Happy Christmas!

December 29, 2009

I hope you’re having a lovely Christmas holiday. I’m having a great time relaxing in the pretty Cotswold hills, taking a break from blogging and work in general. Except I’m cheating and writing this cheeky little post – oops!

It’s quite hard to switch off because there are so many inspiring places and homes around here. We went for a lovely frosty walk this morning and I found myself admiring stunning wreaths on gorgeous country cottage doors (!) and tomorrow my sister and I are heading to Baileys Home and Garden in Herefordshire so I’ll take my camera and fill you in soon when I’ve had time to turn my rubbish digital pics into fabulous PhotoShop collages! Until then, I’ll be re-charging my batteries and eating turkey soup. Again. -Ellie

THREE stunning e-cards

December 23, 2009

In theory, I’m a bit against e-cards. I know they’re eco-friendly, convenient and cheap…but there’s something so lovely about receiving a paper card in the post and putting it on display. I’ve been won over by some fabulous e-cards in the past few days though…here are three of the best:

The first one’s from Marie Nichols, who left Ideal Home to emigrate to Australia in September. Such a lovely shot, and I’m all about the red and white butcher’s string. (More on that later…!)

This second stylish e-card is from Freshwater PR, and it’s making me want to paint the top of my dining table with blackboard paint! I still can’t decide whether to do this…I go through phases of thinking I should, and phases of thinking it would be a mistake. Would I regret it? It might ruin the table. But then again, it’s not an antique or anything (!) and I love the idea of drawing placemats, plates, cutlery, names, messages etc straight on to the surface. Hmm.

The last lovely e-card is from paper-cutting cheese-meister, the romantic ‘Mister’ Rob Ryan. Now, despite the fact that Rob has kindly emailed me the code to embed (?!) I am having technological ISSUES, as per, so you’ll have to click here to watch the animation, I’m afraid. One, two, three, ‘aaaaaah.’ – Ellie

Christmas style ideas

December 22, 2009

The obligatory tin of Quality Street chocs is open in our office, and all the strawberry ones have gone already, so Christmas must be just around the corner. Check out these lovely festive touches…egg nog, anyone?

This is cute and oh-so-simple. Use a white board marker pen to write a Christmas message to Santa on a wine glass, or use it to write your guests’ names on their glasses so they double up as place markers.

This stunning wreath is easy to make with floristry wire and pine cones sprayed white (my top tip!) with Plastikote spray paint. I love the little reindeer model in the middle – so effective.

Yes, this handmade stocking is lovely, but it’s the vintage ice skates that I really want. What a lovely, wintery look! Too late for this year now I fear, but I’ll make a mental note to scour car boot sales for a cheap pair in 2010. Not that I need any more vintage tat.

Slipping a fresh flower stem through a ribbon on Christmas morning is a lovely idea, but a faux floral corsage or silk flower would be much less hassle and last longer. Somehow, fake is never quite the same though, is it? It would be so romantic to receive a gift with a red rose tied to it! I like this idea of tying little candy canes and lolly pops to presents, too. Always a crowd pleaser…

Candles complete a Christmassy look. Go for long-lasting ones so you won’t have to dash around replacing them when you’re busy looking after your guests or relaxing by the fire (if you ARE the guest). I always fall for glass bottles of one sort or another, so these little numbered ‘candle vases’ from The Balcony Gardener are right up my street:

I couldn’t resist a few colourful Cath Kidston Christmas pics to finish off. Mixing bright colours together always creates a warm, festive look, and I love her cracker designs this year. From the number of cushions and crackers in this image, I’d say Cath’s got her work cut out Christmas-dinner-wise. Let’s hope she’s ordered a nice big turkey! – Ellie

The Secret Santa HINTS

December 21, 2009

…paid off. Terrible, I know, but after dropping blatant hints for a few weeks, I was lucky enough to receive this little bundle of truly scrumptious letterpress-printed postcards and a ‘Scribble’ notebook from the Sort Design typography chaps in our Secret Santa!

