The Simple Tap

January is a bit of a dark winter month, a little bit far away from spring to really start feeling the change of season.  The benefit that January has is being able to plan, as the evenings are dark there is nothing nicer than setting your goals for the year be it personal ones or impending home improvements.

Being able to happily make mood boards of how you want your new space to look, creating pull out lists of beautiful materials, fixtures and fittings.  Then finding the equivalent high end design at the fraction of the cost is even more exhilarating.

I’m not in need of renovating my kitchen at home at the moment as it works well, its functional and serves our needs.  The design fits our home but if I were to have the urge to change and replace I think it would definitely err towards sleek and minimal, clean lines and everything in it’s place.   With this kind of design you need to really consider the position of your sink and kitchen taps.   Symmetry, unfussy and modern,  nothing too ostentatious or country cottage, simple designs that look like a piece of well considered furniture.

Brushed steel, chrome, matt black, copper, slubby gold all of these finishes would work perfectly in a pared back scheme. Where sleek cabinetry blends into the background by using a subtle colour palette, letting the taps take centre stage.

Practicality is always a good thing, having a swish tap that looks good but doesn’t work so well is a bit of a disaster.  Choosing a tap that has a pull out spray head that is hidden when not in use is a perfect example such as these Hansgrohe taps.  Single lever mixer taps work beautifully, the design of Grohe taps are elegant with no fuss. A perfect extravagance would to maybe invest in a  boiling water tap so there is no need to have a kettle on display for instance.

If you like the streamlined look and are planning on a kitchen makeover take a look at my pinterest page dedicated to well designed spaces.

Images ~  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11

  • This post was written in collaboration with Superbath

 

Coffee on the Go

I think you are all aware that I do love a good cup of coffee, my day always starts with a slow cup savouring the moment before the day starts be it a busy work one or a hunker down at home kind.

During the Christmas break we took it easy, lots of sleep, taking time to connect again after a hectic few weeks leading up to the holidays.  We didn’t stay asleep all the time, we enjoyed being outside but on our own terms and timescale in the fresh air.  Long walks in the woods and by the sea were high on our list of family time.

What added to these trips outdoors was taking my coffee with me thanks to 24Bottles.  This beautifully designed sleek insulated bottle is genius not only does it look good, it works amazingly well.  This stainless steel double-walled Thermo Bottle will keep your drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 which is pretty cool don’t you think?  It’s also light weight and compact so doesn’t feel like a chore carrying it around.  So no more lugging large flasks around that leak in your handbag!

The beauty of these ingenious bottles is that they are environmentally friendly too, 24Bottles is the Italian design brand born in 2013, their mission was to unburden the planet from disposable plastic bottles, providing a collection of carefully designed, high-quality, easy-to-carry, sustainable stainless steel solutions for your daily hydration on the go.

They believe that good design can change things for the better and can help people improve their health and quality of life as well as their look, in an environmentally friendly way.

All huge ticks in my book, no more will I need to buy bottles of water to take on work journeys or when I exercise and these well designed bottles look rather stylish too don’t you think?

New Year Wishes

friday-musings-127A simple style New Year is filling my thoughts.  Well planned escapes, working with cool clients and ambitions to strive for.  Beautiful simple moments to be enjoyed and cherished with those I love.

For now though I shall immerse myself in the last day of fairy lights and tinsel, champagne and naughty treats.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year may it be all that your heart wishes it to be.

It’s Here

The winter solstice has just passed, time to embrace these darker days, enjoy the quiet moments that they bring and to reflect on the year that has passed. Slow mornings spent curled under the duvet just a little bit longer, coffee in hand.  Preparing treats and planning for the big feast on Christmas Day.  Lingering longer at the table lit by candle light, all these precious simple things fill me with joy.

Now it’s time for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas I hope that your’s will be filled with the simplicity and thoughtfulness that this wondrous season brings.

White Luxury

I was recently set a challenge by Sainsbury’s to live with some of their everyday luxury products and review my findings.  To me it was perfect timing what with Christmas approaching fast, to renew and refresh my guest bedroom essentials for welcoming guests over the festive season and to be organised for the odd impromptu visits that sometimes occur.

