Archives for category: Art

Would you like to see some of the sights from the Ideal Home Show Manchester? We went last month: all sorts of exhibitors congregate there, from one-product entrepreneurs with innovative new gadgets, to established retailers with glamorous room displays.

Going to design shows is great fun (not least for the generous freebies to be snaffled at the food stalls). I don’t think events like this exactly set interiors trends — furniture, colours, decor. To identify burgeoning creative ideas you really need to keep an eye online and all around you: Pinterest, Instagram and magazines; quirky blog pages and house tours. But exhibitions can show you what has passed the consumer test — a place to check out which products and designs are proven or emerging commercial successes in the interiors market.

So here are just a few of my favourite discoveries:

Lighting was still big, glitzy and sparkling.

Lighting was glitzy and sparkling. The statement pendant is certainly not going anywhere for a while.

The statement pendant is certainly not going anywhere for a while

Populate your sofa. The tidy way.

Don't have time for a pet? Got allergies? Now you can live the sofa dream with these endearing cushions. (They don't bring in unidentified small mammal body parts to your house, either).

Don’t have time for a pet? Got allergies? Now you too can live the cat lady dream with these endearing cushions. (They don’t bring in unidentified small mammal body parts to your house, either)

We loved the nautical rope lamp from Arrighi Bianchi.

Aye-aye cap'n. We loved the nautical rope lamp from Arrighi Bianchi

Aye-aye cap’n

On which note…

I love Macclesfield furniture store Arrighi Bianchi's picture. Like a dolls' house, only real

I love Macclesfield furniture store Arrighi Bianchi’s picture. Like a dolls’ house, only real

When your furniture is multi-purpose and cute.

On the lookout for flexible extra seating/tables? Goat Hide Stool from Rockett St George would fast become one of the family

On the lookout for flexible extra seating/tables? Goat Hide Stool from Rockett St George would fast become one of the family

We just can’t stay away from wallpaper.

We just can't stay away from wallpaper. This clever stuff from 1wall.com can be applied in A4-sized sheets in whichever layout you choose. Clever

The Creative Collage range from 1wall.com comes in A4-sized sheets to be applied in whichever layout you choose. Clever

Another 1wall.com Creative Collage design: empty frames. Would you keep them empty? Pin postcards inside them? Let your kids go wild with crayons?

Another 1wall.com Creative Collage design: empty frames. Would you keep them empty? Pin postcards inside them? Let your kids go wild with crayons?

Taking the safer path to relaxation.

There's something a little endearing about these flickery fake candles. Surely a breakthrough design for so many health and safety nightmares

There’s something a little endearing about these flickery fake candles. Surely a breakthrough design for so many public event health and safety liability reports

What do you think of my little list? Anything here you’d go for?

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We interrupt this series of tasteful flooring posts to warn readers of a potentially hostile takeover bid by a phenomenon some call The Beautiful Game.

The more perceptive amongst you will have noticed that there is a global tournament afoot, the ups and downs of which have obsessed most members of our household for a good few weeks now. Wide-eyed in admiration at the skills and bad behaviour of those taking part, our boys have bought into the atmosphere (and a substantial chunk of the Panini sticker empire) with the dedication and stat-devouring fervour you’d expect of die-hard fans. Which they are.

Oh yes, we have three of these

Yes, we have three of these

The walls are alive with the high-definition motion of little running kicking men, and the sofa spectators agape with the drama of it all. Meanwhile I have been pondering how, even before the World Cup 2014, football is pretty much wallpaper in our lives (despite the fact of course that I would never ever sanction the application of football wallpaper in our home).

I will admit I started it: I installed a football handbasin in the boys’ bathroom.

Slippery slope: I installed this basin in the boys' bathroom -- Orrizonte Latino, Meridiana Ceramiche

Dear Future Me, This is just a slippery slope…/ Orrizonte Latino, Meridiana Ceramiche

Then we decided that in the interests of garden preservation we would not bother with a classic lawn. We have a pitch. Made of plastic. You don’t have to mow it, you can’t wear it out, and, come rain or shine, your players remain clean. It is the best investment we ever made.

