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Exclusive: Kirstie Allsopp on the joys of quilting 16 March, 2010

Posted by CandidaB in Candida's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: mydeco

Just in time for the much talked about Quilts exhibition at the V&A this month, I caught up with homemade home domestic goddess Kirstie Allsopp about the joys of quilting.

How are you involved with the exhibition?

I will be giving a talk at the V&A about quilting tonight at the Director’s Circle Dinner – I am so excited. I literally cannot wait to walk through the doors and see the exhibition.

It all started when we visited this amazing quilter in Devon, called Jo Colwill.  She is a premier quilter and teaches the craft; that’s what really sparked my interest.

Why do you think the exhibition is important?

Quilts are really special in that each one has a narrative behind it; they magically combine history, artistic talent and skill. Looking at a quilt, you can pick up clues about the circumstances in which it was crafted – the economy, current design trends, what was squandered, what was recycled…

I have always had a huge respect for skilled needlewomen.

V&A quilt

Image credit: Bishops Court quilt, 1690-1700. Unknown maker © V&A Images

Why do you think quilting has had such a revival lately?

I think quilts have always been popular to buy, but somewhere along the way we lost touch with making things. Women today work, and they feel out of touch with the act of creating something. I think there’s a new demand for doing things which ground you in family life.  If you’re on a train miles away going to a meeting, for example, and you are sewing or quilting, it transports you to your family and your home.

That’s another reason quilting is so popular: it’s portable. You can do it anywhere.

Also, if you look at the evolution of the quilt in America, it started very much as a community project, and I think this still lives on today. People love groups – I have worked with a few crafts groups – knitting, sewing etc – and everyone there is so happy to socialise as well as learn. You come away with so much more than just a skill.

Do you quilt? Honestly?

At first I was daunted by the size of them, I won’t lie. But that changed when I worked with Angel, from London-based design shop Tobias and the Angel. She taught me how to make quilted lavender cushions, and it was such fun and really easy. Small quilted things like that make great presents for the home.

Do many men quilt, do you think?

I have only ever seen one, but I am sure there will be more!

Exclusive: mydeco chats to Oscar nominee Dave Warren, Art Director of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus 5 March, 2010

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The Oscar buzz is building up in the office this week. The stars, the glamour, the dresses! From a design point of view we were really curious to see which films were nominated for best Art Direction.

Dr parnassus Oscar Nominated Film Set

Image credit: Liam Daniels copy right Poo Poo Pictures Productions Ltd.

So… we were absolutely thrilled to snag an exclusive interview with Dave Warren, the Oscar nominated Art Director of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Nominated for its incredible dream-like sets, the film is quite literally a visual feast.

In between jetting from Rome to LA (it’s a glamourous life) we caught up with Dave about the inspiration behind the art direction of the film.

Best of luck for Sunday!

Dr Parnassus Oscar Nominated Film Set

Image credit: Liam Daniels copy right Poo Poo Pictures Productions Ltd.

What was your biggest inspiration for the set design of the film?

Terry: It always begins and ends with Terry – he is the fount of all reference and the first point for the ideas. Some of the ideas he has are so outlandish and random that you can only look at them in the context of Terry’s movie-making.

How important is drawing to you vs. computer animation? Do you always start by sketching?

Yes, always. I still think the flow of eye to hand gives you a better first instinct for proportion and depth. A wise art director once told me that the first instinctive sketch you make of an idea will usually be your best. I think that the computer gives you polish and flexibility – but sometimes options, or ‘choice’ can be self-defeating, they merely extend the process – have the confidence to stand by an idea at the inception.

Dr Parnassus Oscar Nominated film early sketches for set design

Image credit: early sketch by Dave Warren

What were the main challenges you faced?

Always quantity and time. A great film adage is that you have the factors of Cheap, Good, and Fast. You can only ever have two of these – never three! On Parnassus we had to struggle through being Fast, and Cheap – but then to stay Good as well, that is where the work is.

Dr Parnassus oscar nominated film

Image credit: Liam Daniels copy right Poo Poo Pictures Productions Ltd.

