JELLY MOULDS – HOMES & ANTIQUES

Titillating towers, ceramic armadillos and quivering copper stars – check out the new April issue of Homes & Antiques magazine for eight pages of wibbly wobbly fun…

ellie tennant homes and antiques jelly mouldsI loved writing this feature and chatted to some very passionate and helpful jelly experts in the process such as food historian Ivan Day and food stylist Silvana de Soissons. The accompanying shots by Lisa Brown and Joanna Henderson are beautiful – Georgian-inspired, but with contemporary details from Thornback and Peel and top jelly-mongers Bompas and Parr.

Filed in: LA BROCANTE (AKA VINTAGE TAT), ON THE BOOK SHELF, TREND AHOY
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SUBLIME INTERIORS AT KETTLE’S YARD

Tucked away in a secret courtyard in the heart of bustling Cambridge, is a tranquil sanctuary: Kettle’s Yard. You can easily miss the entrance – it’s a simple door, with a bell pull that you have to pull, but no instruction telling you to do so. This feels like a sort of test – that only the most curious and adventurous souls will pass…

kettles yard ellie tennant highlights‘The Louvre of the Pebble’ is, in fact, a humble house, very long and thin – three ancient cottages cobbled together with an airy 1970s extension on one end. The floorboards are bare, the walls are white and the ambience throughout is heavenly.

kettles yard in cambridge louvre of the pebbleBetween 1958 and 1973, this was the home of Jim and Helen Ede. In the 1920s and 1930s, Jim was a curator at the Tate Gallery in London and accumulated an impressive collection of art including paintings by Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood, and sculptures by the likes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. In 1966, he generously gave the house and its entire contents to the University of Cambridge and, today, every afternoon (except for Mondays) visitors can still ring the bell and look around for free.

cambridge kettles yardThis calming, soothing space has been carefully-curated with artworks and beautiful ‘stray objects’ found in nature, such as stones, shells, feathers, pieces of coral and driftwood. The rooms today are exactly as he left them, with subtle patterns, rhythms and hidden meanings at every turn. Here, you glimpse the scalloped edge of a crystal vase which echoes a shape in a painting; opposite, a spiral of pebbles seems to mirror the unfathomably-perfect shells in a bowl, conjuring thoughts of golden spirals, Fibonacci, the ebb and flow of the entire mysterious universe and the harmony and unity that is there to be found, if we seek it.

Kettle’s Yard wasn’t intended to be an art gallery or a museum but rather, in Jim’s words, ‘…a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.’

It’s hard to explain such a powerful interior in words, as so much of the experience relies upon your own interpretation of the space and there are so many variables – the angle of the sunlight streaming in through the windows, your mood, the time of day, the season – but it’s by far the most interesting and peaceful home I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring. One huge white wall is framed, like a stage in a theatre, with curtain-like creeping plants at one end and an enormous hand-woven rug at the other. With man-made artisanal beauty to your right and mother nature’s ever-evolving art to your left, you stand, centre stage, with a blank canvas before you – like life itself – stretching ahead, filled with infinite possibility. You are the artist. What you fill it with is up to you…

kettles yard

 

Filed in: OOT AND ABOOT
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MINERAL + VEGETABLE

Mineral and vegetableClockwise from top left: My ‘new’ vintage kettle, £10, from The Foodie Bugle Shop; Fresh rosemary from our allotment; Green granite chopping board, spotted at Maison & Objet, by Louise Roe Copenhagen; A pleasing pebble on my window sill.

 

Filed in: SHOPPING: HIGH END
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MAISON ET OBJET TRENDS: JANUARY 2014

maison objet ellie tennant paris 2014.jpgYou can check out my trends reports for American design site Apartment Therapy, if you’re that way inclined. This month, I scoured the Paris show for KEY TRENDS, MICRO TRENDS and also reviewed the CURATED SPACES.

maison obet 2014 trends

Filed in: OOT AND ABOOT, SPRING / SUMMER 2014, TREND AHOY
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WINTER TREATS

winter finds ellie tennantClockwise from top left: 1950s ‘Tinsel Flitters’ – vintage glitter; Woollen mittens, hand-knitted in Iceland; Welsh blanket print oil cloth, Adra; French market basket liners I made using Wiltshire and Mitsi Tana Lawn fabric, Liberty.

Filed in: LA BROCANTE (AKA VINTAGE TAT), SHOPPING: ONLINE, THAT'S CRAFTY
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THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

As US homeware giant West Elm prepares to open its first London branch next week and cult store Anthropologie spreads the upscale-boho vibe out-of-town to straight-laced Surrey, it seems we British are having a fling with all-American ‘décor’ brands.

