Leave Black Friday weekend for the masses and make your way way to one of the vibrant and creative craft and artists independent fairs this advent – it’s a much more imaginative and enjoyable way to shop.
And you get something unique and handmade.
And… You’ll feel better for helping a local artist instead if a tax-dodging international corporate entity too!
Crafty Fox, this weekend in Dalston; next weekend in Brixton; Peckham the weekend after.
To say that the acclaimed children’s book illustrator and, more recently, ceramics artist Stella Baggott is an old friend of mine is something of an understatement.
We grew up together in the same Shropshire village and lived just metres apart – in fact we were born just days apart. The story goes that our mums met on the maternity unit in the local hospital and we have been friends ever since.
Which is why I’m tremendously proud to get to write about her here: if anyone sums up great British design, then it is Stella with her cheeky, irreverent, handmade pottery. Each piece is unique and has personality.
She’s been making pots and other ceramics for about the last five years, since taking an evening class, but art has always been in her blood – ever since we used to spend our weekends together making Fimo models!
Using Staffordshire clay, which she sculpts from slabs or turns into pinch pots, her hand-built, fired and glazed pieces have a mid-century charm about them, thanks to their rustic nature and vintage-looking glazes. In fact, the colours remind me of our own childhoods.
Today she lives in Brighton and although she is still extremely successful as an illustrator, her ceramics are becoming increasingly recognised and collectible.
If you can’t get your hands on one of her quirky designs from her own shop Atelier Stella she has collaborated with Brooklyn-based brand West Elm to create a slightly-more polished version of her own hand-made designs (these are factory-produced so that have a different finish to them but are still very tactile) for frankly bargain prices.
PS – At the time of writing, a few of these lovely ceramic mirrors were still available from Stella’s Etsy shop
Our love of baking, combined with a lack of storage thanks to open-plan living has led to a resurgence of the traditional pantry
This weekend is Stir-up Sunday, when it is tradition to make your Christmas Pudding – and let each member of the family have a stir and make a wish. Organised bakers will already have their Christmas cake made and be storing it somewhere dry and cool until the big day. If, like me, you have a modern kitchen with very little storage space you might want to wish for a pantry while you’re stirring that pudding, in which to keep your festive creations.
In the days before fridges, nearly all homes had a larder, but today it’s something of a luxury – where they did exit they have been largely ripped out to create open-plan kitchens. And while few of us can afford the space for a walk-in pantry on the scale of Nigella Lawson’s, sales of standalone pantries are on the rise.
Whether it’s down to the craze for baking that means we all have a lot more ingredients and paraphernalia or simply because of the compact size of modern fitted kitchens (few seem to cover more than one wall in new open-plan homes), the pantry is having a comeback.
“There’s something really nostalgic about a kitchen larder, stashed full of homemade jams, pickles, spices and biscuits,” explains Charlie Marshall, the founder of Loaf, which has just introduced its Rhubarb Larder Cupboard (£695, loaf.com) this month as a response to requests from customers. “They’re really handy for extra storage – especially as there’s a trend for low kitchen units at the moment, which look nice but lack space.”
Loaf’s larder cupboard is perfect for storing away biscuits, caster sugar, baking powder, vanilla pods and spices… and other dry ingredients that need a good, cool, dry home. With a vintage feel and matt paint, it will suit new or old homes and is pretty versatile – as well as food you can stack crockery or baking equipment in it.
For the storage poor, a pantry is a modern alternative to a dresser, which can look a bit too “country” for urban homes, and also has the advantage that you can get a lot more in it.
“Traditionally the pantry would be on an outside wall with an open air brick supplying naturally cool air up underneath the traditional marble cold shelf to keep everything on it below room temperature,” says Richard Davonport, Managing Director of Davonport, which specialises in building bespoke stand-alone and walk-in pantries – the Davonport butler’s pantry comes with dovetailed walnut wood drawers and storage compartments, fruit and vegetable crates and a Carrera marble cold shelf (from £4,000, davonport.com).
