Where to source affordable art



I spent a fantastic day at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea yesterday, which is a brilliant way to see lots of original art (and artists). If you've only ever hung family photos or chainstore prints on your walls then you should definitely think about adding some real art too. Nothing adds personality and individuality faster than some much loved art. Now I'm no professional curator, and I own nothing like as much art as I'd like to, but I want to prove that you can source affordable art and share some of my favourite sources.

You don't have to be a zillionaire, you don't have to 'know' anything about art, you don't have to buy things 'as an investment' (although if they happen to go up in value then great) and you don't need a degree in art history. The most important thing is to BUY WHAT YOU LIKE. You're the one who's going to be looking at it for years to come, so don't worry about what anyone else thinks. In fact if it's a bit quirky or provocative then at least you've got a conversation starter!

GO ORIGINAL

There are plenty of places to source original paintings and photographic prints at reasonable prices. The prices at the Affordable Art Fair yesterday ranged from £100 to several thousands. I came away with a painting by Natasha Barnes for £200 which I love and can't wait to have framed! There are affordable art fairs around the country – just google what's going on in your local area and put the dates in your diary. Other great sources for original art are:


*Graduate shows – usually held in the summer, this is where students sell their work and you can snap up some real bargains.
*Etsy has some fabulous artists selling direct. You do have to sort through a huge variety, not all of which is great, but there are many hidden gems.
*Ebay is another great source of affordable art. If you find a dealer you like it is worth bookmarking their store and checking back regularly for new artwork they have to offer (I found the large painting at the top of this post on eBay).
*Charity shops/antiques markets often have hidden gems. You can often find affordable old paintings for sale that might look great hung as a collection.  You just need the patience to collect pieces around a particular theme – for example portraits or seascapes.
*Saatchi online is brilliant for searching a more curated collection of original works (and prints). The range is huge, but they do make it easy to source affordable art by allowing you to search by size, orientation, colour and price. It also 'learns' your likes and dislikes and so makes personalised recommendations.

LIMITED EDITION PRINTS 

These are a cheaper alternative to originals, and because the number of copies is limited you have the benefit of knowing that you won't see the same piece everywhere. The smaller the total edition size, the rarer your print! Limited edition prints can be more likely to increase in value (if that's your thing).

*Tappan collective is a fantastic US website with lots of really reasonably priced originals as well as a great photographic section. (they ship internationally).
*Soma gallery have a great range of modern prints, mostly with quite a clean, graphic aesthetic.

POSTERS

Posters can make great artwork if you choose carefully. Vintage travel posters, such as those produced by London Underground, were designed by iconic artists of their day and make great wall displays. Posters from exhibitions you've visited are another affordable and personalised way of adding art to your walls (or source vintage versions on eBay).

A NOTE ON SIZE

Whilst huge paintings look amazing, if you're on a tighter budget then don't underestimate the power of a smaller piece of art. A tiny painting hung off centre on a huge wall can make a fantastic impact and help stretch your budget. Playing with scale keeps a room interesting and will actually draw attention to the art itself.

So there you have it – no excuses for living with a) ubiquitous over-copied prints or b) no art at all (!!!) There are plenty of places to source affordable art that you'll get pleasure from every day, so get hunting!

How to design a loft conversion (properly!)

I've added a new task to the ever-growing to-do list for our house. Sorting out the loft. Now I don't wish to sound ungrateful, but when the previous owners of our house converted the loft about 10 years ago they made a right pig's ear of it. We have a large bedroom, with lots of strange angles, nooks and crannies; an oversized ensuite (complete with plastic bath and linoleum flooring) and no usable storage. It feels badly designed, cheap and unwelcoming and hence we use it as an occasional guest room and storage for the business. Given that it's actually a pretty large space it really isn't earning it's keep in its current state – hence the imminent redesign. The plan is to move a couple of internal walls and create 2 new bedrooms for our growing boys, plus their own shower room (because frankly, we don't want to share a bathroom with them anymore!)

Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what works, what doesn't work and why, so  I thought I'd share a few pointers for anyone else out there thinking about how to design a loft conversion. Tip: don't just go with whatever the building company suggests!