How much of the design was planned beforehand and how much did you get to create / imagine from scratch?

Terry had made an enormous package of work and references himself, and with Imery Watson. I followed through this stuff to begin with – some hadn’t been conceived yet, some of it just needed expanding and augmenting, other sequences were added later in the shoot. Without Terry’s work we would have been dead in the water from the start, but even then, the artistic workload was enormous, not just conceptual demands but practical art direction as well, where you eat away time just communicating with the other departments. We had to split it somewhat. Anastasia Masaro, the Canadian designer, took care of the shoot and builds in Canada. We had Daniel Auber concept three Imaginarium sequences for us too, which eased the workload.

image sketch from Dr parnassus oscar nominated film set

Image credit: early sketch by Dave Warren

How closely did you work with Terry Gilliam?

I would say very closely – but you would have to ask him actually. I was on Parnassus longer than any film before or since, so I must have done something right. He draws, and I draw, so we automatically reach for the paper to solve any problem- I think that helped create the working relationship.

Dr Parnassus Oscar Nominated film set

Image credit: Liam Daniels copy right Poo Poo Pictures Productions Ltd.

Which part of the film are you most proud of?

Well, the Wagon – as a piece of art direction, it came together beautifully – but that is down to a team of craftspeople around it. I always have a soft spot for the monastery exterior – it was a great miniature. The monastery also was a set which was cracked in one sketch.

Who are your design icons?

Ha! After Terry…. the first two designers I worked for are masters of their art: Dante Ferretti, and the late John Box. They are so different in approach but I learnt so much from them. If I could go back in time it would be to meet Michael Powell, Alfred Junge…. John Bryan, film makers from a simpler time- but they had the same basic challenges we have today- How to make a frame look great for a price.

Dr Parnassus Oscar Nominated Film Set

Image credit: Liam Daniels copy right Poo Poo Pictures Productions Ltd.

How are you feeling about the Oscars on Sunday?

Luckily I  have been too busy to be worried, skeptical, elated, awestruck or anything else. I’ll probably be working on the plane…..

What is the design of your own home like?

Unfinished….. with a lot of books about the place, and a lot of wood. I find metal too cold to sit on.

Dr Parnassus oscar nominated film

Image credit: Liam Daniels copy right Poo Poo Pictures Productions Ltd.

We’ve been so inspired by the incredible set designs that we’ve created our own Buy The Looks inspired by the film. View the looks below

Dr Parnassus Oscar Nominated Film Set

View this Buy The Look

Dr Parnassus Oscar Nominated Film Set

View this Buy The Look

For more information on the film, please see the support site.

Exclusive: Alice in Wonderland’s Jemma Powell on Tim Burton and open-plan kitchens 18 February, 2010

Posted by CandidaB in Candida's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: Diamond Management

You may have already spotted British starlet Jemma Powell in Foyle’s War and Footballer’s Wives. Now, she’s ditching TV for the big screen, having landed the role of Alice’s bookish older sister Margaret Manchester in Tim Burton’s upcoming movie, Alice in Wonderland. I quizzed Jemma on working with Tim Burton, her home style and her luxuries. She says:

I live… in Ladbroke Grove, West London, two minutes’ walk from Portobello Road. For me, it’s the perfect place to live, swarming with fun and creative people. The market is always full of inspiration.

My favourite room… is the open-plan kitchen. It’s always filled with friends. I love preparing big meals for everyone and chatting while I cook.

My style is… anything I see and fall in love with. My house is all Farrow and Ball colours, which I’m constantly changing around. I go to Kempton Park antiques as much as I can: they have such beautiful furniture there, imported from all over, and it’s so cheap! Last time I went, I bought a stunning French chandelier and an old beaten up shelf which I painted and distressed.

Image credit: Sunbury Antiques Market, Kempton Park

I am inspired by… my fiancé. He’s a singer-songwriter and whenever I’m away he sends me songs to fit my mood. My parents’ garden is also a great place to get inspired – I love learning my lines walking around, especially in late spring when the roses are out. It’s so peaceful there.

