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How to be tidy (and some
storage porn)

I'm still on a high from the massive garage clear-out; a few scary cupboards inside got a healthy de-clutter. 

But, while it's all good for the weeks following a big blitz like this, if you’re anything like me (untidy at heart) you’ll soon be wading through mood-dampening mess in no time. I’m in awe of tidy people: what are their secrets? 

Above: Future & Found's bright and cheerful stacking crates, which start at £6

“Clutter is only clutter if it doesn't have a home,” says my tidiest friend, Lizzie. “I have a draw of ‘useful things’ – wrapping paper, scissors, ribbons, cards, so rather than shoving them in random piles, they have a place.” She also sorts paperwork weekly “so it’s never daunting”.

But where d’you get that sort of self-discipline? “Fear,” says another tidy friend, Paul plainly. “I visualise how overwhelmed I’ll feel if things get out of control.” 

Above: Ottoman from Made A New's Etsy shop, £150. But if you are handy you could rustle one up yourself with not much more than a lucky find, a fabric scrap and a staplegun.

Since that chat, I’ve vowed never to see my bedroom clothes mountain again by focusing on how unpleasant the bedroom feels with it, the time it takes to clear, and how Zen I feel without it. Getting into the habit of actively channelling those emotions whenever poised to hurl things on the bedroom chair heap has proved more effective than I'd have imagined. But if it doesn't last, I'm tempted by the idea of a bedroom ottoman instead, like the one above. Clothes heap: hidden.

Lizzie has another tip: “Have spare hangers in wardrobe. It’s only grim hanging clothes in an over-packed wardrobe: stick out-of-season clothes in cases.” I often think about doing that. One day I might be tidy enough to manage it, and when I do I'll be stuffing them into one of the oversized, rectangular storage bags from, above, just £4.95. I have already, and a little smugly I'll admit, bought the from-the-market launderette version of these and packed away spare duvets and pillows.

Above: small Ferm Living fabric storage basket, £49, Made in Design

Consider, too, your barriers to tidying. My aversion to sorting months of un-dealt-with domestic paperwork was partly down to not having a plan for the stuff I'd sorted out. Lizzie swears by archiving (a plastic bag in the attic will do); then stop talking about buying that shredder and finally get rid of the stuff you really don't need to keep. 

Tidy types love a “system”. But it can be forced. When I colour-coordinated all my books there was an unexpected side-effect (along with mild self-hatred for being such an interiors cliche): it looks so untouchable that it’s now immune to excessive random shelf-tat. Matching shelf colour to walls adds to the veneer of neatness.

Above: curtain fabric by Sanderson's Maycott Collection

Don’t fancy my uptight shelves? Hang beautiful fabric on curtain wire to hide all the crap. Use the same technique, plus a clothes rail, in an empty alcove to hide chunky coats, hallway junk, excess shoes, toys… 

Cork tile pinboards (so you can shape your own) are a top cheat if you’re prone to hoarding scraps of paper. But to avoid a student kitchen vibe, I love this idea my brother – a picture framer – suggested, and which I'm going to try myself soon: get the corkboard framed with a box frame and paint it the same colour (or choose wood the colour of your cork). It'll create a pleasing sense of containment.

And if all that fails, consider Monica’s chaos cupboard in Friends: “Tidy people aren’t really organised and smug,” says Paul, “it’s a veneer. Just because you can’t see the mess it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I’m tidy – but you probably know where to find things.” 

This is an edited version of my column on the topic in the Independent on Sunday a while back.

Another retro trend renaissance: hello pink bathrooms

Pink bathrooms are a trend a-brewing, I'm telling you, and I've been eyeing them longingly for a while. 

I thought it might just be me, but then these much maligned blasts from the past started popping up all over Pinterest. (Though not especially looking like this one, below, even though it's incredible.)

Then I visited the beautifully designed Bill Granger restaurant in Clerkenwell (read about it here) and was delighted to be greeted by a wall of muted bubble gum pink wall tiles (but alas no gold taps, though there was some gold trim). See it below.

And THEN I stumbled across an even bigger sign that love for pink bathrooms was big right now. There is a website campaign devoted to the revival of these divisive mid-century set-pieces. But before we get to that, let's have a look at some good ones.

