A Simple Christmas with Rowen & Wren

It is universally known that I adore Christmas, I don’t peak too early but I do like adding little bits and bobs here and there throughout the month of December, more of a celebration of Winter than the festival itself.  I decided a few years ago to go simple, pare back the baubles and let fairy lights and nature be the stars of the show, along with a few hand made, natural decorations that quietly shine without being too ostentatious.

One of my go to places to source those extra beautiful items are Rowen & Wren, their capsule Christmas collection is just that, hand selected pieces that bring the festive season together in harmony, from champagne flutes to  their antiqued brass Christmas tree stand, a delicious array of candle holders, stunning folk wrapping paper and brass bell garlands.  You will find everything you need to create that home spun simplicity with ease, from table to tree and everything in between.

My tree will be looking resplendent in their tree stand again this year, an investment piece that will be used for many years to come, with recycled glass baubles taking pride of place on the tree’s branches exuding hand made charm.  The table will be set using elder wood slice place mats to add that rustic feel to my table, making my black plates and cutlery stand out amongst the many candles and pine foliage.

I’m even simplifying my wreaths this year, I’m going to use the Benni brass wreath rings, Scandinavian in style with added touches of greenery bound around to create a subtle but effective look to my front door.  On the plus side once the festivities are over I will be able to remove the foliage to compost and use the rings over and over again.

Once all the decorations are in place, the wreath on the door and the lights are all twinkling, I’ll be able to curl up on my sofa after a lovely soak and keep my feet warm wearing the softest alpaca socks by Tom Lane.  There is nothing nicer than lounging around over the holidays in a dressing gown and socks, book and mug of hot chocolate not too far away.  I can feel my shoulders dropping at the thought of it and my feet will thank me for it too.

I know its a couple of weeks away but I simply can’t wait, I’m desperately looking forward to Christmas this year and I hope that, with a little help from Rowen & Wren: a 10% discount code TEAWITHRUBY to use at the checkout valid for a month, so will you.

Jx

  • With thanks to Rowen & Wren for gifting the products for the purpose of the post

Made + Good // Conscious Homewares

Carrying on slightly from my post last week about nesting for the season of Autumn, I touched on sustainable home wares and mentioned a few of my favourite places to go when you want to replace or update a part of your home without resorting mass produced goods from the high street.    Well this week I would like to introduce you to Made + Good an on line store that is not only ethical, conscious of the environment but all their independent makers are based in the UK, everything is hand crafted, small batch products made with love and hard work.  Another unique point about Made + Good is that they donate 15% of all sales commission to charity.   Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that when you donate to charity it makes you happier and healthier. When you place an order you get to choose which charity you want to give to at the checkout.  So every time an order is placed through Made + Good a charity benefits directly and both the maker and you the consumer can give back with no extra cost to themselves, amazing right!

I asked owner Alex Hayes about how Made + Good came about and what the future holds for her inspirational store.

Generally, setting up Made+Good has made me excited to be part of a move towards more responsible consumerism where customers appreciate original products made by the amazingly skilled craftspeople in the UK – people who design and make with such levels of care and quality that would never be possible in mass production! I am proud to be supporting a more sustainable way of shopping that encourages considered purchases of products that are built to be used and cherished for years to come. Items in the home that show the marks of being hand crafted or are worn with years of use hold so much value within them and can bring such pleasure to everyday rituals.

In terms of future plans… I would obviously like to see M+G grow to take on more Makers and even to incorporate more areas of making such as foods and sustainable clothing. I am really keen to work some collaborations with Makers and I also definitely plan to run some pop-up shops in the future. So lots of ideas still to work on… being less than a year old I feel like Made+Good is still very much in it’s infancy

What I love about Made + Good is the level of detail, you can shop from a carefully selected range of beautiful home, lifestyle and gift products, shipped direct from the studios of the makers straight to your home.   Knowing that you are supporting small independent creative people in the UK is a great thing, one that would never be achievable in mass production.  Everything in the store is hand picked, chosen for its ethics, style and functionality.  These pieces are to be cherished and become part of your home for a long time to bring joy when ever used, hopefully on a daily basis.

