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, 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, book review, Book Reviews

Bohemian Style at Home by Kate Young

published by Thames and Hudson at £14.95

Bohemian style is characterized by free-flowing fabrics, bright colours, and a multitude of clashing patterns, textures and materials. Heavily inspired by the1960’s and 1970’s free spirited way of life, it is one of the most versatile styles of decoration.

The book opens with the author’s definition of bohemian style.

         ‘It is all about telling your story, and being as creative as you like. Every bohemian home is as unique as the person who creates it and the only things they all have in common are a lack of formality, an incredible sense of wellbeing and a big dose of unrestrained recklessness.’

         The book explains the different takes on bohemian design- whether you are a minimalist Scandinavian, glam, rustic, mid-century maximalist or colour lover- and how you can adapt the style to suit your tastes, needs and budget.

The room by room guide gives a key to mastering bohemian style- something that is often perceived as hard to get right simply because it lacks hard and fast design rules.

The book is dotted with wonderful images that will inspire the reader to create their own bohemian home.

Kate Young is a freelance interior stylist, blogger, social media influencer and writer. Her enormously successful Scandi-Boho blog, Kate Young Design, was nominated for Cosmopolitan Blog of the Year in 2015, and her  home has been featured in various publications, including EKBB Mag, and Abigail Ahern’s Interior Crush.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

KIT KEMP design threads

This, Kit Kemp’s third book, and it is about weaving together spaces that are dynamic and diverse in their own right, but with a thread of creative connection running through each and every one, so as to create a house or hotel that resonates as a harmonious whole. The book explores the outside spaces that have become rooms in themselves – places to sit and breathe and just be. In contrast, the fun of designing an hotel’s event spaces is in creating rooms that entice, inspire and transport you to somewhere else altogether. The townhouse and pied à terre featured here are proof that you don’t need to have huge rooms to create interesting spaces –it’s about playing with light and interesting textures, mixed in with all your favourite things, that make it feel so personal and perfect.

As she says in her introduction

‘I like my interiors to capture the imagination in some shape or form. When you leave a room, something should stay with you, making you want to return, if only to recapture that magical spell all over again.

My interiors might have a handwritten and distinctive style, but it is an adventure to create a new room.

There is always a new fabric or craft to discover, a new vista to be revealed, a little treasure to unearth.

Most of all, I want a room to last – if it is lovingly created and beautifully detailed, it will forever be a joy. Happy moments and treasured memories are integral to our comfort and surroundings.

To be curious is important. To want to pick up a plate and turn it over to see where it’s from or touch an interesting fabric on a curtain or footstool, to feel the raise of its weave and the softness of its yarn, is all part of immersing yourself in an object’s story.

I love to watch the people in our hotels stop in their tracks to look at something that’s caught their eye. I’m always looking for pieces that tell a unique story –maybe of a person or a time in history, of a particular handcrafted technique, or even just something with a combination of colour or pattern, or a found object re-purposed in an unusual way, that takes you unawares.

These are the ‘design threads’ I like to weave throughout all the interiors I design, whether it’s a living room at home or a bedroom in a hotel, a pied à terre or writer’s escape in a shepherd’s hut at the bottom of the garden.

A beach bar inspired the Caribbean vibe of the showroom I was asked to design for Turnell & Gigon in the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour. The folkloric motifs that pepper so much of

what I do, from fabrics with Chelsea Textiles to room murals created in collaboration with artist Melissa White, have now come full circle in a new collection of fabrics and wallpapers with Andrew Martin, a second dinner service with Wedgwood and even the interiors of my own colourful little shepherd’s hut. Nature has always provided huge inspiration for the way I team colour palette and pattern, so it’s always a joy to ‘bring the outside in’ to many of the rooms I design.’

Kit quotes Virginia Woolf’s book, A Room of One’s Own, As well as giving us one of the greatest feminist debates about women and fiction, equality and women’s rights, it also left us with the valuable notion that, if you do not have a comfortable room and feel at ease with your surroundings, it is much more difficult to be creative.

Creating comfortable, functional and well-designed interiors is not rocket science, but it is very often misunderstood and underrated. Having a pleasant and happy room of one’s own is important for our wellbeing. To be able to turn the key in the lock and find oneself surrounded by much-loved objects and the colours that make us feel cheerful must surely be one of life’s greatest luxuries. To illustrate the point, Kit’s first chapter

explores an elegant townhouse in London. It is colourful and

finely detailed to make the most of every space. There is a winding path to the front door painted in ‘Invisible Green’, where tumbling plants and climbers soften the entrance. The sash windows are painted a softer green against the white of the walls. The French windows in the drawing room lead out to a small round table, perfect for drinks on a sunny evening.

Inside the front door, in contrast to the green outside, is a bright yellow walling fabric by Pierre Frey, disguising the cupboards for storage and coats

For the second chapter of the book called Making an Entrance Kit chooses to show case her design for The Whitby Hotel in Manhattan. Apart from negotiating the engineering and architectural plans, her major concern was to create a space that would pique the curiosity, delight all the senses in an adventurous and colourful way, and make visiting or staying a worthwhile experience.

The book shows her designs for both Wedgewood and Andrew Martin. A Manhattan Penthouse, a pied à terre , gardens, a Beach Bar and creating a collection are all featured. And a final chapter called Sleeping Around. Another plus for me is the book is dotted with recipes in the same way that Nora Ephron’s ‘Heart Burn’ novel was. This book will take pride of place on your coffee table and is a total inspiration if you are doing up a house or even just a room.

By Kit Kemp with Fiona McCarthy

Photography by Simon Brown

Published by Hardie Grant