Monday, 29 December 2014

NYE - BLACK & GOLD ACCESSORIES

I always decorate our dining room for New Year's Eve whether we are entertaining or not. It makes such a difference and the main focus is on dressing the dining room table. I normally go for something quite sparkly this time of the year but it also needs to be functional. Metallics have been a key trend for 2014 and gold is such a clever colour because you can use it all year round (same with silver). I usually try to buy items that can be used through out the year. This way you make so much more use out of them.

We have been doing quite a bit of entertaining in December and below is a recent table setting. It's all about gold as you can see because this year it has really become one of my favourite colours. I think it's nice to mix things up so I've used white/black dinner plates and some silver accessories. Iittala Taika and Teema plates go so well together and are great for entertaining. Of course I had to use my Iittala Essence white wine glasses which are still going strong after many years of frequent use. I must say that we have only broken one glass in this particular range which is pretty impressive considering our track record!

I don't usually use a white table cloth for casual dinner parties. If it's a birthday, christening or some other formal occasion then I would probably use one. Also, our black dining table is beautiful so it's a great opportunity to show it off (although it does show finger prints very easily!) The coasters are from Laura Ashley and the placemats are from M&S. I have also placed a silver vase that I found in a charity shop for 2 pounds on the table and I personally love this setting. I have managed to find some great items in second hand shops recently and I will featuring these on the blog shortly. I try to mix these with more high end goods and you really won't be able to tell the difference.






I love using my Chilewich Manhattan Tray when I am entertaining. It's great for serving drinks and holds a ton! I have teamed it up with Chilewich Mod placemat in brass and a beautiful scented candle from Lalique. I have been trying to get hold of Chilewich Dahlia coasters in brass colour but they currently are out of stock in the UK. Apparently Selfridges and Harrods will be carrying them next spring.

I also love these mini Christmas crackers. The crackers and napkins are both from Bentalls. I find that Black and gold look very dramatic together. A hint of silver brings real elegance to the setting in my opinion.



I love mixing metallics. There are different opinions on this but I actually think that gold and silver can really compliment each other. Using just one metallic colour can sometimes look a bit too boring and predictable anyway. In fact, one of the biggest trends of 2014 has been mixing metallics. I personally prefer the warmer tones of  gold such as copper, brass and bronze which seem to work incredibly well with our black furniture. I find that gold looks better in candle/dim artificial light although my pictures were taken in daylight so that all the details are present.

I also love decorating with pussy willows. I use them during Easter, Christmas and pretty much all year round. They are very easy to find here and look elegant. The grey colour compliments our monochrome themed decor and they last ages too! The large Christmas cracker is from Laura Ashley. They had beautiful gold accessories this year which are on sale at the moment.




We got this fabulous 'nut cracker' (above) from the Nuremberg Christmas market few weeks ago. You can read more about my trip to Nuremberg here. He looks pretty happy standing on our wine glass cabinet and I really think he brings a bit of fun to our dining room. I had different colours to choose from but I felt the blue one looked best. Blue is another colour that has been growing on me lately. I'll be writing more about it in my future posts...

Our traditions on New Year's Eve includes eating well, watching the fireworks from the TV in our living room (yes we are lazy and old) and drinking champagne. We also have started doing a Finnish tradition called molybdomancy where you tell the fortunes of New Year by melting tin (actually lead). You can read more about it on Wikipedia. It's so much fun to make predictions based on the shapes, although people don't really take them seriously.

There are many exciting posts coming up in 2015! I was invited to Heals SS15 Press Show recently and I cannot wait to share some of the new trends I spotted there. I will be also writing a lot more about our new extension project which will hopefully take place during the spring/summer period. Few people have asked me how our Magnet kitchen is holding up so I will doing another follow up review for this soon. If there's anything else you'd like me to write/review feel free to comment or send me an email. Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for reading my blog :)

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

NUREMBERG CHRISTMAS MARKET

This year we decided to visit one of Germany's oldest Christmas markets in Nuremberg for some pre-Christmas inspiration. I didn't really know what to expect. I knew there would be some great gingerbread and gluhwein but I wasn't really sure if they had anything else to offer. I was hoping it would be a great opportunity to buy some unusual vintage items for our house. Luckily, I was positively surprised! The city has so much to offer in terms of shopping, history and it's picturesque Christmas markets.

