Interview with Cassie Nicholas Winner of Interior Design Masters on BBC2
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Interior Design Masters, the newest interior design show from BBC2, has been particularly thrilling viewing for Bristolians as one of our very own residents was not only a contestant but also the winner of the whole competition. Celebrating the profession of interior design rather than focussing on the drama of upsetting clients, a la Changing Rooms, this programme culminated in a fantastic opportunity to design a bar at a top London hotel. After the first episode I messaged Cassie Nicholas of Dighaushizzle saying I knew she would go all the way to the end of the competition and I’m so glad I was right! I caught up with Cassie to find out more about her experience on the show.

Huge congratulations on your win! It must have been next to impossible to keep everything secret for a year?

Yes, saying I was working away all the time was weird enough let alone explaining why I was weird and tired and stressed. I just wanted people to watch it and it was really nice to have so many people around to watch the final. 

How many did you cram into your house that night?

There was about 45 of us. It was nuts. We had the TV on in the lounge, the computer on, the laptop on and synced it all up so everyone could watch.

Were you nervous meeting so much Interior Design Royalty?

Weirdly I wasn't that nervous. 

I expect you were too busy to be nervous! 

In our antiques business we've dealt with loads of interior designers before so I was just really excited to hear what they had to say and to be judged by them. I never knew whether they were going to like it or not. I was just really excited about everything

Did it take long for you get used to the cameras being in your face al the time?

Yes, so long. They do a lot of camera checks and stuff before and they came to our house. We’ve done loads of bits so I don't know whether they do that to get you used to it. In the beginning people would just talk forever and they’d say ‘you’re not really giving us anything’ then by the end you kind of get used to the fact that you've got no time left to finish the room but they need you to say something about it. By the end you get used to saying what you need to say a bit more concisely. It’s so hard. 

Cassie’s winning design - living room in Manchester apartment

Cassie’s winning design - living room in Manchester apartment

It might have just been the edit but you seemed to be the only designer that did drawings - is that true?

No I don't think that is true. I’m a little bit old school so I don't really focus that much on CAD design. I’m also kind of like a maker, I like to make lots of things, so I always had drawings to give to my builders of how to design and make it. I just think, how are going to explain to other people exactly what you want, because y’know we are not all mindreaders. Everyone has got different ways of communicating their ideas and for me I can’t explain things just with words. Even if it is the worst drawing in the world.   

> I’m always saying that too <

I cant understand people’s vision until they set it out clearly for me. I was quite lucky that most of my final designs actually looked just like my drawings, because I knew exactly what I was going to do. When you go to tell your tradesmen what to do they can see it instantly, so they were able to work quite quickly because they could see what was going next and what it was supposed to look like.

Cassie’s Showhome design

Cassie’s Showhome design

One thing I noticed about all your schemes right from the first episode is that the level of sourcing was just a cut above, for example the iconic Bauhaus chair in the show home (episode 1), and there was a sense of a complete concept, like an extra layer of design awareness in everything that you did. It seemed like you really understand the visual language of a piece and what it means or conveys when you put it all together in a space. Do you think that comes from your background in antiques and fashion photography?

Yes I think so and I’m really chuffed that you noticed that. There’s no reason why you can’t do a show home or something really contemporary with things that are from the past and that’s what iI tried to do with that one and I think it worked really well.

It did! 

I just can’t be the person that goes into Home Sense or Dunelm and go and buy all my stuff. I only had a week to source everything so I know I definitely made life harder for myself by trying to find everything individually but to buy everything new off the shelf isn't good for the world anyway. I think that’s what most people should be doing anyway - go and find pieces that you love that you want to keep forever rather than just keep changing the look every few years. I was trying to keep things quite classic and I suppose that partly what I’m about. 

I imagine that with you antiques business you have a bit of a shorthand of where to find things when it comes to sourcing, as you have already built up that knowledge bank?

Yes exactly and I knew that was something I should play on as it’s definitely one of my strengths. As a designer I’m always going to be based in finding things, it’s where I find the most inspiration from. In the second episode (the chocolate hotel) it wasn't so popular with the general public but they are all pieces i bought and would loved to have kept. It’s all part of it, finding things I think people would like to keep forever. 

It’s the opposite of most commercial design particularly showhomes really, which are often just so ‘throwaway’.

Exactly. I felt like that was more of a genuine home maybe than how a showhome can feel, going to one shop and buying everything. 

Cassie’s antique filled bedroom

Cassie’s antique filled bedroom

Did you enjoy having Abigail Ahern as your mentor for the barber’s salon challenge?

Abigail was really great and we did have a really nice chat at her house, more than anything about confidence, and about my business now.  She was really happy with my design and I decided to just go for it, although it wasn't exactly what was asked for. The client wanted it to look old, he asked for trendy….. vintage industrial but I don't think you have to go that far with it, with the filament bulbs and everything - you can make it a bit more historical because it had been there for 50 years. So I thought let’s make it look like you've been here for 50 years.

Cassie’s vintage kitchen

Cassie’s vintage kitchen

It was beautiful to see Frank grow and improve his attitude SO much and it’s really nice that you ended up becoming friends. Did you go through personal growth as well?

I did. It was really the hardest thing, ever, because I was trying to run a business and you know you're away for a week and back for a week and but then as you know as well to prep something in a week and source everything as well ,you cant really do anything else around it so I was very consumed by it. The week we did the chalets and it wasn't going so well with me and Frank and Kyle it was a really tough week because I had to still stick to my guns. I just had to quietly be right on some things and push where I could because I still had to be on board with them. it was quite a lonely week and the crew really stepped up and all became really good friends. I definitely grew from the perspective that you get knocked down and you get back up again.

I really admired that you fought for your ideas but without being unpleasant, and how you just got your head down and got on with the work without any drama - like a professional!

I tried my best! It’s really difficult when people say things like ‘Cassie is really hard to work with  and she’s really opinionated'. But it’s really difficult when your opinions are really different to everyone else’s! So I think that’s why it gets said like that. I don't think I put them across any differently from anybody else but I just felt so differently about so much. I didn't realise going into it just how hard it would be. 

It’s no surprise to me that all the semi-finalists had related creative careers already. Do you think your background gave you an edge?

Yes definitely. I was really lucky in one sense that I haven’t actually done that much interior design before but I've been antiques dealer that has worked with a lot of interior designers for years and so now there are quite a few who trust me to turn up with stuff and they can just say to me ‘can you style it up over there, we’re running out of time and everything is turning up today’ so I’d just say yeah. We do that kind of stuff for people and style photoshoots. It’s always going to be about finding authentic and original things for me. I wanted to show at points  that I can do the trends but generally I don't want to. I’m happy for people to not come to me for that! I suppose I am just more niche and I’m happy to stay being niche. I did look back at my rooms and notice that maybe they weren't finished off with lots of small little bits. For me I suppose I couldn't just spend a couple of quid in Sainsbury's to buy some little bits because I just don't believe in it. I just can’t do that, so it’ll maybe look a little bit bare but I’d rather have one amazing lamp that cost three times as much and forgo putting all the little bits around it.

Quality not quantity. I think this is really important and valuable particularly for our industry in light of where we are with climate change. What was your favourite moment - apart from winning?!

I think probably my favourite moment, apart form winning, is just before when we sat on the sofa and they started to explain. Honestly those judges were so nice to me and I've since become really good friends with Matthew Williamson and he has encouraged me so much and just been so kind.

Having someone who likes your style and can support you has been amazing. He said some fantastic things to me just after I won because it was very overwhelming.

Cassie’s bar design

Cassie’s bar design

It seemed like the judges were almost searching around for a difficult question to probe you with because they obviously loved your work so much!

It was genuinely all so much nicer than it maybe seemed! Another really nice time filming was in Bournemouth, one evening when everyone, cast and crew, went out and had fish and chips on the beach and a beer, and it was just ‘this is now a weird holiday’. 

Haha! Were you given a more sensible amount of time for the prize - the hotel bar project?

Ha yeah. I hadn’t worked for a corporate company before so everything just took forever. I first went to see them in November last year and we finished in June. So it took quite a long time but its just getting things signed off, its just how long it took and generally takes. It was a massive learning curve, doing budgets for different departments and that kind of thing.

Well it looks absolutely amazing! I love that its got a Hollywood, Wizard Of Oz vibe to it. It’s like set design, its got that extra layer of story and depth about it.

I’m glad you think so. The building is already amazing. It used to be an old cinema and they had Audrey Hepburn on the wall and Marylin everywhere and it just seemed so wrong to go against all of that. It should be with this old school Hollywood glamour. There were lots of things that could not be changed obviously because there’s wood paneling throughout the lobby so that had to stay, and trying to everything on a budget while having to replace eighty chairs - that pretty much is the budget. It’s quite difficult but we managed to make it all work in the end.

