Category: retail therapy

Regal treats from Thornback and Peel


Notebooks in Pigeon and Flag or Flag, £6.95 for a set of two or £3.95 each

I am not usually one to go crazy over Britannia-themed designs. Too many Union Jacks, endless Jubilee hype and embarrassing Olympics products and branding make it hard to get really excited about patriotic products on the whole.

Thornback and Peel, however, have risen to the looming Jubilee occasion with a charming and quirky selection of designs that go above and beyond your usual red, white and blue fanfare.Their recently unveiled Jubilee range is fun, elegant and understated – their signature pigeon making many a guest appearance along a less exposed but equally loved royal corgi:

Apron in Corgi, £22.50

Hanky Box Sets, in Corgi and Flag or Pigeon on Bowler Hat and Flag, £15.50

Tea Towels in Crown, Corgi, Flag and Pigeon on Bowler Hat, £21.95 for a set of two or £11.95 each


…If they can make jelly and cabbage look glamorous, they can do pretty much anything.

Five minutes with Gudrun Sjödén

Last night I went to the launch of bohemian Swedish design guru Gudrun Sjödén’s UK flagship store on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden. I have long been a fan of her colourful floral patterns and laid back Scandi style and I was particularly excited to see how they translated into a standalone store.

As soon as I walked in, the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden seemed miles away (and this alone is reason enough to pop by and check it out): bright greens, warm pinks, deep crimsons and Jodhpur blues all jostled from every wall and surface in a whirlwind of prints and textures, and I loved it.

From Gudrun’s S/S 2012  lookbook

While fashion remains Gudrun’s mainstay, the interiors line is hot on its heels. Brimming with Indian-inspired florals, warm overdyed shades and soft, thick organic cotton, it is perfect for creating a warm, eclectic, summertime feel, with flowered cushions, soft patterned bolsters, colourful lampshades and lovely thick table linen at the core of the collection. “I like to use the same colourways in the clothes and the homewares because it is about more than just individual pieces – it is about a lifestyle”, says Gudrun. “You wear a certain style of clothing, and you decorate your home the same way.”

And the results are pretty yet versatile, with quilted covers and brightly woven dhurries that delicately complement a colourful dress or scarf creating a complete little world in which you can escape to the bohemian dream. Conveniently, you can also buy her fabrics in the store by the metre, so you can tailor them to your own designs at home.

The flagship store

With her floral and folk-inspired designs clearly rooted in nature, Gudrun is known for having championed organic cotton and natural fabrics ahead of the curve. “We print most of our fabrics in India, and all our dhurries are woven by hand in Rajasthan. Where we do not use organic cotton, we use man-made natural fibres, including silk, bamboo, viscose etc. People are still focusing on buying things at a cheap price but I think we are slowly realising that it is better to have fewer things that are made sustainably and which support traditional artisan methods. I think it is more important than ever to keep these crafts alive, and we currently work with a design school in Gujarat to this end”.

In the same vein, the furniture in the store has all been upcycled, and Gudrun and her team have painted and revamped every piece themselves. Big baskets full of flowers perch on top of pastel coloured chests and cabinets, and they have even let the creative juices flow on the concrete floor, which is replete with flowers and swirls and folksy motifs.

The flagship store

On her site, you can see some of Gudrun’s sketches that inspire her designs (she paints every morning at 7am and will stop at nothing). It is well worth a visit, and the store is as pretty and homey as any I have seen.

