Sunday, 23 December 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

This will be my last post before I go off to enjoy the festivities, so I thought I'd share a few pics of what Christmas looks like in the VKH household.
As mentioned in my previous post, 'Purple Reigns, Dear', this year I decided to go with a slightly gothic theme with lots of black, purple and gold and for the first time in my life, lashings of lametta.
I'm quite proud of the result, and although Mr VKH has banned me from ever using skulls on the tree again, I think he approves. Sort of.
Here's a few pics, I'd love to know what you think.

The Tree.




The 'Nightmare Before Christmas' decs!




Table centrepiece

Incidentally, Mr VKH's mum has been using the same lametta on her tree for nearly 40 years, putting each strand carefully back in the pack come the New Year.  I'd like to say that this is a tradition I am going to start too but at 99p a pack, bugger that for a game of soldiers!

Merry Christmas!!
Kx

Thursday, 13 December 2012

East Is Best!






The beginning of December doesn't just mean it's socially acceptable to start mentioning the C-word, it also   heralds the East London Design Show, an annual event which brings together the best of the UK's independent product, interior and jewellery designers.
Set up in 1994 by glassmaker Della Tinsley and photographer Gideon Cleary, it is now the place to discover some of the best emerging talent the design world has to offer as well as showcasing products from established designer makers. And it happens to take place just three miles from my house, in the beautiful Shoreditch Town Hall,  so I had no excuse not to tootle on down for a nosey.
Over one hundred exhibitors were at the show so there was plenty to digest over the weekend. Here's a round up of some of my favourites:


Ros is a London-based illustrator whose typographical prints and drawings depict quotes, lyrics or personal notes. SInce graduating from Brighton university Ros has built up a steady client base which boasts names such as Stella McCartney and Ford.
Predominantly black and white, her style is striking in it's simplicity and beautifully executed. My favourite is this quote by the great Willy Wonka. 

'Willy Wonka' print, £24

This cute stationery and gift site, founded by designer Rachel Le Mesurier, launched it's first range of design-led products in 2008.  Stockists now include the V&A shop and the Saatchi Gallery shop.  Inspired by the urban wildlife, Lollipop's designs feature many familiar city sights - squirrels on park benches, pigeons perched on a landmark and, my favourite, this pretty little sparrow - perfect for that last minute gift:


'Bird' paperweight, £12.50



Takae Mizutani and Sons
Founded in 2007 by my former neighbour Takae Mizutani and her 'sons' (cats Mooks and Guiness), this range of ceramics and kitchenwares certainly fulfil their intention - to bring a smile to your face.
Drawing on childhood memories, Takae captures the a certain youthful naivety in her designs.  Questions such as 'how many raindrops does it take to make a puddle?' are beautifully illustrated in the 'Hatena' range of tea towels (Hatena means 'question mark' in Japanese) which are handprinted by Takae on to Fair Trade 100% organic cotton. 

I love the simple, childlike whimsy that is present in all her designs, it makes me feel like a little girl again!  Come on people, let's spread the smiles...



'Memories of Falmouth' salt and pepper shakers, £39.75


'Sweet home snail' cake plate, £22.75

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Day of the Dead

If you have read my post 'Purple Reigns, Dear' you'll know about my obsession with all things goth.  Favourite designer: Alexander McQueen.  Favourite film director: Tim Burton. Etc, etc.

Last week I dragged a reluctant Mr VKH to the Wellcome Trust on Euston Road to see the exhibition, Death: A Self Portrait.  A collection assembled by Richard Harris, it showcases over 300 artworks, historical artefacts and installations that all share a devotion to the depiction of death and human attitudes towards it. Given that my final year thesis at university was a study of anatomical drawing and how it was perceived you can understand my excitement at such a weird and wonderful exhibition. 

'Kate' - ©Kerry Hussain 2012
However, my fascination is not so much one with death but rather the structure of the human body - from an artistic point of view I've always found something aesthetically pleasing about it. Understanding how our bones, and in turn, our muscles dictate the shape of our bodies, and the lines and shadows created upon it, is fascinating for me. The skull, in particular, has a beautiful shape that I never tire of drawing. In my work, the cheekbones are always a prominent feature as I love the shadows cast around the jaw line, especially when lit from directly above.  In my teens I discovered Marlene Dietrich and those wonderful cheekbones. She has been somewhat of a muse ever since, along with Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham. 

