5 of the best table lamps


The clocks have gone back, and as the nights draw in, Diwali, the festival of lights, this week celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. And it has been Bonfire Night too.  So it seems fitting to shine a light on five of the best table lamps.

1. The Rod table lamp by Sebastian Cox has a shade made of compressed hazel fibres, and the stem is a steam bent hazel rod (H 5 4x W 12 x D 20 cm).  The coppiced hazel is grown locally and harvested in the winter as part of a sustainable woodland management programme.  Hazel is light, strong, with a fine grain and fast-growing.  The lamp is an honest, elegant piece that brings a bit of native British woodland inside. The lamp costs £175 including an LED bulb.


2. The Flos Kelvin mini task lamp, designed by Antonio Citterio, is widely available from retailers including John Lewis for £175.   In sleek contrast to the Rod lamp, but with eco-credentials nonetheless as it is  made of recycled aluminium.  The arm and head are adjustable for focused light from the 30 LED lights which contain a chemically-etched diffuser to soften the light.  The lamp’s dimensions are H30 x W12 x D12cm.

diy-table-053.  After natural, renewable and recyclable materials, I have end of life in mind when including the DIY Table Lamp designed by Rona Meyuchas  K from Kukka.  This is a traditional lamp, with a twist.  It could be used at home or the office, or where ever you choose.  It is made of 6 screws, 7 pieces of beech wood, lamp holder and cable. The wood is unfinished, so you could paint, lacquer or sand it to suit your style or leave it natural.  If you want to short-cut that detail you can order it in a range of 7 colours.  The dimensions are 53 x 43 x 10cm, and the lamp costs £115.  The lamp is supplied with a 40w reflector bulb, an LED alternative would use around 85% less energy and last 20 times longer, or an energy-saving halogen bulb, which would be around a 30% saving on a standard 40w bulb.


4. Drws y Coed, means to door to the woods in Welsh, and the dappled lighting of their table lamp creates a sense of connection with woodland.  The products are made from birch plywood and local Welsh timber. Digital technologies, such as laser cutting enable a micro manufacturing in North Wales close to sources of timber, and inspiration. The Merddyn Gwyn Lamp (pictured) is based on a beaker from Merddyn Gwyn Bronze Age archeological site in Anglesey. The dimensions are H38 x W12 x D12 cm and costs £90.  In a waste not, want not vein, the pieces of ply laser cut out of the top of the lamps are repurposed as coasters!

5.  D.I.Y. Either refresh an existing lamp, revive an ebay purchase, or start from scratch.  A wine bottle is a popular choice for a lamp base, or a vintage find.  You can buy table lamp kits online, and follow instructions online from Wikihow, or find a local course.  In London, the Goodlife Centre runs How to make a lamp evening courses. Be sure to read and heed all warnings and follow the directions with the lamp kit.  For simple instructions on how to make a lampshade visit the Channel 4 website, or find a local course and get some tips from an expert.  Lolly & Boo run lampshade courses in a couple of locations in the south, and Rustiques run workshops with Annie Sloan paints and fabrics in Aberdeenshire.  Have a peek at Folly & Glee for a range of DIY lamp making accessories and inspiration.

Dieter Rams: 10 principles for good design

Dieter Rams is considered to be one of the most influential industrial designers of the twentieth century.  Rams has been given numerous awards, most recently the Lifetime Achievement Medal at London Design Festival 2013.  As Head of Design at Braun, the consumer electronics company, Rams set out to design useful products which would be easy to operate, and enjoyable to use.

During the 1970s, Rams became increasingly concerned about the world around him, and his impact as a designer.  In 1976, Rams gave a speech in New York about responsible design.  In the speech, he highlighted the  “increasing and irreversible shortage of natural resources”, noting that good design avoids waste.  People are central to Rams approach to design, and he made a link between our physical surroundings and our wellbeing, “I imagine our current situation will cause future generations to shudder at the thoughtlessness in the way in which we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk.”

Rams distilled his views into his ten most important principles for good design, sometimes referred to as the “Ten Commandments”.

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Rams described the complex, interdependent systems that we inhabit, “Everything interacts and is dependent on other things; we must think more thoroughly about what we are doing it and why we are doing it”.  This statement is true both at the macro level of society, and the micro level of the home, a product itself must be functional, but it also has to function in its context, the home.

350The first product Rams designed for Vitsoe was the 606 Universal Shelving System (1960) which is functional in itself, but also adaptable to many environments, whether home, office, or bridging the two.  The 606 Universal Shelving System moves with you, with the units being reconfigured, and added to, to suit your space.  Our units are on their third rehang, and have sat as easily in a modern office as they have in the drawing room of a Victorian home.  The unobtrusive design lends itself to any situation.  The storage equivalent of the perfect little black dress!