Turf laws - fake grass is the best purchase ever

Turf laws: fake grass is the soundest purchase ever

Days are measured by the amount of football playing opportunities. Some interesting tweaks to the accepted rules of play sometimes make an appearance….

What happens when you mix football with breakfast time

Malachy discovers that his new cereal-inspired goalie kit has some design flaws….

So we knew what we were doing: we designed with the boys in mind. However the boys took this idea and ran with it. And that’s when the subtle nod to personality turned into an all-pervading house style.

Artwork? Sure! As long as it's red. With a football /pocket money bargain and ubiquitous team calendar in background

Artwork on my wall? Sure! As long as it’s red. With a football.

We kept the boys’ bedroom walls for the most part a fresh white, in keeping with the rest of the house. A few feature colours, like a brightly painted wall colour or striking curtains, were emphasized by the lack of pattern elsewhere.

Until blue-tack happened. And then Caspar found a ‘wonderful’ painting for £1.50 in a junk shop. And we realised that the passing of each year means the opportunity to hang a new team calendar with athletically posed gurning player photos.

Starter for ten: Which team does.... ah yes, well done

Starter for ten: Which team does…. ah yes, well done

When you’ve been successful in some area of junior level football, you get to keep a carefully moulded and easily breakable trophy to display for ever and ever in your room. Nothing must stand in its way.

Trophy fives

Trophy fives. Books take a back seat

And the clever folks in the football business know that whatever they make, we will buy. Duvets, lamps, clocks, watches, bath flannels, even Monopoly. And football cards. I can’t even begin to explain the joys of football cards and stickers.

Carpet design for the football enthusiast: cover it with as much tat as you can

Carpet design for the football enthusiast: spread your bets (that is City Monopoly for those who were wondering)

So as you prepare to bid adieu to the World Cup in Brazil — with the breathtaking, inspiring, bitey, frenetic, heartbreaking, staying-up-late, virtuoso fun of it all — remember us. Football is not going away any time soon. It’s here, and no amount of tasteful interior design influence can do anything about it.

The players fulfil stage one of their house domination campaign: Being Glued Back Onto Wobbly Platform

The players fulfil stage one of their house domination campaign: Being Glued Back Onto Wobbly Platform

The sound of the Living Etc magazine hitting my door mat each month is a pleasing thud of promised inspiration: and June’s issue has surpassed my expectations. I recognised old friends in the form of furniture and designs, and found myself meandering into new territory entirely with some surprising meetings of colour and texture.

First up was the sight of these familiar rocks lurking in a grey-toned room:

Goodness knows what we'll do with them when they hatch..../ Livingstones' pebble poufs

Goodness knows what we’ll do with them when they hatch…./ Living Stones’ pebble poufs

It’s a different designer and store from the one featured in my pouf! post, and I’m pretty sure you can get cheaper versions on eBay too. It looks like the word stoneware is about to take on an alternative meaning.

Then the cobalt Shibori print from Scion caught my eye, which I’d hankered after as a wallpaper at the end of last year. The ink blotted design works so well on fabric, and this featured bedroom is wonderful:

Scion print duvet set: when it's entirely appropriate to launder your bed linen in public

Scion Shibori print duvet set: making it entirely appropriate and tasteful to launder your bed linen in public

Explorations with wire-based furniture potential continue with this eye-boggling collection by Jinil Park:

Doodle becomes real/ Wire furniture by

Doodle becomes real/ Drawings furniture by Jinil Park at Viaduct

I would love to see this in the flesh – or in the wire, or however you might want to describe it. It looks, as the name suggests, exactly like a line drawing, with the ‘scribbles’ so flat on the page. Such a clever, humorous and striking piece of design.

Focussing downward for a moment, it’s hard not to be impressed by this exceptional wooden flooring, which isn’t even the subject of this particular article:

I see your geometric parquet, and I raise you an ornate multi-wood pattern

I see your geometric parquet, and I raise you an ornate multi-wood pattern

After all that parquet obsessing a few weeks ago, I spotted it right away.

