Summer in Another Country

This balmy weather seems to draw my mind towards food; more importantly eating food. So Fabricofmylife’s Kate and I took ourselves down to the Another Country new London store for some table styling and much needed lunch.

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Having amassed a great tableware collection of own-brand and complementary products, Another Country have a very tantalising array of plates, cutlery and decorative objects that tick a lot of boxes for me.

But where would lunch be without my iPhone and new Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ (thanks Lenovo) as I do have a small obsession with constantly checking my phone every two minutes to check how many ‘likes’ my Instagram’s are getting.

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I’m teetering on the edge of moving my current dinner service on to pastures new in order to bring in the pottery series by Ian McIntyre (with embossed ‘ac’ stamp underneath), 31 Chapel Lane napkins, David Mellor’s Provençal cutlery and Simon Donald’s Swan nighlight so that this one-off lunch setting becomes a regular fixture in my home.

After lunch we tried our hand at a ‘coffee and apple’ (iPhone that is) scene with my Re-Turned bird and Ruth Duff’s cushions making for a comfortable afternoon nap.

Take a look at how Kate interpreted the afternoon in her (Imaginary) Corners of my Home feature.

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Pottery Series Designer: Ian McIntyre
Manufacturer: Another Country
Year: 2011
Price: From £15.00

Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ Designer: Lenovo
Manufacturer: Lenovo
Year: 2014
Price: From £299.99

How to Create an Entertainment Hub for the Children this Winter

Okay, so usually we’re not covering the topics of technology but sitting here with my MacBook, iPad Mini and iPhone 5s, hot-desking next to an iMac and listening to Christmas tunes on Spotify, it seems that technology is all around me. So I’m going to hand over to Kathryn Ward who can tell you all about bringing digital TV into your home this year…

In the recent past, computers and home entertainment systems existed as separate entities. But now, thanks to advances in technology, it is possible to connect your PC with every imaginable form of media, into a single, seamless entertainment setup. Providing you have a decent computer, a good broadband connection and a wired or wireless home network, you can discover and enjoy digital TV and a host of other media from the comfort of your own home.

VW+BS Islington House living room TV room ideas

‘Tis the season for giving, so why not treat the family to digital TV available from Virgin Media, as well as films, music and games, all of which can be enjoyed from a single screen backed up with a state-of-the-art surround-sound speaker system.

Did you know that it’s now possible to access over 200 channels, including 51 in HD without having an ugly satellite dish tacked onto the outer wall of your house? From Sky channels to 3D films and live pay-per-view events, digital TV can now be in your home, as if by magic, via fibre optic cables. As a result, there’ll be no more cries of boredom from the kids this winter and, if there are family arguments about what to watch, you can record up to three programmes at any one time while you watch another, thanks to a nifty little box. You can monitor what your children watch by making use of parental control settings – lock channels with a PIN, set age restrictions and block access to over-18 services such as games, gambling and adult channels.

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Then add a host of high-end devices to your arsenal – the addition of your PC, digital video recorder, video game system and stereo will enable the family to play high-definition video games, listen to music, use the internet, shop online or chat with friends, taking advantage of superior video and sound.

The setup process is pretty simple. You’ll need to make sure you have a network router because your network is the lynchpin of the operation and if high-definition media is what you’re after, then speed, range and bandwidth are key. A dual-band router provides enough bandwidth for checking email at the same time as streaming high-definition video. If you live in a palace however, you’ll need to extend the range of your network and enhance the wireless signal so that it reaches the remoter areas of the house or garden.

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Once your network is configured, consider the media you’re going to be accessing – it’s probably best to use a network-attached storage (NAS) device to store all your files in one place and avoid clogging up your computer’s hard drive. Finally, to deliver entertainment to the whole family, a simple media player can extract content from your network and the internet straight to your TV screen – just connect the box into your HDTV and configure the wireless access. You can also transfer media to the box by plugging in a USB stick or memory card and access programming streamed from the internet.

Create your home entertainment network today and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to access high-quality audio and video media from any device, anywhere in your house.

