Mae Engelgeer, you have made me covet a tea towel. Or two, or three. The Dutch textile designer has created the Woww, Fest and Bow collections of graphic fabrics, developed in small quantities at the Textile Museum Read more...
IDEAS FOR PASTEL HOME ACCENTS
It's been impossible not to notice that pastels are making a huge splash in everything from fashion to home decor this spring. The sorbet shades go far in brightening up a room and most Read more...
BUILDING THE PERFECT BREAKFAST BAR
We all love the idea of a big, spacious eat-in kitchen, but I don't think I'm alone in getting equally excited about a well-designed breakfast bar - and if you're really lucky with space you can have both! Read more...
ERDEM'S SPRING STUNNER
Just when I thought I was leaning toward more minimal designs in fashion (because my interior/decor tastes are definitely less fussy these days), I get a blast of sunshine Read more...
CHANEL FILM: BICOLOR, THE MAKING OF THE CARDIGAN
Leave it to Chanel to turn the making of a cardigan into something magical. From choosing the colour of the finest cashmere threads to the finishing of the piece with those intertwined C buttons Read more...
PERFUMED GRAPE & RASPBERRY LIMEADE
Recently, Welch's invited me to create a Temperance Cocktail based on one of their new grape juice drinks. The recipe would be an addition to a menu of alcohol-free cocktails created by London expert mixologist Read more...
SUBVERSIVE CERAMICS: BARNABY BARFORD
I think the most intriguing art works are those that deliver a message through craft, combining technical skill and statement. Even better is when a pleasing, and seemingly benign Read more...
There may be a layer of snow currently covering your garden, but spring is just around the corner - really! - and these tips will help you to create a superb social space, whether you have a cosy country style garden or a spacious urban garden. Your garden is an extension of your home and so it should be just as visually appealing as your interior décor. Easier said than done I know, but the following may help make it feel a less daunting project.
If you want your garden to be the hub of every social gathering this spring/summer, seating is crucial. When you are planning your design, the first step is to plan the location of your wooden garden furniture. There are many things to consider when choosing the location; for example, which areas receive the most sun and shade. Once you have pinpointed a place for your seating you can then begin to plan the points of interest around this area, such as flower beds and plants. This adds to the ambience and appearance of your seating area and gives guests something pretty to look at. When choosing the type of furniture you require, be practical. You will need a dining set that is functional but one that also provides comfort while adding a touch of style to your garden.
If you want to socialise after dark, you will need high quality outdoor lighting to keep the party going once the sun sets. Lights are not only a functional aspect of your garden, they create a mood and are also a great way to highlight any special features. If you have a water feature, strategically placed lights can draw attention to the things you want to show off (and maybe keep some areas that could use improvement in the dark). And you can use lighting to illuminate pathways and doorways to keep your guests safe.
Nothing will cut a party short like the cold. If you want your guests to be comfortable, it is going to take more than comfy seats when the temperatures drop. Strategically placed heat lamps will provide enough heat to ensure your garden is usable all year round. Or for an impressive centrepiece that will also keep you and your guests warm, a chiminea is a great choice that will also add a splash of colour.
When designing your garden to create a social space, you will need to consider ways to make your garden private. Fences are one way to create privacy but there are a lot of creative ways in which you can make your space more intimate. Plants and shrubbery provide barriers that will enhance your garden without making your guests feel claustrophobic. Or you can do what my neighbours did and put up straw walls (I'm not sure what they're called) that tower above the fence, thus extending it and making your garden feel a bit more secluded.
This is the Danish shade I have in my living room, it's unusual yet still fairly understated
These dark nights have got me thinking of new ways
to light up my home, especially our bedroom as our ceiling fixture's 15 tiny bulbs are all blown but one, and I never really loved it anyway. Going to bed in the dark is one thing, but getting ready
for the day ahead without natural light is something I loathe. So what’s the
your Home with Lighting
Lighting is no longer just a functional aspect of
your home decor; the appearance of your lighting is also a huge factor to
consider. It's incredible how much of a difference contemporary lighting can make
to a room - our new ceiling pendant shade was like a one-piece makeover - and if you want to make a few changes to your home decor without
spending a fortune, simply replacing your light fittings can add luxury to your
home for less.
When choosing lighting options for each room I tend to over think things, but I've found that often it is the
simplest ideas that I like the most (but beware the half bowl-shaped pendant lamps, they are simple and look great but the focussed light can be harsh and make your space feel like an interrogation room). I tend to be drawn to chic white fittings and shades, though carefully chosen colour can do wonders for a space. The great
thing about white lighting is that it will work with every room and there are so many different options to choose from. This style of lighting is great for
vintage style decor as well as modern minimalist rooms.
After having a look for inspiration online for my
home lighting makeover and finding my translucent white Danish gem, it became clear that it is not just all about colour. It
is also about textures. Using different textures is a huge home decor trend
this season and choosing an unusual lighting design is an effective way to make an immediate difference. There are some fantastic options when it
comes to home lighting, from basic metal fixtures to crystal to wrought iron
and translucent polypropylene (looks nicer than it sounds, kind of a papery look).
lighting is still a big trend this season which is great, and as I'm trying to adopt a
greener lifestyle - we've become obsessed with turning the lights off - I think these are great for homeowners who want to light up
their home while doing their bit for the planet. Making sure your home is
environmentally friendly can save you money each month as well as helping you
to save energy. LED
spotlights are perfect if, like me, you don’t want to spend a fortune. And you
won’t have to compromise on style.
I've begun to make my way through this mostly hidden world of shoes that defy the conventional notion of what a shoe is, and I'm taking you along with me on this new 'Shoe is Art' series. We've already seen the make-you-smile designs from Japanese shoemaker Tetsuya Uenobe - who can resist a stuffed leather bear hugging your ankle as you walk? - and we're going to look at other shoe artisans whose footwear creations are so wonderfully unorthodox that they essentially turn your foot into a walking exhibition. They range from the unique-but-not-a-massive-stretch-from-what-we're-used-to-seeing-these-days designs, to some that are just so out there they stop you in your tracks and cause your face to contort just a bit. (That happened to me today when I saw shoes made of dead animals. I guess when we wear leather we're doing the same, but this pair went well beyond the socially acceptable use of animals in footwear - would you be willing to walk on an actual hoof?) Whether you would wear these mind-bending designs or not doesn't matter; but if you're open to the concept, you can catch an intriguing statement from the designer/artist. And if you do wear them, you get to deliver that statement to the world.
Today we're looking at Dutch shoemaker and designer Jan Jansen whose work I was introduced to by Tetsuya when he mentioned Jansen as an influence on his own designs. Not suprising, considering 'the master of shoe design' is one of the most revered figures in the world of shoes, having created some of the most iconic and innovative styles to date. Jansen has been designing unconventional - though still largely wearable - shoes since the 1960s, the styles of which are still as relevant and current as ever, owing to his obliviousness to outside inflences: "Im not a trendsetter. I'm years ahead of the trendsetters." Jansen is probably the most prolific shoemaker when it comes to rethinking the design of the shoe; he is constantly developing new constructions, though he will use the the same ones for years and create variations of some.
Jansen has received numerous awards for his work, including the Kho Liang Ie Prize (1985), the Grand Seigneur (1996), The BKVB Oeuvre Prize (2002) and the Max Heijmans Ring (2006). Many of his works are displayed in museums and galleries in Europe, and still Jansen prefers to refer to himself as a craftsmen, rather than 'artist' which has been attributed to him by peers and fans. In 2007, Christie's auctioned the collection 'Jan Jansen, In His Shoes' - everything sold and all of the estimated selling prices were realised. And significantly, many of the lots were a single shoe.
With the exception of those gorgeous Orchid shoes above which are a current design on the market, this is a retrospective view of selected styles from the past five decades.
'Interchangeable 2', 1967. Metal frame mule with removeable patterned sock
'Stir my Blue Blood', 1991
'Serpent's Kiss', 1994, is constructed of a python upper that looks as if it could bite, mounted on a platform and heel which Jansen has reinvented in wavy, ribbon-like stainless steel.
Velazquez boots, 1979. These quilted satin platforms were made in collaboration with Fong-Leng to be worn with her red evening cloak, 'Velazquez'.
'Build Me Up', 1972. Extreme platform slippers!
Metallic green heels with silver piping and exaggerated back, 1996; the rattan sandal in nubuck, 1973.
One variation of Jansen's iconic sandals with rattan frame, 1975. The original prototype in ochre was copied by Prada in 2006 without credit to Jansen, right down to the colour.
'High Tea', from Meubelcouture, meaning furniture couture. You're right, you can't wear it. It's not a shoe but a chaise longue, the structure of which Jansen based on his famous rattan frame sandal. If you tilt your head you can see that the seat features a face-to-face design in the leather.
And another art work of Jansen's based on his shoe design is 'Cindy's Dance at Midnight', part of the permanent collection of the National Glass Museum in Leerdam, Netherlands. Using glass to translate his style from the traditional materials, the extreme yet elegant curves of this 'shoe' show off and mix the spectrum of the pinks and greens beautifully. (It reminds me of Cinderella, when the one wicked stepsister's attempted to scrunch her huge foot into the dainty glass slipper.)
What's better than watching and hearing the man himself? This video profile below is just wonderful, taking us into Jansen's Amsterdam shop and studio to see and hear firsthand how he approaches the process of making his shoes: "We don't have a budget for the amount of leather we can buy or what the collection may cost. We just go by what we think is nice and beautiful." This approach is extremely unusual these days, but then Jansen has remained independent, passionate as ever, and answers only to himself. And his wife Tonny who double as as his muse, style tester and colour advisor. Jansen also shows us how a hand made shoe is constructed, and watch for the table in the window of his shop which stands on women's legs outfitted in his shoes, of course. Also part of his Meublecouture collection, titled Hommage to Rubens.
Shoe therapy: The news that we're about to enter a triple recession in the UK has just hit and it's been tough enough already, so if you're in need of a new pair of shoes, you may want to have a browse of the discounts available with netvoucher codes for shoes - you may find your that favourite online shoe shop is participating.
Winter needn’t be a time to bulk up your
frame with chunky knitwear. Use textures and layering to create a streamlined
look, and your wardrobe will take you from here to spring and summer without
stress. Layering also allows you to wear the latest, lighter styles right now. Cleverly combining
your outerwear means you’re always warm enough for Britain’s changing weather,
come what may!
Layering Law #1: Flatter
your skin with new and different colours
Coffee, heating and the general lack of
sun in winter can all dull your complexion. You don’t actually need heavy
make-up, though. Wearing new and different knits in flattering shades near your
face will instantly create a healthy glow.
Colours go together in families: they
are either muted or bold, and warm or cool. Hold a variety of shades near your
face to determine which colourgroup makes your features seem to “pop”. If you
stay with this palette when choosing your new knits, you may even find that people will comment on how
well you look, even when you’re tired! One of my favourites is coral pink - it can bring out a blush of colour on many types of complexions and looks incredible against both dark and pale skin.
Layering Law #2: Create
slim lines with lightweight outerwear
The vertical lines created by an open
cardigan will draw the eye upwards, giving an illusion of length. In colder
weather, even a partially open outer layer will still do the trick. A cardigan
in a block colour also means you can wear horizontal stripes without looking
Layering Law #3: Don’t be afraid
Once you learn how to flatter your own complexion,
you can mix and match a small handful of pieces and create a range of new
As a general rule, the greater the difference
between your hair and skin colour, the bolder the contrast you can carry off in
your clothing. A brunette with a fair skin tone will naturally look striking in
a high-contrast outfit like this:
A fair blonde generally suits
colours that are closer to each other in undertone:
Pale blondes can still pull
off something stronger, though, if they add a more intense lipstick and some
bronzer to balance the look:
Darker complexions fare very well
in winter, as they carry both high and low-contrast combinations easily, and
can also wear bold patterns without being overwhelmed by them:
Paler skin looks great in a strong
pattern when it’s balanced with a block colour as well:
Don’t forget that subtler
patterns will also stand out if you use textures and layering.
Go for a new and different
look, and make winter your brightest time of the year. With these three simple laws
of layering, you’ll stay warm, look lively and bridge the seasons with
effortless style. A range of carefully chosen Boden new
knits in colours right for you can update your look and take you forward,
confidently and stylishly to spring and beyond!
London Fashion Week and the London Fashion Weekend are pretty fabulous and lots of fun - but mostly if you're skinny. Considering that an estimated 60.8% of UK adults are overweight (according to the BBC), that leaves the majority of the nation's women out of the high fashion celebrations. Yes, there are shoes, bags and accessories that everyone can enjoy, but the clothing is clearly made and marketed with tiny women in mind. That's about to change, at least as far as choice: debuting at the same time as LFW is a new fashion event that caters exclusively to plus-size women, thanks to founders Remi Ray and Rianne Ward. Ray, a 25-year-old entrepreneur and owner of Trapped in a Skinny World, a boutique stocking vintage clothing for women of 'shape and size', and Ward, CEO and Creative Director of Evolve Int'l Media Ltd., a lifestyle brand that delivers products and services to the plus-size community, created British Plus-Size Fashion Weekend to give curvy women the opportunity to engage in fashion while the rest of the world does.
