Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
Slide 3


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...
Slide 1


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...
Slide 3


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...
Slide 1


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...
Slide 3


Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
Slide 3


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...
Slide 3


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...
Example Frame

February 15, 2014

All Rhodes to London

Zandra-and-safia-Z-chair-900x667Zandra Rhodes with People Tree founder Safia Minney

British designer Zandra Rhodes is a favourite amongst fashionistas for her unbashed love of colour and print, prolific and enduring fashion career, and her revolutionary contribution to textile design - and you can't not love her bright pink hair! Here is a conversation journalist Millie Davies had with the fashion icon at her London home:

We meet Zandra Rhodes in her fabulous London penthouse, an oasis of colour nestled a stone’s throw from The Shard and atop of her self-founded London Fashion and Textile Museum.

More than 50 years into her illustrious career, the fuchsia-haired veteran designer Zandra Rhodes is as busy as ever. “I only flew in from California this morning”, the 73-year-old fashionista lets slip as we discuss her latest collaboration.

The acclaimed textile designer has recently partnered with ethical fashion house People Tree to launch a bespoke range, ‘Happy Woman’. With her fabulous fingers in many pies, what sparked Zandra’s interest in this particular label?

“At first I simply thought it was a great cause and that People Tree did a very good product. And then of course having gone to India with the founder of People Tree, Safia Minney, it led me along to realise what a good cause it is. And one to keep plugging away for.”

Famous in the international world of fashion, Rhodes has shown an interest in sustainable clothing before, lending her name to the Pick Your Cotton campaign. She’s also collaborated with some of the biggest names in British retail heaven, in partnerships with Marks and Spencer, Topshop and MAC.

Talk turns to Zandra’s instrumental fashion museum; it hosts workshops, archives and its very own fashion school. Its latest Artists Textiles Exhibition was opened by the acclaimed museum director Sir Nicholas Serota and the Bermondsey building offers inspiration to a new generation of fashionable types in the capital.

What’s Zandra’s view of the success of the museum? “Well I definitely think it’s had an impact on making the textiles more visible,” she candidly offers.


Zandra shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Currently dividing her time between her two bases, London and San Diego, she cites travel as a way to channel her creative energy. And whilst most of the fashion elite will be flocking to London for front row seats at next week’s London Fashion Week, the iconic figure is jetting back to the States to raise awareness for a women’s cause.

“I’m doing a show called Go Red for Women and it raises awareness that, actually, women have strokes and heart attacks more than they get breast cancer.”

As an advocate of women’s issues, how does Zandra think women fare in her industry?

“I think women have a harder road all round in whatever they go into.” She reflects. “The only thing I would say is – pointing it out can cause you more trouble.”

Having exhibited hairdos in a myriad of colours, most recently a brilliant pink, Zandra insists that artistically she would never be led by a favourite colour; rather, “one designs in whatever one needs.”

With the People Tree collection sporting fun, bright, and 100% organic cotton frocks and blouses, it’s a safe bet that sombre tones never featured on the drawing board.

Popular in the UK, America and beyond, Zandra continues to make an impact on global fashion. In her impressive career, she has produced multiple clothing lines, designed exclusive jewellery ranges and somewhat uniquely designed the set and costumes for the opera.

Having risen to success in the 1960s, does Zandra have any advice for present day aspiring designers?

“Only that no hard work gets wasted. And unfortunately you have to work harder and harder to get there right at the beginning.”

Zandra – who can add an OBE to her accolades - remains as big a name in British fashion as ever. As we leave the designer’s radiant home and emerge into the darkness of London’s streets, we can’t help but carry some of her sparkle with us.

‘Happy Woman’ is the new collaboration between Zandra Rhodes and People Tree.

February 09, 2014

NYFW AW14 Favourites Pt. 1 (and a mini-rant)


You know you'll always get clothes that are more than any eyeful and make you itchy to run your hand over with Missoni, and in this case, it's their sister line M Missoni that delivers the goods. Grunge style provided the direction which was elevated several notches with inverted tulip skirts invented for the collection, and their signature space-dye knits were intarsiaed in patterns to suit the rock nature of the looks. 


A Détacher showed this knit dress, which as you an see has the words 'Drug Mule' displayed across the chest. You could joke that it's not a dress to wear to the airport, but it doesn't really sit right with me as something to cheeky emblazon on a piece of clothing to join in with the 'words on clothes' trend. I usually can't stand the trend, I just don't understand why a grown woman would want to wear a sweatshirt with 'Lucky' or French words scrawled in a flirty font - they tend to look made for 5-year-old girls - and pay a minimum £100 to be part of an especially short, fleeting fad. However, I actually like this visual treatment; it works aesthetically and it's kind of chic. But what it says is another matter; I just don't find it funny to make light of something where women are exploited, many times unwittingly, forced to risk their freedom to make scumbags some money. It's just dumb to send this down the runway. (Hmm, maybe 'Lucky' isn't so bad after all.) 


