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Lane's lovely prints

Lane, aka Joff Casciani and Ollie Wood, started out as a graphic design company. But last year the Nottingham-based duo branched out into products... 

...launching a range of beautiful things like prints, notebooks (in collaboration with Margaret Howell), lampshades and, shortly, cushions (in collaboration with Kirkby Design, them behind the brilliant London Underground textiles range).

All of Lane's products are inspired by twentieth century graphic design. Love the simple kitchen storage underneath their Viva La Cucina print, above, too.

I bumped into them at Design Junction and fell in love with their prints. Each one is £55 and a handy 50cm x 70cm size, meaning it fits in a standard size frame (I'm always banging on about Ikea's Ribba range, £16.99 for this size, but I do love this simple, chunky – and cheap – range of frames).

This limited edition print, above, was made for the anniversary of the British interiors company, David Mellor, and features its 700 Series chair, for which Mellor won the 1975 Design Council Award.

The "Circles" design, above, comes in several different colourways.

And if you can't stretch to a full-size print, they do this set of seasonally-themed cards at £8 for a pack of four.

Post by Kate

Brutal and Beautiful:
the exhibition

Oooh, we are most excited about a new exhibition from English Heritage about post-war buildings, and our love/hate relationship with them.

Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century, which has just opened in central London, covers the period from 1945 to the 1980s and features many photographs and interviews with architects demonstrating the vast amount of post-war architecture the UK has to offer.

Cromwell Tower in the Barbican, London
There is nothing that fires up an architecture debate like post-war building design. You only need to look at the comments below our piece on Preston Bus Station (and the fact that the divisive building gained listed status earlier this week) to see what I mean. But I'm firmly on the side of the crikey-it's-beautiful-but-in-a-wrongheaded-breathtaking-sort-of-way – it's surely hard not to gasp in awe at the sight of the Barbican's Cromwell Tower, pictured above. No? (For further evidence, see exhibit one and also the vast – and vastly contentious – Park Hill Estate in Sheffield.)

Lloyds Building, London
And I'm not alone, as this far-reaching exhibition illustrates. But there's a lot more to its content than massive concrete edifices, or Richard Rogers mould-breaking late seventies/early eighties Lloyds Building design, pictured above and part of the exhibition. 

Scargill Chapel, North Yorkshire
The show also features lesser known buildings such as the quietly monolithic Scargill Chapel in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire, pictured above. Designed and built by the English architect George Pace in between 1958-61, this chapel owes much to Scandinavian design but also sits peacefully among the rolling hills and dales.

New House, Oxfordshire (private residence)
Or the charming New House in Oxfordshire, pictured above. Built in 1963-63 it's a private residence constructed from traditional materials like Cotswold stone and slate and modelled, by architects Stout and Greenfield, on local farm buildings. There's even a Japanese garden thrown in for good measure.

British Gas Engineering Research Station in Tyne and Wear
And then, pictured above, there's the glorious British Gas Engineering Research Station in Tyne and Wear... and that's not a sentence I ever thought I'd write. Built by Ryder and Yates in 1966-67 it reminds me a tiny bit of Brasilia, that fantastical Oscar Niemeyer creation in Brazil. Don't you think? The soaring white towers with their futuristic shapes rising up out of a flat landscape nod to the municipal buildings Niemeyer created. But in Tyne and Wear. Marvellous. 

Yes, I know that living in or near to any such Marmite buildings can often lead to a very different experience than to the often utopian ideal the architect/s had in mind but look at them. They're stunning – sometimes in a sculptural way, sometimes in a horrific way but always, always in a way that makes you react. And that's why I love them – these buildings provoke an emotional response and in that way they're like the best kind of art.

The exhibition runs until 24 November, costs a mere £4 entry and, as an added bonus, is at the rather brilliant Quadriga Gallery, housed inside the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner in London. Opening times: Weds-Sun, 10am-5pm.

