A Peaceful, Rural Retreat up in the Treetops

Extract from Bold and Bright by Maíra S Teixeira, published by Ryland Peters & Small. 

Located 210 km/130 miles from São Paulo in the state of Minas Gerais, the city of Gonçalves is set against the panoramic backdrop of the Mantiqueira Mountains. This region is famous for its dramatic natural beauty and is rich in lush valleys and plunging waterfalls. It is a popular area for climbers and trekkers, who are drawn to the high peaks and the well-preserved forests full of native flora and fauna. Renowned Brazilian photographer Bob Wolfenson first visited the area more than 20 years ago. A frequent repeat visitor, in 2011 he found the perfect spot for a home in the mountains: ‘I saw this site and I fell in love,’ he says.

Bob’s choice of architect was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The architect André Vainer was a childhood friend and the two of them had already worked together on a variety of projects , including a house in São Paulo and a beach house. Bob’s brief for this mountain abode was a modestly sized space that would be both a peaceful rural retreat and a place where friends and family could come together. And, after working on so many projects together, André ‘felt an obligation to create a beautiful home’.

The sloping, densely forested site presented a few challenges, but André came up with an ingenious solution that not o n l y preserved the existing trees on the plot but also made the most of the spectacular views from this elevated vantage point. The house consists of two separate blocks on different levels that curve protectively around the hillside. One is the living or ‘social’ block containing the kitchen, dining and living rooms. This light-filled, informal space boasts huge windows and a broad terrace overlooking the treetops.

The private block, tucked behind the living block and on a slightly higher level, houses three simple yet spacious bedroom suites. The two blocks are connected by a pink concrete staircase. ‘This was a way to divide up the functions of the house, giving more privacy to the residents , ’ explains André.

The house was assembled using local labour and materials. It is mainly constructed from glass and garapeia wood with internal brick walls and concrete supporting pillars. The sail-like white roof is made of sheet metal, which reflects sunlight a n d h e l p s retain heat from the traditional wood-burning stove and the open fireplace. All along one side of the main living block, floor-to-ceiling windows of tempered glass with frames made from muiracatiara wood provide a remarkable view of trees and mountains. Lofty and airy, the house gives the sensation of being embraced by the forest. The teal colour used to paint much of the woodwork helps the house blend into the surrounding greenery and contrasts with the white roof.

The bedrooms are located in the upper, private block. Each one has independent access to the garden, allowing guests freedom and privacy. Bob’s bedroom is located at one end and offers breathtaking views over the green tapestry of the valley below. There is a sense of space and tranquillity in this mountain perch.

Bold and Bright by Maíra S Teixeira, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Available from Amazon

Photography by Maíra Acayaba © Ryland Peters & Small

In the Mood for Colour - A Soft Look

Extract from In the Mood for Colour by Hans Blomquist, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Creating a soft and gentle scheme is quite easy, as the different shades in this colour spectrum tend to be harmonious and will give you an up-to-date interior that is comfortable to live in. You can either embrace the look wholeheartedly by choosing furnishings in toning colours, or introduce contrasting darker hues. A gentle scheme is traditionally romantic and can feel quite feminine, but if you accessorise it with contemporary furniture and objects, you can make the look more neutral. 
Having said that, I prefer not to label colours – or anything else, for that matter – masculine or feminine, as I think we can be more creative than that. We all have the right to choose the colours we love and to furnish our homes with our favourite furniture and accessories.

Dried flowers are one of the most beautiful things there are. The colours of most blooms become even more stunning when dried and their petals and leaves take on a tactile, paper-like quality. These peonies were just too glorious not to photograph for this book, both for their texture and colour inspiration (above). 

The romantic room above illustrates a perfect soft combination, with the light pink sofa and a duck-egg blue wall that has been painted and patched with roses and leaves. Both inviting and stylish, it would be a successful look to recreate.

This is an inviting spot to hang out (above), where layers of printed textiles are mixed with plain fabrics and pillowcases in soft textures and tones. A few darker colours have been introduced to break up the scheme and give it some depth. The French metal daybed was found at a flea market and the cushions and textiles are a mix of new and vintage. The backdrop has been painted in two tones, using soft Dorchester Pink for the panelling, and mixing it with pale grey Mono for the walls, both from Little Greene.

I have had a soft spot for floral patterns for as long as I can remember. A traditional choice for country-style interiors, florals are often considered old-fashioned by those who prefer a clean, contemporary look, but for me, floral prints work everywhere and can be incorporated into any look you want. Of course, a soft-looking interior with floral patterns sits very comfortably in a country-esque setting, and maybe that is where it fits best, but I would love to see more creativity than that when it comes to mix and match, and urge you to be adventurous. Layer different kinds of floral patterns, using faded vintage prints and soft linens to create a perfect corner for daydreaming in your city apartment or country house (above right). 
Another idea is to use vintage maps as wallpaper, or to make a headboard by papering a square the same width as your bed, then dress the bed with soft dyed textiles to add textural layers to your bedroom (above left).

This image (above) was photographed in fashion designer Marie Sixtine’s apartment in Paris. The warm mix of natural wood, painted furniture and soft textiles make the space very inviting, while the layers of textures give them a very personal look. The way the interior is decorated and the combination of soft colours used throughout give it a calming vibe.
The space was exceptionally relaxing and comfortable to be in, and all my senses – especially touch and sight – felt instantly soothed.

In the Mood for Colour by Hans Blomquist, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Available from Amazon.

Photography by Debi Treloar & Hans Blomquist © Ryland Peters & Small. 

Create a Tropical Glasshouse Terrarium

Extracted from House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray.

To capture and preserve plants inside glass is curiously satisfying, a sort of visual story-telling and reminder of the innocent enchantment of childhood fairytales. Inspired by the variety of tropical plants we saw at the tropical glasshouses around England, we starting sourcing glass vessels at flea markets and antique fairs, quickly planting them up to fill the shady spaces around the house where other plants had struggled to survive.

