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.
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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