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House Tour: Soviet chic in a Moscow

7 Nov

I always enjoy featuring international house tours on Decorator’s Notebook, especially those in more unusual locations. Over the years I’ve shared beautiful homes in Croatia, Canada, Switzerland, Finland and Australia to name but a few. I’d never come across anything in Russia though that inspired me… until today that is!

Industrial style kitchen in Russian apartment

reclaimed kitchen sink

Unlike in Europe and Scandinavia where the whole midcentury thing has skyrocketed, Soviet era design reminds many Russians of austerity, poverty and a lack of autonomy and they’d rather forget. It’s pretty uncommon for anyone to decorate their homes with vintage accessories or furniture out of choice rather than necessity.

soviet era furniture reclaimed in apartment

white vintage kitchen with reclaimed cupboards

The owners of this small apartment in Moscow are unusual in their tastes and have gathered a collection of 1950s Danish design and discarded Soviet pieces to create a utilitarian look I absolutely love. They picked up those gorgeous kitchen cabinets and aluminium stools for next to nothing from a Moscow hospital that was throwing them out! The industrial trend clearly hasn’t caught on in Russian either.

Russian apartment with Soviet antiques

bricks as wall art in Moscow home

It’s not just the stuff in this apartment that makes it stylish however – the owners have made some great design decisions too. As a fan of exposed brick walls I love the idea of fixing old reclaimed bricks face-up on the wall to create a similar but less commital effect.

midcentury style workspace in Moscow

Soviet era design in Russian apartment

{via Architectural Digest}

In fact, the vintage wonderment of this apartment almost makes me want to pack my suitcase and head over to Moscow right away. Although on second thoughts, I might just wait until winter’s passed!

For more fascinating international houses and apartments to explore, check out the House Tours archive.

Surprisingly fabulous Frome!

2 Sep

I have to admit to being a tad depressed this weekend as my brocanting chums began posting photos of heaps of vintage wonderment at this year’s Braderie de Lille. However, on Sunday I picked myself up, wound on my scarf (it was the 1st of September after all) and drove over to Frome where the monthly Super Market was in full swing.

Now, growing up a Westcountry girl, it has to be said that Frome used to have a reputation as, well, a bit of a dive. Recently though, I keep hearing people I know to have impeccable taste talking about Frome wherever I turn, so it was high time I cast my preconceptions aside and checked out the transformation for myself.

And I am so glad I did!

Frome flea vintage market

vintage stall at Frome Flea market

vintage enamel Frome flea market

vintage telephone and kitchen storage jars Frome Flea

vintage antiques From Flea market Somerset

Frome Super Market is actually six mini markets wrapped up into one on the first Sunday of each month. I’m afraid I was dashing around so excitedly that I was overcome by a huge case of #bloggerfail and didn’t take any pictures of much beyond the first few stalls of the Frome Flea, but you’ll have to trust me that the Artisan Market and Farmer’s Market were also brimming with creative and tasty wares. While some towns might’ve been tempted to eek out all their events over the course of the month, the stroke of brilliance here is that instead they all happen on the same day with the whole town centre overtaken with stalls, live music and special Sunday opening of the many independent shops so there’s a definite festival atmosphere in the air.

Talking of shops…

St Catherines Hill shops Frome

{all Decorator’s Notebook}

The cobbled streets around St Catherine’s Hill have gained a reputation as Frome’s artisan quarter and drawn a wonderful array of independent vintage and craft shops with hipster levels to rival the coolest parts of Shoreditch (and thankfully much higher friendliness levels too). I didn’t have time to visit everyone, but here are some highlights from my first visit.

Frome’s Top Shops…

Make & Mend Vintage: a beautifully curated and displayed vintage clothing boutique with everything from ’30s crepe flapper dresses to lace wedding gowns. The colour blocked rails are especially pleasing.

Assembly: an intriguing mix of men’s clothing and homeware… although as a girl who loves utilitarian style, the Welsh floor rugs and Duralex glasses could have easily found their way home with me.

