Design Inspiration: Ilse Crawford

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Natural Colours and Materials at Embassy House

Ilse Crawford is known for using natural materials and her design philosophy of catering to the senses – a human approach. She was the launch editor for Elle Decoration back in 1989 and her influence continues as the subject of episode 8 (Interior Design) of the Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design. In September 2016 she was named Maison&Objet Designer of the Year and has designed numerous high profile interiors such as Soho House Club in New York and IKEA.

What draws me to her style is it’s versatility and timelessness. Her ideas are simple and at first glance we have seen them before. The skill is in the attention to detail and the way the space feels to be in. When planning don’t just think about looks, imagine lighting at different times of day and the smell of materials (woven baskets, a pile of logs, or a sheepskin rug all have different aromas). Suitably inspired? Here are some ways to recreate a bit of it at home.

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‘Hygge’ at the Chalet in Switzerland, 2015

This Swiss chalet feels warm and inviting through lighting with large windows, open fire, candles and soft lamps. While you may not have wall to wall-to-wall windows, if you have a nice view, try swapping heavy curtains for a simple blind that can be rolled up to invite the outside in. Light your room with a dimmer switch and lamps with low watt bulbs to create a softer feel and add some candles for those cosy evenings.

Ilse-Apartment Residency (Copenhagen, 2014)
Apartment Residency (Copenhagen , 2014)

Okay so I’m not saying we all need an indoor hammock (though I must confess after seeing this I want one). This room in Copenhagen makes you want to grab a book and find a seat. The varied options (the shaggy rug, low bench and hammock) all invite you to try them. The plants give a freshness and oxygenate the air. Take inspiration by looking at your space, how you use it and imagining the possibilities rather than going straight for traditional furniture choices.

Ilse-226 Development (Hong Kong, 2010)
226 Development (Hong Kong, 2010)

I see where the Citizen M hotel in Amsterdam got its inspiration! These chunky open shelves are perfect for dividing space (if you have this much), though they would also work well against all wall. Small fiddly items will get lost so take inspiration and go for large books placed both vertically and horizontally and ornaments with strong shapes that fill the space.

Ilse-Duddell's Arts Club (Hong Kong, 2016)
Duddell’s Arts Club (Hong Kong, 2016)

I love the lushness of this garden. It feels like a Victorian greenhouse. This look would work for small gardens or balconies alike. Go for decking or patio for low maintenance. The plants are varied in height, leaf shape and colour and are all in pots for easy maintenance. Speak to the garden centre to ensure that your pots are big enough for root growth, that your space is light enough (remember they will block light from each other) and that they are hardy enough to handle outdoor temperatures. The mismatched furniture and trendy string of white bulbs gives some edge so don’t be afraid to be adventurous.

If you want to pick up an affordable piece by Ilse check out the Sinnerlig range at IKEA. Ultimately her style is thinking consciously about how spaces make you feel and accentuating that emotion. Does your living room beg you to curl up and unwind with a book? Does your work space energise and inspire? Is your bathroom luxuriously clean and pampering? Is your garden bright with energy and life? These are the tricks to truly capturing the Ilse look.

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All of the pictures are of Ilse Crawford interiors, were not taken by me and are not owned by me. Check out the references below for more on Ilse Crawford and her style.

  • Sensual Home: Liberate Your Senses and Change Your Life Photographed by Martyn Thompson(1997, Quadrille publishing, ISBN 978-1899988174)
  • Home is Where the Heart is? Photographed by Martyn Thompson (2009, Quadrille publishing, ISBN 978-1844006052)
  • A Frame for Life: The Designs of StudioIlse (2014, Rizzoli International Publications, ISBN 978-0847838578)
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Top 5 Cheap or Free Home Organisation Tips

I hate mess and piles of stuff but for ages I couldn’t seem to shake it. It’s not just the initial clear up but actually keeping my home clear that was a daily challenge. Here are the best tips that I have found that actually work and will transform the chaos into order.

1. Have Less, Store Less

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Don’t waste life tidying, sorting, organising, cataloguing and storing things that you don’t like or will never use. In the words of everyone’s favourite Disney princess, “Let it go!”.