Skeleton cup stack, £55,
Rockett St George
There is now a growing trend for the macabre: this year we have seen a revival in taxidermy and anyone who's anyone is selling stuff with antlers on.  Retailers such as Atelier Abigail Ahern and Rockett St George would be my first port of call for creating a den of gothic, Victorian decadence, with artwork by Rory Dobner adorning the walls.  
The popularity of designers such as McQueen has seen the skull motif emblazoned on everything at the moment, from t-shirts to candles and even crockery.  

All of which leads me to introduce my newest designer discovery, Lauren Baker. I came across her work whilst scouring the exhibitors list for the East London Design Show (which opens today at Shoreditch Town Hall) and, oh my, I nearly fell off my chair with excitement for 'tis right up my street!  Intrigued by an image of a deer skull adorned with feathers, I delved further in to this bizarre world and was not disappointed. 

Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, Lauren sources human and animal skulls (ethically, of course) then gilds and embellishes them with beads and mosaics.
The personal touch is very much in fashion and Lauren's work is no exception: each animal comes with a name and it's own story telling of it's age, where it lived and how it died.

Since producing her first piece just eighteen months ago, Lauren's work has made an instant impact within the art industry and has attracted a media and celebrity following. She exhibited at the Tate Modern earlier this year and her skulls are currently on view in the windows of Harrods. 

My favourite of the lot is the 'Fred' skull, beautifully gilded in gold leaf with a stud mohican.  

'Fred' - Lauren Baker

I think even Lee McQueen would have been envious of this one!
See more of Lauren's work at the East London Design Show (6th-9th December) or visit www.laurenbakermosaics.com

Watch this space for a round up of my faves from the East London Design Show, coming soon (ie, after I've been!).



























Sunday, 2 December 2012

Nkuku

Just a quick post to let you all know about a lovely website I've discovered called Nkuku.
Out and about over the last week or so I've spotted their products in several independent retailers, so I decided to look them up.
Specialising in stylish, fair trade gifts and homewares, Nkuku's products are eco-friendly and aim to promote and develop the skills of artisans they encountered on travels throughout Africa and India.

Top of my wishlist are these cute little chai glasses, perfect for that little mid-afternoon cuppa:


Handmade from recycled glass and available with the wire holder in Rust or Distressed White, a set of six costs £24.95.


For something seasonal, I love these antique silver glass 'Zala' baubles which come with recycled sari ties. £12.95 for a set of three.


Happy shopping!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Art Attack!

When I was at school I used to draw every single day. Now it seems the only time I even pick up a pen is to fill in the little forms at Argos (I could've said 'the bookies' there, but that wouldn't give a good impression!).  It used to be my way of relaxing and tuning out but pretending to be a grownup is taking up all my time these days.  

When I'm in need of a little inspiration I look at the work of my favourite artist, fashion illustrator David Downton.  

David Downton at work
I have been a fan of his work since around the age of 15 or 16 when I saw some of his drawings in a Sunday supplement. There are few artists that can evoke such strong emotions in me but his illustrations are so beautiful they actually make me want to cry! In fact, after my engagement and wedding rings, probably my most treasured possession is a framed, limited edition print of the cover illustration that Downton did for the book '100 years of Fashion Illustration' that Mr VKH bought me for our first wedding anniversary (paper, see?).
If you're talking about dream jobs then his is at the top of my list -  he gets to travel the world drawing the beautiful people and hang out at fabulous, glitzy fash parties!

Paris Couture
Carmen Dell'Orefice

His style is fluid and looks effortless which, I can assure you, is no easy feat. As Mr Downton himself puts it in an interview with Tony Glenville: "In order to leave something out, first you have to put it in." 
The finished work is a masterclass in 'deconstruction' and one that is not as spontaneously arrived at as it may seem - something which I have constantly reminded myself of during the  development of my own style.