Post by Abi

Tait modernism

I was car booting last weekend and found a little gem. Have a look at this lovely old pot – yes, it's missing a lid and has a chip on its spout, but it's just gorgeous. A modernist shape and a perky hand painted design, perfect for a bunch of jolly flowers to pep up a windowsill as we trundle into autumn.

I found it, as I often find these things, at the bottom of a grubby old box of stuff under the ubiquitous wallpapering table at a car boot sale. It cost me 50p and was covered in years of dirt and looked so sad. But I knew instantly that it was designed by one of my very favourite pottery designers; the marvellous Jessie Tait (pictured below, left). 
This design, Fiesta, was produced around 1953 and is just one of many brilliant designs Tait came up with during her 50+ year career working for various Stoke-on-Trent potteries; most notably Midwinter, then later J&G Meakin, Wedgwood and Johnson Brothers.

Her work is difficult to pigeonhole because it was ever evolving and moving with the times: a quick look at the few pieces of hers I've collected over the years (car boot, jumble, eBay and junk shop finds all) demonstrate this perfectly. Here's my very favourite – below. The 1957 design is called Quite Contrary, which makes me love it all the more.

A more atomic fifties design you could not find, with its starbursts and delicious black, turquoise and pink colourway popping off the plate. I only started making cakes and biscuits so I could serve them on these four precious tea plates I found lurking on eBay for a snip at £2.50 the lot. I still can't work out how, as this design goes for large sums of money – think I got lucky that day.

Fast forward to 1971 and take a look at this beauty, above (found by my mum in a charity shop and re-homed with lucky me). The Inca design Tait produced for J&G Meakin's new "studio" shape coffee pot. It's a seventies dream; mesmerising repeat pattern, ever so slightly psychedelic and coupled with the palette of the decade – oranges, browns, yellows and black – it's practically a logo for the era. I love it and it never fails to bring out my inner Abigail's Party when I brew up a pot of coffee.

A 1971 classic for J&G Meakin is Galaxy (although I think the design was introduced early in the sixties): the colours alone are perfectly matched, not to mention the groovy spirograph style patterns. I've only got a platter (£1, a car boot find) but it looks lovely in my green kitchen. Tait's work is even on display at the V&A where they have many lovely examples of her designs too.

But back to the fifties and back to that Fiesta pattern: hand-painted free-form tadpoles, stripes and cross-hatching galore, matched with yet another unusual, but somehow perfect, colour combination. Jessie Tait's designs are myriad and marvellous and I will continue my rummages on a quest to find more.

Post by Abi

I'm on the radio today...

I mentioned the other week that I was working on a project looking at obsession with domestic chores. Well now I am allowed to talk about it  – it's for the kitchen gadgets people, Beko, who've done research into the topic and come up with some rather startling results. Which, ta-da, I am going to be chatting about on various radio shows today.

Did you know, for example, that the average Brit spends 15 hours a week on household preening? Do you spend that amount of time at it? I really don't know if I do (and I certainly didn't in my student days, as I shamefully revealed in yesterday's post).

Of the two people living in our house, I'm really not the tidy one – yet annoyingly I hate mess. Meaning I am typically in a permanent state of low-level anxiety about how much there is to do: the classic binge cleaner. Then there are those obsessed with relentless sprucing – my dear former lodger, for example. He was an enviable neat-freak who once revealed fear was what drove him always to put his clothes away immediately. Mine sit in a washing basket hidden inside my wardrobe until only the need to use the basket again forces me to hang and fold. Pleasingly, though, Mr Lodger also admitted I'd be horrified if I ever saw inside any of his cupboards. Ha. The mess may not be visible but it exists.

The conversation took place for a piece I was researching for the Independent about the secrets of tidy people. For the same piece, I also questioned another friend and long-ago flatmate, militant about averting clutter: not once did I ever see a stray to-do list, bill, pile of coins or empty mug disrupt her pathologically clear surfaces. "But where do you put all that stuff you haven't quite decided what to do with?" I asked her. "Clutter is only clutter if it doesn't have a home," she pronounced. "Allocate drawers for things rather than creating random piles." Wise words. Though I'm still striving.

