Episode 10: Renewal

Spring is finally here. Abigail and Rachel talk about all things renewal. Journey with us through Rachel’s recent trips abroad and Abigail’s garden design revelations as we explore making old things new again.

Listener questions!!!

We’ve gone INTERACTIVE! Abigail is extremely excited to have our first listener question. This is off the back of our last episode on kitchen design. Michele Olivier asks how do you keep your beautifully designed kitchen tidy and clean. Abigail proses the (patent pending) Sticker Solution.

Rachel likens this to her front hall table conundrum which Ikea has solved for her with this nifty mirrors/ shelf / hook combo.

This month I:

Rachel has been to Cannes for business, and the United States for pleasure. While the highlight was clearly her Grandpa’s 90th birthday – her eye has been caught by The Developer magazine, a new publication from Christine Murray – looking at how places are created.

Abigail has become obsessed with the work of Khadambi Asalache – a Kenyan artist who has bequeathed his house in South London to the National Trust. He turned his house into an absolute monument of fretwork and you can now visit.

Good Design / Bad Design:

Abigail has been waiting for her garden to be perfect before using it properly. But she’s realised the error of her ways that done is better than perfect.

She has created a space that she loves that is fit for her gorgeous sculpture.

abi garden sculpture

In her travels to the US Rachel was thinking about the role of walkability in urban design. In Oak Park, the late 19th century suburb of Chicago which was home (and playground) to architect extraordinaire Frank Lloyd Wright. This was an amazing example of a truly walkable neighbourhood – where you could access the cinema, bookstore, library, parks, cafes and importantly public transport. Rachel was deeply tempted to move to Chicago just live here!

Hesston Kansas, on the other hand, is a town designed for cars – the main street is clearly losing footfall – and the town is not walkable. There are many beautiful things going for it – like the arboretum – but sadly it didn’t feel like there was a ‘centre’.

downtown hesston

Walkability is increasingly important to people looking to buy or rent properties. Walkscore in the US is actually using this as a way of marketing apartments.


The cherry blossoms are out – and Abigail ponders the ethics of snipping some off for her kitchen…

Rachel has – very unusually – been to the spa, and was fully renewed by a facial and massage. At the scale of a personal renewal. But also having maintenance undertaken for her house.

First things first, get your maintenance right before branching out and getting a new aesthetic. That said, Abigail is mildly obsessed with the new metallic wallpapers from Farrow and Ball.

Damp is a recurring issue in England – Abigail has been struggling with this, and has been moving her dehumidifier from room to room. Which put Rachel in mind of her amazing Calm app – and in particular the rather thrilling French Whisperer.

Back to renewal of your home – the key phrase is – Function First Aesthetic After!!!

That said, Abigail is obsessed with Wallpaper Direct – who she has on speed dial – and who have provided exceptional customer service.
She’s also very keen on the K-West Hotel who are her neighbours and have been incredibly helpful access her garden sculpture by Paul Vanstone. Rachel’s garden sculpture is more personal…

Rachel Garden Art

But people and cities are not the only things that can be renewed – cities are also constantly undergoing renewal and regeneration.

Importantly this is not about doing things TO people and places, but with people and places. Can you plan for good places? Rachel was struck by David Rudlin’s recent piece in The Guardian which was sent to her by all her planning friends. In it he argues that it is the planning system that keeps us from getting the places and spaces we want. Rachel’s not so sure…

So many cities have rebuilt themselves after fires – London, Chicago, and now with the recent disaster at Notre Dame Cathedral. Rachel questions whether the outpourings of grief from the international community have gone too far. Abigail questions how structural damage has been done, and has read the Dr Catherine Oaks’ article talking about the material use and history in historic buildings. They are both a little over excited about the potential for the architectural competition that has been announced. Should we go modern, or should we go reproduction?

Next month I will…

We are going to visit Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, the country home of Rachel’s favourite architect Sir John Soane.

09 Kitchen Consultation

We promise we’re not sponsored by Ikea… but when we found out that they had a new concept store on Tottenham Court Road in central London we just HAD to head over and find out how it worked.

