Cafe Culture: Free State

It’s been aaaages since I’ve done one of these. In fact these photos were taken back in September. But I feel I want to share because this cafe is a little gem in Central London. Those stripey walls almost caused me to completely change the design of my kitchen.

2015-09-10 14.09.38-1Appearance: Free State is beautifully designed. There are bold, wood panels painted in stripes. Mint green tiles with gold accents. And House of Hackney fabric covered banquettes. The tables are made from reclaimed wood and some of the chairs have obviously been stolen from a cinema refit. In fact, the only reason I became aware of Free State is that I saw a photo on Instagram, and thought ‘I must go there’.

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FreestateLocation: Free State is located on Southampton Row, which is just a quick walk to Holborn Station.

Menu: I didn’t eat anything on my visit but there were an array of salads laid out which looked good. And they offer the usual pastries, sandwiches (with some more unusual fillings) and sweet treats should you be in the mood for a nibble.

2015-09-10 14.07.38Coffee/Drinks: Free State bills itself as a serious coffee provider. Since it was a hot day when I visited (remember the sun?), I had an iced flat white. I asked for it to be less milky than the usual iced coffee and they made it perfectly for me. The cafe aims to showcase different coffee grinders from around the world and sells coffee making paraphernalia should you want to recreate that perfect drip coffee at home.

2015-09-10 14.19.41Overall: If in the area, I’d definitely return to Free State. I love the decor (and have spent longer than I care to admit thinking about how I can incorporate striped walls into my house). The coffee was good. It was full of beautiful fresh flowers. And the staff were really friendly and helpful. What more do you want from a cafe?

Address: 23 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 5HA

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Eggs Eleven

Egg Plate Selector

Breakfast, brunch, brinner…I love an egg or two. Packed with protein and vitamin D, they are a healthy and delicious way to get your day started. Dippy egg and soldiers? The ultimate comfort food! And surely most things can be enhanced by adding a fried egg on top? Seems I’m not the only one who thinks one egg is not un oeuf (sorry). Egg-focused restaurants are popping up all over London. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Eggbreak

Brought to us by the team who owns Soho House, I was expecting the usual polished interior design and buzzy atmosphere at this new eggerie in Notting Hill. It’s a little less dazzling than some of the restaurants in the Soho House stable, but the eggs were good (if a little expensive – although this is Notting Hill so I suppose an inflated price tag is to be expected).

I had the healthy option (which of course I immediately regretted as soon as I saw Michael’s chorizo laden dish). Serves me right for being virtuous.

(Update: this place is shut at the moment due to reopen in February 2016 according to the website).

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Bad Egg

A diner in the heart of the City, Bad Egg does eggs very well. I took Fred here for brunch during the summer holidays. He loves a good brunch and always goes for the pancakes (of course he does, when else can you have sweet stuff for lunch?) I prefer something with a bit of spice and chose the hash with pulled pork, kimchi and a fried egg on top. It really hit the spot. Note to self: don’t pick the healthy option.

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The Good Egg

This is a new place in Stoke Newington. Not my part of town, but I do like heading up there when I get the time. There are some lovely independent shops to have a mooch around. Before Christmas I made it to The Good Egg. They offer an international menu focusing on Middle Eastern food and have something called ‘A Jerusalem Breakfast’. I’m salivating thinking about it.

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One of my fun new year’s resolutions is to have more brunch.  We’ve got a rather special one booked soon. I’ll share some the snaps afterwards.

So eggs. How do you like yours? (Baked eggs are pretty special – see below).

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Images all my own except: Top

Let’s Do This Thing

Ok, ok I’ve had a break. I suspect I’m the only one who really noticed so I won’t dwell too long on it. But I’m back, dressed in black and ready to go. Instead of a January on the radar post, I’m going to have a little ramble about what my intentions are for the rest of the year. I know it’s now February so let’s just pretend January never happened. Although as it goes, it wasn’t such a bad one for me. I’m lucky that nothing awful happened, and then I think the key is just ‘acceptance’ and trying to have as good a time as possible. It seemed to work.

Let's do this

So what am I aiming for in 2016:

House

– Finish the kitchen. There’s not really much that needs to be done apart from build some shelves. I’ve got so many cook books, I need somewhere to put them. The carpenter is booked. It should be done by the end of February. Photos will follow.