1. Think about how you want to use the space. 

I know this sounds obvious, but really think about what will give you most benefit. A guest room? A TV and playroom? Children's bedrooms? A glamorous master suite? I quite like the idea of a hotel-style master bedroom in the loft, but I'm slightly paranoid that burglars might break in and reach the kids whilst I slumber on obliviously above them. (This is a legitimate worry for me as I seem to lack that mothering gene that supposedly means you wake at the slightest snuffle. According to my husband, I can sleep through them screaming my name at 2am, so even an inept burglar stubbing his toe and swearing loudly could probably get past me).
Be realistic about the space you have. If you can fit in a bathroom, does it need to have a bath or just a shower? Will you put in one bedroom or two?  Some might think it's madness to separate a large room, but for us 2 bedrooms and a bathroom will work far better.

2. Storage

When you convert your loft into living space you are of course losing storage – that valuable loft space. It can be tempting to try to design your loft conversion to have maximum floor area, by pushing the walls as far out into the eaves as possible. Be warned, this will leave you with very small eaves storage cupboards that are difficult to access, and often makes the whole room look awkward (I speak from experience). Far better to design a proper storage cupboard, with a decent sized door, and sacrifice a little of the floor space.

Built in wardrobes or shelves are also a good idea in a loft conversion as they are the most efficient use of space. And whilst you're in the design phase, assess whether there's anything else you could possibly fit in – luxuries like a laundry cupboard, study or dressing room, so often lacking in houses in London, could be squeezed into a loft corner with some careful planning.

3. Locating the bathroom.

Most people, when designing a loft conversion, will want to add a bathroom. It undoubtedly adds value and gives you flexibility. Think about whether you want the bathroom to be an ensuite (off the main bedroom) or accessible from the loft landing so that it can be used by more than one room. Positioning the bathroom is often dictated by the location of your existing soil stack (and other bathrooms in the house) but it is worth discussing the options with your builder. Sometimes it can be possible to squeeze a bathroom into a restricted height part of the loft – using large skylights to provide enough headroom over a bath or basin for example. Or you could even add a hotel-style open plan bath in a master suite.

Image source 


4. Furniture positioning.

The unusual shape of loft rooms, and restricted head height, can make positioning furniture tricky. It's best to plan your layout before the builders arrive – if a kingsize bed is important to you, then make sure the room is wide enough to accommodate one and you can still open the door. Think about which wall you will place it against and make sure there is enough head height to sit up in the bed. If you opt for glass doors rather than a window, then beware you are limiting options for other furniture. Chests of drawers and desks can be placed under windows for example. Ask yourself if you have somewhere else you can put essential furniture, or would you be better considering a window rather than doors? Kate at Mad About the House has used the space under her windows for a great desk space:




5. Lighting.

My favourite interior topic, lighting – think about how you want to light your loft room. Ceiling heights are often quite low, so it can be tempting to put in a grid of spotlights rather than consider alternatives. Beware the stark, overhead glare this can cause (see my article on lighting mistakes to avoid here). There are some attractive flush lighting options available now, so don't feel restricted to spotlights. Also plan in wall lights (next to a bed, in a work area) or consider drop pendants over your bedside tables. And always make lights dimmable so that you can control the mood.

6. Decorating.

Once you've sorted out all the fundamentals, you can get on to the fun part – decorating! There aren't really any rules when it comes to decorating – do whatever you love, and decorate your loft conversion so that it makes you smile whenever you walk in! Paint everything out in one colour (walls, ceilings, doors, architraves and skirtings) to distract your eye from the differing angles. Or create a feature wall (not always a bad thing) with paint or wallpaper – or leave an exposed brick wall behind the bed.  





My eldest is very keen on painting his own graffiti wall when he gets his new loft room (eek...not sure I'm going to be able to relinquish control of that artwork, but I'll let you know how that goes!!)
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Top 3 interior design trends from 100% Design



I managed to escape the office last week to visit 100% Design at Olympia. It's one of the flagship events of the London Design Festival, and with over 400 exhibitors, it's a great place to meet like-minded design junkies and check out the latest. Here are the top 3 interior design trends I think we'll be seeing more of...