Photo credits: A photo of our copy of “Dieter Rams: Ten Principles of Good Design”; image of 606 Universal Shelving System from Vitsoe.com

Halloween’s Golden Fever


A little note on pumpkins from the experts at Kew Gardens, ‘Golden Fever’ variety makes an excellent lantern.  And a reminder to hang on to the seeds when you carve the pumpkin.  Roast the seeds with a sprinkle of sugar for a tasty treat for the trick-or-treaters.  Trick or treating is apparently a tradition that originated in Europe in the Middle Ages when people sang songs and begged for a ‘soul cake’.  Each cake represented a soul being freed from purgatory.  By extrapolation, does that mean that heaven is a chocolate bar of your choice?

If you need some pumpkin carving tips, Tony Finch, master vegetable grower, is showing off his traditional pumpkin carving skills at Kew Gardens all week.   There are also Halloween-themed activities taking place at National Trust properties around the country this week, from make your own bat kite or owl mask, to spooky woodland trails or ghastly, ghostly stories.  For information on these and other family-focused events taking place over half-term near you check out the Events page on the National Trust website.

Digging the decoupage


Part of the haul from the Sunbury Antiques Fair was a mid-century nest of tables that had seen better days. With a tighten of the screws, wash and wipe it was ready for a refresh.  The set are destined for a newly refurbished flat that could do with an injection of colour.  As the tables are quite small, you can be bold without overpowering a room.  The tables were given a light sand, and then painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint.  The chalk paint leaves a subtle, matt finish once dry.

Then it was time to embark on my first decoupage project.  I had some Liberty print fabrics, and chose to use the Angelica Garla A (£22 per m) as although floral it has strong colours such as navy, olive, mustard yellow, and turquoise.  First of all, I applied the adhesive to the smooth, clean surface.  You could use any universal adhesive, I was using Auro‘s universal adhesive which is made of natural latex.  I diluted the adhesive slightly for easy application.  I applied the fabric being careful to smooth out any wrinkles, trimmed around the edges and left the adhesive to dry.


Once dry, I used a matt varnish also from Auro to apply two coats and seal the fabric.  I used Annie Sloan’s soft clear wax to finish the painted surfaces, and voila!

The smallest table has been claimed by my daughter as her new bedside table. The whole process was fun, and a straightforward way to revive and personalise the nest of tables.

For a simple DIY guide to decoupage check out Channel 4’s web page.


Papier-mâché prototype 1


Paper mache or papier-mâchéis a real rainy day, get your hands dirty activity, and an extremely satisfying recycle of the weekend papers.  This bowl was my first attempt following a set of instructions I found on the web.  After tearing the paper into even strips, I mix up the adhesive in a large bowl.  The adhesive I used was 1 part flour to 1 part water and it was quite gloopy (not a technical term!), so I will try a different mix next time.  I greased the bowl I was using as a mould with some sunflower oil so the paper mache was less likely to stick to the bowl.  Then dip a strip in to the adhesive mix (flour and water), as you take it out gently run it between your thumb and forefinger to remove any excess before laying it over the mould.  Work your way around the mould, alternating vertical and horizontal layers.  This prototype used three or four layers, and took a couple of days to completely dry out, before it was ready for painting.  It needs a few more layers to be more rigid, but you live and learn!  Watch this space for the next one.

Get creative, get personal at Liberty for 10 days


For ten days it is time to Get Creative, and get personal at Liberty of London.  This august emporium of beautiful things famed for its distinctive fabrics, Arts and Crafts heritage, design, craftsmanship and innovative collaborations is inviting us to have a go.  As well as bespoke products, there are a variety of interactive workshops where you can emboss, engrave or monogram products to put your stamp on them.  You could literally stamp your mark and design your own bespoke shoes in conjunction with English shoemakers Grenson (starting at £360 for women’s shoes!).

For something closer to carefully curated’s remit, Rowan are running a craft session everyday from 12pm-3pm in the Haberdashery department on the 3rd floor where you could make a Christmas bauble, make a needle case, or an Advent calendar (from Button Bag, the craft kits for children).  By way of a last hurrah, Etsy hosts a couple of sessions on the final day, including making origami greeting cards led by Gemma Gileard of Etsy shop, Gx2homegrown.

Use your hands, connect with your inner creativity and allow yourself to be inspired. The full calendar of events is here.

Reveal-ed cork iPhone case

Izu-Printed-Cork-iPhone-5-Case-228x228After my previous phone failed, I was bemused to find that 5 years old is vintage in Apple speak (technology years seem to be like dog years), and it was time for a new iPhone.  This was not without some angst my part, as I recently learned that only 15 of the 40 chemical elements in a smartphone are recoverable through the current best recycling process!  I needed to find a cover to protect my iPhone5s investment from everyday bumps and knocks.