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What is next for you now….?

That is such a scary question! A lot of people have been asking me. The main thing that’s changed about me actually, thinking about your question about growth, is that I’m much more of a yes person now. When I started this I almost pulled out, just before. I got offered it and they just assumed I’d say yes and I said ‘oh no I have to think about it’. My husband said ‘you should definitely do it’! So I’m a bit more open to doing things now. I haven't got loads sorted out but there are lots of different things coming up. I recently shot Matthew Williamson’s lamp collection. I’m just being open to whether I’m an interior designer, an antiques dealer or photographer. 

So its like shotgun, fire, then aim. You can be all of those things.

I feel like I've always felt more like a jack of all trades so I’m just enjoying seeing where that takes me.

Can you imagine if you had said NO to the producers? Its unthinkable!

Thank you so much for your time and sharing your story with me today Cassie.

Find out more about Cassie’s fabulous work online here: and

All photographs with kind permission of Cassie Nicholas (c) 2019

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Introducing Bristol's newest Textile Designer Bethie Tricks
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As an interior designer I am very fortunate to be surrounded by talented, inspiring, creative souls working in many different niches. Bristol is an absolute hotbed of art and design expertise and textile designer Bethie Tricks is another local artisan I wanted to interview for the blog. A start up company, Bethie launched her first collection earlier this year at Bristol Upholstery Collective but is no stranger to the world of interiors and has already spent years working in the industry. I caught up with her to find out more about this exciting new design brand on the scene.

What made you strike out on your own as a textile designer?

First and foremost, the need to create patterns and be creative in general. I have been playing with patterns, colour and making things since I can remember and I cannot get enough of it! It’s in my everyday. After working and designing for others I reached a point where I was craving a bigger challenge. The only answer to this, which had been suggested by everyone including my subconscious, was to start my own thing.

Bethie Tricks Textile Design Swing Seat

What did you do before? 

For the past eight years I have been working as a design assistant and personal assistant for a range of different companies. It has been invaluable to learn how different businesses run, what I would do differently, what my business values would be and to make sure I stick by them.

Bethie Tricks Textile Design

How do you find inspiration for your patterns?

There is nothing specific about this which always amuses people! It can be anything to how the foam is swirled in the top of a frothy coffee, to the sequence of paving stones, the pattern and structure of plant leaves and a landscape. Everything inspires me. My latest collection called Monochrome was inspired by botanical plant structures, cells under a microscope and then stylised by my imagination. 

What does your creative process look like?

I carry a sketchbook with me nearly all the time. My husband even takes pictures of things he thinks will inspire me (winner!). Keeping a record of creative ideas is so crucial. I even keep a pad of paper next to the bed now for last minute ideas at night. I then take the inspiration and start drawing and playing with paints, trying not to focus on something too specific and just see what happens. Sometimes the pattern or design in my mind is very clear but other times it’s fun to see what transpires from playing with my drawings.

Bethie Tricks Textile Design

Where do you work?

It’s a mixture of my studio and at home. I am about to move into a new studio in Bristol as I have outgrown my last one. Excited to meet new creatives that also share the space as bouncing ideas around and being inspired by each other is always brilliant. I would go ‘cuckoo’ working by myself all day at home.

Where do you sell?

I sell through interior designers, fabric stockists, Bristol Upholstery Collective, via my website and Instagram. 

Bethie Tricks Textile Design Box Cushion

Tell us about the quality and environmental credentials of your fabrics

I use beautiful Belgian flax linen which is 100% sustainable, grown and manufactured in Belgium. I grew up over there and by coincidence it was my favourite choice when looking and choosing fabrics to print on. In due course I will be expanding my range but all fabrics will be equally as considered and environmentally friendly. It’s a heavy weight linen, perfect for upholstery and soft furnishings. The flax linen has an oatmeal colour to it so my prints are enhanced by a beautiful natural background colour. 

What is the most weird / wonderful application of your fabric so far?

I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with meeting Leigh-Anne from Bristol Upholstery Collective. We first met through sharing a studio and she was filming Money For Nothing for the BBC. It’s a program about up-cycling and giving furniture and household items a new lease of life. Leigh-Anne used some of my fabric for an old storage ottoman which will be aired on the next season. Another wonderful blessing is some of my cushions now adorn a stunning house in the British Virgin Islands, just casually overlooking the ocean and stunning beaches. I should start insisting on site visits….! 

Bethie Tricks Textile Design

What is next?

The next six months consists of a very exciting collaboration with a company in London, new prints for the collection and hopefully selling more fabric to new customers! 

Thank you for sharing with us Bethie, and please take me with you on your site visits overseas, I’m sure I can make myself useful somehow - honest! 

Click here to browse the Bethie Tricks website

Meet The Brains Behind Bristol Upholstery Collective
Leigh-Anne Treadwell of Bristol Upholstery Collective - with kind permission of Sarah Moore Home

Leigh-Anne Treadwell of Bristol Upholstery Collective - with kind permission of Sarah Moore Home

If you have been paying attention to the Bristol interiors scene over the last few years you will probably already know about the award winning Bristol Upholstery Collective, but unless you are an avid daytime TV watcher you may not be familiar with the face behind the brand. A vision in her signature teal threads and red hair, Leigh-Anne Treadwell is the driving force of BUC and often appears on the BBC upcycling show Money For Nothing, transforming furniture items recovered from the tip. I caught up with Leigh-Anne to find out more about well, her, and her extraordinary journey from art student to business owner and TV personality.


Life Before BUC 
Leigh-Anne, tell us how you spent your time in the pre-upholstery days?

“I made things. All kinds of things. Unimaginable things. My Fine Art practice was extremely varied, using sculpture, video, installation and performance as my mediums, to explore interactive and playful meaning. After my degree, I worked as a community artist in South Wales. I enjoyed mentoring and connecting people, communicating meaning through art and appreciating the shared creative environment. It was fun, purposeful and different everyday. I moved back to Bristol in the hope of setting up an Arts Collective that would deliver community consultation and interactive art projects all over the south west, and ended up managing the world famous Old Duke jazz pub. I’d ‘had a go’ at recovering the seats at The Old Duke and realised there were tricks to this trade, so I studied upholstery for three years, one day a week, whilst running the pub.”

Starting Up

With a wealth of experience teaching English overseas and facilitating art workshops Leigh-Anne soon began imparting her upholstery knowledge in evening classes which she ran for a time at her own art studio. Determined to combine her dream of opening a craft and wellbeing social enterprise with creative upholstery, Leigh-Anne began searching for a space with a shop front that was large enough to act as an incubator hub for other newly qualified upholsterers. This way they would be “able to shout louder, brighter and achieve more together - more so than any of us could have as individuals starting off. With a lot of hard work, resourcefulness, skill, vision and determination, it grew from there.”

Getting started was extremely difficult and anyone less tenacious would have likely given up.

“Without any credibility, only a business plan and projections of an idea, I just didn’t seem to capture any landlords’ interest to take me on as an ambitious tenant. After meeting with fellow social entrepreneur Emma (Director of Bristol Textile Quarter), expressing the challenges I was being presented with after a year of repeatedly pitching my idea she called me and said ‘you are about to receive a phone call. Answer it and say YES!’ That phone call was from Bridget who ran a fabric shop in Old Market. I raced to see her within 20mins and I had 24 hours to make my decision to take on the space. I remember thinking ‘it’s not what I had envisioned’ but it was a start!”

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Money For Nothing

As a rare breed who doesn’t own a television Leigh-Anne had no idea about the BBC TV programme Money For Nothing until her mum called her and insisted she watched it. Serendipitously, just two weeks later the producers found the BUC website and invited the team to a successful Skype audition. 

“Our first ever TV project was two winged arm chairs that I had the idea of joining in the middle, face to face. Feeling pretty nervous about tackling such an idea with the camera watching and waiting for a TV worthy hiccup, we built the frame, adding features, creating a shape that looked very much like a cross between a love seat and a roll top bath, that we nicknamed the lovetub. Once sprung and ready we realised that we couldn't fit it out through the door!”

Undeterred by nerves or gaffes Leigh-Anne has continued to appear on the show across several series.

“It truly is a blessing to be able to educate and express my excitement about what I do to a huge audience. I love the challenge of creating TV-worthy transformations, using the show as a platform to promote local artists and collaborating with independent designers. The Money For Nothing team, Sarah Moore, Jay Blades and EJ Osbourne are the most excitable and talented people I’ve ever met, and its a joy to work with them.”

