GLOBAL FUSION!! Taking inspiration from the tiles of Lisbon

Whilst walking the hilly streets of Lisbon I was captured by the tiled buildings I was surrounded by, compelled to take numerous photos of the ceramic-shelled architecture!  I’m not entirely sure why!

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Having done a small amount of research I found that the art of the ceramic tile in Lisbon is known as ‘Azulejos’, an Arabic word meaning ‘polished stone’.  These tiles are used to decorate everything, from walls of churches and monasteries to houses, subways and park benches.  They came about in the Gothic period where there appeared to be a need to decorate large expanses of white plaster.  In Italy they used frescos, in Portugal there were tiles!  As well as serving a decorative purpose they also served a functional purpose in temperature control.  To begin with the tiles were imported from Seville and in accordance with Islamic law were not allowed to incorporate human forms and so consisted of geometric patterns- this could be the reason why I was so taken by them- my geeky mathematic mind has always been drawn to geometric images!  Later on the Portugese started to produce their own and began incorporating human figures and animals.DSC03195 - Copy

The dominant colours in the tiles are green, blue, yellow and white.  Although these tiles can be found in other European cities it is quite apparent that in Lisbon the Azulejos take on an expressive poetic form lacking in others.

Having been captured by these tiles I was very excited to find that B&Q stock tile effect wallpaper at just £10 a roll and Topps tiles sell ‘Lisbon effect’ tiles at £40-£70 per square meter.

I love the idea of being able to incorporate elements of my travel into my interior design and retro furniture collection from around Europe.  With high street shops now stocking these ranges and restored furniture from around Europe readily available this can be done easily and cost effectively.

P.S. Lisbon is an amazing city to visit!

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With the historic buildings and trams interspersed with grittier more bohemian areas reminiscent of East Berlin and the best custard tarts you will ever eat Lisbon is a city you could visit again and again and always find new corners and experiences.  Having been to numerous European cities there have not been any others that I have felt a need to return to!


Trends for 2016: Bringing the Outside In.


There are a number of different trends highlighted for 2016.  Top of the list is ‘bringing the outside in’.  This involves furniture that can be used both inside and out, incorporating greenery indoors in the form of wall décor or accessories and the addition of plant life.  I’ve created a Pinterest board of my favourite examples!

I thought I would look into wall décor – so, I spent a long time doing one of my favourite activities in the whole world- trawling through hundreds of books of wallpaper!  I love wallpaper!

Here are some I found that would be great for bringing the outside in:

Matthew Williamson at Osborne and Little: Sunbird Colour Metallic purple/Electric Blue/Green W6543-01


Osborne and Little: Tulipan W6753-02


Reasons to love art deco

Art deco was an art movement that began in France and gained popularity in the 20s after the first world war when people had begun to relax and remained so until around the start of the second world war.

The style consists of geometric and angular shapes, chrome, mirrors and other shiny finishes.  Designs often contained stylised images of cars, cruise ships, skyscrapers and planes or nature motifs such as shells, flowers and sunrises.  It is also characterised by highly contrasting materials such as highly polished wood against glossy black lacquers with satins and furs.

I love art deco.  For me it conjures images of glamour- sleek dresses embellished with jewels and beads, large feather head dresses.  The furniture was in in my mind still is the ultimate in style-glossy woods, large oversized geometric shaped mirrors, sleek curves, luxurious leather and exotic embellishments.

The art deco cocktail chairs and armchairs are my favourites!  So sleek and glamorous.  See some pic here on Pinterest.  If I smoked and could handle cocktails I could just picture myself with a porn star martini and a long cigarette holder reclining in one of these!  Have a look on ebay………

I have always had a soft spot for the architecture.  The run down blocks of 1920s flats I see dotted around Leigh-on-Sea and the parades of shops that are almost invisible hidden within the more modern buildings surrounding them really capture my imagination.  I love the curved bay windows, the sunburst motif stain glass windows.  The Chrysler building of course is also pretty cool!  For more amazing images have a look at my Pinterest board.

I love what the art deco movement represented- the time where people felt they could breath again after the first world war and before the depression began.  When women’s liberation began and the economy was prosperous, technology was growing and modern life consisted of luxury and leisure.


Ocean Drive for me is one of the best places ever!  The whole stretch of vibrant colourful geometric buildings.  With the lively bars, trendy hotels and shops all over looking Miami’s South Beach.  I don’t think there is anywhere better!  And of you ever visit try a mojito in Mangoes…….


