This week I visited the NEC for The Autumn Fair, which is an exhibition for buyers covering homeware, gifts, fashion, retails solutions, home decor and more.
It is a vast space and was packed with exhibitors from across the globe. There was colour trend forecasting also on offer, with 4 distinct trends and co-ordinating colour palettes – Dome, Scarcity, Gorge and Ritual were the themes:
Moving through the exhibition, in which there were literally hundreds of stalls, the next stop was home decor and lighting. There were some lovely companies showing. Coach House were particularly elegant and had a wide range of styles with a strong emphasis in oversized lighting:
I discovered a new brand called One World, and love their oversized furniture and accessories:
Plus I found a fantastic lighting company called Light & Living from the Netherlands, featured below. Every light was beautiful, and I love the mesh pendants (which incidentally a lot of brands featured so they will be a big thing in 2020). Their lights were beautiful, although very heavy so the practical designer in me popped out as I pondered the way to hang them safely on a standard British light fitting..
So looking at trends for 2020 home decor, colour is definitely creeping back in, even if the sophisticated greys/blush combos and Hygge remain popular. I am really happy to see some colour after years of pale greys though….
On another positive note, there was a large emphasis from exhibitors on sustainability. I spent ages talking to a Chinese manufacturer from the Shaoneng Group about their products made from sugar cane and bamboo waste pulp. They apply it to disposable food retail products, but it could also apply to many other home items. It is biodegradable, water and oil proof and much more. A wonderful product, especially for take aways and similar food outlets.
So definitely an interesting place to visit and see what is on offer, how it is made and what some companies are doing to help sustainability and recycling. This month I also will be visiting 100% Design & The London Design Fair, so watch this space for more ramblings…
So being a busy-bee student has definitely been a real adventure this academic year… but what a blast and I love every minute of it.
Next week I get my final crit from Tutors for my latest project. I have been charged to design a Pavilion (full on Architecture style, from fixings to weights to construction), a bar to go in it, and do it all within a Grade I* listed site so absolutely no touching of the fabric of the building etc. I am finding that I have a bit of Brutalist slant to my work, which is very surprising given the chaotic clutter which I live in (and love)…
I realised I have not posted any work on here since I started back at Uni, so here’s a few bits and bobs I have done this year to prove why I have had no social life, sleep or spare time to post much… 🙂
Semester 1: Theatre Design & Product Design
Here I started out learning about Orthographics and site surveys. Basically if you do this type of drawing by hand, JUST as you reach the end of a drawing your hand slips and you have to either scalpel off the ink, or more usually START AGAIN…Gah! My tutor also is an architect, and knows if I am on a 0.01 or 0.1 pen so you can’t make any mistakes as he’ll know.
I started to learn how to make scale models. This is something I love doing, and think I am like Gulliver but maybe with more fumbly fingers and a tendency to superglue myself to small things…
My next challenge was to design a theatre installation inside a beautiful Medieval Hall showing an excerpt of a scene from Macbeth. This is where the brutalist streak started coming through I think… why try and complete with 600 year old carvings, go the opposite way….! I also made films as part of the design as that is something I used to do in the past for a living, and this design had no budget attached so I went all out for it…
The next project was to design a piece of modular furniture to be used in a travelling exhibition planned for the first ‘Martian House’. This will be a pod designed a bit like the Antarctic science stations for prolonged living on the red plant in 2030. I was asked to focus on wellbeing and health, so came up with a multipurpose item that becomes amongst other things gym parts with added games to spice up what will be probably be a very dull life on Mars…
Semester 2/3: Staircase / Pavilion & Bar Design
I had to present a project on the design of a staircase by a notable architect, (right down to delivering a correctly scaled model). I was given one by the architect Santiago Calatrava, one with NO KNOWN MEASUREMENTS ANYWHERE, which resulted in me travelling to Basel in Switzerland tape measure in hand. But I measured the thing and managed to build the model to scale.
Below is my last project this year, and I will know if I have been slayed by the end of June (gulp)…. I have worked myself to the bone in this one, and cannot even begin to count the hours/days/weeks/months it has taken…
What have I learnt?
