For those who love stationery as much as us you might like our little shortlist.
There are so many fantastic brands producing beautiful products designed to brighten your working day! Let's get to it!
We’ve featured Ola before on the blog being a tiny bit obsessed with their stunning patterns and quality stationery however this time we’re sharing something from their Christmas shop; the origami decoration kit. Whilst fantastic for Christmas they are quite frankly decorations we’ll probably display all year – especially as their homemade!
Using their signature patterned papers designed and Made In England you can make eight contemporary decorations.
Learning a new skill takes time and concentration. With this in mind they are great for this time of year with long dark evenings when you just need to stop and quieten your mind and become absorbed in something that will take you away from day to day life. We would recommend these for yourself or actually as a Christmas present as people may have the time to dedicate this time to a project over the holidays. We tackled it as a team of two and this definitely added to the enjoyment and sense of teamwork as we worked our way through the instructions.
The kit comprises of 48 x small patterned squares, 12 x large patterned squares and satin ribbon and is presented in a hand-finished box with the instructions of how to make them all.
Being novices at Origami it was exciting to undertake a new project but we have to be honest and say there were a few steps where we were completely foxed. Frustrating and funny at the same time those first ‘prototypes’ were definitely a challenge. However, the cheat sheet bit is that you get access to their exclusive step-by-step videos which show you how to do them and this always saved us when we had reached a dead end. A clever idea and great to have as a back up if you need it.
We could see how we improved in our accuracy as the gaps got tighter and the decorations got more crisp. It was rewarding, fun and a great way of being creative with some guidance. We’d definitely recommend these as a beautiful present for someone with a love of paper to create their own bespoke decorations made by hand with paper made in England. What’s not to love?
For transparency we were sent the origami decorations as a challenge to make them as part of this feature!
When we moved into our 1970s bungalow in Dorset from our terraced Bath Stone 1930s home packed full of character the initial impression wasn’t one of immediate attraction… However we knew that there were plenty of pluses with bungalows. The first being space, the second being all-on-one-level (handy with two tiny children) and the third being detatched. The bungalow was also a 5 minute walk to the beach which was a definite selling point and 3 years on we’re in love with the home we’re working so hard to create. It feels like home.
Here’s a little before & now photo which illustrates our work to date to keep a midcentury vibe but reference its coastal setting with the addition of new window sizes, shutters, cedar wood slatting, a white and grey paint update and tropical landscaping to include banana plants and numerous spiky plants.
Our focus has remained very much on getting the back extension and internal renovation finished but next up is to remove the green tile-hung frontage and replace with cedar wood, update the guttering and to relocate the ugly yellow alarm box! Even though there is a never-ending to-do list we can appreciate how far we’ve come and it was lovely when Michelle from Roxwell Press offered to capture our home renovation project with her customised illustration portrait service.
When the result arrived via post it was incredible to see how she’d really captured the spirit of the place (also kindly future-proofing the portrait with the cedar cladding rather than the current green tiles!). Michelle created the portrait by working from photographs we provided and asked about planting, colours and textures and it was this attention to detail that has ensured such a pleasing portrait which feels like home.
The bungalow always really sings on a bright blue day and it’s amazing to have this captured in the illustration. All that remains is to get it framed and hung. We’re thinking in the kitchen and know it’ll be a talking point!
The good news is that YOU can actually win a customised house portrait worth £100 by entering this competition which is running until 6th October. All you need to do is sign up with your email address to receive her occasional e-newsletters which feature sample sales, competitions and free hand-designed wallpapers for your screen. There is also currently free delivery on all orders (including a single card) at the moment so do take a look at her website or perhaps get an early order in for Christmas cards (if we’re allowed to mention the ‘C’ word yet).
If you’re not lucky enough to win Roxwell Press will offer a discount code to everyone whose signed up to the e-newsletter for the launch of this new house portrait service or you can skip the queue and pre-order with Michelle@roxwellpress.co.uk.
SO many people told us we were mad to try and create our own DIY kitchen worktop but what is life if not for a little adventure?
