Halloween is coming up and if you're not really one to indulge in the spooky celebration, some easy and creative ideas might convince you to have a little sinister fun. I always find myself smiling when I see a house decorated with a scary scene; it reminds of my hours-long trick-or-treating adventures growing up in Canada where most of the neighbourhood went all-out to transform the streets into a never-ending fright fest. My favourite memory is of a very tall man who was costumed up as a vampire that put Bela Lugosi's Dracula to shame. The imposing figure stood ominously at the top of the driveway and every kid that approached him shrunk a bit as he stared them down; only the brave dared pass him to make it to the door when he gave them mini heart attacks as he swiftly threw his arms up to raise his huge black cape! If you survived the trick, you got a pretty good treat - full sized chocolate bars!
Ghostly Circle of Friends
All you need to create a ghostly presence to greet approaching trick-or-treaters is a few white sheets, wooden stakes, paper fasteners (to join your ghosties together), string and some cotton batting. Source: Houzz
It's easy to create a scary scene inside or outside your house with cut-out characters. You can make your own crows and spiders using a stencil and black construction paper, and you can get a cardboard cut out of a skeleton from Balloons By Up Up and Away.
Want to make a top hat to dress your skeleton friend up a bit?
You'll need: 1x A3 piece of cardboard, measuring tape, glue, 1x A3 felt material, and scissors.
Here's how to make your top hat:
1. Measure the circumference of the skeleton's head
2. Roll the cardboard into a circle, with the measurement of the skeleton's head.
3. Cut another 2 inches of cardboard in a circle for the brim.
4. Make the brim fit below the cardboard cut out.
5. Bend the brim upwards and glue it onto the circle.
6. Cut a brim out of the felt material, place on top of the brim and glue it down.
7. Cut out a circle to measure the same as the top of the hat and glue above it.
8. Cut the same measurement felt material as you did the circle to begin with, but do it as a long piece rather than a circle, put this around the hat and stick it down.
Scary and sinister is not your thing but you still want to get into the spirit of the evening? Go with a fall-friendly theme of bright orange pumpkins and candy corn for Halloween fun that's more treat than trick. Doing it all up on a serving tray with apple cider in mason jars also makes a wonderful Thanksgiving offering with the tops of the pumpkins cut off as festive accents. For Halloween, carve mini jack-o-lanterns with a variety of funny faces and group them together for a cute and colourful table display. Add two larger ones and place them outside on your porch or along your driveway in a line to create a pumpkin family to greet and charm trick or treaters!
Rikki Snyder Photography © 2012 Houzz
Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic The Birds depicted one of the creepiest, skin-crawling scenes in film history that gave countless movie-goers life-long aversions to crows - and that makes it the perfect tableau to re-create for Halloween! To get the full visual effect without the commitment of a wall decal, make your own paper cut-out of a tree - a shadowy dark grey looks good and spooky - and tape it to the wall. Prop two ladders against the image and wire a murder of artificial crows - yes a group of crows is called a murder! - to the rungs. Add some to the branches as well, and if it's too difficult to secure the 3D versions, swap them for cut-outs to fill in the scene to make it so terrifying you won't be able to walk past it without protecting your eyes!
If you don't have the wall space to create the full scene, placing some crows around a room is a quick and easy way to give it an eerie air. Source
Get into the Halloween spirit and have a go at giving yourself and your neighbours a fright!
Victorian style has evolved past the heavily ornamented, dark decor of the 19th century - begone thick crimson velvets! Now, (almost) anything goes with its versatile, brimming-with-character charm. Make Victorian decor your own by mixing in modern or eclectic pieces with the best design features of the era, such as pillar taps, slipper tubs, and pedestal basins.
Here is some inspiration to spark ideas for your master bath update, or take that second bathroom from utilitarian afterthought to favourite space in the house!
Bright and Elegant
An all-white scheme makes a bathroom bright and opens up space. The delicate elegance of Victorian details keep the decor from looking plain, making it a great style for adding a soft beauty to tonal whites.
Modern minimalism, like this glass panel shower, mixes well with Victorian features for a light and airy space with a touch of pretty. The slipper tub combines the old and the new with its fluid pedestal base, an understated update to the traditional claw foot stands. Litchfield Hills Marble and Granite.
