Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Handmade Christmas gifts for the home - for the love of letters

I promised a while ago that I would share with you amazing local makers (local being Devon, England)  that make unique and interesting products that would make fantastic Christmas gifts. Rather than just promote products that I think rock, I thought I'd make it more interesting by finding out more about the makers themselves. You know, stuff like what inspires them, why they make what they do, where they live, what style(s) they love as well as info about their products and where to buy them.

So, here today is my interview with Wendy Harrison, the founder of a fab typography oriented company called Letterfest. Don't know what Letterfest is? Then keep reading...

So tell me Wendy, how did Letterfest come about? When did it start and what is it all about?

Letterfest was set up 4 years ago when my husband I moved to North Devon from London to get away from the 12 hour days and commuting. We live by the coast in a lovely village called Instow. One day I had the idea of engraving pebbles with names and the rest is history! We make personalised home decor products and gifts. Our range includes: art prints, house illustrations, engraved pebbles and slates, chunky cardboard letters and kindle covers to name a few.

Personalised seaside A-Z print

Have you always made things? What did you do before Letterfest was born?

Before Letterfest I worked as a senior designer for Rimmel, The Body Shop and most recently Topshop. I worked on really exciting projects there for instore graphics, bags, packaging, a lot of sponsorship like Fashion Week and music events.

Wendy at work

What is it about typography that you love so much? 

As a graphic designer I love different fonts, typefaces and vintage letterpress. I designed my own fonts for many of the Letterfest products. I took photographs of lovely house number signs in New Zealand one holiday and these are used in one of our customised date art prints. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.

Cute Kindle covers

How can type work within people’s home? 

Personalising products with names and messages is a great way to incorporate type into your home. It can be a fun message spelled out on pebbles or your initials made out of modern chunky cardboard. See our product range if you need more convincing!

What inspires you to create each new product / range?

The natural landscape here in Devon has inspired a lot of our products. Our pebble products in particular and slate gifts. I can be inspired by shops signs or house numbers like I just mentioned. Often an idea will just come to me whilst I’m walking our dog Travis on the beach and I give it a go.

Engraved pebbles

Can you give me your top Letterfest product for the home at Christmas, for a gift and for yourself? Where can you buy Letterfest products? 

You can buy Letterfest products direct from our website This Christmas we are loving our Paint Your Own Christmas trees made from FSC cardboard. They are great for children to decorate or they just look good left au natural as a modern twist on a Christmas tree. Our art prints make lovely Christmas presents, personalised with a message to a loved one to make them really special and our pebbles always go down well as gifts throughout the year. I especially love the pebbles because I love the contrast between the rough natural stone and the delicate lines of the type. Each one is unique. 

Contemporary 3D cardboard Christmas tree

Home Restyler actively promotes local makers and small businesses. I can imagine you are passionate about this too, could you give me your thoughts on why you think this is important and how you champion it?  

Devon is a small market and local designer / makers should support one another. We help local makers sell their products and we are really proud that all our products are made here. 

Where do you live and what does your home say about you? 

Our house is also Letterfest HQ! We had a lovely new office built next to our house a year or so ago. What does our house say about us?  Well my husband and I like to pick up bits and pieces from antique shops and have a great collection of art prints which is always growing. I guess you would say our style is eclectic? Its proximity to the beach is fantastic for our lifestyle. We have a very energetic labradoodle who needs walking a lot and also loves swimming! In the summer we kayak and have a boat so we use the water a lot.

Last but not least, how will you be styling your home this Christmas?

Our tree is already up! Pink and purple is the colour scheme with red fairy lights. Trust me it works!

Using local artists and craftsmen in North Devon, Letterfest is a growing company whose products are aimed at anyone who loves good contemporary design. Their products range from personalised art prints and hand-drawn illustrations to 100% cotton Kindle covers and giant cardboard Christmas trees and many things in between. All cardboard products are made using FSC (The Forest Stewardship Council) approved pulp, so for every tree that is cut down, another is planted.

So what do you think? I love it. Doesn't life hanging out with Travis the dog and making beautiful things with love sounds idyllic?! And what's more, I was so excited when I found out that it's all made in and around Instow, because that's where I spent most of my childhood summers hanging out on the beach *smile*

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How to: create a homemade, natural winterland Christmas

Yay, having written this 'how to decorate for Christmas' feature for Devon Life magazine back in September, I am so pleased it is on sale from today. Does this now mean I can officially be all festive and stop pretending that I haven't been gradually styling our home with Christmas decorations already hee hee!

Over the next few weeks, I'll share with you some ideas and tips for how to style your own home for Christmas on a budget. I'm all about the natural look; think simple and understated, lots of foliage and woodland finds plus loads of candles and sparkle. In the meantime, to get you in the festive mood, here are some snaps of the feature.

The photos in the feature (taken by my fab friend and amazing photographer Sarah Lauren) were taken at a Christmas drinks party we held at our old house last year. The cupcakes on my wonky tree stump cake stand, which was the result of my attempt at self-taught carpentry (hmm!), were baked using Nigella's Christmas morning muffin recipe. Honestly, they are absolutely DE-licious, so much so that when my mum and I originally came across the recipe years ago we used the recipe to make my wedding cup cakes. Well, why not, cinnamon IS my favourite flavour after all *smile*

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How to: style your home with art

I'm always up for meeting new people, going to new places and trying out new things and last week, I ticked all of those boxes.