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Helping People Realise Their Chair Dreams

The creations seen on the TV show are a taste of what can be made at BUC which has developed to become an Association of Master Upholsterers approved training centre. As such Leigh-Anne and the team now deliver a three year diploma to those looking to start a career in the creative upholstery. 

Leisure learners can bring along a chair, complete an intensive project weekend or learn how to sew cushions.

“We enable and empower people to be the best they can be by helping to identify and develop their own uniqueness and celebrate creative flair. We help people realise their chair dreams. The creative learning environment here at Bristol Upholstery Collective is incredibly important. The community of staff, students and collaborators is extremely welcoming and always inspiring. There’s a real buzz. Locals quite often pop their heads in to thank us for our presence on the Totterdown Wells Road. Our window displays bring pride and excitement to the community.”

Other skills on offer include Auto Trimming with Cat Upholstery, French Upholstery with Armand Verdier, and Interior Design with Stylemongers of Bristol (that’s us!).

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What’s next for BUC?

“Retail! We’re launching an online statement chair shop with a series of our own product designs. We’re also selling student works to financially support their training, and teach basic enterprise skills to springboard their business practice.

A new exciting course is also in development - Fabric Design! Our students will be able to create completely unique and creative pieces!”

In all, the scale of the community Leigh-Anne has built along with Harriet and Tom at BUC is a huge achievement, and the impressive output from the mind of one woman on a mission.

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Vote now for Stylemongers Of Bristol to make the Amara Interior Blog Awards shortlist 2019!

The Stylemongers Of Bristol blog has ben nominated in the Best Interior Designer Blog category at the 2019 Amara Interior Blog Awards - for the third year running. If you have enjoyed any of the posts please do vote for us to make the shortlist and put the blog under the noses of the judges by clicking the image below. Thank you so much!

How to get the best from your interior designer

Interior design, being a luxury service, is often considered extremely expensive so here are five tips on how to get the best from your interior designer…..

You only get out what you put in

Investing at least a little time and energy in your project is a good idea, even if your main reason for hiring a designer is that you are too busy to do it yourself. Choosing a designer who is the right fit for you can take time and you’ll also need to decide how much money you want to dedicate to your project budget before hiring. Thinking about your needs, wants, nice-to-haves and absolutely-nots for the finished room ahead of your first designer meeting will be invaluable as the project progresses. Checking colours is best done in natural light so if it is winter time, or your project is a building site still without power, you will need to make yourself available for at least one daytime meeting. Be prepared to take a day off work. It will help your designer get it right first time for you.

Be clear in your brief 

Giving your designer a sound brief at the beginning will help keep things running efficiently and on the right track. It’s okay to change your mind about what you want, but bear in mind that if you do this after design work has started you may incur a change-of-scope charge. This will cover the extra time and effort spent dealing with the knock on effect of your changes, so it is really worth engaging with the briefing phase at the start.


Respect their rates

Asking for a discount before you’ve even begun probably won’t instil much in the way of goodwill. If your employer asked you to work this month for a reduced wage you’d probably tell them to jog on and book a load of time off. Although you might like to, chances are you wouldn’t haggle with your solicitor, dentist or osteopath. Qualified interior designers are skilled professionals too. They also carry a weight of responsibility and risk in their work for which they should be adequately insured, so there are overheads that may not be immediately obvious. It might seem expensive when your designer appears to solve or source something in five minutes flat, prompting thoughts of ‘I could have done that myself’, but it will have taken years of training, experience and accumulated knowledge to do it that quickly.

When there are multiple rooms each needing bespoke design input, the amount of work required intensifies, so ‘quantity discount’ does not apply. It might be possible if your designer is supplying multiples of mass produced products, but generally interior designers are creating bespoke items which require careful specification. It is not usually possible or appropriate for designers to pass on their trade discounts when supplying goods, because they are liable, just like any other retailer, for the quality, guarantee, return / exchange / replacement and administration of those goods, so to provide these at a reduced price would be totally unsustainable - business suicide. Clients always have the right to source things from wherever they like, but the main benefit of central ordering is that it is nice and convenient, and convenience is often a premium worth paying. 


Keep an open mind

By all means have a look around on Pinterest in the beginning, but once your designer has begun designing for you try to resist the temptation to keep looking for more inspiration, it will only confuse and distract. You are paying an expert to do it for you, so leave them to get on with what they do best. Trust in your designer’s process and allow them to challenge the boundaries of your brief and take a risk to achieve something with wow factor.

If you start getting excited by the creative momentum of the project then try to avoid making purchases without first checking in with your designer, as every surprise new element you add will require the him or her to rework the whole design around it. Ultimately this could end up costing you more in design fees and compromise your designer’s vision for your project. If you want to be quite involved in the project yourself then you might be better off investing in a consultation or workshop for a steer, rather than committing to a complete design service. Too many cooks spoil the broth. 

Unless you are a real risk taker, a fan of surprises and specifically request a Changing Rooms style reveal (don’t ever do it!) no one is going to do anything to your property without your prior permission. The designer’s drawings, moodboards and samples should convey clearly to you what is proposed so you can relax in the knowledge that you are in safe hands.

Enjoy the process

If you have any concerns about anything to do with the design work it is vital that you flag it up immediately so that it can be resolved before it becomes a problem - either expensive to rectify or an unhappy atmosphere. Most designers are passionate about their work and want nothing more than to create fabulous spaces that make people happy, so will usually go the extra mile for their clients. 

If Stylemongers Of Bristol might be a good fit for you then please complete the enquiry form to find out how Zoe can help you. If your project or deadline is not the right fit for Stylemongers Of Bristol fear not, we will refer you to someone more suitable in our network.


Meet Bristol's Very Own Upcycling Queen
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Forever associated with the creative, unconventional and anarchic, Stokes Croft is home to one very distinctive Bristol furniture upcycler, Marcie Kobernus. With a lot of leopard print, graffiti words and bold gold leaf, Marcie’s hand painted style is maximalist, punk and rebellious. Refined it is not. Fabulously ballsy it definitely is.   

After a lifetime of making things from scratch and running her own clothing business, Marcie delights in rescuing and revamping vintage brown wood pieces with paint, decoupage and upholstery treatments. Working from her studio, The Chicken Shed (which literally was once a chicken shed), and often using chalk based paints, but never in a Shabby Chic way, Marcie has developed her distinctive style and created numerous statement pieces, growing an impressively sized following on instagram along the way. 

She has become the resident upcycling columnist for Reclaim magazine and each month shares a tutorial for keen DIY-ers to follow or adapt at home, whether its turning a table into a clock, a divan into a coffee table, or trimming a chair with tassels. 

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This year Marcie was invited to design a room set to inspire visitors to Grand Designs Live at the London ExCel. Hand painting leopard spots all over the walls she filled it with screens painted with cranes and other items daubed in her signature style. 

Selling both online and at the pop up Vintage Market on Stokes Croft in central Bristol, if you are looking to give your home an irreverent, unique touch then Marcie might just be your girl. 

If you fancy having a go yourself keep your eyes peeled as Marcie will be opening the doors to her Chicken Shed studio soon to run playful pattern painting workshops with an emphasis on the wellbeing that only hands on, mindful, analogue and tactile working can provide.

Pop into the Stokes Croft Vintage Market for a browse, follow her instagram for a scroll or find her online here

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What Climate Emergency Means For Interior Design

As someone who has always been pretty resourceful, diligently recycling, upcycling and not buying every shiny new thing that catches my eye, the declaration of climate emergency has taken me rather by surprise this year. I obviously hadn’t been paying quite as much attention as I thought. It is simultaneously a relief and a burden to know (thanks to school-age strikers and Extinction Rebellion protestors) just how urgent things have ‘suddenly’ become. The future of our planet looks bleak right now with some scientists claiming it is already too late, but we absolutely cannot go down without a fight. 

The main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are our energy needs, transportation, agriculture and of course the plastic disaster. Although the scale of these problems will need resolving at government level internationally, there are certainly steps we as interior design industry professionals and consumers can and must also take to immediately reduce our environmental impact.

Consumers are often the first to be criticised for behaviour that damages the planet which is convenient for unscrupulous manufacturers as they can lay everything at the  door of ‘customer demand’. It is worth pointing out that most people are so far removed from the manufacturing process, particularly as so much is made cheaply in far flung lands, that through no fault of their own they often don't have the foggiest idea about how things are constructed, materials sourced or waste and by-products disposed of. The responsibility to be responsible should be shared by consumers and designers and manufacturers alike.

