striped polkas

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I’ve a background in art, design and film history. And my magpie eye for design needed an outlet. If you’d like to see a daily drop of beautiful, interesting or curious things, try Striped Polkas.

striped polkas

Monday, 25 October 2010

I lasted all of two weeks with tumblr. I found the user interface needlessly fiddly, and had two SNAFUs with the queue system. And when the aim is to publish one item a day, you really expect the queue system to work. So, I’m forgetting the design blog on tumblr.

I really enjoyed pulling things together for it, though, so it’s now available as a proper blog: striped polkas.

So if you want to get a daily dollop of design, you can subscribe to its RSS or follow striped polkas on twitter. There’s also a facebook page, if that’s your preferred way of following stuff.

Posts are scheduled to go up between 10 and 11 each morning, and I plan to only do one a day, as I know how much stuff some design blogs drop into my google reader each day and how it becomes tempting to hit ‘read all’.

A design for life

Friday, 8 October 2010

I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I just used a Manics song as a post title. If you now have this as an earworm, I can only apologise.

I’ve had a tumblr account for ages but haven’t been able to work out what to use it for. Basic link library? I already have Microblogging? Twitter. Blogging? You’re reading it.

Finally, I might have worked out how to channel one of my interests into it and it’s going to be a daily post featuring a design I like. It might be a print, or a object, or clothes. I’m planning to feature UK designers as much as possible although the first week is heavy on the etsy as a quick way to get started.

Here we go: my tumblr.

These aren’t necessarily things that fit some objective view of ‘good design’. I may have done design history at university, and have some very fat books on modernism on the shelves, but I’m actually pretty eclectic in what I like. And the tumblr will be stuff I like and that you might like as well.

If you hate craft, you may prefer to visit regretsy.

Moosifer’s Homemade Home

Monday, 4 May 2009

I finally caught an episode of Kirsty’s Homemade Home last Thursday.

Unlike many people I know, I like Kirsty Allsop.  She’s managed to parlay “being a bit posh and a bit mumsy” into a career and, unlike her tv partner in property crime, she can carry a show on her own.  She does, like Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen, actually know quite a lot about design principles and history. (If you don’t believe me, try tracking down LLB’s three part series Taste.)

And yet…watching Kirsty’s Homemade Home was a bit of a letdown. Not the fact that although she gamely tries all the crafts featured the time-consuming work of finishing the jobs is done by the craftsmen. That’s the magic of television, and the conceit that she has actually made everything is fine within that context. It’s more the idea that you can make a craft-filled home quickly that bothers me, or that such home-building is a revelation to the viewers.

Look, the curtain has pennyweights in it to make it fall straight! Yes, so has the old orange velvet one in my bedroom: I put them back in when I shortened the charity shop curtain and used the offcut fabric to cover a cushion.  Pepping up a sofa with a riot of colour is as simple as buying a crocheted blanket from a charity shop! Yes, I’ve had my crochet blanket since 1992: it’s done work as a bed cover, a sofa cover and currently acts as a sofa blanket.  You can buy old stuff from reclaim yards! Yes, I got a white porcelain toilet from one in Newton Abbot about a decade ago…

The very same Thursday I finally watched Kirsty’s Homemade Home, I’d dropped in to see Sarah at Otto Retro. I was just passing and wanted to say hi, but I came away with two new kitchen chairs. They’re blonde wood, varnished, and Sarah recovered them with some lovely vintage fabric. There’s no maker’s or seller’s mark, so we’re guessing they are late 50s. It’s taken me thirteen years to see a pair of kitchen chairs I liked enough to buy, and that suit my eclectic interior design ideas. It took me ten years to find a desk, during which time the old one was held up with a box full of papers from university.

Homemade houses can’t be bought in, they need to evolve over time. And part of that means living without the exact thing you want until you can afford/make it.  The programme suggests that an eclectic style is something that can come off the peg.

I can’t disparage it entirely: if the resulting exposure leads to craftspeople around the country getting more commissions then obviously that is an excellent thing. And I’ve always been a fan of getting things secondhand, simply as you find something more interesting and are reusing a resource. But I do wonder if, by eliding the time element of such home building, the show gives the mistaken impression that it only takes a season to develop an eclectic home.

Hitched – let them eat cake

Saturday, 25 April 2009

being part 1 of 2 on the whole getting married business. Astute readers, or twitter followers, will have spotted that I got married last Saturday. We’ve a great many thanks/shout-outs to give to the people whose work made the day go so ridiculously well. Part 2 will be all about the clothes…

Part 1 is about everything else.

I’d picked an outfit which dictated the broad style of the day, and seemed to end up accidentally dictating the food as well. I may, in short, have overdosed on Mad Men, Dior and classic Hitchcock during the preparations.


