Thursday, 15 December 2011

So here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun…*

It’s my last blog of 2011 as I will be having a few weeks off to celebrate Christmas and New Year with my family… A much deserved break given my last weeks holiday was at the beginning of January last year…

(Image from Kjerstis Lykke)

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. One of my favoriate parts of it is decorating my family home in Yorkshire on Christmas eve with natural foliage from the garden with my Mum. We have a tradition of decorating everything from the fireplaces, to bookshelves and the tops of pictures and we have done it the same way year after year – it’s our family tradition. I thought this year I would look for inspiration for new ways to decorate the home using foliage from the garden. I came across several images I love where they have ingeniously used tree branches so I thought I would share them with you…

Just loving this image where they have create a star using branches and fairy light – simple but so effective…

(Image from Helt Enkelt)

Loving the use of branches and pinecones to bring this otherwise dull windowsill to life…

(Image from Bo Bedre via Emma)

Or you could just use a branch to hang your stocking for Father Christmas…

(Image from Dreamy Whites)

So why not get out there and collect some branches/twigs and make some home made decorations with your family – its one of my favourate memories of Christmas from my childhood – so why not give it a go with your little ones!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from me and Jane Price-Stephens Interior Design…

(Image from agrablewski)

*Slade – Merry Christmas Everyone

Friday, 9 December 2011

What is eclectic design?

Yesterday I ran the Living Etc Magazine one-day course on Eclectic Design at KLC (an interior design school in Chelsea… actually, the interior design school that I attended…). So, this week I thought I would share some of the eclectic images that I found when I was developing the materials for the course…

Eclectic design is simply a blend of furnishing styles from a mixture of sources, styles and time periods. It is usually perceived as free and easy, vibrant and unrestrained in terms of style, but this is not necessarily the case. The art of mixing a range of pieces, architecture and colours in a space takes considerable skill. It can be quite overwhelming when considering all the different elements that contribute to an eclectic scheme.

At the heart of successful eclectic design is the ability to understand how it is possible for such a completely different variety of things to be mixed together and still remain one cohesive piece that remains consistent with the overall design style.

Eclectic design is definitely not a ‘hodgepodge’ or jumbled assortment of random items, but a planned and very deliberate design. A shared theme or component should still tie everything together. A room styled in an eclectic way is brought together when the furnishings relate to each other in colour, pattern, scale, proportion, texture, finish, and shape.

Below are some images of eclectic design that I love…

(Image from Elle Decor)
(Image from

(Image from

Friday, 2 December 2011

Christmas Advent…ures…

December has finally arrived and it brings with it the Christmas tradition of advent calendars – whipping children up into an absolute frenzy (usually through ingestion of concentrated amounts of sugar) before a fat bearded man (not my husband) brings them lots of presents for no apparent reason. That said, I do recall that there are some religious connotations with the festive season and the concept of Advent, but anyway… back to chocolate and presents. When I was growing up (to be clear, I mean when I was a child…) this consisted of a cardboard calendar with pictures of stars and holly behind each of the windows (pointless! - no chocolate or presents!). This was replaced over the years by the chocolate advent, which I can only image was conceived by someone who doesn’t have children and who doesn’t understand the concept of sugar induced hyperactivity! My husband believes that I have been sustained in an irreversible state of sugar induced excitability as a consequence of too many chocolate advent calendars. Unfortunately, these chocolate calendars weren’t great – the chocolate tasted truly awful, not improved by being hung in on a wall and enclosed in a cheap cardboard box for up over a month…

I fondly remember the anticipation of Christmas Day (and still get ever so slightly over excited during this period, combined with huge expectations of a traditional/stereotypical Christmas and lots of presents) and how long it always seemed to take to arrive (this is no longer the case, but I think it is simply due to getting older and having a much more mature perspective on the passing of time… and I have stopped anticipating the arrival of Christmas from January 1st). So, based on my experience of Christmas, advent calendars are important and sharing an advent calendar with your children will help to build the excitement and anticipation and give them something special to look forward to each day in the run up to Christmas.

In order to avoid the genuine disappointment associated with many of the chocolate advent calendars on the market, how about making your own? – that, or lobbying Lindt to create a calendar with sizeable chunks of 80% dark chocolate infused with chilli (my as yet unsuccessful seasonal campaign – they’ve done the bunny, why not the advent…). I know we are already just into December, but there is nothing stopping you from making a bespoke advent calendar for a loved one or for the family over the coming weekend. I thought I would share with you two homemade advent calendars that really captured my imagination…

Loving the idea below as it is so simple, but just brilliant and beautiful. It consists of wrapping presents in paper bags tied with string and hanging them on the wall with clothes pegs… given the creativity of the idea, I can’t possibly imaging what the little gifts are. I’m thinking very nice things with diamonds in…

(Image from  Kjerstis Lykke)

Also loving this unique fridge-magnet style advent calendar, with little surprises inside the tins.

