridien's brand of luxury is not about empty indulgence, but rather it's borne of a genuine love of creating and sharing unique and enriching experiences that can transform a stop for the night into an education. A really fun and memorable one. 

Let me undercore this thought:  because on a daily basis we're bombarded with messages using a "this is so hot right now, people will be into this so let's run with it" way of attracting business, it's a relief to know that there is something out there for those of us wanting more than what the hipster monkeys think we want. That means a lot to me.

I have so much to show and tell from those three incredible days  including meeting Duro Olowu who I adore as a designer and found to be the loveliest man (he's getting a post all to himself!), and convince you as to why I'm saying what I'm saying that I think it warrants a series, and this way I get to live it all again! So beginning Monday we'll look at the first installment of the LM Series, and I can tell you it's about afternoon tea, Le Meridien style. I guarantee you'll be surprised! 

Photo © The Swelle Life

July 26, 2012

Shop: Made in Newcastle's Summer Market

Flyer_poster for print from Lucy Farfort

Food? Homewares? Textiles, fashion, and art? Yes please! If you're in the north east of England it will be well worth a visit to Made in Newcastle's Summer Market where you can indulge in up to 35 lively stalls offering a diverse range of handmade and locally designed products. What to do with the kids? Bring them along without regretting it!  A kids' craft corner will have them getting creative with the folks of MiN to make something to take home with them, and a children’s book author will be stopping by to do some readings from her wonderful books. Win-win!

To give you an idea of the gorgeous things you’ll find, here's a sneak preview of the crafts people who will be selling at the event:

Candy Queen Store

Fabulous and super cute, customisable kids' clothing:


Karina’s Bags

Gorgeous leather bags and purses from established designer-maker Karina Hesketh:


French Oven

Delicious artisan breads, cakes and pastries from the Grainger Market-based bakers:



Finely crafted, bound notebooks, journals and boxes made by local maker Margaret Finch:


Lucy's Happy Place

Prints, cards and stationery from illustrator Lucy Farfort:


Surf and Silver

Naturally striking, salvaged coastal sea glass jewellery from maker Emma Harbottle:


Laura Parkin

Stunning hand woven textiles from a Northumberland-based textile design graduate.


Funds generated from this market will go towards future MiN events to aid their long-term aspiration of having a permanent retail/gallery space, so come along for a tea or coffee and support local creative talent and business!

11th August, from 10am - 4pm in Trinity Centre, Gosforth High Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Visit Made in Newcastle's website and their blog to see more.

July 23, 2012

Cupcake Monday! Nostalgic, Illustrative Wedding Cakes


A few weeks ago we admired the painterly cakes of Nevie Pie Cakes, and I had saved her wedding designs for a separate post, they were just so charming and sweet, in an understated way. I thought I'd seen it all when it comes to types of wedding cakes, but this is the first I've seen of the cakemaker creating a nostalgic feel by drawing upon the illustration style of children's books of the mid-1900s. My mother-in-law kept every book from my husband's childhood, which are all in near-perfect condition, despite being read often (this was not the way things were in our house, covers looked chewed even after we had to give away our dog), and we now read them every summer with our daughter when we visit. I especially love the Golden books. When I look at the cake above it reminds me of them. I don't think I could eat this cake, it would be like devouring childhood memories! 



Nevie-Pie Cakes' display at Selfridges - could you walk by without picking up something?


A vintage blue love-bird budgie wedding cake with 'lace' appliques and handpainted flowers

Photos from Nevie-Pie Cakes

July 12, 2012

Fred Butler SS12: Our Summer Sun Has Arrived!


The reception was hosted by Susie Bubble, seen studying one of the textural sorbet outfits

Last autumn I saw some of Fred Butler's SS12 presentation at London Fashion Week. I had to be quick despite this being the collection I was looking most forward to, because my evening train back to Newcastle was leaving across town in just over an hour. To walk into the Portico Rooms at Somerset House,  see this thing of pure joy, and have to rush through it was just cruel. I took photos of the three outfits being modelled, after stopping to take in each one in - you can't not smile when doing this! - then ran off just as more models appeared in high-inducing oufits, but I was already late and I left with a whimper (and I mean literally, people looked at me). So I tried to take a shortcut to Kings Cross which wound up being a longer way, and missed my train by 20 seconds. Swearing and some self-flagellation followed. When I returned home I was so excited about the photos and posted a teaser for the presentation, then my hard drive crashed a few days later, obviously a punishment for not getting onto the main post sooner. After five days in the IT hospital and being told to write a eulogy for my laptop, our local guy saved it and the hard drive was recovered, but there was no guarantee that everything would be there. This drawn-out tale leads me to today, when I finally, and purely by chance, found my lost Fred Butler and Craig Lawrence photos which I thought were gone forever, my record of the best of what I saw for spring at  LFW.

