“One might not think of light as a matter of fact, but I do. And it is, as I said, as plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find.” Dan Flavin – American minimalist artist famous for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures.
I’ve always had a thing for lighting, in particular neon… In my first year at art college I went on a trip to Blackpool to see the lights in November. I was totally blown away by the gaudiness, the colours, the assault on the senses. I was in neon heaven! Neon has come in and out of fashion, and to a certain degree has become a bit of a design cliche of late. I haven’t let this deter me though. I still have a massive soft spot for all things neon.
It’s been used as a medium of expression over the years by many artists – Tracey Emin, Jason Rhoades, and Dylan Neuwirth to name but a few. It smacks of Soho and many an insalubrious area; circus tents and theme parks; Las Vegas and excess… and I love the fact that neon has a seedy edge to it. But it is also a thing of upmost beauty and the art of neon is incredible. My neon hero is Chris Bracey of God’s Own Junkyard, who sadly passed away in November 2014. I had the pleasure of various email communications with Chris prior to his death. If you have never heard of him I urge you to investigate his vast collection of work. “His work can be seen in films as diverse as Batman, Blade Runner and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Rainbow Fancy Dress and Sonata Jazz Café signs in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut are both his: they now form part of the 700-strong collection in the Walthamstow workshop-cum-neon-museum.” The Guardian online, November 2014.
And if you are like me and dyeing to make something in neon yourself, then have a look at The Neon Workshop company based in Yorkshire. Set up by artist Richard William Wheater with the aim of teaching and exploring neon, it offers a number of different workshops. If you would like something closer to London, then why not try the fabulous Indytute – brainchild of the highly talented Calypso Rose – which offers neon-making courses delivered by The Neon Workshop.
With all this rain and grey sky, it’s a perfect time to be thinking about bringing a little light and colour into your home.
I am a Christmas decorations hoarder! My obsession is getting a little out of hand I think… the Christmas tree is positively creaking under the weight of them this year. But this won’t deter me. I’ve been collecting them for years. My current favourites are four beautiful exquisitely delicate hand-blown glass birds that we picked up in Prague earlier this year after a particularly red-wine fuelled lunch… the next day I worked out how much I’d spent on them and let’s just say it was a lot more than I’d originally thought.
There has never really been a Christmas tree “theme” at home. It’s definitely a case of more is more – as it should be in The Maximalist home! – a veritable feast of heirloom treasures, handmade delights the children have made over the years, gifts from friends, charity-shop vintage finds, mementos from our travels, treats I’ve bought myself at designer-maker fairs, all mixed up with new decorations I inevitably buy during the course of each year. I love combining different textures such as glass, metal, porcelain, glitter balls, fabric, felt, beads, paper… it makes for an extremely tactile tree and one that conjures up every child’s (and grown-up kid’s) dream of a magical Christmas land where fairies hang out next to robots, sequined butterflies and fantastically feathered exotic birds.
So I thought I would share this decoration delight with you and point you in the direction of some truly gorgeous Xmas decs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there is so much out there at the moment. There’s still time to get hold of them, and there’s always next year after all!
For a magical twist on tradition head over to the frankly incredible Christmas Shop at Liberty. There are some wonderful tongue-in-cheek iconic decs shouting “London”, such as the double-decker bus, Big Ben, the Royal corgi dog, and of course a stunning crown. I especially adore the glass globe range of decorations, my favourite being the blue crested bird… might just have to get that one myself! There’s also the Queen in a globe, which made me chuckle. I am also loving the very striking glass humming bird on sale at the moment.
I’ve always been a fan of Paperchase‘s quirky, kitsch take on Xmas tree decorations: in the past I’ve bought robots, dinosaurs, and this year it’s the Jesus effigies that are really making me smile.
Rockett St George has an absolutely fantastic Christmas shop this year. I could very nearly buy everything there! I am completely in love with the glass whale decoration, the set of six glass Mexico baubles and the Love Has Wings dec… I strongly advise a virtual visit! They have some fantastic lights too.
Anthropologie has some beautifully unusual Xmas decs on offer. The scarfed critter ornaments are particularly inspired! And the forest soiree creatures are the stuff of childhood dreams…
If you would like something a little less fussy, have a look at the smooth lines offered by Jonathan Adler.
I don’t know about you, but it’s at this time of year that I like to whisk the other half off, sans children, for a night or two of “boutique-hotel” stay yumminess.
