HOT SHOP: Flora Dora

June 15, 2011

I’ve stumbled across a real gem today. Flora Dora is a brand new mail order shop, selling previously unseen archive prints from the late textile designer Sheila Bownas, whose career stretched from the 1940s to the 1980s. Her wonderful 50s, 60s, and 70s designs are vibrant, colourful, gorgeous – and still very relevant today…

Sheila studied at Skipton Art School in 1941, then worked as a textile and wallpaper designer in London in the late 1950s and 1960s – during which time she painted wallpapers for the German firm ‘PW Bruck-Messel’. After a stint drawing botanical diagrams for the Natural History Museum, she returned to Yorkshire in later life and lived for many years in a cottage near Skipton, until her death in 2007. Sheila was a modest person and her relatives were amazed to find she had left behind a large collection of unseen patterns and paintings in a dusty drawer…

Two years ago, Rugby-based photographer, art gallery curator and mum-preneur, Chelsea Cefai, picked up the entire archive at an auction and, together with her husband, decided to share the designs with the world in a sympathetic way. Sheila’s family has been very involved with the whole process and, despite conversations with large companies such as Graham & Brown and Osborne & Little, the couple decided to keep things small-scale. Flora Dora was born.

There are 200 designs in the archive, but just two collections have been released so far, ‘1959’ and ‘1963’. This is a truly British venture; the cushion covers are sewn by Chelsea herself, the stunning art prints are produced in Birmingham, and the fabric is produced just 20m a time in a London workshop.

Got a vintage chair that needs re-covering? These fabrics are perfect! Mmmm, check out the ‘Loretta’ fabric on the Ercol studio couch.

Flora Dora also sells mid-century modern ceramics and retro tableware. Keep your eyes on the website; Chelsea tells me new collections will be released on a regular basis. I’m completely and utterly smitten. How wonderful to discover such a treasure trove stashed in a drawer. – Ellie

NEW Muji buys

June 14, 2011

Ah, Muji. Land of little orderly Japanese plastic bottles for decanting things in to and elegant bamboo bowls in organised, regimental rows. This is the kind of shop I’d love to be tidy enough to shop in. For scatty hoarders such as myself, it represents an unachievable, minimalist dream; The sensible yet stylish slippers, the elegant storage solutions, the useful but chic travel accessories. Everything neat and lovely. Just walking through the shop door makes me feel calm and organised! Of course, the stationery is always a highlight, as anybody who has collected the 3D box city skyline cards will know. Check out these new postcards from Muji – £3.50 for three. They’re blank and covered with transparent sticky film, so you can create your own personalised cards using souvenirs picked up on your travels such as maps, flowers and tickets. O to the M to the G.

I also love the new aeroplane and bus envelope and card sets from Muji, which have little windows for you to draw your own passengers in…

You could even cut out a small photo of a friend’s face, then cut out their favourite celebs from magazines and create a personalised A-list VIP birthday flight! This could work well with kids’ favourite cartoon characters, too, or the faces of your whole family at Christmas? Oooooh, the possibilities are endless! I also like this cute clock memo pad from the new range:

Does anybody know what this memo says? Answers on a (preferably personalised) postcard, please. – Ellie

Today, Crown has launched a new paint range called Vintage, in association with Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway. It’s a collection of 30 matt emulsions and will be sold in Homebase later this month (for £22.99 per 2.5l) coinciding neatly with the upcoming Vintage at Goodwood (well, actually it’s now at Southbank, London, cough) festival and the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain. The colours are ‘inspired by music, fashion, film, art and design from the 1940s to the 1980s’ – I like their retro, groovy names such as ‘Chelsea Girl’ and ‘Free Love’, maan.

Here’s the 1970s-inspired ‘Bell Bottoms’ orange shade…and the 80s-tastic ‘Shoulder Pad Purple’ colour:

And, just for fun, here are Gerardine and Wayne (holding daffodils, of course) in what appears to be Paddington Bear’s house– Ellie

Mr James ‘Jimmy’ Fiction Esq – a ‘purveyor of the very finest letters of extraordinary size’ – has just launched a rather splendid online shop to sell his larger-than-average alphabetical wares…

His name might be fictional, but here’s a fact: His free-standing 3D letters, numbers and symbols are, as he points out, ‘POSITIVELY HUGE’. Jimmy’s welded steel frame letters are suitable for indoor or outdoor use, so you could spell your name in a field, or prop an initial in your living room. Whatever takes your fancy.

Obviously, because of my ongoing problem, I am vEry Excited about this. Oh yEs. – ElliE

Do you like vintage educational charts from the 19th and 20th centuries? Oh, you do? So does author Katrien Van der Schueren. So much so, in fact, that she’s collected over 100 for her beautiful new book called The Art of Instruction, due out this October in the UK, published by Chronicle Books.

From the anatomy of a tulip to a French poster about ‘Les Fruits’, every page features beautiful vintage zoological or botanical diagrams. As the proud owner of a creepy bat poster and a university lab bacteria wall hanging, this is right up my rue, innit. I might accidentally lean on my mouse – squeak – and order two copies – one for the coffee table, and one to cut up so I can frame my favourite pages. HOW EXCITING. – Ellie

Today, I’ve got campervan envy, BIG TIME…

Just out in the UK, My Cool Campervan (published by Pavilion) is the new book from the My Cool Caravan duo, Jane Field-Lewis and Chris Haddon. Tina Hillier’s photography is top notch, and the team has managed to find an amazing array of quirky campervans and campervan owners…think patchwork quilts, fold-out formica tables and fish and chips beside the seaside…

Oh, how I would LOVE a campervan. (And a bell tent, actually, but that’s a separate ongoing eBay search.) My favourite van in the book has got to be this fully-carpeted 1960s super-sleek pad:

Avocado green upholstery, walnut tables and rotating chairs? Yeah, baby, yeah!

As well as exploring the retro interiors and campervanning characters, there are some beautiful shots that show the real attraction of life in a van. Yes, apparently there’s more to it than sewing little curtains out of vintage fabrics and playing house with thermos flasks. It’s about the call of the wild – the open road – freedom – and being at one with nature, maan. Sigh.

Retro interiors fodder combined with escapist adventures – what more do you want from a book? – Ellie