(Image by Jessie from Friendly Badger via Narrating Life)
Use your imagination… there must be so many different ways to create 24 special little gift repositories. But right now I need to get back to my Lindt ‘build upon the bunny’ campaign… or, actually, create my own bespoke calendar filled with Lindt surprises…

Friday, 25 November 2011

Grey Matters…

I was asked earlier this week by an industry publication to provide my thoughts on interior design trends for 2012, so this week my blog is focused on the colours that I think are going to be hot during the next 12 months…

Economists and corporate types have been talking about the ‘new normal’ – continuing economic uncertainty and market volatility for the foreseeable future (oh dear…), and in keeping with this pretty grim outlook, the key colour for next year is going to be grey... and although times may be tough and austerity bites harder than ever before, take comfort from the fact that every shade of grey is super cool! - you will see it in everything; wall coverings, polished plaster, window treatments, artwork and furnishings. The great thing about grey is that it is a colour that works on most palettes, so it can be easily incorporated into a wide variety of different concepts and designs...

(Image from Christina Fluegge)
(Image from Christina Fluegge)
(Image from RUM by Danish interior stylist Gitte Kjær)

In terms of other colours on the ‘must have palette’ to team up with greys, an odds on favorite for 2012 is likely to be yellow… this will lift the palette and add an element of freshness to the room. It wouldn’t surprise me if the emergence of yellow as a key colour in schemes is also a reaction to the challenging economic environment we all currently find ourselves in - with yellows we are striving to benefit from its positive psychological qualities; happiness, optimism and confidence for the future. From a more philosophical perspective it is also important to consider that custard is yellow. As are bananas. And many Lamborghinis.

(Image from Kråkvik & D'Orazio)

Other colours that will feature heavily in 2012 include; indigo blue, grass green, greige (beige/green hybrid), alongside the traditional and timeless old favorite… monochrome.

(Image from B&B Italia)

Orange will still be hanging on for dear life; purple is on its way out (kicking and screaming) and brown, which had a very long run, is gone (RIP and thank you for your services to design).

(Image from habitually chic interior design by m. elle design)

As I said, grey matters - I love using a palette of grey in all its forms and I look forward to adding an injection of happiness in the form of yellows, oranges or indigo blue to lift our spirits in 2012… Keep calm and carry on… and embrace the ‘new normal’.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Birthdays are all about balloons, cupcakes and pretty colours…*

I’ll start by managing expectations this week. It’s a short blog. A very short blog. Why? Well, it was my birthday yesterday and I am recovering after a lovely champagne fuelled evening…

If you remember back to the blog on concepts where we talked about how it is possible to get inspiration for your interior from almost anywhere, I thought I would revisit this briefly and use birthday images to create a concept and colour palette for a room!

Taking a wonderful quote from a fellow Princess**; ‘birthdays are all about balloons, cupcakes and pretty colours…’ - here is a concept image that captures all three… and to top it off, it also includes the colour pink!!! The first image also perfectly epitomizes my day yesterday - lots of site meetings surrounded by builders and stepladders along with that lovely, warm and pervasive feeling that it was my special day! I should point out that I was not in fact in a drug or alcohol induced hallucinogenic state all day and seeing balloons everywhere that I went…

I can imagine creating a fantastic little girl’s room using the palette below…

(Images from Rum and Leslie Shewring)

That’s it from me this week. A normal blogging service will resume by next Friday…

*Fellow Princess: Lisa Ndukwe

*What is a Princess? Feminine version of a prince; a monarch’s daughter. Or someone who attends my exercise class on Wandsworth Common…

Friday, 11 November 2011

Almost every time I make a building, some people will condemn it straight to Hell…*

…well that’s because you should stick to seats mate…

As part of my series of articles on ‘classic chairs’, I thought I would share the inspirational work of a truly brilliant designer… “Arne Jacobsen” (he will hate me calling him a ‘designer’ as he notoriously disliked it, but I don’t really care, because like many of the other subjects of my blogs, he is at time of writing this quite dead). I also thought it was an appropriate subject this week given that I am off for a much deserved weekend break to Copenhagen (where I like to imagine that everything I sit on will be a Jacobsen classic and all other chairs will be burned in the streets or relegated to a landfill). Despite his early success (and later triumphs) with product design, Jacobsen actually felt that he was an architect above all else. Hence, I find it interesting (and he probably did too, but not in a good way) that Jacobsen is most famous for the products he designed for the inside of the buildings, rather than the buildings themselves…

Having spent almost two evenings (with wine) and one weekend (with wine) researching hotels for our trip to Copenhagen, I am disappointed to say that have just found the hotel we should be staying in - the SAS Royal Hotel. Designed by Jacobsen, it was the ‘world’s first designer hotel’. Built in the late 1950s, Jacobsen was given the opportunity to design every element of the building, including (in no particular order); the furniture, silverware, door handles, ashtrays in the souvenir shop (???) and the airport buses (??? ???). It was Jacobsen’s opportunity to put his grand theories of integrated design into practice - he believed that the design of every element of a space was equally important "from the spoon to the city" (a design philosophy put forward by Ernesto Rogers). For the project he designed the following chairs that have become absolute design icons; the Egg™, the Swan™, the Swan™ sofa and Series 3300™.