– Get rid of the old kitchen. We’re currently doing an ‘Ed (two kitchens) Miliband’ and have a second kitchen. We’re not even making hot drinks or awkwardly eating bacon sandwiches in it. So it has to go. Again the builder is booked. I have plans for a light-filled office. I’ll share a few before shots and some inspiration soon. Then hopefully the after shots too.

– Make a start on the lounge. It’s covered in woodchip wallpaper and has a green carpet. Which isn’t as horrible as it sounds. But still.

– Sort my bedroom out. This is all about the storage. And decluttering. It NEEDS to be done.

Holidays

– A mum at my son’s school is Japanese and raised the idea of a house swap with a friend who is coming to London this summer. We were up for it. Although it may not now happen after all. The seed has been sowed. We want to go to Japan. It might not happen in 2016, but it WILL happen goddammit.

– There are also a few breaks in the UK planned and I really want to go to Amsterdam. I blame Instagram for this. Seems a lot of people I follow have been recently. Always inspires a bit of wanderlust. Last time we went was 8 years ago.

– I’ve also got a trIip to Barcelona planned. It’s not until September so I’ve got a little time to get excited/plan.

Culture

– I need to start documenting my reads in ‘A Year in Books’ again, if only to remind me later what I read. It’s interesting to look back on what you read. Some books stay with you, and you think about them lots. Others are fleeting.

– I’m also thinking of doing a little round up at the end of each month. I try to do things in London but never quite get round to putting them on here. Must make more effort.

Appearance

– I’m not getting any younger. Although I’ve always been pretty lucky with my skincare – ie it’s minimal and my skin doesn’t seem to suffer…I’m starting to think I might need to do a bit more. I definitely need to make more effort on my grooming; you know nails, eyebrows, haircut that kind of thing.

– I’ve become mildly obsessed with a few fashiony Instagram accounts. They are inspiring me to make a bit more effort on the clothes front too. It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut. I may share some of the inspiration and what I’ve been wearing (I may not though as I find selfieing in front of a mirror excruciatingly embarrassing.)

Job

– 2016 will be the year I find a job I like. Nothing to add to this.

OK – that’s enough to be getting started on. I must admit I did also start 2016 with a lot of the same old mantras – eat less, drink less, exercise more yada yada. But these improvement ideals are not confined to the New Year for me. I have these resolutions all year round. And to be quite honest, I need to think like this. If I decide not to try, that’s when the rot really does set in. I ‘let it all hang out’ in the couple months before Christmas…letting my healthy intentions fall by the wayside, and the results were not pretty. I honestly think I’m happier when I am trying.

 

My New Kitchen

2015-11-10 11.13.48-2I’m so excited to finally share some photos of my new kitchen with you. It’s been a long time in the making. There is still some work to do – fun stuff like choosing art and getting some shelves built for my (many) cook books – but the heavy lifting is done. Hurrah!

Just in case you didn’t read my before post a few months ago, let me refresh your memory. This was not a simple kitchen refit. The project required the ground floor of our house being converted from a garage, utility room and bedroom into a kitchen. Here are the before pictures I posted in September.

Kitchen2It was remarkably hard finding a builder to actually do the work. I don’t know what this says about the London property market, but I must have had at least seven builders over to give me a quote but only heard back from two of them. Thankfully the builder I used was brilliant.

It was always my dream to have a pantry. I have a lot of kitchen equipment and I wanted to keep the kitchen itself as clear as possible. The pantry is brilliant for hiding all my crap away. I used a cheaper Ikea kitchen in here and a wooden worktop. There is lots of storage space and the door is painted with blackboard paint. It also meant I could be a bit more experimental with my subway tile design.

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DSC02109You may also remember that back in May I won £5k of kitchen appliances from AEG. I am finally able to use my fancy oven and hob. And the amount of space I now have in my fridge is life changing (never one to exaggerate).

Kitchen

Patterned tiles were also a must-have. I spent ages deciding and even made a purchase from Bert and May before the work actually begun. This proved to be a costly mistake as I just didn’t think the tiles went with the space. So if anyone wants to buy 4sqm of encaustic Bert and May tiles (at a discount price), get in touch. Although I may end up using them elsewhere in the house.