My biggest luxury is… flowers. The smell, the colours – they make a room. When I go back home, my Mum always puts fresh garden flowers in my bedroom. If I could, I’d have flowers all over my house, all year round.

Alice’s sister Margaret is… the kind of girl who just loves being married. She’s very happy with her life and her husband, and adores organising everyone. Not like me at all…

Margaret’s home would… smell of freshly baked bread and be full of little ornaments and trinkets she has collected. She would also have embroidered cushions which she has sewn herself, religiously, every night.

Working with Tim Burton was … a huge honour. When I first walked on set I was so nervous. There were all these extras dressed in beautiful Victorian clothes, staring at me. I tried to just get inside Margaret’s head, and imagine it was a big family occasion for my little sister, and then I relaxed. Tim was very kind, never short of advice and encouragement.

If I had a mad hatter tea party, I would… firstly not wear a corset, and secondly sit next to the Mad Hatter!

Living in Wonderland is… so much fun, I wish I had fallen down the hole too.  Mind you, it would have ruined my beautiful blue dress.

mydeco gets a preview of Ben De Lisi’s new collection 21 January, 2010

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Nothing lures the mydeco team out of the office like canapés and freebies – especially when they’re provided by one of our favourite designers. On Wednesday, Ellie and I headed to St Martins Lane hotel for the launch of Ben de Lisi’s range for Principles, which will appear exclusively in Debenhams stores at the beginning of February.

Ben’s home collections have always been a big hit amongst mydeco users, so we were excited to see what he had come up with in his first capsule range of women’s daywear.

Image credit: Debenhams

The clothes, like the event were fairly low-key: simple shifts, prim trench coats and Capri pants provided an urban counterpart to jersey beachwear and teeny-weeny bikinis. Whilst the designer’s signature post box shade of red was still present, it was reserved largely for accessories and hemlines so that nautical blue and white could take centre stage.

Ben described the range as a ‘cohesive, pure collection of clothes that are no-nonsense: not particularly fashion forward, just beautiful designs that people will love to wear.’

Image credit: Debenhams

Unfortunately there were no items from his home collection on display, but when we caught up with Ben after the show he assured us that many of the same themes applied: ‘It’s a very sharp, contemporary collection, full of the same clean lines,’ he said.

Well the lines might be the same, but the colours are much brighter and bolder. Abstract prints adorn cushions and rugs in zesty shades of green, yellow and red, whilst Ella the dog’s legacy lives on in purple. The Principles range may be aimed at women over 40, but these accessories have a fresh, youthful feel that can be enjoyed by De Lisi fans of any age.

Image credit: Debenhams

Being very busy and important, Ben could only chat to us for a few minutes at the launch, but we still managed to get the answer to that all important question…what did his beloved bulldogs get for Christmas?

‘Cable knit sweaters,’ he grinned. In red, naturally.

What do you think of Ben’s new designs? Leave your comment and let us know your thoughts!

mydeco chats to…Sophie Conran 6 January, 2010

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Image credit: Sophie Conran

As the only daughter of Sir Terence Conran, Sophie was thrust into the design limelight at an early age. She talks exclusively to mydeco about how to get rid of the blues, rifling through other people’s skips and what her father doesn’t like about her porcelain range.

I live… in a spacious, three-bedroom family home in Bayswater. I bought it 20 years ago when it was about seven bedsits.

When I was little... I really wanted a four poster bed. I would draw my ideal house and do up dolls houses. My brothers were more interested in sport. I remember making peg dolls, umbrellas and painting clay. From the Habitat days, we always had new products at home which made me think design from an early age. Sebastian and Jasper made me a dolls house out of a beehive when I was six.

Image credit: Sophie Conran

My style is… classic with a modern take; relaxed and colourful. Things should be fun and functional. I like to maximise light and wish my windows were floor to ceiling.

I love my… porcelain, white footed comport on my kitchen table. It’s always filled with fruit (or jelly) but can go in the oven, microwave and freezer.