And technically it's still summer, eh? Not that it matters, Fred's clothes and accessories aren't bound by seasonal restraints; colour is celebrated simply because it's a new day and one must get dressed in something, so why not make it happy? Her palette takes shape though unusual forms that must be the result of manipulation, playing around with soft textiles and rigid materials like perspex, and whatever she can sculpt to create things that are joyful, sunny, and different, but not simply for the sake of it. Her style is tightly honed and elegant in its own way. I took a pass on the last LFW as it wasn't a good time to be away from my family, and when I saw what I missed, a salon showing of her AW12 collection, it just stung. If you love pastel harmonies, you will melt like blue bubblegum ice cream on a summer day (that is, unless you're in England!!)

This is the video for Fred Butler SS12 followed by the photos, and it's well worth clearing an hour to watch her videos on Vimeo, they are one of my few go-tos for daydreaming and you can see why:




Fred has a knack for making things that leave you desperate to run your fingers over them. But I didn't touch the model's feet or forearms.





She must not have seen what she was wearing, otherwise she'd be smiling.








Photos © The Swelle Life

June 12, 2012

exhibition: when racing and fashion collide


In terms of fashion, the races tend to conjure images of large hats competing for attention, silk tea dresses, and for some, a pivotal scene from Pretty Woman. But a group of fashion students from the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design saw beyond this, and, inspired by a day at the races, have created garments for a one-off exhibition in East London titled 'A Day at the Races'. 

The Annexe, part of the renowned Brick Lane Gallery, will host the unique designs from the 13 – 18 June 2012, offering the public the opportunity to see the students’ modern and vibrant take on attire for a day at the races, at this six-day, free-to-view exhibition. Featuring twenty-three designs created by fashion design students specialising in womenswear, the exhibition showcases a range of handmade garments from a futuristic take on a top hat and tails, to traditional tweed, couture dresses, hand-stitched quilting and turf-inspired shoes.

The students on the course - alumni include Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane and Hussein Chalayan - were answering a cut-and-make brief set by Racing for Change, an initiative set up to broaden the appeal of horseracing.


Willie Walters, Course Director of BA (Hons) Fashion at Central Saint Martins describes how the project's designs were developed: “Starting with an exhilarating outing to Newbury Racecourse, students began working on themes which they drew from their experience of the day. They researched equestrian dress, attended a lecture from fashion historian Marie McLoughlin on the development of the riding habit and finally made their decisions on their own particular avenue of research to follow in order to create their fashion silhouette. The results can now be seen at this exhibition.”

I unfortunately am not able to attend, but I do have a few favourites from the exhibition lookbook. Here's a preview, along with the designer's story behind the outfit:


RICHARD MALONE. This design was inspired by Richard’s trip to Newbury Racecourse, when he observed some children who were also at the raceday. They were fully immersed in the day’s activities, and were observed spinning in every direction as they tried to take in all of the excitement. The dress is made of hand-painted panels, each of which represents a scene from the races through a child’s perspective. It has been carefully tailored to flare during movement, based on the children’s original spinning movement.


DAISY COLLINGRIDGE. The inspiration for this garment came from photographs taken at some local riding stables, when Daisy got an insight into the lives of horses and how they are looked after. The horses were all absent from their stables, but their blankets and other gear remained. The quilted numnahs, which sit beneath the saddle, is where the inspiration for this dress has come from; incorporating horse images within a hand-quilted design.


NICOLE WALUGEMBE NABISERE. A trip back to Uganda Kampala reminded Nicole of her home life, which she then compared to the classism of 18th century Britain. This resulting traditional court coat turns into a shower proof jacket – protection against Britain’s rainy weather – and also incorporated Ugandan fabrics to represent the tribes from her home country. The trousers are shaped on the jockey’s breeches.

Photos: Wiglius de Bie

April 20, 2012

Little Black Dresser


Little Black Dresser
14”W x 46”H x10” D
MDF, Maple Veneer, Aluminum

It took a second, didn't it? Yes, it's a dresser, fashioned like a little black dress and it appears to be suspended from a hanger on a short rail protruding from the wall, though it's firmly secured.  LBD is one of many ingenious pieces of furniture by Straight Line Designs - a one of a kind workshop in Vancouver led by Judson Beaumont, a designer who says he is motivated to prove naysayers wrong when he's told "You cannot build that" or "No one would want that". (See, this is the role the crabbyfaces play in the world, brilliant people will come along and shut them up by pulling off something like this.)