The best plants to choose are those which thrive in indirect light with lots of humidity, such as Maidenhair fern Adiantum raddianum, Moon Valley Friendship Plant Pilea involucrate,
Strawberry Begonia Saxifraga stolonifera, Button Fern Pellaea rotundifolia, Aluminium Plant Pilea cadierei or Polka Dot Plant Hypoestes phyllostachya. We suggest planting in groups of three, using the tallest as your main focal point and balancing it with a couple of other species of varying heights. We do not recommend enclosing cacti or other succulents in glass, since the levels of moisture will eventually cause them to rot.










  • Put on gardening gloves, if you like. Begin with your base. Add around 2ócm/1in of gravel to the base of your vessel – this is for drainage and to encourage the circulation of moisture. Next, add a fine layer of activated charcoal, mixing it into the gravel. This will prevent stagnation and the growth of fungi.
  • Lay a bed of compost – the depth depends on the size of both your vessel and the plants. Generally speaking 5cm/2in is a good amount to start with if working with fairly small plants. Level the compost with your fingers and push it down gently to remove air pockets.
  • Using your fingers, make a hole in the terrarium compost at the point where you would like your first plant to sit. Taking the first plant out of its pot, gently loosen the compost around its roots and insert it into the hole. Holding it upright with one hand, press compost around it to hold it in place, making sure there are no air pockets around its roots.
How to make a mini glasshouse terrarium from House of Plants by Caro Langton and Rose Ray (4).jpg
  • At this stage you can use your wooden spoon to add more compost until the plant’s roots are covered – only the stem and leaves should be exposed. Do this gently so as not to damage the roots. Once it is secure, repeat step 03 until all of your plants are in the chosen positions.
  • Clean around the inside of the glass using a clean cloth and carefully wipe plant leaves with some tissue or a soft brush if necessary. Water very lightly around the base of each plant with a misting bottle or pipette.
  • Add any decorations to embellish the scene, such as dried lichen, crystals and rocks. You can use stones to stabilise more delicate plants and little pieces of mirrored glass can add another dimension to your miniature world.

House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray, is published by Frances Lincoln (£20).

Photography by Erika Raxworthy,

New Book: House Of Plants

HOUSE OF PLANTS is a practical and beautiful guide to how to love and care for your indoor tropical plants, succulents, cacti and air plants. These houseplants are handsome, hardy and perfect for urban living where outside space is often limited or non-existent. This book is a comprehensive and straightforward companion, showing both the aspiring and experienced plant enthusiast how to nurture, share and enjoy these wonderful plants, as well as how to stylishly arrange them in the home, identifying the perfect plant for the perfect spot. 

Caro and Rose, two young designers and experienced indoor plant stylists, share their passion and knowledge in the pages of this stunning book. They write: 

‘To watch another living thing flourish is rewarding, and we have come to see many of our plants as prickly pets, each with their own distinct personality. One miniature succulent might show its bulbous leaves suggestively at the slightest nudge, while another will sit for years inspiring cool suspense before one day bursting into bloom, making you drop your toast in delight and alarm. It is this unique charm that makes plants a pleasure to live with, but  knowing how best to tend each one can be a little daunting.’

This book covers: 

• How to look after individual plants, running through the soil, watering, light, food, pruning and cleaning for many popular species such as the Monstera, Fiddle Leaf Fig and Echeveria as well as some of the more unusual species including Fishbone Cactus, Xerographica and Monkey’s Tail. 

• How to take cuttings to share with friends. 

• Inspiring creative projects including planting up a terrarium, making a macramé hanging planter and homemade concrete pots, as well as compost and fertiliser recipes. 

• How to care for ailing plants. 

• What to do with your plants when you go away on holiday. 

• The best indoor plants for children and those with limited time and funds. 

HOUSE OF PLANTS is the ideal book for every green-loving urbanite with little or no outside space. It will not only change the way you think about succulents, cacti and air plants but also the way you live, inspiring you to incorporate these remarkable ‘prickly pets’ into your life. 

House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray, photography by Erika Raxworthy, is published by Frances Lincoln (£20). 

Life Unstyled - How to Embrace Imperfection and Create a Home You Love

Extract from Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Brixton Bijou

You'd never guess, but a mere five minutes' walk from this tranquil apartment is bustling Brixton Village, one of South London’s most vibrant areas. For six years now, Stephanie Zak and Ben Johnson have called this bijou flat their home, creating a stylish and calm haven in the centre of town. When Stephanie bought the flat – it was her first home – it was an unfinished shell and over the years she has transformed it into the cosy retreat it is today. A photographic shoot producer working mostly in interiors, she has clearly picked up a few pointers along the way and found the perfect balance between a styled and natural look. Ben is a music producer who often works from home, so it’s important that the flat is calming and inspiring, both of which are true.

Despite its small size, a huge amount of personality has been packed into the living room. Shelves flank the chimney breast and another was added above the non-working fireplace to provide more surface space for this globe-trotting couple’s collections, largely picked up on their travels. Potted plants and vases of branches bring the room to life and last longer than cut flowers.

Despite its small size, a huge amount of personality has been packed into the living room. Shelves flank the chimney breast and another was added above the non-working fireplace to provide more surface space for this globe-trotting couple’s collections, largely picked up on their travels. Potted plants and vases of branches bring the room to life and last longer than cut flowers.

Located one flight up in a 1930s red-brick block, the flat is petite – one small bedroom, an open-plan living room with a galley kitchen and a bathroom. The couple have added storage wherever possible: there are built-in units in the living room, a large mirrored wardrobe in the bedroom and stacks of vintage suitcases filled to the brim.

Open shelving in both the living room and kitchen allows the couple’s style to shine through. The fireplace shelves display decorative items like small plants, pictures and books, while the cupboards beneath serve as a drinks cabinet and storage for extra glassware, candles, vases and other things they’d rather not have on show.

Open shelving in both the living room and kitchen allows the couple’s style to shine through. The fireplace shelves display decorative items like small plants, pictures and books, while the cupboards beneath serve as a drinks cabinet and storage for extra glassware, candles, vases and other things they’d rather not have on show.