5 Tips for Mixing Modern and Retro Furniture

For a long time I believed that all furniture in one room had to be made from the same wood and be from the same furniture range.  I have more recently become aware that this is not true!  There are no rules that state this and incorporating contrasting styles of furniture and accessories into a room adds texture and can bring a room to life.  My house is definitely a mixture of styles and none of it was entirely planned or possibly to anyone’s other than my taste but I’m quite happy with it!  Using a mixture of styles also makes it easier for a room to evolve as trends and your tastes change- bits can be added or removed without having to start from scratch or redecorate.

There are rules that need to be followed when attempting to combine modern and vintage or retro style furniture otherwise you’ll end up with a crazy, headache inducing eclectic hotch potch of a room!

Number one is to go for a neutral backdrop- greys, creams or whites then add interest with your furnishings.  This will also ensure any statement pieces will really stand out and will not be lost within the room.

So number two is the 80:20 rule.  As long as you stick to a modern style for 80% of your furnishings the other 20% can be made up with either vintage or retro.  Maybe try pairing a modern contemporary table with some retro style chairs?  Or vice versa a retro desk with a modern contemporary chair?

I love this dining area- from designer Avocado Sweets. A really lovely example of how vintage can be in harmony with modern. (Photo credit Fisher Hart).

Click here to see more photos of the above apartment and other designs by Avocado Sweets!

Number three- make sure that the 20% vintage/retro items are evenly distributed throughout the room.  One random piece of French vintage furniture may look a bit odd amongst its modern counterparts however dotting some French vintage style accessories such as a lamp or jug on these modern pieces will help!

Number four- don’t mix ornate styles such as Chinese or baroque with simple styles such as arts and crafts or Danish retro.  They do not mix well!

And finally number five- make sure every piece of furniture and accessory is beautiful in it’s own right.

I read somewhere that a successful space should be made up of smaller vignettes, meaning that if you took photos of random areas of a room each one should be an exquisite snap shot.

For inspiration visit my board on Pinterest specifically made for the mixing of retro/vintage and modern furniture.

The Adventures of Kplan Kate: The tale of the Art Deco French Leather Armchair

The tale of the brown leather chair begins in France I guess around 1930 when the art deco style was flourishing.  Where he resided until May 2015 is sketchy.  But what is known is that he made it into the back of a French market traders van and was transported to Les Puces de Montreuil in Paris.  He hadn’t even made it onto the market.  The poor sad chair was hidden under a mountain of clothes and accessories still on the back of the van.  Luckily his beautiful elegantly curved legs were just visible and after seeking out his owner a deal was struck and the next part of his story begins.

He was once again loaded into the back of a van however this time he met lots of other furniture friends and was no longer hidden away under garments and bags.  He departed France destined for a new home in England.  He arrived there looking sad with torn plastic fake leather upholstery.

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He was stripped of all his ripped plastic faux leather, then reupholstered in eco leather a recycled leather in keeping ethically with the idea of rescuing old furniture pieces.

He now looks handsome and elegant and is awaiting a new owner at  If you think you can offer him a loving new home take a look!

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The Adventures of KPlan Kate in Paris: Lobsters, Retro Furniture and Battlesbridge on Crystal Meth

I have just returned from our adventures in Paris and am absolutely shattered- if only from driving a massive van clearly not designed for girls!

The van we took this time was massive- we needed a crew van because Steve joined us on our expedition and a transit only has two passenger seats.  If I was worried about driving the transit-that was nothing compared to this beast!  I hired it from a company called lobster van hire!

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Who knows what kind of trouble we’d have been in without this sign on the van!
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Our Parisian Home!

The van was ok to drive but being a girl with small feet I found it incredibly uncomfortable to drive because I couldn’t rest my heel on the floor with my foot on the clutch, which really does your calves in!  I will take this into consideration when I come to buying my own van!  We got to Paris about 11pm and by the time we had met the guy who was to let us into our Parisian apartment for the next 4 nights (I decided this would be a better option with the girls and financially so we wouldn’t have to eat out every night- check out you can rent peoples apartments/houses while they’re away and live like you actually come from that city!  Steve’s neice put me onto it and I was really impressed!) it was about 11.30pm.  I then sent Steve out on a wine run while I unpacked and put the girls to bed with lovely clean teeth.  About 15minutes later Steve bounds back in really chuffed with himself armed with McDonalds- I was really pleased when he went and got the girls back up again to eat Big Macs!  Very little sleep was achieved that night and I got us all up again the next morning at 6.30am to attack the first flea market on my list!

