How to ace at buying art online

When an old friend sent me this quote the morning after the Blog Awards, I wanted to hug him.

Art is Just Eh print www.etsy.com

Art is Just Eh print www.etsy.com

We say "Eh?" a lot in Yorkshire. It's not that we're all hard of hearing or anything. Eh? can mean pardon, but it's also the equivalent of WTF?

And WTF is the world without art in it... eh? It's empty that's what. And so is my house and your house and anyone else's house whose walls aren't freckled with pictures or pieces of art that evoke good vibes.

He's not a typical art lover, my old school friend, and he's probably one of the last people on Earth I was expecting a message of support from the morning after the Blog Awards. But that kind of made it even more special that he saw this arty farty quote and thought of me. As chance would have it, that night I went home to my latest art acquisition, this beautiful limited edition photographic print by Nadia Atturra called, Candy Floss Beach.

Candy Floss Beach by Nadia Attura from www.riseart.com

Candy Floss Beach by Nadia Attura from www.riseart.com

Art is now my favourite thing to buy along with faux fur and Pinot Grigio. For milestones and special occasions, I'll always buy a painting or a print that speaks to me and will forever remind me of that particular moment in time. Likewise, I'd always prefer to buy art as a gift over, say, jewellery that may end up shoved at the back of a drawer and forgotten about. 

But buying art can be a daunting business. I once entered an art dealer in York and emerged 40 minutes later, tipsy from free prosecco and on the verge of committing to a hefty monthly payment plan. I'd only gone in because the paint on their back wall was the same shade that I was thinking about for my entrance hall. 

Buying art needn't be a high brow event. You should always visit galleries and exhibitions for unparalleled inspiration and also to get a feel for what styles you like, but it is totally possible to buy art you love from the comfort of your armchair, thanks to online specialists such as Rise Art. Of course a computer screen can never match the gallery experience, but when you are undecided about how to fill a particular space on a wall, I've found that sitting staring at said wall with laptop in hand and the ability to hold up a few options, really helps. It's also worth remembering that if you like it on a computer screen, the chances are you will LOVE it in real life.

Rise Art is run by professional art curators which means that if you're keen on collecting up and coming artists,  they've done the research for you and pulled together a collection of recommended artists at varying price points. You can rest assured that you are buying a recognised or emerging name that will hold or increase in value.

Whilst we'd all love a Tracey Emin or a David Hockney to call our own, we shouldn't be swayed entirely by the hot artist of the moment.

I chose Candy Floss Beach from the extensive Rise Art collections by scrolling quickly through the site and shortlisting the pieces that made me stop. At first it was the colours that grabbed me - all the dusky shades and faded pastels that I love so much and reflect my own personal interior tastes. Then it was the subject matter that resonated. A bloke selling pretty, pink Candy Floss on a deserted Indian beach? This dude and I clearly share the same business sense.

Finally, it was the size that sold it to me. I wanted a standalone piece to sit above a vintage sideboard. The print filled my space to perfection and, framed in walnut, also blends well with my beloved vintage furniture. It felt like it was made for me which is always a sure fire sign that you're onto a winner. 

Buying from Rise Art is a simple process and all costs, including shipping and packaging, are clearly outlined. Framing is also an in-house option in a choice of three colours (black, walnut and white) but if you've got a specific request, just ask and they will do their best to accommodate you. 

Don't be scared by "try before you buy" option which sounds like a sales trap but is intended to give you a chance to feel confident that the art you love is going to work in your space. For a monthly fee, you can borrow any artwork on the Rise Art site and if you do decide to buy it (most people do) they will offset some of what you’ve already spent against the original price.
If you’re renting a piece, you can also opt in to an additional damage waiver which is a great idea if you have young kids or are as accident prone as me.

The temporary home for Candy Floss Beach until its new, modern setting is complete.

The temporary home for Candy Floss Beach until its new, modern setting is complete.

Mine may seem a surprising choice if you don't know me very well and a perfect choice if you do. My aim is always to make my walls personal, not predictable and the more unique your art collection is, the more you will come to love it. Here's some more of my favourites from the Rise Art collections, and even if you're not buying, it's an enriching experience just to visit the website and explore what art is at the centre of your Earth. (see what I did there?)