Less is More and document everything! I have to justify and be accountable for every minute detail, right down to fixings and screws. I have also had to learn a huge amount of new digital skills as presentation boards are so vital; Photoshop, Rhino, Sketchup, Illustrator, Lightworks, CAD and so on. My iCloud storage is huge already as a result and I have over 11,000 photos on my phone….
I have also learnt brilliant practical skills; steam bending, digital fabric printing, woodwork, welding, plasma metal cutting, textiles, ceramics, 3D printing, laser cutting, fabric manipulation, resin and jesmonite techniques, and more. I have learnt the (new) ways of digital studio shooting in photography, (I am so vintage that I did my first degree in photography on film, and digital did not even exist!). The fabrication facilities are amazing at my University and the technical staff are brilliant, I am making them a huge cake next week to thank them for teaching me so much already.
On top of all of the practical I also had to deliver a critical blog and essays. Now I know why Uni students have/need such long summer holidays, I am frazzled but still raring to go for September this year although I think the pressure will be on even more….
Last week I travelled to Lourdes in France with a band of local pilgrims. I went along as a) it was the sort of thing I would never do and I want to push my boundaries, and b) I was generally just curious to see it.
A bit about Lourdes…
Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is part of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitanie region in south-western France. Prior to the mid-19th century, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its center.
In 1858 Lourdes rose to prominence in France and abroad due to the Marian apparitions claimed to have been seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized. Shortly thereafter the city with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes became one of the world’s most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism. Today Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important center of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land.
I took along my trusty Canon E0S as I knew there would be interesting photo opportunities, and although I wanted to respect the privacy of people there I knew I could get some good documentary type shots.
I am a born and bred ‘intermittent’ catholic, (although my local priest calls me a ‘have a go catholic’ – i.e. I just pick the bits of doctrine which I like and ignore others), so I went with some scepticism if I am totally honest. But I can convey that is a great place to visit, and not a bastion of the Catholic Church itself in terms of rules and regulations, but one of Faith, pure and simple. The atmosphere was amazing, and what I liked most was that ill and disable people were treated with the utmost respect and courtesy. They were not the invisible as in so many places, but instead the most focused upon and respected.
The town is set at the foot of the Pyrenees, and I went up the funicular on the Pic du Jer to get a birdseye view. This is a very high hill overlooking the town, and the funicular was so steep I had to shut my eyes going up, but once up on the top you can see snowcaps in the distance even in the summer. It is simply beautiful.
Around the Basilica and Grotto in the town were a multitude of people; Religious, Medical Staff, Pilgrims and Volunteers. I loved just watching them all go about their business, whether it was praying, talking or just moving through the town.
The town has stations of the cross set on two levels, low and high. I climbed up to the high ones which are life size and cast in bronze, to get a set of photos for a pilgrim I was with who could not make the steep walk.
The statues of Saints and Angels around the Basilica are amazing.
It really is an inspirational place and I recommend a visit for anyone, religious or not, to see such kindness to the sick and disabled. I bathed in the waters at the Grotto, and it was an incredibly experience and very humbling.
There are bits of Lourdes that have lots of shops selling religious souvenirs, some tasteful and some very garish, but it’s all part of the experience just to see how many different statues and types of water bottles you can count…!
So if you are ever in that part of the world, I really recommend a visit. It puts life into perspective a bit more and was a very calming experience.
Lambay, sometimes also called Lambay Island, is a private island lying off Dublin Bay and owned by the Baring family trust. It was purchased in 1904 by the Hon Cecil Baring, who later became Lord Revelstoke, for his new bride Maude whom he was madly in love with. The island came with a 16th century fort, so Baring hired Edward Lutyens to remodel and extend to make an idyllic castle for his young bride and subsequent family. This became a beautiful example of Lutyens architecture with his typical motifs everywhere, circular stairs, vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and furniture designed for the house specifically. Outside there is a huge circular enceinte wall surrounding it to create a windbreak. It’s very blowy outside this shelter on the island, and once within the confines of the wall the garden becomes a calm oasis from the brutal Irish wind (even in summer). Lutyens also designed the horseshoe shaped harbour, another building called The White House for Baring’s daughters to use with their own families when they later came to stay, and cottages for the staff. There is also a chapel on the Island and farm buildings. Gertrude Jekyll designed the gardens around the castle, and it is a privilege to see the work of both these notable designers in a private setting.
