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Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland READ MORE...
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There's something so irresistible about miniature food, the treats we love made into tiny packages you can just pop into your mouth - virtually guilt-free! READ MORE...
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"Three friends taking pictures of themselves in a photo-booth as they go off to Glastonbury festival''. This was the brief John Galliano (remember him?!) gave to Nick Knight READ MORE...
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As an amateur photographer, I'm fascinated by the universe of possibilities we can explore in creating images with our digital camera - why limit ourselves? I read a debate a while ago READ MORE...
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Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main READ MORE...
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Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki READ MORE...
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April 16, 2014

My Bathroom Reno: Ideas for Glass Showers

Bathroom-with-sliding-glass-shower-doorsI love the idea of a feature wall in the bathroom, providing a striking backdrop to your glass shower. The dark grey adds depth, though I'm trying to figure out if going dark will have the opposite effect in a shallow space like our L-shaped bathroom. 

I've just completed a bathroom makeover to make it a bit nicer to live with until we do a complete renovation later this year (posts coming soon with photos). But it's never too early to start doing your research on the fixtures, especially when it's your one and only bathroom, as is the case with ours. I'm focussing on showers first. At the moment we have a tub/shower and as I've previously alluded to, it's awful! The glass partition doesn't seal too well and the case of the tub has a groove that's open and traps water which turns rusty. Albeit done on the cheap, the bathroom was brand new when we moved in, so we thought we'd get some use out of it first. I think we've done our time with all of it. 

We've decided to get rid of the tub altogether in favour of a shower only and I'm pretty sure there will be no regrets. I've found there is a whole world of shower options available after starting my research at bathroomdeal.co.uk, right down to types of hinges or whether you want a flipper panel (it's always the little details I labour over). However, our space is small - though luckily not super tiny or awkward - and the size and layout of the bathroom tends to dictate the options that are realistic. Ours is an L-shape and so a rectangular walk-in (above) would suit the space best, though I do love the streamlined look of a wet room (below) which is essentially a shower without a tray; I'm just not sure our space is big enough to keep some errant kick-splashes from making it feel like a public swimming pool changeroom (ew). However, one great benefit of the wet room is that you can build your own, choosing the panel configuration you want, and then where you install them is up to you. 

I like the flow of this wet room shower where an end panel creates an entrance that is separate from the main shower area:


So, the type of shower is the first decision. Then there's the showerhead, tiles, storage, shower valves...it's a good thing I've started early, there's still the rest of the bathroom to consider!

Care for your Artwork with LED Lights


Whether you are a serious collector - don't we wish! - or just a fan of pretty paintings, your beloved works of art could benefit from being lit by LED lighting. You'd be following the lead of many of the world’s most famous museums who have chosen to replace their lighting with LED technology for the benefit of their precious canvases.

Hanging a work of art on the wall of your home tends to mark the beginning of a long-term plan. Your art may appreciate in value over time and more personally, makes it feel like a home. So it would be something of a loss if a painting suffered damage over the years.

Energy inefficient lighting options such as halogen bulbs can have significant negative effects upon paint and canvases due to the heat they emit. Because only a small percentage of the energy used by halogen bulbs is actually turned into light, excessive energy is turned into heat and carbon emission. This heat over time can cause significant damage to the fibres, particularly when the light is shone directly on the painting. 

Swapping halogen bulbs for LED alternatives can help alleviate these problems. LED bulbs are designed to be energy efficient so they do not cost as much to light and do not cause as much damage to the environment. This also brings with it a number of useful beneftis such as a reduction of heat emitted from the surface of the bulb. This cooler light means that you can light your masterpiece without the fear that the heat may be eating away at the details.

Astute Lighting Ltd Director, Mr Adam, explains: “The LED bulb is intelligently designed to ensure that all of the energy used is turned to high-quality, clear light.”