“We’ve definitely see a rise in sales over the past few years. In part it’s because our clients are opening their rooms up for open-plan living. This allows more space to place a large pantry cupboard, which can retain most of a family’s food storage in one space. But I think it is also because people are cooking more and living more healthily, so they need more space to store dry foods and fresh fruit and vegetables.”
For those lucky enough to have a pantry in their homes, they wouldn’t be without it. “It’s essential,” says David Foubister from Huntly in Aberdeenshire who grows his own fruit and vegetables. “I need my pantry to store the vast amount of homemade pickles, chutneys and jams that I make from home-grown food. Often, normal kitchen cupboards are too warm.”
They’re also increasingly a great selling point for properties, as more of us want room to store food and our kitchen gadgets.
“I grew up with one and been without for years until we moved into our new house two weeks ago – as soon as I saw the pantry in the kitchen when we looked around my mind was made up about wanting the house,” explains Hazel Newhouse from Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. “I cook and bake every day and I wanted the space as I have a lot of baking materials that I’ve collected. It’s ideal for us as a growing family and I love that it makes the space feel quite retro and nostalgic.”
A walk-in pantry does mean sacrificing floor space in your kitchen or home, but it can also be used as a prep area for measuring out ingredients, and also as a store for the plethora of kitchen gadgetry that now clutters most kitchen worktops.
For a custom solution, Birmingham’s Kitchen Restoration Company (kitchenrestoration.co.uk) can design a larder to fit your space, whether it’s adding doors to an alcove with shelving or creating a unit with glass shelving for storage jars and pull-out wire baskets for fresh veg.
It’s little wonder that the high street has picked up on the trend, too. Marks and Spencer has stocked its chunky Padstow larder unit (£1599, marksandspencer.com) for three years. “We know that people want more kitchen storage space,” says Furniture Buyer Paul Tanner, “but a country dresser doesn’t suit every home.”
In fact, demand for the contemporary New England-style pantry, with its built-in wine and spice racks, large vegetable drawers and shelving, has been so strong that this season the brand has introduced three new colours this season, green grey and putty. John Lewis has also begun stocking its Lomond larder unit (£2250, johnlewis.com) for the first time this autumn.
As Pip Prinsloo, John Lewis’ Design Manager Homeware notes, “people are looking for new kitchen storage options. Larders were once commonplace and we think that they will become an important feature in homes again.”
This weekend sees the start of Christmas shopping in earnest, and I’ve got my sights on a trip into the countryside to the Wealden Times Midwinter Fair.
Not only is it held in the Walled Garden at Bedgebury Pinetum – should smell Christmassy at least! – but there’s also a huge line-up of fantastic local producers, crafters, boutiques and farmers from across Kent and Sussex.
Whether it’s a bottle of English wine, Kentish honey, handmade children’s toys, jewellery or ceramics – or even just a chance to taste some delicious food and enjoy the festive atmosphere, it should make a jolly day out.
20-22 November, 9.30am-4.30pm, The Walled Garden, Bedgebury Pinetum. Tickets £8.50.
Last week I wrote a piece for the Daily Mail about the rise of nu-Victorian…
Move over minimalism. Over the past few months interiors have been getting busier, grander and increasingly ornate. You might have noticed yourself buying more plump, colourful cushions, installing a decorative, quirky lamp or even a bell jar to put on your sideboard.
Unwittingly you’ve embraced the new Victorian look. You see, the latest interior inspiration isn’t actually modern at all, it harks back to a golden, romantic age in homeware.
The Victorians were the original house-proud crowd. Thanks to their increased wealth due to the industrial revolution and the emergence of mass-produced manufacturing, they were able to afford the kind of furniture, fabrics and accessories that were previously out of reach. Doing up your house was the trend of the day and a reflection of your prosperity, which meant that more was most definitely more in the 1850s.