So, here are all the chairs designed specifically for the hotel – many of these will be very familiar to you as they have been forever stamped into our minds by the likes of ‘Big Brother’… (and don’t get all uppity and pretend you haven’t watched it at some point…).

Egg™ chair 1958

Arne Jacobsen designed the Egg™ for the lobby and reception areas in the hotel. The Egg is one of the triumphs of Jacobsen’s total design. The Egg chair was deliberately an elegant contrast to the straight lines of the building.

(Image from

SWAN™ chair (3320) 1958

Also designed for the hotel, the Swan has no straight lines, (making it hugely technologically innovative in 1958 – remember this was the period BA – Before Apple). The Swan was also designed as a sofa.

(Image by Verne/OWI)

Given that we have missed out on the opportunity to stay here, I am going to have to convince my husband to take me for a drink in the bar (I suspect the idea of a drink will be enough to convince him…). I am genuinely intrigued to see what it looks like - when initially built the design didn’t please everyone - it was called “the punch card” and “the glass cigar box” – it will also be interesting to see whether I can visit room 606, the only room to be preserved completely as a shrine to the designer.

In addition to the chairs designed for the hotel (and a bit earlier in his career), a major source of inspiration for Jacobsen stemmed from the bent plywood designs of Charles and Ray Eames (who were the subject of previous blogs on classic chairs – remember, Ray is not a man – she was his wife…). They actually inspired the development of the Ant, which was Denmark’s first industrially manufactured chair. This was followed by the Series 7 in 1955 – it was the ongoing success of these chairs that firmly established both Jacobsen and the Eameseseses in the history and evolution of furniture production. In simple terms, both matched modern needs perfectly - light, compact and easily stackable.

Ant chair (3100) 1952

This stackable wooden chair was originally designed for the canteen at the Novo Nordic healthcare company. Today, the Ant is one of the most prominent icons of the entire collection. However, the Ant was originally close to ending up as just another prototype, because Fritz Hansen was not convinced of the chair’s potential. The chair survived the initial skepticism (and, being perfectly honest, when Arne Jacobsen guaranteed to buy all chairs produced if no one else would).

(Image from

SERIES 7™ 1955

The Series 7 was a spin off from the Ant, and a result of Jacobsen manipulating the lamination technique to perfection...

(Image from

Grand Prix (3130) 1957 (…because it received the Grand Prix at the Triennale in Milan)

(Image from

Arne Jacobsen is noted for his sense of proportion and this is clearly evident in all the chairs that he designed. Indeed, he saw this as one of the main features of his work (when he wasn’t trying to convince people that he was an ‘architect’). In an interview he said;

"The primary factor is proportions. Proportions are what makes the old Greek temples classic in their beauty. They are like huge blocks, from which the air has been literally hewn out between the columns.

Whether one looks at a baroque, renaissance or contemporary building - the buildings that one enjoys to look at, the ones that one admires, are all well-proportioned, that is absolutely essential. Next comes the material - not mixing the wrong materials. And out of this comes, of course, the colour - and, in sum, the overall impression."

Never a truer word said – great design is all about proportion… so I’m off to the airport to get proportionally tipsy before I board my flight to Denmark…

*Arne Jacobsen (in case you didn’t work it out…)

Friday, 4 November 2011

All work and no play makes Jane a very, very dull person (but she still loves her job)…

Right, before I get started this week, two important and completely unrelated points. Firstly, it is now less than two weeks until my Birthday and I am beginning to worry that my hubby hasn’t made any plans for ‘my fabulous Birthday weekend’ – if you are reading this Davy, sort it out… secondly, I have been profiled once again in idfx (the industry bible for the interior design industry) – they asked me to write an article about the Hotel Puerta America, which was the subject of one of my previous blogs… so it would appear that this blogging thing does work (hence the deliberate comment directed at my hubby to get the Birthday plans sorted)… Anyway, back to my inspirational images of the month feature – this is where I focus very simply on the things that mean something to me and the inspirational words and images that reflect aspects of my own personal style.