Home and travel are priorities for Stephanie and Ben, who have found a way to combine their two passions. They rent out the flat to other travellers and the additional income they earn allows them to feed their insatiable desire to travel. Playing host has encouraged them to create order in their small home without sacrificing style. On display are cherished mementoes – photos, art and small collections – but care has also been taken to make it a well-functioning space so guests can find what they need.

In the small galley kitchen just off the living room, storage is limited. Shelves are organised into cookbooks, pots/pans, dinnerware and glassware. A large framed poster hangs on the wall, adding further to the personality of the home.

In the small galley kitchen just off the living room, storage is limited. Shelves are organised into cookbooks, pots/pans, dinnerware and glassware. A large framed poster hangs on the wall, adding further to the personality of the home.

The flat is decorated with a charming mix of vintage finds, furniture found on the street and then refurbished, and accessories collected on their travels. The Moroccan wedding blanket on their bed was found in a souk in Marrakech and was a birthday gift from Ben to Stephanie, while the turquoise sari repurposed as bedroom curtains was picked up in Malaysia. Also thrown into the mix is artwork inherited from Stephanie’s Swiss grandparents and sculptures made by her sculptor mother. All in all, it makes for an enchanting home, the kind of place that compels you to stop and take it all in.

In the small bedroom, every inch of space is put to good use. The windowsill is lined with small plants and gilt frames (above) and a very tight nook at the foot of the bed gets a wooden side table for dishes of jewellery and vases of flowers, with a dressmaker’s bust adding character and doubling as necklace storage (below). To make up for the lack of built-in storage, Stephanie collects vintage suitcases and stacks them along the wall to hold items that she doesn’t need to access frequently, such as off-season clothes (also below).

In the small bedroom, every inch of space is put to good use. The windowsill is lined with small plants and gilt frames (above) and a very tight nook at the foot of the bed gets a wooden side table for dishes of jewellery and vases of flowers, with a dressmaker’s bust adding character and doubling as necklace storage (below). To make up for the lack of built-in storage, Stephanie collects vintage suitcases and stacks them along the wall to hold items that she doesn’t need to access frequently, such as off-season clothes (also below).

I imagine you learn to be relaxed when you allow strangers to rent your home. You have little choice but to be chilled out about the fact that people are going to touch your stuff! And it shows in the sweetly laid-back way that Stephanie has styled, or rather not styled, her things.

I particularly love the shelves flanking the fireplace, where all manner of odds and ends jostle for space – photobooth snaps, dried flowers and branches, candles and postcards. It feels special but not too precious and it feels alive, as if it’s constantly evolving, thanks to the inspiration that the couple bring back from each trip.

CREATIVITY BEFORE CONSUMPTION - The small bedroom features some great ideas.
Curtains made from a sari add colour and filter light beautifully; a suitcase makes a bedside table for the tight space; and a wooden hanger is a creative way to display paper tassels.

Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Photography by Debi Treloar © Ryland Peters & Small

New Book: Annie Sloan Paints Everything

Painting expert Annie Sloan presents her guide to painting everything!  With forty step-by-step projects, Annie guides you through her methods for creating spectacular effects to transform walls and furniture, as well as floors and fabrics.  Each project is accompanied by clear instructions and helpful tips.   Featured techniques include stencilling, printing, waxing and dyeing.  You can find out, too, how to combine colour for different styles and how to tap into your creativity by painting patterns freehand.  No matter what your skill level, ‘Annie Sloan Paints Everything’ will enable you to make over your home to create the stylish, individual interior you have always wanted.

Annie Sloan says:  “With this book I wanted to reach more people than ever, from the younger rental market looking for a quick way to spruce up affordable furniture to experienced upcyclers who are looking for a challenge beyond simply painting furniture.  My mantra is always ‘Paint Everything’ and I have really enjoyed having the opportunity of showing a number of techniques for using my paint, Chalk Paint™, including painting fabrics and leather, printing with cord, lino printing, image transfer, experimenting with coloured waxes and more.”

Annie Sloan Paints Everything’ – published by Cico Books, 13 October, £14.99

Books: Decorate for a Party

Extract from Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker & Leslie Shewring.

Forest + Family

This is a gathering of friends and their little ones beneath a canopy of trees to celebrate the pleasure of exploration and the bounty and generosity of nature. This gathering is a portable party that can be packed using only a few large bags. Children can easily entertain themselves for hours if given a spot to explore and the tools to do it, which also makes this a family-friendly afternoon.

© Holly Marder

© Holly Marder

WHAT INSPIRED US. . . torn fabrics; a rustic traditional German beer garden table; a favourite wool blanket; simple brown takeaway boxes; colourful floral fabrics sourced from a shop with a lovely owner who always cuts more than you’ve ordered without adding a penny to the price; specimen kits that we enjoyed as children recreated in a simple way to encourage exploration for our younger guests; the weather and mood of late summer/early autumn weather with its changing leaves and crisp air; teepees; the challenge of creating something special and memorable out of very little; and keeping the overall look inexpensive and relatively simple to prep.

© Holly Marder

© Holly Marder

Our FOREST PARTY is perfect for parents of young children who love to explore nature. Whether you live near a forest or park and have access to public picnic tables, or the party is for a special occasion and you want to venture further and pack a folding table and benches in your car, an outing in the autumn as temperatures start to cool is an idea your friends will love.

© Holly Marder

© Holly Marder


We packed lunch in kraft paper takeaway boxes. To personalize, each was tied with torn fabric strips and presented with a sprig of something green from the forest.

© Leslie Shewring

© Leslie Shewring


A cake is dressed up in a forest theme with mini animals, sprigs of rosemary to create little trees and bunting created using two kebab skewers, string and some strips of washi tape. This is easy to assemble – just bring your supplies and add once you arrive.

 © Holly Marder

 © Holly Marder


Wooden cutlery was given special, albeit simple, custom treatment by painting the tips with white acrylic paint. Leave to dry overnight and tie to a cloth napkin with string.

 © Holly Marder

 © Holly Marder


Glass fruit-juice bottles can be customized easily (skip plastic, they don’t look as nice). Pour out a little of the juice to make space. Cut up fruits that complement the juice and add to the bottle. Cover the labels with fabric bands using a glue stick and some string. Apply a kraft sticker on the lid to identify the juice.

