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


Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Demystifying The Auction Process...With Cheffins Auction House, Cambridge!

Despite having worked in the fashion industry for over twenty years, I have never been one to follow trends.  Trends can be beautiful?...Undoubtedly!  Stylish? - Certainly!  Perfectly matched to ones own design philosophies? - Of course... but then - there's the thing.  If something is perfectly in tune with ones own aesthetic, then surely it stops being a trend - and simply becomes something that we like, that happens to popular with a lot of other people at that precise moment in time...

Me surrounded by my quirky mix of new, vintage and antique
Surely it's better to surround ourselves with things that we have discovered ourselves and genuinely love, and then watch happily as they enter in and out of popularity with the ebb and flow of fashion, knowing that for as many times as we are behind with a trend - we are certain to also be propelled unwittingly into the forefront again at some point?

Take the furniture and artwork that we use to fill our houses for instance.  Is it really practical to keep replacing major items on an annual basis, simply because a particular period of history is currently 'on trend'?

I personally believe that a mix of modern and new, vintage and antique is the perfect mix for me and my lifestyle at Hill House.  I like to be surrounded by things that have a story or a heritage behind them and I particularly like to be surrounded by things that are built or made to last.  This can of course to relate to new things just as well as old.  There are many wonderful sofa and furniture companies who take pride in their workmanship and have no desire to give you reason to repeat buy within a matter of a few years. Their intention is to create the heirlooms and antiques of tomorrow, and their skill and care is reflected in the final product - and often, regrettably, the price.

So, if one is looking for solid, well made, beautiful pieces of interest for the home, without necessarily wishing to spend an absolute mint - where can we go to get the same feel, without remortgaging our houses as a result?

Why auction houses of course!

Now, mainly in part due to the stereotypical image of the blustering comedian accidentally bidding on a several million pound Van Gogh by yawning at the wrong moment during bidding time, auctions have suffered from a nerve inducing reputation for some people.

Nobody wants to find themselves in an awkward situation, and combined with the mystery that surrounds how, when, and where to bid, many feel that perhaps buying at an auction isn't for them...

Well, let me tell you - most people are therefore missing out on an absolute treat as well as the regular opportunity to bring home a bargain.  Whether it be fine art, object d'art, good solid furniture, vintage mirrors or a perfectly aged antique rug that you're looking for, auctions offer the ability to find something of such incredible quality and often, history,  that it really is doing ourselves a disservice to strike them off our interior hunting grounds.

Now, interior designers have know this for years.  It's a well kept secret within design circles that a sure fire way to achieve an expensive looking, heritage look is to purchase at auction rather than visit a luxury antique shop (after all, auctions are the first stop for every luxury antique shop owner - so imagine the amount of middle men your favoured antique shop item has passed through!)

The first time I set eyes on 'Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin' by The Hon. Marion Saumarez
This is why, when Cheffins Auction House in Cambridge approached me to discuss the idea of helping to demystify the whole auction process, it was an appealing challenge that I felt was a valuable 'public information service' if not an actual duty to my interior lifestyle loving readers who may not be familiar with them.

The Cheffins Warehouse - Pre Auction Day.
Now, as a lover of vintage furniture, which I often paint and sell, I am no stranger to auction houses and auction sites.

However, Cheffins is a step away from the average vintage emporium.  At their auction room it is very possible to spend several thousand pounds if one wishes,  but it is equally possible to part with a fraction of that as well...

Cataloguing Lots for Auction Day.
Sophie, the lovely head of PR at Cheffins, initially invited me along to the showrooms to take a look at the items that were on offer, and that would be appearing in the upcoming December auction.

Some extremely handsome and distinguished gentlemen heading off to Auction!
We decided that it would be a fun exercise to choose a few of the potential Auction Lots and bring them home to Hill House to see how they would look.

Auction warehouses can sometimes be rather overwhelming with the amount of pieces intended for auction day, so it was a wonderful excuse to get a feel for some lovely pieces of art and furniture against the backdrop of a real family home.

Seeing How 'Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin' would look in a normal home'
I am a massive fan of oversized pieces and romantic looking art, and so this painting entitles 'Self Portrait Of Artists A Her Violin' by the Hon. Marion Saumarez caught my eye immediately.  We are so used to seeing large posters and prints in houses, that it's easy to forget, that original pieces of art were actually intended to achieve the same dramatic result in real homes rather than sit art galleries.

