Soul Food Studio

Laura Ashley, Drop in Seat Chair Makeover

Amanda Russell
1 Amanda-1287.jpg

We all love a chic recycling project, it’s even better when it’s easy and sustainable too. When I was asked by the Laura Ashley team to design a project that fitted with their ethics I knew exactly which fabric I’d be calling in. I love the William Morris vibe to the Laura Ashley Willow Leaf Hedgerow pattern fabric which chimes really well with contemporary interior style.

In a house clearance shop I discovered an ugly brown drop in seat chair, ripe for a makeover. With the lyrical curvy lines of the seat back and legs the only thing stopping it from revealing its potential beauty and taking centre stage was a simple makeover.

5 Amanda-1295 copy.jpg

In this step by step project I show you how I transformed this chair into a stunning head turner using a lick of chalky pastel paint and new print fabric to cover the seat pad. To protect the new finish from any of the of the old wood treatments seeping through the new finish a couple of coats of stain stopper were applied before painting with the emulsion.

I hope you enjoy this renovation project to bring new life to an old and neglected chair as much as I did.

You will need:

  • Laura Ashley Pale Grey Green Matt Emulsion Paint

  • Laura Ashley Fabric Willow Leaf Hedgerow

  • Pliers

  • Screwdriver

  • Hammer

  • Tacks

  • Scissors

  • Paint brushes

  • Medium Weight Polyester Wadding

  • Zinsser Stain stopper paint

4 Amanda-1293 copy.jpg

Step by step

Step 1

  • Remove the seat pad from the chair frame, wipe chair over with a weak solution of warm water and washing up liquid.

LA chair before copy.JPG

Step 2

  • To protect the new finish from any of the of the old wood treatments seeping through and spoiling the new colour when the chair is dry paint with two coats of stain stopper.

2a LA stain stopper  IMG_0420.JPG

Step 3

  • When the chair is dry, apply two thin coats of emulsion.

3 LA chair IMG_0487.JPG

Step 4

  • Use a screw driver and pliers to remove the tacks securing the old covering fabric

4b LA chair.JPG

Step 5

  • Cut to polyester wadding to the size of the seat.

5a IMG_0501 b.JPG

Step 6

  • Cut out seat fabric with a 10cm overlap.

6b IMG_0503 b.JPG

Step 7

  • Place seat fabric right sides down, place wadding in the centre, before positioning the seat in the centre of the layered textiles. Fold the fabric over the seat edge, use a tack to secure the fabric, work from the middle of the frame towards the outside. Turn fabric and secure on all the seat edges.

7b IMG_0507 b.JPG

Step 8

  • To complete the first corner, fold the fabric into the corner of the seat then tack in place.

8b IMG_0518 b.JPG
8d IMG_0515 b.JPG

Step 9

  • Fold and turn the edge of the remaining fabric over the corner, then secure with a tack.

9a IMG_0513 b.JPG

Step 10

  • Repeat to finish all the remaining corners. Use scissors to trim off excess fabric.

10b IMG_0511 b.JPG


  • When you’ve finished applying the first coat of emulsion paint wrap the paint brush in kitchen film to prevent the bristles from drying out before you apply the following coat of paint.

  • This project is ideal for using up fabric off cuts left over from earlier projects.

2 Amanda-1292 copy.jpg

Picnic Cutlery Roll

Amanda Russell
finished cutlery roll.jpg

I’m now more than a year into curbing my use of plastic in my life. I am pleased to report the challenge is going strong and the changes I’ve made are still in place.

Often, when I’m out and about I’ll pick up a take away and yet again with carry out boxes and cutlery I’m back to the single use plastic issues. If I sometimes decide to take a packed lunch with me it’ll need some planning.

Keen to continue with the changes in my life and so I am always prepared for take away picnics I came up with a cutlery roll project. A simple, sustainable, make that can be packed and ready for when I go out. In the spirit of the project the cutlery doesn’t need to be matching, seek out what you need from charity shops or car boots sales. For the roll I recycled a soft linen tea towel which when unrolled is ready to be used as a napkin or a placemat. Make a collection of several cutlery rolls for when others join you on a picnic. At the end of your meal stow the dirty utensils in the tea towel before taking home to wash.

