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A bit of a Christmas gift guide

This year I've once again put together the Christmas interiors gift guide for the Independent. 

In case you missed it, and are looking for some inspiration...

You can see more of the wondrous Oxfam blankets here, and read more about Louise Wilkinson and StoryTiles here. To find the online version of the guide, with click-through shopping links, here it is on the Independent's website (and there are a few bonus products there that didn't make the photoshoot above). On top of those, here are the pieces I wanted to include but didn't have the space to...

Mini Roberts radio, £139, John Lewis (find more lovely looking radios at various prices, here); cast iron terrier book-ends, £29, Rockett St George

Dip-it utensil set,  £26, Quince Living; mini candle, £10, Anthropologie (choose the Orchid Aloha scent, I have this at home and people always say how nice it smells); Andreas Martin-Löf clamp lamp, £92, Andreas Martin-Löf

Pop-up ginger tom (also available: a pug, a daschund and a silver tabby cat), £8, Southbank Shops; Central Time tray by Mark McGinnis, £35, SCP

Eden mini mossed pots, £4 each, Rowan & Wren; Art Deco bone china mugs, £20, We Love Kaoru

Marmaris baskets, set of three, £55, Urbanara; Jane Foster cat mug, £10, Hunkydory Home (from the illustrator's new-ish debut ceramics and glassware range)

Happy shopping!

Spotlight on... Kinska ceramics at the Crafty Fox Christmas markets

Kinska was a fashion designer, until she found clay...

And I discovered this ceramicist's witty and wonderfully odd work while co-curating the Crafty Fox Christmas markets, along with Emy Gray, preposterously stylish owner of Brixi in Brixton Market, and online retail legend, Supermarket Sarah (see some of of the gems we picked out at the Crafty Fox blog).
Last week, I was interviewed about what it was like to be a guest curator for Crafty Fox's blog, where I also picked out some more of the stalls I'm especially looking forward to seeing at the trio of events, which take place in London's Dalston, Peckham and Brixton. Can't make it to the smoke? You can shop some of the clever crafters online – check em out at

Above: my pick of some of the lovely things you will find – including Kinska, at no.3 – at the Crafty Fox Christmas markets this year, taking place in Dalston (29th & 30th November); Brixton (6th & 7th December); Peckham (13th & 14th). For maps and more details, go to

Meanwhile, enjoy more of Kinska's excellently odd ceramics, which start at around £19 for a hand-made mug via Etsy, though at the markets she will have a special selection of designs for sale at various prices.

'Ennui Party II' 

'Blue Fort' ceramic planter

'Egypt' vase, £70

3-D face mug, £26

'Hand-built wonky cup', £19

See more of Kinska at Pinterest and buy pieces at her Etsy shop or at the Brixton Christmas Crafty Fox market, and see what else Emy, Sarah and I have put together for you.

From the archives: Introducing... artist Stephen Wright

This story was originally posted in the summer of 2013. For those of you who missed it, enjoy...

I met the most unusual artist I've met in a long time last week. I love Stephen Wright's work – gorgeous, and often off-beat mosaics and bright, odd prints with a big Mexican vibe.

I'd seen the latter for sale in a shop near me (Brixi in south London's Brixton Market in case you're in this part of the world). But even though Stephen told me that he'd lived in Mexico in a former life, it wasn't that that made him unusual.

The unusualness is all down to his extremely unconventional living arrangement. But we'll come back to that, because it's totally brilliant and brilliantly bonkers. Meanwhile, here's (a part of) his beautiful, colourful home. The artwork over the sofa, above, is one of Stephen's own.

I love the upturned holey metal thing as a side-table. I forgot to ask him what it was (there was so much other stuff to talk about, as you'll see). Anyone know what it is?

The view from the sitting room into the colourful kitchen, one of Wright's artworks visible hanging over the table.

I like that one of the shelf floors has gone in this. Loaf sell a slightly larger version of this nice wall rack in their 2013 bathroom range, and Rockett St George do a zinc one.

The kitchen. Check out the hand-made wooden table; uneven, differently painted pieces of wood inside in a metal frame, topped with a piece of glass. The colours are great. Very sunny.

The table is handmade by Stephen out of wood collected from his family home in Cheshire and from down at Herne Bay.

Good proof that you should always build your bags into the colour scheme.

The colours are a bit clashy, which Wright says he likes and which taps into his Mexican influence. I like the way the cupboard is painted quite roughly too – it gives it the feel of the exterior of a building in a scorching south American street, rather than an antique wooden cupboard.

A window above a kitchen sink to look out of is a luxury I would always try to incorporate into any washing up space. Here there was none, so Stephen built an internal one, overlooking the landing. Nice metal horses.

Bathroom wall storage; a man after my own heart.

The view from the all-white, rustic en-suite into the bright bedroom.

The bedspread was made in Uzbekistan and bought in Brick Lane.

Good lampshades. And I like that they don't contain clear glass old-school bulbs (or bare filament bulbs to give them their proper name), just no-frills modern ones. The traditional ones are beautiful, but these just make the whole thing much more DIY and accessible.

Who lives in a house like this? Artist, Stephen Wright in his studio kitchenette downstairs. But just when you thought the tour was over, this is what the rest of the downstairs looks like. Brace yourselves...

Stephen's house is also his own living museum. The hallway, above, gives onto the technicolour living and dining rooms – or, rather, the former living and dining rooms.

Every surface is covered with Stephen's unique style of mosaic.

