Sharing What I’ve been Watching, Listening to, Reading & Eating during this last week

As we approach week seven of lockdown in the UK, I’ve found I’ve had a few difficult days and I know from talking to friends and people that I chat to on Instagram, many have felt it too.

I don’t think it’s because my resilience is running low, I think we’ve all been immensely resilient and resourceful. I know that this period of isolation and lockdown is for the greater good, but I think that the realisation that this new way of life isn’t going to be over any time soon, is dawning on us all now.

I know everyone has their different ways of getting through and everybody’s perception of this period will be different. For some it’s an enforced imprisonment, away from families, friends and work but for others it feels like a gift we’ve been given to slow down. A time to do the things that we never seem to get around to, to appreciate the little things that we don’t always see as we rush from place to place, from appointment to meeting.

I’ve enjoyed sharing and swapping recommendations for good films, recipes and podcasts with friends and so as I consider you all my friends, I thought I’d write a blog post with some of the things that have got me through this last week.

It might become a regular weekly or monthly post, or it might be a one off? You know by now how random and sporadic this blog of mine has become?

If you like the post though then hit subscribe so that when I post again , you’ll be notified by email and if I gather enough new subscribers, that might just give me the boost I need to keep writing.

So here is what I’ve been keeping myself busy with this week.

Reading

Flower market Botanical Style At Home by Mason & painter business owner Michelle Mason. This books mixes Michelle’s inspiration from the location of her shop, Columbia Road London and it’s famous flower market, with her amazing vintage and salvaged items she sells, as she demonstrates how these lovely pieces can be reused to display seasonal blooms and foliage. Michelle owns one of my favourite shops and Mason and Painter which was one of the inspirations for me to launch my own vintage store The Old Potato Store and I loved pouring through the pages of her beautiful book and became inspired all over again.

This seasons issue of 91Magazine landed through my letter box this month and it was such a joy to read as always, with articles and photography from some of my favourite creatives on instagram. There was also a lovely home tour of @clarenicolson stylist home. Interesting fact (well interesting for me) I used to sell vintage textiles to Clare back in the day when she was a textile designer and I sold vintage clothes & fabrics, around 2001 and now we are both interiors stylists! If you want to order a copy of this seasons edition you can do here.

Listening to

Corey Hemingway from The Modern House springtime playlist on Spotify. If you love jazz, 70’s funk and chilled easy listening summer tracks while you’re sitting in the garden pretending you’re by a pool somewhere exotic, you’ll love this laid back playlist.

Tate Walk Podcasts where some of my favourite writers take walks through parts of Britain discovering, with art experts, the lives of the famous artists who lived and worked there. Dolly Alderton walks through Turners London and Emma Gannon disembarks the train in St Ives to discuss the works of Alfred Wallis and Terry Frost. Shoreditch and the lives of the YBA’s was a particular favourite.

St Ives c.1928 Alfred Wallis 1855-1942 Presented by Ben Nicholson 1966













The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed. This podcast with Simon Armitage interviewing friends and guests from the shed in the bottom of his garden in the Peak District, is such a lovely soothing listen. The perfect quiet morning, with a pot of tea conversations that I love. A particular highlight is him and mate Guy Garvey talking and laughing over many a shared experience. An absolute gem!

The Calico club is a series of online talks hosted by House and Garden in which they interview industry professionals. The talks are ticketed events through Eventbrite and tonight Wednesday 6/5/20 I have a ticket to listen to Rita Konig Interior designer talk about how to decorate a room with what you already have. This is obviously very on topic and I can’t wait for her nuggets of wisdom. To buy a ticket to listen to the talk live tonight at 6.00pm click here.

One of Rita Konig’s projects

We’ve all been really enjoying the live streaming, here at Barlow Towers, that some of the worlds top dj’s have been doing to raise money for the NHS and we’re all huge fans particularly of hacienda legend DJ Paulette, who still dj’s around Manchester if you’re lucky enough to catch her at Cultureplex and Albert Schloss. This Friday she’s live streaming with her old colleagues from The Hac to bring us Hacienda Classics. Something definitely to look forward to this weekend!

