Monday, 31 March 2014

coffee, letters and a delightful novel

Do you ever experience moments when you are going to sleep and are already looking forward to waking up in the morning to enjoy good coffee? Anyone? For me it happens quite frequently but this weekend I was wondering if moments like that were more likely to occur if you are reading something really good. On Friday I entered a bookshop to buy stationery and this book that a dear friend in Iceland had told me about and praised. It's called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. (I told you in a post that I would get back to you on my spring 2014 novel and this one is definitely it.) Lately I haven't really been reading any novels, only coffee table books and magazines, and it felt so good to return to novels with such a delightful one that I was hardly able to put down. It takes place in 1946 and is mainly about life on the island Guernsey during the German Occupation, described in letters written after the war.

There is a lot of letter writing in the book and I'm glad I bought stationery and air mail envelopes as well on Friday because on Saturday I just wanted to write letters in between reading. I posted them this morning.

Post offices can be extremely charming. The one in my neighbourhood is small and it will never win any design awards but all the customers seem to know the names of the clerks and the clerks greet you with: "How are you, my love?" or "Is everything alright, my love?" Tacky post office for sure, but the most loving I have ever entered.

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Friday, 28 March 2014

artist Rachel Dein + her plaster-cast tiles



Yesterday I bought the March issue of Garden Illustrated mainly because of a short article about artist Rachel Dein of Tactile Studio that was photographed by Andrew Montgomery, who happens to be one of my favourite photographers (I've mentioned him a few times on the blog already). I had never heard of Rachel Dein before but I became fascinated with her work.

She creates plaster-cast tiles with delicate flowers and leaves. Some of the tiles she paints in watercolour, some she leaves unpainted. She says that her method isn't difficult but I find her work so unique, especially because she each mould she makes she can only use once.
Favourite flowers to cast include Dicentra with their bleeding heart blooms, the emerging fiddleheads of ferns and Japanese anemones. 'I like plants that have that delicate, spirity, of-the-woods feel to them, and I love to reflect the progress of the seasons.'


Rachel studied at Middlesex University and then worked as a prop maker for the English National Opera, the Royal Opera House and the Globe Theatre. After becoming a mother she set up a studio in her north London home.
At college it was considered uncool to cast in plaster - it was too messy, not conceptual enough. But I got to the stage when I just needed to start making my own things again. Luckily for me the time for craft and making things is now.

You can read the entire article on Rachel's website. Have a wonderful weekend!


photo credit:
1-2: Andrew Montgomery for Garden Illustrated via Tactile Studio / 3: Tactile Studio

Thursday, 27 March 2014

spring on an Australian flower farm

Last Thursday I said I would use those days to celebrate springtime on the blog by sharing the work of a few photographers and stylists. The first in line - random line - is Luisa Brimble, a Sydney-based food and lifestyle photographer, designer and founder of Alphabet Family Journal. She is also one of the talented Kinfolk people. Luisa captured these gorgeous spring blossoms at the Eugalo flower farm in New South Wales. She was doing a photoshoot for The Grounds of Alexandria (Florals by Silva), which is well known for its specialty coffee. The Eugalo farm is their flower supplier.

When I saw these photos we were approaching autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring seemed so far away. The images need no words but there was something about the Hunter boots and chopped wood that stuck with me.

photo credit:
Luisa Brimble
(published with permission)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

Do you have any special plans this spring? Are you travelling somewhere or attending a special event? Currently, I have only one thing planned and that is jumping on the London train on a beautiful day to enjoy the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern, which starts 17 April.

Matisse's cut-outs are the result of the artist's failing health. When he no longer was able to paint he began cutting painted paper. In the introduction to the exhibition it says: "Henri Matisse is a giant of modern art. This landmark show explores the final chapter in his career in which he began ‘carving into colour’ and his series of spectacular cut-outs was born. The exhibition represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see so many of the artist’s works in one place and discover Matisse’s final artistic triumph."

It was Courtney of the Style Court blog that brought to my attention the Matisse prints available in the Tate Shop. I especially love the vintage one to the right.

