Friday, 31 July 2015

Iris Apfel - Fashion Muse, Interior Designer and Total Inspiration

I've just been to see the documentary film Iris, about Iris Apfel the fashion inspiration and muse currently creating a storm within the fashion industry.
The fashion industry have finally cottoned on to the fact that the people who have the most spending power are the older generation. Ladies who have worked hard, been at the top of their game and are not content to suddenly become invisible because a certain industry, and younger generation tells them they should. 
Iris is one of a growing number of older ladies, much in demand by photographers, magazines and fashion houses. She has even had her own one woman exhibition, which showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York, exhibiting a selection of her incredible clothes and accessories amassed over decades of travel,which she sourced, when she scoured the globe as an interior designer. It was during these trips, that she began to collect amazing jewellery and artefacts, robes and fabrics, that have become her signature and totally unique style.
This film is a delight from every aspect. If you're interested in fashion, of course you will love it, but it also shows the life of a fantastic, feisty woman, who defies the rules of anything, from what we perceive as taste, to what we think is age appropriate to wear. This gal doesn't give a damn what anybody thinks and it makes you feel so empowered after watching it.

She's funny, very kind and totally FAB-U-LOUS. A film everybody should see. If you go in to watch it feeling old and that your better years are behind you, you'll come out feeling reborn!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Another Country Furniture at Award Winning Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester

Well after visiting the newly restored Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester back in May, which you can read about again here, I was delighted when it was announced, last week, that the are the rightful and worthy winners of Art Gallery of the year.
As well as being a great gallery to visit and  without sounding too shallow, I must tell you more about the amazing shop that is located in the entrance to the gallery. As well as the usual books, postcards and posters relating to the current exhibitions, that all galleries have, The Whitworth is also a place that you can buy beautiful homewares and it was on my last visit that I picked up a catalogue by furniture designers and makers, Another Country, who display some of their designs within the shop.
Another Country have been trading since 2010 and aim to provide sustainable and responsibly sourced wooden furniture, using traditional and modern craft techniques inspired by British country designs, shaker, scandinavian and Japanese.
Series One Range of furniture

I love their simple, beautifully crafted designs which look equally at home in a contemporary or traditional setting. Some of their designs can be viewed in situ within a range of projects designed by architects and interior designers on their website. A few examples of their designs are below.

Private project by Charles Mellersh Design

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Visit to Savage Beauty - Alexander McQueen Exhibition V&A London

So after all the anticipation I finally made it to The Savage Beauty exhibition at The V&A London a few weeks ago and I'm so glad I made the effort to travel from Manchester to view it.

The exhibition spans the designers entire collections from his first graduation collection in 1992 to his final unfinished collection in 2010. The range of clothes on display is amazing to see up close. From his first fairly simple pieces, which highlight his obvious talent for tailoring, learnt from his earlier career on Savile Row, to his later designs, which gradually become more experimental and clearly show his fascination with the dark side of life, his Scottish ancestry influence and love of English heritage and global culture, it's all in there!
The exhibition leads into a three tiered room, named the cabinet of curiosities, which perfectly captures the drama of his runway shows, with clothes and accessories, which he designed along with a team of specialists in their fields. Some items produced for his shows only and never intended to be produced, highlight his attraction to themes of fetishism and tribal cultures. The displays are enhanced with video interviews with the designer and  footage from his runway shows, layered with the loud sound of a tapping manual typewriter. I'm not entirely sure what the significance of this is but it all adds to the drama and it is a fascinating space in which you could spend hours taking in all the detail.

This space is a place to contemplate the brilliant mind of Alexander McQueen before you are led into the area which houses his final unfinished collection and his lasting legacy to the world of fashion. It's all very poignant and tragic and you are left with some of his final words which leaves you guessing if he felt he had given his all?
Advance tickets for the exhibition have now sold out but if you are in London over the summer you could take a chance as tickets may be available on the day and I was told by a member of staff that it has been such a phenomenal success that for the last weekend of the show, the V&A are extending their opening hours and the exhibition is remaining open for 24 hours a day over that weekend. I wish I could have taken more photos to post, but photography is strictly prohibited and I just snuck a few sneaky ones but go, be inspired and be amazed.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Summer Champagne Cocktails and vintage Cocktail Glasses

Nothing says Summer in this country quite like a champagne cocktail? Think of Wimbledon, Ascot and Henley Regatta all celebrated by the hoi polloi with a glass of champers in hand.

When Rose & Grey Interiors challenged me to style some of their vintage inspired cocktail glasses, my first choice was their beautiful, elegant, 50's inspired Champagne glasses, which come in a lovely gift set, complete with pretty coasters, matching straws and cocktail umbrellas and kitsch retro cocktail stirrers. Kushti!

