Ancient beauty: a beauty brand based on aged recipes



New from one of my favourite beauty brands L’Occitane is Les Couvent des Minimes collection of products. The simple and natural products are based on the concoctions made by the Botanist Monks and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who lived in the Convent of Minims, in the village of Manc in Haute-Provence, France in the 1600s onwards.

Their knowledge of the curative properties of the herbs and flowers grown in the convent’s gardens were put to good use to make their own recipes which were used to care and nourish the local community.

In 2004 L’Occitane founder Olivier Baussan stumbled across the ruins of the Convent and vowed to rescue the building, restore it to its former glory and honour its long history. He created the “Le Couvent des Minimes” brand, which has – up to now – only been available in France. In 2008, the Convent opened to the public once again, this time as a Relais & Chateaux Hotel and Spa.

Now introduced in the UK, the brand offers a wide selection of evocative sounding products in wonderful apothecary-style packaging. The brand also donates 1% of its annual sales to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary which continue to carry out charitable work around the world.


At the heart of the brand is a collection of colognes. Legend has it that in the the 14th century, an old queen regained her health and beauty after using ‘Eau Miraculeuse’ prepared in convents. The secret recipe combined citrus fruits, rosemary and eau de vie with other natural ingredients. The Eau Miraculeuse became known across Europe and became part of the daily morning ritual of many women. Heir to this tradition are Le Couvent des Minimes colognes.

There are four core scents to chose from, each with the signature fragrance and accompanying varying body range. Shown here is The Recipe of Love collection, which is based around orange blossom and is wonderfully uplifting. As well as the cologne in this range, there is a massage oil (shown top), a body butter, soap, hand cream and shower ‘pulp’. The other collections are The Recipe of the Cloister (cologne, shower cream and soap in a rose, peony and grapefruit scent); The Recipe of the Morning (cologne, shower ‘dew’, body moisturiser, hand cream and soap in an apple, orange, lemon, basil, pearl flower and fig scent); lastly The Recipe of the Minims is inspired by the original Eau Miraculeuse and is based on seven plants including lemon, orange and grapefruit, for an fresh, unisex scent (available in cologne, shower gel, toning body lotion, deodorant, hand cream and soap).

The brand also offers the Smile Recipe products for lips, the Relaxing Recipe to enhance sleep, Gardener’s Hand Healer products and Hiker’s Foot Healer range. Now available in Boots.

Undercover secrets and magic layers


Brrr! It’s getting chilly outside. Luckily I’ve discovered some under-cover (literally) secrets.

Firstly, I’ve come across JML’s Magic Layer, a lovely thin vest that is the antidote to bulky winter wardrobes and the ultimate in lightweight thermal wear. I can’t bear to be too overheated or ‘over-done’ in winter and what I love about The Magic Layer is that it is lovely and thin yet gives thermal qualities from its breathable fibres.


The thermal vest remains completely invisible under your clothes and, while it keeps you warm, it doesn’t overheat you like many other thermals. It’s also plain and simple so works fine if part of the sleeves or neckline are on show when layering up.

It is also made from TACTEL, which means it is soft and light and stretches to fit the body. It fits the warmth of a woolly jumper into just 1mm of fabric, so you you won’t have the need for chunky knits. A true winter warmer.

Available from Boots and Debenhams.

ITEM m6 @ Task PR Shape_pants_caramel_front £49.90

While we’re on the subject of layering, another must-have in my base-wear are the Shape Pants Secret, £49.90, by ITEM M6 – an innovative brand I have blogged about before. Ideal for creating a slender and smooth silhouette, the seamless shape wear are wearable and truly comfortable.


Their unique design features medically tested compression zones that shape the tummy, thighs and hips to create slender contours. Unlike many other shape wear brands, they can be machine washed and dried making them ideal for everyday wear. They are also extremely comfortable (again unlike many shape wear brands which feel unbearably restrictive). A must for any wardrobe!

Burn, baby, burn: go on a fragrance journey



One of my favourite things is a gorgeous scented candle. My latest discovery is the Baobab Collection of candles inspired by Africa and the concept of travel (think Russian steppes and Egyptian pyramids as starting points).

Not only does this Citrine Pearl version smell amazing (notes of gardenia and tuberose make it both fresh and floral), it also has one of the loveliest, speckled, hand-blown glass designs that I have seen – inspired by rare pearl colourings.


