Line Drawing Trend and The Matisse affect

In 2014 Tate Modern in London held a retrospective of the work of Henri Matisse concentrating primarily on his paper cuts which marked the final chapter of his career. I was lucky enough to attend the exhibition which was a chance to see so many of his works in one place.

The Cut Outs exhibition at Tate Modern 2014. You can tell how much phone cameras have developed since then!

The work was simple but big and bold, made up of often repeated shapes, using colour palettes which were a combination of deep vibrant colours and soft pastels, Matisse was known as the art worlds greatest colourist, and since the exhibition the design world has been heavily influenced by this period of work by the French modern artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Jean Cocteau.


One of Matisse’s blue nudes that has clearly had a big influence on the design world over the last few years.

With the imminent 150th Anniversary of Matisse’s birthday in December this year, there are so many new products featuring this stylised type of drawing, in honour of this important and influential design period.
Some are exquisitely hand crafted by modern day artisans, such as the designs produced in Morocco for Lrnce, who use sustainable materials and local crafts people to produce the clothes and interior accessories for their two stores.

A beautiful framed tapestry by LRNCE

There are a few select stockists of their products in the UK, including The Conran Shop and we are very lucky to have A Hare In The Forest ,based in Manchester, as an official stockist, selling these beautiful modern designs, along with original lithographs from the artists producing in France during that important period of art history, through a series of pop ups and exhibitions. The next Exhibition is due to take place in Manchester City Centre in November and it is definitely worth following their instagram account to find out more about future events.

Luckily for those of us with smaller budgets, there are lots of more affordable designs available through small independents and some High Street retailers. Here is a small selection of some of my favourite designs I’ve sourced and collated a shopping list below for you.


I found this vase in Homesense a few weeks ago for just a few pounds.
You might remember this shot that I styled for a client, using the cushion on the mood board available at Rose & grey Interiors and a print by Loulou Avenue, with the one on brown card quickly painted for me by super stylist Tara Royston.

If you like the idea of surrounding yourself with some Matisse style art here are a few more wallpaper designs that have recently been launched by WallpaperMurals.

Rough Plaster paint effect walls and products to achieve the look

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking here at Barlow Towers, about redecorating our bedroom, for what feels like almost a year.

The fitted cupboards that Mr B made, using reclaimed french doors, from The Vintage Rooms Matlock, have been finished for months but we’ve not been able to pin the rest of the design of the room down, mainly because of the lack of head space, due to family ill health and other commitments.

This thinking time, has been valuable in many ways though, as it has given me the certainty to know that I definitely want to achieve a rough luxe look, using some lime paint. The constant images of distressed and time worn style, plastered walls that keep popping up on my instagram and Pinterest feeds, has confirmed that the calming, almost monastic quality of this look is just what I crave in my bedroom, my sanctuary, the only room, it seems I can get any peace and tranquility at the moment.

I first considered this look after using some Bauwerk paint on a set, last year. Bauwerk were the only brand that I knew who made this type of paint at the time and although I bought their recommended wide bristled brush to apply the paint with, the set builder struggled to achieve the exact look I wanted. I now realise from watching tutorials on instagram, which weren’t available then, that the only way to achieve the time worn textured look, is to apply multiple coats of paint, at least 5 and I don’t think we went quite far enough.

This is the set that I used the paint on which looks more mottled than distressed but we were pleased with it in the end?

The influencer Kyla Magrath has used Bauwerk, much more successfully in her lounge and has a fantastic tutorial which she has saved as a highlight on her Instagram profile, which is well worth a watch if you are thinking of using it? This paint is expensive so you don’t want to make any mistakes and Kyla’s tutorial gives a very detailed explanation of just how to achieve the look she has.

The lovely textural wall created by Kyla in her home using Bauwerk paint.

Other brands have now emerged which give varying degrees of the look from the very subtle by Kalklitir seen here in the beautiful home of photographer Karine Kong, Casa Pyla. Karine tells me that the paint is available on Amazon and is incredibly easy to use. I’m actually quite drawn to this more subtle look and I think I’d be less likely to tire of it than a more dramatic distressed look, but that’s only because I’m quite lazy when it comes to redecorating our own house and therefore, I need things to stand the test time.