All images courtesy VW+BS

How the 1932 Swedish general election changed design forever

It is not unusual to hear that design can change lives and has frequently done so, but recently I was in conversation with Chrystina Schmidt from Skandium and learnt something that had not occurred to me previously that upon discovering more I realise how the design that is so familiar to us can be traced back to a point in time that changed the way in which we live forever.

In 1932, after World War I and Sweden had begun to pick itself back up from a depression, the Swedish Social Democrats won the general election bringing much change to the country. Aside from the usual political changes, Sweden had to rebuild itself fully and to do so looked for inspiration for how to do so.

Paimio-tuoli, suunnittelija Alvar Aalto
Photo Martti Kapanen, Alvar Aalto Museum

“There was a major change to the structure of society” says Chrystina, “Sweden looked to modernism and the Bauhaus for ways to create an identity… Josef Franck single-handedly invented Swedish modernism”.

Penguin donkey by Isokon Plus
Photo courtesy I Like London

Designers such as Alvar Aalto and companies such as Isokon Plus were all experimenting with their craft, learning ways to manufacture products using simple and inexpensive techniques. Sweden was a poor country at the time and steel was too expensive a material to use in quantity, and one thing that Sweden had in abundance was wood so they turned their ideas towards using wood as a material that they could master.

Alvar Aalto sofa and chair

Learning ways to bend wood in to different shapes but keeping the strength that was expected was the challenge but over time these designers were successful and defined a style that Sweden would become synonymous with.

This “had an impact and changed peoples lives” says Chrystina. This history is what has gone on to define what stores such as Skandium are interested in. It is not about the shapes, or the Scandinavian roots of designers, but a way of thinking that defines what Skandium chooses for their store.

Kartio glass by Kaj Franck
Kartio glass by Kaj Franck

Chrystina talked to me in the store, sipping from iittala Kartio glasses by Kaj Franck that she tells me are “the heart of Skandium”. “We are the farm-bearers of Scandinavian design — it’s not just about any design object from Scandinavia”.

Skandium Marylebone
Photo courtesy Wee Birdy

And now in a recession, companies like Skandium are finding it tough to build their businesses with less money being spent, so it is refreshing to hear Chrystina talk how Skandium is thriving and how we must remember the roots from which design came. A lot of design that we think of as ‘classic’ or ‘innovative’ was borne out of depression, forcing us to think about what really matters and becoming creative with what can be done rather than following what we have done before.

Chrystina adds “people are not stupid — if you make it poorly and sell it for a lot, customers will not buy it”, a point worth remembering as many companies aim to reduce costs and increase profit… sometimes the solution is to rethink from the start with the restrictions that we now find ourselves in and to truly focus on the core values rather than balance of the till.

Behind the brand: Google

Back in September I read an article by Peter Salisbury about Google that made me think a little differently about the web. I had always known in the back of my mind that have a paper-free environment and no office meant that I was reducing my carbon emissions but by using Cloud Services for my entire digital life was just as bad because servers are on 24/7 keeping my data safe and available.

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Over the years so-called Green search engines have appeared, including Blackle which changed the display from white to black to save energy. Of course I did dismiss this as a little sensationalist because merely reducing energy used does not, a planet, save.

So, after reading the article by Peter Salisbury I had learned that Google are incredibly energy-efficient not just to be Earth-friendly but this has obvious financial benefits for them. Adorned on top of the Googleplex in California is a sea of solar panels making use of their climate. Their datacentre‘s around the world are making use of ‘free cooling’ by channeling the outside climates in to cool the servers. This is a company that is thinking AND doing, and more importantly they are aware of the impact they have on the world and acting responsibly.

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Now, they are inherently not a green company for sure, otherwise you would never throw out a perfectly good office fit-out only to bring in some brightly-coloured design classics in to your reception but acting responsibly is a lot more than I had expected and more than most corporations are doing.

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Google claims that using Gmail instead of your average email system is up to 80 times better for the environment. The reason? Cloud servers are leveraged 100 percent while average company servers never use their entire capacity and have processing overhead wasted. “Using Gmail for an entire year uses less energy than is required to manufacture a bottle of wine, drink the wine, ‘stuff a message in the bottle and throw it in the ocean'” (about 1.2 kg CO2).