The hand-made candles by the Belgium brand (named after the Baobab tree found in the African savannah) are all closely linked to travel and the concept of journey – so are right up my street.

With fragrances created by perfumers in Grasse, the luxury brand looks exquisite on a mantlepiece and is the perfect gift for Christmas (that is if you can bear to part from it, which I can’t!).


The Baobab Collection is stocked in Harrods, Selfridges and online at



Beating the ageing race


Founded by James Greenwell, former GB athlete, my new beauty love is new British skincare range Proto-col. He formed the brand after he experienced the powerful effects of hydrolysed collagen on both his skin and body, when he took a course of medical-grade collagen to recover from a serious Achilles heel injury. His tendon healed in a record 21 days instead of the predicted 14 weeks and his skin was noticeably rejuvenated.

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Based on that discovery, Greenwell worked with skincare expert Dr Steffan Oesser to concoct a focused range of beauty products based around boosting collagen in the skin.

Central to the range is the pioneering Collagen Facemask, £39.95, that combines the regenerative benefits of collagen, alongside coral seaweed, jojoba oil, aloe vera and hydrolysed silk. Leave it on for 10-15 for a visible difference to your skin. I found my complexion was plumped up and satiny smooth from the deep moisturisation effect. Pores were lessened and it gave a smoothing effect with blemishes and lines ‘erased’. It also feels really luxurious and rich – so great for winter months, when skin needs extra hydration. The collagen, and ingredients such as orange oil and carrot root extract, work together to brighten, tighten and fight the effects of ageing.


The Proto-col Collagen Skin Plus capsules, £31.95, work alongside the beauty products to boost the body’s own natural collagen production. The beauty supplement also includes Hyaluronic Acid for hydration, zinc for antioxidant properties and vitamins A, C, D and E. Collagen makes up 90% of skin proteins and women lose collagen at a faster rate than men during the ageing process, taking a simple supplement means you can maintain healthy levels of collagen in the skin and helps you to look and feel younger for longer. Count me in, then!

On a clear day… my discovery of the best facial around

Yesterday I had my first experience of an ‘aesthetic beauty’ treatment. Despite reviewing countless spas and treatments over the years, I have to admit that I have avoided any interaction with the more hard-core approach to skincare. Readers, I’ve been converted! It’s good news for my complexion but probably bad, bad news for the wallet.

Jill Zander Skin Rejuvenation Clinic - Interior Jill Zander Skin Rejuvenation Clinic - Front

The Jill Zander Skin Rejuvention Clinic in Esher (dangerously, it’s on my doorstep) is renowned for being at the forefront of new cutting-edge treatments. The fabulous open-day yesterday was an eye-opener. From non-invasive laser face lifts to the 3D Lipomed (an alternative to liposuction), I was amazed at the amount of truly advanced innovations on offer and was sorely tempted to try many of them in the quest for perfecting the face and body.

My eyes were opened (literally) further with a taster of the HydraFacial (£125). This radiance-boosting, deep cleansing treatment, also known as the Red Carpet Facial due to its celebrity devotees, was one of the best ever facials I have had.

Using the most recent facial technology such as Antiox+ and TonePerfect Complex, the treatment helps reduce the production of melanin, boosts collagen to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and deeply hydrates the skin. It also firms and tightens. It REALLY works to do all these things with visible, instant results.

hydraFacial HydraFacialtreatment

Famous in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, this hydradermabrasion treatment is the latest advancement in non-laser skin resurfacing, giving instant, visible skin refinement, hydration and radiant skin tone. The HydraFacial machine uses a vacuum based abrasive tip and combines a multitude of jobs on a skin-perfecting wish-list: cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, hydration and antioxidant protection.

During the facial your skin is blasted with a combination of antioxidants, including Horse Chestnut Seed, Green Tea, and Arnica Flower Extracts that help to detoxify the skin and fight environmental free radical damage. The result is that you emerge with fresh, renewed skin (and a spring in your step!).


First of all the skin is cleansed and exfoliated with the special Vortex-Cleansing system, a deeply penetrating skin cleansing process.

Then comes the Glycolic Rejuvenation. A light glycolic solution gently removes dead skin cells and helps loosen dirt and debris from pores leaving skin soft, fresh, clean and more youthful in appearance.

Then there is an extraction process using vortex suction to clean out pores.

Lastly, is the Tone & Firm Antiox+ – The even tone and firming ingredients are Vortex-Fused™ deep into the skin to nourish, repair and protect.