High gloss floors, subway tile and modern lighting give these Victorian bathrooms a fresh, contemporary update. Designed by Susanne Kelley Designs (left) and Stephen Fletcher Architects (right).
Clean lines and minimal ornamentation update this Victorian bathroom with a light, crisp contemporary style :
A knotty pine plank floor warms up the white and grey tones and gives the room a bit of a cottage feel. Designed by New Old LLC
Freshen Up Traditional Style
If you're drawn to the full-on charm of Victorian's rich textures and colours, offset your pieces with plenty of space and light to create a space that allows you to enjoy the decorative features without feeling closed in.
Sheer lace curtains tied to create a valance give a nod to the Victorian era and let the sunlight wash over the room's dark tones. Design by Kathryn Long.
Large mirrors create the illusion of space and brighten the room; extend the effect with reflective surfaces like silver-finish slipper tubs. Light-framed pieces allow you to add all of the extras you want while avoiding a heavy looking and feeling bathroom. Designed by Jessica Grange Interiors (left) and Aston Matthews (right).
Feeling inspired? Let us know how you would personalise Victorian style in your home!
All photos from Houzz.com
I have survived the kitchen reno from heck. It's not over yet, but I have to believe we're now in the home stretch. After a successful installation of wall-to-wall tall units to enclose the chimney breast and reconfigure the existing arrangement with integrated appliances, the 'business end' of the kitchen with the cabinets, sink, etc., revealed the horrors of extensive damp after it was all torn out. Not what you want to see. The walls had to be replastered and damp-proofed and this delayed the rest of the installation by ten days, but that's ok because I love living in my bedroom and washing dishes in the bathtub! On the bright side, the house will seem huge when the kitchen is completed, the living room has been cleared of the kitchen cupboard contents and the extension is no longer housing the cabinetry and everything else that is waiting to be installed.
Now that completion is (I hope) imminent, I am looking for ideas for decorating the walls. I hadn't really looked into it too much because the new kitchen bears no resemblance to the old one, in configuration, colours and style, and I knew I had to see it finished first to have a clear sense of direction. There is actually quite a lot of free wall space along the one side of the room and I'm seeing that as an opportunity to create something interesting. But not too interesting. Balancing the elements is key. Stylish harmony is the goal here.
In my inspiration quest, I have found some stunningly decorated fitted kitchens, and also lots of dull ones and expensive eyesores that mix too many styles, textures and shades, possibly in an attempt to accommodate all of the homeowner's favourites, rather than paring it all down to what works best together. What I do know is that I don't want painted walls. A big part of the reason is that most homes in the UK have plastered walls (new builds have now done away with it but this house was built in the late 1920s), and it seems that skilled plasterers have been in short supply since the stuff was invented. Some walls are smooth while others resemble the surface of the moon. Also, somehow a greasy fingerprint or two (probably mine) will find its way onto the freshly painted wall, won't wash off completely and its presence will become a haunting obsession. Finally, there are too many beautiful and cool things to do with walls to automatically default to paint.
Let's look at some wall decorating options to complement and bring together a minimalist, neutral-coloured kitchen of solid matte white tall doors, cabinets and island in concrete-effect doors (trust me, they're great, you'll see when its all completed), Silestone matte white worktops and a white wood floor with a subtle grey-taupe grain:
This textured wallpaper keeps the colour scheme neutral without being boring. It's a quiet, refined pattern that might keep a large empty wall from feeling, well, empty. The reason the wall has been left open? We simply didn't need more units there and I didn't see the point in paying to have a U-shape rather than an L arrangement of cabinets at that end of the kitchen for the sake of symmetry. And having that openness accommodates the visual impact of our large island (it had to be square-shaped to accommodate the 80cm induction hob, the extractor motor which is huge, and have enough worktop for a breakfast bar. Also, leaving the one wall free creates the option for relocating the kitchen entrance to create a better flow. A big, expensive job that probably won't happen, but at least we have the potential to do it one day if we're able.
Metallics wouldn't usually be on my radar for consideration for the walls, but I saw a white modern kitchen once with a graphite metallic wallcovering and it looked amazing. Not flashy, but polished and finished with a high-end look. The other style here is a vertical ombre stripe. A little would go a long way and a few samples to get a real feel for the effect would be necessary before making a commitment.
