Le Picnic

School’s nearly out and it’s this time of year that I start to focus on more practical holiday plans rather than which Marant dress I’m intending to waft around France in. I’ve got a week of camping to think about and then a holiday where lunch is on the beach everyday.

I feel I can say with confidence that I’ve got my picnic gear down (for proof, see above image of my haul). It becomes my holiday ritual to pack and unpack it ready for each outing.

The Basket
First up I’m all about the good old fashioned wicker basket. I bought the one in the picture above years ago and painted it (surprise, surprise) grey. I can’t remember where I got it from but I spotted this gorgeous one from The White Company which is rather conveniently in the sale.

I love my Falcon enamel plates. They are pretty much indestructable. The dream is to mix both blue and red edges for a bit of a ‘poor man’s Astier de Villatte’ vibe.

The Knife
I swear by my trusty Opinel folding knife. My absolute picnic essential.

Vintage Chopping boards
These are just so great not only for cutting food on but for serving it and passing around to people.  They are hard to track down but I’ve found some good ones here and here.

The Tablecloth Towel
You may have seen my post earlier this month on summer towels, well here is where they really do come into their own.  I use this as a towel and then whip it out as a beach tablecloth at lunchtime. If you’d like to go for a picnic rug as you’re off out in the English countryside then my favourite pick is a vintage Welsh blanket. I’ve found this beauty and this one on Etsy.

Clearly holidays are about drinking rosé at lunchtime and I’m afraid doing it out of a melamine or a tin cup doesn’t quite cut it. Enter the cheap and sturdy utilitarian tumbler set  Wrap them in your towel/tablecloth so you won’t worry about breaking them and pair them with a glass bottle.

A Final Word
In my yearly search for updating my picnic stuff I have come across two treasures in John Lewis.  First up is this Leon Cool bag and finally these melamine cups if you don’t fancy Peppa Pig beakers for the children.

Lastly the greatest tip I ever did receive about how to camp well was to buy a cheap clothes rail and hang everything from there. No more damp clothes!

Set of 4 Flacon Plates . Opinel Knife . Leon Paper Lunch Cooler Bag .  The White Company Picnic basket .  Tumbler Set . Glass Bottle . Chopping Board . Linen Cloth

Slip Onto Something More Comfortable

When I stumbled upon this picture of Tine K  ‘s sofa this week I immediately thought don’t mind if I do thank you very much. Just so low key and chic, not to mention practical. It then dawned on me that the designers I have chosen to feature of late, from Rose Uniacke and Axel Vervoordt to Vincent Van Duysen, all share the love of a good old slip covered sofa. It’s easy to imagine why, it’s a seriously versatile piece.

There’s the 1970s Baleric Island interior where it’s plonked on a stone floor with indoor plants. There’s the English country pile version where it’s covered in a mass of linen ticking stripe cushions. Rose Uniacke uses it in spaces with an antique table or two. And then come the Belgians who keep it calm against pale grey peeling walls. And, if that hasn’t got you seriously interested then check out the home of designer and New York boutique owner Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

No Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic to see here my friends.  Just super cool minimal floppy linen loveliness.

Casa na Rua de São Mamede ao Caldas in Lisbon

Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s Home

Axel Vervoordt’s interior design

An Axel Vervoordt interior

A calm grey Axel Vervoordt space

Rose Uniacke’s living room

Masseria Moroseta B&B in Puglia

Tine K linen cushion . Linen Throw  . Tine K lampshade . Ikea Sofa . Tine K Sofa Tine K Pouffe

Vincent Van Duysen

Vincent Van Duysen is nothing short of a star in the architecture and interior design world. He won designer of the year in 2016 at Belgium’s Biennale Interieur. He scooped the ARC15 Architecture Award for his design of three black barns. He’s designed lighting collections for Flos and is busy creating beautiful Italian furniture with Molteni&Co. He is also the reason I keep finding myself in the sanctuary like Aesop stores for far too long slathering on every type of hand cream.

