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Where in the World …

Unlike every previous August in the 21st century so far, the usual mass exodus abroad isn’t happening this year for obvious C19 reasons and so the great summer escape has now become the great summer opportunity to spend some of those vacation funds on creating a year-round staycation paradise at home. With no passports, suncream or packing required, join me for a virtual trip around the world of the House of Artusa, taking-in three continents and acres of style.

We’re starting our journey in Italy not least of which is because the House of Artusa has strong links with the country. Famed for pasta, Marco Polo and the Pantheon, with breathtaking scenery and wondrous historic monuments, Italy is vibrant, intensely colourful, has an eclectic cultural life and is a superb place to visit any time of the year. Head straight for the Aman Venice (first image below) because if this hotel is good enough for the Clooneys then I’m sure you will love it too. The interiors are achingly sophisticated – grand heritage style meets modern luxury – with public spaces that are something to behold. And if the grandeur becomes a bit too intense, a few Bellini’s in the only hotel canal-side garden in Venice should calm things down. After all that serious Venetian sophistication, we’ll take a flight to fabulous Florence for a few days at the spectacular Hotel Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni 1. A medieval tower from the 1200s transformed into an exclusive and luxurious historical mansion, the Hotel Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni 1 has an incredible Rooftop Restaurant (second image below) providing a spectacular backdrop to al fresco dining as well as a vast library of Instagramable image opportunities (apparently its also a great place to get married so somewhere to bear in mind if 2021 nuptials are on the cards) : www.aman.com | www.tornabuoni1.com

Whichever area you visit, one thing Italy is full of is history with many inspiring and elegant designs from antiquity. We still admire the creative ideal of the classical age and copies of Ancient Roman statues can be seen everywhere. So if you are looking for a summer 2020 gift for your home, why not introduce some Italian heritage design verve with a spectacular pendant light based on the Apollo Belvedere statue; a conversation-starter combining contemporary function with the craftsmanship of a bygone age. The Apollo Belvedere was originally thought to have been created in Greece but historians eventually agreed that the statue was actually a Roman impression of the god (who has the same name in both cultures) and can be found today in the Cortile del Belvedere of the Pio-Clementine Museum in the Vatican Museum complex. Having your own personal Hero Statue Lamp depicting the god of music, dance, truth, prophecy and healing hanging around in the current climate might prove to be a seriously good investment!

It takes just over 14 hours to fly from Florence to Johannesburg in South Africa, our next port of call, and just a little while longer to reach our hotel destination adjacent to the Kruger National Park. However as we are travelling virtually, its just a couple of clicks of the keyboard away so pour yourself an Umqombothi, relax and read-on. South Africa is blessed with an incredible range of wildlife as well as several different ecosystems and a visit to this renowned safari destination with a stay at the Royal Malawane Hotel is an experience never to be forgotten. With stunning terraces (first image below) and superb attention to detail, an atmosphere of old-world elegance together with great service, to quote their website the hotel ‘exudes the romance and beauty of a bygone age’. It also provides a wildlife experience second to none including fascinating insights into the complex ecosystems of the South African bushveld. And as its been a long journey and you can never have too much of a good thing, the spectacular Maharani Suite is the perfect room to kick back in style (second image below): www.theroyalportfolio.com

Although you might not be able to go on a real safari for a little while yet, there’s no need to wait to introduce some of the unique character and excitement of the African plains to your own surroundings. The Zebra Mirage wallpaper (click here for website page) has a strikingly modern design that evokes the vitality of Africa – for something different, try hanging the wallpaper horizontally or use as decoupage and give a piece of furniture some animal magnetism. Complete the look with the incredible 85cm diameter King Louie Mirror (click here for website page) for a Hakuna matata design vibe and whether in Johannesburg or Jesmond, what safari lodge would be complete without a stylish sofa for the veranda? The Banana Leaf 2.5 Sofa not only looks great, it combines style and sustainability and makes a stunningly beautiful, hugely comfortable addition to the home inside or out (click here for website page).