L to R Witness by Negar Farajiani, Nuff Said by Niki Hare, Audition no 1 Girl From Behind by Jonathan Alibone  The Broken Dream by Ali Cha Aban   Retroversion Artist's Proof by Hush, Apple Blossom Graphic Impression by Robin Duttson, Anchor Bull by Peter Haslam Fox, Notice Me by Mikela Henry Lowe

What are your experiences of buying art online? Do you tend to play safe and buy prints or are you addicted to the point where you're running out of wallspace? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

Claire

 

 

The Habitat hero light that's good for the brass

Our eyes met over a crowded dancefloor. Within seconds I knew he was the one.

No, I'm not talking about my chance meeting with super gorgeous DesignSixtyNine in the pop-up #lightclub at Habitat's lighting event last week (though that was a very special thing too). Instead, I'm gushing over Marteau, the light that has finally ended my search for the perfect pendant in my new kitchen. 

Marteau brass pendant light £175 ww.habitat.co.uk

Marteau brass pendant light £175 ww.habitat.co.uk

With its hand beaten brass shade, the Marteau ceiling pendant is a modern light with a vintage feel about it. I'm looking for three large pendants to hang over my kitchen island and whilst I adore Tom Dixon's copper ball lights, they are £280 each and I worry the copper will date. Brass on the other hand has a timelessness about it and tends to go with the mish-mash of other metallics I have around the house. I'm not into matchy-matchy, so I don't need my kitchen handles and light fittings to be the same, but I do want them to complement each other. Brushed steel and antique brass feel like brothers from different mothers. It's exactly the synergy I'm keen to nurture in my new room scheme and at £175 each they come in at a competitive price point too.

Back in my natural Habitat

When my beloved Leeds branch of Habitat closed a few years ago and the brand moved to be more of an online retailer, I have to admit I fell a little out of love with it. A browse around a Habitat store was always such an aspirational experience and one I refused to believe could be matched by scrolling through a computer screen. So I jumped at the invitation to visit Habitat's flagship Tottenham Court Road showroom for their Light Club event and re-acquaint myself with their latest lighting offering. It was reassuring to find that whilst its retail experience may have changed over time, the legendary Habitat design ethos hasn't. It's still got that distinguished Terence Conran feel to it and a lighting range every bit as iconic as I remember. 

In addition to Marteau, these were my top ten faves:

1) Astrid

Astrid black metal and glass floorlamp £295

Astrid black metal and glass floorlamp £295

2). Apex

Apex geometric table lamp £65

Apex geometric table lamp £65

3) Burgess

Burgess table lamp now £50

Burgess table lamp now £50

4) Marbelle

Marbelle floor lamp with yellow silk shade £190

Marbelle floor lamp with yellow silk shade £190

5) Cinders

Cinders trio pendant light £180

Cinders trio pendant light £180

6) Rock

Rock copper ceiling light £75

Rock copper ceiling light £75

7) Aberdeen 

Aberdeen extendable wall light £190

Aberdeen extendable wall light £190

8) Tessellate

Tesselate decorative LED wall light £275

Tesselate decorative LED wall light £275

9) Kuriko table lamp

Kuriko marble and gold table lamp £140

Kuriko marble and gold table lamp £140

10) Kuriko marble and gold floor lamp

Kuriko marble and gold floor lamp £250

Kuriko marble and gold floor lamp £250

I know I said I don't do matchy-matchy, but I'd make an exception to the rule for this last pair of Flo-esque marble based beauties, wouldn't you?

Claire 

 

Three Front Row fashion looks for your Front Room

For a fresh fashion update at home, you can't beat a new accent chair.  I'm not saying you should go changing your seating every season, of course not! but if you are in the market for a front room fash-over, it pays to focus on this one key piece of furniture and a few kick-ass accessories. 

My baby blue corduroy Angel chair by www.tubchairs.com

My baby blue corduroy Angel chair by www.tubchairs.com

I teamed up with www.tubchairs.com - part of Sloane and Sons - to work my favourite high end AW17  fashion looks using three of their super affordable accent chairs, plus some catwalk inspired accessories. If you like any of these ideas, or have seen something on their website that has ignited your fashion senses, get an extra 10% off with code SWATCH10.  

1) Corduroy Dreams

Nina Ricci was among the AW17 designers to feature corduroy that is anything but dowdy.

Nina Ricci was among the AW17 designers to feature corduroy that is anything but dowdy.