They are selling quite a few traditional Christmas decorations at the market (some extremely tacky, yes) and I knew that I wasn't going to find many things for our house there. I always find the quality disappointing at these markets but this time around I also came across some items that actually seemed to be build to last (obviously this was reflected on their price too). If you do go to Nuremberg during this season, try to go midweek. I found the city way too busy during the weekend to the point that I actually ended up going back to the hotel. Luckily, we were there on Thursday and Friday as well. Also, don't forget that pretty much all the shops are closed on Sundays (unlike in the UK).

I loved the colourful ceramics they had on display as well as all the tea light holders. I did end up buying a wooden 'nut cracker' from one of the stalls and it was actually my husbands idea. He wanted to get a souvenir that we will only use during Christmas and it was a great idea I must admit.







Luckily, there are plenty of interior shops to choose from should you get tired shopping at the market. I actually spent a whole day visiting these and I still didn't find the time to visit any of the antiques shops that I originally intended to. Most of the shops are in Alstadt and I found the best shops are off the main shopping roads Konigstrasse and Karolinenstrasse. Most of the items I liked were too large or heavy to take onto the plane. They had some great ceramics and marble candle holders but I can probably find similar ones in the UK as well.

My favourite shop in Nuremberg was Bolia. It reminded me of Dwell at home. Their furniture is contemporary/Scandinavian inspired and there was plenty of oak, white furniture and marble out for display which I love. Unfortunately their website is only available in German. I might need to dig out my old German school books and start learning again.


Another impressive shop was DesignFunktion. They sell some of the most beautiful contemporary furniture from iconic brands such as Knoll and Swiss owned Vitra. Most of their furniture is ideal for an office but I still think this place is worth a visit for some modern interior inspiration. A particularly liked the large marble dining room table and gold side tables with black sofas. Oh, and they have a beautiful clock on display as well.





Few other shops worth mentioning are:

  • Villeroy & Boch on Konigstrasse (Their lace collection tableware is beautiful!)
  • Grune Erde (beautiful natural materials and wooden furniture)
  • Butlers (They sell everything and I ended up getting some funky straws for the house)
  • Cairo (simple beautiful lighting solutions and furniture. Scandinavian style of course)
  • Bode Gallerie & Edition (wonderful art work and some affordable pieces too)
  • Wurzelsepp (They sell teas, herbal remedies, candles, home accessories etc. You have to try their Lebkuchen sweets. They are amazing!)
  • Nurnberger Rahmenkunst Haus der Gemalde (This is ideal if you are looking for more traditional art)
  • I really enjoyed the Karlstad and Breuninger department stores as well
  • If you like smaller boutiques head to the Gostenhof district or if you like antiques Bergstrasse is ideal

German interior style reminds me a lot of Scandinavian design. It seems to be more about the function than the luxury finishes. I am very impressed with the craftsmanship and have no doubt that if you do buy German design it is going to be timeless. Happy Interior Blog is written by Munich based Igor and  it gives you a pretty good idea what German interiors look like. Igors interior styling is very impressive and I find his blog very inspirational.

There are some great restaurants in Nuremberg but booking in advance is advisable (especially at weekends when it gets very busy). For lunch I would recommend the champagne bar in Karlstad department store. The fish I had there was delicious and fresh and a glass of Tattinger at 6 euros in not bad either! The best place for dinner is the Restauration Fischer. I had a lovely experience there and definitely recommend it for a special occasion. There are also plenty of lovely cafes in the town with cozy outdoors seating areas.



I hope my tips were helpful and I am sure there are many other shops worth visiting that I didn't list here. For more information about shopping in Nuremberg visit Arrival Guides/Germany/Nuremberg or Nuremberg's official website www.nuernberg.de.
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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

CONTEMPORARY XMAS DECOR

Our house decor is very contemporary and during Christmas I usually aim to keep with the same theme. Colours white, grey and silver work very well with our monochrome look. Our living room turns into a bit of a Winter Wonderland during the month of December and most decorations will be located in this room. After all, it is where we spent most of our time in.