My husband and I were lucky enough to be invited to stay by a family member who still visits the island, and I realised recently that I had not shared this adventure on the blog. It was an amazing time and very memorable. The Baring Trust still own the island, and family members can still come and stay. It is also rented out privately for shoots, day trips and events. They have also recently started making Lambay whiskey.
Here is an aerial view of the island lying off the coast of Ireland. As we flew into Dublin I could not believe how big and empty of human signs of life it seemed.
So we arrived in Dublin and headed to the very smart port area that is Malahide where the boats leave to get to the island. This is a genteel port with the most expensive supermarket I have ever been to, it outdid Fortnum and Mason’s in delicacies and everything looked delicious. We had to collect food we had ordered ahead to take over to the Island, where we would be staying in The White House with friends. The Island is inhabited full time only by a few people, so this taking of provisions across the waters is par for the course. Once upon a time animals for food used to be put on the boat to take over, but EU regulations put a stop to that. Clanking with bottles, bags of food and luggage, we then were collected by the boat used by Lambay to ferry passengers and provisions and headed across the bay. In summer this crossing was fine, but I don’t think it would be quite so much fun in winter with gales.
On arriving, the first thing you see is the amazing port Lutyens designed. To the right you can see the cottages and then The White House. Towards the rear you can see the trees and wall that protect the Castle. The sea is teeming with seals who are very nosy and come over for a look at visitors.
We arrived and unpacked our food and drink and then had a look around. The White House where we stayed is beautiful and vast. All of the fitted furniture is still there as Lutyens designed it. The kitchen still has all of the old china and huge storage jars intact. The current full-time occupants of the island had just upgraded all of the bathrooms so there is not just ‘one bath a day which we share’ which is what a long-visiting family member told me used to be the order of the day. Now it is simple and spacious, but still luxurious.
What makes Lambay unique is that time has stood still. It does have generator power, but even though you can see the lights of Dublin twinkling at night in the distance, there is no wi-fi, no light pollution and peace. In fact there is no noise except the seabirds, the waves and the wind.
The castle sits nestled in its peaceful wind-free grounds, with herbaceous borders, secret walled gardens and the sound of water trickling in ponds and streams. We were given a tour of the Castle and gardens, and listened to friends reminiscing about the summers they spent as children on the island where they were literally free-range for 3 months of the year.
Photo Credit: M Baring
Photo Credit: E Kayne
Photo Credit: E Kayne
We spent our time on the island catching lobsters, fishing, setting rabbit traps, harvesting edible seaweed, picking vegetables and making all our food from scratch. Every morning the dense soda bread was baked ready for lunch, cakes and pastries were made for tea time, and then foraging began for extra treats as we explored the island. I swam with nosy seals, roamed around the spectacular coastal path and watched nature in its finest state of freedom.
The wildlife is extraordinary on the island. Many birds use it as their nesting grounds as it is far from the madding crowd, and I saw guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and puffins to name just a few breeds. The west side of island that faces away from Ireland is the main breeding ground with spectacular cliffs, and the amount of birds on it rivalled a FA Cup stadium on a finals match. The noise was terrific; screeching birds and crashing waves reverberated as we watched seabirds dive bombing into the sea to catch their fish. The seals that dot themselves around the island are Grey Atlantic Seals, and apparently there are also Harbour Porpoises in the waters.
One evening we took a walk up to the highest point of the island to watch the sun set. The wind was blowing away, and dusk was settling so we could see Dublin in the far distance starting to twinkle with lights. A Labrador who was with us started woofing, and chased after what I thought were rabbits. But the dog then retreated bit pathetically, and looked really confused. Out of long grass sprung the most bizarre animals, which in the half light I thought were huge rabbits. But they turned out to be resident wild Wallabies who bounced around us, spinning off in all directions. Apparently a pair were taken in by one resident Baring and they breed copiously so have to have their numbers reduced every few years so they don’t overrun the island, according to one family member they are “Ok, but a bit chewy…”
In the evenings we would have drinks outside watching the sun set, and then eat all of the food we had caught or made that day. There is nothing better than lobster you have caught that day with fresh home made Hollandaise sauce… although our Soda Bread was a bit like eating dried cardboard – but that could be our culinary skills.