I’ve found fantastic deals on Groupon; truly stunning accommodation on a par with any boutique hotel on airbnb; riffled through the virtual pages of Mr & Mrs Smith for a super-cool destination; or trusted the word of friends and family… And I can’t say we’ve experienced a dud yet. In recent years we’ve visited Prague, The George in Rye, The Tunbridge Wells Hotel, Hastings Old Town, Barcelona, London, Paris, and Castell Deudraeth in Portmeirion in Wales, to name but a few.
And it’s not just about grownup time away from the kids. I get so much inspiration from the places we’ve stayed in that I come away bursting with ideas of how to add a touch of luxe living to my own home. So why not treat yourself to a night away from home and steal some fantastic home styling ideas while you’re at it! Here are some visuals to inspire you. It’s all about creating an indulgent and intimate space, full of layers of lighting, sumptuous bedding, and the odd roll-top bath for good measure.
Next stop a riad in Morocco! Well El Fenn to be precise. It’s on my Christmas list…
a brief evocative description, account, or episode.
“a classic vignette of embassy life”
a small illustration or portrait photograph which fades into its background without a definite border.
In interior design terms, a vignette is a collection of objects displayed in such a way as to possibly create a ‘story.’ By this I mean the objects on display can go some way as to explain something about the person whose home it is – perhaps they love patterned crockery, or they are a voracious explorer, or they collect art, or they are passionate about shoes…
I am an ardent collector. I always have been. A veritable magpie, I freely admit. Over the years I have collected vintage bottles, coloured glassware, crockery, miniature chairs, postcards, tiles, religious effigies and artefacts, mirrors, brooches, scarves, paintings…and I could go on! And I am a great fan of creating vignettes. There are no hard and fast rules in my opinion, although objects do tend to work better if displayed in multiples of odd numbers. The beauty of a vignette is that you can change it as and when you feel like it. You can become your own interior ‘curator’. Don’t hide your possessions away. They speak volumes about who you are as a person and the experiences you have had throughout your life. I find great comfort in having objects that are dear to me dotted around the house… even if they do collect dust! At a base level they make me smile, and that’s never a bad thing in my book.
Possessions can spark wonderful memories of travels to far-off lands or ‘just because’ gifts from close friends. Why keep them in the loft? So I urge you to unpack your treasures and show them off with pride. There is no right or wrong, as you will see from the visuals that follow. Trust your gut. If you don’t like how certain objects work together, just swap them around a bit. It’s that simple. I particularly love out-of-context displays. For example, at home I have a collection of mismatched cups and saucers in one of our bathrooms just because the colours work well together. And why not…?
One thing to consider with any form of vignette is how to light it to create the most impact. This type of lighting is what is known as ‘accent’ lighting. You can achieve this by having table lamps dotted around next to any vignette you’ve created, or you could have directional lighting so you can angle lighting in a specific direction. Again, experiment to find out what gives the best end result. In my book a vignette should always have an edge of drama and that’s where the lighting can come into full effect. So go forth and rustle up a little bit of theatre in your home. I promise you’ll be hooked in no time!
The now ubiquitous pineapple was once a rare beast…
Indigenous to South America, the pineapple was introduced to northern Europe by the Dutch and the first successfully cultivated pineapple is recorded as having been grown in 1658. Catherine the Great was a huge fan and grew pineapples on her estate. Importing pineapples was expensive, so too was growing a tropical fruit in a temperate climate, so it wasn’t long before the pineapple was seen as a symbol of extreme wealth, becoming the subject of great rivalry between wealthy aristocrats.
Throughout history the pineapple has also been used widely as a design motif, symbolising warmth and hospitality. Incorporated into all manner of home furnishings – from furniture, ornaments, wallpaper, table linen, crockery – the popularity of the pineapple is alive and well. Currently referred to as a micro-trend within the world of interiors, the pineapple is still a curious-looking fruit, but with an undeniable big dollop of charm. I am a huge fan and I couldn’t care less if it’s become a design cliche! Long live the pineapple!
So here are some glorious ways you can incorporate the pineapple into your own home…
“Lighting is the unsung hero of design.” Jonathan Adler
Mr Adler couldn’t be more right. Anyone who knows me, knows my complete obsession with lighting. Old, new, big, small, modern, vintage, kitsch, sleek… I don’t mind. I love it all. So now that the days are getting shorter, darker, and markedly colder, I thought it only apt to celebrate lighting in the home. In particular, statement lighting.
Lighting really can transform a home. It can turn an otherwise unwelcoming space into a glowing haven you won’t want to leave. The number of lamps and lights we have at home has become a bit of a running joke. I truly believe you can never have too many! Our main living room alone has eight at the moment and each has a specific purpose.
Below are some examples of gorgeous lighting together with go-to sources where you can find similar products for your own home. I hope you feel inspired to add a little lighting magic to your home now winter is approaching. Have fun!