I love getting my Christmas decorations in supermarkets. They have a great selection of contemporary and classic pieces that are excellent value. Sainsburys and Waitrose are my personal favourites. Even though I mainly use contemporary decorations, I also invest in some classic items. You don't want to be buying new decorations every year (although I think a little change every now and then is refreshing). I have found that one of the best places to get contemporary Christmas decorations in the UK is John Lewis. I bought all of mine there last year. I usually get my gift wrap from Next as they have some great designs on offer. This year their gift wrap felt much thinner than previous years which is a shame. It can be difficult to find good quality gift wrap based on online pictures.





I used to go a bit OTT with Christmas decorations but this year I decided less is more. I've also realised that I seem to go for a more glamorous look every year. I think this is probably the only time of the year you can get away with glitter and sequinnes so why not?!

I love our Christmas tree and there is a funny story how we ended up with it. Few years ago we ordered a real one but it never arrived. So, just few days before Christmas we went to B&Q and this was the only one that was left in the whole store! I have been very happy with it. Even though I love the idea of a real Christmas tree, an artificial one is so much less maintenance and most of the ones I have seen look better too. You might miss the smell of real tree but who cares when you have a gorgeous Jo Malone candle that smells like pine! You can also read my recent Christmas Candle review here. I think eventually we will end up getting a real Christmas tree but for now this is perfect.

Our tree is pre-decorated with snow dust and some pine cones which I feel gives it a real wow factor. The snow is a bit messy though and I do have to keep hoovering underneath it every few days (same problem with a real tree). I have a confession to make. I hate decorating the Christmas tree! Well, hate is a bit strong but I certainly don't enjoy it. It's quite strange as I love decorating the house but the tree always drives me nuts. I'm such a perfectionist and there is always the odd branch that looks funny (and not in a good way!). I happily let my husband hang the lights on the tree. We also have a mini tree in our bedroom which was decorated by our daughter with a little help from my husband.

I absolutely love these retro Christmas balls that I got from John Lewis last year. I wish I could find more Christmas decorations like these. I don't buy glass baubles anymore as they break easily. Especially, when you have kids in the house you just don't want to risk it. I'd like to make my own decorations but just haven't found the time this year. There are some great DIY ideas on Pinterest.



One of the best purchases I made last year was this garland from Laura Ashley. You can find a similar one here. It is perfect for the fireplace and I do sometimes think we should open it up so it can be used. I cannot think of anything more cosy than an open fire in the living room while you are sipping some mulled wine.




Reindeers, faux fur cushions and star shaped ornaments are ideal for a contemporary Christmas look. They seem to be in style at the moment as I've seen them everywhere. I also think they are pretty timeless and will last for many years to come. I've seen some great reindeer candle holders on sale in Sainsburys. If you want to splurge, get the original one from Finnish design brand Pentik


s fluffy friend is our Christmas mascot. The cushion is from Next.

The hanging star is from Sainsburys.


I am quite surprised that our daughter is not too bothered with our Christmas decorations. However, she doesn't seem to be able to keep her hands off the presents! Not that I can blame her.. ;)


This year we are off to Germany to see the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market which should be great fun. I am looking forward to some window shopping and visiting some of the antiques shops over there. I will be telling you all about it in my next post!
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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

RIEDEL VITIS FLUTES

You might already know by now that I am a bit of a wine enthusiast. Our glassware collection mainly consists of Iittala Essence, Villeroy & Boch and Waterford Crystal but at the moment Riedel is my absolute favourite. My biggest pet peeve has got to be coloured wine glasses. They are great for entertaining purposes but if I am enjoying a glass of wine I want to be able to appreciate the colour of the wine as well. 

I recently discovered the Vitis range from Riedel and I was immediately blown away. There is something special about these diamond shaped glasses. I have a cabinet full of wine glasses but I felt that this particular design style had been missing from our collection. The glasses seem to be designed to perfection and are actually very practical compared to other wine glasses I own. The photos don't do justice as they look even better in real life.