I'd have said all three of us were all fairly extreme in our own ways but, according to this research, perhaps not. Over a third of British people, it found, prioritised a tidy home over a holiday. Only 18 per cent of us (I'm saying nothing) would prefer to have sex than to have a spruced abode, while only 11 per cent would prefer a night out to a tidy home, and nearly half of those questioned, apparently, find a messy home more annoying than being stuck in a traffic jam. People, what is wrong with us?

What do you think is going on? Why are we all so obsessed? Do join in the debate by email, at, tweet me at @kate_burt or comment below or on the Facebook page. And listen out for me today on the airwaves: at breakfast I'll be on BBC Lancashire and Guernsey, and at lunchtime on BBC Merseyside, with a bit of Bournemouth, Gwent and Cardiff in between in case any of those cover your local airwaves.

Post by Kate

Student bedrooms

Last week I wrote about the 50th anniversary of the Mathmos lava lamp (and the surprising character who invented it). I recalled the orange/yellow example I found in a junk shop in my teens and which I managed to transport through several moves around the country. Well this week I've found the photographic evidence. 

And some extras to boot. So here, I am slightly ashamed to admit, are my various student bedrooms; several featuring the very lamp, which you can see in my teenage abode at my parents' house, above.

I'm not sure how old I was when it was in this state. Possibly 17 or 18. Too old to have teddy bears lying around, I should think. But old enough to think I was classy with my very own bedside lava lamp (and quite nicely – for someone with a lava lamp in their bedroom, at least – colour co-ordinated with the painting above, done by my brother when he was at primary school).

But this, and above (the other side of the room) are as good as it gets.

Here is the room a few years earlier, with the dressing table in the position the bed is in in the first photo. The hairspray probably puts me at around 13 or 14 (the perm years). I liked horses. I liked photos of James Dean (it was the 80s, we all liked photos of James Dean – and Rob Lowe, and there's probably one there of Nick Kamen too somewhere).

An even earlier incarnation of the same room: same bed, different position. And some posters displaying my deep love of Madonna and Nick Heyward. And horses. And my mum was in her Laura Ashley and curtain pelmet phase. Before I moved into it, the room had been my brother's and I once discovered that wooden cupboard in the corner was where he kept a stash of rather educational magazines. It is now on my landing, full of towels. It still needs propping up on one side with cardboard.

This was my first university bedroom, in halls of residence on an old army barracks in Norwich. And there's that lamp again. And a sewing machine that I haven't used since. The black and white psychedelic artwork in the top right hand corner of the wall still has a special place in my home. And I can see a bedspread crumpled on the floor that now lives on the spare bed.

Wish I still had that classic Sugarcubes poster. Why oh why was there a portrait of Freddie Krueger on my wall though? And considering I was clearly so into documenting my bedroom decor, you'd think I might have tidied up before taking the photos.

This is where I lived the following year. Six of us lived in the house together. It was pretty grim – at one point there was a sizeable pond filling the entire floor surface of the downstairs bathroom, which we endured for weeks, possibly months – not thinking to stop using the bathroom. One or two of us were keen on cleaning and tidying (neither was me – as is clearly visible, I just got more slovenly).

This is my friend Shaun demonstrating the men's hairstyle of the day (sorry Shaun if you're reading). I still have that manky stuffed dog. It's horrible (and in the garage) I just can't bring myself to throw it away and see its sad button eyes staring out from a bin bag at me. Nice TV, no?

It wasn't called upcycling then. And there wasn't much "up" about my crass/lazy attempt at revamping a piece of the furniture included in the rent with blue and green paint. Incredibly, the Gilda poster on the right is still around and in one piece. She now lives in my office (here).

The golden hat stand is also still around (minus the 30s cloche) and now sits on a sideboard in my living room.

