• Archive for March, 2012

    Lovely new designs from Alice Palace

    by  • 16/03/2012 • Country style • 1 Comment

    You may recall the name Alice Palace from the Home Notes page in our January issue; the name behind the scenes is Alice Boston who featured as our Artisan Designer with her illustrated gift sacks. I’m a big fan of Alice’s work, exploring the website is great for inspiration – brimming with beautifully illustrated greeting cards, mounted canvasses, shopper bags and china, all designed and printed here in England.

    I was very excited to discover this month that Alice’s creative flare is now gracing cushions! Retaining the charm of her hand-drawn sketches, they have a real homespun feel. Dolly the cat is on my wish list, with the sweet quote ‘you don’t need much to be happy’. I agree. You don’t need much, though maybe one of these lovely new cushions would make you smile?

    Cushions, from £30 each; 'Mad About' mugs, £32 set of 4; 'Growing my own' greeting cards, £2.25; Mounted prints, £25; Recycled gift wrap, £4 for 3 sheets, all Alice Palace.

    Cushions, from £30 each; 'Mad About' mugs, £32 set of 4; 'Growing my own' greeting cards, £2.25; Mounted prints, £25; Recycled gift wrap, £4 for 3 sheets, all Alice Palace.

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    New eye-catching Zoffany wallpaper

    by  • 15/03/2012 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Do you live in an Elizabethan house and love the idea of choosing wallpaper inspired by the era of your property? Well now is your chance… This stunning Verdure design is part of a new range called Arden by Zoffany, in association with artist Melissa White. ‘Some of the designs in this collection are very precious to us,’ she says. ‘They are like old friends because we have painted them many times, each time adapting the design to suit its new setting.’

    Melissa created the artwork for the collection in her Hastings studio using large plastered canvases, hand painted and engraved in order to emulate the hand-crafted appearance of the originals.

    This new range is perfect for those of you looking to create a bold style statement in your hall or living room. What do you think?

    Verdure wallpaper, £90 a metre, Arden collection, Zoffany.

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    Flowers for Mother’s Day

    by  • 14/03/2012 • Country moment • 1 Comment

    Whisper it, but spring has finally sprung… yes, really. Isn’t it great to see country banks and hedgerows bursting into life all around us?

    My garden’s waking up, too, and already there’s enough in bloom to make some pretty posies to bring indoors. Perfect timing for a Mother’s Day celebration this Sunday. Luckily, I’ve found plenty of inspiration for homegrown arrangements in florist Paula Pryke’s gorgeous new book Flowers Every Day (£25, Jacqui Small).

    Paula has designed beautiful displays for each season using flowers and foliage from her own garden and gives tips on how to grow them. There are also handy seasonal selections of blooms that are good to buy in – brilliant if your own borders are looking less than lovely.

    So for Mother’s Day, why not try this natural napkin ring? Paula’s combined heavenly blue muscari with miniature Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ and a lime green double hellebore. The posy is tied with a stem of willow.

    The message of this book is ‘Keep it seasonal, fresh, scented and simple’. Stick to that when creating your spring arrangements and you can’t go wrong – Mum will love them!

    Flowers Every Day by Paula Pryke with photography by Rachel Whiting (£25, Jacqui Small)

    Flowers Every Day by Paula Pryke with photography by Rachel Whiting (£25, Jacqui Small)

    Paula Pryke's Mother's Day place setting

    Paula Pryke’s Mother’s Day place setting

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    Time for tea…

    by  • 13/03/2012 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Irish Apple Cake

    We couldn’t let St Patrick’s Day go by without paying homage to Irish cooking in some shape or form so we’ve chosen a recipe from award winning Darina Allen’s new book Irish Traditional Cooking, out this week. We’re huge fans of Darina here at Country Homes & Interiors and are pleased to report this latest book is beautifully shot and packed with over 300 new recipes to try. A slice of this Irish Apple Cake is perfect with a cup of tea and serves 6. You will need a 24cm (9 inch) ovenproof pie plate as well as the following ingredients… (You can almost smell the peat smoke fires)

    225g plain flour

    ¼ teaspoon baking powder

    110g butter

    125g caster sugar

    1 egg beaten

    50–120ml milk (approx)

    1–2 cooking apples – try Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

    2–3 cloves (optional)

    beaten egg, to glaze

    To serve

    Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream

    1 Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs. Add 85g caster sugar, then make a well in the centre and mix together with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide in two. Put one half on to your greased ovenproof plate and pat it out to cover.

