Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Pretty Pastel Style

Decorating interiors with pastel shades by Selina Lake

published by RPS £19.99

I have read and reviewed quite a few Selina Lake’s books, and I admit I love them. They all have one thing in common they are fantastically styled and beautifully shot.

I picked this book up in a thrift shop, and like her other books, this one is lovely to look at. It has been written by Joanna Simmons, a well-known interior journalist, and photographed by Catherine Gratwicke.

At the time the book was written, 2013, pastels were enjoying a comeback. We are not talking sugary pinks of little girls bedrooms but something much more subtle.

         According to the book’s blurb, In Pretty Pastel Style, Selina Lake shows you how to use this truly versatile colour palette to create beautiful spaces that are feminine without being girlie, colour-rich without being garish.

The book first walks you through the Elements of the look including, modern pastels and vintage pastels. It also shows creativity in craft projects.

Details are also shown with pretty images of cleverly juxtaposed flowers, interior accessories and textiles. Interiors are explored to including individual items of furniture and whole rooms. So having read the book, I come away not exactly raving about it. I think it has more style than substance. However, because of its beauty, it is a book that will sit on my coffee table in all its prettiness, and that I guess is what coffee table books are about!

book review, Book Reviews, Blog

The web site Design*Sponge is closing 31st August

To honour a great web site here is a review of the book Design*Sponge At Home

By Grace Bonney

Published by Artisan $35

The brilliant talented and inspirational Grace Bonney is closing down her web site ‘Design*Sponge.’ She was always well ahead of the game when it came to web sites and inspiring content. With this in mind I was thrilled to come across one of her books in a charity shop, Called ‘Design*Sponge at Home’ It came out in 2011

It even has a forward by Jonathan Adler.

In the book’s introduction Grace describes how she set up her web site in 2004 not realizing what a storm would come of it. She had always believed that good design didn’t have to come with a high price tag or with a professional degree.

         Even though no one joined the discussion at first, Grace was delighted to have an outlet to express her love of design and decorating. Within weeks her blog was eliciting comments and e-mails and she felt like she was communicating with a community that she hadn’t previously known existed.

         When she was writing this book she said “Today, I wake up every morning and share news and inspiration from the design world with an audience that could fill Madison Square Garden. (How cool would it be if we could meet up every day like that?) It is quite simply a dream job.”

The first part of the book focuses on one of Grace’s favourite pastimes: sneaking a peek inside some of the most inspiring homes she has seen. Every home featured in the book is packed with ideas that anyone can copy in their own houses. In addition to practical tips on decorating and renovating, you learn about the history behind design classics such as Chesterfield sofa’s and Hudson Bay blankets.

         Inspiration and knowledge is only half the battle when it comes to designing the home of your dreams, so the second half of the book features do-it-yourself projects that have been tested by the team of editors of the book.

There are also Before and After makeovers featured with hints on how to turn a dowdy flea market dresser into a design delight, or on a larger scale, how to transform a dark hole of a kitchen into a modern chic space for cooking and entertainment.

This is the ultimate décor bible. The book includes home tours from artists and designers, clever DIY projects to help personalize your space, step-by-step tutorials on everything from hanging wallpaper to doing your own upholstery, a flower workshop with bouquets for every budget, and amazing before and after transformations.

With hundreds of inspiring tips and photo’s this is the only design book you will ever need.

Below is part of the letter that Grace Bonney has put on her web site prior to the closure of it on 31st August.

‘I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out the right way to close this beautiful, complex, and wonderfully meaningful place that I’ve had the honor of running and contributing to for the past 14 years. I’d written and re-written a letter like this dozens of times until this fall, when someone snuck into my mind and heart, and put everything I would have said onto (digital) paper. That person was Tavi Gevinson and when she closed Rookie she wrote the closing editor’s letter that I had always imagined, down to the very last word.

She talked about the changing publishing world, social media and the endless demand for more and more content (usually sponsored) that resulted in less and less support (financial and traffic) for publishers and their teams. She talked about the privilege and honor of doing what we do, and knowing the choices that would have to be made to keep things afloat would be at odds with the mission of the site (please do read her piece, she outlines the struggle of indie publishing better than anyone I’ve ever read). Most of all, she talked about starting and ending an artistic project with honesty and love at its core. And for me, that is all I have ever wanted.’

