The sun is shining, the Thames is sparkling and blue (HAH), the ice-cream van down by the Globe is playing SUMMERTIME at maximum volume and yet, in the office today, we’re already in the realms of November and I’m sourcing woolly socks. It’s a funny old world. ANYWAY, on a summery theme, here are some new shots from the very pretty Pale and Interesting, AKA, shop of Atlanta Bartlett, the lady who loves a bit of the old white paint:

This makes me wish my little hydrangea bush would hurry up and produce some flippin’ flowers so I can butcher them and stick them in Bonne Maman jars asap. Sigh.

If you’re loving the mercury glass votives in this shot, head to Dotcomgiftshop where you’ll find similar for £2.95 each. Then, pop to Cox and Cox for antique glass candlesticks. – 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

Kazzbar magique

October 12, 2009

A sack of wool has appeared beside my desk. It’s big. It’s heavy. And it smells, unsurprisingly, a bit sheepy. The delivery man gave me a withering look after he had heaved it up to the seventh floor, sweating, and rolled it off his trolley. I admit I’m not looking forward to lugging it home on the train tonight…but at least if all the seats are taken, I can sit on it. And, if I don’t manage to roll it up the steep hill I live on, I could always use it to create some sort of emergency overnight nest.

style500I foolishly didn’t realise that my birthday Moroccan pouffe was sold un-stuffed – we live and learn. But now all that stands between me and the Moroccan cosy corner of my dreams is a tonne of wool and an hour-long commute in high heeled boots…

pouffeI don’t think my other half truly appreciates or grasps fully what The Arrival of The Pouffe means. Now I can play with all my pretty trays and tealights creating styled displays on the top of The Pouffe. I can put my feet up on The Pouffe when I’m watching TV without kicking over the wine on the coffee table. I can produce The Pouffe for last-minute extra guest seating in a flash. I can pat The Pouffe, proudly. The cats can sit on The Pouffe. I can perch on The Pouffe. How did I ever survive without The Pouffe? It’s quite unimaginable. What a misery my pre-pouffe, pouffe-less existence must have been. Check out these lovely pouffes in the elegant white and silver Moroccan-magic home of Cecilia Granath in Copenhagen, (but it could be Marrakesh). This is how my dream Moroccan cosy corner looks (in my head):

granath354When I travelled around Morocco a few years ago, I should have brought some un-stuffed leather pouffes back with me. Instead, I packed my suitcase full of twenty five large plastic bags of red, unidentifiable ‘spice’ which I accidentally bought in a souk due to peer pressure and which is so potent and strange-tasting, I did at one point wonder if it might be some sort of powdered paint. I used the boyfriend’s suitcase for a ridiculous, never-used, rarely-dusted, tagine. Sigh.

EME_M1Thanks to Bethan for her pretty wedding-themed post on Friday. Lovely! Makes me want to be a wedding planner. I spent my birthday weekend dragging polite-but-bored people around my favourite antiques barn in the Cotswolds, where I found some excellent vintage buys. More about that tomorrow – I need to start the wool transfer now. No pain, no gain. – Ellie

When ultra-cool fashion label English Eccentrics launched a range of scented candles with St Eval Candle Company last year, candle-addicts, such as myself, rejoiced. Now a new scent has been added to the collection – Tiger Lily.

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These candles tick all the boxes; they have beautiful packaging – the pretty designs are reminiscent of Rob Ryan‘s quirky and delightful paper cuts – and they have wonderful scents with names such as ‘Eccentricity’, ‘Tea with the Queen’ and ‘Wintergarden’. At £25 each, they’re special treats but cheaper than the likes of Jo Malone and Diptyque, and the colourful boxes are much more fun! I love the fact that the scents are described very specifically on the boxes to conjure up a real mood – for example, ‘Eccentricity’ apparently smells like: ‘Riding in London’s Hyde Park on a spring morning, a fresh breeze of bergamot, petitgrain and herbs mixes with saddlery leather to create an eccentric, English cologne.‘ The ‘Tea with the Queen’ fragrance has a similarly epic description: ‘The table is set with fine linen and bone china. Scent from a vase of Devon violets mingles with freshly brewed Darjeeling tea. A delicate and perfectly regal aroma.‘ Love it!

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The new Tiger Lily candle is described as: ‘a passionate bouquet of ylang ylang, known in the South Pacific as an aphrodisiac, and jungle hot tiger lily blended with tropical spices.’ I’ve had a quick sniff of a preview sample and it smells lovely! More to the point, it’s pink, which makes it a winner in my book. If you’re feeling crafty and fancy having a go at making your own candles, follow the simple instructions on the Ideal Home website. – Ellie

Wonderful white

March 13, 2009

When The White Company look book arrives in the office, it’s always an exciting day. These new spring/summer photographs are so airy and beautiful, we had to share them with you.

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An all-white room with pretty accessories, fresh flowers and a flickering candle is a magical, restful space.

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You might think white’s a difficult choice to live with – particularly if you’ve got children – but stylist Atlanta Bartlett, author of At Home with White, says she finds white ‘extremely practical’. Atlanta thinks the idea that dark colours and patterns are better because they don’t show dirt, isn’t right. ‘At least with white you can see exactly what needs a good clean, plus if something is really stained you can always resort to bleach,’ she says. I’ve been thinking about sanding my bedroom floorboards and painting them white for a while now. I think I’m nearly ready to take the plunge! – Ellie