The stationery, including the graphic design on them, was by Reneé at R studio and was a version of her Type Block design.  We used the red of my outfit as a base colour, and then shades of charcoal and silver for the detail. She was a delight to deal with, and the invites were as fab as we wanted.  I did slip in a folded page with the day’s details on it behind the RSVP card, and used a free Hitchcock typeface for the heads and captions.

My friend Nicola arranged for Bobby Burden to do the official photography and he was excellent. I’d briefed him that I hate posing and that most of my family have a fear of cameras (possibly due to so many of us being keen photographers outselves), so he kept things relaxed. I’ll be getting the official snaps soon, but unofficial ones suggest we look happy to be in front of his camera.

For the music in the evening, more friends were roped in. Alistair and Dave spun the ipod and CDj controls to the extent that people were dancing that I’d never seen dance before.

For the favours, we were totally stuck. I hate sugared almonds, and have been to so many weddings where the alternative is champagne truffles. Struggling to think of anything, we finally hit on the brainwave of badges. We both wear them and they would be sweet without being sickening. Laurie Pink did us a cute little design (which I’m not going to reveal just yet as I’ve some to send in the post) and then big wow supplied us with the finished goods.


We tried a lot – a lot - of restaurants in the Bloomsbury area. As soon as we had agreed to marry, I’d wanted a wedding with no cars. Or horse-drawn carriages. Or hot air balloons. I wanted us to be able to walk from the registrar to the ‘breakfast’ venue. The downside was finding a venue we both loved. Just as we had nearly given up, I spotted that Savoir Faire – which we had previously discounted as being too small – had ‘more seating downstairs’. On our trial of it we agreed by the end of the starter that, unless the veggie main was disappointing, we’d found our restaurant. It was delicious and they worked hard to produce a good menu with cheese free options as well as veggie ones. I recommend the place very highly.

In the evening, we crossed New Oxford Street and headed upstairs at The Old Crown. We liked this partially for the great view of a Hawksmoor church, but also because they do lovely bar food and are pretty chilled people. I sadly saw very little of the canapes, foolishly rushing around checking people had got some instead. But everyone seemed to like them. They also took delivery and then revealed the cake.

The cake was from Patisserie Valerie and was one of my few indulgences. Everytime we walked past the Bloomsbury branch, I would gaze at their profiterole wedding cake displays in awe. I knew I’d not see much of it, and that the logistics of getting into it would be troubling, but I wanted it. Several guests demanded to know the supplier – and one was already trying to think of an excuse to order one.


On the Sunday, we got ourselves onto a Eurostar and back to Villa Royale in Paris. I love Pigalle and Montmartre over the Champs Elysseses: I prefer staying somewhere that comes alive at night (and has all-night boulangeries).  We went back to Le Dan Bau – a Vietnamese place that has become so popular since I first went there that you now need reservations – and also Le Fumoir which remains a perfect place for good cocktails and healthy veggie eating.

…go to part 2 for details of the clothes and accessories…

The Penguincubator

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to sell contemporary books at train stations?

This was the impetus behind the founding of Penguin books (the moment of genesis happening on Exeter station, after Allan Lane had been to visit Agatha Christie). Reading the company history a few years back, I found the fascinating little snippet:

1937 also saw the launch of the Penguin Shakespeare series and the Pelican imprint – original non-fiction books on contemporary issues – and the appearance of a book-dispensing machine at Charing Cross called the Penguincubator.

The Penguincubator. What a fabulous name. I searched in vain for a photo, trying to imagine what such a thing would look like. Giving up, I consigned the Penguincubator to my stash of mildly interesting historical facts. Until this morning.

penguincubator Flicking through the Grauniad magazine (turning quickly to Jess Cartner-Morley and Alexis Petredis, then What Women Don’t Understand About Men), I saw they had a photo article with images from their archives. They’ll be running an exhibition until March, in fact. I find photo journalism from the 50s fascinating: the way the crop marks and comments are scattered around the focal point, the glamour of the papparazzi before they started door-stepping and taking up-skirt shots. The Soho Archives exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery was equally as fascinating. So, I turned to the article and found this photo from 1957. There, cut in half by the photographer’s focus on the ‘Bikini Automat’ (and who wouldn’t be fascinated – bikinis were still shockingly risqué then), is a vending machine saying that you can ‘Buy Your Penguin’ here. It’s the Penguincubator!!!

I am so in awe. Look at it! I’m not sure it that would have been the original 1937 design, with the jaunty script and ragged edges, but that is definitely a vending machine filled with classic era Penguins. So they surivived for at least twenty years, including through WW2. Next time I write something set between those two dates which contains scenes in a railway station, the Penguincubator is getting a cameo.

I think one should be installed at Exeter station, to acknowledge its role in the founding of one of the best loved and most recognised publishing houses in the world.

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