Creating our own worktop allowed us to be flexible with our kitchen design and we love the results. Here’s a little step-by-step photo explanation of the prep and pour phase of creating our worktops. We used a system which enables you to make a bespoke frame to suit your requirements from Z Counterform Europe and we love the fact we created one continuous surface with a story behind it!
Step 1: Create a ply base on top of your units. Z counterform suggest using Durarock but we went with ply. In retrospect the ply repels the water when Durarock absorbs it so it made the mix slightly wetter to work with (which made it messier) but it worked fine!
Step 2: Fit the plastic formwork to the edges of the worktop and around holes you’ll need to keep e.g. sink and hob. You will need to cut the edges at a 45 degree angle so they sit tightly together which is made easy by the mitre block provided. Duct tape and silicone EVERY joint you can see!
We bought a few tools but the pack was really comprehensive and included the mitre block, plastic formwork, plastic spacers and screws, glass fibre reinforcement mesh, the dry pre-mixed cement and magnesium float. All we did was buy a paddle mixer and some additional trowels.
Step 3: Roll out the fibre glass mesh to the length you need and overlap the mesh slightly on the corners to ensure the joints are strong. Using lightweight gloves is a good idea as otherwise it makes your hands itchy! You then need to snap off the longer plastic legs of the Z clips which are provided (you only need the shorter legs for domestic use) and attach them to the fibre glass mesh approx every 10 cm in a square formation and lastly adding a central clip to each square. There are 2 grooves in each Z clip to hold the mesh so this ensures your mesh will stay at the correct level when the concrete is poured on top. Using an electric drill is a must when you have so many screws but a good tip is to buy a magnetic tip for your drill if you don’t have one. It holds the screws on the end of the drill when you’re trying to fix down and stops a lot of cursing!
Step 4: Remove your drawers / cupboard doors and protect your floor and units with lots of plastic (we used packaging from appliances we’d bought which worked fine). We also cut plastic bags and taped them over sockets and the extractor hood to avoid splashing concrete onto them. We covered over the holes for the sink and hob with the ply which we’d cut out from the ply worktop to stop too much concrete seeping in. Be sure to leave holes in the corners though to be able to easily remove once the concrete is set! This worked for us but they took a while to cut around the ply edges as concrete had dripped and set into the joints. In retrospect styrofoam would have been easier and worked just as well from a protection POV with the added bonus of being quick to break up after the concrete was set.
Step 5: Mix and pour the concrete as per the instructions on the packets. Make sure you mix up a trial amount first to check the consistency and make sure it’s suitable for working with. This process is messy and renders you feeling rather kid-like! It was an incredibly exciting / scary morning! Once the concrete is level vibrate the edges of the formwork by tapping on them with the end of a trowel or by using a sander. We did the latter and this worked brilliantly for us – we have very little holes on the edges as a result.
Step 6: As the concrete started to set we peeled back the plastic sheeting and wiped the plastic formwork clean. We also used a little trowel to move any concrete spillage from the edge of the ‘holes’ so that it would be easier to take the ply protection out. Tidying before the concrete dries was really easy and we were glad we’d done it when it came to removing the formwork later on.
Step 7: On Day 2 the concrete had dried a lighter colour and we could take the ply framing out of the holes for the sink and the hob. It required a bit of jiggery pokery but worked fine. We could then test that our fitted appliances would fit snuggly on the new surface.
Step 8: Break the formwork off – this peels away and is a very satisfying step! You’ll need to sand the top, edges and corners so don’t be worried about a little bit of excess concrete as shown below on the corner edge.
This is when it starts to get fun and you can put in a few drawers back in to start to imagine the final effect! We chose a simple square edge formwork frame with a white concrete mix but there were so many options to choose from according to your style which you can check out here.
We posted about our progress on our Instagram account and the most frequently asked question we had was ‘is it possible for an amateur DIY-er to do?’. We would respond – absolutely! We had both sets of our wonderful parents over to help and definitely a little ‘team’ is recommended when little leaks start to spout or the drills overheat as this is a time-pressured activity! However going with Z Counterform meant they provided links to videos which really highlight each stage and this took the fear out of the process for us. If you follow them on Instagram you can see some of their latest projects to get ideas and we found this really helpful for imagining the final result.
