Join the après party

Thought après ski was just for the mountains? Think again, as a wave of pop-up winter-themed bars, cool cabins and chic chalets open across the UK just in time for the snowy season

Ski-Chalet-Visual_High-res-410x315

Pop-up Patagonian
London’s Latin-inspired Floridita has opened the Soho Ski and Rum Chalet – an Argentinian-style ski lodge serving winter blends of rum, hot cocktails (try the Ski Break: hot chocolate, rum, chocolate liqueur and cinnamon) and winter classics alongside a Latin-American tapas menu. You’ll find it hidden beneath the restaurant’s famous sweeping staircase. Until February 2015, www.floriditalondon.com

winter_terracemulled_beer_lr_104733

The Winter Terrace at The Narrow
Fairy lights twinkle across the water, fire pits crackle and the gentle hum of Christmas movie classics on the big screen… The Narrow’s Winter Terrace may be outdoors but you can cut through the cold with a mulled beer, French Toddy or soul-warming Le Poire Chaud (hot Perry to you and I). Festive food includes Walnut & Gorgonzola Dumplings, Goose Rillettes Crostini, and Pigs in Blankets. Until 28 February, www.gordonramsay.com

bar1

Après Skate Bar, Bristol
At Clifton on Ice – a temporary indoor-outdoor ice rink in Bristol’s Clifton Village, local company Beerd Brewery has opened Après Skate, a rustic, Alpine-themed bar serving a selection of posh dogs, Beerd beers, champagne and hot chocolate. Until 4 January, www.cliftononice.com

Interiors-2

Le Chalet, London
Shop till you drop… with a drink in your hand at this pop-up winter chalet on the roof of Selfridge’s department store. Alongside mulled wine and choc-tails (hot chocolate cocktails), there’s an Alpine barbecue menu – think spit-roast pork and smoked Highland venison – and a cosy interior of tartan wool blankets, candle-lit tables and trees twinkling with fairy lights. Until 28 February, www.selfridges.com

images

Curious TeePee at the Oast House, Manchester
This impromptu fairy-lit tent of a bar returns to Manchester’s Oast House for another festive run, with rustic wooden benches, animal fur rugs and woolen blankets – not that you’ll need them, this place gets so busy with Christmas revelers that body heat, and winter spiced cider, are enough to warm the teepee. There’s a hog roast and turkey roast on the menu, too. Until 31 December, Theoasthouse.uk.com

Piste at Archer Street, London
Snowshoes, vintage skis and boots line the wood-clad walls of this basement Alpine pop-up at Archer Street. Grab a seasonal apricot and cinnamon Bellini or a Let it Sloe (sloe gin, lemon, chestnut liqueur, plum liqueur, egg white and grated nutmeg) then raid the themed dressing up box to really get in the après-ski mood. Until March, archerstreet.co.uk

Tio Pepe x Pop, Cardiff, Leeds & Bournemouth
Sherry and popcorn? Sounds weird, right. Wrong. Tio Pepe has teamed up with gourmet popcorn specialists Pop to create a festive fino and popcorn menu. For a fiver you get a glass of smooth, dry sherry and three different savoury corns: pigs in blankets, roast turkey, and stuffing with blue cheese. Until 24 December at Ambiente, Leeds; The Larder House, Bournemouth; Bar 44, Cardiff.

Berkeley-Roof-Top-Cinema--winter(2)

Winter Cinema at The Berkeley, London
Christmas? It’s all about snuggling up and watching a classic festive film. Now you can do so in added style at this pop-up rooftop terrace that has been transformed into a pine-filled forest cinema, complete with fluffy cushions, Moncler blankets, hot chocolate and mince pies (or wine and canapés if you want to make a night of it). Bring on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Until 31 December, www.the-berkeley.co.uk

drambuiebar

Drambuie Hot Apple Toddy Bar, Edinburgh
Warm up with a hot apple toddy in this not-so-inventively-named bar that sits next to the glittering Princes Street Gardens ice rink. It’s worth going for the design alone – inspired by the surreal art of Salvador Dalí – the Drambuie Hot Apple Toddy Bar serves other festive cocktails, too, and is the buzzing centre of Edinburgh’s Christmas, that includes cabaret, a funfair, market, theatre, comedy and even a Christmas tree maze. Until 4 January, www.edinburghschristmas.com

