Book Review- IN THE MOOD FOR COLOUR Perfect palettes for creative interiors by Hans Blomquist

We’ve been stuck in a neutral colour rut for so long, how can I resist the lure of this book title In the Mood for Colour by Hans Blomquist, all time favourite interior stylist, art director recounting his story of colour, a major interest for me. To find all this rolled into one generous tome means well established books at the top of my long list have been bumped off in favour of this newbie.

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The book opens with A World Full of Colour, a lush mosaic of mainly polychrome images from around the world, in its format its very familiar to Instagram users. It is then divided into chapters, Dark, Pale, Natural, Soft and Bold. Each chapter is layered with a visual feast of colour images illustrating ways to bring colour into interiors. Running through both text and images the simple message about using colour in interiors is they are all ‘designed by nature’. Grow your confidence with colour by looking at the many ways nature successfully combines them. This is a personal account of his relationship with colour and his response to the different colours is engaging and effervescent particularly when he discusses how his mood responds to different colours.


The eclectic schemes showing ways of using colour are summed up with delightful names like Pistachio, Duck Egg and Faded Denim, hinting at a layered experience that engages all the senses. The double page spread, Rose, Powder, Petal, like a mood board, uses a variety of images, paint, fabrics and flowers, with the main image demonstrating how to layer them up confidently.


With its wealth of eye candy images, still lifes and dreamy compositions, it’s an invaluable tool for anyone wanting to find ways to launch into the colour zone and on their way to creating confident colourful interiors. In the Mood for Colour is now my go to for inspiration. I’ve worked on many rewarding projects where colour has been pivotal. As lead colour expert on an innovative government research project colour was used to show how environment affects childrens learning, further projects have been using colour to develop rooms for teanage cancer care as well as psychotherapists consulting rooms.

IN THE MOOD FOR COLOUR Perfect palettes for creative interiors

Hans Blomquist

Published by Ryland Peters & Small £19.99



My Tiny Indoor Garden by Lia Leendertz

If you have no garden and are thinking you are never going to have enough space to have your own or be able to grow your own salads look no further than My Tiny Indoor Garden. House plants are having a moment just now, we use them for styling so many projects, they are something we can all have and everyone wants to be in on the act. This delightful book by Lia Leendertz with beautiful images by Mark Diacono is packed with space saving indoor gardening ideas and even people living in the most restricted spaces can join in. It includes lots of ways to display flowers and plants as well as a wealth of tried and tested growing tips.


Before I go any further R&B have to declare an interest in this title and tell you team member Amanda Russell was one of the case studies featured. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty more case studies and very doable projects we want to enthusiastically immerse ourselves in.

Image1 - Photo credit to Mark Diacono

There’s lots of detail on plant maintenance and how to keep them in prime condition from the people growing the plants. There is a pretty succulent garden in a porch with a useful demonstration on how to take cuttings to increase your plant collection. Cookery writer Deborah Robertson shows us the secret of reinvigorating mint plants to keep them producing flushes of beautifully scented leaves. And who couldn’t linger over a fabulous multicoloured hyacinth jar collection, attractive with or without blubs in them.

Image2 - Photo credit to Mark Diacono

Full of beautiful images and information this book would have our shelf space for a long time even if Amanda wasn’t in it. It’s a great gift to take out again and again as well as being a reliable and in depth reference book.

My Tiny Indoor Garden

By Lia Leendertz

Published by Pavilion Books

Images Mark Diacono

Making Concrete Pots, bowls, and Platters by Hester van Overbeek

Here’s an inspiring book that recently landed on our desk, Making Concrete Pots, Bowls, and Platters by Hester van Overbeek. On a quick flick through with its attractively styled images, it’s easy to see there’s a wealth of projects to get stuck into. Top of our list is a two-tone decorative bowl, but with summer fast approaching a fire bowl would be great and then there’s a cheese board that can double up as a sharing platter.

There are step-by-step instructions for all the very doable projects, the most taxing aspect is carrying home the bag of concrete mix. A quick look around your house or a trip to the pound store is sure to come up with solutions for molds or you can get casting with sand. The project top of our list is the garden planter, currently succulents are on everyone’s agenda and the texture of the grey concrete against the chalky blue of the fleshy leaves would be perfect.

With 35 projects to choose from this informative book is for anyone wanting to make highly desirable, simple, contemporary makes for the home and garden.


Making Concrete Pots, Bowls, & Platters by Hester van Overbeek,

Published by CICO Books (£12.99)

Photography by James Gardiner © CICO Books


The Great Pottery Throw Down by Elizabeth Wilhide and Susie Hodge

This is the official companion to the BBC2 primetime series, bringing you a complete introduction to the world of ceramics. The book stands perfectly well on its own as a great introduction to ceramics. It will not become irrelevant and time expired once the program is off air.

If you want to start making pots, this book covers everything you need to know. From the simplest of techniques, making a thumb pot to building one from coils. Adding a pulled handle and then going on to create slab pots and using a mould and throwing on a wheel. There is a chapter on Colour, pattern and texture and the techniques of slip decoration, painting, sgraffito, trailing, feathering and marbling are all explained. The different methods of firing are explored too.