A concrete effect could be brilliant, carrying through the effect of the doors. Or it could feel cold. That's why samples were invented. These kinds of effects can quite successfully be achieved with DIY techniques with paint and special rollers, but I just don't have it in me to take it on after everything I've been through! (FYI - this kitchen was supposed to have been completed last August. This has been going on that long. Yep.)
Let's revisit ombre, this time in the traditional dip-dye pattern. It's another option I wouldn't have considered without having a good look around with an open mind. The graphite shade could be deep and gorgeous and give a polished finish to the room, while the muted yellow could create a sunny effect. Again, these are strong visual designs that need to be trialed first. They would either make the room or ruin it. I was actually leaning toward giving samples a go, imagining walking into a kitchen that makes you go 'wow' and feels like something special without being too dominating, but then I saw what must be the bane of all UK decorators' existence: the radiator. Another thing I'm not used to having come from Canada where central heating comes by the way of a basement furnace with a ventilation system discreetly hidden in the walls and floors. But here we've got boilers and big radiators in each room, and no matter how streamlined they've become, they mess with your plans for the walls. The kitchen rad is located on one of these free walls would make the ombre look awkward unless the dark and light was reversed, which isn't how I envision the pattern.
The acrylic panels shown in the header photo are another way to go, but it's a very expensive option for covering larger surfaces like entire walls. I'm considering it as an alternative to tile for the space between the far end of floor cabinets and a large hydraulic-door storage unit that's going above it.
I'm going to leave the inspirations here before I overwhelm myself! Later this week the kitchen should *finally* be completed minus the worktops and I can start ordering samples. I'm really looking forward to it. Watch this space....
Runners, trainers, sneakers, kicks...whatever you like to call them, they've never been more popular than they are today. From the streets to the courts to the catwalk, sneaker design has been pushing the boundaries of fashion and function - and sometimes good taste - for over three decades. Sneaker culture has emerged from an underground movement to a multi-billion-dollar industry, and there's something for everyone. Sneakers are now my go-to footwear, which I tend to formally refer to as 'my running shoes' for some reason. There's a strong nostalgia attached to sneakers; most of us can name what we wore in school, and we definitely remember which styles we coveted. For me it was a pair of hi-top Nikes with a padded, spongey tongue. I don't know why, but when a classmate walked into school wearing these one day - white with a black swoosh - I just had to have them. I finally found them after months of looking - back in the day there was no online sourcing in 30 seconds - and I was left deflated when the only pair in my size had a big wrinkle in one of the tongues. They were not perfect and I thought I might die. So close. Later I had pink foil sneakers. That took guts.
To celebrate the ubiquitous sport shoe, the designers at U-Dox and Thames & Hudson, the creators of Sneakers: The Complete Collectors Guide and Sneakers: The Complete Limited Editions Guide, have released two great companion gift products, and I'm giving them away!
Sneakers: Postcards consists of 30 detachable postcards selected from the concept and location photography seen in both Sneakers books. Whether it is the adidas München ‘Oktoberfest’ shoe or the super-limited-edition Nike Air Mag replica of the shoes in Back to the Future 2 created for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, each of the postcards is an absolute classic design that can be shared or kept.
Sneakers: The Trump Card Game will let you and a friend battle it out over which footwear brand is better than the other, which sneaker is the coolest, rarest and most high-tech. Featuring over 50 iconic sneaker designs, this top trumps game gives you all the information you need to play out your opinions and outsmart your opponent. The bonus is that you'll become a sneaker expert overnight.
To enter, go to my instagram and complete these three steps:
Two prizes are available and each will have a unique winner. You can enter from any country. All accounts that have followed, liked and commented by 9am, GMT (London time) on Friday, April 24 will be counted. An announcement will be made via instagram and the winner will be tagged with instructions to get in touch to claim your awesome prize. Good luck!
P.S. If you're not on instagram - I'm still fairly new to it myself - you can leave your comment on this post.