So as I finish this blog post I would like to say Thank you for all the joy Design*Sponge has given over the last few years. Juliet Bawden

Blog, Press Show Picks

Want to know what Ikea are up to ?

Then look no further than here, to discover the three key trends for AUTUMN / WINTER 2019

This season, we’ll see stripped back interiors dominate city dwellings in the Urban Minimalist trend, with functionality and versatility taking centre stage as the next generation champions a more fluid and transient lifestyle.

At IKEA, they believe that small changes around the home can make everyday life more enjoyable. That includes something as simple as being able to switch off your smart appliances by tapping your smartphone.

The Connected Home trend showcases the next generation of home technology from IKEA, allowing you to create a totally bespoke and smart set-up within the home that works perfectly for you. Connected Home also offers a range of smart bulbs that can be dimmed, change temperature and even completely switch to a different shade with the flick of a remote.

This clever function is especially useful for when the winter months arrive, as you can create a customized feeling of warmth and light in your home. Not only is this great for setting the mood of a room, but also beneficial for overall well-being.

 “For ultimate style and functionality-opt for a sofa from the DELAKTIG range- created in collaboration with Tom Dixon. The platform for living allows you to customize and adapt to the changing needs of life, as you can customize the platform with a lamp, a shelf or even an extra arm rest to reflect your personal style.

Last but not least, for those who love getting creative with colour, rich hues take the spotlight with the Jewel Shades trend this season.

IKEA know how important it is to make a house feel like home, no matter the size or layout. Whether you are looking to completely revamp your space this season, or simply give it one or two updates to keep it fresh and interesting, included are a range of products both big and small to suit all.

Calm and well-organized homes have never been more in demand when it comes to interiors, with our increasingly busy and fluid lives, combined with smaller living spaces, demanding practical yet stylish design solutions.

A fusion of muted colours and tranquil neutrals paired with edgy accessories, Urban Minimalist is all about beautiful and sophisticated functionality that is both adaptable and relaxed, with a hint of modern coolness.

Clotilde Passalacqua, Interior Design Leader at IKEA UK & Ireland says:

The urban Minimalist trend caters to your changing needs whilst exuding a sense of individuality. Less is more with this look, its aim is to create a space that is both understated and distinctive by using fewer furnishings. This will result in a calming space that you’ll enjoy spending time in.

Furnishings and home-wares with multi functionality features are key to turning rooms into flexible spaces.

In this trend whilst maintaining the comforts of home, with more of us living in urban environments, and adapting to small space living, storage has never been more key. The OMBYTE storage collection is designed to be both easily transportable and multipurpose, making it the obvious choice for city dwellers who don’t stay rooted for too long.

To achieve a minimal and modern aesthetic keep your living space tidy with the HANTERVERK hand-woven baskets, crafted by artisans in India as part of IKEA’s latest social entrepreneurs collection.

They are ideal for keeping your belongings stored away, whilst  still maintaining a neutral colour scheme.

         “A beige base colour palette is key to brining a calm atmosphere to an urban minimalist room invoking calmness and impressions of an open spacious atmosphere. But whilst this is a foundation to the look and feel, don’t view it as the only colour. it’s also the perfect canvas for bold statement pieces.

The MARKERAD collection designed in collaboration with Louis Vuitton’s artistic director, Virgil Abioh, blends high cultural references with street cred to create fashion-forward home-wares. From the slogan “temporar” wallclock featuring a sleek white-on white design, to the iconic Mona Lisa backlit artwork, this collection offers accessible and affordable statement interiors for metropolitan millennials.”

Comprising of deep yet vibrant tones that add a touch of opulence to any living space, the Jewel Shades colour trend makes a bold statement this season.

A rich and sophisticated palette of emerald green, sapphire blue, amethyst purple, and ruby red forms the crux of this head-turning interiors look. All of these shades are reflective of precious gemstones that people dress themselves in when celebrating, signifying that the party season is upon us.

