Art of the vine

Offering an elevated form of wine tourism, Les Sources de Caudalie, is an enchanting spa retreat hidden away on the Chateaux Smith Haut Lafitte estate in Bordeaux. As well as a stand-out Caudalie spa, a Michelin-starred restaurant and cellars fit to burst, it’s keeping the magic alive with the opening of a new tranche of luxury suites.

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Through the immaculate rows of the vineyard something shiny catches my eye. It looks odd amongst all this green. Moving closer, I see it’s an oversized sculpture of a bounding hare, which glares down at me, imperious in its elevated position. The bronze, which turns out to be by Welsh sculptor Barry Flanagan, sits proudly outside the entrance to Les Sources de Caudalie, a glorious spa retreat found in the heart of Bordeaux’s Châteaux Smith Haut Lafitte wine estate. As I turn back to look at the view, I catch a glimpse of another work of art, peeping out of the vines. This time it’s an unlikely sculpture of Venus de Milo (by American pop artist Jim Dine, I later discover) and I wonder how these pieces of contemporary art came to reside in this bucolic French setting.

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It’s an incongruity that seems to be part of the fabric of Les Sources de Caudalie, as well as its charm. At first sight, for instance, this impressive hotel – with its seemingly aged outbuildings and picturesque lakes – could date back hundreds of years. In fact, it was first opened in 1999, designed by architect Yves Collett to emulate the traditional villages in Aquitaine, south-west France. Family-owned and run by husband and wife duo, Alice and Jerome Tourbier, the hotel is much like a mini hamlet with 49 rooms and suites (all individually designed), two restaurants and the flagship Caudalie spa spread out across historic-looking buildings. In fact, these were all created from scratch using recycled materials, such as salvaged beams from local properties, to keep it ‘in tune’ with the natural environment.

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“We wanted a hotel that makes the most of these beautiful surroundings,” says the impossibly chic Alice, casting her eye around the manicured landscape. “Contemporary architecture wouldn’t have worked here. We wanted character but with an ‘of the moment’ sensibility. After all, we are modern hoteliers and want to appeal to an engaged type of traveller – someone who is well-versed in what is happening in the world but who is searching for something a little different. Ambience and authenticity is everything.”

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This approach certainly explains the visually inspiring art that is dotted around the grounds as well as the focus on food that has won the family a Michelin star via its Grand’Vigne restaurant. The culinary offering is no doubt a major attraction, with both restaurants headed up by renowned French chef Nicholas Masse. Grand’Vigne is housed in an ornamental greenhouse based on an 18th century model and has gained its reputation because of its simple yet gourmet take on local specialties, not to mention a serious wine list sourced from the 16,000-strong cellar. While this is formal dining of the highest kind, by contrast the bistro-style Le Table du Lavoir oozes character and soul. Roaring fires, exposed rafters and beams, antique linen tablecloths and mismatched crockery make for a joyful environment, while the inventive menu – mushroom terrine, chitterlings tart, pork loin confit with polenta – is thoroughly heartwarming.

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The couple’s philosophy also explains the continual ‘enhancements’ the pair has made since opening. Last year, for instance, saw the launch of 11 rooms at La Chartreuse du Thil – a beautifully converted 18th century manor house tucked away in the grounds, giving guests another option as to where they rest their heads.

Meanwhile, the latest development – and by far the most impressive – comes in the form of the Village des Pecheurs (Fishermen’s Village), made up of 12 new suites, a pool house and Rouge, a hip, all-in-one tapas-style eaterie, bar and gourmet shop.

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Built in a style to echo oyster-fishermen’s huts on stilts typically located in Cap Ferrat, the suites are found in a collection of characterful buildings made out of what looks like wattle-and-daub, weathered beams and ancient red-brick roofs topped with jolly weather-vanes. Clustered around a small lake, they are linked by bleached, wooden walkways edged with reeds and tall grasses. It’s skillfully executed as, of course, everything is actually newly built.

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Inside, the décor is Hamptons’ beach house with a dash of 1950s chic. No two are the same but all are fresh, modern and light-filled. My suite had whitewashed wood-panelled walls juxtaposed with bold, coral printed wallpaper. The industrial lighting, a forest-green Charles Eames DAR armchair and an eclectic art wall, featuring butterflies encased in glass and photographs of seaside scenes from the nearby Arcachon Bay, give masses of personality. My double-roomed bathroom was expansive yet understated. Grey slate, shimmering copper tiles and an iridescent wallpaper made for the perfect backdrop while I settled down to sample the bounty of Caudalie products provided. Each room also has its own terrace – mine overlooked the vast vineyards – giving guests room to breathe and take in the sumptuous surroundings, not to mention indulge in a glass or two of the superior house red.

