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.

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 often wonder 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! Paint specialist Little Greene launched 28 shades of grey and paint giant Dulux now has no less than 557 “greys” to choose from.  In her recently released book “shades of grey”, Kate Watson-Smyth leads us through a journey about our love of grey and gives great tips for using it. It’s a great read and also a visual feast. 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.

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.

October 1st, 2013

Top 5 trends at London Design Week

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of trade shows including Maison et Objet, Decorex and Focus 2013. It has taken me several days to absorb everything and here are some key trends that I see leading the Interior Design world into Autumn/Winter 2013.

1. Taking inspiration from historical designs and styles

Last season the link between Fashion and Interior Design trends was extremely strong. This season many of the fabric and wallpaper houses have looked to the past for inspiration and reinterpreted historical designs with a contemporary spin.

My clear favourites were the new  “Historical Palaces” wallpaper collection by Cole & Son. As the name suggests the fourteen new designs take inspiration from The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace.

Cole & Son Historic Palaces wallpaper

New “Historical Palaces” wallpaper collection from Cole & Son

In a similar vein Zoffany have based their new “Tespi” and “Curzon” collections on the “grandeur of Venice in bygone days”…

The new "Tespi" range from Zoffany based on historical Venice

The new “Tespi” range from Zoffany based on historical Venice


The new “Tespi” range from Zoffany based on historical Venice

2. Grey is here to stay (or is it?)

No one can dispute the current predominance of grey. Paint specialists Little Greene just unveiled their new range of colours at Decorex, twenty eight new shades of grey, and Farrow & Ball have also included five very useful shades of grey in their nine new colours for the Autumn.

The new "GREY" range from Little Greene

The new “GREY” range from paint specialists “Little Greene”

Nine new colours from paint specialists "Farrow & Ball".

Nine new colours from paint specialists “Farrow & Ball”.

New range of "grey-based" wallpapers from Nobilis

New range of “grey-based” wallpapers from Nobilis

However, with the grey British winter imminent, I was secretly relieved to read in Ben Pentreath’s influential blog that he is considering painting his dining room a very bright shade of purple/pink! – I quote “And even more controversially. Check out what I’m doing in the Dining Room. Guys – I’m bored of tasteful greys. THEY ARE OVER.”

Proposed new colour for Ben Pentreath's dining room - is grey here to stay?

Proposed new colour for Ben Pentreath’s dining room – is grey here to stay?

Here is an image of the colour and Ben is very influential so I’m intrigued to see if we will all be abandoning grey when I write again on the trends for Spring 2014…

3. Metals and metallics  – Bronze is the new Black

Trend number three has to be the re-emergence of metallic finishes, most noticeably in fabrics, lighting and also in ironmongery and bathroom design. In terms of the latter I was impressed by the new range from Samuel Heath. It’s called FUSION and literally allows you to combine two or more of their finishes (e.g. bronze and chrome) into a single door fitting. The bronze and chrome work very well together.

New "FUSION" range from Samuel Heath allowing customers to mix and match different finishes

New “FUSION” range from Samuel Heath allowing customers to mix and match different finishes

Samuel Heath

Selection of finishes from the new “FUSION” range from Samuel Heath which can be mixed and matched to make an interesting combination for door handles etc…

4. Pattern and colour are holding their own and technology is enabling some stunning results

Pattern and colour are still featuring strongly in many of the showrooms, although in a more restrained way than earlier in the year. Lewis & Wood won the Homes and Gardens “Best Printed Fabric” award for their boldly patterned “kimono” fabric.  I liked this new range from C&C Milano  as it enables you to introduce pattern and colour in  a fresh and subtle way that will not date.

"Kimono" by Lewis and Wood, winner of the "Homes & Gardens" Best Printed Fabric award

“Kimono” by Lewis and Wood, winner of the “Homes & Gardens” Best Printed Fabric award

Fresh new collection from C&C Milano

Fresh new collection from C&C Milano

In addition, modern technology and printing techniques have enabled fabric house Romo and artist Jessica Zoob to collaborate and transform her paintings into a collection of printed fabrics, wallcovering and cushions – the reproduction detail is excellent. I love these, will be buying some soon for my sofas!

New Jessica Zoob collection of fabrics, wallcoverings and accessories for Romo

New Jessica Zoob collection of fabrics, wallcoverings and accessories for Romo

New Jessica Zoob collection in conjunction with Romo

New Jessica Zoob collection in conjunction with Romo

5. Iconic and quirky designs with a retro/metro feel

Last, but not least, the ongoing need to differentiate with such a vast range of products on offer frequently leads to some clever and unique designs – “Velvets” by Kirby Design being a very good example this season.

"Velvets" by Kirby Design

“Velvets” by Kirby Design

To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground, Kirby design collaborated with Transport for London to recreate five iconic designs originally used for seating fabric across the underground!  Whether or not you want to be reminded of the London Underground in your home, the end result is both eye-catching and original.

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