Images: Retro Renovation (more of which below)

Above: images above from a rather slinky home in Melbourne, via Dustjacket-attic 

Above: this is the bathroom in Jo Woods' home. Love the matching giant 80s perfume bottles. See the rest of it here on the Daily Mail website

So the campaign, a brilliant, brilliant idea, is run by Retro Renovation. I'm incredibly late to it (it launched several years ago but since I obsess over interiors websites more than most, you may also not have come across it). The idea, as you might guess by the name of the website, is to preserve the classic 1950s/60s originals, to inspire new owners not to rip out the original bathroom suite simply because it's not white.

And Retro Renovation weren't messing about. Fuelled by wilful destruction on interiors DIY shows on TV, they launched a proper campaign, complete with Flickr group and pastel bathroom messiah merch (above). Yes.

If you love the originals, check out this incredibly well preserved 1962 house I wrote about a couple of years ago. You'll love it. And if you're hankering after a blush bath, look no further than HM James, who own the patents to some of the original avocado, rose and lemon suites and now reproduce them. I'm all for it, just trying to work out how I could incorporate some pink into the freshly painted all white bathroom...

But what do you think – could you perform your ablutions comfortably with a candyfloss backdrop, or is white the only way to go in the 21st century?

Wednesday Question: gold taps – well, would you?

Gold taps were to 80s interiors what a Lamborghini is to inner city driving. A bit showy-offy for the sake of it.

So who'd have thought they'd be reincarnated all these years later in such pleasing way? It's a quick post from me this week as there's lots going on, but here's a run down of the new way to do gold taps. The trick is to mix them with a utiltarian back-drop and play down the flash.


Weathered bronze taps by Barber Wilsons


Utilitarian... or, the big budget option: solid marble. Image:

But, like coloured kitchen appliances, is it such a now trend that in five years you'd be yearning for plain old chrome again?

Object of the day: Dutch tiles with tales

The best thing I saw at the London Design Festival last week measured 10 centimetres square and was based on a 16th century Dutch design classic. 

Yes, yes, there was so much to love at LDF 2014. The sprawling event, now in its 11th year, is the non-trade way through the back doors of the design world and, with six big fairs in different venues, various landmark displays of creativity, and about a zillion satellite range or product or designer launches in galleries, shops and street corners across the city, visiting can provoke a little design overload.

So these unusual Amsterdam-made StoryTiles by visual artist, Marga Van Oers – which I saw at Design Junction – aren't the only thing I loved, but they are probably the most memorable.

Marga explains the concept (better than I can at midnight on a Sunday) on her website (details below): "StoryTiles are miniature stories on Dutch Whites, the old-fashioned Dutch tiles that have been made since the 16th century. [Marga] gives old tiles a new life with her unique, detailed and humorous collages. Every StoryTile tells its own story."

A simple idea, beautifully executed. The tiles cost 25 Euros (£20ish) each for a 10cm x 10cm size, and go up to 75 Euros (£59ish) for 20cm x 20cm. Not cheap for tiles, but eminently affordable for wonderful, tiny art. Marga also creates larger versions printed onto wood, which you can see on her site. I think Little Red Riding Hood (below) might be my favourite.

They provide a similar joy to the similarly small but perfectly formed work of Israeli magazine illustrator and artist, Tali Yalonetzki, which I mentioned in Friday's post about some of my favourite makers featured on this blog of late. If you missed it, and like these, check it out.

Or go straight to Marga's site for more on the tiles:

Throwback Friday – and a request to people make nice stuff

Today I'm plucking some of my favourite craft from the archives. Why? 

To inspire any readers of this blog who make, paint or draw lovely stuff, to apply to be part of the illustrious Crafty Fox Markets this Christmas. The deadline for submissions is next week (23 September) and – ta-da! – I am one of three guest curators selecting which stalls get a pitch (details below).

I touched on this in Monday's post, but that neither scratched the surface of my excitement – nor said anything like enough about it all.

When Sinead Koehler, Crafty Fox founder, invited me to co-curate the festive events which run across three venues London venues this year: Brixton, Peckham and Dalston, I was honoured. I'm also in amazingly cool company, since my co-curators are the very creative Emy Gray and Supermarket Sarah, both of whose style I've previously written about on this blog. Our job will be to pore over submissions from potential exhibitors and curate our dream market. It's quite the fantasy task.

