I came across Julie Stevens’ wonderful brocante store, Grey To Green Home, at a Dorset emporium when I was on my way to another interview. After tracking her down (and buying one of her oyster baskets), I persuaded her to let me write about her home. There is something about her way of putting a look together that I can’t help but admire. Books in jars shouldn’t work – but they do. And how.
When I was asked by Hampshire Life if I’d like to interview Joanna Trollope prior to her appearance at the Winchester Festival, I nearly bit their hand off. She gave me the most wonderful interview, and has the kind of voice you could listen to all day. You can read the piece here: Hampshire Life Trollope
This issue also features my interview with Matt Tomkinson, Head Chef at The Montagu Arms Hotel in Beaulieu. Matt is a Roux Scholar and the world’s politest man but even he had a ‘Gordon Ramsey’ moment on finding out he’d been awarded this prestigious prize!
I visited Flow a couple of years ago and was blown away by their considered, thoughtful exhibitions of the most unusual contemporary crafts. Well, they’re at it again, this time with the Reed Contemporary Books exhibition from September 5-7. If you love books, love paper, love origami, this is the exhibition for you.
Having been lucky enough to know Pearl for a while, and to publish her beautiful homes for Sunday Times Style, Guardian Weekend and the Daily Telegraph, I was thrilled to receive a copy of her new book. Unlike many similar publications this is a wonderful mix of the simple and the more complicated; from the white lace mini-bunting to her vintage tiles, there really is a project for everyone, talent as well as time-wise. I especially like the way the book is ordered by rooms; so often you can start a craft project and then just run out of steam because you can’t imagine where you will put it, or where it will fit in. By having chapters relating to each room you can see from the start where your cushion, wallpaper chains or decoupage magazine holder will go. Using her own home for the lavish photographs helps, too, because you can see exactly how Pearl interprets what she has made for her personal surroundings.
She gives good tips on sourcing salvage and vintage items and includes a generous directory of her favourite hunting grounds as well as templates for cut-outs and for simple cross-stitch. Her ideas are fresh, too; it’s definitely not the same-old, same-old. For my money the best project of all is her Opulent Office in a Wardrobe. This ‘slightly mad idea’, as Pearl puts it, deserves to catch on. Her wardrobe office is decorated with sumptuous wallpaper offcuts, a magazine holder and a cream Bakelite phone. But there’s no reason why this brilliant idea couldn’t be adapted for any home; with a coastal theme for a seaside house, or with slightly less embellishment for a house painted in neutrals and the instructions are pleasingly simple and clear. Of all her ideas, that’s the one I’m convinced will capture the most imaginations because it’s so different and so clever.
*Pearl Lowe’s Vintage Craft is published by Collins @ £20
Annie Sloan has written more than 20 books and her latest, a step-by-step guide to 40 paint projects, is surely one of the best. Annie seems to instinctively know how much we want to achieve the look she has made her trademark and has featured some fabulous projects; from the simple (How to achieve her signature distressed look on an old armoire), to the more complicated (how to stencil a wall.) There are huge projects and half-day projects, all gathered into six subject areas; French Style, Boho Chic, Swedish Style, Country and Contemporary.
I loved her painted cabinet, with it’s nod to the style of Charleston Farmhouse, and the painted lamp-bases. I was less keen on the contemporary projects but maybe I’m not ready for a lot of bold, clashing colours and stripes just yet!
Where the book particularly scores is its robust introduction to the use of colour; you really feel that Annie is letting you into her best secrets, generously dispensing advice and tips. And she likes to surprise her readers, too…did you know you can dye old linen sheets with Annie’s products? I didn’t so it was a fascinating project to see in a book like this, entirely befitting the mistress of paint innovation.
*Colour Recipes For Painted Furniture And More by Annie Sloan is published by Cico Books, £14.99
In recent years the idea of French decor has tended to cluster round the statement armoire, the terracotta tiled floors of the classic mas, the ever-so-slightly battered Bergere bed and the monogrammed linen of the chateau. So what a joy, then, to be asked to review Romantic French Homes, the new book by writer Lanie Goodman with photographs by Simon Brown.
Yes, there are plenty of armoires, artifacts and sumptuous parquet on display. But the cliches of French decor are left far behind as they take you to assorted chateaux, bastides, and maisons bohemes and paysannes, spanning the entire breadth and width of the nation. Because there is no singular French style; how can there be when to live in France can mean anything from occupying a giant rural mansion, hunkering down in an Alpine village, to seeking shelter from the searing summers of Provence?
This book lays out the true spirit behind the French way of using their spaces; for cooking, relaxing or formal entertaining. It also takes care to explain how the homes’ various owners created their look. I especially liked the restraint shown by French orchestra conductor Emmanuel, in realising that the best thing about his Montmartre atelier was its view of the Sacre Coeur basilica, and arranging his living space accordingly.
Another joy are Lanie’s well-chosen words. Who wouldn’t want to live in a home where; ‘The owners were advised to lime-render the walls with a special mix of lavender and hemp, a frequently used technique of the region’?
If it’s inspiration you seek, or you’re looking to re-create some of what you’ve seen on your French holiday, this is certainly the book to guide your endeavours and nurture your dreams.