1. Pattern


First up is pattern. There's been a gradual resurgence over the past couple of years, and it would seem that's set to continue. Pattern was everywhere – on rugs, walls, furniture and accessories. There were fabulous textiles in bold and vibrant colourways from British designers such as Mairi Helena. Wallpaper's comeback shows no signs of abating, with patterns getting bolder, brighter and larger – look out for more murals and oversize patterns inspired by nature.  Brands such as Mindthegap (above) are producing really intoxicating large scale patterns in bold, beautiful hues, whilst NLXL (best known for their Brooklyn tin tiles papers) have a fabulous range of textured designs.


2. Glamour


Raw, industrial looks seem to be slowly giving way to more luxurious styles and finishes. Mullan lighting captured the mood perfectly with their Neiva chandelier (see picture, top); clearly inspired by factory-style lamps, the chandelier arrangement and polished brass finish add enough glamour to bring it right up to date.

On upholstery velvet was king, in a range of jewel tones. There was beautiful detailing too – brass tipped feet, contrasting piping and nailhead trims. Shapes were modern and comfortable, or retro and curvy (lots of mid-century influence in shapes, and more of a 1950s vibe too). Brass was prevalent on everything from lighting to furniture to kitchen cabinets and accessories.

Marble was the one to watch in the bathroom bathroom (and elsewhere). Huge white and grey marble tiles and slabs were still the most popular, but with more pink, green and brown marbles creeping in too.

3. Natural textures

Finally, natural textures continued to abound. Wood never goes out of fashion, and there were some really lovely, tactile pieces of furniture. Dining chairs with smooth, rounded frames (just made for stroking). Storage furniture was inventive, with cabinets made in everything from wood to lacquered cork (see above)! There was fabulous hardware too – including some beautiful, tactile door and cupboard handles wrapped in braided leather. Bringing in few natural textures is definitely de rigeur.

So, there you have it, my top 3 interior design trends for the year ahead. Enjoy the rest of your week!

A colourful, boho outdoor living space

After a thoroughly sunny week off last week, I'm sticking with the summer vibe today (even if it has now started to rain). I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking about how to create the perfect outdoor space, so I thought I'd share a patio design project I worked on last year for a Californian couple.



No, it's not this pic above (the Ace Hotel rooftop by Commune Design) but it's a pretty good inspirational image for a colourful, globally inspired outdoor space! Now I know many of you will just skip down for the images of this project, but I'm going to give you the background and blurb anyway, just so that you have the whole picture...

...The brief was to create a California-cool, laid-back and sociable patio area to be the heart of their ranch-style home. With more days of sunshine than this East London interior designer can ever dream of, (265 to be precise) California is all about outdoor living. This patio area is quite literally the centre of the home – flanked on 3 sides by the master bedroom, living room and kitchen/dining rooms, meaning that the design scheme had to work really hard to complement and connect all of these spaces.

As I'm clearly not based in California, this project was completed via my eDesign service – an affordable interior design service where we liaised entirely via email/skype/Pinterest. The clients completed a questionnaire and provided measurements and photographs of the space. I then came up with inspiration and colour boards before working up the scale layout, mood boards and finally, a detailed shopping list. I sourced products that were available locally to the clients, or that shipped to California for a reasonable cost (including a few from the Hide & Seek shop).

I wanted to reflect the couple's love of exotic travel and saturated colour. I always start by asking clients to share their Pinterest boards. Pinterest is a great tool to help identify your style likes and dislikes (although I always advise editing your choices down to make sure that the images you pin are really what you'd like to live with, rather than just a fleeting flight of fancy).

The initial inspiration board looked like this, and captures some of the classic 'California cool' design elements: natural textures; strong colours; global textiles and an eclectic mix of styles:


Next step was to refine the colour story. I had to work with the adjoining rooms, which contained some strong, dark greys, blues and reds (in the master bedroom – see the full scheme here) and the existing patio flooring which was a grey and black chipped stone and couldn't be replaced. Here's the colour scheme I came up with (shown using some texture, which makes it easier to visualise):

Once the clients had signed off the inspiration and colour boards, it was on to the detail of designing. This patio is enviably large, but with multiple doorways leading to other rooms it was challenging to layout in a sociable yet practical way. We wanted to make an intimate, relaxed seating area near the outdoor fireplace, plus a functional dining space, but without restricting access to any of the doorways. After toying with various different options, the final layout involved having a sociable outdoor lounge area next to the fireplace. The sofa, armchairs and poufs arranged around coffee-tables is a classic furniture layout that works just as well outdoors as in. The arrangement faces onto the main garden and pool area too and the poufs allow a little flexibility to seat more people and are great for kids (or just putting your feet up in the evening!)





