Sunday, 23 April 2017

The DecorCafe Home & Garden Festival

This year The DecorCafe Home & Garden Festival is being held at Strawberry Hill House, Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture, on Friday 5th May 2017 from 10am to 4pm.

Over the past four years, the DecorCafe Home & Garden Festival has a built a reputation for showcasing an inspiring and coveted collection of products and services from a curated selection of exhibitors.

What's On
As well as over 45 homes and gardens exhibitors, there is also a full programme of expert talks on interiors, gardens, food and wine, and business available throughout the day. I'm really excited to be involved with the brilliant event together with a wealth of amazing and inspiring experts - take a look below to see the full schedule:

10:45am - 11:15am: Meet the Media & How to Get your Business Noticed

I will personally be speaking on a panel together with leading interiors journalist Serena Fokschaner, and Group Editor of Time & Leisure, Fiona Shield which will focus on how to get your company to stand out from the crowd. I'll be sharing my top tips on how to raise the profile of your company through blogging and social media while Serena and Fiona will share their secrets about getting featured in the press from a journalistic and editorial point of view.

11.45am to 12.05pm: Transform your Home with Colour

How would you like to use colours to fundamentally affect your quality of life? Join Karen Haller, one of the world’s leading authorities in applied colour psychology, and discover how the science of applied colour psychology can tap into your emotions, creating responses and behaviours that promote wellbeing and a deep re-connection with your personal spaces.

12:30pm - 12:50pm: The Healthy Home - Eat to be the best you can be

Adjusting your diet and nutrition impacts your health and well-being and can help you to reach your full potential. Nutritionist Hilary Davies, shares her tips and advice to help you to reach peak performance at any stage of life. Hilary has spent over 25 years helping people to achieve their health objectives, from addressing specific problems such as thyroid conditions, auto immunity and digestive disorders, to more general concerns such as weight loss, stress, fatigue and depressed immunity.

1.15pm – 1.30pm: Sensational Summer Wine & Food Pairing

Refresh your knowledge, taste and learn more about wine. Discover delicious food and wine combinations for the summer with John and Sara Harrison, founders of family run wine company, Circle Wine, and enjoy tasting their suggested wine selections.

Drawing on their experience in procuring the very best of the best, whether it be fine, traditional Bordeaux or Burgundy or the latest New World wizardry, they will help you navigate the world of wine and taste some delicious alternatives, to suit a variety of preferences and budgets.

2pm – 2.30pm: Nicky Haslam shares his passion for design

Voted Interior Designer of The Year 2017, Nicky Haslam will be sharing his passion for Gothic design, inspiring us to create original homes with an insight into his own. There will be time after his talk to meet Nicky and ask any questions that you may have.

2:45pm - 3:05pm: Style your Garden with Sarah Speller

Inspiring you with new ideas to make more of your garden to enjoy throughout the Summer, garden designer and Chelsea Physic Garden trustee, Sarah Speller, will be sharing her knowledge about choosing plants to create the look and style you desire and new ideas for products to create a more personal room outdoors.

Sarah Speller is a garden designer who helps clients create beautiful, practical and functional gardens to be enjoyed all year round. She enables clients to identify their priorities and inspires them to make bold choices and have confidence in their gardening skills.

Date: Friday 5th May 2017
Time: 10am - 4pm
Address: Strawberry Hill House, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, TW1 4ST
Tickets: £15

For more info and to book your ticket: or call 0843 886 2424 - use the code decorcafe to receive 20% discount on tickets. Booking is essential to avoid disappointment as numbers are limited.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Making Pici Pasta

While I was in Tuscany last year and staying at the beautiful Borgo Sant' Ambrogio estate, we learnt to make pici pasta.

Pici is a hand rolled pasta and similar to fat spaghetti and originates from the Siena province of Tuscany. It's typically made using just flour and water although there is no hard and fast rule - some add a little egg or olive oil to help with the elasticity of the dough - you can blaze your own trail with this.

If you fancy making pici pasta yourself, this recipe from the Telegraph looks good and so does this Jamie Oliver spinach pici recipe here.

