Mashed Creations

A friend of mine recently discovered the delights of decoupage – or “sticking stuff to stuff and varnishing it”, as she puts it.

When she said she was going to turn her newfound skill into a business, I’m afraid to say I was skeptical. After all, this is the girl I used to get up to all sorts with when I was a teenager, and it’s hard to forget sometimes that that was a long time ago and we’re all supposed to be grown ups now!

Anyway, true to her word she has been working hard on making Mashed Creations a success, and I must say that I’m hugely impressed with her progress so far.

This is her latest creation:

Pretty, isn’t it? I like to think I helped a little, by recommending the Annie Sloan paints she used for the base.

This is a more modern-retro style piece, which I think is wonderfully kitsch and would work brilliantly in a kids room or a suitably quirky, fun apartment:

Having seen Clare’s handiwork, I’m starting to wonder whether I should include a touch of decoupage in my own furniture transformations when I finally get round to sorting my study out.

If I do, I promise I’ll take pictures…

Pretty Dandy

I love discovering new interiors shops, whether physical or online. I especially love independents, because they often stock unusual brands you can’t find on the high street, and products that may not sell in their hundreds but which will be just perfect for a handful of shoppers.

Pretty Dandy is my latest find, and one of the first products I fell in love with on their website was this quirky cupboard designed to look like a Dutch town house and available in aqua, mint and coral. At 76cm tall it can be stood on a surface or hung on the wall, and it has two removable shelves inside:

Dutch town house cupboard £130, Pretty Dandy

The site sells a great range of art prints too, like this colourful A3 chevron number from Mrs Eliot Books (that cannot be a real name!):

Chevron contemporary art print £24.50, Pretty Dandy

Anyone who knows me, knows I love knitting, so how could I resist these yarny floor cushions? I love the colours and because they’re filled with tiny styrofoam balls, they won’t lose shape over time. Only the mustard one seems to be in stock at the moment, but you can always contact the store to see when the others will be available:

Medium mustard cushion £139, Pretty Dandy

My flat wouldn’t carry off this bold monochrome wallpaper, but it’s really striking, don’t you think? It’s printed on WallSmart paper, which means you put the paste directly onto the wall, making the hanging process much easier:

Monochrome stripe wallpaper £84.50 (10m roll), Pretty Dandy

Finally, these simple chopping boards caught my eye because they’re the perfect example of my favourite quote from William Morris: “Do not have anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I like products that are functional and aesthetic, just like these boards:

Skyline chopping boards from £29.95, Pretty Dandy

What’s your favourite independent interiors shop?

Mugs

I’m a bit weird about mugs. But it’s ok because my mum and my sister are the same, so at least I’m not alone.

My mum is particular about which mug she uses for which purpose – she has a special one for her first cup of tea, and another for her daily filter coffee. After that it’s a free for all.

My sister and I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time deciding on which mug we want for any given cup of tea or coffee we are making. Important factors – for me at least – include size, shape, thickness, design and colour.

Naturally, I have lots of mugs at home – but not nearly as many as I’d like. Here are a few I might be tempted by next time I get a pay cheque through.

1) This one is an obvious choice. Isn’t he gorgeous? I love Magpie, and could probably fill this entire post with their fab designs alone:

Fox mug £8, Magpie

2) The Pantone range is one for colour geeks. And I’ll admit, that would describe me pretty darn well:

Pantone mug in Ketchup Red 186 £9.50, Rume

Fenella Smith is brilliant, and so are flamingos. There is no need to say more:

Flamingo mug by Fenella Smith £17.50, Not On The High Street

I have recently come to terms with the fact that I am the kind of person who says “jeepers creepers” and “marvellous”. I may add “tickety boo” to the repertoire:

Tickety Boo mug in Green £6, John Lewis

I do love Le Creuset. I particularly like buying it from HomeSense where you can get up to 60% off retail prices. Just saying:

Stoneware mug in Rose £11, Le Creuset

Finally, I wanted to include this colourful set from The Shed Inc – individually they’re nice enough, but together they’re just stunning. Perfect if you’re having a few friends over for a cuppa:

Aztec mugs in Wine, Custard, Dolphin, Lime & Earth £11.99 each, The Shed Inc

My kind of art

It’s been a while since I posted anything about art, but an email popped into my inbox yesterday from Whitewall Galleries, showcasing a new collection from Henderson Cisz, and I wanted to share. I’m no art expert, but I really like his impressionistic style and the way he uses colour – to me it’s at once traditional and contemporary:

View across the Thames by Henderson Cisz, Whitewall Galleries

It got me thinking about what I think makes a good painting. So I thought I’d have a look around for a few examples that for me represent the kind of things I would want on my walls (remember, this is just my opinion, I’m certainly not aspiring to be an art critic!)