Then as the sun set we would light a fire (it’s damp on this island when the sun sets) and get out board games or just sit and chat. There were no televisions, phones or dreaded iPads and even the teenagers with us seemed to love this disconnect from the real world that they know. It was like turning back the clock 50 years, and I loved it. We decided to have a Lambay Art Exhibition, with everyone on the island having to take part and make something from items they had salvaged from beaches or cliffs. Considering that there were probably no more than 20 people on the island, we all did really well with just one glue gun to share and few pencils.. and the competitive streak did take over for a couple of days – people vanished and claimed beaches for themselves as they hunted for finds. This culminated in a Private View for ourselves and an exhibition party, again for all 20 of us – it was great fun.
The stylish wardrobe I took with me thinking I was partaking in an Agatha Christie style weekend (minus murder), did not see the light of day… it’s way too windy for linens in this place. And my wetsuit served me well for jumping off the port to swim with seals, (incidentally they appear behind you very quietly so when you turn around there is a curious pair of eyes right next to you). By the end of my stay I was covered in mud, bedraggled and dreadlocked, but as relaxed and happy as a lamb.
But we did go home in this plane, so I got my Agatha Christie moment in the end… sort of…
Diverse, eclectic and always inspirational… BBC Radio 6 has become my constant companion when I am either working or mooching about at home. The breadth of music is really diverse, there are no repetitive playlists, and I learn about new artists all of the time and from all over the world… no hierarchy, snobbery or commercialism… just music that inspires the DJ’s.
Take today for instance, I was unpacking my shopping and gyrating to Gilles Peterson’s Saturday afternoon rare grooves, whilst later on I nodded my head in time as I typed away on a website article. The latter article was relating to financial information, but PJ Harvey suited the typing speed, and now when I read it back I can hear 50ft Queenie in my mind – definitely not what the readers will hear as they read my FinTec news.
In a way it’s a bit of an addiction. I miss it when I am in the car and have to substitute another radio station to listen to. I pine for Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe & Maconie and Tom Robinson’s dulcet tones. If I have to listen to Jenni Murray on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, I end up enraged and comparing her to Cerys Matthews, and the latter wins hands down. If I try Radio 1 it just seems so noisy and inane in comparison. It’s got to the point where I’ll just plug in a podcast instead, and I am loving The Leisure Society series at the moment (from, you guessed it… BBC Radio 6).
I find that I am more creative when I listen to music as I work, and this information that follows proves my point:
Scientific research has uncovered that listening to music can actually be beneficial while you work. Although, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
A study by Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, looked at how listening to various types of music affected different types of thinking compared to working in silence.
Their study found that happy music enhanced participants creative ‘divergent thinking’. However they found it had no impact on ‘convergent thinking’, which is problem-solving.
In their study, Ritter and Ferguson split 155 volunteers into five groups, which were then given tasks to complete. Four of the groups did so while listening to classical music aimed at stimulating different moods, such as Holst’s Mars and Vivaldi’s Spring. The fifth group worked in silence.
They found that the groups working to music they considered positive generally came up with more original ideas.
Ritter and Ferguson said: “The current project aimed to shed light on the potential association of music listening for optimizing divergent and convergent creativity, and demonstrated that listening to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music that elicits positive mood and is high on arousal) is associated with an increase in divergent thinking, but not convergent thinking.”
The upshot being, if you need to be creative with your work, then you should stick some uplifing music to help get the cognitive juices flowing. But if you’re trying to solve an problem, you’re better off opting for quiet solitude. (Telegraph, Sept 2017)
As I don’t do problematic maths problems for work, I think I’m OK to continue….
It is a fact that I love Instagram, and I am always amazed and delighted by the creativity out there that I can peruse… from nature photography to food to clothes to interiors. It means I follow so many people that it takes ages to scroll through daily feeds, but it’s worth it! It also seems that there is a colony out there of similar minded people who like me are obsessed with interiors, it’s like having a mini village of people right on your doorstep. Everyone shares ideas & tips, and are incredibly friendly.