If you don’t like something and you don’t use it, then get rid of it.

You don’t even have to go über minimalist if you don’t want to, just get rid of some stuff and see how you feel. Once I started I found it addictive and got rid of loads, and you know what? I don’t miss any of it.

2. It’s the Putting Away that’s Difficult

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…So make it easy by keeping things you put away together, together.

I know very few people that have any trouble taking things out when they want to start an activity, it always seems to be the putting away again that is so much harder. The best tip that I have come across is to make it as easy as possible.

Make sure that everything has a clear home to return to.

Imagine coming home with your winter wear on. Rather than throwing your gloves on the side, your boots by the door and coat where ever it lands, you hang them all together. This way when it is time to go out again everything is to hand. This same practice can be applied to just about anything. How about all of your baking stuff together in one cupboard or box. Or all of your craft supplies?

Store all of your clothes and accessories together where you get dressed and undressed. Store your towels in the bathroom where you wash. You get the idea…

Just moving where you store stuff so that things that go together are all close together and to where you use them saves time and makes life that bit easier.

How about doing your cleaning supplies right now?

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  1. Go around your home and collect every product, pair of rubber gloves, brush, wipe, cloth and don’t forget the bathroom.
  2. There is no need for separate cleaning supplies for every room. Get rid of duplicates, stuff you ‘stocked up’ on 2 years ago but haven’t used once, bought but didn’t like, or anything that has started to look gross.
  3. Store your new kit in a freshly cleaned out bucket. This doubles the function for a bulky item that is rarely used but useful to have, and makes it easy for you to carry it from room to room when cleaning.
  4. Store the bucket in a cupboard or under the sink where it is easily accessible every time you need to clean.

3. Only Buy the Food You Need

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It is really really tempting to stock up for the apocalypse, or so it would seem. Every few months I would go through my cupboards and get rid of stuff that was out of date, that I bought and discovered I didn’t like, or that I knew I was never going to use. Sound familiar? There is no need to keep excessive supplies of food. In the case of a flood or something you would have to leave your home anyway and be unlikely to take this food with you so it serves no function.

I try to live week-to-week in terms of food and store a maximum of a few weeks worth of long lasting dried products such as pasta, rice or flour. The result is that I eat fresher food, save money (and waste) and have good sense of the kinds of food the my husband and I like/ don’t like.  To avoid over-buying, I write the quantity that I need for a recipe on my shopping list and only buy that amount. Why pay for 15 carrots, store them until they go mouldy and then dispose of them when I could have just bought the single loose one I needed and saved myself £2 and unnecessary food waste guilt and cleaning hassle? It’s a no-brainer!

Opening your fridge or cupboard to see the weeks food neatly laid out and fresh will make your home seem far more organised. If you have things that you don’t like but are in date and unopened then give them to a foodbank where someone else may be glad of them.

4. Tidy Up Your Digital Life

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I have had many computers over the years and while I can let go of most things, information was difficult for me. I kept the hard-drives from my old laptops in caddys but never looked at them. I had old college projects  I could barely remember on disk. I felt overwhelmed with information, but equally had no idea what old photos I had stored away or even how to go about looking for them.

I started by gathering everything (including old social media profiles) together and moving them to one place. I use google drive for ease and since I have a Chromebook but any storage so long as it is big enough will do.

I made a few basic folders and sub-folders, such as:

  • Photos
    • 2016
    • 2015
    • 2014
  • Course Work
    • 1 School
    • 2 College
    • 3 University
  • Music
  • Documents
    • Bills
    • Manuals
    • Receipts
    • Statements

I sorted my photos by year and depending on how many I had I subdivided them into logical folders inside e.g. school photos, France holiday etc. This means that the main folder is ordered chronologically but there are not so many folders that it becomes laborious to browse them. You will need some subdivision or else if you have a lot of photos then the folder can take a while to load which is frustrating. I have found any more then two sub-folders feels too much like hard work  so I try to leave it at that. During this process I deleted any duplicates, unnecessary similar photos or blurry pictures. This means that all of my photos were worth looking at.