Riedel Vitis (means 'vine' in Latin) is a varietal specific glass that is designed specifically for sparkling wine and has been manufactured using Riedel's latest machine-blown technology. I love the seamless stem and the architecture design feature that reflects light from the bottom of the bowl. The flute feels fine and delicate but well-balanced at the same time. Vitis range is made of lead-crystal but Riedel also makes lead-free glasses (which are much cheaper obviously). 

If you are a wine connoisseur, you might be already familiar with this fine glassware company. Riedel, established in 1756, is an Austrian family owned business and all the glassware is manufactured in their own factories in Austria and Germany. Many top-rated restaurants use Riedel thanks to their beautiful design and durability. In fact, many people say that Riedel wine glasses are the best wine glasses ever made!


But, what really makes Riedel special in my eyes is the amount of research and effort they put into their designs. They have different glass styles designed to enhance different types of wines. Unfortunately, I am not a wine expert so I cannot speak from my personal experience. But, there is a lot of evidence that shows how the choice of glass can actually make a difference. It doesn't really alter the taste but can enhance the wine according to research. You can read more about it here.

So, how much should one spend on a wine glass then? According to Riedel, you should plan to invest as much as you would spend on an average bottle of wine. I think that is pretty good advice although it also depends on how often you drink wine in my opinion. Not all Riedel glasses are expensive either. A good example of this is their Ouverture range which is an entry-level series for enjoying reasonably priced wine. There are also plenty of online stores that have promotions when you buy 6 or more glasses which is great.

We have been using our Riedel Vitis glasses for a few months now and I have been very happy with them. They are my favourite glasses at the moment and I am considering adding their Riesling glasses to our collection in the future. Even though, Riedel states that the glasses are dishwasher safe, I personally prefer to hand wash anything made of lead-crystal as the glasses can get cloudy (which is very difficult to fix).

I find these champagne glasses beautiful and the thin long stem makes them even more impressive. Vitis is Riedels tallest collection to date but you are not supposed to fill the glasses all the way up to the top (apparently it helps to keep the bubbles). With New Year's celebration in mind, I don't think you can go wrong with these wine glasses. They are elegant and timeless and you can get other varietal specific glasses to match if you wish. At the moment they are -20% off at The Riedel Shop which is a fantastic offer!

For more information visit www.riedel.com
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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

SPOTLIGHT ON CHRISTMAS CANDLES

My favourite thing about Christmas and the winter months is burning scented candles in our house. I find them relaxing and quite therapeutic actually. Also, I've noticed that when you are using high quality candles made with pure essential oils, the smell lingers in the room much longer compared to home diffusers.

In the last few years we have tested many brands, from supermarket ones to luxury candles, and there are few out there that I keep going back to year after year. I like my festive candles to smell fresh and sophisticated that linger in the room but don't overpower the space you are using them in. I have to say that I have yet to find good, cheap candles. All the ones I seem to like are on the expensive side. But, I am open for suggestions :). I decided to try out some new candles this year just to see if they can compete with our old favourites.

I love scented candles but they also need to be aesthetically pleasing. I use candles as an accessory and they have to complement our house decor which is mainly black and white with hints of grey. Therefore, I try to choose more neutral and classic candle styles that don't draw too much attention to them.

1. Jo Malone - Pine & Eucalyptus (200 gr) £40

This is, without a doubt, my favourite Christmas candle. It is so popular over here that close to Christmas it is often sold out. It is especially ideal if you have an artificial Christmas tree as the lovely pine smell will make you feel like you have the real thing. You only need to burn it for a few hours and the gorgeous smell lingers in the room for quite some time. I always trim the wick after using it (I cut it with scissors) and burn it long enough for the entire surface to turn into liquid. It usually takes a few hours but this way the candle lasts longer. You are suppose to get 45 hours of burning time with this candle and for us it usually lasts just over a month (we use it multiple times a week).