Top 5 water bottles

For months I have been refilling the same old Evian water bottle. But today I decided, for three reasons, that it is time to invest in a proper aluminium one. Firstly, I have finally fallen prey to fears of BPA and its harmful effects; secondly, I want to reuse where I can; and thirdly – and most excitingly – I want to sip from something beautiful while I do so. With so many fun designs around I thought I would share my top five: I was tempted by Celia Birtwell but in the end I have gone for Gaiam – I always love their products and know they have been responsibly produced. Happy hydration is just a delivery away…

Anemone water bottle, £8.95, by V&A

Silver damask water bottle, £8, by Gaiam

Thoughtful Gardener water bottle, £9.95, by Wild & Wolf

Folk print water bottle, £13.95 (with carry case),  by Wild & Wolf


Floral water bottle, £9.95, by Celia Birtwell

The sweet life


I recently came across these quirky little Sweet View sketches of London boroughs by London-based artist Jack Noel and was struck by how colourful and lively they made the city seem. In these grey end-of-winter days, when we are all longing for more colour and warmth, they seem to instantly uplift and brighten the London horizon.

Kensington and Chelsea




Each image is printed in a run of 200 and comes framed and signed by the artist himself for £28. Pick your favourite borough and see the Big Smoke in a new and shiny light.

Glorious graphics by Holli Zollinger

As I was recently given a sewing machine by my mum (my first, and I am very excited), I have been scouting out rare and wonderful fabrics with which to plan my dream textile creations. Amid lovely new offerings from Liberty and others, I stumbled upon these striking patterns by US artist and graphic designer Holli Zollinger and fell immediately in love. If her name alone does not seduce you, her beautiful patterns definitely will. Big, bold and tribal, they are a calming and welcome antidote to this season’s busy graphic prints.

You can buy them on her website, along with other prints and designs. She also has a lovely blog where she showcases new designs and irresistibly sweet photos of her little boy.


Drop scones not bombs

UK designer Stuart Gardiner‘s enchanting prints have already been snapped up by the likes of Liberty and Selfridges. Colourful, quirky and thoughtful, they are all you need for a cheery, chirpy kitchen. He is most famed for his Seasonal Guide tea towels, which range from wild food and garden flowers to seafood and sustainable provender, but his cheeky love / hate oven mitts and eloquent ‘drop scones not bombs’ tote are fast blazing their own design trail.

He uses organic materials wherever possible and everything is produced on-site in East London. Doing the drying up has never been so fun – nor so informative.

A lamp to love

Rhino lamp, £99, Graham & Green

The Organic Farm Shop

I have long been on the hunt for some pretty block printed bedlinen that doesn’t cost the earth or look like I spent too long travelling in India. There is a happy medium, and I have finally found it – courtesy of The Organic Farm Shop.

I always like it when searching for something specific leads you to a bigger picture that is a thousand times more exciting, and this farm / workshop / B&B / textile store does just that. Run by Will and Hilary Chester-Master since 1990, the farm has always been organic and environmentally sustainable and sits alongside a garden, a shop and a cafe as well as a cute little shepherd’s hut and yurt where adventure seekers can hole up for the night.

Often visited by schools and keen green fingered souls, it is a brilliant and inspiring example of a sustainable organic community. And if you are unable to visit yourself, the veggie progress and happenings are wonderfully recounted on the Veg Garden blog, while on the news pages you can find info on special goings-on such as a weekly documentary night at the farm, updates on produce and planning, updated menus and info on new courses. (You can choose from textile workshops, green woodworking, cheese making, willow courses or cookery workshops and all can be incorporated into a camping holiday on site).

Which brings us nicely on to the textiles: beautifully printed cottons in perfectly blended colours, made from organically grown cotton. It is sourced by Hilary in India, who has set up a small workshop in Rajasthan which has been managed by the same two hand block printers for the last 21 years. Their pretty range of table cloths, duvet covers, quilts, handkerchiefs and sponge bags all feature traditional Rajasthani prints without being garish or over the top. And at such honest prices you would be mad not to snap them up.

Hilary says, ‘Our family has used these duvet covers for over 20 years now, and we are just starting our third set. They do fade, but the cotton is strong and very very soft. Once you have experienced sleeping under it, you might not want to sleep under anything else.’

I am all for some weathered, faded charm, and currently debating between designs. I think the best bet is to plan a visit so I can take in the whole Organic Farm Shop experience in all its colourful glory.


