Getting into the Christmas spirit with Houzz

heals-christmas-lifebylotte Last week, the lovely folk at Houzz invited me and some other bloggers along to a Christmas crafting morning at Heal's new Westbourne Grove store. It was the first 'work' event I've been to since having Daphne and it was lovely (if a little strange - my small-talk skills certainly need brushing up again!) stepping back into my old shoes for a morning.

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First up, we got to do some Christmas crafting. HA. I cannot craft. I don't have an artistic bone in my body - I still remember my Art teacher writing 'Charlotte needs to think beyond the glue and scissors stage' on my school report. I was about 15... (not really). I don't exactly know what she meant, but I guess I was more of a fan of the actual cutting things out and sticking them to other things bit without worrying what the finished product looked like. But you know, life's about the journey not the destination right? I'm sure Paulo Coelho said something like that anyway.

I digress. This time I was more confident as leading the crafting element of the morning was my good friend and all-round interiors expert Vicky Harrison, who also just so happens to be the editor of Houzz UK. She told us we were going to make honeycomb paper ball decorations and had a lot of faith in me.

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Well, let's just say that I lived up to my Art teacher's critique. My ball was shamefully the only one there that was so wonky that it looked completely drunk. If honeycomb Christmas balls could get drunk. But it was still incredibly therapeutic sticking and cutting again after all these years. If you'd like to have a go at making them yourself, there's a nifty step-by-step on Vicky's blog.

Next up, we were challenged to style up some Christmas place settings - one super luxe and formal, the other more relaxed and rustic. Sadly, as I live in a tiny flat and never eat at the kitchen table (it's the size of a postage stamp), Christmas place settings aren't something I've given much thought to. But inspired by my fellow bloggers - who were all incredibly creative - I decided to watch what they were doing and, er, sort of copy them.

I'm no stylist but I REALLY enjoyed this bit - here are my two settings:

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Not too shabby huh?! If you feel so inclined, you can even vote for mine here.

Finally, all the bloggers sat down and had a chat through some design dilemmas with the stylists from Heal's. It was a really lovely morning, with plenty of mince pies on offer, and I left feeling thoroughly Christmassy. And wishing I had a proper kitchen table - but fingers crossed for 2016 on that front!

NB: Heal's Westbourne Grove, in the iconic Queen's building, is fab but only sells lighting and a few accessories, so don't rock up expecting to be able to do your Christmas shopping there too like I did.

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Sourcebook: My Bedroom

houzz-tour-lifebylotte Oh isn't it lovely when you think of an idea for a SERIES for your blog? No effort involved, no racking of brains trying to find something of interest to share with the world. All the hard work is done already.

So here we go, without further delay and following on from my previous post all about my living room, it's time for the lowdown on all the bits and bobs in my teeny tiny bedroom. Yes, I do manage to fit ALL MY CLOTHES into that one built-in wardrobe and chest of drawers. Ha ha ha, only joking.

Enjoy. As ever, please leave me a comment if I've missed anything off or you have any queries! I do love talking interiors.

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Wall colour (pink), Calamine, Farrow & Ball Wall colour (white), Brilliant White, Dulux Bed, Loaf Bedside tables, Ikea Bedside lamps, Original BTC Screenprint, by Clare Cutts from Baxters Gallery Framed postcards, frames from Habitat, postcards inherited Tissue box, The White Company Bedlinen, Laura Ashley Cushions, H&M Curtains, Dunelm Mill Storage baskets on top of wardrobe (just seen in first pic), Ikea

lifebylotte-bedroom3Chest of drawers, Ikea Clock, Heal's Mirror, Ikea Pigeon light, Thorsten van Elten Wicker washing basket, Debenhams Vase, inherited Glass storage jars, The White Company

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Carpet, Wool Cord in Moon, Alternative Flooring Ottoman, Loaf Mirror, taken from an old wardrobe door, painted in Ammonite, Farrow & Ball

All photos copyright Houzz UK and taken by the supremely talented Chris Snook

Sourcebook: My Living Room

lifebylotte-living-room OK, so apologies, I agree, 'Sourcebook' is supremely wanky. Who do I think I am? An interior designer? Fear not, no, I know my place - I just couldn't think of anything else to call this post.

