Friday, 3 April 2020

Design Classics - The Special Edition Original BTC 'Hector 30' Table Light.

I'm sure that we're all familiar with the famous William Morris quote "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful', however, did you know that the quote continues...  "...The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life."
It's a mantra that I live by, and one that is of particular importance during times when being in our homes is so important to us.

As I write this, we are currently in a state of national lockdown due to the worldwide pandemic that is the COVID-19, and therefore, staying within the confines of our own homes is of the utmost importance in the attempt to 'flatten the curve' and stop the spread.

To some it may seem like a strange time to be writing about the design and interior details that feature in our homes,  but it is exactly at times like these that our home surroundings become particularly important to us, and why Mr. Morris's famous quote resonates with so many of us right now.

There is nothing trivial about the proven benefits of feeling happy and content within ones surroundings.  Large or small, owned or rented; our homes should be our havens - our little oasis of calm and contentment.  A place to cast our eyes upon the beautiful and personal objects and colours that make us happy, bring us comfort and peace of mind, and hopefully allow a respite from the turmoil that so often surrounds us....

Whilst it's important to sit back, take stock and be thankful for what we already have.  It also cannot be denied, that if and when we feel the need to make changes, it is a good time to support local industry - in my case British industry - when and where we can.  As an interiors obsessive, the most obvious way for me to do this, is through ensuring the careful curation and thoughtful research of the products I choose to bring into my home.

As you may know, I am a great enthusiast of mixing old and new, vintage and antique, in order to come up with my own unique version of a timeless interior style.  However, I do have a formula, and the overriding key criteria for what makes the grade in all of my choices are quality, traditional craftsmanship and classic style...

Thus, finding myself in need of a new hallway lamp, and as a long term admirer of the classic and quality designs at Original BTC, when I heard that the company were celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2020 with the launch of the special edition Hector 30, it was the beginning of a design match made in heaven...

One of the lighting manufacturer’s earliest designs, the Hector is still crafted by hand and using techniques unchanged for 30 years and in the original factory where the first prototype was produced.
In fact, the Hector 30 shades and bases are slip-cast moulded by hand, then smoothed with sponges before firing, with each component passing through the hands of ten craftspeople, over a period of six days.   Now if that isn't thoughtfully and carefully considered manufacturing,  then I'm not sure what is!  

The first light ever produced in bone china - a feature which particularly appealed to me and fits in perfectly with my classic style - the now-iconic Hector has been updated with a deliciously vintage feeling satin brass stem and retro black cotton braided cable, replacing the original satin chrome and sand and taupe.  

As a self confessed china addict, it was certainly the unusual bone china design detail - so rarely seen in contemporary lighting - that initially caught my attention.  The story behind the bone china shade is also a testament to founder Peter Bowles passion for exploring new ways with utilising traditional materials and skills...

Drawn to bone china’s translucency, Peter approached a Stoke-on-Trent tableware factory with the brief to produce a domed lamp shade and matching base. “Accustomed to making teapots, the factory manager thought I was a little barmy – but the fact the Hector is now sold in over eighty countries does suggest I was onto something," he says - and quite right too!  

For Peter, from the earliest days, quality and mix of materials was key. Unsatisfied with the finish of commonly used plastic lighting flex, Peter replaced it with woven cotton braid snipped off the family iron, now one of the brand’s best-loved and instantly recognised features, and an element that gives the lamp the beautifully retro feel that allows it to fit perfectly into my vintage mix style of decor.

The Hector 30 is seen here unlit, under the steady gaze of my children's Great, Great Grandfather, painted by their Great Grandfather, who was incidentally also named Hector!

I am particularly delighted with the way that the Hector 30's  unflouncy retro lines compliment this particular area of the landing without adding any unnecessary fuss or frills.  I wanted a timeless design that would give a nod to my love of vintage style, but without being too obvious or overtly feminine.  The finished result suits my intentions perfectly.

It comes as no surprise that - British, Timeless, Classic – the Hector is quite literally what Original BTC stands for!

Until Next Time,

This post was kindly sponsored by ORGINAL BTC


Sunday, 5 January 2020

Faded Glamour - An Interview With Pearl Lowe...

If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that despite my love of country living and all things vintage, chintzy, home cooked and slow paced - I was actually born and brought up in London, and only made the moved from City mouse to Country mouse ten years ago...

In my old guise as 'City Paula', I worked in the fast paced world of fashion;  firstly as the PR for Elite Premier Model Agency (in the heady days of the original Supermodels, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington et al,) ending up as the Bookings Director at British Elle Magazine, where I was responsible for producing all of the fashion, beauty and cover shoots...  
Quite a contrast from my present life where I now find myself usually dressed as a Hobbit, surrounded primarily by fields and sleepy villages, and where the only high maintenance female that I now need cater to, is a canine with four legs called Coco!