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Talking of which, it is evident that the wine at Les Sources de Caudalie is its raison d’être. Alice’s parents – Daniel and Florence Cathiarde – both ex-Olympic skiers for the French national team in the 1960s – kicked off the dream when they bought the Chåteau Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard in 1990. Over the next two years, they invested heavily in the run-down winery, built around an original 18th-century manor house, and began to make notable wines. As their reputation grew as serious winemakers – it’s now a Grand Crus classified label – their daughters had their own ‘light-bulb’ moments, inspired no doubt by the ‘go get’ attitude of their parents.

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The eldest, Mathilde Thomas-Cathiard came up with the concept of the Caudalie spa and beauty brand, and now owns eight Vinotherapy spas around the world, including the brand’s first opening at the hotel and the world-renowned product line. The 1,500m2 spa found in a rambling, barn-like building offers a zen oasis with outdoor and indoor pools, sun terraces with barrel-bath hot tubs and scenic views over the vineyards – the grapes within reach – as well as 20 treatments rooms over three floors. It goes without saying that treatments are based around the vine and grape-based Caudalie products with the Crushed Cabernet Scrub and Winemaker’s Massage being the signature therapies to try.

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Alice, meanwhile, together with her husband, thought of the idea of building a hotel that would be in keeping with the vineyard’s history and both have worked tirelessly to see it to fruition. Not short of energy, in 2008 they also launched a secondary venture – a sister property called Les Etangs de Carot – found in Ville D’Avray, on the outskirts of Paris.

“Since the beginning, we’ve been involved in all aspects of what it means to be hoteliers,” says Alice. “From the interior design to what’s on the menu – it’s our passion. We’ve definitely been bitten by the hotel bug. Above all, in both our properties, our aim is to be sensitive to the environment and encourage our guests to get to the heart of their location – be it Bordeaux or Paris. We want them to connect with a place’s cultural heritage.”

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As a result, there are cruises on a traditional pinasse boat along the Bassin d’Arcachon, bicycle tours around the Chateau’s vineyard and a knock-out Art and Vine tour during which guests can hear the stories behind the monument sculptures of the estate. Oenophiles can also book tours of the cellars, enjoy interactive wine tours and have tasting lessons with head sommelier Aurélien Farrouil in the winery’s spectacular Tasting Tower. For those who want to carry a little piece of Les Sources home, some of the label’s finest vintages can also be found in the newly opened Rouge where a huge wall of bottles offer some of the best wine the cellars have to offer, as well as other local vintages. The tapas-style eaterie and wine bar also serves sharing and tasting plates reflecting the ‘terroir’ of the region – from foie gras to stuffed squid, Iberian hams to cep mousse, and is a laid-back, urban-style space.

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Also bringing in an urban feel is the new pool house, which marks the entrance to the ‘Fishermen’s Village’ and is housed in an impressive timber-framed glasshouse that can be opened up in warmer months. It boasts a funky photo installation by artist Mathilde de l’Ecotais at the bottom of the pool, which appears to change colour at different times of the day. Commissioned by Alice, it’s another example of the family’s penchant for art found in the unlikeliest of places. Explore the estate on the official tour or simply meander around by yourself, and you’ll come across an impressive range of sculptures dotted around. Many have been commissioned by Alice’s parents to celebrate a good vintage. It seems to me the perfect way to illustrate the whole family’s ‘glass-half-full’ mentality.

Stays at Les Sources de Caudalie new suites from €650 per room per night on a B&B basis.
Les Sources de Caudalie, Chemin de Smith Haut Lafitte, 33650, Bordeaux-Martillac, France. Tel: + 33 (0)5 57 83 83 83;

Outside in: get your home ready for spring

Make the most of the arrival of spring – when it happens soon I hope – by merging the boundaries between your home and garden. Whether it is a stylish orangery or a Miami-inspired patio area, use nature as your inspiration for a fresh, new look.

Gone are the times when the home and garden were separate entities. These days, homeowners often view their outdoor space as an extension of their home, with as much emphasis and thought given to its ‘décor’ as is given to the inside of the house. Meanwhile, the latest interior trends continue to reflect the natural world in the use of botanical prints, florals and the rise in popularity of a green and yellow colour palette. Doing away with the boundary between house and home – be it through a design ethos or by literally opening up your house to the garden – is a trend that is eminently stylish as well as having the ability to increase the value of your property.


