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More brilliant Barbican style

This is for those of you who enjoyed last week's post on an amazing Barbican flat (and from my stats that is A LOT of you...).

I spotted this ace modernist tea towel on the Theo website yesterday, while I was posting about his marvellous Polish bar mugs.

The tea towel costs £12. Love it.

Ogle the real thing here.

Polish bar mugs from Theo
(and a sale!)

I absolutely love these amazing bar mugs for sale at the excellent Theo shop – 'Theo' being the alter-ego of designer, Thorsten van Elten. Who has great taste, not only in the things he makes himself, but also in the things he buys to put in this shop. 

Like these, which 'Theo' picked up on a trip to the Lodz Design Festival in Poland, which I heartily recommend you read about in a minute, here, because it looks, like, totally amazing. Total design porn with a nice eastern European edge.

But back to these little beauties. They are by Mamsam (don't bother with the link unless you speak Polski), who asked some local design talent to come up with graphic logos reminiscent of Poland's sixties, seventies and eighties communist past.

Aren't they just totally brilliant? They are £10.95 each – but in very limited supply, so get in quick. I'd like to buy a set of six and drink red wine out of them. Or vodka. Well, they are Polish...

You can also catch some Theo action in person at the festive pop-up shop at Somerset House, pictured below, which is open until January 6.

AND there is a sample and seconds sale happening – starting this evening! – and running till Sunday, in Bethnal Green, east London, where you'll find pigeon lights for £30 and antlers and plant cups for £25 among much, much more excitement. There will even be Gluehwein on the go. Get the info here.

Design Milk's doggie sister site

I love the excellent Design Milk website – a brilliant hub for stylish design, architecture and interiors stories. But it was only a couple of months ago that I discovered its rather marvellous sister site: Dog Milk.

Regular readers will know I am a dog person. Though not the kind of dog person who dresses their pet up and lets him kiss with tongues. Some people love that shit. That's cool. It's just not me. So now that's clear, I feel comfortable sharing my love for Dog Milk, which has all the style of Design Milk, but with a canine focus. Check it out: here are some of my favourite posts (click on the headings to go to the original stories)...

Dog wallpaper
Dog greetings cards

Dog Christmas ornaments

Modernist dog house

The gift for the person who has everything? A personalised, illuminated sign

Last Sunday in my Insider column, I wrote about illuminated letters. Here is the full version, with images...

Typography has been and isn’t going away as a trend (though we do – hurrah – finally seem to have fallen out of love with the ubiquitous ‘keep calm’ bonanza). But the next step in letter love is illuminated signage, specifically featuring letters or words. My friend Abi emailed to ask where she could get a giant letter ‘M’ that lights up for her husband’s 40th birthday present. They’re not everywhere and there are a few different ways to go. Here’s what we discovered: 

Vintage marquee sign, around £160, Etsy
If you’re not in a rush, eBay and Etsy will come up trumps… eventually. Especially if you have your heart set on an original rather than a repro version. The (not less obvious) keywords to go for are: fairground; illuminated; marquee; signage lightbulb letter (and the dreaded ‘vintage’ – which it’s worth searching without too, as anyone with the nous to use it, has the nous to charge more). 

Original illuminated 'N', £175 from Something or Other
Try, too: the Vintage Wall; (if you have cash to splash); Something or Other (above) – and the trade markets (there is a calendar available for the six biggies at – and includes heaps more to choose from, though you'll really need to sift through for the good ones). 

Original letter 'O', Signs for Homes, £145
I'm not usually a fan of reproduction – and repro signage can look particularly ‘meh’. But if you want something specific spelt out, and have a deadline – it’s probably your best bet. And Signs for Homes make stunning old-style copies, employing a pro sign-maker (below, left). Individual light bulb letters (33 x 40cm) start at £195. (They sell originals too, above.) 

Bespoke signs made to order, £225, from Signs for Homes; 'Dancing' sign
(put your own lights behind it) from Rockett St George, £89
If you happen to want to spell the word ‘dancing’, Rockett St George sell a beautiful – new – Perspex panel for £89 (above, right), modelled on a 1950s nightclub sign, with red letters on the front; you can put your own light behind it if you like.

Or make like Tracey Emin and buy ready made words and phrases (‘kiss’, ‘hot’ and ‘I love you’), or create your own for £45 per letter (plus a transformer – from £45-£100). Available from The Letter Room

Follow Oleander and Palm's instructions on making your own illuminated letter using old jam jars.
Or make your own. Get step-by-step guides for the super simple plywood, jam jar and paint version, Oleander and Palm (above, a very nice site) or go a bit more pro here. sell the festoon light strings you’ll need and 'foamcore' is better known as 'foamboard' in the UK for Googling. Do send photos if you manage it!

Or if you just want to ogle such glowing beauties, check out his current pop-up shop and exhibition (on until January) in London, by the renowned neon artist, Chris Bracey (above). You can read about him in the Independent.

Oh my god, it's BHS! (A preview)

If the title hadn't already given it away, I'd be saying: "Oh my god, guess where these very stylish things are from. Go on, GUESS: Nope. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong... it's BHS!" 