Archways cut into the walls emphasise the 3-D effect (the records and rather unimpressed doll's heads in the back of this shot are actually on a wall in another room).

The front gate at Stephen's "House of Dreams".

You can buy Stephen's new book, featuring far better images than I was able to take of his amazing collection. It's for sale on his website (see above) and from Brixi. If you're in France, it's also available from the Halle St Pierre Outsider Art Gallery.

Want to see more images and read the story of why and how Stephen did this to his house? It's fascinating, sad and happy all at once. It's all here at Below the River, the other website I edit.

Real Homes: Finally facing my Waterloo

When I was 19, out of work and still living at home, a friend of my mum's said she'd heard about some summer jobs going at Wimbledon, driving tennis players around during the tournament. 

She knew someone involved with the hiring and suggested to my mum that I apply.

Above: the downstairs loo got painted black

Incredibly, none of us considered that this prestigious job would definitely not go to a navigationally deficient teenager who'd only been driving two years, solely in an ancient Morris Minor. Somehow a nepotistic interview was procured (and bear with me, as there is a link to these images of my house).

Above: the bin area got painted black

I turned up at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and met a man who must have owed a large favour to my mum's misguided friend. Very quickly it became clear that – duh, obviously – my competition was an army of retired taxi drivers, decades of The Knowledge at their core.

Above: the drinks trolley/dogbed got painted black

As only a blissfully unjaded teenager can, I thought I was getting away with it, and soldiered through question after question about the detailed routes that would get me, the limo and an imaginary Steffi Graff to the grounds from a variety of geographically hypothetical London hotels at which she might have been staying.

Above: the black paint theme in the kitchen continues

All my routes, however, resolutely included Waterloo Bridge, much to my interrogator's bewilderment. Quite simply it was the only route I knew across central London. It had always worked for me, why stray into the unknown – especially in an increasingly stressful job interview? Eventually, after questioning the directness of most of my suggested routes, my interrogator was forced to ask: "And, Kate, if Waterloo Bridge is closed...?"

Needless to say, and luckily for Steffi et al, I didn't get the job.

These days, this anecdote is often used to taunt me after a particularly idiotic navigational fail. But this weekend, it was used in an interiors context: could it be, it was suggested, that black paint was my "interiors Waterloo Bridge"? In other words, is it my default solution to any number of design situations. The photographic evidence is rather persuasive...

All came up after a trip to Wickes for cork tiles (for an exciting corkboard project I'll be sharing soon): I returned minus tiles but with an impulse-bought can of black spray paint for metal.

The two lamps above (one from Habitat, one from Sainsbury's) have been bugging me for a while. I love the shape of both but hate the chrome base of the table lamp, and the cream of the desk lamp (it's almost the only cream thing in the house). My go-to idea? Yes: black paint.

It could be disastrous... I shall keep you posted. Meanwhile – does anyone else have their own "Waterloo Bridge"?

Object of the day: self-loathing ceramics

Had enough of schmaltzy, smug personalised homewares? So has Keaton Henson, whose refreshingly honest debut range of ceramics you can see here.

Above: in case you can't read the text, it says: "This cup is on the theme of self-loathing"

Henson, however, is the kind of 26-year-old over-achiever it'd be easy to hate, imagining him to harbour some of his own smugness. The youthful musician and artist has already released three albums – the first two gained him cult status and love from Zane Lowe, the third, of classical compositions, resulted in a sold-out night at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. He's also written a book and is working on a poetry anthology, a fourth album and a full-length ballet score. Now he's producing homewares, too. I could warm to the self-loathing theme myself...

Or, at least, it'd be easy to hate Henson if his range of "self-loathing" ceramics, Crooked Darlings, was not not quite so beautiful, darkly funny and, apparently, straight from the introvert's prone-to-self-loathing heart. It also helps a lot that he looks like the imagined off-spring of a young Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

"Every plate and mug in every shop window seems to have some kind of kooky phrase on it," says Henson by way of context for his collection, the idea for which grew from his last, deeply personal art exhibition, which introduced him to the idea of "playing with traditional domestic design and giving functional objects an emotive voice". 

"I wondered how it would be if they said things we don't tend to say out loud, or held unsettling images among the twee floral designs we're all so familiar with,” he says.

Each piece in the limited edition collection will be marked out of 50 and will be available until Christmas Eve. Prices range from £20 for the tea-towel, £35 for the cup and saucer and go up to £60.

Buy from Crooked Darlings and find out more about Keaton Henson at his website.

Same house, different house

About five years ago, there was a brilliant photography exhibition at the Geffrye Museum in London, which depicted different flats in the same, south London tower block. Structurally, they were identical, but decoratively unique.

And a couple of years ago, I wrote about a similar project in the States, focusing on the interiors of the apartments in a housing complex designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Why mention these? Because – in a slightly less artistic way – I have replicated the concept after stumbling across some estate agent photographs of a couple of identically designed houses close to mine. Join me in a nose...

My sitting room (which is currently mid-makeover and will shortly look very different – photos to come soon)

Their sitting room

My kitchen (seen, also, mid- most recent revamp here and, from a different angle, here)

Their kitchen, unfairly stark in this photo

The kitchen in the other house I cybersnooped, a little more lived-in

My garden
Their much better tended garden

My office (top) and my former bedroom, with a mezzanine sleeping area. In the other house, these two rooms have been knocked into one to create a master bedroom, below

And two different front doors...

Mine's the one on the right, the provenance of which I wrote about here