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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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May 14, 2014

'Endless Stair' an innovation in modular timber design

Endless-Stair-11Endless Stair offered a unique viewpoint at Tate Modern

'Endless Stair' may look like a path to nowhere, but this structure of Escher-like interlocking staircases is taking modular timber construction to new heights. Made from American tulipwood cross-laminated timber (CLT), the design was reconfigured to feature at Interni Magazine’s ‘Feeding New Ideas for the City’ exhibition at the Università degli Studi in Milan.

Designed by de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects (dRMM), engineered by Arup, and built by Imola Legno and Nüssli, Endless Stair offers the potential for reconfiguration and adaptation to different contexts. The Ca’ Granda building, one of main venues in the FuoriSalone event, was the most recent setting for Scale Infinite – the latest iteration in the life of Endless Stair. Originally designed for and facilitated in partnership with the London Design Festival, Endless Stair became their Landmark Project for 2013 and was installed in front of one of the UK's most popular cultural destinations, Tate Modern, during last September's Festival. (Nope, didn't see it while I was at the festival. I cringe at what I miss as much as delight in what I've seen.)

Scale-infinite_2Endless Stair became Scale Infinite (say that with an Italian accent) when reconfigured for the courtyard of the Ca’ Granda for the Milan design week  last month

Maintaining the initial influence of Escher, Scale Infinite is a further play on perspective. Six interlocking flights of steps have been joined together to create a visually arresting form offering a compositional contrast to the classical uniformity of the surrounding Renaissance building. dRMM again give importance to the element of ‘play’ within the structure, harnessing the possibilities of user interactivity through the integration of different levels, joints, and possible pathways. This game of perspective also gave users the chance to experience the elegant courtyard of the Ca’ Granda from a unique viewpoint. Scale Infinite served as a deliberate contrast in material, scale and composition to its harmonious new backdrop in Milan. It is an aesthetic provocation, adding a new dimension to the context in which it stands. 


Scale Infinite is not just an exciting wood sculpture, it is also part of a unique research project that is advancing the knowledge of timber construction and sustainability. This project is the first ever use of hardwood for cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is usually made from softwood. American tulipwood (Liriodendron tulipifera), whose name is derived from its distinctive tulip- shaped flowers, is an abundant and relatively inexpensive American hardwood. Crucially for this project, it is incredibly strong and stiff for its weight. Testing carried out in Italy last year during the production of the original Endless Stair structure, has shown that tulipwood is up to three times stronger in rolling shear than typical construction softwood, such as spruce.  

Working from first principles, through testing, research and analysis to design this prototype, the project team envisage Endless Stair will bring many lasting benefits. The ultimate aspiration is that this cross-laminated hardwood is eventually brought into mainstream building construction. Time will tell!  


May 10, 2014

Usway Burn at Sunset wins The Sill Photography Competition

Sill-Martin Ellis-first place with Usway BurnGateshead's Martin Ellis placed first with his Northumberland landscape, Usway Burn

Well, I am constantly telling southerners just how breathtaking Northumberland really is, and now I can simply point them to the entries in this competition as these pictures certainly say more about the northern county's stunning natural beauty than I ever could.

The winners of a popular photography competition launched in a joint initiative between The Sill (a partnership between Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales) and award-winning wildlife photographer and film maker Cain Scrimgeour, have been announced.

Nearly one hundred entries were submitted to the competition with the overall winner announced as Martin Ellis with his entry, Usway Burn. The Gateshead photographer will now be able to pick up tips from Cain with his prize of a one-to-one photography workshop with the competition's founder. 

Martin, 52, said: “I am really pleased that my photograph has been picked as the winner out of all the many wonderful images submitted. I do love this part of Northumberland, it never fails to put a smile on my face even when it's raining or blowing a gale, as it so often does.

A range of images were submitted featuring everything from the lush landscapes in Kielder to a roe deer in a frost-covered field, leaving the panel of eight judges with the challenge of picking their top three entries.

The runners up were Philip Whittaker and Anita Nicholson. To view a selection of entries to the competition and the winning images, visit the Sill's website

Sill-Philip Whittaker - runner up with Mysterious Tree at Black CartsRunner up Philip Whittaker with Mysterious Tree at Black Carts

In a bid to encourage people to explore the stunning Northumberland countryside all year round, the beauty of the National Park and its surrounding areas were captured in a series of emotive images at the hands of aspiring photographers from across the region. The competition is closely tied to the aims of The Sill, Northumberland’s planned £11.2m National Landscape Discovery Centre, which hopes to become a centre for exploration and discovery for the whole of Northumberland National Park and landscapes beyond.

Established photographer Cain, 23, from Whitley Bay, called on people to venture out into the breath-taking Northumberland scenery, from the stunning Cheviots, North Pennines and Northumberland Coast, to the rugged landscape of Hadrian’s Wall country, to capture pictures that really encapsulate the beauty of the winter months.“The winning photographers have really taken on board the essence of the competition brief and have immersed themselves in the rare beauty that Northumberland has to offer.