Post-recession, American brands are flooding to the UK and making waves on British high streets. Well, not always making waves. Fashion label J Crew made more of a ripple with a deliberately low key (and effortlessly cool, natch) entry to the country by nestling in discreetly among the independent boutiques on London’s trendy Lambs Conduit Street. Those bearded J Crew dudes don’t even have a sign, they’re so darn keen to blend in.

Meanwhile, across town, there was a much louder fanfare; Regent Street is still strewn with banners from the experiential ‘all-American block party’ (complete with cheer leaders) that was held earlier this autumn to celebrate the NFL International Series games at London’s Wembley Stadium.

We are, it seems, enjoying ‘The Special Relationship’ – and nowhere is this more evident than in the interiors sector.

The love affair has been brewing for a few years now, since trend-setting Jonathan Adler caused a stir in notoriously-not-that-groovy Chelsea back in 2011 by opening his ‘Happy Chic’ boutique on Sloane Avenue with the slogan: ‘YOUR 24-HOUR POT DEALER’ plastered across the windows.

Others soon joined in. Since arriving on these shores in 2009, US hipster brand Anthropologie has sold so many ‘quirky teacups’ and ‘whimsical knobs’ on King’s Road and Regent Street that it can afford to open a new Guildford branch in a shop formerly occupied by Habitat – just saying. Even New York designer John Derian has paid us a visit to introduce his new Provincetown candle collection to Liberty, so our homes can smell of the East Coast…

Perhaps the recovering economy, combined with the power of online influencers – bloggers, websites, digital magazines – and the increasing might of social media, has boosted brands’ confidence. It’s no longer a leap in the dark; Now, companies can test the waters in advance and prepare customers before making the scary jump across The Pond. West Elm, for example, got us salivating last year by teaming up with British designers such as Sarah Campbell and introducing international shipping on their American website.

On Tottenham Court Road, West Elm’s new neighbours will include Habitat and Heal’s – British brands that are both trying their hardest to be fashion-forward during difficult times. The appointment of Polly Dickens at Habitat (fresh from being Design Director at Anthropologie, incidentally) means the focus there is shifting to more affordable but increasingly-exciting design season-by-season, while Heal’s has been pulling every trick imaginable out of the bag to remain relevant, including a recent in-store Silent Opera* evening. (*which Gok Wan attended. Honestly.)

It’s going to be tough. Feathers will be ruffled. West Elm is Williams Sonoma’s coolest kid and these guys mean business. The brand collaborates with top bloggers and cutting-edge designers such as Shanna Murray and has a knack of scooping up the trendies before they themselves even realise they’re ‘in’. As if that wasn’t enough, the new shop even has, like, a totes-on-trend living wall (a la Anthropologie Regent Street).

Does this mean that UK brands will have to up their game? Let’s hope so. I write this at a time when ‘top designer’ Holly Willoughby has just launched her debut home collection (think shabby-chic, frills and lace and yawn) at BHS. Say. No. More.

The move across The Pond doesn’t always work of course. US brand Dwell Studio (hastily renamed ‘Living by Christiane Lemieux’ after UK shop Dwell complained) – popped across last year but is struggling to sell via House of Fraser according to insiders, despite designers shrinking all the furniture to fit smaller UK homes and an impressive PR campaign. ‘Most people in the UK just don’t know who Christiane is,’ one leading retail expert told me.

Meanwhile, some industry old-schoolers haven’t even heard of the new kid on the block yet. ‘West what?’ asked a senior interiors PR manager at a recent meeting when the subject came up, adding, dismissively: ‘Never heard of them.’

So, perhaps we’re not all ready yet, but the younger, pin-happy-snap-chatting generation is clamouring for US style. This is not an invasion – it’s more of a rescue. The British high street’s home collections have been painfully safe throughout the recession, but now’s the time for change. Surely we can do better than bulk-buying cushions plastered with owl motifs and ‘keep calm’ crap from China again and again. Somehow, it all feels so five years ago…and has done, for about five years.

Even Terence Conran – who was once at the helm of the Habitat revolution – has jumped ship to design a sell-out capsule collection for US high street department store JC Penney this year. But it works both ways, too – some British brands that have their finger on the pulse are bravely making the move in the opposite direction, such as Sofa.com which has just opened a shop in New York, thanks to building up an American fan base online in advance.

So, watch out, Holly. It’s a global game these days, baby.

Filed in: OOT AND ABOOT, SHOPPING: HIGH STREET, SHOPPING: ONLINE
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JAM JAR LIGHTS BY LOREN MANQUILLET

Young French designer Loren Manquillet has created these clever light fittings that you can personalise with your own Bonne Maman jam jars. She plans to sell the fixtures for under 50 Euros each and showed them at the recent NOW! le Off exhibition in Paris. She has made both table lamps and ceiling pendant designs – very clever and a great way to recycle glass jars at home, too.

