Want to create a timeless Mid Century look in your home?

 Then look no further than the new book ‘Mid-Century Modern Living’

The Mini Moderns Guide to Pattern and Style, by Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire.

In 2006 Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire launched Mini Moderns, the company that specializes in mid twentieth century inspired applied pattern. They are known for their striking use of pattern and colour across a range of products including wallpaper, fabrics, ceramics and household accessories.

         Their designs are inspired by childhood memories, popular culture and the designs of the mid century greats.

         They kick off the book by sharing their mid century inspiration. They then break down the key components that make up a mid-century look- including colour, pattern, materials and accents. The book is then divided into seven interior looks that explore different aspects of mid century design.

         They have also included a mid century menu to go with each look and music of the period.

         As they point out no one wants to live in a museum so they show ways of incorporating their designs with original fifties and sixties pieces – design classics with a few bits of kitsch thrown in, and making a space that reflects you and the way you wish to live.

         The Mini Modern Mantra

Build your interior around your passions

start with your collections and cherished possessions.

Don’t Fake it

Splash out on one original mid-century piece, rather than a room of poor quality replicas.

Embrace Pattern and Colour

Don’t be scared, it won’t bite unless you want it to!

Mix old and New

High street basics make the perfect foil for junk shop treasures.

Reuse what you can

Adapt, repurpose and repaint to create personalized space that doesn’t cost the earth.

The reader is  shown where to find the inspiration, the elements that make up the following key looks:

Studio townhouse

Bistro fabulous

Let the sunshine in

Granny takes a trip

Ocean Blue

Beatnik Beach House

Scandi Rustic

There is an excellent resources guide at the end of the book. Images from  style icons such as Robin Day, Hans Wenger, Lucienne Day and Gio Ponti are included.

This is a fabulous book and design resource that you will want to dip into time and again with stylish photography by Jan Baldwin.

Mid-Century Modern Living by Mark Hampshire is published by Kyle Books, www.octopusbooks.co.uk, £20. Photography by Jan Baldwin.

JOMO knits to celebrate the Joy of Missing Out

by Christine Boggis published by GMC Publications

Before I start on this review I must come clean and admit it, I am a poor knitter. This is why I think this book is so great. Most of the projects are done using very thick wool and are quick and easy to make.

I hadn’t heard of Jomo before I was sent this book, so for those of you who don’t know it has grown out of the social media term Fomo which means Fear of Missing Out.

As author Christine Boggis says,

“ Fomo fuelled and was fuelled by, social media posts of people having fun, eating photogenic dinners and jumping into swimming pools.” But a time came when all those images of people driven to constant consumption, striving and activity started to feel exhausting.

Ultra cosy blanket and pure wool cable stitch socks made from shetland wool

The author thought It might be nice to just sit in front of the TV  with a box set, a cup of tea and whole load of wool – even if it meant missing out on something ostensibly more exciting. With that idea, Jomo was born: the joy of missing out.

The book is about making something slowly, although the knits in the book are quite quick.

Breakfast in bed

What is JOMO knitting? It is not about being told what you should be doing by marketeers or anyone else. It is about slow fashion  and being a maker rather than a consumer. It is about being in the moment that is, not wishing for a different moment that might look more impressive on a social media feed.

Most importantly JOMO knitting is about embracing who you are and loving it-no matter what anyone else might think.

End of the Rainbow a perfect gift for a new baby

This inspiring book is split into three sections – Nest, Explore and Share.  There are 21 knitting projects and insights into how to use knitting to unwind from the demands of our over-stimulated and digitalized lives. Dotted about the book are special sections exploring the link between knitting and Jomo. Along with humorous observations and lists.

One of my favourite sections in the book is the introduction to modern kniterature. This includes both fiction and non-fiction knitting books. We are given five ways to make more time for knitting. I would translate this into 5 ways to do more crafting.

Just be me sweater and fingerless mits

Lots of lovely projects, my favourite being the first project in the book the breakfast in bed sweater. The marigold fingerless mits are nice as is the Box Set binge blanket.

This is much, much more than your usual set of knitting patterns, it is an inspirational  lifestyle guide and friend all wrapped up in book form.

Published by GMC publications at £14.99

Living with flowers by Rowan Blossom

Blooms and Bouquets for the Home

Rowan Blossom is a studio-based florist who works on fashion events, parties and weddings, and arranging flowers for private clients in their homes.

