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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.





August 21st, 2017


A weekend on the tiles…

Have you ever arrived in a European City, ready to go, but wondering where to start and wishing you had read the relevant guidebook in advance? Last week I was tempted to tack on two days in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, before heading south to the beaches. It seemed like a good idea, but I hadn’t read the guidebook. Fortunately, I was quickly distracted by this interiors store http://www.avidaportuguesa.com/. It was so beautifully laid out, it made me want to own a shop.  Above all, it stocked a very helpful small book which suggests you can get to know Lisbon via its most important and well-known artistic legacy, ceramic tiles!

A Vida Portuguesa

A Vida Portuguesa

I chose the route through the old Baixa Chiado district and here is a taste of what I found….

Since the 16th century no other city has produced tiles like Lisbon has. Walking down narrow alleyways, plenty of laundry hanging out to dry in the warm air, it’s hard to not notice the tiles and colours that make Lisbon unique. Almost every building, new and old, is covered in them.

Baxia Chiado "tile trail"

Baxia Chiado “tile trail”

The older and non-restored ones are faded, yet still colourful, the glory of their bygone days showing through.

There are so many patterns and colours you can almost believe that you could cross the city without finding two of the same kind. They are buildings with stories to tell.

Nave panels (1762 - 1766?) in an old church in the Baixa Chiado district

Nave panels (1762 – 1766?) in an old church in the Baixa Chiado district

Even the pavements are beautifully tiled.

A Vida Portuguesa

Pavement detail Lisbon, Portugal

The train stations take a more modern approach to tiling, the ones on the left adorn the metro station next to the main “Commercial Square” and the right-hand image is one of the entrances to the Baixa Chiado shopping area.

Metro stations

Tiling detail on Lisbon Metro Stations

Sometimes the best hotels are the ones which are slightly off the beaten track. I came across this “old palace” on the outskirts of Lisbon, now a hotel, with many original tiles intact. Perfect!

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Hotel Palacio Ramalhete, Lisbon

IMG_6381

Hotel Palacio Ramalhete, Lisbon

October 30th, 2016


The Fabric of Time: Antico Setificio Fiorentino, Florence’s oldest fabric mill

Tucked in the middle of a Florentine back-street, away from the hustle and bustle of tourists and around a 15 minute stroll from the Ponte Vecchio, lies Antico Setificio Fiorentino, the last mill where silk weaves are still produced in the same way as they were during the Silk Road.

Antico Setificio Fiorentino in the ancient San Frediano neighbourhood

Antico Setificio Fiorentino in the ancient San Frediano neighbourhood

To my delight I discovered a workshop straight out of the 18th Century, with 12 pre-industrial looms, 6 hand looms dating from 1786 and 6 semi-mechanical looms dating from the nineteenth century. In the middle of the eighteenth century, several Florentine noble families made the decision to link their fine fabric designs, detailed patterns, weaving looms, warping machines, and energies into a single silk fabric workshop, today’s Antico Setificio Fiorentino.

12 pre-industrial looms, 6 from 1786 and 6 semi-mechanical from the 19th Century

12 pre-industrial looms, 6 from 1786 and 6 semi-mechanical from the 19th Century

The silk yarn, naturally hand-dyed outside Florence (often to customer-specific requirements) is still sorted and then loaded onto bobbins for the warp and weft of the loom on the premises.

Pre-sorting of the silk for the weft and warp of the looms

Pre-sorting of the silk for the warp and weft of the looms

The machine which then prepares the “warp” (the threads on a loom over and under which other threads (the weft) are passed to make cloth) ready to be transferred onto the looms was in fact designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

Designed by Leonardo Da Vinci himself!

Designed by Leonardo Da Vinci himself!

Intricate designs are made possible using punchcard technology which was later copied to programme computers; IBM used it for its first arithmetic machines. Each noble family had their own pattern, assigned at birth and made possible by the encoding on the punchcards. Supporting all this is an onsite “loom technician”, the equivalent of the modern day “VIP IT support” in the office!

The punch cards control the movement of the heddles and hence the manufacture of the design

The punch cards control the movement of the heddles and hence the manufacture of the design

One of the smallest looms is devoted to the creation of intricate fringes and braids.

Loom producing trimmings

Loom producing trimmings

The result is some of the most densely woven and beautiful fabrics I have seen.. the Broccatelli (with its 3 dimensional feel), the Lampasso, the Turkish satin, the pure silk grosgrain…

Whilst staying true to the traditional designs and methods, the addition of vibrant colours brings a contemporary feel to some of the weaves as tastes evolve.

Vibrant colours bring a more contemporary feel to traditional designs.

Vibrant colours bring a more contemporary feel to traditional designs.

The factory was recently purchased by Stefano Ricci and is working on the launch of an online digital catalogue for designers, hopefully we’ll still have an excuse to visit personally. Thank you to Antico Setificio Fiorentino for their hospitality and taking the time to show me around this amazing mill.

August 7th, 2016


The summer slowdown; inspiration, colours and textures from Italy

Late summer and early autumn can be a crazy time for the Interior Design industry. September typically sees the launch of the new season’s products and designs with trade shows such as Decorex and Focus and everything gathers pace rapidly as the schools go back and we all want the decorating to be done before Christmas. I’ve therefore learnt to make the most of and appreciate the summer slowdown. Without time to properly switch off, creativity is stifled. As for inspiration, well that’s nowhere to be found without some sort of break to restore and refresh, being able to truly appreciate your surroundings and drink in the sounds, smells and sights that come with a week away, preferably somewhere warm.