Japan: its now time to head to Haneda airport in Tokyo (the closest of Tokyo’s two airports to the city centre) and visit this incredibly lively city that provides a never-ending feast for the senses. There are numerous tourist sites to visit within its 800 square miles providing all kinds of cultural experiences including the Shibuya crossing, often referred to as the busiest street in the world where 2,500 plus people can be seen crossing one of the intersections at its busy times. Apart from kimono’s, sushi and Pokemon, Japan is also famous for its Bonsai trees – the Tokugawa pine shown below has almost become Japanese royalty having been lovingly cared for by Japan’s emperors for over 500 years. It’s one of the oldest known Bonsai trees in the world and can still be admired today at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.

Image of a 500-year old Bonsai tree from www.bonsaisanctum.com

And of course, there is shūji or shodo. To learn more about the art of Japanese calligraphy, visit the Taitō City Calligraphy Museum where their beautiful displays may inspire you to gift your home with an Ink Flow 2 Rug (image below) which cleverly emulates the visual dynamism of this intriguing style of decorative handwriting. Created by Mineheart in collaboration with British photo-artist Michael Banks, the Ink Flow 2 Rug combines the monochrome palette and flow of calligraphy with modern abstract impressionism so turns your floor space into an display art.

Ink Flow Rug 2 £730 – click here to be redirected to website

China: it would be a shame to leave the Far East without visiting China with its wealth of history, startling modern cities and unique landscape – from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall, its a country that will take your breath away. Amongst the pages of Chinese history one Dynasty stands out as creating porcelain items of great beauty. Although the Ming Faux Samblants Set may not be Chinese or originate from that particular Dynasty, there is definitely something magical about it. From one sleek receptacle, the set divides into a collection of bowls together with a pot with a lid and a serving plate. Each piece has a different, rather beautiful design printed inside the grey exterior. You might not have made it to the shores of China this year, but the Ming Faux Samblant is a wonderful accompaniment for exotic garden parties on British shores and will bring back happy memories of summer 2020 – the year home became the holiday location of choice.

Chris Billinghurst August 2020

Featured

Gorillas in our Midst

A few weeks ago I was deep in conversation with The House of Artusa’s CEO, talking as we often do about the products being sold on the THOA website and the sustainability aspect, when he told me about a brand he is so delighted to be including within the interior decor collection, that he is commissioning one of their products for himself. The brand is London-based Marokka and when I found out a little more about the company, saw what they are creating and learnt about the principles behind their operation, I was impressed and just a little bit intrigued. Within a couple of weeks I was offered the opportunity to talk with Marokka’s owner and Commercial Director Charlotte Clout who kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss the brand, its ethics, design and manufacturing processes and to tell me what inspired her to buy into this highly unusual design company with a conscious. NB: Keep reading until the end of this journal post for a rather special House of Artusa offer on Marokka sculptures.

CHRIS | THOA: Can I ask first of all about your professional background Charlotte and how did this lead to your becoming the owner of Marokka?

CHARLOTTE: | MAROKKA: My background is in the banking, finance and technology sectors; I’ve always worked in the City, beginning my career at Morgan Stanley running their trading desk followed by working for two financial technology companies both of whom were eventually acquired by larger corporations. But my prime interests outside of work couldn’t have been more different and ranged from a longterm fascination with ground-breaking modern design to supporting the natural world and protecting our environment. By 2019 I had reached a career plateau and decided it was time to focus my energy on what I was truly passionate about, so when I discovered the Marokka brand and also found out it was up for sale, this seemed to be a golden opportunity that was too good to miss. The products they were creating captured my imagination not just as an animal lover but because the range of colours, finishes and geometric styling were highly original and celebrated the animals depicted in an uniquely contemporary way. Having spent many years in the corporate world, I wanted to find a way I could use my professional experience for the good, working with a brand which was not only producing items of great individuality but where giving back was high on the agenda. As the company was already linked to the Aspinall Foundation, the renowned animal conservation charity dedicated to protecting animals around the world, acquiring Marokka had obvious appeal.