Watching

Normal People adapted for TV from Sally Rooney’s best selling book. No words needed really, just magical, addictive, compulsive viewing and if you’ve not yet watched it, why not????

NORMAL PEOPLE

Museums in Quarantine with Alistair Sooke is the closest thing we’ll get to a major exhibition probably this year. Although I’m not a huge fan of Andy Warhol’s work, I enjoyed the walk through Tate Modern with Alistair and I thought allowing the cameras in to some of the leading galleries for screenings of exhibitions we were all looking forward to this year is such a great idea.

Baking

Gluten free Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ok I’m not professing to be a baker, in fact my lemon drizzle cake, baked for my son George’s birthday last week, was so unphotogenic, that I couldn’t possibly let you see it, so this is not my photo, but I’ll share the recipe with you as according to the kids, it tasted bangin!

Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake Recipe

Side note, I added 3 large lemons zested and I think it benefitted from it??

Biscoff Cheesecake

Bake of the week has to go to my daughter Amber. This tastes off the scale! It’s ridiculously sweet but just delicious and so easy to make. Put it this way my daughter, who is 18, can’t even put oven chips in without setting the smoke alarm off usually and she created this! This is the photo of the one she made. It looks as impressive as it tastes so if you want a show stopper desert for a lockdown birthday or special celebration, I would highly recommend this!

Biscoff Chesecake Recipe

I’d love to hear what have been your highlights this week so send me a comment on my instagram @Karen_barlow or dm me if you have something to share which you think I’d like.

 

Some of my favourite ways and places to find and buy original and vintage art

Hello there, it’s been a while hasn’t hit since we last chatted and what a lot has gone on since then. I do hope you’ve all stayed well and not gone too insane since lockdown although it’s been difficult in so many different ways for us all.

A few weeks ago my blog was hacked and contaminated with a malware virus which was not what you want to happen when you have lots of time on your hands to blog and no technological expertise of your own to clean the virus from it. Anyhow I managed to get a suburb local business, The Smart bear, to sort things out and within an hour it was up and running again and I’m quite embarrassed and shocked to say, it was only then that I realised I haven’t written anything on here since January, despite all my good intentions to get back to blogging on a more regular basis.

So yesterday I found myself rehanging some artwork in the lounge, like you do when you’ve had six weeks off work and ideas to entertain yourself are wearing thin. I remembered then, that I’m often asked, as a stylist and dealer of vintage and antiques and predominantly artwork, where I source mine? So I thought a blog about that very subject might be of interest to some of you?

I love art, It’s a passion of mine and I’ve collected it ever since I bought my own home for the first time over 30 years ago. I seek it out wherever I am and I’m always on the hunt for a new piece to add to our collection or to sell through my online store @Theoldpotatostore

A portrait from the Old Potato Store used on a shoot for @91magazine

To me filling blank walls with art is what truly makes your home individual. It says so much about you and truly makes your home feel like yours. Every piece we own tells a story or evokes a memory of where we were when we bought it. It’s very subjective and personal and therefore, it’s so important to only buy what you love. If it makes your heart race or it’s a memento from a special holiday or exhibition you saw that you loved, your favourite words to a song or phrase from a well loved book, then that’s every reason to buy it, dependant on budget of course. For me buying art is visceral and immediate. When buying for my online store @theoldpotatostore, I can buy four pieces of art within less than 5 minutes. If I have to decide if I like it enough, I just don’t buy it. For me it’s as simple as that.

                                                             Artwork sourced for the Old Potato Store

We have a favourite print that we bought from the Jean Cocteau museum in Menton in the south of France on our honeymoon, titled Les Amoureux and it’s hung in our bedroom since we bought it, in one home or another. It always reminds me of a time and a place, of the people we were then, of the years that have since passed, and it always makes me smile.

Collections should grow over time and be added to organically. We have a mixture of contemporary work picked up on holidays, many from the fishing village of St Ives, famed for it’s artists and plethora of galleries and the location of many happy family holidays, prints from exhibitions visited, amateur original artwork painted by friends and vintage art, some painted so long ago that only the sitter would know who the artist was.I also love collecting vintage black and white photography by unknown artists. For me, there’s something so thought provoking about a moment captured in time with the click of a camera? All are meaningful to us though and that’s the point of art. It might not be somebody else’s jam but it’s yours.

