• Meet Karen Lowes

    by  • 24/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_groupFor a playful take on coastal style, we love the National Trust’s new Summer Holiday homewares collection designed exclusively by in-house artist, Karen Lowes. Inspiration for her stunning watercolours came from typical British seaside holidays as well as a trip to the remote Northumberland Farne Islands, home to over 37,000 pairs of puffins…

    Talk us through the design process for this collection.
    I went to visit the Islands last July when puffin season was in full swing. They had such a charming way about them; I wanted to get this across in my designs. Using this as a starting point, I began to incorporate other elements of the British coastline, from shells and boats to deckchair stripes, before working closely with the buyers to develop final products.

    Where are you based?
    In the National Trust head office in Swindon. It’s named Heelis, after Beatrix Potter – it was her married name. I’m always out and about at properties and areas cared for by the Trust, trying to absorb as much inspiration as possible. I can be overlooking a dramatic seascape one minute and visiting a stunning 18th century house the next!

    What do you love about what you do?
    Everything! From exploring the amazing places cared for by the National Trust to knowing that the prints and patterns I create will help support them. Every sale contributes to their work as a conservation charity.

    How would you describe your own interior style?
    I like space with splashes of colour. White walls and neutral linens with bright artwork collected over the years. I love fabrics too, I own pieces from all over the world which I use as throws.

    What advice would you give to new designers?
    Never stop experimenting. Drawing is such a powerful tool; show and celebrate your knowledge in colour and don’t stop believing in yourself.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Expressive, animated and adventurous.

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    Red, white and blue wonder

    by  • 23/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    country living room

    Red, white and blue is such a smart colour combination and we love this country living room with its blend of bold shades and toning patterned fabrics.

    The fabrics shown are from the Cote d’Azur collection from Clarke & Clarke, available from next month, and are inspired by the fresh summer colours and beautiful flowers found on the French Riviera. The collection is a mix of florals and geometrics with complementary stripes and textures, and the designs combine embroidery, print, ombre weaves and appliqué techniques.

    The fabrics are equally at home in a British country house as in a French chalet or chateau, with the bold colours and patterns working beautifully with exposed stone or wood clad walls, timber beams and stone fireplaces.

    Use the fabrics to their best advantage. Try making a feature of large windows with a bold design on the curtains, such as Maxime shown here in the Provencale colourway. Then introduce a statement chair in striped Pampelonne in indigo/cerise. Pull the look together with cushions in Beaulieu in indigo/cerise and Villefranche in indigo/cerise, as well as Pampelonne.

    A plain blue sofa and footstool are perfect for anchoring the scheme, and we love the geometric rug, which adds a contemporary touch.


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    Upcycle drawers into vintage shelves

    by  • 21/08/2016 • 1 Comment


    Try your hand at our thrifty summer projects, created from flea-market finds…

    These charming shelves are created using drawers from an old chest. Smart, stylish and beautifully vintage, they can be personalised to suit any interior scheme: simply line with complimentary wallpapers or paint in tonal hues.

    Clean the surfaces with a damp cloth and paint with a chalk paint (we used Paris Grey and Old White, £4.95 for 120ml from Annie Sloan), rubbing down the edges for a distressed look. Paint a lighter colour on in places with a dry brush for a more time-worn finish.

    The inside can be left bare, painted or backed with wallpaper. To do this, place the wallpaper down, face up, and position a drawer on top. Draw around the base, then cut and trim to fit the inside – it might take a while to make sure it fits correctly! Once you’re happy with the fit, fix in place with a self-adhesive spray, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

    To hang, hammer two D-rings on either side of the drawer near the top and thread with picture wire or string.

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    30 Country Style Icons: the armoire

    by  • 21/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    Country Homes & Interiors is 30 this year! In celebration, we’ve picked 30 of our all-time favourite design classics that have stood the test of time, thanks to their real sense of history, craftsmanship and purpose, to share with you over the coming weeks.