She has written this book very much with the beginner in mind. The basics such as tool kit, creating the best conditions for different kinds of flowers, and vessels in which to show them off are all explained. There are step- by-step images showing how to create perfect bouquets.

Flowers are used to make wreaths, decorate cakes and place settings for dinner parties.

Rowan worked in fashion before becoming a floral expert and there is a beautiful big bold blowsy flower crown and a corsage.  Blossom is shown entwined in a long plait. There are some very pretty flowers used as a form of body and face decorating. This look would be fabulous at a summer party or on holiday.

There is a gorgeous floral chandelier and a wonderful flower curtain. I particularly like the Meadow box that Rowan uses as a centrepiece along a dinner table. Flowers are used as a way of embellishing gift-wrap and also pressed to create greetings cards.

Again, very much, with the novice flower arranger in mind, there is a very useful list of Rowan’s seasonal Heroes.

A very pretty book, and a great gift for a flower lover.

Published by Laurence King £19.99

A tree in the House

Flowers for your home, special occasions and every day byhttps://www.annabellehickson.com/ Annabelle Hickson published by Hardie Grant

It was the name and the cover shot that made me want to review this book. Both capture the imagination.

The author is a writer, photographer, former-city-slicker who now lives with her husband on a pecan farm in the Dumaresq Valley on the New South Wales Queensland border. She has three children and combines all that entails with being a gardener cook reader and celebrator in the beauty of life.

The book is interspersed with gorgeous snapshots of Annabelle’s picturesque rural life. Above is a lovely shot of her tall willowy figure walking with her beautiful children and followed by a trusty family dog.        

I would not describe this as a practical manual of flower arranging it is far to beautiful to be just that, and you will want to display its beauty on your coffee table. It is a useful book too, with practical hints and tips including images of what to do and not do when it comes to flower to vase proportions. Preparing both vessels and flowers are covered, as is making flower friendly water.

The chapter ‘around the table’ has beautiful images especially of outside dining. The book is shot in Australia so obviously the seasons are different to the Northern Hemisphere. All kinds of celebrations are covered including weddings and funerals. It is so lovely to see something  intimate and less formal than usual, to decorate a coffin. 

I think when you have read this and taken in all the lovely shots you will want to be Annabelle and to own her life.  Her husband is rather yummy too. He features holding a bunch of freshly picked cotton he has grown just before the big harvest begins.

A lovely and inspiring book that truly celebrate the joy that flowers bring into our lives. Published by Hardie Grant. £25

How To Own The Room

Do you dread public speaking?

Do you find it difficult to be heard in a group of people?

Do you dread those masculine put-downs?

Then I have the answer for you in the book How To Own The Room by writer, comedienne, podcaster and TV and radio presenter Viv Groskop.

As I started to read this book, in order to review it, I found myself putting bits of paper between every page and realised that I was likely to be giving you the whole book but as a review.

The book opens with a question what does it mean to own the room. As Viv says

“Anyone can speak but you have to want to”

Two very different views are given about women speaking or preaching. One by a man, and the other a woman, and they’re hundreds of years apart. Sadly in some sectors of society the male attitude is still the same today.

 ” A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on its hind legs- it’s not done well; but you’re surprised to find it’s done at all.” Samuel Johnson

“Women don’t need to find a voice. They have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to encouraged to listen.” Meggan Markle 

The book is full of fine examples of women who can and do hold the room. 

As Viv points out 

I don’t pretend for a second that this stuff is easy. It’s undeniable that traditionally there have been fewer speaking opportunities for women. In her speech “We should all be feminists” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quotes the environmentalist and Kenyan Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai 

: The higher you go, the fewer women there are. 

This book is not here to diagnose the problem but to encourage women to focus their efforts and to create their own opportunities. 

 At the end of each chapter is a list of tips and tricks for example how to stand, how to monitor your breathing, how to ignore your inner critic. 

I love Viv’s expression Happy High Status  – the inner quality that is essential for an electric public speaking performance. You will need to read the book for a full meaning of this state of being. Michelle Obama is a good example of a person with this quality, but it wasn’t always so. Michele like the rest of us had to learn. There is plenty of evidence that Michelle Obama worked hard to get to this level of confidence. 