Here are a few ways we can all become part of the solution.


Most interior fabric houses and furnishings retailers, just like those in the fashion world, produce two seasonal collections of new designs every year. While it is wonderful to have an abundance of choice, the reality is we already have a style history back catalogue stretching back two millennia, so its arguable we don't really need any new patterns or shapes.

The development of smart textiles and materials that are less damaging to the environment will almost certainly bring a new, wholly justifiable, aesthetic. Fabrics don’t last forever so we will always need and want them, but as the planet is already starting to feel very full of both finished product and mountains of reusable material I would wager we can get by without new designs being produced almost constantly. Manufacturers will not want to reduce production and the idea might cause existential crises among artists and designers who are innately compelled to create and make. Typically there is a suitable William Morris quote just for this occasion:

“Artists cannot help themselves; they are driven to create by their nature, but for that nature to truly thrive, we need to preserve the precious habitat in which that beauty can flourish.” 

One artist-designer who is already ahead of the curve and has been able to control her creative urges for the greater good is Bryony Benge-Abbott of Bryony & Bloom, deciding to halt production of her fabulous textiles two years ago. Bryony now focusses on painting bespoke murals for community engagement projects instead.


Keeping up with the Joneses on Instagram is a truly terrible phenomenon. As a child my mother took me shopping with a heavy emphasis on the phrase “it’s nice to look”, and as a result I have always been content to look and appreciate but not always buy - quite  useful mindset during leaner times! There is a constant flow of house envy inducing images on insta, full of brand new interior accessories that are all too often ditched in favour of the next best thing the following season or year. It’s time to stem that. 

All the retailers who jumped on the hygge bandwagon a few years ago will almost certainly find a way to profit from the newest intangible Scandinavian concept on the block, Lagom. Meaning approximately ‘just the right amount’ or in-balance, in moderation, these are great words to live by - just don’t get caught up in buying all the lagom branded tat that will inevitably be coming to a shop shelf near you very soon!



Like it or not, magazines and instagram influencers really can shape our opinions of what we think we ought to put in our homes, which also puts them in a position of huge responsibility. Collectively we need to adjust our focus away from trends, what’s new and what’s hot. I mean really who cares? Do YOU like it? That's all that matters when it comes to furnishing your home. I’ve written before about the trouble with trends. A huge mindset shift is required. Fall in love with everything you buy for your home so you can keep it for the longest possible time. Simply put, if you are not sure, it means you don't love it so don't buy it. Say goodbye planned obsolescence and hello to lifetime guarantees with this excellent website Buy Me Once


Lugging home hand crafted treasures found during exotic travels is one of life’s great pleasures and it is always good to support local economies when abroad. That’s quite different from buying mass produced items that have been shipped from the far east for your convenience though. Reducing transportation (of goods as well as people!) is a key part of fighting climate change. Supporting your own local artists and artisans, crafters and designer-makers is vital, and they can and should be held to account about their own environmental efforts just as readily as a multinational company. 


When sourcing for a recent bathroom project I noticed a certain nordic furniture giant selling drawer cabinets for a fraction of the price of the more specialist bathroom brands and yet offering twice the length of guarantee. Upon closer inspection there was an unsurprising disparity of quality and simply no way such a flimsy cabinet would survive ten years in a family bathroom or busy house share. What I think this kind of warranty really means is that the product won’t actually last for a decade, but will be endlessly replaced by customer services for up to a decade. Not exactly sustainable, despite any lofty company claims. 

Invest in the best you can afford, whether its antique, vintage or new and look after it well. Good quality items will always last longer and be easier to repair. The wartime mantra ‘make do and mend’ springs to mind, but this approach doesn’t necessarily have to mean a compromise on appearances or putting up with rickety old things. There are plenty of highly skilled upcyclers, luxe-cyclers and upholsterers on hand to help with both a keen creative eye perfect for updating and the requisite handicraft. 

Eames DSW Chairs

When it comes to design classics, like the now ubiquitous Eames DSW chairs, don’t be tempted to buy cheap fakes. The plastic used is not of the same calibre as in the originals so of course it will not be as durable. Not all plastic can easily be recycled afterwards, so it will likely have been a wasteful purchase. It is always better to seek out a vintage one or buy from a trusted source like Bristol’s own Oskar Furniture


While it is marvellous and progressive that iconic 20th Century pieces like the Componibili unit by Kartell are now being manufactured from bioplastic (sugar beet and waste cooking oil) instead of virgin petrochemical plastic the uncomfortable truth is that not even bioplastics are by default more sustainable. Not all are biodegradable, some biodegrade more easily but are water polluting in the process, so really plastic of any kind is best avoided and confined to a part of human history when we thought we were cleverer than we actually are.

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Cradle to cradle design needs to become resolutely mainstream and not patronisingly thought of as a nice or novel concept for companies to occasionally adhere to in order to tick their Corporate Social Responsibility box. What this means in reality is designers and manufacturers using natural materials that can easily be reused, repurposed or recycled when the lifetime of the product is over.

Be aware too that sometimes plastic does not look like plastic. Wallcoverings with textures and sheen are often plastic based, and cheaper upholstery fabrics will contain plastic based micro fibres, just like half of your wardrobe (click here for advice on how to curb that from Bristol finest personal stylist Becky Barnes).

Although sofas and chairs don't go in the washing machine the production of their coverings will inevitably mean that fish in the far east are now filling up on the leftovers.


Bamboo Wicker Furniture

Packaged food labels are increasingly clear about the raw ingredients within, but when it comes to clothing and home accessories since most of us are not well educated about textiles and other materials, composition descriptions are fairly meaningless. Material lists also do not describe the source of said material, the health and safety of factory workers or our health using the goods at home, so we need more information and to understand it. As a very fast growing grass bamboo is a fantastically sustainable material, strong enough to use as flooring and soft enough once processed to make blankets.

The potential danger here is that when multiple large companies wanting to become more sustainable it may lead to epic scale plantations of bamboo (or indeed any other eco cash crop) which can become a problem if they are replacing essential naturally biodiverse forests. So if the bamboo, for example, does not itself come from a sustainable source, it still isn't sustainable. We do not want to be creating more palm oil situations in the misguided pursuit of sustainability. So we need to be proactive in asking our retailers and manufacturers very direct questions about their materials, supply chains and ethical processes. Don’t expect most assistants on the shop floor to know too much, but by creating discomfort (politely!) the big brands will start to get the message that their customers are switched on and want to buy well.


Literally slow down. The hideous disruption and inconvenience of renovation understandably means we usually want it over and done with as quickly as possible. Fast fashion is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons and there is a real case for Slow Decor too. Just like Mole showing Ratty around his modest home in Wind In The Willows, this means keeping and using family heirlooms, buying some vintage and second hand pieces, a certain amount of going without, and a bit of saving up, perhaps a few home made things. Taking pleasure in creating a unique home is a key component of Slow Decor. Planning and visualising the finished project in advance is good advice, especially when budget is limited. This also allows enough time to make better decisions. Builders can often surprise with urgent requests for decisions about finishes or tiles etc when their projects suddenly reach a certain stage, putting pressure on clients to make decisions fast at a time when they are likely stressed and busy. Hiring an interior designer can help you avoid rash decisions, buyer’s remorse and the possibility of having to redecorate twice.

White Kitchen

Ripping out perfectly serviceable kitchens and bathrooms is just one reason why the construction industry has one of the worst carbon footprints. Buying second hand has never been easier thanks to the high standard of many charity shops and the web. You might be amazed at what you can find on Freecycle if you are prepared to put the hours in to searching for it - it’s all on there. Online marketplaces like eBay and gumtree are now full of second hand kitchens and leftover building materials and there are a few dedicated websites too such as the Used Kitchen Company.

Waste from renovations can still have value as long as it isn’t all simply skipped in the name of saving time at the end of a project. Your leftover paint can be donated for reuse, and indeed you could even source your paint from The Sofa Project (other parts of the country will have their own resources). If you can’t find your ideal colour there be sure to buy an environmentally friendly paint.

So there are plenty of ways we can improve the way we are doing interior design. If you have any ideas I haven’t mentioned please do add them in the comments below.

Rediscovering the Classics: My Bauhaus Top 5

The phenomenally influential Bauhaus design school celebrates its centenary this year so I have relished the prompt to revisit my own art and design history studies from high school and university. For those of you who have never heard of the Bauhaus before, it was an early twentieth century movement intent on unifying art, craft and design in all its forms to create a holistic approach to teaching and practice, and put creative soul at the heart of functional design. The influence of its leaders has been acknowledged across all design disciplines from teapots to graphics and buildings, all over the world. I’ve picked out my five favourite Bauhaus classics, some of which still look contemporary today and which you may well recognise.

The Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich

The Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich

If you have ever scrolled Pinterest for interior design inspiration, chances are you will have seen this classic chair numerous times already. A favourite among architects, you will often see them use this chair to humanise their designs. It is sleek, beautifully proportioned and inviting. Typically, Lilly Reich has only been recognised posthumously for her collaborative contributions to the enormous success of Mies Van Der Rohe’s oevre. 

Triadic Ballet costumes by Oskar Schlemmer

Triadic Ballet costumes by Oskar Schlemmer

Exploring form and function was one of the basic tenets of the Bauhaus and these costume designs by Oskar Schlemmer for his Triadic Ballet are no exception. Inspired by geometry and the idea of the human body as a machine or mechanism the costumes are based on abstracted human forms. Schlemmer also directed how the performers moved whilst wearing these creations which resemble marionettes. Constructed from custom farthingales, the clothes were incredibly sculptural with some of the inherent shapes and lines recognisable as part of the signature Bauhaus style across many different disciplines. 

Oskar Schlemmer Costume
Attributed to Bauhaus designer Marianne Brandt

Attributed to Bauhaus designer Marianne Brandt

Bauhaus product design often featured strong shapes like this beautiful cocktail shaker. What’s not to love about these pleasing curves and spheres? The handle is essential for the functionality of this boozy teapot and the form of it follows the main body of the vessel so perfectly and in exactly the right proportion. It’s a masterpiece and using it would be a joy every time.

‘Bright Unity’ - Wasilly Kandinsky

‘Bright Unity’ - Wasilly Kandinsky

The hugely famous abstract artist Wassilly Kandinsky taught in the Bauhaus art and architecture school and is thought to be have been a synesthete, someone whose senses are not entirely separate, seeing colours upon hearing music or tasting shapes. Much his beautiful, detailed work related to music and the signature Bauhaus line is evident in this painting of his. 

Gunta Stolzl weaving

Gunta Stolzl weaving

There were many women graduates of the Bauhaus school including Gunta Stolzl who became its only female master. Her weaving work was incredibly intricate and her planning drawings are fascinating. Have a browse of them and many other examples of Bauhuas style over on my pinterest page, and if you fancy a cultural trip to Germany this year there are plenty of Bauhaus events to keep you engaged! Just head to the Bauhaus 100 website to find out more.

Which Bauhaus pieces do YOU like the best?! Comment below x

Stylemongers Of Bristol wins at the Bristol Property Awards

WOW! Thank you so much to the judges at Bristol Property Awards for awarding Stylemongers Of Bristol best Residential Interior Designer. It was a real shock as the category was made up of large long established companies and talented designers I am full of admiration for! I will treasure my Bristol blue glass brick trophy! Browse the rest of the finalists and winners here

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Learn About Retrofit For Your Home At Bristol Green Doors

You may have heard that we have a climate emergency on our hands and that we have to abandon our reliance on fossil fuels with a new urgency. For homeowners and interior design fans this means starting right away by consuming less (read my article on the trouble with trends here), using less energy, switching to renewable sources, generating our own power onsite and even rethinking some of the building materials we use. The village of eco-homes in St Werbugh’s is a popular destination for a Sunday afternoon stroll, but no longer is it enough to saunter past momentarily enjoying the quaintness of the wibbly-wobbly wooden window frames. We have to become proactive about retrofitting our homes to become more energy efficient and we have to do it now. Start this weekend! Bristol Green Doors is back and you can learn how to improve your home’s carbon footprint without necessarily making it look like a Hobbit House!

Bristol Green Doors

If you haven’t heard of Bristol Green Doors before it is an open house trail of a dozen homes across the city that have successfully been retrofitted using environmentally friendly, even reclaimed materials, natural fibre insulation, solar power, electric car charging points and more across a range of properties dating from the Victorian period and across the twentieth century. 

Bristol Green Doors

You can meet the homeowners who are on hand to inspire, educate and sharing their experiences to empower you on your retrofit journey. Quiz them about installers they would (or wouldn’t!) recommend, view the work and think about how you can replicate their successes in your own property. 

If you are interested in attending but can’t make it along this weekend fear not, the Bristol Green Doors website is full of useful case studies, crammed with detail and about what was done and metrics charting each property's energy performance. You don’t even have to wait until the weekend to read those, you can start right now! This isn’t just about saving a few quid on your energy bills anymore. This is about contributing to protecting all of our futures.

Why Expensive Paint Is Worth It
Little Greene Paint.jpg

Decorators have often been known to complain about and even refuse to use the likes of Fired Earth and Farrow & Ball paints. Some complain about the aroma, some about the particular way it performs during application, others because they didn’t make any margin because they didn't supply it.  At the very least they might enjoy balking at the price and cheekily joking about how you were robbed in broad daylight, but are these designery paints just premium brands with high price tags to make people feel a cut above? Or are there valid reasons why these paints cost so much more than say Wickes’ own? 

The main reason these paints are more expensive is simply the quality. The quantity of natural pigment (as opposed to dye) is much higher than in most paints and it is this generous pigmentation that provides superior depth of colour, creating walls of colour you could almost dive into. However, although many customers can perceive and appreciate this richer experience of colour, others just don’t see it and need more convincing.

Nola Interiors Little Greene.jpg

We are hearing a lot about the climate emergency we are all facing at the moment, but it is not only the air quality outside the home that we need to address but also the emissions within the home. It may surprise some readers to learn that many modern home furnishing products are made from materials that can emit carcinogens, a process sometimes called ‘off-gassing’. Oil-based paints and mainstream water-based paints contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are essentially solvents emitted as vapours that are harmful to the environment as well as your health.

Thankfully certain designer paints contain little to no VOCs. As my local stockist of two of my favourite paint brands, Little Greene and Earthborn, I asked Finola of Nola Interiors (Gloucester Road Central in Bristol) to explain what makes these paint formulations special. 

“Both Little Greene and Earthborn paints are environmentally friendly, odourless, virtually VOC free and certified child safe. Little Greene's water based paint and Earthborn paint are certified as child safe under BS EN 71-3: 1995, also known as Toy Paint Regulations, making them stand out from the rest. It gives parents peace of mind knowing that these paints are safer for their children within their home environment. I receive lots of comments from customers who are impressed that these paints have no smell or unpleasantness, contributing to a safe, cleaner atmosphere within their home surroundings.”

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Applied correctly (preferably in a colour you truly love and won’t even want to change for many years) higher quality paint will last longer than an inferior product. The less often a room is repainted the better, not only for your purse and avoiding the disruption, but also because that’s fewer occasions that a fresh lick of paint makes everything else look tired enough to be replaced making it easier to buy well and buy less.

Certain naturally pigmented paint also allows your house to breathe which, in combination with keeping it well ventilated, will help prevent damp problems saving money in the longer term. Finola adds “Earthborn clay paint is breathable and is recommended for lime plaster and damp walls”.

Using eco-friendly paint is the logical next step. “It's easy to switch to eco household cleaning products, replacing regular cleaners that contain allergens. Buying environmentally friendly paints that are free from nasty chemicals, will hopefully also become second nature.”  says Finola. Defaulting to eco products in all areas of life is going to require research and mindful shopping at first but it will soon become any and every small change you can make will help, and change our habits we must.

I hope you will agree these are compelling environmental reasons for investing in expensive ‘designer’ paint and that the planet is worth paying for. 

For more advice on eco paint visit Nola Interiors online or in the bricks and mortar store where you can also browse a fabulous selection of rugs, baskets and textiles made from 100% recycled plastic bottles that look and feel like just like soft wool.

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House Tour: Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet
Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bedroom

The particular atmosphere of a house, or indeed any building, is something I have been attuned to and fascinated by since childhood, so it was a real privilege for me to meet Bristol artist Sadie Spikes recently at her extraordinary home. An art gallery, installation, studio, family home and guesthouse all rolled in to one, the Curious Cabinet in Fishponds has the most fantastically tranquil and restorative ambience. It is a stunningly light-filled space without suffocating carpets but naked floorboards throughout revealing plenty of warmth and character. There are many thoughtful, detailed touches dotted around, such as a hand written labels for the teas, quotes and notes, bath luxuries, carefully chosen books, fairy lights, baskets of blankets, beautiful crockery - all simple little pleasures that encourage a certain slowing down, mindfulness even, and joy in quiet everyday moments. Despite serving so many purposes and housing a collection of vintage treasures the house feels anything but cluttered. I caught up with Sadie to find out how she does it. 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bedroom

How did it all begin Sadie? 