GUS THE GORILLA IN METALLIC COPPER

CHRIS | THOA: As the philanthropic aspect of Marokka is incredibly important to you, how have you developed this further since buying the business and how is this linked to your products?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: We continue to support the Aspinall Foundation and their inspirational commitment to conservation through captive breeding, education and reintroducing animals to their native habitats. They work in some of the world’s most fragile environments saving endangered animals which is where the link to our GUS the Gorilla range comes in. I also wanted to extend the charity element of our business to include FRANK the French Bulldog so had the incentive to work with a canine charity. I was delighted to announce earlier this year our support for DOTS (Dogs on the Streets), a volunteer run, not-for-profit charity dedicated to the welfare of dogs belonging to the UK’s homeless community. We donate a percentage of our profit to help Michelle Clark, the amazing lady behind this organisation, which supports dogs who belong to people living on the streets, whose pets literally are the world to them. From making sure the dogs are kept healthy with the help of their mobile veterinary unit, to rehousing a dog if the owner becomes ill or moves into accommodation where pets aren’t allowed; its a charity I am incredibly proud Marokka are involved with. And we have also recently created a custom-made version of FRANK for the charity ‘For the Love of Frenchies’ which will be auctioned to raise much-needed funds; we even included their hand painted heart logo on their bespoke Frank.

FRANK THE FRENCH BULLDOG – A DOG FOR LIFE

CHRIS | THOA: Can you tell me more about the staff structure of Marokka?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: Although I am the owner, we work as a team. There are five people working at Marokka and although not everyone is full-time, we are all involved with its function, designs, ethos and success. Our design team consists of two amazing individuals: Enrico and Dan. We do a lot of brainstorming, coming-up with ideas many of which are initially created as prototypes where my input can range from colour suggestions to themes. And I’m really pleased that I now have my own printer set-up and am learning more about the world of 3D design and print.

CHRIS | THOA: One of my main personal and professional interests is environmental protection and sustainable design; how does Marokka operate as a planet-positive organisation?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: All our the products are manufactured using natural resources and we are always looking at how to reuse the materials we already have. Any recyclable plastic left over from the production of our sculptures is reused and although we hope that none of our customers would ever want to dispose of a FRANK the French Bulldog sculpture (particularly as the design world has heralded FRANK as being destined to become a modern-day classic), however if they did, the base materials could be recycled. All our packaging is eco friendly including the wrapping paper and boxes because we consider it a key element of our business that we do not increase our carbon footprint and avoid damaging our environment any further.  

PINK FRANK AND HIS SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING

CHRIS | THOA: Can you tell me about any new sculptures you are currently working on?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: We’ve been rather a male-orientated design studio to date with GUS and FRANK so I’m delighted that our next product is of the female variety. AVA is our queen of Marokka, a sleek, elegant and wonderfully stylish lady cheetah. The story behind her creation originated with the Aspinall Foundation. They returned two wild male cheetahs to their natural habitat in Africa with the hope being that not only would they successfully settle into their new home but they would find their own AVA’s and increase the cheetah population.

We are also delighted to be producing something a little different which will appeal to those who like their sculptures of a more classical nature with a slightly gothic edge, although we see this product more as a symbol of regeneration. There’s nothing tragic about our YORICK skull – he signifies transformation and change, a particularly potent and relevant message as we come to terms with the current pandemic. YORICK has been produced in the same way as our animal sculptures using our unique 3D printing process and echoes the multi-faceted surface design found on GUS and FRANK.

YORICK MINUS HAMLET £75.00

CHRIS | THOA: Has Marokka been present at any of the major interior design events in London and would a television appearance be something the brand would ever consider?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: I took Marokka to Top Drawer at Olympia in January which was an amazing experience and the team behind the event were fantastic to work with. I wanted KING GUS to have pride of place on our stand; he is our 3m high gorilla that had been sited at the Aspinall Foundation’s Port Lympe Nature Reserve and then in storage after being on show at the Broadgate Exchange. However he’s far too magnificent to spend his life out of the spotlight and I wanted him not only to appear at Top Drawer to show prospective clients how incredible our products are, but to raise awareness of our charitable links and sustainable business ethics. KING GUS really was the star of the show and looked magnificent surrounded by lots of smaller GUS and FRANK sculptures, the whole thing looked spectacular. A lot of people took photographs of KING GUS and our stand and we received some very positive reactions, it was a great show.

KING GUS AT TOP DRAWER OLYMPIA 2020 (IMAGE: WWW.TOPDRAWER.CO.UK)

And yes, television would be a wonderful platform to share our story. What the Marokka brand focuses on and the way it conducts its business is highly relevant to what is happening around us. Whilst our story is about supporting the environment, the natural world and helping charities who carry out incredibly important work, its also a story about cutting-edge contemporary design and originality.