Conservatories, orangeries and garden rooms are excellent ways of giving a home more space with relatively small investment. These ‘add-ons’ are also natural areas in which to reflect the great outdoors.

Conservatories, for instance, have come a long way from the once charmless, PVC structures of the 1980s. Having one is an easy way to extend the footprint of your home and modern-day versions can provide versatile spaces, which can be adapted to your needs. Whether it’s used as an extension to a kitchen or as a den for teenagers, a conservatory can mold to the changing requirements of a growing family.

Quayside Conservatories

Quayside Conservatories

Quayside Conservatories (01502 714512; is a company supplying stylish hardwood orangeries, garden rooms and conservatories in a variety of colours. It reports a growing demand for its products.

Caroline Topping, marketing manager, comments: “We’ve seen an increasing number of people wanting to extend their homes by adding on a conservatory or orangery. They are aspirational because it is a stylish way to improve the home. They also come in such a variety of styles that we can adapt to every period of house. Whether you choose an orangery or conservatory, they can open up a home to the garden and are very practical in adding more space to a home without the need for moving.”

Featuring more brickwork than conservatories, and extra investment in terms of money and building works, orangeries are the luxury option. With their typically large windows and glass roofs, however, they still give an emphasis to the outside.

Westbury Garden Rooms

Westbury Garden Rooms

2.HR Dormon – Saffron Walden 5. HR 6. HR

With over 25 years experience, Westbury Garden Rooms (01245 809 287; based in Essex, has established a reputation for offering bespoke, hand-crafted orangeries (see images above).

Managing director, Jonathan Hey, sings their praises: “Having an orangery creates a flow to the house and gives the feeling of being connected to the garden without actually having to go outside. The light, open space naturally draws people towards it and, we are always told by clients, how the space becomes the new hub of the home.”

Having a glass structure added to your home, it is important to invest in practical window treatments – that will make the most of the room and will not obscure your view.

The Window Film Company

The Window Film Company (and below)

Window Film Company - Window Detail Frostbrite from £25 copy

Window films, as supplied by The Window Film Company (020 3603 2386;, can keep the glare of the sun out and keep costs down. Highlight individual panes of glass with pretty, jewel-coloured styles for a stained-glass look, or use etched designs on half the height of the window to give privacy but to still allow light to flood in.

Shutterly Fab

Shutterly Fabulous (and below)

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Shutters, on the other hand, are a practical choice all year round. Shutterly Fabulous models come in a range of colours – including vibrant greens and the latest ombré designs (0845 017 8988;



Shuttercraft Cambridge (01223 581339; also supplies a range of window shutters in hundreds of colours and style options.

“A conservatory is a fine way of bridging the home and garden,” says Ryan Jarvis, managing director of Shuttercraft. “Naturally sunny and with views over the outdoor space, they can be made into inviting rooms year round, but really come into their own in the spring and summer months. Using shutters on windows is a stylish way to make the space practical – keeping the sun out on hot days and making it cosy on cooler ones. We have a wide range of shutters on offer including a bespoke option, to fit all styles of house. Shutters are very much on trend at the moment – offering aesthetic benefits as well as being extremely versatile window dressings.”



The move towards bi-fold doors, instead of traditional French options, is another trend that allows the garden and home to become seamlessly joined, especially in warmer months. Matt Higgs, sales director at Cambridgeshire-based Kloeber (01487 740044;, a manufacturer and supplier of a wide range of doors, windows and roof lights, agrees:

“We’ve noticed that there’s a growing fluidity in how people perceive their outdoor and indoor space,” he tells us. “Clients want their rooms to be as airy and light as possible and the addition of bi-fold doors easily allow this to happen. They open up the home to the garden and are very adaptable, practical solutions for a modern house.”

My Space Studios

My Space Studios

Providing a garden-based home-away-from-home option are bespoke garden rooms, ideal for larger gardens. Cambridge-based My Space Garden Studios (01223 529747; is a specialist in creating unique, garden rooms. Mark Alvarez, MD and founder, comments: “There’s a real trend towards maximising the space homeowners already have – rather than spending lots of money moving to a larger property. Our garden studios allow people to use their outdoor space to make another room. They can be used as offices, play rooms, music rooms or dens – anything goes. For a relatively small investment, you can get a ‘home away from home’ – just a few paces away from your abode. Our studios are a cost effective and practical way of adding space to your living area and adding value to your home.”


