marylebone summer fayre

London and its Village Fairs

London likes to think of itself as a series of villages strung together to make a big city.  In many ways, this representation is probably accurate.

In our neck of the woods, for example, Hampstead and Highgate both started off villages outside the city of London itself.  Hampstead, for example, was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small farm.  A village sprung up around Hampstead which reached its peak of popularity in the early 18th century when it was marketed as a spa town.  The clean country air and fresh water from its wells was touted as recuperative for all sorts of diseases.  Highgate started off as a group of taverns along one of the main roads to the north of England.  This road went through the Bishop of London’s hunting estate and he charged a toll for the privilege of passing through his land.  By the 20th century, both Hampstead and Highgate were swallowed up by the urban sprawl of London.

The whole village thing comes to the forefront when these areas do their summer fairs (or fayres as Marylebone insists in ye old English).  We always go to the fairs because they are family-friendly fun for a nice day out.

marylebone summer fayre

The fairs really come into their own with the amazing quality and variety of food stalls available.  It may be a village fair, but in this town, the villagers have an eclectic palate.  I was spoiled for choice.  I’ve not had Okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake snack) since I lived in Japan and, of course, I love a good Mac & Cheese.

When I think of English summer, I think of drinking Pimms, Mr. N prefers beer and the kids are all over the strawberries with cream.

strawberries and cream

What would a village fair be without cute animals?  At Highgate, it was a sheep-shearing show and in Marylebone it was a petting zoo.

Of course, there are fairground rides and other amusements for children.  A lot of the money raised goes to charity.  For example, Marylebone was raising money for Kids Company which works with vulnerable children and Highgate had a variety of local charities being sponsored.

England Balloons

I thought this “guess the property price” game from Savills in Marylebone was a very London game.   When compared to other parts of the country, it was pretty depressing to compare prices.

Savills guess the property price game

I didn’t know that every area of London has their own Pearly Kings and Queens.  The Pearlies, distinguished by their costumes of intricately sewn buttons, are part of the working class culture of raising money for charity.  I always thought it was an East End thing but here are a couple of Pearly Kings from Highgate looking very dapper.

pearly kings of highgate

The crowded streets are always good for local stores.  The stores are open and occasionally even have offers to entice passers by.  The estate agents in Marylebone must be doing well because they were handing out free popcorn and free candy to passers by.

farrow and ball get festive

We always enjoy going to these fairs.  We went to the Primrose Hill fair last month and Hampstead’s fair is coming up in the beginning of July.  They are a part of our summer landscape when living here in London.  Will you be going to a summer fair where you live?


Style in the Workplace: Muuto’s Copenhagen Office

Did you ever think an office environment can be uber-stylish?  I definitely didn’t but that was before I visited Muuto’s headquarters in Copenhagen.  Granted Muuto is in the business of being stylish, but I was blown away by how everything not only looks good but is very functional, too.  The Muuto office combines the best of a showroom and an actual head office which I would imagine is terrific for the employees.

So what makes the Muuto offices work?  In brief, they have personality and are welcoming.  For example, The Muuto logo has become a work of art on one of the walls. muuto sign There are plants and flowers sprinkled throughout the offices which bring in life and warmth.

The meeting rooms have stylish modern chairs.  The room is sprinkled with a few homey touches which make it welcoming.  Although efficiently set up for business, the room does not feel clinical. meeting room The meeting rooms do not have boring plaques announcing their purpose but a cheerful faux-handwriting scrawl. meeting Even the meeting rooms that are enclosed for privacy, still feel homely. Muuto meeting room There is a wall mural painted by one of the co-founder’s of Muuto who is an artist.  Once again, a nice personal touch miles away from boring and safe “corporate” art.  You don’t need to spend serious money on fine art to impress clients if you are willing to be creative!

