WELCOME TO MINFORD
Taking Style Tips From The Church
Yes you read that headline right. Today our Style Hack comes from a vicar who told me exactly where to find the best church candles.
Down the backstreets of Westminster, practically behind the Abbey itself, there’s a shop called Watts & Co. This is the place that takes care of all clergy stock – they head there to buy robes, dog collars, the wafers and importantly, church candles in every size you could imagine. Forget Ikea multi-packs. This is the real deal. When I ventured there myself I waited in line with two nuns stocking up too! For those who aren’t in London – rejoice! – Watts & Co sell online.
The sanctuary candles (as seen in the image above) are encased in plastic not glass. It sounds awful but looks amazing trust me. With a burning time of over 200 hours each they’re amazing value too. You do have to buy a box of 20 but I didn’t think twice. Great for Christmas and the winter, great for outdoors in the summer, and brilliant as presents. Watts also sell a huge selection of classic church candles, all handmade in the UK using blended beeswax.
Now if that’s not Good News I don’t know what is.
Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my favourite interior designers whose intoxicating mix of neoclassicism and leopard print carpets never fails to inspire me.
Madeleine Castaing, who was born in 1894 and died in 1992, lived an extraordinary life of style. A woman after my own heart, she owned a decorating and antiques shop in Saint Germain for over 50 years. She was a queen of the flea markets, known for not only her eclectic interiors but her eccentric dress sense too. Her brilliant body of work earned her the description of France’s grande dame of interior decoration.
I first came across her when her fabrics and wallpapers were re-launched a couple of years ago. In the showroom where I’d gone to see the pieces firsthand, was a book titled The World of Madeleine Castaing, full of big glossy pictures and tales about her life. Later, having bought the book and read it from cover to cover, I realised that she used many of the tricks that stylists and designers use today. She was just majorly ahead of the curve.
These are the three lessons gleaned from her decades of experience.
It’s all in the mix
I like to say “It’s all in the mix” and that was certainly Madeleine’s mantra also. Not only did she mix a huge variety of styles and periods of antique furniture but she loved a bit of ‘high low’, pairing the inexpensive with the valuable. She liked to mix cheap materials such as rattan and horn with fine antique English furniture.
Stick to a colour palette
She loved colour but stuck to a tight range which helped to add a coherence to her eccentric schemes. “I use three colors: red, sky-blue, and the green of the gardens,” she once explained. She mixed these colours with white and black.
Always have something a bit wrong
The best stylists, be it in fashion or interiors, always add something a bit wrong and it’s what elevates a look from the ordinary. Madeleine was definitely aware of how to do this well. “Sometimes you need a bit of bad taste!” she’d say. You may think of leopard print as bad taste but she made it look sophisticated. Who doesn’t want a leopard print carpet after gazing at one of her rooms? Jean Cocteau certainly did.
The Case For Navy
For anyone feeling totally uninspired by festive party attire this year, join the club. It’s either a massive case of CBA or there just isn’t anything out there to get excited about. A friend of mine is equally in my what-the-hell-am-I-wearing-this festive-season boat. She brought a velvet top the other day and texted to say it arrived and was so disgusting she couldn’t even bring herself to try it on – “nails down a blackboard” I think was her actual wording.
Anyway, I thought I’d share my two latest successful purchases in case they are of interest.
1. A navy silk shirt. Don’t call it a blouse or I’ll feel like my mum. It’s a fantastic cut. Great price. It’s my new go-to top for a suggestion of dressed up without making too much of an effort. I wore it in my Christmas table post and have been asked where it was from so thought I’d give it a mention.
2. Navy platform sandals. These babies may just be rescuing my Christmas party crisis. They’re a dead ringer for a Miu Miu but a fraction of the price. If I’m feeling brave I might wear them with a sock. If not, a dark red pedicure but either way they’re new and they’re velvet so that’s a win win as far as I’m concerned.
So the sequins are staying in the drawer this time.
My Christmas Table
Pull up a chair. This one’s all about the Christmas table.
Now there ain’t nought wrong with throwing a disposable table cloth over a table and lighting a few candles – Christmas is busy enough without thinking about making hanging garlands and props for dinner. BUT if by some miracle you find you’ve got a little window of time before hand, I’d argue that decorating the table beautifully can turn an ordinary Sunday roast into a festive banquet.
