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Join me here in explorations of the places and people who inspire my passion for interiors. I’m always on the hunt for outstanding design, ancient, modern, natural and crafted.





May 16th, 2017


A Weaver’s Tale

In these uncertain economic times, it’s inspirational to come across a man like Roger Oates. His quiet passion for weaving became a thriving business. He’s spent the last forty years making a living doing what he most loves. This month he came to the Fashion and Textile Museum in London to talk with Giles Kime, Interiors Editor of Country Life and I went along.

Roger Oates and Giles Kime, Interior Design Seminar

Roger Oates and Giles Kime

He began in the 70s weaving rugs as an antidote to the ubiquitous fitted carpet.

Early rug, Roger Oates

Early rug, Roger Oates

He started developing longer rugs for hallways and eventually his style evolved…

Early runner, Roger Oates

Early runner, Roger Oates

Into the contemporary classic stair runners which are now his signature designs.

My first Roger Oates runner

My first Roger Oates stair runner, “Sudbury Brick” design

He loves the idea of taking a complete unit (the stair runner) and finding the endless variables within it. Oates still works with pure wool on hand looms and the traditional flatweave process he favours. By changing his colours, stripes and borders, he doesn’t follow trends but creates a timeless product that constantly appeals. He reminds us that we can afford to be bold with hallway colour schemes and designs, because entrances are there to make an impact and welcome us – we don’t live in them.

Chatham Mallow - Roger Oates Design

Chatham Mallow – Roger Oates Design

One of my favourite contemporary designs: Fitzroy Bright - Roger Oates Design

One of my favourite contemporary designs: Fitzroy Bright – Roger Oates Design

April 6th, 2017


The Josef Frank exhibition; Swedish design doesn’t have to be minimal and restrained

I recently spent an amazing couple of hours at the first ever UK exhibition of Josef Frank textiles at the London Fashion and Textile Museum. When I think Swedish design, I usually imagine a pared back and neutral Scandinavian look with minimal pattern and colour. I was therefore keen to see how Josef Frank’s bright and vividly pattered textiles fall into the mix.

For anyone who hasn’t come across Frank, he was an Austrian born architect. He fled to Sweden with his Swedish wife in 1933 due to growing anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism. He was later hired by Estrid Erickson, the founder of Swedish design firm Svenskt Tenn. Amazingly at the age of 50, he began to design both furniture and textiles and became one of Sweden’s most iconic designers. He produced over 2,000 pieces of furniture, as well as carpets, wallpapers and textile designs.

Room set for Josef Frank exhibtion

This room set literally sets the scene for many of Frank’s ideals, he felt that “a home should be cosy and comfortable and above all adapted to the wishes of the inhabitants… soft sofas, beautiful hardwoods and fabrics featuring splendid patterns in a multitude of colours made a home into a haven and a place to recuperate.”

He had some interesting theories and design rules. Highly pattered surfaces and fabrics are more calming than plain ones. He believed that pattern forced you to slow down to be able to take it all in, whereas a neutral or monochrome scheme was over in a flash, with little to remember.

"Dixieland" print by Josef Frank

“Dixieland” print by Josef Frank

Most of the designs have three things in common. They are inspired by nature, memorable for the huge “pattern repeats” and feature dazzlingly bright colours. Here are a few personal favourites.

"Italian Dinner" by Josef Frank

“Italian Dinner” by Josef Frank. In this pattern all the fruits and vegetables needed for an Italian Dinner are seen growing on the same branches. In the stream beneath are the fish, mussels, crayfish and squid needed to complete the meal. Even garlic can be found growing on the branches.

Perhaps one of his best know prints "Manhattan" by Josef Frank

Perhaps one of his best know prints “Manhattan” by Josef Frank

Tulips

“Tulips”! by Josef Frank

December 31st, 2016


My Top “Interior Design Titles” for 2017 – reading list for a rainy New Year’s day

Has your annual New Year’s Day walk been scuppered by the cold and rain? If ever there was weather to inspire us to pay more attention to the world indoors, it’s this. I’ve put together a design reading list and now is the season to curl up on the sofa and start planning your spring renovations.