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, home to more than 1 million art and historical items including works by masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Steen, recently converted to LED lighting. This was partially due to the reduced risk of damage but also for the aesthetic benefits. Head of Exhibitions, Tim Zeedijk, explains: "We chose LED lighting as it allows the art to be viewed in the best light possible, bringing out all the colours and details that the artist intended us to see."

The project allowed the museum to use new technologies to pay perfect tribute to the old masters, and you can do the same with your own pieces of art.

March 26, 2014

DIY a Fab New Chair at Ministry of Upholstery


I have spent more than a few moments giving the side-eye to an armchair we have. It has good bones but there's a part on one of the arms where the fabric is kind of slouchy and it bothers me to no end. Apparently staring at it with a menacing glare doesn't fix it, so it needs to be reupholstered. If I lived closer to Manchester I'd be loading up that chair and heading over to the Ministry of Upholstery to get it back into shape. Yes, there is actually a place where you can learn to do your own upholstery, in fact it's dedicated to teaching even complete novices how to make a perfect piece of furniture. If you live in or near the area and you're interested in seeing what it's all about, they're having an open day on Sunday 6th April 11.00-3.00 at Ministry of Upholstery, 122 Water Street, Manchester, M4 2JJ.

It’s free to attend and they will be offering the opportunity to meet the team, find out about their courses, check out their facilities, watch demonstrations of various upholstery and furniture renovation techniques, and you can talk to and watch existing students at work. 

Ministry of Upholstery is led by upholsterer Anthony Devine. Anthony has been passionate about interiors since an early age and has worked in the furniture and upholstery industry for the past seventeen years. Beginning his career as an apprentice, he then went on to produce and install hand-made furniture for Rocco Forte, The QE2, Forte Hotels, Harvey Nichols and Crowne Plaza Hotels. Anthony’s passion and experience has been the catalyst for opening up his workshop to those looking to gain practical, hands-on experience while learning about the craftsmanship of upholstery in a workshop environment.

What a cool skill to have, don't you think?  

March 25, 2014

My Kitchen Remodel: First Look at Floors

This orangerie is very similar to what we're doing, including the open entrance from the kitchen. You can see how installing the same flooring throughout creates a flow from one room to the other. This is helpful in maximising how open your space feels and is especially effective in smaller homes.

I've written quite a bit about different types of flooring, but this time I'm looking at a particular type for our kitchen. And the rest of our house. I think. The extension we're about to begin building, which will be an orangerie (like you see above), will be off the kitchen, so we'd like to start there and continue the flooring all the way through to the upstairs, if that makes sense once we think about it a bit further. (Always give major decisions time so you're sure of your direction, it will save a few heart palpitations during the installation.) So the flooring is going to be another significant investment, and therefore we have to make the right choice. At the moment, we have a real mish-mash of things under our feet. Charcoal grey ceramic tile takes you from the front entrance and hall into the kitchen, and off the hall is a living room with maple hardwood. Up the stairs and into the bedrooms is the horrible grey carpet I've previously alluded to that was put in by the sellers, and although brand new when we moved in,  is so thin that it looked a decade old after a week, and I'm not exaggerating. (Never mind the sloppy staples that stick out and assault unsuspecting heels!) We would have replaced the carpet if time and money weren't lacking when we took possession, though we did manage to get the maple into the living room which made a huge difference. 

So, I've mentioned we're looking at a particular type of flooring. Judging by how many dings the maple has accumulated in just a few years (mostly from me dropping the remote, I have to admit), and considering the cost of solid wood for an entire house which winds up being way out of our budget, we're looking at laminate. There are some very high quality options that sound and feel similar to hardwood, and look it as well. I've read quite a bit about what owners of laminate floors have to say, and although there is a great divide over whether it's suitable for bathrooms (we'll probably stick with tile), it seems sound for kitchens. If it's sealed properly, any spills shouldn't be a problem as they sit on top of the sealant. Hardwood can be repaired more easily than laminate, but let's face it - we would never get around to that unless we dropped a bowling ball on it or something. (We don't have one of those so it will be fine!) 

