I am a freelance interiors journalist, working for a range of UK magazines. Click here to view my portfolio of published work.
Click here to order my new book: Design Bloggers At Home, published by Ryland Peters and Small.
You can SEE A PREVIEW of one of the homes featured in the book on The Guardian website, there was a lovely feature about it in The New York Times, and it's been featured in many other titles, including You (The Daily Mail), Stella (Sunday Telegraph), Elle Decoration, Country Homes & Interiors, Homes & Antiques, Grazia, Marie Claire, Mollie Makes, Good Homes, Redbook (USA), Country Living (USA), Red - Hearst Home (Italy) and Psychologies.
See our London home in Homes & Antiques.
See our Cotswold wedding in Elle Marriage (Japan), Mollie Makes magazine and on the Liberty blog.
See inside my drawers (not in that way) via Good Homes magazine.
Check out the trends I spotted at Maison & Objet for Apartment Therapy.
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I do like a rustic utensil. And, what with bearded ‘Barn the Spoon’ a-whittlin’ away over in East London, Hachet and Bear carving cute coffee scoops down in the south-west and Herriot Grace spooning around in Canada, I’ve had a growing desire to give spoon whittling a go…
After all, how hard can it be? (Pretty hard, it turns out.)
And so it was, on a cold, winters day, a group of us gathered together in a manger (we really did) for a festive spoon whittling session.
Despite the best efforts of our excellent and experienced carpentry tutor – the sort of chap who bodges chairs for fun in the forest, hand-crafts all his own woodworking tools and can knock up a set of ladles in a weekend – I managed to shred my hands to ribbons fairly early on, but gaffa-taped them up so as not to ‘stain the spoon’. (This is not best practice, but it did the trick).
We were using locally-foraged walnut, which is a hardwood, and, well, pretty hard to whittle. We started off by splitting a log in half, drawing a rudimentary spoon shape on the flat surface with a pencil and hacking off the edges with an axe. Then, we got down to whittling.
It took a while. After four hours I had created a sort of club, which, to be honest, looks more like a hair brush than a spoon. It is definitely a ‘work-in-progress’.
Now it’s in the freezer, to keep the wood fresh until my hands have healed and I’m ready to finish it. It’s completely un-usable at present, but it has been the source of much merriment among my dear friends and family. So that’s nice.
Scratched that itch. Finally treated myself to some completely unnecessary yet great value solid marble chopping boards (£12 each, BHS) that I’ve been eyeing up for around six months and trying in vain to ignore. Limitless styling prop potential = surely tax deductible? Hmm. Just add a little leather thong. Not that kind.
It’s definitely cold enough in our house now to start lighting fires in the evenings. To get our logs roaring, I make these easy firelighters every autumn using pine cones, cheap tea lights (such as GLIMMA, £1.75 for 100 from IKEA) and paper cupcake cases. Lift the wax tealight candles out of their metal holders, place them in paper cupcake cases (on a baking tray) and put them in a very low oven to gently melt. Once the wax is liquid, carefully move the wicks to the edges of the cases and remove the metal discs that are at the base of the wicks using a wooden skewer or a cocktail stick (so you don’t burn your finger!) Lastly, pop a pine cone into each case, let the wax cool and set hard, remove the cases – and voila. You can buy these in some shops at £12.75 (plus P&P) for 12! Pah!
Ah, Autumn. L’automne. C’est un saison de mistes et mellow fruitfulness, etcetera, et bien sur, le cassoulet. Mmm. Cassoulet. Avec les haricots, et les saucisses, et le canard – c’est comme un ‘bean stew’, mais pas exactement. This dish delicieux from Castelnaudary in the south west corner of la belle France is best cooked and served dans a ‘cassole’ – preferablement one made by the artisans chez ‘Poterie Not‘…
Franglais aside, Poterie Not is one of the oldest potteries in the south of France and was taken over by the Not family in 1947. Nowadays, the workforce consists of two brothers and a cousin – Robert, Jean-Pierre and Philippe Not – who dig up clay from behind the building and expertly model it into rustic ‘Cassoles’ – Cassoulet bowls. You can see them in action on this film and on this one, too. It’s mesmerising to watch them at work.
Their rustic studio is on the banks of the Canal du Midi near the village of Mas Sainte Puelle and it’s well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. Every Cassole is stamped with the Poterie Not Frères mark and glazed inside but left rough and unglazed on the exterior; I love the hasty, careless fashion with which the glaze is slapped on – it often trickles down the edges of the bowl, in fact. This is fuss-free, no-frills craft at its best, resulting in imperfect yet functional and incredibly beautiful pieces.
Cassoulet itself has a fascinating history. During the 100 Years War in the 14th century, Edward the Black Prince besieged the town of Castelnaudary. According to legend, when the inhabitants were down to their last supplies they scraped together what was left – beans and meat – and ate the resulting mixture. Fortified by cassoulet, they soon got rid of the English, who retreated back to England where they belonged, the cheeky beggars.
A lot of wood is needed to fire up the enormous kiln! The Aude region dwellers are very proud of their famous dish and there’s even a ‘Grand Brotherhood of Cassoulet’ (Grande Confrerie du Cassoulet) – a rather mysterious group of be-robed fanatics who dedicate their lives to preserving the ancient traditions of cassoulet cooking and promoting the official recipe. It’s all a bit Knight’s Templar. It’s cheap to buy bowls directly from the pottery (a large one is about 15 Euros), but they only sell wholesale, so their Cassoles cost a bit more online. You can buy them from Le Marche au Naturel, along with white haricot beans for making cassoulet and tins of the readymade stuff, to be warmed up on winter evenings when you can’t be bothered to cook. Team it with a good, rich, red wine et voila. Parfait, cheri.
Artisanal skills and exciting new ethical design brands stood out for me at Tent London and designjunction this week. Clockwise, from top left: Recycled, hand-made glass and hammered brass cups made in East Africa, via innovative new fair-trade studio, Otago; New, tactile wooden stacking bowls from Chilean brand Bravo; This elegant ‘Carvel’ chair in wind-felled larch is inspired by Irish boat-making. Designed by architect Andrew Clancy (under his new design label, Déanta Design) and made by Matthew O’Malley, it is part of the beautiful Design and Crafts Council Ireland ‘Weathering’ exhibition. (Many of the exhibitors have their work stocked by Makers & Brothers, which is well worth a peep); Hand-crafted accessories in oak and cherry from new eco-friendly studio Tanti (an archaic word for ‘worthwhile’) which has just launched in Leicestershire and uses sustainably-sourced British wood.
It was also a real treat to see the new Common Thread project rugs from inspiring Moroccan collective, Anou, created in collaboration with designer Sabrina Kraus Lopez via the British Council. Such beautiful designs, so intricately woven.
Designer Merrick Angle, of Double Merrick fame, kindly gave me a whistle-stop tour of some of his favourite French brocantes (junk shops) this summer. We explored a huge secondhand shop called Le Monde Allant Vers (in Eymoutiers, Limousin region) and an amazing once-a-week pop-up Le Secours Populaire charity shop, housed in an old holiday camp (which was pretty cool in itself!) in Treignac…
I bought a kitsch 1960s framed Mary photo (for just 1 Euro), a pretty ‘caramels au miel pur des Alpes’ toffee tin and a fabulous old wedding photograph filled with fascinating characters, some of whom are posing at the windows:
Merrick’s eclectic home is a treasure trove of inspiring vintage finds as you might imagine if you’re familiar with his retro-inspired prints. Check out his chic ‘Chicoree’ storage tin and this fabulously melodramatic old advert…