As you can see, the Ideal Home girls excel in the packaging department, using a date stamp and a ‘received’ stamp (both nabbed from work but available from glamorous places such as Rymans!) to give the label a vintage, authentic look. The fact that I opened this parcel four days early is naughty I know, but it has been unfairly highlighted by this date label, which is gorgeous but a bit specific. Of course, I’ll be re-using it on Christmas Day, cheapskate that I am.

I need to think of something important to write in the lovely notebook, as it’s far too posh for shopping lists, and I might frame a few of the postcards for some wall art (not that I have much wall space left!!). If you like what you see, check out the Sort Design Etsy shop. – Ellie

HOT SHOP: Supernice

December 21, 2009

Pottering around Shoreditch in London the other day, (as you do, dahling), I thought two things. ONE: I really need to get down with the trendy East London yoof of today, which clearly involves wearing a checked shirt, a pair of skin-tight skinny jeans with braces, pointy little Victorian-booty-style vintage shoes, a cool, lop-sided hair-cut (art-student-stylee), draping yourself in handmade Tatty Devine-type trinkets (such as anchors, moustaches, etc), saying ‘LOL’ when amused, nibbling organic seeds and reading a vintage poetry book while cycling on a retro Pashley bicycle. TWO: I really should visit Supernice more often! It’s one of Columbia Road‘s NICEst shops.

There are funky melamine trays and plates from Thomas Paul, hundreds of Blik wall stickers on display, as well as some very cool stickers from Inke, needlepoint kits from Jonathan Adler, and fabulous monochrome ceramic tiles from Big Tomato. These tiles (just £3.95 each) were impossible to resist…they’re great for bathrooms and kitchens of course, but they’re gorgeous enough to prop up on a mantelpiece spelling out a word. I bought four of the anglepoise ones (top left!) and super-glued squares of felt to their bases for quick and easy coasters. I keep them stacked beside my anglepoise lamp…how pleasing! (To me, anyway. Boyfriend – not so much. In fact, didn’t notice styling touch, or congratulate. As per. Wasted, I say, wasted.)

ANYWAY, here they are for your delectation, all laid out in a super-nice way. A lot of the wall stickers are perfect for decorating children’s bedrooms, but the chandelier one would look fabulous in a glamorous grown-up dining room…

Right, I’m off to practise the whole poetry-reading-on-a-Pashley thing. I may be some time. – Ellie

Styling with sprouts

December 17, 2009

I have become obsessed with Thornback and Peel of late, as you may have noticed, and have purchased four of their lovely napkins which I am going to frame and put on my wall because they’re too lovely to actually use. Here’s a cute Christmassy shot of their beautiful Christmas bird designs:

I picked up a postcard from Thornback and Peel at the Cockpit Arts open studio evening recently, then cheekily turned it into a little Christmas card with the aid of my trusty alphabet stamp set…

This little goose is looking for love, but I suspect he’s about to meet an oven rather than his soul-mate! – Ellie

Lisa Stickley and baking

December 16, 2009

Designer Lisa Stickley sent me a lovely little Christmas card which arrived this morning. It’s put me in an extremely festive mood – as has the snow that’s falling on London today! (Of course, it didn’t settle and so we basically now have the same mucky puddles we always do, but let’s try to keep things as lovely as possible here today. After all, we have just been listed in The Times…)

Lisa has been a busy bee of late, coming up with some fabulous Christmas tea towels and cushions. I particularly like the tea towel with a scribbled Christmas pudding recipe on it…

She’s also produced some retro cushions featuring 1960s photos of handsome chaps wearing bobble hats – a bit of a departure for Lisa style-wise, but they look great! It must be hard to look moody in a bobble hat, but the lads on the left and right are doing a jolly good job of it. On to other lovely things…the scarily fast approach of Christmas means I have an excuse to obsess about Bake it Pretty – an American shop full of gorgeous cake decorating bits and bobs…

