Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
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Fur. The mere mention of the word makes many cringe. In western urban culture, it's a contentious topic that divides us into two groups: those who deem fur fashion READ MORE...
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Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily READ MORE...
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The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's READ MORE...
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The BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) has teamed up with London College of Fashion to establish a new fashion film strand at this year’s event, showcasing READ MORE...
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Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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October 19, 2013

More Painted French Furniture Lust!

What would you display in your Mademoiselle Versailles Display Cabinet?

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

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

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


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


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


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

September 27, 2013

The Great European Road Trip

TheSwelleLife_2 (1 of 1)The heartachingly picturesque town of Quimper in Brittany, France

How I wish these gorgeous pictures were mine and I had the memories to go along with them, but they in fact belong to friends who recently took a dream roadtrip through Europe (they are very good 'get out and go' people!). They live in London which is an ideal launching pad for a European road trip as you have the Eurostar and aren't too far from the ferry in the south east if you want to take your car. My friends have their own but sometimes it's more practical to head over and then look for cheap car hire in France. After arriving in the country, they continued through to Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, and back into France - five countries in one trip! When you drive you're able to experience the culture in a way that isn't possible when you jump from one airport to another. It's what's happening - or not happening - between the major cities, out in the rural towns and villages that really offers a glimpse into who the natives are and what life there is like. 

I went through nearly 900 photos from their trip and chose my favourites, somehow narrowing the stunning land and cityscapes down to what you see here. What I love most about them is they're from places we wouldn't normally see - again, the benefit of the road trip! If you want to see more travel shots you can take a browse of the Paris/Cities category which features photos from my time in Paris, Versailles, Brussels, Turin, London and other incredible cities as well as the natural beauty of the north east of England. (I just got back from Stockholm so those will soon follow!) 

Thanks to Julie and Mitch for sharing their wonderful adventure with us!

TheSwelleLife_3 (1 of 1)Quimper in Brittany, France

Below are scenes from the road as they drove into the north of Italy:

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This painted seaside town is Cinque Terre, Italy:

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Below are scenes from Bassano di Grappa, Italy, near Treviso where my friend's parents are from. They have a great story: they came to the same southern Ontario town in Canada not knowing each other previously, met and got married and are still married today. Their children (my friend and her brother) are proof of the Italian northern blonds from this region, both being fair-skinned and haired with blue eyes. 

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These are scenes from Brixen, Tyrolean village. They had a bit of back luck there losing a tire on their car and had to stay unexpectedly overnight to find a replacement. Technically, they were in Italy but they say it felt very Austrian which borders in the north – the food was a great mix of both cultures. 

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The greenscape shots below are car shots from when they travelled from Italy to Austria, going through the highest altitude pass called 'Fernpasse' in Austria:

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June 11, 2013

Glasgow: On the Train Through Northumberland

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Last weekend I went to Glasgow. This post really has nothing to do with Glasgow except for the fact that this is what I saw out the train window on the way! But I have too many photos of Glasgow to post at once, so we'll start the tour here. Northumberland, the county that borders Scotland in the east, is absolutely stunning country - you can see other trips to various sites here - and is the reason that when people invariably say to me, on a weekly basis for the past nearly 8 years, "Canada is beautiful, what are you doing here?" I reply, "Have you SEEN your country?!" Yes, Canada is beautiful, but it's massive and therefore not beautiful everywhere. And the UK pretty much is, you're never very far from breathtaking scenery. One of the first observations my husband made when we took our first trip through Northumberland when we moved here, is how all of the land is used for something, and so you don't have the wastelands you see in North America. All of this land has been owned for hundreds of years by someone, taken care of and given purpose, and it's easy to see why it inspired so many landscape painters over the centuries. You can be so tired your eyes are burning in their sockets but it's almost impossible to look away when travelling through areas like this. And if you like sheep, you'll get your fill and then some. Somehow none of my pictures have any. But I swear they are everywhere up here. Really.

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The rapeseed fields (worst name ever!) create wonderful, bright yellow, massive colourblocks on the landscape. 






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Pretty painted houses dot the coast of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last town in England before you cross into Scotland. 

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We saw rainbows along the way for about 20 minutes, and when I exclaimed, dumbfounded, that we kept seeing them I was made fun of for not understanding how rainbows work. I have now reminded myself by reading about it (it's been a long time since grade 7 science class!). I still think it's a little bit of magic happening there. 

More to come on actual Glasgow...

Photos © The Swelle Life

January 10, 2013

Painted Houses: Portmeirion, Wales


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.



P1010858 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:


Thanks, Pixie!

March 10, 2011

Interiors & Exteriors: Saltburn-by-the-Sea


Now I love our beach, the aptly named Longsands that spans Tynemouth to Cullercoats, and the neighbouring idyllic King Edwards Bay with the Priory Castle overlooking the North Sea from its beautiful, craggy cliff. But last weekend I really fell hard for the beach and seaside community of Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire. We were visiting our lovely friends in their new home in Yarm for the first time and they spoiled us in all kinds of ways, and one of them was taking us to their local beach to share the beauty.