We are shown a sample of the 6000 life sized Chinese ceramic figures that were buried alongside the first emperor of China, and then lost until 1974. The invention of porcelain in the Han Dynasty is also discussed.

Showcased along the way is a range of beautiful pottery from prehistoric clay figurines, to Meissen porcelain.

We are told how trade and colonization spread ceramic techniques throughout the world A fine example of this was during the thirteenth century when the Moors bought their technique of lustered tin glazing to Southern Spain.

British Heritage is also explored with Josiah Wedgewood setting up his groundbreaking factory Etruria during the eighteenth century. Wedgewood was then followed by Minton and Spode and The Potteries were established in the midlands. This led to the mass production, which in turn led to affordability of chinaware for the general public. The work of Clarice Cliff, Lucie Rie, William De Morgan, Picasso are all showcased as is the work by contemporary practitioners such as Edmund de Waal, Anthony Gormley and Grayson Perry. A very useful and informative book .


Published by Pavilion at £20

The Little Book of Hygge

The Danish way to Live Well

By Meik Wiking from the Happiness Research Institute Copenhagen

Available on Amazon or directly from Penguin Books

A warm fire

The word on everyone’s lips this autumn is ‘Hygge’, despite most English people being unable to pronounce it correctly. Luckily when this book arrived on our desk we had a Norwegian staying with us so we had a few lessons in how to make the guttural sound at the end of the word.

The word Hygge comes from an old Viking language and was used to describe comfort and relaxation after coming in from a day out in the cold, but it is oh so much more than just that. Hygge is about atmosphere and experience rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love and a feeling of safety and warmth, being with friends and letting your guard down.

The little book of Hygge breaks down some of the elements that go to make Hygge. This includes hot drinks, fires, slow food, board games, hand made crafts, sweets and cakes, holiday and music. Candles are important, the Danes burn more candles than any other nation in Europe and almost twice as much as Austria who come second. Mind you if you live so far North of the equator, a way of creating light is important.

As with all the Scandinavian countries, the Danes are concerned with good design, particularly with the correct lights and lighting. “Danes select lamps carefully and place them strategically to create soothing pools of light.”

The rule of thumb is the lower the temperature the lower light, making more Hygge.

Reading this book what struck me was that Hygge is the art of creating the kind of childhood some of us were lucky enough to grow up with, before the day of mobile phones, daytime television and the internet. It is a more humble simple and comforting way of living. Buy the Little Book of Hygge and learn how to live well as the Danes do.

Book Review – ‘Do It Yourself’ by Thomas Barnthaler

50 Projects by Designers and Artists

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‘Design objects that you can make yourself? Actually it’s a contradiction in terms.’ Says Thomas Barnthaler in this inspirational book that started life as an experiment. International star designers were invited to create something that readers could make for themselves. It had to be a piece of furniture, an everyday object or something decorative. Not too difficult and not too expensive was the only requirement.

The idea of DIY was born in the twentieth century as an escape for those with a hankering for manual work, a hobby for amateurs and it also found supporters among designers. There’s a feel good factor about making things yourself, it creates meaning and gives you a sense of pride. As early as 1930’s Gerrit Rietveld, a carpenter by trade, tried to sell wooden furniture in prefabricated pieces. Perhaps this was a precursor to Ikea flat packs.

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The projects in the book hark back to the origins of design, back to the workshop and the studio, where it’s all about hands-on activity and improvisation. They celebrate simple but effective ideas. Most of them can be modified, personalized and changed as desired. So the ‘maker’, becomes a designer or innovator in his or her own right. Each project opens with a small biography of its designer, a description of the object and a full colour photo. There are step-by-step instructions, illustrations and even images of the tools and materials needed to make the item.

There are way too many designers and projects to pick out just one or two examples, however these two are my favourites. Check out the book and find yours, if you are a maker you will certainly find something that you want to make in this book.

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Do it yourself by Thomas Barnthaler published by Phaidon £19.95

‘The Shop Keepers Home’ by Caroline Rowland Book Review


Published by Jacqui Small, £25 hardback.

When it comes to the stylish peoples’ houses, don’t we all just love to get in there and have a bit of a snoop? Packed with images Caroline Rowland’s The Shop Keeper’s Home gives us the chance to check out the houses of the some of the most influential independent retailers worldwide. The book is divided into two sections, the first comprehensively covers the nitty gritty details of interior design and the second using the chosen interiors gives an in depth exploration of different types of retail experience.

This book is lavishly illustrated, Caroline Rowland seeks out retailers with stylish interiors and curates them to show core practical interior design tips like clever storage and lighting while giving us a strong flavor of her own personal aesthetics. We are taken behind the closed doors of diverse lifestyle store locations, there’s a cafe, craft shop, old barn and even a repurposed gas station.Boo

One of the shops featured is the Hambledon in Winchester, here at R&B we’ve always been fans and an excuse for a visit is never difficult. As well as old favourites we are introduced to new retail emporiums to inspire us to go out and seek. A wonderful visual resource, The Shop Keeper’s Home gives us a chance to indulge our curiosity as well as feeding the soul with a wealth of very stealable ideas.