Following the reminiscing, I was struck by some new and inspiring ideas. This patio wall covering is a superb endeavour: whoever said all your best house ideas had to stay inside?

Too bright for inside/ spectacular garden tiling

Take it outside/ spectacular garden tiling

The tiles are by Neisha Crosland, called Navajo and made by De Ferranti. At £540 a square metre these are not a budget option, but surely this concept opens a gateway to a myriad outdoor possibilities.

I surprised myself with the next realisation. This is because I am not generally a ‘pink’ type of person. I don’t really do girlie shades, and shy away from the bolder statement brights as well. But as I glanced at this page, I remembered that there is a pink I do like:

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

I suppose there is a lot of brown in this pink, and the shade seems quite a natural one. It also doesn’t look like it needs to remain quite as clean, which in my house would definitely be a positive.

A grubbier shade of pink.

A grubbier shade of pink.

I’m still not saying I’d need to do a whole room this way. Just one item would be fine.

When I was planning for our wood-effect/Japanese-inspired ensuite shower room, I kept looking out for wooden duck boards to incorporate into the shower ‘exit area.’ The problem with the products I found then was that they were bulky, very solid, and threatened to have the potential to get quite warped after a few months of soggy footfall.

Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

Roll up: Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

This handsome piece is a lot more subtle and flexible: slightly steep price for a bathmat notwithstanding.

I love the following picture for the strongly veined marble, orange-toned wood, brash dark green plant and glinting copper pendants. You can’t undertake a tour of any self-respecting design magazine or blog at the moment and not see marble. It is boldly featured throughout bathrooms and kitchens, in enormous slabs and in slivers of tiny tiles.

Marbellous decor

Marbellous decor

I suppose it’s a step on from the travertine and limestone shades which have populated our homes, and particularly bathrooms, and corresponds to the colour obsession of the moment. As modern paint trends have moved away from brown and yellow undertones (beiges, creamy whites, even magnolia) to the more sultry ranges of grey, so the accompanying natural materials need to fit in with the scheme.

I have seen lots of excited response from designers to online interiors retailer Rockett St George’s products recently. I’ve always been fascinated by the tin tiles used to glamorise ceilings, and thought they’d  make a superb splashback. Here a bed headboard is putting on the glitz.

Tin-spired headboard/ Rockett St George find a new use for the classic tin ceiling tile

Tin-spired headboard/ Rockett St George suggest a new use for the classic ceiling tile, part of their new collection

And finally – what a beautiful kitchen! – of Portuguese artist Ana Vichgal. These reclaimed blue ceramic tiles are gloriously distressed, set against simple white kitchen units, delicately pale work surfaces and simple grey floor.

New lease of life: reclaimed tiles in an artist's kitchen

New lease of life: reclaimed tiles in an artist’s kitchen

Lots of food for thought with the creative ideas here. Thanks Living Etc for a great read!

I know, it’s been so long since I last mentioned our poor old music room. It has been languishing in dusty chaos like the Dorian Gray of our house renovation. Way before we moved in, the inspired wall shelving (constructed from layered units from Ikea) was assembled and the plantation shutters were installed… and there we stopped. At the end of last year we hauled all the old boxes of CDs and books up from the cellar so that we “wouldn’t forget about them,” and then promptly forgot about them.

You might remember some dalliance with wallpaper which I had before Christmas. In the end (despite how much fun it was to consider all the options) we didn’t go ahead because we hadn’t really got a picture of the rest of the room yet. However somehow, in the meantime, we have, and it is all finally coming together.

A spurt of organisation this weekend has meant that I have built in some natty drawers and doors to the bottom rung of shelves. We were motivated by the news that Ikea had decided to phase out its storage system called Expedit. This cube-inspired shelving icon has had an illustrious life, as likely to be found nestled amongst the reclaimed furniture of hipster apartments and practically attired family homes: lauded for its boxy good looks and functional design. The cubby holes are the exact right shape to file away your old-school vinyl, display flowers, pack full of books or even put a colourful storage box to stow away those less sightly items.