The moodboard for the main lounge area looked like this, with lots of saturated colour, global textiles and a large rug to pull everything together:


Pops of gold add a slightly more glamourous edge to offset the natural stone and rattan elements. The tall planters with spiky planting add a nice structural element (and help to break up the different areas). I also came up with an 'option B' which was slightly cheaper, using classic adirondack chairs and more budget friendly rug, pouf and cushion options (I should probably say pillows, rather than cushions, given that this was a US project):-


The clients ended up going with a mix of the 2 schemes – the rug and chairs from the first option, with a couple of cheaper cushion options. I also created an extra reading/reclining area just outside the living room doors which helped to make use of this otherwise wasted space:




After a fair amount of debate, I opted to move the dining area into one corner, which creates a more intimate space for eating. The clients were on a strict budget, so are reusing their existing dining table and bench for now. However, ultimately this corner lends itself to built-in banquette-style seating (with storage underneath for all the toys and pool paraphernalia) so this option can be implemented as and when budget allows.


The plan for the banquette seating is to build it in around the existing brick shelves, like so:


As this is eDesign, I don't have the benefit of seeing the finished project, but the clients did send me a couple of pictures of the work in progress:


My pinterest board contains lots more of my favourite outdoor living spaces if you're looking for further inspiration. And if you fancy creating your own colourful, boho outdoor living space, then here are a few textiles to help you create the look...

1. Peruvian Frazada // 2. Mud cloth cushion from Mali // 3. Himalayan salt tea lights // 4. Brazilliance cushion // 5. Organic British sheepskin // 6. Hemp poufs // 7. Moroccan boucherouite rug // 


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Our comfy outdoor seating area: the big reveal!

It looks like we're in for a dose of summer this week (at least here in London) so, after what feels like a pretty long winter, it's time to start talking about outdoor spaces again, yay! As an interior designer, I clearly spend most of my time concentrating on the inside, but our garden patio area really felt like it was letting the house down. I'm pleased to say that, having spent most of last summer making over this space (I think we may be the slowest DIYers on the planet), it's finally time to share it with you!

If you missed the original post, where I rant about all the challenges and show you the before photos, then you can check it out here. To recap, we had a few problems to contend with (and when I say a few, I really mean a lot). It was small, sunken, uncomfortable and accessed via a huge step down from our back doors – a bit of a trip hazard for small children and visiting relatives – and, ok, for me after a couple of glasses of Pimms. It was also pretty grey (not in a good way) and unloved, with hand-me-down furniture that we'd not got around to replacing, so we never really felt inspired to sit out here.

THE PLAN: CREATE A COOL, COMFORTABLE OUTDOOR ROOM


The aim was to create a really useable and comfortable outside space that we could enjoy in the summer, and wouldn't mind looking at in the winter months too! The patio leads directly off our openplan kitchen dining area, so we look at it pretty much all the time – from when we're eating breakfast in the mornings to watching TV at night. It may sound like a cliche, but I really wanted to make the patio feel (and function) like an extension of the house.





THE DECKING


The first, and largest job was to sort out the floor levels. The rather grubby looking grey paving was a good foot lower than the inside room level, and had some ugly gutters and an odd little step running alongside the wall.  The solution was to deck over the entire space, raising the patio level to the same height as the wooden floor indoors and hiding all the ugly stuff in the process. Queue a major project for Dave, which he diligently completed over the course of a few evenings and weekends (OK, quite a lot of evenings and weekends). To be honest, Dave and I sit at opposite ends of the DIY spectrum. I definitely fall into the 'that looks great, what's next?' camp, whereas Dave likes to refine and re-engineer and re-do things until they are absolutely perfect. Suffice it to say that our new decking could probably withstand a herd of elephants performing Riverdance without so much as a squeak from those boards (not strictly necessary, but reassuring nonetheless).