In the market for phone covers it is hard to get away from plastic.  The leather covers are too bulky,  the fabric ones too flimsy, so Goldilocks’ choice was a cork cover from Reveal.  The backing of the case is  100% natural, sustainable and renewable  cork that is decorated with a Japanese wood block print.  I confess that I was surprised that the whole case was not cork.  The rubber casing around the edges is a non-toxic material plastic (ABS), but cases that are made entirely from wood are not stable and changes in humidity or temperature can cause the wood to break.  Reveal are working with a R&D material expert to replicate the performance of the ABS using a polymer blend of natural ingredients and hope to launch a product early next year, so what this space!

As well as cork, Reveal make products from bamboo, linen, jute, recycled zips and recycled fabrics, using post-consumer plastic bottles to make recycled microsuede for a range of vegan handbags.  Oh, and for every product sold, Reveal plant a tree via their partnership with American Forests.  A breath of fresh air in more than one sense.

Photo credit: Reveal

Use your Nous – bike helmets


I have decided to upgrade my bike helmet after 6 years and a few accidental drops on the ground.   My first thought was to how, and where I might be able to dispose of my old helmet.  I dissembled as many parts as I could, and was left with the expanded polystyrene shell coated in plastic.  The manufacturer, Giro, suggest I contact my local waste authority, but without being able to separate the parts, recycling is difficult.  I am amazed that the design and manufacture of the helmet gives so little thought to its end of life.  There must be a better alternative.

I have found a couple of candidates. The first, bright orange pulp helmet designed by Caio Armbrust and exhibited at Nous during London Design Festival, is a cycle helmet made from pulped paper to provide a safety helmet for frequent rental bicycle users such as the urban bicycle scheme in London.  The design is similar to thePaper Pulp Helmet by Tom Gottelier, Bobby Petersen and Ed Thomas that was exhibited at the RCA Show 2013.  The helmets are made from waste newspapers that circulate the London transport network.  A short video demonstrates the manufacturing process as old papers are blended and an organic, food safe additive ensures the helmets are water resistant for up to 6 hours of rain, as no one wants to be covered in old news.  The helmet and strap are fully recyclable and can be re-pulped into a new helmet without any degradation of the material.  Keep on cycling in every sense, but both of these pulp helmets are for the rental market.

Another RCA alumni,  Anirudha Surahbi,  designed the Abus Kranium Ecolution Helmet, which is recyclable, but far from throw away. Whereas, polystyrene helmets should be replaced after a single impact, Kranium has also proven img_0916_-_version_2to last more than one impact, the same helmet has been tested 5 times consecutively and it still passed the standard.  The Kranium also absorbs more than 3  times the amount of impact energy when compared to regular cycling helmets.  Its design is inspired by nature, and how woodpeckers are able to absorb repeated impact to their heads.  The Kranium is made of dual density honeycomb board, which is made from recycled paper.  The whole helmet can be completely dissembled (see the video).  It definitely gets a big tick for function!

My next hunt is for a household mop, another everyday product that often ends up in landfill.

Photo credit: Nous and Kranium

Five of the best winter warmers for Wool Week

Here are five of the best DSC8077winter warmers for Wool Week.

1. A bang on trend chevron throw from Tori Murphy (£250).  The throw is 100% Merino lambswool woven in Lancashire, washed in the Yorkshire Dales and made in Nottingham. The throw is deliciously soft, with a reversible design and hand finished with a traditional blanket stitch.

2. An organic duvet from Devon Duvets.  A duvet made from platinum grade British Wool that has not been bleached or chemically treated and 100% cotton and is handcrafted in Devon (from £130).   The untreated wool fibres work help to repel and wick away moisture encouraging evaporation, leaving an environment that is not moist enough for dust mites or bacteria to easily survive.  Regular airing helps the wool fibres maintain their capabilities.  You could even add a folding pillow, whose smart design enables you to air the pillow.


3. A blanket from Welsh mill Melin Tregwynt, in the heart of Pembrokeshire and owned by the same family since 1912, the products fuse traditional Welsh designs with innovative colour.  For a more midcentury zing of colour look at Seven Gauges studio , whose lambswool products are designed and machine knitted in England.

4. A hot water bottle.  Handmade in Lampeter from sections of vintage Welsh blankets that have otherwise been damaged.  They are available in standard size (£30), and mini hand warmer size. (£19.99). from Jane Beck Welsh Blankets.  As the name would suggest the company has a wide range of Welsh blankets new and vintage, as well as other woollen accessories.

5. A desinature-shop-honey-green-450x352felt lampshade made of 100% wool felt dyed with environmentally friendly inks from Desinature (£28).

And if you fancy having a go, the Handweavers Studio runs an extensive workshop programme and regular weaving classes.


Best of Britannia



Opening tomorrow, Thursday 3rd October, is Best Of Britannia, showcasing British Brands & Makers that design and manufacture in the UK.  The event runs until Saturday 5th October, and is taking place in Clerkenwell, London.  Tickets are free.  Exhibitors range from fashion, food, and every accessory for the dapper (wo)man about town, and even the bike to propel you there.  Carefully curated will be on the look out.