This was our ‘Book of the Week’, but Sania Pell‘s latest book, Homemade Home, (£16.99, Cico Books) is full of such great ideas – as well as lovely photography by Penny Wincer – it deserves a closer look…

Unlike your run-of-the-mill twee, cutesy craft project books, this coffee table must-have features fresh, contemporary photography and ideas that feel very ‘now’, such as this stunning appliqué throw. No felt owls or lavender hearts here, folks…

I love this cowboy-themed découpage chest of drawers makeover!

This fabulous map lamp (with fun bug clips!) is a simple but really effective idea. Choose a destination that has a special meaning to you, or go for a vintage map for a quirky touch.

I’ll never tire of the ‘single-stems-in-a-row-of-vintage-glass-bottles’ shot – and I really like the use of origami papers, here, too. So pretty.

Fabulous birdy cushions here (which follows on nicely from our bird-themed trend page in the May issue of Ideal Home!)

This is a really lovely book for cool crafters, and I love all the cute shots of buttons etc – haberdashery GEEK that I am. Try before you buy – there’s a sneaky peek here. Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to make some elderflower cordial in the sunny Shire, if all goes according to plan harvesting-wise. (There was an unfortunate incident recently that involved me getting over-excited and picking a load of ‘flowers-disguised-as-elderflowers-which-turned-out-not-to-be-elderflowers-after-all’, resulting in a kind of toxic sugar gloopy soup that smelt of lemons but tasted foul…#schoolboyerror) Full recipe and more on Monday! – Ellie

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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

The first episode of Kirstie Allsopp‘s eagerly-awaited new Channel 4 TV series, Kirstie’s Homemade Home, aired on Thursday. It’s received mixed reviews – writing for The Times, AA Gill called it ‘monstrously patronising’ – so I watched it to see what I thought. In this opening episode, Kirstie introduced us to her mission: to transform a dilapidated country cottage in Devon into the ultimate ‘homemade’ home, with everything either made in the UK, or made by her. Week one followed the transformation of the kitchen.

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Kirstie's kitchen

Kirstie started by visiting the National Trust’s Lanhydrock House for ideas, which has one of the finest Victorian kitchens in the country. So far, so good – she admired the enormous Welsh dresser at Lanhydrock and vowed to find a smaller, second-hand dresser for her own kitchen to recreate the look. Then she got designer Cath Kidston‘s advice on table settings, which was a strange part of the programme. I was looking forward to seeing the interior of Cath Kidston‘s home, but all we got was a fleeting shot of her home office and then filming took place in her modern, unexpectedly-clinical kitchen. Cath herself appeared for just a few moments, and the table she had styled was just a collection of colourful Cath Kidston products and very disappointing. Where was the vintage tablecloth? Why was there no vintage china mixed in with the brand new Cath Kidston pieces? I can’t help thinking this was pure product placement – there were no new ideas or vintage finds to be seen, and the chrome bowls of crisps looked suspiciously like emergency and inappropriate space-filling props!

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Cath Kidston's 'inspirational' table settings

The message of this section seemed hazy, too. One minute, Kirstie was explaining that the table might seem random, but it was carefully put together and followed certain rules; Cath picked four colours from the plates – pink, blue, green and red – and reflected them across the rest of the tableware in the glasses, place mats, flowers and cutlery. Then, the next minute, Kirstie said Cath taught us to ‘forget all the rules – if you think it’s pretty, just do it.’ So, do we follow colour rules or not?

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The section in which Kirstie visited her parents’ palatial home ‘to reveal the inspiration that has shaped her take on interiors’ was bizarre and unnecessary – it was a cluttered stately home belonging to wealthy antique collectors, who had no need of thrift. Indeed, the only idea Kirstie could manage to take away with her was the notion of hanging decorative plates on walls – hardly ground-breaking, but at least her mother’s interior design business got a plug.

