Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mary Grant

Soft jersey, lace and floaty layers. A fitted swing and a flounce. How perfectly Mary Grant's designs lend themselves to an artistic and mildly eccentric image.

(images from

I'd like all of these outfits, but most particularly that white dress and wrap with its charming sleeves. I can think of no more delightful way to mask my non-artistry and conventionality.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

utterly devoted to lifestyle

Let it not be said that I don't embrace this blogging pursuit wholeheartedly. In the past, I spent holiday weekends quelling the masses or sitting in my counting-house, counting out my money. Now, I devote myself to lifestyle. No moment of lifestyle passes in my household without everyone being instructed to Hold That Pose.

So we made bread, which mercifully rose, and Nigella Lawson's Ricarelli biscuits for Mamó's birthday party. Cheese scones and peanut cookies for visitors. You name it, we baked it.
When it rained, we damply appreciated nature, and we knitted a bedraggled scarf for dollie. But the coup de grâce was the purchase of Cath Kidston's Sew, the lifestyle blogger's passport.

It includes everything I need to make the charming bag depicted on the cover. Perhaps I'll even make it. I can imagine myself walking round the streets with it, meeting others proudly flourishing the same bag. A secret understanding would pass between us, the bond of women who would like to be creative but don't have time to cut our own fabric AND read all the blogs, goddammit.

So this post includes a helpful facility for all those people who career madly round the Internet, commenting on all the blogs. Today, you can just type A, B, C or D. No need to thank me.

A. My, what a charming LIFESTYLE that is you are depicting.
B. What? I don't understand. What?
C. Why won't you talk to me? (You never talk to me.)
D. My friend loves those curtains!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


There was a time when I thought garlic bread was the height of sophistication, later supplanted by jars of breadsticks on gingham tablecloths in Italian restaurants, and for many years I gave no thought to my surroundings and lived with the landlord's choice of chintz. But now I own a house and I'm fussy, inconveniently so. Here are the things I can't find:
  • a large wooden round dining table with a central column;
  • an armless sofa bed that isn't brown or navy or leather or abominable;
  • an elegant floor lamp that doesn't have a tediously fashionable curve.

Look at this lamp that's much on my mind, depicted by Douglas Friedman Photography via Desire to Inspire. Perfect for operations, interrogations and theatre, and I dearly want it, but I don't know where to get it. Perhaps I should settle for mere light rather than a play with proportions, and have another breadstick.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

green and pink office wishes

Who remembers Ireland's old school desks? Made of iron and wood, with inkwells and pencil-slots and lids that lifted so that we could store our lunches and catapults. Small ones for the small children and big ones for the big children, functional and almost indestructible. I never appreciated their beauty during my long, long schooldays and etched my name into them along with everyone else, but now I'd love to have one.

And this, from Steuart Padwick, is what reminded me of those desks.

I like its chic femininity and storage places and lack of business brawn, and only wish it had the built-in hinged wooden bench of the school desks.

And, from the same designer, a beautiful sideboard in which I can store my stationery along with all the magazines and chocolates and wine I need for when I storm grandly off into the home office, saying that I'm very busy and must not be disturbed. Aren't those chalky colours lovely?

[Images from Steuart Padwick]

Saturday, October 17, 2009

a date with my inner self

Small twin-engined Islander planes fly low over our house several times a day. We wave; they drop food-parcels. Well, they haven't yet, but we live in hope.

The planes are on their unhurried way across from the mainland to the Aran Islands, bringing visitors to Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites, designed by de Blacam & Meagher and inspired by the landscape of the islands.

This place looks as though it's intended for people who'd like to commune with their inner selves. My inner self has sloped off in a huff for lack of communing ever since the children were born, but if it ever returns I'll have a date with it here in these elegantly sparse rooms. Their pace of life looks tranquil, their menu simple and good.

Reader, you'll exclaim in horror that there's no dusky pink in these photos, no chandeliers, no flocked wallpaper, no Eames chairs. I feel your pain. But wait, the island has a knitting company, the ultimate craft blogger's retreat. Your move.

[You must never, ever tell anyone this, but I don't really like Eames chairs. Except yours, of course, if you have one. Yours is special]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

warm arrivistes

Our new gates have been electrified so now we are arrivistes with remote controls. The cows in the field across the lane stare in bafflement at them as they open and close eerily through the mist.

Yes, the stonemasons ruined the drive, but you'll be wanting to remain glued to this channel as I'll be debating the merits of granite versus limestone gravel to sort it out. No? Ok then, be like that.
And my stance is that soft furnishings are much more interesting than insulation, but as I was overruled by Scottish Husband the house got insulated today.

Warm arrivistes: what a feeling.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Stuff? Tick. I have stuff.

A surprising amount of stuff, as it's not that long since I owned no more than a suitcase and a bookcase and maximum luggage allowances were nothing to me.

But now that I have sofas and trees and jigsaws and platters and sheds and ribbons and warranties and pastry-brushes and high hopes that my daughters won't redistribute them too drastically while they play at being pirates, I have to find places to put them.This is Ella's Kitchen Company's Box For Stuff (also available from Garden Trading), and you can see why the name caught my eye.