I am often asked about how my own experiences have shaped my interior as well as personal style, and I am equally as intrigued to ask the same question when I see others who have made a similar decision to move to the countryside for a slower paced way of life...

Thus, I was recently fortunate enough to be able to interview the immensely elegant and fascinating style icon that is Pearl Lowe.  Known for her glamorously gothic take on vintage style, Pearl is an ex-singer turned fashion and interior designer, who now resides deep in the Somerset countryside...

Already an author of several books, Pearl's most recent offering is a beautiful interiors book entitled 'Faded Glamour' where she showcases her "trademark blend of grandly romantic and cool rock 'n' roll interiors".  Below, Pearl and I discuss interiors and inspirations... 

Did your move to the countryside redefine your interiors style, and if so, what has changed from your London days? 
I think it has, simply because there are so many wonderful antique shops, flea markets and auction rooms here in the country, that sell items within my budget. This has made decorating in the country such a dream. When I lived in London, I loved antique Art Deco furniture (I still do) but it was just so expensive, I couldn’t buy it. Our house was quite minimalist then.

Has the age and architecture of your house influenced your present interior choices? 
Yes definitely! It’s a rambling Georgian house with high ceilings, so it suits lots of furniture, fabrics and rugs.

I love the idea of faded glamour in decorating.  Do you feel that this is part of a ‘slow decorating’, ‘sustainable movement’ in interiors? People are starting to wake up to sustainability. 
One of the most persuasive arguments to buy antique furniture is the positive impact it can have on protecting the environment. Antiques have a lower carbon footprint than modern furniture & are often cheaper. Plus they go up in value & when you’re buying antiques, you’re buying a piece of history. 

Where do you source your favourite pieces for your home from?  i.e. Antiques markets, vintage shops, auction houses? 
I love to buy local, so I buy in my home town of Frome. There are loads  of great antique shops, Bric-n-brac shops, auction houses and it has the best flea market on the first Sunday of every month. 

Do you ever buy home items from the high street and if so, which shops would you recommend?Sometimes, I like H&M home, Zara home & Homesense for cushions, throws, rugs, vases etc. I like mixing it in with my antiques.

Apart from Faded & Glamour, which additional three words would describe your interiors style?
Romantic, rock-n-roll &; floral.

If there was one accessory that you would recommend to add an element of ‘Faded Glamour’ to a room - what would it be. 
Vintage lace 

What inspired you to write your book ‘Faded Glamour’? 
I love producing interior books, as they are a fantastic portfolio. I was excited to write a book about faded glamour, as no-one has created one. 

Are there any other interior designers who’s work you admire? 
I love Abigail Ahern, Rachel Ashwell, Sera Loftus, Lorraine Kirk & Marianne Cotterill

You design clothes, interiors and homewares, and you are an author several times over.  What’s next for Pearl Lowe? 
There will be spring/summer dress collection launching in the spring. I will continue to run my shop in Frome & there might be another interior book. I’m also hoping to launch my new candles.

'Faded Glamour ' by Pearl Lowe is available to buy HERE.  To see more or Pearl's beautiful work, see her website HERE, and to see her glimpses of her Instagram famous kitchen - see HERE (believe me - it's swoon worthy!)

Until Next Time,


Monday, 23 December 2019

A Festive Table with SPODE's Blue Italian...

As I've said numerous times before, your finest dinner collections are for life - not just for Christmas.... but my oh my, don't they look particularly splendid during the festive period!

I don't tend to need any excuse to use my finest china - in fact any excuse is a good excuse - even a mere sandwich or a solitary mince pie...  

Whether it be for a garden party (as in a previous blog post) or a Christmas feast full of puddings, the versatility of my Spode Blue Italian is an excellent example of how a pattern can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion, from the most grand to the most humble...

This year, I will be using the Spode Blue Italian for my Christmas Day dining table...and here you can see it on a festive test run with mince pies, puddings and fruit...

The vibrancy of the blue is particularly beautiful when lit by the glow of candlelight...

...And the pattern really stands out against a white tablecloth for a more formal setting...

The lidded vegetable dish is a particularly favourite piece of mine, and can makes even the most humble buttered carrot look like a feast fit for a king...

Similarly, the large tureen presents the most luxurious home to a fine stew, soup or casserole...

As a full setting, the Spode Blue Italian is certainly a showstopper that can elevate the most modest meal - which means that whilst your friends and family are marvelling at the beautifully set table, YOU can concentrate on the important matter of enjoying the puddings and cake!  Enjoy!

Until Next Time!

To go straight to the Spode website - click HERE.

This post forms part of my paid Ambassadorship of Spode which is part of the Portmeirion Group.


Tuesday, 17 December 2019

A Woodland Inspired Table Setting with SPODE!

