While the year is still young I thought I’d write about the Pantone Colour of The Year, as you are soon to be seeing a lot of it. Each year the Pantone Colour Institute chooses one colour from their repertoire of 5000 different shades that they feel encapsulates the prevailing current mood. The colour zeitgeist if you will. Pantone take into account current affairs, politics, trends in culture and the arts combined with colour psychology and history, before making their forecasting decision. ‘Ultra Violet’ follows 2017’s ‘Greenery’, a year in home interiors when plants were everywhere to be seen. So we can now expect instead to see blue toned purples creeping in to interior accessory ranges, and right across the spectrum of design; from fashion, products and technologies to branding and corporate identities. Purple or Ultraviolet have long been associated with counterculture, non-conformity and creative genius (Prince, Hendrix to name just two who flew the flag for purple), besides the mystical and spiritual. Leatrice Eiseman the Creative Director of Pantone says “We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to Ultra Violet …. that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies to a greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.” Are you inspired to use the hue in your home? If so please do share your pics with us on instagram using the hashtag #mybristolhome!
My sense of self preservation is strong. So for Christmas, I gave my partner a copy of ‘How To Live With a Designer Without Killing Them’. Written by Alan Long, creative director at a London design consultancy, after his wife kept telling their friends how awful he was to live with, I knew it was going to be essential reading for our household. As Long points out, we designers are not ordinary people.
It has been useful to read the particular ways in which we are extraordinary (read: really quite annoying). I chuckled, chortled then cringed at every page, in recognition of my possessing almost all the classic 'designery' traits that apparently drive other people mad (back in my Scenic days my assistant would often roll her eyes and say "Oh Zo, you're so designery")!
I can’t say I’ll ever change my ways, but at least I now know which ways offend, and my partner knows that these ways are, frankly, innate. There are no scientifically proven, tried and tested methods suggested for coping with the stress of cohabiting with a designer in this book. Instead, our best and (mostly) worst qualities are clearly defined, and illustrated with lovely sketches. For example, perfectionism in arranging and organising things; cooking according to the most aesthetically pleasing colour palette rather than the actual recipe (especially frustrating for the scientist looking over my shoulder); obsessive use of pencils, an unnatural love of Apple products and extreme hatred for the font Comic Sans.
Identifying our idiosyncrasies in this way may help us reign in our pedantry from time to time and encourage acceptance and tolerance from others. Here’s hoping!
‘How To Live With a Designer Without Killing Them’ is available from Amazon priced £7.99
Bristol is known for its green credentials, so we don't want our Christmas interiors to let us down. Christmas and sustainability are not likely bedfellows but there are plenty of ways to decorate without costing the earth. Paper remains my favourite material for festive folderol. It is so versatile, available in every colour, texture, pattern and finish imaginable, and the sculptural possibilities are endless. From the simplest paper chain to the most complex origami stars and filigree-like cutouts, there are a million and one ways with paper in both DIY and off-the-shelf options. Vintage decorations that can be reused for as long as they are carefully handled and stowed win maximum green Christmas points, as do homemade dough doodahs and even the metal shape cutters for a bit of shine. Nature’s trimmings, literally, provide the best trimmings swagging over mantles and bannisters. For the traditionalists only a Christmas tree will do, but bear in mind that artificial trees are a no-no unless they are old and getting a lot of repeat use. The oldest of these can be made from questionable and toxic materials though. If the idea of chopping down living trees every year seems daft, you might like to hire a potted one. The Bristol Bike Project and Cotswold Fir are offering a selection of live trees for pedal powered delivery or collection from Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, daily between 1st and 23rd December. Simply log on to www.rentalclaus.com to book. Merry Christmas!
Theres a new kid on the interiors block on Gloucester Road. Turning one this month, Stîl Homeware is bringing Scandinavian style to the high street, situated in in fashion boutique Fox & Feather as a concession. Scandinavian chic is a hugely popular decorative style with its natural materials, simple clean lines, muted colour palette and graphic monochrome accents. So I caught up with owners Clare and Lola to find out what inspired them to branch out into interiors.