No longer restricted to trainspotters, Corduroy is THE geek chic fabric to be seen in this winter. Work it into your home with a scandi inspired Angel chair in powdery shades of blue and pink. Take your inspo from the high street and team coloured corduroy with chunky knit throws and cushions. The one below is from Argos. Who'd have thought a corduroy and cable knit combo could look so cute?  

L to R Pink Corduroy Angel Chair and Blue Corduroy Angel Chair, both £199 www.tubchairs.com, bright pink corduroys by Isabel Marant, chunky knit cushion £12.99 www.argos.co.uk

2. check mates

Twee free Tweed at Louis Vuitton

Twee free Tweed at Louis Vuitton

Timeless - check. Homely - check. On trend - double check. Tweed is a perennial winter favourite but this season it's back with a double dose of cool. A classic tweed tub chair is a handy extra seat to have. At just £124.99 from www.tubchairs.com this one makes a great feature chair to pull up to the end of an industrial style dining table too. But to make sure the look is more pop star than pensioner, team your tweed with shiny black lighting and edgy patent leather. 

L to R, Neyland Sky tartan fabric tub chair £124.99 www.tubchairs.com, Ziggy patent leather cushion, £135.99 www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk, DOCKS Industrial dining table £197 www.maisondumonde.co.uk, Gloss black enamel wall light £203.04 www.urbancottageindustries.co.uk

3) High fash florals

Gucci's fresh take on florals for AW17

Gucci's fresh take on florals for AW17

Gucci has done trad florals a favour this season, but you may need to channel your inner Iris Apfel to pull it off. Thankfully, this is a much easier look to work at home than it is on the school run and the key is in the clash. At £245 the Kew Floral wingback leaves room in the budget to ace your cushion game. Give your chair a couture chintz-over with silk cushions in clashing brights and garish logos. It's not a look for the faint-hearted and that's exactly the point. Neat vodka in a china cup is where we're aiming here.

L to R Kew Floral Wingback, £245 www.tubchairs.com. Firenze cushion, Manolete cushion, Heart Grasses cushion all www.amara.com

Scandi Candy - the sequel

So what's your fave of these fashion looks? I chose the powder blue corduroy Angel chair for an exciting interior makeover I'm currently working on. Inspired by a pair of corduroy flares I tore out of an Elle fashion campaign whilst on holiday, I began the search for the perfect chair to bring some scandi cool and retro styling to a modern living area.  Super speedy delivery meant that my chair has arrived way before my makeover is complete, but I'm excited to show you the results very soon so stay tuned!

Got any fashion inspired interior looks you need help with? Please do let me know in the comments section, I've got an eagle eye where House Candy is concerned!

Claire x

I have this thing with String

String bikinis, string vests, String shelves, string cheese... All revolutionary design concepts in their own unique way, but only one is synonymous with great taste. 

White string shelving and wall panels available from www.skandium.com

White string shelving and wall panels available from www.skandium.com

String shelves are an all-time design classic and the foundation of my ultimate #shelfiegoals. A recent trip to String stockist Skandium's new London store was a reminder of why this simplest of display mechanisms has stood the test of time. 

String shelves ash white.jpg

The String shelving system was created in 1949 by Swedish inventor Nils Strinning who had a philosophy I can totally get on board with. He believed that nothing is too modest that it cannot be improved and was inspired to enter a competition to design a bookshelf so good that it would encourage the Swedes to buy more books. Och Voila! the extendable shelving system was born, featuring another of Nils' new inventions - plastic coated wire. He won the competition of course and his design has been winning admirers ever since.  

Needless to say, I am one of those admirers. It's always been a love of the iconic design, rather than the practicalities that have driven my lust for String shelving when, let's face it, Ikea's £30 Billy bookcase will clearly do the job. But following a ruthless cull of my belongings in readiness for my current house renovations, I've managed to edit down my tat to only my favourite things and everyday essentials. Only now... now that I can see what I've got and appreciate it,  do I feel ready to invest in a useful, beautiful way to organise it all.

white string shelves.jpg

Art... books... ceramics... there's a place for everything in the String range and arranging the shelves in different size and depth configurations makes for a wall of art in itself. Whatsmore, with the String system I can add an extra layer or a couple more rows as the need and the budget allows. 

