Archive | September, 2012

It’s a mug’s game

28 Sep

I wish I drank more tea and coffee. That way, I could legitimately buy more mugs. I keep seeing such lovely ones, but as my other half is constantly pointing out, we only tend to use the same two over and over again.

However, on a trip to my local Matalan at the weekend (to buy the amazing Orla Kiely-esque retro storage jars I blogged about earlier this month), I spotted these AMAZING sets of number mugs (above) and retro pattern mugs (below). They cost just £5 (yep, a fiver) for six. That’s less than a pound each (!) and they’re really bright, cheerful and expensive-looking.

I reckon they would look great on a mug tree in my new kitchen. I’m hankering after the John Lewis Rubberwood  one (below, right) which, ridiculously, at £17 costs over three times more than the set of six mugs I’d hang on it; so I’d probably have to make do with painting the branches of Matalan’s bargainous £3 bamboo mug tree (below, left).

So, there’s nothing else for it, I might have to get a bit careless and break a few of my current mugs accidentally-on-purpose to justify the purchase… Only thing is, which set should I buy?!

PS: No Matalan nearby? Everything is available online at http://www.matalan.co.uk and postage is just £1 anywhere in the UK – brilliant!

PPS: while in Matalan, I couldn’t resist this very cool retro Milk Bottle tea towel, for just £1.50 (bottom). Whoever  designed Matalan’s kitchenwares this season is a genius.

The best gift you’ll buy all year

26 Sep

Today’s entry comes courtesy of the lovely Lindsay Frankel from Red magazine, who has kindly let me reproduce a link to a piece she wrote for Red’s website.

It’s about a gift list at John Lewis where you can buy gifts for women and children who will be spending Christmas this year in domestic violence refuges (gifts cost from just £2.99 to £40). I think it’s a fantastic idea – hopefully you do too…

Here’s the link:
http://www.redonline.co.uk/news/sam-baker-s-daily-letter/john-lewis-refuge-gift-list

PS: Can’t see the link? Visit http://www.johnlewisgiftlist.com and enter list number 522953 before 6th December.

PPS: As the gifts will be delivered to UK addresses, there’s no reason why overseas readers of this blog shouldn’t get involved too. Let me know how you get on!

Where you bin?

24 Sep

The other day, regular reader and fellow blogger Chrissy (from SewYeah.co.uk) was telling me about her search for a good looking waste paper bin. All the ones she could find were a bit, well, rubbish. It may have just been a throwaway comment (boom boom!) but it got me thinking – actually, the two bins I have in my house are extremely shonky, ancient wicker affairs.

As a result, I launched my own search. And Chrissy is right. Most waste paper bins are of the boring or chintzy variety. However, there are a few non-trashy (as it were) bins out there.

My favourite is above – the strangely-named CEP Carat Desk Set Waste Bin, £15.33 from http://www.amazon.co.uk. It’s a pleasing shade of amethyst and would go nicely with my grey sofa. I’m also quite taken with the neon pink HAN Elegance Signal bin, £18.60, also from Amazon (directy below, also available in other colours). It’d look great against a grey, black or white backdrop.

Slightly more expensive but equally cool is the designer Essey bin, available in two sizes (large, £34.95 and mini, £24.95) from http://www.alltidiedup.co.uk (below). It looks like a crumpled paper cup, but is in fact made of plastic, and comes in red, white and black.

As for the best of the rest? Next (www.next.co.uk) have some fabulously OTT glittery bins – called ‘Sparkle’ bins – in either silver or plum, £28:

Then there’s the Beverly waste paper bin, £23, http://www.jasmineway.co.uk, which looks a bit like a fancy tissue box:

And the cheap and cheerful Bright heart waste paper bins, £5.95, http://www.amazon.co.uk:

I also quite like the kitsch-ness of the Retro Kelloggs bins £7.95, http://www.amazon.co.uk:

And these little fellas are worth a mention too. From left to right: Umbra Touch waste paper bin £21.60 http://www.redcandy.co.uk; round metal waste paper bin £4.12 Tesco; Omaha mesh waste paper bin £19.95 http://www.alltidiedup.co.uk; Sainsbury’s Basics white waste paper bin £2.50; and Brabantia Classic bin £20.36 http://www.amazon.co.uk.