Essentially, you make the pici dough which is then rolled out in a thick flat sheet and then cut into strips. To roll the pasta you start in the centre of the strip and using both hands roll the strip between your palms moving away from the centre to either end. The end result is a sort of fat spaghetti that has a really rustic homemade feel to it.

Once the pasta was made away in the shade from the Tuscan sun, it was prepared the traditional way - Pici cacio e pepe which is pici with parmesan, black pepper and golden garlic. Simple and delicious.

I made this pici pasta pictured above with fresh pesto, parmesan and basil when I got back to England. Full disclaimer - I didn't make this pasta - I bought it in a deli before we left Italy! The dried pici pasta is much more uniform I think than the properly fresh homemade kind but it worked really well and was absolutely delicious. For pici pasta in London, head to Padella Pasta - their pici is the best in town!

Borgo Sant' Ambrogio, Tuscany

Last year I was invited to visit the region of Tuscany, courtesy of Italian Eye as part of their KaleidoTour experience - it was a while ago now, but when I look back at the photographs of the weekend I am whisked back there in a moment.

We stayed at the most insanely beautiful residence called Borgo Sant' Ambrogio - a historic Italian estate that has been in the same family for three generations.

So these are the views from the terrace - literally a breath of fresh air. I went on this trip bang in the middle of an extremely hectic time at work and I remember looking out at this view with a cup of coffee and feeling so relaxed. Quiet, private and remote, these views of the surrounding hills and lake below the estate were really breathtaking. 

The beautiful pool is located just below the main terrace at Borgo Sant' Ambrogio - such a beautiful spot - this is the kind of view you never get bored of. 

Alfresco breakfast - you can't really beat this...

As the day faded into the evening, the buildings were swathed in the most wonderful light during that perfect Tuscan golden hour.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and left on Monday morning, but even for just a weekend trip I felt so refreshed. We flew back into Stansted so I nipped into our Humphrey Munson showroom in Felsted when we got back and remember feeling like I'd been away for a week. 

To see more of this incredible estate, visit the website here or follow them on instagram here

Monday, 12 December 2016

Bleak House London

Yesterday afternoon I jumped in the car with Alfie pug and nipped down to see my lovely friend Annabel in Primrose Hill. I met Annie through blogging and she now runs the totally fabulous online store Bleak House. We met just after 3pm and the winter light was just absolutely perfect.

We walked the dogs and chatted amongst ourselves and to other dog owners, it's so sociable having a dog you always end up chatting and it's so lovely for the dogs to have a good play. Annie's dog Edward has a bit of a cult following on instagram - take a look at his account here to see why - he is adorable. I love spending time with Annie - she always recommends the best places in London and further afield and I've found so many great places through her - I loved this post she did on the best dog friendly places in London - super useful!

After our walk we went for hot chocolate at Sweet Things on Regent's Park Road and we did a quick Q&A so I could share with you all how Annie came to set up Bleak House and what it's all about because I think it's amazing.

Why did you switch from banking to design?

I worked in banking for 15 years where I worked on a number of large projects delivering retail websites for pensions and ISAs. Whilst I enjoyed the web design and business design aspects, I found the industry uninspiring and I loathed corporate life. I was desperate for more creativity in my life so I retrained as an interior designer, graduating with distinction from KLC School of Design in October 2014.

For a year after graduating I worked for the interior decorator Rita Konig where I implemented her online shop. It was essentially the same job as I’d done in banking but with much prettier products.

After leaving Rita Konig I felt ready to start my own business. An online store was a natural fit for my skills, passion and experience and I started work on Bleak House in January 2016. We launched a few months later in June.

What inspired you to set up Bleak House?

Living in London (or any global city) brings with it a number of challenges, not least that it’s quite likely that regardless of your income you will be living in a smaller home than you might like.

I have lived in small flats for a very long time and the lack of space means that I am always on the lookout for pieces that work really hard, things that you can leave on display if you have insufficient cabinetry for example, things that have multiple uses, things that work and things that last.