CHRIS | THOA: I have to ask about the name Charlotte, where did it originate from and did you ever think of changing it when you bought the company?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: Marokka is a word which has links to Morocco, a vibrant and unique country that can be interpreted as a reflection of our vibrant and unique brand. Originating in Marrakesh, the name comprises strong syllables and creates a bold impression with the use of the double ‘k’. Morocco has historically been considered a sacred land presenting a strong synergy with our attitude toward the planet; we should be treating our world as a sacred entity and look after what we already have. And so not only is the name visually appealing, the underlying message (or my interpretation of that message) is that we should be kind to animals, to the planet, to each other and be upcycling and recycling wherever we can. With such strong links to our business ethics, the name Marokka is actually a perfect fit.

GUS THE GORILLA

CHRIS | THOA: And in these uncertain times, what does the future hold for Marikka?

CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: As well as continuing with our charitable involvement, creating cutting-edge designs and continuing to be a company who puts the environment to the fore, we are looking to support and collaborate with designers whose business ethos sits well with our own. We are currently working with Working with Half Cut Candles who are based in Tenterten, Kent. They recycle bottles and use the base as a holder for their organic soy wax candles. And of course we continue to offer our commission service for clients who want to own one of our creations which can be colour-matched to their decor, extending to all sizes including our 3m high KING GUS. With our cheetah model AVA launching later this year as well as some rather special candles and a collection of organic chocolates, we are very positive about the future. As a brand that is always looking ahead, even with all the challenges that surround us, its also a very exciting time.

Many thanks to Charlotte for giving us an insight into her business; I predict big things for Marokka.

And as an added bonus for The House of Artusa customers, from Wednesday 15th July 2020 until midnight on Friday 24th July 202, all GUS the Gorilla and FRANK the French Bulldog statues are reduced from £100 to £90 with free gift wrapping worth £6, the perfect gift for the animal or design lover or just for you, because you deserve to have these characterful creatures in your life ….

Chris Billinghurst | July 2020

Featured

Taking Art to Heart

Whether watching Grayson Perry’s Art Club series on Channel 4, spending time with pencil and sketchpad and Life Drawing Live! on the Beeb or viewing the many collections around the world available online from art galleries who’ve opened their doors virtually, we now appear to be a nation of lockdown art lovers. Stanford professor of Art & Education Elliot Eisner once said that ‘Art is literacy of the heart’ so maybe during this trying time taking art to heart has been an effective antidote to the stresses and strains of lockdown life.

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers

So has this resurgence of interest in art also inspired a new perspective on the pictures adorning the walls of our homes? We live in an age of fast this and fast that, where yesterday’s art is no less disposable than old clothes or furniture and people often buy prints to go with the colour of a room rather than because of an emotional attachment to the imagery, the artist’s skill or for its investment potential. But before you drop your next out-of-fashion picture off to the charity shop, consider the tale of the Green Lady.

In the 1960s Boots the Chemist sold various Tretchikoff prints, Chinese Girl sometimes known as the Green Lady (left) being one of the most popular choices. But by the beginning of the 21st century most people had consigned their Boots-bought Tretchikoff’s to the attic, to charity shops or even to landfill. Rolling forward 50 years, the original painting sold for just under $1million in 2013, with vintage prints of the same becoming increasingly sought-after and often changing hands for hundreds of pounds (Image: www.galleryintell.com)

It seemed an obvious choice therefore that for June’s journal post I would continue the art inspiration theme and source a few treasures for the now and maybe for the future from the THOA website. And as most art galleries curate their paintings in chronological order, I’ve created the THOA Art Collection in the same way, using a little artistic licence regarding the image dating process along the way.

The first print which took my eye is permeated with historic references whilst also benefitting from a little contemporary beautification. Renascentist Portrait (below) is a framed art print imbued with Renaissance charm and because the subject is in close-up, undeniable impact. Its printed on fine art paper or natural linen and hand embellished with brass and copper metallic foils. Based on Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Cecilia Gallerani ‘Lady with an Ermine’, the introduction of 21st century black eye-liner and red lipstick make a clever modern style statement without detracting from the magic of this muse who transcends time | 70cm x 100cm £249

