Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Living Room || Displaying Photographs + Art

Hello! I've had a decorating conundrum for the last few months about photograhs and artwork and how to display them in our sitting room. I've pinned lots of images to this pinterest board, but today I had a lightbulb moment. Finally.

Below is a photograph of Shelley Street's home in Australia, by Martin Hahn for Real Living Magazine. This is my starting point and I'm going to use this to inspire me to get on and organise this aspect of the sitting room. Now I've written it here I HAVE TO DO IT.


I'm hoping to crack on with this at the weekend. The shelves I can pick up at Ikea and I'm planning on getting regular wooden frames of different sizes and then painting them with Autentico chalk paints. I will keep you guys posted and show you the photos when it is done.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Living The Dream at the Printing House

After lunch today I decided to spend 1 hour, and 1 hour only, attempting to file and organise the photographs on my camera memory card after which I would transfer them to the computer. I could do without it to be perfectly honest as there is tons of other stuff to sort out, but the card is totally full and so is the spare, so you know, needs must. 

Rather typically, I have now spent 2.5 hours on this, but the upside is I've found some absolute gems from the last year or so. I was especially happy looking through all the the 1000s of photos I took on BlogTourNYC last March. Does that sound sarcastic? It's not meant to. Although I have made a mental note to reduce the number of shots per subject matter, I found at least 8 identical shots of the same console table. Obviously really liked it at the time. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share one of the highlights of the trip, which was a visit to the Printing House. 

There is a bit of a story behind it, so here you go.

Four/five years ago, when I was working for a hedge fund, and my business West Egg Interiors was nothing more than a daydream, I saw the film The September Issue. Amongst many glimpses into the incredible life of Anna Wintour (who I think is completely inspiring and amazing), the film showed a few clips of her at her home in Forge River, Long Island. 

To say I fell in love with the interior design of her home would be an understatement. Later on, in October 2010 when I had left my job and was working on my plans for West Egg, I spotted her home in the World of Interiors magazine and saw that an interior design duo known as Carrier & Company were responsible for the breath-taking design. Since then, I have avidly followed the progress of each new project that Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller have undertaken. Take a look here to see their amazing work.

So with that background, you may be able to understand my sheer joy and giddy excitement, when thanks to BlogTourNYC, I walked into a luxury loft condominium at the Printing House, a century old West Village landmark in New York City, designed by Carrier & Company. zomg. 

This was part of a whole afternoon tour put together by Miele and Corcoran Real Estate, complete with luxury bus featuring reclining leather seats, and nibbles and drinks at each stop, where we were invited into some of New York’s most incredible homes.

When we walked into the condominium at the Printing House, I didn’t actually know it was by Carrier & Company. But I recognised instantly the hallmarks of their incredibly savvy approach to design; the highest quality natural materials including wood, stone and natural rugs, the effortless combination of antiques, modern appliances, fine art and accessories, all of which create an original, timeless and welcoming home. Just as I was thinking to myself, I wonder if.... I spotted the distinctive red Carrier & Company logo on a postcard.

Wow. Wow. Wow. In my wildest dreams I never imagined in a million years I would ever step foot inside one of their projects. Seeing the Printing House in person was my personal highlight of the blogtour to New York. I hope you like it too.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Art for the home || Portraits by Hester Finch

Hester Finch is my super talented and amazing friend whose painting and drawings I absolutely love, so I wanted to share some of her incredible work on this blog. Since we moved house from our doesn't-get-much-more-temporary army quarter, into our purchased permanent abode, I've been thinking a lot more carefully about what I, sorry, we, put on the walls. So far it's meant pretty bare walls except for the hallway where I've got a bit mad and put loads up.

I've been keeping a pinterest board for arrangements I like, but to be perfectly honest I don't know why I'm worrying about arrangements when we haven't even picked out what we want yet. One thing is decided, and that is that the army photographs, of which there are literally hundreds, are going in a custom made museum size album that fits into one of the giant sideboard drawers. Anyway, gone a little off topic there, what I'm trying to say is I know everyone likes to be different and put their own personality into the home. And it really doesn't get much more personal than choosing art. So getting a piece commissioned is a pretty genius idea ticking the 'personal' box and ticking the 'original' box.