During BPSFW, which runs 15th-16th February in London, plus-size designers, retailers and consumers will come together at Shoreditch Town Hall for a jam-packed schedule that includes:
Plus-size panel discussion moderated by plus-size fashion blogger Lauren Ding
Fashion show with Simply Be, Carolyn Drapiere, Syreeta Badu, Pauline et Julie, Curvissa, Live Unlimited and others
Marketplace for plus-size fashion
Tickets are available through the BPSFW website. An all-access pass can be purchased for £45.00 - it looks as if the public/consumer events are happening on the Saturday, with a press and blogger day on the Friday - and tickets for some events can be purchased individually.
Just a note as there may be some controversy over the nature of the event, pertaining to the fact that being overweight is bad for your health: Plus-size women encompass all kinds of shapes and sizes, and there are all kinds of reasons as to why these women are those shapes and sizes. And let's not forget that 'plus-size' also includes women who are not fat but simply need specialised clothing to fit their height and build; for many this is their normal, healthy size. Each woman has a unique story. And everyone deserves to look good and feel good about themselves, whatever their size.
Good luck to Remi and Rianne on their first BPSFW, I hope it's a smash.
Through some wonderful and unexpected miracle, my productivity has risen exponentially this New Year (I can thank my three week visit home to Canada where everything was done for us by family) and
I’ve been contemplating ways to make my home more functional. We have a small home office which could benefit from some creative rearranging/redesigning, and I've been finding inspiration online. The bottom line is, an effective home office should incorporate the perfect balance between fashion and function, and I can certainly improve on ours. My husband is a professor. Our solution isn't hard. We simply need more bookshelves! If you don't have a home office but want one - maybe that makeshift workstation that is your lap in bed isn't working for you anymore - consider these clever office space ideas - you may be surprised at where and how you can create your own home office!
If you have a spare room that is kind of a junk room (nice problem to have) but you can’t
justify using it all as an office space, why not create a room that acts as both
a walk-in wardrobe and an office space combined? There are lots of examples of
this on Pinterest
and love how the room is pretty yet practical. The most common way to create this type of office is to have wardrobes built in around the outside of the room
and then have a functional workspace in the centre. Or, as seen in that cheery room in the photo here, you could take a closet space and creative your own pretty alcove where you can get down to business - the mirror, lamp and curtain are brilliant touches and keep the space from looking too 'officey'.
If you have limited space in your home, you could
turn a portion of your bedroom into a workspace. By placing your bedroom furniture on
one side of your room and a desk and chair on the other side, you can create a
functional space without it looking or feeling cramped. You can also add
shelving to make space for folders and work-related items (see above for how to make it blend with your room!). This is one of the most cost effective ideas, and although having a larger room helps, you may be able to do more than you think with a tighter space - try different arrangements with your bed and desk (or find something that is of similar size to the desk you want to help get an idea) before you rule it out.
If you have a loft that is unused, this could make
the perfect office space. Converting a loft into an office is one of the most
expensive ideas and the most time consuming. However, converting your loft into
something fabulous can add value to your property while making your home more
functional. And having that useable space on another floor will immediately make your house feel a lot more spacious.
The possibilities are endless for transforming your space into a workable one; hopefully these ideas will get you thinking of your own brilliant solutions!
The glamour of the dressing room can translate into the bathroom using lighted mirrors
The bathroom is probably the last place you think of when deciding to add some new life into your space; there's not a lot of room to work with, and most of it is occupied by large fixtures. (Don't even think of a toilet tank cozy.) However, some new lighting
trends are emerging that may have you contemplating a bathroom makeover this spring. Here are some ideas you might like to consider for your own home design.
Dressing Room Style Lighting
I’m loving dramatic lighting designs
this season and dressing
room style lighting is great for adding instant wow factor
to the bathroom. Dressing room style lights are basically bare light bulbs
that surround a mirror (I love the rectangular style offset by the round bulbs). Not only does this design provide maximum light, it
also adds a some Old Hollywood glamour to your home. This type of lighting is
great for applying makeup on those dark winter mornings.
Illuminated mirrors are a superb
addition to any bathroom as they not only provide light but also a beautiful
mirror that is functional and stylish. You can choose from a variety of
designs to complement your bathroom and opt for a size to suit you. This is a
great choice of lighting for those who want something simple and subtle.
Under Basin Lighting
If you want a bathroom that is
guaranteed to stand out, under basin lighting will do the trick. You can
choose from a range of coloured lights (I would love a calming, soft blue) to really transform your bathroom and set a mood, or opt
for classic white lights. This feature will add something special to an ensuite bathroom or a guest bathroom.
Colour Changing Mirrors
A colour changing mirror allows you to change
the mood in your bathroom when you please. You can change the colour when you
fancy a change in decor, and you can also use different colours when you want to
relax and when you are just getting ready for the day ahead.
If you want to add a magical touch to
your bathroom but don’t want to spend a fortune, fairy lights are perfect. They
work well in children’s rooms but can add a lovely glow and create a magical
atmosphere in any room. Put them in a large glass vase as a table decoration
or drape them from a curtain pole. You can find some fabulous lighting options
online at Bright Lightz.
The Great Gatsby's release in May is going to unleash a frenzy for 1920s fashion, much like The Artist, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and the 1974 film adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, starring Mia Farrow, have. (It's hard to believe the 1974 film influenced fashion trends if this is any indication of taste at the time.) The lust for dropped waists, chiffon overlays and delicate beading really is guaranteed to explode this spring: the costumes for the film are a dream collaboration between Miuccia Prada, renowned film and stage costume designer Catherine Martin, and Baz Luhrman who directed the film. (Martin and Luhrman have been married since 1997, first meeting at college in their native Australia, and the couple have worked together ever since. I'll bet their dinner conversation is awesome.)
Fashionistas are going nuts now that Prada have released Miuccia's sketches of designs from the film, which are worn by Carey Mulligan who stars as Daisy Buchanan. Here are glimpses of four out of the 40 cocktail and evening dresses created, all of which are adapted from past Prada and Miu Miu collections:
I'm very curious to see how the orange fishscale dress translates in the flesh!
Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrman's film adaption of The Great Gatsby
Carey's character poster. Never mind the dress - my eyes are all over the art deco backdrop!
Let's go back to Mia Farrow as Buchanan, who was also in great company having been dressed by the great costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge, whose prolific and honoured career in film, television and stage spanned six decades. Aldredge won an Oscar and British Academy Award for her work in The Great Gatsby, and her designs from the film were adapted for a clothing line at Bloomingdales.
Yes, that is Sam Waterston on the left behind Mia.
More fun facts about The Great Gatsby, 1974 (the third filmed version of the novel):
The rights to the novel were purchased in 1971 by Robert Evans so that his wife Ali MacGraw could play Daisy. She blew that when she left him for Steve McQueen, who was originally considered for the role of Gatsby. Not surprising that he didn't get it.
Mia Farrow was pregnant during shooting and so wore loose, flowing dresses and was shot in tight close-ups to conceal her growing belly.
Truman Capote was the film's original screenwriter but was replaced by Francis Ford Coppola who later claimed the director, Jack Clayton, didn't pay much attention to it: "The film I wrote did not get made."
Critics weren't moved to "stand up and cheer": Vincent Canby made this statement in his review of the film in The New York Times : "The sets and costumes and most of the performances are exceptionally good, but the movie itself is as lifeless as a body that's been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool." Owwwch. And gross.
I can't not mention Midnight in Paris, the Woody Allen film in which a nostalgic screenwriter (Owen Wilson) inexplicably finds himself inserted into 1920s Paris, first at a party with The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzergerald and his wife Zelda. The costumes, by Sonia Grande, are scrumptious. It's about as close to time travel to one of the most exciting eras in art, literature, fashion, music and philosophy in Paris as we can get. (They even go briefly back from then to La Belle Epoque!)
I've heard rumours that something called 'the sun' exists. Is this true? England is in a dreary deep freeze right now (well, for England). The south has been hit especially hard and hundreds of schools around the country are closed, unfortunately not my daughter's (is that wrong to say?). I got a face full of sleet walking her in today and my chin froze, that was weird. The winds off the North Sea sent kids' hats flying off and they had to walk into class with soaked, frozen heads. Yet I still saw a guy walking around in a t-shirt! That saying about Geordies having an aversion to coats may not be completely unfounded. To be fair, it's just a few out of thousands of others who aren't allergic to warmth who are responsible for this reputation. But, I guess there are worse things than being hardy? (I'm trying hard to understand, here.)
So I tend to do a bit of daydreaming on days like this, and right now I can't get Paris in springtime out of my head. But it's not spring and I can't be there anyway, so one of my go-tos is to see what's new at Ladurée. They've got new boxes, 'Petits Accessoires' - which according to the image below it appears to come with tiny accessories in the square version, hence the name - and 'Calendrier' or Calender, the contents of which is not forthcoming on their website. Maybe it's up to you. (I picked up the chickadee yellow 'Louise' design for my daughter in London last autumn and filled it with macarons. I didn't even sneak one. It wasn't easy not stealing candy from a baby.) That regal-looking treat is the Ladurée King Cake , a caramelised puff pastry filled with a fondant almond creme. Maybe wait until extra holiday pounds are dealt with before diving into that. And then there are candies in pastel stripes in six flavours; the Bonbonierre which is a box of chocolates and yes, the box is also chocolate so when you've finished the little ones the indulgence is far from over; and macaron chocolates. Macarons covered in chocolate. Ladurée chocolate. Homer drool. And although not new, I included the tea canister because it's so pretty. I have this one on display in my kitchen and it's filled with the Marie Antoinette tea. I admit I bought that because of the name. It's very nice but I just realised I'd forgot about it completely. You know how thngs become part of the scenery and they register anymore? I think that's why rearranging at least once a year is a winning idea. Or I can save the effort and just have a good hard look around the kitchen and reacquaint myself with lost loves. Maybe I'll have it tonight, it's a good night for keeping hands around boiling cups.
I can't believe Wayne Thiebaud hasn't featured on The Swelle Life before now. I remember seeing the American painter's work - he shuns the title of artist, looking down on "art" as "an abstract term that's still developing" - in art class in high school, it was one of his iconic dessert paintings and my eyes lingered on it for half a second before I turned the page in my survey text book. I didn't get it, I was too wrapped up in the fascinating, salacious and just plain weird lives and works of the Surrealists. At a time where adolescence is transitioning awkwardly into adulthood, the perpetual child-like curiosity and dreamstate exploration of the Surrealists just fit the teenage brain so well.
We're looking at Wayne Thiebaud now because I became reacquainted with his cakes the other day, playing Go Fish with my daughter, of all things. We were using a deck of Modern Art cards I bought her that are made for the game - a great way for children to learn the names of Modern artists and their works, and it comes in a set for Contemporary as well - and when it was her turn she asked me if I had any Wayne Thiebauds. A bell rung and I said Go Fish, and then later when I picked one up myself I looked at it with fresh eyes and realised I'd wasted so much time not appreciating what he did in 1960s, and what he is still doing. Yes, he is still with us at 92 years of age and incredibly, he still paints and does it as well as he ever did. In 2010 he created the google 12th birthday logo; it was of course, a birthday cake:
Like a Cezanne bowl of fruit, there's much more happening in Thiebaud's still lifes beyond his simple subject, whether it be a sundae, lipsticks, or a toilet. My initial response is noticing the presence of the subject; these are dramatic little pastries with their heavy, punctuating shadows that could not be reproduced in reality, and colours in acid hues that really stick. What I love is how each individual object, when conveyed as part of a group, has its own set of qualities and occupies its own space apart from what surrounds it. (This is the point where my dad is reading this, leans forward, squints and asks "Really?") What's been noted about Thiebaud's earliest work is its obvious 'pop' qualities derived from its focus on objects of mass culture, yet they predate Pop Art, suggesting that he may have influenced the movement. I'll take Thiebaud over Warhol any day. I can feel Thiebaud.
For more about Wayne Thiebaud and to further understand (and fall in love with ) his work, watch the Smithsonian's video
Wayne Thiebaud with one of his wonderful streetscapes. Like his still lifes, they also prompt us to look beneath the surface.
Our own Tynemouth market where you can sell and find anything and everything. Photo by Robin Denton
As your children grow, you may notice that they don’t play with certain toys as often as they used to. Instead, they have probably moved on to new toys, while the old ones get put in storage and take up valuable closet space. (Or wind up stuffed in and hanging out of every possible crevice in their room because they can't part with a tiny piece of plastic they never played with in the first place.)
But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use your closets again? You can clear out the old clutter and make cash at the same time, which you can invest in more age-appropriate toys. Here are some ideas to start you on the path to “out with the old, in with the new.”
Have a garage sale
One quick way to get rid of old toys is to have a garage sale and sell them to your neighbours. Most likely, there are other parents in your neighbourhood with children who will eagerly play with your children’s old toys. You can sell yours at a discounted rate to your neighbours, and you'd be surprised at who will want your secondhand stuff.