Creating a home away from home environment when we have guests to stay is a priority and a pleasure.  Fresh cotton sheets that match, plump duvet and pillows and a set of fluffy towels.  There is nothing worse than an unloved space to stay in, a little bit of time and effort makes all the difference.

To create that perfect nights sleep Sainsbury’s duvet and pillows are luxurious with pure cotton covers filled with goose feather and down fillers, both soft and light, making your night’s sleep warm and cosy.

I love nothing more than pure white bedding, it makes a guest room inviting, especially if you layer well with cushions and throws, giving the room that indulgent feel.  The Everyday Luxury collection most certainly falls into this category, made from the finest quality Egyptian cotton with a high thread count which becomes softer and more luxurious after every wash.   It is most certainly soft and comfortable and with the addition of a textured white throw placed at the end of the bed for when you get a little chilly makes for the most heavenly setting.

Classic white fluffy towels are a must for your guest, make sure you have a range from large bath towel down to a hand towel.   These towels from the home collection are made from fine Eygptian cotton hygro.  Hygro is a marvellous technology that ensures the towels are thicker and softer than normal without being bulky or heavy.  I can honestly say they are the fluffiest, softest towels I have ever owned, there is nothing nicer than snuggling up in a soft towel after a relaxing soak in the tub.

The finishing touches to any guest room is to make the space look inviting and homely.  Placing fresh flowers and reading material on the bedside.  A beautiful scented candle if your guest want to retire early to read a while in the glow of candle light.  Arrange some hangers so clothes can be stored neatly.  Leave a fresh jug of water and tumblers and a dedicated space for toiletries.

All these details make for a pleasant stay and I can whole heartedly say that the Sainsbury’s Everyday Luxury range will do the job excellently.  Good quality, high end products at better than high street prices is quite remarkable.

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With thanks to Sainsbury’s for providing the items reviewed in this post #SainsburysHome

 

 

Kind for Dogs

I know before you all say ‘but you don’t have a dog’ there is logic behind my madness.   I know it is true I don’t own a dog but I do know many friends that do and I am exceedingly passionate about good design.  That’s were Kind for Dogs comes in, this new Finnish Lifestyle Brand offer the best of both worlds, whether your family has a dog or not. The simple Nordic style is prevalent in their designs all in a muted colour palette of linens, leather and ceramics not a naff gawdy dog print in sight.

Maarit the founder of Kind describes the ethos and values behind this very unique lifestyle brand perfectly below;

“Any dog lover will know that dogs are an important part of the family. However, we’ve noticed that when it comes to interior décor, man’s best friend is often forgotten. This thinking gave birth to an idea of new Finnish lifestyle brand for dog owners and dogs. 

Today at Kind, we aim to bring sustainable Nordic style to your home, always with your pet’s comfort in mind. Our collection consists of functional yet stylish dog accessories and home decor. Our product design is clean and Nordic, so that any style-conscious dog owner can enjoy it.

From the start, it was important that Kind’s products should stand the test of time, and not become scruffy in use. This principle still guides every decision in the design process. Our collection combines the needs of your dog with clean Nordic design. Our harmonious colour palette is inspired by nature, making our dog beds so beautiful that they will fit right in with your interior décor. No more hiding your dog’s things in the laundry room.

 

At Kind, we aim to make products that are functional and simplistically beautiful. Dogs remind us of how important it is to stay in touch with nature, so we use many high-quality natural materials, like linen, cotton, and vegetable tanned leather.

 

 This high quality design lead store is a joy, set out in clear categories , At Home, Going Out and For the Owner.  Each one with specific items for that exact purpose.  Practical dog beds that blend seamlessly into your interior and the most beautiful ceramic dog bowls that if you weren’t using for your dog’s meals wouldn’t look out of place on your own table.  Handmade leather dog collars and leads that age beautifully with time and wear. Then finally there is their home wares category, yes you can use the linen waffle towels for cleaning your dog after long walk but they work equally well as useful towels in your home.  Also minimalist linen pillow covers bringing the whole clean lined Nordic style together, creating a stylish interior for your home whether you own a dog or not.