                                                        Some of my vintage black & white photography

 

Although I’ve never bought a piece of art because it matches a colour palette of a room at home, going back again to the heart skipping method, artwork does work very effectively to bring a room together in much the same way as a rug or cushions and with this in mind don’t only limit artwork to paintings, prints or photography. A beautiful textile framed, religious icons or vintage advertising signage or metal typography all adds to the interesting mix. I often sell pieces of antique architectural plaster mouldings through my store which also look amazing hung on walls as this beautiful shot demonstrates.

                                                   Architectural plaster displayed by @Tradchap
               Coordinating your artwork to your interior demonstrated beautifully here at cabana magazine

Think beyond the walls of a room when displaying your pieces. A selection of layered examples on a shelf or mantlepiece, larger framed pieces propped against a wall or art hung high over and around a door frame, all look great. Mix up the style of frames for added impact and interest. A contemporary print, in an antique frame, really elevates the piece from looking too High Street.

                                                                                Image @etalageuk

If you are hanging a gallery wall, then limit it to one wall in the room to avoid the space becoming claustrophobic. Even the most dedicated maximalists homes are carefully edited displays when done well.

                                                                                 Image @gaazioglusule

So now for the bit you all want to know. The secret spots that only stylists and antiques dealers know where to buy the best art? Well I’m sorry to spoil that myth but there aren’t any as such.I’m constantly also trying to find those places, that may or may not exist. My best advice is listed below. Some of my favourite dealers with the eye for the type of artwork that I love, some of the best online one stop websites who promote both antique sellers and contemporary artists and some great art fairs where you can find new, emerging artists, but there is no secret source that I know of. I wish there was but then, doesn’t that make the hunt all the more exciting?

So for antique art I would recommend

For Contemporary pieces and prints I would look at

Well I hope this has been of some use or interest and hopefully it won’t be too long before I post again. Now I have this much time on my hands I really have no excuse. Stay safe, stay well and stay home XX

 

 

 

Looking back over 2019 The Highs, The Lows and the Life Lessons Learned

Lets just say 2019 wasn’t one of the best I’ve had. I lost my beloved mum, it doesn’t get much worse really, but strangely, when I looked back over 2019 and really thought about all the things that happened over the year there were some really high points too. For this very reason, I’m so glad that I completed “Unravel Your Year” with Susannah Conway, which was recommended to me by my very wise friend Susan Earlam.

I’ve never been one to look back, always looking forward, trying to remain positive, but looking back can also very often be a positive experience too, so I found. If you think this is something you would benefit from, then I’ve added a link to Susannah’s free download above. There are also lots of goal planning workshops, exercises and downloads online if you feel as though you want this year to be the year for you. A highly recommended one is with Hannah Bullivant.

So the point of this blog is to share my little snippets of Life Advice. Grazia Life Advice is one of my favourite go to Podcasts for nuggets of inspiration from celebrities, writers and creatives. I love that it’s a relatively short podcast and is perfect for when you haven’t got an hour to spend listening to a more in-depth interview. It’s short but full of take aways that would work in your own life. So following a similar format, here are my 10 Life Advice tips and things I’ve learned as I’ve travelled through life and particularly last year.

  1. When you’re going through a bad period in your life and suffering from low self esteem, don’t be afraid to seek help. It doesn’t make you weak, it means you’re strong. There are lots of experts out there that can equip you with the tools you need to move forward. From seeking out self Esteem coaches such as Sas petherick who I worked with during a one day course and later an online Compass course and Lucy Sheridan who is like an instant tonic on her IGTV stories. Both are experts in their field and are very relatable. Some holistic remedies that I’ve found really helpful, are acupuncture and reiki Healing, both known for realigning you and boosting your energy flow. If you are suffering from stress and anxiety then the daily practice of meditation definitely works to make your brain more positive than negative. It’s been scientifically proved, that regular meditation works to increase positive thoughts and I know when I listen to Headspace App on a regular basis, the dark clouds start to shift and I start to feel more energised and positive.
  2. Try new things that you are scared of, they are never as bad as you think they are going to be. You might even surprise yourself and enjoy it? It’s so easy to feel that everyone is judging us and waiting for us to fuck up, but in all honesty most people want you to succeed and they are far too busy, most of the time, thinking about themselves and their own goals. At the end of 2018 I finally accepted my first workshop presentation, after turning down many other offers. I was pretty terrified. Was I going to be teaching people how to suck eggs? was I going to seem unprofessional? would I bring any value to the day? All of these things that most of us think, are usually unfounded. The day was a great success, I got lots of positive feedback and more importantly, I loved it. I have since done another one this year and am hoping that this is now another service I can add to my skill set.