I’ll probably have time to make some tree biscuits (yeah, right – got to at least give the impression that I live the dream I suppose…) but I think I’ll cheat and buy a ready-made, ready-iced cake, then decorate it myself rather than doing things the proper way. These little snow men would look fabulous on little individual iced Christmas cupcakes:

Right, I’m off to drink mulled wine at a German Christmas market. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. – Ellie

Typography Christmas cards

December 14, 2009

Rachel Bright‘s cards and prints have long been a fave of mine…so I love these festive cards in fabulous fonts! – Ellie

Now, I was a tad disappointed by Kirstie’s Homemade Home back in the summer, but let’s put all that behind us and give the re-invented Ms Allsopp another chance. Let’s also ignore the fact that Channel 4 decided to broadcast her trio of festive programmes a little bit late in the day (as The Guardian put it: “who’s got time to blow their own glass baubles in the next fortnight?” indeed…), and focus on the content instead.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised – kind of. I did think the bauble-blowing episode in programme one was a bit pointless and very expensive at £20 a bauble, considering this was supposed to be a homemade Christmas that DIDN’T involve spending loads of money. Also, I’m not sure how relevant her trip to Liberty was to be honest…similar to the visit she paid to her parents’ palatial but ghastly home in the first series, this was obviously intended to show Kirstie ‘finding inspiration’ but I couldn’t really put my finger on WHAT she gained specifically…apart from deciding the glaringly obvious: that she wanted her home to look Christmassy and lovely. These niggles aside, there were some good ideas in the first programme; salt dough decorations ARE cheap and fun to make with the kids; making Christmas cards with a lino-cut is cheap-ish and easy to do; and I thought the tips from VV Rouleaux‘s Annabel Lewis were simple and effective – particularly the pretty ribbon rose idea.

What bothered me (apart from the incessant introductions and conclusions, which take up half the programme…) was the wreath-making. It’s all very well for Kirstie to skip around her woodland ‘garden’ in the depths of Devon gathering free holly and festive greenery, but for the millions of us who live in cities, or country dwellers who don’t have big gardens or their own wood, this is NOT practical. I can’t see myself gathering baskets of fresh holly on Clapham Common without getting a stern ticking off from the Lambeth park warden. And, there were quite a few mentions of the name ‘Meadowgate’, which, incidentally, she rents out for £2000 a week as a holiday house. Hmmm. Here are some behind the scenes shots from food stylist Sharon Hearne-Smith’s blog:

I thought the second episode about homemade gifts was the best show yet – chutney, soaps (although they took 6 weeks to dry out so way too late for this year but HEY HO let’s not nit-pick), sewing stockings and teddy bears – all these are practical ideas. The third episode, focussing on Christmas cooking and entertaining, was OK, too. Yes, there was an interesting but pointless visit to Parable, where owner Nigel Parker makes amazing candles using moulds taken from wallpaper printing rollers – not easy to replicate at home – but at least we were shown how to make tealight candles in a silicone cupcake tray, instead. The cracker making instructions were good, and the cookery ideas were simple but achievable. All in all, I think Channel 4 has improved the show – Kirsty didn’t drive a 4×4 gas guzzling Land Rover while lecturing us about eco-chic recycling this time, and most of the ideas were thoroughly do-able, providing you have the time. But, one question remains: who was doing her make-up? Why was she plastered in it in some scenes and totally bare-faced in others? The vampy red lipstick and luxurious Russian fur hat combo was possibly a step too far for a ‘frugal’ series, but I’ll try not to let this bug me too much. After all, it IS Christmas. – Ellie

Fabulous Christmas tree

December 14, 2009

Kelly Morrison, one of our readers from Aberdeen, sent us this picture of her mum’s gorgeous Christmas ‘tree’, inspired by our December issue. Isn’t it lovely? And so much more practical pine-needle-wise.

We always love to hear from readers who have been inspired by Ideal Home. I wish my own tree looked as elegant as this one! – Ellie