The office spaces for unwinding are likewise welcoming.  I’m sure many offices don’t want people too many breaks during work hours so that they make break rooms just as clinical.  A short mental break, however, can do wonders for an employee’s productivity.  This bowl of fruit is in the office cafeteria which is small but functional. bowl of fruit The sofa is on a rooftop break area which has fantastic views over the neighbouring buildings.  Check out the boxes of planters which add softness to the industrial look. muuto rooftop I loved that the Muuto office does not stifle creativity in a brand known for promoting the best of Scandinavian design.  If Muuto can create such a nice office space in Copenhagen, I think London can create welcoming yet functional office spaces too. When looking for a great work space, remember a great office starts with the space itself.  For small businesses, Flexioffices has a broad selection of offices throughout London and the UK.  My favourite is the Canary Wharf office spaces because they have the most amazing view of London.  How could you not be inspired by this view?? London view of skyline This post has been sponsored by Flexioffices.  All words, opinions and photographs (except for the last photograph) are my own.

Tom Woof by Coffey Architects

A Tom Vac By Any Other Name

The Tom Vac Chair  was designed by Ron Arad in 1999 for Vitra.  Made from steel and polypropylene, this chair not only looks good but makes an even more comfortable seat.  Incredibly versatile, this chair can be used both indoors and outdoors and also can be stacked five high.

I particularly like this bright yellow rocking chair version.

As part of Clerkenwell Design Week 2014 and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the chair, Vitra asked about 20 design practices to customise the chair any way they wanted.  Here is an interview with Ron Arad where he talks about the chair and the different variations created in its honour.

I saw the customised entries at the Vitra showroom in Clerkenwell.  The creativity unleashed on the Tom Vac was astounding!  These are my favourite customisations:

Reflect-on by Make Architects

The Reflect-on by Make Architects was inspired by the original Tom Vac’s inspiration which was a sculpture in Milan.  The figurines were created by the people at the architecture practice.  As a result, this piece is supposed to blur the lines between sculpture, furniture and architecture.  I think it looks like a giant vortex where the people are sucked into the hole. Maybe I have been watching too many sci-fi movies!

Reflect on by Make Architects

Reflect-on by Make Architects

Udder Tom

This is the Udder Tom which has the chair representing a cow feeding lots of cows.  Interesting idea to have the white plastic dripping down as milk.

The Udder Tom by M Moser Architects

The Udder Tom by M Moser Architects

Tom Woof

This piece is Tom Woof which has the chair part created to look like one of those hats dogs wear after surgery so they don’t lick or bite their wounds.

Tom Woof by Coffey Architects

Tom Woof by Coffey Architects

Tom Void

This piece called Tom Void is very conceptual.  The designers took a mold of the Tom Vac chair  and then removed the chair itself.  Only the concrete cast is left and hence, the subtitle – Where Tom Gone?  Sorry, the subtitle reminds me of a children’s story book.

Tom Void (Where Tom Gone?) by GMW Architects

Tom Void (Where Tom Gone?) by GMW Architects

Those Were The Days

This piece entitled Those Were The Days is actually the Tom Vac created as a swing seat.  I actually think the candy-coloured buttons are very pretty and the whole thing has a sweet nostalgia very different from the original.  Of all the designs I liked, this one is the only one that can even pretend to be for seating.

Those Were The Days by HLW Internatioanl

Those Were the Days by HLW International


I did not take a good photo of this Tom Vac customisation.  Seen from the side, this piece called mVac is actually the Tom Vac turned into a gramophone.  Very clever use of the shape!

mvac+ Don't Sit Just Listen by HLW International

mvac+ Don’t Sit Just Listen by HLW International

Get Into The Groove ’97

The last one I really thought was clever was this piece which created a collage on the Tom Vac and made it a very Pop Art piece.  I have no idea what it means but anything referencing Mother Teresa, the Verve, Roy Lichtenstein, Madonna, Roald Dahl and Hanson lyrics in the same piece is a winner with me.

Get Into The Groove '97 by ID:SR

Get Into The Groove ’97 by ID:SR

If I had to choose among them, I think I would go with Tom Woof.  I love dogs and one of the funniest memories I have of our dog is how pitiful he looked when he was wearing one of those dog hats.  Really, he was so hamming it up – you would have thought his life was over.  What do you think? Which one is your favourite?

anglepoise + paul smith against a white background

Pedigreed and Poised: The Paul Smith+Anglepoise Collaboration

The whole hyphenated surname thing is definitely more a British thing than American.  I presume both surnames are so important, that neither of them will give way to the other? So, when two British icons get together, it seems only natural that they would produce something that had a double-barrelled name.  In addition, in lieu of a common hyphen, they’ve inserted a plus sign.