A while ago, I was chuffed to receive an invite to the 'Getting the Hang of It' blog party from the lovely Ferren at Easyart so I packed my bag and made my way up to London to spend an evening with a bunch of some of the best and loveliest UK design bloggers.

Pippa Jameson sharing her tips

Aside from the lovely people, delicious cocktails, scrummy nibbles, great artwork, fab goodie bags... it was a delight to hear what top interiors stylist Pippa Jameson had to say about styling with art and also to pick up blogging tips from colour lover & interiors blogger-extraordinaire Will Taylor. Not only all of this, but each of us go to take home with us a piece of artwork and this is what I got my lucky hands on...

Woo hoo it's my favourite colour yellow. Yup it's funky. And yup I LOVE it! Thank you so much Easy Art! If you would like to see photos from the night there are some snaps of the party over on the Easy Art blog.

Now on to the serious stuff. These are my thoughts and recommendations on

How to make the most of your wall space & style your home with art

1. Love It or Hate It.

Art is a very personal thing.  A genuine collectors piece and what one might coin 'a work of art' may in fact be quite the opposite for another. Take a modern piece of art by Warhol for example;

Reigning Queens, Andy Warhol

or a contemporary piece like the 1 O'Clock by Shyama Ruffell;

1 O'Clock, Shyama Ruffell

or even a classic like the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo;

Creation of Adam, Michelangelo

What do any of these mean to you?

How do they make you feel?

Which style do you prefer, if any?

Do you love or hate any or all of them?

Generally people have an opinion when it comes to art. So when choosing art for your home, the most important thing, above all else, is that you really must LOVE the piece that you are buying. If you don't you won't get that warm feeling in your belly each and every time you glance upon it. For me, when thinking about art in the home, if it doesn't make you feel something, is isn't worth the space on the wall.

2. Measure Up

Before you buy any art, think carefully about where you are going to place it. Are you going to hang it or stand it against a wall? What is on or against that wall already? Do you want to fill the entire empty space or just a portion of it? Do you want a collection of pieces or one main piece? Get the measuring tape out and make some informed decisions before commencing your search.

A beautiful collection of prints that have been carefully positioned but that give off a thrown-together look & that completely fill the wall space

One large piece that perfectly fits within the space, centrally hung above the luxurious sofa and that tones in perfectly with the overall colour scheme 

3. Select Your Style

Have you already bought a piece of art that you want to base the decor of a room around / want to include into an existing scheme? Or have you finished creating a room that you now need to purchase art for? Take stock of the room and its proportions, see where the light comes in at different times of the day and how it behaves within the space. You need to think about the furniture, soft furnishings and decorative items within the space - are you trying to blend your artwork in or do you want the artwork to break up the look. Any art should create some kind of impact but are you looking for harmony or discord?

Bold. Statement. Contrasting grey + turquoise scheme
Whether you like this Gilbert & George print or not, it suits the quirky look of this dining room to a T. Imagine what the space would look like without it...still funky, but somewhat bland huh?

These pieces sure as hell haven't been chosen to 'blend in'
These three pieces aren't my cup or tea, but they certainly make for a conversation starter. Imagine the room without them...instead of a modern, arty, designer-led feel it becomes an empty, neutral (dull), lack-lustre space.

Something Pippa demonstrated in her presentation was to show examples of rooms before and after artwork had been installed. Fascinating. It was such fun thinking about where to position art, what type of piece might work best and then seeing the actual works that were chosen. This is something you could always try for yourself when looking through magazines for inspiration.

At the end of the day, whatever you choose has to work for YOU. For me there are no rules when it comes to choosing art. Considering my very loose guidelines above gives you at least some boundaries to work within but hey, as I said before, if you love it, buy it and make it work. People have been known to re-decorate entire rooms, even houses to accommodate artwork they love!

Follow your heart. Go with your gut. Be passionate. *smile*

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Before & After: 'hotel chic' inspired bedroom

Heralding back to my marketing days, it has to be said that the end result of a project is very much defined by the client's brief. This summer I received a brief to transform a dark, dated and somewhat drab bedroom into a modern one that screams hotel boudoir chic. Although the scope of the brief was wide in terms of colour, pattern and design the client was adamant that my design incorporated large bedside tables, a substantial headboard, plenty bedside lighting and that the floor must not be carpeted, due to the client's husbands' dust allergy.

Below are the before and after shots of the bedroom. My client is over the moon with the outcome and having put in lots of hard graft herself by painting some second hand pieces of furniture as well as wallpapering and painting the room, I really think she should be. I'm so pleased with how this room has come together. Another bonus is that my client's husband is now sleeping better and isn't suffering with so much of a tight chest thanks to replacing the old carpet with Quickstep laminate flooring. Yay!

Before - dark & dreary fitted cupboards

Before - the room felt cramped & dark
Oversize custom made headboard with pink velvet buttons & glam, pearlescent striped wallpaper

Huge bedside tables & plenty of lighting choices for night time reading

Up-cycled second hand dresser, painted with Little Greene paint & glass fuschia knobs from Bombay Duck

Pretty co-ordinated curtain accessories, curtain fabric Casadeco Shetland range

Quickstep laminate flooring for a breathe-easy night's sleep (end of bed rug still to be delivered)

Would you agree that I answered my client's brief? I hope you like the end result styled by me *smile*