Pinterest is your first port of call when deciding how to decorate. There’s hundreds of tables to inspire you but I’d like to move the ideas on from the ultra simple styles circulating.
This winter I’ve been increasingly obsessed with green in all its varying shades. So, I have created a table with an essentially green and white theme, pared with metallics and little unexpected details. I am loving sludgy colours paired with the green (I was very tempted to add a mustard-y, olive napkin here) but I finally went with a pale pink napkin (or as they’re called by the Linen Works, Cassis Rose) as an update to traditional Christmas red. To finish the colour palette, and to keep it looking super festive, I scattered the table with clementines.
Within this bumper post there are two ‘Style Hacks’.
First up is using beautiful wrapping paper sheets as placemats. It instantly adds some colour to the table and elevates it from the everyday. I’ve mixed and matched different green patterns from Shepherds – Marbled, Italian, and Dandelion Iron .
For my next hack I grabbed my vintage pattisserie moulds and used them as little candle holders. I find it really difficult to find candle holders that I like and these little tins have done the job perfectly. If you like the idea you can get your own here. The little pink candles are from Broste.
I’ve used my own cutlery and vintage plates for the table but I’ve brought these so wrong but so right John Lewis champagne coupes. Such a steal at £3.50 each! The crackers are from an Etsy store called the Paper Cupboard. They are SO beautiful and look super expensive. I very cheekily asked if I could mix and match some of my favourites from her packs that went with my theme. So this is a Minford bespoke gold and silver pack from them.
Finally, the little white flowers are Hellebores that are an amazing winter bloom and I’ve popped them in vintage Victorian preserve jars.
Kate The Cook
This is the first of my ‘Meet the Expert’ posts where you get some serious insider tips from, well, the experts.
First up is the fabulous Kate Trelawny. She’s the fashion world’s go to chef and frankly, who better to ask about where to find the best kitchenware than someone who cooks for a living.
Despite a client list that makes the Oscar guest list look lame, Kate’s incredibly down to earth and never happier than escaping from the fash pack’s frenzy to her cottage (pic above) with her husband and two children, with no TV, no WIFI and phone reception.
I grabbed a few minutes to talk about what she loves to cook with and what she’ll be cooking this Christmas.
What’s your top tip when it comes to buying for the kitchen?
It’s incredibly important that it is as long lasting and hard wearing as possible. I love a bit of le Creuset, it looks good and lasts for life. You get what you pay for with cookware.
Do you have any favourite places to buy things for your kitchen?
I LOVE Summerhill & Bishop. It’s the most beautiful store and they have the most amazing glassware. When I’m in Wales I love to go to thrift stores and find old enamelware. I love the green and cream.
Are you cooking a turkey at Christmas or something more unusual?
Turkey! It’s Christmas!!!! I get mine from Moen & Sons and ask them to stuff it for me. I also get my pigs in blankets ready prepared from them.
Ok so that’s the bird sorted what else is happening for Christmas lunch in the Trelawny household?
Roast potatoes in goose fat and roast parsnips.
Cream carrot and celeriac puree. Whizzed in the Magimix for a smooth texture.
Red Cabbage. I love a bit of apple in my red cabbage but I can’t bare when people put raisins in it. What a nasty surprise that is! Last but not least my take on sprouts…
A Take On Sprouts
600g sprout tops available in most supermarkets
100g cooked chestnuts (a real treat if cooked and peeled by oneself)
1 x mild chilli deseeded and finely chopped
4 cloves of smashed garlic
1 x sprig of rosemary chopped
Glug of rapeseed oil
Knob of butter
Fry the whole lot together over medium heat for about 10 mins.
What happens for pudding?
Most people are not really fans of Christmas pudding so just get a small one. My personal preference is mince pies for pudding. You spoon out the mincemeat and then fill it with brandy butter. Pour on some extra brandy and hey presto a brandy butter pie. Much better!
So if you’re an avid foodie or have someone to buy for who is, take a leaf out of Kate’s book and stock up on her gift list below. You can get in touch with Kate here or follow her on Instagram for more inspiration.
- Blenheim Forge Petty Knife
- French Linen Tea Towel
- Summerill & Bishop Classic Wine Glasses
- Le Creuset Round Casserole
- Labour & Wait Enamel Milk Pan
- Pallares Solsona Kitchen Knife
- Labour & Wait Bib Apron