Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Want to create a Country Brocante look? Then this is the book for you.

Just a glimpse into this gorgeous book will affirm Lucy Haywood’s  love of all things vintage, a love that  was inherited from her parents. They spent all their free time at antiques fairs and so she grew up in a home filled with old furniture.

         Her first flat was adorned with antique finds and vintage clothing and she realized that she was drawn to a creative career.

When her daughters were tiny she created a business that would work alongside her role as a mum. She began by hiring out her vast collection of vintage china for weddings and other events. This led to opening first a little shop in Sussex and, then as the business grew, a large, draughty barn, inviting other collectors that she met to sell alongside her. She hosted sales in village halls and gardens, and The Country Brocante was born.

It has grown and evolved from its humble beginnings, and now hosts seasonal fairs at stately homes and estates in Sussex and the Cotswolds. The exhibitors specialize in various different eras and styles – some offer classic French brocanterie, others have a traditional English style, and some a blend of both.

The faded elegance of France and the English cottage charm of vintage china and chintz come together to create a uniquely beautiful look that is, the essence of the Country Brocante style which is captured in this book.

         The book opens with examples of the colour palette, which is oh so instagramable. Examples are given of Pale pinks, Washed whites, Seaside blues and Soft greens.

         As Lucy explains, there is a myth that White is cold hard and clinical. The secret is to search out muted, chalky whites that provide a perfect backdrop for the time worn patina of antique and vintage finds. White-painted furniture only grows more beautiful with age, and when it is teamed with old linen sheets, white sofas and all-white china, the effect is easy, relaxed and lived-in. If you have a collection of mismatching modern pine furniture, invest in a pot of one of Farrow & Ball’s just-slightly-off white shades and give pieces a lick of paint for instant shabby chic appeal.

To create a Country Brocante home using blues, seek out subtle shades from silvery pale blue to faded indigo.

‘Graceful, elegant and feminine, for me pink is the most romantic of colours and effortlessly exudes vintage charm. Even the smallest of details, such as a posy of pink flowers, will bring warmth to an interior’ says Lucy.

When using pinks, If pastel pink feels too sugary, try a rich raspberry shade instead, which looks fabulous against pearly grey or duck-egg blue walls and natural sisal flooring.

Dulux colour of 2020 being Tranquil Dawn a soft green hue inspired by the morning sky, and Lucy waxes lyrical about green. 

What colour could be more reminiscent of the rolling English countryside than green? It brings to mind the exterior of an old garden shed, lichen and moss growing over a weathered stone garden ornament, or a simple green bucket holding roses just picked from the garden. But green is for indoors as well as

out. There are so many shades that work in a country-style home, from faded sage to olive to sea foam. Just keep your shades subtle and sludgy and you can’t go far wrong. At the Country Brocantes, a keen eye will seek out the softest, most subtle green pieces, choosing battered enamel buckets and garden chairs to take home and treasure.

          As well as colours the book shows examples of architectural antiques, time worn textures , art, and shows examples of how to work them into your home.The houses included in this book, whether old Suffolk cottages, Georgian farmhouses or modern properties all have in common the inclusion of timeworn objects. There are salvaged shutters and doors, shelving fashioned from old scaffolding boards and pieces of painted furniture still clinging on to their original finish, flaking and peeling though it may be. Despite their age and their state of repair, these items manage to look current, exciting and utterly beautiful in their current surroundings.

What a book! What a look! I highly recommend it, as much for the gorgeous images by Ben Edwards as for the valuable information given by Lucy Haywood.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews, Makes

With Oxfam encouraging us to buy second hand and to recycle this month, I am posting a review of the book I wrote in 2011. The Shirt Off His Back. A book full of ideas to re-love and upcycle old shirts.

by Juliet Bawden and photographed by Caroline Arber

This book review first appeared on the Sewing Directory web site and was written by Fiona Pullen

This innovative up-cycling book makes use of a material we all have around us – Men’s shirts. Those of us with men in the house will undoubtedly have, no longer, used shirts lurking at the back of wardrobes. Those who don’t have a shirt-wearing male to acquire shirts from can pick them up fairly cheap from the charity shop. Plus of course there is no reason why women’s shirts can’t be used for these projects either.


The projects in this book are cleverly catagorized by type of shirt used to make them: businessmen’s shirts, creative men’s shirts, outdoorsy men’s shirts and sporty men’s shirts. The projects include soft toys, quilted duvet cover, a beach bag, storage boxes, and a pretty peg bag and they make use of the whole of the shirt including, cuffs, collars and buttons.


The instructions for each project are set over several pages with large step by step photos to guide you as well as a photo of the finished project plus any templates you need are at the rear of the book. The book is easy to follow and would be suitable for all levels of experience.

Published by Jacqui Small

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in the Cotswolds

A new blaze of colour in yet another new book this summer from Kaffe Fassett. I do so love this man’s eye for colour, and this book doesn’t disappoint.

Folded Ribbon

20 Designs for Patchwork and Quilting

Kaffe Fassett

“ This book is really another homage to the long, rich history of the folk art of quilts. I picked Hidcote Gardens for the location, for the photography and because it was the first British Garden to open my eyes to the English genius for creating great theatrical gardens. I hope in this humble book you get enough of an impress ion of my favourite English Garden.” Kaffe Fassett

Sunny Zig Zag

In this twenty first installment of Kaffe Fassett’s ever-popular series of patchwork and quilting books, Kaffe has chosen to show off his latest range of fabrics by revisiting many of his favourite medallion quilt blocks.

Photographed on location at the world-famous Hidcote Manor Garden in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside, these delectable quilts find their perfect setting among the brilliant flower borders, avenues of trees, and stunning architectural features that make Hidcote one of the most visited gardens in the UK.

Autumn Chintz

Medallion quilts have universal appeal and the simple framework of the medallion design makes a great vehicle for Kaffe’s eye-catching colour combinations in his brilliant range of fabric designs.

Malachite Jupiter

Assisted by his team of designers and makers, Kaffe has created an exquisite and varied range of 19 medallion designs, among them the rich Berry Ice Cream quilt, photographed in Hidcote’s world famous Red Border; the dramatic Dark Gameboard, photographed against the geometric precision of Hidcote’s famous topiary hedges; and soft Flowery Jar, its pink and blue themed design echoing the colours of the flowers in Hidcote’s early summer border.

Lavender Ice Cream

Photographed on location by Debbie Patterson

Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in the Cotswolds provides all the basic instructional text, diagrams, and templates to make the quilts, plus a section on basic patchwork techniques for less experienced quilters.

9781641550840 | PB with flaps | £25 | Taunton | distributed in the UK by GMC publications

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!

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

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, 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.