Colourwise, the string system comes in white, black, grey and three wood varieties. I'm fancying a mix of white and retro walnut for my new modern-scandi living-dining space that is currently under construction. 

String shelving system in Walnut from £72 www.skandium.com

String shelving system in Walnut from £72 www.skandium.com

What colour and style would you choose? Don't just mull it over mind, that's just too British. The kind people at String have gifted us a build your own configuration toy to play with on their website (basically Tetris for Interior nerds). Here you can design your own dream shelfie situation and wonder at the genius of Nills Strinning's invention. Try it out HERE.

Whilst you're doing that, I feel the need to list my top five reasons why it's String for the WIN where my future shelfies are concerned:

1) Elegance

It is the iconic delicate side panel which gives the String shelving system its character. Kerstin Wickman, professor of design and handcraft history at the university college of arts, crafts & design in Stockholm describes it as "elegant and clean-limbed - a slender ladder ascending the wall." Bet you'd never thought hanging your coat up could be a romantic affair did you?

Metal string system in white with white wall panels from £52 www.skandium.com

Metal string system in white with white wall panels from £52 www.skandium.com

2) Simplicity

Now I'm no DIYer and neither is my husband, so the simplicity of construction is right up there with looks as a top priority for any piece of furniture that enters our house. String shelves are so quick and easy to assemble that I can keep adding, taking away and repositioning to my heart's content.... Prepare for endless Sunday shelfies people.

4) Timelessness

Original 1950s String shelving

Original 1950s String shelving

String shelves have not changed in appearance since they first appeared on the market almost seventy years ago and I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of legal document to insist that they are preserved this way forever and ever amen (or important words to that effect).

I mean, Nills, I hear you man, modesty can be improved upon, but perfection can't. 

5) Books

I promised myself my own little reading corner, back in January when I got annoyed with how our house had turned so horribly wired and I can't think of a better excuse to put that plan into action. After all, encouraging book buying was the very reason the String shelving system came into being in the first place and I like that 70 years on it is still doing just that. f that's not a marker of brilliant design, I don't know what is.

Do you shelfie on a regular basis? Have you fallen under the String spell too? I'd love to hear your feedback. Please get in touch below. 

Claire

 

The Candy Files: All hail the Housebrid

What's hot, what's not and what's what at my place. 

It's never been hotter to hybrid. I don't actually think you can call yourself modern if you're not a slick amalgamation of at least two wonderful commodities. 

Take today for example. I write to you wearing a shress with a coatigan ready to throw over when I head out for prinks.

A sassy Shresser if ever I saw one (sadly not me)

A sassy Shresser if ever I saw one (sadly not me)

Style-wise at least, I'm a mixed up multi-tasking machine and I've also noticed it happening in my house. With the extension plans steaming ahead, I've found myself tackling a bit of an interiors identity crisis at home and discovered that, happily, a good hybrid can help. 

House Candy = Modic

Classic modern.jpg

Is it modern? Is it classic? Don't be ridiculous, it's Modic. I'm referring of course to my interiors style which I've been struggling to identify as anything other than complete chaos until I embraced hybrid mode. Now I feel I can belong, happily categorised by my classic features and modern edge. It makes decor decision making so much easier now I've found a niche I can cling to. Design wise, trying to be too many things all at once is both exhausting and complicated. I suggest narrowing down your niche to your two favourite styles and growing your own personal hybrid to help you develop a more coherent kind of eclecticism at home. Here, let me help:

Vintage + industrial = Vindustrial

Dark + edgy = Dedgy

Rustic + Skandi = Randi (Ahhh, now I get what the Hygge hype is all about)

Fine and Candy = Greige

Greige kitchen.jpg

What do you do when grey is too obvious and beige is banned? You go greige, that's what. Far from being basic or boring, Greige has emerged as the sophisticated neutral. Not so fashionable that it will easily date, but well equipped to shirk off any "safe" accusations purely on account of it being a modern hybrid. Genius. See Farrow and Ball's eternally chic Elephants Breath for reference.

