Property: Most innovative project

MONMOUTHSHIRE, UK – I always like looking at property. In fact I spend a lot of my spare time online looking at homes on sale. It runs in the family.

My mother is obsessed with property and she’s passed it on to her children. Whenever we go on holiday we’re get so interested in looking at the latest property listings for the area we sometimes forget to appreciate the tourist sights. Fact! One time my mother ended up buying a 170 hectare farm while on holiday.

Anyway, today’s post is about two really cool homes. The first was built in Monmouthshire which was awarded ‘Overall Winner’ by the Telegraph Homebuilding and Renovating Awards. Winner1It has three storeys and four bedrooms. Winner2 The architects, Hall and Bednarczyk, impressed the judges with the combination of style and local materials. Winner3 I love the light that flows in to this room. What a great place to have breakfast each morning. Hard not to enjoy a view like that!

Now the award for ‘Most innovative project’ goes to this home designed by Birds Portchmouth Russum (funny name). You can see why.


Take a look at the very modern interiors.


Do you ever think that when design is this advanced that it doesn’t have a high resell value? Hmm…I don’t have the answer, but I do love the height of this room and the curved walls.


Photographs courtesy of Simon Maxwell.

Columbia Road flower market: Part 1

LONDON – It’s hard to put into words how annoyed I was with myself this morning when I arrived at Columbia Road flower market , a trip I had been planning for some time, and realised I had forgotten my camera! I’m still reeling from the moment. It took me two buses to get there and once I realised I hadn’t brought my camera, I toyed with the idea of turning back. But then I’d come so far and decided to press on. Sigh!

To sum up, Columbia Road is really, really cool and well worth a visit. I’m going to return and take some snaps and probably shop some more and then I’ll write up about it in Part 2. But right now, here is my Part 1, with limited visuals.

If I have any advice for you, go early. I arrived at about 11 am and was confronted with big crowds that you have to navigate your way through in order to experience the market. Columbia Road is narrow and flower vendors line both sides of the street making the pedestrian area even more narrow. As a result, when it gets busy, it slows down and you have to be patient because you really are moving at a snail’s pace.

The crowds are colourful. It’s touristy so you’ll see a lot of foreigners – with cameras! It’s also in the East End. It’s also sells lots of garden plants so you’ll rub shoulders literally with pensioners too. It’s a mix. So go because you’ll fit in too.

As you slowly make your way down the street, the vendors will shout out their prices ‘three for a tenah (£10)’ or ‘roses, roses, come and get your roses. Twenty for £8.’ You get what I mean. It’s repetitive but it gives you an idea of what the deals are. Basically, they all sell at the same rate. And once the day wears on, the price drops because they need to sell their goods before 3 pm when they close up or before they’ve lost their voice – which was happening. It might be a good idea to stick around till the end because you could negotiate a good deal. One thing I did like about the vendors is that they were locals. No foreigners here. So it makes you feel like you’re experiencing the local culture.

There is a large variety of flowers. Expect: tulips, gladioli, roses galore, Chinese lanterns, sunflowers and what was particularly popular were the agapanthas. I really wanted to buy them. They were five stems for £10, but held back until I bought some cabbages. I’ve seen these for years and have always wanted to buy them. I paid £5 for five stems.

I’m assuming the flowers are seasonal. I didn’t ask. But they were in good condition and it felt fun to walk away with my flowers wrapped up in brown paper just like everyone else. What wasn’t fun was being wacked in the face by people with tall plants thrown over their shoulder. So be aware of that.

Once you’re done with the flower market. Take a deep breath. You’ve made it through part 1 of the visit. But don’t leave. Because behind the flower vendors are the shops and I have to say, there was a great assortment to browse through. I ended up buying a second hand book ‘How green was my valley’ by Richard Llewellyn (I’ve read it before and it’s very good) for £5. I also popped into Beyond Fabric and for £1 purchased a small square of fabric. I’ve decided to make my own bunting later this year for Christmas decoration.