To really get the creative juices flowing, though, there is nothing like surrounding yourself with the smell of linseed oil and white spirit so I visited a very dear friend, artist Luci Metcalfe, at her studio in Wapping.
Luci and I have been friends since meeting on the train home one day at the beginning of our art foundation course nearly (eek!) 20 years ago and although we have followed different creative paths since, we've always stayed in touch.

After studying fine art, first at Canterbury and then the highly respected Slade School in London, Luci has held the Artist In Residence post with Imogen Heap at The Round House and now teaches at International Community School in Edgware Road, alongside mentoring graduate artists through the Arts Charity 'Morphe Arts'.  Here, she answers a few questions about her work:


When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I have always loved making things, and this was encouraged in me from a very young age by creative parents.  My dad used to take me to galleries and I have very early memories of seeing huge installations and colour-field paintings!!!  In the more traditional galleries he would say:  'Go and find your favourite' and this association of art, with not only seriousness but fun, was important.


Who or what inspires you?
I saw Sigmar Polke's enormous paintings in the Hamburger Bahnhof gallery in Berlin when I was still a teenager and they had a profound effect on me.  The way that he painted by pouring resins onto huge drum-like, see-through materials, stretched over structures which were visible was so refreshing and exciting.  The scale of these was out of this world!  I have more recently been inspired by painters like Nigel Cooke and Dexter Dalwood.


How would you describe your style in three words?

Luscious, painterly realism.



What are you working on at the moment?
I am close to finishing (at last!) an 8ft by 8ft painting called 'Pink Wall'.  I have sold its smaller cousin (which I am basing it on) but the buyer can't have it until I finish the big one which puts a healthy pressure on the process!  It shows a huge, flourescent pink wall, with 2 empty chairs staring at it.  We spend a lot of time these days staring at a 2-dimensional illusionistic space.  I've taken away the projected illusions, and you're just left with the physical reality - the idea of people staring at a facade.

Pink Wall (work in progress)




If you weren't an artist what would you be?

A builder!!


To see more of Luci's work, click here.

Watch this space to see how writing this post has inspired my own work!


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

All the Fun of the Fair!


Last week I began to get in the festive mood by visiting the Country Living Christmas Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington, and from the moment I walked through the doors I couldn't wait for it to be December!

Greeted by the scent of cinnamon and orange, I made my way through the crowds (day one and it was heaving) and decided the best way to see everything was to adopt a systematic approach. I would start at one end and make my way up and down the aisles without getting distracted by anything sparkly. Easier said than done! 

The fair features craftspeople from all over the UK, so whether you're looking for original decorating ideas or gifts when the high street just won't do, this is the place to come. 
Here's a round-up of some of my favourite stands, which hopefully will inspire your Christmas shopping this year:






Rubber stamps made to order, choose from hundreds of designs or create your own. I'll definitely be ordering some for my homemade cards and labels.








Gorgeous textiles and homewares from the East London studio of Zeena Shah. I particularly love that all the products have names - my favourites are 'A Tote Bag Called Trevor' and 'A Cushion Called Clive'. How cute is that?!









Sophie Allport
Fine bone china and kitchen textiles from this family run business, the epitome of country living. Simple yet beautiful illustrated designs with a distinct farmyard feel. Now all I need is that country kitchen to put it all in!














'Spell it, love it, give it, keep it' is the motto of this personalised gift company, based in an idyllic sounding old stable in Hampshire, lucky things!
I've got my eye on the Scrabble cushions (VKH is 13 points!).
















Textiles and homewares featuring hand drawn and etched designs inspired by the British countryside. The 'Hare' design makes me go all Watership Down (?!). And I love the beautifully designed logo!








Ah, I can almost smell the pine cones and roasted chestnuts and hear the fire crackling as I kick off the wellies (Hunters, obvs!) and get my hands round a glass of mulled wine while Mr VKH...what? Oh, you're still here, sorry I was off then! Maybe next year...cheerio old chap!



Saturday, 10 November 2012

Purple Reigns, Dear.

Here's something I never thought I'd say: I must get some lametta for the Christmas tree this year.