 Winter-Cabin-interior_low_res214

The Winter Cabin at York & Albany, London
Part sauna-part hunting lodge – think tartan, animal skins and taxidermy – the snug rustic cabin in the York & Albany’s courtyard holds just 12 guests, so it’s worth booking ahead (there’s are two-hour slots so that as many people can try it). Keep cosy with a warm buttered rum hot chocolate with marshmallows and snack on hearty wild boar sausages, black pudding scotch eggs and venison sausage rolls. Until February. www.gordonramsay.com/yorkandalbany

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 23 December. 

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 23.43.56

A festive feast – with a twist

Seasonal food is one of the most hotly anticipated aspects of Christmas, whether it’s the spicy scent of warm mulled wine, the turkey-and-trimmings meals, or the show-stopping desserts. But retailers and restaurants are getting more creative than ever with their festive concoctions – any one for mince pie ice cream?

Cafe Royal's Minceroonie
Cafe Royal’s Minceroonie

The mincearoonie
A pillow-y macaroon, all light and airy with a crisp crunch and a chewy almond-y interior, meets a mince pie filling – a spicy, raisin-packed jam centre. The brainchild of Andrew Blas, executive pastry chef at London’s Café Royal, the genius of this dessert is that the macaroon isn’t too sweet, so that you really taste the Christmas flavours. Buy them on their own, to take away, or as part of a sit-down afternoon tea while you’re out Christmas shopping. www.hotelcaferoyal.com 

sprout_juice_2960602b

Brussels sprout juice
I tested this, so that you don’t have to – unless of course you really like Brussels sprouts. Marks and Spencer’s seasonal apple, pear and Brussel sprout juice, which promises to deliver two of your five-a-day. Even though the drink contains just eight per cent sprout, there is a definite whiff about it. I’m sure it’s a new kind of superfood and a clever way to get us to eat (or drink) our greens, but it’s certainly an acquired taste. www.marksandspencer.com

mincepieicecreamFestive ice cream
Christmas in a scoop. Sainsbury’s has created Taste the Difference farmhouse ice cream, made with free-range eggs and Devon cream, in two fruity flavours: the mince pie ice cream comes complete with mincemeat and pastry pieces, while the caramelised orange ice cream is studded with chunks of cranberry compote (£3.25 for 500ml, www.sainsburys.co.uk). Not to be outdone, Waitrose has a Christmas pudding ice cream, created by Heston Blumenthal (£4.49 for 500ml, www.waitrose.com).

compressed_Fortnum__Mason

Buck’s Fizz marmalade
For retailers, Christmas means glitter, and increasingly that even includes novelty drinks containing flecks of gold. So it wasn’t surprising that before long food would follow. At least you can expect a quality product from Fortnum & Mason – so why not wow your family at the Christmas breakfast table with this Buck’s Fizz marmalade (£7.95, www.fortnumandmason.com) containing edible glitter. If Fortnum’s hadn’t already created it, someone on the Great British Bake-Off would surely try.

Want more glitter? Buy the new Fortnum and Mason Glitter Shortbread (£9.75) or M&S’s Gold G&Tea (£11.99, www.marksandspencer.com) – a pre-mixed gin cocktail infused with tea, elderflower, lemongrass, and flecks of gold.

The Christmas burger
A restaurant-take on the obligatory festive sandwich that every lunchtime outlet comes up with at advent, the Christmas dinner burger, is essentially a turkey roast and the veggie option (camembert cheese with cranberry relish) in one brioche bun. You also get a sprout instead of a gherkin, smoked bacon and a lettuce leaf, just in case it was too easy to get your mouth around before. It’s served with a side of roast goose-fat potatoes – of course it is. £13.50 from K West Hotel & Spa, available throughout December.

