Bringing the Outside In: Philadelphia Penitentiary

Outside in_Philidelphia Penitentiary2

As you know, I visited Philadelphia a few months ago and have blogged about it here. It is a fascinating place full of history and brilliant stories of days gone by.

We took ourselves off to the Eastern State Penitentiary and were fascinated by what we found. The penitentiary is America’s most historic prison (Philadelphia seems to have the most historic everything in America..)

Before it was built in 1829, prisons were no more than large holding pens for men, women and children. The idea behind this new prison was ‘to build a true penitentiary, a prison designed to create genuine regret and penitence in the criminal’s heart.’. It was built around the Quaker idea of isolation, reflection and change. This meant that no prisoner was ever to see another during their time spent there. In the vaulted, skylit cell, the prisoner had only the light from heaven, the word of God (the Bible) and honest work (shoemaking, weaving, and the like) to lead to penitence.

The design of the prison is incredible. An architectural feat. It’s built like a perfect circle- a radial floor plan- so the guard could stand at the centre and see every single cell in each wing from the one central spot. The design ended up being used in a further 300 prisons around the world.

Al Capone was a prisoner there at some point for 12 months. If you go and visit the penitentiary you can still see his cell. Strangely, he was allowed luxuries that no other inmate was allowed- I’m talking a comfortable reading chair, desk, writing equipment and a radio! No one is really sure how he was given more rights than other inmates..

The whole place is pretty spooky, and literally crumbling around you. All the solitary cells have stone and plaster on the floors- one has a tree growing through it- it’s a ruin.

Check out my interiors inspired by Eastern State above!

Lx

1. Langton triple wire shelf, Joss and Main | 2. Concrete lamp, Serax at Goodhood | 3. Ercol Svelto wide media unit, Heal’s | 4. Scented soap stones, Goodhood | 5. Sylvia tea set, Anthropologie.

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Art & Design: LDF, 2014

Last month at the London Design Festival, 2014 was by far one of the best yet. I felt there was a real energy about the event and an excitement around all of the new products, that I haven’t felt for a while. I was really impressed by some of the graduate exhibits at LDF and saw so many items that I felt were really original and inventive.

Out of the masses of amazing stuff I came across I have made an edit of what I think are my favourite items and collections from the festival, below. I hope you agree!

LDF_birds

1. Product Name: Perch light | Designer: Umut Yamac | Photography: Tom Gildon | Website: umutyamac.com

Hands down the best for me. SO beautiful, elegant and cool, all in one. Basically, the bird is illuminated through contact with the perch and this lets the bird balance and swing without any cables whilst maintaining luminance.

The bird has been precisely counterbalanced to sit in a resting position on its perch unless activated into gentle motion by wind or touch.

The light is available in a floor or wall lamp and is entirely hand made in London. Check out the video, here!

LDF_eley

2. Product Name: Eley Kishimoto Wallpaper | Designer: Eley Kishimoto  | Website: eleykishimoto.com

Apart from (in my opinion) being the best stand at Decorex this year, this collection has been so beautifully curated. Fabulous shape, line, colour and pattern- a real statement, and it’s not surprising considering founders Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto have been dubbed the ‘Patron Saints of Print’.

Designed with integrity and a light-hearted approach, these screen printed beauties comprise 12 unique designs, from La La Lyon – a bold, modern take on a traditional damask pattern to Venice, Camo Chevron and Light on Lattice – a series of geometric inspired prints, or Vanity Cats, Monster Skin and Pedigree Entourage – original motifs that are humorous and playful.

LDF_cabinet

3. Product Name: Mist Cabinet | Designer: Rachel Harding  | Website: rachelharding.co.uk

This cabinet made me turn my head when I realised that what I saw as I walked past disappeared as I walked off. I had to do a double take until I realised that is the whole point of this piece. ‘Now you see me, now you don’t’ is the title of the cabinet on the website.

Constructed from clear cast acrylic, the opacity of each box effortlessly changes between transparent and translucent as you pass by. The cabinet uses a minimalist construction to create a series of transparent boxes that react to various viewing angles. Each box is covered in a special coating to create this magical effect.

Designer, Rachel Harding says  ‘I wanted to re-invent the idea of the traditional display cabinet,’. ‘Instead of simply falling into the background, this cabinet interacts with the objects inside, and encourages the user to take a second look.’

LDF_workhouse

4. Product Name: Ella sofa by Bethan Gray, Fold light & Turned Tables by WorkHouse at FAO Shop | Website: workhousecollection.co.uk

I adore all three of these pieces from WorkHouse design. The organic nature of the designs is what I’ve really fallen for. I’d buy half a dozen of these fold lights for my house, if I could! The smoky glass is feminine yet serious and the same could be said about all three items. I especially love that the turned side table is mimicking an 18th century garden urn (you all know I love my garden!) and has been crafted from a single piece of oak.