Taking the environment into account is a big part of the Made + Good ethos.  Sourcing products that are made from sustainable materials and designed to last, searching for makers who are conscious of their impact on the environment.  Its perfectly normal to find Made + Good makers running their studios on green energy, spoons and bowls carved from reclaimed wood, jewellery made from recycled metals, vegetable based inks and recycled packaging being used to wrap your orders.

The store is very easy to navigate and within each section you can find exactly what you are looking for with one click.  I know this as I have treated myself to one of the Wheat Bags in the Beauty + Wellbeing section under the Lifestyle heading.  It has helped me ease achy limbs at the end of the day and is perfect for when the dreaded time of the month shows its face.  Simply pop it in the microwave for a few minutes and wrap it around the body where needed. A safe and natural way to ease aches.  When not in use the printed design looks wonderful on display on top of a pile of blankets.  The most fascinating thing about these wheat bags is the story behind them knowing exactly where and how each product is made is truly fascinating and makes you appreciate it even more.  They are produced by Blästa Henriët a Scandinavian brand with strong focus on durable design. Their wellbeing products are made from European, hypoallergenic linen that is kind to your skin. With a skill and passion for craftsmanship, each piece is made by hand in their London studio. The linen is Oeko-Tex Certified, the wheat is grown on a farm in Lancashire and the packaging is FSC-certified, made in the UK from renewable resources.

Every item from Made + Good has a story and an authentic provenance which resonates with me greatly.  From the denim aprons crafted with meticulous detail to the hand printed natural linen tea towels and napkins to the one of a kind porcelain stripe pots handmade in East London using a wheel and kiln powered by green energy and with the greatest care for our planet.  Who can resist such wonderful items that will not only bring joy but will be cherished for a lifetime.

I can honestly say I can’t think of a better way of improving our self awareness and well being by investing in a little bit of Made + Good can you?

Jx

  • with thanks to Made + Good for loaning the products for the purpose of this post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn I Think I Love You

Its time to get the house ready for Autumn, make those little changes to bring this season into full flow.   I always think I’m going to struggle with the transition but I never do, I secretly love the misty dew filled mornings and the russet red sunsets that you simply don’t get at any other time of the year.  One thing I’m not so keen on is the darker mornings I do struggle to get out of my cosy cocoon when its still pitch black outside.

The upside to Autumn is its bounty and the ability to cuddle up under blankets, light candles whilst soaking in the bath, wear soft bed socks or slippers, prepare warming stews and soups,the list is endless.   Also getting outside to kick the fallen leaves all crunchy and golden under foot, breath in the air and hint of wood smoke from folks fires, coming home to mugs of hot chocolate or home made crumble made from this seasons wind falls.

Over the years I’ve collected some beautiful handmade, organic throws and blankets that I keep close to hand at this time of year to wrap around me when it gets chill.  There’s always one at the end of the bed should it be needed.  I stock pile beeswax candles through the summer to use in Autumn, alongside the scented sustainable ones that I love too.   I have different sets of linen bedding for this time of the year, darker hues are added over the bright white I prefer in the warmer months.

I also love to decorate the house with Autumnal bounty, foraged branches stems of golden bracken or seed heeds from the garden.  Pumpkins bought from our local farm shop grown in the fields close by which all last for weeks and weeks always add to the overall display right up until Christmas.

None of this costs the earth, most of it is time taken to create something rather fabulous from nature.  Trying to invest in pieces that will stand the test of time rather than buying wastefully.  These are a few of my favourite independent places to go to get all the wonderful things I have mentioned above that have integrity and meaning for a well balanced home.

The Future Kept | where I go to stock up on beeswax candles along with other treats.  This is a delicious store full to the brim of beautiful handmade blankets, ceramics, candles and soaps, perfect slow reading material and many many more sustainable products for your home.

Aerende | I support Emily’s store with all my heart, all the ethical products in this wonderful store are good, life improving home wares at their very best.  All made by people in the UK facing social challenges.  If you are going to buy one thing this season I would highly recommend taking a look.