Plastic Fantastic

21 Sep

It’s not often that I come across something that’s not only completely new and different, but that’s a total bargain too.

Step forward Acorn & Will (www.acornandwill.co.uk). This really lovely site – the brainchild of retro queen Daniella – sells vintage-style plastic (it looks a bit like bakelite) earrings, brooches and rings in a myriad of pretty muted colours and shapes, from daisies and deers to cats and birds. They’re the kind of thing you’d stumble upon in a cool antique shop, think “Wow”, and snap up immediately. The attention to detail is impressive – they come beautifully packaged on bits of card printed with retro fabric designs. And the prices? From just £3.75 for a pair of earrings to £3 for a brooch.

They’d make a perfect little pressie to pop in with a card, use as a stocking or Advent calendar filler, or just give a friend to say ‘Thank you’.

As well as the plastic treats there are all kinds of other cool bits and bobs, from retro button badges and hairslides to little dolls and huge honeycomb paper Christmas decorations (I’m SO getting some of those this year!).

Particularly Refreshingly, postage is only £1.45, no matter how many items you buy. Brilliant.

I predict big things for this little brand, so if I were you, I’d place your order quick, before the magazines and hip stylists catch wind of it. I’m off to fill my online basket right now!

Nailed it!

19 Sep

What do you get the beauty obsessive who already has every product under the sun? Why, her very own bespoke nail polish, that’s what!

Nails Inc (www.nailsinc.com), who make a bajillion different colours and finishes of polish (including crackle top coats and bonkers varnishes you can hold a magnet over to create original designs) have launched an online ‘couture’ service, where you can pick your colour, design of cap and even name your polish whatever you fancy.

The whole thing comes in a classy be-ribboned monochrome box. Okay, so at £20 it’s not something you’re going to buy for all your friends, but still, beautyoholics will be bowled over.

I’ve been busy designing one called The Treasure Hunter – a metallic glittery gold with a gunmetal grey Swarovski crystal encrusted cap. Swanky!

The Rye stuff

17 Sep

The other week, I went on holiday to the South East coast of England. The beaches were sandy, the food was tasty (fish’n’chips and cream teas – mmmn!) and the weather was as hot and sunny as you’d get abroad.

But what surprised me most were the shops. Hastings in particular is brilliant for bargain hunting – George Street and the surrounding streets are dotted with little gift, bric-a-brac and vintage shops, plus quirky cafes in which to review your purchases. I particularly loved Little Treasures, which is rammed with affordable vintage clothes, shoes and hats – there was even someone doing Forties hair rolls and beehives for customers upstairs.

Nearby Rye is smaller, but Cinque Ports Street has a couple of cheaper antique shops which are great for rummaging in; plus chic vintage shop Hunter Jones and a fantastic 40s/50s/60s/70s emporium called New To You Retro, full of old skool homewares.

I took some photos on my travels (above and below) to give you an idea. Fancy a trip there yourself? Pack your purse!

Some guys have all the ducks

14 Sep

Everyone, no matter their age, needs a rubber duck. When I was born, so family legend goes, my dad was so excited he went to a toy shop and bought the biggest one he could find. I remember that duck – at about 10cm wide, he was fat, friendly and sunshine yellow. He  lived in our bathroom for years, making everyone smile.

If my dad went on the same shopping trip today, he wouldn’t believe his duck – sorry – luck. I’ve just spotted this Giant Bath Duck on Amazon.co.uk for just £14.70. At a whopping 32cm wide and 26cm high, it’s a beast of a bird. He quite literally blows all other ducks out of the water.

Of course, at that size, he’s bigger than a baby (!), so the manufacturers reckon he’s better suited to swimming pools and ponds than baths. One reviewer on Amazon even uses it in their horse’s drinking trough to keep an eye on the water level – if they can’t see his bright yellow head from the other side of the field, the trough needs filling up.

But I think it’s a shame to banish him outdoors. Ducks live in bathrooms. And besides, imagine how cool he’d look sitting in a corner! He’d brighten the place right up and be a real talking point.

I’m placing my order now. Once the word gets out, everyone will want one, so if you fancy getting one too, you’d better be quack – sorry – quick!

Water wonderful bottle

12 Sep

While my kitchen is being redecorated (what was supposed to be a quick repaint/new-sink job has become a month-long and counting total overhaul/replaster/replumb job thanks to rising damp), I’ve been drinking a lot of water out of jugs and bottles.