You will need:

  • Tea towel 50x60

  • 20cm elastic

  • 12mm button

  • Scissors

  • Needle and thread

Step by Step

Step 1

  • To mark the centre of one of one of the short sides of the tea towel, fold the two long sides together to meet, then mark the crease in the centre with a pin. On the wrong side, either side of the marked centre, unpick the hem by 2cm.

1 DSC_0293 21.04.41 (1).jpg

Step 2

  • Fold the elastic in half and push the cut ends under the hem. Sew the elastic securely to the tea towel under the hem, then stitch the hem back down.

2 DSC_0297 (1).jpg

Step 3

  • Right side up sew the button to the centre of the hemmed edge over the elastic.

3 DSC_0303 (1).jpg

Step 4

  • With the tea towel wrong side up, place the cutlery in the middle of the side opposite the button and elastic. Turn the tea towel to cover the cutlery by 10 cm.

4 DSC_0326 21.04.42 (1).jpg

Step 5

  • Then fold the right long side over to cover and repeat with the opposite side.

5 DSC_0311 21.04.42 (1).jpg

Step 6

  • To enclose the cutlery, tightly roll along the length of the tea towel.

6 DSC_0317 21.04.42 (1).jpg

Step 7

  • Pull the elastic around the rolled up tea towel, then pass the elastic loop over the button to secure.

7 DSC_0331 21.04.42 (1).jpg
8 DSC_0324 21.04.42 (1).jpg


  • Using elastic and a button keeps the cutlery wrapped tightly as well as accommodating different sized cutlery.

If you like this post check out my posts on Drop in Seat Chair Makeover, From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary with Statement Lighting, Plastic Free Kitchen

Book Review: The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, A Diary by Emma Mitchell

Book ReviewsAmanda Russell
The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, A Diary by Emma Mitchell

With many huge life changing events happening I was aware I could become anxious and easily blown off course so I was excited to read writer Emma Mitchells’ beautiful new book ‘The Wild Remedy’. In this book she takes the brave step to talk openly about her 25 years of living with depression, known to her as ‘the dark slug’. It’s been a long time coming, at last mental awareness has hit the radar, and now it is something we can openly acknowledge and talk about. Walking the paths and landscape surrounding her Fenland cottage she shows a new way of coping with depression, marking time through the year, celebrating the natural wonders as they unfold with her own original drawings and photographs.

Diary like, each month of the year has its’ own chapter, which includes delightful and detailed wildlife descriptions. With her gentle, quirky writing style she shares her excitement as each natural event unfolds and reveals itself. In March she describes the joy of heading off up the coast to spot a murmuration of starlings. Like having a conversation with a friend her tales reignite my own memories of a teenage evening watching their unconcerned graceful balletic swoops and swerves above the clanking din of London’s’ Leicester Square. Through her text we also learn how in some cases nature watching can be as effective as drug therapy to treat depression and how she uses it to help protect her from the dark clutches of depression.


Through her very personal journey, recording the impact of nature on mood, she talks of the science involved in these shifts, highlighting a variety of research backed ways in which this occurs. Along with her walks and nature observations, botanical drawing is another tool that helps her keep depression in check. Bearing this in mind, wishing to bring a little more calm into my life and reconnect with drawing to I went along to her book event in Waterstones, the evening included a botanical drawing workshop. In the past I drew forever, I loved the necessary stillness that came with it, there’s nothing quite like a moment taken for a closely observed sketch with coloured pencils or washing water colour over a pencil drawing. Emma enthusiastically described the observation process needed to accurately draw and record plants and flowers. By breaking the process into simple steps, she created another gateway into being in the moment.

As much as I wanted to sit down and devour this book in one greedy sitting, I’m going to eke the pleasure out, over months with frequent repeat visits in the following years. At those times when I seek calm I’m looking forward to having the luxury of dipping in and stealing a moment of quiet between its’ pages.

The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, A Diary by Emma Mitchell

Published by: Michael O’Mara Books Ltd

Price: £14.99


Emma’s Instagram Page

Here is another book review you might like, go take a look: Book Review - Making Winter: A Creative Guide for Surviving the Winter Months by Emma Mitchel

Plastic Free Kitchen

LivingAmanda Russell

With the beginning of the year I’m thinking about the months ahead and the changes I want to put in place. I’ve talked about sustainability, which for me is a whole lot about choosing products carefully and most importantly ditching the plastic. I’ve been making the changes incrementally, taking small steps, one change at a time.