The Ikea Planning Centre is there to give you inspiration for your (primarily kitchen) projects – without schlepping to one of the big blue boxes.

In this episode we take a break from our usual format and focus instead on the design consultation experience.

Working with long time friend Hayley Kruger, Abigail walks her through a series of simple questions which help you to “know your behaviours, habits and methods in order to know whether a design is right for you.”

For Rachel this is all bout empowering people to feel more confident in their design choices. This isn’t about having lots of money to throw at a problem – it’s an investment of time (in and of itself a luxury) and thought.

A note on the recording… we were out and about again so it’s a little noisier than usual!

We kick off the conversation at the Building Centre at 26 Store Street just off Tottenham Court Road – a real mecca for design and construction geeks like us!

Understand your space:

H kitchen hobH Kitchen SinkH Kitchen Window

Understand the things that bring you joy:

H kitchen favs

Abigail has set out a series of questions which we used to take Hayley through her space – but which you can use and adapt as well.

Preparation guide for your kitchen appointment

Overall this isn’t about your budget – this is about the thought and the care that you put into thinking though what you want and need out of your space. These principles also work whether you’re doing a kitchen, a bathroom, or even a whole city!


Five go to the Design Museum

It was a blustery and busy February – we managed the take a family trip to the Design Museum, and reflect on some of our favourite design concepts like legacy and delight – but we didn’t manage to get this posted… so a little bit late – here is our (slightly belated) February edition.


This month I:

Abigail was dazzled by the (sold out) Dior show at the V&A. Not very hard to see why she couldn’t keep her hands off the incredible wall coverings.

dior bow
Cut flowers adorn the wall, as on the dresses.
dior lamp
The contrast between the dark (acoustically muffled with fabric) space and the high white spaces took my senses on an absolute rollercoaster.
dior metalic
Lights projected on to exceptionally shallow cut panel walls was a worthy background for such beautiful couture.
dior cover
Abigail wasn’t the only one thinking about Dior and interiors…

Rachel got a little bit homesick reading about an exhibition at the Harry Ransom Centre in Austin, Texas. This WSJ article on “The Rise of Everyday Design: The arts and crafts movement in Britain and America” was right up our street.

Good Design / Bad Design

Abigail was thinking about the idea of ‘legacy’ in buildings, inspired by this incredible story from Oscar de la Renta’s new showroom in Paris. And we ask the question, how can you have a conversation with the past and the future in your buildings?

Rachel has been walking past this piece of public art in Victoria and thinking about good and bad public art.

public art in victoria
Seriously…. what is this even meant to be? A rolled-up newspaper? A shell?

Conclusion: Good public art engages you and possibly speaks to the story of the place and the people. Bad public art is an afterthought, or even the dreaded ‘hand prints’ to demonstrate that the people really OWN this public art…

We also talked about this amazing clip of world famous violinist Joshua Bell in the Washington Metro. Do you stop to listen to buskers, or do you keep walking?

Also – is it only men who play the pianos in public spaces? Answers on a post-card.

The Design Museum

We had a family trip to the Design Museum’s Home Futures exhibition – get in quick it closes 24 March 2019.

two go to the design museum

Home Futures Board

This exhibition was amazingly interactive and enabled both the grown-ups and the kids to have a fantastic time. There was also a kid’s room with an activity to engage both the parents and the small people.

Rachel and Isaac

This giant nest was  BIG hit with the smaller people.
Home Futures Talk bubbles
How close is this to how we live now?
Home futures how we live
Modular homes, what’s the smallest space we can exist in?

We also reflected on whether or not optimal living was joyful living. Like this modular apartment in Hong Kong by architect Gary Chang.

And finally… how to Americans boil water without an electric kettle? Would you have an external kettle element?

Kettle schematic

kettle in situe

Next month we will…

… Finally have our design consultation with friend of the show Hayley. She’s having her kitchen and bathroom re-done. Can Rachel and Abigail help her design happiness? Find out next month!