My family… are very supportive, especially my brothers. Jasper [the fashion designer] is an incredible business mentor to me. Sebastian [the product designer] taught me how to do PowerPoint and Ned [the artist] taught me how to use Photoshop. Tom [the restaurateur] helps with my cookbooks.

To update a room instantly… spring clean and buy a big bunch of flowers like English country roses, all in different colours. And clean your windows.

My house is… always developing. Most recently, I bought a tiny flat next door which has been converted into my gorgeous new office. It was grotty but is now lovely. I have an 80cm diameter ball light made out of white glass flowers from Rainbow London. I love it.

Making a house a home… is dependent on the person in it and the amount of love present. I don’t have photos around, but keep my house alive with fresh fruit and flowers from Wild at Heart.

Image credit: Sophie Conran

Away from the rest of the world is… my bedroom. I sleep well there and like sitting in bed reading the papers in the morning and books at night. There are no computers, no phone and no hustle and bustle. It’s so relaxing.

On my wish list is… an enormous Chris Ofili painting. I visited one of his exhibitions at the Serpentine. I was feeling quite blue and came out thinking the world was a wonderful place. There is real joy in his work. I don’t know if I’ll ever own one, but it’s good to dream.

Tomorrow’s trend ispastels. We’ve had the strong colours like purple and teal, it’s now time for pastels. They are mood enhancing, light and fresh.

My proudest creations are… my children, of course.

Art at home is mostly… pop art from the Seventies that I have collected over the years, been given or found in skips. I shop in Cork St and England and Co in Westbourne Grove. The Affordable Art fair and Frieze are really exciting.

If there was a fire at home, I would grab… my Le Creuset Pot which I have had for years. It was the first decent bit of kitchen equipment I bought. And the huge kitchen clock hanging above the Aga, which is one of a kind. I would really want to take my Aga, although it would be problematic getting it down the stairs.

My father said that what he didn’t like about my range… was that he didn’t design it himself. He told me that when it launched. It means a huge amount that he is proud. I respect his judgement, he is wonderful.

Image credit: Sophie Conran

Shop for products by Sophie Conran.

Sophie Conran has joined mydeco! See her profile.

mydeco chats to… Abigail Ahern 5 January, 2010

Posted by Annie Deakin in Annie's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: Abigail Ahern

Is Abigail Ahern the coolest chick in interior design?

Famed for her edgy, eclectic taste, she runs super funky North London design boutique, Atelier Abigail Ahern and has even created a profile on mydeco. It’s no wonder all the fashion mags are stalking her.Here she talks to mydeco about how to decorate on a budget and painting her walls black.

I live in… London Fields in Hackney. We moved in about nine years ago before the area wasn’t really anything. It’s become so different – I love the vibe of East London.

My interior style is…
really eclectic. I try and throw the rule books out and play with different periods, textures and styles. Experimenting and playing with colour is a huge part of my style.


Image credit: Abigail Ahern

My favourite piece of furniture is… the first piece I ever bought – a concrete chair from Mint in Wigmore Street. We’d just moved back from America and had no furniture. I should have bought a sofa from Ikea but I fell in love with the chair. My husband and I had to take turns sitting on it for a year because we couldn’t afford to buy anything else!

The best room in my house is… the basement because it’s an inside/outside room. We’ve taken out the exterior brick wall over the bottom two floors and put in a double–height wall of glass. The doors slide back so you’re almost in the garden.


Image credit: Abigail Ahern


I used to be afraid of colour…
but then I started experimenting and got more confident. When we first moved in we had a completely white palette but then I painted one room in very dark grey and suddenly the other rooms were put to shame. Using dark colours makes a huge difference to how objects stand out. But you have to accent with brightly coloured accessories otherwise it looks really depressing.


Image credit: Abigail Ahern

A budget decorating tip is… to make simple floating shelves out of cheap MDF, then paint them yourself the same colour as your walls so it blends into the colour scheme of the room. It looks like you’ve spent a fortune when you haven’t.

You should play on…
shadow, light and nooks of cosiness. The key is to have lots of different levels of lighting – floor lights, candle lights, firelights, and table lights.