Now for choosing the colour. This part is tough because it sets the tone for your home and creates an immediate impression as soon as you walk through the door, and there are so many great looks. For years I've dreamed about having a house full of white plank. There are some gorgeous white laminate flooring options that look and feel like the real thing, and the effect is so light and airy and lends well to living by the sea. Ours is not a typical 'beach house' by any means, but maybe it could feel like a bit like one? 

Modern-Rustic_kitchenWhite gloss flooring lightens the look of this rustic kitchen and keeps the visual focus on the stone walls and exposed beam ceiling

If not the look of white plank, there are all kinds of other ways to go in terms of colour, texture of the grain, wide or narrow, or some other kind of floor altogether, though for our house I'm pretty sold on the look of wood. Dark woods are gorgeous, but in a climate that taunts us with what seems to be an eternal gloom at times, I think light will win out, whether it be white, blonde or maybe even contrasting tones.

The thing to remember when choosing flooring for your home, is that although it can go a long way to setting a stylistic tone in a space, it doesn't have to dictate what you do with the rest of the room. This is good news. A rustic decor, for example, doesn't need a matching floor, and in fact can be far more gorgeous when offset by minimalist foundations. And it works both ways; a floor in rich tones with a natural grain will do wonders for warming up a more austere decor and make it feel more welcoming.  This approach helps you create your own distinct style which can also make it more fluid in terms of changing things up every so often; you're not tied into a full-on look that you might grow tired of before you feel you've gotten your money's worth. 


As a side note, for comparison on the issue of whether to have continuous flooring throughout adjacent spaces, I found a home which appears to have a pine living room leading into a kitchen of white plank (above). While the width of the pine plank works visually with the slightly narrower white boards, and the soft tones are complementary, it still feels a bit abrupt, as if it disrupts an otherwise harmonious space. But it's personal preference, isn't it? And of course this approach may make perfect sense in the context of the rest of the house which we can't see.

For our new space and kitchen, I don't think this kind of visual separation is how I want to go. But it does require more consideration; who knows what options will present themselves once we really get into the kitchen planning! Watch this space....

March 19, 2014

Nicolas Ruel Goes 'From Architecture to Fashion in 8 Seconds'


Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main subject, creating a new dimension. Ruel uses this process to capture an unseen urban look of the world, and to date this body of work - called 8 Seconds after the shutter speed used - spans an impressive sixty cities in forty countries. As you can see below, Ruel presents a very unique tour of the world's most fascinating places, demonstrating a knack for transferring the energy of the city to the viewer; the result is quite exhilarating and you don't want to stop looking. 

The originality of Ruel's work  struck Thierry-Maxime Loriot, Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, who then asked him to set up a photo shoot in Jean Paul Gaultier's atelier in Paris. Ruel has been chosen to appear alongside famous artists and fashion photographers to showcase his work in the travelling international exhibition devoted to the French couturier, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, during its stop in London at the Barbican Art Centre from April 9th to August 25th, 2014. In this context, Ruel's double exposure technique pays tribute to the duality that prevails in the world of Jean Paul Gaultier.

"Nicolas Ruel has a young and refreshing eye that is very different from most photographers. His pictures have an artistic tone that goes beyond simple fashion photography. The quality of his work compares to the same level as those from Andy Warhol, Pierre and Giles or David Lachapelle that we selected for the exhibition," says Loriot.

Watch Jean Paul Gaultier speak about the exhibition and its stop in London, as only JPG can (email subscribers can click on the post title to watch this on the blog):


Here is a glimpse of Ruel's fashion work:



And now a mini tour of some of my favourites from Ruel's 8 Seconds project, of which there were a ton:



Tower Bridge, 2007


Time, 2011 


Canvas, 2009



Prologue, 2010


Nicolas_Ruel_ beijing

Maze, 2009


Nicolas_Ruel_ Pont-des-arts

Pont des Arts, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ boudoir_paris