Christmas pie
Recreating a sweet-meets-savoury festive pie – the original mincemeat pie concept that dates back to the 13th century – Brompton Food Market’s Spiced Mutton and London Porter pie contains rare-breed mutton, spices from Spice Mountain at Borough Market and ‘Brew by Numbers’ Porter – brewed in London with Columbus and Bramling hops. It’s as intriguing as it is intoxicating, and a hearty alternative to turkey. www.bromptonfoodmarket.com

233609008

Mince pie praline chocolates
They may look like mince pies, but these beauties are instead filled with praline chocolate – a great idea for guests who don’t like the traditional pasty treat. £6 for 6, www.johnlewis.com

Christmas Dog

The Christmas Dog
As a general rules, dogs are not just for Christmas – unless we’re talking hot-dogs, in which case it’s a brilliant idea. At Shake Shack, try the Shack Dog ‘n’ Blanket – a Sillfield Farm Cumberland sausage wrapped in bacon and topped with pumpkin maple mustard (£6, www.shakeshack.com).

American diner Dirty Bones also has a signature Christmas Dog, featuring a turkey & stuffing sausage, which is cooked in red wine gravy and comes served with cranberry puree in place of ketchup (£23 as part of the Christmas menu, www.dirty-bones.com)

234004306

Cookie and Caramel wreath
Half Florentine (which is already a sticky, caramelised festive nutty treat), half milk chocolate wreath, this pretty, sweet treat is also decorated with cocoa and shortbread biscuits and make a delicious stocking filler. £7 for 100g, www.HotelChocolat.com

Mulled wine cheesecake
Who doesn’t love mulled wine? It really is Christmas in a glass. Well now you can have Christmas on a plate, with Asda’s Chosen by You Mulled Wine Cheesecake, which is spiced with cinnamon, candied orange and Christmas spices. £7, www.asda.com

croquembouche

Croquembouche kit
If you want to blow everyone else out of the water as the Christmas host-with-the-most this year, then hotfoot it to Tesco to pick up this Finest Croquembouche patisserie kit. Yes, some DIY is required to create the 60-strong towering cone of profiteroles, that you then drizzle with chocolate sauce and edible sparkling stars. It’ll definitely be a foodie instagram-moment, when you carry this to the table – just don’t drop it. £15, www.tesco.com (in store from 18 December)

Christmas afternoon tea
The festive Champagne afternoon tea at TwoRuba has all the usual suspects, plus mince pies, Bucks Fizz truffles, Christmas cake and stolen – if that doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, what will? £19 per person, www.tworuba.com

929254_736387209780751_488842986_n

A Pine time
The tree is one of the key scents of Christmas – but are you brave enough to drink it? The Mistletoe and Pine cocktail at the Paramount Bar (£12, www.paramount.uk.net) contains pine-infused Bombay Sapphire gin, shaken with a splash of Pimento dram, freshly squeezed lemon juice, cinnamon sugar and an egg white.

Or head to Marks and Spencer where they are selling Adnams Southwold Spruce IPA, a fragrant blend of hops and Norway Spruce (£24 for a case of 12, www.marksandspencer.com).

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 23 December. See the print version HERE.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 23.07.18

Get pisco-ed

A little treat to get into the mood this New Year’s Eve, with thanks to London’s Lima Floral for the recipe

Pisco Sour
2 ounces Pisco Quebranta
1 ounce key lime juice
1 ounce sugar syrup
¼ white of a fresh egg
Angostura® bitters

1 Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds.

2 Strain into a rocks glass of appropriate size.

3 To finish, place three drops of bitters in the centre of the egg foam.

Tip: Key Lime juice and simple syrup can be adjusted to taste. Some prefer a more sour drink while others something sweeter.

ENJOY!

Relight your fire

Where will you hang your Christmas stocking from? Chances are it will not be a mantelpiece. Homeowners have spent the last 30 years chucking out old fireplaces and removing awkward chimney breasts to create contemporary spaces with clean lines and flat walls. Nearly all new-build flats of the last generation won’t even have any kind of fireplace – after all, who’d want a smoky relic of a bygone age when you could have underfloor heating or slimline radiators?

