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Sophie Ellis Bextor, Scary Danes and Elephant's Breath

There seems to be a trend right now for artsy interiors videos, evoking rather than openly advertising brands. 

I say a trend, I've come across two but one more and it'll be a trend (for this is the founding tenet of lifestyle media) so it's near enough. And I must say I'm finding them perplexing. But that's probably just me. You can decide for yourself.

First up, we have the silky collision of an Emily Dickinson poem, a sleeping Sophie Ellis Bextor and a global paint brand. Here's SEB, stirring from a meaningful sleep and artfully bathed in a particularly mesmerising dawn light. It's sort of golden, or is it pink, maybe a bit apricot-y... Or maybe it's Copper Blush, Dulux's Colour of the Year... See what they've done there?

Next, enjoy the Bo Concept short Nordic Noir movie (be prepared, it's quite a bit longer...).

It stars the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen and his sinister range of facial expressions, along with the strapline "bringing two Danish style icons together". I couldn't help imagining the marketing team's brainstorm as the short film unfolded. And they were right: when I watched The Bridge, I kept checking out the furniture in the background too! Is this the next logical step? It's solely hosted on the BC website, so to watch it you'll have to go here.

After that, you'll need some light relief. If you get giddy browsing Farrow and Ball paint charts (we've all been there), you'll enjoy this. Meet India and Arabella. You'll never to think of Elephant's Breath in quite the same way again...

Before & After: how to arrange furniture in an L-shaped room (or my living room makeover)

This, below, is how my living room was looking until quite recently. There had been a revamp brewing for some time. I kind of liked it but it had stopped feeling right, somehow. It wasn't happy.

Declan summed it up when he said that it looked pretty, but that 70 percent of the room was unused, dead space. And he was right, because we never ventured far from the green sofa.

Nor did the dog and the cat.

Our reason was that I'd put the TV directly in front of it, and very close, too. Below is an ugly photo from ages ago, which shows just how close it was.

And this is what the d├ęcor in this spot morphed into. An improvement of sorts in that it was warmer, but it always felt – and looked – like a temporary measure.

It was that classic "what do you do with an L-shaped room?" issue. I'd previously gone for a divide and conquer approach, giving the space multi-functional potential – in the second photo down from the top you can see there was a desk bureau in the top right corner, and my lovely yellow "writing chair", pimped by Out of the Dark. Tucked behind the door is the music area with my beloved old flashing light record player.

It all made more sense when I had lodgers and we didn't all want to budge up on the green sofa together (although, actually, we nearly always did because you couldn't see the TV from anywhere else). The idea was that I could be tapping on my laptop at the bureau while the sofas created another zone. But when the lodgers moved out, one-corner room thing became a thing. The rest of the space looked lonely. How could I reunite the two sides of the big "L" and give the room the happy feeling I knew it had the potential for? Months passed. It wasn't obvious. Until a lightbulb moment. Ta da...

The green sofa needed to be what you saw as you came into the room, not to be hiding around the corner – not because it's beautiful (it's not especially) but because it's surely good feng shui or something to be facing a door when it is opened. The old 60s leather sofa, which I had bought on eBay got sold again on eBay. And a cosy rug from the Plantation Rug Company came in.

As did a total bargain new clever coffee table by Leitmotiv (£25 ex-display, should have been around £80) which stops lazybones old me from having to reach too far to put down a glass or a plate when sitting on the sofa, since it has three table tops that swivel around to just where you need them, or stack neatly when you don't. It's very 1980s bachelor pad, or it would be if I had a black leather sofa. I like it.

There was an exciting eBay adventure to get the pink chair. We went on an expedition to Essex to pick it up and the guy who was selling it has a massive couple of barns stuffed with treasures, including some pristine Morris Minors, of which I posted some Instagram pictures. But back to the chair: I had in fact bought two much smaller versions in the same fabric, but when we spotted this one peeking out from behind a pile of chaotic, dusty furniture it was a much better size and he let us have it for £20.

The other L-shaped room revelation was the position of the TV, which I'll come to in a later post as I'm not going to share photos of the whole room now, since there are a couple of parts still under consideration (including the thing the newly well-positioned TV is sitting on). But you've got a little taster of what I think I'm happy with so far.

When the Morris Minor man told me the provenance of the pink chairs, and that he had had a great big job lot of them, I slightly went off the idea. Not because it was anything unsavoury – quite the opposite, they were in pristine condition having been in the lobby of a 1980s hotel that never took off. Too pristine? But I've grown fond of the chair again, and I do love that shade of pink.

And the palm, which is printed onto silk and was falling apart until rescued a few months ago by a frame, had been camping out in the bathroom, but it looked so good here that it had to stay. And don't worry about the fox.

She has been rehomed against the wall behind the dog's bed. They look quite alike, I think. And the monochrome canvas on the wall isn't, in fact, a curly version of the rug but a piece of fabric designed by Australian mid-century textile designer, Florence Broadhurst. It now hangs with much more breathing space outside the bedroom on a big, white hall wall. I've also got some of her Rampaging Horses' fabric as cushion covers.

The stripy fabric is by Sonia Rykiel and was picked up at a sample sale for under a quid. Luckily, a friend introduced me to possibly the friendliest and most affordable picture framer in London, and so having it – and the palm – framed was most manageable.