'Jasmine' by Hester Finch

As well as doing her own non-commissioned work, Hester spent lots of 2013 working on her portraiture, such as her most recent painting 'Jasmine' which you can see above. What do you think? Personally, I absolutely love it for the colour and the feeling I get that I know a little about this girl just from looking at this painting. We are lucky enough to have 3 pieces of work by Hester, and my favourite is probably the pencil drawing she did of me and her together from a photograph. We had planted a giant tub of herbs in our shared house in Clapham North many years ago, when we finished we balanced a camera on a chair, crouched down and took a timer-photo of our green-fingered achievement. When we left the house, she did the drawing and gave it to me as a card. A most treasured possession that I carefully stowed away in an enormous book of Shakespeare plays and then promptly forgot where I'd put it. When I was eventually reunited with it I got it framed so it's safe now, and actually up on the wall. I tried to photograph it to share on here but it came out so badly I had to abandon that idea. Instead I've shared a favourite from the portraits - 'The Cope Girls'.

The Cope Girls by Hester Finch

I really love it and there are lots more you can see here. As well as doing the portraits, Hester is still very focused on her non-commissioned work and you can see that work here. One of my favourites 'The Stranger' is below.

The Stranger by Hester Finch

She is also working on a solo show which is taking place later this Spring, I'll post the details on here in case you'd like to come. If you want to get in touch with Hester, click here for the contact page on the website. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below, would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you Hester for letting me feature your incredible work on this blog. You're amazing and I'm so proud you.

All images: Hester Finch.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Milly Chair by Swoon Editions

Hello all, I've got a really cool project to share with you all today. In December, Swoon Editions got in touch and asked me to take part in their first ever blogger challenge. The challenge was to pick out a Milly chair in the fabric of my choice and then style and shoot it my own way and publish the photographs here on the blog.

I chose to order the Milly chair in the grey linen because that works perfectly with the modern country style of the cottage I live in. I absolutely love linen as a fabric, the texture is so perfectly rustic and soft at the same time, it's durable, and it's a natural material. As soon as I saw the style of the chair, I had the perfect spot for it in my mind. So, rather than style it and shoot in our barn studio, I chose to photograph it where it will live permanently.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know our home is a 17th century English cottage. The old part of the house is literally 2 up, 2 down with an open staircase. It is a one-and-a-half storey cottage, so our bedroom has a steeply pitched roof. When we renovated it and the steel framework was put in, we raised the height of the ceiling upstairs. But even with this work done, it is still a pitched roof and there is only so much furniture that will fit in these types of spaces. Believe me I have tried just about everything I have at home in this space, every time my husband comes home from work he sees a new effort! Not anymore though. The Milly chair, with it's low back, solid oak legs and perfect proportions gives a lovely stripped back modern feel to the room and did I mention, it's the perfect fit? I hope you like the images below.

 These photographs were taken the week before Christmas, hence the decorations on the banisters and window sill. Do you seem what I mean about the roof?! The winter sun gives such a quirky low light to the rooms, and I love the way it bounces and distorts through the banisters. The cushion on the chair was a gift from Lucinda Nicol who makes all the soft furnishing products for West Egg. She made it from a French linen grain sack, it's turned out to be the perfect size for the Milly chair. Funny how things work out.

Thank you so much Swoon Editions for this wonderful addition to my home.

Monday, 6 January 2014

sofa.com + Cameron Short || Inspired by the English Countryside

Well today is apparently the most depressing day of the year! I got up early and went out with the dog, I was grateful it wasn't raining again. If you're a regular reader you'll know that I now live in the English countryside and if you follow West Egg on Instagram you'll probably have spotted that I spend a lot of time outside walking my pug dog Alfie. I always love my walks around the fields (when they aren't flooded) because it's such a lovely chance to clear my head, focus on what I need to get on with and also to simply see the horses, sheep and goats that graze near the river. It can be inspiring and occasionally I'll have a brainwave! Obviously being inspired by the English countryside is hardly a new revelation; when we lived in Colchester one of my favourite places to visit was the medieval village of Dedham to see the scenic views Constable was inspired to paint and that was over 200 years ago.

Fast forward to last week, and I visited sofa.com's showroom in Chelsea Wharf, pug in tow, to see some of their new designs. Cameron Short, a super talented British artist and printmaker has worked with sofa.com to create a collection of exclusive fabrics all of which draw inspiration from the English countryside, bygone rural life and the folklore of trees, plants and animals. I was so excited to see the 3 designs he created which include ‘Ode to the Ash’, ‘Varx’ and ‘Treasure Tree’. Each fabric design was originally block-printed by hand on Cameron's 1904 proofing press before being digitally printed in Lancashire in multiple colours.