'Self Portrait of Artist With A Violin' looking perfectly at home standing atop my dining room sideboard!
'Dog on Tiger Rug' by artists Lionel Edwards
Another pieces that caught my eye was the of a 'Dog on Tiger Rug' by Lionel Edwards.  A fun piece and certainly a good choice for the many dog lovers among us.

You can just see the inlaid table fitting in nicely to the right of the sideboard.
Finally came the inlaid wine table, which despite its ornate depiction of peacocks and feathers was an easy piece to place that could fit into any room and provide much beauty and interest on top of it's intended functional use.

When I first saw the inlaid wine table at Cheffins warehouse - the retail is remarkable.
Sadly for me, all of these pieces were destined to return in time for auction day, and so having fallen in love with the 'Self Portrait Of Artist With A Violin" in particular, it was time to see how she would fare in the actual auction...

Auction day at Cheffins HQ in Cambridge.
Auction days are always a hive of activity at any Auction house.  The public are invited to come on viewing days prior to the auction and are welcome to leave advance bids on items of interest if they are unable to attend the auction in person.  One thing that Cheffins are keen to promote is that there are numerous ways of placing a bid to suit everyones comfort zone - AND time zone! When convenient,  I personally find it exciting to place my bid on the day and watch the auction unfolding in person.  I like to enjoy the moment, and the excitement that one feels when securing the winning bid is like no other.  It's also extremely interesting to watch the bidding process and see which items prove popular, and which ones end up going for a song.  Often the result isn't always as expected...

The Bidding has begun!
However, we all live busy lives and for those in a different location or countries, it is encouraged to phone through a bid, place an advance bid or place a bid online.  For the nervous among us, these are also all ways in which one can control, set and stick to a spending limit, since you are able to set your top price level, walk away and wait to see what happens....

Another beauty that caught my eye on auction day!
It's important to note that even if you win the bid and end up with your chosen piece, you will not necessarily have spent up to your top price level.  If nobody has bid against you, OR competing bids dropped out early, then the end price that you pay will be set at the start price or where the bidding stopped.

The original Cheffins sign.
I didn't end up getting my 'Self Portrait Of Artist With A Violin'.  She proved to be a most popular piece and I imagine has ended up in a suitably loving home.  I'm happy with that result - watching the bidding was immensely exciting and a thrill to watch, and it's quite satisfying to see a piece you love being loved and coveted by others - even when it doesn't end up coming home with you!

It's true to say that the entire process is quite fascinating and addictive in the most positive and enjoyable sense, and I would highly recommend attending an auction to all of the vintage, antique, art and furniture lovers out there - even if the first few times you attend are purely to test the waters and get a feel for what it all entails.  Always feel free to ask the auction house staff to clarify anything for you - they are more than willing to help, and will even help you place a bid if you require.  They are also a fountain of knowledge and can talk you through any piece that catches your eye.  For the time strapped among us, you can also request an auction catalogue in advance and/or view it online which will give you the basic information of starting bids, the predicted range of bidding and some history on the item.

Also, do look on the Auction House websites (you can find Cheffins Here).  There are usually set dates for various types of sales and you will be able to plan your visit based on the auction calendar.  It's not all about old furniture either.  If your interests lie in a more modern vibe, then there will definitely be something for you.  I've seen beautiful Mid Century Modern pieces sat happily next to Arts & Crafts as well as Edwardian and Georgian pieces at various auctions.

The fact is that Cheffins in particular, hold auctions covering everything from fine art and furniture, to old books, and even houses and cars.  They even hold farm equipment sales if that's your thing.  Personally, I like to dip my toe into a bit of everything - just to see what's what.  One never knows when you may find yourself to be the only bidder on your dream item - although perhaps it won't turn out to be an undiscovered Van Gogh...although who knows - a lady can dream after all!

Until Next Time,

This post was sponsored by Cheffins Auction House.  With special thanks to Sophie Richardson.
For details of the Auctions throughout the year, please visit
The Next Interiors Sale at Cheffins Auction will take place on Thursday 24th January 2019.
The Next Fine Art Sale at Cheffins Auction House will take place on 6th7th March 2019.
Find Cheffins on instagram Here.

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