To start, choose a sunny day when most people will be out walking around and are most likely to wander by. Then, make sure people know that you will be selling gently-used, secondhand items. You can use social networking sites like Facebook to get the word out, or post an ad in your local classifieds. On the day of the event, place your toys in a neat, creative display where people are sure to see them,
with price tags attached. Alternatively, head down to an organised car boot sale for guaranteed foot traffic.
Sell to a second-hand shop
You can also sell to your local consignment shop. Start by contacting the clerk and seeing how their system runs. Some shops let you leave items at the store and if they sell, you receive a portion of the price while the store takes a commission. In other cases, the clerk will buy your items from you before reselling them in the shop.
Again, make sure your old toys are clean and show minimal signs of wear-and-tear. You’ll also want to make sure that all pieces and accessories are included.
Sell obsolete electronics to recyclers
Some things, like electronics, might need to be sold to specific dealers because many people won’t buy them from second-hand shops or car boot sales. Instead, turn them into cash by selling them to a recycling company. There are many companies and organisations that are willing to buy secondhand electronics and pay cash.
Many of these services can be found online. All you need to do is find an organisation that specialises in the goods you are selling. For example, if I wanted to sell my iphone, I would look online for a company that buys secondhand mobile phones. Generally, the types of electronic devices that are more likely to sell are mobile phone, laptops, tablets, mp 3 players and gaming consoles, as well as old video games, CDs and DVDS.
No matter which of these methods you choose, there is no need to let old toys take over your house. Sell them today to get your storage space back!
For no good reason at all, I've neglected to do a Painted Houses post in longer than I'd care to admit (so don't go checking, eh?). Since the last, I've had some great reader submissions that absolutely must be shared, and so I'm getting back into the colourful houses and buildings theme starting with Portmeirion in North Wales, thanks to reader Pixie who introduced me to this vivid, fantastical place.
In the seven years I've lived in England I've never been to Wales - the closest I've gotten is Bristol and Bath - but it is on our list of UK places to visit, and now that I've had a peek, Portmeiron has become a must-see. Pixie provided a link to their tourism site and I noticed this: "Portmeirion is open every day of the year from 9.30am to 7.30pm." And you need tickets. I was very confused until I read this:
"This unique village is set on its own private peninsula on the southern shores of Snowdonia. It was created by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978) to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful place could be developed without spoiling it. Portmeirion is made up of about 50 buildings, most of which are used as hotel or self-catering accommodation and surrounded by 70 acres of sub-tropical woodland gardens. On the main driveway is Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian mansion recently restored as a brasserie style restaurant and hotel."
And the late 1960s TV series The Prisoner was filmed there. (I wonder if they got kicked out at 7:30?)
Here are Pixie's photos from her visit, followed by some screencaps from the incredible 360° panoramic views of the village which I had great fun playing with.
These 'window' frames are decorated with clam shells
I love the pale turquoise of the fence; this particular shade highlights so much of the village's features. Below, Pixie shares a photo from inside her suite which was in its own private building:
These two images (above and below) are taken from a panoramic view of Portmeirion's Battery Park, by Ralph Ames
The panoramic angles and the vivid colours remind me of the slides I used to look at as a child through my View-master!
There seems to be a religious theme in this part of Battery Square of the Christian persuasion. I can't see the detail of the painting on the arch of the white building on the left, above, but it appears to be in the style of the Mannerist era. And below, I think that's Jesus saying hello on the balcony! Shot by Billy Hepburn
The Portmeirion Beach, Traeth Sands. By Billy Hepburn:
The Bristol Colonnade is...making me want to book train tickets!
A magical name for a magical house - Unicorn Cottage:
And we'll end with the Village Green before I explode with enthusiasm:
Animal trends are continuing into 2013, with the wise little owls being replaced with cunning foxes as the creature of choice for
brooches, fabrics and prints. When I was in London late last year I saw a cute little mug by the British designer Emma Bridgewater, featuring a
very darling looking fox. Inspired by a love of Beatrix Potter – whose stories
I loved as a child and have passed on to my daughter – her animal patterns are quaint, charming and
have the perfect nouveau-vintage look about them.
I love the ongoing pre-occupation with chintzy
little vintage pieces. However, I am not a fan of some the lengths you have to
go to find good vintage - I always seem to be one minute too late for the good ones at our local market! And the price tag can be a bit horrendous at the antique shops. These days I tend to go for new pieces that have
a vintage look and style to them to feed my retro cravings. Having found myself cooing over her mugs, I decided to take at the rest of
the Emma Bridgewater pottery collection online.
What a pleasant surprise it is to find a
designer whose pieces are as affordable as they are adorable! Emma
Bridgewater’s pottery speaks to a bygone age, featuring heart prints, birds,
classic typography and all the vintage charm you could ever want. Her colours are lovely, not just in her pottery but in her fabrics and melamine
tableware also. My eye was particularly drawn to her ‘Figs’ range of plates,
bowls and mugs, which has sadly been discontinued but is still available to buy
at the moment. The design features green
and purple in soft, summertime shades which will be current this spring.
Emma Bridgewater pieces have such a homey feel to
them that they can’t help but remind you of wooden kitchen tables, hearth fires
and sunny picnics. There’s something so quintessentially English about them, which
makes them the perfect of-the-moment as well as an enduring piece, for your home and mine.
I must have had clutter solutions on my mind when I chose the theme for my most recent product Ideabook for Houzz.com: Fabulously Decorate Storage. Before we left England for the holidays in Canada, I spent many hours getting the house ready for a friend's parents who were going to be staying there while we were away, and I became painfully aware of just how much clutter we'd accumulated. We couldn't deal with all of it in time so we hid it, hoping that they wouldn't open the tallboy sideboard in dining room, or the bombe sideboard in the living room, or any of the bottom three drawers in the kitchen... I haven't had a report of an appliance manual/children's drawings/miscellaneous plastic things avalanche enveloping them, so I assume they resisted the urge to see what's in there. Most of it is paper that we have to sit down and sort out - fun! - and a lot of it can be shredded or recycled. But there are so many things that, despite their apparent uselessness, have to stick around for a while longer. The good news is there are ways to deal with them that don't have to involve ugly plastic storage bins. Or lots of yelling (just me?)
The 20 products I chose for this Ideabook are storage solutions that will actually enhance your decor while helping hide a little, or a lot, of clutter. From small, shimmery bowls that will obscure those annoying little bits that can't seem find a home, to a filing cabinet that will instantly make your home office a happy place - yes, even a metal one! - there is hope for us clutter magnets yet. The products above are some of my favourites from the Ideabook. Some are way beyond my budget but they plant ideas in our heads (hence the name of the book), while others are really affordable, such as the harlequin print Circus Sack from Danish designers Varpunen which I just love; I see a trio under my living room sidetable holding and hiding everything from magazines to DVDs to Wii controllers. (Here's a tip: don't keep anything in a room that doesn't belong there and you'll have much less clutter. Note to self: shipping materials do not belong under the couch.)
If all of this organisation talk has inspired you to start the year with less mess, you can get more helpful ideas from these articles:
What would it be like to live in a house that follows the sun throughout the day? And folds into different configurations to take on up to eight shapes? (And here I thought I was doing well to have deep window sills for my plants.) Actually, no one knows what it's like to live in that house, the Dynamic D*Haus is still in the concept stage. According to Dezeen, The D*Haus Company originally planned this home with Lapland residents in mind, to deal with extreme temperatures - hot in summer, freezing in winter. (Sounds just like Ontario.)
See Dezeen for more views of this house with rooms that would, theoretically, fold out on rails so that interior partitions become exterior walls during warmer seasons. The UK-based designers are still trying to figure out how it will work in reality (that's the tough part).
So we are all done with Christmas and New Year festivites, over-indulged, over-ate and
generally gorged on every Quality Street in sight. The last thing we're thinking about is food, right? Well, one browse of these hampers and we may just change our mind. There are hampers for every foodie taste, including some beautiful fruit selections for those of us determined to stick to the new
Traditionally for picnics and Christmas, Clearwater are
doing something a little bit different with their themed hampers to make them
a wonderful ‘all year round’ gift. Featuring hampers with themes from all over the
world, from Germany to Australia, Clearwater are creating imaginative gifts.
They even have a Canadian hamper with maple fudge - as a Canadian I can attest this is a real treat! The contents are thoughtfully chosen and well presented - what’s more exciting than rummaging
around in a hamper for more food? They also have hampers for birthdays and
occasions like Mother’s Day, anniversaries and new babies.
One of the best things about this site is that you can make your own hampers,
tailoring the choices specifically to the recipient (or yourself) and therefore keep the price
within your budget. This is especially useful if the gift you’re giving
is for someone with special dietary needs, a diabetic or a vegetarian for
example. First you choose from a selection of sizes and types of hampers, either
traditional wicker or more contemporary seagrass, and then the fun part begins!
Create your own combination of individual food and wine from a choice of 400
Only high quality products are available for your hamper,
for that little extra spot of opulence. From teabags and coffee, cakes,
biscuits, dried fruits and nuts, wine, cheese, cold meats and chocolate,
everyone will find something that they love to scoff. Clearwater have a range
of prices, starting from twenty pounds to over five hundred (an incredible hamper!), so you can decide how far to take it. The ultimate gift for that
luxury foodie, whatever their tastes. They will be delighted with a hamper
filled to the brim with goodies all jostling to be enjoyed.
This orbiting flowers GIF against a starry black sky, from Showstudio's Flora series, is an alternative to the fireworks welcome into the new year that I usually do. Nothing is better than beautiful, vibrant flowers for conveying renewal and fresh starts, don't you think?
"...Flora series is a movement focused collaboration between stylist Anna Trevelyan and photography duo Meinke Klein that challenges the perception of GIFs as retro low-budget stop-motions. The initiative draws direct inspiration from Nick Knight's most recent body of work, and offers a vision of the GIF as a dynamic, refined fluid animation."
(If it's not moving, see it as it's meant to appear by clicking the photo or going over to Showstudio)
I've been taking it easy for the last few weeks since I've been in Canada for the holidays with family, but I've got a series coming up that I'm really excited to get into: Paper. People doing things with this most tactile of media that you won't believe.
The New Year’s party is a perfect time to showcase
how in tune you are with this season’s style updates. Because you’ll be marking
the turn of the year, it’s also an appropriate time to mark the turning of trends
by choosing an outfit that marries the best of both the old year and the new.
Style Straight from the Catwalk
SS2013 looks set to be even more feminine than it
ever has been before, with designers like Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Stella
McCartney showing fairytale dresses, delicate structuring and compelling
silhouettes in a range of colours, from subtle lemon and coral blue to Asian
One of my favourites, Dolce and Gabbana, already
seem to be in the summer spirit with their frivolous layered dresses and
theatrical stripes. And another favourite, Prada, has been showing 60s style
dresses and robes in dark, slate greys and blues, accented with simple Japanese
inspired flower prints.
Your New Year Party Outfit
I can’t help but think that the right way to wear an
outfit for New Year’s Eve is by dressing for the future whilst accessorising
for the now, so I’ve compiled a short checklist to refer to when picking my own
2013 will see floaty and feminine coming back into style, although in a
markedly different way than it was in 2012. If you want to wear something
more structured you can keep it stylish by picking floral prints.
Bags in 2012 were all vintage inspired, from collegiate
satchels to denim and corduroy backpacks. Anya Hindmarch at My Wardrobe
has an excellent range of preppy yet practical handbags and clutches which
are perfect for parties.
in 2012 was sharp, sculptured and bright; made to be paired with slouchy
pyjama style trousers, loose shirts and cropped jackets. White gold
jewellery by Mark Milton at Pepperpink.com is a perfect example of the
kind of stuff you might have seen in the Givenchy 2012 collection.
the Perfect Party Outfit
I’ve been spending my down time poring through the
latest fashion mags and visiting online fashion blogs and beauty sites such as
Vogue, Elle and Beauty Expert. It’s a great way to stay abreast of what’s going
to be hot – or not – in the year ahead. The SS2013 catwalks are already well
underway; with designers all fighting for the right to show their latest must
have colours, fabrics and accessories in London, Paris, New York and Milan.
So with all this in mind, I hope you have fun when
choosing your perfect party outfit for New Year’s Eve 2012. And don’t forget
the most perfect accessory of all – a glass of champagne!
I'm in Toronto for the holidays and I'd intended to go around the neighbourhood with my camera to take some photos of the decorated houses, but it's been so green here - one day of snow this season and it didn't want to stick around for the big day - and also I found myself much too tired (and possibly too lazy, I've rediscovered 'rest') to go out after dinner, so those photos are not yet forthcoming. We'll have to see what's going on around my parents' when we go down tomorrow, I'm hoping the house nearby that is famous for putting the Griswolds' to shame is still putting on a show (it's like if you mixed Santa's Village and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - it'll charm you and make you feel like throwing up all at once).
Tonight we had our Christmas Eve dinner courtesy of my mother-in-law and husband who pulled off the best roast I've ever had, in a Wolf oven that is so good it makes me feel I have to dress up before I walk into the kitchen and stand near it. And now I'm off to put the presents under the tree which will be the second time this year: this morning I awoke in a panic because we'd forgotten to be 'Santa', so I rushed down with the presents, put them all out, then realised it's the 24th.