Saturday Love-seat in Ode to the Ash || Midnight Blue

Above is the Saturday Love-seat - one of my favourite sofa.com designs. It's such a perfect size for those small spaces, I love the way this one is styled with the rustic jute rug and stripped back wooden panelling. The design of this fabric Ode to the Ash "tells the story of this ancient, native tree. The ash stands at a crossroads, surrounded by figures from times passed: a herdsman carrying an ash stick to keep the Evil Eye away from his stock; a country girl who, hoping to meet her true love, keeps an 'even ash' leaf in her glove; a woodsman, kneeling reverently beneath the great tree.” It's very rural, very English and very cool. 

Margot Love-seat in Treasure Tree || Pumice

Wooden floors and exposed brick work is always a win for me so I picked this image to show you the Treasure Tree design. I love the contrast here with the Margot Love seat which has been upholstered in the Treasure Tree design. Cameron says, “At first sight, Treasure Tree is a gnarly tangle of oak leaves, branches and ivy. Peer closer, however, and you'll see not only a magpie with a ring in its beak, but foliage adorned with a collection of trinkets and shiny objects that have caught the bird's beady eye. There’s also a nest with an egg in it - a FabergĂ© one, of course.”

Iggy Armchair in Varx || Clay & Burnt Orange

And lastly, the Iggy armchairs above have been covered in the Varx design in clay and burnt orange. I love the corresponding cushions on the opposite sofa which is simply covered in a plain linen. It pulls together the different elements really well and shows you don't need to be afraid of using a bold design, especially on a smaller piece like an armchair. Are you wondering what a varx is? I was, but luckily Cameron explained that the pattern’s name is taken from the pronunciation of ‘fox’ native to the far south-west of England where he live and works. I never would have sussed that out, but it does make sense when you say it out loud. Are you saying it out loud? If you're in an office, I bet you just whispered it under your breath....

Anyway, the collaboration with Cameron Short is all part of sofa.com's Design Lab which aims to support the best of British design by working with up and coming printmakers and artists from across the UK to create original and eye-catching fabrics. My favourite is the Treasure Tree, I love the attention to detail and I'll always vote for anything with an egg, obviously! Which is your favourite? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

{This post was produced in collaboration with sofa.com, however as with all sponsored posts, the views and opinions expressed are my own. For more information on how I work with sponsors, please click on the Advertising tab above.}

Friday, 3 January 2014

Barn Renovation Inspiration || Studio By Fryd

Hello all, I just wanted to share with you today a really inspiring renovation project undertaken by Jeanette Lunde and her husband. Jeanette is a graphic designer, stylist, photographer, and editor-in-chief of By Fryd - an incredible e-magazine. The originality, beauty and inspiration you find across the pages of By Fryd are unrivalled; it is simply breath-taking.

I first connected with Jeanette when she taught on Holly Becker's BYW 2.0 course and was so inspired by her photography classes where she shared simple and effective tips for developing photography skills.

Previously a dark, cold and depressing cow shed, the large barn that Jeanette and her husband have transformed is now light, airy and the home of Studio By Fryd. Having not been occupied since 1969, it's now a space for Jeanette to work and play.

It's truly wonderful to see such stark before + after photographs of a renovation project, and a lovely reminder for all those who are in renovation hell right now. Hang in there. I would say "it will be worth the wait" but everyone says that and it drives me crazy. Just hang in there, you'll make it.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Behind the Scenes with Sarah Massouh from Willow & Hall

Happy New Year to you all! I hope 2014 is everything you want it to be and more. The time between Christmas and New Year is always slightly weird, don't you think? We seem to always be coming and going, rushing round visiting family and friends. We had NYE and NYD at home though, it was so fun and relaxing. We got lots of stuff done inside and outside the house, although the stormy weather meant we had to scale back outdoor plans. I've been doing lots of reading and catching up on bookmarked blog pages, things I've seen online that I have wanted to read and not gotten around to doing yet.

One thing I love to do is read about other people who have taken the leap from a 9-5 job to something slightly different. In fact, I’m always excited to connect with interiors business owners who did something completely different before their existing career. I love the look on people’s faces when they ask me how I got into interiors, retail, styling, blogging etc – and I say well I started off with a law degree, then I worked in the City, and my last job was working on the legal desk at a hedge fund. Ummmm, yeah, not really anything to do with interiors at all....

But actually that experience, every one of those experiences, has stood me in good stead for running my own business. And although I didn’t go to art school, or do an interior design qualification, or even work in an interiors business before I started West Egg, I knew instinctively that was what I wanted to do; it was the same for Sarah Massouh from Willow & Hall. I know lots of people who read this blog are thinking of starting their own business from the emails I get asking for advice. My advice is to go for it! But don’t just take my word for it, I spoke to Sarah a few days before Christmas and I think you’ll find her story really inspiring.