Candy Pandy = Kettaps

kettle taps.jpg

It doesn't work as a word (which is why no-one has ever come up with it) and I'm yet to be convinced it works as a concept. These newfangled kettle taps - the ones that produce instant boiling water - I'm concerned they are ruining the art of tea making. I mean, tea breaks are short enough without them being reduced by the amount of time it takes to boil a kettle. I rebelled at the very first mention of them and reverted to a stove top whistling kettle. It's added exactly three minutes onto elevenses which is just enough time for a bit of mid-morning mindfulness - that thing tea breaks were designed for, remember? So I'm refusing to believe my builder who says kettle taps are the future and that I'm mad not to include one in the new kitchen. "It's like the Shoe Boot" I explained, "unnecessary evolution." It's my only other hybrid hiatus. We're all allowed a couple, what are yours? 

Claire

 

Get your design-fest feet on

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever” John Keats

Keats totally gets House Candy was my first musing of the day as I stepped out of bed this morning. And as a champion of beautiful design in general, Keats would have loved this week’s London Design Festival too.

Tracey Neuls shearling slippers 

Tracey Neuls shearling slippers 

This is the week when brands, artists and creatives from all sectors of the design world collaborate throughout the city in celebration of their craft.

Whether you’re into architecture, sculpture, interiors or, in fact, shoes there is a design event to get your creative juices flowing. For a full list of events throughout the week, click here. 

Now I’m your typical London tourist and a true urbanite would suss that I’m from out of town way before I flagged down a black cab from the wrong side of the road. I’m the one studying the tube map intently and following google maps around in circles with too many bags and too high a heel.

Yesterday I attempted to do London Design Festival in seven hours. I failed (obviously) and am now home annoyed at my amateurishness, peeved at what I’ve missed out on and stinking of Deep Heat.  

So if you're thinking of tackling the London Design Festival trail this week, can I point you in the direction of Tracey Neuls in Marleybone as a starting reference please? 

Here you can ooh and ahhh at the deliciousness of the beautifully crafted footwear like a true design officianado, (quote a bit of Keats if you fancy, the arty crowd loves that) But you can also purchase footwear that sends out all the right style notes to your fellow design lovers, whilst ensuring the schlep across town is a comfy one. 

Tracey Neuls is a verified haven for the weary design lover, having turned its Marylebone store into a bedroom.

The Tracey Neuls Marleybone bedroom installation for London Design Festival.

The Tracey Neuls Marleybone bedroom installation for London Design Festival.

That’s right, a King Size McQueen bed by British Modern furniture designer Matthew Hilton dominates the space, dressed in finest The Linen Works linen. My favourite Michael Anastassiades lamp for Flos glows through the night as a variety of special guests host “pillow talks” on their favourite topics of design.

Hop on the bed, try on a pair of stunningly beautiful hand made shoes, or get under the covers and take in the dream-scape of floating footwear hanging from the ceiling. The staff in there won’t mind a bit and will even run you through a few not-to-miss Design Festival events if you ask nicely.

Taking pitty on my aching feet, passionate Brand Manager, Jane Howard, was even happy for me to pop on a pair of electric blue shearling slippers whilst she kindly charged my phone. My once beloved River Island buckle ankle boots were killing me and, I realised, not at all up to doing the Design Trail distance. They may have been a joy for last season, but a joy forever they are not. And that’s not a marker of great design is it? John Keats knew it, Tracey Neuls knows it and now Claire Price knows it too.

Next time I do Design Festival darling, I’m wearing these:

Petrol blue patent lace ups, £185 Tracey Neuls.

Petrol blue patent lace ups, £185 Tracey Neuls.

Happy Design Festival all,

Claire x

 

The brown bowls that you'll love more than bell bottoms

I didn't think the new Studio Craft range from Denby Pottery was for me. The hipsters? definitely. The skandis? for sure. But pretty vintage tea plate loving me? Not so much.

The artisinal beauty of Denby Pottery's Studio Craft range 

The artisinal beauty of Denby Pottery's Studio Craft range 

I was wrong.

Since living with a selection of stackable Studio Craft bowls for oooh, all of a month, I've become totally and utterly nuts for them. And I'm talking all of the nuts - brazil, pecan, cashew, coco. Colourwise, there's a real natural nuttiness to the whole range that will have you collecting different co-ordinating pieces like a squirrel in September.

Mix and Match Studio Craft bowls by Denby Pottery

Mix and Match Studio Craft bowls by Denby Pottery

Trust me, I did not see this coming but there it is, the full Studio Craft set, pinned and poised on my new kitchen mood board, along with a pair of sky blue corduroys and some Portuguese cowboy boots. Go figure!