It's getting closer and closer but I wanted to share some of my favourite products that are perfect for getting ourselves ready for festive events and also for gift-giving. Each are personal must-haves that I can recommend as products you can rely on to be of excellent quality and do what they promise. This is hugely important to us these days as no one wants to waste money - and time - on things that disappoint!
ghd hairdryer I'd given up on buying professional hairdryers after two purchases, a few years apart, turned out to be no better - and in the case of one, not even as good - as the cheap models I owned. I didn't see the point in spending four or five times the money unless the results were extraordinary (duh, a no-brainer obviously). My faith was unexpectedly restored when I tried the ghd air™ (£99) which promises to be "quicker and quieter with smoother and shinier results" due to its 2100W motor, body shape and advanced ionic technology. Let's focus on those words 'advanced ionic technology'. I've heard about this for a few years and paid no attention, I thought these were just the next beauty trend buzz words to get people to buy more products that they didn't need. ghd tells us this technology will "lock in moisture for softer, shinier results that last for longer, with far less frizzing". Is this even possible in a product made for drying? Well, when I first tried this model a few weeks ago my hair was in need of a cut - my back layers were starting to take on that awesome pom-pom look which is always the point of no return, and the ends also needed a good trim thanks to the dry heat in the house we can't get away from in winter. The first time I used the ghd air™ I noticed it was really quiet (I'd gotten used to my old one sounding like a jet taking off in my ear) and it felt nicely balanced and streamlined, a good weight without being too heavy. And yes, it was powerful and dried my long hair quickly. But what I couldn't believe was that when I was finished, my back layers were defined again and not hanging in a frizzy mass; it looked like I'd just had a haircut. Let me be clear: no one is lazier than me when it comes to blowdrying, I don't even use a brush while I'm doing it. I send that hair flying all over in a wild frenzy and then brush it out when it's all dry and hope for the best. My results were all down to this hairdryer and I'm still in disbelief at how well it works. I was able to put off my haircut for another three weeks and could have gone longer if I wasn't travelling to Toronto (that was my Christmas haircut). My hairdresser comes to me - mobile is so the way to go! - and I told her about my new magic dryer. She said she'd also been looking at it and asked if she could try it out on me. I said of course she could, other hairdryers are no longer allowed around my hair! She loved it and said she was going to ask for one for Christmas, and she also commented on the good condition of my hair before she'd cut it, she wasn't used to seeing it without the frizz. It's also great as a gift, presented in a very pretty, stud-embellished box. I can't recommend this hairdryer enough. It delivers what it promises.
Pure + simple Skin Restoration MaskandEye Brightening Cream As you know from my recent post gushing all over Pure + simple, I've been a huge fan of their holistic approach to skincare and wellness and have been using their natural, organic products for over a decade. I tried the Skin Restoration Mask ($16.45) a few weeks ago and when I saw that it left my skin incredibly soft and glowing and as smooth as glass, as if I'd done something far more extreme than applying a treatment, I realised how ideal it would be to put on before you go out on a special day or evening, as the first part of your makeup routine - you just don't want to waste that face at home! It is literally a mask, a gauzy piece you place over your face that's full of soothing rejuvenating ingredients. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to relax with it on so you get the full benefit (your eyes aren't covered so you can still see). For the eyes I love Pure + simple's Eye Brightening Cream. It's lightweight and has a firming and toning effect which is essential for me as I'm prone to allergies which make your eyelids feel 'loose' - not a good look. It includes a peptide complex that also helps to improve lymphatic circulation and elasticity to reduce under eye bags and puffiness (which I used to call My Morning Look). And dark circles are minimized by a flavone extract from the blue passion flower. Ultimately, I love the way it feels when I first put it on, like a breath of fresh air for your eyes. As always, the Pure + simple products deliver more than you had even hoped.
Zalando.co.uk During the holidays we're expected to dress up a few times, but I'm realistic and I always go for equal measures of looks and comfort. I know I'll be eating, so anything too restrictive around the waist is out, and I like a bit of stretch. But I still like nice details. Thanks to Zalando's wide range of clothing (massive, really) you can find any dress you need or want at any price point, and I found mine in this Private School jumper dress (£85). It's a stretchy knit (comfort!) that is easy through the waist (food!) and the intarsia collar and placket create a neat trompe l'oeil effect (detail!). It fits on the small side so you have to order up a size, but the quality is fantastic - the intarsia was perfectly knitted - and the shape is very flattering on the body. The black is nice and saturated, and the 'trim' is simple enough that you can play around with textured tights or go straight school girl with basic opaques. If weather permits, it looks fantastic with a simple black court shoe (or a bright if you're more daring), but if it's icy out and a heel means you'll wind up on your back on the pavement, this dress will also look great with a knee high wedge boot. (And don't most people want you taking your shoes off at the door anyway? I once had trouble getting a party guest who arrived with a friend of mine to take off her high heeled boots after coming in with slush all over them, she didn't want anyone to know how short she was. We already knew. When I pressed it she hopped up on the kitchen counter and stayed there most of the night.) And as for accessories? Styling can be fun, but I love it when the outfit is enough and a simple pair of earrings is all you need to finish the look. This is that dress.
Shapewear.co.uk Ok, this is a bit weird because I am showing you my underwear, though that's not me in them (but you can think that if you want to). On the left is the greatest underwear ever, called Edgies (£9.99) due to their breathable Wonderful Edge® silicone finish at the legs that keeps them in place, and it really does, without any rubbing or irritation. In other words, you won't be dying to get them off at the end of the day. They're made of a microfibre that is so fine it's like wearing nothing, so they're invisible and totally comfortable. I go with the boy short style but they also come in other styles. In the middle is the Body Wrap Boy Short (£19.95) which is also invisible, seamless, light and comfortable. I go for these when I'm wearing a dress for a bit more smoothness through the hip. They come in a range of fashion colours and I love the Diva Dot in beige. Lastly, because I have a drawer full of bodyshapers that I just hate because they have weird seams that show through clothes in unfortunate places, and are not at all comfortable to wear (rhymes with 'Spranx'), I tried something different to wear under jersey dresses that hide no secrets. The Full Smoothing Bodyslip (£32.95) is by the same people that make the Edgies, so it's seamless and the hem doesn't ride up. And you don't need to wear a bra with it, it's got molded cups with adjustable straps and it does the trick for me (still feeling weird about telling you this). It's only a '1' for control (the lowest level) but it definitely holds you in. And there it is! If you're frustrated with your shapewear or even just your every day wear (Edgies are awesome for jeans and working out) I highly recommend giving these a try. And they're not expensive either. Win-win!
Everyone loves and covets cashmere, but we tend to think of it in terms of classic styling. While every wardrobe needs a good, basic cardigan or jumper in that softest of textiles, it doesn't have to be relegated to being just that 'old standby' piece you'd never part with but don't often wear. There are endless ways to make your old cashmere exciting again, and incorporate new cashmere into your daily seasonal outfits while keeping on trend, thus creating your own collection of special future classics.
The crew neck cashmere jumper is a luxe basic that never goes out of style, and it will always look smart worn over a crisp oxford shirt in classic white or contrasting shades for a pop of colour. Spring 2013 is all about the collar and we're going to be spoilt for choice when it comes to shirt options or embellished stand-alone collars we simply tie or snap around our necks (which means we get the cashmere right against our skin!). If your jumper isn't a shade that works today, or the shape isn't particularly flattering to your figure (we've all gone awry with the boxy styles at one time or another), update it by choosing can't-go-wrong black, navy, or baby blue, or hot pink or coral, in a fitted shape. (I have cashmere in a bright coral and baby yellow from about 10 years ago and both still look fresh, current and lovely! But a beige one feels a bit anemic for my liking these days.) For more styling ideas, Pure Collection offers some fashion forward ways to incorporate all kinds of cashmere pieces into your outfit through their Lookbook. And as for those old boxy jumpers that are so soft and cuddly yet do nothing for your shape, you can give them a new life with a little bit of DIY creativity. Ask your friends if they've got any cashmere they're not wearing, and if at least one of you is handy with a sewing machine, you can cut them all up and make new patchwork jumpers and cardies that you'll be excited to wear. Make the most of them by adding vintage decorative buttons and bits of trim to make them truly unique. (And in the end you've each got a timeless keepsake from each other!)
Luxe layering is a great way to wear your cashmere, especially in autumn in lieu of a coat or in harsh winter for extra warmth without sacrficing style, and it's another look that is always current if you wear the right pieces in the right way. You can go eclectic by mixing colours and prints, but be sure to choose carefully and include a least one solid to avoid looking like a random pile of fabric! You can't go wrong with black and shades of grey which may seem safe, but it has that reputation because it's the easiest way to look polished and pulled together. When putting together the layered look, use lighter weight layers underneath and add the heavier ones last so you appear proportioned, and if you get hot you're able to shed one or two pieces and cool down. If you're a hat person (if you're shaking your head 'no', I'll bet you just haven't given them a chance or are yet to find the right one for you), a smart fedora can take your outfit from comfy boho straight to fashionista if you've got the confidence to go for it. Take a good look in a full-length mirror, then choose your footwear. Don't immediately go for your favourite shoes or boots, but try on different styles to see what balances your outfit (something lighter may keep you from looking to wrapped up and heavy) and is appropriate for the weather and the occasion. (I'll never sacrifice comfort over style, especially if it means I'll avoid freezing or becoming crippled an hour into my day. But there are ways to do this, we do have options that aren't torturous!)
Cashmere can also be incorporated into your look as accents, such as sleeves contrasting a silk bodice, or a cashmere felted flower brooch, for example. And of course there's the perenial classic, the pashmina. There are endless clever ways to style a scarf and a simple tutorial online or from someone in the know can instantly make an old but good piece exciting and new again. There's nothing lovelier than having cashmere against your skin, and people do respond well to someone who looks cozy yet well styled, don't they? I know I do. Have fun with your cashmere!
This deco-inspired, 'beaded' creation must be one the most gorgeous winter cakes out there
I was looking for Christmas-themed cakes but wanted something exquisite; I've realised the days of being charmed by fondant-sculpted snowmen and evergreens are over. (It was fun while it lasted.) Alternatively, winter themed cakes can be so gorgeous when they are expertly done up in icy blues and whites with just a bit of snowflakey shimmer, and they will still get you into the holiday spirit, regardless of what you celebrate. Most of the examples I found were created for winter-themed weddings as the approach is all-out for the occasion. (I never thought of doing a winter theme for my own February wedding nearly 8 years ago, as mentioned before I was strictly efficient with the cake, dress and all other decisions so as not to drive myself insane with endless options - I didn't really have far to go.)
These delicately ornate toppers in pale gold make me think of a winter garden party
Icy blues are lovely with silver
The sugar snowflakes are hand made, painted and arranged with royal scroll detailing - stunning!
I LOVE the dusty blue with the snowy pinecones from Gateaux Inc
Pure + simple's Kristen Ma explains why natural skincare is important for our health as well as beauty
Ten years ago, I walked into a beauty shop and spa next door to my office building at Yonge & Eglinton in Toronto. I'd worked next to Pure + simple for quite a while, but until that day had hesitated to venture in. The name suggested natural skincare, and I'd come to mistrust those who claimed to sell natural skincare products because I knew that a hugely popular, global company that based their entire philosophy on the concept were not as they appeared, and there had been an exposé on some smaller producers of 'natural' products mostly sold in health stores, which made me believe there was really no such genuine thing being sold commercially. (At this time I had no reference for Pure + simple, unaware of their stellar reputation in the city and many awards. I was still kind of new in town.)
Do the Opposite
I finally walked through their door when I'd had enough of being greeted by the oil slick on my face in the washroom mirror at work. I'd never had oily skin before and didn't know what was going on. I bought blotting papers but they were a temporary measure. (One day my male director appeared around the corner of my cubicle and found me with one stuck to my forehead and each cheek, I'd just left them on for some reason. I said "Um, I've got a bit of an oil problem." Better to be honest because it certainly warranted an explanation, he thought I'd decorated my face with Post-its.) So I found myself standing in Pure + simple when a young woman, with skin so clear and fresh it reminded me of what skin is actually meant to look like, approached. I told her about my problem and she explained that my skin was dehydrated and was compensating by producing more oil, and that I needed a heavier moisturiser to rehydrate and balance it. The last thing I wanted to put on my visibly oily skin was cream, especially a heavy one, but nothing I was doing was helping so I thought that sounded crazy enough to work. (Ever since that Seinfeld episode I've believed there was something to the notion of doing the opposite of what you'd normally do if life isn't going so well - and I'm happily married because of it. I can't believe I have George Costanza to thank for that.) I bought the moisturiser she recommended and was really impressed that she was so confident about the principle behind what she was telling me, yet she was not at all pushy about it. I put it on that night and again in the morning. I remember the next day my face was hardly shiny at all and I couldn't believe how quickly it turned around, and the oil never returned. Needless to say, I went back. I wanted to know more.