Crash candles: aromatic art

Top row: designs by Angela Adams; bottom row: designs by Lotta Jansdotter

I just wrote about Crash Candles for Dalani and think they are a great idea – even if the name is a little unnerving.

Set up in 2005 in Illinois to support emerging graphic artists, they create delicious soy candles in beautiful glass tumblers which feature exclusive designs by a handpicked selection of represented talent. Each fragrance is developed to complement the design that contains it; and after burning you can keep the tumblers and enjoy their pretty designs for years to come.

You can buy them via Crash here, or keep an eye out for an upcoming sale at Dalani, where you can snap them up for less.


I Like It Here


In the ravenous and fast-moving consumer times that we live in (I am no angel I can assure you), I am always keen to promote designers and boutiques that give design-led shoppers the chance to purchase homewares that are both stylish and ethically responsible; both factors being of equal importance.

Only recently has the gap between style and responsibility started to really close in the interiors world, and no one illustrates its progress better than the lovely Hanna Jaaskelainen, who recently set up a new online boutique called I Like It Here. She got in touch to tell me about the project and I think it is great. In fact I have been online all day coveting pretty much everything in stock – from rugs to handbags and necklaces you didn’t even know you needed.

Offering carefully curated home and fashion accessories from Kathmandu, Stoke-on-Trent and Brooklyn, I Like It Here is a sophisticated, eclectic and colourful online shop that appeals to nomads and glamazons alike. Sourcing its products from three very distinct yet specialised locations, its stock is a cut above your usual socially responsible offering and is blazing a trail for a new generation of directly sourced artisanal goods that are as stylish – if not more so – than their mass-produced counterparts.

I asked Hanna about the inspiration behind the store and its signature style:

How did the concept for the boutique come about?

I wanted to reflect my mixed background, feeling like a slight outside observer wherever I have lived. It is rooted in my travelling a lot and experiencing different cultures, and my constant search for good design – from the smallest of objects to the grandest of furniture.

How did you settle on your three chosen locations?

The three locations were my starting point to show consumers that a small, ethically-minded luxe boutique can source products globally and intelligently. The idea is to bring one world and its crafts, materials and traditions into one lifestyle store.

I chose Brooklyn because I travel to New York for inspiration, and on a sabbatical struck upon the amazing Etwas bags we now sell; Stoke-on-Trent because I was attracted to the heritage of the area and strongly feel it’s about time to make these neglected UK towns fashionable again, and I wanted to help represent the best of British craft-manufacturing.

And with Kathmandu, I had an opportunity with my recent travels to meet some amazing people and visit the social enterprise projects they are involved in – in the factories and studios I saw first-hand how the handicrafts are created by women’s enterprises – like the colourful woven pouches.


Do you think consumers are becoming more aware of the origins of their purchases?

Absolutely. The emotional connection with the shopping is so important: the origins, how it’s made, who made it and the whole story behind the purchase, small or large. Many high street shops celebrate their eco-ranges of Fair Trade cotton, for example, but how far this socially responsible attitude goes is ambiguous. With I Like It Here I wanted to set out from the start with an open policy about the products sold.

What do you look for when you buy something?

First comes emotion: what do I sense when I see something? And then the practical aspects of the purchase: ideally it’s ethically made, and in general quality is important. I’d rather buy less, but get good value from the purchases I make.

The boutique reflects my personal taste at the moment; all items are chosen by me and I would not sell an item I wouldn’t have bought myself.

What is most important to you?

Finding happiness and that people close to you are safe; living intelligently and responsibly without forgetting to have fun.

What are you currently reading?

Isprinsessan by Camilla Lackberg (translated it’s Ice Princess) – a Swedish Crime Detective novel.

Where is your favourite place?

It varies. You can’t beat Helsinki in August or Zanzibar in January, Portland Oregon in May… and funnily enough I quite like international airports.


You can visit the bouqtiue here.