First on my list for you is…

SHADES of GREY by Kate Watson-Smyth

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Being a Brit and having lived in the UK all my life, I struggle with why so many people seem to want to paint their homes grey at the moment, when (according to Yahoo) the UK enjoys 255.5 grey overcast days per year! I watched in amazement as paint specialist Little Greene launched 28 shades of grey and paint giant Dulux apparently now has no less than 557 “greys” to choose from. I’m also amazed that anyone has managed to write 175 pages on the subject, but what a good read and visual feast this book is. It’s humorous and pacey, in the style of Kate Watson-Smyth’s blog, that many of us know and love.

If you want to embrace “Grey” in your next round of decorating, it’s a “must-read”.  Kate explores the best ways to incorporate grey into you home and guides you through the mass of options out there. There are lots of useful explanations on how to understand the science behind the undertones that change, depending on the light in the room and how to pick that perfect shade. The book also tackles the question of “will decorating in Grey make me depressed?”

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Most of all, I liked this one as Kate offers up some theories, quite credible ones, as to what led to the trend to decorate in grey. Did you know that it was actually the combination of the humble light bulb and Ikea that forced magnolia and builder’s beige from favourite colours to hated ones? She argues that we have all been led to gradually replace our incandescent bulbs (which looked great with Magnolia paint) with lower energy halogen, LED or compact fluorescent lamps. With their harsher, cooler and clearer light magnolia looked awful and grey apparently looked cool! Ikea’s role was to sell the bulbs at an affordable price and grey took hold.

Second on the list is…

ENGLISH HOUSES  by Ben Pentreath

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

Regular readers of Ben’s blog will know that he’s primarily an architect and “shop-keeper“, with a more recently launched interior design arm to his bow. He has a flat in London and a parsonage in Dorset, where he lives with his husband Charlie and both feature in the book.

If you dislike “grey”, also minimalism and despair of many current design trends, this one is for you! The main theme of English Houses is “How to avoid decoration perfection”. To explain this, Ben considers some of the pressures currently facing the design industry to deliver designs on a plate, under intense deadlines. The inevitable result is a house that looks like a hotel (desirable for some). He advocates a way of putting rooms together that is calmer, more subtle, an approach to decoration that is unhurried and personal…”the true defining characteristic of the finest English houses.”

The book then features 12 such houses, two belonging to Ben and the other ten to friends, many of whom are leading figures in the design world.

The interiors are visibly lived in, the hearths have real lit fires, and there is comfortable worn furniture. In some of the rooms Ben has even gone to great pains to ensure that the owner’s junk remained in situ for the photography, breaking the usual styling rules!

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

It’s a beautiful book to enjoy and inspire, not a “how-to”. It also includes some very wise words “the qualities that make a building feel loved, generous and welcoming are more to do with the people than with architecture or decoration.”

And finally, if you are looking for a “how-to”, this is the one I would recommend…

THINK HOME by Judith Wilson

Think Home by Judith Wilson

Think Home by Judith Wilson

A bit like Ben Pentreath, Judith Wilson advocates taking things slowly, as all too often people rush into decisions about structural changes and/or new schemes; time spent thinking and planning is never wasted. The reader is encouraged to do just that; think.

Judith’s words and guidance encourage the reader to review carefully the task ahead and avoid rushing into the project without first considering the basics, the existing architecture, and the space and how they want to use it – at this point we would also recommend contacting an interior designer!

Think Home by Judith Wilson

Think Home by Judith Wilson

The book is packed with hints and tips with special sections on storage, art and lighting. The images focus on unusual and interesting interiors, less mainstream and rarely clichéd. It’s become an office staple.

January 1st, 2014


My Top 5 “Interior Design Titles” for 2014 – reading list for a rainy New Year’s day

Was your annual New Year’s Day walk scuppered by mud and rain? If ever there was weather to inspire us to pay more attention to the world indoors, it’s this. I’ve put together a design reading list for a rainy day. Now is the season to curl up on the sofa and start planning your spring renovations.

First on my list for you is…

1)A Living Space” by Kit Kemp – Santa kindly delivered me a copy and it has not disappointed. I first came across Kit Kemp several years ago at a “Homes and Gardens” lecture and can’t resist popping into the hotels (whenever in London with a spare moment) that she has designed for the Firmdale Group co-owned with her husband. Kit was also responsible for the design of the entrance to Decorex this year.