Kind for dogs generously sent me some of their linen products to try in my own home and they work very well indeed, of course how could I not like linen waffle towels and linen pillow covers.  They are an essential part of my home interiors and work seamlessly with my decor.

So I urge you to go and take a look, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed, I was thinking maybe a Christmas gift for the dog lover in your family, if you make a purchase you can receive a 10% discount with your order using the code KIND16.

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  •  With many thanks to Kind for Dogs for gifting the items in this post

Warm & Bright

This is an image I never thought I would be taking, one of a fire sitting on my hearth but lo and behold here one is.  We live in a smoke free zone in a 1980’s build, when we moved in 13 years ago we inherited with a grotty electric fire that we never used and covered up.  The fire surround is still not to my liking but I having just replaced the horrid tiles that were there before, the surround will have to stay a little longer until we decide what to do.  We are thinking a big solid oak beam would look good as I can’t live without a mantle, where on earth would I put all my candles!

This ingenious fire is  free standing and runs using bioethanol by imaginfires, I am so impressed with the whole ethos behind these clever fires and they look pretty good too.

Here comes the clever stuff, you don’t need a flue or chimney to use a bioethanol fire as they don’t emit any smoke, making them environmentally friendly, clean and can be used in smoke controlled zones.  The fuel burns with a 98% efficiency rate meaning you get no nasty residue to clean.   The biofires give off real heat, no artificial flames, you can also adjust the flame size and heat output if your room gets too toasty.  No gas or electricity sources needed either just the bioethanol fuel.

So bioethanol, what is it?  This fuel is a renewable energy source produced by a sugar fermentation process.  The sugar comes from renewable crops such as corn, maize and wheat which create a much lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels.

For someone who thought moving house would be the only way to get a fire this simple stylish fire has made me very happy.  To be able to light it with no mess just as easy as lighting a candle and have it warm the room with it’s flickering flames has been magical.  Even better it has arrived in perfect time as the nights are drawing in and the evenings getting colder.  It has made our living room so cosy that we find it hard leaving the sofa!

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With thanks to imaginfires for providing the Bredon Fire without whom this post would not be possible.

 

Monochrome & Geometric

Some things I know I will never tire of, beautiful tiles, especially ones that are geometric and monochrome.  The trend continues and I don’t think it will fade any time soon, they are a classic and will add an air of luxury in any space big or small.  I am always drawn to the pared back muted tones of black and white and all the subtly beautiful hues of grey in between.  From the clothes that hang in my wardrobe to the décor in my home this colour palette is most definitely the one for me.

So when I came across these stunning tiles by Laura Ashley my heart skipped a beat.  The Heritage Collection is a collaboration with British Ceramics and they are simply perfect.   The ceramic feature floor tiles come in two unique patterns and colour ways, Wicker and Mr Jones, charcoal and dove grey in both.  This sophisticated geometric style would bring such a distinctive look to any room you chose to use them in be it a kitchen or bathroom floor.  Or if you are like me and don’t have the space to do a full tile refit with large tiles but can’t resist owning one or two because of their striking pattern you’ll come up with inventive ways to give these tiles a new purpose in your home.

Using a tile other than its purpose is fun and resourceful.  These large square tiles look amazing used as boards on your dining table, placing one or two (if you have a large table) down the centre as serving boards, or they would make the most stylish cheese platter.  They would look equally as effective as the centre piece to a well styled table setting filled with candles and greenery.   Place one by the side of your cooker to hold all the necessary utensils and condiments you need when cooking a meal.  You could also have a tile as a feature on your footstool or coffee table in the lounge, a perfect place to put your hot drinks or glasses of champagne and nibbles when having a party.  Of course, they work very well in a bathroom, as tiles on the floor or maybe placed as a splashback or a stylish way to display your favourite bathroom essentials.