What motivated you to open Stil?
Our backgrounds combine fashion, visual merchandising, and styling for film and T.V. We have always had a love of homeware and a passion for interior design, so it seemed like the right move!
I love the little house, or should I say circumflex, on your logo. How did you come up with the name?
Stîl means style in Danish. We thought this fitted in well with our Scandinavian feel...
The selection of products in store is beautifully curated and there range is huge from kitchen ware to hanging planters and pictures. How do you decide what to buy in?
Our mission is to sell beautifully designed, quality products that will fit into any interior due to their timeless quality and style. We have a mix of brands from all over Europe and the U.K, with a strong emphasis on Scandinavian design. Selfishly, we basically buy what we love! But also what we feel can fit into many interiors due to it’s classic design, or neutral colour scheme.
What’s next for Stil?
We have some gorgeous new brands coming into the store and we hope to expand our range of products, we now stock rugs!
Any hints on forthcoming products to look out for?
Watch this space.....! After all, with Christmas approaching fast the store will be have to be packed full of goodies!
Shop in store or online at https://www.foxandfeather.co.uk/collections/stil-homeware
How early is too early to start discussing Christmas? As most store owners will have ordered in their Christmas stock at the height of summer, hopefully the end of September won’t seem too offensive. The spirit of local High Street shopping is community focussed and often something of an antidote to the giants of retail that start the silly season before the last fireworks of Bonfire Night have fizzled out. As a result it isn't uncommon for indies to shun introducing Christmas to stores until as ‘late’ as 1st December.
Whenever you choose to succumb to Christmas, if you haven’t yet started planning your festive windows and in-store displays then now is absolutely the time. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Stand out with unusual colour schemes
Red and green is THE traditional Christmas combo, but there are a many more that signify the season just as effectively. Layers of whites, with perhaps a hint of sparkle, is perhaps the second most common sort of snowy Christmas colour scheme. Gold or silver are obvious contenders too. Orange would be an unusual choice that could work well, being evocative of clove stuffed orange pomanders, or indeed the real thing. Navy blue and white is a smart combination that is reminiscent of a clear, wintery, starry night sky. Luxurious purple with gold is decadent, slightly frivolous and richly festive. For a contemporary and fun feel, try a variation on the traditional red and green theme by using hot pink and turquoise with white.
Less or More
Sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more, but half way in between will always look half-hearted. So whether you choose to go minimal with a graphic, simple design or maximal with a jam-packed window, make sure you really go for it to get the most impact from your visual statement.
Cheap and cheerful
To keep on top of your VM budget, you could raid the loft for vintage decorations and toy collections, that might have been forgotten about, to make a unique and delightfully nostalgic display. Another advantage of reusing like this is avoiding buying new decorations, which are not always produced in the most long-lasting or environmentally friendly way.
If you already have a go-to stash of Christmas display goodies, you can certainly reuse them each year (or every other on rotation to avoid repetition) but by pairing with something different, borrowed or new you can make make fresh schemes each time.
Trash the tinsel
Even with the most careful handling, tinsel doesn't often last well for repeated use. Made from plastic nowadays, unless it can be reused multiple times it is an environmental no-no. Every bit as bad as that, it is also the laziest most obvious way to say Christmas in a store. But life is too short to go without a little sparkle altogether, so consider other ways to introduce shimmer and shine. Biodegradable glitter, confetti and sequins all now exist to make the world a better place. Shiny metal cookie cutters in star or tree shapes and so on are also brilliant, inexpensive and reusable.
Real life greenery is utterly charming, authentically traditional and can be used in endless ways to make a display. Fill a window with fronds, use branches to make a dress for a mannequin, suspend branches and dangle decorations or products from it, hang a selection of leaves with different coloured ribbons, the choice is yours. Biodegradable to boot, you won’t have a guilty conscience, and you’ll certainly turn heads.