I believe strongly in taking pleasure in small things and whatever I do and wherever I go I always want to do it in the most stylish way possible and this is why Bleak House was born - to bring style to every area of life whether it’s the plate you eat your dinner off, the umbrella you put over your head when it’s raining, or the quiet, pretty street you choose to walk down because it’s nicer than the noisy main road next to it.

Through Bleak House I want to share my knowledge of interior design, shopping and travel and help people navigate life in a busy city in a more stylish and enjoyable way.

What's your signature style?

My style is a mix of all sorts of influences and periods from Medieval to Art Deco, Modernism and Arts & Crafts. I would describe it as English with a modern and clean vibe. I like fresh, bright colours and am always drawn to the Autumn part of the spectrum. Mostly my style is about comfort, beauty and quality.

What's your perfect weekend in London?

Friday night would entail dinner and drinks somewhere fun in Soho with friends. Brasserie Zedel, Spuntino, and Andrew Edmunds are my favourites.

On Saturday I’d hang out with my husband Richard and my dog Edward Lear. We’d go for brunch at Greenberry Café in Primrose Hill and follow this with a good walk through Regents Park, down Portland Place to Liberty for a bit of shopping and a toasted teacake in the café.

Saturday evenings are excellent for a trip to the cinema followed by a late night chicken schnitzel and a glass of wine or two at the Delaunay.

Sunday would be boiled eggs, bacon and soldiers at Ginger & White in Belsize Park, followed by a tramp across Hampstead Heath to Kenwood for a slice of Victoria Sponge. After this, home for a game of Catan accompanied by homemade cheese scones, and then supper in front of the fire watching a great TV show.

What's your perfect weekend in the country?

I’d head to the Lake District, which is just about do-able for a weekend. We’d stay in Coniston and have supper in front of the fire on Friday night.

On Saturday we’d do a big walk from Coniston through Yewdale, taking in Yew Tree Cottage which featured as Beatrix Potter’s home in the film Miss Potter. It’s the most beautiful valley in the world to me. The walk would inevitably end up with a pint of cider and some bags of crisps by the fire in the Sun Inn in Coniston.

We’d have friends join us for dinner in our cottage on Saturday night and a lazy breakfast on the Sunday. We’d take a drive around Coniston Water which looks different every time I see it, and follow this with a visit to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home, owned by the National Trust.

After this, we’d start making our way back towards the M6 across the car ferry from Hawkshead to Windermere (which for some reason never loses its appeal), stopping at the excellent Hare and Hounds at Bowland Bridge for a delicious lunch on the way.

Who writes the Bleak House magazine and what's the inspiration behind it?

It’s a joint effort between Richard and me. Mostly it’s me. I am often being asked by friends and family and followers on instagram for recommendations of places to eat, cottages to rent, hotels to stay in and where’s the best place to buy this, that and the other and I wanted to have somewhere I could share all of my favourite places, products and discoveries in one place.

What's next for Bleak House?

Next year we hope to start expanding our outdoor section, possibly to include outdoor clothing as most outdoor shops are dire and it’s an industry desperately in need of a style injection in my opinion.

Once we’ve finished our twelve months of London guides (we’ve done seven so far), we are looking at creating some weekend itineraries to help people cut the hard work out of planning weekends away in London and other parts of the UK.

We are also hosting a series of sales events and pop-ups including one in West Elm in March which we are very excited about.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Take a look at Bleak House to see all the wonderful products Annie has curated. I love the dog accessories especially the Edward Lear dog lead - beautifully constructed and because its adjustable it means you can walk with both hands free. 

So two other things, you definitely should take a look at Annie's instagram - it's so beautifully curated and I love seeing what's she's up to in the town and country.

And also,  if you want to be in the know about the coolest places in town, sign up for the London guides written by Annie here - they are just fantastic.

Images: Bleak House

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Old Rectory Kitchen Project by Humphrey Munson

If you read this blog post I wrote a little over a year ago, you'll know I work full time at Humphrey Munson now and this year - similar to last year - has been absolutely amazing. My schedule is full on with early starts and late nights but I absolutely love it all. One of the things I love most about my job is how much variety there is - every day is so different but without a doubt our shoot days are a major highlight.