Boudoir, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ Paris_2

Les Éclusiers, 2009

Nicolas_Ruel_ paris

Apparat, 2013



Equation, 2012


Nicolas_Ruel_ tokyo

Trend, 2009

Nicolas_Ruel_ tokyo_3

Fast Forward, 2009


Dori, 2009



Pace, 2009


Nicolas_Ruel_ Centrum_Amsterdam

Centrum, 2013 


Nicolas_Ruel_ toronto_3

Zenith, 2008

Nicolas_Ruel_ Toronto

Témoin, 2012

Nicolas_Ruel_ toronto_2

Yonge, 2012


Nicolas_Ruel_ Palais_Montreal

Palais, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ Montreal

Place de L'horloge, 2013




Martin Place, 2009


Look Right, 2009


Avalon, 2009

Photos © Nicolas Ruel 

Source: v2com

March 03, 2014

Maison Blue Hills: At Home In Nature


If I didn't know better, I'd swear this house, a 2300 square foot family home called Maison Blue Hills, could be found somewhere in the Norwegian woods, based on the interior alone; but in fact it sits on a steep incline in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec. 

The home has a dual relationship with its environment. Its exterior is discreet, camouflaged in its setting, even when the trees are winter bare:


From the inside, the house is completely open to its surroundings, treating its occupants to scenery that is constantly changing. In both cases, the house gives way to the wild grandeur of the Laurentians. Through its refinement and simplicity, the design allows for a harmonious coexistence between people and nature - and this appears to have been achieved with a mounted deer head nowhere to be seen!


The structure of the house is unusual; the kitchen sits between both exterior walls which allows floods of light and open views of the scenery, and the arrangement of the fixtures is atypical as well. Double islands situated perpendicular to the wall keep the flow of the room in sync with the view at either end of the room, never letting you forget where you are. (Except at night, you probably can't see outside unless you're a cat.)


All of that clean white anchored with light woods and what may be a polished concrete floor (probably not though as it would be freezing) created an almost seamless transition from the outside during the winter season. 


The exterior walls, entirely covered with vertical eastern cedar slats, will age progressively over the years, emulating the colour of the bark of the surrounding trees. On the flat roof, a bed of river pebbles echoes the colours that can be seen in the adjacent soil, blending it with its surroundings when observed from the top of the hill. 



Really? Not Scandivanian?: 



We could all take some cues from the bathroom. Marble tile provides a luxurious backdrop to fixtures with clean lines in serene blonde woods, creating a pared-down elegance. And I'm pretty sure I've never uttered these words before, but I want that toilet: 



This house is a project by La SHED Architecture.  

Source: V2com

February 14, 2014

Architect-Designed Dollhouses Help Kids

Dollhouse_1Compass House, by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM). The different textures enhance the tactile experience for children who are visually impaired. It fetched £4,000 at auction

I love an unconventional dollhouse; for some reason miniature versions of every day things have universal appeal, and even better when it goes beyond the scaled replica and offers a unique perspective or use.  Like these dollhouses created by well-known architects with an artist, as submissions for a charity auction last November to benefit Kids, a London charity that supports children with disabilities and their families. The 20 designs had to fit on a 30- by 30-inch plinth and include one unique feature that makes life easier for a child with a disability. The auction raised £87,000 for the charity. 

These are my favourite designs from the submissions featured in an article on Houzz, though they're all really cool. I'm wondering one thing, whether any of the dollhouses bought at auction went to a child with a disability? I know fans of architecture with lots of bucks would have snapped these up for their collections, but they were designed with special features for these children and I can't help but think what a shame it is if they're sitting idle in a display case!