    2 Peel, core and chop the apples. Place them on the dough with the cloves, if using, and sprinkle over the remaining sugar – the amount you need will depend on the sweetness of the apples.

    3 Roll out the remaining pastry and fit it on top. This is easier said than done as this ‘pastry’ is very soft like scone dough. You may need to do a bit of patchwork if it breaks. Press the sides together and cut a slit through the lid.

    4 Brush with beaten egg and bake in a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4) for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through and nicely browned. Dredge with caster sugar and serve warm sprinkled with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.

    From Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, out this week ( Kyle Books, £25) Photograph: Kristin Perers

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    How to set up your own shop

    by  • 13/03/2012 • Country business, Country style • 2 Comments

    The number of independent shops in UK market towns and city centres is on the increase. Despite the recession, new figures from the Local Data Company (LDC) show that over 2500 more independent shops were opened in 2011 than were closed down. We’re big fans of small independents here at Country Homes & Interiors as you can see from the last blog, so I asked business expert Linda Eziquiel of Business Talent, which is sponsoring our Country Business of the Year competition, to give you her top tips on what it takes to open a retail business – and make it work…

    1 First have you got what it takes? Are you willing to work long hours? Are you resourceful and self-motivated? Do you have deep determination when the going gets tough? Do you like learning new skills? Do you like interacting with people? Are you practical and organised, with a creative streak? If you answered yes to each question you could have the right traits for starting a retail business.

    2  If you are going to set up a shop business you need to decide what you are going to sell Your decision should be based on choosing something you know about and are passionate about, after all it is going to be a massive part of your life.

    3 In all new businesses it is a good idea to test out your concept If your plan is to run a shop, first consider taking a market stall or having a stand in a trade show to test out your products, get some feedback and a feel for how you get on with your potential customers.

    4 As with any new business, doing up front planning is essential You need to write a business plan setting out what you will be selling, to whom, for what price, what costs and what profits. To avoid losing money it is essential to do a detailed financial plan to check your business idea stacks up and to monitor progress.

    5  To set up a shop business you need premises and a well-worn adage comes to mind ‘location, location, location’ You need lots of people of the right type passing by, which means a town centre location, or a location with good parking on a busy road. Make sure you are well matched to the local area e.g. if you are selling up-market products you need to be in a wealthy area alongside other up market shops.

    6 Premises will be a big consideration Check the planning details to make sure you can legally set up a shop business on your chosen premises and don’t be tempted to take on a long lease that you cannot get out of within a reasonable notice period (i.e. three month). It is also bests to avoid spending on improvements unless you will be able to recoup your investment if things to not go as planned.

    7 You will need an ownership structure to set up a shop business The most common are sole proprietor/trader, private limited company or limited liability partnership. Many people start as sole traders and incorporate later on, however being sole trader carries more financial risks because you and your business are not separated. It is advisable to get some professional advice on the pros and cons of each option before you start trading.

    8 Don’t ignore the internet which is now of huge importance if you are starting a retail business, or any other business You could make substantial additional income through online sales and even if you are not selling online you need a good website that can be found by people searching online.

    If you think you have an idea for a shop or other type of business, enter our ‘Launch your own country business’ competition now.

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    Shop of the Month… Greencades

    by  • 10/03/2012 • Country moment • 5 Comments

    This month, Country Homes & Interiors writer Jacky Parker visited Deal in East Kent, where she found this colourful shop front on the High Street:

    Greencades Deal

    Greencades, 142 High Street

    ‘This fabulous treasure trove has everything from country baskets, cookware and Orla Kiely mugs to Deal seaweed bath products – it’s the perfect place to gift shop!

    Take time to enjoy the local beach too, or visit Deal Castle, one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England. Further  afield, explore Fowlmead Country Park, where nature lovers can look out for migrating birds…’

    Beach Deal

    Relax & enjoy the sea views…

    Read more about Deal in the Southern Living section of Country Homes & Interiors, the April issue is now on sale!