Kristen Ma and Ayurveda
That vibrant young woman with the enviable complexion was Kristen Ma, co-owner of Pure + simple Inc., along with her mother Jean Eng. They created their first product range after finding nothing suitable on the market to address their skincare needs. I found out that there is a specific ideology behind their holistic spas that I wasn't familiar with - both are Ayurveda practitioners in addition to being highly skilled estheticians, and approach the attainment of beauty through health. Kristen explains it for us in her first book Beauty: Pure + Simple - a must-read for anyone frustrated with their skin despite having tried everything, or just not feeling generally well (the two go hand-in-hand). Ayurveda guides us to live in harmony and beauty, according to our individual constitutions, known as doshas, and our environment. Unlike western medicine which focuses on alleviating symptoms and conditions with drugs and surgery, Ayurveda searches for the root cause and treats ailments from this perspective. It specifically considers the characteristics of the individual, while understanding that our mind, body and environment are always changing. Makes good sense, eh? I've been on the other side of the Atlantic for the past seven years but I always come back to Pure + simple when I visit Toronto - they do the most heavenly facials which are second to none, I've got one booked just before Christmas - and their products and advice always straighten me out.
Although I've been a Pure + simple devotee for over a decade, somehow the only products I'd tried from their proprietary line were their organic hydrosols which I just love - I alternate between rose and lavender, the latter also being great for oily scalps and refreshing what I call 'plane face' after a long flight. All of my skin and body products had come from their shops but from other high quality natural and organic lines they carried. Well, recently I found out what I was missing and was also introduced to products from the new specialised Holistic Vanity lines for Damage Care and Rosacea Care, Kristen's brainchild. All are made locally in Toronto using undiluted and concentrated, organic, therapeutic ingredients harvested seasonally and are free from ALL of the harmful ingredients commonly found in commercial beauty products (you can see a list of the undesirables at the bottom of this page).
So what do I think? I love the completeness of the Damage Care line which offers a treatment for each sin you've put your skin through at one time or another resulting in cellular injury. I'm guilty of causing some: sun damage (when I was a teen they still sold suntan oil with no SPF!) which leaves you with hyperpigmentation that becomes more pronounced as you age, and the thing we all do even though we know we shouldn't - picking. Those little scars your mother warned you you'd cause if you didn't leave your spots alone but you'd escape to the bathroom to willingly annihilate your face in private? Got some. Add the effects of pollution, stress and free radical damage and pretty much anyone will have a skin issue that needs addressing.
These products gently yet effectively help improve specific damage symptoms:
Rejuvenating Rosewater Cleanser
- It all starts with proper cleansing. This milk formulation hydrates
depleted skin as it removes damaging surface impurities. My skin looks
so fresh afterward as it contains absolutely no stripping agents to
cleanse the skin.
Repairing Rosehip Skin Tonic - This tonic smells heavenly, thanks to water extracted from the
rosehip fruit. Rosehip has been found to be excellent in treating pigmentation and is
one of the only natural, non-bleaching ingredients to do this
effectively. It's a treat to put on your face.
Edit: I clued in this morning that I didn't give the Rosehip tonic enough credit! I use it twice a day after cleansing and the lightning fast, almost complete removal of the hyperpgimentation on the sides of my face is probably due more to the tonic than the lotion below. The lotion surely does the job, too, but I use different moisturising products from this list on different days, and the tonic is consistently applied twice a day so I think I owe it the credit for this small miracle of a transformation. Use it with the brightening lotion below and you'll be rid of that 'dirty face' look in days. Seriously. It's been three weeks for me and there's hardly anything there.
Brightening Hyaluronic Lotion - Something about the combination of seaweed extracts and the 15 percent hyaluronic acid - one of the best actives for increasing skin hydration and encouraging cellular repair - makes this hyperpigmentation fighting lotion work. I'd only used it a few times and wasn't even looking for any improvement as it was so early, when I noticed that the 'sandy' look on the sides of my face was reduced, looking a lot less blotchy and now barely noticeable. Amazing. And it achieves this without bleach. (Why would you put bleach on your face?!)
Regenerating Seabuckthorn Berry Oil - This is the healing one, helping to repair skin marks, weak tissue immunity and scarring. Loaded with nutrients, it's
great for undernourished skin types and it also provides topical protection as a shielding barrier for
damaged complexions. I still get a little surprised when I pump it and see its bright crimson colour from the Seabuckthorn Berry oil. But don't worry, the addition of evening primrose oil prevents it from staining your skin. I feel like I'm giving my skin a hug when I put on this soothing oil.
Restorative Raw Argan Oil - When my skin is angry (those hormonal times so enjoyed by my loved ones) I turn to this oil that repairs broken out, sun damaged, and inflamed complexions and helps to restore balance and increase tissue health. Made with raw argan, this oil is crafted with care by the artisans of an
all-female co-operative in western Morocco. Its entire
extraction process is done completely by hand and sustainably, employing
a zero-waste approach.
And I have one product from their excellent Rosacea Care line which is the Comforting Camellia Oil. I don't have rosacea but my skin can go red and blotchy for some reason at times, so I'm glad I have this on hand. It contains skin comforting Camellia (green tea oil) as well as the ancient
Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory Turmeric (also known as curcumin), and
permeates deeply to charge the skin with extra resilience.
Don't be afraid of using these oils on on your face - all Pure +
simple oil products are free of petrolatum and parabens and are
non-comedogenic, meaning they will not cause breakouts. I can attest to this!
We've had some face-stripping windy and bitter weather here by the sea recently, and if my skin isn't protected properly I come home looking looking like a fine leather glove left on the radiator to dry out (I know what this looks like because I stupidly did this once). So on those days I've been using Pure + simple's Nourishing Sunflower Cream with an oil on top of that, and not once have I come in from the cold resembling a wizzened leather good. And you can't forget the lips - their Organic Lip Oil in Lavender calms inflamed, sensitive lips (I use this when my lips are so weather beaten I could cry) while the Peppermint freshens and plumps as well as hydrates.
About the oils: Kristen recommends blotting your skin with a tissue if you look oily, but I've never needed to, it absorbs completely into my skin and you would never know I put oil on my face. I always rub the excess oil left on the palms of my hands onto the backs, and from just this tiny amount I have seen a major transformation in how old my hands look. (Has anyone else looked down only to be horrifed that your hands look 20 years older than your face?) I am now a total oil convert. As long as it's Pure + simple.
For more advice on how to find that healthy balance visit Kristen's blog Holistic Vanity, and see her fantastic YouTube channel for all kinds of insightful videos including collaborations with other Toronto experts on topics such as healthy digestion, anti-inflammatory diets and DIY all- natural styling and beauty products.
Pure + simple has three Toronto locations and one in Oakville, Ontario, and they offer their entire product range for sale through their online shop. And yes - they ship internationally!
This is the fourth installment of the LM Series,
documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London.
The starting point of Le Méridien at Frieze was an intriguing panel discussion amongst influential art world leaders, part of the Outset Le Méridien Talk Series which took place in the ballroom at Le Méridien Piccadilly. The question of the day was articulated by Outset co-founder Candida Gertler who asked, "Does size matter? Is it right to keep going? And how do we resist the next big step? Will we be able to sustain it or will we self-destruct in a spiral of ambition? And so the debate began. Le Méridien's Global Cultural Curator Jérôme Sans moderated Frieze
co-founder Amanda Sharp, Tate Modern's Curator of International Art, Mark Godfrey, Serpentine director
Julia Peyton-Jones and Gagosian managing director of Europe Gary
Waterston. In response, each panelist drew upon their own unique circumstances they face in moving their respective gallery or event forward, sometimes at odds with another's view, illustrating how subjective and contextual the topic of whether size matters really is. And that's what made it fascinating. The video above shows highlights from the discussion. (And beyond the compelling topic the film is very well done so I definitely recommend taking a look!)
I wanted to add, that at the dinner that evening at Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill (a five-course masterpiece by chef Michael Dutnall with inventive cocktail matchings by master mixologist Boris Ivan - and yes, I kept up, it would be a sin not to), I had the pleasure of sitting across from Jérôme Sans. We had a chat about the topic of the day, and I was so delighted to see right there in front of me how fired up (still) M. Sans felt about the very point of art becoming lost in the quest for growth simply for the sake of it, that someone as accomplished in the art world as he, had not lost sight of what really matters. Art is meant to move people in some way, and if it succeeds, why send it out the door a minute later to make room for something else? And why are we pushing for so much art to be produced? Which made me gush with admiration, even moreso, for what Le Méridien is doing for art, not as a commodity but as an enrichment of culture and ultimately, the individual. It's not all about what happens at Sotheby's.
Just one of the great views within Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill
Alberta Ferretti loves her blues (left, right) and there's no such thing as too much blue for Derek Lam (centre)
I’ve always been in love with blue so
was happy to hear that blue is back! Or should that be blue is (the
new) black? In spring 2013 it’s predicted that we’ll be seeing a lot more
cornflower and teal, and new shades of Monaco blue in both clothing and
jewellery. It’s a continuation of all the earth colours that have been trending
lately, and the recent fascination for ethereal fabric, loud Aztec prints and
I’m already aboard the blue-wagon. It’s an uplifting
colour, versatile and sunny. There’s a reason it’s so often used in springtime;
blue is reminiscent of life and vitality. How can you not love it? Its
popularity speaks volumes. Alberta Ferretti is known for her love of blue hues, most recently using them for both solids and tie-dyed patterns on cuffs and hems for her resort 2013 collection; Derek Lam showed us in 2012 that he's not afraid of blue when his resort collection featured several shades in a single outfit with hat and clutch to match; and Paul Smith used blue accents in his SS10 collection (right), pairing
eccentric pinks and reds with dashes of blue lipstick and geometric ties.
Blue Next Season
Wearing blue in SS2013 should be marked by classicism
and restraint. I love top-to-toe tailoring of block colour but this coming
season will place an emphasis on less, rather than more, and finding harmony
between light and dark. I’ve been thinking carefully about the best way to
incorporate this theme into my spring wardrobe, but at the end of the day even the
brightest of fabric can be easily tempered by soothing accessories, such as tanzanite rings and
crushed velvet detailing. Key pieces will go with any outfit. I’m keeping my
eye on white gold and offset gems; particularly tanzanite paired with topaz and
Your Key Pieces
I know what I want for Christmas! Jewellery is the
most timeless of gifts, and subtle rings and statement necklaces are still
going to be essential items for SS2013. Hair accessories are still popular, and
the best thing about smaller items is that they can be quickly whipped out for
impromptu get-togethers. Pair blue accessories with an LBD for an instantly
stunning, on-trend look. Tanzanite is affordable but has the look of luxury,
perfect for adding instant sparkle to a winter outfit or for jazzing up work
wear. You can’t say enough about blue. It works well with everything, which is
why I’m so excited to see it come back in style.
If you're in London or going to be in December you'd be mad not to visit the first Lu Flux shop! Lu and her team will be making bespoke patchwork alphabet cushions in store alongside an array of womenswear, menswear and accessories. Lu is a huge Swelle favourite - her colourful, textural clothes are pure joy! For a peak see the Lu Flux website
You may have guessed that I’m head over heels for
jewellery. Engraved brooches and statement necklaces have been eveywhere
the past few seasons, with vintage pieces taking centre stage. Marilyn
Monroe once famously stated, "Diamonds are a girl’s best friend", and she may have been onto something. Good jewellery can last a lifetime, which is more than you can say for
I’m forever re-organising my jewellery. It’s an
excuse to rummage through all of my favourite pieces and create new looks by
pairing key pieces with new outfits. My jewellery tends to reside in a
succession of beautiful jewellery boxes, each more enchanting but less
practical than the last. As a result I’m constantly finding that my necklaces
have tangled, my rings have scattered, and finding the piece I have in mind
becomes more and more like a treasure hunt. So I’ve decided to find something a
bit more sensible in which to store my trinkets.
The basics of keeping your jewellery safe and
sparkly are quite simple: go for compartments, choose your location, and make
sure your diamonds are well secured (if you're lucky enough to have them). The right jewellery box will cover you for
all three of these essential things. I’ve had many in the past that, though
they look lovely and accessorise my bedroom perfectly, just aren’t suitable
for actually keeping jewellery in. But beautiful boxes can come in handy if
you’re worried about security, by acting as diversions whilst the real treasure
is safely stored away.
Luckily there’s so much choice available these days
that you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice all of your pretty when deciding on practical. Ernst Jones does
some lovely jewellery
boxes which tick all the right....
well, boxes! And they come in a variety of on-trend yet enduring colours like cream and soft
jade. Many of them are suitable for travel, meaning you can pop your
accessories inside and not worry about having to lug around something bulky or
unsightly. They’re simply perfect for visiting family and friends over the festive
season, when you just know that attending a party without jewellery will be
like having a Christmas tree without the baubles!
('Faceted' would have sufficed but alliteration just sounds better)
I know what I want for Christmas. Forget diamonds, I'll take my facets in the form of water-based blue resin, please. (I wasn't going to get diamonds anyway but it's still a compliment.) I've been looking for decor pieces that are different from anything I have. My living room is in need of a minor transformation, and I like to buy things that aren't just space fillers but unique and beautiful and the kind of piece I won't be looking at in a year saying 'I am glad I am no longer the person who thought this was a good idea.' But these things of enduring significance tend not to come cheap, so it's a slow process building that collection. (If bookmarked web pages and blogs count as a collection, I'm already there!)
