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Green and pleasant land

Earlier this week I wrote about how to bring some outdoors inside, and yesterday I featured some beautiful new wallpapers. Today, you get both themes combined (and some fabric to boot).

I fell for Zoffany's Richmond Park print (below) months ago, in an advert for it in a waiting room magazine, and have been obsessed with bold, leafy prints ever since...

It popped back into my head thanks to an email about it I received yesterday, which also included a selection of other leafy lovelies...

Like this, Amy fabric by Sanderson HOME, £26 per metre (on sale soon...). This makes me want to completely re-invent my 1950s/1970s English/Finnish/African mash-up kitchen (lemon-flecked Formica, Alvar Aalto wood, brightly coloured West African wax print cushions). Just love that calming combination of the green print, pale wood and utilitarian white. Next house... 

And this, Fir Trees by Zoffany, which costs £64 per roll from Wallpaper Direct and comes in six different colour combinations (but surely all you'd want is green, right?)

And this, Rainforest fabric from Sanderson, £35.10 per metre from Kingdom Interiors, which feels a bit old-school Laura Ashley conservatory, in a good way. Do check out the link – would love to know if I'm the only one who finds the wicker and leaf overload a Very Good Look... or if it's simply nostalgia for my mum's decor circa 1981. It also comes in a rather special version with orange and black, channelling about a decade earlier, or thereabouts.

How-to... turn a printer tray into jewellery storage

A while back I wrote about some different ways to store jewellery, for those with lots of bling... my friend Abi, who sparked the idea in the first place by sending me this image:

...with a plea for inspiration about a less jumbly way to store it all.  Abi is one of the most organised people I know, she even has really lovely, ordered handwriting that looks like a midcentury take on calligraphy. (While I can only dream of such swish legibility.)

One of the ideas I suggested was to use a printer's tray. This is the one she liked the best, and so she found one and transformed her jumble into...


Looks great, I think. Helped, of course, by the fact that Abi has some very bold and beautiful baubles to display.

So here's what Abi (pictured below, uncharacteristically bling-less) did:

"I bought the tray at Kempton Antiques Fair for £12; got it home and power-washed it (using a Karcher jet wash, from around £100 at Argos, we had one already for cleaning the garden paving) to remove most of the decades of grime then I did a very rough sand to remove any splinters. 

"I had to remove some of the sections, to make room for larger pieces of jewellery (the Tatty D horseshoe, for example), this I did with a tiny modeller's hand saw; very fiddly but easy.

"Once I'd worked out where everything was going I used a combination of picture hooks to hang the jewellery from (small brass screw-in hooks for the earrings, rings and necklaces, and single and double brass picture hooks for the brooches). Once they were in I sanded it down again and decided against liming or varnishing it as I quite like it a little roughened.

"Whole thing cost around £20 to do and a few hours of graft to make! Hey presto: a unique and lovely thing that displays my bling to great effect."

'New Designers' new designer alert: introducing...
Rachel Powell

New Designers, the graduate show which kicked off yesterday in London, is probably the year's hottest hotbed for fresh creative talent. 

Habitat furniture designing stalwart, Bethan Gray made her mark in 1998 there, and Margate's most famous upcycler, Zoe Murphy, who recently launched a range for Liberty, are just two of many big success stories... But more to come on that, meanwhile – by way of more illustration – here is one star from 2011's show, Rachel Powell, who launches her online shop (today!) and first wallpaper range at the the One Year On section of this year's event...

Above, this design is called Woodstock (scroll down for the close-up and see why) and, like the other designs, costs £68 per 55cm x 10 m roll. This collection of colours is one of my favourite palettes: powder blue, grey, mustard and a nice bit of wood for softness, and black to anchor it all – very 2012 1950s.

Rachel's wallpapers come in three standard colours, 'Cloud' (grey), 'Mustard' (yes, yellow) and 'Pepper' (a nice nearly-black), but you can also get a bespoke roll(s) colour-matched to suit your own home if none of of the standard shades quite fit.

This design is called PrudenceThe geometry and retro graphics – inspired, says Rachel, by "midcentury design and the great British countryside" are a little bit Orla Kiely, aren't they? Only without the ubiquity.

Rachel also sells tea-towels, £10, adorned with sections of her geometric prints, too, as well as unusual etched veneer lampshades, starting at £100, with a heavy 70s style (see one of them in the top image, above the table; and for more designs click here).

How to… bring some
outdoors inside

My most calming room is the one painted with a-hint-of-green, a big painting of a palm and trees through the window. Now the sunshine is out, the outdoors is even more enticing: but how to bring as much of it inside, and what else can maximise this feel-good style beyond stocking up on pot-plants? 

Most of us would like more light, but if additional windows aren’t an option, a mirror opposite, or at right angles to what you already have will double the view (pick those overlooking trees, gardens or even window-boxes).