Maximizing the space that immediately adjoins the house – by creating a stylish patio or decking area – will create a natural flow between home and garden. Choose stylish flooring – such as weather-proofed porcelain tiles – that can be used both inside and out giving a continuous flow to your design.

The Stone and Ceramic Warehouse

The Stone and Ceramic Warehouse

Stuart Wisbey, director of The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse (020 8993 5545;, explains how to achieve the look: “We supply porcelain floor tiles in a vast range of colours, textures and sizes so you can achieve any look you desire.  One recent trend is to achieve a continuous flow from the indoors to the outdoors and porcelain is a great choice for this as it is virtually indestructible. Recent technological advances have meant porcelain tiles are now available up to 120cm x 120cm by 1cm thick which gives a very impressive finish. These large format tiles are excellent for making spaces appear bigger than they are.  They work surprisingly well in small rooms as well as larger spaces and there is very little grouting required so they’re simple to lay and easy to maintain.”

The company has also recently introduced a new range of wood, stone and decking-effect porcelain paving tiles, which are durable, frost-proof, stain and fade resistant with no maintenance required.

Trex Decking

Trex Decking

Meanwhile, another alternative to traditional wood decking, is Trex’s low maintenance, composite decking ( Made from recycled materials, including recycled plastic and wood scraps, Trex composite decking provides the look and feel of real wood, but without the environmental impact or upkeep needed with traditional decking. Its latest launch is contour decking, which has been designed as an alternative to traditional patios, and for outdoor-in conservatory spaces.

Original Style tiles

Original Style tiles (and below)

Original Style - VFT - Carlisle pattern with Woolf border in Grey and Dover White tile

Flooring can also be a highlight within your indoor space. Use traditional Victorian-style tiles, such as those available from Original Style ( or – if budget allows – create the wow-factor with glimmering, floral mosaics by Italian brand Bisazza:

Bisazza Peachtree Day

Bisazza Peachtree Day

“Peachtree is one of the new floral motif patterns in Bisazza’s 2015 Collection,” reveals Rosella Bisazza. “A shining example of our hand-made craftsmanship, the décor represents the joyful spirit of spring, its delicate pink flowers are set on a background of 24ct white gold that lends a three-dimensional quality and brings the outdoors in all year round.’

Flow outdoor lighting

Flos outdoor lighting

With many companies realizing that we use our outdoor space much like our homes, there’s now a wide range of weather-proof furniture, lighting and accessories available. From Flos’ contemporary outdoor lighting – think oversized floor-lamps and glowing flower lights ( – to brightly-hued outdoor cushions by Dash and Albert Europe ( – our gardens can be furnished much like our living rooms.

Dash and Albert

Dash and Albert

Nicola Gidlow, buyer for Outdoor Living at John Lewis (, gives her insight:

“In recent years people have begun to use their garden as an extension of their living area rather than a separate space. This blurring of the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces means that entertaining is no longer confined to one area of the home and now commonly involves using kitchen, dining and outdoor spaces to create a flow though the home. Investing in weatherproof furniture, for your conservatory, allows for key pieces to be transferred outside when entertaining in the warmer months. Furnishing rooms, that back on to your garden, with accessories and cushions in bright bold colours and prints will help warm up the inside of your home bring a touch of the outside indoors. To link the spaces choose similar patterns and hues for your outdoor accessories, this will help add a sense of unity to your entertaining space.” Images below from John Lewis.

John Lewis La Hacienda Axis firepit £119, John Lewis Espina 8 seat dinning table £399 Dining chair £150 John Lewis Islay outdoor lounging chair £250, Islay bench £200, Islay 6 seat dinning table £499


Dressing your home with colours and prints that reflect the natural world is another way of creating a ‘thoroughfare’ to the outside.

From Out There Interiors

From Out There Interiors (and below)

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Jenny Hurran, owner of online home boutique Out There Interiors ( reveals how to achieve the look:

“If living plants are too high maintenance for you, you can still embrace the botanical theme through floral and avian designs on wallpaper, fabrics and furniture. Stay fresh with fern motifs against light green and off-white French or Scandinavian furniture, or team intricate botanical patterns with dark walls and antique gold for an enchanting, fairy tale look.”

