An interior is the natural projection of the soul, Coco Chanel

Those of you who know me or follow my blog will know what a huge influence French style has over my taste in interior design. Whilst growing up I spent many a day in French antique and flea markets buying with my mother for her antique shop and I still love French style and antiques more than any others. It will be no great surprise then, that one of my interior style icons is Coco Chanel. Here is my little tribute to the most stylish woman who ever lived.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, known to the world as Coco Chanel, was born in France in 1883. Her unique talent created a global fashion empire encompassing clothing, jewellery and perfumes. Coco Chanel’s fashion legacy has freed and empowered women throughout the world with her individual style that broke free from the restrictions of corsets and uncomfortable clothing, creating an elegant timeless look with style and panache.
Her apartment at 31 Rue Cambon was also groundbreaking and innovative in its style and although she only used the apartment to entertain guests and actually lived at the nearby Ritz, the interior decor of the three-room space is a study of modern elegance and luxury. Coco’s mix of Oriental and Occidental references was groundbreaking and has been as influential in interior design as her clothes were to women’s fashion.
Lined with books and decorated with hundreds of beautiful objects, the sitting room is where Coco would conduct interviews, only allowing a select few to sit on the tan suede sofa with her.
Coco’s actual apartment was used to add authenticity to the recent film ‘Coco Before Chanel’. Here, Audrey Tautou lounges on Coco’s infamous sofa where only a select few were allowed so sit during her lifetime. Coco was groundbreaking in many of the materials she used to decorate her apartment, using a suede to upholster this sofa and breaking up Chinoiserie screens to create wall panelling for her glamourous living space.
Coco lived above the Chanel store on the second floor of the building and even designed a mirrored spiral staircase to wind upwards through the building so she could see what was happening on every level. The rooms on the ground floor had spacious mirrored and lacquered dressing rooms for her couture clients while her private apartment was, and still is, on the second floor and above that was the design workshop.
In 1971, at the age of 88, Coco Chanel died in her beloved Paris. She was still working and designing until the very end. Friends joked that it was no coincidence that she passed away on a Sunday, since that was the only day that the salon was closed, so it was the only day she had time to do it. Coco’s apartment has been frozen in time since her death in 1971 and preserves her decor as if she had just designed it.
You can watch Vogue’s house tour of Coco’s apartment here:

Luxury is not the opposite of poverty, it is the opposite of vulgarity.

Colour rules

I cheekily borrowed these images from fabulous interiors blog Snoop, which is chock full of inspirational images. This home belongs to an architect called Halewijn who designed this house for himself, his wife and their son in Ledeberg, near Gent in Belgium. I particularly love the black floral wallpaper in the living area, which provides some relief through its vibrant pattern and creates a link between the white dining room and the black kitchen. Continuity is key with a strong look like this and it is important to carry the look throughout each space, whilst providing a different interpretation in each room. Black and white is always dramatic, easy to live with and provides a stunning backdrop to vibrant shots of colour.

Here’s how to achieve a similar look…  Peony tree wallpaper by Sanderson, 1950s loft lamp by The French House, Delta chair by John Lewis, Plank refectory table at SCP

Let’s Colour Project


The Let’s Colour Project is a worldwide initiative from Dulux, Dulux Valentine, Coral, Flexa and Marshall to transform grey spaces with colourful paint. As they put it ‘a mission to spread colour all over the world’.

Working with local communities across the globe, the project launched in 2010 and has already painted homes, streets and schools from Jodhpur in India to Turkey to Tower Hamlets.

Happy Valentines Day


My local florist Rebel Rebel always has fabulous window displays and a shop full of inspirational blooms in vivid hues. It brought a smile to my face today when I walked past and saw the queue of men buying huge bouquets, some wobbling away arms laden with beautiful flowers on their bicycles… And yes, I did get a card from my love…

Country cool

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it might be like to leave the big smoke and make a home in the countryside. I imagine myself reading books beside a roaring fire or baking cakes on my Aga, or maybe just pottering around my garden and vegetable patch. Perhaps if I did have a home in the country, it might look a little bit like this… But with more stuff..!