Natural textures and colours are the ticket – but don’t go beige-ly boring: love the flat near me with a wall adorned with shallow rattan baskets gathered on a sunny holiday. So easy and cheap as chips. More advanced, Rattan Man also created a ‘chandelier’ out of a delicate, shapely tree branch – it was suspended by fishing wire from the ceiling over the dining table. 

Stone or wood walls and floors can lend a delicious calm to a space. But you can cheat – with self-adhesive wood and bricks effect wallpapers from Decowall (£9.95 for 100cm x 1m). You could also try the Brewers wood effect range at Wallpaper Direct, £36.95 per 8ish metre roll. Check out also the log wallpaper in the Pedlars country pub interior and Piet Hien Eek's Scrapwood papers.

Photo via
Grow your own indoor living wall with Wally Woolly Pockets, £29.99 each from Amazon, or from Wantist in the US.

National Geographic do a range of photomural wallpapers for Graham Sanderson interiors. As a feature wall it could look a bit dodge but love the idea of swathing a downstairs loo or small bathroom with ‘Sunday’ – a forest of beautiful birch trees.

Paine’s Balsam Fir or Cedar incense cones, from Labour & Wait, promise to add ‘log cabin’ feel to any home. And the packaging is gorgeous. 

For further inspiration, check the Flickr group, Inspired by Nature.

Make your own pallet chair

I like a pallet. How could you not? They are the ultimate raw material for beginner recyclers. I've already written about a clever house and some cinema seating made from them – all very inspiring, but a bit daunting if you aren't a seasoned woodworker, perhaps.

Not any more. The other week, I wrote about a stunning new house designed by Studiomama, an interesting company with a focus on making the most of small spaces and recycled creations. And while raking through their website, I discovered an excellent innovation: downloadable PDF instructions for making your own furniture, including pallet chairs. Just like these (for Studiomama by some rather well-known names)...

Pallet chair by Cornelia Parker 

Pallet chair by Gavin Turk 

Pallet chair by Rachel Whiteread
Fancy knocking up one of these yourselves? 

Download illustrated instructions in PDF form, see left, starting at £10 (though some are free), from the Studiomama webstore – for chairs like these (minus the internationally renowned artist finishes, depending on who you are of course), as well as a sleek pallet lamp, an upright chair, kids' room, bench, stool and this rather marvellous outdoor kitchen.

Blog fancy: Brigg

Do you ever look around your unfinished home and sigh, thinking that if only you could justify spending the cash, you could resolve all sorts of small-scale domestic frustrations – from creating better storage, to more stylish seating, better lighting... if you're anything like me, the list goes on.

Which is why I was very happy this morning to discover a 
brilliantly inspiring Norwegian blog, called Brigg, which proves over and over again in its creative posts, that the solution is – literally – often right in front of you, and will cost you nada (not even a degree in DIY)...

Coat hanger bedside shelf This is a staggeringly simple idea. Yes, you could spend some time painting a wire coat hanger a good colour, but even unpainted it's a good-looking, space-saving solution to where to put your magazine or book at bedtime, particularly where space is limited.

In my own bedroom, I have a mezzanine that my mattress sits on and it goes right up to the walls each side. Meaning no bedside table space. This would have worked perfectly (perhaps several of them on each side of the bed). Instead, when I did it up, I found a perspex kitchen cupboard divider in the Ikea kitchen accessories section to use for the purpose; a shallow rectangular box that I attached to the wall on one side. Things on the other side get stuffed down the side of the mattress. Which isn't ideal. So I think I'll try this in my imminent bedroom re-decoration project. Watch this space.

Paper bag vase I have lots of small vases or jugs or jars to put little bunches of flowers in. But for large blooms, options are limited. And even with small arrangements, sometimes the right container for the job just doesn't go as well as it could with the flowers. Or you want matching vases but have recently cleared out (as we did the other week) your overflowing 'I'll keep these jars in case they come in handy for something' cupboard. Solution? Put a bag over it. What doesn't go with brown paper? 


Bedroom storage Just goes to show that with a tiny bit of pimping – painting one drawer with blackboard paint, wall-mounting the unit and adding an interesting lump of wood to dangle things from above – a plain old Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers can become a feature rather than just a functional thing announcing that you shop in the Swedish megastore.

Dog bed I love this (and the cheeky little hound modelling it). I have old cushions and pillows – rather than a zig-zagged child's mattress, as used here – that I could use to the same end, along with the dog's favourite bit of soft fabric. Belts, eh? Genius. If you don't have suitable or spare trouser holders to hand, luggage straps would do. You can also make stools using them around piles of magazines, like this.

Love that light arrangement, too. I have one of those industrial/outdoors lightbulb garlands in my under-stairs cupboard, left behind by the previous owners who'd strung it up with multicoloured bulbs in the garden. I have never quite worked out what to do with it... until now.

Do check out more excellent ideas and beautiful images from Brigg yourselves.