My kitchen mood board flares

My kitchen mood board flares

So how did this little brown swerve ball come so blatantly out of the blue? Well I blame my sideboard. Despite my spray painted kitchen dresser being bang-on-trend baby blue, it was beginning to give me a headache. Then, one by one, as I unpacked the taster set of stackable Studio Craft bowls so very kindly sent to me in varying shades of seventies beige, something soothing happened. I can only aliken it to the feeling hippies get when they slip on a pair of sensible Birkenstocks with their crazy demin flares. I think you call it peace, man. 

Denby's brown bowls I'm now nuts for

Denby's brown bowls I'm now nuts for

Brown, it seems, is the earthy, grounding neutral that my beloved sweet shades need. I've noticed this with the brown furniture I keep acquiring and the same is true for pottery. Like a battered brown leather vintage sofa, there's a wholesomeness to Denby's Studio Craft range that takes the sweetness off my beloved pastel colours and gives them a far more palatable retro vibe. 

A set of four co-ordinating stacking bowls from the Studio Craft range by Denby

A set of four co-ordinating stacking bowls from the Studio Craft range by Denby

Now I know what you're thinking. Last week I was banging on about vibrant, Mexican inspired tableware and less than seven days later, I've gone Geography teacher brown on you. Well I'm a fickle fashion follower, I'll give you that, but this one is far more of a keeper.  See, much as I love Sainsbury's South American set for all its playfulness, I happily handed it over to my 18-year-old niece in return for her doing the washing up. The same cannot be said for the studio craft set and I dare say she won't be a bit bothered. Brown and teenagers tend not to mix.

Bright and playful is perfect for summer, for parties, for brightening up dingy student kitchens and I'm all for that. But when you've got a lot of colour and pattern going on elsewhere in the house, as I have, it's important not to overdo it - especially with your everyday homewares. And that's what this range excels at. It's the perfect base for toning down, for sobering up, for getting your sensible head on - Geography teacher style (you know - the kind that you secretly fancy). The mottled glaze has a woody, artisinal purity about it that allows me to play with sweeter colours in a far more grown up - and infinitely cooler - way.  Introducing the elements to my new kitchen will, I feel, ground it and encourage that fickle fashionista in me to think beyond next season.

The mix of earthy vintage browns and bright modern blues that is my current retro style crush. Image via e_manciu on Instagram

The mix of earthy vintage browns and bright modern blues that is my current retro style crush. Image via e_manciu on Instagram

The combination of earthy browns and bright modern blues creates an unmistakeable retro vibe, that I'm mad for. Call it hippy, hipster or just plain hip, I'm ready to fill my platform boots (and my dresser) with Denby Studio Craft and nobody could be more surprised by that style development than me. Give it a try, it's a marmite set for sure, but I think it may surprise you. See the full set here.

Claire 

Hello student digs, Hola! hip Sainsbury's Homewares

Students these days... and yes I did just roll my eyes. In my day you were lucky if your digs weren't rat infested. Today, they demand freshly painted walls, en-suite facilities a George Foreman grill and a Nutribullet. The nerve of 'em! What happened to warming up Farm Foods beans over a bunsen burner? (ancient student folklore says that actually happened).

Today's students want a lot more dish for their dosh and who can blame them, considering they'll be paying off their fees for the next 20 years - a whole other political minefield that I'm not qualified to go into. What I am a professor in, however, is hip, affordable House Candy and if you're waving off a loved one soon (or you yourself are packing your cases) you need to hot foot it to Sainsbury's THIS VERY WEEK to snap up the last of their bright and breezy South American homewares line. The students are, like, mad-fer-it and my niece is proof. So much so that when I invited her around to my send-off soup kitchen yesterday, I let her take the bowls home.

Here's how to send students off to fend for themselves with fire in their belly and House Candy in their hearts. 

Sainsbury's Home South American tableware range in store until 20th September

Sainsbury's Home South American tableware range in store until 20th September

My Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot End of Summer Soup

Sainsbury's Home South American range had me at Hola. Its bright colours, Aztec patterning and mix and match versatility makes it perfect for adding some vibrancy to very basic student kitchens. It inspired me to dig out Thomasina Miers' brilliant Mexican Food Made Simple cook book - a bible for social eating ideas - and cook up something hot and nutritious to stretch out the last days of summer and brighten up a grey day. 