Gary Graham gives us such richly romantic clothes; I can imagine I would walk around reciting profound literary quotes in my head while donning any one of these outfits (if I knew any) 


I love a bold presentation, and here the backgrounds pop the clothes by Cynthia Rowley, beginning with vivid motifs on black against a kind of firework display, followed by an aura borealis-like backdrop shooting out colour-blocked outfits with thigh high boots (that's right, they're here to stay for a bit longer) 



Ostwald Helgason played with funny fruits in sporty luxe looks, cut out the shoulders in softly tailored jackets and sculpted with liquid metal techno fabrics. 


Peter Som does great coats. Each of these makes the most of blue-greys with rich print or pattern. In most cases he went big and round with his oversized lapels. 



I love the triangular shapes created by the model's hands in the pockets, as well as the textures, the light and dark of the goat hair, and how well the proportions of all of the elements work on the model's body in this look from Sally Lapointe. 


Prabal Gurung showed lux patchwork knits in shades from winter white to charcoal with a mix of undertones to punctuate the variety of textures and techniques. 


I think it's safe to say at this point that blues and greys are going to be everywhere come September? Rebecca Taylor gave us a great range of blues, from soft, powdery shades to deeply saturated ultramarine, grounded in greys and black, with some pretty lilacs thrown in for variety. I like her take on the volume trend, going with the oversized, relaxed shoulders but keeping wearable proportions in mind - no one wants to look like someone blew a bunch of air into your coat. 


January 24, 2014

Habitat Presents: Colour into Liquid Air


We could all use more colour in our lives, couldn't we? Especially during the gloom of the last months of winter. Just in time to get us into a sunnier headspace, Habitat’s Platform space on the Kings Road sees the exciting addition of an oasis of colour and vibrancy to its west London gallery this February and March. Recent graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art, Gracjana Rejmer- Canovas, has been invited by Habitat to transform its white gallery space on the King’s Road ‘Platform’ into a riot of colour through a painting installation entitled ‘Colour Into Liquid Air’.

Attracted by the American Abstract Expressionists and the Colour Field Painters, Rejmer-Canovas will present canvases of bold, abstract colours of various shapes and sizes. The dozens of canvases sit together and make a large, cohesive whole but each individual piece will also have its own individual integrity.

Rejmer-Canovas soaks up London’s colours and the vast cultural richness of the capital in her home turf of Hampstead and around her Southwark studio. In this project, she will dye her canvases of linen and cotton with natural pigments and then layer acrylics and oil paints. The result will be walls and floors awash with paintings, and a complete interior world of colour. 

The curator of Platform, Holly Wood, says, “Habitat is the perfect place for Gracjana to create her first solo show in London. Her palette of materials and references take you on a journey and remind you of brighter days and faraway trips. I am so excited that we are working with Gracjana on this original and inspiring project. Take a day-trip and be surrounded by the vibrancy of this exhibition.”

Rejmer-Canovas’ ‘Colour Into Liquid Air’ at Platform will run from 7th February to 23rd March 2014 and is generously supported by the Polish Cultural Institute, London. A video of the making process in the space will be shown in the space on loop.  All work is available for sale through the artist prices start from £800, and commissions are available. 

Gracjana Rejmer-Canovas _Habitat_1











Photo credit: Susan Bell

January 01, 2014

New Years Eve in London: Fireworks 2014


I spent New Years Eve in my kitchen, because we had a party, and like everyone knows, people always gather in the kitchen at parties. And no matter how many chairs you have, people will stand. Has someone created a club yet that is just one giant kitchen? You wouldn't even need seating. 

On New Years Day I always post the London fireworks because they're pretty spectacular. The BBC says that peach flavoured snow and edible banana confetti fell on revellers during the show. I'm wondering, did they announce it was edible beforehand and therefore the crowd was full of people looking up with their mouths open? Or did it fall to the ground only to be eaten up by pigeons who are moaning in the streets today with sugar hangovers?

Here's to a fantastic 2014!