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers
CLICK IMAGE TO BE REDIRECTED
CLICK IMAGE TO BE REDIRECTED

Moving forward a few hundred years to the 19th century, the framed art canvas print Winters Morning (above) has an intriguing ethereal quality with the boundaries between the frame and the artwork subtly blurred by superimposing fragments of colour over both. The original painting was of Rosalba Carriers Pearle, a Victorian American portraitist, landscape painter and lithographer. As a female artist in an age when women painters were mostly seen as inferior to their male counterparts, its fitting that this ahead-of-her-time lady’s portrait should be given such an intriguing contemporary interpretation | 81cm x 66cm (small) £183

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers

Photographer Chiara Fersini is best-known for her work under the Himitsuhana label, specialising in the creation of surreal fantasy images. She is inspired by the inner relationship between photography and painting and the masterpieces of the Pre-Raphaelites. So why should this contemporary piece of work be placed here in the gallery if its been curated in date order? The image combines surrealism and beauty just as Man Ray and Lee Miller’s photographs did, the fantasy of elaborate Hollywood musical sets and the Art Deco glamour of the 1930s. Tranquilize (right) is the perfect name … time to dream Busby Berkeley style (Google him if you’re under 50) | 81cm x 66cm £193 (CLICK IMAGE TO BE REDIRECTED)

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers

Gestural Abstraction (right) is a beautiful combination of the past and the present, communication and creativity and of Shoda and Kintsugi.

Shoda is the rhythmical form of calligraphy which originated in Japan in the 6th century AD. Still practised today, it is part of the contemporary Japanese art scene with artists like Tomoko Kawao (see below) producing large-scale pieces with all the vibrancy of contemporary Abstract Expressionism. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of beautiful repair. Mending broken areas of pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum, Kintsugi celebrates the survival of an object, enhancing damaged areas and respecting them as part of an item’s history (CLICK IMAGE TO BE REDIRECTED)

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers
Source: www.kintsudi.fr
Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers
Source: http://enjoy-kyoto.net/issue/issue02/kyoperson

And finally, a contemporary icon from the world of rock music. The gallery would not be complete without including this print of a rock guitar legend who still looks the epitome of cool even when dressed in Victorian finery. The oil painting style print of Slash gives the Guns ‘n Roses lead guitarist an air of the rock sophisticate but then again, with his famous top hat, he always did bring something of the rock dandy to the stage. Or maybe it has something to do with being born in Hampstead? | A1 size £54 | (CLICK IMAGE TO BE REDIRECTED)

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers
Young Slash

Slash’s mother was a costume designer for the likes of David Bowie, Ringo Star and Janis Joplin and his father designed album covers for Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, so the guitar maestro was somehow destined to work in the rock music industry. Real name Saul, he was given his nickname by actor Seymour Cassel because as a child he was always in a hurry (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_(musician).

I hope you enjoyed looking through the THOA Art Collection and the accompanying background stories. Finding out more about the subject matter and the painter of a piece of art is sometimes surprising, often intriguing and always enlightening. Provenance gives art meaning, a reason for attachment and worth beyond that of an accessory that compliments a newly decorated room or monetary status. Its a great time to appreciate the art you already own as well as introducing some new pieces into your life to enjoy long after lockdown is over when you can look at them and smile, remembering the time when watching art programmes on tv really was the highlight of the week …

Taking Art to Heart .... has the resurgence of interest in art during the pandemic inspired a new perspective? In June's THOA journal post Chris Eco Chic explains why lockdown has made us into a nation of art lovers
TAKING ART TO HEART: CHRIS BILLINGHURST

Chris Billinghurst | June 2020

Featured

Taking Stock and Talking Storage

The famous William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” has had particular resonance during lockdown, with my attention not only been forced to focus on areas in my home that need decorating, but also on items I’d really rather were out of my sight if not out of my life. I don’t know about you, but if I’m living with clutter that results in dystopian rather than desirable surroundings, taking stock and talking storage moves swiftly upward on the agenda.

And whilst quoting design icons, another favourite of mine is the Vivienne Westwood’s ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’ one, a statement that not only applies to fashion but interior design as well and in this case, buying adaptable and good-looking storage solutions to see you through life’s changing circumstances makes sound economic and environmental sense.