The Anglepoise was a chuck-out from Declan's old office (you can almost see the health and safety label on the base, must take that off). I quite like the pile of books that were meant to be a temporary prop. And the paint-splattered stool was my gran's.

And it's SO much nicer to be sitting by the window now. More photos of the rest of the room to come once I've finished faffing about it with it.

But, so far, it's an improvement, right?

Ilse Crawford vs Ikea + cork

In case you hadn't heard this deeply exciting design news: Ilse Crawford is launching a collection of rather beautiful looking nature-inspired furniture at Ikea this August.

In line with the slow-burn 1970s revival that's been bubbling under for a few years, cork features heavily as a material.

The range has been called Sinnerlig and will feature more than 30 pieces, which look as if they've been beautifully designed with a heavy Crawford stamp on the details. (The Ikea press info alludes, intriguingly, to the "challenging" creative journey Ikea and Crawford have been on together, as two different approaches to the design process have slowly had to find a way to come together.)

Cork, I am reminded by the Ikea blurb about this newsflash, is "renewable, durable, an acoustic softener, waterproof and easy to clean". And terribly cool. But how to choose just one piece from this collection? I foresee a cork overload coming to my gaff this summer...

Loosely connected fact: Crawford's design company, Studioilse, was one of the trio of creative collaborators with Air BnB during last year's London Design Festival to produce an installation in London's Trafalgar Square. The Studioilse construction was an empty shed, inside which the words "what does home mean to you?" were painted on the floor. The many answers – from cups of tea to messy shelves – were flashed up on the walls in giant tweets and in photographic form, and I spent a strangely comforting few minutes gazing through the windows. You can read more about that and more Air BnB niceness here.

Spotlight on... Australian ceramicist, Gail CC

It's not long since I was in Australia, and while there I coincidentally stumbled across my favourite new Australian designer, the Brisbane-based ceramicist Gail CC.

Regular readers may be aware of my fondness for an animal-shaped bit of crockery, and I make no apologies for featuring some more.

Worldwide shipping is available at around £10 for smaller pieces. Check the import taxes situation before buying.

I can't tell you much about Gail, except that I hope to feature some more of her here soon, and that she cites one of her inspirations as the Japanese ceramicist Makoto Kagoshima, a plate of whose you can see below.

Above: a plate by one of Gail's inspirations, Makoto Kagoshima

Also most appealing and his work may be – though it's hard to tell – available in the UK from the Eclectic 66 Gallery in London, in person (somebody please build these guys a new website). 

But back to Gail. So she doesn't only do animals. 

A little reminiscent of the Kinska designs I wrote about late last year.

This fox spoon is currently my favourite piece. I love that his rosy cheek makes him look like he's just been on a huge run, chasing a cat or the scent of a stinking bin a few streets away, but is trying not to appear puffed out.

Gail's designs start at around £11 and are for sale at her Etsy shop.

Little and large. Ahhhh.

Browse more animal-themed ceramics and things in these previous posts and see Gail's latest creations via her Instagram.

Real homes: shoe storage for untidy people

A few weeks ago, I shared my hall update. 

One of the ugly parts of the old hallway was the abundance of footwear scattered about the place: mine, largely – I am untidy, and also a shoe hoarder, which was bad news for my hallway.

This is my hall shoe pile on an uncharacteristically tidy day, with only horrid-looking running shoes and dog-walking boots lying about, rather than nearly all the shoes I own, tried on in haste as I vacillated about my outfit on the way out. Some people, I know, store their shoes in their wardrobes. Or line them up nicely on special shoe shelves. Or in labelled boxes (!!). I am not that tidy or disciplined.

When I come in, I like to hurl off whatever I've got on my feet immediately, which means the only place it'll wind up is close to the front door. I tried for years storing my prettier shoes on the stairs, but there were too many, or at least too unpretty shoes for the system to work. Plus the stairs are at least five paces from the front door, which proved to be just a little too far. So next came the first giant box. I loved that box. I rescued it when it got chucked out of my old office. It's a wall cupboard from the 1980s with a satisfying pull out and up door. Satisfying until it broke. I painstakingly fixed it, and even installed a shelf inside the box to encourage my shoes to like living in there. The combination of the door falling off several times a day, and having to wedge shoes in by force because the box was always full, meant my shoes mainly wound up on the floor. The giant box was just too small.

But now, after numerous efforts to contain my shoe mountain, I have found my solution. I stopped fighting my own laziness and accepted that the only workable solution would be a box large enough to contain all my shoes at once, with no arduous arranging needed to get them inside, and it had to be easy to open.

Since that didn't exist, I asked the clever builder who was fixing some other stuff late last year to make one. And here it is.

It is made of plywood which I painted apart from the front parts, because I think plywood looks nice with all its stripes. I was inspired by these coat hooks, which you can find at This Modern Life, for £15 each.

It's hard to explain quite how large the box it. To give you a little idea, it's almost too tall to sit on (to put on your shoes, but you can't have everything). Here's a photo of it before the paint, sitting on top of its predecessor.

The handle is a kitchen cupboard handle I bought in Ikea years ago, and I have a few around the house (you can see its partner on the louvred loo door in the background). I painted the box the same grey colour as the wall opposite (Dulux's Bowler Hat, which I had colour-matched and turned into a water-based satinwood finish for the wood). You can't see the wall above, but you can see here, and it gives the space a nice balance I think – as well as space for about a zillion shoes and various other bits of hall crap that no one now has to look at.