Here's a look at some of the postcards and trump game cards:
And for the ultimate sneaker freak, the most comprehensive sneaker app ever developed has just been released, Sneakers: The Complete App for iPad, available only on the App Store. Built upon a compilation of two Thames & Hudson publications, the app is an encyclopedic guide to sneaker culture, and includes:
Sneakers: The Complete App is available for £4.99 (£2.99 for the first two weeks beginning April 8, 2015) on the App Store.
Happy Easter! Decorating eggs doesn't have to be messy or time-consuming, as Sweet Paul shows us with his projects for creating beautiful, centrepiece-worthy Easter eggs. And it may serve as a distraction from gorging on the chocolate ones! (Ah, go ahead, it's only bnce a year.)
I have a cheat tip: If you want a coloured egg to decorate but don't want to get into the dyes, look for eggs laid by Cotswold Legbar hens - here's a pic on my instagram. Their shells are naturally pastel-tinted in blue-green and not only are they lovely to look at - I like to keep them out in a bowl as eggs don't actually require refrigeration - the yolks are a brilliant orange that are far more flavourful than the usual kind.
Happy Decorating - and eating!
Lace-dye your eggs for a pretty texture
Go metallic with gorgeously gilded eggs
Wrap your egg in braided natural wool for a rustic decoration
A little olive oil in the dye creates a great marble effect
Sprinkle Holi or Colour Run Powder to create your own vibrant designs
Punch out floral designs in sticker sheets and press for a truly lovely egg
I had a chance to try a new ice cream recently - a no-brainer, right? Well, yes and no. I'm always up for a treat, but I have to be careful. Wheyhey stood out because it promised a big dose of protein - 20 grams of the highest quality whey protein isolate per serving - and a sugar-free recipe using the natural sweetener Xylitol, making it an ideal indulgence for weight loss plans, sport activity and diabetics. I'm kind of diabetic, so that was important. (I'll explain what 'kind of diabetic' means. In 2012 I had a blood test because I couldn't get rid of a chest cold and thanks to the NHS diabetes screening program my high levels of glucose were picked up. A second test confirmed it and I was told I have Type 2 diabetes. I was in shock, and so were the doctors; I didn't fit the profile of a diabetic. Due to all the factors involved I was told I would manage it with diet and exercise rather than be put on medication. I was really freaked out and scared because the complications of diabetes are absolutely dire and that motivated me to beat it, and I did. I cut out all refined sugar (I'm pretty sure a major contributing factor to my diabetes was drinking something that rhymes with 'Moke' every day) and I exercised regularly which 'unlocks' the cells so the insulin can deal with the glucose. In less than a year my Hba1c results were in the non-diabetic range and they've steadily gone further down since then, so I'm no longer considered diabetic. However, I am still careful because I was young to get Type 2 diabetes and it was not predictable in my case, so I don't want to chance it coming back any time soon. And although I'm firmly in the non-diabetic range, I suspect my system isn't as normal as someone who has never been diabetic. If I learned anything, it's that what they say about sugar being the devil is true. If you're consuming a lot of refined sugar in food or drinks, you're going to be in trouble at some point.)
Back to the ice cream! There are four flavours of Wheyhey: Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry and Banoffee, available in 150ml (£2.50) and 500ml sizes (£6.50). I tried the smaller one and it's the perfect 'dose' of a treat. I like all of the flavours and I think my favourite may actually be the vanilla, and there is no artificial sweetener after taste. Wheyhey kind of has its own thing going on with the texture (it reminds me of gelato) and flavour which would be due to the fact that it's not a conventional ice cream recipe, but it holds its own as a treat. I didn't feel as if I was compromising; in fact it made the perfect guilt-free indulgence.
Here's why I like Wheyhey Protein Ice Cream: It tastes really good and in addition to being sugar-free it contains no saturated fat. It fills you up for hours and it only takes 150 calories to do that if you have the 150ml size. I work from home so I tend to graze, and after one of these little pots, the last thing I'm thinking of is food; protein is very filling. I have to admit I don't think I could trust myself with the 500ml tub, I probably wouldn't be able to stop eating it, so the little one is perfect and it comes with a spoon in the lid for eating on the go. You can buy Wheyhey online at Ocado and Musclefood.
