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Taking time to live well

September

Mellow crafternoons Harvest gifts Succulent art Turkish pastries

HOME

Weekend brunch with friends • Moonbathing • Nutty biscotti Why bookshelves make a room • Venice • Rummaging for treasure The power of negative thinking • Malory Towers


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r mo enjoyab is neve ing an g n i r b place. er, Septemb out the b a e s o and f purp to plan s g sense o n i h t ‘ time of d wish It’s a want an o t s g about ‘thin just be t do’ and ’ n d e ne ly t this . Proud for’ bu the new d n a d y n n a s the shi project t s e v r a e h nal homemad e seaso ping ar p o h is the s e ptember vintag e S f I to es too. moment pleasur take a , y r a choly u n n d mela new Ja n a a i g nostal getting embrace ons and i t u l o s he re year. among t py new p a H . e on stuff d

STYLING AND PHOTOGRAPHY: EMMA HARRIS

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SYKES R LISA EDITO thing le p m #mysi


FRESH Things to buy, cook, read and do this month p7 LIVING Simple style and gatherings, tea and cake p20 ESCAPE Outings, weekends away and city guides p52 THINK Things to make you stop, read and wonder p71 NEST Loving your home inside and out p91 MISCELLANY The practical and the playful p123 Looking for a particular article? Our index is on page 128.


Monstera wooden necklace | £13 A cheese-plant design for those with a house-plant addiction. botanictribe.co.uk

Placemat holder with six mats | £40; coaster holder with six coasters | £20 Handcrafted tableware in felt and wood. fionawalkerengland.com

THINGS TO WANT AND WISH FOR The holidays are over, now is the time to head for home and fill it with lovely things, says LOUISE GORROD

Walnut & Rosemary hand cream | £12 A light, moisturising salve for cold, chapped hands. plumandashby.co.uk

Ivana Dress | £59 Organic cotton and a painterly print: the dress to take you into autumn. wearethought.com

LOUISE GORROD Our Wishlist Editor blogs, bakes and photographs at Buttercup Days: buttercupdays.com. On Instagram: louise_buttercupdays

Stagg Pour-Over Kettle | £105 Slow pouring means a rounded cup of coffee, and this stove-top kettle delivers it. bearandbear.com

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Grey marbled mug | £7 A porcelain espresso cup with a pleasing marbled finish. thehouseoutfit.com


FRESH | SEPTEMBER THINGS

Peggy armchair (left) in Bert & May Asquith Darkroom | £1,140; Betty armchair in Bert & May Santona Darkroom | £940; Pembridge medium rug in Quail | £389 British furniture covered in fabric by tile specialists Bert & May. sofa.com


Time for brunch WEEKENDS LEND THEMSELVES TO A LAID-BACK SPREAD OF DISHES SAVOURY AND SWEET BEST LINGERED OVER WITH FRIENDS Photography, recipes and styling: CATHERINE FRAWLEY

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runch is an indulgence you could head to a café for, but invite a few friends over for a mid-morning graze of your own creation and it becomes an altogether more relaxed affair. There’s no need to toil with this menu that allows you to prepare some dishes ahead (bircher muesli, fruit muffins) and cook others on the day (bacon buns and veggie skillets); getting friends involved and sharing the prep is part of the fun.

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LIVING | GATHERING

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“It’s the ritual aspects of home life that I find beautiful. Going into the garden to get some food… sharing something simple” Doing what she loves has always come naturally to Jessica Seaton; it has also proved a great way to do business. The co-founder of Toast talks to Ruth Chandler

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ressed in a suitably chic and simple charcoal T-shirt and black cropped trousers, Jessica Seaton sits in a meeting room at Toast’s north London HQ, surrounded by a tantalising selection of pieces from the spring/summer 2018 collection (look out for a particularly covetable batikprint dress). For 20 years, she has channelled her talent for enterprise and love of hard work into this hugely successful lifestyle brand. Who can fail to be seduced by its simple yet distinctive clothing designs made from natural fabrics and modelled by deep-thinking young women who often appear to be (stylishly) making the best of it deep in a veritable wilderness? Her role includes coming up with concepts for each season, leading photography, including choosing the renowned exotic shoot locations and, until recently, overseeing every aspect of the day-to-day business. How did this exquisite company come about? Its story is full of opposites: the plain, contemporary style that is Toast’s signature was born of the highly patterned knitwear of the 80s and its Japanese look comes from the influence felt by its founders in 1970s rural Wales. BREAD AND BUTTER Jessica’s entrepreneurial spirit has been with her since she was a girl in the 1950s. Without her parents’ knowledge, aged seven she put a sign on their front gate advertising her animal-sitting services: when a