From Luku Home (and below)

From Luku Home (and below)

Loving Budgies Cushion_£

Accessories such as the gorgeous budgie cushions by homewares boutique Luku Home (020 8943 3683; and butterfly wall art and sunflower mirrors by Adventino (0845 120 3224; are perfect ways of giving a nod to the theme.

Luku Home’s founder, Nicky Parkin, reveals her style tips: “By using natural materials, animal prints and bright botanical colours you can bring the outside into your interior. We are seeing fabulously bold and vibrant tropical prints on fabrics and artwork, which can act as a great statement piece to any room and really liven up the home. With spring just around the corner we are starting to think about new beginnings, warmer days and a fresh start – a perfect time to embrace this style.”

Kersaint Cobb

Kersaint Cobb

Decorate walls using a complimentary colour palette of greens, blues and browns contrasted against natural flooring, such as that supplied by Kersaint Cobb, as a backdrop for the look ( Make a focal point with a statement Wendy Morrison rug ( designed with motifs from nature.

Wendy Morrison Mandela Moon rug

Wendy Morrison Mandela Moon rug

Sarah Cole, marketing director, at Farrow and Ball (01223 367771;, gives her expert advice, on how to achieve a pared-back colour scheme:

“Farrow & Ball’s key colours for this season include our Lush Breakfast Room Green. Slightly botanical, it is taken straight from nature and will make us feel safe and calm in our living environments.  Rich Tanner’s Brown is perfect for spaces lacking in natural light. Highly dramatic when used on all four walls this earth brown feels totally timeless and has an artisan feel to it.”

Pink Ground by Farrow and Ball

Pink Ground by Farrow and Ball

Bold floral or palm tree wallpapers, such as those available from Graham and Brown (0800 328 8452; and Urbane Living (020 7138 3838; are dramatic ways to introduce nature.

Honolulu Palm by Graham and Brown

Honolulu Palm by Graham and Brown

Fired Earth's Secret Garden wallpaper

Fired Earth’s Secret Garden wallpaper

While Fired Earth’s (01223 300 941; new Secret Garden wallpaper is an elegant approach to florals:

Rob Whitaker, Fired Earth’s creative director, explains: “Botanical designs have a fresh, timeless appeal that explains their enduring popularity. They’re ideal for adding a decorative touch and a splash of colour to any interior – contemporary or traditional – and there’s something inherently calming about their natural simplicity. Botanical patterns are very versatile too, and whether you decide to opt for a delicate, sprig-like motif for a splash back, or a striking floral wallpaper, they’re a wonderful way of bringing the outdoors in.”

Metro Chair by Delco

Metro Chair by Delcor

Finally, if an all-over design feels too much, choose one signature piece of furniture, such as the vivid, palm-print Metro chair from Delcor (0191 237 1303; Having the last word is Rick Petini, Delcor’s managing director:

“Earthy colours and tones, such as rich greens or dark browns, will always bring a sense of the outdoors into the home. Patterns can provide an interesting dimension to any décor and if you mix a beautiful botanical or floral print with natural colours then you’re sure to create a charming outdoorsy feel.’

Kitchen confidential: Pure Potions


Trying to beat the harsh effects of winter on my skin, I’ve been trying out Pure Potion’s Skin Salvation Bath and Body Oil, £12.99.

My skin seems to be permanently dry and flaky at the mo and this bath oil from the natural, kitchen-cosmetics range Pure Potions has been just the ticket to keep my skin soft and smooth. The bath emollient reduces the drying effects of water and give protection while keeping skin nicely moisturised during bathing.


The company was founded 12 years ago by Brighton-based Natalie Balmond, who developed her first range from her home kitchen to try and help the effects of eczema that her young daughter was suffering from. Her signature product is Skin Salvation, Intensive Moisturising Ointment, £7.99, that works so well that doctors can now prescribe it to treat skin conditions.

It uses a natural herbal remedy which includes calendula, camomile and vitamin-rich nettle and chickweed and beeswax and is ideal for patches of dry skin, eczema or sore patches – a great all-rounder and one that I will be keeping close to hand to help with any eczema flare-ups that my sons may have.

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Also fab to have on hand around the house, or when travelling, are Pure Potions‘ mini First Aid Salves, £4.65 each. Made with 100% natural, organic ingredients, these are fantastic lifesavers dealing a variety of skin conditions. I love the charming, colourful tins they come in.