Next up we’ll cover the sanding and sealing process so watch out for the next blog later this month… We’d love to hear your comments though on our DIY adventure and thoughts on using a concrete worktop!
In the interest of transparency we received a discount from Z Counterform when purchasing their products but this post genuinely depict the process we undertook to create our first DIY countertop!
Kitchens are often described as the ‘hub of the home’ and something we here in England obsess about. There is an alarming trend for spending enormous sums on a kitchen created by a designer which leaves the rest of us wondering how on earth we can afford one. The answer is by taking it back into your own hands and getting creative.
With us moving our kitchen into the new extension everything had to be from scratch which meant we weren’t confined to existing drainage or electricity points and it put the onus on us to get the design right. This is our longterm home and we wanted to install something with longevity for both ourselves and future owners. Whilst we argued over if there was space for a breakfast bar (there wasn’t) we spent time creating a practical triangle (between the oven, hob and sink) and ensuring placements were practical (dishwasher next to the sink etc). Whilst in the design phase it’s often easy to gloss over impractical placements but DO fight the urge to put pretty ahead of practical!
We’re only part way through our kitchen build but thought we’d showcase progress so far:
We bought the kitchen cabinets from IKEA and had them delivered which was a practical choice given there were 120 flat-pack boxes!
We chose the inexpensive Veddinge fitted kitchen in matt grey. Whilst stand-alone units are wonderful, fitted cabinets really maximise storage and being a family of 4 this is now one of our top priorities! Being IKEA you can of course change the colours of the doors / styles as necessary and we liked the ‘future proofing’ this provided. The units are solid so they don’t have gaps for installing utilities like other kitchens you can buy in the UK but its easy enough to drill access holes and this doesn’t compromise the strength of the units. We then spent a long weekend putting together the carcases and even the kids were great with some of the repetitive builds like the plastic feet.
The next part is fixing the cabinets to the wall (and to each other). It’s here you discover the walls aren’t perfectly straight or you have wobbly floors so its best to allow lots of time (and patience) for this part. In our last kitchen we used hidden push openers but they didn’t cope with the heavy drawers well so unfortunately (we love the minimalism of handleless drawers) we’ve decided we need to install handles. The handles we’re using are fixed to the inside of the drawers at the top so it means we can change them in the future if we want to change the look or functionality as the handles we’ve chosen leave the doors perfectly in tact from the front.
With the washing machine at the end of the units we had to build an ‘end’ to it which the husband swiftly did with sheets of mdf. We always look to build in display storage wherever we can to add character and functionality to spaces and this was a handy place to display cookery books (in addition to the two yellow boxouts we bought). We’ll accent the bookshelf by painting the backing in Little Greene Mister David Yellow or possibly Lamp Black.
Similarly to hide the kitchen worktop from the kitchen table we raised the area above the sink with a simple timber construction clad in mdf. This also avoids any splash back to people sitting at the table and in time we’ll add a simple shelf, splashback glass and paint.
The next step felt really exciting – using ply to create the worktop template for the concrete pour. We’ve gone with a wonderful company called Z Counterform who let you DIY using their kits. This means you can create kitchen worktops which are personal to you and the space you’ve created (no annoying joints). We settled on a White Concrete mix with a square edge profile (but you can choose whichever you like). and they look like stone on completion so are a sturdy look for your kitchen which adds to that feeling of home. Watch out for a blog post on this shortly.
Our top tips so far:
Would love to hear your experiences and tips too!
We were lucky enough to be sent a copy of ‘A life in Pattern: The Life & Work of Sheila Bownas’ exhibition catalogue this month and it’s exactly as the foreword states: We now have access to a little piece of design history transferred into a very modern context.
