Bow down to Charlene Mullen

September 30, 2009

Making her debut at 100%Design last week, Charlotte Mullen is a textile designer who’s going places. Her unusual hand and machine embroidery cushions and accessories are inspired by…deep breath…Elizabethan blackwork embroidery, English lace, Eastern European textiles and urban landscapes…in Charlene’s own words: “from Victorian Christening gowns to prison tattoos – nothing is taboo.”

charlene mullen2Her eclectic range of influences means that she achieves her goal to create modern designs within a historical context – and many of her pieces have an intricacy that can only be achieved by the human hand, making them extra lovely.

charlene mullenI like the fact that Charlene doesn’t take herself too seriously – from the little UFO flying above St Paul’s to her quirky ‘Boy with a Coif’ cushion, there are touches of humour everywhere – her designs are tactile, elegant, but human. Her website features some of her lovely work, and I think it’s a great example of how a website can work when it’s designed well – it’s really beautiful.

charlene mullen3Charlene’s little red and white name tapes were sewn to her press releases at 100%Design and looked so cute. Bethan in the office has just found a fabulous website – GB Name Tapeswhere you can buy 144 name tapes for £5.85 – so I’ve ordered some “with love from ellie x ones to prettify presents, jars of home-made jam and generally anything that sits still long enough for me to slap a pretty name tape on it. As Bethan said, just think of the Crafting Potential (CP) – the possibilities are endless! Tragically, I’m almost as excited about these name tapes as I was when we discovered the amazing free butterfly and insects online image library – ah, happy days. – Ellie

charlene mullen4

Pale and Interesting

September 29, 2009

Check out the scrumptious photography on stylist/author Atlanta Bartlett’s new mailorder website, Pale and Interesting. Shot at the Kent home she shares with her photographer husband Dave Coote, these images are fresh, pretty, and ooze shabby-chic charm.

Picture 16

Picture 19There’s something so pleasing about this mixture of mercury glass accessories, glass bell jars and white tongue and groove panelling. By the way, tip of the day: for inexpensive tongue and groove panels, shop at EasiPanel. I love the plaster cast antique scissors plaque in this shot – a great gift for a sewing fan.

Picture 17Picture 24Pink peonies in pretty china teacups, zinc garden planters, white folding bistro chairs, linen cushions – this is text book English vintage style. Nothing new, but very lovely all the same.

Picture 22Picture 20The image below isn’t helping to cure my current obsession with old leather armchairs – if anything, it’s making it worse! Aren’t they lovely? And one day, they will be mine, mwah ha haaa. But for now, it’s time to wipe the drool off my keyboard and stop fantasising about chairs – it can’t be healthy. By the way, is anybody else watching Design For Life on BBC2 with Philippe Starck? Isn’t it HILARIOUS? I love the fact that every week he sets the students a vague, ‘invent something new and amazing that will change the world as we know it’ brief, most of which is lost in translation, and then they all go away and spend a week ‘brainstorming’ and panicking, then produce…well, very little…apart from some vague ‘ideas’ and a bit of tinkering with magnetic cutlery while Starck clings to his stunning girlfriend or bangs eeez ed against ze wall in despair. Top notch TV. – Ellie.

Picture 23

NEW Rob Ryan tea towel

September 28, 2009

Tra la laaaa… it’s a grey Monday but it’s always a good day when I hear about a Rob Ryan product I can actually afford! This luvverley tea towel from To Dry For has cheered me up no end.

rob ryan tea towelIt’s £9.95, and clearly needs to be framed not used (as discussed before). LOVE it. ‘Nuff said. – Ellie

Project: vintage suitcases

September 28, 2009

A pile of vintage leather trunks and cases, stacked neatly at the end of your bed or on top of a wardrobe can provide handy storage space for bedding, towels and blankets, as well as looking pretty flippin’ fabulous. But, such delights often come with a hefty price tag – a vintage 1950s leather suitcase will set you back a cool £80 in Cabbages and Roses, for example. Ouch!

