Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Breton Stripes

On Friday night, I met an old school friend for drinks and a catch up. She always looks amazing and has a casual style that always looks cool but still chic. On Friday she was wearing a Breton t shirt with skinny jeans and Killer Isabel Marant style shoe boots and looked, as always, great .

Breton stripes are a brilliant staple that we all seem to have in our wardrobe, a timeless classic that says Summer like nothing else does. Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to recognise it's freshness and association with the coast when she featured Breton stripes in her Nautical Collection in 1917 and we've been wearing them ever since.

Coco Chanel


Andy Warhol

Brigitte Bardot

Audrey Hepburn

Jean Paul Gaultier

Alexa Chung
Classic Breton wearers, one and all!

If you fancy bagging yourself an authentic Breton T-shirt like those originals worn by sailors on the Brittany Coast, take a look here.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Fringe Benefits

As I turned a milestone birthday this May and had a few different celebrations to mark the occasion, I've seen lots of photographs of myself lately, which is something I don't normally encourage. Some people look great in photos but I am not ones of those fortunate people and am not particularly photogenic.

Anyway what I did notice from the photos was that my middle parted, boho messy hair, was doing nothing for my mature features and although it looks great on girls and ladies of a younger generation, it was maybe time for a change. After a trip to the hairdressers I emerged with a slight fringe. Nothing too severe and the sort of fringe that looks as though it is growing out slightly, but it is a definite improvement. Fringes seem to wave a magic wand and give the appearance of youth and as all my favourite muses seem to have had one at some time or another, I'm in good company.

Alexa Chung and Charlotte Gainsbourg images by Vogue
Sienna Miller has opted for a more chic style than her usual boho centre parting

Brigitte Bardot & Francoise Hardy sporting perfect French casual bangs.

Two recent images from Elle showing the fringe is the perfect accessory for A/W '14

Friday, 18 July 2014

Making a willow chicken for my Garden

On a recent visit to Arley Hall Gardens where they have a small garden centre, I spied a gorgeous pecking chicken in the greenhouse, made of willow. The chicken had been made by Juliette Hamilton, willow sculptress extraordinaire, who makes willow sculptures for all sorts of events, such as these cows that she was commissioned to make for this years Glastonbury Festival.
Juliette runs regular courses, which are often themed to the seasons and teaches us lesser creative mortals how to make all manner of creatures from chickens, to dancing hares and stags heads.
Yesterday myself and a friend went along to Nettle in Tattenhall Cheshire, to attend one of Juliette's chicken willow weaving courses. Nettle is a beautiful florist and gift shop, housed in a lovely converted barn and was the perfect setting for getting inspired to make something for the garden.

The day started with coffee and biscuits, gluten free very thoughtfully provided for me, and a meet and greet. The courses are kept small and intimate, so that Juliette can instruct as much or as little as each student requires and the chatter and laughter got louder as the day progressed and everybody got to know each other better. After a break for a delightful lunch of poached salmon, new potatoes and salad, followed by a gluten free chocolate roulade,beautifully made by Ros and her mum, we got back to the task in hand and before we knew it our chickens and cockerels were taking shape.

My very creative friend's chicken ended up plumb and resplendent, lets just say mine is work in progress and I came away with a bundle of willow reeds and instructions from Juliette on how to feed him up and make him a bit fatter but I love him, which is all that matters?
Here he is pecking happily away in my garden, looking a bit more crispy duck than chicken?

We had an amazing day, surprisingly we found it very relaxing and therapeutic and both agreed that we would be back for more classes. I think the stags head would look wonderful decking our hall at Christmas. Nettle also run Christmas wreath making courses and if you are interested, give them a ring early as they get booked up super quick.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Matisse Cut Outs Tate Modern London

Last Tuesday myself & Mr B went up to the big smoke on the train, 2 hours 10 mins from Manchester Piccadilly and we were there!
Our plan was to go to Borough Market for lunch before going on to Tate Modern for our 3 O'clock viewing of The Matisse Cut Outs. Just to let you know, if you're thinking of going, to the exhibition, on spec, don't. It was packed and the tickets have to be pre booked, with viewings every 15 minutes, so book before you get there. As with all the best laid plans, they sometimes go wrong and the que for the underground to Blackfriars was so long we ended up arriving with only time for a quick coffee and delicious banana loaf cake but hey ho?