You can’t see it in these photos, but there is also space for a large table and eight chairs. I managed to find four Ercol chairs in a local charity shop, which I was rather chuffed with. Once I’ve got my shelving built, I’ll post some photos of this side of the kitchen.

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It’s so nice having a kitchen that I actually want to spend some in. My last kitchen was tiny, and cluttered so I am delighted to have some space to cook in. We’re hosting Christmas this year so I’ll be able to give it a good workout.

(I am also reminded at how hard it is to take decent interior photos. The lack of natural light at this time of year does not help!)

A Day Trip to Hastings

Staring out out the driving rain and blustery winds today, it’s hard to believe that these photos were taken just a few weeks ago. Autumn was golden then, now it’s grey and wet. Such is the nature of the British weather…

Hastings1

During half-term at the end of October, we decided to make the most of the extra hour we had in the day and drive down to the coast. Hastings is a favourite destination, it ticks a lot of the boxes for a day trip. Beach and sea are givens, but Hastings also has lots of interesting little shops and cafes to explore. And crazy golf too, if your kids are not so enthralled by the lure of mooching around antique shops.

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AG Hendy is a must-visit shop. It’s like stepping back in time. Here you can buy treasures from a bygone age; and they must stock every type of brush known to humankind.

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There are so many interesting shops in Hastings. I was in my element.

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After reading Katy’s blog post about her day out to Hastings, we sought refreshment in The Crown Inn. We weren’t disappointed, it was a cosy spot for lunch and the food was really good.

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As the sun was shining, Fred had an ice cream. Perhaps the last one of the season? (Although I know he’d argue that it’s never too cold for ice cream).

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The beach was bathed in golden light. The perfect time for some rugby practice?

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We finished our day with a fish and chip supper. Ah autumn sun, where have you gone?

On the Radar: November

My poor neglected blog! How did we end up in November with nary a post since the last On the Radar? Life has been busy – birthdays, kitchen renovation (so very nearly finished), decisions, Ikea trips (so many Ikea trips), half-term, studying (more of which to follow)…  I’ve got totally out of the habit of blogging. My Instagram habit has taken a hit too. Oh well.

necklace

I quite like doing the In The Radar posts as they focus me for the month ahead. And let’s be honest, a linky post is an easy one. I am going to make the effort to post a bit more this month, not least because I bought a Blogtacular ticket and what’s the point of attending that if I’ve let my blog die a slow death. So expect more posts.

But while you’re waiting for those, here are my November links:

It’s Renegade Craft Fair this weekend. I always enjoy a wander – so much creative loveliness. This year I have the excuse that I am looking for things for my new kitchen. Always with the excuses…(the necklace above is from Apres Ski who will be selling at Renegade. I love it. Would look great in my kitchen ;-)

I picked this book up in a charity shop. I do love a bit of soup when it’s chilly outside and there are some cracking recipes in here.

If the #eatclean bandwagon is a little too much for you (enough with the yoga poses, coconut oil enemas and bright, shiny, insufferable healthiness), then Deliciously Stella is the Instagram account for you. Makes me laugh.

This hotel looks amazing. Perfect for hunkering down in front of a roaring fire with a glass of red wine. Winter has its moments.

One of my favourite bloggers, Jen from Little Birdie has started her My Vintage Life series again. I love seeing how people bring a bit of vintage into their homes. Speaking of homes – this book is a stunner.

And finally, a bit of culture – I’ve heard good things about this exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Called States of Mind, it aims to ‘explore perception through light and colour.’ Lots of wandering through coloured mist. And it’s free. Hurrah.

Have a cosy November, people.

On the Radar: October

‘Time, time, time, see what’s become of me…’ Well it might not be a ‘hazy shade of winter’ yet but we’re getting there. Look around, leaves are definitely brown. How can it be October? Well it is and October is my birthday month, so I will celebrate being one year older. I may be the wrong side of (ahem) forty but I’m not done with celebrating just yet.