The Wood House |  Another one of my favourite stores who stock muted pared back home wares, I recently treated myself to some handmade coffee beakers made by Ali Herbert that will be treasured for many years.  I also get quite a lot of my favourite magazine publications from here too. I love to keep a stock to read at this time of year, curled up by the fire.

Of course I can’t forget my favourite makers of scented candles Nomad Society and Essence + Alchemy both equally fabulous, the intoxicating scents that both these brands produce are heavenly and create wonderful candles that work especially well at this time of the year, all ethically sourced and ecologically friendly, no nasty chemicals.

I am now counting down the days until the holidays and our Autumn escape to the the Lake District to feast on the splendour of this magical season finding natures inspiration at every turn.

I hope you enjoy Autumn as much as I do but I am curious do you get your house ready like I do when the seasons change?

Jx

Images 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11

 

 

Unique & Handmade

I think you are all aware now that I like to find those special one of kind companies to shout about, ones that hold dear to what I believe in, how I like to shop and that I love to recommend to the similarly minded folk who are my readers.

I have recently been introduced to Emma & Louise. This on line store is exactly what I have just been talking about. Bringing an inspirational collection of carefully selected hand crafted objects for the home and selected fashion accessories, all made in the UK by talented female designers and craftswomen.  From jewellery to storage, throws to handbags, tableware to stationery, every item loving created to bring an extra dimension for you and your home to cherish.

This wonderfully unique store is based on creativity, the creativity of women who’s beautiful hand crafted original pieces fill the site offering distinctive gifts that should enrich your homes.  Each craftswoman has her own unique identity but each one supportive of the other, together in one authentic marketplace.

Emma & Louise is passionate about creating a true community of talented artisans.  Each product you will find in the store has a story, the details behind the maker and the inspiration behind the items crafted, making each piece unique and personal, not something mass marketed and soul-less.  I love the thought, when I reach for my mug to make coffee first thing in the morning, of the hands that have sculpted this wonderful piece of clay into the vessel I cherish drinking from each day, or the candle that I light on an evening giving off its distinctive scent and who loving poured the wax into each glass jar.

The beautiful pieces featured in my post today conjured up winter for me.  The simple pleasures of these colder months to make a pot of tea, serve it in a hand made ceramic mug, place it all on a serving board, light the heavenly scented candle and curl up with a book whiling away a happy hour in sheer contentment.  Taking the time to appreciate each piece, the tactile nature of the cup in your hand, the smoothness of the wood and the intoxicating aroma of the candle.  All simple pleasures that need to be enjoyed.

I’ve been a fan of Join for some time, made in small batches in a garden studio in East London.  Pebble is an intoxicating candle a blend of bergamot and black pepper, inspired by childhood memories of skimming stones on a Cornish beach.  I simply love the masculine aroma it exudes, my favourite kind.

I am so pleased I found Pottery West on Emma & Louise, ceramics being a weakness of mine. These guys make the most exquisite pieces, small batch and wheel thrown with an emphasis on simple, ergonomic form and tactile functional glazes.  Their sheer earthiness is stunning, the Brut pourer and large Brut mug are now used every day and bring a smile of joy.

One can never have too many wooden boards, they are eternally useful for many things, this walnut serving board is no exception.  Made from a single piece of walnut hand carved by Rosie Brewer in Devon.  Each board is different, carved and sized by hand making it even more special when placed as a centre piece on your table.

I do hope that you can find the time to explore this truly unique store, helping you find that perfect gift or treat for yourself and to find out a little bit behind the women who make these simply authentic hand made pieces for you and your home.

Jx

  • With thanks to Emma & Louise who provided the items for this post

 

A Considered Home

For a long time now as a family we have made a conscious decision to improve the way we live, taking into account every aspect of our daily life.  It takes no time at all to assess the every day things we do and make small changes to be more sustainable in our homes.

Arhaus featured a tip of mine in one of their infographics, quite proudly I could have given quite a few but this is the one I chose.

