Welcome to our world of interiors. An informative, varied and fun blog

On the radar…. Edward Bulmer’s paint collection with a conscience

The brilliant furniture-making company Benchmark held one of its relatively regular workshops last month at its wondrous premises in the heart of the Berkshire countryside. Promoted by the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) it is a great opportunity to meet up with fellow interior designers, decorators, journalists and suppliers for a day of informative talks by a carefully selected panel.

This time, Interior Designer Edward Bulmer  was talking about his new paint collection ‘Natural Paint’ and if, like me, you are already thinking that the paint market is already pretty saturated then Edward Bulmer was all about changing your mind. This wasn’t simply another paint card with interesting names but rather revisiting the recipe of paint: taking us back to its origins, its history and then asking us to think about the benefits – predominantly eco – of ridding ourselves of the chemicals used in binding paint (the stuff that helps it stick to the wall) and embracing the natural. Expensive you might think but not really particularly if you go along with the claim that only 2 coats are needed even for the darkest hue – in which case it becomes competitive – indeed compelling if you’re drawn to the idea of using paint that has a conscience!

Edward Bullmer demonstrates

We’re very keen to give Edward’s product a go particularly having seen the standard colour palette which Edward has subtitled ‘The Revival of NATURAL COLOUR in 72 shades’. We’re loving the rich yet soft  ‘Sang de Boeuf” and the boldness of ‘Invisible Green’ which could look amazing as a backdrop for artwork if your redecorating your dining room or drawing room. There is also the facility for mixing any colour using the NCS paint referencing system. So, definitely one to keep on the radar. For more information please take a look at the website www.edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk

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DECOREX 2016: our lighting picks!

At Isabel Ballardie Interiors we are always on the lookout for new ideas in the world of lighting design. We were at Decorex last week where exhibitors showcase their new ideas and designs and we spied some great new pieces that we think you’re going to love.

It was great to see some eye-catching statement pieces that would be fabulous for a large, contemporary hallway. We loved this modern, angular take on a chandelier and, depending on your space, thought that 3 of these hanging together could look really stunning.

Stunning angular chandeliers


We also saw a new collection of table lamps using new and innovative materials. On display were lamp bases made of the rather underused alabaster – naturally weighty but also cool and clean.


For something a little different we loved these funky wall lights. Squiggle? Doodle? Whatever you’d like to call them they are full of fun and available in copper, gold and silver finishes.


Finally, a seasonal pick …… it is nearly Hallowe’en afterall!


At Isabel Ballardie Interiors we offer a Lighting Design Service. This includes Lighting Plans together with sourcing decorative and non-decorative fittings. Please do ask us for further details.

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Kitted out to perfection

Have you been to the Ham Yard Hotel in London’s Soho? If not, put it on your ‘to go to’ list! Built and designed by interior designer Kit Kemp it truly is a glorious feast for the senses: a seemingly effortless blend of different styles that work together and seem to make the most of each other: the artisan, the polished, the old, the rugged –  clever and mesmerising – inspiring.

In the Hotel Lobby we saw the clock installation featured in Kit’s new book Every Room Tells a Story. 135 interconnected clocks move together to form patterns and then, at intervals, show the time in digital form.

Hotel Lobby


Fabrics varied from the bright, modern and striking in the lobby, faded florals in the library, crewel-work on the sofas in the ‘Shade Bar’ and felt-lined pillars in the bowling alley (which you must have a look at when you go). It was a tactile and visual heaven which managed to strike the tricky balance between earthy and laid-back and exquisite and exclusive – we could not get enough. If you need a lesson in how to use colour and pattern in interiors then this is the place for you.

We went there for afternoon tea, today inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show and we both succumbed to the edible pansies, rose petals, courgettes and cardamom. We left with every sense on overload but would go back tomorrow!

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Pastels, woodland animals and Art Deco: a heady mix of new trends for 2016!

Ahead of London Design Week 2016 in March, a trip to the Chelsea Design Centre was in order to get an insight into what is currently trending in the world of Interior Design. With several projects on the go demanding a whole host of colours and styles we were not disappointed with the selection of new designs on show. Do get in touch and let us know what you think!