One of my favourite projects to date (and there are quite a few) was the Old Rectory kitchen project in Suffolk. This amazing Nickleby kitchen was designed by Peter Humphrey - the Design Director and Founder of H|M. I love the cool, calm and collected feel of the space - this for me is the epitome of what we do at H|M: classic English furniture designed for modern family living.

Set in a spectacular six-bed Georgian former rectory, accessed by a private sweeping driveway that leads up to the wisteria-clad entrance, this beautiful family home has historic flagstone floors, delicate plaster mouldings, original oak beams and open fireplaces, all combined with modern conveniences throughout.

The one thing that always strikes me when I walk into our clients' homes is not just the look, but the feel of the spaces. When I walked into the Old Rectory project I was completely blown away by how serene and welcoming the space felt - with hardly any visual clutter the space felt really unfettered and free.

Like the rest of the house, the previous kitchen was very dated and rundown. Originally it was five small rooms, which the homeowners knocked through to create a larger open plan kitchen. The downside of ripping out multiple walls in an old property is that the ceiling can end up at various heights. This was rectified to an extent but we were still left with a lower ceiling section and a chimney breast that cut through the space.

This meant that the immovable chimney breast dictated the overall layout of the kitchen, but Peter decided to work it to our advantage by using the chimney to divide the breakfast area from the rest of the kitchen. There’s a log-burner on the breakfast room side, which makes it lovely and cosy in winter, and a high capacity, top-spec French door Gaggenau fridge-freezer on the kitchen side - you can see this hidden behind Nickleby doors in the image above.

And this is the fridge open - we have this Gaggenau 400 series French door fridge freezer in the Westlock kitchen in our Felsted showroom and it is fantastic - exceptional design and engineering.

As well as dealing with the chimney breast, we also had to incorporate a few other architectural anomalies – for example the breakfast pantry has a very slim shelf at the top because there’s a beam right behind it – but that’s the beauty of bespoke, it’s very easy to accommodate quirks.

I remember when we got the angle for this shot and I was so so happy - I love the light coming through the windows and the warmth from the English pippy oak worktop on the island in the bottom left hand corner of the image.

This prep table was a key element of the design from early on. English country houses in the Georgian era had kitchens largely made up of freestanding furniture and the preparation table played an essential role. Using English Pippy Oak for the worktop of the prep table was the perfect choice to reflect the heritage of the home. Pippy oak has lots of small knots and clusters peppering the surface which really give a feeling of age and depth, while the tall legs provide the look of a table without totally foregoing the convenience of drawers.

This is the drinks pantry - it's located in the breakfast area and provides a space to make hot drinks without cluttering up the worktops and has plenty of storage in the drawers below. 

I love this photograph across the prep table - it's definitely up there with my favourite H|M shots.

I think the key to the success of this project is the perfect blend of heritage and innovation. By embracing the simplicity and symmetry of the Georgian ere and incorporating modern, fully-integrated appliances gives the kitchen a classic English feel with a contemporary edge. Keeping the colour palette simple and clean and using the same colour on the walls also helps ensure the space feels calm and welcoming.

To see more of this amazing project click here.

All images: Darren Chung for Humphrey Munson

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lauren Caisley Interiors

Hello, how are you?! It's been a while since I've been here so apologies for the absence. Now that September is in full swing, I really feel like it's time to settle down and get back into blogging regularly which I love doing, but have been hopeless at lately, and I have a list as long as my arm of things to share here.