From shop design and hotels to private interiors, Vincent is the go-to for serene, understated minimalism that never seems to date.

Vincent’s special brand of ‘calm’ came after years of work with maximalist pattern and colour. Graduating in 1980, he joined Aldo Cibic in Milan. Cibic at the time was partnered with Ettore Sottsass, founder of the Memphis Group.

Returning home at the end of the ‘80s he realised he needed a break from the bright and the bold and began to fully appreciate his Flemish roots. “All the natural materials, raw materials, colours derived from the nature around us, very simple tones, the fact that historically we are great weavers and producers of carpets and amazing fabrics were part of a 360-degree turn in my thinking,” he told the Financial Time this April. “I knew I needed to create domestic environments that were actually calming.”

On this Tuesday morning, I am embracing his relaxing spaces (albeit from afar as I am currently on set in a castle in the middle of nowhere where chinoiserie and taxidermy reign). Soak up the inspiration from his inspiring private interior spaces to his home in Antwerp and his projects throughout Belgium.

Vincent Van Duysen’s home in Antwerp, Belgium

His living room and dining table from his home in 1993

A home in Zwevegem, Belgium

A private home in Knokke, Belgium

A home in Wilrijk, Belgium

A home in Kortrijk, Belgium

All Change

So I’m going to come straight out there and say it. When it came to painting our sitting room I got it wrong.  I chose a blue grey paint and though I still think it looks beautiful, in reality the room feels really dark and on the wrong day a bit gloomy.

I kind of knew it was off straight away but I was in denial at the end of what had been a long and arduous building project (we moved out for nine months) and I just wanted to move back in.

I had spent FOREVER Pinteresting my perfect ‘look’ and on paper it was fabulous (see pics below of what I was hoping to achieve).

What seems very obvious now was not so obvious then. We don’t live in a Scandinavian high ceiling-ed house with windows on every wall.

Having closed off one side of the sitting room to make a laundry room (best thing I ever did. Kids = washing, three kids = a shit tonne of washing) there was now only one window.  It’s a big one but there’s only one.

The crying shame is I never want to spend any time in there. I’ve been considering why and I have come to the following conclusions:

1. There’s grey and then there’s grey and this is just one step too gloomy. The paint colour is SO beautiful. Just not in that room. I thought painting it a lighter colour was a boring, bland idea but I’ve had a change of heart.

2. The lighting in a room where you are doing a lot of cosy, relaxing, wind down stuff needs to be really good. Atmospheric and low key yes, but not so dark that you can’t read a newspaper (it’s so dark you can’t read a newspaper in there).

3.  When it comes to cosying up and watching television you want some sort of right angle whether that’s an ‘L’ shaped sofa or an armchair next to the sofa.  It’s the inner cave man in us all.

4. Random but true: I like to put my feet up on something when I’m watching a movie. Attempting to find a piece that passes both the style and comfort challenge has so far proved elusive.

So there you have it.  The decorator is booked for next week and we’re going with a (still to be decided !) lighter coloured paint. I’m off on location all week and I will return to a newly light and hopefully much more enticing sitting room.  I shall be sure to keep you updated with the results.

Here’s the look I was going for:

Here’s the room, shot in full sunshine with the help of a bright camera exposure:

This Gingham Dress!

Anyone else feel like Summer dressing is a terrifying thing? No, I don’t want to wear cut off shorts that show you exactly what I had for lunch. And uh, that dress that you can’t lift your arms in without exposing a cheek ain’t quite right for my meetings thanks. That’s why I am sharing the love about this gingham number aka my summer saviour.

I picked it up from Urban Outfitters and though I did have to sew up a slit that came reaaaallly high up the leg, I think it’s spot on. Exposed shoulders but doesn’t show too much arm if that sort of thing bothers you, drapes nicely over the hips and is ridiculously comfortable – I’ve hardly taken it off. It also happens to look really great accessorised with a kitchen sink and striped plate :). As you do.

P.S I’ve finally got my arse in gear to do a newsletter so if you never want to miss a post be sure to add your email to the subscribers box.