We checked out a market called ‘Marche aux Puces (French for flea market) de la Porte de Vanves. pairs may 2015 012 This market is south of the Seine.  I let Steve do the driving (mainly because I was too scared to try to park the van!)- I have never seen anything like the roundabouts in Paris.  They are huge and have a million different exits off them and no distinct lanes!  They are a massive free-for-all.  If you’ve got a weak heart I would definitely recommend never driving in Paris!  So pairs may 2015 014arriving there in one piece (and not having to pay to park because all parking is free in Paris on weekends it appears) we began to wander.  Shortly into our wander Steve pointed out there wasn’t a lot of furniture and I began to worry.  I had also written a little note next to this particular market on the market list  had pre-prepared ‘?not good for furniture’ so it wasn’t boding well.   Also any furniture I had seen and liked was crazily over priced.  Anyway the further we delved the better things were- the market wasn’t huge (compared to the flea market in Tongeren, Belgium- you can read about it here) but spanned over a couple of streets and we found quite a few retro chairs and a desk  plus a nice antique style oak wardrobe.  I think overall this market was my second favourite of the trip.  Although it’s not huge the content was pretty good, the atmosphere was good and you can find yourself some bargains if you delve deep enough.  There were also some really weird and wonderful treasures to be found!

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These things caught my eye-I can vaguely remember them from my childhood-pretty sure my brother had one-any idea what they were called???

On day two we were en route to Marche aux Puces de St Ouen when we stumbled across a market in Vincennes.  I did a bit of research to try to find out what the market was called but l’m pretty sure if was a market on purely for the bank holiday weekend.  I think there is a market in Vincennes but it’s more foody and is on a Saturday and Wednesday.  The one we stumbled across was really good.  I bought a couple of retro leather chairs and by now was getting a lot more confident in the bartering and getting to grips with French numbers.  I was fairly impressed with how much GCSE French I remembered.  I have Mrs Howes to thank for that!

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The tree lined market at Porte de Vincennes

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After we’d exhausted that market-or rather the market had exhausted the girls we headed on to the Marche aux Puces De St Ouen.  And I have never seen anything like it.  It was HUGE!  It was described online as Europe’s biggest flea market.  I am not surprised-apparently there are 15 markets all in one. Each area of the market appeared to be very different.  The first part we arrived was called Paul Bert and Steve described it as ‘Battlesbridge on meth’.  Anyone who ever visited Battlesbridge Antique centre in Essex will know that it is basically people selling lots of over priced junk!  This place was like that except the junk was more extravagant and more outrageously priced.  Worth a look though!

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The Paul Bert Market area

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On leaving that area we stopped for moules and frites.  And the customer service was nothing I’ve never seen before!  An American guy seated behind us complained that all his mussels were empty shells.  The owner came out to speak to him and said that the mussels might be at the bottom of the bowl.  The customer said that ‘no, they weren’t’ and so the owner took his bowl away and said ‘ok, goodbye’!

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The next area we went in was a slightly dulled down version of this and then we entered an area which was a little bit grubby and I think there may have been a few opportunist stall holders who had thrown down a bit of cloth and any old bits of rubbish they’d managed to put their hands to!  Then we moved onto an area which had loads of stalls selling tracksuits and trainers!  I’m sure had we have stayed and explored more we may have found some decent areas but I was feeling uncomfortable in the area we were in and the girls had certainly had enough.  The reviews I’d read about this market weren’t great and I have to say I wasn’t keen!

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Our final market trip on the Monday was Les Puces de Montreuil.  This was more of a market than a flea market.  The first area we walked through was all ram shackle market stalls with all sorts of junk-it was quite unsavoury!  Then we headed down the road and found a beautiful chair.  This however was the only stall selling furniture and this chair was the only nice piece!  Moving further into the market it became apparent I was not going to find any thing of interest.  There were mainy stalls selling new but cheap and nasty clothes.  One little gem though- I found a stall selling upholstery material at a price so good I still can’t work out how the stall holder makes any sort of profit!

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I’m sure there are many other flea markets in Paris but if I had to recommend one to go to if you like that sort of thing I would have to say the market in Vincennes was my favourite but since it’s not there all the time check out Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves.

Oh, and we did manage to squeeze in a bit of site seeing!

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