One of the shots from this years ” styling your Christmas Table” part of the workshop run by photographer Jane Burkinshaw with a delicious lunch cooked by Nikki Hill

3. Getting a project off the ground is all about preparation. Don’t rush to get something half baked off the ground, but equally don’t procrastinate too much about the smaller details. Done is better than perfect and ideas evolve over time. Late last year I started a new online antiques business @Theoldpotatostore It still needs branding, a website, professional photography for the website, but over the last year it’s grown more than I could have hoped for and I’ve had a really successful year.

Inside my little building that is Potato Store HQ

4. Network and engage and don’t be afraid to ask for favours. When I first trained as an Interior Designer and was finding my feet working for free for interior designers and architects, I was told by somebody, to never underestimate the power of networking and they were so right. You don’t have to go to networking events anymore, you can do it from the comfort of your own home, through your phone by just engaging and being present on apps like Instagram and Twitter. It’s amazing the relationships that can be made this way. This year I was asked to assist a very well respected and prolific London stylist on a shoot, for a client I had always wanted to work for and that all came about through our regular online conversations on Instagram.

One of the shots I worked on with Sally for Little Greene Paint Company

5. Don’t feel you have to say yes to every opportunity to grow your online presence or your business. Turning down invites, unpaid blog posts or free gifts or experiences, that don’t fit with your own personal style, is the right thing to do. Your followers will instantly recognise anything that’s inauthentic and you could lose more than you would gain by it. If it’s not a product or a subject that you would normally promote, don’t do it. It just devalues you in the long run.

6. Put yourself and your work out there. It’s what creatives call pitching, they all do it and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you don’t have a huge social media following or a website, then it’s going to be very hard for anybody to find you. The arena is overflowing with talent so unless you pitch yourself in that arena, nobody will know about you or your talents. You could be the perfect fit for a particular brand and although you don’t have a large follower number, if your engagement with your followers is strong, that’s got to have more value surely. So share your work on social platforms through posts, stories and IGTV if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable and contact brands you would love to work with if you have a great idea.

7. Be consistent with your projects. If you write a blog, post on Instagram, have an online business, be present as much as you can be. Keep flexing that muscle and it will get stronger. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose an invested audience if you don’t show up for too long.

8. Don’t underestimate the power of a good lipstick and haircut to lift your spirits. As the great Iris Apfel says, colour can raise the dead. It’s always money well spent and both can elevate a very simple outfit from the ordinary to the super stylish. Brittany Bathgate has a great IGTV video on 4 of the best red lipsticks.

9. There’s aways more than one way to skin a cat. If you want to go to a monthly book club but there isn’t one in your area, start one. If you want a get together with your friends, but it’s January and everyone is skint, invite them to yours for a gathering and ask everyone to bring one course to share the cost.If you want to create a more inspirational shoot than you often get the chance to do with your clients, call upon colleagues to create your own. I did this, earlier this year, with a bunch of friends and having a team to help it all come together, made it easy and fun and the outcome was something we were all really proud of, plus we ended up with some lovely new shots for our portfolios. Make life a co-operative and things will be easier to achieve.