I love the luxurious packaging. I almost feel bad opening it! Even though this candle is expensive, I think it is worth it in terms of the quality of the scent. Plus, I love how sophisticated and elegant this candle looks. It oozes understated sophistication and is very simple. It's a great candle to burn on Christmas day if you want to get rid of the cooking smells or buy it just to pamper yourself. By the way, my husband is equally obsessed with this candle so it's definitely very versatile and everyone's favourite in our house.

Jo Malone is now owned by cosmetics giant Estée Lauder but the British entrepreneur who started this amazingly successful company has now launched her new company called Jo Loves. I haven't tried these candles yet but I would love to get my hands on them!

Score: 10/10

www.jomallone.com

2. Neom (180gr x 2) £49

Neom is a new contender this year. One of my favourite online stores Achica sells Neom candles often at discounted prices which is where I stumbled across this brand. I ordered their gift set from their online store which includes two scented candles. I love the packaging and how the candles look. They are contemporary and elegant at the same time. I could even smell the scent before opening the packaging which was very promising in deed.


Christmas Wish


This candle is my favourite of the two and it is also their signature Christmas fragrance. It has notes of mandarine, cinnamon and tonka bean and according to their website it smells like Christmas cake. I actually find the cinnamon quite strong and therefore this candle reminds me of home baked ginger bread which I absolutely love. The scent is a little spicy and ideal to enjoy on a cold winter day with some mulled wine. I can really smell the therapeutic essential oils when I burn this candle and it does have the power of lifting your mood. The candle burns evenly although I do make sure to burn it at least for 2-3 hours for the first time to avoid tunneling. I find the gold design beautiful and unusual looking.

Perfect Peace

This candle is very different and the scent is not quite as strong. It reminds me of the Jo Malone Pine and Eucalyptus candle but I cannot really smell the scent unless I am very close to the candle. I find that Neom candles smell more like the kind of candles they use in luxury spas, where as Jo Malone candles have a more perfume type of smell. It's difficult to explain but I hope that makes sense?!

This gift set is probably the best value I have seen in a long time but if you were to get just one of the candles, get the Christmas Wish. You won't be disappointed. I have to say that I am very impressed with Neom fragrances and would definitely use this company again. I find their customer service fantastic as initially I had a problem using their online shop and they emailed me and even called me back to solve the problem. You earn points with every purchase you make and you can use them in your next order. You even earn points when you review a product you've bought on the website. How fantastic is that!

Score: 9/10

 www.neomorganics.com

3. White Company Winter (140 gr) £20

This used to be my favourite candle but I decided not to get it this year (mainly because there were few new ones I wanted to try in stead). It has a spicy warm scent but I have to admit the packaging appeals to me more than the fragrance. I would rather get the Neom Christmas Wish candle which smells more luxurious. White company travel size candles are great though and they even come in tea lights which is fantastic.

Score: 8/10

www.thewhitecompany.com

4. Rituals Hammam Secret (290 gr) £19.5

I have been using this candle throughout the winter months, although I do think it is perfect for Christmas as well. It has a lovely smell of eucalyptus that I find very refreshing. It has a very cosy and warm frangrance that fills up the room pretty quickly. I used to love this candle but these days I am finding it a little bit too strong. Especially, if you are using it in a small room. Even though I was trying to burn this candle evenly, it kept tunneling which was difficult to fix. I also think the smell is not as pure and elegant as some of the luxury brands but it's definitely good value considering the size of the candle.


Score: 7/10

www.rituals.com

5. Wax Lyrical Tea Lights (pack of 9) £5

I have been a fan of Wax Lyrical candles for quite some time as many supermarkets sell them over here. I have been using their Orange Blossom tea lights throughout the autumn which I thought were great quality. I decided to try out their Winter Garden tea lights but unfortunately I was disappointed. You can hardly smell the scent which is very strange as the Orange Blossom tea lights had a quite a strong scent. I haven't tested their larger candles but I doubt it will make a big difference.

Also, I am not too keen on the packaging of the candles which is why I usually get the tea lights. They remind me of the Yankee candles which look a bit too traditional for my liking. I do think Wax Lyrical candles are pretty good value although I wouldn't recommend their Winter Garden range based on my experience.