Jill Zander Skin Rejuvenation Clinic - Massage

I could go on about all of the advancements that are behind the treatment (there are many), the technology (cuttig-edge) and how this facial does a multitude of jobs – but the most effective thing here is the result. My skin feels super-clean – looking closely at it you can’t see any open pores or blackheads and instead the surface of my skin looks smooth and even. It’s a real plus for cleaning fanatics such as myself as you can never replicate this at home or with a more ‘holistic’ treatment. Minor imperfections seem to have been ‘blurred’ and overall my face feels polished and radiant. It may be £125, but this is something to which I will definitely return – even if it is a twice yearly overhaul for super-clean skin.

Try it, you’ll never want another facial again.

Body works: drench your skin for autumn


These new pampering body products are just perfect for the colder weather that has descended upon us. Dove‘s new Caring Protection Body Wash, £2.50, is super hydrating (it contains sunflower seed oil to boost moisture levels) and leaves limbs feeling smooth and silky.

It has a mild formula, so doesn’t dry or strip skin, and gives a lovely, rich, creamy lather, which feels super-luxe and like it gives a good, deep clean. It’s a great budget buy and is on a par to other, much more expensive body washes.


I’ve been following up by using the Resolute Hydrating Body Balm, £25, by super-cool beauty brand Aesop. It has a great, rich formula but instantly sinks into skin, leaving legs, arms and body supple and with a short sheen. It is formulated with wheat germ, sweet almond oils and shea butter and has a subtle spicy scent. Gorgeous.

Burn bright: candles for autumn

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Now that autumn has finally arrived, it’s time to unveil the scented candles. Ideal for creating a cosy, atmospheric feel in the home, a variety of scented candles dotted around is a heart-warming thing.

My latest obsession is Fornasetti’s most gorgeous Malachite candle, £110. First of all is the design. The ceramic pot and lid features graphic ripples of the semi-precious stone it is inspired by, and is one of the signature designs of Piero Fornasetti. The dramatic black and jade palette is interspersed with rich seams of gold that bring a rich, organic pattern. It is a wonderful talking point, sitting proud on a period fireplace and will no doubt be a collector’s piece in time.

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Then, of course, there’s the scent. The ‘Malachite’ fragrance is the fifth scent from Fornasetti, the Italian design house that is renowned for its dramatic wall coverings and home-wares, many of which are inspired by the surrealist movement. Taking its inspiration from the vibrant crystallized mineral, the black wax has rich green notes  – pine, clary sage and galbanum – blended with the smoky warmth and depth of cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood and amber.


‘Malachite’ is heady and deep – a wonderful ‘evening’ scent, reminiscent of dark cloistered rooms with a nod to a ‘Byzantine’ past. Light it after dark and you’ll be transported to dark basilicas, lofty coffered ceilings and towering pillars suffused with smoke and incense. For those catholics out there, like me, it’s a guilty pleasure.


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Another new addition is from another heritage brand that I greatly admire. This time we are transported to Paris, France to the house of Cire Trudon. The Gabriel Candle, £65, is part of the brand’s Christmas Collection. To counterbalance Fornasetti’s deep, dark evening scent, this is a wonderful daytime fragrance and ideal for the festive season ahead.

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With notes of leather, cashmere wood and candied chestnuts – this brings a warmth to the home on chilly winter days, giving a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. Cire Trudon dates back to 1643 and has a rich history of candle making and fragrance. The label is evocative of bygone times with its products being synonymous with candle-lit palaces and chateau. Part of its rich history, for instance, is that it supplied the Palace of Versailles until the end of the monarchy.

Fast forward to modern-day times and its timeless design still has resonance today. I love the shimmering green of the glass the candle comes in and the gold inner that is slowly revealed as the candle burns. It also comes in a wonderful gift box (although this one is staying put in my own little palace).

Noble Isle’s bark is better…


New from one of my favourite British beauty brands – Noble Isle – is this Lightening Oak Hair & Body Wash, £20. The gorgeous rich formula is enhanced with a smoky wood fragrance that lingers long after your shower and also leaves skin feeling smooth and moisturised.

Part of the brand’s new autumn collection, the Lightening Oak fragrance comes in a soap bar and gorgeous candle. Also part of the collection are Fireside products – which are spicy with hints of vanilla – and the Whisky and Water set, which offer a hand wash, hand lotion and reed diffuser.