Decorate for a Party.jpg

Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring, published by Jacqui Small (£20).

Books: The Creative Home

Extract from The Creative Home by Geraldine James, published by CICO Books

Displaying Collections, Wall Art and Creative Storage

Most of us collect something. This could be very specific or quite random - it all depends on the individual. You may have a passion for photographs and choose to surround yourself with a particular style or period of photography. Or you may be fascinated by something more diverse, such as certain fabrics, shapes, or colours. Whatever you collect, every piece usually has a story to tell, and it is really important to display them  all with care and in a way that will enhance your living space.

A collection of vintage retro china, contemporary candlesticks and candles, and other favoured objects has been given a matte black paint treatment. Set against a white backdrop, they are transformed into a stunning display.

All eyes are on the precious items displayed as the plain floating shelves seem to disappear into the white wall. Carefully arranged by material type, the objects create a soothing and intriguing arrangement.

On top of the recycled, dark-stained sideboard, vintage glass decanters and jars form part of a carefully curated selection of objects collected over the years, complementing the display of personal photographs above.

Tall, short, narrow, and round, bottles in all shapes, sizes, and colours sit on a windowsill in their final incarnation as decorative objects, cheering up an east-facing window. As the sun rises, the light refracts through the glass, showering the kitchen with a myriad rainbow colours.

A rather dark hallway lends itself perfectly to this leaning art. Bespoke open-fronted cupboards, built expressly for collections of magazines, are the perfect platform for leaning pictures in a narrow space. The pictures are easy to move around, simple to clean, and totally interchangeable.

Photography © CICO Books 2016.

Neisha Crosland: Life of a Pattern

As Neisha Crosland explains in this, her luxuriously produced first book, creating a good pattern is ‘not simply an act of arranging shapes into a pleasing composition. It is also about making the parts functions as a whole.’

Renowned for her sophisticated and unique colour combinations and impeccable attention to balance and proportion, Neisha Crosland sees pattern everywhere. She is intrigued by its endless possibilities, and her extraordinary eye seeks out symmetry, order and structure wherever she goes: in artefacts, buildings, paintings and, above all, in nature.

Delving into her extensive archives, and featuring superb specially commissioned photography by Misha Anikst, NEISHA CROSLAND: LIFE OF A PATTERN takes the reader on a fascinating behind-the-scenes journey from the first spark of an idea to the finished product, whether that’s a textile, wallpaper, rug, tile or ceramic collection.

This beautifully illustrated book is a personal and revealing account of Neisha Crosland’s own story as a designer but it also draws on conversations that she has had with musicians, mathematicians and other designers. It provides remarkable insights – sometimes technical but always accessible – into the evolution of a pattern, with chapters divided by design themes. These range from Suns and Stars, to Scallops, Scales and Crescents, and Shells, Bells and Waves, and they explore the creative processes behind the development of each motif.

Travelling across continents, cultures and eras – from Mughal India to Moorish Spain and 16th century Japan – and making unexpected connections along the way, this thought-provoking book provides a unique account of the beauty and complexity of pattern. An invaluable source of reference and inspiration in its own right, it will appeal to anyone with an interest in decorative arts and design.

Neisha Crosland is an internationally renowned surface pattern designer. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1984, her work has propelled her to the forefront of the design world. The recipient of numerous major awards including Royal Designer for Industry, Neisha Crosland designs products ranging from fabrics, tiles and wallpapers, to home and fashion accessories.

Neisha Crosland: Life of a Pattern' (Merrell Publishers £100 www.merrellpublishers.com). All images copyright Neisha Crosland / Misha Anikst.

​Outdoor Living By Selina Lake

Taken from her book Outdoor Living, Selina Lake shares with us her styling tips on how to create the perfect afternoon tea party.

MyStyle Tips

A long table instantly creates a special mood and works well if guests are going to be serving themselves, as they can pass refreshments and platters from one end to the other. It’s easy to create an extra-long table by dragging a couple of classic wooden picnic benches together. These are available from most home and garden stores and are a great investment for the garden. Position the tables in the best spot for early evening sunshine to catch the last rays of the day.

No pretty table outside is complete without flowers – the more, the better. Stems look great in a mix of jam jars and vases and I also like to scatter them on the table. Think about incorporating blooms in other ways, too – perhaps by decorating cakes with flower heads or hanging posies from tree branches using ribbon.

One of my favourite pastimes is collecting vintage china. I simply can’t resist a floral plate from a second-hand shop, especially if it boasts a rosy pattern and a glimmer of gold. Mismatched plates add a certain charm to a pretty table and you could team them with non-matching cutlery/flatware for a total eclectic look. 

Continue the mix-and-match theme with your glassware, too. When I see glasses I like, I tend to buy just two or three, instead of a set, and I now have quite a collection of assorted glasses. 

Add a few pieces of gold china or candlesticks for a touch of luxury and to reflect the sunlight.

Words by Selina Lake, photography by Debi Treloar

Outdoor Living by Selina Lake, photography by Debi Treloar is published by Ryland Peters & Small and is available from rylandpeters.com

The Perfect Imperfect World of Sibella Court

Extract from Perfect Imperfect - the beauty of accident, age & patina - by Karen McCartney, Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel.

While Sibella Court has many and varied roles (retailer, interior designer, TV host and consultant), it is her training as an interiors stylist that is almost always in play. Forget the basic ability to put things together in a pleasing fashion – that is a given – it is more the adaptive skills she has learnt along the way that serve her present set-up well. She thinks on her feet and doesn’t worry if something doesn’t work, understanding that accident is simply part of the process. ‘On set you need to be able to re-edit quickly,’ she says. ‘If the bowl you are relying on to make a certain image work doesn’t show up, you need to think quickly, reconfigure and be open to the shift.’ The same is true of the spaces she curates. While they present with apparent ease, they are the result of a rigorous imaginative process. She enters into an elaborate narrative whereby a space is lived in by a certain character and the interior becomes a manifestation of their surroundings. This serves to add a layer of meaning, and gives the decorative plan a clear sense of direction.