 

Filed in: AUTUMN / WINTER 2013, OOT AND ABOOT, THAT'S CRAFTY
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STRANGELY SIMILAR: ASDA AND H&M

If you like monochrome vintage maps of New York, you’re in luck this Autumn/Winter…

1: ASDA New York Map bedlinen; 2: ASDA New York Map cushion; 3: H&M New York Map tray; 4: H&M New York Map bedlinen; 5: H&M New York Map bedlinen.

Filed in: AUTUMN / WINTER 2013, SHOPPING: HIGH STREET, STRANGELY SIMILAR
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MIND THE GAP – TFL TEAMS UP WITH FIRED EARTH

Ignore the mice scurrying along the tracks, your snot turning black thanks to sooty blasts of filthy air, the nose-to-armpit-rush-hour-squeeze, the excessive ticket prices and the unbearable all-year-round heat; The London Underground has some of the most beautiful wall tiles in the world, which make any journey beneath the city much more bearable…

From classic signs such as  ’PICCADILLY CIRCUS’, ‘THE WAY OUT’ and ‘MIND THE GAP’ to ornate Edwardian dado borders and colourful ‘metro’ rectangular tiles inspired by Kennington station, the new ‘Underground 150′ collection of wall tiles features some stunning designs – the results of a new collaboration between Fired Earth and Transport For London to celebrate 150 years of the London Underground. They’ve been made using the original moulds in Shropshire, at the same pottery where the original tiles were manufactured back in the day…

…and are available from August.

 

Filed in: SHOPPING: HIGH END, SPRING / SUMMER 2013
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EMMA BRIDGEWATER ON THE ‘SAD AND CURIOUS’ STATE OF OUR SHOPS

The interview does not begin well. My iPhone battery is low, so I use my landline, usually strictly reserved for friends and family. When I call her, she doesn’t pick up, but calls me straight back, just as I am at the door signing for a delivery. ‘HEY, HOW YA DOIN’? SORRY YOU CAN’T GET THROUGH. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR NAME, AND YOUR NUMBER, THEN ELLIE AND ROB WILL GET BACK TO YOU…’

Our De La Soul answer phone ‘rap’ echoes through the house. And Emma Bridgewater is listening to it. CRINGE, as they say.

Luckily, after the tone, I hear a chuckle and am relieved to discover that she has a great sense of humour. Or perhaps she is laughing at, not with. Anyway. After the apologies, and the interview, I ask her what the secret of her success is. Her business is now worth £14 million and her early pottery designs are highly collectable, fetching huge sums at auction. Does she ever peep at her own work on eBay?

‘Oh, God, yes!’ she confesses. ‘I’m only human. It’s so exciting and I’m immensely flattered that people collect the early stuff, but it’s not that surprising to me, because we do something of which there is not an awful lot left. We design and make in the UK.’

Emma despairs of the mass-produced homewares that fill the shelves of British high street shops today. ‘When you look at our products in the shops – they look very different from everything else there, because the way most things are designed now is by a highly-evolved buying team. They put together a moodboard of things they want their products to look a bit like. They flick through the mags and Google images – come up with some asinine ideas such as: ‘let’s go for a Chinese look’, or ‘let’s do blue’, then they take it off to a factory somewhere abroad where somebody – who has no connection to their customers – comes up with some stuff for them. And so, surprise, surprise, our products have a different effect on people.’

Emma is quick to point out that not all homewares that are made abroad are essentially bad. ‘The collections are often very beautifully thought through and the store buyers can be very rigorous about what they buy and all that. But they’ve absolutely ironed out the personal – all the idiosyncrasies.’

It’s the tableware offering that worries Emma the most. ‘When I go around the china departments in big shops now, I think to myself that it’s sad and curious we don’t have that rich diversity of Staffordshire tableware that we’ve had for 200 years.’ She’s right. Even blue and white Cornishware – so traditionally British – is actually ‘Made-In-China-ware’ these days. ‘There are discussions about bringing production back to the UK in the future,’ assures the PR. But still, of course, it’s much cheaper not to.

Just as Emma arrived in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1980s, she tells me, most of the other potteries were ‘chucking in the dish cloth’. Today, she is drawn to 1960s pottery that, when she was younger, she thought she’d never like. ‘We’re talking the soapware stuff,’ she says. ‘Marvellously crazy 1960s shapes, decorated with bright turquoise patterns and sunflowers and so on – I used to hate things like that but now, I love them so much.’ Why the change of heart? ‘They have a kind of charm. Largely because they represent a phenomenon that has gone. This country made tableware for the world – in loads and loads of independent factories. But, sadly, it’s almost all stopped. Bang.’

Filed in: INNIT, THOUGH, SHOPPING: HIGH STREET
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