Home for Now Book Review

Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill

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If you are thinking personalizing your space on a very restricted budget is impossible, Home for Now by Joanna Thornhill is the book for you. It spotlights the challenges people are facing in housing, with astronomical house prices many are finding they have to live in temporary accommodation for much longer than expected. And even after managing to get a foot on the housing ladder, with the substantial debts incurred there is little budget left for splashing the cash when making home your own.


Home for Now has a wealth of inspirational detail and practical tips to show you how to make the most of the space you live in. The book is divided into chapters that target and analyse the needs of different living spaces with the message, plan and asses your needs before you start buying. As well as the practicalities, the book is packed with creative ideas and visuals to help you make changes reflecting your life and loves, the emphasis being very much on comfortable and stylish.


The style of Home for Now is eclectic, it’s about being flexible and taking a fresh look at what you have, can you repurpose or display it? In each chapter there are interiors make projects, refreshingly they are all hands on, using the minimum of skills to achieve stylish transformations of skip rescues, car boot finds and family hand me downs. Our favourite project is a very doable no sew chair, repainted and covered in a wild African print fabric.


Home for Now will leave the reader feeling confident about stamping their personality on their space and making home on a very restricted budget. Remember rules are there to be broken and be playful.

Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill, published by CICO Books (£16.99)

Photography by Emma Mitchell and James Gardiner © CICO Books


Quinntessential Baking Book Review

Quinntessential Baking

By Frances Quinn

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You might find it strange, R&B writing a review about a baking book, but with her serious design credentials, Frances Quinn the winner of the Great British Bake Off in 2013 has shown she’s one to watch. Since she wowed the nation with her amazing baking skills and fabulous creations the designer baker has been writing her unique baking book Quintessential Baking, while creating commissions for huge brands like Nike and Cadburys as well as celebrities and tastemakers Jo Whiley, Paul Smith and Jo Munroe.

This is a book for everyone, novice or experienced baker. With her unique imagination, designer Quinn conjures up witty bakes that could sit happily on the pages of the books of writer Roald Dahl and illustrator Quentin Blake. The book is divided into sections, a different one for each different cake type. Proportions for these ‘master bakes’ are shown in easily readable pie charts of ingredients, giving the essential know how, leaving you to concentrate on creating your own imaginative bakes.

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Packed with puns her gentle humour shines through in her playful bakes. We love her witty Sandwich Toast Cakes, look again to see it’s not beans on toast but peanuts in caramel on cake. In her Cheese Biscuits she cleverly manipulates your response with her attention to detail with holey ‘cheese biscuits’ and an entire paper wrapped Brie made from white chocolate.

The images play with scale, we are spell bound by a Lilliputian vintage ice cream van, monster cornetto strapped to the roof, driving across a beech of crushed biscuit sand. The creations look doable though many will take a large investment of time, one of the simplest was a very beautiful cup cake, decorated with flower confetti scattered over the buttercream topping and when you bite into it there’s a lovely surprise.

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Extracts taken from Quinntessential Baking by Frances Quinn (Bloomsbury £25.00)

Photography © Georgia Glynn Smith

Cakeology Book Review

R&B Designs Book Review

Cakeology by Juliet Steer

Published by Hardie Grant

Hardback £20 eBook £10


With the book world going bonkers about The Great British Bake Off everyone is talking, eating and dreaming cake, so it is a good time to review a book by the Queen of the Cakewalk and founder of the popular baking boutique Fancy Nancy, Juliet Steer.

Juliet has chosen her publisher well, Hardie Grant are known for stylish beautiful cookery books and this is no exception. It is always very satisfying when a publisher bothers to style the pictures enticingly, even on the tools and materials pages.

The book opens with a description of the essential tool kit followed by a warning, ‘do not start the projects before reading this.’ The body of the book is essentially about cake decorating and obviously before starting you need a cake to decorate. Juliet advises making large sponge cakes a day or two in advance and chilling to make them easier to work on and with. The final chapter gives the invaluable insiders knowledge with Juliet’s tried and tested recipes.

wedding cakeSpoilt for choice with such a diverse range of cakes featured it is very hard to pick one favourite. I love the day of the dead inspired black skull cake decorated with bright patterns, flowers and symbols. Juliet is a cake artist specialising in hand painting, the three-tiered bird cake is beautiful. Other favourites are the Wedgewood inspired vase of flowers cake with real flower decorations and the cupcake bouquet that features a real vase with very gorgeous life like cup cake flowers. Even though this is a cake book, biscuits are included, there are adorable Dalmatians and kitschy acid coloured wooly jumpers and even love heart biscuits.

With over 20 recipes, easy to follow instructions and clear diagrams for a great number of techniques along with lovely photographs, this book takes you beyond the basics of baking into the realm where cake design merges with the world of arts and crafts.

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