Arhaus are leading the way in sustainability striving to make the home wares industry more environmentally friendly for all as you can see above.  They make many of their products with organic fabrics and materials, including their earth-friendly sectionals.

So how can we make a difference, I say start small and build from there, the impact of just changing your your light bulbs to energy efficient ones has a massive effect, they don’t need to be utilitarian looking either the technology out there today is amazing, all my light bulbs are low energy led squirrel cage designed so look fabulous and use hardly any electricity.  As a family we made a choice to use a green energy company to supply our gas and electricity, they source all of their electricity from renewable sources and off-set the carbon emissions from the gas they provide.  We also have a smart meter which helps us keep track of the energy we are using.   Another great tip is to time yourself in the shower, it’s amazing how much water you can be saved by using what you need rather than squandering it.

When it comes to cleaning and washing think about the products you are using,  I use eco-friendly ones even down to my washing powder, no harmful chemicals involved at all.  I don’t have a tumble drier either, clothes dried outside in the fresh air is the best way, just takes a little more time but uses no energy other than what nature provides.  On those inclement days clothes airers in doors do just fine.

As a consumer try and think about the ethical benefits of all the items you buy for yourself and your home, even down to the clothes you wear, the bedding you sleep in, the towels you dry yourself on, the paint you use for your walls, the furniture you choose to have in your home.  Each and every one  of these small things add up to a larger picture, it’s not rocket science but a little time and effort can help change things for the better.  There are many wonderful companies out there today that are trying very hard to make a difference to how we live putting a great emphasis  on ethical values.  It’s the little changes we make that will most certainly have the biggest impact in the future.

I could go on and on, going into greater depth on each subject but for now, change your light bulbs, sleep in linen sheets, don’t use too much water in the shower and stop using that tumble drier!

Jx

  • Images 5, 7 & 9

 

 

Inspired by the Sea

 Influenced by the sea to create beautiful textiles that resonate with the ever changing big skies and sandy shore lines must be a joy but for Camilla Thomas that is exactly what she does. Tidal Sands is Camilla’s first collection, the designs of each piece have been woven inspired by the light, movement and structure of the unique coast of the beautiful island of Anglesey in North Wales.  The aim was to capture the essence of what it feels like to be part of the very fibres of each piece.

Camilla has always enjoyed being creative from being small, free hand knitting, stitching and making projects, it was only when she decided to turn that hobby into a working practise did she realise that she had to narrow the field down and focus on one discipline that she was passionate about.  It was while at university that weaving came to the fore, the realisation that making a fabric from the starting point of yarn and loom was fascinating and totally immersing.  The slow intricate nature of the weaving process with the added element of experimentation can bring surprising results even after careful planning.  Using a hand operated loom brings Camilla a sense of connection to each piece she creates and a constant reminder of the historic routes that this craft has.

 Like me Camilla believes in simple living, investing in pieces for your home that you can cherish, handmade not mass produced, products that you can touch and feel a connection with.  To have a beautiful throw that you can curl up in when the day is ending is one of life’s simple pleasures especially when the seasons start to slowly change from Summer into Autumn.
The capsule collection of Tidal Sands are made using natural fibres, particularly Merino lambswool which add that luxurious softness, lightness of touch but with warmth.  Samples are hand woven by Camilla but are turned into the finished throws and cushions at a family mill in Lancashire that has been weaving for over a hundred years.  Each piece is unique with wonderful titles such as Sea Fret, Sea Front and Sea Glass, the colour palettes flow from subtle greys to pale blues with a contrasting burnt orange band at the bottom edge connecting sea with sand.  Slight difference in the patterns  mimic the impressions left behind on the soft sand as the tide goes out or the tracks left behind by a tractor after it’s pulled the boats to shore.
My favourite piece from the collections is the Penmon, with it’s bold black stripes inspired by the lighthouse after which it’s named.  Camilla created this throw to raise money for the Air Sea Rescue services on the island of Anglesey, following their rescue of one of her closest friends from a fall on the rocks at Penmon Point. This throw has a special price point and all proceeds will go to the charity.
If you want to see the stunning collection for yourself Camilla will be exhibiting at all three Handmade in Britain fares this Autumn (Kew, Edinburgh and Chelsea) find the dates below. If like me that’s too long to wait then the collection is available here.  I highly recommend that you do, each piece is a future heirloom that will bring something extra to your interior.
As the nights are starting to draw in I can’t wait to have a soak in the tub, pour a glass of wine and snuggle under my throw with a good book, sheer bliss.
*  With thanks to Camilla Thomas Textiles for gifting the pieces for the purpose of this post.  Here are the dates for the Handmade in Britain fairs, links above.
Contemporary Craft Fair Kew / 12th – 15th October 2017
Contemporary Craft Fair Edinburgh / 27th – 29th October 2017
The Contemporary Crafts & Design Fair Chelsea / 10th – 12th November 2017
 