Clotilde Passalacqua, Interior Design Leader at IKEA UK & Ireland says:

‘The luxe tones found within the Jewel Shades trend re truly designed to dazzle creating a dramatic yet equally comforting mood in the home. Create a beautiful and eye catching setting by being brave with colour and experiment with different fabrics and finishes to get the look you desire. Textiles play a huge part in creating a feeling of decadence with this trend. Whether you decide on opulent velvet or sumptuous satin the look and feel of your furnishings will enhance the overall richness of your space.’

To make any room really stand out from the crowd this season pair complimentary colours together, such as red and green, and orange and blue. The ruby coloured STRANDMON wing chair, for example, create a luxurious look, perfect for getting cosy and reading a good book during the winter months. For a simpler change opt for something like the HILLEBORG curtains in a rich plum shade. Made from recycled PET bottles, they prove that sustainability and style can truly go hand in hand.

Although the focus of this trend is centred around colour, don’t be afraid to add some prints into the mix. The new VONSBAK rug will add a timeless and vintage look to your living space with its oriental pattern and comes in a deep teal shade.

Technology is becoming more and more integrated into our homes, allowing us to live smarter and making our everyday lives a little more seamless. Living spaces with smart home-wares that are stylish, functional, and innovative, making life around the home that little bit easier. The Connected Home trend embraces this notion by hero-ing smart products that have the ability to link and interact with each other, making the home an interconnected hub that caters to a variety of your needs and desires.

Clotilde Passalacqua, Interior Design Leader at IKEA UK & Ireland says:

‘Technology can now be found integrating its way into our homes in ingenious ways, making everyday life easier and more efficient, not to mention more environmentally-friendly. The Ikea Home smart app previously know as the TREDFRI app is currently being developed even further to clear for a wider, unified eco-system of smart products all of which you’ll be able to control at the touch of a button within the app itself. Smart speakers and lighting are a great way to create a home that  works perfectly to control at the touch of a button within the app itself. The latest SYMFONISK range blends both together to bring cutting-edge design with high quality sound to create a look that blends in and stands out simultaneously.’

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

The Knitters Activity Book

By Louise Walker from Sincerely Louise

Published by Collins and Brown

£12.99

This fun book is very much for the passionate knitter. It reminds me of Chloe Owens book, ‘Chloe tells you how to sew’, is much more than just a ‘How To’ book. It is inspired by vintage annuals and comics. The brightly coloured illustrations, and instructions mixed in with activities, puzzles and games has been a major influence in the design of this book. There are games, pub quizzes and a knitter’s Alphabet. Aa is for Aran, Bb is for blocking, Cc is for crotchet, Dd is for DPN’s and E is for embroidery etc.

The book is dotted with practical projects as well as knitted jokey animals such as a knitted lobster for a lobster dinner.

Craft fairs are mentioned as are important elements such as tension of stitches.

Most of the projects are small and thus quick to make, a polar bear, toucan, meerkat, killer whale, chickens, racoon, corgi and star fish.

         There are a few larger projects such as s a lovely Giant Elephant Faux taxidermy head with instructions on how to wall mount him.

There is a great knitted crocodile rug and a swan door stop. Games such as knitters bingo are featured and name the knit stitch.

This book would make a great present for any nutty knitting friends.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Want to change the world for the better? Then you must read Futurekind

Design for and by the People

Dr. Rob Phillips

£39.95 Thames and Hudson

This book is not about the world of design, but the design of the world. Futurekind’ is a manual and manifesto, an inspiration and a call to arms – this rich and timely survey presents over sixty innovative, socially and environmentally conscious design projects changing the world for the better.

We have grown accustomed to two beliefs: the first, that only experts can be designers; the second, that our everyday activities are harming the world. Yet, with new platforms, digital communication and engaged online communities, the products we can now design – and truly need – can be made by anyone for social and environmental good.

         Social design can see that primary school children learn to code, and uses local information in off-grid locations to create global change. Open-source design is enabling us to remake our world right now.

         Structured into eight areas of application, from healthcare to education, Futurekind showcases over sixty projects from across the globe and across every scale and budget to reveal how design practice is being transformed by open-source platforms, crowd-sourcing and the latest digital technologies. Each has made a genuine different to lives and communities around the world.

