Sunday 15 November 2009


I know, I know I am waaaay behind the times and about a year late for my first visit to the mall mastery of the Westfield shopping centre. But its west London location (shudder) has always put me off. As has the thought of 'mall shopping' conjuring up memories of the sights and smells from my late teenage years spent working in the Food Hall of a shopping centre (where I mainly learnt to never investigate the contents of plastic bags left on tables - only ever pick up with rubber gloves and straight in the bin).

The design of the mall itself has some nice elements, far from the simple overlit halls of most existing shopping centres. It has lots of lovely curves and soft wooden sections to break up the general monotony of rows of shops. But how necessary is the design for the general shopping experience? Personally I can't see it making a difference in my choice to travel an extra mile to go shopping.

One other small niggle concerning its clean lines became quickly apparent - the lack of signage perpendicular to the shop fronts. Picky? Well yes maybe. But locating a shop in there is a bit of a needle in haystack at the best of times, but the simple curved corridors can leave you longing for a bloody simple sign to show you what shop to expect coming up.

Anyway even though my visit was mainly based around the purchase of clothes (Hennes/Jimmy Choo a no for me thank you very much) I was pleasantly surprised by the highstreet interiors shops that also lurked within. Two in particular caught my eye.

I was very pleased to have the time to spend checking out the Habitat, it felt like a bonus one that has slipped passed me somehow! Even though it didn't seem to be the full range that I love to peruse in the huge store like Tottenham Court Road; it was the perfect size and set up for a mall based showroom, with great selection of accessories and it had a very handy 20% sale on. The sale actually came as a bit of a relief after the lack of them in all the annoyingly full priced clothes shops - am getting far too used to the constant sales of the credit crunch...must get prepared for comeback of 17.5% vat...
Another highstreet fave that didn't let me down was the Zara Home dedicated store. I was, as usual, loving the muted tones and hints of Moroccan subtle glamour of the range. But my practical self was even more delighted with the sensible pared down stacking system floor-to-ceiling at the back of the showroom (geek!) It meant that all the silver napkins rings, elegant coat hooks and fluffy bathmats are easy to see and reach (for most, yet not so much for the, ahem, height challenged like me). Still I think the practicality of this didn't lose the store its stylish look as the sensible stainless steel stacked shelves actually looked very chic filled with all the fab Zara Home goodies you're bound to want to admire.

The mall is laid out so the interiors shops are all in the same strip making it an easier shop. It did mean my friends dragged me into a Dwell which didn't really 'do' it for me - not very keen on their patterns which are quite prevalent in the store. It may have just been the girly shopping with a hangover that put me off though...

So well done Westfield. A generally stylish change from the depressing shopping centres that haunted my youth. Along with a good show from highstreet interiors stores too. Just please turn the heating down next time I'm there?

Thursday 12 November 2009

But oh what tools!

I do indeed bake, but I do still like to bake in style. My tools are possibly better than the results (the boy's birthday cake was the, ahem, second attempt of the day). But here-be the beauties that help me give this baking-malarky a go.

These fabulous vintage style measuring jugs are from the ever reliable John Lewis, the pastel shades look great with stainless steel and mine are proudly hung on a butcher-style hook above my kitchen sink; which makes me smile when forced to do the washing up. They are, of course, also ever so handy when baking too.

I bake

An unexpected house move and the sharing of a flat with the unexpected boy has given me the nesting bug. Not a nasty running-to-the-loo kind of bug, but in fact an (almost as nasty) need to spend, decorate, cook, clean (!) and even bake.

Yes, I have surprised myself, but have decided to embrace and enjoy. Surely I'll get over it quick enough, so must strike while the iron is hot. Still not ironing mind, ye gods that really would be the end.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Department bores

I have yet to find a department store that truly floats my boat. Maybe it's the crowds and tourists (London is very popular for shoppers *sigh*) or my lack of interest in ploughing through jumble-sale piles of dull, dull, dull generic products.

Don't get me wrong I (generally) don't hate them, it is shopping after all, I am just yet to locate my true calling.

A good department store needs to be like Bloomingdale's in the US (from what I hear in the films natch) - clothes, beauty, food, electricals...blah blah blah and yes interiors! - everything under one roof to cater for all your interiors need ma'am. Maybe that's where I lose department stores really. I guess I much prefer stuffy little random shops, stacked to the brim with odds and sods, that have a gem of interiors-beauty hidden within (I definitely needed the ornamental birdcage).

Working in Knightsbridge gave me a hate for uber-department store Harrods that I didn't realise possible. It has an impressive spread, true, but I have never before seen so many fur coats or felt so many bony elbows in my ribs. They do have a pair comprehensive antique and contemporary furniture sections though, I'll give them that, with brands like the fail-safe Le Cruset - suitably expensive and good quality for Horrids - and cool modern furniture brands like BoConcept and Ligne Roset. Not worth the injuries and dirty looks all the same.

I do have some love for Selfridges and Liberty. The buildings are both hard not to like, but they have a tenancy to feel like Harrods Junior too often...Maybe they could be moved further away from Oxford Street for a start. Then I'd be more tempted.

John Lewis is always the fall back. Solid and dependable, it is like a trusty, cosy, old jumper that you can always rely on. Great for basics, low on glamour. Credit Crunch it ain't quite but you know you get what you are wanting: mugs, duvets, even curtains. No twinkle - close on my perfect...if it wasn't for the beige.

If Habitat was technically a department store I'd be sold. I *heart* Habitat. There I said it. Crush official.

Monday 16 February 2009

Bed linen maketh the man.

It isn't rude to judge people on a few things - shoes, handshakes, lack of eye contact and sheets, are some of the most important. Limp hands and bone-crunchers are on a par with sub-standard linen. So it is a home essential to start with replacing them.

The feel of crisp sheets is famously delicious, to keep this as an on-going delight invest in cotton sheets with the highest possible thread count that your wallet lets you get away with. The White Company have white (surprisingly) bed sheets available at reasonable investment prices. As do Muji's soft cottons in classic shades that creat a sophisticated simple design, with an addition worthy recycled element to gain you Brownie points all around.

We should all know better than to ever go over the top with gaudy patterns or anything (god forbid) designed by a former page three girl. But a reminder can't hurt. Colours should be neutral or pastels, how all men end up with black sheets at some point, is beyond me. Throw them straight out.

Keep bed linen subtle (and cuddly toys in the cupboard/bin) to start a sophisticated bedroom look.

A nod of humour in the right direction with your bed linen can just about forgive you for wearing a pair of last year's shoes (gasp!) A cheeky addition like Thornback & Peel's cushions could even let you get away with a lower thread count. It also helps you safely monitor any hint of a sense of humour in your visitors.