I was sat nicely in my studio yesterday and it struck me that I have been so super busy in recent months that this is where I am spending nearly all of my time (when not on client site, visiting suppliers or spending quality time with my dog – he’s too big now to be classified as a puppy and he farts unapologetically all the time like a grown up man) – it also struck me that I really do need to tidy up a bit in here and find a way of getting my husband to move his drum kit to somewhere else in the house(and, to be frank, it’s got to the point where I really don’t care where the bl00dy things end up). I was also reflecting on my change of career and the deliberate move out of the City that was meant to reduce the amount of time that I spend working and, as a consequence, the amount of time that I spend operating at heightened stress levels… Hmmmmmm, given current commitments, not sure that this has been successful 100% of the time… But then, in a genuine moment of epiphany, I realised that in reality (and when compared to my life in the City before) everything is completely different now… and while continuing to intellectualise this further and reflecting fondly on the works of all the great philosophers to ascribe some meaning to this apparent conundrum, I remembered the following quote, a quote that I have thought deeply about for many years when meditating and a quote that I believe in totally - “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”…

…ok, you can either believe that hugely convincing version of recent events or the frankly less believable alternative – I was sat nicely in my studio, drinking a cup of tea and eating a drumstick lolly, furiously scouring the Worldwide Interweb for a vaguely relevant quote to include in my blog this week… and this is what I landed on…

Work and ambition has been a pervasive theme in my life to date - after graduating from Oxford I worked in the City as a media strategy consultant. Seven years in I got the itch and after reading Paulo Coelho’s tale about following your dreams, (The Alchemist), I promptly left my job, went back to college to retrain as a designer and amounted a not insubstantial amount of debt – to date, it is widely acknowledged that this is probably the most expensive book my husband has ever bought me (but he maintains that it did achieve the desired outcome). It has all paid off in the end - after graduating top of the school, I have been fortunate enough to build my experience with a number of the top interior design studios in the UK and have used this as a platform to set up my own business. The reason for all the background (or ‘the sob story’) is that as a small business owner I spend almost every waking hour working – you have to accept that when you are busy you just have to run with it – it is 6.09am as I write this blog and I have been up working at this time (or earlier) every morning for at least the last two months. I also still seem to be working at 11.09pm every night (and at the weekend too). But I have to say that for the vast majority of time, I really don’t feel like I am working and I definitely don’t resent the opportunity that I have been given (although it would be nice to earn a bit more money – still not on a par with where I was when I was in the City…). I am passionate about what I do now, I absolutely love it and hence the quote from Confucious really rings true for me… another upside (apparently) is that my husband gets to go to the pub more often and watch a lot of sport on TV… 

After all that ‘deep and meaningful’, back to the purpose of this week’s blog - and it isn’t to gloat about the fact that I have found a career that I adore… when I started writing very early this morning I only wanted to share a few images of inspirational workspaces that I love – it is clear that I must have wanted to get all of this off my chest… Anyway, work is, for most of us, a necessary evil – so, my simple advice is to continue on your relentless quest to find the vocation that you love and, irrespective of what you do, recognise that you deserve to work in a space that makes you feel comfortable and happy… I’ll stop short of launching into a rant about Warr’s Vitamin Model of Mental Health or Jahoda’s Primary Environmental Influences and the consequential impact on the workplace and well being. Pontificating wildly about philosophy is quite enough for one blog.

(Image from
(Image from lamaisondannag)
(Image from French By Design)

(Image from

Friday, 28 October 2011

Hold on, man. We don't go anywhere with "scary," "spooky," "haunted," or "forbidden" in the title…*

It’s the time of year again to make sure you have sufficient supplies of sweets for the ‘trick or treaters’. At the beginning of the week I did have a vast stockpile (a veritable mountain in fact) of drumstick lollipops intended for all the little children who grace our doorstep over the coming days (and are inevitably disappointed when their demands for money are not met – ‘I don’t want sweets… I want money…’ – imagine the outrage last year when we offered them all handfuls of fruit and nuts) – however, this stockpile of sugar, artificial colourings and preservatives seems to have diminished significantly over the course of the week, to the point where my husband has had to hide the Kilner jars that we have been storing them in. It’s ok though, we have plenty of pistachios.

Anyway, that’s enough about ‘trick or treating’… in addition to sweeties or healthy alternatives, but not cold hard cash, Halloween just wouldn’t be Halloween without a pumpkin to scare away the evil spirits. When I was a child, pumpkin carving consisted of simply cutting out triangles for the eyes and nose and a haphazard zigzag for the mouth, but today there is a tendency to go all out and do something a bit more special (and for those with no creative skills whatsoever, to cheat and use a stencil, either hand drawn or downloaded from the internet).