Anglepoise + paul smith signature base

In the case of Paul Smith‘s new design of the classic Anglepoise lamp, the resulting lamp is  fabulous and worthy of its name.  The collaboration makes sense because both brands are known for their skilful blending of tradition with modernity.  Here is the Angelpoise Type 75 before its Paul Smith Makeover.

Anglepoise Type 75 Table

Anglepoise likes to encourage creativity as shown by their exhibition in 2014 for Clerkenewell Design Week. In the Creating Balance project, 10 photographers were paired with 10 artists and 1 Anglepoise lamp each to create whatever they wanted.  And, boy, did they go to town!  This year, Anglepoise worked with an established design brand to create what I also feel is a work of art.

The first Anglepoise was created in 1931 by George Carwardine who wanted to create a lamp with both flexibility and balance.  The Anglepoise lamps have had several iterations throughout their long history to keep it current with the times.  The latest version is the Anglepoise+Paul Smith which was launched at Clerkenwell Design Week last month.

anglepoise + paul smith against a white background

The base lamp is the Anglepoise Type 75 which was created by Sir Kenneth Grange who is the company’s design director.  The Anglepoise Type 75 was inspired by a 1970’s version of an Anglepoise lamp which itself reflected a 1950’s design.

anglepoise+paul smith lamp

Paul Smith is a company known for its multi-coloured design.  This colourful approach was applied with restraint on the Anglepoise lamp to accent the industrial design of the original lamp.  Pink, green, blue and grey (or in designer speak, fuchsia, lime, cornflower and clay) are used on different parts of the lamp which itself is a medium grey.  The Paul Smith logo is front and centre on the base.

The Anglepoise+Paul Smith lamp will be available to order online from either the Paul Smith or the Anglepoise websites from August.  It will be available in stores from September.

image credits:  Paul Smith

Remember Me

RHS Chelsea – It’s All Coming Up Roses!

When I think of English gardens, I think of roses.  Of course, I may be unduly influenced by Elton John’s song, Goodbye England’s Rose, which was playing everywhere my first couple of weeks in England in September 1997.  So how best to celebrate the ultimate in English garden shows, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, than a look through that most English of flowers.

I had no idea there were so many different types of roses.  They also have such lovely names.

I love this place setting.  An English tea party with English roses.  So very pretty.

tea and cake

Of course, roses weren’t always the quintessential English flower.  Some interesting facts and legends about the most popular flower in the world:

  • Ornamental roses, have been grown for thousands of years, in Mediterranean countries, the Middle East and Asia.
  • Roses probably were cultivated first in Ancient China about five thousand years ago.
  • In Ancient Greece, the rose was supposed to have been created by Aphrodite, the goddess of love when her tears mixed with the blood of her lover, Adonis.
  • Roses were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt.  Cleopatra had her rooms filled with roses so that when Marc Antony smelled a rose, he would be reminded of her.
  • During the Roman Empire, the Romans established large public rose gardens in the city.  Newlyweds were often crowned with roses.
  • According to Arab legend, all roses started off white until a nightingale fell in love with a rose. He held the rose to himself so intensely, the rose pierced his heart and was coloured by the blood.
  • The rose was a symbol of war and politics during the War of the Roses  in England.  The winner of the war, Henry VII, created the Tudor Rose by cross-breeding other roses.
  • Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, created a garden at her home in Malmaison where her ambition was to have every variety of rose in the world.

I’ll never think of a rose as boring again!  There’s got to be something special about this flower which has been universally grown for millennia.  What do you think?

wire mood board

Learning to Create a Tactile Moodboard

At the Hive 2014 European Bloggers Conference in Copenhagen recently, I was really inspired by a talk given by Gudy Herder of Eclectic Trends on creating tactile mood boards.  I am used to creating digital mood boards such as those I created for the paint colours at our summer house or for the my perfect bathroom CP Hart challenge last year.