But times are changing. Soaring heating bills, more environmentally-sound and clean fuels, and the return of people wanting more character in their homes, have all contributed to a revival of the traditional fireplace and surround. A feature fireplace can add up to five per cent to a home’s value. And at this time of year, the warm glow and crackle of logs burning in the hearth seems very appealing indeed.

image002

“More people are starting to realise that they can have a real fire, even in the city and smoke-controlled areas. Technology has advanced – many wood-burning stoves are now DEFRA-approved – meaning you can burn wood and other smokeless fuels, even in London terraced property,” explains David Adamson of Direct Stoves and Fireplaces (www.directstoves.com). “Not only that, by burning wood you are heating your home as carbon neutrally as possible, and with a little investment it will actually save you money long term.”

Wiking Miro1

Heating just the room that you are in is certainly more cost-effective than centrally heating an entire house. Using wood as your heat source costs 2.5p per kw/h compared with gas at 4p and electricity at 11p, say HETAS, the solid fuels industry body. And HETAS has seen an unprecedented interest in wood-burning stoves, with more than 200,000 installed last year – up by more than 50 per cent in five years.

It’s something Alexandra Marr from Crieff has noticed. “We have two open fireplaces and having spent the summer filling our woodshed, and every weekend since refilling it, we soon realised that it goes through so much more wood compared to a wood-burner – so we have had two wood-burning stoves put into the fireplaces to save energy and, hopefully, money.”

Hwam 3120

For those with modest means and a modern home, wood-burners are increasingly the fire of choice. “In the past ten years we’ve seen a move towards stoves that are more contemporary in style. People are viewing stoves as a focal point for their home as much as an efficient way to heat it,” says Tony Ingram, Technical Service Manager of Morsø (www.morso.co.uk). “That’s why cylindrical, curved shapes are becoming more popular, and stoves with the option to be either wall-mounted or raised on a simple pedestal – they’re a real shift away from the more boxy, bulky style of stove that has dominated.”

British brand Charnwood (www.charnwood.com), too, has a created new vitreous enamel fire surrounds for wood-burners for spring 2015, aimed at creating a more contemporary, stylish finish. The vibrant glazed panels that surround their wall-mounted Bay stoves, start from £150 and include the nautical, Whitby design – it’s a new take on Victorian glazed tiles.

a2dd02b9b008c825a6fadebb7cf10968

For something really radical, look north for inspiration – to Scandinavia, where ceramic tiled stoves, kakkelovn, have had a huge revival in recent years. More than 90 per cent of homes in Finland have one of these hugely efficient, chimney-like stoves that not only look beautiful but they also burn very cleanly (two hours of burning is all that’s needed to release heat slowly over a 24-hour-period). While an open fireplace has 10 per cent efficiency, a ceramic stove has 90 per cent efficiency, says UK specialist the Ceramic Stove Company (www.ceramicstove.com).

image014

But it’s not just the financial incentive that is fueling the fashion for fireplaces – increasingly they are in vogue, and not just in country, period properties. The latest luxury London apartments have designer fireplaces at the heart of their cutting-edge designs. Fire “walls” that create a screen between two areas, as well as a focal point, are both practical and desirable.

CGI Interior of Living Room at Block A Penthouse, Fulham Reach Development

Karen Howes, chief executive of interior design company Taylor Howes, created the striking, and opulent contemporary scheme at Distillery Wharf in Fulham Reach, where the fireplace is an integral part of the design. “Fireplaces can be used to make a statement with striking designs and the use of luxurious materials. Long and sleek fireplaces have become increasingly popular with high-end schemes, being more artistic and sophisticated than traditional designs. This new kind of fireplace can be more imaginatively placed within the room to achieve a dramatic effect.”

Howes finds that wealthy, urban clients tend to prefer easy-to-use gas fireplaces, where minimal smoke emissions allow for the use of bronze finishes and glass facades, creating an elegant, modern yet homely fireplace.