This must be the place. Zaha Hadid, with  Giovanni Scacchi. "An interpretation of the Ideal House pavilion commissioned in 2007, the ZHA doll’s house is a puzzle offering many possibilities to play and experiment in creating an endless variety of unique compositions. Voids are interpreted as new unique rooms or courtyards for dolls to inhabit." Noce Canaletto Americano wood, Perspex. Winning bid: £14,000


Outside/In. shedkm, with James Ireland. "A collection of exterior-like spaces that celebrate the sensory experience of being in the landscape. A house that is elemental in its experience, with colour, light, shade, reflectivity, long-distant views being important stimuli. It rotates like a Rubik puzzle around a spiral stair. It is a designed to provide escape for a visually impaired child; it's about looking through and beyond." Whitewashed birch plywood, glass, copper, brass, stainless steel, quartz, selenite, basalt, neoprene. Winning bid: £1500


Electra House. Adjaey Associates, with Chris Ofili and Base Models. "A flexible home that contains a live/work space. Designed to be accessible to all, the ground floor is a continuous space, undulating between outdoor courtyard and creative indoor space. Light is a phenoenological presence inside the house, its properties of reflection, luminosity and movement provide the focal experience for all." Timber, Perspex and plastic furniture. Winning bid: £3,500


Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. "A dolls’ house made of three-sided rooms is a miniature domestic world where rooms are compsed and stacked by children with learning disabilities and sensory impairments. Small houses, cities, even worlds are created by the children and the rooms rely on connections with one another to form a whole. Rooms of delight react to movement and respond to touch and hearing senses with particular appeal to children with sight and dual sensory loss." Timber, acrylic, paper, glass, ceramic, plastic, metal, power source required. Winning bid: £11,000


House for a Deaf Child. DRMM, with Richard Woods Studio and Grymsdyke Farm. "Designed around the consideration of a deaf child, it's an object to play and learn with, but also is a space to inhabit, designed to support visual communication through sign language. The exterior has adjustable pieces to give colour expression on the outside, and control of light and views from the inside. With further discovery these pieces can be reconfigured into new spaces and furniture." Plywood. Winning bid £1,000


Haptic House, Dexter Morin. "Based on the concept of 'sensory play', this house encourages children to look, listen, touch and feel. A series of components, identical in character, which aim to inspire children, bring the house to life by stimulating the primary senses. Unlike conventional Doll's House design, the 360-degree access means there are no defined rules of how it should be played - inviting the option of group play or individual discovery." Perspex, various fabrics and textures. Winning bid: £1,400


Multi-Story. Duggan Morris, with Unit 22 Modelmakers. "Designed to aid early intervention strategies for children with developmental disability Autistic Spectrum Disorder. In consultation with Christina, mother of high functioning autistic Louis (5), the house swaps the visually noisy cross section of the typical dolls house with a set of rooms arranged in either a stack or plan form. Each room can be used in isolation or as part of a sequence to provide a focused platform for learning and role play." MDF and brass. Winning bid: £5,500

February 11, 2014

Discover: The Heal's Modern Craft Market


Heritage designer/maker/retailer, Heal's, have launched their first independent craft event, The Modern Craft Market, and it's in full swing right now at their Tottenham Court Road store in London. The market offers contemporary craft from a select group of  innovative designers, artisans and craft collectives working in the UK. Beyond the opportunity to discover great home-grown design, there's also a program of demonstrations and workshops, so you can come away with a new skill as well as an exciting new piece for your home. 


I'll be catching the last day of the event and am looking forward to seeing these 'Customisable Ceramics' by Swedish-based designers, Bodil Söderlund and Charlie Davidson, who create large-scale collaborative sculptural work that often utilises elements of engineering. The 15m F-4 Series conveyor belt at Heal’s juxtaposes the concepts of factory production with personalisation.

You can visit The Heal's Modern Craft Market website for more details.

January 30, 2014

International Charm: Add World Culture to Your Home

Moroccan-decorI wouldn't normally imagine leopard print in my living room, but this is gorgeous. The right mix of pieces can make anything work. In this case the soft blue walls offset the rich browns and ochres, and the prints are plentiful but understated, complementing the furniture - a combination of ornamented pieces and clean lines to create a perfect balance. 