I also noticed a book in their shop that I had already added to my Amazon store, Chatting With Henri Matisse by Pierre Courthion. I think it must be a wonderful read.

photo credit:
Tate Gallery Shop - 1: The Inattentive Reader print / 2: Tate vintage poster reproduction / 3: Thousand and One Nights

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

space: a romantic-style bathroom in a Somerset B&B

The minute I laid my eyes on this photo I was hooked. As much as I like romantic style, I very often find such spaces too decorated and that is where I lose my interest. This bathroom, however, is perfectly balanced with wonderful attention to details. It belongs to The Post House, a bed & breakfast in the Somerset countryside; it's part of a room called The Suite. Do you notice the wooden floor? This is what I'm talking about on the blog when I say that I'm a fan of wood flooring in bathrooms.

photo credit:
The Post House B&B (Somerset) via Bette's

Monday, 24 March 2014

freshly cut hyacinths + study room sneak peek

Earlier today when I got back home I decided to go into the garden and bring in fresh-cut hyacinths for my study room. I wouldn't say my desk was messy but I cleared a few things away and gave myself a moment with one of my favourite books while enjoying my latte. As I have to study today, the desk will be completely transformed, and not in a good way. The scent from the hyacinths will be heavenly but with folders, notes and school stuff the desk won't look as neat.

So I thought it best to capture the neatness on camera before starting. Have a wonderful day!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Thursday, 20 March 2014

happy spring season!


Happy Spring! Because of the hyacinths, daffodils, and crocuses in bloom, our garden looks like a candy shop - the colours are amazing! Hyacinths bloom in early spring and the process is fascinating. It happens so fast! This morning I was going to photograph them properly but, unfortunately, the first day of spring in the West Midlands is windy and cloudy, and I have caught a cold. I will let these photos do for now. As you can see, we have the pink hyacinths called 'Pink Pearl' and I think the blue ones are 'Delft Blue' rather than 'Blue Jacket'. Then we also have violet ones called 'Ostara'. If there is a flower market in your area I encourage you to grab a bouquet. It will lift your spirits.

Do you want to extend the life of the fresh-cut hyacinths in your home? Keep the water in your clean vase lukewarm. Hyacinths not only drink from their stems, but from their blooms as well. Gently spray their blooms with water each day to keep their freshness.

A tip from Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo

I will be using the next Thursdays to celebrate springtime on the blog. I have gathered images from some lovely photographers and stylists that have been dormant for too long in my folders. It's time to share them and maybe add a few flower tips.

I hope you, who are living in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy a wonderful first day of spring!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

a talk with designer Lotta Jansdotter

It is time for the first interview in my NATURAL MATERIALS blog series, a talk with the Brooklyn-based designer Lotta Jansdotter. In a perfect world I would have visited her studio in the Gowanus neighbourhood in Brooklyn and then sat with her at a café asking her about her design and how growing up in Sweden has influenced it. But the Atlantic Ocean separates us and Lotta is one busy lady. She actually sent me a Q&A form, hoping it would help, and it answered all of my questions, except one - the last one - which she willingly answered.


Lotta's roots are Scandinavian. She was born on the island Åland, which lies between Sweden and Finland, and she was brought up in Stockholm, the beautiful Swedish capital. Summers were spent on the island with her father and grandmother. She refers to the island as the conditioner of her soul. She is the author of the book Lotta Jansdotter's Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandinavian Style and a few other books. She is self-taught, mostly by trial and error, as she explains it. She learned the craft from the process of it.

Let's get to know her better, shall we!

When and how did you find your creative niche?
Well, I have always liked to draw. As a young kid I loved drawing flowers and patterns and that stuck with me. When I moved to the USA from Sweden I was 20 years old and in search for "what I would do when I grew up.” I took a lot of different classes in community school in CA: jewellery design, sculpture, drawing, ceramics and screen printing ... I LOVED screen printing! I decided to quit school and start my own company, and so I did, in 1996. I printed my hand drawn print patterns and motifs on linen and made cushions and bags, that started to sell all over America and in Japan. My style was simple, clean and very much inspired by nature, being influenced by my childhood summer spent in nature in Scandinavia.