Because Viv has done hours and hours of watching the speeches of famous people she has analysed what works and what doesn’t. We, her readers, are getting the benefit of her research. However this is not enough on Its own. The one thing all the good and great speakers have in common is practice. To become a good, and then great, speaker it’s advisable to watch the best of Ted talks, to do the exercises suggested in the book, and to take every opportunity to talk in public even if it is a small thing such as proposing a toast at a party. Then as you get more used to public speaking try longer speeches. Record yourself and listen back. Do the exercises suggested in the book. If you are short of time read, and inwardly digest the books appendix. But do read the rest of the book it’s brilliant.

Published by Penguin at £12.99 in hard back and also available as an ebook

Weave This

Over 30 fun projects for the modern weaver By Francesca Kletz and Brooke Dennis

Francesca Kletz and Brooke Dennis are the partnership who started and run The London Loom, a weaving studio in Hackney,  East London

         London Loom hosts both community workshops and smaller classes where adults and children work alongside each other inspiring creativity. As well as beginners weaving Francesca and Brooke also teach other crafts. This book is not your conventional weaving book, there are many styles and methods of weaving that are covered in the book.

Not all the projects are done on a loom, however the basic different steps are covered, as are tools and materials. These include interlocking, curves, soumak, rya knots and loop stitch.

         There are exciting and inventive ideas such as making a giant loom from a clothing rail or creating your own yarn from scraps of fabric. Tassel making is covered. One is shown how to weave a letter or even how to use a spade to create a wall hanging. Learn how to ice dye and to make a woven fringed back for a jacket.

If you want to create interior accessories there is a really cool shade, an upcycled chair with a new woven seat  a puja mat and some great geometric cushions and a rug. This book is full of exciting projects that takes what can be quite a worthy po faced activity and turns it into something that is fun.

If you want to start a new craft this is a bargain at £14.99.

Published by Hardie Grant Books

Learning how to take beautiful styled instagram shots with Carole Poirot

Last year, having seen Carole Poirot’s lovely images on instagram and read her genuine and engaging posts, I wanted to know more. She doesn’t blow her own trumpet, she doesn’t need to, her images do it for her. All the photos on this blog post are hers, shown here with her permission. She works as both a professional photographer and stylist in England and France.

Carole runs small workshops teaching the basics of using a proper camera, without it just being on an automatic setting. To be honest even automatic had to be better than my iphone images. I duly booked onto one of her courses. It was to be me and another half dozen people. At the time Carole was using different locations from which to run her workshops and this involved her travelling around laden with props, camera, food and equipment. That is the life of both photographer and stylist, and it can get a little wearisome and fatiguing at times.

To go off at a tangent, my youngest brother became seriously ill, and I needed to be at his side fairly constantly that year, so I had to wait before I could attend one of Carole’s courses.    She offered to give me a one to one day’s tuition at her home, which is incidentally full of fabulous props.

I set off on a wet, rainy, dark winters day feeling both excited and nervous, also I suspected my camera wasn’t working properly. Carole is a brilliant host and on arrival presented me with  delicious coffee and croissants. We went through the vital things you need to know when using a camera on a non-automatic setting. She showed me on hers and then I tried using my camera. I was correct the camera wasn’t working.

         *Note to self 

Check your camera before attending a photography and styling course.

For lunch, Carole had made one of those hearty soups you need on a wet winters day. She had developed and cooked a super delicious gluten free cake that we tried out at tea -time. This not only gave great eating opportunities but also plenty of shooting ones too.

As the workshop progressed Carole explained various rules of styling, light composition etc. she also showed how to manipulate and enhance images on the computer. We discussed styles of images shown on Instagram. At that time her dark moody shots were being much copied, so being ahead of the field she had moved on to lighter images.

It was a fascinating and informative day.  for anyone attending her workshops Carole provides fulsome and very useful notes.

Just as an after thought, if you can’t get to one of her courses Carole has a brilliant web site https://www.mademoisellepoirot.com/

It is full of beautiful photo’s recipes and much much more. The piece she wrote last year on photographing flowers is exquisite and extremely useful.

https://www.mademoisellepoirot.com/blog/how-to-photograph-flowers

I know that one of her ex attendees now runs styling workshops at £150 a head, so Carole’s course is a sound investment.