It didn’t take long to pick up on the Art Deco trend. At Osborne & Little designer Margo Selby has gone to town with a bright selection of patterned fabrics all with a keen overtone from this era. We loved her Brubeck design (pictured below) in the tasty-sounding Blackcurrant, Pansy, Duck Egg and Apple mix. This would be so easy to use when adding a dash of colour to an existing scheme in duck egg, grey or plum….


Away from this brightness and many of us will have noted from the Interior Design press that pastels are making a comeback. Many commentators have praised their ability to soften the harder grey schemes that have prevailed over the last few years. I’d have to agree. We were wowed by the Pietra Damask from Zoffany with it’s layered, marbled effect and thought that pairing it with a plain silk in soft greens or pinks created a beautiful effect. If you’ll overlook the pinking shear finish in the picture below you might get what we mean!


Finally, animals are back too. It is now time to venture into the woodland in a big way. The window of the Sanderson showroom is buzzing with it’s woodland lampshades featuring surprise, surprise…. hedgehogs (see image below). Delve deeper into their new Woodland Walk collection, you’ll find bunnies and squirrels, magnolias and violets all making the effort to create a restful experience that revives and soothes our souls. There is no doubt that the combinations of patterns, checks and colourways are very appealing and the animals portrayed are sweet and charming. I assume that this collection is intended to appeal to Interior Designers in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire  whose clients are predominantly based in the countryside. I am not so sure it will appeal in Farnham but it will be interesting to see if it enjoys general success.


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A colourful, manic energy takes us into 2016!

‘Doodle Art for Interiors’ is the new fabric launched by Kirkby: it’s a manic, in-your-face and highly colourful collaboration with designer Jon Burgerman and represents a complete departure from their usual hard-wearing textured weaves, plain wool felts and cottons.

Doodle Art collection at Chelsea
Doodle Art collection at Chelsea


I confess that I don’t know much about the ‘doodle’ art movement but I now know that Jon Burgerman is recognised as the leading figure in it. His aim with this collection was to bring art into interiors but in a fun, energetic way. His designs use all sorts of art medium: paints, crayons, marker pens, paper cut-outs (my kids would have been in heaven) and, in each one, he creates a different world. ‘Rainbow Scrawl’ is a hit of bright colour within which you can find many faces, characters, shapes and, well, scrawl! Of this design Jon says “I wanted to make a really colourful and slightly manic design that captures a real sense of movement and energy.” In that I think he has been successful.

In all seriousness I can see the demand for these fabrics. We so often get asked to design ‘kids’ rooms’ where children can chill out: we seem to be out of the pretty nursery stage and into the ‘hanging out’ stage of big sofas and beanbags, pool tables, TV screens and comfort. These designs would add a fun dimension to that kind of space and I think the kids could persuade the grown-ups to go with a bit of Burgerman – even in Surrey!


Rainbow Scrawl

The full ranges of 46 fabrics are also presented as an exciting range of cushions. Launching in the UK September 2015 and available worldwide from January 2016.

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A Master Class with Nina Campbell….

It was a real treat to go to the Nina Campbell ‘Master Class’ in her boutique in Walton Street last week. I do try to attend talks by designers every now and then – to get ideas, learn from their experiences and to put a little spring back into my step. But this was unlike any talk that I had gone to before. I found the intimacy of this event surprising and charming – Nina and her attentive son Max were there to cater for our every need. Tea? Coffee? Croissant with a napkin? And this is one of her trademarks: the warm welcome and the anticipation of what her guests might need.

She began talking about luxury and how, probably, we would all be envisaging opulent fabrics, yachts, swimming pools and jets (yes I was). Yet luxury, she points out, needs the context of the individual. Luxury to some could be as simple as a beautifully boiled egg; to others, time with their grandchildren. Her overall point was that a designer needs to respond to their client because, unless you really get to know the individual, it is unlikely that you are going to deliver something that is going to delight them. Anyone can decorate a room using gorgeous colours and fabrics she says – but, for the room to work, much more thought and anticipation of what the client needs is required.