You could be forgiven for not having heard of Sheila Bownas (1925 – 2007) but for the last few years ecomodernstudios have been following this incredible brand born from a body of works from a designer of the same name. The story is one that many of us might dream about; a treasure trove discovery of the life works of an unknown yet prolific designer. However not many of us would have the drive and determination to piece together the history in such an methodical and authentic way. This is exactly what happened to Chelsea Cefai back in 2008 who on a spur of the moment decision at an auction became the guardian of over 200 hand-painted patterns from the 1950s onwards.
The post-war period was a time of great vision, colour and pattern as British people embraced new styles. Sheila’s designs were bought by various textile and wallpaper manufacturers to include Liberty London, Marks & Spencers and Crown Wallpaper but these were never released under her name so she remained under the radar. This was of course in stark contrast to the star designer of that time Lucienne Day but was nonetheless common for the era and indeed to some extent today. These colourful designs seem as applicable today as they did then and our obsession with the colour and pattern of the 1950s onwards shows no sign of diminishing with popular brands such as Orla Kiely and MissPrint to name a few… and Marimekko, who’ve well, kept on going!
Included in the 65-paged colour catalogue is a fascinating essay by Design Historian Lesley Jackson who gives a detailed account of the designs within the context to which they were conceived. She states ‘to encounter all these facets within the oeuvre of one individual is rare, but it is this diversity that makes the Sheila Bownas archive such a rich resource. What is especially rewarding about dipping into this archive is that wonderful designs that did not receive exposure originally are being given a second chance to shine’.
The catalogue is such a detailed and beautiful account of Sheila’s work and here’s a few of the beautiful patterns we couldn’t help but share starting with this 1950s design below:
These 1960s prints
And this hypnotising 1970s print:
With permission from the family of Sheila Bownas selected British artisans have used these original designs to create furniture, textiles, lighting and ceramics. What a legacy for an artist who never once had a retrospective in her lifetime. As Lesley Jackson so aptly put its in her essay ‘as well as appealing to be current vogue for eclecticism, the designs lend themselves to multiple applications in terms of style, colour and scale’ and you can see this yourself by visiting their online store. We couldn’t agree more.
Visit the exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery & Museum until 3rd September 2016 and if you can’t make the exhibition but would like a copy of the catalogue then call the gallery on 01788 533217. Priced at £15 the catalogue also includes a beautiful A5 Sheila Bownas print.
Please note there are limited free tours of the exhibition by Chelsea Cefai which are detailed here – we’re very much hoping to make one of these!
I’ve admired ecomodernstudios for a while now – Hilary features some of the most gorgeous designs and I feel like every time I read one of her posts I’ve fallen in love with yet another beautiful piece. So collating a list of the desks with the biggest wow factor I could find to feature on her blog was an absolute pleasure.
Like many of you, I often work from home, which in a small home has some real challenges. I’ve featured some cool little small space office solutions before on my blog Small Space People but none are as design-led and instantly covetable as these!
I hope you enjoy them. I’ve got my eye on all of these, so next time I’m revamping my home office I’ll definitely be returning to this list…
Rewrite desk by GamFratesi
So this mid-century cool little number is perfect for those of you that have nothing more than a corner to dedicate to your mini-office, and yet need somewhere that you can completely focus on the job in hand. Its cocoon-like bubble would be perfect for those times when you really need to get your head down, yet it’s small and minimal enough not to take over a space.
Lots of great features make this a surprising yet amazingly functional and beautiful desk: the walls of the ‘bubble’ are acoustically protected on both sides to give a shielding from sounds both inside and out; there’s a white cable box mounted underneath the main desk to keep your wires tidy; and it’s covered with textile to enhance its welcoming look.
Deskbox by Raw Edges/Arco
Here’s a super sleek desk if there ever was one! I love this for small spaces for so many reasons: it’s wall mounted, so no legs to clutter up the space, it’s foldaway which means you can hide your desk clutter and things you’ve been working on easily, and it’s a beautiful minimal design which would work in a variety of settings.
