It may be a grey and gloomy day but the new Autumn 2012 look book from Cox & Cox has arrived which is enough to lift anyone’s spirits (that, plus the fact that I’m off to sunny Croatia this week – yay!). Founders Fiona Cox and Lizzie Thornton-Allan have a great eye for practical and useful homewares. As a member of ‘generation rent’, I am often looking for ways to make my home more personal to me but I have to think carefully about what pieces to invest in as obviously I can’t rip out the kitchen, knock down walls or build fitted storage. So, it’s freestanding furniture all the way for me! Cox & Cox have some lovely offerings from their new collection that would do very nicely in a rented place. Here are 3 of my favourites…

French folding mirror, £75

The photography and styling is always so beautiful and gives me lots of ideas for displays around the house. I love this pretty mirror with folding shelf, it looks like a French flea market find. Perfect for the downstairs loo!

Vintage metal trolley, £145

This trolley on wheels would be great in my kitchen. Bread bin on top with wooden boards, filled Le Parfait jars on the middle shelf, vintage fruit crates on the bottom shelf for extra storage…

Wooden ladder shelf, £225

And finally, the ladder shelf. I’m looking for one for an alcove in my living room; a great substitute for fitted shelves and I love this natural unfinished wood that looks very coastal. If you’re also a Cox & Cox fan, keep an eye on their website later this month as there are tons of tempting buys. – Alice

It’s not everyday you can walk into a shop and come out with a vintage jelly mould reinvented as a pendant lamp, a Mexican bingo set, moose shaped firelighters and a deckchair. But if you’re lucky enough to live near the market town, Corbridge in Northumberland, you can! (For those that don’t, you can of course buy online, phew!), Simon Young and Jenny Vaughan’s converted workshop (round the back of an old filling station) is a treasure trove of totally unique finds for the home. They named their shop RE after two giant metal red letters they bought in a Parisian flea market…

People, step inside and feast your eyes on these wonderful buys..

I would very much like these jolly, jelly mould pendant lamps. How lovely to hang a row of these above a kitchen table…

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Planning fodder for your Jubilee street party yet? Make sure you get yourself a set of these British Isles cookie cutters..

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Keep your teapot cosy with this cute pom-pom number, hand knitted in Northumberland..

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This red, white and blue twine will come in handy for any Jubilee/Olympic crafty projects…

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Elsewhere there are gorgeous linen cushions, inspired by American flour sacks…

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original 50’s and 60’s mixing bowls in pretty on-trend pastel shades..

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and this ‘waste not want not’ fabric is sold off the roll, for £16 a metre. It’s 44cm wide perfect for a table runner. GREAT idea..

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Thank goodness it’s March! Spring had sprung and I’ve just bought 4 bunches of daffodils for £1 in my lunch break – hurrah! They’re currently bunged in a vase and just about surviving in our air conditioned office but what I’d really like to display them in is this…

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A test tube for each single stem. Ah Joy! Thank you RE. Delightful finds and next time I’m even vaguely heading oop north I’m going to take a detour and pop by. – Alice


Happy flipping Pancake Day!

February 21, 2012

Wall prints for Pancake Day? Why not? I love yellow. I love lemons. I love Pancake Day and I love these prints brought to you from Etsy

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From the top: 1 & 3. Amanda Katherine Designs 2. Lajlaj – Small Cute Things 4. Freya Art 5. Eco Print. 

Hope you’re all stocked up on eggs, milk and flour. What’s your favourite topping? If you’re stuck for ideas why not try this buttermilk with lemon syrup pancake recipe as seen on Housetohome.  – Alice

On the 1st day of Christmas…

November 26, 2011

Ok, it’s almost countdown to Christmas time! Alas, I always feel a little disheartened when I see the shops stocked with tacky, commercial Advent calendars with synthetic pressed chocolates, that taste like plastic. Who buys those?

So, i’ve scoured around to seek out a few creative alternatives that I like and wanted to share with you. And they’re calorie free. Justification #327 for eating lots on Christmas day.

First up: The eco-friendly stationary people, Lollipop Designs. Create your own poster with this graphic Advent calendar and sticker sheet, a different sticker for each day. Why not?

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And I love this idea from The Spotted Sparrow at notonthehighstreet.com. 24 pre-dated blank library cards that you can customise with a suggested festive activity for each day (eat a mince pie, adopt a reindeer, practice Auld Lang Syne, take your hands OUT of the Quality Street tin…). They sit in cute brown paper pockets and come with bakers twine and wooden pegs to hang garland-stylee over a mantlepiece or banister. Ooh er!

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Next up: The lovely Bodie and Fou. Ok, so this idea is slightly more aimed at kids but I wouldn’t say no to a cube a day filled with ‘toys’ and other small but useful things! It’s a bit more pricey at £35.50 but it can be re-used year after year. (please note: toys not included. The idea is you get creative and fill it yourself).