For those of you who are total novices in the fine art of pumpkin carving, outlined below is a step-by-step guide…

When choosing your pumpkin pick one that is tall enough and a good shape (with not too many blemishes) – the width is less important… Carving a pumpkin freehand is the traditional way of doing it - is very easy (if you know how to wield a knife) and only requires a few basic tools. A large spoon, a thin bladed knife and some newspaper will get you started…

1. With a long, thin bladed knife, cut out the top of the pumpkin around the stem (the bit at the top if you have got it the right way round). The hole should be large enough to allow you to scoop out the guts (seeds and stringy membrane) by hand (messy, so no kids…) and with a large spoon (less messy, but probably still no kids). Generally, the size of the hole should be about two-thirds of the diameter of the pumpkin. While you can cut a round circle out, you'll find that cutting a five or six sided opening will work the best. As you cut out the top hole, angle the knife so that the lid and hole will be a bit cone shaped. This will help prevent the lid from falling into the hole when it shrinks a bit a day or two after your piece of art is complete.

2. Now you can use a large spoon (probably the same large spoon that you used for scooping) to scrape the inside walls of the pumpkin clean. Cut away the seeds attached to the bottom of the lid. Clean out all the remaining strings and seeds from inside the pumpkin. Then you can continue to scrape further until the pumpkin wall is about 2.5cm thick. Clean out the inner wall until smooth (or as smooth as possible – it doesn’t need to be perfect) - this can actually be a bit tricky so watch your fingers. Don't forget to scrape the bottom of the pumpkin until it’s flat (for inserting your candles later). After all this, clean out the inside of the pumpkin with some kitchen paper.

3. Now for the fun part (or, for some, the most stressful part) – simply use the knife to carve a truly beautiful and artistic pumpkin freehand... yeah, right. Start by inspecting the pumpkin and deciding upon the best side to carve the face. Either visualise what you want to carve and just go for it (again, watch your fingers) or draw on the face with a marker pen and cut out the individual features – all being well you will end up with your own unique pumpkin! The word ‘unique’ is used quite deliberately – it can also mean ‘completely hopeless’…

Alternatively, you can create a more detailed design using a stencil - either draw your own design on a piece of paper or download one from the many designs that are available on the astonishingly high number of pumpkin carving sites on the internet. Who’d have thought???

4. Attach the stencil to the pumpkin with tape (stating the obvious, but start with the top first and then the bottom and then the sides). You may have to crease the stencil to tape the corners - if so, try to make sure the creases are where the pattern will be distorted the least. With a ‘poker’ (or thick needle as it is more commonly known – just to be clear, not a poker that you use to stoke a fire), poke holes (every 2.5mm or so) along the pattern design outline. The holes should go through the paper and the outer skin of the pumpkin but not all the way through to the inner shell.

5. Remove the stencil and you will see the dots you have made in the outer pumpkin wall. Basically, you're now playing "connect the dots". As a consequence, there is a small piece of technical equipment required for the stenciling option (and something a man would invariably need to add to his collection) – “a pumpkin saw” – who knew such a thing existed, but there are lots available online. Alternatively, and more practically, you can use a knife with a serrated edge. Knives will cut faster, but not quite as accurately. That said, saws are fairly delicate and it may take longer to patiently saw out the outline of the feature. If you choose the saw option some specific technical instructions - saw patiently and carefully along the dotted lines. Saw at a 90° angle to the pumpkin and saw steadily (or the blade will stick). In general, you first saw the smallest pieces (or from the center out) and then work your way to the larger pieces. Push out the cut pieces with your finger and not using your saw blade…

6. When done with sawing or cutting, clean out the carved sections with some kitchen paper. Don't forget to clean out the inner pumpkin as well as bits of cut out pumpkin will end up inside and spoil the effect when the candle is inserted and lit. The pumpkin is now ready for display!

7. The last step in the assembly process is to place the candle inside the pumpkin. Light the candle and let the candle blacken a spot on the lid. You can then saw a chimney in the lid where the blackened spot is to vent smoke and heat.

...there you go - your own Halloween pumpkin! Now go and make some spicy pumpkin soup to warm you up when you get back from trick or treating…

Right, I’m off to give my own freehand pumpkin a go – not sure it will look as fabulous as the images below, but I suspect it will be ‘unique’…

Image from agrablewski

Image from agrablewski

*Shaggy from an unattributed episode of Scooby Doo

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Design is not just what it looks like, design is how it works…

I joke quite a lot with my clients about the fact that I am all about the aesthetic and not about practicality, but in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth...

The recently deceased Steve Jobs really hit the nail on the head when he said ‘design is not just what it looks like, design is how it works’ - and this fundamental design philosophy that contributed to Apple’s resurgence and stupefying success during the past decade is just as relevant for interiors as it is for the latest iThing and, if I am being biased, perhaps even more so.