Image credit: Abigail Ahern

I am inspired by the work of… Jonathan Adler; he plays with colour, scale and proportions.

I used to work… on the picture desk for Terence Conran’s publishing company, Conran Octopus, researching images for his interior books. That’s where my love of interiors started.


Image credit: Abigail Ahern

Like her style? Get more tips from Abigail Ahern

mydeco chats to… Sir Terence Conran 4 January, 2010

Posted by Annie Deakin in Annie's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: Terence Conran

Design legend that he is, 78-year-old Sir Terence Conran is a workaholic – he’s even joined the prestigious mydeco Design Board. Born in 1931, he founded Habitat and has been celebrated for starting a design revolution that has made good design accessible to the masses. He talks exclusively about interior trends, lighting that makes you jaded and why he praises mydeco.

I live… in an 18th Century country house with very modern interiors. It’s large, comfortable and filled with natural light. I have always liked to mix antique and flea market furnishings with the finest and latest modern designs.

A Conran designed interior. Image Credit: Content by Conran

The best room in my house is… my huge, airy kitchen. It is a family room for cooking, eating and socialising. We have a wonderful 33-year-old AGA which makes the most splendid roasts and is the star of our kitchen.

Table and dining chairs from The Conran shop. Image credit: The Conran Shop

My favourite piece of furniture is… the Karuselli chair.

I would be lost without… my work. I don’t play golf and I am not very good at idling time away. I want to go out with one final project on the go.

People are always surprised… when I say the object that I am most proud of designing is a plain white teacup from the Casper dinnerware range.

Everybody is fascinated by… my giant map of London from the 1740s done by the surveyor, John Roque. It is painstaking in its detail, showing every imaginable nook and cranny of London and the wiggle of the Thames.

A similar map by John Roque. Image credit: Mostlymaps.com

Trends in interior design fluctuate like… hemlines, but notions of comfort and intimacy are timeless.

Heirloom bedlinen. Image credit: The Conran Shop

If my house was burning down… I would return – after saving my wife – to collect my collection of 19 Bugatti pedal cars that I have hung in the entrance hall, and some HB pencils, a note book and my favourite Japanese bowl.

mydeco has brought the design community together in an innovative and useful way that allows people to interact with each other. The average home in the UK these days looks much better because shops like IKEA, Habitat and The Conran Shop have started offering good design to a wider audience.

Magazines and television programmes demonstrate that… people can enjoy a better style of life when they make choices about their homes. mydeco is the latest incarnation of this, and will hopefully help continue the enthusiasm that people have for their homes.

Shop for designs by Sir Terence Conran

Sir Terence Conran has joined mydeco! See his profile

mydeco chats to…Barbara Hulanicki 1 January, 2010

Posted by Bethany Wrede Peterson in Bethany's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: Barbara Hulanicki

Miami-based Sixties icon Barbara Hulanicki has designed for fashion legends Naomi Campbell and Bridget Bardot. The founder of BIBA, her latest project is retro wallpaper designs for Graham & Brown. She talks about Madonna, growing up in a war zone and being hit by a hurricane.

I fell into interior design when… Ronnie Wood asked me to design a nightclub for him in Miami in the late Eighties. And I never moved back to London.

If you’re a designer… and working a lot with colour, you don’t wear much colour because it interferes with what you are working on.

Most of my walls are painted… a pearl grey colour; it works well with the bright sunshine of Miami. I have odd walls painted in a burnt orange shade.

Recently I have been bombarded with… requests for BIBA designs. My inspiration for my BIBA wallpaper prints actually came from the public’s nostalgia.

‘Viva’ wallpaper by Barbara Hulanicki. Image credit: Flock The Wall.

I was thrilled to… work on this project with Graham and Brown. They produce such wonderful printing and colour palettes, and I love the fact that is it produced in the UK.

I will never get rid of… my Fifties chair that keeps getting re-upholstered. It’s silver at the moment but I’ve changed the cover of it three or four times. I also adore my huge seahorse doorstop which I picked up in a junk market.

I admire… minimalism, but I need clutter. I like having different shapes and colours that my eyes will focus on.