First up has to be this one by Mark Spain, called In My Thoughts, which I actually have hanging in my lounge (a limited edition print bought at Castle Galleries in Bristol in 2003). What I love, other than the vibrant colours, is the expression on the girl’s face – I’ve spent countless hours staring at her, wondering what she’s really thinking:

In My Thoughts by Mark Spain, Castle Galleries

I discovered Mike Bernard‘s work at Bath Contemporary Art Gallery earlier this year, and fell head over heels with his mixed media collage technique, which gives his pictures such texture. He always paints places in a way that makes me want to visit them:

My sister introduced me to the work of Leonid Afremov, whose work is also really colourful (hmm, there’s a theme here I think) and seems to tell a story. This, I would say, is the key to what draws me to a painting – the sense of taking me to a different reality, and challenging my imagination to decide what all is happening in the world the artist has created:

Oil on canvas by Leonid Afremov

Talking of my sister, I can’t mention my favourite artists without including her – Ingrid Smejkal, of Ingrid Eva Creative. Yes, I know it’s nepotism, but I really do love her work, which I’ve written about before. Of her most recent work, I probably like this abstract piece best, because it allows you to use your imagination – I think it looks like industrial buildings along the Thames in London, but it could be anything really:

Which one do you like best? And who is your favourite artist?

Bookshelves

I love books. LOVE them. And I love displaying them on bookshelves. My other half doesn’t – he says they’re too “noisy”. Good thing we don’t live together, isn’t it??

Anyway, I saw this beautifully simple (and well-stocked) shelving unit from BoConcept, and it inspired me to have a look around for other attractive book display systems.

Just so you know, I’ve purposely chosen current products you can buy today, rather than inspirational but ultimately unachievable pictures that will make you dream but won’t actually get you anywhere.

Lecco wall system £1,1995, BoConcept

This is a pretty little thing, perfect for a small selection of books, perhaps in a guest bedroom. I like that it’s quite country, but the rivets give it a bit of a utilitarian touch:

Attache bookcase £748, Anthropologie

Regular readers will know I love the industrial look. Genuine vintage items cost a packet, but this high street shelving unit is a pretty good bargain (I know it doesn’t have lots of books on it in the picture, but you can use your imagination, right?):

Ladbrook shelving unit £599, Marks & Spencer

I love ladder shelving generally, and this is a great idea for a hallway or a small room where you don’t want a more substantial structure taking up too much space (ooh, and look – yarn!):

Wooden ladder shelf £225, Cox & Cox

But then again, I’d also be quite happy with my books piled up around a comfy armchair like this:

Stranmon wing chair £175, Ikea

So, which do you like best? Or do you think bookshelves or books in general make a room look messy?

Key cupboard

There are many useful things I could buy for my flat right now. A new, smaller desk would be good. And I need some more Annie Sloan paint for my next project (giving a horrible pine chest of drawers a make over for my new study).

But instead, I find myself drooling over silly things that I don’t need at all but which are SO PRETTY! Sorry, pretty things make me a little effervescent. Pretty things and the enormous amount of work I have on at the moment.

Anyway, this is the gorgeous key cabinet that caught my attention today.

Work In Progress key cupboard £45, Found

I don’t have a spare £45 (and if I did I would put it towards the aforementioned desk and paint) but in my view, featuring something on my blog is the next best thing to buying it.

What do you think?

Made By Hand

Newport is, I have to admit, not the kind of place I would usually associate with a high end craft fair. But when my friend Nichola Owen told me to check out the website for Made By Hand, I was pleasantly surprised.

The three day event, which this year takes place from 30 November to 2 December, will see over 140 designer makers gather at Tredegar House in South Wales to sell a variety of hand crafted items, from wooden furniture and textiles to glass and ceramics.

There will also be lots of fascinating talks and workshops; always my favourite part of any design exhibition. I quite fancy hearing Clare Stoughton-Harris of The National Trust talking about ‘The art of conservation’, or making ‘Elegant Christmas decorations’ with Liz Lippiatt and Kathryn Clarke.

In addition, there will be demonstrations throughout the weekend, so you can see how it’s done even if you’re not sure about getting stuck in yourself, and there are free workshops for children too. Fantastic!

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a bit of a taste of who and what you might find there, just to tempt you…

1) Virginia Graham is one of my all time favourite ceramicists; her work is quirky and fun and a great example of upcycling:

Tea pot and milk jug by Virginia Graham

2) The genius of this birch ply ‘sphery’ pendant from Cardiff-based homeware brand by kirsty lies in its simplicity. Kirsty Patrick is definitely one to watch:

‘Sphery’ pendant light from by kirsty

3) Oh I do love circles and dots! Just looking at this delightful platter from contemporary glass artist Ruth Shelley is enough to make me smile:

‘Circles’ bowl from ‘Colours’ collection by Ruth Shelley

4) I really like these recycled napkins from textile designer Alison Moger of Moger Designs, which still bear the laundry mark of the hotels they came from and feature screen prints of valleys houses:

Napkins by Moger Designs

5) Ending on a highly sophisticated note, how stunning is this sterling silver ‘condiment vessel’ from Petya Kapralova? It’s called ‘winter moonlight’ too, which I think is lovely:

‘Winter moonlight’ sterling silver condiment vessel by Petya Kapralova

Any of you planning on going along? Maybe I’ll see you there!