From there come the Instagram challenges, which tend to be people setting up a hashtag and the rest of us posting pictures including it, usually within a timescale. One that I have been doing is #myhousethismonth this February. It’s a daily shot with a title, so things like #storage, #bestbargain, #love (Valentine’s day of course) and so on. I love doing it, but WOW! it takes some planning. Especially when you have to photo something everyday that passes muster.
Anyhow, here are some offerings I have been posting this mont. My teenage daughter has trained me in various editing methods for photos as she said I needed to up my ‘instigame’ – thanks daughter, that made me feel ancient! So I sometimes use Whitagram and VSCO to tweak shots before they are posted, although I do like to use Instagram as it was intended if possible and just shoot and edit on it directly. So here are some shots posted while I tried to keep up, and it’s only mid month! And this is the challenge set….
Once I get into doing it I then start taking other photos, so they go up as well as the challenge ones:
And so it goes on… now off to shoot today’s picture which is #can’tlivewithout…. that will be my coffee maker then…? Or maybe my cats…. ? Hmm, it takes ages to decide…
I have spent today writing a business plan for property investors, well I was forced to write one by my husband actually. I would much rather have spend the day pottering around the house or simply lounging about eating crumpets.
Anyhow, part of the job today was to go back through the years, (it is decades actually), and tot up the profits of buying and selling houses which I have renovated in my life. The amounts were really quite large, and I was shocked to see the results.
I was lucky enough to get onto the property ladder in London in the 1990’s, straight after the big crash and when property dropped to a price that I could afford. I bought a sweet flat in Clapham for the incredibly low price of £45K. It was very tiny, in fact so small that if someone came into the entrance hall they trapped people in the living room as the doors were a bit too close for comfort. Saying that, the interest rate was 16% so it was the most I have ever paid of a mortgage in my life, and for the smallest one. Eyes water when I think what my various London properties much be worth now. But…
Non, je ne regrette rien!
Within weeks off buying my first home I had discovered the joys of decorating and DIY. I would rush home from work and paint, varnish, strip and build for hours, usually resulting in irate neighbours turning up and asking why I was drilling at 3am. I became a serial mover, usually lasting in a house for just a year whilst I did a turn around and then moved on. One friend complained whenever I moved, as I was ruining her address book with crossed out addresses by my name.
It was only having children that slowed me down, my own mother had been a serial house-mover and I hated always having to change schools and make new friends who I knew I would lose in a year or two when we moved again. So I vowed my own children would have a more constant time at school, and only moved a very few times throughout their education, and in locations so they could stay at the same schools.
But I am rambling…
My point of this blurb is that I added up all of the profit over the years, and I should theoretically be really RICH. Like close to a million rich. But I am not- on each sale the lawyers, surveyors and agents all took a chunk. Land Registry took some too. I would then use the remaining profit to upgrade to the next larger house and have some money left over to renovate it. Then I would sell it straight away for an inflated sum. This all tootled along nicely until I had my first daughter. I was all set to be a full-time working, part-time property developing, multi-tasking mother. But I took one look at her when she was born and decided I never wanted us to be parted for more than a minute. So I sold up, moved out of London and used some of the profit I had made to be able to buy a cheaper house, (it was a beautiful 16th Century barn conversion so I can’t complain at all!). More importantly it also meant I could stay home for the next few years with her and then her little sister who followed, as there was enough money left over to pay the bills.
If I had stayed in London I would now be in a house worth well over another £1.5 million pounds to add to the previous figures. In the words of Del Boy I would have been a ‘miwllionaire’.
Am I sad?
No. The upside to losing my near million, plus the ones I never actually saw, is that I have been able to watch my children grow up PLUS work part-time only when I wanted to. I think I have been incredibly blessed to have been able to do that. Now that the children are starting to leave the nest, I am back into renovating houses again. And I have to get a serious job to help pay for their next steps at University. But those houses in London decades ago gave me a reward far greater than sitting on an over-inflated, obscenely priced house in the capital now and having missed out on my girls growing up.
So whenever I am in London and peep into estate agents windows and see earth-shatteringly expensive houses just like the ones I used to own, I just have to remind myself of my beautiful daughters and how I have shared their lives thanks to being on that property ladder as it started growing, so…