One of the shots we art directed and created for 91magazine with Kirsty Saxon, Si Thompson, Kate Astbury Parkinson and Kathryn Taylor

10. Don’t let age be a barrier to anything. My mum always used to say that she knew many old people that were young and many young people that were old and as I travel through my life, I realise that is one of the truest things I’ve learnt. Age shouldn’t be a consideration or an excuse to hold you back from doing anything. If you want to wear something because it makes your heart sing, do it, if you want to dye your hair pink, then do it, if you want to retrain to be a graphic designer or potter or anything but feel that that boat has sailed you’re wrong. Get on that course now! If you want to listen to my story about how I retrained, at 42, to do the career I now do as a designer, then you can listen to me and Lauren O’sullivan chatting on her Podcast “Beyond The Stories” Oh recording a podcast was another first for me by the way and another thing I was terrified of but loved it and want to do it all again! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Happy 2020 to you all. May you all be fearless and have your most successful year to date!

How to make a simple foraged festive wreath

Hanging a wreath made with seasonal foliage is a very traditional Christmas way to decorate our homes and to say welcome to visitors over the festive season, but they can be expensive to buy from a professional florists.

Making your own using a few basic tools and some foraged seasonal foliage, is simple and cost effective. For this one I made below, I used a mixture of seeded and silver eucalyptus and snow berries. I’ve made it in a contemporary minimal Scandinavian style, but for a more rustic look you could use a bark or willow wreath and add in garden herbs, such as rosemary or bay leaves, which will also have the added advantage of scenting your home.

You will need:

  1. 1 metal floristry ring
  2. metal floristry wire
  3. sharp scissors
  4. Selection of seasonal foliage

Start be selecting various foliage and tying bundles together tightly at the base with the floristry wire.

Lay the first bundle on top of the metal ring on an angle, starting on one side of the ring and secure using floristry wire. Trim the excess stems so that they are as close to the ring as possible.

Make another bundle of foliage, in the same way and lay the sprigs of the foliage over the wire on the base of the first bundle, to hide it, then secure the second bundle again at the base with the wire. Continue in this way all the way around until you come to a point that you would like to stop.

If there are any bits of wire showing, you can cut smaller pieces of foliage and secure them by threading them through the wire.

To secure you can hang the wreath directly onto the wall or add some decorative twine or ribbon onto the top of the wire ring for hanging.

For a video of how I made this, go to @sofology on Instagram

This wreath was made using a bark ring from Sostrene Grene. As well as foraged ivy and pine branches, I added some wax flowers and thistles bought from the florists. If you wanted something more festive, you could add winter red berries, mistletoe or even pheasant feathers.

Trend Alert – Neo Mint colour of 2020

The leading trend forecaster WGSN has predicted that the colour trend for 2020 will be Neo Mint, a fresh, bright, optimistic green and don’t we all need a little optimism right now? To find out more about the science behind how a colour is chosen as the next trend, the report by WGSN makes really interesting reading.

Image Little Greene Paint Company

The colour harmonises perfectly with and is a natural progression for the pastel trend that started with Millennial pink, swiftly followed by coral and lilac.

It makes perfect sense in these times of restrain witnessed by the High Street recently, and our increasing awareness for sustainability, that a colour has been chosen that will seamlessly fit into our homes without the need for any major renovation or re decoration.

This is a mood board a put together for a client shoot, earlier this year, using pastels demonstrating how mint green works with lilac and soft greys.

 

Mint green with coral or millennial pink instantly fits into the current trend for modern Art Deco, giving a Palm Springs freshness to a scheme. Think of the art deco hotels lining the ocean front in Miami and you will instantly recognise this colour palette.

Neo mint with soft lilac is a perfect pairing for more romantic country inspired interiors.

This is a shot I styled for a client using a palette of fresh light greens on the wall.

If you’re drawn to the dark side and love black and dark moody interiors, a touch of neo mint will provide a bold splash of colour and again is very reminiscent of the Art Deco Era.

 

Neo mint is such a versatile colour for any room in the house, but works extremely well in kitchens, bathrooms or bedrooms as a soft restful and fresh colour and looks beautiful with brass as a warm accent colour.

As with every colour trend, it won’t be for everyone but I always surprise myself that no matter how adamant a colour isn’t for me when it first emerges, I inevitably find accents of it creeping into our home eventually. With this in mind, I’ve found a selection of objects for the home, some small, some statement pieces, in this new shade and put together a shopping list below.

What are your first impressions? Can you see yourself using this colour in your own home?