I was nervous about embracing changes in the kitchen, would the plastic free solutions I turned to be as effective as the tried and tested? I’ve been happily surprised by the results. I’ve ditched plastic scrubbing brushes, pan scrubbers and synthetic cloths in favour of a natural alternative. I have no problem giving cotton kitchen cloths a boil wish, and for less than the price of a plastic pan brush I can buy a replacement head for my wooden dish brush. No more plastic pan brushes and synthetic cloths going to sit in landfill for hundreds of years is a huge win for me.


When I buy washing up liquid I go to a shop that will refill my old container, to me, that’s potentially far fewer plastic bottle floating about in the sea. I’m currently trying alternative cleaning products, I’ll keep you up to date on what I find and how the products work.

And how’s it going, I hear you ask? So far, yes, I am please the changes I have made have been ones I can stick to. I am having a little celebration, though I recognise there’s still lots to do, keep watching me. Have you made changes, how have you found switching to plastic fee?

Here is another blog on plastic free, go take a look: La Rentre: The Start of My Plastic Free Journey

From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary with Statement Lighting

InteriorAmanda Russell

Don’t we all want a statement home? Interiors speak volumes about our characters. Too often its easy to get trapped by what fashion dictates and and the expected. Lifting a room from the ordinary to the extraordinary takes boldness and can be made to happen in a variety of ways.


At this time of year with friends coming to our homes its a perfect time to get a shot of humour into our space. I can’t think of anything better than this bulb bearing monkey to bring a bit of light to a dark corner.

If you like this post check out my post on Simple Styling Tips Using Plants

Book Review: Mad About the House by Kate Watson-Smyth

Book ReviewsAmanda Russell

With a big move coming up I was more than delighted when a review copy of Mad About The House by Kate Watson-Smyth arrived. With over 15 years writing about interiors there’s not much journalist Watson-Smyth doesn’t know about putting together a great interior. It’s a complete, how to on defining your own unique interior style to make your home work for you. Between the covers there a mine of practical good sense tips as well as advice on how to bring that extra edge of wow to your interiors.

Though I’m a designer, stylist and have forever been involved in interiors it certainly doesn’t mean I‘m not still hungry for new ways to make a house into a stylish home. Rest assured this is not glossy coffee table book packed with out of budget fashionable interior images. It’s rather more a work book, future proofed with drawings and carefully chosen photographs, coupled with good solid classic interiors advice to guide you towards defining your interior style.

The book is divided into three sections, the first leads you through the minefield of finding inspiration on the way to defining your style, which includes invaluable information on using colour. To guarantee the success of your interior projects the middle section contains a chapter on every room in the house, each covers details specific to the function of the room, along with lighting, storage and furniture. The crowning glory is found in the last section where Watson-Smyth gives the low down on top design hacks gleaned over her many years of experience.

Creating a stylish home to feel proud of doesn’t necessarily mean splashing the cash and expending eye wateringly large sums of money. This book is there to guide you through sometimes difficult style and decorating dilemmas. It helps you target the look you want to achieve in your home to reflect your own personal style while spending your budget wisely.

Mad About The House by Kate Watson-Smyth is published by Pavilion.

Here is another book review you might like, go take a look: Book Review - Making Winter: A Creative Guide for Surviving the Winter Months by Emma Mitchell

Simple Styling Tips Using Plants

StylingAmanda RussellComment

Plants greenery and flowers bring life to any space, it’s about rotating them and presenting them in different ways preventing spaces from becoming static

Photo 08-01-2017, 14 35 27.jpg

I’m a big fan of groups, putting together a arrangement of contrasting shaped succulents on a beautiful antique plate highlights their differences making a bold statement.

The same goes for when flowers and leaves are scarce in the winter garden. Just taking one of each to display in antique medicine bottles is enough to bring the garden in, making a welcome relief in the darker months.

Photo 17-01-2017, 09 20 38.jpg

Don’t forget rules are made to broken, don’t underestimate the joy that splendid isolation can bring to a skeleton sprig picked from the winter wayside.

If you like this post check out my post on Styling Interiors with Plants

Envelope Notebook

CraftsAmanda Russell

My theory of leading a more sustainable life goes like this. Don’t try to change too much in one go, successful change is about taking mini steps towards establishing new habits.


