recent posts

social media menu

Introducing... Jen Collins, illustrator and ceramicist

I haven't yet got the hang of Instagram – I know, late in the game, but blame Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and life – I have no followers and can't work out how to find people...

... but I have already made my first lovely discovery and may just find myself hooked. (Do come find me by the way, and share your tips!)

Above: sitting tigers, £50 each

Glasgow-based illustrator/ceramicist Jen Collins makes these beauties. The artist, who turned to ceramics because she wanted to apply her drawing style to more than a flat surface, runs an online ceramics shop, called Bolden, where you can find these top cats as well as the pieces below.

Above: loaf rabbit, £30 each

Above: plant cats, £22 each

Above: seated lion, £50

Above: snoozer bowl, £5

I make no apologies for my love of animal-themed home embellishments – and for posting about them so regularly. Besides, they always seem to go down well. The post about Anna Chilton's tiger mugs was a big hitter, and the beautiful but mad equine coat-hanger I featured a while back even inspired one American reader to cut her own Breyer horse in half and make a pair of bookends – which you can see here.

But just to mix things up a bit, here are Jen's animal-free 'Little Dishes', below, £25 apiece.

Jen also has an Etsy shop where lots of her lovely illustrations are for sale in the form of greetings and post cards, prints, notebooks and tote bags.

Jen describes her work as "inspired by people real and fictional, good ol’ nature and everyday occurrences, no matter how insignificant".

Prices start at under £2 for a pair of these postcards of people with their pets...

...called How Sweet It Is. Ahhh.

See more of Jen's work at and find her ceramics at and her buy her 2D work at her Etsy shop

The Insider: inspiring tiles from Bert & May

The Conran shop is usually out of this blog's price range... but this story is only partly about Conran.

The rest of it is about Bert & May, a new company (but also not so new, more of which shortly) specialising in beautiful reclaimed and made-to-look reclaimed tiles. Bert & May today launch their collaboration with the Conran Shop, with whom they have exclusively developed a hue named Azure Blue, inspired by the French Riviera.

They've woven Azure into a range of geometric tile designs featuring an array of other blues. Rather lovely, don't you think? Especially on a living room floor... And if you can't afford enough tiles to do that, you could get busy with a stencil and some no-prep Annie Sloan paint... (I'll be writing more about Annie Sloan anon, since I've just done one of her paint effect classes).

Brits don't generally do tiles on bedroom or living room floors – it's not, of course, an idea that would ever have originated in a country with chilly winters. But underfloor heating has changed everything. If you fancy the idea, you might also find inspiration in this incredible 70s-heavy house in Mali, tiled pretty much all over.

Alternatively, you could also limit your tile numbers, as I did in the recent downstairs loo makeover, which made two salvage yard floor tiles centre-stage. And two tiles are eminently affordable.

But I digress.

My first contact with the company now known as Bert & May was a couple of years ago, when the company's co-founder Lee Thornley dropped me a line.

The email explained how his passion for beautiful reclaimed tiles had come about. And it was quite a story... Lee (Bert) and his wife Amelia (who is not, incidentally, May) met on a Spanish course in Andalucia. Both had quit their respective "rat race" lives in the UK (his words) and wound up there, searching for something new. They found each other, and in under three months of meeting had decided to open a hotel in Spain together. But when their search for a beautiful old building to renovate was unsuccessful, they decided to build their own "old new" version. The hotel Casa La Siesta has since been voted one of Tatler's top 100.

But the building process had opened up another new door for Lee: reclaimed tiles which, as he puts it, he now "rummages around Europe for", and the skill of reproducing said tiles beautifully. And a few years later, with business partner, Harriet Roberts (she's May) here we are...

Bert & May's Azure Blue Majadas costs £7.50 each (plus vat).

Azure Blue Churriana also costs £7.50 each (plus vat).

But aside from the Conran collection, these designs also caught my eye.

The Ortuno tile costs from £7.50 apiece (plus vat). And take inspiration from this bar decor using the tiles: why tile a full wall?

This is the base of a bar – but why not the base of a bath?

Another commercial interior to be inspired by: I love the idea of framing a window, or indeed another architectural feature, with a tiled column or two.

The Zorita tile is priced as those above.

And these ones, above, Monochrome Esparza (£9 each, originals) remind me a little of the pair I picked up for the loo, don't you think?

Post by Kate

Introducing... Homestuff with history

I'm not sure I love the say-what-it-is name of this shop I recently discovered, but I do like what it does. And at least the owners are making that clear.

Homestuff with History, an online shop based in Hertfordshire, is run by brother and sister Matt and Kathryn Brown and they may love old junk possibly even more than I do (did you miss my breathless post about the secondhand shops of Lewes?)

Oil painting of Mrs Palmer of Wrexham, framed oil on board, £59.95

Old stacking chair, £44.95

Japanese flip clock, £34.95

Parisian alarm clock, £34.95

Tiny German alarm clock, £24.95

The shop is stuffed with battered old cupboards, interesting oil paintings, a surprising number of lovely alarm clocks (don't you miss alarm clocks?), and a few things they've knocked up themselves using old materials (such as the wooden letters, below, made new in the workshop but from battered old bits of wood).