No gimmicks: The LBD is exquisitely crafted and finished

We have to look at more of Judson's humourous and gorgeous work, but it is so tough choosing which ones. Each offers something fresh and unusual, and at first glance you've already rearranged a room around it in your mind or kicked a former beloved to the curb to make room. So here's a bunch:


Surely a queue would form to sit on Canned Bench at your next house party:


Canned Bench
60” W x 25”H x 29” D
Eastern Maple, Maple Veneer, Birch Plywood, Laminate, Vinyl



Cracked Cabinet
26” W x 56.5”H x 14.5” D
Eastern Maple, Maple Veneer


If you act up around Anne she will give you the business:


Anne Armoire
48” W x 6'H x 20” D
Western Maple, Maple Veneer

An impressive feat of engineering:


52.5” W x 24”H x 17” D
Western Maple, Maple Veneer


Bad Table
40” W x 18”H x 20” D
Western Maple, Maple Veneer, Aluminium, IKEA Carpet (hee hee!!)


Bird Home
16” W x 60”H x 16” D
Mountain Pine Beetle Wood, Fiberglass Resin

How incredibly darling!

Photos from Straight Line Designs

March 15, 2012

1000 Drawers...

Entwurf probably still not enough. I found so many wonderful, unusual pieces when putting together my Fantasy Furniture Ideabook last month for (what, you don't have a throne in your house?),  and I've been meaning to go back and revisit some of the more intriguing makers.

Germany's Entwurf-Direkt is behind one of my favourite pieces from the Ideabook, an awkwardly stacked set of drawers - is it a chest? a console? - with brightly coloured highlights.  The creation is part of their 1000 Drawers project in which orphaned drawers (who knew?) are refurbished and designed to be attached to the wall. Each drawer is numbered and stamped and comes with a certificate. I would like to adopt one:


This is all part of a bigger project founded in 2001 by Entwurf-Direkt that would bring together a shop/event/art venue in one space. Today there are locations for shopping, exhibitions and lectures in both Hamburg and Berlin where you can also find advice on how to incorporate their unconventional furniture into your own decor. That's a good one because you'll probably need help (the answer is not to pile up your existing furniture so it fits in.)

I can't decide which I love more, the one in the header for its cheerful colour, or this for its pleasingly asymmetrical arrangment of 11 mismatched drawers and pulls, and the corrugated texture of the blue drawer: EntwurfDirektI won't strain over it, it's a moot point - at well over €2,000 I can't afford them! They're all one-offs, and I do think they're worth it. They're like mid-century modern with a sense of humour.

I love these things, let's look at more!


You can buy a single drawer! What would you do with one?

December 03, 2011

Floral Friday: Au Revoir, Francois Lesage

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The man responsible for much of the heartbreakingly exquisite beauty of haute couture has died.  Francois Lesage was head of Maison Lesage, the legendary embroidery salon in Paris where rare magic happens. He was 82.

It seems the craft was in his blood. His father, Albert, founded the family firm in 1924 when he bought the atelier of Napoleon III’s embroiderer, Michonet, who had also worked for Charles Frederick Worth. Subsequently Albert married Marie-Louise Favot, an embroidery worker at Vionnet. With that legacy how could he have followed any other path?

Luckily he fell in love with beautifying textiles with threads and beads and has helped keep this highly skilled art alive, through the work of the Maison as seen on the best of haute couture (not without help from Chanel who saved the Maison by buying it), and ensuring new talent is nurtured through his Paris school, Ecole Lesage Atelier de Broderie. What a dream vocation. (A fellow Canadian named Sarah Crowley got her dream and moved to Paris to study at Lesage a few years ago, you can read about her time there and see her own beautiful designs at Glimpse Creations.)

Below is a delight of an interview with Lesage from 1987 from Fashion Television:

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Christian Lacroix's exquisiteness was greatly owed to Lesage


PORTER Magazine issue 5 now available at NET-A-PORTER.COM

Cupcake Monday!

Interiors & Exteriors

Floral Friday

London Fashion Week

Fashion Illustrator Series

Artist Series

Paris & Cities

Painted Houses Project

Colour Colour 



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