The Kitchen at casa Pyla home of the photographer Karine Kong.

If The more antique distressed Venetian Palazzo is more your style, then you will love the effect created by Interior Designer, Dee Campling, in her home, using Autentico paint. Again Dee has uploaded a very helpful, informative tutorial on her instagram profile page as a Highlight.

The lovely finish achieved in Dee’s home using Autentico

Another brand of lime paint that I really love for the simplicity of its application alone, is Pure & Original. There are no fancy techniques employed with the application of this paint, just a coat of their primer onto the wall first and then once that has dried, you simply apply the lime paint and wait for it to do it’s magic. The uneven texture and light and shade created, is completely natural to the way this paint dries.

I first saw it in the Airbnb created by the beautiful lifestyle store Igigi and they are in fact one of this countries limited suppliers.

I would recommend that you buy a colour card before using any of these paints to achieve the exact colour you desire. Most of them come at a cost as they are hand painted cards, but due to the high cost of this paint, it’s money well spent to my mind.

Back to Beige – The New Neutral


After over a decade of grey dominating our homes and interiors as the neutral of choice, it’s so refreshing to see a move away from these cooler tones and a return to warmer neutrals. With an ever increasing interest in sustainable and ethical design and materials, it’s no surprise as these shades of stone, clay and bisque work as a perfect backdrop for natural materials.

It all started when Dulux announced their colour of 2019 “Spiced Honey” a warm caramel tone, to somewhat mixed reactions. I know when I did a poll, on my instagram stories, asking what my followers thought of the colour, the immediate response was a thumbs down. But after Joa Studholme, colour consultant for Farrow and Ball, revealed the nine new shades from the paint company back in September 2018, with not a grey in sight and predicted we would “be moving away from grey” it appears that we have been convinced? Beige, it appears is anything but boring.

In fact what at first to be a rather bland choice, looks fresh and contemporary when mixed with crisp whites and darker accents of black and navy to anchor it and by adding layers of texture such as rattan, cork and wood the whole scheme suddenly looks very appealing. These shades are versatile and work equally well with a traditional or contemporary interior.

Image from The Poster Club

Image @linneasalmen

Image @ingredientsldn

Michelle Ogundehin, former Editor in Chief of Elle Decoration, has renamed the introduction of these softer colours, used together with natural textures, as “soft Scandi” and it is certainly a warmer, more homely and perhaps more versatile take on the stark white and monochrome palettes we’ve become familiar with as the Scandi look.

Image @casapyla

I’ve definitely been won over by the warmer tones and am thinking of using this palette in our bedroom, with added texture to the walls perhaps in the form of cladding or a textured chalk or lime paint finish and have been busily pinning and saving shots from Instagram for inspiration.

Image @interiorglobe

Image @bauwerkcolour

I’ve put together a mood board of some of the High Street buys and lovely hand made products from smaller independents that would pull this look together.

  1. Throw – HK Living
  2.  Noah Cushion – Ren London 
  3. Table Lamp – Nove Lighting
  4. Washed Linen bedding – H&M
  5. Palm leaf Wall Hanging – Rose & Grey
  6. Wall Art – The Poster Club
  7. Woven Chair – Also Home
  8. Brown Star Tiles – Porcelain Super Store
  9. Rug – Zara Home
  10. Pottery – Hannah Bould

What are your thoughts on the new neutrals? Do you agree with Michelle that the Soft Scandi look is perhaps more suited to our climate here in the UK or are you yet to be convinced to move away from the grey palette?

Why I Decided To Start A Side Hustle Business

Some of you that follow me on Instagram might have noticed that about 8 months ago I started a new online business, selling rustic salvaged and reclaimed homewares and props for photography.

I’ve had lots of questions from followers and friends and family asking if this is now my new career, was I giving up my styling work, was my new business @Theoldpotatostore going to be a bricks and mortar shop and open to the public and why the name, The Old Potato Store?

So as I’ve not written a blog post for 6 months, shame on me I know, and it is something I feel strongly that I want to continue with, after listening to my friend @susanearlem speak about the future of blogging at Altrincham Word Fest, I thought writing about the journey of @Theoldpotatostore would be an interesting blog post to kick start me and answer some of those questions?