In a time when collecting, and even curating, have become everyday terms, Court has upped the ante and refers to her ‘imaginarium’. ‘I want to create worlds that are more than display and verge on something magical, a touch of fantasy and an atmosphere of transportation; a sense of another time, even another world,’ she says. 

And, of course, there is a very specific time to which Sibella Court is drawn. ‘For me, it is all about 1851, the year of The Great Exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace,’ she says. ‘It was a time of enlightenment. Religion was questioned in a broad social way, and the Royal Society, the British national academy of science, was doing so many quirky, but significant, experiments.’ Importantly for someone who is visual as well as cerebral, it was also the time of the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, where collectors amassed never seen-before objects from around the globe. ‘I love that they were strangely random – a stuffed crocodile was shown beside a massive sword, some exotic coral, a shrunken head and a pineapple.’ She points out that this interest wasn’t only for the rarefied few, but that more than two million people, fascinated to witness artefacts from these brave new worlds, attended The Great Exhibition.

But don’t mistake Court for someone who re-creates pastiches of what has gone before. For her, this was a time of wide-eyed wonderment, a window on the world, and it is the spirit and philosophy of the period that provides an inspirational trampoline. There is nothing literal or museum-like in her approach. ‘I don’t want people to feel that they can’t touch things, take notes, be inspired, linger and stay longer,’ she says. It is Court’s overriding priority that any space she creates, be it a restaurant, shop, bar or B&B, must feel welcome. ‘I love rich, layered visual experiences and want people to leave with an idea – no matter how small – that they can execute in their own home.’

And the B&B, shown here, has no shortage of ideas to appropriate – the more you look, really look, the more you see. The shallow shelves in the bedroom are filled with pinky, translucent shells (‘I think of it as 3-D wallpaper,’ she says); artworks are casually taped to the wall, sometimes far from straight, and a walrus head oversees a melange of objects, including an old typewriter case, her signature twine and a tiny purposeful polar bear.

‘For me it is about creating excitement and intrigue,’ she says. ‘The bed is high so you have to climb into it like a child, and old photographs have the resonance of another time.’ But the clock has not stopped in her interiors; everything pivots around as new pieces come in and others are spirited away. Court has seen thousands of items come and go but there is only one thing that keeps boomeranging back into her mind as a regret. ‘I brought this unusual leather-covered flagon back from New York,’ she laments. ‘It was sort of Falstaffian with a beautiful waxed interior and then I sold it.’

Court’s kitchen is small but is dominated by a massive characterful sink bought from the prop sale following the filming of The Great Gatsby movie, which was shot in Sydney. ‘As soon as I bought it, I got on the phone to my dad, who is a builder, and asked him to rip out the existing kitchen ready for the new sink,’ she says. ‘It was done by the time I got home.’ And therein lies the difference between Ms Court and the rest of us.

Photography by Sharyn Cairns.

Perfect Imperfect is a beautiful, inspirational book, with thought-provoking text by Karen McCartney and stunning visuals by Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel. It is a celebration of accident, curation, collection, hesitation, collaboration, reuse, reimagining and true originality. It explores an established aesthetic in a new way, as illustrated by the homes and studios of creatives all over the world. It embraces current design objects alongside well-worn ones, and features interior settings that mix comfort, design and an off-beat beauty. 

Available from Murdoch Books, £25.

Home for Now By Joanna Thornhill

Even if yours is just a couple of old chairs and a makeshift coffee table in a corner, there’s no reason your seating areas shouldn’t be comfy and stylish.

Forget the rules about matching furniture sets and the notion of spending hours in soulless out-of-town furniture depots. When you’re setting up a new home, be it your own or landlords, adopting a more fluid approach will allow you to create a far more interesting space, in a way that’s flexible to your finances. And after fees and deposits, it’s likely your funds will have taken a bit of a battering.

Whilst it may take a while to get everything as you’d like it, creating a sitting area – however modest to begin with – will give you somewhere to relax and entertain guests coming to visit your new place. Regardless of whether you already have furniture or it’s a totally blank canvas, spend some time assessing your needs before making any purchases: what do you need to store in the room? How do you need to prioritise the accessibility of these items? Does the space need to double up with another use, such as a home office, or a guest bedroom when friends come to crash? If space is limited, make the most of every inch by running shelving right up to the ceiling, using every last inch of space for storage – such as under and behind the sofa – and employing multi – functional furniture, like chests of drawers in place of sideboards, or a stool as a coffee table which can be used as additional seating when guests visit.

Instead of a side table a storage cube with liftoff top provides a handy spot to store occasional items.

Style Your Storage

If you need to use the space under your sofa for extra storage, keep things neat and chic in pretty vintage baskets.

Modern Vintage

Whilst with an undeniable vintage feel, this room still feels modern thanks to contemporary textiles and quirky objet, such as this porcelain hand.

Setting Boundaries

Placing a chair in the middle of the room, like this one in the foreground, visually defines the seating area in this large multi-use room.

Home for Now, Making your rented space or first house beautiful By Joanna Thornhill. First three Photographs by Emma Mitchell  & last image by James Gardiner. Published by Cico Books.

Decorate With Flowers

Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring show us this simple and fun step by step project, taken from their book Decorate with Flowers.

 Liberty Print Flower Pots

Flowers used in this project:




Cow Parsley

White Nigella

Garden Rose




You will need:

Terracotta plant pot and tray, sponge brush, Mod Podge, cotton floral fabric (we used Liberty prints), scissors, white spray paint (optional), glass jars.


1.     If your fabric is thin, you may want to spray paint your pot otherwise the orange might show through. Let it dry thoroughly. Cut your fabric to a size that can easily fit around your pot, leaving at least 10cm above the rim of the pot and enough to cover the bottom. Apply Mod Podge to a small area of the pot and press the fabric down, applying more to the fabric with your sponge brush as you go.

2.     Work in small areas, starting at the top rim and working down and around the pot in one direction. Apply Mod Podge to both the pot and the inner side of the fabric. Gently pull the fabric smooth as you go. Work quickly as the Mod Podge dries quite quickly.