Taking inspiration from all corners of the Isles, from misty moorland and old English orchards to Highland distilleries and windswept coastal cliffs, Noble Isle’s bath and body products use the finest fragrance and natural extracts, and the best of British design, to create a lasting ‘sensory impression’.

The Lightening Oak scent, for instance, is derived from the English Oak bark and balances smoky wood aromas with modern notes of crushed pepper and bergamot.


Fire up your kitchen

Whether you want a total overhaul or just a mini revamp, the latest design trends will inspire you to transform your kitchen into the hottest spot in your home.




Farrow & Ball Mizzle

Farrow & Ball Mizzle

The look of our kitchens is changing. Up until recently, a neutral palette – putty, beige, white and cream – have reigned supreme. While these colours may be the most sensible choices – working well as a backdrop for the busy space that a kitchen is – they can lack imaginative flair. As a consequence, designers are increasingly working with new ‘takes’ on the neutral that can add a little more interest and give a kitchen a bright, modern feel.


Soft grey is one shade that is overtaking white in the popularity stakes. Effective on walls as it is on cabinetry, it is a sharp neutral that gives a contemporary edge to a room.


David Hall Kitchens

David Hall Kitchens

Kitchen Advert Main2

“We are noticing a shift towards shades of grey that can range from cool through to warmer hues,” agrees Frances Hall, commercial director at Cambridgeshire-based David Hall Kitchen and Furniture Makers (01763 261010; “Grey is such a subtle colour and varies according to time of day, and even time of year.  It is a fantastic neutral backdrop and can be dressed up with colourful accessories, or left clean and simple, to allow the lines and proportions of cabinetry to do the talking.”


Kitchen by Tomas

Kitchen by Tomas

Tom Hinton, designer and proprietor of Cambridge-based Tomas Kitchen Living (01223 300858;, has also begun to offer a choice of ‘new neutrals’, such as light grey and pale green, across his classic-modern kitchen range:

“Our new colour group ‘Haven’ features neutral greys and some interesting greens and is proving really popular,” he reveals. “These colours come to life with a splash of contrasting colour – barstools in orange, for instance, or a bold statement wall.”

Natural SHEER by Tomas

Natural SHEER by Tomas

A blue palette is also becoming in vogue, with a mix of azure, teal and cornflower blue used as a step up from a neutral, and splashes of rich Greek or indigo blue used as a bolder statement. Mixed with white, this strong colour can look surprisingly fresh and appealing.

The Siematic by Rencraft

The Siematic by Rencraft

“We have definitely noticed an increase in demand for colour over recent months,” comments John Stephens, director at handmade kitchen specialist Rencraft (01731 762682; “I think people are starting to get bored of the paler, whiter shades and seem to be getting braver. As we hand paint everything ourselves on site, customers can choose whatever colour they wish. Painted elements also give flexibility should you fancy a change of colour scheme in the future, as they can be easily updated to give a whole new look for relatively small cost.”

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Harvey Jones

Emily Evison, designer at luxury kitchen makers Harvey Jones (0800 389 6938; agrees that there’s a move towards using bolder colours in the kitchen – such as olive greens and oranges – calling to mind a retro 1960s feel.

“The hottest colours within kitchens at present are updated neutrals like charcoal greys and putty-coloured tones teamed with accents of bright zesty colours, such as orange or lime. We are noticing that people are being more daring with the choices they make, such as matching fuschia cabinets with deeper greys. For those who don’t want to make such a statement, the easiest way to introduce colour is by adding a splashback or picking out an element of the kitchen – an island, for instance – in a bold colour.”

Farrow & Ball

Farrow & Ball Pigeon

Before committing to a brand new colour scheme, it’s worth getting some advice. Cambridge-based Farrow & Ball (01223 367771; are the go-to colour experts and can suggest the best shades and finishes that will work well for your kitchen:

“The kitchen is the perfect place to introduce colour, whether it’s a soft accent or a bold statement,” says Sarah Cole, marketing director, Farrow & Ball. “Green hues help to bring some of nature back in to the home, especially if you have a kitchen that looks out to a garden. Mizzle is a beautiful grey-green that could be used on your cupboards to complement a neutral shade on the wall, such as Dimpse. Pigeon is another wonderful, easy-to-live-with colour, though darker than Mizzle but with the same calm, grey properties and ideal for painting a kitchen island.”


While granite will always have its place as one of the most popular materials when it comes to kitchen surfaces, there seems to be a growing trend of homeowners veering away from the more obvious choices in a desire to express individuality.