For an interior to really work in practice you really need to think through the ergonomics of the room. Ergonomics, in very simple terms, is the study of people and their relationship with the environment around them. From an interior design perspective, this is all about the measurement of the distances between furniture, location and adjacencies, spatial planning and the actual dimensions of furniture when designing bespoke items.

A simple example with a simple object… when designing a chair, one of the most important factors is comfort - this is linked closely to many aspects of the design of the chair, including the seating height. Typically the preferred seating height is calculated by measuring the most comfortable height for the person who is going to use the chair. However, if the chair is going to be used by numerous people it is important to measure the comfortable seating height for a range of people and then work out the average height. The average seating height is then applied to the dimensions of the chair. So, you either consider the ergonomics of the chair for one person (the rich people who can afford their own bespoke chairs) or many people (the rest of us who end up sitting on a makeshift seat or on the sofa with a plate on your lap when we have too many people round for dinner).

When designing interiors we need to focus on creating ergonomically friendly spaces that are both comfortable and functional – as a consequence, a designer needs to genuinely understand and be really comfortable with the amount of space that is realistically required to perform different tasks and functions, from simply walking comfortably and in an unconstrained way between two pieces of furniture, to dealing with towels drying on the front of the bath (bit random, but thinking about my house – just been in the bathroom and knocked over a load of drying towels),to the most convenient height for work surfaces and the storage spaces for different items. All of these aspects, including even the most pedantic (yep, I’m still thinking about the towels on the side of the bath) need to be given careful consideration in the spatial planning stage and throughout the design process.

I thought it would be helpful to share some images of things that I think have been wonderfully designed from an ergonomic and aesthetic point of view…

Image from Gaile Guevara

(Image from Gaile Guevara)

Steve will be missed as he was a leader without equal and an individual who possessed and adhered to a simple design philosophy that we all buy in to… but there are some other little quotes that highlight the importance of ergonomics in design… the importance of both aesthetic and function, and the truly spectacular results when these two things come together in perfect harmony…

“Form and function should be one” – Frank Lloyd Wright – Architect

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” - William Morris

…this is what great design is all about…

Friday, 14 October 2011

A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles…*

…but we do have backsides, and we often need chairs to put them in… Given that last week I mentioned that I was drawn towards Ikea, sorry, expensive Scandinavian design, I thought I would share a Scandinavian design classic that I absolutely love. It is called the Wishbone Chair, CH24 or ‘Y’chair and was designed by Hans J. Wegner in 1949. Funnily enough, it acquired the name ‘Y’ chair due to the ‘Y’shaped back and based on that little nugget of additional information, you don’t need to be a genius to work out why it was named the Wishbone Chair.

To his many fans Hans Wegner is ‘the master of the chair’ (although I am not sure how many genuine contenders there were for this title, it may have been self anointed and it’s probably not something that’s going to get you a preferred table at a top London restaurant, unless of course they actually use your chairs) – during the course of his lifetime he created over 1,000 pieces and over five hundred chairs. The essence of his design was centred on simplicity and the balance between form and function. He was passionate about natural materials, which are particularly evident in the wood and rushes he used in the Wishbone. This chair is simple Scandinavian style at its very best. The ‘Y’ chair has a fluid design with a back and arms that wrap around the person sitting in the chair. He also paid particular attention to the comfort (function) of his wooden seating, ensuring the person sitting in the chair would be comfortable for hours (but, importantly, from a form perspective, that each chair was as beautiful from the back and sides as it was from the front).

This iconic chair has been around since 1949 – it’s over 60 years old and it is still in production today – the true indication of a timeless design classic. In fact, to celebrate it’s 60th birthday, it has been given a bit of an overhaul (it’s been ‘pimped’) and they have made it available in a wide spectrum of colours, from Caspian blue, to green, to purple, to juniper… One day when I live in my forever home and my puppy has stopped chewing everything with legs, these will be the chairs that decorate my kitchen table…

(Image from Elin Kling)
(Image from French By Design)
(Image from Stardust)

* Hans Jergen Wegner

Friday, 7 October 2011

He (she) who knows others is learned; He (she) who knows himself (herself) is wise…*

One of the many reasons I love writing my blog is that it has allowed me to rediscover my own personal interior design style (which is absolutely impeccable, as you would probably imagine…). It’s funny - as a designer you spend much of your time designing stuff to meet a particular client’s needs and taste and sometimes you become so immersed that you lose your own sense of self. But, to be fair, this is what interior designing is all about, so I can’t really complain too much… Unless of course you are a designer with a trademark signature style – a style that your client buys into from the get go and expects to see everywhere around their home – I’m not quite there yet, but I have a catchy name (it sounds a bit posh) and I have concluded that I like really expensive stuff, Corian and pretty things…. 