I’ve read that tap water supposedly tastes nicer from glass bottles because glass is ‘taste neutral’ – a fancy way of saying you get none of the plastic-y taste you get from disposable bottles. While I don’t know if that’s true, water certainly looks a whole lot nicer if it’s served from a pretty container. The problem with jugs is that dust, flies and whatnot can land in it; whereas with a bottle you can take it from fridge to table to fridge again and it’ll stay nice and fresh. So, I’ve been on the hunt for something suitable.

Top of my list is the H2OMG Water Bottle from American website http://www.modcloth.com (above). It’s $15.99 (£10) plus $4 (£2.50) shipping to the UK – amazingly reasonable considering how much international postage usually costs. As well as looking funky, there’s the added bonus that for every four sold, the company who make it, Faucet Face, will install a water filtration system for families in need in India.

Alternatively, if you like optical illusions, the Sagaform PET water bottle, immediately below, looks just like a plastic one, but is made of glass. It’s not bargainous at £19.95 from http://www.dotmaison.com or £20 from either http://www.primroseandplum.co.uk or amazon.co.uk, but it is incredibly cool.

Want something cheaper? (We are only talking about serving tap water, not Champagne, after all). I like the simple red, teal, green or clear 1L glass water bottles from John Lewis’ new House range, just £5 each (also below).

I also love the metal lidded glass water bottle at the bottom of this post – it’s £8 from John Lewis; or £6.99 from either giftedpenguin.co.uk or mollieandfred.co.uk. There’s one catch though – it’s currently out of stock everywhere. However if you register your interest, all three websites will email you when they get more in. I’ll drink to that!

PS: Since posting this blog entry, one of my lovely readers has drawn my attention to another fab reusable bottle – the Retap bottle, £10.50 from http://www.amazon.co.uk (below). Made of glass with a choice of coloured lids, it’s designed to go in the dishwasher. I love the blue one!

Having a ball

10 Sep

I was recently asked to name my favourite piece of 20th Century design. It could be anything, from an item of furniture to a tiny gadget or even something I’d made myself (hmmn, not sure my origami cranes from last December’s post would quite cut the mustard!).

The problem is, the last Century produced so many amazing designs and designers, how on earth do you choose? I feature at least one every blog post -and that’s just the small-fry, available-on-the-high-street stuff.

There are national treasures like the traditional K2 phone booth (designed in 1920 for la-di-dah Londoners who rejected the concrete versions elsewhere); iconic pieces of furniture such as the Mae West Lips Sofa; and of course, the smaller bits and bobs that not only look good but make our lives easier, from the first iMac G3 to Ikea’s clever Chosigt cheese grater.

But I was told I had to pick one, so I decided to impose my own criteria. It had to be something good-looking, useful, instantly recognisable, durable, colourful, fun, covetable and above all, something that if you owned it, it’d stop people in their tracks, make them smile, and say, “Wow”.

And that’s why I picked the Ball chair (above). Dreamed up by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio in 1966 who made the first prototype himself out of wood and fibreglass so that he and his wife had somewhere to sit in their new home (you can read more about it at www.eero-aarnio.com), it’s still one of the coolest bits of furniture anyone could own.

Aarnio described the ball chair as “a room within a room” and that’s exactly what I love most about it – when you’re sitting in one, you’re in your own private little world. Whether you’re curled up to read, listen to music, make a phone call, tap away on your computer or watch television, you can do so uninterrupted. And if you’ve got a hectic house like I have, that would be amazing.

I say “would be” because sadly, such an amazing design classic comes at a price. A £6,900 price, to be exact (check it out at www.designshopuk.com). Gulp. But a girl can dream.

If you love the ball chair as much as I do, there is one other solution – buy a reproduction. Now normally, I’d always say you should buy an original, but not many of us have a spare £7k knocking around… however, for something this special, you might be willing to splash out a few hundred.

That’s how much good quality copies cost from brilliant reproduction company Blue Sun Tree (www.bluesuntree.co.uk). For £425, you can choose the colour of the fibreglass shell (including pink, pistachio, silver, black and yellow); the colour of the seat upholstery (including dark green, red and purple); and even the size of your ball chair (83cm, the diameter of the original; or 72cm to fit through standard doorways), which will then be made to your specifications.