So it all started around 6 years ago when my friend Jenny, an upholsterer was looking for premises to move her business to. Somewhere she could work from, uninterrupted away from her home life, and provide a showroom for her clients to meet her, look at her work and discuss their projects.

Jen had an allotment and through talking to the treasurer of The Allotment society, she discovered that they were selling one of their premises which they had owned since the turn of the last Century. Jen came to see me and asked if I was interested in buying it with her, which of course I wasn’t, but to humour her and not drown her spirits, I went to view it and was immediately smitten by it’s charm. The single storey brick building, with original flagstone floor and two separate entrance doors, was perfect for carving up into two separate buildings, and was also a steal and almost too good not to buy. Jen had also been told we could have first dibs on it and it would be ours if we offered the asking price, which of course we did the very next day.

As a busy working stylist, I had no immediate use for my half of the building so for the last 5 years I’ve rented it out, but in October last year my tenant gave me notice and I took the keys back. Now I could have easily got a new tenant, the building is in the heart of a thriving town, down a quiet street and is as I’ve already mentioned, full of character, but over the years I’d often thought about using it for something of my own.

I knew working in the creative industries, as a freelance stylist is often feast or famine. Many job offers come in together and you can of course only accept one and then there might not be anything else for 2 weeks, a bit like waiting for a bus, all or nothing. After reading Emma Gannons book, “The Multi Hyphen Method” Emma confirms that through the internet and our phones we are now able to work from anywhere, any time and because of this it allows us to have multiple streams of income. I realised after reading Emmas book, that I could start a side hustle business very easily, with very little overheads, as I owned the building and I could work on my own terms, as and when I wasn’t working on photo shoots or TV commercials. Starting a new business, no longer needed to be an all in situation!

The name of the business came quite quickly. The allotment society had used the building to store seeds and bulbs and once a week opened it for purchases such as potato plants. The Old Potato Store, was a nostalgic reminder of the previous life of this little old building.

The nature of the business, selling rustic decorative home wares was also an easy decision. Since getting married almost 30 years ago, myself and Mr B have been buying antiques and attending antique markets all over the country and Europe and our home is full of unique and individual items. As a stylist a large part of my work is taken up with shopping and often for interesting and unusual items for shoots. I didn’t want to set up a props hire business as I know this is demanding and requires a lot of admin, something I was glad to leave behind from my previous job as an underwriter. I’d had a small vintage shop years ago, which I wrote about here and used to sell vintage clothes and textiles when my children were little, so I knew a lot of dealers and also knew I had a good eye for a decorative item. I could style a shot and take a decent enough photograph, who can’t these days to be honest, so the idea for a virtual pop up store was born.

It’s been perfect timing in many ways. Since November my elderly mum has become ill and needs more of my time and care and it’s allowed me to step back a little from long hours working all over the country on shoots and taken the pressure off a little, whilst still allowing me to earn money for the family pot. Going to my little building, listening to a podcast with a coffee and styling and photographing my found treasures has been so satisfying and almost like therapy. The calmness of the building with it’s thick brick walls and gentle light has been described by a friend as almost church like and no matter whats going on in my life, it all seems to melt away for an hour or two when i’m in there.

The thrill of seeing everything being snapped up and going to a new home and then seeing the customers posting their purchases on their instagram accounts, styled up by them, always brings a smile to my face.

I’m hoping eventually, as the business grows, to build a website so that I can shopify my posts and hope to one day open The Old Potato Store as a physical shop with enough charm and style to be able to offer it for hire as a workshop space for other creatives. It’s a big dream, but I believe in dreaming big.

If there’s anything similarly rustic that you’d like me to try and source for you, please send me a message and follow my page for constantly changing stock. Thanks for getting on board and supporting me so far x





Dressing your Christmas Table in the Dark Blooms Trend

The trend for dark blooms in sumptuous colours of plum, grey and black is a beautiful romantic look that we have all fallen in love with and it lends itself beautifully to this time of year, when the nights are drawing in and those deep berry colours are just perfect for Christmas decor ideas.

I was asked recently to run a “Styling your Christmas table” workshop at an event organised by @thewomensinstatute, run by my very good friend @relovedmcr and @wendyhouse123 & @fikaandmooch.