These Faceture vases, which I think are better without flowers - the way the light catches the facets is beautiful enough - are made by Phil Cuttance, a New Zealander who manipulates each object's form with a turn of the hand before casting, making every piece genuinely unique (you can see how he does this in the video above). Phil says:
“I like the idea of people knowing where products come from, and what
goes into making them. I think a lot of products are now seen as ‘throw –
away’ as they are made on a mass scale, in places far away from where
they end up, and out of sight. There was time when people commissioned a
local maker or craftsman to make an object, which gave it an inherent
value. I like that model.”
Yes, us too! The vessels and the rest of his Faceture series, which includes lamps and sidetables, are sold at Australian-basesd shop theminimalist.com.au, my new obsession. The lamp is just awesome, but I like the slender design of the vessels so much that, for me, the the sidetable's chunky approach can't compare. (It's still cool though!)
This small vase is a limited edition colour called Summer Mint. That totally has my name on it.
The vases in two sizes, lamp and side table. I want to touch them for a long time.
I'm not sure why they are called Melting Moments, but these little biscuit sandwiches filled with vanilla icing and tart jam won Julia Taylor an early challenge on Masterchef Australia series 4, the judges fell in love with them. Did you watch the finale? Julia lost to Andy Allen but she really didn't lose, she was surprised to find out she would receive $15,000, and then patissier extraordinaire Adriano Zumbo offered her a paid apprenticeship, which she excitedly accepted and is having a fantastic time with, according to her twitter. Her goal is to learn as much as she can and then open her own pastry shop. I watched the series religiously with my daughter and we were both rooting for Julia to win, she is as focussed and disciplined as she is tall and blonde.
She's since set up a fantastic website and she shares her recipes including the Melting Moments, offering tips to help us from making rookie mistakes or to fine-tune techniques. Thanks Julia!
I'm happy to announce that Kathryn is the winner of this eyepopping Duro Olowu umbrella - she will never go unnoticed on a rainy day again! Thank you to everyone who entered and especially to Le
Méridien Piccadilly who provided the umbrella in support of Outset Contemporary Art Fund.
A gloomy, windy, sort-of-rainy day like today isn't ideal for getting into the festive mood, so I went straight to Sweet Paul's winter issue which just came out, my go-to for holiday inspiration. (I like a build-up to Christmas but it's hard when you're struggling against the wind with your umbrella and trying not to get Mary Poppin'd into the North Sea.That's not very cheery. Or jolly.)
Sweet Paul's world is all about creating a warm and inspired home no matter the season, but the holidays are the one time of year that many of us will actually take the time to do that! So if you're looking to change up your traditional rituals a bit, or have a go with something you've never done before, there are lots of things to try (my favourites are below. Some of them. I love it all).
There's a fantastic interview with textile artist Richard Saja that will have you thinking about embroidery differently, and you may never look at a traditional toile de jouy the same way again. He uses needle and floss to alter existing toiles, not only adding colour and texture to the monochrome pastoral motifs, but injecting a bit of humour with the unexpected (a wolfman pushing a maiden on a swing in place of the doting young gentleman, for example). And you'll get some history behind the toile de jouy, too. Good read!
We also get to hear from the boys of Baked, the Brooklyn bakery so popular that it spawned three cookbooks and a legion of drooling fans. And there's a special bonus: the recipe for Baked Wintermint Cake, created specially for Sweet Paul readers. Who wouldn't want to make something with a name like that that looks like this:
These vibrant umbrellas will lift your spirits on the gloomiest of days
A sparking highlight of the preview day I spent at Frieze London was the Duro Olowu
umbrella installation – specially commissioned to celebrate the 10th Anniversary
of The Outset Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection (OFT). The
Fund is organised and funded by Outset Contemporary Art Fund with support from
Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts.
exclusive umbrella designs featuring Olowu’s signature fabrics were launched at Frieze London in October and are on sale at limited outlets, including the
shops at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. One of the most sought-after designers
working internationally, Duro’s designs, inspired by his Jamaican-Nigerian
heritage and London upbringing, are a favourite of Michelle Obama, Uma Thurman
and other trend-setters.
There are only
a limited number of Olowu’s colour design umbrellas in existence (retailing at £85), and thanks to Le
Méridien Piccadilly I have one to give away! If you’d like to be in with a
chance of winning one of these gorgeous limited edition umbrellas, please answer the
following question in the comments by midnight (GMT) on Wednesday, November 22:
anniversary is OFT celebrating this year?
A winner will be chosen randomly from all of the correct answers and announced on November 23. Please note: Due to the size of the umbrella this giveaway is only open to those with addresses in the UK. Good luck!
To see more of the Duro Olowu umbrella installation at Frieze, the designer and Outset, click here
Duro Olowu introduces his umbrella installation for OFT at Frieze Art Fair, with Candida Gertler, co-founder of Outset
This is the second installment of the LM Series,
documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London. Watch for the Duro Olowu for Outset umbrella giveaway tomorrow!
Duro Olowu introduces his umbrella installation for OFT at Frieze Art Fair, with Candida Gertler, co-founder of Outset
It was a thrilling surprise to see Duro Olowu's name on the itinerary for
my three art-packed days in London with Le Méridien at Frieze. In this case, the beloved fashion designer was
seen as more of an artist due to his collaboration with Outset, a philanthropic organisaton dedicated to supporting new art. With the aim of bringing attention to and raising funds for the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection (OFT), this special
commission was introduced as an installation on the special preview day at Frieze to celebrate the 10th anniversary of OFT this
autumn. It was enthusiastically received and that was as much due to the affable charm of the designer as it was the beautiful umbrellas. (I had heard Duro was genuinely lovely and it's true!)
Two exclusive, limited
edition designs in Duro's signature fabrics - one in vibrant multi-colour (edition of 500) and
the other a bold black and white graphic (edition of 1000) - are available to buy in the
shops at Tate Britain and Tate Modern for £85 and £65, respectively (not
online at this time). And I have one in the multi-colour to give away to a Swelle reader - watch for details tomorrow, 14 November. Thanks to the generosity of Le Méridien, I have the black and white version for myself and I absolutely love it, it's a
very high quality umbrella (of course!) and the fabric is just gorgeous, it makes
rainy days instantly cheery. (And it gets lots of compliments whenever I
go out with it.)
Duro's Limited Edition umbrellas displayed at Frieze in a large tree installation
I became besotted with Duro's original and vibrant clothes - those magnificent textures! - when I first laid eyes on them a few years ago. An irresistible blend of his Jamaican-Nigerian heritage and chic cuts, how can you not fall in love:
Duro Olowu AW12
Duro Olowu SS13
I was lucky enough to speak with Duro for a few minutes; he was full of smiles and happy to talk about what he does, and he's just so pure and genuine about it it's easy to see how his clothes have their specialness. There's no doubt they are all Duro. He told me that when he designs it's very spontaneous, it comes to him and he's off.
More formally, Duro explains his creative process behind the final umbrella designs in his artist statement:
"My original design for Outset's 10 year anniversary was inspired by the range and breadth of artists and projects that Outset has supported since its inception. Once I fully digested this diversity of media, geography and aesthetic points of view, my aim was to represent this broad spectrum with abstract shapes and patterns. The design evokes in a contemporary way the decorated umbrella which has for centuries been a fixture in parades, coronations and other celebratory occasions around the world."
Duro's designs elicit an excitement, a glorious energy that is right in line with what one would be feeling at a celebration. In that sense, Frieze, with its endless aisles of world class art and colourful characters roaming the floor and taking it all in, was an especially fitting event for the launch.
The leftover umbrella fabric was used to make vibrant notebooks , available at Tate shops for £12
We loved Duro's shoes! (And I forgot to ask who did them)
Duro and Candida (wearing a Duro Olowu jacket) with Jérôme Sans, Cultural Curator for Le Méridien
With the chilly days and long winter nights now ahead of us, it’s time to start thinking about bundling up. That sentiment not only applies to your winter wardrobe, but what you can do around the house to make it cosy for the cold months ahead (and maybe save a bit of money by not having to crank the thermostat to 'hades'). These homeware items will help shield your home from the chill:
Area carpets and rugs
Hardwood and tile floors may have a leg up when it comes to cleaning, but in the winter months it helps to have some extra padding underfoot. Swap your thin area rugs from the sunny summer months for heavier sheepskin ones from Achica homeware. In social areas like the living room, you can also throw a few pillows or cushions on top of the rug to create a new cosy seating area for your guests.
Warm pillows and throws
Once you’ve got the floors covered, start bundling up the furniture as well. Here, it’s all about the texture: pillows and throws made from fabrics like cashmere, wool, velvet, and faux fur are great to snuggle up with when you’re watching tv or reading a book on the couch. Make the furniture look even cosier by paying close attention to colour: neutral tans, creams, and grays and deep reds and oranges help to give your furniture a warm aesthetic. Pillows with woodsy or leafy patterns add some subtle warmth to the space as well.
Sometimes making your place feel cosier is as simple as choosing the right lighting. Lay off the harsh overhead lighting this winter by investing in a few table and floor lamps that use warm lighting—bulbs that emit an orange to reddish-toned light. A related idea is to create a more intimate ambience by lighting candles around the house; candles that emit autumn and winter aromas like apple, pumpkin, cinnamon, and peppermint are all great choices.
We all have those days when just the thought of venturing outside and braving the elements sends chills down our spines, so stock your kitchen with the right equipment to make a hearty meal at home. Consider buying a personal espresso maker to get your morning caffeine fix or invite a few friends round for a chat, and invest in a warming drawer to keep foods warm for your wintertime dinner parties.
Wood and wicker finishes
Swap out your spring and summertime decorations for some winter-inspired pieces. Wood is a must-have for winter, as it helps to give your space that classic ski lodge aesthetic. Think creatively here: mirrors with wooden frames, wooden candle bases and holders, and wooden bowls and utensils all help to create a cosy feel for a lot less. Some carefully placed wicker baskets and wreaths help do the trick as well.
I've been hooked on the latest Masterchef Australia series, which to me is the model for how television cooking competitions should be presented. (I'm not linking to it in case there's a spoiler on the homepage, it's still running in the UK and I can't know who won and don't want to ruin it if you're watching, too!) There's no drama amongst the competitors, because the show doesn't exploit any that may exist; the aspiring chefs are truly lovely people who are talented and passionate about their cooking; the judges - award-winning Australian chefs Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris, and Liberty print-loving, internationally acclaimed critic Matt Preston who loves his cravats as much as his ceviche - are supportive and constructive and clearly not prompted to be horrible for the sake of 'good' TV. And! Every few shows they do a masterclass which airs in almost real time, with measurements clearly given, so you can actually follow it and make the three dishes yourself. I record them so I've got a library of lessons. I can't watch any other competitive chef shows, especially the US ones which are more like soap operas than educational, so you don't really learn anything. (Hell's Kitchen is just a series of bleeps and screaming - that's fun?)
I had a point to this post! A big highlight of the show is the guest chefs they bring in to provide the challenge for the elimination round, a pressure test where the cooks fighting to stay in the competition are tasked with replicating a signature dish chosen by the star chef to demonstrate their skills with particular techniques. One of the standouts was a chocolate cake consisting of eight layers of complementary textures, created by chef Peter Gilmore of Quay in Sydney. No small feat to make and assemble, and if that was not enough, you had to finish by pouring melted chocolate over the centre which is meant to collapse in gooey, dramatic fashion. The brief video above takes you through the dish, and if you want to try it yourself, the Masterchef Australia website has the recipe for you which you can see here - it's spoiler free!
I can't mention Matt Preston and not show him, he has a cult following due to his commanding physical presence, wicked hair, love of colour and extensive cravat collection:
I have to wonder if he ever gets sauce on that cravat and how he would handle it...I'll bet he brings spares!
Two Sundays ago I went down to Darlington to Bannatyne's Health Club to review their 2 For 1 Pamper Day for Virgin Experience Days (£75). Needless to say, I didn't need asking twice. (And if there was ever a time for destressing, this was it. I was this <-> close to doing the crazy dance down the street in the middle of the night, possibly without pants.) The package included a choice of a Swedish Back, Neck & Shoulder Massage or Bannatyne Pick me Up Facial, finished with a scalp massage, plus full use of the health club facilities. When I booked the appointments for myself and the friend I'd invited to join me, I chose the Swedish massage and also took advantage of a half price offer to add an extra half hour service at £15, and I went with the Elemis facial because I had a sinus infection and thought my face could use something nice beyond nasal sprays and tissues shoved into it. (That could have backfired - I'd forgotten that my left eyebrow hurt when touched!) I was so looking forward to this relaxing and fun girls' day, though I did wonder if anything could be capable of chilling me out completely - my homeostasis had become 'hot mess'.