And if you're a fan of David Gandy you may be interested to know he was so impressed with Wheyhey ice cream that he invested in the company in 2013:
Is it just me or does it feel like spring is finally starting to roll in? Well, I decided not to wait to get on the spring renewal. I desperately needed to get my bedroom organised, particularly my sea of products that threatened to overrun the top floor of the house, so what great news to hear that two of our greatest interiors and beauty products companies have teamed up to inspire us to renovate, renew and refresh our homes and our look! Habitat and Birchbox have partnered for March, the month of rejuvenation, to give direction to our at-home makeovers, starting with the return of the dressing table and the discovery of a new and better beauty regimen.
The Emil dressing table first caught my eye when I was doing a preview of Habitat's SS15 collection. I love the clean finish of the birch, the geometry of the components - that fantastically huge, round mirror! - and the vertical chest of drawers. A very unusual style in the best of ways, it's a refreshingly design-led, minimalist alternative to the fussier traditional dressing tables and offers far more storage than one could ever hope to have in a vanity. My hair appliances are now hidden away yet handy, and I can now justify all of my beauty bottles, samples and makeup for they finally have a tidy home.
However, my makeup was in need of an overhaul. I had a lot of old products and was still searching for the ultimate concealer and something to make my eyes pop a bit more. I need a routine that takes very little time because I just can't be bothered to take more than 15 minutes to get ready to go out, so the products would have to be easy to use. I was also looking for spring day time skincare that is lighter than the heavier winter products I was using but still effective at keeping skin looking great, and conditioning hair treatments.
I made my selection from Birchbox's vast range of products, the full-size offerings of the ones you may have tried through their fantastic subscription service that delivers a new collection of beauty and lifestyle samples to your door each month. I chose a mix of brands I already trust and love, plus a new one that I can't believe hadn't already found its way into my makeup bag. I can honestly say each product has been a winner in its own right and has become a must-have staple. And I'll tell you why.
My New Routine
Macadamia Nourishing Leave-in Cream - Hands-down the best range of hair treatment products I've ever used and allows me to keep up my salon blonde without having to chop off inches every few weeks to keep it looking healthy. Usually leave-in creams tend to somehow leave my hair feeling dryer, but Macadamia's - yes the magic ingredient is macadamia nut oil - softens while adding volume and texture and seems to even keep my hair from getting oily. Brilliant.
Caudalie is a tried-and-true favourite from France, free of all the bad stuff while delivering what it promises.
Step 1 - Tone and refresh with Beauty Elixir. This hydrating and smoothing mist wakes you up with an invigorating glow, making it the perfect 'good morning'. It's also great for setting makeup or for freshening up during the day.
Step 2 - Protect with Polyphenol C15 Anti Wrinkle Defense Serum. Contains a ton of great antioxidants but the bottom line is that as soon as you apply this serum you see a visible difference. Skin is immediately tighter and smoother and it glows. Seriously, it's amazing.
Step 3 - Moisturise with Polyphenol C15 Broad Spectrum SPF20 Anti-Wrinkle Protect Fluid. A moisturiser that does so much more, including protecting from UVA and UVB rays. Combined with the matching serum your skin looks amazing all day and stays feeling soft and fresh.
I found three 'miracle' products that I now can't live without!
Conceal - with Benefit Boi-ing. The box says 'industrial-strength concealer' and it's true, it will totally hide dark under-eye circles. Yet it covers opaquely with such a small amount, is light in texture and doesn't crease - if it's that easy why aren't all concealers this good?! And it stays put. I looked like I had an eye lift the first time I used it. Please don't ever stop making this product!
Line the eyes - with Benefit They're Real! Push-up Liner. This product was the biggest risk and the greatest surprise. I can't stress enough how bad I suck at applying liner on the upper lid, so I just didn't. I honestly thought my eye shape just wasn't made for wingy liner so I didn't do it. No lie, I got a perfect application from the first try and have not had to remove and start over. I don't wear any liner on the bottom so it was up to mascara and eyeshadow to do the job, but I often looked like I wasn't wearing any makeup by the middle of a night out. The pen is designed to be fool-proof and it is. The applied liner also stays put four hours and you have to rub it to smudge it. I now have eyes!