Sill-Anita Nicholson - runner up with Little Tree on Hadrian’s WallRunner up Anita Nicholson's Little Tree on Hadrian's Wall

Now, photographers are being asked to submit their spring-inspired images for the next phase of the competition, which is open to all ages and experience levels. Photographs are welcomed to capture the essence of Northumberland National Park and other special Northumbrian landscapes in relation to one of three themes; environments (including lakes and rivers, crags, hills, iron age hillforts and traditional buildings etc), flora and fauna (all forms of wildlife from cattle to forests) and activities (including everything from people working on the land, children’s bike rides to rock climbing and astrology).

The best entries will be uploaded to The Sill’s social media profiles so anyone interested in seeing contributions from budding photographers of the North East should search ‘The Sill’ on Facebook and follow the project on Twitter @thesillproject.

For more information about The Sill and the upcoming events, visit www.thesill.org.uk , find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject

April 28, 2014

Family-friendly ways to personalise your space

Custom-wall-artI admit that in the past, as a single girl living on her own, I may have once or twice browsed an aisle for 'art' in that huge homewares store where you can eat some meatballs. There's nothing wrong with that, but when one friend after another comes to your house for the first time, points at your wall and exclaims, 'I've got that, too!' you might want to consider something a little different. You can have personal photographs englarged using an online service for a decor that's more unique and personal. 

Custom prints are another idea, and they're especially great for kids' bedrooms. Encourage them to create some original artwork for their walls - the prospect will probably be exciting for them. For younger children, you can scan in their drawings to your computer, resize them down and arrange multiple designs on one large poster. It’s a great way to showcase lots of their work in one place, without all the dog-eared edges and blue-tack marks on the walls. Older children might want to make their designs straight on the computer. There are plenty of apps available for budding artists and these designs can be uploaded straight into online templates.

Are your children bored of their colouring books? Spoonful have some great free printables available for you to create your own. When you’ve exhausted their range, why not get creative and design your own templates for them to colour in? You can have the the finished designs printed and once they’re coloured in, you could frame them for bedroom artwork. You can also consider printing your child's designs on stickers to personalise school notebooks and pencil cases, and they also make great party favours. 

Pinterest is a fun way to find inspiration for child-friendly crafts. Check out boards like this and start creating your own boards. Homemade occasion cards are a popular craft for children; however, if you have them printed you can get a more professional finish and preserve your child's art, and this also allows you to produce a quantity to give to all your family and friends. 

If you're considering having a go at creating your own artwork for your home, Instantprint are offering a 15% discount when you use the code: HELLO-H749P’. Instantprint is an online printing company offering low cost printing solutions for both businesses and home users. 

April 25, 2014

My Bathroom Makeover: The 'Before'

Alas, the time has come to deal with our bathroom. Our small, yet adequate, space is a room that fell into the 'liveable for now, needs a total reno later' category when we moved into our house four-and-a-half years ago. The entire suite was brand new, but it was done on the cheap, and boy are there some major issues lurking behind the minor ones. The top half of the biggest wall actually fell off and crumbled to the floor when it was being painted (I don't even  know where to begin with that) and the glass partition on the shower/bath doesn't really seal properly so sometimes it rains in the kitchen (I seem to be the only one who makes that happen but I have a good excuse - I clean the shower when I'm in it so at least there's good reason the glass gets shifted around a bit). One of the minor but no less grating issues is that sink tap, or should I say taps - I know I've whinged about this before, but why are they still making dual faucet sinks?! Mixer taps are so inexpensive these days, so I'm convinced the reason they are not being used exclusively is because there are people out there who love to alternate between freezing and scalding their hands and face every day! 

Before-bathroom_2 (1 of 1)

So, a total renovation will happen hopefully later this year. But for now we can do something that makes the wait a bit nicer, and that's a makeover. A superficial treatment can go a long way to making a space feel fresher and take the focus off the bigger concerns, and it doesn't need to be expensive. Sometimes it's a matter of removing, as well as replacing and adding. In my case, I'm shifting from a slightly fussy approach to decor to a more minimalist one, and I don't think I'll ever go back. And that doesn't mean stark; it's more about paring back the unnecessary things and making choices that deliver impact. 

Before I get to the 'styling', one of the most effective ways to freshen up a space is a new coat of paint, so that's where we started. I didn't opt for a dramatic change, going from an ocean blue to a paler blue from Homebase, called Sky. It's a barely there blue at first, but once it's on all of the walls it gives a light and airy feel with enough saturation to keep my lust for blues satiated. And it's a great neutral, it will work with any other colour. I've chosen to play up the lightness of the blue and go with white and chrome accessories. This works especially well for opening up a small space, and I think a refined, uncluttered decor is ideal this is where we start our day. 

Watch for the big reveal!

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 (see the before post here) to make it a bit nicer to live with until we do a complete renovation later this year. 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



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