It has been a long time, however, since I created a tactile mood board.  Tactile mood boards can include string mood boards, clipboards, wooden panels and wired grid.

Here is Gudy’s advice on creating mood boards:

  1. Have a title that is precise.
  2. Use 3-5 keywords on the mood board such as nouns and adjectives, including emotions.
  3. Decide on what colours you will use.
  4. Use approximately 40% materials otherwise the mood board is lacking in texture.  You might as well have a digital mood board.
  5. Put your most important images in the middle.
  6. Stick everything in place at the end.

In addition, I always thought of mood boards as a way to convey an interior design.  I have never actually thought about mood boards in other contexts such as travel or holidays.  Gudy explained mood boards are not confined to design contexts.  For example, you can create a travel mood board for a particular destination or around a weekend away.

I chose to create a mood board about the Hive 2014 conference itself.  Here’s my effort:

Hive 14 moodboard

Hive 14 moodboard

Most of the items are probably self-explanatory – design elements, business cards of fellow attendees and workshop providers, silly pictures from the Photo Booth provided by Bugaboo and the announcement of next year’s Hive being in Berlin.  I taped some of the items with washi tape because bloggers seem to gravitate towards washi tape like a moth to a flame.   On the top right side, I love the creativity that is in this business card/origami ring by fellow blogger, Kris O Tin from A Ce Soir.

If I were to do a self-assessment of my mood board, onn the positive side, I did have a title that is precise.  Yay me!  I also did write 3 keywords.  My pattern and colours echo the graphic element of Scandinavian design.  After black and white, the colours I related to most often were red and orange.

I didn’t, however, put the most important images in the middle.  In my mind, the Photo Booth images are the most important because they convey the emotions of happiness and friendliness.  I just couldn’t figure out a way to keep that in the centre though without having it look boringly symmetrical.

How do you think I did?  I don’t mind if you give me an E for Effort 🙂


Mid-Century Modern Style on a Budget

My favourite design-inspiration room set at Grand Designs last week was created by Maxine Brady, an interior stylist from Brighton.  Entitled “Inspiration for First Time Buyers”, she has perfectly created a style-conscious, budget-friendly look in a limited space.  The finished look relies heavily on the current trend fashion for mid-century modern furniture and Scandinavian style.  The studio room works well because different areas are zoned for different uses but underlying themes and colours create a coherent look.


Although the colour scheme appears bright, the colour palette is very limited.  She has used flashes of yellow to add interest to a predominantly grey and white neutral scheme.  Having a base that is neutral with accessories in colour makes it easier to swap out items if you decide your space needs a revamp.

The Ikea dining table is based on an iconic Saarinen design.  The chairs and the step stool are Ikea as well.  I think the use of the Ikea kitchen is inspired as well.  With a mix of flat fronts, textured fronts and open shelving, the kitchen looks very designer.  The hexagonal wall tiles also are a very current trend.  They are used in a small space and so give maximum impact for a limited budget.

Living Room

Pattern is also used throughout the space to add interest.  There are lots of geometric prints but they don’t clash because of the restricted colour palette. sofa I love this table and the Hay nesting trays on it.  Although not a cheap option (the Hay trays together cost about a £100), they are a design classic.  In addition, buying good-quality accessories is cheaper than buying name-brand big items.  They also elevate the rest of the space into looking more expensive than it really is. table

 Study Area

Like I mentioned in a previous post on how great Concreate looks, I love flooring which mimics poured concrete but are actually tiles.  This floor is from Harvey Maria which is a cheaper option than Concreate for the budget-conscious.  The look of the floor is warmed up with cozy patterned rugs.  I also like how the sense of space in the room is highlighted because of the mid-century modern vibe of the furniture.  The furniture is lifted of the floor on slender legs which visually adds space to the room.  Everything seems collected and calm which goes well with the rest of the Scandi look. study