I’m aware I use fresh clean paper for list writing and feel it’s something of an extravagant use of resources for something I will shortly be throwing away. As a stylist I’m a great list writer, it helps me get to the next place, a disposable task, rarely is a list for keeping. Of course I can list write on my mobile but I’m the kind of person who is better with constant physical reminders. With this in mind I decided to wean myself onto using scrap paper instead.


I am intrigued by the printed patterns on the inside of envelopes. Questions crowd my mind, what does it mean, are they traditional patterns, where was the custom started?

Being a natural hoarder I can’t bring myself to bin this beauty, they are saved to use in lots of ways covering boxes, in collages or as gift tags.


I am drawn into the magic of stories about how an inconsequential doodle on the back of an old envelope has lead the way to a great design. With this spirit in mind why would I want to use fresh paper for list writing and planning when I can use such beautiful paper which arrives at my door for free?

I re-purpose each of my treasured envelopes into two useful pieces of paper, using scissors to cut off the margins, over laps and folds. When I have a few, I stack them together, punch a hole in the corner and keep them together with a split ring clasp, a large safety pin, twine or whatever takes my fancy.

If you like this post check out my post on Kintsugi: The Glam Rock of Ceramic Repairs

Easy Wine Crate Shelf

CraftsAmanda Russell

If you’re pressed for space this is a great little make that’ll give you plenty of added storage space and a stage to display special finds. Wine merchants are happy to part with these wooden crates for free or for a charitable donation. It only takes a lick of paint and bold geometric wallpaper to transform a discarded crate into a must have box shelf. I chose wallpaper from Harlequin, a roll will go a long way, there’s plenty left for covering lots of things like files, books and shelves.

You will need:

  • Wooden Wine box

  • Emulsion paint

  • Kaleidoscope wallpaper by Harlequin

  • PVA adhesive

  • Picture frame brackets Homebase

  • Paint brush

  • Scissors

  • Screw Driver

  • Electric drill black and decker

  • Masonery screws


Step by steps:

1.Paint the exterior of the box with emulsion paint.

2. Mix pva with a little water to the consistency of double cream and paint the inside of the box to seal. Leave to dry.

3.When dry measure and cut wall paper to size.

4.Paint the reverse of the paper pieces and insides of the box with pva adhesive let down with a little water to the consistency of pouring cream

5. When dry, using the drill screw picture frame brackets to the reverse on the edge, drill holes in wall then screw completed box to the wall.

Here is another piece you might like, go take a look: Get Yourself an Asymetric Coffee Table

Quick Revamp for Drop-in Seat Chair

CraftsAmanda Russell

This old chair was languishing in a charity shop, crying out for a hefty dose of TLC. For a super easy and quick transformation I painted it with a bright green paint and used contemporary print tea towel to cover the drop in seat.


You will need:

  • Old chair with drop in seat £10 at charity shop

  • Hammer

  • A staple gun with staples

  • Tea towel 10cm bigger than the seat

  • Dressmakers pins

  • Dressmakers scissors

  • Tarragon Glory 4 Emulsion paint by Dulux £15.99 homebase

  • Paintbrush

  • Sandpaper


Step by steps:

  1. Remove the seat from the chair and put to one side.

  2. Sand the chair frame to give it a key so the paint will adhere.

  3. Paint the chair with a bright coloured emulsion. Leave to dry, it may need a second coat of paint if the wood is showing through.

  4. Remove the tacks from the edge of the chair seat, then take off the outer fabric.

  5. Use the old chair cover as a pattern and pin it on to the tea towel.

  6. Cut out a new seat cover. Place the new seat cover, right side facing down on a flat surface. Place the drop in section of the chair in the centre of the fabric.

  7. Starting in the middle of one side staple the new fabric into place. Work outwards from the center towards the outer edge then repeat with the other half.

  8. Repeat step seven on the opposite side of the seat, making sure you pull the fabric taught as you go. By starting in the center and working outwards you will stop the fabric twisting. Once two sides of the chair are completed repeat with the other two sides. At the corners, pleat and turn in the fabric to make a neat finish.

  9. Drop the new seat into the freshly painted chair.

Here is another piece you might like, go take a look: Stamp your own floral lampshade

‘Love My Dress’' Blog Post

StylingAmanda Russell

The wonderful ‘Love My Dress’ has featured ‘A Beautiful Shoreline Wedding’ by stylist Nancy Straughan using some of the vintage Stoneware vases from my shop!