Then, once you’re the proud owner of a ball chair, you can just sit back and enjoy the compliments. Um, well actually maybe you won’t hear them, cos you’ll be snuggled up inside your own private nest!

This is my entry into Little Greene’s 20th Century Design competition. Find out more at: http://www.littlegreene.com/retro

The Sharpiest tool in the box

7 Sep

I realise I’m probably very slow out of the blocks here, but I’ve recently discovered Sharpie pens, and I think they’re amazing.
The iMac of writing instruments, these posh felt tips are just cooler and quirkier than ‘normal’ pens.

The best thing about them is that they’re permanent, and can write on pretty much any surface, from glass and plastic to stone, polystyrene, rubber, fabric and even shoes (see below). The black ink is crisp and makes my handwriting look far swankier and I can see why the coloured inks are loved by arty types – it almost looks like paint.

I particularly like the mini Sharpies that come with a little metal ring in the lid, so that you can attach them to your bag or keys – perfect if, like me, you always need a pen but can’t find one.

I bought a black pen first, to write on freezer bags (I know, the glamour!), but quickly realised the error of my ways. I’ve since seen the huge amount of Sharpie art and craft on the web, and have bought a pack of 24 coloured pens (£15.89 from Webcrayons at amazon.co.uk) to have a go myself.

My first two attempts are at the bottom of this post – a little canvas (bought blank for 99p from a bargain bookshop) with the lyrics to Something Changed by Pulp (a reading at our wedding), which I gave my husband for our anniversary; and a beach pebble which I painted with nail polish and Sharpies and then stuck a magnet on the back of (an idea I got from the How About Orange blog at http://howaboutorange.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/wooden-disks-and-sharpies.html?m=1)

For other, ahem, far more professional (ie: better!) art and craft work than mine, Google Images for ‘Sharpie Craft’ or visit the gallery at http://www.sharpie.com

You can buy Sharpies from WHSmiths and http://www.amazon.co.uk

*Converse pic courtesy of: http://glowynddark.deviantart.com/art/Sharpie-Converse-55840579?offset=40

Green gifts

5 Sep

A bouquet of flowers is lovely, but I’ve always thought it sad that you can spend £30+ on something that’s wilted and died within a week or so. It’s also not ideal if you’re looking for a present for a couple, or want to send something to a man. Okay, so he might love flowers, but unless his name’s Elton, it’s unlikely they’d be his first choice of pressie.

That’s why Plants4presents.co.uk is such a great idea. It delivers amazing plants anywhere in the UK on the date of your choosing.
You get a free, good quality metal bucket or wicker basket plant pot with every plant, plus a gift card typed with your own message. And we’re not talking specialist or boring shrubs, but fun, useful, easy-to-care-for plants for indoors or outdoors that anyone (of any age) can enjoy.

I’ve used the website four times now and everything I’ve ordered has been a huge hit. I’ve bought beautiful mini orange and lemon trees for my parents’ conservatory – they came laden with fruit, and almost a year on have flowered and grown more. I’ve also bought a mini (well, it’s 50cm high) olive tree as a ‘sorry’ present for someone (like offering an olive branch, y’see) and a demon chilli plant for a male friend.

The site also sells ‘Grow your own curry’ kits (three plants that form the ingredients for a Thai curry); ‘Grow your own tea’ plants (for the friend who loves a cuppa); blueberry bushes for health fanatics; and orchids for traditionalists.

Not sure what to buy? Ring them up – the staff are friendly and won’t just try to sell you what’s most expensive. What’s more, almost everything on the site costs £19-£35 – the same as a decent bunch of flowers, but for something far longer lasting. Bloomin’ brilliant.

Parrot fashion

3 Sep

Wandering around Debenhams the other day, looking for a can opener that actually works without getting stuck, mangling the can or cutting my fingers (I’ll tell you all about it if and when I ever find one), I spotted this AWESOME lamp for £40.

The base is a giant, just-the-right-side-of-kitsch, china parrot – it comes in soft lime or white and would look brilliant perched in a bedroom, living room or on a hallway console table.

Parrots not your thing? Debenhams (www.debenhams.com) have got a thing for table lamps with fun-shaped bases at the moment – check out the dogs, £40-45; Owl, £32; telephone, £40; Bird and branch lamp, £75; and Eiffel tower lamp, £75, all below.

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