“The Victorians developed tastes for the exotic and the unusual in their homes as a by-product of their fast-expanding views of the world through trade and industry,” explains Jamie Green of interiors store Graham and Green. “Displaying finds from far flung corners of the world, minimalism was never a consideration – favoured objects of culture and taste were integrated into schemes as a sign of progressive decadence, success and an understanding of the world.”
It’s no coincidence that this season at Graham and Green you buy a lobster or other curiosities in a bell jar; or an ornamental pineapple for your sideboard (pineapples were completely exotic and a real status symbol in Victorian Britain), or that John Lewis is selling terrariums.
No home in Queen Victoria’s reign would have been complete without opulent velvet cushions, an elegant button-back sofa, lavishly patterned fabrics and richly coloured walls, whether papered or painted. They loved to display their artefacts in glass bell jars, indoor plants in terrariums and used lots of lamps to brighten their parlours.
“Victorian décor is usually remembered as an eclectic mix of styles and excessive ornamentation,” comments Pip Prinsloo, design manager for homeware at John Lewis. “Wallpaper became mass produced during this period and was often adorned in damask and large floral, bird and animal motifs, similar to the Morris and Co marigold wallpaper that we still sell today.”
So what’s behind the revival of the Revival era? While the recent years of minimal grey and neutral coffee were sure to have their day, industry experts have other ideas, namely the “Downton effect”.
“There’s been a surge of popular period dramas and people are looking to recreate this opulence in their own homes,” says Prinsloo.
It’s something that fireplace manufacturer Chesney’s has also seen, as sales of decorative and period-style fireplaces have soared by 25 per cent in the past year. “The likes of Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge seem to be influencing our customers – some are restoring the original features of their period home, and people in new-build homes are looking to add character,” confirms Paul Chesney. “Thanks to Downton Victorian bathroom suites are in demand – our chain-pull toilets and range of roll-top baths are now bestsellers,” adds Adam Chard at Victoria Plumb.
“People are attracted to the sense of romance that this aesthetic conjures,” comments bespoke furniture designer Barbara Genda. “The self-contained cosy grandeur with its opulent rich colours and architectural embellishments also provides a comforting cocoon from the foreboding outdoors. Modern day furnishings are generally reinterpreting this trend in a more muted way – simpler and sleeker in appearance with just a whisper of old world glamour coming through, perhaps in the elegant curvature of a chair leg or the tactile velvet of embellished upholstery.”
While the new Victorian style is certainly inspired by its decadent past – just take a look at Marks and Spencer’s latest collection with its button-back velvet chairs, rose-print black lacquer chest and cushions printed with Victorian-looking art – today less is more. Incorporate a few key pieces into a contemporary colour scheme for maximum impact, or add some quirky, playful accessories for a cheeky nod to the era.
While the Victorian home would be crammed with curiosities, it is more striking to make a feature out of one or two contrasting pieces. “Hunt out sofas and chairs with decorative carved wood – Victorian solid wood furniture is solid as a rock,” advises interior designer Phoebe Oldrey. “Get them upholstered in striking bold fabrics to have as statement pieces in your lounge or bedroom. These look amazing in industrial loft style interiors.”
Prices for Victorian furniture are a steal and you can pick up pieces for half the price of Ikea with twice the personality in junk shops, auctions and even charities, such as Emmaus, which has 70 second-hand furniture shops that are a trove for original brown wood furniture, and silver, brass and glass candlesticks, decanters and tableware that, in a digital age, people are no longer inclined to polish and clean.
“Take elements that you like and mix them with both bright and muted tones to give the more traditional Victorian style a lift. Or find a traditional design with a modern twist, it provides a fantastic juxtaposition, which is so effective,” suggests Jane Rockett of Rockett St George.
While the Victorians loved busy, ornate floral wallpaper, often adorned with animal motifs, making a feature from just one wall is far more striking. William Morris Co, Cole and Son and Graham and Brown, which has a licence to produce original designs from the V&A museum, all offer patterns that suit the look, often in more modern colours. For a modern twist, Lovemapson.com produces wallpaper of original Victorian Ordnance Survey maps, which you can tailor to your own postcode.