Since my flat was featured on the very lovely Houzz UK a few months ago, and since I will very soon (hopefully) be moving out of it (if we can ever find anywhere to live), I thought I'd put some details down on the blog of where everything in each room is from. Lots of people keep getting in touch and asking me for details about things, and it's really LOVELY because it means I must have SOME taste (despite someone on Houzz commenting that my flat was 'a hybrid of girlie, retro, seaside, student, office, modern, with a twist of chic that I'm finding difficult to love' - I mean personally, I think that sounds kind of awesome, but hey, I guess I would).

First up, because it's the one with the most stuff in it: my living room. So here's a grand old list of where everything is from, in case you're interested. And, yes, I know, this blog post requires no creativity on my part. Ha.

Some things may no longer be available as they've been accumulated over several years - if so drop me a line and I'll try to find an alternative for you.

Hopefully I haven't missed anything - feel free to leave a comment if so and I shall get back to you forthwith!

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Wall colour, Ammonite, Farrow & Ball Chimneybreast colour, White - not sure, probably Dulux Brilliant White Floor paint, Downpipe, Farrow & Ball Rug, bespoke from Alternative Flooring Sofa, Fancy Nancy, Sofa Workshop Coffee table, Ercol (from eBay) Armchair, Ercol (inherited) TV stand, Heal's vintage Grey chest, Garrat Storage ChestLaura Ashley, painted in Plummett (I think! can't remember), Farrow & Ball Mirror above fireplace, 60s dressing table mirror from a junk shop White leather pouf, Heal's Large lantern, Nordic House Small lanterns, Debenhams Ceiling light, Habitat Blinds, Ikea Cushion on sofa, Sparrow & Co Throw on sofa, Melin Tregwynt Cushions on armchair, MissPrint (yellow) and Mini Moderns (grey) Chest of drawers in corner, antique, inherited (I would paint them but the top has a lovely patina so can't bring myself to) Art above sofa (not seen here but on first pic), framed pages from an old Vogue calendar

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Bureau, inherited from my grandparents, 1950s Desk, The Pier - remember them!? I hate my desk and I actually have this amazing Sebastian Cox for Heal's one waiting for me in storage at the moment... if we can ever find that aforementioned new house Desk chair, Eames DSW Colour Sphere wall print, A Rum Fellow Bookcase, Ikea (where else!) Bunny lamp, The Little Baby Company Desk lamp, Homebase Bin, Ikea

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Lamp and shade, Habitat Typewriter, eBay Chest of drawers, as before Lithograph by Alan Stones, from Baxters Gallery, Dartmouth

All photos copyright Houzz UK and taken by the supremely talented Chris Snook

Behind the Brand: Sarah Hamilton Prints

Sarah Hamilton I came across the wonderful Sarah Hamilton through Twitter - just one of many fantastic connections I have to thank the microblogging site for. She's a super talented printmaker, and her quirky, appealing designs adorn a variety of objects - from cards to woodblocks to furniture and even mirrors. She's also super friendly, and has a wonderful mid-century home in Dulwich, which she'll be showing off during an Open House weekend at the Dulwich Festival, on May 11 and 12.

And... *coughs*... she's very kindly asked yours truly to come down and sign copies of my book at the event...so see you there!

I caught up with Sarah to find out a bit more about her fantastic career so far...

How long ago did you start designing?

After leaving Central St Martins, having studied Printmaking back in the days before Photoshop, I made a range of handmade cards and sent them to buyers at The Conran Shop, Designers Guild and Paperchase. They were very enthusiastic about my designs and all placed orders. Requests for different products followed from other stores, including a popular collection of bathroom mirrors for Heal's.