October

  • This is kind of cheating as it’s something we’ve done already, but we had lunch at Chicken Shop in Tooting on Saturday (there a few Chicken Shops dotted around London). Yes the chicken was yummy, but the apple pie was off the scale. I’m now on the hunt for the perfect pie recipe. I’m going to make the perfect pie if it kills me. In my new kitchen, of course.
  • Speaking of the kitchen (sorry, can’t help it) I am loving the new pantry system Ikea are bringing out. When will it be available in the UK though?
  • I fancy doing brunch as part of my birthday celebrations. There’s a pretty good selection of brunches here. But I like the look of this new place in Notting Hill or Salon, just down the road from me in Brixton always showcases some tasty looking offerings on Instagram.
  • It’s Halloween! After doing it big style in New York last year, we’re hoping to get our spook on here at home. Buzzfeed have kindly done a round up of the best scary ‘treats’  on the internet. Number 5. Bleeeeeurghhhhh.
  • Speaking of scary things, The Walking Dead is back on October 12th. I love The Walking Dead. Zombies and Egg from This Life. Who knew he was so bad ass?

So where will you be kicking up some leaves this October?

London Open House 2015

This blog is becoming a little interiors obsessed at the minute. Probably because I’m becoming a little interiors obsessed. I even dreamt about kitchens the other night. It was a happy dream. Everything turned out OK in the end. I do believe that your surroundings have an effect on your inner psyche. I’m not a naturally tidy person (it’s a been a lifelong struggle) but I do feel calmer, more capable and generally happier if my surroundings are ordered. I just have to remind myself of this quite often. (See my last post for an idea of how the chaos of building work is effecting me at the moment: it’s stressful!)

Anyway, we did our annual pilgrimage to architecture and beautifully put together interiors this weekend. It was London Open House weekend. I’m going to share my two favourites as I was simply blown away by them (the first one in particular). Pear Tree House is basically my dream property; mixing concrete, wood and glass to create the most gorgeous residence.

The house is on the site of an old orchard in East Dulwich, surrounded by Victorian terraces. Apparently when the Victorian houses were originally built it was common for market gardens to be grown intermittently between the properties to supply the residents. I rather like this idea. However this orchard had been abandoned and the site was littered with construction rubbish. One tree was salvaged and remains in the middle of the courtyard.

Pear Tree House

The two parts of the house were connected by a glass walkway where the sun streamed in on a sunny day.

walkwayThe interior had a modernist feel to it; the main materials used being concrete, timber with flashes of gold aluminium. It was spacious and light-filled. I loved the sunken seating in the lounge area. In fact, the built in seating throughout the whole property is giving me food for thought. (I’m hoping to have some in my new kitchen.) Speaking of kitchens, look at this one. Wow.

Pear Tree House kitchen

Pear Tree House kitchen IIPear Tree seatingThere was copper detailing throughout and the piece-de-la-resistance was a chandelier that hung on the double height landing.

Pear Tree chandelier

I covet the office (oak veneer was used throughout). Who am I kidding? I covet the whole house. I will definitely be calling on Edgley Design to be my architects if I ever come into oodles of cash so I can afford to build my own house.

Pear Tree studyThe second property, located in Peckham, is an entirely different beast, but impressive nonetheless. The plot was much, much smaller. This brought its own problems which the architects (who also lived there) had used innovative solutions. The plot had once been used as a garage and storage but had become derelict in recent years.

Asylum Road

The corridor was long and thin and had a child’s bedroom off it. There was a large green sliding door. (I’m hoping to have a green sliding door in my kitchen and this was the perfect colour). At the back, there was enough room for a spacious double height living, cooking, dining space with a mezzanine floor. Make yourself at home, Fred. (This blogpost should be subtitled ‘Fred reading in architect designed homes’).

Asylum Road2

Asylum kitchen 2

Asylum green doorAgain copper detailing was in full force. Obviously architects love a bit of copper. I rather liked these perforated copper lampshades.

Asylum lightI also liked the desk which had been made out of a plank of wood. The office was on the mezzanine and was flooded with light.

Asylum officeThe courtyard garden was tiny, but I loved what they had done with it. Our garden is pretty shady so I was looking for inspiration. Love these ‘holes’ full of succulents.
Asylum garden 2So another year, another Open House. I do love a snoop around a beautifully designed home.

Where I’m at

I had big plans for September, it being the month of new starts and everything. I was going to post some pretty pictures of stationery and tell you all how organised I was planning to be. Ha! And ha again. Things have not quite panned out like that.