I don't know about you, but when I think of 'BHS homewares', I think of naff chocolate brown leather sofas, chunky wrong-wood sideboards, unpleasantly boxy dining chairs... Based on nothing apart from the fact I have no idea what they sell. But I posted recently about the 'Scandi' range from BHS – the store's surprisingly elegant range of natural-hued, pared down lighting designs. And their upcoming Spring/Summer 2013 range shows that wasn't just a blip on an otherwise naff horizon. What a shocker. And it's all pretty affordable too... What do you think?

Orange 'Brighton' chair, £80

Brighton table lamp, £20
Brighton floor lamp, £130; armchair as before

Brighton sofa, £899 and armchair, £599. Hove nest of three coffee tables, £139, Reno pendant light, £35

Bath mat, £16

This is all from the brand new 'Brighton' range, which doesn't hit the shops until next year. Look out also for the soon-to-arrive 'Essentials' kitchen accessories (I have my eye on a 60s-ish yellow kettle). Really beautiful, bright, classic designs.

Beautiful Barbican flat

Last week I went to the advance screening of I, Anna, a new thriller due out next month starring Gabriel Byrne and Charlotte Rampling. It was almost brilliant (great cast, shame about the shoe-horned in subplot) but what was brilliant was the setting. Much of the movie was set in London's Grade II listed Barbican, as the guy that gets bumped off (and that's in no way a spoiler, as you'll see in the trailer below) lives there. His flat is incredible. As is the concrete-heavy late-sixties building around it – brooding, brutal and crazy fabric-lined lifts. 

I spent much of my teenage youth hanging around these flats, where one of my best friend's forward thinking parents had a flat just like the one in the film (though then it hadn't yet become cool then). And it brought back memories of how brilliantly built they are. The Modern House has sold a few of them over the years, so here – thanks to them – is a showcase, via a couple of their sold properties. You can also read a bit about what it's like to live in the development in a piece by my colleague at the Independent, Caroline Kamp, here.

Read about this two-bedroom (sold) penthouse, above (and see more images) at the Modern House.

I also wanted to share the flat below, even though it isn't actually part of the Barbican. Because a) it is AMAZING (that shelving in the kitchen is spectacular; the windows are immense, I love how neatly the bedroom is enclosed and isn't that hard, shiny floor strangely compelling?) and b) it was built in almost identical style by the architects Chamberlain, Powell and Bon, who later went on to build the Barbican flats.

Read about this (sold) studio flat, above, in the 1950s Golden Lane estate, at the Modern House.

You can nose around another Barbican flat here; this one is very similar stylistically to the one in I, Anna. And here is a trailer for the film. As well as the incredible shots of the Barbican, I love how it makes London look very different to how we often see it in films; very European and strangely futuristic.


Beautiful new print from
Fine Little Day

I love this print from Fine Little Day (a gorgeous shop that I have posted about before – most recently about their marvellously hued mini blankets) because it reminds me of this poster in my bedroom.

Said poster was inherited from a part of my parents' life in the trippy 1960s that I can't even begin to imagine (and kind of don't want to...). Whereas this one takes an entirely wholesome approach to organic scenes depicted in monochrome. I think it's a stunner.

The work is by Swedish illustrator Cecilia Pettersson (here's her blog, full of more lovely nature-inspired artwork) and is called The Forest. It comes in a standard 50x70cm size, meaning it fits into an affordable standard frame, like the Ribba one from Ikea that is is photographed in. And it is a snip at just 40 Euros. Beautiful.

Papa Stour's cosy croft

Winter, when you have to button up and do the daily commute through rain and wind, with cold hands, is grim. And if you cycle, you can triple that grimness. All of which is why a winter getaway somewhere even colder than where you may live, to properly celebrate winter – rather than fight it – is a joyous thing.

In dreaming of wood burning stoves and blustery (but – importantly – leisurely) walks, I came across Callakille near Applecross, in Scotland’s north west Highlands. It is a newly refurbished croft run as a holiday let, by gorgeous Scottish craft and design company, Papa Stour

It is stunningly furnished (see below) by former stylist and interiors journalist, Rosie Brown, Papa Stour’s founder, who is passionate about local craft and design and has decorated accordingly – and what about that landscape outside? From the cosyness inside, or on one of those blustery walks, you can marvel at glorious views of Skye, Raasay and Rona.

If you'd like to rent the croft, you can find out more at the Papa Stour website, or go direct to book via Wilderness Cottages. It sleeps four (in one double and one twin) and the price (for a week) ranges seasonally from £465 to £745.

I also really like the locally designed and produced products that the company sells. Here are three of my favourites...

From top: Ceramic Jug by Karen, Ceramicist, £36; Ship's crew Russian dolls, £125, by Allistair, Designer – this set of seven hand painted wooden Russian dolls includes the Captain, the First Mate, the Mechanic, the Cook, the Cabin Boy, The Ship's Dog and even a Sea Gull; Day off at Crail print, £30 (A3), by Adrian, Illustrator – A print of an ink and watercolour artwork depicting the harbour at Crail, an East Coast Scottish fishing village in the early morning.