Finally, Kirstie had a go at making bespoke items – crafting a bowl on a potting wheel, turning a lump of glass into a beautiful tumbler, and sewing a very basic cushion using a sewing machine. These adventures were jolly, but seemed to be part of a different programme altogether really. There was a quick and quite random lesson in flower-arranging, then Kirstie finished the show by bagging some gems at knock-down prices when she bought antiques at her local market, and searched for freebies by ‘skip-diving’. Raving about the environmental benefits of re-using a mirror from a skip rather than buying a new one was all very well, but Kirstie was driving a huge gas-guzzling 4×4 Land Rover at the time, which rather undermined her eco message.

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WOW indeed – where did all this stuff come from!?

The end of the show was nothing short of a miracle. Suddenly the kitchen was transformed – an enormous AGA had appeared out of nowhere (there was no mention of a budget at any time!) as had several beautiful pieces of furniture which Kirstie briefly mentioned she ‘bought at auction’ and a few vintage armchairs she ‘had re-covered’. The kitchen looked OK, but there was no real sense of how it was created, or, more importantly, how much it all cost!

This show had some nice ideas floating around in it, but the programme makers tried to do too many things at once. The overall effect was a schizophrenic programme that flitted confusingly from one thing to another, without properly focussing on the original concept. It would have been much better to see Kirstie physically put together the room from scratch, instead of watching her blowing glass and visiting her parents’ house – we should have seen her bidding for the dresser, sewing the curtains (where did they appear from?!) and transforming second-hand pieces of furniture with paint and good old-fashioned elbow grease. – Ellie

 

It’s not a hard job…and nobody had to do it…but we did it anyway.

The Ideal Home team has been testing Easter eggs today from all the top brands, and believe me, it’s been one of our most challenging assignments to date. HO HO. (Or should that be CLUCK CLUCK?) Anyway…check out our top ten so you’re in-the-know when you hit the shops:

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Tesco Finest Triple Belgian Chocolate Egg

1: Gorgeous packaging, and top quality chocolate, we think Tesco’s egg looks posh but it’s great value for money at just £8.99.

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Green & Black's organic thick shelled milk chocolate egg

2: Organic is the way forward – and this delicious, ethical egg is a sure winner. It’s rich and luxurious – and we love the dragonfly gift tag. It’s £4.99 at Fresh & Wild.

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'Le Caneton' chocolate duckling and eggs, Galler

3: Not strictly an Easter egg, but this is the cutest Easter gift we’ve seen in years. Somehow it’s impossible to resist biting the duckling’s head off  though (!) It’s £8.95, from Galler.

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No.1 Milk Easter Egg, Godiva

4: Gorgeously presented in a lime and aqua box, this chocolate egg is top notch. Hardly credit-crunch fodder at £25, but it’s great if you’re looking for an extra-special treat. It’s available at Godiva.

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Dr. Oetker Easter Egg Moulding Kit

5: Do It Yourself with this fun egg kit, £1.99,  Supercook. Kids will love this creative kit, and we had a lot of fun with it, too!

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Dark chocolate egg filled with crystallized ginger, Prestat

6: Everything about this egg oozes sophistication, and we think it’s eggs-cellent (sorry). With ginger and dark chocolate, it’s not too sweet – perfect for a dinner party, but not one for the kids or those with a sweet tooth. Find it at Prestat for £22.

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Chocolate tiles, House of Dorchester

7: Again, not really eggs as such, but we couldn’t resist these chocolate ’tiles’, £4.95 each, from House of Dorchester. Not the kind of tiles we normally feature in Ideal Home, but tastier!

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Valrhone Grand Cru and Single Origin eggs, Rococo

8: This pretty pink vintage-look box caused a sensation in the office, and the little ganache-filled mini eggs inside went down a treat, too. An 80g box is £9.25, Rococo.

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Extra Special Easter eggs, ASDA

9: Bargainous and glamorous – these massive eggs look like designer gifts, but they’re just £6.85 each, from ASDA. The white chocolate and berry one is our personal favourite in the range!

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Easter nests, Morrison's

10: Last but not least, these chocolate cornflake nests and mini eggs, just £1 for a pack of two from Morrison’s. We think these are great value for money, and handy if you’ve no time to make your own.

We’re all feeling a little sick now, so it’s probably best to wish you all a very Happy Easter and sign off! We’ll be back on Tuesday with more news and stories…  – Emily and Ellie