Yes, you heard correctly. After years of banishment from our household (much to Mr VKH's disapproval), and much derision from yours truly, it seems that this year I am going to have to admit defeat: lametta is in.

    I blame Living Etc and their too cool for school style team.  In the decorating pages of this month's issue we're treated to a theatrical extravaganza with plenty of lights and stars. And lametta.  
It goes against everything I stand for when it comes to my home. It is cheap, shiny and looks incredibly untidy. But somehow in these holy pages it looks casual, cool and oh so sparkly!
Even more scary is how I caught myself stroking it longingly in the shop yesterday. I'm also particularly taken with the gold drape curtain from Pearl And Earl.  I think I've been taken over by aliens. 


  After the success of last year's Kitsch-mas, for our (now annual) Mulled Wine & Mince Pies Night next month, I'm pulling out all the stops. I'm taking inspiration from the lush Cox and Cox Christmas catalogue and Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'. Think opulence with a touch of humour: gold, top hats, cut glass, bowls of sugared fruit, candelabras, maybe a feather boa or two, paper pom-poms, sparkly skulls (too far?) and lots and lots of my new favourite colour, purple. 
Alexander McQueen and Prince all bundled up in to one glorious mess of gothic bonkers-ness. Or, Helena Bonham-Carter.

Here's what's on the wish-list:



L-R: 'Skulls' wallpaper by Barbara Hulanicki for Graham & Brown, £60 per roll  Velvet cushions, £32.50 each, Graham and Green  Multi-glittered skull tree decorations, set of 4, £6.00, Paperchase  Vintage silk Top Hat, £100, Bottle Green Homes,  Green Ivy Garland (1.8m) from £6.25 and Black Mirror Ball, from £12.00, both DZD,  'Connie' glass bauble, £2.50, Habitat,  pair of John Rocha Black cut glass wine glasses, £135, House of Fraser,  Glass Christmas Tree jar, £30,  Aubergine Pillar Candle, £8.50 and Chunky Mercuried Glass Candlestick, £10.50, all Cox and Cox,  XL Drape Fringing Curtain in gold, £15 and Paper Balls, from £5.00, both Pearl And Earl.

And, of course, all topped off with a sprinkling of purple lametta. Just to please Mr VKH :-)




Friday, 2 November 2012

Blind-sided!

  Mr VKH does not do DIY.  So, imagine my surprise when it was suggested the other day that we should take a trip to B&Q. To buy a drill. Although I am certain that it was a preliminary peace-keeping move (given the poker night that has been organised in my absence for the weekend) the rarity of such an occasion meant I dared not question why.
Normally for me, buying such an item would require extensive research in to the pros and cons of different makes and models but he is, if nothing else, impulsive and so off we went not knowing what we might come home with (oh, the horror!).
  I discovered on the short journey to said home improvement store the reason for the spur of the moment trip: I bought a dark wood venetian blind way back in the summer for the spare room but as yet have not had a chance to install it. My reasoning, apparently, was 'because I need a drill'.  It seems Mr VKH has cottoned on to my thinly veiled attempt at putting off odd jobs.

  After a short discussion a Bosch PSR18 was purchased (with 20% off!) and we returned home via Costa Coffee, by which time it was getting dark. Too late now to do any DIY, these things need daylight, I said. Pub?
  Now the clocks have gone back, I have been distracted by football, visits to friends out of town and Hallowe'en (that last one might not be true). And so the drill remains untested, the blind unopened and the windows undressed. But, to make it a really worthwhile purchase, I have somehow managed to find the time to buy two more blinds that are perfect for the living room. After much inner deliberation, I decided to play it safe with more wooden venetians and not spend the £500+ it would have cost to get the ones I really wanted from Surface View:

Time-lapse Photographs of a Horse Running by Eadweard James Muybridge,

from £210, Surface View

Maybe in our next place!







Wednesday, 31 October 2012

In a Homespun Spin!