In recent years I have begun to find it increasingly difficult to articulate my own personal style and preferences – this is for the most part driven by the learning curve that I have been on and constantly designing for someone else (and also ignoring the design of my own home absolutely and completely – one definitive critical word of myself in this respect is not enough…). Prior to my blog, if I had been asked to describe my signature style I would have probably said ‘contemporary Italian design’ – for the most part, this is probably still the case, but it has been a fascinating experience researching my weekly blog as I have discovered that the images that entice me most are those that are ‘architecturally simple and clean, and have a slight Scandinavian feel’… so, rather disappointingly, after years of hard work, study and gaining hugely valuable design experience, I have landed on Ikea, but more expensive… (I should probably say ‘not really’ before you pick up your pencils and head off to your nearest soul destroying wonderland, albeit with Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam).

This week I thought I would just share a few simple images of kitchen and dining rooms that I love, for absolutely no other reason than I love them and because I think the spaces are really impactful… they are also in part the genesis of me rediscovering my own personal style and stopping myself from always being beholden to others (and their budgets)…

(Image from Yatzer)
(Image from Rom 1-2-3)

(Image from From Glasgow with Love)

Why not spend some time trying to understand or rediscover your own personal style? I suggest this to many of my clients as their ‘homework’ and it really helps provide a focal point or theme for the design of their homes. So… select a range of interior design magazines (go to a dentist’s surgery or an airline lounge if you want to get some for free) and simply tear out the images that really appeal to you. You will be genuinely surprised by how many consistent themes emerge! Based on the small sample of images I have included in this blog it would seem that I love white walls and I am drawn towards designer/iconic chairs…

So, that’s it – a short but important blog this week. I have decided that once a month from this point forward my blog is going to be focused on the things that mean something to me – the inspirational words and images that are based on my own personal style. A style and philosophy that I hope will be a source of inspiration for you. A style and philosophy that, according to my husband, will cost him quite a lot of money… without the meatballs and lingonberry jam.

* Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (title words in brackets are mine – sexist pig…)

Friday, 30 September 2011

That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up…*

Well, it was all worth it – the pain, the sorrow, the adulation, the inspiration, the dehydration - the London Design Festival didn’t disappoint at all! Over the course of a few action packed days I managed to drag myself around the majority of the main shows and design trails and even managed to attend a few of the key parties where, as I predicted, a serious amount of champagne and pretty little calorific canapés were consumed! This week it’s back to reality with a dirty great big sobering bang… actually, if I’m being honest, a bit of normality and routine this week is good – I can get back to focusing on all projects I have on the go at the moment… and I can also stop feeling guilty about outsourcing my puppy to other people for the best part of an entire week (whilst hubby was enjoying himself on his ‘business trip’ to NY).

Reflecting on the week, one of the things I realised that I absolutely love about the design festival is that it genuinely offers ‘up and coming’ product designers the opportunity to showcase their wares on a relatively big stage (i.e. London)… Three of my favourite finds from the festival were all from new designers who haven’t yet made it big, but I am absolutely certain are on the road to huge success. It’s also worth bearing in mind at this point in the blog that a number of my closest friends are either pregnant or have just had a visit from the stork (like the tooth fairy, but certain to cost you more in the long term) – as consequence, I seem to have become preoccupied by children… not a bad thing, as I discovered a number of absolutely adorable pieces of craftsmanship and design…

1) My ultimate, super, absolute favourite is this chair that doubles as both a traditional rocking chair and a horse rocker – I just think that it is totally adorable, but also quite contemporary…

(Image from Westergaard Design)

2) Continuing on the theme of horses and horsiness (if that is in fact a word), I would like to move on to the subject of cows… I was also drawn to this high chair for toddlers - it allows little ones to get up and down from the table using the set of stairs which are built into the seat (perhaps even on occasion without adult supervision, as there are very artistically designed Health and Safety compliant handrails, or horns as we like to call them in ‘cow speak’). This design immediately provides children with a greater degree of independence at the dinner table (or ‘freedom’ as Mel Gibson would have put it in Braveheart, which also features Scottish cows) - pure genius or, in fact, pure disaster depending on the parent and/or the child and/or what they are actually eating at the time…

(Image from Tamasine Osher Design)

3) Finally, and on a more serious note, I also found this kneeling stool and desk for kids – it naturally encourages them to sit in a neutral posture (which has been scientifically proven by scientists to be critical during the early years of spinal development). With conventional seating and desks, children tend to "hunch" up, putting considerable strain on their neck, shoulders, upper and lower spine. They also do an adult version, which unsurprisingly is considerably bigger and more robust, but also very comfortable

(Image from ubiquity design studio)

Three striking pieces of product design that are, rather aptly, in their infancy. I know they already do an adult version of the spine friendly desk and chair, but I quite fancy an adult version of the cow… don’t you?