But before I launch into the world of how to conceal clutter, I wanted to show you an item I discovered on the House of Artusa website which needed inclusion in this month’s journal post … just because. When I saw the Paravent Divider (£449.95) with its exotic good looks (handcrafted in teak with each divider being different from the next) it really lifted my interior styling mood and conjured-up visions of it appearing as a backdrop in a botanical styled living room, as a window screen in modern minimalist country home or taking pride of place in a rustic theme bedroom, adding a beautifully boho touch wherever its placed. Anyway, back to the storage story ….

PARAVENT DIVIDER
www.thehouseofartusa.com/paravent-divider

Partnering eco friendliness with keeping clutter out of sight always receives a big eco chic tick from me so this breathtaking vintage upcycled GPlan giant (from the House of Artusa Bespoke Sustainable Furniture Service section) is a win-winner. It doesn’t matter what is happening behind the doors and drawers as this design icon, now with a contemporary geometric black and white surface design, will keep your clutter a beautiful secret. And again, this is storage with flexibility which would look equally as good in the living room, dining room, bedroom or sit superbly in a hallway.

UPCYCLED GPLAN GEOMETRIC SIDEBOARD
www.thehouseofartusa.com/upcycled-g-plan-geometric-painted-sideboard

One of the most important rooms to keep clutter-free is the bedroom. Does yours act as a sublime sanctuary, somewhere to relax as well as to sleep or do you have to fight your way to the bed through a mountain of clothes, shoes, books etc? If this rings a bell, its time to seek out some good-looking storage solutions to help create that much-needed environment of calm. The Laundry Set below (£229.95) is made from sustainable seagrass and again, has great of flexibility of use so not just about keeping your washing out of the way: think plants, magazines and even toys if your children can prize them from your grasp.

THE LAUNDRY BASKET SET OF
www.thehouseofartusa.com/the-laundry-basket-set-of-3
TESSA JEWELLERY HOLDER IN LIGHT GOLD
www.thehouseofartusa.com/tessa-jewellery-holder-light-gold-33-cm-163

Of course not everything needs to be hidden away and featuring jewellery rather than hiding it personalises as well as decorates a bedroom. The Tessa Jewellery Holder (£52.00 – shown above in the light gold version) not only looks good as it is but drape bracelets and necklaces on its branches and this gorgeous little tree becomes an original and bespoke piece of decorative art.

But sometimes sorting clutter isn’t just about making a home a great place to live. I was recently talking with a business associate of mine, Claire Potter of Blue Door Bespoke (bluedoor-bespoke.com) who provides a rather special service where she declutters, sorts and organises properties prior to sale where the vendor needs to move the property’s contents on. Interestingly she spoke at length about the hidden treasures people don’t even know they own, so before that grand clear up and clear out, make sure that what you’re storing or disposing of isn’t a valuable piece which might make a tidy sum at auction.

And if you like the idea of the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui helping you to declutter, then have a read of this article which appeared online in The Spruce last year. Dealing with different areas of the home, the article covers everything from children’s’ rooms to sorting your closet: https://www.thespruce.com/feng-shui-tips-for-clearing-clutter

Alison Gootee/Getty

Make May the month to turn the tide on clutter chaos in your home, spark some joy …

Chris Billinghurst | May 2020

Featured

Home Is Where The Office Is

With everything that has happened over the past few weeks since the pandemic lockdown began, a significant number of people are now working from home, many for the first time. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to prepare for an enforced relocation situation and what with the children now being at home as well, successfully navigating the practicalities of a very different working environment has presented its own challenges but challenges we’ve had to embrace.

But within this push coming to shove, necessity being the mother of invention situation, many home workers will have discovered that there are benefits to this newly imposed remote working edict. Avoiding the torturous daily commute, finding workable solutions to complicated and expensive childcare arrangements, freedom from spending hours in offices not fit for purpose and sharing a work space with people you’d rather not share anything with are just a few of the positives. And once life returns to normal, working remotely is going to remain a popular choice; home will not just be where the heart is, it will be where the office is too. So if you are considering making this very 21st century mode of working a permanent option, now is the time to think about how you can leave the kitchen table behind and successfully create an office area on a permanent or flexible basis within your own four walls.