House plants are having quite a moment in the interiors world. From the jungalicious, bohemian style of The Jungalow, from Los Angeles based blogger Justina Blakeney, to the tropical designs of 2016 Great Interior Design Challenge winner Black Parrots Studio, houseplants are now so popular they even have their own Instagram hashtag, #plantsofinstagram.
When the Affordable Art Fair invited me recently to style the Talks Lounge at their Bristol exhibition, providing me with a green sofa as the starting point, I could not resist going with a tropical, botanical story (with a touch of ‘canyon’ on the cushions).
As the event was held at the enormous Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station, there was an opportunity to play with scale in a way that doesn't ordinarily happen in residential interiors, so I hand-painted a large fabric wall-hanging with oversized monstera leaves and dangling vines.
Nothing quite beats the real thing of course, so Gloucester Road’s newest store, Wild Leaf, kindly loaned an absolutely fantastic selection of tropical and arid plants, which really brought this fun little project to life. If you’d like a feeling of warmer climes all year round, pay Wild Leaf a visit to see what would best suit you and your home.
If you would like to commission a hand painted wall hanging or canvas for your home please email to arrange a chat!
I'm so flattered to have a nomination for this year's Amara Interior Blog Awards, in the 'best interior designer blog' category. To make the shortlist that the judges will ultimately choose from I need votes in abundance, so if you like what you read I'd be so grateful if you would spare a moment to vote using the link below! You could even be in with a chance to win £250 to spend on your home with Amara - wouldn't that be nice?! Thank you xx
There's plenty to read here, but the blog goes back a long way now, four and a half years in fact, so I've made a shortlist here of some of the best posts for you:
Crating a balanced interior scheme that uses strong colour can be challenging and daunting, especially if you remember some of the lurid hues of Changing Rooms back in the 1990s. Many of my clients want a colourful home but lack the confidence to go really for it so I thought I’d share one way to guarantee success.
Very few interior designers will use a colour wheel to devise their schemes, as they should have either an innate sense of colour or enough experience to know what works well, but there is no shame in using the wheel and a little colour theory to help give you confidence. Complimentary colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel, which you can easily look up online or buy from an art or craft shop (your local independent one of course).
The secret to success is to vary the intensity of the colours, so that they are not all shouting at the same ‘volume’, as that can be fatiguing. If using yellow, you might prefer a quiet, pale yellow on the larger surfaces, and to confine the louder yellows, or pops of purple to smaller accessories, for example. Or you might want blue to dominate in which case you can use a variety of different blues of varying strengths, textures, patterns and finishes, with a few punches of orange dotted around the space. Whichever colour pair you choose, a complimentary scheme will always be balanced because there will be a colour from the ‘warm’ half of the wheel and one from the ‘cool’ side, every time. Of course you can bend the rules a little by picking a shade so close to its neighbouring colour that it is almost on the dividing line between the two, for example a bluey-purple (instead of a straight up purple) with a yellow that could have either a tint of green or a tint of orange.
Making life easy for shoppers is one of the most effective ways to encourage sales. Shelves or hooks on walls are one of the easiest ways to display products, so take advantage of the verticals in your store with these pointers.
Stretch Level - 180cm and above
Most shoppers will not often bother to look up to the higher shelves, unless they are really searching hard for a product (although ideally you don't want them to have to do this, by making everything clear), or the items displayed up high are truly eye catching. As these shelves are difficult for many shoppers to reach, they will of course be shopped from less often. So the Visual Merchandising convention is to place premium products with higher margins up here. This way, when products do sell from the top, they earn and pay for space on the shelf, even if they sit there for a longer time.