The Guesthouse grew in part from necessity when my 14 year career as an art lecturer was suddenly reduced to nil hours. My partner (now husband) and I had just bought this fairly large wreck of a house, which seemed to shine under the years of neglect it had suffered, and was beckoning for attention. The lovely, slightly naive idea at the time was that I could do up the house, have a business, be at home for my daughter as she was still little, and have a studio art practice. I had already built myself a studio at the end of my garden so it could all begin. 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet

That would have been quite a juggle! Your artwork for sale is displayed on the walls in the gallery areas, but the house itself seems to be an artwork in its own right. What can you tell me about that?  

As we grew together (myself and the house) organically over time, I was always aware that language or dialogue was taking place between us! The house itself became another installation of sorts, and I am constantly shifting and responding to the essence or soul that the house most definitely has. It has always felt as if we had a symbiotic relationship; one which grew as I gradually peeled back the layers of an unloved surface, and breathed new life into her with every single brush stroke. I knew she was thanking me. In return, she has an undoubtable peaceful atmosphere that is palpable. Every guest we have had has said so. So I weave my artworks and objects ‘into’ the walls of the house via my paintbrush, and I use the space to create a constant shifting installation with the objects held within that all evoke a feeling or tell a story. There is nothing here by accident. I love it, and it is a never-ending artwork. I have come to understand that everything I do is very interconnected, and it is difficult to discern if there is a line which delineates what is art and what is life! 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Gallery

There are plenty of interesting vintage items around the house but rather than cluttering the place up, like so many collections do, their placement looks carefully considered, curated even, into little vignettes. 

I am drawn to objects which each hold their own story in their patina, and am fascinated by the journey that these objects take you on, like portals to another place. My artwork, installations, and objects have always had a strong sense of time and history, and contain glimpses of our shared collective human experience.

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet

Now that you have studied Feng Shui (the ancient Chinese practice of mapping out houses to allow energy to flow so as to harmonise people with their surroundings) do you use any Feng Shui principles in your house? 

The course was was an absolutely extraordinary and eye-opening experience. I understood just by the feeling of our house that something other than bricks and mortar was at play, and the movement of energy in our homes impacts us in ways we just don’t even realise. It opened the door to an incredibly complex ancient knowledge. As a result I completely overhauled and decluttered the house over the last year and reconfigured all of the gathered, stagnant stuff. It now feels incredible and almost upkeeps itself, which is amazing for a large five bedroomed house! 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bathroom

What is your vision for the house going forwards? 

The next vision for the house, myself, and maybe the vans in our ever-changing journey is to start small, intimate retreats for women in the house to create amazing, life affirming, and creative short breaks that nurture the soul. Sharing skills through a variety of workshops and talks, inspiring each other whilst being recharged in the house’s peaceful atmosphere. By collaborating with other like-minded creative women, I am hoping to create something quite magical in the house. I am currently looking for other women with a vision who love the idea of sharing their skills and talents in a small group setting to come forward and join me; if you have a workshop idea and would like to get involved please get in touch. 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet

These retreats sound amazing. Please make sure I’m first on the list to find out when they start happening! Thank you so much for sharing with me. 

View Sadie Spikes’ art, Show Vans and her Curious Cabinet online here

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bedroom

The Trouble With Trends - Mindful Interiors

Pouring over magazines and instagram squares to see the latest interior design trends is undoubtedly a lovely and relaxing way to spend some ‘me-time’, but the truth is that trends are trouble. Firstly, trends really date a home. If you have ever bought an item of clothing at the height of its popularity, perhaps egged on by a sale price, but soon after felt uncomfortable wearing it because it starts to look ‘of a time’ (rather than authentically YOU) then you will recognise that feeling of buyer’s remorse that comes from fleetingly being a fashion-victim. The same applies to home decorating. Remember avocado-coloured bathroom suites? Totally 1970s. How about red and grey diagonal stripes or zig-zag wallpapers? Instantly transported back to the 1980s. Just as Yves Saint Laurent said, “fashions fade, style is eternal”. 

Trends are invented. In case you don’t already know how it works, forecasters scour design trade shows and spot themes among the innovative new products on display. Taking into account current affairs and changes in public mood they combine all this research and fabricate a ‘story’, complete with colour palettes and image moodboards, all for the sole purpose of predicting which ideas will be commercially profitable for big brands to run with, essentially so they can sell you more stuff. Before you know it, that cool indie designer-maker you saw at a craft fair has been ‘spotted’ and their work has become trendy, then quickly plagiarised by a giant supermarket chain (by which time it is no longer the zeitgeist). They’ll ensure there are plenty of cheap and cheerful accessories in their homeware section so you can inexpensively buy into the trend and keep your home looking current, now, and again in a few months time when they release a new collection. 


So following trends can make our homes and wardrobes look unfashionable very quickly and  encourage both the creation and consumption of more stuff, but there is even bigger problem with all of this - plastic and climate change. It is fine for us to buy new things for our homes regularly if they are made from sustainably and ethically sourced biodegradable materials, built to last for forever, passed on afterwards and can be recycled or reused as something else at the end of their lifetime. The reality though, is that we are very detached from how things are made and the impact they have during manufacturing (both environmentally and on factory workers), transportation, and disposal. 

We are becoming increasingly aware of the problems with fast fashion and micro-fibres, but it is time we became more switched on about homeware as well. While it is lovely that nice things are affordable and accessible, what is the true cost? 


Next time you see an influencer promoting the latest resin cactus, plastic palm tree or other objet du jour they’ve been gifted, if you feel yourself getting swept along by a wave of ‘ooh isn’t it fabulous’ or ‘I’ve just gotta have it’, pause for a moment and ask yourself ‘do I really want this’? Do I really need it? Will I tire of it and want to replace it next season? Can I find a vintage or handmade alternative, even if that means I have to wait a bit longer? 

We have a real responsibility to ourselves and our planet to stop being mugs and furnish more mindfully. Even in the face of constant bombardment of fabulous interior inspiration from instagram! There is a movement of homeowners with small budgets proudly decorating slowly as time and money permits and sharing their progress online. Browse the hashtag #slowdecor on twitter or instagram and you will find plenty of handmade homes full of traditional crafting skills, vintage textiles, plants (and a healthy dose of crochet and macrame) that are well worth taking inspiration from. 

Make Your Home Unique With Red Dog Glass Design Art Panels
Red Dog Glass Design Grey Kitchen

One of the perks of writing my interior design blog is that I am often approached by the most extraordinarily talented and interesting artists, designers and makers. Recently I caught up with Sally, one of my fellow finalists in the Homes & Interiors category at this year’s Bristol Life Awards to find out more about the how and why she created her innovative new venture, Red Dog Glass Design. A long-time painter for pleasure Sally became a full time artist relatively recently and has developed her work into a high quality glass product that is tough enough to be installed as kitchen splash-backs and shower panels, among other architectural applications. Serving a practical function as well as being enjoyed for its vibrant colour, texture and visual rhythm Sally’s art is now the ultimate option for those wishing to make their interiors bespoke and truly unique.

How did you begin your career as an artist?

Well it’s a bit of a long story but my art career is roughly my 8th career change – Im always looking for a new challenge and crikey the art world has definitely presented me with that!! I have painted as a hobby for the past 20 years but 4 years ago I decided I had absolutely had enough of the corporate world and it was time to follow my passion, painting!I So I have been to art school and now I have a fabulous studio ‘The Works’ down in Bedminster. I exhibit my work regularly in both Bristol and London as launched Red Dog Glass Design in November 2018. 

What made you paint onto perspex?

I was experimenting with the interaction between paint and different surfaces. I experimented on copper, sheet metal, aluminium and the obvious canvas/paper but Perspex was intriguing. I worked out how to paint in reverse on the perspex playing with colour combinations – it was fabulous – I created 2 large paintings (1m x1m) that I suspended from the ceiling in the gallery so you could circumnavigate it. I used spot lights to add an additional element. 

Red Dog Glass Design White Kitchen

How did you come to realise you could apply your art to glass panels?

Well, it all happened after a really interesting response I had from visitors to an exhibition in December 2017. I made an experimental painting on perspex, and hung it from the ceiling of the gallery so you could circumnavigate it. These visitors were imagining it hung in all sorts of places, and this really got me thinking …. lightbulb moment…. and the idea for contemporary art glass panels for the home was born.  What excited me was the opportunity to introduce my artwork into people’s homes in a different medium which is both really practical and makes an impressive visual statement too. I was excited by the challenge of learning how to transfer my work to new materials. Glass renders the colours (which I love!) in such a beautiful, rich way. I have started by focussing on kitchens and bathrooms but hotels and office spaces are quickly following, all very exciting, watch this space!