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And lastly, but by no means least is a charming DIY Advent calendar from the creative genius that is Lucy Jane Batchelor. It comes with 25 dated illustrated stickers to create your own wintry scene. Such lovely retro colours. Jolly delightful! – Alice

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GOODBYE and HELLO!

November 8, 2011

Well, folks, the time has come for me to say goodbye. I’ve loved blogging for Ideal Home’s HomeShoppingSpy, but I’m off to pastures new. I leave you in the very capable hands of the lovely new HomeShoppingSpy, Alice Humphrys – Deputy Interiors Editor at Ideal Home and a shopping expert! She’ll be keeping you up-to-date on all the latest buys and trends. Thank you all so much for your support, comments and tweets these past few years – it’s been an absolute pleasure to spy for you! – Ellie Tennant x

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Hello! I’m Alice, your new HomeShoppingSpy blogger and I can’t wait to get started; especially at this time of year when the joys of Autumn are in full swing, festive fever is breaking out and here at Ideal Home HQ we’re previewing and planning for SS12. I feel giddy with the delightful, seasonal mix! Looking forward to blogging, spying and marvelling with you over all things lovely for the home. Oh and the letterpress ‘Hello’ card was brought to you by one of my favourite on-line stationery shops, Present and Correct. A lunch-break browse on their website helps sooth my mild obsession with paper objects.  – Alice Humphrys

I’m starting with the nicest image, because your eyes might start bleeding as you scroll down…

We touched upon a sensitive topic yesterday, so let’s investigate a little further. I couldn’t believe it when I spotted this ‘Mr Meerkat’ wallpaper (£165 per roll) from designer Kate Usher the other day. OK, so it’s more Kalahari than Compare the Meerkat, but still, those pesky creatures feature. Even sensible shops such as Dwell have realised that we Brits are obsessed with turning our homes in to tut-filled  Meerkat Manors – this orange high-gloss chap was spotted in the AW11 collection. Possibly a tongue-in-cheek ornament. But WOULD YOU? (Sadly, he’s no longer available…)

At the Tesco SS12 press preview, there they were. Tucked away discreetly by a clever stylist between a vase and a bowl of roses, but there nonetheless – a set of three ceramic meerkats in a rather tasteful shade of mink for £10:

What is the world coming to? Because it’s Friday, I’ve decided to end this disturbing post with a round up of the Top 10 Most Minging Meerkats (from the internet meerkat) for your viewing pleasure/pain.

1. Personalised meerkat cushions. This season’s must-have accessory? 2. Three meerkats is more minging than one. 3. A wind-up meerkat. So wrong. 4. A meerkat ‘rain scientist’. (I am not making this up.) 5. Christmas meerkats. ‘Spring-mounted so they can move in the breeze.’ 6. A meerkat mug. 7. A ‘polystone’ meerkat from B&Q. 8. Meerkats pumping water from a well. Like they do. 9. Meerkat Sylvanian family members. 10. A John Lewis meerkat.

Let’s never speak of this again. Let’s let this Meerkat Madness trend trundle along discreetly under the radar and ignore it from now on. Yeah? This post never happened. – Ellie

A Suzani tsunami is sweeping SS12 high street home collections. Just back from the Next press show where I spotted another little gem. Decided ’twas worthy to be added to our Crazy Cushion Quiz… SO, for extra (brownie) points: Which of these did I spot for £150 in Liberty yesterday, and which will be £16 come February time in Next?

I’m debating cutting up my Suzani quilt to turn it in to cushions – but can’t quite bring myself to do it! – Ellie

TESCO SS12: THE QUIZ

October 27, 2011

Checking out the new SS12 Tesco home collection recently (all available in-store as from Feb 2012), I politely ignored the small ceramic meerkats, who now seem to grace every home collection on the high street (WHO IS BUYING THESE THINGS?! OWN UP!) and focussed instead on the new stylish designer-style statement cushions. SO. Let’s have a little quiz to see if you can sort the supermarket stunners from the costly cushions. ROUND ONE: DING DING…

Which of these attractive accessories is cheap as chips at just £8 from Tesco’s Florence and Fred collection, and which is £57 from talented textile designer Clarissa Hulse? ROUND TWO:

Which of these Uzbek-style padded pretties is bargain-acious at just £10 from Tesco, and which is £66.50 from trend-setting designer Niki Jones? Hmmm, these are getting tricky…. ROUND THREE:

Which of these Ikat (eee-cat, eye-cat, yeah, you know…) cushions in autumnal hues is a Tesco £10 trolley-filler, and which is an expensive woven beauty worth £50? ROUND FOUR:

Which of these gorgeous green mid-century scatter cushions is £8 from Mr Tesco, and which is the real deal and £50 from a vintage shop? Answers are below in a comment! All cushions are on sale as from February 2012. And that is the end of this exciting and no-expense-spent quiz. Good night. – Ellie

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

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