Stain the Lips and Cheeks - with Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain. This is one of those products that you can't believe does what it does. It's a pale pink translucent stick that doesn't look like it would stain a white rose petal. But apply it and watch your cheeks blush and the natural colour of your lips intensify. It totally caught me off guard. I put it on and forgot about it, and the next time I looked in the mirror I was all rosy cheeked like I'd just come in from the cold. It goes on dewy - but unlike other dewy products that contain parabens and silicone to get the effect, this won't clog your pores - and you only need to apply it very sparingly, so it also makes a great balm for the lips. It's a must-have in the bag when you head out and you don't get a build-up of product no matter how many time you apply it, so it's the perfect remedy for that Robert Smith mouth you get when you try to reapply lipstick too many times.
Tint the pale - with Caudalie Divine Legs. I'm not a tanner or one who bronzes. I use an SPF20 moisturiser on my face (as you now know). But my body is so translucent I suspect that I may be a distant relative of the jellyfish and with summer coming I owe it to society to present myself a bit more opaquely. Leave it to Caudalie to create a product that looks crazy dark in the bottle yet applies evenly, without streaking - you don't even need to mix it with a moisturiser - and leaves you with a natural colour and the confidence to go out with bare legs.
New to Birchbox? Now is a great time to subscribe - get £5 off your first box with the exclusive code BBXTSL5 - The Swelle Life
This is what you get in the March Birchbox - with specially branded watercolour packaging in collaboration with Habitat - including one of Benefit's amazing mascaras and a notebook to jot down your makeover plans:
I'm actually showing part of my bedroom to illustrate how easily the Emil dressing table fits in less than roomy spaces. Despite being desperate for a proper place to do my makeup - I'd been getting ready on the bed for the past five years because the bathroom lighting is too shadowy at night - I never would have considered putting a dressing table on that wall. But thanks to the Emil's brilliant design, it fits perfectly and keeps everything in one place. I borrowed my Eames DSW chair from my desk, but I'm planning to get the matching Emil stool which tucks neatly under the table and keeps things streamlined. (And it just so happens that the white shelving unit is also from Habitat. There's a second one in the other alcove and they've transformed the room.)
Keeping in line with the pared-down geometry of the table, I added one of my Hay Kaleido trays to protect that beautiful birch from the inevitable spills and stains, and moved over my triangular-shaded floor lamp. That great circular mirror allows you to play up the angles as much as you want.
Have I mentioned how much I love this design?
I hope this gives you some inspiration to begin fresh with your own spring makeover!
Where: New York
Design Style: Inspired by art and influenced by Japanese design, with a whimsical tone
Special features: Handbeaded embellishments and creative handknitting; made in New York
The piece that first caught our eye: The Lola Net Bomber
The Lola Net Bomber in cotton and silk takes the sporty jacket to an exquisite new level with an embellished front in purple tri-beads and Swarovski neon green pearls.
Every Wednesday we feature an independent fashion brand from around the globe - come back next week to discover another great designer!
Fans of print masters Eley Kishimoto can now wear, drape themselves in and live with their favourite designs. Following the 2014 launch of their first hand-printed wallpaper collection, London-based duo Eley Kishimoto announce three collections bearing their signature style of striking and colourful graphic designs.
Their AW15 fashion collection, A Wallflower’s House Party, features 12 unique patterns taken from the wallpaper collection which was inspired by the studio’s fashion archives of 22 years of designs. Together, the fashion collection and hand-printed wallpapers offer a total wall-to-toe coordination in Eley Kishimoto's warm and lively patterns, with all designs printed in London by the in-house team.
From left: Camo Chevron, Venice, Monster Skin. Photo: Kumi Saito
Eley Kishimoto have also collaborated with two Scottish knitwear companies, Roam and ERIBÉ, on an exclusive selection of UK-manufactured lambswool blankets and hand-knitted garments.
Echoing two of Eley Kishimoto’s most iconic wallpaper designs are two hand-knitted jumper designs, Vanity Cats and Light On Lattice, With a shared love of pattern and colour, the collaboration with ERIBÉ results in garments worthy of heirloom status.
Nestled among the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders is Roam; devoted to colour, craft and British manufacture. Eley Kishimoto has teamed up its bold wallpaper patterns with Roam's traditional techniques to create a range of six blanket designs to drape over your sofa or your shoulders.
A Wallflower’s House Party from ELEY KISHIMOTO is available to buy as of May 2015. Prices on request.