CGI Exterior of Terrace Garden at Block A Penthouse, Fulham Reach Development

Another growing trend in the luxury sector is outdoor fireplaces, a glamorous move on from the fire pit that creates a glamorous outdoor “room”. Howes installed one on the roof-top garden at Distillery Wharf.

image013

Period properties are also seeing a resurgence in traditional hearths, with owners reinstating the original fireplaces that until recently were being ripped out and thrown on skips. The number opening up their fireplaces has risen by 20 per cent over the past three years, according to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps. “The aesthetic value of choosing an antique or reproduction fireplace for your home is immeasurable,” says Owen Pacey of Renaissance London (www.RenaissanceLondon.com), who has sourced and installed period fireplaces for the likes of Kate Winslet, Robbie Williams and Georgia Jagger, and even mega-rich modern developments, such as One Hyde Park. “They have the ability to make a house more alluring to live in, function better as a home and make a property more attractive to future buyers.”

image001

He has seen a trend emerging for two fireplaces in one room, as more owners of Victorian homes knock through to create a large open-plan space. “Often the fireplaces don’t match so we are seeing increasing numbers of clients requesting bespoke reproduction fireplaces in order to get two, identical fireplaces that still look appropriate for the property.” There’s no reason to be snobbish about reproduction fireplaces; they typically cost around a third of the price, and as Pacey notes, a good period reproduction looks a hundred times better than plonking a brand new fireplace into a old property.

image004

Black is the also back. “There’s a definite boom in black fireplaces right now”, says Pacey, who installed one for fashion designer Karen Millen. “It makes a statement and works well in most rooms, adapting well to both contemporary and period design projects.”

image024

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in the Daily Mail on 12 December.

B4qAqqkCUAAdno8

Handmade wreaths

 

 

 

It’s no secret that I’d love to be a gardener, a florist, or better yet, a flower farmer, but it’s easier said than done in when you live in south east London.

 

 

 

 

20141218-130446.jpg

20141218-130518.jpg

20141218-130539.jpg

 

But this year I have finally started making my annual Christmas wreaths as a commercial venture, after five years of making them for friends and family.

20141218-130605.jpg

20141218-130622.jpg

 

They are all unique and use local and traditional festive foliage, from ivy and holly to bay and eucalyptus, with pine cones, cinnamon, oranges, thistles and berries, designed to suit an array of different door styles.

 

 

20141218-130647.jpg

20141218-130756.jpg

20141218-130808.jpg

 

I can also make bespoke designs to suits your style and door – call or email me for more info! And I can deliver to The local Blackheath, Hither Green, Greenwich, Lewisham areas.

 

 

 

20141218-130856.jpg

 

20141218-130923.jpg

5 fab christmas decorating ideas

Get creative and make your own decorations for a hand-crafted and home-spun Christmas

1. Cookie cutter lights

If you can't make your own, you can buy these lovely lights from Cox and Cox
If you can’t make your own, you can buy these lovely lights from Cox and Cox

Pick up some cookie cutter shapes – stars, snowflakes, christmas trees, bells, reindeer, or even hearts and circles – Sainsbury’s and M&S sell copper versions like the ones pictured. Then, drill a hole into each one, push the light of your fairy lights through the hole and secure them in place with some clear glue. It’s that easy!

But if you’d rather buy some, those clever folks at Cox & Cox have created their own.

2. Make a twig decoration tree

cl-frosted-christmas-tree-decoration-christmas-crafts-med

Head to the park, or your garden, and forage some long branches with lots of twiggy stems.

If you want them to look extra festive you can spray paint them in white, gold or silver paint, or dip them in clear glue and sprinkle them with glitter.

Then insert them into a bucket that you’ve already filled with sand or soil so that they will stand upright.

Next, hang some festive decorations – you can even make your own, paper chains, paper doily snow flakes, and hanging christmas biscuits, or dried orange slices, all look really effective.

TIP – turn this into a stylish advent calendar by tying on old smarties boxes that you can put treats in (or even new smarties boxes with said sweets inside), wrap up in plain paper and add numbers to each one. It’s looks really effective and is completely personal and unique.

3. Create your own snow globe

miniature-mason-jar-and-christmas-tree-ornament-29255-p[ekm]335x502[ekm]

Start with an empty jar with a lid. My daughter used a Bon Mamon jam jar to make hers, but you could get really stylish with a Ball Mason or Kilner jar.