The Hackney design duo and Dutch manufacturer released this in Milan’s Salon Internazionale del Mobile in 2012, and its solid oak and epoxy steel construction is bound to make it really durable and strong. The hinge mechanism folds down easily for working and folds back up to form a shelf when the desk isn’t in use.
I naturally love this because it’s been designed just around the corner from me in North London, but it’s an absolutely beautiful yet practical idea for working at home with hardly any space.
COM:POS:ITION 0.9 (from Gentle Objects by Martin Mestmacher)
Launched in 2014, this is a bolder, almost Mondrian-esque line of black steel-framed designs, including this bureau style offering. Featuring a small desk with a pull out drawer and a high mounted cabinet, it’d be a really striking look for a monochrome room.
The range comprises so many different combinations for wall storage and function. The frame is black powder-coated steel, with black stained oak and stainless steel for the fixings.
Of the Gentle Objects title, Martin Mestmacher says gentle is ‘a synonym for eternalness and silence’ (perfect for working on your latest project!) and objects stands for ‘an expression of the variety of our spectrum which we can offer you.’ A vast combination of designs to fit your space with a timeless look sounds good to me!
Stockholm range by Mario Ruiz
Here’s another neat little wall-mounted number (can you tell I’m in love with these?!). Combining wood and coloured aluminium effortlessly, this range features a lot of very beautiful pieces for your home, including sideboards, chests, media units and this gorgeous little desk.
With potentially endless colour combinations with 7 different wood finishes and 3 different colours for the anodised aluminium top, this is something you could really match to your home, or equally make a statement with some bold colourways.
Regarding himself as a designer who ‘says a lot with very little’, Mario Ruiz works in Barcelona. The Stockholm range won the 2015 Red Dot Design Award.
Royal System® by Poul Cadovius
If you’re looking for a minimal option which incorporates shelving and cabinet options then look no further.
This piece is steeped in history. Way back in 1948, Cadovius designed the first wall-mounted shelving system with many different combinations – shelves, drawers, cabinets, even a bureau style pull out desk. Back in the 50s and 60s it was on everyone’s wish list. It was extremely forward thinking back in the day – furniture used to take up valuable floor space, so Cadovius injected some Danish innovation to the furniture market – the range was described as ‘the largest success the Danish furniture industry has ever had’.
It’s now being made by DK3. It’s available in walnut or oak finishes with stainless steel or brass hangers, and it’s beautiful. The gentle curve of the metal with the lines of the wood make this a classic option.
Thanks for taking over the blog with this article Lizzie! It’s been wonderful to work with a fellow blogger so passionate about design and interiors. You can read the ecomodernstudios article on 2 Willow Road on the Small Space People blog so head over there to take a look!
Founded in 2014 by Katy Goutefangea, Ola creates traditionally crafted stationery collections, featuring original prints of such zingy energising patterns. ‘Made in the UK’ adorns their wares which is a refreshing statement in a time when we’re often told ‘costs have forced us elsewhere’…
The quality of the cards is something which is immediate to see with heavy thick set card and foil blocked designs – this sits well with the principle behind the designs: ‘each item is a quiet celebration of pattern, influenced by architecture, abstract geometry and artists such as Sol LeWitt, Anni Albers and Donald Judd’. There is a quiet brilliance to this brand and we were lucky enough to sit down with Katy to ask a few questions about the inspirations and design processes behind Ola.
What is it about architecture that you find so inspiring?
I’m often drawn to the ornament found in architecture. There’s an interesting interaction between the size of buildings and their smaller human scale detailing. The period we research will often change depending on the collection we’re working on – at the moment there are lots of postmodern buildings on the pinboard!
These architectural references make for a really refreshing offering. Ola products are crafted in small quantities with a dedication to detail – stitching in place of gluing, inks laid with a roller instead of digitally – traditional craftsmanship which just shines with quality. Take for instance the patterned spine notebooks which are designed so that the spines will match when shelved for display and ease of organisation.
Do you dream in geometry and pattern? What impact do you think colour and pattern plays in our lives?