December 20, 2013

Offices that Inspire at Home and Work


I've always thought of the office as a place where creativity goes to die, CEOs and directors ironically conspiring to make you want to go back home to bed as soon as you walk into the reception area, but that's more of a reflection of the places I've worked than what is possible. I once went for an interview for a project managment job at a software company in Toronto and walked into the office equivalent of Xanadu. I swear I saw monkeys glide by on rollerskates smiling and waving, it just looked like so much fun. It was a massive open-plan, two-level space with high ceilings, lots of windows, natural wood, probably exposed brick as was the trend at the time, and colour. And faces that looked energised and engaged intead of 'over it', on bodies kitted out in cool clothes, not that soul-sucking business casual. (Don't tell anyone but sometimes I slept at my desk while at the job I was trying to leave. I blame the sea of grey partitions for lulling me into unconsciousness.)

The creation of a workspace, whether it be at home or the office, is about vision and choices. First, you have to want to create an inspiring space - why does that only seem to be the designation of creative studios and young, hip companies? Do data entry people demand to look at drab walls, dull carpets and fake plants in need of dusting while they work? Would they not feel a little more motivated to tap those keyboards all day if they were hit by a splash of yellow or some shiny white gloss? These days there are so many design options when it comes to office furniture, it's just a matter of knowing what kind of environment you want to work in and pulling together the right pieces. In the Workplace pavillion at the 100% Design show I saw desks and seating, even storage lockers, that obliterated any existing notions I had of what office furniture is about. I'm talking mind-blowing cool.

Take Dauphin's Perillo chair, crafted from one continuous sheet of thermo plastic with a high gloss finish, the seat surface, backrest and armrests offering an uninterrupted, ultra-modern form. 


Ok, so these chairs may be more suited to a lobby or reception area - the most awesome ones ever! - than behind a desk, but they illustrate what great things can come from leaving behind any pre-conceptions about what the office environment should be. 


Here's a home office (I think) that is made up of a simple trestle table against a white wall, but add a cool chair and fill the walls with colour (looks like someone has attempted an homage to Rothko) and you've got a space that makes you want to sit down and get into your work, with or without those shelves of old-school lunch boxes. 


This at-home workspace makes the most of a tight area. The large table, offering an ample workstation, nearly fills the space yet appears light, and a sideboard and tall shelving unit enhance the decor of the flat while having the capacity to store a significant quanity of supplies. The benefit of the home environment is the flexibility to add features such as decorative lighting, like this one which looks like a mature dandelion, giving a more eclectic and stylised feel to the space. 


I included this outdoor office for fun because it's just so neat, and another example of how a workspace can take any form. Just one question - how do they move around within it?!

December 19, 2013

Sideboard Daydreaming

Sideboard_Punt_SussexThe Punt Sussex Low Sideboard in blue, c. 2000, is my current lust. The design is inspired by the shingled, angled roof of an English cottage. It reminds me of sunny days at the beach. 

Never underestimate the potential power of storage furniture. Take the sideboard, or credenza if you must, a feat of form and function. It provides storage while offering a major feature piece for a space, it can anchor a room, and it will reveal much about its owner. I think opting for a sideboard in the first place, say over a hutch or cabinet which seem to be more traditional choices, reveals a love for design. It's really incredible how two or three boxes on a stand can be endlessly reinterpreted to provide a practical solution to clutter while dramatically enhancing the look and feel of a space.
The designs I've featured here are from Nest who have a selection of sideboards that make me tingly. (Yes, I get tingly for sideboards and I'm ok with that.) Right now I'm selling my huge, ornate French sideboard and hoping to replace it with something sleek and contemporary in the new year. Good design can be prohibitively expensive, particularly from the icon-producing brands. I'm eternally frustrated from finding interior pieces I want to live with forever but happen to be thousands of pounds - most of what you see here, remember this is daydreaming! (And you learn from the icons what makes good design, which helps you develop an eye and recognise desirable features in the lower-priced products). However, there is a lot of good design made with accessibility in mind, so much so that there is always something that will fit with what you're looking for and won't feel at all like a compromise. If you're also looking for value, have a browse of to find offers from UK furniture and homewares shops.  

If you want to see more products that help you to organise and beautify your space, take a look at the favourites from my Houzz Ideabook Fabulously Decorative Storage.

November 25, 2013

Stockholm: Östermalm and the Waterfront, Part 2

TheSwelleLife_23 (1 of 1)

Carrying on from Part 1 with more scenes of the waterfront and the shopping area of Östermalm, we begin with shots taken from the river. I took my daughter to rent some peddle boats. After choosing one that was impossible to get away from the dock (brilliant!) we moved into one on the end and took off. I forgot how much work it is to get down the water in those things! 