Similarly, one minute of watching YouTube videos uses 0.00002 kWh of energy on Google’s side (without counting your computer that actually displays the video). To put that in context, it takes approximately 0.15 kWh to boil a full kettle, which means you could watch 7,500 minutes (125 hours) of YouTube videos for the same energy used.

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Something else that is quite amazing is that Google reuses everything, especially water. They are currently running two facilities that use 100 percent recycled water and they’re goal is to have all of their data centre’s using 80 percent recycled water this year. Incredible.

For a company that has 79.61% of the global search engine market share, this is good news to hear. Not only are they a massive search engine, but their email client is one of the largest webmail providers and this is powered by the same servers.

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I now feel a lot better about using Google for all of my data. Thank you Google.

Further reading:
www.google.com/about/datacenters/
www.google.com/green

Halstock cabinet makers

Halstock design, manufacture and install bespoke interiors for homes. Working closely with architects and interior designers, Halstock’s designers and cabinet makers are experts in their field and are passionate about their work.

I discovered them thanks to the great blog Manufacture & Industry.

Based in Yeovil, Halstock take great care in creating every single piece for their clients making them so successful that they have grown from 3 people in a chicken-shed 20 years ago, to the size and scale that they are now. It is a wonderful British manufacturing and craft story…

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Terence Conran at 80

I recently wrote this article for my other project Heart Home magazine… I wanted to share it with you all. Read the article in the magazine on page 88.

 

On the eve of his 80th birthday, Sir Terence Conran can reflect on a long and fruitful career in high-street retail, restauranteering and the promotion of design in industry. Heart Home took some time out to celebrate the Conran empire.

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It seems strange to think that we have Sir Terence to thank for bringing the duvet to the British nation back in the Sixties, or for bringing the second Gaggia coffee machine to London during the Fifites. How this one man has discreetly shaped our lives is testament to his forward-thinking; he knows what we want before we know it ourselves.

Born 4 October 1931, Terence Orby Conran began a life of discovery and business. Venturing to France in his early life to work, he travelled back to the UK in the Fifties with a vision to bring Britain to where our European counterparts have been for so many years. He says ‘you could only buy olive oil from the chemist’. Now with several successful business ventures behind him, including several restaurants, The Conran Shop furniture emporium and, of course, the massively successful Habitat brand which he opened in 1964, Sir Terence is still working hard to democratise creativity and bring good design to the high street.

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His latest venture is a collaboration with mass-market powerhouse Marks & Spencer to bring good contemporary furniture in to the homes of the discerning Brits once more. Happy Birthday Sir Terence Conran!

Article was created closely with our friends at Crane.tv

Boxpark makes its mark

Opening this August, Boxpark is planning to bring some shabby chic glamour to a wasteland patch in London’s Shoreditch.

Housing creative types in a make-shift market opposite the Tea building just a short walk from the financial services at Liverpool Street, Boxpark will be made entirely out of shipping containers stacked two high creating an interesting shopping experience that is also affordable for designers and makers.

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With a vision that Boxpark will change the retail environment in Shoreditch to showcase, for the first time, brands and companies that have not had the opportunity to take a London space of their own. This is a very exciting opportunity to find something original, fresh and unique in a time where anyone can be online and everywhere we should see some great emerging brands at Boxpark.

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Using a space that will eventually see a major development built in its place, Boxpark is making the most of this open land, next to Shoreditch High Street station, and a material that is in abundance in the UK, the shipping container. We import more than we export, and rather than sending the containers back over the oceans empty, they are often disposed of or reused. They have been used in many creative ways in the past, but if Boxpark is a success we may see many ‘pop-up’ malls appearing over the UK in years to come.

Shingle house, Dungeness

“Dungeness in Kent is one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world. It is of international conservation importance for its geomorphology, plant and invertebrate communities and birdlife. This is recognised and protected through its conservation designations.

