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A (very) industrial look

Wendy Goodman of the New York magazine gets to nose around some excellently unusual homes, and this recent tour of a Brooklyn apartment that used to be a motorcycle repair garage caught my attention.

The owner, sculptor/architectural designer Elena Columbo (great name!) really kept the building's former industrial life alive. I'm not sure I'd have been quite so brave with the raw approach, but it's got some really interesting ideas...

Love the massive desk as a kitchen work surface. I recently saw a fantastic kitchen where the owner had converted an old wooden chemist shop counter into a kitchen island, with the oven built in where the till used to be. It looked amazing. Here, the warm wood also adds some much needed warmth to the cool concrete walls and stainless steel appliances and cupboards.

Top marks for the most surprising use of old printers' trays: the owner has fixed them together into a room divider to screen her bed from the rest of the space.

You can see more pictures and read all about the conversion (and what that propeller's doing there) on the NY Mag website.

Abi's guide to art
collecting on a budget

Welcome back to Your Home is Lovely's new contributing editor Abi Zakarian. This week she's all about building an investment art collection without an investment banker's salary. Over to Abi...

I love art. To quote the fabulous Hedy Lamarr (I don't go in for fancy-pants thinkers): “A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires”. Unfortunately I don't have the resources of a certain Mr Saatchi but that doesn't mean you can't build up a lovely collection of original works on a budget. Here's how I got my own personal gallery going.

Always visit the gift shop Lots of galleries, both national and privately owned, now sell limited editions of artists' work. This Ken Adam print (above) is of one of his sketches for Kubrick's 'Dr Strangelove' and was produced to coincide with the Serpentine Gallery's retrospective of his work in 1999. I fell in love with the original but this was a slightly more affordable £125.

My lifelong love of Peter Blake's work began when I first visited Tate Britain aged 14 (back then it was just plain old Tate Gallery; yes, I am 104 years old). Many years later I discovered the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester were opening their new wing and commemorating this with a new work by Blake entitled 'Bobbie Rainbow'; printed on tin and produced in an edition of 2,000, they cost just £35. They now sell for upwards of £750. Bobbie was a companion piece Blake created to go with his earlier seminal work 'Babe Rainbow' (1967) – this was one of the first examples of an artist creating 'art for all'; a print run of 10,000 sold for £1 each (see both, above top). And an usual addition to our collection is this fab set of pop art badges (above); from the Pallant's excellent shop and still available on their website for £50.

Paul Catherall creates beautiful geometric works that retail at upwards of £500; but his 'British Architect' print (above, top) is only £65 from an edition of 250. Other artists have created objects too; I'm currently coveting the Nina Saunders 'Little white chair' – an edition of 200 for £60 (above).

Be friends with (or marry*) an artist I'm willing to bet you've got a friend or a friend of a friend who is a creative of some type – they get everywhere. So become a patron of their work – the work will be reasonably priced because the artist is starting out and you get to help them create more art by funding their creativity, plus their work gets seen by all your friends, some of whom might want to know where it came from, and thus helping to create the growth of the artist. Our lovely friend Ali Rabjohns gave this picture (above) to us a good few years ago; I love it because it reminds me of Marc Chagall's paintings. Ali is now a fierce felter and makes strange, wonderful pieces of art; one of which I hope to own soon.

And this artwork (above) is by my husband – it's one of his set designs for a production of 'Les Miserables'. No charge, thanks to marriage vows and all that.
*I don't really advocate marrying an artist to get free art; I just got lucky.

Get an interest free loan I bought this John Macfarlane for my husband. It's an original painting and would usually be way out of my price range but with the Own Art scheme you can take out an interest free loan for 10 months to purchase any piece of art by a living artist from £100 up to £2,000. Also, there's no limit on how many times you use the loan scheme so you can gradually add to your collection.

Use your imagination There's a cute little Rob Ryan print hanging in our bathroom – that didn't cost a penny because it's a screen-printed carrier bag from his shop in Columbia Road (above, top). The small Peter Blake collage  (above) is a preview card from a show he curated at Liverpool Tate (bonus points because he signed it for me).

Consider photography Many photographers produce prints of their work in low edition runs; if you see a photo you like in a magazine, news article or even on a website it's worth contacting the photographer and asking them to produce a print for you; ask them to sign and date it too. It's a great way of finding art you love and, again, champions new artists. I'm on the verge of ordering one of Lena Konstantakou's gorgeous prints of Cuba (above, top) after seeing an exhibition of her work and I love Andy Paradise's black and white work; I used to work with Andy in my days as a picture editor and this beautiful photo of his (above) now graces my wall.

Don't dally If you see it, love it and have enough in your purse – buy it. Don't wait, it'll sell out and you'll be left kicking yourself. I still cry a little bit over the Paula Rego and Cindy Sherman prints I missed out on because I faffed about over what was the price of a months worth of take-out coffee. I now know Art feeds the soul more than any flat white can.

The super Emerging Designer Award

I love it when big brands do good stuff. And the Emerging Designer Award hosted by, in which the winning student designer will bag £3,000 and see their design put into production, is very good indeed.

But who would you pick? These are my favourites. Today at least. There is lots of talent and 15 brilliant shortlisted entries in total.

Natalie Raines from Nottingham Trent University, was inspired by Swedish 1960s textiles to create this chirpy repeat pattern, which began as a drawing of a stem of grapes

Sophie Berry, from Bath Spa University, has entered this graphic interpretation of cutlery in clean, simple monochrome.

Harriet Popham, at Swansea Metropolitan University, drew on traditional blue and white Dutch porcelain for this intricate, striking design

Ruth Duggan, another Nottingham Trenter, studied moths around a light to create the original drawings for this digital print.