TheSwelleLife_14 (1 of 1)

Once we cleared the bridge we came upon a huge park that we didn't get to see on foot but was certainly pretty enough from the water:

TheSwelleLife_16 (1 of 1)

There was a beautiful house in Scandinavian style, or maybe it was something else - I'll investigate the park more thoroughly next time I'm in Stockholm which will be in May.

TheSwelleLife_15 (1 of 1)

Kind of surreal was this gate that was attached to nothing!

TheSwelleLife_18 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_20 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_47 (1 of 1)-3

The entrance to the park was this beautiful electric blue and gold gate:

TheSwelleLife_22 (1 of 1)

I decided we should head back so we didn't go over our hour and have to pay another 200 krona (the equivalent of about £20), but when I turned us around we fell into difficulty. I couldn't steer us and we ended up alongside the rocky bank as if magnetised, and nothing I did to get us away worked. After a good 15 minutes and getting rather sweaty and angry trying I nearly lost my mind! I humbly apologise to Stockholm for the terrible words I called the boat and the rocks. The rocks were completely innocent in the matter, but I'm not so sure the boat was. I honestly thought we were stranded on the river. Still, it probably didn't deserve the Yngvie Malmsteen-esque fury I unleashed upon it. 

Somehow we got righted - the fury worked! - and made our way back to the dock with a few minutes to spare:

TheSwelleLife_22 (1 of 1)-2

TheSwelleLife_24 (1 of 1)

After that interesting outing we headed over the bridge and walked along the seafront toward the shopping district:

TheSwelleLife_25 (1 of 1)

There were lots of houseboats docked along the river:

TheSwelleLife_26 (1 of 1)

We had pistachio gelato on waffle cones and it was probably the best pistachio anything I've had: 

TheSwelleLife_27 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_28 (1 of 1) TheSwelleLife_29 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_30 (1 of 1) TheSwelleLife_31 (1 of 1)


TheSwelleLife_33 (1 of 1)

 TheSwelleLife_35 (1 of 1)

Stockholm is a very clean city, so I found it funny that the one blatant piece of litter I did see in the Östermalm streets was an Ikea bag. I did not actually see an Ikea, however! 

TheSwelleLife_36 (1 of 1)

I loved the happy mailboxes all over Stockholm in light blue and yellow:

TheSwelleLife_38 (1 of 1) 

TheSwelleLife_42 (1 of 1)

The guys kind of do look like Alexander Skarsgard, in case you were wondering:

TheSwelleLife_43 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_45 (1 of 1)

This was an ad on a bus, but I did wonder for a split second if it was a mobile Abba museum. It's Sweden, you never know! 

TheSwelleLife_46 (1 of 1)

Swedish girls watching the koi in the pond in the city centre:

TheSwelleLife_47 (1 of 1)-2

There was a marathon in Östermalm that day. If we didn't already get the impression that Swedes are supremely fit and healthy, this certainly demonstrated it. This was their home base where the runners wait to start the race. 

TheSwelleLife_48 (1 of 1)

This cutie wasn't concerned with the race and took a rest in the shade: 

TheSwelleLife_49 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_51 (1 of 1)

I know it's immature, but the names of their chocolate bars were funny to me. I bought one each of Kex, Sport Lunch and Plopp for my daughter and had a bite, and have to admit that for cheap chocolate they weren't bad!

TheSwelleLife_52 (1 of 1)

Photos © The Swelle Life

November 01, 2013

A Look at 50 Years of the Mathmos Lava Lamp


I had a lava lamp in university. I bought it during the revival of the trippy 1960s ornament when they seemed to be everywhere. A lot of the styles were kind of big and clunky, and then I saw one that seemed more 'me', a slimmer model with a brushed silver base and top and the coolest colour of purple lava, a soft hue that looked gorgeous when the light was on. It was a Mathmos 'Astro' lamp and I got compliments on it all the time because it was different from the others. I loved that thing. It became kind of a night light because I'd fall asleep staring at it on my desk. 

Mathmos is celebrating 50 years of the lava lamp this autumn , and in reading over the history of the company I've learned some things about this iconic piece of pop culture. It's a British product, invented by Edward Craven-Walker who went on to found Mathmos in 1963. And all of the compoments are made in Britain, even today. Mathmos has committed to keeping the manufacturing of their classic on home turf and the company continues to be entirely British owned and run.