If you are looking to experiment with colour, scale and pattern, but are maybe nervous of making an expensive mistake, this is a must read.  Her signature style also mixes contemporary elements with antiques and junk-shop finds, luxurious fabrics with printed wallpapers and hand finished detailing with collections of simple objects that create impact. “She avoids taking design too seriously”. The images below will give you a flavour of what to expect.

"A Living Space" by Kit Kemp

“A Living Space” by Kit Kemp

One of the drawing rooms in the Soho Hotel by Kit Kemp

One of the drawing rooms in The Soho Hotel by Kit Kemp

2) “Inspired Interiors” by Suzanne Kasler

It is probably fair to say that Suzanne Kasler is less well known in the UK, but I refer to her work over and over again for inspiration with “trimmings”, “dressmakers details” and the way she works with paint – I have only seen her use wallpaper once!

"Inspired Interiors" by Suzanne Kasler

“Inspired Interiors” by Suzanne Kasler

Use of trimmings and dress-makers details by Suzanne Kasler

Use of trimmings and dress-makers details by Suzanne Kasler

3) “Design & The Deocrative Arts” – Georgian Britain – one of the V&A Publications

For anyone looking to renovate a period property (preferably Georgian!) this is a great read as are many of the others in the series… and for any KLC students out there, about to embark on their History of Style thesis, it’s invaluable.

Design and the Decorative Arts -  Georgian Britain, part of the V&A series

Design & The Decorative Arts – Georgian Britain, part of the V&A series

4) “The Iconic Interior” by Dominic Bradbury

This is a mine of both inspiration and information- it features 100 of the world’s “most influential spaces” frequently by artists, designers, architects and fashion personalities etc… Every conceivable style is represented and for me it’s a great reference if you are looking to stay true to a certain style or genre. It also proves that established taste and genuine creativity can stand the test of time. Here are a couple of my favourites; the Coco Chanel appartment in Paris and the Fornasetti Residence.

The Iconic Interior by Dominic Bradbury

The “Iconic Interior” by Dominic Bradbury

Coco Chanel Apartment / Paris, C. 1920

Coco Chanel Apartment / Paris, C. 1920

Fornasetti Residence as shown in the "Iconic Interior" by Dominic

Fornasetti Residence as shown in the “Iconic Interior” by Dominic Bradbury

5) Finally, last but not least, I shall be adding the 25 year celebratory edition of “Elle Decoration” to my library. I’m sure I’ll still be reading this in 25 year’s time and loved the feature on some of the editorial team’s favourite stories from the archives.

"Elle Decoratio"Elle Decoration" 25 years collectors edition

“Elle Decoration” 25 years collectors edition

 

"Elle Decoration" 25 years collectors edition - a selection of features from the archives - this one depicting the trend for Chinoiserie in June 1997

“Elle Decoration” 25 years collector’s edition – a selection of features from the archives – this one depicting the trend for Chinoiserie in June 1997

December 11th, 2013


Why I sometimes like sourcing outside London… “Lewes” in Sussex

One occupational hazard for me is always being on the look-out for interesting places to source items for the home! Whilst it is difficult to rival many parts of London for choice, it’s sometimes good to head further afield, particularly if you are looking for something slightly more unusual.

Last month I wrote about a recent visit to the studio and home of the artist Jessica Zoob in Lewes, Sussex (see  http://hjwhiteinteriordesign.com/one-very-inspirational-space-the-home-of-artist-jessica-zoob/). While I was there I couldn’t help noticing the array of interesting shops along the High Street in Lewes as I drove by and decided to investigate before heading back to Surrey.  I found a great selection of independent interiors shops, many with items at very sensible and non-London prices. There is a good balance between retailers selling more contemporary items and those with a more vintage/country focus. As you head towards the bottom of the high street you are spoiled for choice with antique shops, some better than others, but all worth a good look.  Combine that with a great view of the Sussex countryside from the High Street and it makes both a great alternative to London and a good day out.  Here are the images I took in Lewes, which give you the idea!

High Street, Lewes, Sussex

antique shops in Lewes, Sussex

indpendent  interiors store in Lewes, Sussex

Bookshop in Lewes, Sussex

High Street, Lewes, Sussex

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