THE BENCH SEATING


We decided that rather than turning our patio into a dining area, we would go for more of a laid-back and loungey seating area – the theory being that our large dining table is only about 50cm away on the other side of the sliding doors, so we didn't feel that we really needed a second table. Added to this, the patio is considerably lower than the lawn, and this small, sunken space lends itself quite well to some built-in seating.

Having exhausted all traditional garden furniture avenues, I opted to have something made to measure. We wanted something that would look good all year round but could be softened with proper seating and scatter cushions in the warmer months. MetroRetro, who I have worked with before, created this pair of bench seats using tubular steel and our left over decking boards.  They are simple, functional and slightly utilitarian, but also make perfect shelves for a display of plants when not being sat on! (The green-fingered among you may notice that these photos were actually taken a few months ago, hence the pots are full of winter cabbages and heather!)


Left-over decking makes the perfect tops for the steel bases, and will hopefully weather down at the same rate as the new floor. The metal bases have been powder coated in navy blue to link with the interior colour-scheme (it will also help them to withstand the weather and makes them feel a little more polished).  In the winter you can plonk a few pots on there to add interest, but in the warmer months we will turn this into an outdoor sofa, like so:



GETTING THE SIZES RIGHT


The base cushions were made to measure from sturdy foam, and covered in Sunbrella, a high-tech water-proof, stain-proof, mould-proof fabric.  It's what they use on yachts, so can hopefully stand up to a bit of British weather (and some pretty messy kids).  I chose a neutral grey design with a fine stripe and decided to add colour with the other accessories.

I spent a long time agonising over the dimensions of this seating. I wanted it to be low enough to feel loungey, (but not so low that it's difficult to get out of – I'll admit it, I'm not as nimble as I once was). It had to be deep enough to lounge with your legs curled up, but not so deep that a short-arse like me couldn't sit upright as well. And it had to fit plenty of cushions (because no-one wants to lean up against a hard wall with a stone ledge and frankly, I love cushions).



It was time well spent as this is now officially the most comfortable sofa in the house – without actually being 'in' the house. The corner (which you can see in the picture below) forms a sort of 'chaise' which is officially my new favourite spot. Unfortunately our 2-year old is also laying claim to this as her seat-of-choice. I predict a summer feud. I predict she'll win.

THE TABLE


The small bistro table is from French Connection Home. Whilst it isn't technically suitable for outdoor use, it was one of the only tables I could find that was the right height to enable dining from a sofa (about 60cm tall). OK, I know I just said that I didn't need another dining table, but this enables 2 of us to have a quick bite outside of an evening if we want to – or more likely a drink and a few nibbles. It lives in the dining room in wet weather and is light enough to carry in and out easily (unfortunately it's been discontinued, but see here for their latest collection). When we have more guests, we'll simply pick up the side tables from the adjoining room and carry them out to provide extra surfaces (although the wall is actually a pretty good drinks perch, providing there aren't any footballs flying around).

THE CUSHIONS


Then it was time to add the cushions! Using a mixture of sunbrella; cowhide (left over from the business) and hand-dyed indigo I had them all made in a generous 60 x 60cm size. They have polyester inserts so that they can withstand a little damp and the only downside is that they do all have to be stored away in bad weather. We have the dubious benefit of an absolutely enormous shed at the end of our garden, so what better place to put them? (As you can imagine, Dave is delighted that his workbench and power tools are now barricaded in by a large bag of soft-furnishings). But then again, you can't argue with garden comfort, can you? (Similar cowhide cushions and indigo cushions are available from the shop: Hide & Seek. We're always happy to make bespoke items too, just drop us a line).

THE CHAIRS


We already had the 2 Ikea Hogsten armchairs (they're ridiculously comfortable and affordable) and they fit here perfectly, meaning we can fit at least 10 people sociably on the patio, despite it's small 3m x 3m size.  I think these high-backed versions of the Hogsten have been discontinued, although there are usually several knocking about on eBay, and the lower-backed versions are still available here.