Score: 6/10www.wax-lyrical.com

If you decide to get a luxury candle, it is worth making sure that the candle lasts as long as possible. You can find some good tips on Candles Love to Know. Some people even prefer to make their own candles but due to lack of time I haven't attempted this yet. Perhaps I will give it a try next year :).
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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

KITCHEN CONTAINERS - MAKE OR BREAK?

Ever since we got our kitchen renovated this year, I've been enjoying accessorising it. In fact, accessorising the house is what I love doing most. Everything is colour co-ordinated mainly in black, white and grey. Although, I have also added hint of gold (my new favourite colour) in the form of tea light holders.

I like to get containers to keep my coffee, tea and sugar fresh. In the past, all of our jars have been ceramic but I have recently started to think this material is not for us. At least, when you combine it with cold, hard quartz worktops. We have broken two sets in the last two years and the same thing happened again last week. I have fixed small chips with a black marker but our latest 'accident' was not fixable. I don't know if it's to do with the material or just the quality (they were from Argos) but I started to look for more durable ones. Also, part of me is very pleased that it was the coffee container that got damaged and not our quartz worktop. Quartz is a very durable material but chips can happen and they are much more expensive to fix than replacing a mug or a jar.



I love the way ceramic containers look but stainless steel certainly seems like a more durable option. Although, with stainless steel the problem is possible dents rather than chips. You can never win, can you? My previous storage jars were black but this time around I decided to look for white glossy ones. White will stand out much more from the black worktop and it will also brighten things up a bit.

I have always loved chalkboard in home decor and while browsing through Pinterest I saw some nice containers with chalkboard labels. Chalkboard labels are fun and look contemporary but most importantly will fit in very well with the rest our black and white decor. We also have a large chalkboard in our dining room (you can read my older post here) which is still being used daily.

I managed to find my 'dream' containers on a website called Crate and Barrel  but unfortunately they are ceramic as well. I love the look but with the tax and shipping it is just too much to spend on something that might get damaged again. So, I thought perhaps this is something I can 'fashion' myself and continued my search online for very basic stainless steel containers.

And, luckily I found  them! I found the perfect ones from Morphy Richards. They are now on sale for almost 50% off at Brand Interiors! If only I would have waited a few more weeks but that's just my luck.. I love the design and the material, steel. They look very stylish and modern at the same time. I decided to get the larger ones (they come in small as well) as I am a total coffee addict and hate filling up the container more than once  a week. I ordered them from Only Electricals and I was a little worried about buying them online but when they arrived I was thrilled. They are much better quality than my old ones and finally a container that has a proper vacuum closure to keep my coffee fresh!

Here they are!




Morphy Richards Accents containers come in vast selection of colours and they have other accessories to match this range as well. The containers come with a small Morphy Richard logo, which I wasn't crazy about, so I decided to hide it with the chalkboard labels. They don't actually say coffee/tea/sugar on them which is fine as the lids are see-through so you can see what's in them.  The only downside is that you do leave finger prints on the lids quite easily but I just love the design so much that I don't mind.

By the way, I used a chalkboard pen to write the text on the labels. I found that chalk wipes off too easy when you touch it. I got the labels from Amazon (see the exact ones here). The labels are removable, so you can wash the jar, and the chalk wipes off with water.

I cannot believe how much they match our white gloss kitchen cabinets from Magnet. They look like they are part of the same collection! I haven't purchased anything from this brand before but I am seriously considering matching more items. If only we had more worktop space available..

If you want to buy your chalkboard jars ready-made have a look at Rockett st George (which is by the way my new favourite online shop!) or Argos for a more wallet friendly option. I personally think it's much more fun to use your own imagination and create the jar with the label you want yourself. You can even create a whole collection for flour, pasta and other cooking ingredients which can look fantastic in a kitchen with open shelving.

We seem to be more accident-prone these days. I cannot even blame my daughter for this one. Perhaps it is due to the cold and miserable weather over here.. Although, I am enjoying lighting up my candles in the evenings. Christmas candle review is coming up soon on the blog!
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