Little did I know the calming powers of this lovely pamper day were going to be truly tested. The day got off to a rough start when something happened on my way down to Darlington and made me see red. I honestly didn't think I'd be able to enjoy it and feared the day was ruined before it began. When I got to Bannatyne's, I checked in and was offered the spa kit of a plush and comfy white robe, slippers and a bag for £3, the latter two you can keep. I took it. Beyond the desk was the cafe which had lots of couches and magazine racks for relaxing with your refreshments, and there were about eight women in their robes and slippers having coffee which I thought was kind of neat - I didn't have to get dressed to have lunch! (Yes, that is exciting to me.) The staff were very friendly and I was taken on a tour of the facilities, then left to do whatever I wanted for the next four hours, at which time I would start my spa appointments. My friend was joining me a little later so I went off to change.
I was already feeling optimistic. Some places meant for relaxation don't feel quite right, as if the spa has been shoehorned into a gym and there are two opposing vibes happening at once, but Bannatyne's has a warm calm that runs through the entire place, it seems everyone is there for the same reason and are respectful of others and so are very whispery. In the changeroom, which is large and spacious with a flat screen TV and wood lockers and benches which made it feel very homey, I noticed straight away how new looking and clean everything is, and very well-attended. Staff were always around taking care of things - no Sunday skeleton crew here. This was consistent throughout the entire complex, and I realised how rare that is these days now that doing the bare minimum seems to be the norm.
I decided I would start with the tough stuff and went up to the first level of the gym. I chose to really challenge myself with a brisk walk on the treadmill. (Ok, I've had a torn meniscus, running and me do not mix. But I did raise the incline!) Then I went up to the floor above for a change of scenery and proceeded to do every single weight machine. I know you're supposed to only work out two or so muscle groups at once but who knew when I was going to have access to a gym again, so I really went for it. I loved the machines - they were more innovative than what I've previously seen despite being in some very modern gyms in the past, working out the muscles in new ways. (I was careful not to load too much weight so that I could move the next day, and I'm glad to say that I did not wake up decrepit and unable to dress myself.)
Once the sweaty stuff was over it seemed logical that I go for a swim and sauna. The pool area, like the rest of the club, looked brand new. For me, and likely every other human being, I can't enjoy swimming if the area is even slightly grungy so I was thrilled at how shiny and perfectly clean it all was. I went into the pool and took the slow lane. I attempted to swim and realised my arms were too tired from doing so many weight machines - big surprise - so I did a kind of slow-motion sprint in the water for several laps and tried to convince myself that it looked totally normal to be doing this. After that I thought I'd have a first-time go at the steam room. I'm not really good with breathing in saunas and therefore had never tried a steam, but I wanted to so I opened the door, couldn't breathe while still standing outside it and said to the woman sitting in there 'Uh, I can't do this!' and closed the door. I'm sure she appreciated that. I wasn't totally giving up and so I went into the sauna next to it. There was a young couple in there and we chatted a bit which kept me in there for a lot longer than I thought I'd be able to do. And then the magic happened. When I walked out, I felt something I'm not sure I've ever felt before: true relaxation - it does exist! That thing that had me so vexed earlier was now like a baby deer prancing around on candy floss in my head, it was all good. And it was going to get better. I got out of the wet stuff and after a huge tuna and veg salad in the cafe - in my robe! - I went up to the relaxation room and decided immediatey that I would like to live in this room. It had those spa loungers that are made of heated tiles, and two waterbeds covered with thick velour blankets, and I wish I had a room at home with one of each. (Lottery tickets.) There was a table that was being replenished of pitchers of ice water and platters of fresh fruit - see, well-attended! - and so I poured a glass, took a banana and a magazine and luckily got a heated ounger after a few minutes. Heaven. My friend joined me a few minutes later and we hung around until it was time to go down to the spa for our appointments.
It says a lot about a place when you're completely at ease before you've even had your services! I had to ask for an upgrade to my massage because my back, well my everything really, is one huge monkey fist and a gentle Swedish massage was going to be like trying to move a ton of concrete with a feather. So I had the bamboo massage for an extra £5 and it was a good compromise between a deep tissue which would have left me really sore, and the Swedish. It was nice, loosened me up without killing me, and then we went straight into the facial. My aesthetician, Gemma, was lovely and gave me the heavenly scalp massage while one of the masks was doing its magic. Afterward, we wanted to let the feeling linger a little longer (forever) and so we went back up to the relaxation room which we now had all to ourselves. I took the waterbed and felt so relaxed that I wished I could somehow ride that bed home all the way home, get it through the front door and stay on it until morning.
Needless to say, my Pamper Day at Bannatyne's was a resounding success - I highly recommend going yourself to your local or buying a voucher as a gift for friends or family. I only wish we had one in Newcastle. But I'll be going back. I've got a steam room to conquer.
Congratulations to Matt and Amy! They will each receive a 'Secret Agents I Met and Liked' notebook courtesy of Archie Grand.
edition of their famous 'Met & Liked' series of notebooks
commemorates the 50th Anniversary of James Bond. Matt told us he's a
Roger Moore man (1973 - 1985), and Amy is all for Daniel Craig (2006 -
On Sundays I've been watching The Home of Fabulous Cakes, a baking show presented by Fiona Cairns, the creator of that royal wedding cake. Despite it being a show about cakes, an English show about cakes, I still cannot believe the amount of sugar and cream that they require! It's unapologetically decadent in that "It's tradition, dear" kind of way. It seems that although I have lived here for seven years, I'm still an outsider when it comes to understanding why anything as gooey as an Eton Mess needs to exist, never mind actually eating it. And there are things at our local bakery that I just can't get my head around. (I say 'things' because I have no idea what they are, one is rudely shaped and the very pale pink colour of the super shiny icing coating doesn't help, and it's just full of whipped cream. It is iced whipped cream. When you buy one it should be served on a diabetes fact sheet.)
Having said all of that, I do enjoy the show. It's pretty and it lulls me into a semi-hypnotic state with its gentleness (would anyone who knows me be able to tell the difference?). Fiona is easy going and nice to listen to, and you can learn a few things, especially if you're trying to master the fundamentals of baking. The reason I'm featuring the show is due to a segment in tonight's episode where Fiona goes to Pearl, a London bar owned by young mixologist Tristan Stephenson. He makes a cocktail called Aviation for Fiona which sounds and looks divine: gin, violet liquer (crème de violette), maraschino liquer and fresh lemon juice. Shake vigorously with ice (he really gets into it to get the temperature just right) and strain into a martini glass, top with a cherry. Then he has Fiona make a custom version of the drink by substituting the maraschino with raspberry liqueur. But the real twist is how it is served: Earl Grey scented smoke billows out of a sterling silver teapot, like some kind of aromatic, magic cauldron. Inhale, sip and repeat. And then they go back to the kitchen and make violet and rose creams with the violet liqueur from Tristan's bar. That is a good day in my book.
Click any of the images to go to the ITV Player to watch the episode - be quick as each episode is only available for a limited time. I'm not sure if it will play outside of the UK so apologies if not. (It includes adverts which you can't bypass but you can move ahead and back within the actual show.) Enjoy!
The Aviation cocktail with crème de violette
The variation with the aromatic Earl Grey smoke accompaniment
A retro sweetheart candy-topped Victoria sponge that will likely actually stop your heart
The clocks have gone back and we’re into November – what better way to celebrate the countdown to Christmas than with a few pre-festive Winter holiday essentials (and a few special indulgences!). From luxe accessories and party-appropriate shoes to trend-led outerwear and cute knits, we’ve compiled a list of what’s hot for colder months.
High shine and sparkle are integral parts of winter holiday style and can brighten up even the dullest of days. Key pieces of jewellery can be added to an old favourite LBD to update a classic look, though needn’t always be reserved for nights out. The festive season is the perfect excuse to add jewels and metals to everyday outfits too. Forget light and dainty and instead opt for heavy, chunky pieces. This rose gold calliope necklace from Avenue 32 is a real showstopper. The choker style sits high on the neck, making it the perfect edgy addition to a plain shift dress.
When considering jewellery don’t forget the impact the right watch can have. This rose gold wristwatch (above) from Michael Kors is the ideal accompaniment to your necklace. The equally chunky styling and deep black fronting will add a masculine touch to delicate knitwear and light fabrics.
Another practical item for the winter holiday season is a warm jacket or coat. Invest in one high-quality item which will take you from the office and the day-to-day to a more formal or dressy evening. Dark colours can have you looking and feeling washed out, so instead opt for a warming tone like this deep red mod coat from Kimchi Blue (right). The button detail and contrast velvet trim add interest, whilst the gorgeous fur collar makes the coat the perfect chic cover-up for a night out.
A quality coat will keep you warm, but a hat is still essential for longer spells outdoors. Go for a classically feminine look in this cute cloche by Marie Mercie (below). Crafted in France from rabbit hair felt, the nude caramel tone will flatter all complexions.
Unexpected post-work drinks or after-office party call for smaller accessories that can quickly jazz up an outfit. Opt for hair accessories which you can keep in your bag or desk drawer for those surprise nights out. Glitter, beading, embroidering and jewels are eye-catching and can quickly take an outfit from so-so to so-sexy! This headband from Anthropologie features dainty gold beading in swirling circles and is perfectly purse-sized.
Getting out of a warm bed to a frosty morning can be difficult, so make the most of those weekend lie-ins by feeling at your most glam. Channel a retro vibe in this Mimi Holliday polka dot teddy (below). Luxury silk, coral tones and ruffled trims add a feminine and flirtatious finish. Still can’t drag yourself out of bed? These bootie slippers from Just Sheepskin will keep your feet toasty as you linger over your morning espresso.
Key pieces can keep you looking elegant throughout the Winter months, though sometimes donning snug knitwear and having a casual day seem far more appealing! The owl featured heavily on rings, brooches, jumpers and homeware last year, but this season the fox reigns supreme. The most fantastic of animals is emblazoned on this Peter Jensen jumper, made from 100% wool. Pair with skinny jeans or leggings and chunky ankle boots for a laid-back look.
Enjoy the winter holiday and give yourself a pre-Christmas treat with these essential pieces for the season!
Earlier this year, Bil Donovan was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue in New York to create fashion illustrations to accompany their Saksfirst rewards program promotions. I think it's such a thrill to see fashion illustration being used more prominently in commercial communications. (Twinings will be featuring Bil's work on their new range of limited edition Earl Grey teas.)
Would you rather see photography with models or fashion illustration in fashion publicity? I think you can guess my answer! Creative photography using models never gets old (Nick Knight), but there is a standard look to most fashion and beauty retail photography that is less than inspiring. For example - if your favourite department store sent you a postcard for their latest promotion, would you be more tempted to keep it if it were a model standing by a window looking winsome, or this:
Here's the conversation happening on Facebook so far:
Sarah says: "I love both, as there is incredible talent in both areas...although I am more likely to keep examples of fashion illustrations."
Cyn says: "These are so beautiful! I think more campaigns needs to be illustrations again, so much more creative!!!!!"
Carol says: "Both
art forms share equal talent and inspiration, I tend to prefer the
fashion illustrations and would be more prone to want to keep an ad
illustration rather than a photo. I would like to see a campaign with
both styles used together creatively."
Let's hope others follow suit so that beautiful illustration such as Bil's can be a part of our daily lives!
year's fashion trends focus on women's clothes that accentuate the
figure in beautiful, sheer materials and flowing fabrics that are easy to wear
and fun to flaunt. The womens skirts that have heads turning most this year are the
chic, high-waisted slim fit pieces that are perfect for work and play.
Available in innumerable colours, patterns and lengths, this item is a
must-have in every fashionable woman's repertoire.
For a simple outfit that still calls positive attention to womanly curves,
choose a formfitting pencil skirt with a high waist and a subtle side slit.
Basic black or grey are great for fall and winter outings, particularly when
accompanied by this season's hottest tights in floral lace. This style pairs
beautifully with a flouncy, flowing blouse in a bright crimson, decadent
burgundy or delicate yellow.
The colours of the season aren't just for eye-catching tops. Take the reverse
approach for a bold statement ripped straight from the runway. Pairing an
understated top with brightly coloured floral notes or asymmetric shapes is in
this year, especially when the look is completed with large, chunky jewellery
and knee high boots in suede or leather.
For a more casual look, get on board with the latest from Paris, London and
Hollywood with skinny jeans in bright, neon colours. There's no such thing as
too vivid when it comes to these bold, look-at-me bottoms. Hot pink, orange,
yellow and cerulean jeans look great with a white or black t-shirt on a relaxed
afternoon lunch date and can be dressed up a bit with a curve-hugging
turtleneck and accessories for a night out on the town. Short booties with metallic
accents complete the look perfectly.
With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, retailers are revving up their
advertising campaigns and piling on the savings for shoppers who start buying
early. When you start your holiday shopping early, you are much more likely to
find precisely what you want than if you join the crowds who wait until the
Stores stock up on the most popular fashions in womens clothing well before Christmas rolls
around, but their ample inventory doesn't last long. Find the perfect gifts for
the women in your family this year with pre-Christmas discounts and amazing
deals across the board when you start shopping in advance.
Are you a fan of 007? To commemorate the 50th anniversary of James Bond, the most dapper of British secret agents, my friends at Archie Grand in Sweden have sent two Secret Agents I Met and Liked notebooks for Swelle readers to win (although yours will be splat-free!)