New Perspective Concrete Console Table from The House of Artusa: www.thehouseofartusa.com
NEW PERSPECTIVE CONCRETE CONSOLE TABLE
https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/new-perspective-concrete-console-table-2044-p.asp

Whether you decide to repurpose the guest room or use an alcove in your hallway, once you have found a location for your home office (and not before you have taken the tech side of things into consideration checking your wi-fi connection works sufficiently well) the most important item you need to install is the right desk. Unlike the pre-Internet age, vast surface areas for landline phones, files and desktop computers aren’t necessary as more often than not you’ll be using a laptop, smartphone or a tablet and for sustainability’s sake, be running a paperless office. For smaller office areas, the New Perspective Concrete Console Table (£799) shown above is an ideal solution: its sleek, full of urban cool and importantly, highly functional and narrower than a traditional desk. And when your home office evolves, this piece of furniture can happily return to its original function whilst continuing to look stylish wherever its placed.

Dea Cabinet from The House of Artusa: www.thehouseofartusa.com
DEA CABINET
https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/dea-cabinet-3114-p.asp

There are of course situations where physical storage is a mandatory requirement for your business and this is where the Dea Cabinet (£1099) comes into its own. It’s contemporary, neat and very good-looking, providing space for files, folders, stationery and more. The interesting surface texture of the doors together with their rounded-square shape, give the sideboard an organic feel; ‘natural luxury’ is a big interior design trend for 2020. And with Instagram and Facebook lives and meetings via Skype or Zoom growing in popularity, the background scenery in the home office should reflect your business in a positive and professional way rather than be a window into the world of your children’s toy box so in this way, the New Perspective Concrete Console Table and Dea Cabinet make a great supporting cast.

Geo Raphaelite Cusion from The House of Artusa: www.thehouseofartusa.com
Geo Raphaelite Cushion
https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/geo-raphaelite-cushion-1656-p.asp

Working from home has some rather unique advantages too; you can wear casual, comfortable clothes and your working area can be any style or colour you like: grey signifies stability, security, authority and strength of character whilst blue is a reflection of calm, confidence, sincerity and integrity. As you are the home office boss you can even choose what design appears on that all important spine-supporting cushion. The Geo Raphaelite (£48) cushion above has classical references and is an ode to elegance but look closer, there’s also has a cheeky side to its design. The naked woman’s modesty is subtly covered by grey stripes which in themselves form a traditional monochrome landscape print – a great design with a sense of humour.

And talking about being cheeky with a sense of humour, how about a suitably saucy mug for your refreshments during the day? The one shown below wears a face based on Jeff Koons’ muse Illona Staller and forms part of a collection of mugs from the Moody Muse Collection by Lauren Dickinson Clarke. Called The Provocateur (£25), when you own this seductive little number you’ll be glad you work at home because a fine bone china mug with luxurious gold trim like this could prove too much of a temptation for co-workers who might like the idea of having her company during their working day too.

The Provocateur Mug from The House of Artusa: www.thehouseofartusa.com
the pRovocateur mug
https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/the-provocateur-mug-2711-p.asp

Once you have your office furniture and equipment sorted, you need to establish a positive working routine because routine is key to organisation. Within your daily timetable, take regular breaks. Apart from having a lunch break and keeping hydrated throughout the day, go for a walk around the garden or have a ten-minute wander through the pages of a great book like ‘The Greatest Rooms of the Century’ from Phaidon Press; the tactile velvet cover comes in a variety of colours (£43.22 + p&p www.agreatread.co.uk). Or if you are an art lover like me and intrigued by the work of Aubrey Beardsley, leave the business world behind for an hour with one of the excellent ‘Sex & Sensibility’ The Allure of Art Nouveau programmes from the television trilogy or the highly watchable ‘Scandal & Beauty’, both currently available on BBC’s iPlayer: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

Town & Country House Magazine: www.countryandtownhouse.co.uk
country & townhouse what’s on
https://www.countryandtownhouse.co.uk/

And after your work is done, as dropping into the pub on the way home isn’t currently an option, how about visiting a new venue where its all about good news? The Country & Townhouse online magazine ‘What’s On’ features include some great reads covering anything from fitness studios offering online classes to must-read books, food delivery options and podcasts. There is also the  ‘Good News You Need Right Now’ daily post, so pop a link in your RSS feed or Google Email Alerts and receive an email that always leaves you feeling positive: www.countryandtownhouse.co.uk

Office Moodboard by Chris Billinghurst | The House of Artusa: www.thehouseofartusa.com

So good people, look after yourselves and I hope you’re inspired to create a home office that is not only fantastically functional but somewhere that is also a rather fabulous place to spend time in too.