There is also a small side street that you can pass through and you will find a cafe called Lily Vanilli. Apparently it’s got a celebrity following. I had no idea. But as I walked in my eyes fell on to this thick slice of bread, covered in vegetables and melting cheese. It looked soooo good. After what seemed like a long painful wait in the queue (their service is a bit wet behind the ears), I finally ordered the cheesy bread and I tell you, it was well worth the wait. It was so delicious. Sometimes meals with the simplest ingredients are the best. All they did was put some red onions and cooked baby marrows on a slice of thick brown bread covered in a sharp cheese and melt it  in the oven. It was a winner!

Talking of celebrities, I did bump into a b-list celebrity! Remember the actress from ‘It’s Comlicated’? No, I did not bump into Meryl Streep. The other woman in the movie. This one.

Lake Bell Picture

Her name is Lake Bell. I sort of got a shock when I saw her. I knew I had seen her before but wasn’t sure where from. We made eye contact and she looked confused because of the way I reacted to seeing her. Not all star struck, but just when you see someone and you think you need to say hi because you know them from somewhere. Anyway, we didn’t stop for a natter.

And finally, here are my cabbages in the vase I bought from the Chelsea antique market in New York.

What flowers would you buy?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

This is how the Finnish want us to live

LONDON – The Marimekko brand today is getting bigger and stronger. New owners took over the company (started in 1951) in the early 90s and since then have really pushed to take the Finnish lifestyle brand global. Of course it’s here in London, in fact, it’s on St. Christopher’s place so quite central for many of us who live in the city, and there are plenty of retailers who carry the range too, including John Lewis, where you can purchase online.

When you think Marimekko you’ll almost always think of bold, large, eye catching prints. They’re fun and really bring creativity and warmth to the home. I loved this outdoor bag for your plants that I spotted in the shop windor. I imagine it could have a few uses but I liked what they did with it.

The brand initially was put on centre stage thanks to Jackie Kennedy who wore many of the bold print dresses and since then it’s grown to include an entire lifestyle range for the home.

I recommend going to the shop and getting the Marimekko experience because then you can touch and see the products up close and get a sense for how they work.

Here are just a few things that you should consider for your home.

What have you bought from Marimekko? I still need to make my first purchase. I’m tempted to buy some fabric.

Tie me up…with ribbon

LONDON – Stumbled upon…this fantastic ribbon shop called V.V.Rouleaux in South West London a few weeks ago and felt I had to share the details with you. It’s just a few blocks away from St. Christopher’s Place so you could probably explore both areas at the same time. This shop is well worth the visit if you love to play around with ribbon and have fun decorating gifts for all occasions. I know I do.

When you walk in you are greeted by rows and rows of beautiful ribbon.

Owner Annabel Lewis once owned a flower shop, so it’s easy to see why she brings a lot of colour and creativity to this one which has been referred to as the ‘Chanel of ribbons and trimmings’ or or as one designer said ‘it’s like sex on a spool’.

The shop also offers trimmings downstairs for interior design and fashion, as well as headresses, masks, and furniture. You can also take a course here on millinery (think of all those pretty fascinators that Kate Middleton wears around town).

But back to the ribbon.

It’s fun to see the variety as you walk up and down the aisles, and you can get a feel for Annabel’s love of texture and design too as she plays around with patterns. These were just some of the pics I was able to snap, but it’s just a small representation of what she offers.


I bought some ribbon. It wasn’t too pricey which is great because it feels like you can be a part of the V.V. Rouleaux experience without breaking the bank. I paid £2 for 1.5m of pretty, translucent pink ribbon that I’m going to match to the paper I bought from Prints Swedish Design.

That was the other thing I liked about this shop. I asked an assistant if he could help me match a nice ribbon to the wrapping paper I had and he immediately had ideas and took me around the shop to show me what would work. His idea was spot on. I love good customer service. Makes me believe in return business.

Make sure you visit this shop. It’s well worth a visit. If you know of other ribbon shops, drop me a line, I’d love to hear about them.