 

Freight

If you’ve ever visited the East Sussex town of Lewes you’ll know that it hosts many stylish independent stores, ones that you won’t find on every high street.  I love the diversity that Lewes has, it is a beautiful place to visit.
One of these stores is Freight,  a favourite of mine not only because the products that they sell are exceptional and work perfectly with my pared back style, but the atmosphere created is one of calm, like spending time in a friends home.  Also I never leave empty handed, the well curated house-hold goods are exquisite and I really can’t resist having them in my own home.  They have an on line store too, perfect for when you are wanting that unique item that only Freight can deliver.
I had a chat with owner Helene who runs the store with her daughter Adele about how Freight came to be.
Helen previously had a shop in Lewes called ADAMCZEWSKI that she opened in 1999.  With similar principals to those Freight has now, the shop was all about finding useful things for the home that weren’t so easy to find pre-internet days. She sold products such as string, brushes and ceramics; anything that worked with the shops ethos with it’s own classic style. This chapter closed in 2010 to explore greener pastures.
 Fate took a guiding hand and in 2014 the shop which Helene still owned   became unexpectedly vacant again just before the Christmas period.  Helene’s daughter Adele thought it would be wrong to just leave it empty and sad looking due to it’s prominent position on the high street.  An opportunity not to be missed they quickly put together a temporary store naming it POPINSKI,  partly in homage to the old shop that had previously been there and the fact it definitely was a pop up.
 Having worked so hard to set up the temporary store full of new products they found themselves discussing and analysing the nature of shop keeping. They came to the conclusion that just filling shops from trade fairs was a bit boring and that the more interesting and challenging route to take would be to design and commission their own products by working with makers and manufacturers. They wanted a collection that would stand the test of time and that would be an ongoing response to how they wanted the collection to grow.  Recently they have added a knitwear collection which couldn’t have been further from the original concept but after meeting with some knitters and really liking  the Shetland yarn they used, they were inspired to trial it.   A decision well made as the knitwear has proven to be rather popular and Freight are now in the process of adding to the current collection. 
  It’s also so important to this dynamic Mother and daughter team that they are not designing for design’s sake. Freight products have to be functional, durable and of a very high quality.  They follow no one else’s rules, don’t follow trends or the latests fad fashions and subsequently their stock change is of a slower nature.  
This is why I love them, you know what you are investing in when you buy anything from Freight. I cherish the items I have, all of which enhance my home enormously. Simple earthenware storage jars made in Stoke on Trent, Spanish boxwood carbon steel knives that are sharpened by hand using artisanal techniques established by the original founders, a deliciously scented soy wax candle with scents from narratives drafted and worked on with a perfumer, making them unique to Freight.
 I can’t recommend this beautiful store to you highly enough, if you get the chance to pay a visit and experience it yourself then all the better but for now do drop in on line to see their wonderful products, I know your shopping basket won’t stay empty for long.
 *  with thanks to Freight for letting me put this post together. Product photography by Susan Bell and Benedict Stenning

Happy + Co

I think you are all well aware by now that I like to champion independent brands that not only supply stylish well made products for your home but also ones that have huge ethical clout.  So this week I would like to introduce you to Happy + Co.

Their philosophy is that happiness starts at home, this transfers into everything they do and into each design that they produce.