From the blog… ‘I stumbled upon some of these images on Nancy’s gorgeous Instagram account and knew that I had to share with all of you. Inspired by the colours of the shoreline and with subtle and elegant hints of the coast, these styling ideas are completely relatable and achievable for your own wedding.

“After deciding that I wanted to launch my styling company back in December 2017, I took to Instagram stories to see if anyone would like to be involved in a shoreline inspired styled shoot. I was blown away by the generous responses as I never really believed that anyone would be so kind to donate their time and skills to my project.” to read the full blog post click here!


If you like this post check out my post on Spring Flower Living Wall: Kokedama Inspiration

La Rentre: The Start of My Plastic Free Journey

LivingAmanda RussellComment

Returning from the summer break, to school and work brings the wonderful feeling of new beginnings, there’s nothing like it to restore the resolve and tackle projects with vigor and confidence. Though this event repeats through our lives strangely we don’t have a name for it, in France it’s called, La Rentre.


With the enforced a break, foot off the accelerator, leaves clear space to reflect on the direction life is taking. Since seeing images of the polluted sea with the drifting islands of plastic debris harming both the environment and wildlife, I’ve been mulling over how to make the changes and embrace a plastic free life. There’s the itch to throw myself into a passion of dramatic change, discarding old ways in favor of new, but I know from experience that’s a risky strategy, set the bar too high and there’s the risk of abandoning the short lived changes. I’m in favour of making easy to adopt, incremental changes that can be absorbed into life to seamlessly create a new version of normal.


Following the route into a plastic free life I’m thinking, small changes for easy wins. The exciting part is that in the not too distant future the adjustments will feel normal, having been effortlessly absorbed into life. Giving up plastic carrier bags for reusable cloth tote bags was an easy win as was swapping disposable rollerball pens for newly resurrected fountain pens which was a joy. This is the beginning, there more changes in the pipeline, watch this space!

Please can you tell me about any changes you have to get closer to plastic free.

If you like this post check out my post on Going Backwards to go Forwards: Rediscovering the Joy of Writing with a Fountain Pen

Kintsugi: The Glam Rock of Ceramic Repairs

CraftsAmanda Russell

With its lush floral bouquet and wreaths, when my large blue and white transferware platter broke it was too special to throw away. A while before I was given a Kintsugi repair kit as a gift and my broken platter was the ideal candidate for a trial run of this technique.

The ancient art of Kintsugi, is the glam rock of ceramic repairs. This elegant method of repair was developed by the Japanese who believe a ceramic piece, once repaired is more beautiful than the formerly undamaged piece.

After repair the china will stand up to gentle use, clean by wiping over with a damp cloth. The platter is perfect for a huddle of plants, or to hold a selection of metze dishes or fresh fruit.

While gluing the pieces together an extra pair of helping hands can be useful to maneuver the china into place, particularly if they are large pieces.


To get hold of your own Kintsugi Kit visit -

1. Wash the broken china in warm soapy water to remove dirt and grease from the broken edges of the china, rinse and dry.

1. Wash the broken china in warm soapy water to remove dirt and grease from the broken edges of the china, rinse and dry.

2. Using a lolly stick mix together equal parts of the two part quick dry epoxy adhesive.

2. Using a lolly stick mix together equal parts of the two part quick dry epoxy adhesive.

3. Stir a small amount of the gold dust into the adhesive to colour it.

3. Stir a small amount of the gold dust into the adhesive to colour it.

4. Use the lolly stick to spread an even layer of gold adhesive along both broken edges of the china.  5. Wait a minute for the adhesive to start going off before bringing both halves together and then holding together firmly until the adhesive has set. Before the adhesive completely hardens brush over with gold dust.

4. Use the lolly stick to spread an even layer of gold adhesive along both broken edges of the china.

5. Wait a minute for the adhesive to start going off before bringing both halves together and then holding together firmly until the adhesive has set. Before the adhesive completely hardens brush over with gold dust.

6. When the adhesive is completely dry, bring a warm glow the gold adhesive by burnishing gently with a soft cloth.

6. When the adhesive is completely dry, bring a warm glow the gold adhesive by burnishing gently with a soft cloth.


If you like this post check out my post on Envelope Notebook

Peter Pan Collar Blouse

CraftsAmanda Russell
unnamed1 copy.jpg

With their crisp coolness I cant resist a mans poplin shirt. Here’s a beauty I transformed into a desirable Peter Pan collar blouse, perfect for long hot summer days. Using embroidery scissors and a stitch ripper I unpicked two shirts ready for remodeling, a striped one for the body and white for the collar. I traced the pattern for the shirt and collar from a favourite old blouse I’d had for several years.