In it I found the recipe for Sweet and Spicy Squash and Chick Pea Soup  - the perfect easy meal to make now and freeze for later, or pad out to feed an entire hockey team. Just add extra stock, any spare veg and throw in more beans and spice. It's also one of those dishes you can reinvent three days in a row if you need to get a little more creative with your shopping budget and - best of all - the spices warm your belly so you can go that little bit longer without the heating on ;-)

Sainsbury's South American bowls and plates come in a variety of vibrant colour contrasting patterns to mix and match 

Sainsbury's South American bowls and plates come in a variety of vibrant colour contrasting patterns to mix and match 

Sweet and Spicy Squash and Chick Pea Soup

For the chilli oil
4 red chillies, cut in half lengthways, seeded and finely diced
A generous pinch of sea salt
100ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small leeks, washed and roughly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 chile de arbol, finely chopped
5 sprigs of oregano or thyme, chopped
1 butternut squash (about 320g), peeled, seeded and chopped into 2.5cm pieces
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
400ml chicken stock
220g cooked chickpeas
Sea salt and black pepper
30g lancashire cheese, grated, to serve

For the chilli oil, mix together the chillies and salt in a small bowl and gradually add the olive oil. The oil should only just cover the chilli, otherwise you are left with a lot of oil and not much heat. Leave to infuse for 30 minutes before using.

For the soup, warm the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan, then grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Cook the leeks for 5 minutes over a medium heat until tender, then add the garlic, chile de arbol, oregano/thyme and cumin and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the squash, the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and stir. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the squash is soft but not falling apart. Add the chickpeas and season. Serve with the grated cheese sprinkled on top and drizzle each portion with chilli oil.

Colourfully edged serving platters are perfect for displaying rustic breads.

Colourfully edged serving platters are perfect for displaying rustic breads.

Sainsburys Home is my go-to for affordable luxury and bang on-trend bargains. A word of warning though, their ranges move fast so my advice is to bang it in your trolley while you can. The South American range is supposed to be in store until 20th September and appears to be no longer available on-line. Head to one of the bigger superstores for the best range to kit out the new breed of student super snobs in style. 

Hey, if you enjoyed this post, please remember I'm still a student too - I'm learning on the job in the big, bad business of blogging (where cheesy alliteration is totally acceptable btw) so I totally need your vote in order to make the grade. PLEASE bob my a vote here http://www.interiorblogawards.com/vote/my-house-candy-blog/ and share, share, share away to send me off in a spangly new dress to the fancy awards do.

Thank you, happy weekend and happy studies

Claire xxx 

 

 

 

The Posh Push is ON. Are you?

If I was a Spice Girl, I would have been Posh. In fact, when I got married a few months after Victoria Beckham, wearing a not dissimilar gold satin gown, tiara perched atop my spiky cropped hair do, I earned the moniker Posh Price and I think my husband would agree that I've done the title proud. 

Queen VB showing us how to Spice up your bath

Queen VB showing us how to Spice up your bath

I've always had aspirations of grandeur, even when stuck with a student budget because; fortune or fiver, I believe you should spend your hard-earned cash wisely. Well, don't you?

So flying the flag for Luxury Blog in the Amara Interior Blog Awards this year feels a bit like a homecoming. I actually believe this is where I was heading all along. Here's where I can write, to my heart's content, about the stuff I adore - beautiful, aspirational homewares that quite frankly send me gaga.

I'm also the one to show you how a five-pound charity shop scoop can be styled to look like a designer gem. Remember VB's Gucci-esque LBD that was actually M&S? You can totally do the same with House Candy, you've just got to know what to look for.

So as the closing date for votes in the Interior Blog Awards approaches (15th September to be precise) I am required to do one last push for your votes and I wanted to make it a posh one.

See, posh is where it's at people. Luxe is everywhere and (luckily) at every price point in the interior design market. You no longer need VB's bank balance to bag a super expensive look for your home. Instead, it's about being style savvy with your spending and it's my job to show you how.

If I make it through to the shortlist and therefore into the territory of Serious Blogger Status, I will be committed to bringing you the very best in:

  • Top drawer interior House Candy worth investing in.
  • High-end designer trends that we can translate into even the most modest of abodes.
  • Vintage accessorizing and cheeky up cycles to give your home that luxury eclectic vibe, even on a shoestring budget.