What can you tell us about the fabrication process?

Pretty well all orders tend to be a bespoke size– once you have provided accurate measurements, the glass will be cut to size and then go through a toughening process, We use 6mm toughened, low iron glass which meets BS6206 standards and all the glass panels supplied are heat resistant to 220˚C. All external glass edges are polished smooth and the manufacturer provides a 10 year guarantee against colour or print delamination (peeling). Our manufacturer uses hi-tech machinery which ensures extremely accurate and close- fitting cuts, it can accommodate notches, curves and other irregular shapes.

Once the design and colour is agreed the image is printed into the glass, cured and then sealed.

Your finished work of art on glass will be delivered to you in a hand-built wooden crate,  it is looked after and treated with the utmost care – it will arrive at your door as a piece of fine art work would.

Red Dog Glass Design White Kitchen

What other applications are there for your pieces?

Red Dog Glass panels are extremely versatile works of fine art, they can be used as kitchen splash-backs, amazing waterproof feature walls in your shower (no more cleaning tiles), behind baths or sinks in your bathroom. We have supplied some for peoples living rooms as a standalone artwork. Communal reception spaces in hotels, apartment blocks, office buildings and hospitals. The beauty of Red Dog Design is that they are not just works of contemporary art that can be manufactured up to 3090mm x 1000mm per panel in size, they are also highly practical and can be wiped and cleaned very easily. Perfect for busy living spaces.

Who buys your work?

I have a real selection of customers / potential customers ranging from private residential clients, interior designers, architects, kitchen/bathroom designers, property developers looking to create something new and fresh for their new build for either the apartments or the communal reception areas,  hotels, corporates, lift companies, interiors for yachts and hospitals – the beauty of this product is that is unique contemporary art yet it is practical as you can just wipe it clean.


Where did the name Red Dog come from?

Red pigment paintings of dogs can be found in early cave paintings around the world – the earliest dwellings and therefore the original symbol of our desire to make home and decorate it with personal and meaningful art. Living spaces even tens of thousands of years ago were as important then as in the 21st century. Red Dog belongs at the heart of all living spaces.

What is next for your business?

I’m working very hard in the marketing of the product at the moment as it is such a new product to market I need to spread the word and make people aware of its existence. Lots of meetings in both Bristol and London with designers and architects. In addition to this I have been approached by an overseas developer to supply glass for their new apartment block so I am investigating the logistical aspects of this new challenge!! I also continue to develop my painting practice and have started to build some new images for 2020’s limited edition. 

Red Dog Glass Design Shower

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about your fantastic product Sally!

Find out more about Red Dog Glass Design online

Special thanks to Lizzie Everard

How to tell Brand Stories in Interior Design
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One of the most obvious ways to bring a brand image into an interior scheme is to base it around the logo, but colours that work well on digital or printed logos don’t necessarily suit soft furnishings or large walls. Colours behave differently on various textures and surfaces and the proportion in which they are each used can affect the feeling they inspire. Simply using a few splashes of logo colours around the place is a perfectly acceptable thing to do for a cash strapped start-up of course, but it can never fully convey a brand story.  Also, how on earth do you even arrive at meaningfully choosing colours or creating a look without a story in place first? 

Last year I was asked to create a new image and interior for a restaurant business that wanted to completely change its name, appearance and even the style of cuisine on offer. One of the challenges was that they had yet to decide for sure what the new name and theme would even be. Ordinarily I would refer clients who are at this uncertain stage in their business journey to a branding specialist to help cement their ideas before coming back to me. However there wasn’t time or budget for that and their initial thoughts had legs so I agreed to help. Wanting to move away from burgers my clients turned to their Iranian heritage and shared interest its ancient history. They soon settled on serving Persian cuisine and after debating several contenders chose Mithra as the name. Instantly their passion for the business was reignited because it was personal and therefore meaningful.

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I’m not a branding designer but I approached the challenge in just the same way as I used to when creating concepts for my theatre sets and costumes. Instead of starting with pictures, I start with words. Just a like a play text or a film script.  In Persian mythology Mithra is the name of the ancient god associated with the sun, light and friendship. These three words began my design research. Wanting the finished interior to be contemporary rather than anachronistic, iconic or museum-like, I added ‘convivial, friendly and welcoming’ (like the business owners!) to the brief and began finding imagery to suit. That meant looking for photographs of sunsets and sunrays to extract a colour palette, and also graphic art and screen printed depictions of the sun to find crisp and contemporary styling.

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Searching for ‘friendship’ images led me to friendship bracelets and the hand woven nature of these reminded me of the great tradition of Persian carpet weaving and its sumptuous dyes and yarns. Yellow and orange are thought of as welcoming colours, and have associations with the sun, friendship and optimism so had to be included. Fortunately they are also appetite stimulating making them a doubly suitable choice for a food business. During this research and development stage I happened upon the work of artist Maya Hayuk and found her graphic, geometric murals perfectly represented in paint some of the imagery I was trying to pull together for Mithra’s new look.

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The end result comprises some repurposed furniture form the old venture and some new, themed artwork and authentic textiles, with some customisation to the scheme by the owners - it is their business after all. So as you can see there are always reasons why a design scheme looks and feels the way it does and it is often quite a journey to get from the first spark of an idea to the end result. 

I would be fascinated to know how other designers might have interpreted the same brief as  everyone has different processes and imaginations. What might you have done?! If you run a business how will you choose to tell your brand story in your interiors? Starting with words, or another way?

To enjoy an authentic taste of Iran at Mithra visit their facebook page for booking information and you can Read Bristol 247’s review here

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Learn About Decorative History With The Traditional Paint Forum
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Since the earliest cave paintings mankind has been driven to adorn walls with pigment. This uniquely human trait has developed over millennia to become an incredibly skilled and technical art-form, resulting in numerous decorative painting styles along the way.

From the first hands stencilled onto rock faces to accomplished bison depictions artists progressed to such pinnacles as the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the gilded frilly florals of Rococo palaces and the 3D illusion effects of Trompe-l’œil painting. These days we are far more conservative and generally tend to prefer our walls in a plain coating of a very flat, single paint colour of course, but thankfully there are plenty of people keeping these traditional skills alive. 

Based in London, and active across the country, the Traditional Paint Forum explores anything and everything to do with historical architectural painting, its conservation and recreation.

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Its membership is made up of a huge range of professions including paint suppliers, scientific paint analysts, decorators, conservators, architectural historians, conservation officers, architects, surveyors and scenic painters. 

The TPF organise very interesting events like trips to paint factories, demonstrations of particular painting techniques (wood graining, marbling etc) and historical movements in style. There are even conferences about the evolution of pigments into present day paints and lectures on heritage colours complete with experiments exploring the effect of candle light and oil lamps on the behaviour of those colours in their historical settings. 

All this should be fascinating stuff to interior design fans so if you would like to learn more about this rich topic you can join online from just £30 a year. There are some beautiful quotes on colour waiting for your on the homepage!

Visit the Traditional Paint Forum Online

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How I Got My Name: Stylemongers Of Bristol
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“That’s too hipsterish*, you’ll have to change it again in two years’ time” a friend said to me when I excitedly announced that I was changing my business name from Zoe Hewett Interiors to Stylemongers Of Bristol. A year later I’ve made the change and the new name has stuck. Forever. But what made me change my name when my parents kindly gave me a perfectly nice one, that no school bully ever quite managed to customise for their own ends?

The truth is I wanted a ‘proper’ business name that would serve me better and reflect my emerging values. In the beginning using my name was the only option, but as my business has evolved and I have a clearer purpose it seemed egotistical to keep my own name centre stage. I had been using a tagline that no longer suited, so I had to lose that to create a real brand with potential to grow. Somehow, during the school run, I arrived at Stylemongers Of Bristol. It might well chime with the zeitgeist for now, but as Yves Saint Laurent famously said ‘fashions fade, style is eternal.’ 

That suits me just fine, as despite a love of clothes I’m proudly untrendy and have never been a follower of fashion, as anyone who knew me in my teens will tell you. My mission is to help people create interiors that reflect them not the latest trend, so style - their style, their story - is everything. There are environmental considerations behind this too, like not changing everything every couple of years or even seasons, and instead forming an emotional connection to Grandma’s original Knoll armchair and being invested in reupholstering it, for example.  All these ideas about vintage, bespoke and eco-awareness had to be weaved in to the new brand story and imagery.