You will need:

  • 2 old cotton shirts I for the body of the shirt another for collar

  • thread

  • pins

  • dress making and embroidery scissors

  • measuring tape

  • pencil

  • ruler

  • greaseproof paper for pattern making

  • stitch ripper


1.         Cut three bias strips 3cm wide, 60cm long. Open out one of the sleeves, at the widest section make a 45 degree fold.

Fig 1.JPG

2.         Use a pencil to mark 3cm intervals along the fold line, pencil to draw a straight line joining the marks. To make bias strips, cut along the fold line, then along the drawn lines.

Fig 2.JPG

3.         To make long bias strips join strips together.

Fig 3.JPG

4.         Right sides together place 2 strips at 90 degrees to each other, sew to join

Fig 4.JPG

5.         Trim seam and press open.

Fig 5.JPG

6.         The back of the blouse is made from the front button opening of the old shirt. Pin the paper blouse pattern in position with a button at the top of the opening and allow for seam allowances.

Fig 6.JPG

7.         Cut the out front and back section, then sew together at the shoulder.

Fig 7.JPG

8.         Cut four collar pieces from the second shirt and 2 from bondable fabric stiffener. Iron fabric stiffener on the reverse side of two collar pieces. Pin and sew two collar pieces together, repeat with the remaining pieces. Trim the seam and cut notches on the curved seems, turn right sides out and press.

Fig 8.JPG

9.         Pin and tack the collar pieces in place on the neckline. Take a long strip of bias binding, pin and tack along the neck line over the collar edge, sew in place. Trim along sewing line, cutting notches along the curve.

Fig 9.JPG

10.   Fold the bias binding to tuck in the raw edge, fold again and pin and tack, before sewing down.

Fig 10.JPG

11.   Pin and sew bias binding around the armholes.

Fig 11.JPG

12.   Sew the side seems together, neatening edges with zigzag stitch. Finish the arm holes by turning the bias binding to cover raw edge, pin, tack and sew in place. Hem the bottom edge of the shirt, folding up by 2cm and press, then to neaten fold raw edge in on itself. 

Here is another piece you might like, go take a look: Star Light Canvas

Wild, Romantic Shoreline Wedding Styled by Nancy Staughan

StylingAmanda Russell

When talented stylist Nancy Straughan puts her mind to a project you know it’s going to look stunning. With wedding season in full swing Nancy used her wealth of styling know how to create a beautiful otherworldly experience peppered with unexpected twists. Thinking outside the box stylist Nancy designed her take on the elegant romance of the Lady of the Lake combined with the raw passion of Wuthering Heights.


The first floor assembly room of The Drapers Arms a beautiful Georgian Islington pub is the ideal location for an intimate wedding venue. Here natural light streams in through the tall elegant sash windows, lighting up the duck egg blue room with its painted checkerboard floor, period fireplaces and dark bistro style chairs.


Elemental, the theme draws on a rich combination of bleached and watery tones combining them with a comprehensive collection of textures, from silks to twigs and coral, to fresh and dried flowers. To make her spell binding vision a reality she drew a group of skilled artisans around her, do check them out to see more beautiful work by them, details below.



The Drapers Arms


The People

Stylist, Nancy Straughan

Stationery, Paper Knots

Photography, Caro Hutchins

Flowers, Hazel Gardiner

Cake, My Little Cake Tin

Props, Re-Found Objects

Extra crockery Limehouse


Stoneware bottles, Soulfoodstudio

Calligraphy and signage by Hannah Watt

Embroidery by very talented friend, Olivia


If you like this post check out my post on Constance Spry Vases for Everyone

Book Review - Modern Lettering: A Guide to Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering by Rebecca Cahill Roots

Book ReviewsAmanda Russell

With the infinity of the holiday season stretching away into the future, I get excited there’s time to get to grips with a new hobby. Packed with all the know how to improve my hand writing, Modern Lettering: A Guide to Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering by Rebecca Cahill Roots, arrived in the studio at a very opportune moment. 