Get The Lookgeometric

  1. Ando Concrete tiles, Harvey Maria, £42.95/square meter
  2. Hex tiles, Piazza Tiles, £49/square meter
  3. Frankie, Plantation Rug, £175
  4. Inlay cushion, Sian Elin, £45
  5. Tress wallpaper, Sian Elin, £90/10-meter roll
  6. Tress teatowel, Sian Elin, £6
  7. Geo knitted blanket, Seven Gauge Studios, £250


mid-century modern

  1. Curve candlestick, Edited Brighton, £22
  2. Buttons 3-seater sofa, Sofa Workshop, £1279
  3. Ben de Lisi Set of 2 Metal Tables, Debenhams, £76
  4. Kmix Toaster, John Lewis, £50
  5. Frame coffee table, Joined & Jointed, £195
  6. Hay Kaleido Tray, Heal’s, £12
  7. Ceramic flower pots, Chive, £12
  8. Tolix-style stool, Lakeland Furniture, £59


What do you think?  Do you like this room as much as I do?  Would you style anything differently?  I’d love to hear what you think.

we can only love others as much as we love ourselves by brene brown

On Vulnerability and Acceptance

I am not a fluffy, happy-clappy, mantra-spouting hippie chick.  My general look of haphazard, boho-motherdom is really just a result of laziness – the clothes are comfortable and I don’t have the strength of will to tiger-mother my children.  Besides the children are as stubborn and strong-willed as I am, but, of course, I blame those tendencies on their father.

So when the schedule at Hive 2014, a recent blogging conference, indicated that Katie Tregeddin from Confessions of a Design Geek was going to do a talk about finding your inner voice, my initial reaction was aaaargh.  Katie, however, started with a TED Talk by Dr. Brene Brown.  Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher of shame-and-vulnerability at the University of Houston and her TED Talk has been watched by more than 7 million people.

Brene is a smart, witty and very down-to-earth Texan professor – something of a cross between the wit of Ellen, the intelligence of Jon Stewart and the empathy of Oprah.  I was immediately captivated by her talk.

Here are some of the take-away points from the talk which made a real impact on me:

  • The feeling of connection is what makes the world go around by giving purpose and meaning to your life.
  • Shame is our fear of disconnection.  E.g., if someone else knows X about me, they will run screaming in the opposite direction and so let’s keep X quiet.
shamed man hiding head

image credit: Fabrizio Lonzini

  • Underlying this feeling of shame is the feeling that we are not good enough (in other words, vulnerability).
  • We protect ourselves from vulnerability with perfectionism, numbing and foreboding joy.
  • Perfectionism is self-explanatory.  It’s the hypercritical voice in your head. Numbing is when you over-eat, shop, drink etc to escape feeling something or even anything.  Foreboding joy is worrying about what can take away the joy you experience at a particular moment.    I’m guilty of all three (not necessarily together!).  For example, when the twins were babies, I would hover over them to watch them sleep just to make sure they were still breathing.
sleeping baby

photo credit: Pavel P.

  • You can’t, however, selectively numb emotion.  You will be inadvertently numbing joy, gratitude and other good emotions as well.
  • Let the real you be seen even if it makes you vulnerable.  Believe that you, even with all your imperfections, are enough.

believe that you are worthy by brene brown

This talk by Brene Brown is one of the best things I’ve listened in a long time.  Thanks to Katie for introducing me to it because there was no way I would ever have clicked on something entitled “the power of vulnerability” on Youtube on my own.

we can only love others as much as we love ourselves by brene brown

I encourage you to listen to the whole talk.  I’m willing to bet that you’ll be glad you did.

john lewis green

Five Favourite Finds at Grand Designs Live

Did you have a chance to visit Grand Designs Live in London last week?  I’d be curious to know what you thought of it.  I was a little underwhelmed – there was a lot of repetition of the same types of stuff and the same stalls from last year.  For example, there were at least a half-dozen firms promoting their garden rooms.  The most exciting was the Noa house from Katus Architecture which I wrote about last week.

Here are my 5 favourite finds from the rest of the show:

John Lewis Kitchens

The John Lewis Kitchens stand was really buzzing.  It was easy to see why.  I had expected a boring or even safe kitchen but I think John Lewis have really upped their game.  I loved the mustard yellow splash back combined with the black/off-white and grey colour scheme.  It’s neutral yet not boring.  Check out the design of the countertop as well.  The slight recess underneath the countertop makes it appear as if it is floating above the cabinets.  It’s a lighter look than if the countertop was flush with the cabinets.

john lewis green

Another kitchen I thought was cool had a weathered wood finish.  The look adds texture and rustic charm in a modern setting and without the splinters.