The Ella sofa by Bethan Gray is playful yet elegant and I so happy that the same amount of energy was put into designing the feet of the sofa as I often feel the feet are what can let a piece of furniture down.

And that colour! Say no more..

Lx

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My latest styling project: Surface View

Surface View

Styling: Lucy Gough | Photography: Christina Bull 

If you don’t already know about Surface View, you need to check them out! They hold a license to so many archive collections from incredible galleries and museums including the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery and also have a strong history of collaborating with artists and designers to produce their work on a large scale murals and canvasses.

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Outside In: Skopje, Macedonia

Outside in_Skopje

 

The question a lot of people ask me when I say we enjoyed a long weekend in Macedonia earlier this year was ‘Where is Macedonia?’. Well, it’s a landlocked country with Kosovo to the northeast, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the South, Albania to the west and Serbia to the north. It’s in the Balkan Peninsula and was part of former Yugoslavia before it declared independence in 1991. You can check it out on a map, here.

Skopje (pronounced Skop-yeh) is the capital and, as you may know, is where Mother Teresa is from.

We had an amazing time! We journeyed there because my Mother-in-law is originally from Skopje and we went back to visit family. They were so wonderful, warm and welcoming and ploughed us with amazing food and drink until we just about popped.

Skopje town centre is part-modern, part-historic and has some incredible architecture on show. The territory of Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC and remains of these settlements have been found within the old Fortress that overlooks the city centre. One thing to mention is that Skopje has the largest cross in the world that sits atop of Vodno mountain, called the Millenium Cross and was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. The views from the cross are incredible!

One noticeable thing about Skopje town centre is the abundance of statues and monuments. In 2010, the ‘Skopje 2014′ project was created and €500 million was injected into the budget to pay for said statues, monuments, fountains, bridges etc. I’m not talking a few, I’m talking what seems like one hundred…all in a small area. I think it might be idol overkill.

**note for interiors addicts** If you are after a beautiful, hand made ikat rug (at a cost of about 10% of what you’d pay here), head to the Turkish Bazaar in the old town! Honestly, you’ll never buy a rug in London again.

If you want to bring a bit of Skopje into your place, check out the items above!

Lx

1. Bushwick white and black trolley table, Abigail Ahern | 2. Silk Ikat cushion, sofa.com | 3. Warm white rope light, Lights 4 Fun | 4. Kastehelmi Tea light bowl,  Royal Design | 5. Craven cottage plaster model, Chisel and Mouse

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Outside in: Road to Franz Josef Glacier

Outside in_Franz Joseph

You’ve heard me say before that I LOVE NEW ZEALAND. It was the best trip of our lives. We drove 2,500 miles around the country back in March with my parents and had some truly amazing experiences.

One thing about New Zealand is that parts of it (especially in the South Island) are so quiet. You can drive for hours and only pass a few cars. About one million people live in the South Island (bearing in mind that almost 3 million in South London alone!!!) and a lot of it is farmland with wide open spaces that feel untouched. You can stand at the foot of an incredible mountain and imagine how the early explorers felt when they discovered it. I imagine it looks exactly the same as when the saw it for the first time all those hundreds of years ago.

At times we felt like we were on the set of Jurassic Park. I would sit quietly, half expecting a dinosaur to walk around the corner. In NZ, I love how the forest meets the farm and makes for one of the most diverse landscapes on the planet.

This picture was taken while driving toward Franz Josef Glacier. You can see the size of the car in the picture- and then take a look at the size of the mountain! There was no filter on this picture either. Just raw beauty.

I want to go back..

Lx

1. Sliced rug, Jan Kath at Front Rugs | 2. Paper vase cover, Pepe Heykoop at Aram Store | 3. Leather low ankle boots, & other stories | 4. Old Havana dinner set, Anthropologie | Kebnekaise knitted pouf, Fine little day at Quince Living

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Art & Design: David Ralph Studio

david ralph

A few months ago I was invited to a private view of photographer David Ralph’s latest works entitled ‘Papilio‘. As soon as I walked in to the studio, I knew I wouldn’t leave without buying one! On first glance you think you’re looking at a painting of a butterfly. What you are actually looking at is a series of photographs, each one consisting of layers upon layers of frames of the same butterfly literally bursting at their metaphorical seams. Their composition is faultless.

Papilio prints are available through his website www.davidralphstudio.com

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