Owl: a contemporary art gallery run by six artists working in paint, ceramics, wire, felt, glass and printmaking. Gladys Paulus’s stunning sculpted felt animal headdresses have to be seen to be believed.

Millie Moon: haberdashery heaven – this gorgeous little shop will make you want to fill your pockets with buttons and ribbon and instantly dust off your sewing machine.

Seed: between the Frome Flea and St Catherine’s Hill, Black Swan Arts Centre is home to this lovely collection of work by British designer makers. If you’re into handmade jewellery, you’ll definitely want to stop here.

Have you been to Frome recently too? If so please do jump into the comments and let me know what I’ve forgotten or missed. I’m already looking forward to a return visit – can’t believe the transformation of this creative little town!

Beautiful boro textiles

21 Jan

I’m fascinated by folk crafts – wherever you go in the world you find art born out of necessity and hardship. It seems that it’s an innate human desire to beautify and embellish the things we have around us, however functional and humble their origins.

I recently stumbled across the tradition of Japanese Boro textiles and I think they’re as interesting as they are beautiful.

Japanese boro textiles

Japanese boro cloth

In the years before WWII many people in rural areas of Japan lived in extreme poverty. Boro means ‘tattered cloth’ and is the term given to heavily patched and repaired indigo cotton – mostly bedclothes, futon covers and fisherman’s jackets. Some have been repaired so many times that the original material is barely visible.

boro cloth fishermans vests

indigo Japanese boro textile fabric

Women would sit down to sew in the evenings when the men returned home, and the hands of the makers are traced all over each piece of cloth. This kind of running stitch is called sashiko and had both a practical and decorative purpose – as well as joining the scraps and adding simple embroidery, the fabric was also made stronger and warmer as the layers built up and up over the years.

Japanese boro cloth futon cover

Japanese patched boro cloth{all Siri Threads}

After the war, boro cloth became a sad reminder of the desperate times people wanted to leave behind, and using or wearing the fabrics was something to be ashamed of. More recently though, collectors have recognised their beauty and importance and original pieces now fetch hundreds of dollars.

Owning one of these would feel like owning a little piece of someone else’s history and I’d love to feel I had a little of this sad and inspiring story woven into the fabric of my home.

Simple pleasures: blue and white china

17 Oct

It’s a funny feeling when you catch your own tastes changing.

I used to be a white bedding and white china only girl but recently I’ve found worn striped and floral bedlinen calling me and a taste for fussy willow pattern crockery has been creeping up on me for a while now. I think it was Lobster & Swan‘s lunch photos that started it and now Michelle’s car boot stash has got my vintage-hunter’s fingers itching again.

{both Michelle Young / MYCreative}

I really like how Michelle’s styled the simple blue and white china on such a boldly patterned and contrasting fabric – not an obvious choice, but there’s something rather appealing in the clash!

Check out MY Creative for more photographic goodness – this recent farm shop jaunt is one of my favourites.

Weekend in Rye

7 May

Bright and early on Saturday morning I hopped on the train to meet my friend Little Miss Married for a weekend in Rye, East Sussex.

After checking into our super friendly B&B and a bite of lunch eaten on willow pattern china we were ready to get stuck into the weekend’s main activity… junk hunting!

We started off at Strand Quay where we found a cluster of great antique shops in the bottom of some black weather-boarded fisherman’s houses.

I’ve been looking for a set of cake forks for ages and managed to find a really lovely set with a simple chevron pattern on the handle. Then I spotted an old linen map of Colombo in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where my Mum was born, so I bought that too as I thought she and my Granny might be interested to see it. I just can’t resist yellowing old maps!

Country Ways, which specialises in kitchenalia, was another top shop and we spent ages sifting through the time-softened linens, French patisserie tins and Fanny Cradock cookery books on offer.

The message on this vintage typewriter made me smile!