vintage suitcasesTo get the look for less, head to your nearest car boot sale. Old suitcases and trunks can often be bought for next to nothing – I recently picked up a fabulous metal trunk and two 1940s leather suitcases for just £20! They needed a bit of a clean, but look lovely after a bit of baby-wipe action. To give cases an authentic, well-travelled look, you could buy a set  of reproduction luggage labels from the Italian stationery gurus at Cavallini & Co, then leave the labels spread out next to a window for a week or two of sunshine to fade them so they look aged. Decorate your cases with a few of the stickers, and tie a traditional brown card luggage label (make your own or buy some from Hobbycraft) to the handle with some rustic-looking string, so you know what’s inside and to complete the retro look. – Ellie

vintage cases

Clutter-busting with Conran

September 28, 2009

Sir Terence Conran is about to celebrate his 78th birthday but despite his age, he’s still as sharp as ever. Chatting to him at a party last week, I asked him for a design tip, to accompany a feature I’m working on. Sir Terence thought for a moment (I imagine it’s quite difficult to condense 60 years of design philosophy into just one line!) and then said: “De-clutter. Clear out all your junk, paint the whole house white, and hide all the electrical wires to create a large, airy space. Then, only keep items that you love or that you really need.”

Living roomThis is such good advice, and something that most of us could benefit from. How many of us have a house full of ‘stuff’ and ‘clutter’ that we just don’t need? I know I do. I think my parents’ generation is partly to blame – their post-war upbringing drummed a sensible ‘don’t waste anything’ attitude into them which means that even today they keep hold of everything – just in case. My dad has a shed full of  ‘stuff which may come in handy one day’, and I’ve definitely inherited the hoarder gene! I certainly would never advocate a throw-away wasteful culture, but I’m sure I should heed Sir Terence’s advice and fill a few bags for recycling or the charity shop. Then, with my freshly-painted crisp white walls, the things I really love and really need can take centre stage. That’s the plan, anyway! The reality: I’ll probably just shove even more stuff under my bed. Out of sight, out of mind and all that… – Ellie

100%Design – ones to watch

September 25, 2009

A breath of fresh air – I came back from the 100%Design show at Earls Court yesterday buzzing with positivity. It was a better show than last year in my opinion, largely due to the fact that the 100%Futures area was packed full of graduate designers, fresh from college, exhibiting for the first time and bursting with new ideas and enthusiasm. Their energy is highly contagious – just talking to them for a whole day made me feel creative! It’s impossible to mention everything I saw, but here are some people who stood out, and who are definitely going to become big names over the next few years.

transformer-collection1Firstly, I spoke to Chun Wei Liao, who grew up surrounded by his family’s cardboard packaging business and today uses paper and cardboard to create stunning lampshades. They come flat-packed and are very easy to construct – you can move the prisms to create any effect you fancy, and you can even spray or decorate the shades for a bespoke look. They looked so beautiful hanging up – and of course they’re eco-friendly as well as lovely.


Another young designer well worth a mention is John Green, a cheerful product designer from York, whose work really impressed me. Having graduated from York St John University, he’s now working on products in collaboration with Snow Home. His elegant plywood coffee table caught my eye – it’s basically two tables that slot together, so they can be used separately, or together for a storage shelf. Simple, stylish and clever.

john greenJohn Green also designs and makes funky flat plywood stag heads, which he screen-prints on to by hand. The graphic, pixelated deer faces look weirdly 3D from a distance and since antlers are all the rage at the moment, these quirky heads are bound to be popular.

john green antler

Textiles trio Print, Tuft and Fold was another highlight. Zoe Beck, Claire Alderdice and Kim Bassett are all graduates of Chelsea College of Art and Design and although their work is varied, it sits so nicely together that it looked great on a shared stall.

print tuft fold

Zoe Beck designs and makes brightly-coloured cushions and lampshades with urban prints and was showing her new London cab design, which I really liked. Claire Alderdice’s bold rugs and carpets were gorgeous, too, and Kim Bassett’s folded fabrics that are based on Origami techniques, equally beautiful.

print tuft and foldYoung furniture designer Charlie Davidson gave his metal mesh chair a very catchy name. It’s called: ‘Is this the coolest chair ever made?’ Check out the picture below and see what you think!

charlie davidsonAmidst all the inspiring graduate work, there were several names we know and love show-casing fresh designs. Selina Rose, who’s enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in the interiors world over the past few years for her delicate cut felt items, had her own stand for the first time and showed her new ‘Cut and Fold’ felt wall-covering, which was really effective. You can create your own patterns in the felt by folding as many flaps as you want, so it’s a kind of interactive wall fabric.