Now that's what I call bunting

I'm not entirely convinced by bunting. The Jubilee has really helped it jump the shark, and it can look terribly twee.

But I loved this reincarnation of bunting, seen at the launch last night of Josie Da Bank's new picnic range.

Nice, isn't it?

The launch was on the top floor of Selfridges, one of the outlets where Josie's stuff will be on sale – and the whole place had been transformed, Bestival style with quirky, colourful decor; Josie, as you probably know, is the other half of Mr Bestival, aka Rob da Bank, as well as being producer and creative director of the festival, along with its family-focused sister, Camp Bestival). The cups on a wall were an interesting idea, too. 

I can't decide if I loved them or found them strangely creepy in an Alice in Wonderland way... 

So here is Josie's new picnic set: as you'd expect, joyful, bright and covered in her own lovely illustrations. 

It is available to pre-order on CultureLabel for delivery mid-July. By which time we might even have some picnicking weather.

Two plates from the range: the small version costs £8 and the large, £10. The rest of the range starts at £4 for one of the short tumblers.

Old-school celebrity homes

Interiors voyeurism + mid-century Hollywood stars = unbeatable eye-candy... as NY Magazine's Wendy Goodman kindly demonstrated on her excellent Design Hunter blog last month.

Marlene Dietrich, 1951, in her Park Lane apartment 

Greta Garbo's East Side home for 37 years. Dream wardrobe, no?

Shirley MacLaine's 1972 flat in New York. Once you get past the lavish shagpile and 10-tonne kaftan (I'd quite like to own both) that incredible oversized lamp comes into focus.

See the full post and slideshow at New York MagazinePhotos: Harriet Brown & Co.;  Photo: George Karger/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty Images; Conde Nast Archive/Corbis

I also stumbled across an Etsy vintage postcard seller who posted about a whole set of these amazing vintage Hollywood celebrity home postcards, like this Judy Garland one. Check out the Cedar Chest for more.

But of them all, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward's place looks the most fun, don't you think? 

And once you've stopped looking at Newman's legs (even great in scary ankle socks) check out that beautiful kitchen floor, the tied-back curtains, old-school stove (above) and smooth, recessed curtains, excellent pale rug and low-slung chair (top)... 

Proper pubs

A bit of a deviation today: I'm having a nostalgia moment, inspired by watching the Euro 2012 match in my local last night. 

I used to write another blog, called Save the Boozer, a paean to the sorts of old-school pubs you rarely see these days, thanks to rampant gastro-isation, residential development or bland homogenisation by chains. My local is pretty much the only un-mucked about-with pub in the area, and its shabby, lived-in and determinedly un-hip interior, dotted with flashes of faded grandeur in the form of lavish antique wall and floor tiling and etched glass, reminded me how much I love the aesthetic of a grimy old boozer. So I dug out some Save the Boozer shots for old-time's sake...

The interiors of such places are so warm, scuffed and functional that all you can do is do what you're meant to do in a pub: relax, chat to random people and have one too many. And the best ones have juke boxes, un-fancy crisps behind the bar and, if you're very lucky, a photo of the Queen Mum pulling a pint. 

There's a lot tied up with community, too: the posher the pub decor, the more homogenised the clientele. But this evening, we were a gloriously varied bunch, from my postman, to a group of dolled up twenty-something girls, the local five-a-side team, and to chat goals with a tipsy pensioner at the bar... 

If you, too, like plain, every-day pubs – you'll probably enjoy The Search for the Perfect Pub: looking for the Moon Under Water, a brilliantly written road-trip to track down the mythical George Orwell ideal (in which, due to Save the Boozer, I am even quoted!). And also, should you happen to be Stateside, New York City's Best Dive Bars is also a fantastic book. It has since been updated heavily, so I can't vouch for the new version, but I used this one, written by the eminently amusing Wendy Mitchell, as my entertainment guide when I was last in the city.

Tasty textiles at
Urban Outfitters

The Grayson Perry TV show and exhibition of his new work, The Vanity of Small Differences, inspired by Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, and exploring class mobility, have helped to put tapestries into the spotlight this month.

And it's not just Mr Perry who's fond of this format. The trend hit the catwalk this spring, and now it's coming into our homes – thanks, in part, to Urban Outfitters who have a range of wall-hangable works of woven art.

Peacock and Tree tapestry throw, £35

Mexican Rose tapestry style throw, £18 (down from £35 in the sale)

And it got me browsing some of the shop's other textiles... and they have so many great designs right now. Keep this up and Ikea's flagship department will be feeling the heat...

Smoke tea-towel, £16, by La Cerise sur le Gateau, aka Parisian designer Anne Hubert, who also wrote The Left Bank Look (Watson-Guptill), a lovely-looking book dedicated to inspiring DIY and customisation.

Rainbow stripe rug, £60

Zig zag curtain panel, £18 (down from £35)
Reversible kaleidoscope quilt, £95