Sunday, 17 May 2015

Blackwell Iconic Arts & Crafts House Windermere

Last week I was lucky enough to visit The Lake District for a few days to celebrate my birthday. As a lover of architecture and particularly the early part of the 20th Century, one house I was eager to visit was Blackwell, situated in Windermere. Designed and built during the Arts & Craft movement by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, it is one of the finest examples of its type.

Built originally as a holiday retreat for the wealthy brewery family Holts, from Manchester, ironically, where I live, the house has been fully restored since being acquired by Lakeland Arts in 1999.  Baillie Scott designed much of the furniture for the house, as was often customary, allowing the architect to have complete control. However although most of it was no longer within the house, various pieces have now been acquired, along with furniture by William Morris & Co, pottery by Ruskin and original tiles designed by William De Morgan, a leading Arts & Crafts designer and the house is once again a complete Arts & Crafts vision.

The rooms are a fine example of the arts and craft era, depicting carved and decorated surfaces, inspired by nature, flora and fauna, with copper lighting and door furniture and decorative tiles adorning the ingle nook fireplaces. The rooms nearly all face west where they make the most of the natural sunlight with the serene white room being the only one to face the lake. This was obviously a room for contemplation, reading and passing the time, taking in the magnificent view.

If you are lucky enough to be in this part of the country, Blackwell is a must see property, with regular exhibitions on the upper floor as well as a splendid cafe and gallery shop.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Manchester Whitworth Art Gallery New Extension

Last weekend myself & Mr B went to Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. It's a gallery I have visited many times as it is home to a vast collection of surface prints, fabrics & wallpapers, many of which were produced in the mills in and around Manchester during the height of the industrial revolution. I was very privileged to spend time in the archives, which are by appointment only, when I was studying for my degree in interior design, assisted and aided by, the then, textiles & wallpaper curator, whose knowledge on the subject was so valuable to me. The Whitworth are very supportive of students and have fantastic research support. One of the subjects I researched as a student was wallpapers designed by artists, of which the Whitworth have many and one designed by Sarah Lucas can be seen there currently as part of her exhibition.
So it was last year as my mum lay recovering in Manchester eye hospital, adjacent to the museum, after a long operation, that I took a break and wandered around the familiar galleries, where I came across architects plans for the design of the new extension to the museum. The glass extension appeared to sour through the trees that surround the gallery, in the park below, and, on plan, looked impressive. When we finally visited, last Saturday, we were not disappointed. The gallery sits within the grounds of Whitworth park, the first gallery at the time it was built, ever to be situated in a park, and the outdoors has truly been brought in by the clever design of the architects. The second storey, housing the museum cafe, sits within the tree tops and makes the most of the view of the surrounding Victorian landscape of Manchester's Oxford Road.

Other areas of the new extension blend perfectly with the original Victorian facade, which has been brought into what is now the new interior of the gallery and further enhances the original building, drawing your eyes to the bowed windows & red brick.

Current exhibitions include work by Sarah Lucas, Cornelia Parker and Cai Guo-Qiang but I particularly enjoyed the black & white photography exhibition by Johnnie Shand Kydd taken over a weekend on the Greek island of Hydra, capturing the hip & beautiful, movers and shakers of the fashion & design world. A fascinating insight into the jet set lifestyle and captured on an island I have long wanted to visit. Other interesting works are a collection of portraits by various artists such as this Francis Bacon work of his friend Lucien Freud.

Tracey Emin in holiday mode by Johnnie Shand Kydd

The gallery gift shop sells a wide selection of books based on the collections and current exhibitions, together with some wonderful interior objects, stationary and even bottles of  own label Whitworth Gallery ale, in short something for everyone.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Toast S/S 15 House & Home

One of my favourite British brands is Toast and I love their seasonal lookbooks which are always beautifully shot in stunning locations and of course with well made and honest product.

This Spring, the look captures the rich colours of far flung travels, colours such as terracotta, ochre and lapis blue form the backdrop of the range of tableware and linens, with stripes and hand quilting reminiscent of the warmer climes of North Africa. This beautiful collection looks as though you could have brought it back from the souk but without the hassle of the excess baggage charge!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Rustic Prairie Wedding Styling ~ Rose & Grey Jam Jar Vases

Spring is often the start of the wedding season and as my niece is getting married this year wedding styling has been the topic of conversation for quite a few months.
Sara & her beau are getting married in a barn and want a rustic wedding which is often termed "Prairie Style" and when online retailer Rose & Grey asked me if I would like to take part in their bloggers styling challenge, using three of their vintage inspired jam jar vases, the first idea that sprang to mind, was prairie style wedding flowers.

This trend features lots of natural textures, fitting with a rustic country setting and vintage props such as wooden crates, old typewriters, blackboards and of course jam jar vases.

So with lots of natural materials in hand, such as sack cloth, vintage lace and jute string, I set about creating three different looks to decorate the wedding tables.
These are the finished results, all different but all within the same rustic theme.
In a new blog post I'll talk through how to create each one, in case any of you are involved with styling a wedding or would like to create something similar for your own summer party? They are quick, easy and so cheap to make and use hardly any flowers so cut the cost of this big part of the wedding expense enormously.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Renting an Apartment for a short break in a city

Travelling for a short break to a city can often be as expensive as a weeks holiday in a 5 star hotel but staying in a serviced apartment, especially if travelling as a family with children, can often be a cost effective way. Being able to cook and eat in your accommodation can bring the cost of your trip down enormously and it's also a great way to really get the feel of a city and live like a local for a few days.

A company we have used before, who have some of the most amazing accommodation on their books, is OneFineStay. They have a wide range of styles and budgets send you regular updates of new properties they have acquired if you register with them.

This property in Shoreditch London, which was formerly a factory building, can be rented for a minimum of 3 nights and is in a great part of the city.

I love the interior which is a homely mix of flea market finds, lots of textures and the warm patina of the exposed brick. I'd never want to leave.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Denim Dungarees Dressed up or down

I've not worn dungarees since Dexy's sang "Come on Eileen" but after wearing my denim jumpsuit bought from mango last summer, almost non stop since, I am very tempted to try the dungaree trend for a second time. I know the saying goes, if you wore it the first time around, don't do it again, but I'm loving some of the images on Pinterest of the more grown up, dressed up dungaree.

The last two images show how the trend can be made to look slightly more luxe with the addition of a feminine lace shirt or worn in a softer fabric such as soft baby cord or velvet.

What do you think, love or loath dungarees?

Monday, 13 April 2015

Going Green ~ House Plants Trend

Its not escaped any of our attention that we are having a love affair with house plants again. What started as small cacti and succulents is now making way to great big 70's style house plants and hanging macrame baskets spilling with spider plants and trailing greenery, not seen since the 1970's!

Etsy have macrame baskets for sale made by some clever people but if you fancy having a go yourself Anthropologie in Guildford are running a workshop this Saturday 18/4/15 with interior stylist and author Emily Henson. By the way check out Emily's inspirational blog Life Unstyled.