For chronological content such as course work I put a number before the subfolder. This means that even when sorted alphabetically they stay in the correct order. Rather than storing the paper manuals which come with electronics I download the digital version and bin the paper copy. It is actually more useful as they are searchable using CTRL + f. I also scan as much paperwork as I can and bin the original. Obviously there are exceptions where you need the paper copy but binning what you can gets rid of a significant amount of clutter.

This system might seem elaborate but keeping the file hierarchy small (only 2 or 3 levels) makes it simpler, and in general I spend very little time looking for things as I know where they are.

5. Recycle Packaging into DIY Storage Containers

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It is tempting to rush out and buy cheap storage equipment to make your home feel organised. There is no need and all you are buying is more clutter. Instead look around your home and use what you already have. This way you don’t spend any money, avoid a shopping trip, and if your storage needs change you can simply recycle what you no longer use knowing that you got a bit of extra use out of it.

You will need: toilet roll holders, plastic bottles, glass jars, newspaper, empty packaging boxes etc.

 

I hope that some of these tips are useful to you and that you enjoyed reading this post.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any awesome DIYs that you use to keep your home organised and don’t forget to subscribe.

 

 

How to Plan Your Home Like a Professional

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IKEA kitchen design

I often gaze longingly at the pages of magazines and wish that my home looked as perfect. So what is it that makes a room look like it was designed by a professional interior decorator?  What is that perfect finishing touch that elevates the ordinary to the extraordinary?

When I was researching this piece I found that I kept coming back to one of my favourite vintage DIY books: The Complete Home Handywoman by Dawn Marsden and Alan Morgan (1977). I’ve included a couple of diagrams from the book to help you. Old vintage guides like this are a great resource for decorating ideas and techniques and can be picked up for pennies in secondhand book shops.

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The Complete Home Handywoman by Dawn Marsden and Alan Morgan (1977).

Note: I say decorator rather than designer because an interior designer works during the planning stage, often in conjunction with an architect, while an interior decorator approaches the already constructed room to decorate it in a pleasing way.

Step 1. Observe the Building

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Country Cottage / Victorian Townhouse / Twentieth Century Modern

Step back for a moment and look at you home as a piece of architecture. Is its interior in keeping with the building? The three interiors above are of very different styles. The first is a country cottage with original beams, the second a Victorian townhouse with original floor and doors, and the third is a twentieth century build with feature steps and ceiling. These buildings are beautiful in their own way but are treated differently. If you have a modern open plan house but are striving for a Victorian replica then you face an uphill struggle. Yes, it is certainly possible to follow any style in any building, however the result is better if you work with the building on its own terms.

Observe the time period, size, ceiling height, original features and finishes of your home and consider how to incorporate them into your plans. By starting with what is already there as an intrinsic part of the building you can begin to create a harmonious design that feels natural and authentic to itself. You will also make the most of any original features saving yourself time and money.

Step 2. Analyse Function

Once you have listened to the building, it is time to listen to those who live in it.img_0573-2 I once lived in a rented flat where the toilet was in a room so narrow that you had to sit sideways on it because you couldn’t fit yours knees in the gap between the bowl and the wall. This utter lack of interest in how the room would function resulted in it being both a constant annoyance and an eye sore.

These two diagrams are from The Complete Home Handywoman (1977). Here function is
paramount. The authors understand that the most beautiful kitchen in the world that is difficult to use is of no good to anyone. You can use similar thought processes to think through how you use your bathroom, bedroom/ dressing space or living room and design the room accordingly.

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Using Kitchen Work Flow in Kitchen Design.

Step 3. Think of Creative Solutions

Having done a lot of thinking about what is already there and what you need from the IMG_0582.JPGspace it is time to come up with some ideas. If you’ve ever watched any of those decorator programs on TV you know that the best rooms are those created specifically for the people who live in them. They  work fluidly around their users. Brainstorm how you want to use the room by listing needs in one column and solutions in the other.