“All our products are designed to be noticed but, above all, to be loved”

I couldn’t put it better myself,  I have kindly been sent two Happy + Co cushions that blend wonderfully on my grey wool sofa. Who doesn’t love a good cushion? They finish a room, making a seat inviting and a bed that you want to curl up on.  These large steel grey pebble cushions are made from 100% recycled cotton, the texture is fabulous, so tactile but soft to the touch and they come with a feather cushion pad too. Many more designs caught my eye, the midnight  black Bondi and Palm Beach designs are so fresh with a hint of Scandinavian chic all of which would add a playful touch to a monochrome scheme.

Happy + Co design their homeware products to be different, bringing a splash of happiness to the room they reside in.  A lot of time and effort is put into getting to know each and every single one of their suppliers.  To make sure that the products and designs are of the highest quality they visit the suppliers regularly to guarantee that everyone is happy.

Little things make a big difference and that is exactly what this innovative brand achieve, for each product that they sell 10% of the profit is invested in their Farm in Cambodia.  This investment provides employment for young men and women, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables for the whole community.

Happy + Co have a perfect and simple collection of products, cushions, table linen, bedding and the most super stylish furniture covered in their distinctive fabric.  A little bit of something for everyone, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t love them as much as I, so lets spread a little bit of happiness with this outstanding brand.

  • With thanks to Happy + Co for the cushions featured in this post.

 

Aerende // Style with Meaning

I have a passion for beautiful well made homewares, simple hand crafted items that not only are useful but beautifully tactile and are a hard working addition to my home.  Over the past year or so I have been consolidating our possessions to create a well rounded selection that not only pleases us but makes us feel good about how they were made and where they came from.

aerende-bed-linen

I happened to make friends with Emily Mathieson, a former travel editor for The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveller and Red and also the founder of Aerende (a-ren-day) through instagram.  A visual place where like minded folk can connect and support each other on a daily basis.   It has been a privilege to watch this young online store grow and flourish as it should, selling beautiful products for your home all made in the UK by people facing social challenges.  It is a special place where you will find a well curated range of carefully crafted products created by makers who are unable to access or maintain conventional employment.

aerende-cathedral-screen-print-mantle-piece

One of the reasons behind Emily taking this journey was through the lack of high-quality options in the ethical interiors sector.  Starting her on a journey to create a model for considerate, socially valuable shopping that does not compromise on quality or style.

aerende-handmade-wool-blanket-linen-cushion

Aerende is an old English word meaning care and was chosen to reflect our commitment to heritage skills and British-made items.  Emily believes in the power of consumers to affect social change as do I.  The tag of ‘life-improving homewares’ reflects the commitment to sourcing unique, limited-edition products that not only will bring joy, beauty and utility to Aerende customers but a sense of purpose, pride and revenue to the talented makers, via the charities and social enterprises that support them.

earthenware-dinner-set-closeup

I think you all know by now my love of ceramics and the selection that Aerende supply are simply beautiful.  They are made in a pottery called The Grange in Gloucestershire through the national charity Camphill Village Trust who help people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other special needs to live meaningful lives in supported communities.

aerende-handmade-soap-with-figs

Everything you see and purchase from the soy candles through to the natural wool blankets are made by someone facing social challenges.  Linens hand finished by women refugees who have survived trafficking, soy wax candles made in Wales by people with learning difficulties,  hand carved wooden spoons by adults with mental health issues.

aerende-stoneware-plate-with-blossom

I think in the current climate that we are currently living in we all  need to make small changes, ones that will make a difference and by supporting a business like Aerende is a very good place to start.  To show solidarity, support and unite, banishing stigma and prejudice with every purchase.  Not only are we helping a cause that I am deeply passionate about we are coming together as a people to create happiness and strength with those who need it most.   The homewares in this wonderful store will make your home that little bit more unique and special.

Another couple of great articles featuring Emily and Aerende are here and here, the more we shout, the louder we get, the more chance we have of getting heard.

  • With thanks to Aerende for which this post would not be possible