If you are lucky enough to have to space to use them en mass in a room scheme let the monochrome patterns on these tiles speak for themselves, they don’t need fussy surroundings, by keeping other elements simple you will be rewarded with a very classic look.  Keeping the fabric and paint choices within the spectrum using linen fabrics and matt grey paints, mixing and matching to create different vignettes with each tile.   Laura Ashley’s choice of fabric and paint is always excellent, the ones I have matched the tiles with here are, Bacall charcoal and Dalton pale natural fabric, Dove Grey and Steel water based matt paint which bring the tonal variations of grey together cohesively.

An easy way to make sure you are going in the right direction is to look outside to nature.  The tonal elements between a stormy sky, sea and rock for instance or the patina of metal and weathered wood.

On that note I think it’s fair to say that my love affair with all things monochrome, geometric and ceramic will never fade.

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With thanks to Laura Ashley for providing the materials for this post.

 

The Perfect Night In

As Winter approaches I like nothing better than staying in, no plans made, nowhere to go and I couldn’t be happier.   Don’t get me wrong I do love getting glammed up every now and again, high heels on, glass of fizz in hand, creeping back in in the small hours. Then sometimes after a busy week you long to recharge, shut the laptop, turn off the phone and just savour those precious moments at home.

I don’t need to give you hints or tips as to how to do it, I think we all  have our favourite ways of unwinding and making the most of our down but these are a few of the things that I find irresistible to me.  When I get the chance to do more than one of these rituals together then I have succeeded in creating the perfect night in.

As the day draws in I like nothing better than to light many candles.  The warm glow creates the perfect atmosphere to start relaxing.  Light the fire, put the kettle on and curl up in your favourite chair with those books you’ve been meaning to read for a while and haven’t quite got around to yet.  I also like indulging  and losing myself in a good film, wrapped up in blankets on the sofa, movie night is another way to escape, to drift off into another world for a while you simply can’t beat it.

Whilst you are in no rush there is nothing nicer than to draw a warm scent filled bath, to soak away those knots, breathe deeper and slower while immersed in the warm water.   Fill the room with candle light, maybe enjoy a good glass of wine and stay there until your fingers get all wrinkly.

Something that my husband and I like to do is cook, through the week evening meals can be quick and rushed as we all do our daily tasks, homework to be completed, clubs to go to, meetings to attend.  On one of those rare evenings that it is just the two of us, there is nothing more satisfying than to make a meal together, taking our time preparing, laying a table, talking about the day, creating new plans without any time constraints.

Then my all time favourite of all favourites for a perfect night in is to get into bed ridiculously early.  Comfy and cosy, fresh bedlinen, books and magazines at the ready, blankets to snuggle up in and a warming cup of tea.  Truly it doesn’t get any better than the cocooning sanctuary that is the duvet.  To be able to fall asleep when relaxed and rested, enjoying a good nights sleep and to wake refreshed and renewed, there is nothing that can top that, not in my book.

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This post was inspired by National Sleep Comfort Month and the online mattress company Leesa

 

 

Created + Found

You don’t have to look very far to find wonderful independent makers and creators.  I am very lucky that in my line of work I come across many folk who do just that and I’m honoured that I can call many of them friends.  Jette is one of these creatives and she has recently launched a beautiful on line store Created & Found.  Jette is a food stylist based in Dublin her passion lies in the kitchen as her first collection testifies.  I asked Jette to tell me the story of starting Created & Found and the ethos behind it.

“Created & Found is a home ware range that encapsulates slow living, functionality and aesthetics, focusing ruthlessly on creating incredible products that encourage memories and experiences around food. Created & Found is based on honesty and authenticity and we believe in community not competition and working in collaboration with Irish makers has helped to build a community for the long term. Within the collection are ceramics, wood products, linens and beeswax items and they have all be created with a vision to make everyday living a little more special.

Each piece is lovingly made by hand, taking into account environmental and traditional practices. The range is completely unique in that we have created only 50 pieces of each item in a bid to create a range that is so special and in keeping with our slow living, maker focused ethics. In our ceramics we have a dinner plate, bowl and beaker, we have 5 sizes of chopping boards, aprons, tea towels and napkins, two styles of wooden spoons; serving and cooking and beeswax candles. The items available range from €8 to €52.”