Decide what you want to put into your jar – it might be something your kids make from Fimo modelling clay, or you could choose a christmas ornament or make a scene, like a church or tree. Whatever you choose it needs to fit inside the jar itself, and also be no larger than the lid.

Glue your finished scene securely to the lid of the jar.

If you want to make a traditional globe which you shake and let the snow slowly fall down, you’ll need to ensure whatever goes in the jar is waterproof. Fill the jar with water and a handful of fake snow (buy it here), then fix your lid securely onto the jar. Easy.

Use small jars and tie string around them to hang them as decorations, like home-made version of the ones pictured.

Can’t face making it but love the look? Buy these from Rockett St George.

4. Make a bauble place name

bauble-placename-card-holders-set-of-6-31411-p[ekm]335x502[ekm]

1. Choose some pretty baubles and attach a round paper clip to the top of each one.

2. Then write your place name on a piece of card and slide the card into the paper clip so that is is held in place by it.

3. In order to make your baubles stand up, either attach a bit of blue tac to the bottom, or for added cuteness, sit them in egg cups.

4. For a twist on the idea, follow steps 1 and 2, then thread some ribbon through the bauble hook and tie them around napkins to kill two birds with one stone.

5. A wreath chandelier centrepiece

SCAN0078-841x1024

For a new spin on a Christmas wreath, attach ribbon to hand it from the ceiling over a table and create a stunning centre-piece. you can even hang baubles from it for really impressive look, and add candles to the top to add atmosphere.

350162_1-1

Don’t want to make your own? This hanging Narnia centrepiece from Sarah Raven, is just gorgeous.

 

Local is the new Black

Forget Black Friday and panic internet shopping, instead find an unusual, creative gift from an independent boutique on a traditional high street

Contrary to popular belief, some small towns and local shops are thriving and are a joy to visit – so make a weekend of your festive shopping with a stay at one of these indie towns

Frome, Somerset

This small, Somerset town is home to a creative crowd – as reflected by the incredible collection of independent shops clustered around Catherine Hill and the area known as St Catherine’s, a cobbled hill or narrow lanes and quaint small stone buildings.

Shop at: Home bodies will love Elizabeth Lee Interiors for stylish new and vintage gifts; Owl is an arty mix of soft furnishings, prints, art and ceramics; and Sister’s Guild has gorgeous homeware, toys and clothes for children. Pilgrimage sells worldly lanterns, blankets and upcycled or Fairtrade gifts with an interiors-spin. Crafty types would appreciate anything from Marmalade Yarns or Millie Moon, a haberdashery and sewing school with lovely fabric, ribbons and buttons that’s a real trove to rummage through. You’ll find beauty products, handmade soaps and candles at Herbs on the Hill; while vintage and antiques fans are well served by Donna May, The Dandy Lion and The Life of Riley.

Re-fuel at: Once you’ve made it to the top of St Catherine’s, you’ll be rewarded by Paccamama, a small café with an Italian vibe, and Crockers, a coffee house-meets-art gallery; at the bottom of the hill Garden Café combines a deli (good for foodie gifts), with a café and wine bar. The Archangel pub is a cosy place for a longer lunch.

Stay at: The Talbot Inn (www.talbotinn.com) in nearby Mells is a cosy gastropub with rustic-yet-stylish rooms from £95 B&B. What’s more, they’re hosting their own Christmas market on Saturday 13 December.

www.discoverfrome.co.uk

 

Helmsley, North Yorkshire

This pretty market town in the heart of the North York Moors and a mecca for foodies and walkers alike, with an abundance of cafes and proper pubs – but the shops are a fantastic draw, too.

Shop at: Get into the country vibe at Carter’s Countrywear, which has everything from Dubarry wellies and Yorkshire tweeds to cheeky country animal cufflinks, leather hip flasks, and homeware too. Find walking and country books and gifts at Claridges. Duncombe Park shop sells pretty gardening accessories and objects alongside home gifts and jewellery.

Castle stores will cater for the knit-wit in your life with wools and needles, patterns and books; magpies will love something sparkly from Libby Butler Jeweller’s or from Nice Things and Sienna, which are both Aladdin’s caves or jewellery, candles, toys and gifts.