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

So we heard this ‘end of line’ news with a small twinge of horror, having covered one entire wall of the music room with Expedit, in the manner of (but much cheaper to execute than) a full sweep of bespoke shelving. Despite the wonderful resource of a whole website of helpful Ikea hacks it took quite an involved session of planning to find the right combination of given units to arrange against our wall. We had meddled around with the 4×4; 5×5; 4×2; 5×1 and 2×2 configurations before plumping for four horizontal 5×1 units stacked two-high, topped with a couple of mammoth 5x5s.

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

A smattering of LED lighting in odd shelves makes a nice random effect, and a few bulbs point up to the ceiling above the unit, illuminating the plaster mouldings.

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

For environmental reasons Ikea have decided to introduce a less chunky replacement to Expedit, called Kallax. This will apparently be slimmer around the frame (thereby using less wood) but otherwise sport the same dimensions.

Check out my broad frame

Check out my broad frame

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

The associated boxes, drawers and doors sold in the same range will supposedly be interchangeable with, and still fit, both Expedit and Kallax units. Be that as it may, we didn’t want to get stuck with a wall full of shelving which we couldn’t accessorise, just in case there were slight variations. I sped out to buy up the stock we needed, and came back with boxes, doors and drawers.

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

In our house, the past few months have seen a flurry of (frankly previously inconceivable) CDs sales activity, that has resulted in a very reasonable remnant of a collection. In previous properties we have had to consider the vast CD population as part of the overall design: a great swathe of custom shelving and substantial square metre-age in storage taken up with the 80s pop bands, the rave mixes and dance compilations and Best Ofs. I think we now agree that the new streamlined stock is much easier to accommodate, after the cull/massacre/clear-out since Christmas (appropriate noun to be selected depending on your point of view).

The lower echelons

The lower echelons

We were hoping to house the survivors in the drawers, and they do fit, but sadly not so that you can actually read what they are. So they get a reprieve, and their very own line on display.

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

We also executed a quality control exercise with the fiction paperbacks, donating those we weren’t too fussed about and creating a happy rainbow of favourite novels with the ones which we kept. Colour grouping is a smart way to arrange books, as long as you are not too fussy about knowing where any one individual volume might be. In this form they seem to provide just as much of a decoration in the room as if we’d gone at it with a paintbrush, only with quite considerably less effort.

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

The reference titles are coralled by subject matter on the upper shelves; photo albums occupy the top flight. There is even a two-cubicle section in the gods where the LPs live. The 7″s are still lurking on the floor at the moment, awaiting their fate.

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Only a few empty spaces remain, and we’re nearly there with the sorting, only a few homeless items still to place, and for the first time in a while we can actually see most of the floor.

A small pile of work still to do

A small pile of work still to do

I have spent the winter months huddled at my computer whilst the files and scrapbooks have slumped in cosy privilege against the radiator. Now we can reach the shutters to let the sunlight in, and the space is starting to feel bright and ordered.

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Shutters filter in the daylight

Shutters filter in the daylight

Next on the list are lamp shade, rug and that wall covering. I’ll bring you news on that soon, once we’ve fine tuned the shelves….

In the meantime, how do you store your stuff? Do you like acres of display, or do you prefer to shut it all away? In strict order or mix and match?

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the very fun-looking presents the boys have received in recent months was an origami kit, making cute animals out of nothing but small squares of paper (and, it turns out, deep reserves of patience). It sat in our craft pile for a while before Malachy found it one rainy afternoon and wanted to make his paper zoo.

