Ahoy there, land-lubbers. Now, don’t get me wrong. The nautical look is usually a summer thing. Sailor stripes, hurricane lanterns, curious fish-shaped hanging decorations, drift wood furniture and she sells sea shells on the sea shore – you know the kind of thing. Here at Ideal Home, we embrace all things red, white and blue around July/August time in a gorgeous coastal issue, published at the height of summer when the UK seas are just about warm enough to swim in (not). But here’s proof that the designers at IKEA – those brave Swedes (fuelled by a diet of crayfish, meatballs and lingonberry jam) are not afraid to take a dip in the sea-faring trend as late as October, when the rest of us are shivering beside our radiators and reaching for our knitted knickers…

No pink sticks of rock or donkeys here, though. The new IKEA Benzy range of fabrics and accessories (which has just gone in-store this week) is elegant and antique-style – all faded linen hues decorated with charcoal-effect sketches of ships. It’s nautical, Jim, but not as we know it…

The new treasure map Benzy Land cushions (just £9.99 each for 50cm x 50cm size) feature vintage compass designs and whales’ tails – but you don’t have to turn your living room into a pirate ship; They work really well with IKEA’s other new Benzy additions – 1970s-style paisley and checked cushions (and fabrics) in rich, autumnal chocolate, navy and plum colours.

I foolishly cropped the ‘OCE’ off this linen-look cushion on my first attempt at re-sizing with unfortunate results.

As always, IKEA = strange gravy, confusing product names but BARGAIN price tags. The Benzy fabrics look expensive, but are just £6.99 per metre, so you can save your pieces of eight. – Ellie

HOT SHOP: NORDIC BLISS

October 10, 2011

Marianne Lamberth was born in Norway. Her mother is Danish. Her father’s Norwegian. She’s married to Andreas – a blond, blue-eyed Swedish chap. It’s fair to say that Marianne couldn’t get much more Scandinavian… Now, the good news for us: Marianne moved to the UK five years ago, and missed Scandinavian homeware so much, that she decided to start Nordic Bliss – her own mail order shop to bring some of the lesser-known Scandi brands to Britain. She and Andreas started work in June (he’s in charge of the business side, she’s the creative force behind the website, the blog and the brand), renting out an extra flat to store the stock in and carefully selecting their favourite Scandi designs.  Nordic Bliss will open this Friday, selling textiles from Swedish labels Shyness and Klippan, and beautiful home accessories from Danish companies such as Hübsch and Madam Stoltz. I’ve had a sneaky preview and it’s well worth a visit… You’ll find chunky knitted cushions and throws, antique-style glass accessories, folk-style buys and Scandi chic galore! It’s all VERY exciting. Nordic Bliss is the latest addition to a veritable smörgåsbord of Scandi shops we’re lucky enough to have in the UK; Gone are the days when I’d flick wistfully through the Bloomingville catalogue, wishing such wonders were within grasp. Now, we’ve got Ferm Living at Heal’s and Cloudberry Living, the House Doctor DK range at Bodie and Fou, the lovely Nordic Elements collection (UK agents for By Nord CopenhagenRoomMateNeon Living and Casalinga) – all just a click away. So so so Scandi-lous. – Ellie 

They’re referred to as ‘the handbags of interiors’ – little accessories you can afford to change more often than the bigger elements of a scheme. Racing around the Autumn design exhibitions recently, I’ve noticed so many cool and crazy new cushions. My iPhone memory is just about full of the dang things, in fact. It’s tricky to narrow down favourites, but here are my top five picks…

Numero uno, beautiful new designs from our bus blind friend (that came out wrong, she’s not blind, you understand…) – dear Barbara Coupe. At Decorex, Barbara showed me her fabulous new Origami-inspired cushions, some psychedelic 1960s swirly ones in hot fuchsia pink and a few trademark wordy ones thrown in for good measure. “I couldn’t decide between HOUSE PARTY and PARTY HOUSE,” she told me. We discussed the difference between the two for some time, deciding HOUSE PARTY is more of a single occasion, whereas PARTY HOUSE is kind of ongoing fun. I’m freelance these days, so have time to think about such things. Hmmm.

In at number two, we find some extremely fun and funky designs from our Scottish pals at Showpony. They’re reversible, so if you lose your voice or are feeling lazy, you can hold them up to answer simple questions while lounging on the sofa. ‘Cup of tea?’ YES. ‘Can we watch Match of the Day instead of Downton Abbey?’ NO. That kind of thing…

In the number three slot, we find new cushions from Michelle Mason, created for record label DECCA and due to launch TOMORROW. Another swinging sixties theme here – with Michelle’s signature bunting of course – and some pretty groovy vinyl records, too!