The Tate Modern is a monster of a building, it's previous incarnation was as a power station, built in 1947, so it's vast, with very industrial sharp lines and angles, but impressive and in a great position, on Bankside, right on the edge of the Thames.
I have always loved the work of the artists living in France in the inter and post war years, the work, at that time, of Jean Cocteau, Picasso and Matisse has always been a style I have admired and sought out to view, with it's curlicues and magical figueres, simple line drawings, stars and mystical symbols. I've been to The Picasso Museum in Barcelona and Antibes, visited Le salle Des Mariages, which Jean Cocteau decorated in Menton and viewed Matisse's blue nude cut outs at Musee D'Orsay, but nothing prepared me for the extend and vast size of the collection curated by Tate Modern. It was spectacular and inspiring and very moving to think that Matisse, as an old man and in the last years of his life, was still so driven to produce art every day.

His love of colour and expertise at mixing just the right tone is obvious in every piece exhibited.

I remember 25 years ago when we bought our first home together, wanting to make a seaweed shaped stencil and decorate the whole of our lounge walls in stone and cream cut outs of our very own, so it was wonderful to see my original inspiration, in life size splendour. Sorry I have no photo of this, you're not really supposed to take photographs, but I snuck a few in.

A few years ago designer, Minn Hogg, the founding Editor of World of Interiors, designed a range of wallpapers and fabrics, reflecting references taken from seaweed. They are perfect for bringing a little bit of Matisse's style to your home.

Celia Birtwell, another favourite surface print designer of mine, also references mystical figures and symbols in her work and although she has now sadly shut up her shop in London, a selection of her designs are available on line.
Have any of you been to see The Matisse Cut outs? What did you think and were you inspired. I'd love to know?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Trend - Chunky Crochet Knits

I always love buying interior mags from the Airport on my way back from a trip overseas, you can get some great inspiration from the pages and quite often something you see that seems to be every where in the country you're in, hasn't transcended home yet.

I found that Holland has a major trend at the moment for knitting or crochet, on huge wooden needles, using cotton jersey yarn.

We've seen this trend already in the UK, with the large crochet knitted poufs that have been everywhere from Nordic designers such as Ferm Living to every High Street retailer, but in Amsterdam anything and everything that could possibly be knitted or crochet was. 
Poufs from Ferm Living

Here are a few of the designs I found, in magazines I brought back.

These are very sweet little crochet squares strung up like Eastern prayer flags

I love this chunky crochet throw in a warm earthy tone.

During our visit to The Sunday Artisan market, one of my crafty (in the nicest possible way) friends bought one of the wooden crochet hooks and a pattern for this cushion from Shades of Yesterday and made this. I love it so much, I've already put my order in!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Wooden Beads as Decoration

When I was in Amsterdam, I noticed there were lots of shops selling large strings of wooden beads, used as decoration around the home.

They seem really hard to find in the UK but you can string your own and Etsy have a large selection of plain wooden beads, which can also be painted.

Here are a few images from interior magazines that I bought in Holland. Sadly I can't read Dutch otherwise I would be able to tell you were they could be bought from.

These two images are from Style Files blog

Wooden beaded star available from Houzz

I have also had my eye on some beaded chandeliers for some time for Chez Barlow but sadly all the ones I have found are very expensive and way out of budget, so until they hit the High Street, they will have to wait. Here are some to lust over in the meantime.

Snapped on my visit to Merci Paris
I did have an idea to pimp the Bali wooden chandelier that Next were selling last summer but sadly they are no longer available. If anybody knows where I can still get them, please let me know!