It all seemed so easy.... / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It all seemed so easy…. / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It is possible that well-drilled craft-making children and their Pinterest-successful mothers can tackle these complex challenges with their eyes shut. After all, with paper that small, how hard can it be? Well, I can now tell you that it is in fact pretty hard, and requires a substantial amount of concentration and rule following, neither of which is particularly celebrated in our family, apart from on the football pitch, of course. The boys have all ‘had a go’ and then handed me the rather limp and wrinkly paper to ‘finish off.’ So we do have a slack-limbed sea otter and a wonky snake lurking in the green drawer of the sideboard (where craft goes to retire before being pensioned off, quietly and under cover of darkness, to the recycling bin) and the remaining kit is still full of potential design victories (ever optimistic) for next time there is a rainy afternoon.

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: 'Easy'

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: ‘Easy’

Which sorry background goes some way to explaining the admiration I have for this new Danish designer, and his amazing creations. Morten Droob has invented an origami lampshade called Dressed Up.

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Folded paper lanterns and shades have long been popular, and at the moment you can see a lot of plain white wire-framed designs in the shops. Ikea alone have five:

Papery orbs from Ikea

Papery orbs and UFOs from Ikea

Additionally, the skirt-inspired shade is starting to make waves in some retail lines:

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

I love that Droobski manages to merge the two in this clever feat of paper engineering – there are no wire frames, simply origami wizardry. With their fulsome flamenco skirts and crisp pleats, Dressed Up shades come in a rainbow of colour options, all individually hand-folded at the artist’s work bench.

If you are looking for an inspiring piece of statement design for your room, this is such a perky and unique purchase. Check out the little vimeo clip on the Droobski website, on just how easy it is to attach and pop open your chosen shade.

As for me, I fold. In the manner of a poker game. And leave the proper folding to the experts.

I found one of my favourite tile designs last year while researching for a client’s kitchen splashback. Being something of a simple girl myself, we have a strip of coloured glass between the upper and lower cupboards in our kitchen to protect the walls. It’s supremely easy to keep, and doesn’t have any grout to get mucky, which as you will know from my previous posts is a bit of a bugbear. However…

If you are going to go the tiling route for your kitchen, and feel like a change from the pretty but neutral metro brick, how about this?

Duck egg blue hexagonal tiles, now hard to get hold of but available from Overstock/ Victorian Hex Blue SomerTile

Duck egg blue hexagonal tiles, now hard to get hold of but available from Overstock/ Victorian Hex Blue SomerTile

Hexagonal mosaic tiles bring a quirky slant to a surface, and this delicate blue would be right at home with a grey themed industrial background or in a pretty cottage kitchen.

As luck (if your budget stretches, that is) would have it, Fired Earth‘s ranges of tiles have a few delectable examples in mosaic and larger form.

Geometric: hexagonal tiles create a monochrome arrow across this Fired Earth bathroom

Geometric: hexagonal mosaics create a monochrome arrow across this Fired Earth bathroom

Look at the way they have used a mid-grey grout in this design. It softens the abruptness of the black and defines the borders of the individual tiles.

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

This range of larger individual tiles has a more muted, natural colour range, and the edges are softer and less sharp.

At the moment the budget range offerings are expanding rapidly — Walls and Floors have some nice white or black mosaics: or chequerboard designs if you prefer.

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

In addition I have just spotted this gorgeous range, inspired by the colours of honey:

hexagon wandf honeycomb avo

Honeycomb by name, shape and colour/ Walls and Floors Aster and Avocado

Honeycomb by name, layout and colour/ Walls and Floors’ Avocado and Aster options

By no means budget, but nevertheless a characterful tile, is Topps Tiles‘ grey hexagonal, Mira.

Topps Mira Grey, nice for a feature, too pricey for a whole wall

Topps Mira Grey, nice for a feature, too pricey for a whole wall

The shift from four sides to more is a tiling theme I am very happy to recommend, but it doesn’t stop at tiles. Once I had developed my shape awareness, I started seeing hexagons in many settings. See the linked hexagon table in the foreground of this Porcelenosa room layout?