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woman took her up on it, her mother was very annoyed and, predictably enough, she, not Jessica, ended up looking after the feline lodger. However, it was her influence that inspired her daughter’s initiative: “My mother was a striving person, always planning a new project. That work ethic is in my bloodstream.” Being a natural entrepreneur meant that, when it came to earning a living in 1978, seeking employment didn’t even enter her head. Having gained a degree in ancient history and archaeology and taken part in a dig in west Wales for a year, Jessica settled in the area with her soon-to-be husband Jamie Seaton. It was Jamie who had an interest in clothes and ‘a look of his own’, while his skills and qualities dovetailed beautifully with Jessica’s. “He was disciplined, logical, good at lateral thinking, incredibly practical and very creative.” They came up with the idea for their first business when Jessica’s 70s interest in natural dyeing* became a serious passion and they needed to do something with all the wool she was producing. “We’ve always been quite practical,” she says. “It seemed a better bet to knit rather than weave with it – people needed jumpers more than they did floor rugs.” Jamie taught himself how to use a knitting machine with the help of Pythagorus, a tape measure and a calculator, while Jessica took care of the business side of what would become known as J&J Seaton. Unwittingly, they’d struck upon an emerging trend: highly patterned knitwear became big in the 80s. “I find it remarkable that several people can somehow

* Natural dyes make up the Identifier in this month’s Miscellany; see page 127. You’ll never see avocados quite the same way again…


LIVING | WISDOM

PHOTOGRAPHY: LIZ SEABROOK

independently, magically, hit on the same thing at once.” Through a combination of hard work, instinct and good fortune, their fledgling venture went from sales at local craft fairs to stocking London shops and dressing Barbra Streisand and Lauren Bacall. C H I L D R E N O F T H E R E VO LU T I O N It might seem like an unconventional beginning to a career in fashion, but by living in deeply rural Carmarthenshire the couple were very much of their time. The era of self-sufficiency, birth of the environmental movement and experiments in

communal living meant a whole generation flocked to rural Wales, often dubbed ‘the hippy revolution’. “We weren’t isolated, we were with our gang. All our friends were keeping chickens and having babies, so we did, too.” And the country has long-standing appeal for creatives: “I think there is an undeniable sense of freedom and tolerance in Wales. And to live here is so much cheaper – both these things appeal to freethinking individuals of slender means.” The newly married couple immersed themselves in their surroundings and the local way of life. So much so that when Jamie pulled a ram from a bog for a 33


FENNEL

SIMPLE TO GROW AND WONDERFUL IN EVERYTHING FROM RUM PUNCH TO MEATBALLS, THIS MOST OBLIGING OF PERENNIALS IS EASY TO FALL IN LOVE WITH, SAYS LIA LEENDERTZ Photography: KIRSTIE YOUNG

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PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES; IRIS LOREDANA

MY CITY*

VENICE IRIS LOREDANA LEADS US THROUGH THE WINDING STREETS, SUNNY SQUARES AND COOL CANALS OF VENICE 1


Easy and relaxed: the antique sofa was found at McCully & Crane in Rye, then reupholstered by Alex Craig of local firm Century Upholstery. The painting is by Kent artist Caroline Yates; the embroidered cushion by Charlene Mullen


NEST | HOME TOUR

DEAL, KENT

MY NEIGHBOURHOOD DEBRA AND BRIAN DAVIES TAKE US AROUND THEIR SEASIDE TOWN, STARTING WITH THEIR RENOVATED 19TH-CENTURY TOWNHOUSE Photography: BRENT DARBY Words: ALEX REECE

“The pebbled beach is just a two-minute walk from the house. On Saturdays, the rowing club can be seen practising along the shore. This is one of the Art Deco shelters that line the seafront”

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M Y P LOT

Nectar points KEEPING BEES IS NOT ONLY REWARDING, IT’S MEDITATIVE, TOO, AS SUSTAINABLE BEEKEEPER JENNIFER MOORE EXPLAINS. HER BACK GARDEN BRIMS WITH NECTAR-RICH PLANTS AND HAPPY BEES Words and photography: JENNIFER MOORE


NEST | GARDENS

With her bee-friendly perennials (opposite), Jennifer strives to provide enough food for all pollinators, not just her honeybees (above right)

The story so far When I moved into my 1950s cottage in East Sussex in 2008, the garden was mainly planted with shrubs. The house backs onto arable farmland and there are large areas of meadow along a former railway line nearby. To encourage bees, I replaced the shrubs with bee-friendly perennials and annuals. The arable farmland can be feast or famine for bees depending on the crop. I allowed the dandelions and clover to flourish and planted hundreds of early-flowering bulbs. This is a really easy way to help bees of all kinds; honeybees are efficient pollen- and nectar-gatherers and will out-compete other species, so it’s vital to provide enough food for all of them. I have a background in agriculture and ecology and started keeping bees seven years ago, as I was fascinated by their behaviour. I am also a keen gardener, so it was a natural progression to get my own

hive. The link between bees and plants is an exquisitely evolved relationship and I am always amazed at how flowers and insects have adapted to each other for mutual benefit.