I was then asked to make much larger focal piece mirrors, with my distinctive imagery, by architects and interior designers. This led to commissions, from galleries and private clients, for a wide range of artwork. Nowadays I sell my prints, cards, woodblocks and mirrors via Open House/Studio events in Dulwich, through shows including the East London Design Show and directly from my new website. I also have considerable experience in commercial textiles, having freelanced for a number of respected manufacturers.

Sarah Hamilton

What inspired you to go it alone?

I’d love to say it was a conscious decision, however I started selling my designs straight after college so I haven’t known any other life. I’ve huge respect for people who swap the security of a regular salary for self-employment. You have to embrace an insecure lifestyle but the creative freedom it allows is a price worth paying in my book.

Sarah Hamilton

What's the most interesting thing you've learnt in your years of designing?

It would have to be the unexpected places my designs have lead me to. You just never know when you finish a design where it will end up. For instance Georgina Wright, a weave designer for Kvadrat, bought one of the Heal's mirrors, which led to us collaborating on a project she had been working on for Elmo Leather in Sweden. We've since made lots of fascinating trips to various locations in Sweden, Denmark and Italy. One little blue mirror - how could I have ever have predicted this?

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

The day-to-day journey of discovery, experimenting with colourways, sourcing materials, creating new images or even designing the display or publicity material for a show. I just love every creative aspect of my work.

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Any particular highs/lows you've experienced?

There’ve been plenty of both. One notable high was when, days after delivering a large commission to a lovely client in Hampstead, they asked for the same again for their houses in France and Norfolk. A few months later there was a great feature about the to-die-for house in The Observer, with lots of my artwork.

As for lows - when The Conran Shop were stocking my cards they approached me about designing a wide range of stationery items - a wonderful opportunity, of course. Some way down the line the buyer apologetically said Terence Conran had decided to design the range instead. I guess losing out to Terence Conran is a pill you can swallow with bubbles.

Do you have any favourite products?

There are definitely certain designs which I’m happiest with, these include Rhythmic Leaves (orange) and Birds and Urchin (powder). Behind the scenes I agonised over the colours and they both went through multiple incarnations. Making a design look simple is in reality incredibly difficult. I’m also especially pleased with the woodblocks – the depth of colour and texture is rich and rewarding and I worked very hard to achieve this look. People often say they adore the soft texture of the wood - it’s so different to working on paper - I’m constantly amazed by the possibilities.

Sarah Hamilton

Any advice for up-and-coming designers?

Pay close attention to detail. I was once at a buyers meeting with a smart store who were considering stocking my designs. The head buyer unwrapped my card and unnervingly scrutinised the envelope stating rather gruffly ‘I’m extremely fussy about envelopes.’ When I bought the most beautiful, but pricy, envelopes I’d wondered if anyone would even notice. He did! They do! He then placed a huge order on the spot. Skimp on food, heating, light, water but never ever compromise on materials.

What's your own home like?

We have an unusual mid-century house in Dulwich, South London. It's an upside down house with the bedrooms on the ground floor. It makes sense to live at the top of a house to maximise light and views. Period houses are wonderful but what a shame that most of the living goes on in the basement. Furniture-wise someone said of me, and I did laugh, 'you’re one of the mid-century brigade.' Well… sort of… but I’m passionate about contemporary design so I hope I didn't fossilise in 1950!

What inspired you to get involved with the Dulwich Festival?

If you love art and design and you’re interested in houses then Open House events are a must - I visited The Brighton Festival and was hooked. When we bought our house I thought it would be great to take part in the Dulwich Festival as it celebrates the wealth of creativity that the area has to offer. Last year I was amazed at how many people came to our event, so many said my designs really suited the house and they enjoyed learning how I made the work, peeking in sketchbooks and the setting of my studio, within woods.

Find out more about the Dulwich Festival Open House programme>>

See Sarah's beautiful designs on her website>>