The location of the existing buildings and their material qualities dictated the external envelope of the house. Situated in the distinctive Dungeness landscape, it is important that the building is sensitive to its surroundings and sits comfortably with the local vernacular.

Designed as a ‘living experience’, the brief required a simple house comprising simple accommodation. The notion of daily ‘rituals’ and the close relationship with nature, are common features of the design approach, which have been used as a tool for organizing and positioning key spaces within the house.”
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Source: Man Make Home

Pile up at Pino

Pino is a market place for unique, functional and innovative design objects. The idea for the concept came from the name of the shop, Pino, which means a ‘pile’ or ‘stack’ in Finnish.

Pino took this quite literally when designing their logo and the shop fixtures, piling things on top of each other.

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The interior concept with a subtle colour palette works as a background for the fresh, colourful identity and products.

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Taking it a step further, their stationery takes on the same design although, as expected, in a very ordered way. Beautiful… for the anally retentive amongst us. Hands up, who loves to straighten their desks? Me too.

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I ♥ Heart Home

So, you’re looking for some inspiration for your home… you’ve bought your copies of Elle Decoration and Livingetc, pinned images to Pinterest and made a moodboard at mydeco.com but that is still not quite enough.

Thankfully Heart Home magazine is here to help, launching September this year it will be packed full of British interiors inspiration, food, fashion, flowers and a London Design Festival guide.

Okay, you guessed it… I am a co-founder of this new magazine alongside Editor’s-in-chief, Arianna from Arianna Interiors and Carole from Dear Designer‘s Blog. With so many fantastic digital magazines popping up worldwide we really felt this was the perfect time to launch a magazine with a quintessentially British feel to it.

So, pop over to the Heart Home blog to stay in touch with the project and get ready for a new way to find inspiration for the home.

Design for dementia

I originally came across Gregor Timlin and Nic Rysenbry’s work on the fantastic Confessions of a Design Geek who interviewed Nic on this work he had worked on in association with Helen Hamlyn Centre and Bupa to improve the quality of dining for people with dementia.

“The importance lies in designing for those who have a need and a desire for a better quality of life than their current environment allows. When it comes to diseases like dementia, where people can be scared and frustrated, little attention has been paid to anything other than the most basic function of an object.

The interventions that can be made to better a person’s quality of life are often simple common sense and / or putting yourself in the position of a person with dementia.” Nic Rysenbry

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“Inclusive design is very important because it does exactly what it says on the tin – it promotes design for everybody. Most design for people limits who can use it because the design is based around a set of average standards. Not everyone is average and so people can be excluded from being able use products, services and buildings.”

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“Good design is innovative, it’s environmental, it’s functional but most importantly it is individual. Of course it’s individual to the designer, but more than that, good design is individual to the user.”

To read the full interview, do head over to Confessions of a Design Geek and get your great design fix!

Mason Cash mixing bowl

Who was Mason Cash? No, he was not the English brother of Johnny. Nor a Mason. The name actually comes from master potter ‘Bossy’ Mason, who took over the pottery at Church Gresley toward the end of the 19th century. Tom Cash acquired the pottery in 1901 and gave it the name Mason Cash & Co., a name still used when his son incorporated the company in 1941.

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The English design of the Mason Cash mixing bowl has endured the test of time and has become a design classic. The design has barely altered for over a hundred years, which is why the brand is still renowned for its earthenware.

The bowls are heavy enough to counter the tendency to move during manual mixing and the pattern is designed to help grip the bowl. Clever, eh?

The shape allows you to hold the bowl in one arm easily while the other can be used for beating the mixture, whereas the wide shallow shape is just right for kneading dough.

Further reading:
patricktaylor.com
wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason_Cash

William Lamb’s Conduit

Lamb’s Conduit Street in central London is home to many unique, individual shops. Along with some rather surprisingly bad shops selling not very much lurks some of London’s finest treasures.

Located in Bloomsbury on the west end of the city, Lamb’s Conduit Street is dripping with history. The street was named after William Lamb in recognition of the £1,500 he gave for the rebuilding of the Holborn water conduit in 1564 underneath the street.