Pattern is, and always has been, a huge part of human life. Some of the earliest items in known history are decorated – it’s something we’ve been doing since the beginning of time. The prints on each of our notepads have been developed to balance pattern and subtlety. It’s important that the prints enhance the notebooks aesthetically and inspire the user, without distracting from what is essentially a blank space to record thoughts and ideas. The patterns are intended to be almost meditative, somewhere you can rest your gaze while thinking of something else.
Katy, when so many are going digital why have you focused on going ‘analogue’ with paper and traditional craftsmanship / manufacturing?
There is something very different about writing in a notepad to taking notes digitally. They definitely both have their place. Paper can be used to sketch and write simultaneously, it can be rotated and torn. It doesn’t need to be switched on to record a passing thought. It can be carried anywhere, crumpled and dropped without much worry. It can be flicked through at a later date and stored on a shelf. The same cannot be said for any digital device.
This detail matters. Despite the technologically dominated age we’re living in stationery design continues to grow in the UK – we still all feel a connection with writing, with posting, with making. The tactile nature of these beautiful products will only continue to strengthen this bond and play their part in attracting new generations of paper addicts for all the right reasons; to help people tell their own story.
We will be trialling out some origami techniques with paper from the current range ‘Dash Print in Klein Blue’ and ‘Victor Print in Turquoise Blue’ using this lovely book ‘Folding Techniques for Designers’. These pattern papers are traditionally printed in England, using vegetable based inks and soft white uncoated paper stocks and is a lovely quality for craft (or wrapping for that special person). We love the bold geometric inspired patterns so we’re excited to see the results… watch this space on our Instagram feed for progress!
Please note we were sent products to photograph for the purpose of this interview. All photographs ecomodernstudios
This week we spoke with Taz of Taz Pollard Ceramics who works from North Devon. This British designer has had a busy few years creating handmade vibrant ceramics inspired by shapes from cola bottles to drainpipes. In 2013 she was shortlisted for a Confessions of A Design Geek bursary and won the One Year On award at New Designers in 2014. Her work has also been sold through a number of galleries and design shops to include Heals in Tottenham Court Road and Future and Found so she’s one busy lady!
So Taz – how do you come up with such original ‘ceramic with attitude’ designs? You’re obviously bold with colour and materials so where does your exploratory process start?
Most of my ideas start with historical ceramics and looking at how we value objects. Plastics are the new ‘everyday pottery’ something which is used and discarded with little regard to its design or origins. I find it interesting that you can take a fairly mundane object such as a disused piece of drainpipe or an old plastic bottle and create something beautiful within it.
Given your bold use of colour in your ceramics what impact do you think using colour in the home has?
Bright splashes of colour are so uplifting and cheerful. I think using accessories, vases and soft furnishings are such a great way of injecting a bit of colour into the home but with the neon in this range less is definitely more! Neon is a bit of a head turner…
You describe your work as ‘perfectly imperfect’ reflecting the fact the pieces are handmade. What do you think being handmade adds to a product?
Being handmade brings life to a piece, a bowl which is perfectly round is easily ignored by the brain as we already understand the shape and move on subconsciously; a bowl which undulates holds the viewer for longer as the brain tries to work out what it is seeing. It’s a human thing, a reflection on the human condition you could say, it’s our beautiful imperfections which makes us stand out. For me it’s also about investment, when I hold a handmade mug I know someone has invested time, love and thought into that piece and it definitely makes the tea taste better!
What eco credentials to your work do you have and do these inform your designs?
Ceramic production is a very non-eco sector which desperately needs investment and innovation, particularly in kilns and firing. I am very lucky to have a studio at Woodlands in North Devon which was sustainably built and low impact with a passive energy business centre which we regularly use.
So, what products are next in the pipeline?
I am currently working on my new ‘spirits range’ which will be launched at Clerkenwell Design Week (24th-26th May 2016). The range includes shot cups, tumblers, olive trays and a large tray in porcelain with bold royal blue and gold touches. Come and say hello!
Please note Taz sent us a drainpipe vase to photograph to accompany the interview. All photos ecomodernstudios.