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New term inspiration

However long you’ve been out of university or school, that new term feeling can still kick in around now. 

And even if there is no actual new term in your life, the general vibe of fresh starts can still be channelled to spark enthusiasm for learning something new or simply getting inspired to re-do things differently. Here are some suggestions to help your home to benefit…

This autumn and winter, West Dean college in Chichester has some great furniture-based classes. They've just run a beginners' make-your-own-and-take-it-home modern Windsor chair course (above), which should be on again in coming months. Later on there are furniture recycling sessions, simple furniture-making for novices and basic woodworking. It is a beautiful part of the country, too – make it into a mini-break. See and search for short courses.

If you’d rather teach yourself at home, check out the shop section of – run by the excellent product designer, Nina Tolstrup. Here you can download illustrated instructions for making your own chair, lamp or stool – from pallets, like the one above. The PDFs cost £10 each, and the stool one is free.

I have been a big fan of the quilt designer, Cassandra Ellis, since I did one of her interiors classes last year. She is so inspiring – and never more than when talking about her biggest love, quilts. She has a book out in October called Quilt Love (Jacqui Small) and it really gets across the wonderfully slow process of stitching together feelings and stories to make something from treasured bits of fabric – whether to give as a present (for a wedding, perhaps, or to celebrate the life of a loved one) – and the instructions are clear, simple and the results, beautiful (she even provides details of somewhere you can send off your great idea and fabrics, and get someone else to do the hard bit). 

The back pages of Ellis’s book also include a great section on where to go to gather ideas for designing your own quilt. But could trigger ideas for all sorts of interiors revamps too: inspiring away days (or weekends) include the Rothko room at the Tate Modern (though possibly not right now, with today's sad news about the graffiti there), Kelmscott Manor,Gloucester (William Morris’s “most evocative house”, see top image above) the Vita Sackville-West designed gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, and the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden in St Ives (above, bottom – Hepworth's studio, and one of her beautifully tactile sculptures). Scour websites like and and devise your own hit-list.

As the nights cosy up, and the sofa gets a grip on you – make it a creative event and get in DVDs of films full of exciting interiors. A great way to fuel inspiration if you’re planning a new-season re-vamp. The Apartment Therapy blog has a fantastic list of their favourites to get you started (see their 'A Single Man' montage, above). My own recent ‘I want to live there’ movies include Moonrise Kingdom (amazing colours!) and Take This Waltz (quirky, well-ordered clutter). 

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