Decorated cats on Heal’s Cat Design Trail

Heal's Cat trailCats – that’s a good start. Elegant elongated cats and a spiral staircase to boot – even better. Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road know this. They’ve had a cat guarding their Cecil Brewer staircase since 1916, a slim elegant feline perched on a window ledge surveying all that passes. Now, to celebrate the staircase’s centenary, they’ve commissioned ten designers to decorate replicas of their cat, and the results couldn’t be more different. Continue reading

Fenton House: Hampstead’s hidden gem

Fenton House HampsteadA short (uphill) walk from Hampstead tube station takes you to a little enclave of old houses, where a seventeenth-century merchant’s house and its walled garden occupy a quiet corner. Grade I listed Fenton House, now owned by the National Trust (bequeathed to them in 1952 by Lady Binning, its last owner and resident), is a lovely place to visit on a fine spring day, as Yannick and I recently discovered.  Continue reading

Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel at the V&A

Barnaby Barford Tower of Babel

This year’s London Design Festival has just kicked off, so Yannick and I rushed down to the V&A to take a look. Rushed a bit early, as it turned out, but it meant we got an excellent sneak preview of Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel, a conical pile of china shops which has been sited in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, making for an interesting contrast with the sculptures on display. Continue reading

Momosan shop opens in Hackney

Momosan shopThose of you who are familiar with Hackney Central will know that it’s a bit of a walk from Bethnal Green, which is something Yannick and I found out the hard way when our never-ending search for Mashiko pottery for sale in London led us to Momosan’s new shop on Wilton Way. But never mind; we saw the sights of Hackney, although not, oddly enough, Wilton’s Music Hall which is in a different part of London entirely. We settled for the Hackney Empire. Continue reading

Takumi Japan – skill, craft and the pursuit of perfection

Aluminium rings by Marushin Materal Co

I seized the chance of a rare break in the rain earlier this week to take a trip to the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch for the opening of the Takumi exhibition. Takumi is a collective of Japanese craft studios and their show was to give UK retailers the chance to take a look at what they have to offer and maybe decide to stock it. I hope they do as I saw lots to covet there. Continue reading

Wagumi – Japanese designer wares at the Oxo Tower

Oxo Tower

The Oxo Tower is a London landmark. Saved from the developers by a bitterly-fought campaign and refurbished in the nineties, it’s now the centrepiece of the preserved Coin St area on the South Bank, just along from the brutalist modern architecture of the National Theatre and right next to Bernie Spain Gardens (familiar to fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series as the site of the Spring Court). Below it, next to the riverside path, is a red-brick block that is home to a fascinating selection of designer and artisan shops. Which explains why I was there on one of the few non-rainy days this month – visiting Wagumi, the Japanese design store. Continue reading

Kintsugi lacquer repair – when broken is better than new

Kintsugi lacquer repair

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending pots. Not mending them in the way you’d imagine – so you can’t see they were ever broken. No, it’s mending them in a way that makes a feature of their brokenness, celebrates and enhances it, so that the broken and mended piece becomes more beautiful and valuable than before. It turns our ideas about the meaning of damage and imperfection on their heads. I’ve just been to see a kintsugi artist in action. Continue reading