  It seems these days if you're not knitting, crocheting, or at one with a tub of Copydex and some odd buttons, then you're not really with it.  Thanks to Kirstie Allsopp with her Homemade Home and books such as the gorgeous Homespun Style by Selina Lake, stores are becoming inundated with chunky knits, ditsy prints and clashing colours that will definitely not help in a hangover situation.



  Last week I assisted the very lovely Alison Nicholls on a shoot along this theme for Kitchens, Bedrooms & Bathrooms magazine (a bit of a mouthful, so let's call it KBB from now on!)
The location for the shoot was the house of Homespun Style's photographer, Debi Treloar, a huge Edwardian semi near to Kensal Rise. It was easy to see why it was chosen for some of the pictures in the book and also as a backdrop for our very own take on the trend: 'shabby chic' is definitely the way to describe it. A glorious riot of colour and pattern in every room, from the patchwork wallpaper in the dining room to the fluorescent pink painted chairs around the kitchen table, it is a look that might not be to everyone's taste but certainly evokes feelings of fun and cheerfulness - even on a miserable Wednesday in October it was bright and happy.

  To shoot enough to fill eight pages in one day meant there was no time to lose and with a van load of fabulous products unpacked and de-bubblewrapped, Alison and photographer Gary Hamill set to work.


One too many?


The props table





  On a location shoot like this, as with an Indian takeaway, you always order far too much but  this allows for a stylist to mix and match products and try different combinations to see what works best. Not everything that we bring on a shoot gets used. At the end of the day, everything is meticulously repacked (as close to) the same way it arrived and labelled up to either be returned direct to the sender or taken back to KBB HQ. Delivery notes have to be kept to one side so that, when it comes to writing the copy for the article, the stylist knows exactly what pieces have been used, the company they came from and, of course, the retail price. Here's a little taster:




 Love this Snurk Granny bed linen, from £70, Heal's
How about this 'Macie' knitted lamp by Melanie Porter, £450, Notonthehighstreet


My favourite: 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?' cushion by Imogen Luddy,
£45, DesignersMakers





The trend for crafting has made itself very at home in our lives, the old 'make do and mend' mentality is a reflection of the hard economic times. However, the irony is not lost on me: buying something that is supposed to look homemade kind of defeats the object, doesn't it?  But with so many beautiful products to choose from, for those of us not blessed with the patience of a saint and a penchant for Prittstick, it could save an awful lot of time and anguish.
I'll leave the Blue Peter chic to Kirstie et al!



The full article as styled by Alison Nicholls and photographed by Gary Hamill (and ably assisted by yours truly!) can be seen in the January edition of Kitchens, Bedrooms & Bathrooms magazine (out early December).



Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The case for home staging

Although to some it may look like I'm just browsing the internet or plumping some cushions I am actually working, whether it be research or hands-on styling (not just a manifestation of my OCD, honest!).

Last Friday I spent the day with Zoe Brewer of My Interior Stylist at a property in Southfields which she was staging for the rental market. The 3-bed flat had been left in a pretty grim state by the previous tenants and so the landlord (who, I believe, is one of the founders of the Mr & Mrs Smith boutique hotel website) needed Zoe to wave her magic styling wand and make it photo-ready for the agents.
It was a horrendous day weather-wise, but we succeeded in creating a bright and welcoming interior that should have prospective tenants queuing up. 

It always amazes me when I look at properties online at just how many people don't make even the slightest effort to show their home at it's best. The number of times I've seen pictures where there is washing hanging around the living room and clutter all over the floor is painful. I know you should be able to see past all that but sometimes seeing someone's pants on the radiator is really off-putting - especially when said pants are still there if you do actually make it to a viewing!

Home staging (also called house doctoring or property styling) is big news in the US and Australia, no-one would dare put their property on the market without it, yet, as a nation of proud homeowners, it is surprising that the same can't be said here. Yes, admittedly, it is a sellers' and landlords' market at the moment and with so few properties out there it could be argued that just putting your property up for sale/rent guarantees you a buyer/tenant. 
As I have argued extensively with Mr VKH, home staging is not a fanciful waste of money for the rich and/or lazy.  The old saying 'speculate to accumulate'  is particularly apt: for a small initial outlay (the recommended cost is approximately 1% of the value), having your home dressed by a stylist could mean the difference between accepting an offer and achieving the asking price, or even surpassing it. In this market the last thing one would want is for yours to be the one that even agents are embarrassed to show, languishing on their website while all the other shiny, sparkly places are being snapped up before you can say 'Phil and Kirstie'!