All this time we’ve been beavering away behind computer screens we’ve all but abandoned our handwriting skills. Meanwhile the cult of celebrating the individual has been on the rise. With its lack of humanity and the predictable regularity of computer text, our neglected handwriting, is having a moment embracing the intervention of the human hand over machine. Rather than leaving our handwriting skills dormant there’s a big move to dust off the art form and use it to create beautiful and special projects, from the heart. Imagine being able to address envelopes in a stylish and eye catching way, writing special stationary for weddings, or designing unique invitations, this book gives you all the tools.


Don’t be alarmed by the words calligraphy or hand lettering, this is the kind of lettering that excels because of its individual hand drawn quality. Within the covers you will find a complete manual to get you writing beautifully, its packed with insider know how along with plenty of detailed knowledge, making the learning process a whole lot easier. 

Full of quirky illustrations this practical workbook of how tos, gently eases you into hand lettering. Divided into sections, illustrated diagrams lead you through the basic tool kit and of the anatomy of the pen before you get started on mark making. There are practice pages for all the letters starting with how to form them including useful information on the names for each part of the letter. There are handy tips on making it your own, along with useful trouble shooting advice. 



And the book isn’t limited to the mechanics of letter forming, once you have mastered the skill there’s plenty more help on designing your page, combining different styles while exploring a variety of media. The book finishes with a plethora of beautiful examples of projects using your new skills.

If you are ready to take on the satisfying challenge of smartening up your handwriting skills while getting the individual edge, look no further than this invaluable volume. It guarantees your new skill will elicit enthusiastic oohs and ahhs of envy and admiration.

Book: Modern Lettering: A Guide to Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering by Rebecca Cahill Roots

Published by Batsford

Price £14.99

 If you liked this book review then why not read my book review of Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for Your Outside Space by Selina Lake

Going Backwards to go Forwards: Rediscovering the Joy of Writing with a Fountain Pen

Crafts, Interior, StylingAmanda Russell

With their generous flow of ink and near instant drying, my addiction to gel pens stretches back over many years. But, I miss using a fountain pen, the right nib brings the feeling it’s possible to write for miles. On a few occasions I have seriously tried to get back into using them, however I felt replacing empty gel pens for cartridges in landfill was neither sustainable nor tackling the root of the problem.

As an interior stylist, the constant flow of ‘bits’ through my life swiftly leads to an ugly build up and an urgent need to declutter. While tacking my accumulations of clutter in the studio, I inevitably uncovered my stash of old fountain pens. The question of what to do with them skated across my mind, closing the box and running away seemed attractive. A jumble of different makes, brings the inconvenient headache of both sourcing and storing a broad selection of refill cartridges, making fountain pens a complicated option to adopt.


Lining up my cache of pens reminded me of the joy I have using them. Rather than ditching them I felt tackling the problem of keeping them charged with ink was worth one more shot. A recently invaluable discovery is Cult Pens, who stock a wide range of writing supplies and deliver speedily. I had a buzz of excitement as I ordered ink and reservoirs for the pens, a small change was about to become a reality on my journey towards a more sustainable life.

Making the swap back to using a fountain pen feels like a big win. There’s the aesthetic pleasure of holding a pen coupled with the delight of welcoming back an old friend, Waterman’s turquoise ink, in its design icon, quirky shaped bottle, that’s tip able for easy fill. A moment of peaceful reflection is brought to Sunday evening as I round up my pens, ready to fill for the week ahead. And incase of emergencies there’s always a few cartridges in a tin ready waiting in my bag.

If you like this post check out my post on Plastic Free Kitchen


Constance Spry Vases for Everyone

StylingAmanda Russell

With her innovative approach society florist Constance Spry brought bohemian vision
to floristry from the 30s beyond the 50s into the 60s. A visionary, her books on flower
arranging and cooking influenced a generation of 50s housewives. Much copied,
mantle vases in her style became a must have for every 50s homemaker hungry for
her look.


Their cool and classic designs are perfect for making a bold statement, adding style
to any interior. The vases often come in a family of sizes, a different one to cater for
all your floral needs, short or long stemmed.


Follow the 30’s society florist example and add more than just flowers. Extend a
bunch of market or garden flowers and make them altogether more interesting by
mixing in gnarly twigs for height, vine trails for waft, infill with garden foliage then add


Or generously plant up with a cushion of moss studded through with spring bulbs, or
fill to overflowing with fresh fruit, with bunches of grapes and summer stoned fruit.
Ring the changes by displaying it empty, as a stand alone sculptural piece. Your
imagination is the only limit to how you choose to style your vase.