Taking plenty of photos is always on my agenda as that’s one of the things I’ve grown to love through the process of blogging and being able to refer back to them time and time again, when I’m stuck for inspiration.

This summer I was lucky to visit the Italian lakes and also manage “Venice in a day” ahead of a longer trip in the autumn.

I am always mesmerised by the colours and reflections of water…

Colours and reflections of the Italian Lakes and Venice

Colours and reflections of the Italian Lakes and Venice

My lightening trip to Venice, ahead of a longer stay in October, was amazing. Every little corner looks like a painting and if you ever need inspiration for architectural details, colours, textures or a new lantern design, you’ll definitely find it.

Rooftops and Lanterns in Venice

Rooftops and Lanterns in Venice

I was also able to indulge my passion for Italian paper, pasta and window arches!

Arches, Pasta and Italian Paper!

Arches, Pasta and Italian Paper!

July 20th, 2015


Travel Inspiration from Provence

This week I have been lucky enough to have a mini travel adventure around Provence. The lavender fields, roman ruins, sleepy villages and dramatic mountains not only meant endless photo opportunities, but also endless inspiration for colours and textures. A weakness for French Grey and Terracotta has ensued! But clichés aside, its beauty has inspired a number of artists, from Cézanne and Van Gogh to Picasso. I found much of the scenery breath-taking and hope to be able use the inspiration from the landscape one day. For anyone lucky enough to be working on a property in the region or just wanting to add some Provençal touches to an interior design scheme closer to home, here are some of my favourite buildings, views, food and furniture…

Favourite buildings…

Interior design inspiration from Provence

Favourite buildings…

Favourite views… you need to work quite hard to find lavender fields like this one

Interior Design Inspiration from Provence

Favourite views… you need to work quite hard to find lavender fields like this one

More favourite views, this time including Sunflowers, not quite fully blooming yet, despite the daily 36 degrees and cloudless skies

Interior design inspiration from Provence

More favourite views, this time including Sunflowers, not quite fully blooming yet, despite the daily 36 degrees and cloudless skies

Missing this…

Interior Design Inspiration from Provence

Missing this…

A few favourite furniture styles, too many to feature all here

Interior design inspiration from Provence

A few favourite furniture styles, too many to feature all here

And a few favourite “miscellaneous” …

Interior Design Inspiration from Provence

And a few favourite “miscellaneous” …

Finally, last but not least, some of my favourite French signs and advice together with a rather unfortunately named café!

Interior Design Inspiration from Provence

Finally, last but not least, some of my favourite French signs and advice together with a rather unfortunately named café!

October 7th, 2014


More travel inspiration… Paris in the autumn

I’m always intrigued by the rise of the “Boutique Hotel” and its huge influence on residential interior design. So when I was given the chance to spend one of the last weekends of this beautiful Indian summer at the the Hotel Recamier in Paris, I took it!  Arriving at the Gare du Nord, it was an amazing 23 degrees, clear blue skies, yet the trees were already turning orange…Paris in the autumn

We arrived at the Hotel Recamier , a small boutique hotel just next to the Place Saint-Sulpice. I had read a write-up on the hotel in Homes and Gardens magazine and kept it on my “must-visit” list. It didn’t disappoint. Tucked away in a corner of the square, it has great views of the church of Saint-Sulpice  known as the “cathedral of the Rive Gauche”. This was the view of the church, and all its wonderful baroque architecture, from the hotel bedroom balcony.

Hotel Recamier, Place Saint Sulpice
Hotel Recamier, Place Saint Sulpice
Church Saint Sulpice

Church Saint Sulpice

It felt similar to “six storeys of traditional London townhouse”, albeit with a Parisian twist, with quality fixtures, wrought-iron balconies and a great selection of fabrics, all of which could quite easily be used in your own home. Here are some of the design details from the bedrooms (note the use of braiding on cushions, blinds, edging curtains), the lounge and also some space-saving ideas for bathrooms. Many of the fabrics were from Jim Thompson (Check mate), Brunschwig & Fils and Romo. The throws and accessories were from Le Bon Marche (they post to the UK). I loved the use of this simple grosgrain braid to jazz up the roman blinds in the stairwells, you could find very similar at Samuel & Sons.

Hotel Recamier, Place Saint-Sulpice, Paris

Room 51 (!), Hotel Recamier, Paris

Blind detail...

Blind detail…

Lounge and writing desk at the Hotel Recamier

Lounge and writing desk at the Hotel Recamier

Hotel Recamier

The bathrooms were very well designed, given the limited space. I loved the decorative touch of the 40’s style mirrors. I’ve been trying to track one down, it’s the “Goutte” mirror by Hubert Le Gall ?

Space-saving bathroom ideas, Hotel Recamier

Space-saving bathroom ideas, Hotel Recamier

You can imagine my delight on Saturday morning when I woke up to a “flea market” right on the square next to the hotel. No need to head up to the North of Paris then! Purchases were a bit restrained by “will this fit on the Eurostar?”, but one of my great finds was the beautiful designs of a very creative Parisian fashion and textiles student.

Saturday flea market - Place Saint-Sulpice

Saturday flea market – Place Saint-Sulpice

And finally here are a couple of my favourite window displays, hidden among some of the great shops between the Place Saint-Sulpice and the Boulevard St Germain… and the “rooftops” photo I took from the top of the Musee D’Orsay with Sacre Coeur in the background.

hat window display

Window display, Place Saint-Sulpice Paris

Rooftops. Paris in the autumn

Rooftops, Paris in the autumn

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