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

It seems that copper is not immune:

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Or if we take a journey back into the world of wallpaper, how about this fabulous geometric design from Cole and Son:

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son's Geometric wallpaper

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son’s Geometric wallpaper

Many a pouf comes in a hexagonal shape, and fitted with a geometric fabric, we can fulfil this trend on two dimensions – or see this amazing heptagonal Missoni design take it just one side further:

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

There are lights – possibly my favourite being this simple wall lamp from Kundalini (based in Italy, but plenty of websites stock their products):

Kundalini's Hexagon wall light: try Interni.co.uk for UK purchases

Kundalini’s Hexagon wall light: try Interni.co.uk for UK purchases

Oh I really could go on and on! But I will leave you with this lovely piece by Jonathan Adler, US designer with an eye for distinctive colour and form:

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Because a little bit of orange does make me smile.

How about you? Have you set aside the regular square for a more shapely option? I’ll keep you posted on multi-sided inspirations — let me know any which catch your eye.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post on sfgirlbybay (written by Victoria Smith, blogger, stylist, photographer) about wire chairs.  I liked the gracefulness of their thin curved black metal skeletons, placed strategically in rooms full of wood and white: have a look at the post here.

Then, I happened to pop into the spare bedroom a few times over the Christmas break (we were hotel-busy!), and noticed that our term-time lodger Rose had bought a cool black wire waste paper basket. It suits the spare room very well, bringing a touch of definition to the neutrals that we have in there already. If you need a reminder of the colours, pop over here for a moment: what do you think? I am now on the lookout for a few more black accents. Even more excitingly, she bought the bin from our old friend Mega Pound, so it looks like I won’t even need to save up.

Anyway, in the meantime, what should appear in the pages of Living Etc, but more subtly framed items in wire. They are not bold, they don’t stand out, but they do add an outline to a pale space, a bit like a sketch that has not yet been coloured in.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space

Bin... or is it a laundry basket? Now there is an idea.

Bin… or is it a laundry basket? Now there is another idea

People are using the structures for coffee tables too:

Mesh Locker side table in copper -- this comes with a glass top should you not want to leave your wine glass balancing to chance/ Bowles and Bowles

Mesh Locker side table in copper — this comes with a glass top should you prefer not to balance your wine precariously all evening/ Bowles and Bowles

These mirrors have a vintage charm:

Sun's rays radiate from your reflection....

Sun’s rays radiate from your reflection….

I have to admit this next example didn’t work for us: our wire fruit bowl left ridges in the apples. It is pretty though. Maybe you could keep something un-bruisable in it.

Latticed fruit bowl

Latticed bowl with imaginary fruit

And finally, the chairs.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair

It’s a lovely design, but you’d want to be wearing long trousers for any lengthy seating experience. I fear I could be more pro-wire-chair in the winter months, unless it’s possible to develop a simultaneous fashion for the imprinted leg pattern look. Or maybe the summer brings an opportunity to invest in soft cushions:

Cloud-topped wire chair.... a softer way to ride this trend

Cloud-topped wire chair…. a softer way to ride this trend

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Tricia Guild has had hers painted green:

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Let me know if you’ve considered any of these options: could you live with wire chairs? Or are they purely a triumph of form over function?

I’m freshly inspired to narrow down my wallpaper favourites because I’m going to get some as a present for Christmas: thanks Mum and Dad! I’ve decided to plump for the chimney breast wall in the music room first, because that room really needs some care and attention. I haven’t shown you pictures yet because, frankly, it’s a bit of a dumping ground — piles of framed pictures and photos, a languishing ex-computer and redundant Christmas decorations are getting friendly with the remnants of a huge eBay sell-off we recently undertook. And there are five huge boxes full of CDs which Tim is gradually pensioning off to retirement websites like Music Magpie. The floorboards are a lot clearer than they were a few weeks ago, but I think we’ll wait a little before the big reveal. I promise I will take before and after pictures though, so that you can see the scope of the transformation.

So, I bring you the shortlist.

One of my first loves was a cityscape.

Endless source of interest: Londinium by Graham and Brown £22/ roll

Endless source of interest: Londinium by Graham and Brown £22/ roll

I think this design sparks the imagination because you can never quite be sure what is behind all those buildings, and the busy jumble of city life is evoked so well. I’d never get bored working in front of this. But maybe I would get distracted.