The current collection makes my heart skip a beat, linen, ceramics, wood; what’s not to like?  From the rustic rough edged oak chopping boards, to soft Irish linen aprons and napkins , ceramics hand turned in Kilkenny using natural dyes to create the stunning one off pieces that you will treasure for a long time.

To celebrate the launch I was lucky enough to be sent some of Created & Found linen napkins and a to die for plate.  What better way to showcase these lovely wares than to bake!

With it being the end of Autumn I had an abundance of home grown apples and pears to use up, so I got creative in the kitchen and baked a delicious apple and almond cake and our family favourite apple and pear crumble.  It is so quick and easy I’ll share the recipe, just in case you want to give it a go!

Ingredients

700g apple (cookers)

225g dessert apples (such as cox or russets)

225g pear

50g unsalted  butter

1 tbsp golden caster sugar

Topping

140g golden caster sugar

140g plain flour

2 tsp cinnamon

140g unsalted butter

140g rolled oats

First pre heat the oven to 200°c.  Peel, core and cut the apples and pears into large chunks.  Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the apple and pear chunks and cook over a high heat for a couple of minutes, turning all the time.  Sprinkle over the caster sugar and keep turning until slightly soft and caramelised.  Spoon the fruit mixture into a baking dish.

To make the topping, place the butter (cubed), caster sugar, flour, cinnamon in a large bowl and rub between your finger tips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Mix in the oats and scatter the mixture over the fruit, pushing it firmly down.

Bake for 25 mins until the topping is golden, serve with anything you wish.

There’s nothing better than baking and serving your handmade goodness to the family especially on beautiful ceramics.

Everything featured on Created & Found would make perfect gifts for the artisan cook in your life.  I have my eye on the chopping boards *wink*

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  • With thanks to Created & Found for gifting the plate and napkins for this post

 

 

 

 

 

The Nomad Society

One of the first thing I do at this time of year is to stock up on candles of all shapes and sizes, scented, bees wax, pillar, tea lights.  I simply love them and couldn’t imagine our home without them, the comforting glow on dark evenings is just the loveliest thing.

I particularly like candles that are packaged well, displayed into a stylish vessel that give any surface a new dynamic with the added bonus of being able to use said vessel again; this is a win win in my book.

These beautiful amber glass jarred 100% soy wax candles are by The Nomad Society and I simply love them.  They are sheer perfection when it comes to candles, sleek, scented, hand poured, artisan and wonderful.

Here’s a little bit about the ethos and meaning behind this unique company.

“The destination for those who roam

Our collection of hand poured scented soy candles are talismans from days spent in the water and nights under the stars. 

Nomad n.

/ˈnəʊmæd/ 

1550s, from Middle French nomade (16c.), from Latin Nomas (genitive Nomadis) “Wandering groups in Arabia.”

1) A person who continually moves from place to place: wanderer

The Nomad Society encapsulates our love of travel. Daydreamer at heart, our collection invokes a sense of wanderlust.

The Nomad Society is for the globetrotters amongst us wanting to bring back a talisman from our days spent by the beach and under the stars.

Our collection of hand poured scented soy candles embrace our nomadic lifestyles. We hand pour in small batches, taking pride in using no mass production in the making of any of our products. All our candles are phthalate free.”

I’m lucky enough to have two contrasting scents, the first Day Dreamer from the SS16 // Wanderlust collection conjures up memories of those warmer summer days with an added note of coconut, the subtle fragrance is sublime.

The second which is my overall favourite is Last Night from the AW16 // Darker Days collection, the scents are inspired by darker days, winter botanicals and autumnal adventures.  This one fills the room with the most intoxicating aroma of amber wood and moss, it is delicious.  Simply perfect for this time of year.

These very special candles are poured by hand in Hossegor, France, in small batches to keep their individuality and integrity to the fore. They come in two different sizes, small 125ml, 6cm diameter with an approximate burn time of 20 hours and large 500ml, 10.5cm diameter with an approximate burn time of 85 hours.

So if you are struggling for Christmas gift ideas, struggle no more, these candles would make the most perfect gift for anyone in your life, you have my guarantee!