STILL TO DO


Of course nothing is ever finished when you're a designer...and there's always a list of things still to do in my house. The walls have already had a fresh lick of paint since these pictures were taken, but the fences are a bit of an eyesore. I hate being able to see all the boundaries and would love to see only plants instead. I've planted some honeysuckle and a vigorous clematis which should hopefully work their magic over time. I have to say I'm very impatient with things that grow, but I love the idea of sitting next to a fragrant living wall (in about 2 years time) so have resisted the urge to paint, cover or otherwise bugger-about with the fence panels for now. (Plus, I can't really paint these panels without doing the entire rest of the garden, and that feels like a lot of work for something that I ultimately want to hide with greenery).

Lighting is another item to be finished – we need to install some LEDs and perhaps a couple of uplighters so that we can enjoy the view from indoors in the evenings (rather than looking at a stretch of black reflective doors – read more on the benefits of lighting your garden here).  I'd like to add some festoon lights to weave through the yet-to-grow living wall too and have my eyes peeled for a bargain.



BUT, all in all, it's a big improvement on what was a dingy garden patio area. I'm pleased to see the forecast is looking good for half term as I'm planning on spending plenty of time out here, planting up my pots for the summer and playing with the littlest DesignSeekers (seen here enjoying our new 'outdoor room' at a party a couple of weeks ago). I'm predicting plenty more barbeques, drinks and water-balloon attacks out here over the coming months (although I could live without the latter). Is anyone else thinking about their garden goals yet? What are your plans?

All images: Carole Poirot (except the last one!)


Dine in design: Bacaro, Roman Road

Today I'm serving up the second in my restaurant design series – checking out fab restaurants that showcase great interior design (if you missed the first one, read it here). This time it's a trendy little Italian on Roman Road called Bacaro. The laid-back, retro interior has been pulled together using locally made furniture and fittings wherever possible, and it's a relaxed, sociable treat!



Bacaro opened just over a year ago in this eclectic part of old East London. Roman Road runs for around a mile between Bow and Bethnal Green, and maintains its community feel with butchers and bakers, artists and pie & mash shops – as well as a market 3 times a week. Bacaro occupies a perfect little spot at number 387, next door to acclaimed plasticine (yes, the kids-play-stuff) artist, Henry Hudson.

LOCATION AND BACKGROUND


Owners Krysia and Marco Barbuti are residents of East London themselves. Krysia trained originally as a chef (in classic French cookery) and Marco hails from Emilia-Romagna, a food hub in Northern Italy. They ran a cafe in Wanstead for a few years, but dreamt of opening their own restaurant. On the hunt for the right location for their new venture, they sought out a non-commercial high-street with a vibrant demographic. Having worked at Aesop for a few years, Krysia knew this part of town well and liked the mix of small businesses and independent shops (not to mention more affordable rent than the likes of Hackney). The proximity to Victoria Park and the young, creative residents (mixed with a few old East End characters) seemed perfect for a modern Italian.


THE NAME & CONCEPT


The name Bacaro is a venetian term for a winebar where you can eat, whilst Bacchus was the Roman god of wine…appropriately for Roman Road! Krysia explained that the aim was very much to create a sociable, easy-going atmosphere where friends can meet, socialise and experience great food and wine. The restaurant interior design had to support this by creating the right informal but stylish environment. The owners were also very keen to source as much as possible in the local area, supporting other small businesses.




THE TILES


When Krysia and Marco pulled up the flooring they revealed old terracotta tiles beneath, which gives a solid, earthy base to the design. The patterned, encaustic cement wall tiles were then added to replicate some of the design elements of the floor, and help to give the restaurant a relaxed feel. The chipped-away effect works well with the painted brick walls (although Krysia admits this was largely because they couldn't actually get all of the plaster off!) Whatever the reason, it works.  The encaustic cement tiles were supplied by Bert & May, with whom Krysia had worked in her previous job at Aesop. A local East End firm, Bert & May have a reputation for beautiful, handmade interiors – their Vyner Street showroom is well worth a look for some reclaimed/industrial/textural inspiration.






THE BAR


The bar is made from distressed wood planks, arranged in a chevron pattern that, again, references the graphic tiles. It's a little bit rustic, a little bit hip – and can seat a fair few customers too! The tables meanwhile came from an old Italian restaurant in the city, once owned by a friend.  Krysia tells me that they have plans to focus even more on this bar area, creating an area for cocktails and bar food with a new cocktail menu. Sounds good to me!