When you’re looking for these vintage pieces expect signs of wear. More often than
not the surface of the glaze will have slight crazing and there will be scattered iron
spots on the interior, which add to the character of ceramics of this age.

If you are interested in seeing more, go have a look in my shop, where theres a big

Book Review, Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for Your Outside Space by Selina Lake

Book ReviewsAmanda Russell

With the recent upturn in the weather, once more it’s time to get back into the garden and embrace the wide-open spaces. With immaculate timing a review copy of the gorgeous Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for Your Outside Space by the talented stylist, Selina Lake, arrived in the studio. The garden has greened up, here I am falling in love with it all over again, ripe for any garden porn that comes my way.


 Lakes style is approachable and practical, full of beautifully styled shots it is a wonderful book to reach for when you are looking for new inspiration. Divided into chapters, each covers a different theme. Garden Inspirations is the opening chapter, here Lake shows us the spaces and plants she enjoys, as well as encouraging the reader to look for places to help develop their own individual style. I love the chapter name, Decorating Your Garden, it includes advice on choosing furniture, rounding up ways to display plants and also how to get essential decorative details like lighting into the space. Further chapters are about creating garden rooms as well as relaxing and eating outdoors and the one that presses my buttons, wont be any surprise to my readers, as it’s all about Bringing the Outside In, including details on foraging and very usefully tips to help you create your very own cutting garden. 


Lake envelopes us with the idea a garden is an extra space for escaping to, it’s your own other worldly corner. Peppered through out the text are useful style tips along with very doable, attractive projects, for instance, use small vintage bottles to hold posies to jazz up a picket fence. I suggest mixing up one of the recipes for botanical cocktails, settling down in a verdant corner to have a good read of this book, a beautiful and informative garden companion.


Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for Your Outside Space by Selina Lake  Photography: Rachael Whiting  Ryland Peters and Small £19.99

Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for Your Outside Space by Selina Lake

Photography: Rachael Whiting

Ryland Peters and Small £19.99

If you liked this book review then why not read my book review of Mad About the House by Kate Watson-Smyth

Book Review: WREATHS: Fresh, Foraged & Dried Florals Arrangements by Katie Smyth & Terri Chandler

Book ReviewsAmanda Russell

Foraging flowers and foliage, is now a thing, we all delight at coming home with a handful of hedgerow discoveries, but how to make the most of our collection?


I was sent a review copy of the book WREATHS: Fresh, Foraged & Dried Florals Arrangements by Katie Smyth & Terri Chandler. It gives a glimpse into the world of flower arrangers, Worm, packed with insider knowledge into how they achieve their original and contemporary approach to wreaths and flower installations. Exuberant and full of life, the can do flower company aims to bring the delight of natural foraged flowers to your home or venue.

With their characteristic enthusiasm they set out to demystify the art with a wealth of fresh new tips for constructing and building up original floral installations so they look their very best. Even if you are not into creating with flowers the book is a must for the beautiful images alone. Photographer Kristin Perers, creates serene moments of floral calm leaving us all wishing they were part of our lives.


Liberated from more formal arrangements this book reflects the recent move away from monoculture flower arrangements towards a more seasonal approach, as often as possible, using foraged and farmed British flowers and foliage. People who know me will be aware I am always looking for new ways to bring the outside in and I love the crazy, mad, romantic almost Midsummers Night Dream vibe of Worm designs.

The detailed recipe for Meadow Ball, makes the concept approachable, I’m itching to sling a hook in the ceiling and get on with it. Another design I am keen to try is the Late Summer Chandelier, which uses a gnarled, ropey clematis vine as a base. The smell from the Giant Pine Wreath promises to deliver an intoxicating perfume, so that’s a must when the time comes round. And for sheer vibrancy the Autumnal Wreath would be the star at a Harvest or Thanksgiving celebration.


Dip into the pages of this beautiful book, Wreaths, with its glorious images and all the tools and know how to develop your own instinctive floral style,  you will be ready to create a wreath to celebrate each seasonal event when it comes along. 

WREATHS: Fresh, Foraged & Dried Florals Arrangements by Katie Smyth & Terri Chandler (Quadrille, £14.99)

Photography: Kristin Perers

Worm London

Kristin Perers


If you liked this book review then why not read my book review of Modern Lettering: A Guide to Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering by Rebecca Cahill Roots