*Walt Disney

Friday, 23 September 2011

…and you thought festival season was over…

Very excited… It’s arrived… After weeks of anticipation, sleepless nights, impatiently counting the hours, veterinary strength tranquilizers to keep me calm, London Design Festival is finally upon us. I may be exaggerating my excitement levels a bit (or a lot actually, as I am horrendously busy at the moment), but let’s not underestimate what this is – a celebration of the best of the best in the industry and an opportunity for designers to run maniacally around large open spaces filled with temporary stands, drink gallons of fizz and consume far too many canapés. This week is one of my favorites of the entire year and, as a consequence, I turned down a trip to New York, a break in the Alps and a trip to Monaco (I find that holiday opportunities are a bit like buses) so that I could be here in London – so, if you read between the lines, what I am really saying is… it better be bloody good!

The annual festival includes over 250 events and activities and covers a variety of different design disciplines. I thought that you might be interested to learn about some of the main events (most are on through this weekend), as many of them are open to the general public on selected days.

1) Tent London 

For me Tent London is mainly about up and coming designers who are exhibiting their prototype interior products with the aim of being spotted and to get their work into the mainstream. I really love this event as you get to see what ‘new blood’ coming into the design world are thinking – really inspirational. This is the exhibition for the latest contemporary interior products, including; furniture, lighting, ceramics, textiles, materials and accessories. With more than 200 international exhibitors and over 12,000 trade visitors it’s also quite a big event.
When: 22-25 September 
Where: Old Truman Brewery (E1)
Entry: £10 admission fee

2) Shoreditch Design Triangle

To celebrate this year's London Design Festival, 21 shops and galleries in and around the Shoreditch Triangle have joined forces to bring you a week of special design events. Starting on Saturday 18th September, each location will be holding events to launch individual exhibitions and to celebrate and showcase exciting new work.

I love this aspect of the week… wandering around the back streets of Shoreditch and stumbling across the most amazing galleries that the just popped up for the duration of the festival – truly inspirational.

When: Starting 18th September
Where: Shoreditch
Entry: Free

3) Origin: The Contemporary Craft Fair

This is one of my favorite events during the festival and it is where I usually manage to purchase the majority of the presents I need for party season (see my blog from last week)…

This is the show for anyone interested in contemporary craft. Products range from furniture and interior accessories to fashion accessories and jewellery. It’s also great for buying original handmade items directly from the maker.

When: 22-28 September
Where: Old Spitalfields Market
Entry: £10 for a single day ticket, £15 for a multi day ticket

4) 100% Design

This is one of the biggest events during the festival with over 21,000 trade visitors. The focus is contemporary interior design, it includes three exhibitions under one roof: 100% Design (interiors), 100% Materials (surfaces) and 100% Futures (emerging talent).

When: 22-25 September (Sunday 25th General Public)
Where: Earls Court
Entry: Tickets can be purchased in advance online for £15 or register on the door for £20

5) Decorex International

The running theme at Decorex this year is ‘Cherished Places’. This is an exhibition of interior design products for both professional interior designers and interior design retailers.

When: 25-28 September
Where: Royal Hospital Chelsea
Entry: Only Trade Visitors

6) Design Junction 

Bringing together a stellar line-up of leading UK and international lighting and furniture brands, this event is set to excite, inspire and challenge anyone with a passion for design.

When: 22-26 September 2010 from 11am to 6pm
Where: Victoria House Basement, 37-63 Southampton Row, WC1B 4DA
Entry: Free

7) The Dock 

Last year the Veuve Clicquot party hosted by Tom Dixon at the Dock was the pickled liver of Design Week. Set on an industrial waterside estate, The Dock, hosted by Tom Dixon and sponsored by Derwent London is rapidly turning into an epicenter for design innovation. During the festival visitors can expect indoor, outdoor, food and water-based installations, exhibitions and on-the-spot workshops and demonstrations. There are over 25 exhibitors including; Aston Martin, Moooi, Lladro, The Floating Cinema, Print Club London, Designers in Residence, Piet Hein Eek and Innocent Drinks.

When: 19-25 September 2010
Where: Portobello Dock, 344 Ladbroke Grove, W10 5BU
Entry: Free

Well, it’s tired me out just writing that… with stuff going on all over London you need to be a logistical genius to get round it all, but with a good chunk of time, a bit of sensible planning, some flat shoes, a public transport system that works (largely outside of my control, but assume something is going to go wrong) and a few dozen Nurofen (remember the champagne…), it’s set to be a brilliant week. I’ll be so exhausted by the end of it all, I’ll need a holiday – maybe a trip to New York, a relaxing break in the Alps or a weekend away in Monaco…

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