This was the first post college bedroom, in a flatshare in Brixton (there's my old friend the manky dog again, foreground). Again: was this my idea of styling a room for a photo back then? That bed! Jeez. Though, by way of distracting from the untidiness, this room has a claim to fame: we were always puzzled as to why there were so often young Japanese tourists taking photos of the exterior – until we finally discovered it had once, many years earlier, been the home of the Velvet Underground's Nico. Funny to think she probably had to pay her rent in cash to the terrifying landlady, Mrs Chin, each week too.

I have always carefully (hoardingly?) collected the things I've stuck on my walls with Blutack over the years in a folder that's made it through every move. And weirdly, the little pink and orange flowers on the left hand wall are now on my office wall, as is the postcard of the two little Scottie dogs on the floor... And look – there is the lava lamp!

Hemingway Design's post Olympic revamp of Athletes' Village

This time last year Athletes' Village in the east London Olympic Park was probably most famous for housing 150,000 condoms. Now it's about to hit London's housing market – with interior design Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway's company, Hemingway Design

As part of the redevelopment of east London's Olympic site, the complex that formerly housed more than 10,000 frisky athletes has been turned into new homes to rent or to buy. Half of the rented ones are available furnished, with the Hemingways – specifically the couple's daughter Tilly, who runs the design team – in charge. What do you reckon? And would you love or loathe to live somewhere furnished by someone else (however stylish)?

Get London Living, the property company behind the flats has also released prices for the properties, all set in a landscaped area the size of St James's Park. A one-bedroom flat in the area now carefully renamed East Village will set you back £310 per week, while a top of the ladder four-bedroom townhouse costs £515 a week. Which, sadly, is not even that expensive for an entire property in London, where rents are crazy high. Already, 4000 people have registered interest, and the homes will be ready in the next few weeks.

Post by Kate. Images: Get London Living & Hemingway Design

Design Junction – a taster

The Design Junction preview this week was a visually exhausting (but most inspiring) three-storey adventure. The event is on all weekend, part of London Design Festival. Details at the end. Meanwhile, here's what I found out...

Among the new works launched by illustrator artists agency, Outline Editions, is work by the most excellent, often rude and very funny (unless swearing offends you): Mr Bingo. (Above, some of his non-expletive sheep.)

HAMmade, them of the lovely trampolining bunnies and lawnmowing pigs, have gone in for the statement of the season: metallics (specifically copper, which was glimmering warmly everywhere at the event). The company has deviated from its standard monochrome prints with this copper-coloured beauty.

London Underground – still celebrating their 150-year anniversary – are collaborating like they mean it: in the mix, Fired Earth have done some themed tiles...

...and a range of reproduction posters...

...and Kirkby Design have done some textiles.

Farrow & Ball have some new shades with typically unusual names. The range is inspired by the Dorset coastline.

But, specifically, just how damn good is their way of displaying them?

These bright and beautifully designed lamps – which can either be hung or stand on elegant mahogany legs – are made largely from recycled stuff by a company called Fantasized. The recycled stuff comes direct from the scrap merchants of Cebu City in the Phillippines, which has a large waste problem and overflowing landfills. The shades are discarded electric fan guards (hence the company name) and the strips are waste from a woven chair factory.

Copper and bronze also made an appearance on the brand new card range and limited edition prints from the lovely Lovely Pigeon. I was also impressed with their oh-so-this-season take on washi tape.

Otherwise known by keen gardeners as the stuff you put round your pots to keep the snails off. Genius.

I discovered Jay Watson, who makes lights out of old socks.

He also makes chandeliers out of "orphaned" old glass dessert bowls from flea markets. He has named them Just Desserts.

Another Country have started selling nice wooden numbers. Beautiful, but not especially cheap if you need more than one.

Finally, I discovered that fruit and vegetables look really good painted white.

So much more good stuff there too see – not to mention the rest of the London Design Festival. It all continues over the weekend. Design Junction runs until Sunday 22 September 2013 at The Old Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1BA. Opening Hours:  Friday 20 Sept. 10am-7pm; Saturday 21 Sept. 10am-6pm; Sunday 22 Sept. 10am-4pm. For everything on at LDF 13, go to the website:

Post by Kate