Picture 4Elsewhere, Rachel Dormor was exhibiting her beautiful rippled ceramics – they’re so tactile and simple, they look as if they’re natural objects. I particularly like her elegant colanders.

inthekilnWhile I was in the mood for ceramics, I popped over for a chat with Kaoru Parry and to admire her pretty china teacups. Since launching Welovekaoru last year, her cups have been featured in a host of design magazines and are now stocked in Liberty. I think they’re gorgeous!

welovekaoruI also popped to the Paperboy Wallpaper stand to see some lovely new wallpapers designed especially for boys. I love the ‘Dya-think-e-saurus’ design, and the ‘Animal Magic’ one with skeletons on animals, but my favourite is the new design, ‘Hand Made’ with funky hand shadow shapes.

paperboy2paperboy wallpaperAll-in-all it was a very exciting and energising show with so many interesting designs to check out. And then, to top off a great day, I spent the evening chatting to Sir Terence Conran – oooooh, there’s nothing like a good name-drop for a Friday afternoon! More about that on Monday… have a lovely weekend. – Ellie

The perfect print

September 23, 2009

It’s been floating around the blogosphere this summer, but now this lovely print (the sequel to the TEA version) from American designer Madebygirl is finally being stocked by a UK shop – the lovely Bodie and Fou. Since this screen print seems to be designed especially for me (!) with my caffeine addiction and my obsession with blogs…I just had to share it with you today! – Ellie


Rupert Blanchard is a scavenger with style. He’s been all over London, finding, reclaiming and collecting odd drawers, and has up-cycled them into beautiful pieces for his ‘New Furniture’ collection. ‘Every drawer has been salvaged without its original carcass or housing,’ he explains on his blog. ‘I don’t use or collect drawers that already have a use in an existing piece of furniture.’ The results of Richard’s work are impressive – he’ll be launching the range later this week, but here’s a sneaky peek:


rupert blanchardEvery drawer has a story behind it. Rupert’s collection includes, among many others: oak haberdashery shop drawers from Battersea, Singer sewing machine table drawers from a factory in Shoreditch, a handle found in Brick Lane and a teak-fronted 1950s office desk drawer from Clapham. I really like these pieces of furniture and they prove, once again, that recycled furniture can be just as stylish as new designer furniture – if not more so, because it oozes history and charm. I’m looking forward to meeting Rupert on Thursday at his launch party to find out more. – Ellie

I’ve just been admiring, stroking and generally cooing over the 11 new Marimekko covers from Bemz, the lovely Swedish chaps who produce stylish slipcovers for IKEA‘s sofas and armchairs.

Unikko_Henriksdal_7b_lowresNow, I don’t know about you (you might be an oligarch for all I know), but my budget’s not quite up to a designer sofa. I do, however, have a trusty IKEA Ektorp three-seater, which started life as Blekkinge White but these days is more, well, Blekkinge Grey – and not in a good way. It’s been washed many times over the years – after the famous Lasagne Incident of 2005, following the notorious Kitten Accident of 2008, and more recently, in the aftermath of the Red Wine Catastrophe of 2009.  It’s time for a change. These Marimekko covers might just be the answer…



It’s hard to choose, but my fave classic here has got to be the Fandango print, which comes in a light grey and a hot pink. Gorgeous! – Ellie

Picture 8

Picture 7

Heal’s 200 Years of Design and Inspiration is a romp through history, telling the story of London’s most iconic furniture store from 1810 when it first opened to the present day. Being a complete interiors addict, this is just the kind of coffee table tome I love – full of retro adverts, beautiful furniture and brilliant design splashed across every page.

heals1There are fascinating photographs from the past, showing mattresses being stuffed and delivered in the 1890s, Heal’s wartime Home Guard lining up in the 1940s, and photos of machinists sewing parachutes during the war.

heals2I really enjoyed looking at all the 1950s and 60s images in this book – there are Lucienne Day fabrics to admire and stylish adverts that ooze sophistication.



The book looks at key people who have contributed to Heal’s over the years, from John Harris Heal, who launched a mattress-making business back in 1810, to Terence Conran and Orla Kiely who have designed for Heal’s in recent years. The design of this book is perfect – there’s enough text to convey a good amount of interesting information, but it’s the images that take the lead so the balance between words and pictures is bang on for a design book. I particularly like the black silhouette illustrations, borrowed from the V&A archive.

Picture 1But I think my favourite thing in the whole book is this little plate about ‘good taste’ from a vintage Heal’s leaflet. It’s such a good motto! Heal’s 200 Years of Design and Inspiration will be launched on Monday. – Ellie