THE CHAIRS


The very funky chairs are by Olivia Scott Taylor designs, having been spotted by the couple's web designer in Liberty. Krysia approached the company to supply the restaurant and managed to strike a deal for their first destination in East London. They're a retro design, based on old school chairs, and are manufactured entirely in the UK. Most of the chairs were made on site, with every 4th one having hand-painted stripes that give them a real 'Italian Job' vibe. Somehow they just feel very on brand for Bacaro.

Zoe from Muck n Brass in Brockley made the cabinet at the back. She specialises in taking old furniture and turning it into something new – upcycling done very, very well.


THE LIGHTING


The statement chandeliers are one of the only elements of the interior design not sourced locally. Kryisa and Marco took a risk and had them imported, without having seen them. It's a risk that worked out, as they make a real impact and can be seen from all areas of the restaurant as well as from the street outside. They are complemented by simpler lights over the bar, with retro filament bulbs that help to define the area.

Of course every table has candles, for ambience too. Angular, black wire tea-lights contrast with tactile himalayan salt candles from Hide & Seek London – creating a lovely warm glow.



FOOD AND DRINK


And finally, I really ought to mention the food (it is a restaurant after all!) With two foodies at the helm, it's not surprising that the food is top notch. The intention was to produce what Krysia describes as, 'evolved Italian cuisine,' not classical Italian. That's why you won't find pizza or lasagne on the menu, but there is fabulous shellfish, slow-roasted meats and silky mozzarella.

The menu changes regularly, and is influenced by the couple's travels (a recent trip to Poland resulting in the vodka pasta main). The focus is very much on quality ingredients, with a story behind each dish. Sourcing artisanal, seasonal produce from across the UK and Italy is a passion.

A lot of thought has gone into the wine list too – with a Marco keen to source from small producers. It's the perfect accompaniment to the food, or good enough to drink on its own.

WHAT'S NEXT?


So, a year on from the launch of Bacaro, I asked Krysia what is next. She explained that they plan to expand the cocktail menu and might well be looking for another premises. But they won't be rushed, it has to be the right venue (and I'm pleased to say it will also be in East London). Check out the latest menu, or book your table here. Buon appetito!

Images 1-5 Carole Poirot, 6-7 Alex Hadaya.


Wingback comeback: contemporary wingback chairs


It's been another busy few weeks here with one interior design project drawing to a close and 3 more in the offing. With the kids now off school for Easter, it's not about to get any quieter either! So rather than ramble on about juggling childcare and (not) achieving work/life balance, I thought I'd share some research I've been doing for a current client on the subject of wingback chairs.
Image source
If you thought that wingback chairs belonged in private members' clubs and first-class lounges, then think again! A huge number and variety of contemporary wingback chairs has hit the market over the past few years. No longer should they be reserved for pub-firesides and country-residences, there is now a contemporary wingback chair for every style and location! They might look like armchairs with shoulder-pads but they can do no wrong in my book for several reasons:

a) They are very comfortable.

b) You can have a surreptitious sniffle during soppy films without being spotted.

c) The wings provide excellent support for a lolling head (perfect if you have small children that wake you up far too early in the morning; have stayed up to the wee small hours writing your blog post or have had a night on the tiles – lucky  you).

d) You can sit upright, grip the arms and feel like a Bond-villain (especially useful when lecturing aforementioned small children about not waking you up really early).

e) They just look darn cool!

So here are a few of my favourites. Some are affordable, some are investment pieces, but they'll all strike a grand yet cool note in your living room.


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If none of these strikes a chord (or fits your budget) then seek out a vintage number and have it reupholstered in some fabulous fabric. Ebay and gumtree are awash with battered old wingback chairs – grab some plain velvet in a gorgeous colour et voila, an instant statement piece. Patterned fabrics look amazing too – go retro with a William Morris design, or pick something by Timourous Beasties or House of Hackney for a more contemporary vibe.

An my top tip is to look for Danish leather high-back chairs. Usually available in black or tan leather, these seem to be a total bargain at the moment (probably the only Danish furniture that still is)!

Right, I'm off to measure up some herringbone flooring. Have a great Tuesday all!