For example, if you are designing a bedroom for a 10-year-old girl you want a space that can adapt and grow as she does. The desk below from The Container Store fits together with runners and brackets so that the height and layout can be adjusted as her needs change. In this picture the desk has been accessorised to make it look bright and colourful for a child, though it could just as easily be changed in line with more grownup teenage tastes. Rather than the three drawers on the left, a double height bin for keeping a school bag in may be more practical.

 

A desk that can be changed is perfect for a growing child or teenager. This freestanding adjustable Elfa System is from The Container Store.

Step 4. Map it Out

Now that you have a tonne of ideas about what you can do, get some construction paper (or an app) and start planning. You may want to go back and forth between steps 4 and 5 as you assemble your room. Don’t be afraid to have light fixtures and plug sockets moved by an electrician as it can really make a room work, though good planning is essential. In lieu of an electrician, try using lamps or dimmer smart-bulbs to adjust the lighting and zones of a room. The diagram below shows a living room with multiple zones marked out by different lighting. The grid helps create balance in the room by allowing easy alignment and planning.

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Living room planned out using a grid. The orange lines are light fixtures and directions. Note how distinct zones, each with a specific function, are created.

Step 5. Style, Colour and Texture

Now that we have a rough sketch of the room it is time to fill in the details. Look at interiors magazines, blogs, Pinterest and Polyvore for ideas. If there are any items of furniture or artwork that you know will be in the room then use  them as the starting point. Remember that furniture can be repainted, recovered or upcycled to give it a fresh look. Avoid using more than three colours in your colour palette to keep the room from getting too busy. One bold colour with two neutral tends to work well.

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Step 6. Home Cohesion

Having focused on an individual home we now go back to looking at the house as a whole. Good design should flow through the house. Try opening all of the doors and looking at the view that you get from one room into another. Ideally the rooms should invite you from one to another. Revisit your ideas board and see how it fits into the home. If it works off your observations of the house from step 1 then this itself will be a subtle theme running through the house. You can create this sense by repeating subtle features such as flooring or cornice throughout the building.

Step 7. Dressing (and Staging)

Every magazine or blog post image you see has been staged. What that means is that someone looked at it and tweaked it until it became the perfect shot. There is no reason why you can’t follow the same idea with your home. The trick is not to over clutter. Also grids. Grids underpin all design to one degree or another. The eye picks up on these small elements of alignment so they are worth the effort. In the image below grids are used to plan the arrangement of pictures on a wall and in the one below it furniture and lighting is planned using a grid.

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Picture layouts from The Complete Home Handywoman (1977).

Try looking at the advertising shots from your favourite stores for further inspiration. The image below is from Anthropology and though everything in it is fabulously expensive we can learn a lot. The large framed image leaning against the wall on top of a piece of furniture is very trendy right now. The bottle vase (thrift shops have these by the dozen) with two flowers is also easy to recreate. The stylist has repeated the gold touches from the furniture in the gold frame hanging on the wall to the left. The scene avoids looking cluttered by keeping the floor clear – there is no waste paper bin though this is a desk cabinet. Equally the colours in the decorations – gold, white, green and blue/ grey are taken directly from the palette of the walls, floor and furniture.

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Anthropology advertising shot.

When you see an image like this that catches you eye analyse it. What are the shapes? The colours? The textures? How are objects arranged? These scenes can be recreated with a little inventiveness and attention to detail.

Conclusion: Get Creative!

Pick a direction that you want to take a room and go for it. If you can’t find what you need to finish your room then make it yourself. Whether it be fuzzy cushion covers from thrift shop jumpers, or some home made wall art those personal touches make all the difference.

If you enjoyed this post then please subscribe and share it! Let me know in the comments below how you planned your home’s style.

The Classy Christmas Decorating Guide

Do you dream of the perfect winter wonderland? The kind of Christmas display that hits the nail on the head by warming the heart without being too over the top? Welcome to my classy Christmas decorating guide that will have your home feeling seasonal this December.

As a young millennial it can seem daunting to compete with your childhood memories to create a sense of  homely Christmas cheer.