    If you have a favourite market town or country style shop, please let us know. We would love to hear more…

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    Sticky toffee puddings

    by  • 09/03/2012 • Country food • 2 Comments

    Sticky Toffee Pudding

    The perfect sweet treat

    I love the idea of heirloom recipes and putting together a book of all your favourites to pass on to your children. A beautiful example of how to do this properly is Lisa Faulkner’s inspirational new book Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter, which landed on my desk last week. I made these puddings for family lunch on Sunday and everyone thought they looked so pretty and said that I’d made such an effort but really it was so easy. They are beautifully light but I ended up making double the sauce because it’s delicious and if you ask me a pudding like this should be swimming in it. The perfect Mother’s Day treat for next week…

    To make 8 puddings, you will need…

    175g pitted dates, chopped

    300ml boiling water

    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

    50g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

    175g unrefined caster sugar

    2 eggs, beaten

    210g self-raising flour, sifted

    1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

    chopped walnuts, to finish

    double cream, to serve (optional)

    For the sauce

    250g unsalted butter

    300g soft brown sugar

    400ml single cream

    1 Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), gas mark 4. Grease eight 200ml mini pudding basins or ramekin dishes and line each base with a small circle of greaseproof paper (important if you want to turn the puddings out intact!).

    2 Put the dates along with the boiling water and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and put to one side. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

    3 Add the eggs a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. Fold in the flour, followed by the dates and their soaking liquid. Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla pod into the bowl and mix well. You will have a wet mixture but don’t be worried as this is how it’s meant to be.

    4 Divide this mixture between the moulds, taking care not to fill them more than two-thirds full. Place the moulds or ramekin dishes on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean when tested.

    5 While the puddings are cooking, make the sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.

    6 When the puddings are cooked, turn them out onto a clean, lined baking tray and spoon over half of the sauce. Return to the oven for 5 minutes. Serve the puddings with the remaining sauce, some chopped walnuts and double cream.

    Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter

    Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter, £20, Simon & Schuster

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    If money were no object…

    by  • 08/03/2012 • Country style • 1 Comment

    When I read about people winning the lottery, I am always surprised that they don’t make more drastic changes to their lives i.e. swap their home for a country estate etc. If I had a spare couple of million pounds, I could definitely see myself splashing out on a 4-6-bedroom waterfront home at The Lakes by yoo, a private estate, set amongst 650 acres of glorious Cotswold countryside. As you can imagine, the properties are the height of luxury, and are the brainchild of yoo, which is a collaboration of property entrepreneur John Hitchcox and world famous designer Philippe Starck. I just love this fabulously funky Jade Jagger designed kitchen, with the turquoise aga and cool lighting. The vibrant glassware on the table contrasts perfectly with the black kitchen surfaces. The doors also open out onto a terrace, perfect for sipping cocktails on a warm summer evening. Now, I must stop daydreaming…

    This funky Jade Jagger designed kitchen is enhanced by the turquoise aga and brightly coloured glassware.

    Could you see yourself living in this waterfront property with the amazing view?

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    Wake up to spring

    by  • 07/03/2012 • Country style • 3 Comments

    Well last week the weather did a bit of a ‘spring tease’, a little bit of a sunny taster of all the lovely things to come when spring eventually arrives…and that’s what we have done in our ‘Wake up to Spring’ decorating feature in our April issue.

    We’ve had a bit of fun with fabrics depicting farmyard animals such as roosters and ducks and mugs and eggcups decorated with chickens, pigs and spring lambs, there’s even a cow shaped notice board! All things designed to put a little bit of a spring in your step and banish away the seriousness of winter.

    Designer’s Guild have created a refreshing fabric collection with hens and ducks on a gingham checked background and we thought it a great start for this happy go lucky spring story.

    Rosecomb, col Apple, ref F1924/03, £30 a metre, Designer's Guild

    Rosecomb, col Apple, ref F1924/03, £30 a metre, Designer's Guild

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    Vintage chic at DesResDesign

    by  • 06/03/2012 • Country style • 3 Comments

    I love the discovery of a new website to browse and escape into a dreamy world of fabulous finds! The object of my online affections this week is DesResDesign, a treasure trove of unique homewares for the relaxed country home. The eclectic mix of contemporary lighting, chic accessories and rustic furniture offers something for everyone.

    I’ve been admiring the vintage style collection and wanted to share a few of my favourite pieces, particularly the metal lace edged pendant. A great example of modern country style, with its delicate vintage design in a sleek contemporary finish – it really is a thing of beauty!

    With butterflies, flowers and birds all set to be big trends for interiors this summer, these beautiful accessories are sure to add a pretty touch to your home.

    Top from left; Vintage style washbag £21.95; Lace metal pendant light in pink, £79.50; Vintage style cup & saucer in Olive, £11.95; Vintage style botanics cake stand, £24.95, all Des Res Design

    Top from left; Vintage style washbag £21.95; Lace metal pendant light in pink, £79.50; Vintage style cup & saucer in Olive, £11.95; Vintage style botanics cake stand, £24.95, all DesResDesign

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