The Tea Tree Rescue Salve is cooling and best for use on spots, cold sores, bites and stings. The Lavender version is calming and can be used on minor burns, sunburn and as a lip salve. The Calendula and Comfrey Salve is great for minor bumps and grazes (handy if you have young children). While the Arnica Rescue Salve is suitable for strains, sprains and bruises (sling it in  your gym bag). A great collection of products packed with natural goodies that can only do good. Yes, please.


All products are available on

Make up that gives you more: Studio 10 and Jouer

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I’m blown away by Studio 10 Make-up. The British brand offers a unique range of products that are age correcting, 3D contouring and skin perfecting. Devised to sculpt the face as well as provide colour and shade, it takes the concept of ‘making up’ one step further. Based on professional techniques, the dedicated range of high performance products also address the visible signs of ageing (they contain anti-ageing and firming ingredients) and is aimed at women over 30 – which is a huge breakthrough in the beauty world. This is make-up with intelligence. Created with the help of dermatologists as well as professional make-up artists, the range is made up of eight product and five brushes. It’s a genius idea, giving women a genuine alternative to cosmetic procedures, simply by applying well-thought out make-up.

I’ve been using The Visible Lift i-Definer, £32, (shown here on right). It is an all-in-one ‘makeup lift’ kit that tackles fine lines and also sculpts, defines and brightens the eyes. I especially love the anti-ageing primer, which goes on like a dream and makes skin soft and pliable, and keeps your colours ‘set’ throughout the day. It seems colourless but apply it and your skin looks perfected and crease free. I’ve even been using it by itself on my lids for a nude look when not wanting to apply proper make-up. There are four sculpting eyeshadows in a range of neutral/nude shades. They blend easily, are long-lasting and are extremely flattering. They are also enriched with Hyaluronic Acid, vitamins and oils so you feel that they are also working to your benefit.

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The Face Brush, £28, is another gem. It’s excellent quality with fine, soft bristles and is perfect for using with foundation or powder, giving a flawless, airbrushed look. There’s a precision end and a wider brush for buffing and blending.

Clever colours for women who want more.

Studio 10 is available from

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Also worth a mention when talking about make-up with skincare benefits is Jouer. With gorgeous, sophisticated, streamlined packaging, the brand is created around products that care for your skin. The thinking is that your face will look flawless as it gradually becomes so.

In particular, I want to give a nod to Jouer’s wearable Long-Wear Creme Mousse Eyeshadow (£23), which I have been combining with Studio 10’s palette. I love this Galaxy shade, a soft shimmering bronze colour, but best of all is its weightless, soft mousse texture that blends in immediately and is so easy to use. A little goes a long way, so you can use a smudge for a soft ‘wash’ effect or layer it on for a glimmering look for night-time – there are tiny flecks of glitter that run through it so it is really pretty. Rich in essential marine botanicals and antioxidants, these correct and protect as they beautify – firming and fortifying to diminish visibility of wrinkles, while warding against free radicals. Skin care meets make-up is the way forward -It’s modern, effortless, of-the-moment beauty. Simply gorge to make you feel so.

Jouer is also available from

Do you know where you’re going to?

How do you choose where you go on holiday? Here’s my guide on how to select the best place for you.

You’d think it was the easiest thing in the world – pick a destination, pack your bags and off you go. But all too often those eagerly awaited trips can often turn out to be disappointing at best or disastrous at worst. Over the many years I have travelled for work and pleasure – I’ve realized there is a bit of an art of choosing where to travel to.



It sounds obvious but if you are travelling long-haul then do remember to check what season your chosen destination will be in during the time of your trip. If you are travelling to the Southern Hemisphere – which includes Australia, New Zealand, most of Latin America and the southern parts of Africa – then the seasons are reversed. Most of us want to travel during the warm, dry periods, which means travelling to these countries during our winter.

Ananda Yoga class music pavillion


But here’s something to factor in. There’s actually something magical about seeing a destination out of its high season period. Take monsoon season in India, for instance – once a no no for travellers – it has become something of a draw for those interested in spa breaks, specifically Ayurvedic remedies. Book into the beautifully peaceful Ananda in the foothills of the Himalayas ( – open year round. It offers some of the most blissful therapies steeped in the traditions of traditional Indian therapies mixed with the best of contemporary Western approaches. So soul stirring that it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside.