Moving on to number four now…creepy cushions by Naori Priestly, launched last week at Tent London and inspired by the dark and sinister tale of Little Red Riding Hood…

Her appliqué felt cushions feature frightening wolves and blood-soaked woodcutter’s axes; Cute Uzbek-style folk pom-pom trims juxtaposed with jagged silhouetted shadow-puppet-esque shapes. She’s one to watch…

Finally, in at number five are some 1980s-style colour-blocked babies – ‘Technicolour’ wool felt cushions from the trend-setters at Room39. I love the colours here – fresh turquoise, sky blue, hot pink and orange – the next big thing:

Colour-blocking was a huge trend in fashion this summer, and it looks as though it’s trickled down in to interiors already! It’s a tough call, but I think these ones are my favourites so far this season. – Ellie

NEW: Write boards

August 31, 2011

Not quite ready for a permanent blackboard wall? If you’re renting or just not brave enough for a wall of black paint, you might like these rather smart paper-effect wipe-able Write Boards (£24.99 for four) new for AW11 from The Contemporary Home:

Memo 1: ‘Call vet RE Danny the dove.’ Memo 2: ‘Finish hammering.’ Memo 3: ‘Remember to move vintage potty before sitting down.’ – Ellie

Turkish delights

August 25, 2011

Ah, it’s been a while, friends. But I’ve blown the dust off the old WordPress dashboard and managed to locate the log in password lurking in the darkest corner of my holiday-addled brain. For the past few weeks, I’ve been pottering around Istanbul taking low resolution disappointing iPhone photos of cushion covers, admiring amazing architecture, loitering in markets and developing a serious apple tea (or elma çay) habit. Despite my best intentions, I returned to London with a suitcase packed full of beautiful Turkish home accessories, of course…

A metal tray and a set of six pretty little tea glasses were the first things that slipped in to my shopping bag as I tried (unsuccessfully) to haggle. Apple tea (which, if you have the powdered kind, is basically just sugar with four different e-numbers added – no wonder it’s so addictive) is drunk by everyone everywhere in Turkey, so, like typical tourists, we stocked up on a few boxes which will no doubt sit in our kitchen cupboard for the next ten years, alongside the suspicious ‘spices’ we picked up in Marrakesh.

Luckily, you don’t have to hang out in the Grand Bazaar to get the gear… 1. Idyll Home sells beautiful Turkish tea glasses and china saucers; 2. Dotcomgiftshop does a bargainacious hammered metal tray; 3. You can even get hold of the dreaded apple tea powder from Goodness Direct. Diabetics, beware…

The next thing I accidentally bought was a beautiful ‘Suzani’ quilt from Uzbekistan. Not strictly-speaking Turkish, but sold everywhere IN Turkey, so bear with me. Apparently, Suzani quilts are traditionally bridal dowry blankets – embroidered by hand by Uzbek women who start sewing when a girl is born and continue, with the help of family and friends, until her wedding day when the quilt is completed and presented to her. The bold, folk-style patterns and the bright colours are gorgeous – and every throw is unique so it took me about three hours to choose one…

Again, while it’s certainly cheap as chips to pick up a beautiful Suzani bedspread like this in a Turkish market, you can get the look in the UK, too… 1. Check out the Uzbek-inspired designs from the talented Niki Jones; 2. Shop at Yurdan for the real deal (but at highly-inflated prices).

Of course, no trip to Turkey would be complete without a visit to a mosque’s hammam – a traditional Turkish bath house where you lie on a slab of hot marble then get covered in foam and flipped about like a baby by a large Turk. It was all good fun and the full body massage was amazing – if a little painful at times. The hammam we visited had a whole room full of beautiful woven cloth towels (peştamalsin pleasing stacks – like some heavenly linen cupboard. Emerging like a mole, blinking in the daylight, weak, dazed and highly-polished, I marched straight to the local market and bought six for next to nothing.

Luckily, you don’t have to lie topless in a stone chamber having your shoulder knots kneaded by gigantic hairy elbows to get hold of a hammam towel, although they’re not cheap outside of Turkey. 1. Pop to L’Aviva Home to see a huge selection of designs and colours; 2. Head to Toast for beautiful loom-woven ones with knotted fringing. They’re Anatolian, dahling, yah, and you can even find traditional hammam olive oil soaps at tasteful Toast, too.

Luckily, easyJet is quite generous on the old baggage allowance front. – Ellie

Designer style at BHS

May 13, 2011

Spot the difference. On the left: Maria Dahlgren’s (2008) London tray. On the right: ‘new’ autumn/winter 2011 BHS cushion. Erm…

Maria Dahlgren’s designs are really lovely and can be seen on her website, Metagram. We spotted a couple of other look-a-likes in the collection, too. The top image (below) is a close-up of a ‘new’ AW11 BHS cushion, the bottom image is a close-up of Charlene Mullen’s hand-embroidered ‘London Calling‘ cushion:

Hmmm. – Ellie

Louise Body: Paper tiles

April 27, 2011

Designer Louise Body has just released a new collection of ‘Paper Tiles‘ – gorgeous tile-effect wallpapers, featuring digitally-printed Victorian tile patterns combined with her own illustrations and designs…

Louise designed some similar wallpaper for the toilets at Decorex last year, and was inspired to explore the idea of paper tiles further. The new patterns are really stunning – and no need for the dreaded grout whitening pen!

These papers would look lovely in bedrooms, living rooms or hallways – proof that tiles aren’t just for kitchens and bathrooms.

Each 1m x 70cm panel costs £25 and you paste-the-wall, not the paper (always a bonus for those of us who are a bit DIY-challenged). – Ellie