Granite Transformation Cristallino

Granite Transformation Cristallino


“Bold, bright colours are enjoying something of an upturn,” says Peter Morrison, owner of Cambridge-based Granite Transformations (01223 843333; “These look great particularly for contrasting island units and warehouse-style apartments. Black is still a popular worktop choice but we’ve noticed more people are looking for a little more sparkle and texture in their finishes, to lighten the mood. Our Black Star recycled glass material contains fragments of mirror fleck, which creates an incredible sparkling effect under halogen lighting and is one of our best sellers. White, off-white, brown and beige worktops are worktops are also on trend, particularly for minimalist continental-style layouts. Our latest Hydra White material is a recycled porcelain, extremely hardwearing incorporating mirror fragments for reflective pinpoints.”

Recycled worktop materials are also growing in popularity – appealing to homeowners who have a desire for a new look coupled with a sense of responsibility for the environment.

“Recycled glass and porcelain surfaces, made from post-consumer and post-industrial reject materials, are definitely in vogue,” continues Granite Transformations’ Peter Morrison. “As are composite granite and quartz composite surfaces, rather than natural stone slab. Granite Transformations agglomerate worktops are made from up to 78% recycled content.”

Countertops in engineered stone and concrete, meanwhile, bring a raw, industrial feel to a space while honed marble surfaces give a polished European look that work well against rougher textures, such as brick or raw-stone walls. Quartz is another material also on the rise and is a practical choice for families. Nonporous and resistant to heat, the material is resistant to spills and scratches making it a good all-rounder.

“Irrespective of material and colour choice, low maintenance and practical performance should be top priorities for all kitchen worktops, otherwise you’ll be spending time continuously cleaning or, worse still, having to reseal or eventual replacement,” advises Peter Morrison. “Consumers are getting wise to this and are turning away from materials like timber, slate and marble, toward hardwearing surfaces with recognised technical approvals.”



Jennifer Shaw, design director at contemporary kitchen experts Kitchenology (01284 724 723; identifies an organic trend which is capturing her clients’ imaginations: “We’ve noticed customers are wanting more organic finishes – such as glass, wood, ceramic or stone effects. They are opting for greys and neutrals, which are brought to life with a splash of subtle colour, such as a metallic textured splashback or a statement central island in contrasting shades and materials.”

Skate by Tomas

Skate by Tomas

Tom Hinton at Tomas (01223 300858; agrees: “We use wood, but tend to avoid sink areas. Mixing wood with grey quartz works really well and is a practical option.”

Botticino Marble at Eadenstone

Botticino Marble at Eadenstone

Meanwhile, at Eadonstone Kitchens, based in Cambridge (01223 811 111;, marble, such as the Arabescato marble fabricated in the company’s own workshop, is proving popular as is Silestone’s range of quartz.

“Eadonstone is able to source the whole Silestone range,” says Dan Taylor, Eadonstone’s showroom manager. “It is the original manufacturer of solid quartz worktop material.  It combines the best of natural stone and cutting edge design and gives a kitchen the wow-factor.”


There’s no point having a sleek, fashionable kitchen if it isn’t practical. These days, homeowners want a kitchen that looks the part but also, more importantly, has all the latest tricks up its sleeve for practical living.

From intelligent storage, such as concealed spice drawers and hidden larders, to in-built drinks cabinets and concealed work stations – there’s a growing range of add-on gizmos and clever features you can factor in when planning a kitchen.

One popular trend is the rise in base drawers, instead of standing cupboards. More functional than having to bend down and peer into a cupboard, a large pull out storage drawer allows you to gain access in one simple motion and many can be customized with special storage layers to fit dinner plates and bowls etc. Hydraulic, easy-close doors are also de rigeur – with cabinet doors folding up and out of the way at the touch of a button – ideal for smaller kitchens.



“Storage is important in any room not least the kitchen,” says Hazel Boyd, designer at Eadonstone Kitchens (01223 811 111; “Drawers in many ways are better for storage than cabinets especially for those who may find access difficult. When the aesthetics are important, hidden drawers provide a great way to maintain the balance of aesthetics with functionality.”

Established luxury kitchen experts, such as Charles York Kitchens (01623 756 080; have ingenious ideas for those all-important finishing touches. Discreet pull-out shelves are handy for small areas while ‘appliance garages’ hide the unsightly coffee-makers and toasters, thus keeping your surfaces clear. Vegetable drawers, bread drawers, utensil inserts, pop-up power ports and pull out wine shelves are just a few of the other clutter-free ways to keep your kitchen looking show-home perfect.