Common sense dictates that heavy or breakable items should not be displayed up high, as they will be more likely to cause injury if an overstretched arm reaches up and knocks something off or loses grip. The last thing you want is bulky objects falling on to customers from height. From an aesthetic point of view, visually heavy or dark coloured items are less successfully displayed up high, because they can make shelves look top heavy. Shelves are more appealing to look at when dressed with dark and bulky items at the bottom, gradually getting lighter as the shelves go up.
Eye Level - 122cm - 152cm
Eye Level is Buy Level, or so the saying goes. This is one of the most basic principles of Visual Merchandising. As this area is easiest for adult shoppers to browse, it will receive significantly more attention from shoppers than product in the other zones. If you have an abundance of a product you want to shift, or a line or collection you want to showcase, this is the ideal spot for it.
Touch Level - 90cm - 120cm
It isn’t rocket science to say that products placed in this area will be most easily seen and desired by children. If your business doesn't sell anything for little youngsters, then use these lower shelves for items in the next margin bracket down from this in the eye level zone. Products with detailed instructions or particulars on the packaging can be well placed here, as it is easy for customers to pick them up to scrutinise.
Stoop Level - 90cm and under
Bending down to pick up items placed near the floor can be a pain for some groups of shoppers, particularly the elderly or those with certain disabilities. Generally, products with lower margins are best placed on these lower shelves, so that bestsellers and merchandise with better margins are given the premium eye level position. It is also worth mentioning that less mobile customers and wheelchair users may often need a little extra help from store assistants, no matter how conveniently things are placed on shelves. So its always worth encouraging staff to be sensitive to their needs and quick to step in to offer good service. You can have the most beautiful shop display in the world but it is nothing without the support of staff to make it shoppable and accessible to all.
According to my partner, I have an addiction to Instagram. As a self-confessed passionate interiors enthusiast (obsessive) I fear it may be true. Slightly different from other social media platforms, the visual nature of Instagram has made it a happy place for fans of interior design.
The option to use hashtags to collect photos with particular themes together into searchable groups, and chain-like, pass-it-on style games, has made it a fun and friendly place to be online. Businesses are launched, collaborations made, competition prizes won, communities built and real life, offline friendships forged. Bristol is a game city full of interesting people, so I thought their interiors should have their fifteen minutes of insta-fame (and not only so that I can be nosey and snoop around them all from the comfort of my sofa, honest). A few months ago I launched the hashtag #mybristolhome as a way to collect together and celebrate the variety of home interiors across our beloved city. Gradually more people are playing along and sharing snaps of their homes, and as you might expect from such a vibrant place there isn’t a bland beige shot in sight. So have a scroll through #mybristolhome and please do feel welcome to join in and share your favourite corner with us all in the instafam!
This post was originally written for Bishopston Voice magazine.
I'm thrilled to have been nominated for an Amara Blog Award this year. I do try to provide useful content in my blogposts to inspire people who are doing their own projects, and to share the love of design around. Great to know it is being read! Check out the amara site to see all the other nominees, there are plenty of great blogs to fill your coffee breaks with!
Despite the trend for using grey in interiors in recent years, it may not be the most obvious choice for a children’s bedroom, and yet it can work. Children’s colourful toys and furniture really pop out against darker hues in an unexpectedly delightful way, but often we shy away from anything more interesting than off-white. It is wise to be wary of creating an over-stimulating environment, particularly when sleep habits during early-years are less than desirable, but there is definitely a case for using rich, deep colours. They are ideal for creating cosseting, cosy spaces. It may seem counter-intuitive to use such a dark grey in a child’s room, but it is anything but depressing when livened up with it’s natural colour-partner, yellow, along with a zingy blue and purple. The dark walls, ceiling and blackout-lined curtains here aid daytime napping, and also make for a fantastic sensory room when all the colour changing lights are switched on. Using pattern only sparingly, this room aims not to be too bedazzling, and pointedly avoids any cartoon characters on the furnishings. Decorating can be disruptive, and no one wants to be making big or expensive changes every time a growing child acquires a new passion. Parents are also allowed to enjoy the surroundings too, so there is no harm in choosing paints and papers that can be pleasurable for everyone to look at, and will grow with the child to some extent. Choosing a gender neutral colour scheme is also a good idea, as you never know, there might be a new sibling to share the same space later on.