Peter Island, BVI

Peter Island, BVI

Peter Island

The Caribbean is another area to consider out of season. The most popular time to travel to the islands is over the Christmas period. Instead, think of touching down during June or July. This is when the so-called rainy season is just beginning and you can access lower prices for flights and hotels and make the most of the still generally good weather. Temperatures do not vary that much from the ‘summer’ months and the rain is, on the whole, merely short, sharp showers in the late afternoon and evening (in fact, a relief to many). To minimize the chance of heavy rains and high winds, travel to the northern parts of the Caribbean, further away from the so-called hurricane belt. My money is on Peter Island Resort & Spa, in the British Virgin Islands, one of the most heavenly places I have ever visited and newly revamped for this year ( The perfect excuse to take a trip back!

Aman Canal Grande, VEnice

Aman Canal Grande, Venice


Nearer to home is Venice. It is a nightmare during our summer months, when it is clogged with tourists, too hot and overpriced. Having lived there many years ago, I found that the city was at its best in the winter months of January and February and I have always revisited around then. Fog shrouds the canals and narrow streets, making every corner mysterious and evocative. The tourists are gone and there are no queues for the many wonderful churches, galleries and piazzas. It’s utterly romantic. My ultimate place to stay is the Aman Canal Grande (, carved out of a 14th century palazzo and boasting seriously impressive interiors. (Well, if George Clooney liked it…)




Amanzoe, Porto Heli

Amanzoe, Porto Heli

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A good way of getting a feel for a new destination coming up is to keep an eye out for a slew of new openings. The big brands often follow each other – so it’s a sure fire way of seeing what’s new on the radar. Take Porto Heli in Greece’s Peloponnese Peninsula ( A few years ago, this area was largely undiscovered and under-developed. It now boasts a Nikki Beach and a standout Amanzoe by Aman, with a Chedi Hotel soon to open. It’s heavyweight luxury. Mexico’s Riviera Maya – a few miles south of Cancun – is another case in point. Developed over the past ten years – from what was a sleepy stretch of coastline – it is now well-established as a luxury destination, with many of the big hotel brands in situ – think Viceroy, Four Seasons, Fairmont and Mandarin Oriental.


Cotton House, Barcelona

Cotton House, Barcelona

Hotel Cotton House Barcelona

New openings will also offer special discounts during their soft opening phase. This ensures rooms are filled and that the word gets out before the brand properly hooks into tour operators. It’s vital to create a buzz during the first few months when a property is getting up and running. Have a favourite hotel brand? Then sign up to their newsletters or periodically check on their website where they will often detail upcoming openings. On my radar this year is the new Cotton House Barcelona from Marriot’s Autograph Collection, built out of a 19th century building, due to open in February ( and Tri in Sri Lanka, due to open this summer. It will be one of the country’s first contemporary, sustainable luxury design hotels on the banks of Lake Koggala (


TRI, Sri Lanka

TRI, Sri Lanka

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The secret to a successful holiday means putting in a bit of leg-work beforehand. Consider what you like doing in your downtime. There’s no point being seduced by glossy pictures of exotic beaches in the Maldives, if, in reality, you don’t like sitting in the sun for too long. If you enjoy cultural days out, instead, make sure you are going to an area that can offer this.


Also double check on whether there are any visa or immunization requirements for where you are planning to go. These can often take months to sort out and some immunisations – such as for Japanese Encephalitis – require doses spaced out over several months. Always check on the Foreign Travel Advice website if going further afield or to areas of potential danger or conflict (


Ultimately, many hotels want you to return so if you have found a favourite, let them know. It’s often worth getting to know the manager a little while you are there and dropping him or her a line when you return. They may not be able to offer you a discount but they might be swayed to offer a room upgrade or early check-in. After all, it’s often the little things that count…


Making a difference: latest beauty finds that really count


Today I’m waxing lyrical about some of my latest skincare and beauty finds that have given amazing results. I can’t shout enough about Cult 51 night cream.  This came on the beauty scene in 2013, making headlines with it being called the ‘most expensive anti-ageing cream’ (it costs £125 per 50ml so it is VERY top end) but there’s a reason for its price tag. The ‘does-everything’ night cream encourages cells to mimic younger versions of themselves; renewing, regenerating and restoring your complexion to its former, more luminous glory. It is clinically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines by up to 52% in just 28 days.

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It has a rich, velvety texture that sinks in easily and doesn’t leave skin greasy (like many other night creams do). It is also fairly strongly perfumed (which I love but others may not). Packed with science know-how, all I know is that it gives skin a discernible difference come morning – looking brighter, fresher and firmer.