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// With thanks to The Nomad Society for sending me these candles

To the Lake

The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.” ~ Alfred Wainwright

The Lake District has my heart, our forever place, a home from home and we adore it so.  To be able to visit even for those short fun filled days, come rain or shine, in any of the seasons, the landscape, the air, the water, it’s magical presence will always be.

I will never tire of sitting by the waters edge watching the boats and people walking along the tracks of the fells.  The views, no matter where you are simply take your breath away, I always try to imprint them to memory for a rainy day but they always take you by surprise when you are there, looking at it’s greatness.

The light seems to be different there somehow especially at this time of year, everything is bathed in an amber glow.  Time stands still for a while, life takes on a different pace, no rush or fuss.

I wanted to be able to bring a piece of this trip home with me and I was lucky enough to purchase a piece of abstract art work that is currently on display as part of the Cumbrian Artist of the Year 2016 at the Rheged Centre.   I have to wait until mid November to get my hands on it, so the excitement builds!  I also got to see my friend Ali’s beautiful new tweed bag range for Ruskin, made with wool from local Herdwick sheep, of course I am now coveting the Quentin.

I seemed to notice the smaller details while away this time, so hopefully you’ll enjoy what I have captured.  From rocks on the waters edge, perry pears that were freely falling from their boughs (and on my head which caused great peals of laughter) to a rustic woven cushion on a window ledge, log piles and rough stone walls.

Happy memories made, until next time.

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Autumnal

Well the season is well and truly in full swing and I’m embracing it with open arms, hello Autumn I rather like you.  I am always a little apprehensive betwixt the end of Summer and the glorious few months that follow.  I am ready now to let go of that limbo, the reluctance to let go of the warm sun and sandal wearing days, and whole heartedly grasp the magical moments that Autumn brings.

I like it when the temperature drops so that I can start layering my wardrobe, chunky knits over skinny jeans, woolly socks in boots, snuggle into well wrapped scarves.  I even change my handbag from wicker basket to my Nara bucket bag with it’s beautiful soft buttery leather.

Dark mornings snuggled under the duvet for 5 more minutes than usual, bowls of warming porridge by candle light before the day gets started.  Then at the end of the day curling up under blankets with warming cups and indulgent books.  If I had a log burner it would be lit, crackling warmth infusing the room, one day I will have one!

Bracing walks kicking the jewel coloured fallen leaves, comfort food made with locally sourced delicious seasonal produce. Displaying a myraid of pumpkins and gourds in all their varying colours shapes and sizes.

To truly feeling those moments of hygge to wrap it around you to savour those precious memories created whilst doing all the wonderful Autumn things that you do.  To get a sense of what this means I would highly recommend this profound little book written by Louisa Thomsen Brits called the book of hygge (the Danish art of living well) a perfect read whilst snuggled up in your favourite armchair.

So yes once again Autumn I rather do like you…..

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Image source  2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 & 11 the rest are my own

 

 

 

 

Pinterest = Happiness

Hello my name is Jane and I am a Pinterest addict and quite proud of it too.  It’s my happy place, my staple go-to to glean inspiration, aspiration, current moods and trends.  Somewhere where all my daydreams are placed as a visual reminder, all categorised in the right place so at a click of a button I’m transported into the kitchen of my dreams, the recipe I want to try or the fashion store that has the perfect dress.

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I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to how my feed looks, I like it to be fresh with a touch of cool simplicity to each board so when you look at it on a whole it just flows, a tad OCD but I don’t care as I said earlier it’s my happy place.

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I like to take a few moments on a morning with a cup of coffee and pin, along with my daily swim it’s a routine I like, it brings calm to my day creating visual mood boards that I can look at at any point.

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I was over the moon when I was invited to a PinterestUK evening of ideas event in London.  So I hopped on a train and rocked up to be involved in a unique inspirational moment with like minded souls.  I felt a connection with the talk that Alastair Cotteral, Pinterest Head of Creative gave, the emphasis for expression, visually arresting images and the inspiring content that we can create by using this wonderful tool can lead to making  contact with some pretty cool folk.