Here's a charmingly retro video (love the 'Barbarella' soundtrack) - showing us how each part is made - the bottle production in Yorkshire, metal spinning by hand and robot in Devon, and the formulation and final assembly in Poole, Dorset where it all began - with some lovely scenery shots from each location:


Mathmos_limited_edition_50th_astro_lava_lamp low res
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Mathmos have launched a limited edition Astro with commemorative certificate signed by Christine Craven-Walker, the wife and business partner of the inventor. Alongside the limited edition is the new Heritage collection inspired by vintage colours and finishes in celebration of Mathmos’ long history:

Mathmos_astro_lava_lamp_heritage_range low res
Here's a look at some vintage images from the early days of Mathmos:

Craven-Walker traveled the country selling from the back of an ex-postal van known as 'Smokey' - how neat! I wonder if it still exists?
Mathmos_vintage_astro_lava_lamp_advert low res

One of the first adverts for the Mathmos 'Astro' lamp

Mathmos_astro_lava_lamp_with_inventor low res

Inventor of the lava lamp, Edward Craven-Walker. He is quoted as saying, "If you buy my lamp, you won't need drugs... I think it will always be popular. It's like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again".  

Mathmos_original_lava_lamp_'1960s astro prototype by the founder of Mathmos' LR

The prototype of the 1960s Astro, created by the founder of Mathmos. It was inspired by a design for an egg timer that Mr. Craven-Walker saw in a Dorset pub!

I'm feeling nostalgic now, are you?

All Mathmos lava lamps are available to buy direct Europe-wide from

October 19, 2013

More Painted French Furniture Lust!

What would you display in your Mademoiselle Versailles Display Cabinet?

I don't know why I waited this long to do a follow up post to the original Painted French Furniture Lust, which was very popular if Pinterest referral links are anything to go by, but here it is! I'm moving away from the style in terms of what I'm doing with our house, but if I had a huge budget, large hallways and empty rooms to decorate any way I wanted, I'd be right back there. Hey, it could happen! (Please tell me how to make that happen.)

I've been collecting images for a while and these all happen to be from the UK's Sweetpea & Willow. There's a lot of painted furniture around in the French styles, but these stand out due to their particularly pretty detail and soft pastel shades, and they have something unique about them. 

How nice to be greeted by the Painted Entrance Cabinet (left) - love the pops of saturated teal against the washed out aqua. The blue of the Artus Corner Cabinet is just gorgeous and I like that this piece is minimally ornate. You can have it custom painted in your choice of 27 colours and finishes, a different one for the main body, interior, and edging, if you want. 


The hand carved Josephine Pearl Dressing Table is just a dream. What puts it over the top for me is the surprise of the pastel painted boxes inside; I would probably never put the mirror down so I could always see them. 


The traditional writing desk is such a luxury item because it's a non-essential piece of furniture that is more about elegant beauty than function. It's not exactly designed for working, unless your job involves penning romantic letters all day (that probably is a job if you replace 'romantic' with 'dirty'). The acid hues of the Zesty Lime Secretaries desk turns what could be a demure and delicate piece into something bold and edgy. If you still prefer the powdery pastels, the Aqua Bon might be more up your alley:


More to come when I find others as beautiful as these!

September 20, 2013

LFW: The Florals, Pastels, Textures and Shoes



London Fashion Week tends to have some sure hits when it comes to the can't-get-it-anywhere-else details and also perfectly collection-matched, fantastic shoes. So I've grouped together some of my favourite pieces from the shows for which there's a lot of overlap, as many were textured/pastel/floral. The thing I've loved about LFW when I've attended is the exhibition where collections that have already showed can be inspected up close (or until then you might see the current season in its place) so you can witness the glorious detail for what it really is. (However, I once found out the hard way that one especially exquisite designer's rep doesn't appreciate too many questions and just may be a bit paranoid that you're asking not out of gleeful curiousity but with the intention of stealing techniques! I thought that was rather paranoid, especially as the collection on display at the time was currently in stores, as next season's was showing later that day, and could be investigated at one's leisure; I don't think people attend LFW with their names on visible badges and then attempt to rip off by specifically asking about fabrics, etc! Especially when it comes to a designer who is so special no one could really come close anyway; it would be like finding out what paints and brushes Leonardo da Vinci used and then attempting to recreate the Mona Lisa. Contrastly, the next designer room I visited, which was another favourite for indulgent detail, invited me to touch the clothes and were generous and encouraging with the questions and even invited me to next season's show (which in the end is up to the PR team who handles the guest list and you never know what will happen with that, but the gesture was redeeming!) Either way, I respect the rules with each designer; I had just wished that the people of one of my most loved hadn't left me feeling dirty!) 

I wish I had some information to accompany the photos as I'm sure there are interesting collabs and other neat tidbits to note,but I've spent all of my time on the collages and have come up short on research time now that I'm on my way to the London Design Festival. But at the very least we can do some safe oggling at a distance!











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 



  • Creative Commons License