Episode 7: Let’s go to the movies!

In the bleak midwinter we’re still curling up on the sofa and getting engrossed in good books, film and tv. What does this have to do with design you may ask? So glad you did…


This month I:

Abigail hit Top Drawer at Kensington Olympia to see what was coming next in the world of interiors. If you think we’ve hit peak tropical, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We are also seeing a welcome return to a natural pallet, both in terms of colour, and materials (not so great for Rachel’s wool allergy). Below is a round up of what Abigail saw…

Detailed tropical embroidery covers two trends. The embroiders gives the feeling of artistry and quality and a worth investment if you love the design. From Jan Constantine


safari prints
The next evolution of pattern and theme after tropical, African! Prints prints everywhere showcasing moss green and mustard yellow both strong colours easy to introduce if you have a base of a neutral pallet. From Sophie Allport
seaside porceline
Tropical design continues to have many faces, here the sea and insect theme with emphasis on natural shapes and materials.  From Objet Luxe
agate coasters
Agate, marble, quartz and granite in its many many forms continues to be ubiquitous. Firm favourites of coasters, platters and cake stands showcased by Dassie Artisan.
globe lights
Coach House, as always, are bang on trend showcasing African safari design in its typically displayed form, raw white linens, animal print and skins and some colonial hardwood, wicker and a globe thrown in for good measure.

Rachel devoured Michelle Obama’s autobiography becoming. Quite aside from being a style icon herself, and Rachel’s shared love of the Saab 900, this book was a welcome meditation on what it means to help places get ‘unstuck’ and that so many of the ‘choices’ we make are actually dictated by our built environment.

Good Design / Bad Design

While at Top Drawer Abigail also fell in love with these mud-ball chandeliers, handmade by women affected by HIV living in South Africa.  Knock-offs about but these beauties are still looking for a UK distributor.

mudball chandelliers
My good design bad design is solely based around this beauty. As ethically sound as it is stunning. Each clay bead hand rolled giving work, skills and joy to the women of South Africa who make it. This is the original and this is where your design choices can make an actual impact. I don’t compromise design no matter the cause. And with this you don’t have to. Find out more at Hellooo handmade 

Good Design is when you have a genuine connection, not just to the look, but the to the whole story of an object. Can materialism ever be good for people?  This led to a discussion of the ethics of objects, in particular Rachel’s new found love of meal-kit delivery services (Mindful Chef is particularly ‘ethical’) and  reminisced about the Great-Grandmother Edna Ruth Byler who helped to set up one of the first fair-trade organisations, Ten Thousand Villages.

A little closer to home, Rachel’s good design is a clock that you can tell the time on, and bad design is a clock that makes you work a little too hard.

Her watch – a lovely Mondain Helvetica (she has the No1 Light model with steel strap) is good design (easy to read, lovely on the wrist, a timeless timekeeper).

The Ikea Clock that her children pretend is the moon is less good… the odds are you could be VERY late if this was your only timepiece.

The Big Topic

It was a trip to the (home) cinema and a trip down memory lane for Abigail and Rachel. Abigail has identified two kinds of movies firstly period films that make you want to visit the stately home (think Atonement) or the page turners that suck you into place based conspiracy theories (think Da Vinci Code).

Rachel on the other hand reflected on how all her life choices are dictated by the films of Nora Ephron, When Harry met Sally specifically.

Abigail then set Rachel what shall hence for be known as the W. E. challenge, and Rachel counter challenges with the Much Ado about Nothing  double bill (both the Branagh and the Whedon versions).

Designing Together

We’ve been watching (who hasn’t???) the Marie Kondo series of Netflix. What we love about this that unlike other ‘tidying’ shows (Hoarders, Consumed) there’s no judgement. You may end up with more stuff than a strict minimalist would find necessary – but it all speaks to YOU. And that’s really what good design is all about.

Next month I will

We’ve set an ambitious challenge to do both a visit to the Design Museum Home Futures exhibition and a real live design consultation! #challengeaccepted.