Cobbled Mermaid Street is famous for being the prettiest in Rye, but to be honest, the whole town is made up of quaint and photogenic buildings. Here are a couple of houses I wouldn’t say no to…

I’d read about Glass etc on Tea for Joy so was keen to check out the high class junk for myself.

Perhaps we’ve become cynical from living in London, but we were both overwhelmed by how friendly the people were in all the shops, most of which are independently owned. Andy from Glass etc (where misery, moaning and frowns are officially banned, according to the website) even made me a cup of tea and we spent nearly an hour playing dressing-up with the ladies in the vintage clothes shop, long after it had supposedly closed for the day.

After tea at Glass etc, it wasn’t long before we were on the hunt for something sweet. We sampled several establishments during our stay in the name of research. Fletcher’s House scored best for its roaring fire and freshly baked scones served with lashings of jam and clotted cream, but the prize for the best decor went to The Apothecary, where we loved the wall of labelled pharmacy drawers and Beano ceiling.

Sunday started with a full English breakfast apiece so we decided to walk to Camber Sands (about an hour each way) to burn off a few calories and ensure we had enough room for another cream tea in the afternoon! Lovely Rita (!) who ran our B&B wrote us directions and we headed across a field of adorable lambs towards the beach.

Even though the sun failed to make an appearance and Camber itself was disappointing, the long sandy beach was spectacular and we found ourselves dreaming of owning one of the stunning architectural homes right on the sand – I loved this garden decorated with driftwood and an upended boat.

Back in Rye, there was just enough time to pop into Pale & Interesting (Atlanta Bartlett’s shop) before jumping on the train back to London, where I’m already plotting my next visit!

{all Decorator’s Notebook}

Homespun Style, Brixton Village & a tiny herb garden

16 Apr

This weekend was my last before I start volunteering as a mentor with this amazing charity, so I kept it completely free and dedicated it to that favourite of pastimes: pottering. Needless to say, as usually happens with a weekend of nothing particular, I feel I’ve been flying around like a loon and am completely shattered!

It started with a quick call into Selina Lake’s launch event for her latest book Homespun Style. I was too busy nattering to Lynne, Charlotte, Jo and the Country Homes girls to take pictures but luckily Sussie Bell had been on hand to capture it (see all her photos here).

{Sussie Bell via Selina Lake}

On Saturday I made a last-minute decision to check out Brixton Village. I’d heard lots of great things about it so hopped on the bus to check out what all the fuss was about.

I never cease to be amazed by the transformations the most unlikely pockets of London can undergo in a remarkably short space of time. In Brixton Village (formerly the grotty Granville Arcade) there are still a handful of plastic bucket shops clinging on for dear life, but for the most part this is now the domain of achingly cool eateries, upmarket delis, vintage shops and craft boutiques. Recession… what recession?

I put myself under strict instructions to resist the vintage shops and came home with just a bunch of smelly freesias for Le Flat, a slice of rosemary cake and a little plan to make my garden grow (more of that later).

The shabby old covered market has been given a makeover from floor to ceiling… literally in the case of these vintage lampshade decorations. These wouldn’t look out of place in Selina’s book!

This place is so hip, even the litter is styled.

Assorted shop signs, including the cardboard log cabin that houses Circus. I could’ve spent hours exploring (and definitely want to return for lunch) – if you’re nearby it’s definitely worth popping in.

After finding a vase for my new freesias I decided it was time to give my ‘garden’ a refresh. That hot spell we had in March meant the spring bulbs I’d planted in my window boxes lasted only a couple of weeks before wilting away, so I toddled down to Homebase to choose something nice and colourful for summer.

{all except the first photo, Decorator’s Notebook}

I am very middle aged when it comes to garden centres – I love them! I spent ages pondering which seedlings to buy, eventually plumping for Cupid trailing sweet peas. I love sweet peas but hadn’t heard of a trailing variety before, so I’m hoping they’ll smell as lovely as the traditional ones. After that I got a bit carried away and bought another window box to make into a dedicated herb garden (first floor flat style, of course) and some mint, sage and two types of thyme to get started. I’ve sowed some chive, oregano, coriander, parsley and basil seeds as well to add in with the perennials in a couple of months time.