The building work on my new kitchen has finally begun. Of course this is exciting. How could it not be? But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a certain amount of anxiety too. It’s expensive. There’s a massive fucking hole in my house, currently propped up by giant metal poles (what if my house falls down? And my neighbours’ houses too? Argh! It doesn’t help that one of my elderly neighbours does seem to believe that this is genuinely going to happen. I have to reassure them that no, of course the loud banging won’t bring about the total collapse of all our (terraced) houses whilst silently screaming inside…and no, I’m not usually prone to anxiety.)

And the mess! Thankfully as we are converting our ground floor into a kitchen, we can use our current kitchen which is located on the first floor. So the building work is confined to the ground floor and we can continue to function fairly normally. But how much crap did we have downstairs? (Clue: quite a lot.) We’ve managed to rid ourselves of some of it. But I still seem to be surrounded by piles of stuff. Everywhere. This book is quietly calling to me. I need it. (Although once the build is finished. I can’t face making more mess whilst it’s going on.)

So plans of organisation, frequent blogging and general ‘getting my shit together’ have not materialised. If my house does remain in one piece, and I get to have my own little office too (squeal), there are going to be some changes round here. Obviously if my house does fall down, I’ll have bigger things on my mind than this blog. So that is where I am at.

Just so you get an idea of the space, I’m going to share a couple of ‘before’ pics with you.

Our house was built in the sixties, it’s a ‘townhouse’ and was built with a garage, a utility room and a bedroom on the ground floor. Times have changed and things like garages are no longer prized (well certainly not in London where space is at a premium). We have a parking space in front of our house anyway, so the garage had to go. We live on the Dulwich Estate; an archaic organisation which tells you what you can and can’t do on your own house (and takes money from you too…don’t get me started). So we’re not allowed to change the front of the house. We can change the back (with their permission after paying them a fee.)

In the picture below, a wall has already been knocked down. This was the ‘bedroom’ aka room full of crap and the utility. There is now a massive hole where these doors once were (there’s going to be a big sliding door).

kitchenbefore 3

And this is the other view; facing the garage door (which we can’t change). Big plans here. Watch this space.

kitchenbefore2I couldn’t leave your brains tainted with all this ugliness so here’s a picture from Bert and May. I have bought some of these tiles to incorporate into my kitchen design. But I keep changing my mind. They’ll be in there somewhere.

Bert and May

 

Kitchen Wishlist: Neon Light

In the world of interior design, neon seems to be having a moment. The Grind chain of coffee shops in London has a neon sign in each of its cafes. This is Holborn Grind, channeling a bit of Roxy Music. Love is the drug, indeed.

Paul Winch-Furness / Photographer

Getting a neon light is a bit like getting a tattoo; you have to be very sure that you like the design because it’s not something you can change easily. Of course disliking your neon creation, doesn’t end with expensive and painful laser treatment, but these things are not cheap. The pain would be purely financial. Ouch.

I do love a neon light. However I’m still unsure if a) I can afford such a frippery b) there’s a word or design I can live with until the end of days. Here are a few I’ve been toying with.

If I could afford it, I’d just get myself a Tracey Emin. She’s the queen of enigmatic statements lit up in neon lights.

Tracy emin

But my funds don’t stretch that far. Instead I will have to come up with something enigmatic myself..J Crew on Regent Street have a ‘Brilliant’ neon sign behind the cash register. Geddit? I like the play on words here. I also like that ‘brilliant’ is a very British word for something being good.

Brilliant neonThis would need to be commissioned and I have no idea how much it would cost.

I found this one online (although sadly sold out.) I would do anything for love (does Bryan Adams do it for you? No?) What did love make you do?

Neon love

Another option would be a symbol or picture instead of a word. After doing the requisite trawl of Pinterest, I found a few things I liked. Firstly the neon cloud. These lights were commissioned by an interior designer  for a New York home. I rather like them.

neon cloud1

 

Or this one? It looks striking alone on the wall:

neon cloud

Or a lightening bolt. With a Bowie song entwined into it. Perfection.

lets dance neon

Would you get a neon sign? If so, what would you have put in lights? Care to share…