Rather than being client-driven, as commercial design often is, each project shown is the result of designers who reach out, communities who get involved and the technologies that are helping people to realize ideas together. From a playground-powered water pump in South Africa to a DIY budget mobile phone, each of these groundbreaking projects is presented through fascinating and life-affirming stories, and diagrams that reveal the mechanisms and motivations behind each design approach, and photography that celebrates the humanity of the endeavor.

Here are a few examples  from the book of successful and useful designs.

‘Fix my Street’ was set up by Tom Steinburg. He realized there was no simple way to report vandalism on the streets, to local authorities. Fix my Street is the solution, a simple way to report street problems such as fly tipping, pot- holes, broken street -lights. It is a map-based interface, which matches map-based interface, matching geographical points to an email address.

Dr Catlin Powers is the co-founder of One Earth Designs the organization who produce SolSource solar power stove.

The invention was inspired after a Himilayan research trip, on which she encountered a nomadic Tibetan community. Their indoor stove pollution presented an air quality challenge. When measured, the air quality was ten times more polluted than the air in Beijing. The World Health Organization states that over 4 million people die every year from breathing ‘Stove Smoke’. A five-year collaboration with 54 different solar powered prototypes, finally arrived at SolSource. It heats up five ties faster than a charcoal grill delivering 1000 Watts of power and harnessing sunlight seven times more efficiently than an average photovoltaic solar panel and is affordable by the end users.

Better Shelter is a social enterprise thatdevelops and provides innovative shelter for refugees and those in disaster stricken areas of the world. Their mission is to improve the lives of people displaced by conflicts and natural disasters, aiming ‘to be the leader in emergency and temporary shelter innovation”. The projects aim is to compliment traditional refugee tents, as used in emergencies, with shelters designed for the post-emergency phase, which are more spacious (with higher ceilings), better insulated (clad in polypropylene panels) and more durable than their counterparts.

The People’s Fridge is a public amenity, enabling local residents and businesses to deposit spare food for people in need. It is run by volunteers, who want to cut food waste, and encourage sharing and tackle nutrition poverty. The People’s Fridge is situated in Brixton’s foodie hotspot “Pop Brixton”, whose traders help stock and clean the fridge daily. Similar projects have been launched in Somerset, Derbyshire, Spain, Germany and India. Annually food waste costs the UK about £17 billion, with restaurants alone discarding an estimated 900,000 tons of food and households binning on average 24 edible meals a month.

One of the co-founders, of this enterprise, Ben Longman shared his insights.

“We wanted the fridge to address two issues: food surplus and food poverty. The fridge is unmanned and free for all to use.”

Gravity Light uses kinetic energy to produce light. It is affordable, reliable and safe alternative to kerosene lamps used by 1.1 billion people globally. Kerosene consumes 15% of the income of the very poor. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million deaths a year are attributed to household air pollution, caused by people burning kerosene and biomass fuels for their energy needs. Gravity Light is powered by lifting a weight- a bag filled with 12kg of rocks or sand. As the weight descends, it turns a gear chain that powers a dynamo, creating light instantly. After 25 minutes, when the bag reaches the ground, it can be lifted again as required.

30 Dollar Wind Turbine is designed with unskilled makers in mind. POC21 have designed the 30 dollar wind turbine to have a small footprint and a big output. If you have a spare bike wheel and 30 bucks, then this can reduce your ecological footprint. The project delivers a few hundred Watts-enough to pump water. Daniel Connell, the designer, stated that anyone who ‘can cut paper and hold a drill’ could manage it. Construction involves cutting aluminium into shapes, then bending and riveting the vanes to a bike wheel. This project can be used to pump water or air, run a cooling system, or charge a battery through a generator. Connell focuses on upcycled and reclaimed materials, making his output affordable and accessible.

Cola Life you can buy Coca Cola anywhere in the world, even in remote parts of developing countries…because it has a phenomenal distribution network. In some place, one in nine children die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes, and most of these die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes, and most die from dehydration caused by diarrhea. With this in mind, Simon Berry founder and CEO of ColaLife is working with Coca Cola to open its distribution channels in developing countries and to carry ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to save children’s lives.