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Next on my list is Odacité’s Pure Elements Serum Concentrates. The LA-based beauty label aims to bridge ultra-performance with purity and targets the latest trend for tailored beauty products. Based on the art of skin-care layering (which we are slowly adopting from Korean women), the collection of serums (18 in total) target specific skin conditions and are packed with powerful plant extracts sourced from all over the world.

You simply add 2-3 drops into your chosen moisturiser, depending on what skin condition you want to target – from broken veins to sagging skin, blemishes to clogged pores. I’ve been trying out the Dull Skin Booster – which uses passion fruit and orange extracts (£28). It has given my skin a real uplift and vitality. I also love the ‘science-lab’ feel of adding the potent concentrates to your moisturiser. Natural yet brilliantly effective.

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Next up, I turn to haircare. Ogario London’s Revive and Shine Shampoo (£16.50) is based on natural plant extracts and essential oils and feels super-luxe. Containing baobab, an African fruit which is being proclaimed as this year’s must-have superfood (remember goji berries, anyone?), it leaves hair in tip-top condition and restores vitality.

Extracted from the leaves, baobab smells like grapefruit, pear and vanilla all rolled into one – giving the shampoo a gorgeous sweet scent. It is also combined with nettle and rooibos along with eight uplifting essential oils.

I’ve been using it with the brand’s Revive and Shine Conditioner (£18.50), which also smells lovely and has a gorgeous rich texture. My hair feels soft, scented and shiny.

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Finally, my last reveal is the gorgeous ‘can’t get enough of’ Orange Blossom Flower Oil by cult brand La Sultane de Saba. It’s part of the brand’s Journey of Delight collection of six product infused with orange blossom from Tunisia (including a body scrub, mist, shea butter, body milk and candle). I’ve been a fan of La Sultane de Saba since trying a body scrub last year. The natural brand is the creation of a Moroccan family who moved to Paris, and started creating products inspired by beauty secrets, rituals and ingredients from around the world.

I’ve been trying out the rather lovely Beauty Oil (£30) which is 98% natural and deeply nourishing. It is super-quick to apply to the body – so it’s really great for my morning routine when time is off the essence but I don’t want to skimp on my beauty rituals. Non-greasy – it disappears as soon as it touches the skin but leave limbs with a lovely sheen and subtle scent. One of the best body oils I have tried.

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Lovely finds for the love season

Spoil yourself rotten – or perhaps, if you are feeling generous, spoil a loved one – with one of these fab new beauty gems, ideal for showing how you feel.

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Bamford is one of my all-time favourite organic brands. Its premium products are made from the finest organic and botanical ingredients. This set of three heart-shaped Pebble Soaps, (£30, is a gorgeous gift and are they are individually scented with rose, geranium and jasmine essential oils. Triple-milled, they leave skin soft and velvety.

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New from the brand for this season are the gorgeous ‘twin’ Body Splashes. The pair of fragrances – One Evening and One Morning – are inspired by the natural essences experienced during evening and morning country walks. Based on traditional scented waters, which are said to pre-date modern perfumery, it’s Bamford’s answer to a new, light way of wearing fragrance. The One Morning Body Splash (£15, is inspired by a quintessential English country morning. The light water is fragranced with violet leaf, vanilla and iris and is specially blended to scent the entire body. Perfect for travel, is the mini version (10ml) shown here, in its own pretty, linen bag.

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Making lips kissable – just in time for Valentine’s – are Korres Lip Butters (£8, Available in a variety of colours, the soft balm is deeply hydrating and leaves lips soft and healed.

Containing shea butter, each of the different varieties –  Wild Rose, Pomegranate, Guava, Quince, Jasmine and Mango – gives a soft sheen, light tint of colour and a subtle shine.

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Especially launched for Valentine’s Day is the special edition Korre’s Wild Rose Collection (£20, Containing Japanese Rose Body Milk, Japanese Rose Shower Gel and Wild Rose Lip Butter, the trio gift set is based around the Asian rose. I love Korres’ shower gels and this one is one of the best. It’s rich and nourishing – due to its wheat proteins and active aloe – with a light, uplifting scent. The milk sinks into skin quickly and has an unusual powdery texture that gives it a depth that body milks normally don’t have. It combines pro-vitamin B5, shea butter and jojoba oil to keep skin supple and hydrated. The lip butter, meanwhile, leaves lips eminently kissable with and gives a rose tinted ‘bitten’ effect.

Love, love, love.