In case you don't know about the markets, and don't hang about it London, they're worth the excursion. Founded in 2010 by Sinead and her husband, Stephen, along with artist Jimboart (whose nice bear cups you might recognise), Crafty Fox has taken off in a big way. Once a one-venue, very local affair, the market has now popped up in north London, been part of a Tate Modern event and attracts over 3000 visitors a pop. As you can probably guess, The Crafty Fox markets sell things handmade by real people – but there is also a DJ, a bar, cakes and tea, creative workshops and a side-project of expert talks.

The autumn markets take place on 4-5 October and have been curated by Katie Tregidden, aka the design blogger behind Confessions of a Design Geek and editor of new design magazine, Fiera. (See some of her curated crafts in the top image.)

So will you be sending us your wares? I hope so – and please do spread the word to any friends who create nice things to sell. The stalls are open to experienced and new sellers alike – and if you've been trading for under 12 months you may even be offered a cheaper rate and a mentor. As I've said, the deadline is imminent, 23 September, so get in quick. Full details can be found at the Crafty Fox website.

To get you in the mood – whether to buy or sell – here are just six of my many favourite made-by-actual-people items from the blog over the past year or so (the links will take you to the original posts).

Anna Chilton's tiger mug

Tali Yalonetzki's tiny portraits

Horse hangers

Durido's happy t-shirts

Jordan Grace Owens' personalised paper dolls

Very cool posters inspired by The Wire

It has been hard narrowing just this lot down. I fear the task ahead with my co-curators will be even harder... Hope to see you there.

Don't forget – submission deadline to be considered for a stall is 23 September. All details at The Crafty Fox website.

The best design giveaway? Elle Deco's ace anniversary competition

Have you heard about the rather enticing Elle Deco 25th anniversary competition – where six winners will bag the contents of one of six rooms created by the magazine? 

Here are three of them (my favourites).

It's all tied into the mag's October issue, which marks its quarter of a century of existence.

Each room set is worth around £16,500, and winning a competition is the only way I'd ever get that sort of finance into a room in my house. So which would you choose? My fondness for blues and greens makes this one my favourite.

Those luscious tiles on the wall, above, you may recognise as being by Bert & May, who I wrote about a couple of months ago. (And I'm still quite entranced by the combination of cool Mediterranean tiles and an tactile antique velvet chair that you can see half way down the post, should you be so inclined to back-track.)

Above are two more of the room sets up for grabs. You can see all six rooms on the competition's Facebook page, along with details of all the items, should you be feeling flush enough to buy rather than try to win them.

Oh, and if you look at rooms like these wistfully, wondering how people manage to throw things together so effortlessly... Here's how the photos got to look so good – and there's definitely some effort going on.

To enter, you need to get hold of a copy of the October issue of the magazine if you haven't already. In Willy Wonka fashion, it has a code on the front you'll need to type in. These things aren't just thrown together.

Find out everything else you need at

Object of the day: New Eley Kishimoto wallpapers

Weeeeeell, if I can't write about eye-popping budget-stretching wallpaper during the London Design Festival, when else? (The event started this weekend and goes on until next Sunday.)

I'm a big fan of Eley Kishimoto clothes, and the print mad design duo's expanding homewares range excites me greatly. And it's not for the faint-hearted...

This is my favourite of the wallpaper designs that the brand – aka Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto – is launching at Decorex, which kicks off as LDF ends on Sunday.

Would you put it in your house?

It would really lift a room, for sure. I'm seeing it as the backdrop to a wall of white shelves, holding a disciplined display.

It also would look fantastic as the best feature wall/corner you'd ever seen, in an otherwise black-painted room, too (feature walls are back apparently, but I always favour a wall and a turn to mix things up a little).

The wallpaper range builds on these, which I wrote about when they exhibited them a few years back in an exhibition of them at the capital's Aram Store. Here's one of the other new designs.

Left: Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto

A very Eley Kishimoto take on a classic design. Again, with a crisp white theme around it, this would energise a room no end. I'd love to see it in a wide entrance hallway, with white-painted floorboards. The papers are going to be priced at £160 per roll.

But if you can't afford them, or don't have an interior that could accommodate such boldness, you can enjoy them – along with designs by many other interesting names – in an exhibition that runs until the end of October.

Above: Tracy Kendall and Louise Body, two of the designers whose work will appear at the London Print Studio exhibition

Designers on show at Artists' Interior Worlds include Lizzie Allen, whose Festival of Britain print you may remember from a few years back, when she was commissioned to create it in celebration of the Royal Festival Hall's 60th birthday (and you can still buy prints taken from it at the Southbank shop). There will also be work by Timorous Beasties, whose deviant urban Toile designs must surely be Britain's most popular gastropub loo wall covering. Also on show is Deborah Bowness, she of the fake wall of library books and CUSTHOM, digital embroidery meisters who I featured here. The Chapman brothers have created a design called ‘Insult to Injury’, which apparently "reworks Goya’s ‘Los Caprichos’ etchings to outrageous effect". Of course. All these, among a vast rollcall of more interesting names.