Aside from colour, there are plenty of practical points to consider in order to create a successful children’s bedroom scheme. Although a futon atop a Japanese tatami mat for the bed means the room is missing out on an obvious storage opportunity, it suits the inhabitant of this space who has difficulty climbing and is prone to falling out of bed. Ordinarily though, cabin, bunk and trundle drawer beds are perfect for double-duty sleeping and storage, especially in smaller spaces.
Storage for toys and clothes is obviously essential. It can be useful to have shelving options high up out of reach, to house things that require adult supervision, such as paints and felt tips, keeping the lower, accessible shelves for less troublesome items. Anything that encourages easy tidying is a good idea, and in this instance there are simple trugg buckets, the contents of which will no doubt change every so often, in line with the evolving interests of the occupant. Wardrobe units can often be imposing so here they have been painted the same colour as the walls, and even look at first glance as though they have been built in to the alcove, keeping the ‘visual noise’ down. The household bedlinen and towels are also stowed here, making excellent use of the storage facility which would otherwise be overkill for most small people’s clothing collections.
Customising furniture, whether an old vintage gem or new from Ikea, is always a lovely way to add a unique touch to any room. This interior is home to a few upcycled items including a chest of drawers given new handles and a vibrant lick of paint using leftovers from previous furniture projects, home-made upcycled headboards (using a duvet and leftover curtain fabric) to soften the bed corner, and a giant old picture frame covered in fabric scraps. Little ones are never too young to make or appreciate art, so the gallery wall is a combination of family photos, keepsakes and old charity shop finds, and is easy to change up by swapping kids’ art or postcards from grandparents in to the frames.
Developing a Corporate Social Responsibility plan might seem like a tall order for many independent retailers. But CSR is not just for the big boys in business, and can help even the smallest of businesses become more environmentally and financially sustainable. Visual Merchandising is the perfect area of business for retailers of all sizes to start streamlining, because displays are rarely used twice. Creating new props, set pieces and baffles from plastic or foamex every season is becoming increasingly irresponsible, and is certainly not cost-effective for smaller stores.
Committing to reducing the use of disposable plastic is just one step that all businesses should now be taking to reduce their carbon footprint. Fortunately there are plenty of sustainable alternatives to plastic for making impressive window spectacles.
Paper is the single most virtuous of materials for making window displays. The ultimate renewable resource, paper is incredibly versatile and available in myriad different textures, patterns and finishes. You can paint it. You can punch holes in it. From the simplest bunting to complex origami, the possibilities for design with paper are literally endless.
Paper can also be very cheap or even free to source. Reusing and repurposing old magazines, newspapers, maps, music sheets and so on will always win extra ‘green’ points, as will using recycled paper. These types of paper will not suit every brand or window story of course, so the next best place to find paper is your local scrap store. They may have larger scale off cuts or end of line rolls of different papers for you to fashion into decorative displays without leaving a big environmental footprint.
The easiest way to use paper to make a design statement is to cut out simple shapes from a template and suspend them in the windows, ideally using clear nylon thread. Inaccurately or roughly cut shapes will instantly look unprofessional of course, so take care or delegate to someone with patience. With this kind of display more is usually more, so make plenty.
To tap into the sculptural potential of paper you can experiment with folding, fringing, curving and curling - simply run the edge or a ruler or scissor blade along a strip of paper like a florist curling ribbon. Secure shapes with staples, staple pliers, double sided tape, sticky pads, or glue. Play with light and shadow by punching or cutting holes or other shapes to the paper, adding a further layer or detail to your display.