Fiona spice drawer

David Hall Furniture

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“There are thousands of clever storage products on the market, ranging from an entire kitchen in a cupboard, through to an enormous choice of bins, corner units and drawer dividers,” adds Frances Hall at David Hall Kitchen and Furniture Makers (01763 261010; “We have a pull-out shelf system, allowing you to access the food you want without needing to pull out the entire wireworks. Another favourite is the 150mm wide bottle pull-out – ideal for small day to day cooking essentials.”

Appliance technology is also making big leaps with ‘tablet know-how’ being applied to fridges, ovens and washing machines. The introduction of touch screens and wifi connectivity will soon mean that appliances will be able to be controlled remotely by apps on smart phones. While other advances, such as practical hands-free taps (ideal for families with small children), will no doubt be the norm in a few years’ time.



The art of accessorising has come into its own in the kitchen of late. Previously the norm for living areas and bedrooms, design elements – such as choosing the right lighting and furniture for your kitchen – are proving all-important. What’s more, it’s all about being bold and dramatic.


Gramophone Trumpet Pendant at Fritz Fryer

Gramophone Trumpet Pendant at Fritz Fryer

Stag Horn Chandelier at Des Res Design

Stag Horn Chandelier at Des Res Design

Bert Frank Revolve Pendant

Bert Frank Revolve Pendant

Oversized or statement lighting, for instance, continues to be a trend. For a talking point, choose unusual fittings, such as Fritz Fryer’s Converted Gramophone Trumpet Pendant (£385, 01989 567416; or the Stag Horn Chandelier at Des Res Design (£3,815, 01386 793 240; Group together pendant lights, such as the brass versions at Bert Frank, over a dining table or island (020 8737 0512;

Lighting by Out There Interiors

Lighting by Out There Interiors

starburst pendant globe chandelier

Jenny Hurran, director of online boutique Out There Interiors (, which stocks a range of unique lighting, advises: “It’s easy to become fixated on spots, strips and recessed lighting when it comes to kitchen design, and while these elements shouldn’t be overlooked, glamorous overhead lighting creates an unexpected impact in a kitchen. Try a trio of globe chandeliers over an island, or an outsized starburst pendant above the dining area for dramatic effect.”

When it comes to sinks, forget stainless steel – the brighter the better. Statement sinks in bright hues, such as the orange, green and yellow bowl sinks available at Aston Matthews (from £276, 020 7226 7220; are having a moment. And bog-standard extractor fans may also be things of the past. Check out the uber glamourous crystal Celestial Cooker Hood by Elica ( – ramping up the luxe factor and more akin to a chandelier than a practical cooker hood.

Chairs by The Sofa and Chair Company

Chairs by The Sofa and Chair Company

PARIS CARVER I The Sofa & Chair Co 1

For those lucky enough to have a dining area in the kitchen, bring it bang up to date with extra-long dining tables and statement chairs. Roughhewn, rubbed-down tables have become supersized – with 14 seats or more not an unusual request. This raw ‘banquet’ look is juxtaposed with glamourous dining chairs in velvets and suedes, like those available at The Sofa and Chair Company (020 8752 8938;

Red Seven Chair at Tomas

Red Seven Chair at Tomas


Oak Chair with Stripes by Paul Smith

Tom Hinton, at Tomas (01223 300858;, gives his tips for buying furniture that will stand the test of time: “We’ve recently started stocking the iconic Danish brand ‘Republic of Fritz Hansen’ as part of our furniture and lighting collection,” he reveals. “Buying a piece of quality furniture from classic designers such as these, or by a name like Arne Jacobsen, is the perfect way to make a statement. Invest in Jacobsen’s Drop Chair, for instance, which has just been relaunched or his classic Seven chair. Another iconic designer – Carl Hansen – has just launched a beautiful special edition Wishbone chair with Paul Smith fabric – it doesn’t get any better than that!”


With kitchens becoming ever increasingly sleek and luxurious, there’s a danger they can become monotone and, dare we say it, boring. Bring your space to life by adding in a few artisanal touches – think copper taps, arty open shelving and textured tiling.