The author, Dr. Rob Phillips is an award-winning product designer and a senior tutor on the Design Products Course at the Royal College of Art. His research into open design and citizen science has resulted in internationally taught methods at MIT, Goldsmiths, Cornell, and the BBC. As a designer, his past clients have included: Puma, Samsung, Save the Children, Visa, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Google.

This book is full of brilliant and innovative ideas far too many to mention here. Purchase it and join the revolution ‘Engage Design’ processes to decrease people’s impact, gaining insight into what people really do… thinking how can we be Futurekind to Humankind.

book review, Book Reviews, Blog

Sew Simple Quilts and Patchworks

17 Designs using Kaffe Fassett’s Artisan Fabrics. By Kaffe Fassett

Published by Taunton RRP in UK £17.99

Last weekend was the Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham. It is a fantastic event with lots of exciting and stimulating work on show as well as masterclasses and lots to see and do. With this in mind I have reviewed a new patchwork and quilting book by Kaffe Fassett.

Unlike most ‘Sew Simple’ books Kaffe Fassett manages to create easy to make projects and yet at the same time make them look sophisticated and very appealing. I have long been an admirer of Kaffe’s since he first came to the UK as a young painter who morphed into a knitwear designer. He took on tapestries and then mosaic before turning his hand to quilts and fabric design.

The secret of his success has to be his wonderful use of colour and the way he uses different patterns together. He had an exhibition of his work at London’s Fashion and Textile museum and my lasting memory of it, was being enveloped in a riot of colour and pattern.

Throughout this book he uses his artisan collection that is inspired by different types of fabrics from different cultures from around the world. He uses both Ikats and batiks and uses them with quilting cottons perfect for the projects in this book.

The project each come with clear instructions and their own assembling diagrams. The projects include throws, quilts, cushions and simple stylish garments and fun projects for children, a tent and a pillow bed.

A lovely practical book. Distributed in the UK by GMC Publications.

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet Kate Watson-Smyth from ‘Mad about the House’ and podcast companion of Sophie Robinson on ‘The Great Indoors podcast’

Kate Watson-Smyth is a journalist with over 15 years experience writing about interiors for publications including the Financial Times, The Independent, and the Daily Mail.

However it is her interiors blog ‘Mad about the House’ that has turned her into a very well known interiors expert. She was awarded the Vuelio number-one UK interiors blog award in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Have you always been a journalist? Or did you have a different career previously?

I have been a journalist since I started working – but it took me a long time to start working. I dropped out of university – I was doing French at Nottingham – and had to spend the third year in a French-speaking country. I went to Senegal and never went back for my finals. I moved instead to Paris where I stayed for three years. On returning my mother said I needed some training and insisted I go to secretarial college. While I was there someone came from the regional Oxfam office looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out during its 50th anniversary year. I ended up running the press office and styling fashion shows and it was then I decided I wanted to be a journalist.

Did you study journalism or design originally and if so where and what did you study?

I went to Darlington to train on the NCTJ course for a year – it was one of the best years of my life and we recently all met up again for our 25th reunion. Then I returned to Birmingham, where I had done my newspaper work experience and they offered me a traineeship if I went to journalism college. Again. They sent me to the Westminster press training course in St Leonards on Sea, near Hastings.

I have never studied design.

Do you work as a journalist both on-line as well as for newsprint?

I started in print – because online didn’t exist – and have always been commissioned for print which is now shared online as well. Since I became so busy with the blog I tend to write only for myself online rather than newsprint any more although I often give quotes and contribute to articles.

Have you always been passionate about interiors or do you also write on other topics?

I began as a general news reporter but I always wanted to write features. I have always loved the writing part of the information gathering. When I had my first son I went freelance and it so happened they needed someone in the property section at The Independent – in the days when it was a 24 page weekly pull out… As soon as I started writing about houses and property I knew I had found my thing.

I have always loved decorating and styling. It began with my bedroom as a child and I graduated to other people’s houses – not always when they asked me to. I have been known to move and restyle a coffee table while someone nips to the loo!