Wooden letters, £4.50 each

Kathryn and Matt have an eye for oddities as well as solid furniture basics with a well-loved look about them – and the pieces are either sold as they are, like this blue filing cabinet below, or tidied up with a splash of Craig and Rose 1829 paint (nice to have a change from Farrow and Ball...).

Do check out their Curiosities section on the site – the sort of random selection of second-hand things you don't often find online and reflects, no doubt, the home clearance sideline the shop operates. It's possibly not the stuff one might organically pick up at a trade antique market with a view to selling on (currently you'll find there a rusty old anvil, some ancient ice-skates and a miniature floral lavatory).

Blue wooden filing cabinet, £124.95

Every now and then (and I'm sorry to say we've just missed the latest) they also open up the workshop for a big sale, off-loading lots of the treasures they find in raw condition.

I went to Copenhagen and all
I got was...

I'd never been to Denmark or Sweden before last month, when we took in Copenhagen, Malmö and southern, coastal Sweden for a wedding and a mini-break.

And I promised to write a post on the trip. Not quite the post I'd intended to write though...

Photo: Declan Fahy

Any fan of good design and nice furniture would get excitable at the thought of such a trip, especially Denmark – birthplace of so many beautifully made things.

And excitable I was. Having been an addict of its namesake TV series, I couldn't for example wait to see the vastly long Øresund Bridge in real life: pictured above, it stretches for 10 miles. And to wander between the grand old buildings I'd seen in Borgen and The Killing – the dastardly Troels spent much time in City Hall, below.

Our plan was to arrive in Copenhagen, at one end of the Øresund, on the Friday, get the train across it and the water to Malmö, spend the evening and morning there, then travel down south to Kivik (a region that has an Ikea sofa named after it, no less) for the wedding on Saturday and stay in a beautiful-looking rural BnB.

The morning after the wedding, after a beach breakfast picnic, we'd head back to Copenhagen for the evening and a full day's shopping and exploring before our Monday evening flight home.

Above: endless bikes outside Nørreport Metro station in Copenhagen

What could go wrong?

In the Danish capital I was looking forward to exploring the abundant independent shops in Nansensgade, as highlighted on the website of our stylish looking hotel (the Ibsens Hotel, pictured above). There were lots of little local restaurants too, it promised – we strolled past Höst, pictured below, around the corner and made a mental note for later.

Photos: Dezeen

For breakfast the next day, we'd go to Torvehallerne (below), a nice-looking, big covered market with chairs, tables and stalls outside that we'd walked past on our way to the hotel from the station.

Photo: Heather Sperling

Next, window shopping the length of Copenhagen's answer to Oxford Street, Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrianised strip, and apparently full of as many indie shops as chain stores.

Above: the Hans Wenger exhibition at the Danish Design Museum (photos: Pernille Klemp)

Highlights on my list were Illums Bolighus, described tantalisingly by the Daily Telegraph guide I read on the way over as "a cross between Habitat, The Conran Shop and Heal's". We had a few people we wanted to get nice presents for, it sounded perfect. There was also sleek contemporary design emporium, Hay and the Danish Design Museum, which I knew had a Hans Wenger exhibition on. Design-nerd heaven!

So how did it go? Well, kind of like this...

Yep. Public holidays aren't the best days for a shopping trip.

Actually, it didn't start there. It started the night before when, in our enthusiasm to tourist up the city on foot before dinner, we failed to understand that most Copenhagen restaurants don't open on Sundays. And those that do close early. Too early for us and our lame-ass planning, at least. Dinner was a takeaway pizza in the hotel room.

But on the plus side, ahem, at least the telephone and postal museum (above) was open.

But do you know what? I still had an amazing – and design-inspiring – time...

I loved the tiles at Malmö train station, above.

And our breakfast picnic in Kivik – after a stunning wedding the day before – was perfect.

I loved this very cool video display at Malmö station, too.

And at an impromptu exhibition, also in Malmö, at the insanely large-roomed Konsthall Gallery, above, I discovered the fantastic black and white photography of Gerry Johansson, who specialises in mesmerising urban and rural landscapes stripped of humans. We bought this nice poster, below, from the gallery shop.

And the B&B in Kivik, the Elisetorp, (pictured above) was AMAZING. The open door on the left was our room, and the buildings were surrounded by fields. Way too rural for a London twit like me: in the morning I pleaded with my boyfriend to turn off his phone's alarm... only to realise it was a real live cockerel outside the window.

The B&B is run by talented ceramicist (that's her work above), Saga Johnsson. She very kindly came to rescue us when we arrived at the station, since (of course) the local taxi firm was fully booked all afternoon. She even offered to do the 25-minute drive to the wedding, too – but then I spotted her bikes for hire... outfit and heels or no. Besides, the bride and groom's wedding vehicle was a tandem (the bride wore white cycling shorts under her dress). With our hire bikes we felt proud to have gone full Scandi, even if it was by accident. While soothing our aching thighs back at the B&B late that night – damn it's a hilly region – we calculated it had been a 14-mile round trip. But what an experience!

A catalogue of bad-luck? Bring it on...

Post and photos by Kate Burt, except where specified. Bridge and bike and breakfast photos by Declan Fahy, who you can find on Instagram.