3.     Once the surface is covered, with fabric, apply Mod Podge beneath the remaining fabric at the top and tuck it inside your pot. Repeat this process on the bottom of your pot, too. Apply Mod Podge all over the outer side of the fabric.

4.     Let your pot dry on a piece of plastic and then follow a similar process for the bottom tray. Use little jars to hold the water for your flowers in the pots.

Decorate with Flowers: Creative ideas for flowers and containers around the home by Holly Becker & Leslie Shewring. Published by Jacqui Small, £20.

Books: Modern Retro by Caroline Clifton-Mogg

Extracted from Modern Retro: From Rustic to Urban, Classic to Contemporary by Caroline Clifton-Mogg, published by Jacqui Small (£30)

The village of Lyons-la-Forêt, one of the most beautiful in Normandy, revels in a surfeit of charming, seventeenth-century, half-timbered, pink brick houses. Cyrille and Julie Viard’s plan was to reinterpret the genre – adding a touch of industrial fantasy to the traditional charm.

In front of the wisteria-covered old farmhouse are metal chairs and a round table from the 1950s.

In front of the wisteria-covered old farmhouse are metal chairs and a round table from the 1950s.

In the heart of the magnificent and imposing beech national forest of Lyons, stands the village of Lyons-la-Forêt, a perfectly preserved, half-timbered Norman village, and nowhere is the charm more pronounced than on the eighteenth-century central Place des Halles, so quintessentially French that it served as the setting for the making of not one, but two, films of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (the first made by Jean Renoir in 1932, the second by Claude Chabrol in 1990). As cinema fans, this was yet another reason for Cyrille and Julie Viard, owners of the decorating business L’Empreinte, to make their home here. 

The room has been opened up to reveal the old staircase where the metal steps and rail have been replaced with oak. The sofa is covered with an old quilt, in front of which is a table from the 1950s. Behind an old work bench next to the door is a group of etchings and watercolours by Jean Hulin.

The room has been opened up to reveal the old staircase where the metal steps and rail have been replaced with oak. The sofa is covered with an old quilt, in front of which is a table from the 1950s. Behind an old work bench next to the door is a group of etchings and watercolours by Jean Hulin.

The story began when Cyrille, who had spent his childhood in the village, decided after ten years of living in Paris to come back to the region and to rebuy his childhood home, which stood on the edge of the ancient beech forest. Unsurprisingly, the layout and design of the house needed a complete rethink, and before long they had upturned the house from top to bottom. Like so many old, small houses, the narrow windows and small rooms made the interior darker than might have been wished, so Cyrille and Julie decided to open up the rooms, wherever possible, to maximize what daylight there was. Of course, with an old house, the structural beams, both horizontal and vertical, could not be removed, so on the ground floor they took down the wall between the living room and the kitchen, leaving just the beautiful, rough-textured beams. Suddenly the space was opened up and illuminated, and so Cyrille and Julie went further, stripping back the cob wall finish to reveal the original brick, and the beams, once painted, were stripped back and then patinated. 

On the other side of the now opened room, divided by beams, the kitchen is dominated by a vintage table used for food preparation and eating, with vintage metal chairs from the 1950s on either side. The glazed kitchen door leads out into the garden and the summer dining room.

On the other side of the now opened room, divided by beams, the kitchen is dominated by a vintage table used for food preparation and eating, with vintage metal chairs from the 1950s on either side. The glazed kitchen door leads out into the garden and the summer dining room.

As well as a living room, there is a study and a small book room. The kitchen, which opens onto the living room, is organized around a large table and industrial metal chairs; a glazed door – another device to increase natural light – leads into the garden and a summer dining room. An open staircase, with treads of oak, leads up to the bedrooms – an enfilade of simple rooms, beneath the rafters, with open beams and walls gently tinted with chalk paint. 

In a corner bound by beams, a small child’s chair and an armchair from the 1950s. The hanging lights are electric glass isolators, making a contemporary mobile. On the wall, portraits of Julie’s family and ink drawings by Alain Bonnefoit.

In a corner bound by beams, a small child’s chair and an armchair from the 1950s. The hanging lights are electric glass isolators, making a contemporary mobile. On the wall, portraits of Julie’s family and ink drawings by Alain Bonnefoit.

Cyrille and Julie have used a clever combination of the slightly industrial and the slightly rural, softening the metal and wood, both upstairs and down, with fat cushions and quilts. Drawings, watercolours and paintings, many of them by Julie’s grandfather, Jean Hulin, are hung on walls and up the stairs. The mood is relaxed and comfortable – and perfectly in keeping with the unique atmosphere of the ancient village.

Photographer: Patrick van Robaeys. Stylist: Stéphanie Boiteux-Gallard.

Books: Shades of Grey

Extract from Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Photograph : Rachel Whiting

Photograph:Rachel Whiting

There's no doubt about it, grey is the shade of the moment. Restaurants, shops and homes are coated in it. There's not an interior decorating programme that doesn't use it. And never mind 50 shades - the human eye can, it's been claimed, detect more than 500. As can the average paint chart. And if you thought the whole grey thing was about to be over, I refer you to global paint giant Dulux, who have just expanded their range of greys and now offer 557 in total. "Everyone want to paint their houses grey at the moment," says Karen Haller, a colour expert who teaches industry professionals the science of applied colour psychology, "but it's one of the most difficult shades to get right because of the colours that lie beneath."

Photographs by Simon Brown and Rachel Whiting.

No wonder that in past years we all just slapped a pot of cream paint on the wall, then hastily turned on the TV. But everything's changed now. To start with, we're much more design-savvy. And the global economic crisis has meant that, for the first time in years, we're decorating our homes to live in them and not just to be attractive to prospective buyers. A decade ago, we redecorated every three years; it's now every five to seven years. So we need to actually put some thought into our choice of paint colour and work out what we like, because we're going to be living with it for a while.

Photograph: Katya de Grunwald

Photograph: Katya de Grunwald

Nowadays, entire careers are built on colour consultancy, psychology and therapy. There are specialists and technologists where once there were simply painters and decorators. Research, albeit of the very unscientific 'let's-just-check-it-on-twitter' variety, shows that amateur decorators (that's you and me) try an average of nine different shades before they get it right. And the final colour, which may look grey on the wall, is probably called smoky blue. That's if it's not referencing furry animals, Hollywood film stars or dead fish.