Her tastes have changed. Mine have too I think – much less rigid about what I like and don’t like. She collects. She’s gone from matching everything to mixing it up. So, old patterned plates (collected over some years) teamed with cheaper glass dishes. She also adapts: she confesses to having had a deep dislike for amber glass until she saw it at a house of a friend – someone whose taste she had admired and respected for years – well, she laughs, if she likes it then it must be alright! And, so, amber glasses are now part of the growing collection of coloured glassware that Nina has put her name to.

Throughout her talk she demonstrated the extent to which she thinks about how people work. Bedside tables she says – try and have wall lights above the tables for reading because then there’s more room for the book, the water glass, the clock, the glasses, the tissues! If you want to quickly refresh your sitting room then attend to items such as cushions and lampshades. These are relatively inexpensive to change and can add a real push of colour or texture into a room.

It was real fun to hear her talk. Her recent projects have been all around the globe – China, Switzerland, the US, London and I can see why she is in such demand. Living in a room designed by Nina must be an effortless experience because she’s probably anticipated everything that you’ll need in the right place and at the right time – and of course in the right colour! She proved herself the perfect hostess and we were looked after from the moment we stepped in until the moment we left. She even let Isabel have her picture taken with her!




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A spot of shopping…..

With the onset of colder conditions I decided to venture out to Guildford this week in search of a new winter coat.  Inevitably, I became completely distracted particularly when I spied the new Anthropologie store! I rushed over and spent the next half an hour or so admiring the beautiful clothes, coveting the ceramics and marvelling over the African trophy animals! I must confess that, having had a good trawl through the entire stock of seemingly artisan and original pieces I was disappointed by how much of it is made in China. Boo! I actually put something back on that basis – is that wrong?

Glassware at Anthropologie

Anyway having got that out of my system I refocused on coats. The style this year is very slouchy – dropped shoulders, baggy backs. not suited to me at all. half of the items that I had found online and had been tempted to buy were just wrong for me. Which just goes to show – for certain things I am once again convinced that you can’t beat pounding the pavements – and, as an interior designer, you won’t be surprised to hear that I ‘d include furniture, lighting and accessories in that category!

There are however, some things that you can risk getting online. This year, after my usual annual deliberations, I decided on Christmas crackers from Designers Guild and I did get these online! Available in pinks (with gold) or bluey greens (with gold) these crackers promise to be a real treat. I plumped for the bluey green. Their website only hints at the prizes within – things encased in coloured leather. But that’s fine. I like a surprise (will report back).

Full of promise: crackers from Designers Guild

Onto more shopping news: Isabel and I quite often look around the charity shops in Chelsea. They are quite different to the ones in Farnham – full of things for quite a lot of money. Well, this morning I heard that Victoria and David Beckham donated 20 boxes of clothes to a charity shop in Chelsea in aid of the disaster in the Philippines. What a fantastic thing to do! There is no way that I could ever fit into any of Victoria’s clothes (maybe David’s?) but I bet ebay is steaming with resales! I hope they raised a lot for the charity in any case and well done them.

Anyway, to conclude, I found my coat. A mid-length, double breasted, relatively fitted number that is certainly helping to keep the cold at bay. I bought it from Toast and, whilst in there spied their knitwear: bright orange, turquoise, mulberry. Some lovely colour combos going on. Must start thinking about Christmas. More on that next time!



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Paul Klee: full of colour, style and atmosphere!

It had been a while since I had caught up with design school pal Mandy and the usual rendez-vous point (Tate Modern) was hosting Paul Klee – not an artist I knew much about – but one I wouldn’t mind getting to know a little better.

I love days out like this. Catching up on the latest interior design projects, swapping experiences, thoughts on new trends and then immersing into an hour or two of art before emerging, ready for lunch, in the members room!

Initially, I didn’t warm to Klee (pronounced Clay in case, like me, you didn’t know). His art was small (in size not quantity) and he was very organised – cataloguing each piece with achingly neat precision. I’ve always thought that art and administration (or organisation) were on opposite ends of the personality spectrum but here was someone who clearly could do both. Could they?

