Day 6 – Thursday Book Review – “Flipped It” by Melody Biringer

Flipped It

I had another book in mind to review today, but I will save that for next week as this one is hot off the press, or the digital equivalent. I really enjoyed Melody’s first book “Craving Success” about her personal experiences setting up about 20 enterprises. The most popular chapter in that book was called “Flip It ” – and echoes her mantra of “Flip it before you Ditch it”. This really struck a chord with me too as I am part way along a similar process to “flip” what I am doing.

The book is a collection of about 40 versions of doing this – across many different industries – and – at about half way through – I’ve found a lot of useful ideas and things to watch out for. There is also something very encouraging about reading how other people have managed to reformat businesses that were not working in the way that suited them. Perhaps very successful , but no longer fitting in with their goals and aspirations. And it is a reminder that it is up to us to decide what is most important.

If that has whetted your appetite , you can find out more here and also the information on Melody’s first book.

I am also always interested to hear which books you would recommend – of any genre. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

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Spotlight on Jurianne Matter

Jurianne Matter lanterns

Another favourite Dutch designer this year (last year ) has been Jurianne Matter. I like her work for a number of reasons but in particular her use of designs on paper fits in with my nomadic and portable decorative themes.

My first acquistion were these paper lanterns. Nice details are that they work on both sides of the paper , and although you could use them with tea lights , using them with little electric lights works well too.

She brought out a few prints that can be framed – again using interesting cut out techniques to create 3D effects. And with the clever use of a two colour backing sheet so that again, you can personalise your choice of final effect.
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And the latest addition to her collection are these geometrically patterned circles. They could be pressed into service on a christmas tree , but I think they can get away with year round decoration too. I found some white painted twigs to hang them in and they have looked great in the Dutch flat. Her colours seem to echo the colours that you find in the 30s and 50s – oranges, blues , yellows and greens – but quite muted versions.

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And of course, now that we are on the move, everything can be flattened down, smoothed or folded and packed up , ready to find a new home.

You can see more of her work and find out where you can buy her designs on her own website, but if you are near Hebden Bridge the lovely Radiance Lighting shop also stocks some of her designs.

Villa Augustus

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I’ve had it in mind to pay a visit here ever since I read about it on a blog quite a long time ago. And last weekend there was finally time to go. Had I realised that Dordrecht was only an hour away I’d probably have managed earlier. I forget how quick it is to get across Holland. Anyway, on a snowy and rather bitter winter’s day we took the train over to Dordrecht and made our way to Villa Augustus. Once you are through the entrance you are in another little world.
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First of all you arrive in a little cafe and shop area where they sell organic veg and decorative items used around the buildings. Straight way the colour and design details hit you. And you are introduced to the little hare logo who pops up everywhere. The attention to detail is one of the things that so impressed me. Colour, shape, texture, if there was an interesting way to decorate something then it wasn’t left plain.
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This shop/cafe area leads on to quite a large restaurant space and then the hotel part is reached by crossing the gardens to the old water tower. The gardens were covered by a thin dusting of snow when we arrived but I think they must look amazing in the summer. There are many different sections – vegetable plots , flower garden, orchards, a little wooded area, a formal italian area. Rubble discarded during the renovations resurface in a garden wall, complete with little bits of mosaic and mirror.
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The hotel rooms are either on the edge of the garden or inside the water tower. I opted for a room in the tower, in fact where the old water reservoir used to be. The floor was still made of the original thick metal plates , riveted together .

As part of the agreement the owners made with the council, the gardens are open to the public so you don’t need to stay here in order to visit the gardens . And in the summer months I think it must really be stunning. No surprises that I am already planning a return visit at a warmer time of year.

If you’d like to see a bit more, here is the Villa Augustus website. And the connection with yesterday’s post ? When I got home after visiting I was curious about which blog had pointed me in this direction in the first place, and with a bit of detective work I realised it was Ingrid’s blog.

Book Review – “Decorate Workshop” by Holly Becker


Last week I rather crazily went to London for the day. Actually ,it’s quite amazing that you can get there in little more than 4 hours. I like travelling by train so the journey just whizzed by. There was a bit of time for a stroll and then I headed across to Regent Street. ( I couldn’t resist a little whirl round Liberty – and was glad to see that the flower stall was still there after all ). Then a bit further to Anthropologie who were hosting Holly Becker’s book signing event. Holly had invited some of the London bloggers who have taken her courses to meet up a little earlier, and as I’ve been trying to meet up with them for months , this seemed a good opportunity. Here Holly is being interviewed by Will from BrightBazaar

Anthropologie is one of those stores that is a real visual tonic. Bursts of colour and unusual textures and shapes. I have a soft spot for their ceramics. Tea and cake or prosecco made the evening get off to a good start and I really enjoyed meeting up with some of the local bloggers and hope to meet up again, before too long. It was also fun to meet Susannah Conway and Yvonne author of the lovely Yvestown blog who even came over from The Netherlands for the occasion.

I have to confess I didn’t buy the book on the night – I had an already heavy bag with me and couldn’t bear to add even a gram to that , so waited until I was back home.

The book takes the form of a workshop with 8 different stages to go through , from seeking inspiration, to establishing your own style through to the practicalities of completing the project. Even if you already have quite strong ideas about how you like your living spaces to be, there is plenty food for thought and lots of very inspirational photographs of interiors from Europe and America. And if you have never tackled an interior design project before this will lead you through it step by step. I have quite a lot of design decisions to make over the next while so it will be a useful resource. And actually, I think a lot of the stages could be applied to many different projects , not just interiors.

If you’d like to have a wee look inside then here is a sample from the publishers to whet your appetite.