Photographs by Rachel Whiting and Polly Wreford.

Shades of Grey will reveal the difference between grey and gray and discover why it has become such a dominant trend in modern interiors. No blushes will be spared in sharing other people's (oh all right, my) mistakes so that you can get it right. We will discover, once and for all, how to use those pesky sample pots to best advantage, and whether it's worth splashing the cash on pricey paint. Armed with this book, you'll be able to find the perfect shade of grey, and you can put the money you save on sample pots towards going somewhere hot and sunny, where grey is the colour furthest from you mind...

Kate Watson-Smyth

Layout 1

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth, £19.99, published by Ryland Peters & Small

all images © Ryland Peters & Small.

Recipe of the Week: Nordic Heart Waffles

Let's all start Valentine's Day with this lovely breakfast idea from The Scandi Kitchen by Bronte Aurell. Because after all, February 14th falls on a Sunday this year so there is no excuse.


These heart-shaped waffles are eaten all over the Nordic countries. We use a special heart-shaped waffle iron, giving the waffles their distinct shape, which you can get online, but it’s also possible to make using a non-stick griddle pan.

 Nordic waffles


2 eggs

350 ml whole milk

100 ml Greek yogurt

350 g plain flour

100 g caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or use seeds from 1⁄2 pod)

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

100 g butter, melted, plus 50 g, for brushing

Vanilla skyr/quark and tart berries topping:

300 ml skyr (Icelandic cultured dairy product) or natural quark

1⁄2 vanilla pod, seeds only

2 tablespoons icing sugar

200 g mixed fresh berries

Strawberry jam and vanilla cream topping:

300 ml whipping cream

1⁄2 vanilla pod, seeds only

1 teaspoon icing sugar

MAKES 10–12

In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk and yogurt. Add all the dry ingredients and finally, add the melted butter. Whisk until you have a smooth batter, taking care not to over-beat. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before using.

Heat up the waffle iron and brush it lightly with melted butter. Add enough batter to the waffle iron to almost cover the surface (but not quite, or it will overspill), close the lid and cook until golden brown. This will take a couple of minutes. Repeat until all the batter is used. Note that as when making pancakes, the first one of the batch is never as good as the rest! Eat them immediately or they’ll go soggy.

For the vanilla skyr/quark and tart berries topping, whip the skyr or quark for 1 minute with the vanilla seeds and sugar. Serve a dollop with each waffle and then sprinkle the berries on top. Note that skyr and quark are naturally sour in taste and you may want to add extra sugar to taste.

For the strawberry jam and vanilla cream topping, add the cold whipping cream to a bowl. Add the seeds from the vanilla pod and icing sugar. Whip until peaks form. Serve the cream and jam in bowls next to the waffles and let your guests help themselves (usually a tablespoon of jam per waffle is sufficient). During strawberry season, we omit the jam and serve it with freshly macerated strawberries instead. Other times, we replace the strawberry jam with cloudberry jam – a much tarter jam that perfectly complements the sweet vanilla cream.

The traditional Norwegian waffle topping is brown goat’s cheese (brunost or geitost), which is available in speciality stores across the world. The distinctive brown colour comes from the milk sugars which are boiled (along with cream and whey), turning them into caramel. To serve, thinly slice slivers of the brown cheese and add to your waffle as soon as it comes out of the waffle iron, so that it melts slightly before eating.


The Scandi Kitchen by Bronte Aurell

Published by Ryland Peter & Small

Photography by Peter Cassidy


Modern Rustic By Emily Henson

All modern rustic schemes glory in teaming the rough with the smooth, but bohemian rustic blends in a little colour, pattern and detail, too.  That rustic staple, wood, still features, but it is matched with pale white walls or even painted brickwork, for a fresh contrast.  Bold statements such as a wall clad in dark reclaimed wood create plenty of gritty drama, while bohemian elements, from textiles to trinkets, add pockets of intriguing detail and gentle humour.  Junk-shop furniture brings some pre-loved character to each space and there is delicious pattern and colour to enjoy in the form of folksy, embroidered fabrics, vintage wallpaper and quirky, decorative objects.  The result is a rustic look that is organic, cosy and welcoming.

This sideboard was bought for £20, stripped back and personalized with patterned wallpaper.

This house, built in the 1960s, was stripped of its reproduction coving and carpet by its owners, who then clad walls in reclaimed larch, to bring the natural world inside. The wood came from trees blown down in Kew Gardens during the hurricane of 1987.  

In this colourful den, a gorgeous feature has been created by papering the inside of old drawers and mounting them on the wall.  Surprising and creative, these decorative drawers add both a rustic note and a splash of colour and pattern to a plain background.  They are also the perfect display space for quirky finds and favourite objects.

This bed canopy is made from reclaimed larch, also used to clad the living room walls and kitchen cabinets in this house.  Here, it is installed horizontally to match the width of the bed.  The chandelier adds a touch of glamour that works nicely against the rough timber.

Hanging necklaces and accessories from a peg rail allows you to see and enjoy your jewellery collection when not wearing it.

Modern Rustic by Emily Henson and photographed by Catherine Gratwicke is published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Books: The Vintage Home by Judith Miller

The following is an extract from The Vintage Home by Judith Miller, published by Jacqui Small.

Clutter-free Zones

Minimalist rooms provide a quiet retreat for busy people. Bare, white walls and a few simple pieces of furniture do not allow for clutter or collections – just a peaceful space where it may be possible to find a Zen-like calm.

Hallmarks of the style are plain walls, occasionally interrupted by a painting or two; tall, built-in cupboards to hide the necessities of life; doorways with no doors to allow the light into every corner; large windows with simple blinds to draw at night or create a diffused light; and plain floors occasionally softened by a large rug.

In these large, airy, stripped-down rooms, the furnishings either become part of the cool, white experience or are made the focal point. Wooden furniture based on vernacular designs provides a gentle contrast with the plain walls, while large white sofas and shelves blend into the background. However, bold or colourful, contemporary pieces can be used to add a splash of unexpected texture or colour and prevent the overall effect from appearing sterile. By paring rooms down to their necessary elements, minimalist interiors offer a tranquil atmosphere that can provide an escape from the hubbub of daily life.