Loaded with all that, plus a 60 litre bag of compost made getting home a superhuman effort. I’m only 5’1″ and as the bus driver said, that bag of compost was probably heavier than me!

*flexes biceps*


You might also like these posts:

My window boxes in winter

Another London market – Columbia Road

Weekend in the Cotswolds

11 Apr

Wet and windy weather made me a bad blogger as far as photos of my Cotswolds weekend are concerned (sorry!) but I had a lovely time regardless. We indulged in some fantasy house shopping (one of my favourite pastimes), visited eye-wateringly pretty villages, tested out the pubs in said villages and ate cake every day. Overall, bliss!

Here’s snippet…

I knew I’d arrived in the countryside when I noticed this ‘repurposed’ cigarette bin at Charlbury station. Awwww.

Chipping Campden is a really lovely market town with interesting shops and places to eat – I much preferred it to Bourton on the Water which was mobbed with tourists and full of tacky souvenir shops. The downside of having picture-postcard looks unfortunately.

One of many beautiful houses that had us ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Though the yellow Cotswold stone makes even ugly houses look good.

Lottie didn’t know what to make of this sculpture!

{all Decorator’s Notebook}

There were antique and junk shops galore in Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold, Woodstock and Morton in Marsh… but our best find was Station Mill antiques centre (above). We were so amazed by what we found inside this unpromising looking building in the middle of an industrial estate we went back twice!

Hope you had a lovely Easter weekend. Going back to work yesterday was hard, eh?


You might also like these posts:

Weekend in the Westcountry

Sun, sea, sand and snow

Something old in something new

19 Jan

I’ve had a handful of vintage clock faces and broken bone dominoes in a bag, in a box, on top of my wardrobe, since I picked them up for a song in Margate two summers ago.

Last week I bought a stamped metal bowl from Dotcomgiftshop and before you can say “contrived vignette” an odd little table display was born…

{all Decorator’s Notebook}

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Vintage shopping in Bologna

2 Jan

Just before Christmas my Mum and I bagged some £17 flights and headed to the lovely historic city of Bologna in Northern Italy for a few days. By happy coincidence our visit coincided with the twice-monthly flea market in the gorgeous square outside the church of Santo Stefano. Mum taught me pretty much everything I know about buying vintage tat, so the pair of us hot-footed it there straight after breakfast!

That’s the church in the background. I’ll take you inside later but let’s see what we can find on the stalls first shall we?

I love vintage packaging and these old razor blade packets caught my eye. Better than my plasticy Venus I thought!

Mum was tempted by this half-completed sampler, but it was a bit pricey.

You can walk 38km of Bologna’s streets under porticoes or arcades like the ones you can see in the background. Many have beautiful frescos painted inside the arches.

There were plenty of boxes of old photos, pictures, postcards and posters to rummage through. I especially liked this illustration of a circus ringleader training his prancing horses.

Lots of colourful shot glasses looking great displayed on a mirrored tray.

Baby Jesus, shepherds, kings and whatnot.

I loved the twirly font on these vintage name-tapes, all tied up with bright elastic bands.

I really want to create a display wall of pictureless frames (something like this) and could’ve got them all on this stall. Damn the Easyjet baggage allowance!

The Basilica Di Santo Stefano is actually not one church but a collection of seven churches and other religious buildings dating from different periods.

In the middle of all the buildings there’s a lovely courtyard with lots more of those porticoes around the edge.

Pretty much everything was, well, pretty. Even the bricks in the walls.

{all Decorator’s Notebook}

Oh, and here are some colour coded buttons I forgot to put in with the other flea market photos. I know you guys will appreciate this sort of thing!

Four legged friends

13 Dec

Can you think why this picture made me smile?

{via April & May}

I wonder if they’d be friends…

{Decorator’s Notebook from this post}

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