1. Choose a theme and colour scheme.

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Just like with your home decorating plan the key is in the preparation. If you are unsure what style you want then check out Pinterest or your favourite store and see what catches your eye.

The most traditional Christmas colour scheme is red, white and green, though you can go with any colour scheme that takes your fancy. I advise using green as part of it, for example, one of the pictures above follows a green and gold theme. This theme could be carried through your home with a green and gold wreath, brown paper and gold ribbon present wrapping with green tags, white fairy lights, gold napkins and napkin rings and a green and gold table centre piece.

Once you have a colour scheme think about the kind of style that you want to portray. If you home is full of vintage finds then how about a kitsch Christmas? Or a Victorian look? Or a contemporary one? I once saw a fabulous Christmas home where the owners had opted for only natural items: fir branches and cones, dried orange slices, cinnamon bundles, poinsettia plants, ivy, mandarins stuck with cloves, and mistletoe created a stunning display and smelled divine.

2. The tree

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The Christmas tree is perhaps the most iconic of all Christmas symbols. It will form the centre point of which ever room it is placed in and the backdrop to Christmas morning present opening. There is much debate over choosing between real trees and plastic ones. I love the smell and texture of the real ones, but currently have a fake one as my cat has a tendency to gnaw on everything and many firs are poisonous. If like me you opt for the plastic version it is worth investing in one that is a good height, has full branches and realistic colours and textures. If you look after them these trees can last for years.

If your tree is looking a little sparse wrap your lights and tinsel close to the trunk and leave the branches for ornaments.

When you are putting the baubles on, separate them into different colours or styles. Then put each style on one after another evenly distributing it over the tree. This will help create a balanced look and avoid bare areas. Alternatively you could try layering the different colours to form stripes along the length of the tree. The possibilities are endless.

As a general rule of thumb, start with your lights, then your tinsel and then your baubles and ornaments.

3. The wreath

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While you can buy them ready made, I much prefer the homemade wreath. You can buy the bases in a craft shop or online and then decorate them to suite your theme and colour scheme. Hand it on your front door to warm your heart as you arrive home on those cold, dark Winter evenings.

4. The table

The table sets the scene for family dinners, another perfect Christmas memory. The main elements you have to play with are the centre piece, napkins and napkin rings, place settings and candles or other lighting. Remember to keep the colour scheme in line with the rest of your home for that cohesive look.

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Make a simple centre piece from a plate or bowl decorated with left over ornaments, fruit, nuts, LED candles and left over branches trimmed from your Christmas tree (if your have a real one). Whatever you have handy will do just arrange it carefully to ensure that it looks classy. You can also sprinkle confetti or tiny stars along the centre of the table to complete the look. Team with either candles or fairy lights to complete the sense of Hygge.

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When it comes to your place settings it really depends on how formal you want it to be. I like to go the full hog, especially since Christmas dinner is usually a multi-course affair. You’re going to need multiple forks, glasses and plates per person. Check out the pictures above for a little inspiration.

5. The presents

Christmas Wrapping Collage.pngAh presents! Gift wrapping turns yet another pair of socks into something a bit more special. This year make sure that your wrapping is as wonderful as your home decorating. Nestled under the tree presents complete the Christmas look. Keep in line with your colour scheme but don’t feel like you have to be traditional. Brown paper spiced up with some pretty ribbon, or even the comic pages from the newspaper can make fabulous wrapping. For a non-traditional touch why not buy a newspaper in another language and wrap presents in that?

6. The finishing touches

christmas-210289_960_720You are nearly there! Now for the finishing touches:

Play your favourite Christmas playlist and add a little mistletoe to your hall or living room to incite Christmas kisses. I like to keep a stash of chocolate Santas and small gifts for the inevitable moment when you forget to buy someone a present or have children visiting. They don’t need to be expensive – five or six cute items for less than a fiver beautifully wrapped will do. Hold onto them after Christmas day for those last minute Boxing Day guests. Add small decorations throughout your home to bring Christmas cheer to every room.

Let me know in the comments below how you get on decorating your home this Christmas, and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss another post.

Merry Christmas and have a very Happy Hogmanay! xx