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In other news, due to “logistics” I’ve decided that I’ll close my Etsy shop from the end of November until the end of the year. So if there is something you’ve had your eye on this is a wee bit of advance notice. Also, if you like to know what is cooking behind the scenes, my next studio newsletter will be out next week. You can make sure you get a copy by subscribing here.

(One of the mood boards from the book – I should add that the photography throughout is by Debi Treloar and absolutely gorgeous.)

Still in the East

These little wildflowers are also from my Romanian trip. This second village on our tour, Zalanpatak, was previously a centre for glass blowing which explained the row of little bottles , two deep, on a small shelf inside the room. The bottles began to make even more sense after we spent a very enjoyable morning walking on a high plateau which is famed for its very rare and abundant wild flowers. It wasn’t really the time of year for the flowers – that is best in May/ June. But even so our guide found about 30 different flowers for us. Of course I couldn’t resist getting them into water straight away and at the first opportunity doing a photo shoot with them. There will be a few examples popping up in my Etsy shop soon.

Nowadays this village is becoming better known in British circles as one of the two places in Transylvania where Prince Charles has bought properties. Apparently he visits every year, but when he is not using them they are available for less rarified visitors. If you arrive expecting a lot of gold and glitz you will be disappointed, but if you are looking for somewhere that has been restored with care and attention to detail and furnished in the local style then you will be happy !

For me there was an unexpected bonus during our visit as the village ( about 150 inhabitants) were holding their first harvest dance in 8 years. In the afternoon there was a lot of activity with horses racing down the village road before turning to accompany a horse and cart filled with singing children past all the houses in the village. Some villagers purchased grapes or wine at each stop.

When we lingered outside, watching through the windows, the village girl who seemed to speak the most English was sent to invite us in. Well, we didn’t need to be asked twice. It reminded me of going to the ceilidhs on Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides when I used to be a tourist guide. A small community so everyone goes along from tiny tots to the village worthies, each joining in according to their ability. The younger ones, of marriageable age, were dressed in costume and danced some Hungarian style dances that I recognised. Of course we weren’t let off the dancing either. (Although my previous experience didn’t necessarily help too much. Another of the local guides told me that each village has its own style and she always wonders if she’ll be able to follow if she is somewhere new.)

If you are curious there was a recent article all about the guesthouse which includes a video link showing a little tour of the property. And for information about visiting both this location and the others at Miklosvar and Viscri this is the website to check.

Hello Etsy – ( With Catch Up Links )


Last weekend I was off to Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands to go to the Etsy conference. I’d never been to Eindhoven before so it was a good chance to explore the city a little. And as the Dutch Design Week was happening at the same time there was a lot to see.

But the main reason for my trip was to go to Hello Etsy. This year was a one day conference with a variety of speakers on small business and sustainability as well as panel discussions about selling on Etsy. The nice thing about these Etsy events is that they try to livestream them and then also make the recordings available afterwards.

If you fancy having a wee look my top tips are the presentation by Janine Vangool from Uppercase magazine ( and an extra treat was a copy of the magazine in our goodie bags). She talks about how she started the magazine and how she has used social media to grow her readership all over the world. Janine gives her impressions of the day here. and you can listen to her presentation here – Her talk starts at around 20 minutes into the video.

Also Satish Kumar, an ex monk who once walked to the four nuclear capitals , who spoke with a lot of passion about the important elements that should form the foundation to any business – sustainability and community . Listen to his talk here . If you only listen to one talk make it this one !

And finally, our host ,Piet Hein Eek also spoke about his experience of designing furniture during the last 20 years. Again, a lively and inspiring talk with some interesting thoughts about pricing and how to deal with copy cats.

( Mary has also written an interesting post about Piet Hein Eek too, with another good video )

More Catching Up – Bookmaking on the Summer Isles

Oh my – I really do have a lot of catching up to do !  I mentioned that I was off to the Summer Isles in the spring but never got round to writing up an account of this magical trip.

I did make a 30 second video as part of the Arthouse Coop Adventure Video Project – but of course that could only skim the surface.

I deliberately chose to travel up north by public transport ,even though it would have been easy enough to drive. It was the right choice as it made the experience much more relaxed. ( Not to mention the snow storm that awaited us when we returned to the mainland.) So that was a train to Inverness, bus from Inverness to  Ullapool. At Ullapool I met up with my fellow bookbinders for a quick cuppa, followed by a  slightly nail biting taxi trip to Achiltibuie and then a 20 minute crossing on Patricia, the Summer Isles “resident” boat.

The Summer Isles consist of a number of islands, the largest of which ,Tanera Mor , is where we were headed. No roads, no cars – just a few holiday cottages and two permanent residents   Lizzie and Richard. Nothing to break the silence but the birds, the wind and the waves. If ever there was a place to just gently relax and recharge then this is it !

Of course, we were not there to be idle, but under the instructions of the lovely Rachel we were put through our paces. Folding ( to start gently) cutting, punching, sewing, sticking, measuring, muttering under our breath at tricky points, chatting, eating cake, drinking wine and copious amounts of tea.

And by the end of the course all of us had produced a beautiful hand made book – each themed around maps and places in one way or another. And each more beautiful than the next.

The days flew by, punctuated by delicious meals. And in between the meals, home baked cakes arrived, to make sure our energy levels didn’t flag.

That mixture of a reviving location plus learning new skills in a friendly environment – what could be better ?

Don’t just take my word for it – Rachel is teaching workshops in various places this year and I’m sure there will still be spaces somewhere.  And I have a sneaking suspicion she will also be back on the Summer Isles again sometime too.

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Most of the images here were taken with an Iphone – and , by request , I am preparing a short course to share my tips and tricks . If you’d like a wee tip off when it is ready to launch you can sign up here and I will keep you informed.