As soon as I was asked to design a table scape my thoughts returned to the photography I’d styled for my shoot with Rachael @objectstyle a lovely independent shop in Chorlton Manchester. Working along side Rachael and photographer Lucy Sugden Smith, we created four key looks for a table ware hire service that Rachael and her husband Alex offer as an extension of their business.

Out of the four looks created, the one we called dark blooms, lent itself perfectly to Christmas, with just some added seasonal decorations and I thought this was the perfect look to create and demonstrate to the guests of @thewomensinstatute on the day.

The first rule (although I hate rules in general) when dressing a table is to not just think about the flat surface of the table. Consider above and around the table and create layers and different heights and play with scale. Also think about sparking all of the senses. As well as the sight of the table, incorporate smell, using candles and fresh flowers and foliage, scented by plants such as eucalyptus, rosemary and fresh berries. Touch is also important and can be added by using different textures and materials, such as linen, velvet, fur, marble & glass. Your table is not just a place for people to gather for a meal, it’s a way of showcasing your creativity.

Start the layering by covering the table surface with a table cloth.  Use whatever you want here to create some added texture. In the past I have used an old tartan blanket and some rough hessian sacking cloth but as long as it sits with your chosen theme, go for it! You can even have a piece of fabric cut to size that you can hem around if you can’t find the perfect colour or size. The only thing I would be wary of is using patterned fabric as it might be difficult to make everything cohesive once you start layering?

Next add another layer with a runner in a different texture, so if you’ve used a linen table cloth, add a velvet runner to contrast with the textures. Then add coasters and table mats using metallic, marble, slate, beaded mats, anything you want. I have some old Brooklyn tin tiles at home, which I’ve used which add a lovely patina. A further layer is introduced with plates and bowls and then a selection of glasses in different heights, including, wine, champagne and water.

Next add the cutlery which comes in so many finishes from silver, to brass, black and copper. I’ve used brass cutlery to bring a feeling of glamour to the table. Christmas is the one time of year where more is more? There are so many ways to display cutlery on a table. You can simply tie it together with twine or ribbon or place it in a jug or vintage jam jar for a more rustic theme or you can create a pocket from the table napkin for the cutlery to sit in as I’ve done here. It creates a more formal look and you can then add a decorative finish to the napkin by using contrasting ribbon and a single bloom or piece of foliage or a feather as I have here. To add a further bit of glitz for Christmas, I simply sprayed the tip of the feather with hairspray and quickly sprinkled with fine glitter before the hairspray set.

Think about creating height on the table and playing with scale. Candles are a perfect way to do this by using different types of candle holders, from candelabra using tall taper candles and pillar candles in lanterns and then lower level tea lights and votives. If you have time to make your own candles you can use vintage tin chocolate moulds or vintage glasses to add an industrial recycled look to the theme to stop it becoming too formal. Taper candles and votives are also a perfect way to add co-ordinating colour to your table. In the finished table scape below, I used burgundy,black & grey taper candles to bring the whole colour scheme together.

Another way of creating layers is with flowers and foliage. Add a low level strand of ivy or a garland of foliage along the length of the table with various heights of seasonal flower arrangements in the centre of the table. To create even more Christmas atmosphere, you can never have too many string lights. Add them into bell jars, lanterns and twist them around the evergreen garland on your table. Pay attention to the surrounding room and create further drama by adding something over the top of the table such as a foliage wreath or winter branch which you can wrap lights around or add further colour by adding different layers of paper pomme pommes or paper stars.

If you want your table to be more formal, add names cards. A cheap and visually stunning way to do this is to spray pears or figs, matt black or gold or copper or sprinkle them with glitter, by using the simple hairspray method again!. Then tie a luggage tag with each person’s name around the stem. These beautiful calligraphy tags were created by the very talented Fiona who is available for commissions for your special events.

Finally, it’s not Christmas without a party cracker to pull. You can make your own to co-ordinate with your table theme simply and easily, using wallpaper or gift wrap. Here I used some wallpaper by Woodchip&Magnolia and tied a contrast plum colour ribbon around the ends to pick up on the plum of the table napkins and flowers. This is a great and simple Christmas craft project to make with children. Click on the Youtube link below to see how to.