Fashion Bunnies*, I need your vote like Victoria Beckham needs her Birkins. PLEASE, in the name of Girl Power will you do me the honour of casting me your vote? Simply click the following link if you too love your House Candy:

http://www.interiorblogawards.com/vote/my-house-candy-blog/

Thank you so much for your support. If you don't hear from me after the shortlist is announced please assume I've run away to join a girl band. I'll be the one wearing the pout.

Claire xxx

*Copyright of Queen Victoria Beckham and never, ever to be used by me again. Promise.

Time to Gucci your Garden Game

Botanical inspired prints have long been a favourite of mine, but I'm acutely aware of the danger for this trend to slip into twee territory. 

Trust Gucci then to provide me with a masterclass in modern botanicals as I flew past Harrods' window on Saturday, attempting to land my eldest son some new trainers. 

Unable to locate the elusive Office store via Google Maps, George and I were treated to a whistle stop tour of the amazing Gucci Garden window display not once, not twice, but FOUR times. Apologies are due to the many tourists, shoppers and residents around London's most iconic shopping destination, whose toes I stepped on, bags I knocked and heads I bumped as I raced along during our 20-minute shopping window, heavily distracted by Harrods' garden of cultivated couture.

Gucci Garden is designer Alessandro Michele's theme for the 2017 Cruise Collection, inspired by the enchanting Garden of Ninfa, near Rome.  Featuring vibrant florals, logos and symbols of the House, this is botanical beauty as we've never seen it before. Whilst the dreamy dresses aren't exactly something I could rock up wearing on the school run, I'm totally inspired to bring this outdoor theme indoors. My sources tell me a Gucci interiors range is set to launch in September (I KNOW!!!) but in case you can't wait for that or need to nab the look for less, here's some ideas to capture the Gucci Garden getup at home:

1) Creature discomforts

Flamingos and zebras are both animals you can imagine strolling round a Gucci Garden and of course I'm totally on board with that. But all is not rosy here, for this enchanted land has a proverbial sting in its tail. To nail the look, update your creature inspired accessories with venomous snakes, precious bees and vicious wild cats.

L to R: Garden of Eden cushion £164 Roberto Cavalli at Amara, Beautiful bird cushion £32 by May Rose Vintage on Etsy, Leopard lampshade £30 May Rose Vintage as before, Gold bumble bee cushion £35 Perch and Parrow

She is famed for her pets but now Abigail Ahern has added some pests to her latest accessories collection and basically folks, if she says ants are cool, I'm happy for a nest of 'em.  

Gold ants £45 Abigail Ahern

Gold ants £45 Abigail Ahern

2) Walls of wonder

If Gucci has the monopoly on vibrant florals in the fashion world, Designer's Guild has it for interiors. Here are just a few of my favourite bold botanicals that are totally in sync with Alessandro Michele's fashion thinking.

L to R Amrapali Peony, Jardin des Plantes, Canopy and Cristian Lacroix wallpapers, all Designers Guild.

3) Fantastical furniture

Timorous Beasties and Blackpop UK are brands to know for fabulous fabrics that transform traditional furniture into works of art that are anything but twee. It's worth knowing that their websites also have some ready made pieces that rock the Garden of Delights theme too. Look for butterfly and hummingbird motifs to be Gucci symbol savvy.

Random Ruskin Khaki Armchair Timorous Beasties

Random Ruskin Khaki Armchair Timorous Beasties

Vintage sofa by Blackpop UK

Vintage sofa by Blackpop UK

So getting back to my wild goose chase in search of trainers for my son last Saturday... there was always a fear we'd get lost, being as we're such out of towners and all, but if I can recommend getting lost anywhere, I'd definitely say do it at Harrods ever changing window displays on Brompton Road. Be quick if, like me, your garden game needs Gucci-ing (Totally a thing, trust me).

OH BUT WAIT...

If you enjoyed this post and it provided you with any interior inspiration whatsoever, I would really appreciate your vote in the Amara Interior Blog Awards, please. I'm a bit like a Humming Bird swooping around the Garden of Ninfa in blogging terms come to think of it. I can be quite difficult to spot amongst the bigger species, but I'd like to think I bring something different, and a lot of decadence to the party. Please click here if you can spare one minute to vote for the small bird in the big, enchanting garden!

Many, many thanks.

Claire xx