Not only was the beach gorgeous and expansive with an impressive look-out pier, there were all kinds of charming little shops, restaurants and ice cream stands, and of course anything one needed to surf (no, I didn't, that would look ridiculous).  It was a clear, sunny day and people from all over had come to pretend it was spring. I have never seen a queue so long for fish and chips, and in England that's saying a lot.  (It was worth the wait!)

This post  is for this week's Interiors & Exteriors feature and it's long enough sticking to the theme, so I'll post the beach shots separately. Are you craving fish and chips now? I am.


In the town, just a quick uphill walk from the beach, there were some great shops. I was already lagging behind and we needed to eat lunch so I didn't go in, but I wanted some photos of the wonderful window displays of Northern Lights Interiors

As I was snapping away I saw a woman smiling from inside - you can see her below! and I smiled and waved. As I headed down the road she came out after me and asked if I'd take photos of the storefront, they'd been having trouble getting them without cars in the way and I was happy to oblige. I even had a man ham it up for me!



We passed a random rusted-out door that appeared to lead to nowhere with a keypad right in the middle. I'll bet if you pushed the right numbers it would transport you to another dimension. Prove me wrong!


  DSC_0263 This photo would have been so much cooler if I'd waited just 10 more seconds...


On display at Arts Bank were lamps and tables in vibrant patchwork by Jane Atkinson and a metal sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. Each contains a 'secret meaning' in the form of an object placed in the head. Now, if I'd read the brief beside this life-size contemplative man instead of taking a photo and reading at home, I would have looked and been able to tell you what was in his head! 


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Photos by Denise Grayson

February 18, 2011

The Painted Houses Project: Around the World

Capetown Capetown, South Africa

Thanks to a quick response to the call for photo submissions to the Painted Houses Project which only launched five days ago, we've already got our first feature! These great photos sent in by readers are from cities all over the world which is what I was hoping the project would offer. In addition to seeing how colour dramatically enhances the landscape, we get a look into the diversity of aesthetics as they range from country to country, city to city.

Zendra has given us an intriguing look at Lesoto, Capetown and Norway:

Lesoto Lesota, Africa. This appears to be a street scene with vibrant murals and people to match, one of the most beautiful things about Africa. I've never seen adornments on the ankles like this.

These brick red boat houses in Norway look especially striking against the backdrop of fresh greenery and blue, open skies:



Amy from Real Life Amy is originally from England and now lives in Australia. She took these lovely photos on her travels. Beautiful painted doors are part of the charm of Bath, England:

Bath, England

Trier, Germany 2

The buildings in Trier, Germany are so uniquely detailed and here we see a use of soft and earthy colour to create an warm, inviting feel in what appears to be the city centre. It would be enough to get me to sit down and have a beer, and I hate beer!

Trier, Germany

Angela Hooker contributed a photo as well, she's the talented textile designer for Felder Felder.  You can see her gorgeous work here. This building is near Marseilles in the south of France and Angela tells us that the house opposite was the same yet all painted green, with a green bike parked in front. Hearing that you do have to wonder if they painted their bikes to match the shutters, or vice versa!


A big thank you to Zendra, Amy and Angela for their fantastic contributions. If you have a photo you'd like to share you can email it using the Contact tab in the banner menu.  Tell us where you took it and anything else we might like to know about it!

For more about the Painted Houses Project you can have a look here

February 13, 2011

Introducing the Painted Houses Project!


If you've been to The Swelle Life before you've surely noticed things look a little different around here! This is a very visual, colourful blog and I wanted to present it in a way that makes the most of that look and feel while giving profile and easy access to my favourite features, many of which are new as you can see in the far sidebar.

One of these new features is the Painted Houses Project. It's a collaborative project that relies on your submissions, so I'm calling on fellow colour lovers to send in photos of beautiful, out of the ordinary hues in their world, whether it be in your neighbourhood or from your travels. It can include houses, doors, buildings, shops, cars, whatever you may find outside in a public place that has been made special with extraordinary colour.

Colour is not something to be afraid of, it's to be celebrated!

My new banner image is based on a photo I took in Bristol last April, shown below. I played with the hues to get the pinks, blues and purples. And yes, I know, it's very colourful! You know how I love my blues. Following are other photos taken around Bristol, a vibrant, beautiful city with so many gorgeous pastel painted houses in the Clifton area. I posted most of these last year but am including them again to kick off this project.

To submit your photo to the Painted Houses Project you can email me by clicking the Contact button in the banner menu, and be sure to tell us where in the world it is! Original photos are preferred and they will be posted as they come in.

Feel free to spread the word so we can put a great collection of 'street colour' together!

Mr. Swelle would never go for it, but how I would love to live in a pink house!


What a difference a little bit of pink can make on a street!



Pretty painted doors are wonderful!


What a difference this bold red door (in Bath) makes on this very old stone building:



An adorably bright restaurant or boutique counts for the project!


Seing an old car with a perfect retro paint job in the street will brighten anyone's day:

I hope that inspires you to submit your own photo!


PORTER Magazine issue 5 now available at NET-A-PORTER.COM

Cupcake Monday!

Interiors & Exteriors

Floral Friday

London Fashion Week

Fashion Illustrator Series

Artist Series

Paris & Cities

Painted Houses Project

Colour Colour 



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