Did you embrace social media from the start? If so which platforms were you using to start with and why?

I took to Twitter fairly fast as words are my thing. I loved it for ages and I think it’s brilliant for people who work from home as it gives you that chatting round the water cooler thing that you miss in office life. But it has changed over the years and can be a nasty place as well as a wonderful one. I’m on there less now as I have found Instagram. I was late to that particular party but I love it. I have found the interiors community to be very supportive and who doesn’t love looking at gorgeous pictures? I have also really enjoyed improving my photography skills, which I wasn’t expecting. Last year I bought my first camera although I still tend to use my phone more.

How and why did you start the web site ‘Mad About The House’?

In desperation! Newspapers were struggling and my freelance career was dwindling. At the time it seemed like everyone had, or was starting, a blog and I thought I would have a go to see if it would generate any work as a journalist. I thought it would work as a kind of online CV and portfolio. I had no idea it would go this far.

Did winning the Vuelio awards have a major impact on your work?

Winning recognition for your work is always lovely. I think perhaps it makes brands take you more seriously and widens your audience. Certainly the Vuelio awards, which selects a shortlist based on reach and engagement and content – tracking stats – and then calls in a panel of judges who are all experts in their fields. That definitely gives weight to the results as there is no campaigning for votes which can skew the results.

When did you set up your design consultancy?

When I started the blog in 2012 I began a new notebook so I could keep a record of what I was writing and doing. I wrote on the first page: Blog, Book, Business. I have done all three now – the books twice! The business came in about 2014 when people kept asking me for help with their houses.

Did you go on any courses when you set up your blog?

No! I figured as a trained journalist who had been writing for the national press for over 20 years I knew as much about writing as a course would teach me. I still don’t know about the tech side but I pay someone to do that for me. My brain is too full for that side of things and I can’t read an SEO document without falling asleep. My growth has been completely organic. I could probably grow more if I knew how to work the backroom details but I don’t.

I love the look of your blog/web site. Did you have it professionally designed?

Yes. It was done by Odysseas Constantine of Art & Hue. I saw his work on the beautiful Copperline site and then met him at the Amara Blog Awards in 2015. I asked him to do my site then.

Have you found Pinterest of use to your business? If so in what way?

I was a featured user on Pinterest when they first came to the UK. As a result I have 190K followers and it does bring traffic to the site but I have to say that I don’t go there very often. It’s partly a time thing and partly that I don’t need to use it for my own schemes so I have been ignoring it for a while. I wrote a chapter in my book about Pinterest being your frenemy. It’s so vast that I think it can be unwieldy and also unhelpful if you don’t use it in a very disciplined way. You fall down a rabbit hole of pretty pictures and completely forget what you went in for. I also think there’s a real tendency to pin pictures you like rather than ideas for things that will actually work in your own home.

I tend to do only do one platform at a time and at the moment that’s Instagram.

Floor boards transformed into a bathroom sliding door

Have you found Instagram a useful platform?

Yes. It’s inspirational. I love looking at great images, the community is lovely and I have enjoyed developing my own photography skills.

What do you think that the courses being offered to bloggers?

I don’t know about them so it wouldn’t be fair to offer an opinion. I’m sure, as with everything, that there are good ones and bad ones.

As a journalist how do you feel about ‘influencers’?

It’s one of those terms that everyone seems to hate but then again, I’m not that keen on the word blogger either! It is what it is – there are people who influence others rightly or wrongly. I wouldn’t use it of myself but then I have other words to choose from journalist/author/writer/whatever…. Makes a change from model/actress/whatever although I’d take it!

I love your ‘365 Objects of Design’. Has this been a popular section on your blog?

I began it when I launched the blog as a way of making sure I blogged every single day. I had read pieces about about how many people give up between three and six months in and I was determined that wouldn’t happen to me. I came up with that idea and numbered them to make sure I didn’t miss a day. For three years I blogged seven days a week, now it’s five and while I don’t number them anymore it’s still a popular post. I think of it like a postcard among the letters. I write about design events and trends and advice and every now and then I drop in a short piece about a cool thing I have found.