Stylemongers Of Bristol Stationery

Our surroundings play a vital role in supporting our health and happiness, which makes interior design important for everyone - even though hiring a professional is a luxury. I always try to make sure there is an affordable component in my offer, such as useful blog content or my workshops, but without undermining the profession. I want people to feel as able to approach their friendly local interior designer as they would their local tailor, butcher, baker, florist, cheesemonger, fishmonger, ironmonger….. all these skilled experts that provide useful service to everyone and keep high streets independent and interesting. 


There are endless handmade, artisanal skills and crafts involved in interior design, from bespoke joinery and curtain making right down to the weaving of fabric and printing of wallpaper. Often these require specialist research to specify and produce so interior design is very much a practice, as well as the selling of furnishings. Since I’ve always been a designer, albeit for theatre sets and costumes originally (creating physical worlds for fictitious characters to inhabit) I wanted to reference that long history of design expertise and hands-on making things. My grandfather was an architect and my uncle a services engineer so there’s a family history of construction and drafting.  I wanted to give the new brand the feeling of a long established, generations old family business with gold lettering on a black shopfront sign.

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I’m still so in love with my adoptive home town that I wanted to give it a mention too, and give my brand a real sense of place in this digital age. Stylemongers Of Cardiff just doesn’t have the same ring to it, and my life is now firmly rooted here, having made my own little Bristolian. 

Mix in a love of paper and pencils, rubber stamps, classic vintage glamour, a dash of luxury and a sense of humour and this is what you end up with. I think it does the job, for now at least! 

*I’m no hipster, but as in the original sense of the word I sure do dig hot jazz :)

Stylemongers Of Bristol

If you would like help to find and reflect your style in your home or business interior then please do get in touch to talk about what Stylemongers Of Bristol can do for you.

Banish Your Floordrobe With This Simple Storage Hack!

If you are one of the millions of people who vowed at New Year to declutter and tidy up then you probably already know it can be like painting the Forth Bridge. Without a system in place, or practical and accessible storage, things quickly go back to being a mess and the cycle continues. One of the most common and obvious clutter symptoms is that of The Floordrobe. Or The Chairdrobe. Bannister-robe. Door-robe. Radiator-robe. We have had them all in our house so no judgement here! The most obvious route to using the Actual Wardrobe properly is to first reduce the volume of clothing you have so that it all fits inside. There are plenty of advisory tips around to help with this such as if you haven’t worn an item for more than a year then pass it on, and create a capsule wardrobe of a limited number of items that you truly love to wear and can mix up to create a larger number of different outfits. Once you have whittled your clothing collection down to the minimum you need there is still another way to maximise the space in the wardrobe and drawers. 

The usual approach of folding things flat and piling them up high is not very user friendly particularly when you want the tee-shirt at the bottom of the pile. You won’t want the teeshirt at the bottom though because not only will it be creased, you will have forgotten about it anyway as it hidden underneath all the other stuff in the drawer. There are even dimensioned drawings of this in The Metric Handbook to help interior designers allow sufficient space inside bespoke wardrobes for a certain number of trousers to be stacked neatly on top of each other, but the reality is we have this all wrong.


Not everything needs to be hung up anyway and once you have learned some different folding techniques you can file items of clothing side by side instead so that all are both visible and accessible.

Japanese decluttering queen Marie Kondo is the absolute master of this and has a range of delightful videos on YouTube that demonstrate clearly just how to fold things so that they stand up on their own. This reduces creasing, the amount of space the clothes take up within the drawer, frustration at looking for particular pants and time wasted searching for missing socks. 

The secret to success with all of this though is dividing the drawers into smaller more manageable compartments of sizes that suit the particular type of clothes contained within. If you want to completely immerse yourself in the Marie Kondo experience you can now buy her beautiful boxes, all pretty and thoughtfully proportioned so as to perfectly protect your smalls, tees and trews. Or you can do what I do and buy the altogether more thrifty cardboard Tjena boxes from Ikea and ditch the lids in the recycling (or the kids’ crafting box). Just make sure the box height is not greater than the internal depth of your drawers at home. You can even decorate or line them to suit the inside of your drawers or wardrobe if you wish.


It might seem like a wasted life to some to spend any time at all folding and filing underpants, I can see that! But the time and space saved by this method far outweighs a few minutes here and there of mindful laundry duties.  Pop the boxes inside your drawers, fill with your favourite garms and enjoy a clutter free, calm living (and dressing) experience!

Buy Marie Kondo drawer dividing storage boxes online here

Buy Ikea Tjena boxes online here

Think Like A Designer Don’t Act Like One - Book Review
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If you had a book voucher for Christmas and it is burning a hole in your pocket then you can definitely do worse than spending it on a copy of ‘Think Like A Designer - Don’t Act Like One’ by Jeroen Van Erp. Encompassing many flavours of design from furniture and fashion to products, buildings and even services, the book whips through different aspects of the design process and design thinking that are common to all design disciplines. 

For example, finding inspiration is always essential at the start of any design project and sometimes you have to actively seek it out rather than wait for it to land in your lap. This is beautifully illustrated by a page about one of the most iconic chairs of all time, the LC4 by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. Once you know it was based on the idea of a cowboy lying back relaxing with a pipe, you can understand why it looks the way it does and picture the user in situ. 

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The book isn’t entirely nerdy or serious though and the author certainly enjoys poking fun at how idiosyncratic and annoying we designers can be with our strong opinions, incessant desire to improve everything and oversized glasses. 

What I love about it the book is that it gives an insight into the creative minds of designers and the processes they use to do what they do, as all too often it is shrouded in mystery and largely misunderstood. With numbered bitesize facts and rumination its a nice one to dip in and out of as and when you fancy - perfect for the loo!

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Five Ways to Decorate with Ultraviolet
My digs at dear family friends’ when I visit them in London.

My digs at dear family friends’ when I visit them in London.

If you are at all interested in interior design it cannot have escaped your notice that the Pantone Colour Of the year for 2018 is Ultraviolet. As the year draws to a close you might spot purples appearing in all sorts of products and interior schemes. If you are intrigued by enigmatic, mystical and unconventional Ultraviolet but unsure how you can incorporate it into your home here, are a few pointers to help you create a successful scheme.


When it comes to using a ‘marmite’ decorating colour like purple you might want to consider first whether for you it is a case of more is more or less is more. Are you prepared to fully commit and paint large expanses of it on all the walls? Or will a few sprigs of lavender styled into a collection of vases be enough for you? In a small room with minimal natural light, such as a downstairs loo, you can afford to go wild with a rich, dark, deep purple all over. You won’t spend a long time in there so the drama will be exciting and enjoyable for short periods. In a larger room where you pass more time, unless you are a real purple lover and feeling game you may prefer to use purple in a smaller portion on armchair upholstery, bedding, a throw or art print. 


Pantone are celebrating Ultraviolet in a range of shades this year, so there’s no reason why you can’t vary the intensity of the purple(s) you choose and turn the saturation ‘volume’ up high with an intense, rich tone. Or dial it down and go for the pastel, lilac end end of the purple spectrum. 


Colour can never be considered in isolation in interior design. Sometimes the surface it is applied to can make or break the scheme. Deep purple looks sumptuous on a luxurious velvet, but that chocolate bar wrapper shade of paint can make shelves or walls look flat and cheap, even garish. There are no real rules about what works and what doesn’t but always bear the finish in mind and consider whether it really suits the colour (and please yourself!). 

Colour Pairings

Unless you want to be fully immersed in ultraviolet on every wall you might be asking ‘what else does it go with?’ In which case there are a few options. The complimentary colour of purple is yellow and that could be a zingy tone or a more sedate mustard. If the purple you choose is closer to blue then orange would be its compliment. Or for a more harmonious (as opposed to contrasting) colour scheme you could also incorporate the colours either side of purple on the Colour Wheel. These would be blues and pinks and together with purple would form what’s called an Analogous colour scheme, very easy on the eye as nothing jars. 


Feature walls are generally not talked about too kindly these days. I think it’s perhaps because in most examples the feature wall is really loud and often busy with pattern and the walls around it are white or close enough, and its the stark contrast between the two that makes the feature wall a bit of a screamer. For a more soothing atmosphere consider reducing the contrast between the purple and other elements in the room. A rich aubergine purple colour palette might better suit wooden furniture or shelving in an equally rich walnut, as opposed to a light pine, for example. 

Browse my collection of favourite ultraviolet / purple interiors on my Ultraviolet Pinterest board and see if you can become inspired to use it in your home. If you do and feel proud of your purpley creation then if you live in Bristol please do share a photo of your success with us on instagram using the hashtag #mybristolhome for a chance to be featured!