There is a rather quaint pub also, The Lamb, which was refurbished in the Victorian era and is one of the few remaining pubs with ‘snob screens’ which prevented the well to do drinker having to see the common man drinking in the bar, and vice versa. Charles Dickens who lived locally is reputed to have frequented the Lamb.

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Now it is home to some fab shops, such as the concept store Darkroom, Architectural feature collector Ben Pentreath and of course Maggie Owen who has taken up home at the location of London’s very first dairy.

Other great places are menswear shop Folk clothing and the now famous People’s Supermarket, but those don’t make the press for me today.

Monocle produced a much better video than I could of this street, even if it is a little out of date now.

Good morning Mr Porter

With a successful move from their last building under their belt, Net a Porter settled into their new home at, ahem, Westfield (it’s not as bad as it sounds).

After a recent rebrand of The Outnet and now the recent launch of Mr Porter, is this a company that can do no wrong? I was invited (along with hundreds of others no doubt) to be a founding member of Mr Porter, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

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Mr porter home page

Greeted with a rather seductive, black and white launch home page, I was interested to see how much the design and content reflected the tone of voice of metrosexual men’s lifestyle magazine, Esquire. And then of course, I put two-and-two together and got four!

My face was unsurprised that Natalie Massenet and crew poached Jeremy over to help with the new site which I am convinced will change men’s fashion in the same way that Net a Porter did for women’s fashion. And with London Fashion Week here, it is undoubtably going to go down a storm.

But what I really love is the video content on the site. Launching with some great names in stunning HD video leaves me with jealousy that I haven’t got those budgets and pleasure that I can enjoy this as often as I like. I really hope that they continue as they start.

Here are some screengrabs from the Patrick Grant video for your (and my) delectation…

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Hunting shooting fishing

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Smythson Featherweight

I thought long and hard before deciding to talk about Smythson… I am a fan for sure and my wedding stationery came from this Bond Street mecca but it is almost ubiquitous amongst stationery articles. But this is probably because they cannot be beaten and that should be celebrated.

In 1916, a man named Frank Smythson created a paper that was so thin and light yet still able to take a fountain pen ink that he copyrighted this paper and included it within his stationery.

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Smythson books banner

Since then many have imitated the Smythson style and quality but none have succeeded. As early as 1942 Smythson went as far as the House of Lords to defend itself against counterfeiting.

Featherweight paper is half the thickness and weight (50 grams per square metre) of normal paper so a great many pages can be contained in a very slim, light book. Normally such thin paper is not appropriate for use with a fountain pen but Featherweight paper is tested rigorously to ensure that it is strong and opaque enough to be used with fountain pens without bleed.

Featherweight is made in the trademark Smythson pale blue in colour and watermarked with a distinctive globe and feather design, which appears at least once on each page and can be used to ensure the book is not an imitation. Creating a watermark in a paper this light is difficult, so the paper has to be made at a specialist mill in England that produces international security and bank note paper.

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All Smythson books containing Featherweight paper have a distinctive, strong and hardwearing ‘floppy leather’ binding that is virtually unchanged since the 1890s. Called the ‘Panama hat’ of books the Featherweight Panama can be rolled up and squashed and will improve with age. The bindings of traditional grained lambskin are handmade with stitched spines and gilt-edged pages.

For all the above reasons Smythson Featherweight books are internationally popular with many distinguished writers, journalists, travellers and explorers. Used by ‘the great and the good’ over many generations they have been called a ‘secret social passport’. I am always so proud of my Smythson notebooks and almost daren’t use them for day-to-day writing. They have some very cute titles for their books, including the cheeky ‘Little black book’ although I am less fond of the modern colours and titles, so let’s not go there.

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The Smythson museum at Bond Street shows some of the Featherweight paper’s rich history as well as archive exhibits belonging to Queen Victoria, Princess Diana, Sigmund Freud and Grace Kelly to name but a few.

Do pop by there and head straight to the back of the shop, towards the bespoke stationery area and turn right to enter the grandest tiny museum and be in awe of stationery porn!