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I came away with a head full of ideas, small improvements to be made and new additions to be added to take my feed to the next level.  For now though I am happy collating my ideas, hopes and darn right lovely interiors as my everyday aspirations.

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Come and follow me here and say hi.

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Mood boards created using images from specific boards on Pinterest 1, 2, 34 & 5

Design Elements // Childrens Books

I know before anyone asks if I’ve gone mad then the answer is most certainly NO!   Children’s books in all their colourful, imaginative, educational other world inspiring glory are full of design.  Can you see the connection?   I wonder how many times you have read a book to your little one and studied the art work, I know I have.  Pondering questions of what inspired the illustrator and how they came up with their brilliant concept that will be treasured at bed times by so many small people.  Even to the point of connecting with a child so much that this is what they end up doing themselves when they grow up.

Design is everywhere you look and I was fascinated when I was asked to take a look at three new very unique children’s books based on their design ethics. The books in question are Handstand by Lisa Stickley,  An Animal ABC by Alice Pattullo (to be released on 13th October 2016) and a re telling with a twist on a classic tale Sleeping Beauty: a mid century fairy tale illustrated by David Roberts and retold by Lyn Roberts-Maloney.  Rather than me review each one I thought that I would ask the author illustrators about their creations as they know far more about design than I!

1. Where did the design influence come from when putting the book together?

Lisa ~ I wanted to create a ‘fresh air’ feeling for this book so I embraced the naivety and simplicity of coloured pencil and oil pastel often used in my work. Combining this with mono-print and injections of colour by way of collaged pattern I hope it evokes a feeling of unfussiness and ‘only just cut grass’, which is exactly what I think of when I remember ALL of the handstands I used to do when I was little. Books on Saul Steinberg, David Hockney and William Scott were regularly perused when I was creating Handstand too.

Alice ~ I’m generally very inspired by mid-century artists and illustrators like Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Barbara Jones, Enid Marx, Barnett Freedman….I could go on! All of these artists crossed the (invisible) line between ‘art’ and commercial illustration and I like to think that I am doing this with my own work now. I am also very interested in the print aesthetic of 1930s/40s lithographed children’s books, like the Puffin picture books (of which a few of these artists produced designs for). I particularly love the limited colour palettes which force an ingenuity when it comes to layering colours – so you make the most out of the few you have. I wanted to adopt this technique and stick to just 4 colours throughout the whole alphabet, emphasing different colours in different animals to make it look like I had a wider array than I really did.

David ~ It came from the idea of how the culture of the 1950s envisaged the future. Sci-fi films, robots, comics and cartoons were all an influence on the look. I also looked at furniture, fashion, surface patterns and textiles of the period. Russian architecture was also an influence as it seemed to have a futuristic look to it.

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2. Who or what inspired you as a child?

Lisa ~ I was always a maker and a doer from a very early age, with huge encouragement from my aunty who is a great sewer and knitter. When I wasn’t cart wheeling myself around the garden I would be painting, playing at shoe shops, baking cakes or making things.

When I was a young teenager I remember having a Dryad mini screen-printing kit, and my first print being a ‘flower power’ type flower in two colours on a white pair of shorts! I used that little screen for years after that, and ended up printing some of my very early labels with it onto cotton binding tape.

My art teacher at secondary school was also a huge influence. She was the most wonderful lady and I remember how she would sit at her desk before class sharpening all her coloured pencils with a penknife. She used to set up the most fantastic still life compositions for us to draw and opened my eyes to the world of Art and design. I had found my happy place.

Alice ~ I was brought up in a creative household. My mother is a textile artist (who has also actually just released a book with Batsford – ‘Textile Collage’ by Mandy Pattullo) and my father is an architect, so I guess they were the initial inspiration that led me down a path towards a creative profession. Myself and my brother were always encouraged to draw and paint and be creative at the kitchen table and were regularly taken to galleries and museums. I remember a visiting a particularly influential exhibition as a young adult of Shirley Hughe’s work – seeing her sketchbooks and inspiration and how they translated into her picture book work was really pivotal in pushing me in the direction of ‘illustration’ as a career.