Anyway, Tate does exhibitions extremely well and you are soon part of Klee’s world of inter-war darkness, political intimidation and personal loss. And yet, despite this context Klee manages to continue his teaching (he becomes involved with the Bauhaus) and his painting. He develops his style, his use of colour, his depiction of light and of atmosphere to the point where you are staring at a series of lines and blocks called ”Fire in the evening”, you know he’s painting in Egypt and you start to get it. The painting is quiet, subtle, warm and vast all at the same time. Klee is not about reproducing what is in front of us he is about portraying what we can’t necessarily see and “making visible” (the title of the exhibition) those things through colour, light and shape.

From an interior design perspective I was mesmerised by his combining of different colours to evoke mood and atmosphere. I loved his use of toning – making things lighter and darker by overlaying colours on top of each other and what that does to perspective and to the focal point in a painting.  I was thrilled by his experiments with a wide variety of styles – again something that I come across in interior design. A large proportion of his work is abstract but within that there are overtones of cubism, of Picasso, maybe of Matisse –  so a huge variety.

Needless to say we both loved it and came away inspired!




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Nina Campbell in Winchester!

I had the pleasure of stopping over in the historic town of Winchester last week and managed to find a rather nice pub-hotel-restaurant for my stay called The Old Vine. When I tell you why I booked it you will roll your eyes and shake your head: all the rooms are named after interior designers or interior design houses! Oh the excitement! The curiosity! Who would I get? Well, to get you off the edge of your seat I’ll cut to the chase: I got given the Nina Campbell suite!

I’m not really sure what I expected. I did wonder whether it would be a completely over-the-top homage to the Grand Dame of interior design: upholstered walls, deep reds, dramatic damasks, and plenty of braids, beads and fringing….. but it wasn’t. In fact it was very a very subtle melding together of many of her softer trademarks in a very understated way. The colour palette consisted of a soft duck egg blue, mossy green and pale cream – ideal for a bedroom. The patterns used were very inoffensive: florals intertwined with a few (OK quite a few) golden butterflies, a stripe and then some textured plains. Happily, in true Nina style, the wallpaper, bedspread, curtains and pelmets were all done in the same pattern and, of course, there was a relatively generous helping of green glass beads twinkling across the bottom of the pelmets. Ahhh…

I liked this idea of naming the rooms after designers. I think it’s great that when an owner has a passion or an interest that it is reflected. It gives the place personality and makes it memorable.  So it’s great to see that the Old Vine has been nominated as a finalist in the B&B category for The Beautiful South Awards for Excellence 2013. Certainly my stay here was welcoming, comfortable and very enjoyable.

Don’t worry, I kept my curiosity to the NC room and didn’t request a glimpse of the Zimmer + Rohde or the Osborne and Little. Maybe next time? Maybe we ought to suggest an Isabel Ballardie Interiors room?





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The Art of the neutral

As someone who loves art, photography, sculpture, ceramics and virtually all other forms of original expression I am pleased, but at the same time always disappointed, when big companies (like John Lewis, Laura Ashley) try and mass produce art and sell it as a commodity. It just makes me feel strange. Where has the joy in finding, collecting and treasuring – even creating – gone?

Anyway, as interior designers we get asked to recommend artists, art, sculptors all the time and, recently, I was helping a client find a picture or a painting for her newly refurbished front room. She wanted black and white photography but for ages we had no luck. Then I came across Ben Lowe doing all sorts of interesting abstracts (and not quite abstracts) for Loaf (that online provider of slouchy sofas and pale coloured things). In themselves the paintings are quite attractive. I liked Helter Skelter for its, well, Helter skelteriness. The client liked and is not only buying (from Ben’s own website) for her new sitting room but also for her bedroom -great!

But then part of me thought, hang on, this art is largely grey. It’s neutral. Of course people are going to buy it because it bridges that uncomfortable gap between needing to fill a space on a wall but actually not wanting to venture too far from the Farrow and Ball neutrals. I am being harsh and the work does have an ethereal feel to it and one, I have to say, that I probably wouldn’t tire of. But neither would it stir me – there’s no controversy here, no statement, no real nasties. Which takes me back to art being personal. About it reflecting taste, preference and experience and why mass produced stuff invariably doesn’t do it for me.

I actually quite liked the description of his work on the Ben Lowe website and I would probably gain more if I took the time to understand his work better. But don’t take my word for it – take a look for yourself – after all, you might like it!




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