Walker Greenbank (which owns big-name wallpaper/textile brands like Sanderson, Zoffany and Morris & Co) has just launched a ‘youthful’ new brand called Scion. ‘Youthful’ in this context seems to mean graphic, Scandinavian-inspired prints and lots of bright colour, although that is pigeonholing it somewhat as there’s pretty much something for everyone in its first collections – Melinki, which concentrates on print and pattern, and Plains, which are, er, plain. I’m hoping that the brand is aiming to become a sort of Top Shop of the textile world, taking the best designer pieces and turning them something more accessible and less expensive, retaining the sort of quality you’d expect from its umbrella company. 100% cotton prints start at £25/m and wallpaper from £30/roll.
Berry Tree wallpaper
Lace wallpaper/Mr Fox fabric curtains
Laura Ashley is not a brand well-known for contemporary design – quite the opposite in fact – but I’ve been a quiet admirer of the brand’s (rather well hidden) more modern pieces for a while now. Speed-browsing the latest catalogue at a friend’s new home, I was stopped mid-flick on several occasions, especially by the lighting, but also by other products such as the neutral Logan wallpaper (a fabulous £26 per roll), with its graphic mid-century nod. And of course no one would suspect that your amazing gold-lined ceramic pendant light (a homage to Pols Potten’s extremely wonderful Buffer light, I suspect) or angular steel floor lamp was from Laura Ashley, because they’d never think to look there.
Colinton upholstered chair
Logan natural wallpaper
White ceramic pendant light
Bradie cream task floor light
A huge percentage of us have vinyl flooring in the kitchen or bathroom – it’s cheap, hardwearing and easy to lay. But it’s definitely not cool, and I have a problem with the fact that so much of it is made to look like fake tiles, stone flooring or floorboards – who are we trying to kid? It is slowly moving away from its association with cheapo landlords, though, with pretty products such as these, sourced from France by online store Zazous. The only downside is that you have to order in multiples of 5sqm. I haven’t measured my kitchen, but it would be just my luck that it’s 10.1sqm…
I don’t know how I managed to miss these lovelies at Tent London during London Design Festival, but I put it down to being all bleary-eyed from looking at too may good things. The Colourhouse (an interior designer and a costume designer) launched themselves into the world in September with a small range of sweet, simple, colourful textiles. The standout for me is this ‘Be Lucky’ fabric, and with all those horseshoes and four-leaf clovers you’ll be sure to have Lady Luck on your side (although the less said about those lonely single magpies the better). Made and printed in the UK, too.
Here’s a scheme inspired by a great picture from one of my new favourite things, How to be a Retronaut, a cavalcade of visual fabulousness dragged from the archives (I can’t really explain it better than that, have a look though, it’s brilliant if you love social history and totally addictive). Its ‘…in colour’ series is the first thing I click on, and features rare early colour photography of everything from New York in the 1940s to Egypt in the 1920s. Nothing transports you directly into the past than old colour photography and some of the colours and textures are so unexpected; I think my brain thought that everything was actually black and white in history. I can glean more design inspiration here than in any glossy magazine, and this pic of Russian girls, taken from a set shot in 1909-15 seems right for autumnal plummy colours. I love their sombre expressions and stiff deportment (I guess you had to hold pretty still then) especially compared to their exuberant clothes. I was going to cast my shopping net a bit wider here but Zara Home was my first port of call and it pretty much nailed it, so hurray for that.
Clockwise from top left: Flecos blanket, Melia bread plates, Filigree cushion, Cameo tableware, Wayne stool, Rombo jug, Gardenia tray, Velvet cushion, all Zara Home
I’m a bit of a tile obsessive – yes, there are better things to get obsessed about but I can’t help it. And I particularly love tiles that are hand-made, where no two are the same and you can sense something about the maker in each one. Lubna Chowdhary makes the most beautiful tiles from her Streatham studio, with intricate, colourful target patterns, textured concentric circles like a drop of water in a pool, or more sober muddy-coloured geometrics that remind me of Cubist paintings. She has worked on some wonderful commissions but has recently opened an online shop where you can buy things directly – little groupings of tiles, plus hotplates and storage jars. I just don’t know what it is about her work, but it makes me feel happy looking at it. She’s having a studio sale on Dec 3&4, if you want to see what she does (and buy) first-hand.
I don’t know whether it’s because property is cheap-ish or because Southwark Council’s planning department is particularly receptive to new ideas, but there are some great contemporary houses where I live in Peckham (and its immediate environs). This is particularly apparent at this time of year when Open House weekend means they open their doors to the public. Within a 10-min walk of my flat is the super-slim, sliding-roofed 15-and-a-half Consort Road, best known from Grand Designs (warning – very smug image of McCloud when you click that link); Quay House, a live-work-gallery space almost unrecognisable from its former life as a milk depot; and, open for the first time this year, Duggan Morris Architects‘ 16a Kings Grove. I visited today, and it’s wonderful from the get-go. You enter via a gate between two Victorian terraces which opens up into a little coppice of silver birch trees, and the house itself, two storeys of simple, warm brick and glass. It completely hugs its slightly telescopic plot, so it gets narrower as you reach the back, but lots of glazing (including a central light-well) stops it from being dark; the house backs on to 10 houses so it must have been tricky achieving a design that didn’t overlook the neighbours too much. And it’s beautifully finished, as you would expect from the house of two architects, although the interior is spare and architect-y, for want of a better word – concrete floors, oak joinery, and brickwork, which continues inside. There’s some fun stuff as well though, especially the bathroom and en-suite, both resplendent in dirty-pink tiles with brass taps (from perennial architects’ fave, Vola), and the similarly shiny-shiny Artek pendant lights. This post is going on too long, but suffice to say, it’s very heartening to see such good stuff happening in my neighbourhood. And yes, my pictures are rubbish, but see View picture library for good ones.