With all styling the aim is to create an aspirational lifestyle that makes someone think, 'yes, this is what I want!'  You wouldn't sell your car without giving it a valet and a polish so why would you not do the equivalent when selling the most expensive thing you'll probably ever own? 
Make your home work for you right up until the very last second and you could reap the benefits all the way up the property ladder.


If you have a property to let or sell and would like some help to maximise your gain, VeryKerryH offers a property styling service. Contact for more details.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Gingham Style!

I've just been introduced to the delights of the latest You Tube sensation, Gangnam Style. I'm a bit behind on what's keeping da kidz entertained these days so it was with all sincerity that I questioned what on earth was so amazing about Gingham Style.

My faux pas, as well as providing Mr VKH with an embarrassing little anecdote for the boys (as if I wasn't uncool enough already), actually got me thinking about gingham and the fact that, for me, it always conjures up images of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and jars of homemade jam eaten with scones and clotted cream during a picnic in a soft focus meadow - you know the sort of thing.

Surely there are more modern ways to bring gingham in to one's home, I thought. And, sure enough, there are.  I have found some gorgeous images that just go to show it is not just for summer. Or 8-year-old girls.

By using a palette of grey-blue, white and black and accessorised with lots of dark wood and natural materials, this scheme would suit a cottage or a townhouse. 



In this bedroom, designed by Tommy Smythe, a similar colour palette works as a complementary backdrop to this beautiful sleigh bed with the gingham throw adding pattern:



Both these schemes have a slightly masculine feel so for something a bit more feminine but with a more Scandi minimalist feel, try this:



This range of bedlinen was designed by Bedeck for the V&A Spring/Summer '12 line.

So you see, gingham is not the reserve of the country house or confined to a few short months of the year. Used in moderation and by sticking to a tonal palette, it can actually be quite stylish.  Don't be PSYched out by it, do it Gingham Style this winter!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fun Friday!

What a lovely relaxing day I've had! After the madness of the epic Summer of Sport I have finally been able to get in to town to check out the latest trends in store. 

I'm loving the rich and glamorous art deco 'theatre' style that is appearing in anticipation of  Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of The Great Gatsby (probably my favourite read ever by one of my favourite directors, I can't wait! Watch the trailer here: http://youtu.be/rARN6agiW7o ).

The Home Comforts theme continues and in contrast, but also a reflection of these recession-hit times, pared down Scandi is a sure-fire winner.  

I have at last got round to buying a lamp shade for the spare room/office, not exactly an exciting purchase but one necessary to complete my cosy 'reading corner'. This little part of our flat gets the most sun and is a lovely spot for a cuppa and a daydream.



I also bagged a bargain in the Lombok sale and have finally found a replacement for my 20 year old jewellery box which has literally fallen to pieces.  I'm very sad to have to let the old one go as it was a birthday present from my dad, this beautiful box will hold all my trinkets and is perfect for the Indian style I'm creating in the bedroom:


And on that note, that is exactly where I'm heading (once I've made Mr VKH his cocoa, of course!) Goodnight!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Welcome!

Hi, and welcome to my blog.

It's taken me two years of um-ing and ah-ing but I have bitten the bullet and started this blog as an outlet for sharing my passion for all things interior and property related. For I am obsessed. Or so says my husband, the poor long-suffering lovely who has had to put up with my ramblings about £75 cushions and the difference between Apple White and White Apple (they are definitely not the same thing!) for the last I don't know how long. 
So, in order to stop those divorce papers from being pushed through the letterbox (chrome, traditional Victorian style) and slapping on to the door mat (£2.99, Ikea),  here I go.  I have no idea what I will write about or where this will go but if it saves me from sitting alone in a pristine flat with only 6 cats and old editions of Living Etc to keep me company then it has to be a good thing.

Enjoy!