Gastronomes can be kept happy with a treat from Helmsley Wines, Hunters of Helmsley where more then 70% of the produce is sourced from Yorkshire, Helmsley Traditional Sweet Shop (fab for stocking fillers), Auntie Anne’s Bakery – famous for its Yorkshire Curd Tart – or the town’s newest shop, Helmsley Brewing Company.

Lastly, creatives will love Look Gallery and Saltbox Gallery, which has gorgeous local prints, ceramics, jewellery and art that support’s the area’s artists.

Refuel at: Scott’s of Helmsley does really good, old-fashioned fish and chips at their stylish restaurant on Bridge Street; run by local farmers George and Ann Hawkins, The Beck Tearoom is a great place to warm up with a toasted tea cake or a steak and ale pie.

Stay at: The Black Swan hotel (doubles from £135 B&B, www.blackswan-helmsley.co.uk) in the heart of the town, has its own outdoor ice rink for Christmas this year, and roaring fires inside to warm you up.
www.visithelmsley.co.uk  www.visitryedale.co.uk

 

Lavenham, Suffolk

This stunning medieval village in Suffolk – all half-timbered buildings, crooked cottages and a gaggle of lanes centred around a market square – has an almost Dickensian feel about it, and is the perfect setting for a Christmas shopping trip.

Shop at: As a former wool town, it’s no surprise to discover the Wool Room, which sells knitted clothes and accessories, jewellery and vintage bags, but today you’ll find many more artists that wool merchants here. And it shows – there are a handful of great galleries selling paintings and prints, ceramics, sculpture and jewellery, that would all make unique gifts, from the Lionhouse and Wildlife galleries, to Lavenham Contemporary and Kate Denton Sculpture.

Merchants Row is a home to a collection of independent shops and studios including a gift and toyshop, specialising in Steiff bears, and a few antiques, interiors and furniture shops.

For more interior inspiration, try Flutterby’s, who upcycle and repaint furniture and home accessories, the Cuckoo Flower and Water Street Glass. Lastly the shop inside the Tourist information office stocks an array of locally crafted gifts including lovely prints by local artists and Christmassy hand-crafted cushions.

Refuel at: Combine your shopping, your hobby and your coffee at Café Knit or grab a tea at the National Trust-owned Guild Hall. For something more substantial, Lavenham has a clutch of great pubs including the newly re-opened Angel and the Greyhound, which opened last month. Ten Lavenham is a stylish restaurant and bar for evenings.

Stay at: A night at the romantic and historic Great House (doubles from £99, www.greathouse.co.uk) with its award-winning restaurant and just five boutique rooms.

www.discoverlavenham.co.uk

 

 

West Kilbride, Ayrshire

Scotland’s only designated craft town, this handsome village on Scotland’s west coast, overlooking the Isle of Arran, is promoting artists and rural craft, with a series of open studios spread among the independent shops that line the high street.

Shop at: Once, more than half of this small town’s shops were boarded up. Now, thanks to a local creative enterprise, several shops have been converted into studios for artists and crafters, while a church has been turned into the Barony Centre, an exhibition space to showcase the regions skills and where you can try out your own at various workshops. Now every shop in West Kilbride is filled, from independent book shops, sweet shops and haberdasheries, to the arty spaces dotted around Main Street.

You’ll find contemporary silverware from award-winning Marion Kane, whose customers include Ewan McGregor, hand-dyed yarns at Old Aunt Maiden, bespoke knits from McHattie and painted glass by designer Debbie Halliday, who also works for major British brands

Pick up decorative accessories, gifts and cards from Chookiebirdie and bespoke cards and stationery from Michele Crouch of Tallulahbelle Cards. Further down Main Street, Berry Boxter has lots of homely gifts, too.

Refuel at: The Barony Bites café makes a cosy pitstop for a cake and coffee, while The Waterside, just outside of town and on the beach, is the hot destination for lunch. Nearby Braidwoods is worth a visit for a Michelin-starred supper.