David ~ I was very much inspired by music, particularly Kate Bush. I also loved fashion and dressing up.

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3. Can you tell me a little about your design background?

Lisa ~ I trained as a printed textile designer at Central Saint Martins and The Royal College Of Art. Having originally founded Lisa Stickley in 1999 (from my bedroom, using the original Cash’s labels my mum used to sew into my school socks, and subsequently said screen printed ones above) I was lucky enough to sell my first ever products to Paul Smith, Designers Guild and The Cross. Since then I have collaborated with the likes of Burberry, Harrods, Liberty, Tate, Selfridges, Heals, Boots, Debenhams, John Lewis and Japanese stores Ships, Hankyu & Isetan.

I opened my first shop in 2007 in South London, which, behind the scenes, doubled up as a bustling print studio and creative hub. I have designed and developed lifestyle brand concepts, and have produced and sold home-wear product and accessories all over the world.

Alice ~ Other than my childhood as explained in the previous questions, I studied a foundation at Newcastle College which was brilliant (I’m saddened to hear that a lot of universities aren’t looking for this as a pre-requisite any more and that many of the foundation courses across the UK are now being cut altogether) – It was a really encouraging and explorative year – although you have some art education at school – it by no means is reflective of what you could be studying in higher education and foundation really provided a glimpse of this and again helped me understand that I wanted to pursue illustration, in particular more concept driven work. I went from here to study BA Illustration at Brighton University, with a brief stint in the US at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Upon graduating I continued working on self initiated projects which would generally manifest themselves as a series of screen prints which I then showed to various shops and galleries around the UK that I particularly liked and thought my work would sit comfortably in. From this my first few illustration jobs actually came from people seeing my prints in the right place at the right time really – and a lot of my commissions generally have come from word of mouth to begin with. That in itself is humbling that people want to share my work. Now in an age of the internet, I find a lot of my commissioned work actually comes from other people’s pinterest boards which is almost the same thing! I now have an agent for my illustration work, Central Illustration Agency as well as continuing to produce self initiated screen prints, such as the ABC series.

David ~ I left school at 16 and I went to art college with the intention of becoming a costume designer but I found I had a keen interest in fashion design and textiles so I went to study for a BA in Fashion Design at Manchester Polytechnic. Whilst there I did a short course in millinery which I fell in love with and so on leaving college I went to Hong Kong and worked as a milliner and a fashion illustrator. I returned to the UK and found work with the milliner Stephen Jones but I’d always at back of my mind had a secret wish to become a children’s book illustrator. I did a short course at the City Lit in children’s book illustration which led to my first children’s book in 1997.

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4. Is anything in your home’s interior reflected in the book?

Lisa ~  I think being a designer you never really switch off from the ‘day job’ so your work and style often seeps into everything else in your life too. I think I have quite distinctive handwriting and that aesthetic is part and parcel of our home too… albeit a lot more untidy of late having two very little ones running around the place! An eclectic mix of pattern and simplicity is quite a big part of the look and feel of Handstand, which runs true at home. For specific and quite literal inspiration, book two (out in spring 2017) includes quite a big chunk of my eldest daughter’s toy collection, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Alice ~ No! Can’t really expand here!

David ~ Yes, I have one of the robots. My personal style is more 1930s and 1970s so I don’t have many 1950s pieces.

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5. Do you have any words of wisdom to children who are passionate about design?

Lisa ~ Explore, experiment and don’t be afraid to try all sorts of styles and techniques. Happy accidents are the best way to learn and discover new things. If you are passionate about what you are doing then do LOTS of it and keep going. Draw draw draw, and look look look, these are the fundamentals of design and will give you the best grounding to become a good designer.

Alice ~ Words of Wisdom? Just to be aware of your environment and history and to make sure to keep drawing and observing.

David ~ Be indulgent.

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Many thanks to Lisa, Alice and David for being so generous with their time to answer my questions.  Also to Ruby for being my model even though she is a little older than the books are aimed at she poured over them looking at every detail.  My girl devours books, draws like a demon and has an imagination that makes my head spin.

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This post was in collaboration with Pavilion Books, with thanks