    26The armoire
    Good storage is essential and all the better if it’s beautiful too. The French armoire has a long and decorative history, with early examples boasting elaborate carving and later examples intricate veneers. The name translates as ‘somewhere to store tools’ but it has long been used as a linen store or wardrobe, and usually shelving and drawers are included. Most retain their Gallic good looks with some form of curve in the design or decorative detailing, along with a painted finish and glass or cloth-lined doors. We love the Provencale Armoire in Ivory, £1,450 from Laura Ashley.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – gorgeous garden parasols

    by  • 20/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    On hazyReady_Wyevale, lazy sunny days relax and unwind beneath the shade of a lovely umbrella with a gentle breeze wafting through. We’ve rounded-up our favourite edit of stylish and practical parasols to help you create the ultimate calming garden sanctuary.

    Whether relaxing or dining, stay cool as a cucumber all summer with a cracking quality design that would compliment any garden style. This 2.7M parasol (above), £69.99, from Wyevale Garden Centres, features a nifty tilt and crank function so that you can deflect bright rays and shelter beneath in comfortable bliss. Available in classic ivory, terracotta and green.

    Ready_Neptune RomaChoose a smooth operating timeless and elegant design to blend seamlessly with your pride of joy gardenscape. This stunning Roma 3M Parasol in Natural (above), £130, from Neptune, is made from colour loss resistant and waterproof material – it’s the durable choice to withstand the varying elements of The Great British Summer and still look chic! The Roma collection is designed to complement Neptune’s wrought iron garden collections and benefits from a free flow graphite crank system.

    Ready_M&SPick your favourite view and set up an atmospheric al fresco dining experience with a touch of glamour courtesy of a beautiful canopy. We love this elegant Curved Tassel Parasol (above), £129, from Marks & Spencer – It’s just the thing to stand proud on your decking whilst providing shade and a defined seating area.

    Come rain or shine – enjoy outdoor living to the maximum with these statement weather shields!


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    Our favourite place to visit: Margate

    by  • 19/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_BlogSizedGetty_MARGATEWith its magnificent architecture, artisan vibe and rapid rejuvenation, this market town is on the rise. We love it for its…

    Creative hub Historically favoured by Dickens and Turner, today’s hometown artist Tracey Emin supports the most spectacular addition to the town, Turner Contemporary, a pierside gallery filled with fascinating artwork in bright energising spaces. Culture lovers will also enjoy one of Britain’s oldest theatres, the Theatre Royal set in a magnificent Georgian building on Addington Street.

    Family fun Set on the Isle of Thanet, long sandy beaches stretch along the coastline from Margate to Broadstairs past chalk-stacked Botany Bay. Enjoy fun by the shore or visit the fascinating Shell Grotto, a 19th Century cave of shell mosaics to meander. By evening, go retro and enjoy British-style theme park rides at the restored Dreamland on Marine Terrace.

    Interiors shops Source practical items and contemporary style along the High Street or head through the lanes of Old Town for a touch of retro chic. Visit Papillon Interiors, 40 Fort Hill,  for sleek styles in design-led furniture including lighting and storage for home and garden. Scott’s furniture mart, Bath Place, boasts three floors of furniture antiques, architectural salvage and reclaimed items. Paraphernalia stocks vintage goods and retro items including dressers, mirrors, and suitcases, 8 King Street. And find plants and shrubs suited to coastal gardens at East Northdown Farm plant nursery, George Hill Road.

    Clothing & Gifts Head to Madam Popoff, 4 King Street, where former fashion student Deborah Ellis, selects beautiful pieces of women’s vintage clothing. Pick up colourful contemporary prints of Thanet and artworks from Paul’s Gallery, The Frame Centre, 25 Hawley Street.

    Food Heroes Head to the monthly farmer’s market in Cliftonville or enjoy fresh crab, cockles and oysters at Mannings beachside fish stall! Loose Leaves & Mud is the perfect place to pick up gifts for tea lovers from specialist leaf teas to stylish infusers, 9 King Street. And browse Old Kent Market, which offers an indoor local food and drink market packed with vintage charm.