Tiny Replica of Kate’s sitting room made by a fan of her blog

Here comes my how long is a piece of string question. What is a typical working day like for you?

As long as string…. It’s enormously varied and I’m very lucky as I love it all. No two days are ever the same. Yesterday I spent the morning with a client helping her choose colours and furniture for her flat and talking about the layout, then I went to a book signing at Clerkenwell Design week. Today I am writing, doing a photoshoot with you and taking my son to his piano lesson. Tomorrow another book signing and a talk to prepare for in the evening as well as gathering ideas for my next book. Between that I try to find time to go to the gym, wrangle my teenage children and see my husband over dinner.

How much time do you spend on your blog and how much writing features for papers and magazines?

I don’t really write for papers and magazines any more as I don’t have time. As I post five times a week I either spend a couple of hours a day on the blog or blitz it for two days straight. The rest of the time is meetings, clients, book writing or dealing with email and working on styling and brand jobs.

One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and/or aged parents or illness or had to follow a spouse abroad for work reasons. Have you ever had to deal with any of these issues and did it impact on your working life?

Before I had children I always assumed I would go back to work full time after one and stop after two. In the event I went freelance after the first and never stopped working. It was hard at the start. One year I spent nearly everything I earned on childcare and couldn’t really afford the tax bill. As they spent more time at school I could work more and I regarded it as an investment in my future. I basically worked solidly from 9-3 every day and only left the house to go on the school run – no meetings, lunches or events – or very rarely. I was glued to the phone and the computer during the school day. As they got older it got easier and now they are nearly 15 and 17 I have much more time. I’m still around to cook their tea most days and it’s fine when I’m not. I can go on press trips and they can get their own breakfast.

We have also had those episodes of life that get in the way of best laid plans. My younger son, now 15, was born at 25 weeks (three months premature). He was in hospital for three months and fragile for the first couple of years after that. He is completely fine now – we were very lucky. In 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. My type was chemo-resistant and I had surgery followed by 35 sessions of daily radiotherapy – about six-and-a-half weeks of five sessions a week. I carried on blogging for the first few weeks and then uploaded archive posts so that the blog never missed a beat while I was in treatment. I finished on 23 December 2014 and went back to work on 4 January when the boys went back to school after the Christmas holiday. I was approached about writing my first book the following day when I had just stopping taking Morphine and was still a bit high I think.

I didn’t carry on for any macho reasons but rather that it gave me something to focus on while I was well enough to do so. By the end of the treatment I was lying on the sofa under a blanket watching episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Do you run any workshops or give talks other than when promoting your books?

I have a plan for workshops but haven’t had time to work out how to do it yet. I think online will be the answer as I already tend to work on Sunday afternoons – the week invariably ends before I’ve had time to write Monday’s post so I’m not keen to add Saturdays into the working week as well. I’m currently developing an online course which will be a mix of written advice and video. I have taken part in panel discussions which aren’t book-related but recently that has tended to be the focus.

What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?

When I get an email from someone who says the blog or the book has really helped them make their home how they truly wanted it that is wonderful and makes it all worthwhile.

The admin and the invoicing – always have to spend time chasing those – it’s irritating.

Who or what inspires you?

Mad about the house

Always a tough one. What? Restaurant loos and hotel rooms – often. Good design in a small space with clever ideas and bold colours. Who? The person who finds their passion, and follows their dream to make it work without compromising their ideals. My Instagram account is full of women like that and I admire them all. The woman with the disabled kids who decorates her home so beautifully, the dentist who started her own interiors events business, the mothers who get on with it all every day without complaining. They inspire me.

What advice would you give to any journalist starting out today?

Find your passion and write about it. Spellcheck. Oh and think laterally. You need to be a problem solver when you’re a journalist. On my first day at The Independent at Canary Wharf I was told to go to Kew Gardens to monitor a plant that only flowers every ten years. There was a tube strike and I was told I couldn’t take a taxi that far as the company wouldn’t pay. And there was a deadline to meet. I got there (bus, overland train, walking). You have to be able to think around problems.

What is next for your work?

I have just launched A directory  that lists companies who reduce their impact on the planet called DO LESS HARM

Many thanks Juliet Bawden