The exhibition, which aims to pit classical artists against contemporary designers, sounds totally brilliant. It runs until 1 November at

Real homes: an artistic hoarder's creative curation

Emy Gray owns Brixi, a pretty special shop near where I live, in Brixton*. 

We got to know each other because I'm regularly in the shop, frequently loitering and ogling beautiful things I can't justify buying. We're also collaborating on something rather exciting shortly too, more of which at the bottom of this post...

Brixi is more of an art gallery than a shop in some respects; Emy, a former art student and Essex chick (as well as one-time cheese trader and fashion PR, separate jobs I'm guessing) describes herself as "obsessive" about collecting art and design. As such, her shop is full of the things she's hoarded – spectacular oddities and things you're unlikely to see many other places – and also hosts regular artist residencies, I loved the work of painter Abe Odedina last year, and Emy's shop also introduced me to the brilliantly bonkers mosaic artist, Stephen Wright whose extraordinary house I visited here.

So I've always wondered, as interiors writers and noseys like me do, what her house was like. And Emy has been kind enough to give me a tour...

As you'd expect, it's full of lots of the excellently odd things you'll see for sale in the shop. "I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘style over practically’ gang," says Emy. "I can eek out the beauty in most things and, to the dismay of family and boyfriends, there are things I've hoarded and accumulated over the years squirrelled away in attics, sheds and outbuildings of willing and unwilling parties. I’m teetering on the edge or requiring a storage unit..."

I love the colour of the woodwork, very 50s in a muted, post-war kind of a way, and the green floors and bold blocks of colour everywhere.

That looks like a very good kitchen table for late-night wine drinking.

The black kitchen wall features again. A great idea if I do say so myself (ahem, and here's my own – quite different – version).

Love the yellow portrait plate and friendly chalk scribblings.

If you like what you see, and you're in the smoke next week for the London Design Festival, there's news here too: Brixton is the event's newest Design District. Impressive, non?

It promises to be "the people's design week" and as part of the many fabulous events taking place (including the excellent-looking Regal Brixton throne-led photography exhibition), Emy is curating an art event called BRIXI's Army. Among other things, it involves a tiny exhibition inside a golden horsebox. Like.

Good wine stash. Happy blue wall. Great pots.

Emy says Brixton's brashness, chaos and noise have shaped her style since she moved there, and that she's "no longer so afraid of colour". Unlike the existing design district events, Brixton's offering promises to make Brixton itself very visible in the many exhibits – not least in the project inspired by Brixton's heritage to transform the town hall in a dramatic way, and highlight the need to invest in Brixton's youth.

When a room doesn't get much light, there's no point painting it white to try to brighten it up. It'll just look grubby. Dark and moody is the way to go. Love the jewellery storage rail.
Did I mention Emy's hoarding? Good oddities – and proof that pretty much anything with a mono colour theme totally works as a display.

Chirpy colours. Happy garden.
I wonder if these very ancient-looking gnomes were part of the haul found this week at Stonehenge...

Thanks Emy. Love your flat!

Now check out Emy's hot shop at – and if you're in the area, do go see her London Design Festival show at Brixton East, it runs from next Tuesday 16 to Wednesday 17 September as part of Brixton Design Week and as well as the above-mentioned artists, it'll also feature work from inventive ceramicist and lover of discarded treasures, AmyDouglas and Leah Reeves maker of Mexican-inspired mosaics.

And now for the next bit of exciting design news, about which I shall write at greater length shortly. I have been asked, along with Emy and the most excellent Supermarket Sarah, to curate the Crafty Fox Christmas Fair. I am VERY excited. More to come, but meanwhile you can read about it here – and if you're a person who makes things that other people buy, definitely read about it as submissions are open. Woop!

Merry, and stylish weekends all. I shall endeavour to fill my Instagram feed with fabulous London Design Festival images over the next week... I'm ridiculously new to this social medium (shame on me) and have about three followers, so do join me:

* 'Brixi' refers to an ancient local stone/landmark dating back to 1060, in case you were wondering.