When we travel, we tend to bring back mementos and incorporate them into our home to remind us of the gorgeous places we've visited. This practice has had an impact on fashion trends and interior design, with culture and tradition influencing decorating choices.  It's also a way to feel close to places we'd like to go but haven't had the opportunity. But there's a trick to it. It can be difficult to incorporate a bit of exotic culture into your home without it clashing or appearing awkward - eclectic style still needs to be executed well! So let's look at ways you can add some international flavour in a way that works for your space. 

Persian Rugs

Persian rugs are a great way to add rich colour, warmth and refinement to your home. Choose a high quality rug; they're timeless and a worthwhile investment. And Persian rugs are deceptively versatile; they'll work in nearly any kind of decor:

Persian_rug_eames_chairsPlacing Eames chairs atop a Persian rug wouldn't be our first inclination, but notice how the pattern and colour reflects that gorgeous foliage scenery beyond the window, bringing it into the interior space. The white chairs, lighting fixtures and table allow the colour elements to play off each other. 

Indian Throws and Cushions

If you want instantly brighten up your living room or bedroom, Indian soft furnishings such as throws and cushions are very effective. Their vibrant, jewel-tone colours lift a space and their elaborate embroidery adds lush texture. Go all out with crystal, sequins and bead embellishments, or opt for a more subtle effect with straight colour in rich fucshias, oranges and purples.

Moroccan Lamps

The intricate designs of these handmade pieces allow beautiful patterns of light to spill out onto your walls when switched on. Specialist retailer Habibi supply high-end Moroccan lighting, ranging from traditional designs to modern. If your home could use a bit of character, add a couple Moroccan lamps - you'll be surprised how dramatically they can transform the mood of your space. 

Chinese Wall Art

The elegant, flowing designs of Chinese art, calligraphy and paintings make a grand statement, and may be one of the best ways to give a dull room character. Balance is key. Just a tip - be sure you know what your art is saying if you opt for the written word!

Chinese-living-room-wall-artChinese art doesn't have to be deep reds and black, it can be subtle and quiet, as seen in this room of serene neutrals above. The art saves this space from feeling too dull. 

Tribal Vases

Tribal vases are statement pieces that can be work anywhere - try a place that's not so obvious such as your front entrance and see how it transforms the feel of your home when you walk in, or set a pair in different sizes beside your tub in the bathroom. 

These are just a few ideas you can try to add some new flavour to your home. Pay attention to the markets you encounter in your travels, you may find yourself coming home with a gem. 

January 29, 2014

Plage de l’Est Design Competition Announces Winner


Creating a special connection between the public and the St. Lawrence River while incorporating UNESCO qualities such as universal accessibility, sustainable development and well-being, is what won Ruccolo + Faubert Architectes and Ni Conception the design competition for the Plage de l’Est.

The mission of this one-of-a-kind project is to foster an innovative design concept for repurposing a vacant site on the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River, along 94e Avenue in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

The key element of the winning concept is a boardwalk integrated into the landscape that begins at the entrance to the beach site and connects various levels with distinct uses: games, universal traffic, the beach and water-based recreation. The boardwalk, with the roof of a service building integrated into its centre, hugs the contours of the site and culminates in an observation point with an unparalleled view of the river.

The borough will now proceed with the plans for the $3 million project, to be constructed in phases. Work will begin in 2014 with completion slated for 2016. 

If I were a citizen of Eastern Montreal I think I would be very excited for this!

Plage_ de_l’Est_winnter

In both summer and winter, the building at the centre of the boardwalk will be a venue par excellence for meetings, leisure and services. The concept calls for a water play area adjacent to the building. This sizable surface with an area of more than 200 m2 will feature a permanent stream of water flowing onto sculpted stones, and will become a skating rink in the winter months. Farther back on the site are a pair of courts designed for beach volleyball or badminton, and which will be adaptable to new needs that may emerge in years to come.


To maximize the park’s connection with its natural surroundings, planting of shrubs and other greenery is encouraged. The concept also calls for raw, natural and environmentally responsible materials such as wood, stone and concrete.


Source: v2com Photo credit: Ruccolo + Faubert Architectes & Ni conception architecture de payasage

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