© Tim Beddow

© Tim Beddow

There is no denying that John Pawson’s interiors are minimalist. However, his use of warm white walls, natural wood surfaces and simple wooden furniture makes them welcoming rather than austere. Here, the dining room leads on to the kitchen at the back of the house with a wall of floor-to-ceiling cupboards opposite the fireplace. Hidden storage is the key to living in a minimalist environment. An open door in the wall of flush cupboards in the dining room reveals shelves for storing bottles of wine and water.

© Luke White

© Luke White

In a large, industrial space, a white Lazy Working Sofa by Philippe Stark with integrated tables and lamps at each arm takes centre stage beneath a window in the living room.

© Andrew Wood

© Andrew Wood

Ingenuity is in demand when you need stylish yet practical storage. In this house by Guy Peterson in Sarasota, Florida, a plasma screen is mounted above a custom-built metal-clad unit that pulls out, opens up and houses all the entertainment equipment. To add to the architectural feel, the top of the unit is fashioned from a concrete slab.

© Andrew Wood

© Andrew Wood

Simplicity is key to the effective design of this bedroom. A long sideboard provides essential storage, but also doubles as a place to display favourite objects. The pair of identical mirrors that hang above adds an illusion of space.

The Vintage Home is available to buy (£30) from Quarto Homes.

Living Life Beautifully By Cabbages & Roses

Christina Strutt was just 24 when she forsook the high-octane glamour of life as a London journalist, working for British Vogue Living in favour of spending her days at Brook Cottage, once a mill used by Gregorian monks, in Somerset, southwest England.

This was the apotheosis of the fantasy lifestyle that she had, for so long, promoted in the magazine. The departure – both physically and symbolically – represented a marked transition, in the exchange of not only the single life for the married, but also of the urban for the bucolic. While it was neither deliberate nor conscious at the time, the trade-in of Vogue House for something more deep-rooted and resonant in the rolling Somerset hills would ultimately re-angle the spotlight, training it in the direction of her own home. Cabbages & Roses would, after all, one day emerge as the very expression of her life at Brook Cottage.

The table, positioned in the shade under the gazebo, is covered with a Hatley tablecloth, its design inspired by the surrounding natural world. It is set off with fresh flowers picked from the very garden that was the catalyst for Cabbages & Roses.

The kitchen – in Christina’s words, the “hub of the house” – was once the parlour. The exchange of the two rooms makes perfect sense, with its large table, the kitchen is now sizeable enough to accommodate friends and family.

There can be little more heavenly than a window seat on which to while away a rainy afternoon with a good book and a procession of cups of tea. This seat, all pale pinks and barely there greens, invites you to succumb to its uncomplicated prettiness.

The bedroom speaks of softness and calm – if the studio and kitchen are hotbeds of activity, this is their balancing rejoinder. The high bed is dressed beautifully with Christina’s favoured checks and faded flowers.

There can be little more pleasing than the sight of rosebuds adorning the walls of this country bathroom. As with the rest of the house, the pervading freshness is key, with white as the dominant tone. But, unlike most bathrooms, visitors will find nothing sterile here. There is plenty to look at, from the antique bath stand stacked with fresh towels to the framed landscapes on the walls.

Living Life Beautifully by Christina Strutt, words by Nancy Alsop, photographs by Simon Brown. Published by CICO Books at £25.00, and available from all good bookshops. Alternatively, please call 01256-302699 quoting GLR 9OI to purchase a copy at the special price of £18.00 including free p&p.  For further information, please visit www.cicobooks.co.uk

A Shopkeeper's Home

This bright and airy sewing cafe and shop uses a signature colour to punctuate the mainly white space. Second-hand finds have been repurposed to furnish the shop, as well as to display the colourful crafting supplies perfectly.

The Shop

When Lisa Comfort opened her first sewing cafe and shop in 2011, she wanted to create an inspiring space where crafters could come to work either independently or with the guidance of an expert. The interior, therefore, was hugely important, as it needed to be preferential to the customer’s home, where most people tend to spend their crafting time. Lisa put a lot of effort into making a welcoming and homey environment, and says she is constantly editing and changing the space a little to keep it interesting for regulars. The supply of tea and cake is of course an added enticement to visit.

Homespun-style blinds hang in the window of Sew Over It, while wooden furniture, painted by Lisa in her signature blue colour pops out against the white walls and woodwork.

Sew Over It is a colourful shop, and Lisa’s choice of lighting fits in perfectly. The bold chandelier is a fun, slightly eccentric feature.

Lisa found this unit at Sunbury Antiques Market in Surrey, it had been in an old barn for a long time, and there was a spider in every drawer! She spruced it up with white paint and some colourful knobs.

The Home

In Lisa’s home, blue is a strong accent colour, particularly in the living area. A centrepiece rug in varying shades of blue ties the different items together, from throws and cushions to a patterned upholstered chair, to the blue-tinged patina on a beautiful old trunk. Even the fi replace surround has been painted in a darker navy blue to complement the brighter shades. It is all set against a neutral palette of white and grey, making the blue theme a feature of the room without it being overpowering. Lisa enjoys the calming atmosphere the room exudes in comparison to her shop, which is more colourful and busy, but she says she couldn’t live without the uplifting, energizing feeling that colour evokes in her.

The calming colour palette of the sitting room is reflected in the bedroom. The bed is framed with an exposed brick wall, and its rough texture contrasts well with the more delicate painted antique painted furniture. The room is elegant and fuss-free but simple touches such as an old copy of The Great Gatsby, and pretty roses bring femininity to the space. 

Both Lisa’s home and shop have an airy feeling, allowing her love of patterned fabric and colour to shine. A sense of organization – a great asset to a sewer – is also evident in both places.

Sew Over It, 78 Landor Road, London, SW9 9PH, UK.

Extract from - The Shopkeeper's Home by Caroline Rowland, published by Jacqui Small, £25 hardback.