I loved drawing and cutting papers, using inks, using rubber cement and pens ... and never did get into learning how to use a computer program for this ... so my very organic style was developed that way, by letting the designs have a feel of the hand and not having them created in a computer, a bit uneven, very simple, a bit "wabi sabi” ... imperfectly perfect. There was not really a look like that on the American gift/interior market at that time ... and that is how it started.

How would you describe your design process?
I draw most of my designs in my sketchbooks or on loose papers, envelopes, etc. I use a regular old pen (never pencil - cannot stand it - the marks I make need to be solid, thick and strong) or ink. I then use my copy machine to play around with scale and repeats. I do not know how to use a computer, neither do I want to. I love the hands-on of cutting, pasting and gluing - to touch the papers and get a little messy. The process is very fun.

Unfortunately, I am so busy most of the time with running a small business that finding time to draw and create is hard. Luckily, I think running a small business is a very creative process as well, just a different kind of creative process.

Do you have a favourite part of the process?
I love the feeling when I discover a good design. I draw and sketch many things and then all of a sudden there is one motif that just “feels right.” You feel excited about it and know it will be really good in the end. It is almost like a treasure hunt inside your creative brain. Sometimes you don’t know what will come out. Sounds abstract, I know - tricky sometimes to describe a creative process.

The most satisfying part?
I love touching and feeling the paper, to cut and to play around with the shapes, to get sticky glue on my fingers. The tactile experience is very important to me when I create. To feel things that I do with my hands, that is why I never create any of my print designs on a computer.

What role does colour play in your designs?
It is a fundamental part of my designs. Very important. I create my design in black and white and then I experiment with different colours. The design will feel very different in different colours. To pick the “right” colour is crucial - it will set the tone and mode of the design altogether.

What do you think it is about your style that attracts consumers?
People write to me and say they feel very inspired by my designs, which makes me very happy - it is incredibly rewarding as a designer to be able to inspire others. They find them calm (that I do not understand since I do not think I am a calm person), clean, and simple. My style is not very trend-driven. It feels timeless. I think people appreciate the simple and natural feel. The designs are not complicated or overly ornate.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

space: a dining room in France with a purple twist

Trust me, I'm someone who would never consider going for purple chairs in my dining room, yet I'm fascinated with the look of this space, which belongs to a house in the south of France (follow the links below for more). That massive oak trestle table is right up my alley and I think the black glass cabinet contrasts it beautifully. The tiles also appeal to me and I like how the black squares break up the look, the floor would probably look a bit flat without them. The purple industrial chairs, or the Tolix chairs (Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) design), take care of transforming this space - in a good way. I think it's the rustic wood, neutral colours and minimal home accessories that make the purple work so well.

photo credit:
Mikkel Adsbøl for Femina via Lily & Parker

Monday, 17 March 2014

brighter shade than pale 21 - spring

I am devoting today to the arrival of spring and what it means to me. It's time to set aside the warm coats and go for something lighter. Don't forget the hat! I cannot wait to visit flower markets (or farmers' markets) in the area - which gorgeousness to bring back home is always the big question. Usually, I know which flower will be my favourite in spring (last year it wasn't a particular flower, simply any blue ones), but this year I haven't figured it out yet. Currently, I'm enjoying the yellow daffodils and purple crocuses in our garden, and of course the gorgeous spring blossoms I shared last week. For this spring I'm looking for simple accessories, a light bracelet (this is my comfort zone colour) that fits perfectly with the shorter sleeves. With the temperatures rising it's time to sit outside at cafés, enjoying the people watching. Or relaxing at home with the perfect cup, letting the sun shine through the windows and enjoying good music. For me this is the song of spring 2014: Rihanna's Stay performed by Thirty Seconds to Mars in the Live Lounge - fabulous performance by Oscar winner Jared Leto. I haven't decided my book of spring 2014. Allow me get back to you on that one!

photo credit:
1: Alasdair McLellan for Margaret Howell Autumn 2011 ad campaign | Dree Hemingway styled by Kate Phelan via art8amby / 2: Carin Olsson/Flickr of Paris in Four Months / 3: Peter Bagi Photography / 4: MarieClaire.it via Le Royaume du Monde / 5: Bodie and Fou / 6: Abode Living Autumn 2013 via Est Magazine