If you follow me on Instagram and have ever wondered why I enjoy talking about wine and food so much, it's because not only do I come from a family of 'foodies', but I also married into a family of huge food enthusiasts...which makes for quite a large collection of competitive cooks to stir the metaphorical broth!

Thankfully, as we are all self proclaimed amateur - ahem -'experts' in our own unique fields - it allows us to avoid too may arguments surrounding the best way to dice a carrot, boil an egg or mix a cake batter...

My personal forte is the perfectly imperfect layered cake - which loosely translates into the fact that they often look as over the top eccentric as I do, but with the added benefit that they do taste rather delicious - a trait that I alas, cannot also claim to possess...

However, todays post is not about cake!  Rather, it is a celebration of another Spode Collection of divine dinnerware that I recently added to my china collection.  It is The Spode Woodland Collection no less, and I am utterly in love!

This charming Spode pattern features fine studies of British game animals framed by a stylised, floral border.   It is described by Spode as a  "Handsome range which perfectly encapsulates country living and is evocative of English country pursuits, bringing a unique theme to any home."

Well as you can imagine, I am a huge fan.  It's the perfect pattern for cosy Autumn and Winter and festive lunches and dinners, with a border, named ‘British Flowers, which dates back to c1828 and effortlessly complements each scene...

Of course, when using such a strong and beautiful pattern, I cannot resist setting the table with props and accessories to complement the overall theme...

Thus, out came my prop box as I imagined our lunch taking place post foraging through the woods and in a vintage canvas tea tent with our trusty copper kettle to help keep the plates warm and an etched bottle to fill with rosemary infused oil to garnish our feast!  

...and what would that feast be I hear you ask?  Well today, I have handed over the culinary reigns to my Father-In-Law, also known as 'The King of Soups' in our family!  He was kind enough to hand over his recipe for a bacon, mushroom and chestnut soup (it took some persuading...) which I have enjoyed on many an occasion, and which makes for a great Winter warmer either as a starter or main course with warm bread rolls and lashings of melted butter...(As a self confessed cake lover - you were naturally never going to get the reduced fat version of anything!)

I have written out the recipe below in case you care to try it - although, admittedly you may find that it tastes at it's best served out on a  Spode Woodland design!!

My Father-In-Law's  "Woodland Bacon, Chestnut & Potato Soup with Rosemary" serves 4

50g Butter
2 x 250g packs of peeled & cooked chestnuts chopped.
Couple of handfuls of chopped chestnut (brown) mushrooms
250g chopped smoked bacon
1 Onion
3 Celery stalks
2 Crushed garlic cloves
300g peeled potatoes cut into small cubes.
1 litre chicken stock 
3 Sprigs fresh thyme
2 Sprigs fresh rosemary
Pepper to taste (usually enough salt in bacon and the stock

Use a heavy saucepan capable of holding all the boiling ingredients. 
Melt the butter in the pan and add the bacon with a low/moderate heat so that it slowly browns and renders all its fat.
Chop the celery, garlic and onion into small bits and add to bacon.  Saute for 15 minutes.
Flavour well with white pepper and add herbs and stock.  Bring gently to boil.  Add the potato and chopped chestnuts. Simmer for 20 minutes - adding the chopped mushrooms about halfway through.  Serve with a dash of virgin olive oil and a sprig of rosemary to garnish.


Until Next Time! 

To go straight to the Spode website - click HERE.

This post forms part of my paid Ambassadorship of Spode which is part of the Portmeirion Group.


Monday, 7 October 2019

Living 'La Dolce Vita' with Spode Blue Italian!

Here I am in the middle of preparing a ‘casual’ garden feast using some classic blue and whites - in this case a 203 year old pattern by Spode - the stunning ‘Blue Italian’.  I’m firmly of the belief that even the most meagre and solitary of sandwiches deserves to enjoy its last moments languishing in the luxury of a fine china plate. Good pottery is for everyday use - not just for Christmas! You already know me to be a chinaware obsessive - be it brand new or vintage, I am a sucker for a pretty pattern and an elegant design. So when I was approached to be a brand Ambassador for Spode it was a simple decision. British Heritage Brand? Steeped in history? Classic design? It was obviously a match made in heaven. What does being a  Spode Brand Ambassador mean? It means that over the next few months I get to introduce you (or in many cases remind you) of the fabulous history and impact that Spode have made on British design. I’ll show you how I use their different ranges for different occasions and hopefully inspire you to give that donut the fine heritage china send off that it deserves!

So firstly, let's hear a bit about the background of Spode...

Founded by Josiah Spode in 1770, Spode is a great British brand based in the heart of the Potteries, Stoke-on-Trent...

As a company, Spode proudly combines specialist design and modern manufacturing with their high quality ceramics and traditional values...

In fact Spode's contribution to British ceramic heritage is immeasurable, and after centuries, the name is still synonymous with quintessentially British design together with premium quality...