Stepping up a price bracket is my favourite city view, made originally by Piero Fornasetti in the 1940s for the entrance hall in his own home in Milan.

Glorious and measured: Fornasetti's Meditteranea now supplied by Cole and Son £82/ roll

Glorious and measured: Fornasetti’s Meditteranea now supplied by Cole and Son £82/ roll

This stately roofscape features gold accents and beautiful stately ink drawings. The regular buildings and formal layout bring an entirely different sense to the wall. A visual representation of Classical music: order and form.

Since the room is a working space, we were taken by the trompe l’oeil papers featuring bookshelves: there is even a Penguin paperbacks version. But we have a wall of books already in the room, and I do think that they are striking enough, without pretending we actually have a whole new set elsewhere. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of including this sort of paper on a door somewhere: possibly the one to Caspar’s room, which we haven’t yet painted.

There are other images, though, such as faux wood, plants, trees and other matter. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Old Wood from the Ginger collection by Esta Home £195/roll

Old Wood from the Ginger collection by Esta Home £195/roll

Yes! I know! £195! Before you choke on your mince pies, I can console you with the news that in fact this is a photo mural wall covering which comes complete in a roll of four 2.79 metre drops. So the price is for the overall mural, not simply a roll of wallpaper. But still, I don’t pretend this is a cheap option.

Bamboo from the Bluff collection by Galerie £44.95/ roll

Bamboo from the Bluff collection by Galerie £44.95/ roll

A nice bold photographic representation of vertically stacked bamboo poles. I like this for its simplicity and modern Japanese feel. I’m not sure where I’d put it in our house though, unless I could find a spot in our ensuite shower room?

A little trend I have noticed of late is for displaying plates on a wall. These are often unashamedly kitsch and twee, but placed in a block or along a mantelpiece are strikingly modern. Little surprise then, to find you can skip the charity shop searches for suitably ironic plates, and simply deck the walls with illustrated platters instead.

Cargo from the Museum collection by Andrew Martin £69.90/ roll

Cargo from the Museum collection by Andrew Martin £69.90/ roll

Then, we come to the range with which I have become so smitten. Scion’s designs are vibrant and clever, their patterns are bold but not too confusing on the eye. I dearly love this for its simplicity and style:

Dragonfly in the Melinki collection by Scion £32/ roll

Dragonfly in the Melinki collection by Scion £32/ roll

These delicate insect sketches in rich indigo would make a fantastic statement on a big wall.

But Wabi Sabi is the collection which is inspiring me the most. This is their collection header illustration:

Wabi Sabi collection highlights

Wabi Sabi collection highlights

The brilliant white woodwork partners perfectly with the teal and mid-blue geometric patterns. Best of all was when I noticed that the horizontal-lined design in the centre (and right) seems reminiscent of the shadows between shutters. Apparently it’s a rectangular grid pattern created by an ancient Japanese dye-resist technique:

Shibori from the Wabi Sabi collection by Scion in sapphire blue

Shibori from the Wabi Sabi collection by Scion in sapphire blue £32/ roll

Part of the reason why I think this pattern will work so well in our music room is that we have white wooden shutters at the large window, and they are directly opposite the wall I’d like to decorate. So creating an abstract ‘reflection’ seems quirkily apt, yet in keeping with the clean lines of the rest of the room, and the expanses of white painted woodwork.

I’ll get work started in the New Year. How about you? Do you have any walls calling out for a bit of colour or character?

When my dad was a little boy, he lived in and around a lot of stately homes because his parents were in the staff of various country gentry. He had a view of what post-war life was like in these big houses, from the icicles formed on the inside of his enormous billiard room bedroom window, to sitting on his dad’s lap and steering the family Daimler aged just four. His mum, who we called Nanny, told us of the time that “Mr Sanderson himself” came to paint the wallpaper. A team of craftsmen arrived with their ladders and created a unique design, according to the wishes of the lady of the house. The Sanderson company still exist, of course, though I am not sure they still offer an insitu painting and gilding service for their more affluent clients.