Friday, 14 March 2014

inspired by blue + indigo



This morning as I was sipping my latte (these days I'm taking it with just a touch of pure maple syrup - it's delicious!), I started thinking about my study room and the decoration ideas in my mind. After going in a few circles I have decided on various shades of blue and indigo. These colours speak to the core of my being, they create a calming effect, and they fit with everything. I was mainly inspired by a feature on indigo in the April issue of Elle Decoration UK (I snapped a photo for you - that artwork is actually made of jeans). A while ago I had asked my younger daughter to paint a picture for my study room, a painting that would be inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe. She said sure but I hadn't decided on the colours and now I just know how awesome it will be to have a large blue painting on that particular wall. Below it I'm thinking one or two rustic looking shelves for books and small objects, which A will create for me when I have found the right wood.


For my neutral coloured chaise lounge I was thinking about this Nila Striped Cotton Throw by John Robshaw Textiles. It's made in India; hand loomed and hand knotted. It has a textured surface, as the thickness of the yarn it's made with varies throughout. Then yesterday I found myself swooning over this gorgeous Mexican throw on Igor's Happy Interior Blog below, which makes me wonder if I should turn up the volume of the ethnic elements. It's just that I cannot get the striped throw out of my head and now I cannot get Igor's throw out of my head either!

This is what I will be obsessing about over the weekend. I hope you have a good one!


photo credit:
1: Lisa Hjalt / 2: John Robshaw Textiles / 3: Igor Josif of Happy Interior Blog

Thursday, 13 March 2014

latte at Caffé Spina in Brooklyn

Perhaps it sounds weird but Caffé Spina in Brooklyn is probably one of my favourite coffee houses, despite the fact I have never been there. Coffee, flowers, chocolate, textiles and stationery in one place?! This is my idea of a fabulous café. It's located in Greenpoint (northern part of Brooklyn, 107 Franklin Street) and is run by Vanessa Chinga-Haven and her husband Scott.

If you are interested in the story behind the opening - it's a good one - follow the link to the Gardenista website and discover more wonderful photos by Nicole Franzen (of La Buena Vida).

photo credit:
Nicole Franzen for Gardenista

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

space: a columned loggia in Tuscany



With the season of al fresco dining almost upon us I wanted to step outside in this week's Space post. This charming columned loggia belongs to the Tuscan residence of the Labèque sisters, the piano duo Katia and Marielle (I think they still own it). The interior designer was Axel Vervoordt, and since designing this place he has collaborated with the sisters again. I think the woven chairs are a wonderful contrast to the massive French wine table. If you want to take a look inside, simply follow the link below.

photo credit:
Simon Upton for Architectural Digest, May 1992 via The Art of the Room

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

West Midlands spring blossoms

I'm totally smitten with this spring season that, much to my delight, arrived early this year in the West Midlands. Sunday was spent on the patio / in the garden in 18 degrees (about 65°F) and sunshine. Yesterday, between studying for an exam, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk in the neighbourhood to capture some of the spring blossoms.

There are gorgeous cherry and plum trees all around (I wish I knew the name of all the varieties) and now I'm waiting for the magnolias to start blooming, especially two specific trees that I pass by every day.

I was born and raised in Iceland and these kinds of blossoms don't exist over there (spring doesn't arrive early - it's still snowing there). This is the first time living abroad that I see trees in bloom so early. I already knew I had turned into a spring girl, but now I can say for certain that I'm an early-spring girl.

Has spring arrived in your corner of the world?

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Monday, 10 March 2014

Margaret Howell Spring 2014

This spring we see yet another beautiful ad campaign in black and white from the house of British designer Margaret Howell where the focus is on the shoe. It was photographer Koto Bolofo who captured the images in Northampton and Howell herself was the stylist. I love their teamwork; I love the atelier images that show us the craftsmanship and give us a feeling for the design process. The Margaret Howell footwear for women is made in Italy and in England for the men, at Tricker's, a company that has been making shoes for 180 years.

photo credit:
Koto Bolofo for Margaret Howell Spring 2014 ad campaign | styled by Margaret Howell (large images via Design Scene)