Construct larger shapes or even set pieces using boxes or rolled-up wadges of corrugated card (sourced from your own empty delivery boxes of course). Cover with paper maché which is, in case it has been a long time since you did this at primary school, simply a mixture of paper and glue that applied to cardboard shapes to make a hard surface. You can texture it too by adding sand, rice, lentils or textiles depending on what you are trying to achieve. For a smoother finish, layer it up neatly, and lacquer it with water-based acrylic varnish for a glossy effect.
If you still need convincing that paper is better for your windows than plastic there is plenty of inspiration to be found on my Pinterest Board.
Showcasing your actual product stock in your shop windows is the most cost-effective way to create a window display. It signals unambiguously and efficiently to customers exactly what can be found in store, but not all retailers are blessed with selling pretty products that easily make great window displays. This makes visual merchandising much more tricky for purveyors of the more humdrum, everyday essentials that are unremarkable, or even ugly, to look at. The last thing you want to do as a small business is go to the trouble of making a banal window display that is easily overlooked or, conversely, spend a lot of money on specially made props and set pieces to compensate for the unattractiveness of the products. Luckily, with a little creativity and imagination there are several ways to make a resourceful and striking display, even with using the most dull items.
It can be tempting to show off everything you sell in the window, particularly if you stock many and varied product lines, but this usually leads to a messy melange. Less is usually more when selecting product varieties for a display, to keep the message clear, concise and give it a curated look. If you think of a window display as a theatre stage, ordinarily there would be one star of the show, and a supporting cast. So use this metaphor to help you choose one product to be the focal point of your shop’s show. Give this one pride of place, centre stage. The leading role is nothing without the help of his or her supporting actors, so pick another two products (maximum) to make up the rest of the cast. Display these around the main character, making sure the emphasis is on the star.
Another visual merchandising technique that has great impact is repetition. Although an under used device in window displays, repetition can be very effective at attracting attention. Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Tins are a great Pop Art example of this. It is worth emulating and very easy to achieve whether you sell soup, scissors, spanners or shoes. Simply choose one product and display duplicates of it, adding nothing else to avoid diluting the potency of the image. If the same product is available in different colour variations then creating a kaleidoscopic rainbow effect is just as good as using one colour throughout. Another variation on this technique is to use all one colour except for just one box or item in a different colour. There are multiple ways to install the products from suspending on string or clear thread, or stacking up to placing on shelves or plinths. The best and easiest display method may depend on the type of product you choose, and whether you keep it boxed or unboxed. Every month or 6 weeks you can simply choose another item to repeat throughout the window, and hopefully get people wondering about what you will choose to show next time.
The third way to make a virtue of ugly product displays is to set a scene and tell a story, because this is what really gets people talking. If you can make people laugh, you are definitely on to a winner. For example, a store selling household products could stack up packets of toilet paper rolls, and unwrap and unroll a quantity of the rolls to make a deliberate, carefully placed mess - as if the dog or kids have created chaos then disappeared. A witty caption could be written on to the window, or a series of doggy footprints on the floor. This would be enough to help explain the scene and hint at the story, as opposed to just leaving a pile of unexplained loo roll everywhere.
This sort of humorous ‘whodunnit’ style tableaux can also work with a pyramid stack of tins or boxes that has been partially knocked over by a mystery pet / child / elf / etc that has disappeared leaving just a clue to their guilt. Simply change the stacked items and the clumsy character to change the story. Pyramid stacks are not overly practical in small shops for obvious safety reasons, and have long been the source of calamity jokes on TV adverts. However, there is no harm in referencing this in window displays, particularly where customers can’t reach them to get hurt or damage your stock.
You may well think of better stories and ideas that are more appropriate to your particular brand. If cashflow does not permit getting a freelance Visual Merchandiser onboard, you can always get your staff involved with brainstorming and installing the ideas, which will have the added bonus of making them feel valued provided you reward their contributions.
*This article written by Zoe Hewett first appeared on www.modernretail.co.uk*