Yvonne Shore, is the second Swansea Metropolitan shortlister. I think the combination of wool, muted, sludgy colours and bold black lines, look fantastic mocked up on the sofa.

Louise Coleman, also at Nottingham Trent, has played with the theme of the Mad Hatter's tea party, combined with inspiration from the Norfolk countryside.

Although the winner will be picked by a judging panel next month, there is a People's Vote (with the chance to win £1,000 to spend at the store): voting is a marvellously simple button click, and you can see all the shortlisters here.

Neon lighting for font nerds at Aram Store

There's a term I have for when you're over something before it's even become mainstream: trade jade – because it is possibly only something that happens when you work in a job that surrounds you with said things. It's a bit how I feel about typograhpical neon lighting... 

And yet I'm also aware how easy it could be to become an inward-looking media twit... so I thought I'd share these new neon lights on sale at Aram Store, which are beautiful and also not too pricey. Any strong opinions either way?

They get bonus points for the lovely font, inspired by American typewriter lettering.

'Sex' or 'art', above, are currently going for the reduced price of £118.15, down from £139. The letters (and you can design your own bespoke creation; cost varies, depending on what you go for) measure 17cm high.

So. Whaddya reckon: neon art: shark jumper or enduring thing of beauty?

If you are still
undecided, check
out the work of
Chris Bracey
(see left)
of modern
neon art.

A professional’s guide
to junk hunting

In my Insider column in today's New Review magazine, in the Independent on Sunday I interviewed Sarah Brunner, one of the presenters on a new TV show on Sky Arts 2, called Design Dealers

The woman is obsessed with junk – but beautiful junk or, more often, junk that looks unpromising to the untrained eye, but which she manages to turn into beautiful things for the home. Read her top tips for what sort of junk to hunt, and then what to do with it, in today's paper. Meanwhile, below, some images of her ideas to accompany her tips.

70s drum kit as shelves or side-tables. These drums aren't quite the spangly retro ones I know Sarah had in mind, but the way the green ones are hung illustrates her idea for her dream drum shelving. While the red version, chopped in half vertically is reconfigured differently to the way Sarah describes, but I quite like it as an alternative. And handily there are full DIY instructions for both over at Tom Tom Magazine. I also like them turned into side tables, top images, via the Home Jelly blog and Indulgy.

Teapots as outdoor hanging planters, via Beeldsteil
Ladder shelves, via Upcycleus

Wooden skis coat hanger, Orvis. They also sell another version, the one Sarah was describing – which you can see here

Brass instrument pendant, from the Antique Lighting blog. This is more complex than the one Sarah describes, as it has been adapted into a pendant. She simply threaded her lamp-holder through the intact instrument and propped it up, with the bulb in the open end and the wire exiting the mouthpiece. Make sure you get a lampholder with a plug and switch on it (known as an inline switch) to make things super simple. You can get rather ugly ones from Amazon, or if you'd rather go down the antique styling route, speak to the most helpful (and affordable) Urban Cottage Industries about what you're after, and they'll be able to sort you out so that it looks more like this, below, which is their version of the plastic-y Amazon one.

Suitcase chest of drawers by James Plumb, the design duo Sarah finds hugely inspiring for their creative way with what others might see as junk.

I will republish the text of the piece on the blog later this week, including a few bonus tips, so if this is your kind of thing, come back!

Also – should you require Sarah's style services for some pimping in your own pad or shop, you can contact her by email at: brunner.sarah [at]

Hot off the press: two new MONUmini models

It was just yesterday that I wrote about the excellent miniature Scottish tenement building models that you can make yourself. And by chance, today, into my inbox popped a newsletter from MONUmini design collaborators, Another Studio – announcing two brand new architectural models.

Berlin's Brandeburg Gate and the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris are they, and as the website also depicts the lovely packaging, I thought I'd do a quick post to share.

As the makers explain: "The kit includes a sheet of etched stainless steel pieces which fold and lock together to create the miniature structure. Each kit also includes step-by-step assembly instructions and a short building history which is all packed into an attractive envelope making them a great little (easy-to-post!) souvenir." Nice. They are £15.50 each, from Another Studio.

I also hadn't seen their super-cute Matchcarden range, above, which features tiny buildings illustrated on matchboxes. You pull out the matchbox drawer and slot the two bits of box together to create a front garden that, thanks to the enclosed seeds, sprouts cress.

These are just £3.95 each (or £11.85 for a trio) and they do a 'city' range, above, and a 'village' set, below. 

If you are in the market for a bespoke corporate invitation, or are lining up any kind of event where you can splash cash on the invites (500-1000 minimum), their made-to-order options are also rather striking.

Scottish tenement block architectural models

Architecture geeks, or just fans of fine looking buildings in miniature, may already know about the popular MONUmini series by the Glasgow-based Finch & Fouracre, in collaboration with Another Studio. If not, these were the beautifully executed stainless steel make-it-yourself models of London monuments including the Barbican, Tower Bridge and Battersea Power station.

But if you were thinking how irritating it is that London gets so much press (it does, it is, and I live here!) you might like the company's gorgeous miniature Scottish tenement blocks.
The Scottish tenement model kit is available in red or blonde sandstone. It comes with pre-cut card pieces and windows, timber chimneys, instructions, and glue. When finished, the model stands at about 17cm high and costs £19.50. You can buy it from Bouf.

Or you might prefer the Edinburgh old town model kit, £24.50, which is their newest Scottish building addition and is modelled on the 16th and 17th century buildings found around the High Street and Grassmarket in Edinburgh. When built, it stands at 20cm high.

They also sell really little versions, called Tinyment, which measure just 6cm high when constructed, and cost £22 a-piece.

But my favourite model is the teeny tiny ice-cream van, £9.50. Isn't it cute?