Zara Home is doing some extremely cute kids’ accessories at the moment. Like the best children’s homewares (or maybe it’s just me) you kinda want them for yourself. If I had a decent little home office I’d definitely be resting my back against the sheriff’s badge cushion.
In my twenties I used to love Urban Outfitters’ homewares; fun and affordable, they were a good way to spruce up your flat with what little money you had left at the end of the month, and there wasn’t really anything else like it on the high street. Some of my purchases endured, like the scandi-style graphic ‘bedspread’ (ie giant square of cotton) that my mum made into a roman blind for me, but I’d never think of going in there now – too much plastic, too many office novelties (step forward, Jesus action figure. Or perhaps, wheel forward).
But I urge you to take a look at its online shop at the moment, because there are good things to be found at small prices there. It is true that there is a lot of nonsense to wade through (iffy art by Rankin, toucan-shaped shower caps); I have no idea who their buyer/brand manager thinks their customer is. But clicking on the ‘online exclusives’ filters out a lot of it; bedding, rugs and retro-style furniture are particularly strong. Squint a bit and it could be Anthropologie, but without the heart-attack at the till. Here are some best bits (I bought the grey bedspread. Happy customer).
Multi half stripe rug, £65
Grey tufted cotton bedspread, was £75 now £40
Colour block quilt, £120
Yellow Brimfield Bookcase, £80
There’s a rash of furniture around that plays around with the contrast between plain, pale timber and slashes of bright colour. It seems that you need to get the balance right (lots timber, and a little colour) and also get the colour itself right, which needs to be blisteringly bright to catch your eye. For designer brands look to Colombian Reinhard Dienes, whose Le Belge shelving fits together with bright green butterfly screws, or Brit Charlie Crowther-Smith, whose Dowel desk features a coral-coloured brace linking its rear legs (both designs are unified by their simple construction). And on the high street, Terence Conran’s Webster dining table for M&S hits the spot. It’s a bit of frivolity in a serious world.
Le Belge shelving, Reinhard Dienes
Detail of Le Belge shelving, Reinhard Dienes
- Dowel desk, by Charlie Crowther Smith
Webster dining table, Terence Conran for Marks & Spencer
I love a bit of neon, so much so that I practically crashed the car the other day while trying to get an eyeful of this neon shop in Walthamstow (I wonder if they ever have sample sales?). But most of the ready-made signs you can buy are skewed towards retail, or people with full-sized bars in their cellar, so you’d probably have to get one made bespoke if you wanted something good. But then I saw Italian brand Seletti’s brilliant build-your-own version, where you buy one letter at a time and make up whatever word you want; there’s even a heart-shaped one, aww. It’s in a lovely typewriter-esque typeface and you wouldn’t need many to make an impact – maybe even one initial letter would do it. The transformer that links the letters together, which you buy separately, does look a bit clunky, but it sort of seems to go with the no-nonsense style of the typeface so I’m not gonna go on about it. Available from Panik Design.
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…