London Design Festival 18-26 September 2010

It’s that time of year again, when London comes alive with the buzz of the London Design Festival, featuring hundreds of design related events. Here are my top ten things to see this year…

London Biblio-geography: A Personal A-Z, 10-29th September, Few & Far

An exhibition at one of my favourite shops, Few & Far. The exhibition celebrates the work of Mrs Pearsall who walked every street of London on her own, creating the best-known street map in Britain back in 1936. Rachel Hazell has created a range of graphic works for sale and an exhibition that aims to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a cartographer’s studio.

HEL YES! 15th September – 3rd October, 1-3 Wenlock Road, N1

A temporary restaurant and exhibition showcasing the best in Finnish food and design is being held in a former depot in East London. Partnering with Finland’s world class design houses Iittala and Artek for exclusive customised furniture, lighting and tableware, the exhibition promises to delight all the senses.

Mind the Shadow Gap: Contemporary Architectural Mouldings by Solomon and Wu, 18-24th September, 6 Whidbrne Street, WC1

Solomon and Wu launch their first collection of contemporary architectural mouldings, bringing contemporary design to a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Heal’s Lucienne Day inspired selling exhibition, 18-26th September, Heal’s Tottenham Court Road

A selling exhibition of products inspired by the designs of iconic British textile designer Lucienne Day, whose designs pioneered the idea of fabric as ‘art for the people’ by linking mass production and fine art and offering it at affordable prices. Day was discovered by the Director of Heals’ Fabrics, Tom Worthingon, at her graduate show and went on to design more than 70 prints for Heals from the 1950s to the 1970s.

HomeWorks at Mint,18-30th September, 2 North Terrace, SW3

A selection of the latest designs by more than forty established and upcoming designers at inspirational design shop Mint. The designers, who have been chosen for their experimental and individual craft skills, have transformed every day objects into inspirational home pieces. As part of the show, Mint has also commissioned thirteen emerging designers to rework thirteen identical vintage chairs that originated in a Danish shipyard canteen. HomeWorks will also showcase talent from the Danish design scene as well as the latest designs by Diesel for Moroso.

The One Room Hotel, JamesPlumb at Hostem, 18-24th September, Redchurch Street E2

Design duo JamesPlumb will be showing their latest designs at Hostem, a menswear store on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch that JamesPlumb designed the interior for. By day the installation will be open to the public and by night the keys will be handed over to someone to enjoy the One Room Hotel, a stay in the exhibition’s interior. You can make your case for a night’s stay via the Hostem or JamesPlumb web sites.

The Tramshed Event, 22-26th September, 32 Rivington Street, EC2

The Tramshed Event is an exhibition of high end design from 25 exclusive international brands including Benchmark, Studioilse, Scin, Autoban, Another Country, Bocci, Decode, Michael Sodeau and Matthew Hilton. Held in a striking post industrial tram shed, the event will also run a series of design debates featuring an impressive line-up of leading designers and creative thinkers including Patricia Urquiola, Luke Pearson of PearsonLloyd, Matthew Hilton and Ilse Crawford.

Origin: The London Craft Fair, 23-29th September, Old Spitalfields Market, E1

Origin is the Crafts Council’s annual showcase of contemporary craft, bringing together 220 of the most innovative UK and international makers for one week. It offers visitors a rare chance to buy directly from the makers and meet them face to face. Exhibitors to look out for this year are Clare Willard (work pictured here) who uses brightly coloured laminate to create vivid and architectural surfaces and installations and Margo Selby who is now well known for her beautiful woven fabrics.

100% Design, 23-26th September, Earls Court, SW5

The London Design Festival just wouldn’t be complete with 100% Design, the annual exhibition of more than 350 interiors, design and architectural products held at Earl’s Court exhibition centre. A definite must-visit for anyone serious about interiors and design.

Make and Take at the Union Street Urban Orchard, The Architecture Foundation, 18-19th September, 100 Union Street

And finally… an event that sounds like a bit of good creative fun! To celebrate the dismantling of The Union Street Urban Orchard, The Architecture Foundation will be running a series of creative reuse workshops allowing members of the public to create useful objects from the left over Orchard pallets. People can get creative building their own chairs, plant boxes, bird boxes, board games and the like from recycled materials under the supervision of young designers and carpenters.

Flowers that make me feel glad to be alive

OK, excuse the cheesy pun but I wanted to post a photo of these amazing gladioli I’ve got at home. They are the most vibrant glads I’ve ever seen so I thought I would share them with you. The colour is really dramatic – a far cry from most gladioli, which come in colours more reminiscent of pastel Eighties eyeshadows than this stylish hue…