I found some beautiful examples of Edwardian era wallpaper when we were at Lanhydrock – not hand painted, but certainly rich and luxurious — and surprisingly modern.

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

The gentleman's bathroom presented in the latest styles

The gentleman’s bathroom presented in the latest styles

The lady's chamber with more delicate colours

The lady’s chamber with more delicate colours

Not only pattern but texture...

Not only pattern but texture…

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Up close and strokable

Up close and strokable

I remember homes when I was younger featuring that soft damask wallpaper, and although for a few years any sort of deviation from smooth and flat was desperately un-modern,  in various ways it is beginning to grow in popularity again. Words like Anaglypta, wood chip and damask still evoke plenty of bad taste memories for some, but time marches on and those sartorial nightmares fade. The future of wall coverings may well be 3D.

You can still get hand-painted wallpaper today: stunning works of art for customers with deep pockets. If that is your situation, take a look at the opulent de Gournay or Griffin and Wong for some silk based Chinoiserie. Cole and Son offer hand printed papers, where the old fashioned block printing is done painstakingly by talented craftsmen.

But should you want the personal touch without having to spend extreme amounts of money, there is another way. Printing has changed hugely in the past few decades: now the computer takes the strain of image and ink proportions and with a little technical help you can pretty much specify any pattern or picture for your space. There are plenty of companies out there who will customise your walls with a mural. I have used Wall Factor, who have a link with the huge photo library Shutterstock, so that you can pick an image, and arrange to have it printed on wallpaper at exactly the right proportions for your wall.

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

We actually used the above design in a colour version for Jonas’s room. It is such a clever image, and perfect for a child’s bedroom as it’s fun but not childish, so will grow with him. I’ll show you one day when I give you the full room tour.

Next time we’ll be making a final round-up of my favourite designs. As a teaser, I can tell you that Scion features heavily….

Ever since we went to the Parisian taxidermists Deyrolle in the summer I have been thinking about wallpaper. In fact, once I started looking, I found I had collected a huge sprawling mass of inspiration. So I have decided to start a little series for you, to keep all my musings bite-size and digestible.

Our house feels light and bright, with white walls and splashes of colour. We have tended to treat the occasional wall like an enormous piece of artwork, and have painted in blocks. Or we’ve used furnishings including curtains as our main colour statement sections. But so far we haven’t done much with paper. I have two spots in mind, in our kitchen under the picture window, and in the music room (which I don’t think I’ve introduced to you yet), on the wall behind the desk.

Deyrolle, I noticed, have designed some truly amazing papier peint, with bugs, beasts and birds aplenty. They sell through another French company called neoDKo which you can access here. My favourite is this crazy essence-of-anatomy-textbook pasted in glorious abandon on a wall.

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via NeoDKo.com

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via neoDKo.com

The extreme minimalism of that interior pictured above provides a clear stage for the drama of all the movement on the walls. Which led me to thinking that the context for using this sort of design is very important: in a busy room you need either order (pattern) or calm (in colours) for your decor. If you were to try and add this wallpaper to an already cluttered space, you would likely just create more confusion, and lose some of the attraction of the ‘patchwork’ in the process. I think for the room where we store files and books, study, practise and play, our walls need to be inspirational, yes, but not distracting. However I could see this design working beautifully behind the dining bench, under the window, in the room where we have an expanse of plain wall and only a few simple pieces of furniture.

Pillar box window in a blank wall: not designed for tall cats

White wall. Prime for development

I would probably fix a line of white wooden trim below the window to act as a frame, and then paper below to the skirting. Another advantage of a wild and busy design here is that the odd splash of soy sauce or ketchup probably wouldn’t stand out. Don’t look too carefully at this picture: despite the serenity of the scene there are definitely the ghosts of little chocolate hands scrubbed out.

So the Deyrolle is definitely a contender for this space. But there are others….

Next time I am going to tell you about wallpapering in the old way: tune in for some tales of stately opulence, and the clever designs which remain modern after half a century.

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