    Have you visited a coastal town this summer? We would love to hear more about it…

    Want more inspiration for weekends in the country? Sign up for your weekly Country Post!

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    Baked cheesecake with blackberry and mint compote

    by  • 18/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_blackberry cheesecakeLight, refreshing and delicious, these individual baked vanilla cheesecakes tick all the boxes when it comes to the perfect summer dessert. We found this amazing recipe in Shaun Rankin’s first recipe book, Seasoned Islands (The Refinery, £20). The zingy blackberry and mint compote can be used to dress ice cream, custard or sponge cakes, too!

    Serves 6
    You will need six 7.5-10cm diameter springform release tins to make the cheesecakes.

    250g blackberries
    2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
    juice of ¼ lemon
    110g unsalted butter
    225g digestive biscuits
    100ml double cream
    2 eggs
    175g caster sugar
    2 vanilla pods
    675g cream cheese
    6 mint leaves, chopped

    1 To make the blackberry and mint compote, put the blackberries, icing sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan together with 3tbsp of water. Bring to the boil and cook the fruit for 4 minutes. Transfer the blackberries and their juices to a bowl and leave to chill in the fridge.

    2 For the cheesecakes, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Grease the base and sides of the individual tins.

    3 Melt the butter in a saucepan and remove from the heat.

    4 Place the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin to make breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly into the melted butter.

    5 Place the biscuit mix into the cake tins so the coverage is about 1cm thick.

    6 Using the back of a metal spoon, press down firmly and evenly on the biscuit until flat to form solid bases.

    7 Place the cream, eggs and caster sugar into a large bowl and mix together well.

    8 Split the vanilla pods and scrape the seeds into the mixture. Add in the cream cheese and beat until smooth.

    9 Pour the mixture onto the biscuit bases. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until set.

    10 Turn the oven off and open the door, leaving the cheesecakes to bake out for 10 minutes before removing. Allow to cool.

    11 Just before serving, add the mint leaves to the compote. Transfer the cheesecakes to plates and spoon over the blackberry compote.

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    Meet Jessica Hogarth

    by  • 17/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_groupJessica Hogarth trained in printed textile and surface pattern design before setting up her own business in 2012. Based in the picturesque seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire, she has endless inspiration for her quirky coastal and architectural designs right on her doorstep! You can buy them from Not On The High Street as prints or wallpaper, as well as on a range of homewares including cushions, coasters and kitchen textiles.

    Describe your workspace.
    I have two studios next door to each other in an old building about 10 minutes walk from the town centre. They both have big old windows making them nice and light, perfect for inspiring creativity.

    What’s your favourite design and why?
    It would probably be my coastal cottages artwork (above, top) which is based on Robin Hood’s Bay, where I grew up. I created the first version of it during my first year of Art College and it was that particular project where my creative style began to fall into place. It’s nice to have a piece of work that has been so heavily influenced by my childhood surroundings.

    How would you describe your own interior style?
    I’m a huge fan of Scandi-inspired design. I like things to be functional as well as decorative, but not overly fussy. My walls are plain white and adorned with colourful prints accompanied by warm patterned textiles. I love big windows and high ceilings, too.

    What’s your most prized possession and why?
    I received a Clare Caulfield screen print for my 21st birthday featuring a Paris café scene. Paris is one of my favourite places in the world and Clare’s style is so energetic – it’s a pleasure to have it on my wall.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Quirky yet sophisticated.

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    Berry beautiful

    by  • 16/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    country bedroom

    Take a leaf out of autumn’s book with this pretty country bedroom in autumnal tones.

    With chillier evenings ahead, it’s time to consider cosying up the bedroom. And there’s nothing like a burst of a warm and vibrant colour such as orange to inject some comfort.

    Here, eyecatching Pippin bedlinen and curtains from Sanderson Home take inspiration from autumn foliage. Overlapping stylised branch motifs feature jewel-like berries for a pretty pop of colour, and are complemented by a quirky print of irregular stripes and colourful spots. A bold orange piping adds a final flourish. Layer the bed with a soft stripy knit throw and cushions in co-ordinating tones to ensure a snuggly moment.