Mourika at Fired Earth

Mourika at Fired Earth

Sea Shell Parquet at Fired Earth

Sea Shell Parquet at Fired Earth

Rob Whitaker, creative director of Fired Earth (01223 300941; agrees: “Tiles and wood flooring are an ideal way of adding a sense of texture or understated pattern to a kitchen. Herringbone and chevron designs are particularly popular at the moment and they work equally well in contemporary and traditional schemes. For example, solid oak flooring such as Fired Earth’s Parquetry in Herringbone Seashell has a timeless look and a subtle decorative finish that make it a perfect choice for a dining area.

“The naturally textured surfaces and colour variation of stone and slate complement classic kitchens perfectly,” he continues. “For a more modern take on these age-old materials, look for crisp, diamond-sawn slate and marble – using the tiles on walls as well as floors – or use brick format limestone, which can have an almost industrial feel. Moorish tiles such as those in Fired Earth’s Marrakech range can also create a lovely sense of texture throughout the kitchen.”

Open shelving, meanwhile, is one of the easiest ways to introduce personality into your kitchen. Providing a clean and contemporary look, floating shelves can make a space look bigger by drawing the eye along the wall and are a lovely way of showing off interesting pieces of crockery, ceramics and cookware.

As an alternative to streamlined shelves, consider a series of modular box shelves, such as the solid oak Modbox Creations by Tomas, available at Tomas (01223 300858;, which can be built in to a fitted kitchen or deployed on their own as free standing furniture.

While displaying kitchen items on shelving has undoubtedly become fashionable, remember that this look only works if the items on display are fashionable too! Clear out the clutter, and arrange plates and bowls in colour-coded piles (all-white is very effective), with the odd quirky piece – a frame or antique glass – added in for interest. Source vintage kitchenware, old signage and one-off pieces from floral tea-sets – but don’t overdo it – you want it to look sophisticated and not cluttered.





Hannah Mallett, kitchen shop buying manager at Sainsbury’s (, gives her insight into how you can easily and affordably accessorise your space:

“You can create a classic, timeless look for the kitchen with our new range of oak and white-tipped kitchenware which brings a natural, elegant look to modern and traditional kitchens alike. The collection features a complete range of quality kitchen staples, including chic white cast iron pieces alongside sturdy oak wooden chopping boards and utensils. Organic brush strokes and origami-style patterns on glassware and ceramics make for stunning, eye-catching pieces. The design encapsulates oriental simplicity, bringing an effortlessly sophisticated look to the rich, jewel-coloured palette in the indigo blue trend.”

open shelving open shelving 1 open shelving 2

Having the last word is Jenny Hurran of Out There Interiors: “I’m all for open shelving. Why buy lovely crockery then hide it in a cupboard?   I also advocate using your best stuff every day. Tastes and trends change so quickly so don’t wait for special occasions.  Enjoy your favourite things now.”

Express yourself: Japonesque a unique beauty brand

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I’m a bit late to the party – seeing that this brand is 25 years old – but I’ve just discovered the Japonesque beauty brand.

Inspired by the professional makeup tools used in Kabuki theater in Japan, Japonesque have become renowned for their beauty tools and brushes, as well as their high-impact, pro-performance make-up (beloved by make-up artists).

Giving a bit of insight into the history of the brand, Karen McKay, president of Japonesque, comments: “Kumadori make-up was used in Kabuki theatre starting sometime in the late 17th century.  This make-up was used to emphasize facial expressions with each ‘role’ having their own pattern particular to a specific role.  The quality of Japonesque colour was inspired by the beautiful pigments used by these incredible artists. Japanese Kabuki is  a classical dance incorporating drama – the beautiful bamboo wrapped precision brushes that created these beautifully and dramatic made-up faces inspired the artist collection of Japonesque brushes.”

My favourite is this Safari Chic Bronzer Brush, £19.50. It may look funky with its animal-print bristles, but don’t be fooled by its fun exterior – it has serious credentials. With its super soft bristles, the little power-house of a brush ensures precise application of bronzer and blush and is just the right size to carry with you.

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Furthermore, it is perfect for applying one of the label’s hero products, the Velvet Touch Blush, £18, shown here in the popping pink 04. It’s a refined powder formula that goes on subtly, thus enabling you to build colour as you wish.

Silky and lightweight, it’s a dream to apply and is nowhere near the strong colour it appears in its box. Talking of which – I love the packaging. The arty swirls on each little case is a one of a kind individual work of art created from a unique blend of gel pigments that flow and blend before setting – so no two will ever be the same.

Unique and beautiful – just what we’re all after.

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