Duralex Picardie: the glass for everyday

These little cafe glasses were nearly the things of history that we quickly forget but are never truly replaced. So it came with much delight when I discovered that these everyday classics were back in production and available once more to the consumer.

Duralex Picardie tumbler glass

I quickly snapped up two boxes and stored one away for the inevitable breakages that such an everyday glass will endure. Inspired by a friend who uses these as table water and wine glasses, I wanted a batch of my own for that casual entertaining staple. They do not disappoint.

Designed in 1927 and produced since 1945 using Saint-Gobain’s patented glass tempering method. Described as “the ultimate drinking vessel created by man” the Picardie is equally at home filled with iced pastis or tannic vin-de-table in the cafés and bistrots of France, water in countless school canteens, juice on the worlds breakfast tables, or hot black Afghan tea in the chaikhana of the Hindu Kush. Once again manufactured (despite several brushes with extinction) by Duralex International at La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin in the heart of France.

Duralex Picardie tumbler glass

Even my everyday classic hero, Jonathan Glancey uses these glasses for all sorts around the house. And the ever-so-stylish shop Objects of Use sell these in clear and marine blue colour. I actually quite like the marine blue, but I’m a classics whore and so the clear stand proudly on my shelves to be greeted by visitors.

Duralex Picardie tumbler glass

Huxley Clothing

Huxley clothing set out to produce high-quality, brightly coloured, British-made knitwear. The provenance of the factories that make their clothing is of the utmost importance to Huxley.

I want to get myself a red tomato cardigan. Just in case you were wondering.

“Our jumpers are produced in Scotland by a fantastic knitwear manufacturer, which can trace its heritage in Scottish knitwear back to 1874. For our socks, we rely on a family owned firm that has been in the business of socks since 1895 and is run by the 3rd and 4th generation descendants of the founder.”

Watch the Huxley summer 2010 collection video:

“Well Stated” by A Continuous Lean

This post was originally written by Michael Williams for A Continuous Lean.

The gents at Field Notes have been busy working on their fifty state “County Fair” editions of their much loved notebooks. Since ACL have been a proud Field Notes retailer for the past year (or so) they decided to offer a few of their favorite state editions in the ACL Shop. Don’t worry, the notebooks will go perfectly with your particle-board work benches. Respect to Team Draplin and Team Coudal for always keeping things moving.

Tatty Devine boutique

Tatty Devine is famous for bright, inventive jewellery, made by hand in London. The jewellery often looks more like art, as designers Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden trained at Chelsea School of Art. The pair have worked with Rob Ryan, Tate, Angel of the North and Gilbert & George. This witty, offbeat brand is a cult classic of British fashion.

Bright, acrylic shapes are Tatty Devine’s signature style, but they also explore textiles, reclaimed wood, leather and veneers.

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“[Harriet and I] are both influenced by so many things. Old films, music, books, memories, each other, our friends. I think the fact we went to art school has a massive effect on our aesthetic. If we had gone to fashion college, I don’t think we would ever have started Tatty.”

There are two Tatty Devine boutiques in London and over 100 stockists worldwide. A new collection is launched each season at International Fashion Weeks, and there is also a capsule collection of 50 pieces called, simply, The Best of Tatty Devine.

This witty, offbeat brand is a cult classic of British fashion.

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Read more and buy from the Tatty Devine boutique.

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Diane Goode’s hand-painted silk cushions

This beautiful cushion, by little-known printmaker Diane Goode, celebrates the beauty and splendour of my favourite city, London town. This unique design has been meticulously hand-painted to achieve a rich and luxurious quality, and has been finished with glitter embellishments. The cushion itself has also been hand-crafted using striking silks.  It features an iconic red phone booth, a postbox and a lamp, all garnished with a striking black decoration flowing across the background. 

The reverse of this cushion is an electric blue silk, upon request some changes can be made to the reverse colour. All hand painted cushions are made to order so may differ slightly in appearance due to the nature of this craftsmanship. 

Diane’s contact details are on the website at www.dianegoode.co.uk/