If you're not already a fan of these wildly popular notebooks (they're a personal favourite of mine), here's a bit about them: They have a rigid, colourful cover; the blank white paper is high
quality stock - it's weighty with a lovely texture and a low emission
signature; and the books are tread sewn with a matte leathery lamination. Each has 140 blank white pages. And the size is a perfect 165 x 115 mm.
To enter to win one of the notebooks, please do the following:
Tell us in the comments: who is your favourite Bond?
The competition closes at midnight, GMT (London time) on Tuesday, November 6th. The winners will be chosen at random and announced the following day. Anyone, anywhere can enter. Good luck!
Pine may conjure images of ski lodges and old country cottages, but
this rustic, hardy wood is actually quite versatile and well worth
considering for your own home. I think pine is at its best in a light and airy space, with fresh, bright colours and simple decor. Done this way, it can create
a serene environment and become your new favourite room to relax.
This eclectic living room(yes, that does appear to be a tire swing hanging there!) illustrates how pine can be used to warm up a room and keep linear white pieces from feeling too sterile:
Create a warm and homey feel in your personal space with pine bedroom furniture. A couple well-chosen pieces can be used to complement pine floors and walls for a bedroom that feels like a country retreat:
Let a painted pine piece stand out in a room of neutrals. This washed-out blue is a gorgeous, calming shade, and its vintage-effect application reveals the character of the natural wood at the base and legs:
Pine galore! Three pines are used in this barn-like kitchen to highlight the unique features of the angular ceiling (knotty pine), walls (pickled pine) and floor (heart pine). And I'll bet that gorgeous green-stained cabinetry is...pine! A brilliant way use to use the wood in all aspects of a large room without overkill:
"Karlie Kloss dies an elegant death in Nick Knight and Edward
Enninful's arresting couture editorial for W magazine. The pair draw
inspiration from the kind of macabre, nightmarish illustrations that
litter childhood fiction, offering up a vision which is part Grimm's
fairy tale part mature Parisian opulence. The final images - which see
Kloss clad in the best haute couture from A/W 2012, including pieces by
Dior, Givenchy, Chanel and Iris Van Herpen - straddle dark and light,
combining symbolism that is both sweet and sinister.
exploration of contrasts, Knight juxtaposes the delicate vintage-look
images with pithy modern 'death app' films that see Kloss suffer various
violent deaths, all while clad in couture. The striking images in this
editorial mark of the start of Knight's investigation into fashion
The story behind this extraordinary collection of images was summed up so succinctly on the Showstudio site, I just quoted it. Nick Knight never ceases to amaze, constanty exploring new ways to create stunning and compelling imagery, using high fashion garments and fashion's most inrtiguing muses to deliver his aesthetic message - this time blending photography with illustration and yet again achieving something new and exciting. As always, I am in awe!
There's also a bizarre accompaniment to the images. You can see it here
Click either image to watch the Livestream on the Showstudio site of the photoshoot with Karlie Kloss. You get to see every detail that went into creating the images - well worth a look!
As the nights draw in and a significant slice of your down time is spent wrapped up on the sofa watching box-sets, lighting becomes crucial to create the right mood in your home. Here, a John Lewis guest blogger offers tips on three of the hottest table lamp trends for the cosy season.
Art Deco Decadence
The decadent Art Deco trend isn’t reserved for just clothing fashions this year. American TV hit Boardwalk Empire and the upcoming remake of The Great Gatsby have had the fashion press in a flutter over flapper dresses, stylish geometric shapes and a whole lot of gold and silver. And this look translates seamlessly to the home. Adding a Deco-inspired table lamp to your living room or bedroom is an easy way to inject a bit of glamour into your interior, so look for gold, chrome and mirrored pieces, complemented with subtle colours such as black and peach and curved shapes inspired by nature.
Fun and functional Mid-Century style shows no sign of losing its appeal; particularly as Scandinavian design is currently being credited with bringing ideas from the post-war era back to colourful life. As well as sleek Danish and Swedish accessories, Britain has its own rich history in the style, as proved when the Original BTC London desk lamp switched on interior-lovers in Fifties-set BBC drama The Hour. And there’s no denying the enduring appeal of British designer George Carwardine’s Anglepoise task lamp. A household must-have in the 1960s, the design comes in a variety of bright retro colour pops, and can still deliver on the tasks of function and style today.
If period décor isn’t your bag, and you’d rather create your own unique look by mixing and matching quirky pieces, there’s plenty to delight your statement-seeking eye this season. Choose from a variety of animal-inspired LED lamps, or play with materials by choosing a glass piece to expose the workings of your lamp and bringing the outside in with an untreated wood base. And perfect for that festive feel are this season’s mini tree lamps and house casings, helping to create a warm glow for all the family to enjoy.
So snuggle down with a fleecy throw, get comfy on your Fatboy and enjoy the atmosphere created by your new lighting.
All products featured available from John Lewis at the time of writing.
This is a sponsored post for which I received a John Lewis voucher, and I'm happy to include the article on The Swelle Life as Art Deco and Mid-century Modern design are one of my loves, and I know John Lewis to be a great source for interior decor items!
This is the one time of year black may feature heavily on The Swelle Life! For this season's Halloween edition of cakes, I began searching as I always do for interesting sweet things, but was flooded with images of cutesy pumpkins, ghosts and witches that were more suited to a children's party. I was looking for something more stylised and well-executed, so I searched 'Gothic cakes' and was immediately rewarded with those kinds of cakes that put you in awe of their creator - people who have that special combination of vision, skill and patience. (I watched Choccywoccydoodah last night and was mentally exhausted just observing a few minutes of one of their chocolatiers carving out Manolos and Louboutins from white chocoate for a shoe-themed wedding cake. But to be fair, I didn't have far to go.)
The cake above is an homage to Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, but unfortunately I don't have a credit for it because I found it on a spam site. (Those sites use like to entice googlers with cool images and of course they never credit the original source. If you know who created this fantastic cake please let me know!)
A dark twist on the red velvet cake, here is the Black Velvet Cake by Jaclyn of Food Plus Words
It is topped with a 'deeply chocolate, fluffy marshmallow icing', and Jaclyn warns that this cake will 'absolutely turn your mouth black' but that it's totally worth it. I believe her! And a gross mouth kind of fits with the Halloween theme anyway so that just adds to the appeal. (Not a date cake, then.)
Want to make it yourself? Jaclyn shares the recipe here
And below is a Gothic wedding cake (no credit given for this one either!) featuring skulls with extremely long teeth which keeps it from looking too sinister (it's slightly comical but that's ok):
If you're looking for a major project, how about this haunted house cake? It combines baking with craft - you have to make the house, tombstone, tree and the man out of black construction paper using templates, and I have no idea how they get thehouse to look as it does, I think you could spend all day finishing that alone. If you're brave you can find the recipe here
Antonio Marras is usually the first show I look at from Milan Fashion Week. It's the richness of textures and the liberal use of pastels that gets me (no, I will never tire of pastels!), presented in classic, feminine cuts that Marras reinvents with each season. A few of the looks from his latest collection would be right at home at Tokyo Fashion Week. Luxe fabrics, especially irresistible when he mixes many in one garment:
and hand embroidered details:
finished with those shoes! (which I could never walk in) and those bags! (luckily I have no difficulty carrying bags). As you can see in the video above, the show took place during a suitably sugary afternoon tea and I think I actually saw someone eat something. (I have seen the most gorgeous food go ignored at fashion events and I've so wanted to come in with a stack of Tupperware and rescue it all. I like that Antonio Marras went with the idea anyway).
This is the first installment of the LM Series, documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London.
Imagine that instead of pouring out your tea to have with a few scones and finger sandwiches, you've got a pot of gin - infused with chilli and vanilla - and rather than adding milk, you top up with tonic. Le Méridien’s homage to two of the most recognisable
English traditions, their G&T Afternoon Tea offers a contemporary makeover
combining both, giving you a deliciously unique experience. I first had this special G&T in the spring when it accompanied the dessert course at their Damien Hirst-themed dinner, and I was instantly smitten by the clear glass presentation and how beautifully the two flavours and the gin complemented one another.
This time, we were treated in the afternoon - along with a selection of sandwiches and pastries - to the range of fruit and herbal infusions Le Meridien offers, each paired with the perfect gin to bring out the flavours of each ingredient, and meant to be sipped, like traditional tea:
• Monkey 47 Gin infused with
• Bulldog Gin with Fresh Lychee
• Cucumber infused Hendrick's
• Vanilla and Chilli infused
Sloane's • Sweet Basil infused Gin Mare stirred with
• Japanese Green Tea infused with Beefeater
Although there were many tempting flavours to try, I couldn't help but go back to the vanilla and chilli because I'd enjoyed it so much the first time, and then I finished with the sweet basil which was nicely refreshing. But I noticed something interesting this time, when I added the tonic myself: add a little and you get a hit of the chilli, but add more and you don't dilute the drink but rather the tonic brings out the sweetness of the vanilla, allowing you to custom blend your G&T just the way you like it. I asked the mixologist (who was so knowledgable and passionate about his craft) about this and he explained that the tonic has been reduced to create a syrup, and you can do this for yourself at home by boiling it down on the hob to make the reduction. He also told us how to infuse gin (or whatever you'd like) very quickly - using the dishwasher! Add your ingredient(s) to the gin in an air-tight container, run it on a long cycle and let the heat and steam do the work. Just be sure the container is well sealed and do not try to get in a wash at the same time - no detergent!
The G&T Afternoon Tea (£32) is such a fantastic way to do the ritual with friends, and you won't find it anywhere else in London, it's Le Méridien's special service. And it comes with the traditional delectable: finger sandwiches of cucumber and cream cheese, honey roast ham and mustard, Scottish smoked salmon, and egg and cress; warm homemade scones
with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream; and a selection of fresh pastries - ours had macarons! Just delicious and such a treat. I can't think of a better way to begin a special day such as a birthday. Or a Tuesday!
The fantastic range of styles in ladies boots this autumn presents a delicious problem – how to choose? Given the variety on offer, the tip is to look through your wardrobe and pick out your favourite outfits, then decide on the boots to match.
For day leisure wear with your favourite jeans, go for the biker look with black leather short boots, buckled and studded and ultra-comfortable with their sturdy flat soles. Autumn and winter boots are sporting studs on sides and toes, suede or leather , and if the country look is more for you, then New Look have some great tan leather cowboy boots in their range of ladies boots. For dress-down days the fun and frivolous trainer ankle boot, taken away from its serious purpose and sprinkled with glitter, gives your feet a lift.
For work wear, suitably smart lace-up ankle boots look great with mini or maxi skirt lengths, and the return of costume dramas to silver screen and TV this autumn will see a feast of kitten-heeled ankle boots. Worn with a tweed suit, or a tailored dark jacket, tobacco brown short boots with side lace detailing and high heels give you that long-legged confidence to wow the boss. Team smart with sexy, and New Look’s tan peep-toe ankle boot is just the style for you.
New Look's Tan Peep-Toe Ankle Boot
This season’s high-leg boots provide a choice of thigh-high or below the knee, with heels mostly low and chunky for day wear. Buckled at knee and ankle, and worn with the autumn’s tailored tweed skirts or flouncy minis, legs look fabulous in soft leather or suede. Remember that fit is all-important for long boots, so make sure that the leg is not too tight, or so loose that it wrinkles at ankle or knee.
Wellies are the big story of the season – of every colour and pattern. Forget the mono-colour rural boot, welcome the fun and frivolous town wellie. Splash Miss have some eye-dazzling wellies in black dotted with brilliant pink, and to make sure that you have twinkling feet, how about a pair of JuJu blue glow in the dark wellies? And for winter rural chic, a long floral print skirt worn with Iron Fist’s black floral print lace-up willies is the ultimate in style.
I've just come back from a whirlwind three days in London as a blogger guest of 'Le Meridien at Frieze', an art-inspired event of discovery and celebration centred around Frieze Art Fair and the work of the Outset Frieze Art Fund to benefit the Tate collection (OFT). I just have to come out and say it: I love Le Meridien. What they've done for us lucky bloggers at Piccadilly isn't exclusive to us, but rather an opportunity for first-hand insight into what the Starwood chain of luxury hotels offers everyone who stays with them: world class art through partnerships with local galleries (in London we are especially spoiled), and an extraordinary approach to food and comfort, the details of which are so artfully crafted by their handpicked LM100 members, whose muses range from perfume to the coffee bean. Le Meridien's brand of luxury is not about empty indulgence, but rather it's borne of a genuine love of creating and sharing unique and enriching experiences that can transform a stop for the night into an education. A really fun and memorable one.
Let me undercore this thought: because on a daily basis we're bombarded with messages using a "this is so hot right now, people will be into this so let's run with it" way of attracting business, it's a relief to know that there is something out there for those of us wanting more than what the hipster monkeys think we want. That means a lot to me.
I have so much to show and tell from those three incredible days including meeting Duro Olowu who I adore as a designer and found to be the loveliest man (he's getting a post all to himself!), and convince you as to why I'm saying what I'm saying that I think it warrants a series, and this way I get to live it all again! So beginning Monday we'll look at the first installment of the LM Series, and I can tell you it's about afternoon tea, Le Meridien style. I guarantee you'll be surprised!