How does it work? Sustainable beekeeping can mean many things. For some it means keeping a closed apiary without having to buy bees from elsewhere. For others, it’s maintaining sufficient foraging opportunities so the bees can sustain themselves. For me it’s about focussing on the bees’ behaviour and managing them according to their natural instincts rather than honey production. If you own a bee colony, it must be responsibly managed, but the application of that management and amount of intervention can be varied according to your own circumstances and motivation for keeping bees. 107


Wool blankets, from £55, urbanara.co.uk

THE COMFORT OF THINGS THERE ARE CERTAIN ITEMS IN YOUR HOME THAT ARE LIKE GOOD FRIENDS: THEY ALWAYS CHEER YOU UP. THIS MONTH, WE FEEL THE LOVE FOR… THE BOOKSHELF Words: CLARE GOGERTY


NEST | HOW WE LIVE

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t’s an undeniable fact that a bookshelf improves a room. The addition of a row of books, no matter how small, instantly adds warmth, colour and personality. Novelist Anthony Powell knew this when he entitled the tenth book in his ‘Dance to the Music of Time’ series Books do Furnish a Room. Any house without at least one bookshelf feels empty and unloved, and its owner risks the danger of looking like someone with a sketchy, suspicious identity. Nosing around other homes lined with a bookshelf or two, on the other hand, can reveal much, and is as irresistible as poking around a vinyl collection once was. Assemble a row of books by favourite authors, with their familiar spines and covers, and the house starts to feel like a home. All the uncertainty and upheaval that comes from moving settles once a bookshelf is put up. Unpack a box of books and you will find old friends: some may have accompanied you through several moves – from student days when they perched on planks supported by bricks, to shared houses where they jostled beside flatmates’ dubious book choices, to rental properties where they lined up on your Billy bookcase, to a home of your own where they settled into orderly ranks on proper shelving. For a while, the arrival of the e-reader put the bookshelf at risk. Reading became a secretive business with titles and names of authors concealed behind the screen of a Kindle or iPad. But this was a temporary blip. Sales of books are buoyant* once more, and

furniture buyers at John Lewis and Heal’s report a greater demand for bookcases. It seems that we can’t resist the pull of a three-dimensional book: the feel of it in our hands; the satisfying business of turning a physical page (or turning down a corner to mark a place); the smell of it; its bulk; the fact you can scribble in its margins and lend it to a friend. And, when lined up along a bookshelf, a parade of books becomes a lovely thing. The enormous popularity of Instagram’s #shelfie, where ’grammers post images of their artfully arranged shelves, revealing themselves in more nuanced way than the vain selfie, and the website bookshelfporn.com, which has celebrated “beautiful bookshelves from around the world” since 2009, shows how much they are loved. This act of displaying books is a civilising and pleasing thing to do, and when life feels as though it is tumbling out of control, it can restore a little order. A row of spines becomes an index of memories, and the older you get, the more your books become a potted autobiography, charting your shifts in interest and authors. All in all, a bookshelf is a comforting thing, which is why we love it.

“A row of spines is an index of memories: like an autobiography charting your interests”

SORTED: WHICH BOOK L O V E R A R E YO U ? The bibliophile Organises their books according to category, chronologically, or alphabetically by author’s names, like a bookshop. The aesthete Arranges their books in colour bands: all books with colour co-ordinated spines are grouped together. Not especially

handy when actually looking for a book however. The would-be librarian Houses books in bookcases that line walls or even entire rooms, which can then be called ‘the library’ or ‘the study’ with justification. The curl-up-with-agood-book loafer

Sits and reads on a wet afternoon in a designated armchair by a window next to a shelf of books. The interior designer Intersperses objects, plants and photographs in front of books. Shelves can then be treated as ‘decorative installation’ with displays changing according to whim.

* Sales of books are forecast to rise by 6% this year to £1.7 billion. E-book sales will fall by 1% to £337 million. (Mintel)

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The Simple Things September 2017  

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