Each one of Spode's tableware, serveware and glassware collections has a link between the modern day to create a uniquely classic and timeless feel....

...and that's exactly why they fit so perfectly into my existing pottery collections, which consists of vintage and new and everything in between.

I've actually been collecting Spode Blue Italian for several years.  The fun and carnival like vibrancy of the pattern has always made me want to create an outside table setting like this one...

..and with its beautiful large tureens and platters, sculpted lidded vegetable dishes and elegantly footed bowls, the Spode Blue Italian service was definitely made for big, joyous and loud gatherings both formal and informal...

...and of course on this particular occasion, the vibrant colours of sumptuous mediterranean food work beautifully against the pattern too...

..which is why I ended up inviting friends and family for an impromptu celebration in my garden while the weather was still fine enough to guarantee that we could indulge our Italian fantasy into the late hours and continue dining by candlelight!

Of course, the design works perfectly for smaller, more intimate gatherings too, but I find that there's no greater pleasure than getting a full dinner service out for even the most modest of excuses...don't you!

Until Next Time,

To go straight to the Blue Italian page on Spode's website - click HERE.

This post forms part of my paid Ambassadorship of Spode which is part of the Portmeirion Group.


Sunday, 28 July 2019

Celebrate the Summer Season in Style with Sainsbury's Home!

There are many events throughout the Summer that I would love to attend..  From the floral delights of RHS Chelsea, through to the sporting events of Henley Regatta and Wimbledon...but it is the series of Opera nights at Glyndbourne that capture my imagination the most...

 However, for a dozen practical reasons, the ability to attend everything that we'd like to is impossible for the majority of us, but why should we let that curb our creativity and imaginations...

Can you imagine sitting in the grounds of a beautiful stately home enjoying a sumptuous picnic on the lawn, and listening to the tones of a classic aria?  Well, when Sainsbury's Home asked me to take a look at its' outdoor entertaining ranges, rather than simply 'imagine', I decided to recreate the atmosphere of a picnic at an outdoor classical concert in the comfort of my own garden...

I've always been a fan of mixing vintage and antique with new when I'm entertaining, and one of the things that I'm frequently asked by those who have limited access to antique markets, and vintage emporiums, is how to obtain the look of vintage glamour in an affordable way without compromising on style and from the accessibility of the high street...

I chose my picnic essentials from two of the Sainsbury's Home outdoor  ranges.  The first 'Everyday Luxury' is full of sophisticated design led pieces with a focus on high quality materials and functionality.  The marble effects and wood details lend an air of sophistication with their calming monochrome colour palette, and would look completely at home in both a country and urban setting.

What I particularly love about this range is how it cleverly maintains a sense of luxury - marble effect plates, serving platters and dishes -  yet being made from melamine, it's durable and practical enough for outdoor use whether out and about by the beach, in a field, or in the garden, without fear of dropping, smashing or breaking...

The 'Everyday Luxury' range has the perfect mix of platters and bowls for entertaining.

Little marble effect bowls are perfect for dips & nibbles.

Plates and Cushions from the 'Everyday Luxury' Range at Sainsbury's Home.

The elements of all of the outdoor ranges are specifically designed to be able to mix and match, and so the second Sainsbury's Home range that I used was the 'Urban Living' Range featuring the perfect utensils for the 'outdoor cocktail bar' area of the picnic.  The glamorous gold effect ice bucket, cocktail shaker, measuring and wine cooler would look perfect on any vintage inspired bar cart,  and these will definitely be as well used and on display inside the house as well as outside during the warmer months.

The perfect marble topped side table to act as 'drinks station'for the 'Tritan' goblets.

The 'Everyday Luxury' marble topped side table added an extra touch of luxury to the 'bar area', and created the perfect platform for the drinks station.  My only problem now is that the teenagers are fighting over who gets to put it in their bedrooms afterwards, as it also doubles up as the perfect bedside!

Perfect for keeping the wine chilled and complete with corkscrew & goblets.

Corkscrew and extra 'Tritan' goblets are housed in this very practical and neat insulated zip up holder - with room for a bottle of something chilled and delicious when picnicking à deux!

The sun begins to set.

Four luxury scatter cushions proved to be the perfect accompaniments for lounging comfortably and chicly on the picnic blanket, and of course the hanging Lisbon lanterns with their intricate metal detailing, and Luxury wooden based candles - (which smelled heavenly) - added to the atmosphere as the sun began to set...

The 'Lisbon' metal lanterns begin to glow in the fading light.

The perfect Classical music festival picnic from the comfort of home!

All that was left was to put on my best frock, pour the wine, turn up the speakers,  and enjoy!

Until Next Time!


Urban Living Coole
Urban Living Ice Bucket

Urban Living 'Jigger"
Urban Living Shaker

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