    A beautiful French-style bed upholstered in a neutral linen makes the perfect partner and keeps the look light, bright and chic. Soft grey painted walls contribute to the airy feel and ensure an understated backdrop that doesn’t detract from the patterned fabrics.

    Pair with clean-lined honey-toned furniture and wooden flooring to keep the look simple and emphasise the warmth – then introduce a textured rug on the floor to keep it cosy underfoot.


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    30 Country Style Icons: the bridge mixer tap

    by  • 15/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    Country Homes & Interiors is 30 this year! In celebration, we’ve picked 30 of our all-time favourite design classics that have stood the test of time, thanks to their real sense of history, craftsmanship and purpose, to share with you over the coming weeks.

    11The bridge mixer tap
    One of the first taps to mix hot and cold water into one stream, the bridge tap has a pipe leading from each water source operated by separate taps or levers, and still looks great with a butler’s sink. The latest finishes include copper, antique bronze and brushed nickel, shown on this Melford tap, £172 from Abode. Modern versions win over salvaged originals with superior engineering and standard-sized pipe fittings, and keen cooks should consider lever tap fittings that are easy to operate with a nudge of a forearm when hands are dirty.

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    Create a chopping board sign

    by  • 14/08/2016 • 0 Comments


    Try your hand at our thrifty summer projects, created from flea-market finds…

    This week, we’re customising an old chopping board into a rustic welcome sign, complete with a sweet jam jar vase for posies of cottage garden flowers. Hang up on gates, benches or front doors, for a sweet country greeting.

    Start by washing and drying your items. Apply a coat of furniture paint to the board and allow to dry, before rubbing down until some of the wood shows through. Wipe off the dust, and then apply a layer of wax, following the maker’s instructions. To stencil, secure a template with masking tape to the front of the board and sponge or dab with paint gently. Remove and allow to dry.

    On the back, nail two picture D-rings at equal spacing at the top and thread with twine or rope. Turn the board to the front, position a picture frame hook towards the right midway down (for the jar) and hammer into place. Tie a cable around the neck of the jar, leaving it a bit loose to place over the picture hook. Hang and style with flowers and a little water.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – teatime buys to celebrate National Afternoon Tea Week

    by  • 13/08/2016 • 0 Comments

    teaaWe all love a scrumptious afternoon pick-me-up, so what better time to celebrate one of the nation’s favourite traditions than this National Afternoon Tea Week, 8-14th August. To help you indulge this time honoured practice of combining savoury and sweet treats washed down with gallons of tea, we’ve selected a delightful round-up of teatime inspired essentials…

    Hosting a summery afternoon tea? Invite guests with pretty pastel stationery that will spread the smiles before the tasting has even begun! We love these Afternoon Tea Invitations, £4 for a pack of 8 coaster designs by ALIROO at Notonthehighstreet.com. Lovingly designed in Oxfordshire, these sustainable lovelies are supplied with rustic kraft ribbed envelopes and printed using vegetable inks. Co-ordinating thank yous and party invitations are also available.

    teaAdd a touch of retro charm to proceedings with stylish glassware. This Cake Stand with Dome, £39.50 from Marks & Spencer, is perfect for storing and displaying sandwiches, cakes and scones – hungry eyes won’t be able to resist reaching for a second helping!

    tea2Home bakes prepared – don’t forgot about the decorative details to add the final flourish and cherry on top! This ever so pretty Mini Floral Bunting, £10 for 1m, from Elm Tree Studio, is made from tiny bunting flags in two lovely fabrics featuring gingham and ditsy floral designs – it’s just the thing to set the scene by decorating twiggy trees or shelves and dressers. (Available in three colourways, pink, lilac and blue).

    Cucumbers at the ready to be sliced and diced – make life sweeter this weekend and throw the ultimate afternoon tea party with little delights here, there and everywhere… Enjoy!





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