I love concrete floors but they are a major undertaking to install.  Concreate have set themselves up as an alternative to poured concrete floors because they provide engineered concrete tiles. Ingenious!  If you get bored with the look, you can just replace the tiles just like any other tiled floor.  At Grand Designs, the Poggenpohl display was on Concreate tiles so that you could see the tiles in a large space.  They look fabulous.  Of course you do get grout lines which you wouldn’t with a poured concrete floor.  On the other hand, you have a lot more flexibility.

poggenpohl concreate


It would never have occurred to me to graffiti anything as a kid.  Seriously.  I was as boring and suburban as they come.  Street art, however, has come a long ways since then anyway.  Alfreshco is a company that lets you live out your urban artist fantasies.  They provide markers as well as spray cans as well as other accessories so that you can tag whatever you would like.

There is an amazing array of colours.  I would seriously give my kids some of these paints and let them loose on a garden wall in our home.  My daughter would draw hearts and my son would draw airplanes.  They would love it!  And, we can always paint over it at a later date.

Georgia Lindsay trug seats

Georgia Lindsay is the garden designer who created the Family Garden for the show.  She created these charming seats using regular tub trugs and filling them with colourful cushions.  They can be stacked and easily moved around.  Although created for the show, they are available for sale if you contact her through her website.

trug seats

Jamie Hubbard Creative Woodwork

I met Jamie Hubbard who had created artwork his friend’s stand in the Grand Gardens section of show gardens.  A cabinet maker, Jamie uses offcuts from his work as well as other materials he recycles into cool one-off art pieces.  The X below, for example, are recycled bottles he gets from a cafe near his workplace mounted onto wood with LED lights.  His pieces are one-offs and he works to commission as well.

As an added bonus, I was delighted to see the scaffolding four-poster bed from The Wrought Iron & Brass  Bed Company was featured again this year as a Kevin McCloud green hero.  That is two years on Kevin’s list.  Upcycled industrial is here to stay!


What do you think of these products?  Did you get to visit Grand Designs Live?  Were you more impressed than I was with the show itself?  I’d love to hear from you.

Noa in the Fields

The Noa Garden House

The Grand Designs Live event at the Excel Centre this week has no shortage of structures that you could place in the garden for extra living space.  By far the most stylish garden house though has got to be the Noa Garden House sold through Katus Architecture.

The Noa Garden House is designed by Jaanus Orgusaar, an Estonian designer-inventor, who built one for his whole family.  He uses his garden house as a summer house.  You could add multiple modules to adapt the space to your needs either to the side or even stacking on top.

Noa in the Fields

Noa Summer House
Image credit: Jaanus Orgusaar

This structure would look like a piece of modern sculpture at the end of your garden.  The shape is a rhombus, more specifically a rhombic dodecahedron. The module is made from sustainable wood materials, limestone paste and cottage cheese paint.  The outside is treated with iron oxide so the wood fades to a grey which should help it blend into its surrounds.

The internal space is 21 square meters (226 square feet) but it feels much more spacious because of the high ceilings and the hexagonal floor.  Despite the angled walls, inside the house, it really does feel like a circular space.

Inside of Noa

Inside of Noa
Image credit: Jaanus Orgusaar

The two fisheye windows are wide and help with making the internal space bright.  The high ceiling adds to the feeling of space.  The ceiling light which throws such fantastic shadows is another creation of Jaanus Orgusaar called Solar and available through his website.

solar light

The structure is supported on posts in the ground.  It doesn’t actually have a foundation in the ground.  The house is necessarily built with a stairs and a deck which bends up and around for internal access.


Image credit: Jaanus Orgusaar

I think this garden house is the coolest thing for a backyard office or a children’s play area.  At an approximate cost of £11,000 though, it is not the cheapest option.  I am, however, thinking that the Solar light would be a terrific addition for a child’s room.

What do you think of the Noa?  Is it too ‘out there’ for your back garden?