Louisa: How did you get into designing and selling sofas?

Sarah: I don’t have a background in design, I did an economics degree and was a strategy consultant for Deloitte. Similar to you I felt that I had become a a bit like robot and was passionate about taking my business skills and applying them to something I love – furniture and interiors. I also wanted the opportunity to use my creative side as well as my business skills - furniture and interiors really enable this. From there I had the idea for the business and it evolved organically from there and through conversations with designers and British manufacturers.

Louisa: Yes! That is exactly like me, I felt like I was going mad! And actually West Egg evolved in the same way, lots and lots of conversations and advice from friends, and friends of friends. So, where did you get your inspiration for your first range of sofa and sofa bed designs?

Sarah: Well, I started with market research and lots of it. Initially I spoke to friends and family and got a really good sense of what people are looking for when they purchase a sofa or sofa bed. I then extended my research and eventually concluded that the key was to design simple, comfortable and practical sofas and sofa beds. From my research I knew that big and bulky furniture pieces are not really that practical for modern living as they can swamp a room, and also that comfort was paramount. Low back sofas, while pretty to look at, are not comfortable to relax on when you’ve had a long day and just want to put your feet up.

Louisa: Can you give me a rough outline of the design process for one of your sofas or sofa beds?

Sarah: Yes, absolutely. It starts with my sketches and ideas that I spend a huge amount of time on. Once I’ve got my ideas in order, I have the first of several meetings with our manufacturer in Wiltshire. I sit down with the owner, and one of his skilled craftsmen and we go through each different design and discuss the pros and cons, what’s going to work, and what’s not. Our manufacturer has over 35 years experience of building sofas, sofa beds, armchairs and the like, and his craftsmen have a similar number of years experience too. Together we tweak and change each design as necessary.

Once that stage is completed, they will build a prototype of each model. I then visit them and test them out from all angles – looks, comfort, durability and so forth. At this stage there are always improvements so then they will work on those changes.

As soon as the prototype is agreed and made, it will then be sent for the photoshoot and then it’s a case of uploading the details to the website. The whole process takes about 4 months. 

Louisa: So it’s a really time-consuming process then. What’s been your guiding principle while setting up Willow & Hall and designing the different ranges?

Sarah: The key has always been designing high quality products that have been thoroughly considered at each stage and also that are all manufactured in Britain using the finest quality materials. 

Louisa: I love it that all your products are made in Britain that is great for those manufacturing businesses where maybe other companies send their orders to China…

Sarah: Yes, I’m really proud of that and it’s something that was important to me. We actively choose to work with small British family businesses at all stages of the process – our fabric supplier is a long-standing family run business as is our delivery company. We like the personal touch in those smaller businesses as do our customers more importantly.

Louisa: Okay so this is the time of year when we’re all reflecting on 2013 and planning like crazy for 2014, so what’s next for Willow & Hall?

Sarah: Well we’ve got quite a few new sofa and sofa bed designs coming out in March 2014. We have two new corner sofa/ sofa bed units and a few new 2 and 3 seater sofa and sofa bed designs which is really exciting. In July 2014 we’ve also got a new range of upholstered headboards coming out which will all be available in our 78 fabrics like the rest of our furniture is. All the headboards can be fitted to a divan or bed-frame or supplied separately so it offers a great level of customisation and flexibility for our customers. We’re also planning to open a showroom in Surrey in summer 2014 for those customers who’d like to come in and see our furniture before they buy. 

Louisa: How exciting that your business is growing so quickly!

Sarah: Yes, we’re really pleased with our growth and delighted that we are able to provide beautiful British made furniture for our customers and at fantastic prices. We’re certainly excited for what 2014 holds.

Louisa: Me too, thank you so much for your time and I can’t wait to see the new designs in March.

I hope you enjoyed that insight into starting up Willow & Hall, you can click here to visit the website and they also have a great blog too - I just spotted this lovely recipe for plum, pear & apple chutney on there - click here to take a look. 

I could tell from speaking to Sarah that she is a real perfectionist and works long hours to make her business a success. There really is no substitute for hard work, so if you’re thinking of starting up a business as I said earlier just go for it…. oh, and work your butt off! I have a pinterest board of inspiring bits and pieces for small businesses – you can take a look here. My favourite quote at the moment is “when you rest, you rust”. Happy New Year everyone!

{This post was produced in collaboration with Willow & Hall, however as with all collaboration posts, the views and opinions expressed are my own. For more information on how I work with sponsors, please click on the Advertising tab above.}