Wooden, sturdy and variously painted, they look good to me. I'm planning one for herbs, one for toiletries, and one for my giveaway wins.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

partially why

This isn't really a post, but rather a comment to add to yours. Thank you very much for your many insights into blogging, and in particular design/lifestyle blogging; I was struck by the time and trouble you took.
You blog as a social activity, and in particular because it's an easier one than most to fit into busy days. It gives you a way of interacting with a world outside your own, a world which, as Heather initially pointed out, is unusual in its courtesy and its sense of welcome and inclusion. If you work from home (as I sometimes do too), blogging provides comradeship and a wider arena of engagement.
You blog as a creative outlet, because you like words and images. Because it's a constructive use of idle time.
You blog because it's fun and escapist and makes you smile. Because it gives you the adult equivalent of pen-pals. Because it's undemanding, in the sense that you can post and comment or not as you wish, with no sense of obligation.
You blog because there was a 'Create Blog' button.
You blog as a way to organize information and images, or as an adjunct to a business. To have something other than work into which you can channel a sense of enthusiasm and a work-ethic.
I had such a sense of recognition as I read all your responses. I blog out of megalomania, of course, but also for the sense it gives of community and of an external world. The craft/creative element of the blogs I read gives me a connection with the time before I was a gadabout or had children when I put into practice the knitting, sewing, and other skills my mother took the trouble to teach me, and encourages me to apply those skills and to be more creative myself.
Because blogging is slightly less real than reality, it gives me a sense of order. When Blue Daughter eats Pink Daughter's To Do list and mayhem ensues, I can escape to Google Reader, where no one must Stop That Right Now Or Else.
And it gives me a more personal sense of the world. We all see the daily international headlines about natural disasters, political crises and human drama, but blogging creates for me a parallel and no less valid world where Australia is reupholstering a chair, America is expecting a baby any day now, and Canada has a lovely pair of shoes with velvet ribbons.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

tell me why

The unwritten rules of lifestyle blogging decree that every post should contain an image, so here's the Guinness teabread I made with the Guinness left over from the Chocolate Guinness cake. It was well-received. But never mind that.

Why blog? It's something that I've been thinking about, and for my imaginary TV appearances I dish out the old reliable line about Tiananmen Square before they cut to the band. I was reminded of the question today by Heather's evocative description of the benefits of being a part of the capricious community of design bloggers at A Day in the Country, so, being inquisitive, I'm asking you:

a) Why do you blog?
b) No, really, why do you blog?

I was telling Scottish Husband only the other day that you are wonderful commentators, insightful and smart, not like those people in the olden days of usenet who lived by 'Me too!!!' or the more contemporary 'Love those curtains!!!' brigade. So you mustn't let me down now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

out-coloured by Squint

I thought I was zealous enough in my use of colour in the home, but no. Dandelion Daydreamer (an Irish artist and illustrator/designer living in France) led me to cleverly-named Squint, who produce these amazing sofas and chairs. (Yes, they've been around the blogosphere for a while, but I must have blinked.)

It's as though Avoca had escaped from convent school.

They say:
The fabrics used are woven English damasks and shot silver and gold satins with Swarovski rose crystal and pearl detailing. Trimmings are 18th and 19th century from France with woven silver and gold thread. The accessories range includes mirrors and lighting wrapped with Japanese ceremonial Kimono silks which have been embroidered and appliquéd and finished with turn of the century lavender glass beads.
It's hard to fault that. Imagine what a mismatched set of these would look like in a white-panelled room (with gaudy tea-cups to match), and that lovely yellow mirror hovering in the background. And a toleware chandelier. And me, looking proud and bemused.

[All images from Squint]

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

books on show

First I saw this image from Sköna hem via Desire to Inspire, and I thought, "hmmm, those shelves look good."

Then I read Jane's piece on the natural segregation of books at My Pear Tree House, and as I looked at her attractive images my competitive streak surfaced and I thought, "hmmm, I should raise my game and display all our books nicely too."

[Aside 1: I like to preface my thoughts with "hmmm" because it sounds like the wind in the trees.]
[Aside 2: Jane's blog is thoughtful and well-written; do settle down with a tea and read some more of it.]

So how about a front-facing display of children's books for the playroom?

I had a go with a few books to see how it would look and was pleased with the effect. All these diligent illustrators, I thought, were finally getting some recognition, and visitors would think that the children must be quite literate.

[Aside 3: I don't bother with the "hmmm" when the thinking is mid-sentence.]

And then, halfway through taking a photograph, a little hand crept furtively up to retrieve a book and another benefit became clear: they are now much more accessible and tempting.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

hiding under a hat

I lost a contact lens and now my vision is like this. To get by temporarily in life I wear my designer spectacles, which make me appear glamorous in a fashion victim sort of a way but also annoy me.

What better to do until the contact lens situation is resolved than hide under a lovely hat from New Urban (they ship to Ireland and they also have a US site).

That first one may be a bit too mother-of-the-bride for popping to the post office, but I love it.

And the stylish black hat, in combination with the fashion victim spectacles, will get me into vaudeville, which is what I'm going to desert blogging for if I don't win a bunch of giveaways pretty sharply. Did you see that Julie at Being Ruby won three (THREE) in the same day? So bring on the handsewn aprons, the green tea candles and the little felted elves; I must be due some giveaway luck.
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