As myself and Mr B both celebrated big birthdays over the last 12 months, we still have a selection of Champagne to drink, hard to believe but true, and eager to experiment with cocktail making in readiness for our Silver wedding celebration in September, again hard to believe, but true, I mixed, stirred and shook together some Cranberry and pomegranate Champagne cocktails for us to test, all in the name of research you understand?

Pomegranate Champagne


1/3 glass pomegranate juice
dash of cointreau
2/3 glass of champagne
garnish with pomegranate seeds

Glasses & Jam jar vase from Rose & Grey

Other lovely summery cocktails which I love are:

Created in 1930's Venice in Harry's Bar and named after Italian Renaissance painter, Giovanni Bellini, and of course immortalized by the Sex and The City girls!


Peach juice
Champagne or prosecco poured over ice
garnished with a raspberry

Invented in Florence in 1919, this is apparently the cocktail choice of the year.

Campari (all over ice)
Garnished with slices of orange

Last week my best friend and myself had a girlie weekend in London as we were attending the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at The V&A. After a long day in London, the perfect place to unwind was our hotel bar, The Malbar at Malmaison where we treated ourselves to a couple of cocktails. Lesley, being a lady of high standards and good taste, had the Old Cuban Malbar, a Champagne cocktail, of course. If you fancy making one yourself, here is the Malmaisons recipe.

If you're partial to a cocktail or two then why not register for London Cocktail Week? The event costs £10 for your wristband which then enables you to visit all of the participating bars and sample cocktails for £4 a pop! Details can be found here. Sounds like another excuse for a few days in London to me?

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Toast Summer 2015 Bright and Bold Jewellery

I love the collections put together by Toast and this year is no exception.

Top of my wish list this season are their colourful bohemian jewellery offerings. Large colourful wooden blocks and beads and macrame earrings by Helena Rohner form the basis of the collection, the perfect accessories for taking your poolside kaftan straight through to dinner.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Shed Decor Inspiration for your Garden Room

When we were in St Ives recently for a Spring holiday, which you can read about here, we visited the gardens of sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, always an inspiration. Although we have seen the gardens and her former studio several times, it was the little wooden house, situated in the garden, where she used to sleep whilst working on some of her larger pieces within the gardens, that held our attention more this time around. Now that we are through our child rearing years, or certainly the part where they require every minute of our attention, perhaps we would benefit from a garden room we pondered? Somewhere we could read, sit with a glass of something, write, play the guitar or just chat with friends or each other? I always remember, as a child, being fascinated by our rather bohemian neighbours, Mr & Mrs Jones, two retired art teachers, who had a similar wooden structure in their garden, and thinking how romantic it was, spending the summer months, practically every waking hour, in their summer house.
The idea was put to me by Mr B, who was particularly inspired with Dame Barbara's little wooden shed, that maybe he could design and build one for us? Not one to put him off his subject, I promptly came home and ordered him a copy of Shed Decor by Sally Coulthard, which is full to bursting with ideas and inspiration for the perfect outdoor garden room or glorified shed ideas.

Here are some of my favourites and I'll keep you updated on any progress at chez Barlow.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Summer essentials for your Garden and Outdoor Living

Spring and the approach of Summer always brings with it the promise of hot sunny days and balmy evenings sitting in the garden, not always the case in Britain but, as I said, the promise. This year, in particular, gardens have been very much on our mind as we finally embarked on a renovation and taming of our front garden, which was becoming so wild and overgrown, that visitors had to fight their way through the shrubs to the front door.

The reclaimed Victorian stable bricks were purchased from Beeston Reclamation and Reclaimed World.

That together with the RHS show at Chelsea, televised every night, the week before last, and the longest summer night, drawing ever closer, has turned my mind to what makes the perfect accessories and must have items for a perfect midsummer night's dream! See what I did there!

A hammock if you have the room is the perfect bohemian accessory for this summers 70's vibe.

This one is available from Anthropologie

Continuing with the retro 70's vibe is this gorgeous hanging chair and of course macrame hanging planters. Did everything hang from something in the 70's?

Macrame hanging planters Graham & Green

To create a magical atmosphere as the sun goes down, light a fire pit and place candles on any available space.

 These hanging metal tea light holders and fire pit are both available from John Lewis.

To avoid any breakages as you stumble about in the candle light it's always a good idea to use plastic crockery, which is now available in some beautiful designs, almost unrecognisable from the real thing.
This fresh summery collection called Santorini is available from BHS

Finally, if the weather isn't as balmy as we hoped, all we need are some warm cosy blankets to wrap around us. The summer is short, but the nights at this time of year are long and it's a real treat spending time outdoors if the rain holds off. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong equipment!

Toast Basket weave blanket available from a selection