‘Shoes’ wallpaper by Barbara Hulnicki. Image credit: Flock Your Wall

Update your home by… moving around photo frames and having furniture on wheels, so you can move it around too.

My all-time favourite project was… designing the Marlin hotel in the Eighties for Chris Blackwell. He always gave me a blank canvas to design whatever I wanted.

If my house was burning down… I’d grab pictures of my son, [my late husband] Fitz, and my passport. Then I‘d think, ‘great, I can start again’.

Shop for designs by Barbara Hulanicki

Barbara Hulanicki has joined mydeco! See her profile

mydeco chats to…Marc Newson 31 December, 2009

Posted by Bethany Wrede Peterson in Bethany's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: Marc Newson

Australia-born designer Marc Newson, a member of the mydeco design board, has designed everything imaginable from mobile phones to a private jet and footwear for Nike. His designs have infiltrated the pop culture appearing in Madonna’s videos and in Austin Powers films. He talks about his sex toy and his childhood dream.

I am… an industrial designer.

My personal style is… difficult to define, at least it is difficult to define for me. It’s a little bit like I can’t see the wood for the trees. I am submerged in my own world. It is sometimes difficult for me to step out and analyse a style, difficult to discern a style and a way I do things.

Magis Nimrod low chair by Marc Newson. Image credit: Nest

I am truly… nomadic which is one of the good things about my job. It’s a very international occupation that obliges you to work in all of these different places.

I designed a Myla sex toy… ten years ago. It’s an interesting thing to be asked to do.

Designing the subaugal space craft stems… from a childhood dream.

My job is… like a hobby. What I do now is all I have ever dreamt of and all I can really do. I am working on about 20 projects at the moment. There are so many things that attract my attention and focus.

Felt chair by Marc Newson. Image credit: Design Shop UK

I trained as a… jeweller over 20 years ago but I never really practised as a jeweller. The only reason I did it was to learn how to make things.

mydeco is… interesting. I don’t know anything that exists like it. It was only a matter of time before someone did a similar project. I sincerely think that it’s a good idea. It works well with a seamless and spontaneous process. mydeco helps to procure things and makes the process of choosing design easier.

Magis dish doctor by Marc Newson. Image credit: Nest

I would describe myself as… a perfectionist. As a designer you have to be. Otherwise, you’re in the wrong job.

Shop for designs by Marc Newson

Marc Newson has joined mydeco! See his profile.

mydeco chats to… Lulu Guinness 30 December, 2009

Posted by Annie Deakin in Annie's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: Lulu Guinness

All good things must come to an end… the handbag hero Lulu Guinness has decided to call it a day in the interiors market.
Guinness talks to mydeco about cheap wallpaper, trends and why her bed is the centre of the universe. Lulu Guinness has joined mydeco! See her profile

My house is… very much a working home, not a show house. There are children (and a dog) running around, piles of homework are everywhere and an ex-husband who comes around all the time.

For over 20 years, I have lived… in the same house off Westbourne Grove. At the start, we lived in just the basement while we restored the five floors which were full of bedsits. It took a week of skips to get the stuff out, it was disgusting. It’s an ongoing project we’ll never really finish.

To update a room… use wallpaper. I just bought the black and white cityscape design from Graham and Brown for my daughters’ rooms. At only £20 a roll, you can afford to experiment.

Image credit: B&Q

On my wish list is… vintage Fornasetti. My piece is new and still cost £6,000. The old stuff is just beautiful but costs about £46,000.

My bed is… the centre of the universe. It is sleigh shaped and more like my kitchen table as it is where my children and dog hang out and where I have piles of work and magazines.

I used to like… mirrored furniture before it was for sale everywhere. Once it became too easy to get – it’s now on sale at Laura Ashley – the charm goes. It’s a constant quest to be different.

Image credit: Graham and Green

If my house was burning down… I would grab my children and dog Waffle, a much loved Westie. After them, I would get the old black and white photos of my grandmother and mother and anything antique but not too heavy.

Shop for designs by Lulu Guinness
Lulu Guinness has joined mydeco! See her profile