Stay at: Seamill Hydro (doubles from £120 B&B, www.seamillhydro.co.uk) has beach views, a spa, and the restaurant is a local favourite.

www.crafttownscotland.org

xmas shops

 

This feature appeared in Metro newspaper on 8 December, to see the print version click here: http://e-edition.metro.co.uk/2014/12/08/

Go now: Sebastian Cox

For one weekend only (this weekend, 6-7 Dec!), designer Sebastian Cox, who works with British coppiced hazel to create unique furniture and home accessories for the likes of Heals, will be opening a shop, close to his workshop in Deptford, south-east London.

christmas_grande

He’ll be at Gallop on Deptford High Street with Nottingham-based textile designer Tori Murphy, and both will be showcasing their British wares as well as a collection of Christmas gifts and decorations.

If you’re heading to Cockpit Arts Open Studios this weekend it’s worth a detour to seek them out – and you can stop for pizza and a pint at the Big Red Pizza Bus (an indoor/outdoor pizza place built around an old Routemaster bus) on Deptford Church Street.

2a-1

Open 11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday, with an open evening from 6pm-9pm on Saturday with mulled wine and cobnuts.

www.sebastiancox.co.uk

 

Counter culture

For every trend there is always a counter-trend, swimming against the tide.

Recently, as kitchens become more sleek, glossy and minimal, a new trend is emerging for hand-made, free-standing, and matt, flat coloured units. It is the opposite of bling.

Foxgrove+kitchen.5.5.1416963
Industrial chic by Blakes Kitchens

The look can still be pared-down and minimal, but the colours are muted and they’re the opposite of shiny. Think Farrow and Ball meets below-stairs Downton Abbey – understated and elegant.

 

At the forefront of the trend is British Standard by Plain English, whose fabulous motto “sensible cupboards at sensible prices for people with exceptional taste and modest means” says it all.

British Standard cupboards by Plain English
British Standard cupboards by Plain English

 

The ethos is about capturing the classic days of British craftsmanship with an emphasis on quality and simplicity. Perhaps inspired by more austere times, or an answer to the austerity years we’ve been experiencing since 2008, it’s hard not to be seduced by the beauty and flexibility of creating a more basic, component kitchen rather than a fully-fitted, fully finished style.

Plain English's Osea kitchen
Plain English’s Osea kitchen

If you’re looking for a quality kitchen that bridges the gap between a Shaker or country style wooden kitchen and the urban, minimal modern style, then the new utilitarian look might be for you.

It looks great in industrial, rough-luxe kitchens, with exposed piping, industrial lights where the filament, flex and wiring is a feature in itself, stripped walls and raw finishes such as concrete work surfaces and butler or even stone sinks.

Pure

John Lewis of Hungerford has also tapped into the trend, creating a range of mid-century inspired designs, with clean lines and matt finishes called Pure. And John Lewis’ Windsor kitchen in a chalky, midnight blue also nods to the style.

 

John Lewis's Windsor kitchen
John Lewis’s Windsor kitchen

The brand has its own homeware trend called Modern Restoration with kitchen and home accessories in this vein, while Loaf also does a great range of raw, rustic and industrial style interiors. Even George Home at Asda has distressed Tolix-style chairs, apothecary units as storage and reclaimed railway sleeper-style plank tables on metal legs.

BlakesLondon.7.8.1423403

 

And while it’s modern, I’s not so on-trend as to date any time soon – which is the most you can ask of any kitchen.

Modern Restoration by John Lewis
Modern Restoration by John Lewis

Address book:

www.britishstandardcupboards.co.uk

www.plainenglishdesign.co.uk

www.john-lewis.co.uk

www.johnlewis.com

www.heals.co.uk

 

 

Brompton x Thornback and Peel

Love cycling? Love craft? Then you’re going to love this cute Christmassy collacboration between Brit bike brand Brompton (you know, the folding, skinny orange bikes you see all over London) and pretty, quintessentially English eccentric  printmakers Thornback and Peel.

Head to Brompton Junction on Long Arce in Covent Garden this Sunday and you can print your own jolly Brompton-tastic festive cards. Tickets cost a tenner, but that includes the cards (in red or black) that you’ll screen print, and bubbly and mince pies, too.

What a fab idea. Folding is optional.

www.thornbackandpeel.co.uk