So first of all, I want to share this interview with the lovely Lauren Caisley. We met in January this year through the wonderful world of instagram and then Lauren popped into Humphrey Munson in St. Albans for coffee and since then we've drunk a lot more coffee, been to Paris for Maison, tried lots of lovely places to eat in St. Albans and talked endlessly about work, interiors, life, everything. It's been really fun! Actually, I'm very lucky that as well as my amazing friends I've met in more conventional ways - school, uni, neighbours etc, I have an incredible group of friends all over the world who share my love of the world of interiors. It wasn't so long ago in 2012 when I went to the decor8 workshop at Holly Becker's studio in Hannover, I remember my Mum saying to me "so you're going to Germany to meet some girls you met on the internet who also write blogs?!" And now I think of all the places I've been to visit in the world, and all the inspiring people I've met, just because of this blog and social media and it's absolutely amazing. Anyway, I digress (in the usual manner, but still), so - onto Lauren - she set up her interior design practice in the summer of 2015 and is working on residential and commercial projects in Hertfordshire and London. We did a q&a because I thought that would be the best way to introduce her to you guys and I've added some image snippets that I love from Lauren's insta too so you can see what I mean when I say she's got some serious style...

How did you become an interior designer?

My mum always said that I would sit at the top of the stairs and never want to sleep as a child. She would tell me to redecorate my bedroom in my thoughts to go back to sleep – and it worked! Years passed, I redecorated my bedroom hundreds of times, which then turned into physically decorating it over and over and my passion began. I’m a real home bird – I love making a warm cosy space where you can feel at home. I started to really enjoy the psychology behind inviting interiors and since then I’ve just loved everything to do with interior design. I studied Interior and Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, followed by a number of years in event management and marketing. I feel that’s where I understand the importance of a great brand with strong depth, and meticulous planning.

What are your top three interior design tips?

Firstly; pick a style or theme which you warm to, don’t feel as though you need to follow the current trend, as it might not be ‘trendy’ in a few years’ time, and the secret to creating an amazing space is to make the design timeless. Secondly, think of the structure and foundations, if you get the walls, floors, hardware and lighting correct then you’re halfway there. If you’re too nervous to use colour on the walls then keep it simple and add personality with interesting flooring such as grey oak in a herringbone pattern or classic vintage tiles in the bathroom. This will add interest which you can then build upon with accessories and styling. Thirdly – focus on space. I always stand in the room and shut my eyes so I can understand the feel of the space. How will you use it, what will you be doing in there? Its' paramount to understand why you will be using the space and how you need it to work for you.

What interiors trend do you wish would go away?

Taupe! OK sure I agree, taupe can be absolutely stunning and it has a strong luxurious look to it plus some great interior designers have built a career on using one colour palette. But I don’t know about you, I feel like it’s time for something new. Luxurious interiors come from the way the space makes you feel, the bed linen used, the use of colour and pattern in accessories and the beauty in simple, timeless, depth created using layered textures and materials.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when redecorating?

For me, lighting is so important. Getting the right lighting and using it correctly can make or break a design. I like to make sure I have every use of light stage possible. For example, spotlights on dimmers plus lamps. Using dimmers means once dark, you can light the space perfectly, automatically creating a luxurious, warm feel. I always use warm white lights instead of blue white lights, its more natural and gives off the glow of candlelight instead of harsh industrial lighting.

What makes for a great client-designer relationship?

Trust, understanding and a natural friendship. Designing someone’s home is a really personal journey, as a designer, I need to understand my clients' lives, what they do with their time, how they live; so I can understand how best to design a space that works for them. A testament to this is that my clients have become great friends, and I now get to watch them on their journey and re-join them to design their next homes as well.

What’s your signature style?

I would say I have a very quintessentially British style. Modern country meets private members club. Darker colours might be ‘hot’ at the moment but I’ve always loved using rich colour and textures to layer a space. My signature style comes from using luxurious natural textures, with a love affair for traditional brass and gold, warm solid woods and traditional wools such as Harris Tweed, tartan or herringbone.

What’s your dream design job?

Something listed of heritage and importance. Growing up in a 16th century cottage, full of bricks and beams, I really enjoy understanding the history behind the building and complimenting the interiors with that. It might be exposing the brick wall while using a lot of glass to create a contemporary use of space or adding a pop of colour to bring in personality and style.

What’s next for LCI?

We had a very busy summer, I’ve just completed two projects which had deadlines 1 week apart and we have two developments on the go. The new website is now live and I feel as a new designer I’m learning every day. It’s been an incredible first year and I’m excited to see what the next one has in store!

You can follow Lauren on insta here and check out her website here.