Chris Billinghurst | April 2020

Featured

Mood Swings

After all the dark days of winter, spring is a time of year when many people consider giving their homes a design lift. Ensuring your interiors work their positive mojo magic on your psyche is as important a consideration as choosing fashionable colours or on-trend furniture – a room isn’t just about ergonomics and function, it’s also about getting your mood swinging in the right direction.

Unlike the early days of home improvement in the 1960s when visiting the local hardware store for a couple of paint charts was about as exciting as it got, in 2020 we are inundated with options and ideas inspiring us to change our interiors. You can lose many hours of your life on Pinterest or flicking through Instagram in search of inspiration with a good chance you’ll be drawn down a different path and end-up watching an American talk show on IGTV instead. So perhaps the easy answer is to buy quality items for your home that in themselves are mood makers? A unique decorative piece here, a beautiful cabinet or mesmerising picture there can change the atmosphere of a room in an instant. Keeping that in mind, I looked through the House of Artusa’s website and picked four of my favourite mood makers …. and where better to begin than with lighting.

www.thehouseofartusa.com/fabulous-feather-lampshade-featuring-chains—gloria—grey-2120-p.asp

If anything can change the mood of a room it’s the lighting. There are three categories of lighting to consider: Accent, Ambient and Task. Accent lighting showcases an object or highlights a wall, Ambient is the overall lighting and Task as you would imagine, is all to do with the right lighting for a task from cooking to reading in bed. Ambient lighting often ends-up being about covering a single light bulb rather than using this centre stage position to make a style statement, so choosing a shade like the divinely decadent Gloria from Coldharbour Lights will be certain to make everyone’s mood swing the right way. This shade demands attention, encourages frivolity and every time you stand beneath it you will feel its Art Deco-inspired luxury smiling down at you. But Gloria doesn’t take herself too seriously as her feathers and chains hint at a bohemian background and her overall appearance is as contemporary as tomorrow. There is also a little of the exotic about her which leads me nicely onto my second product choice, the Setola Chest of Drawers from Patience & Gough

https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/setola-chest-of-drawers-3117-p.asp

Looking at this piece of furniture you might see a unique, creatively reinvented chest of drawers that has a distinctly retro vibe or tribal influences in the clever surface design, even the landscape of the Serengeti or a dash of abstract art. But what this wonderful item actually does is to draw you in and challenge you to extract the real story from behind the façade and to understand its unique character and provenance. Would I consider it to be a mood maker for the good? I have absolutely no doubt on that score.

As someone who along with interior design is fascinated by the history of the home (if you haven’t visited the Museum of the Home (www.museumofthehome.org.uk) in Shoreditch next door to Hoxton station, then do just that when it reopens in the summer after two years of rebuilding), I enjoy introducing different interior design styles or objects from various historic periods to avoid single design era overkill.  The Distressed Stone Effect Resting Head ornament is a perfect example of a decorative piece that takes its influences from the classical world and reinterprets them in a uniquely modern way. It has something rather mysterious about it too,  graceful yet intriguing, making it a perfect decorative piece you will never tire of.  

https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/distressed-stone-effect-resting-head-ornament—large-273-p.asp

And of course, the largest surface in a room – the walls – needs to be the most flexible mood maker of them all so when I discovered Kiki Slaughter’s Gold Safari wallpaper, I knew I had struck interior decor gold. The design is exciting and unexpected; one minute its mood references Ancient Greece, the next its all about the faded grandeur of a Baroque drawing room. In fact this amazing wallpaper design lends itself beautifully to a great many interior design styles from the classical to the theatrical to the unconventional, the difficulty comes in choosing just one.

https://www.thehouseofartusa.com/gold-safari-wallpaper-by-kiki-slaughter-2883-p.asp

And after all this talk about design style mood swings and evoking the kind of atmosphere that makes you want to linger, I’m ending this post on a self-indulgent note. The montage below includes all of the above mood makers plus an image that reflects my lifelong fascination with Japanese art and design. Taken from the Victoria & Albert website (www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/kimono-kyoto-to-catwalk), it forms part of the current V & A exhibition ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’, an event that is high on my list of visits because it’s a show that will most definitely swing my mood in the right direction.

Chris Billinghurst | March 2020

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