Monday, 31 August 2009

graphic design block

For what feels like months now I have been trying to put together a new brochure for the Pearmain Cottage range. But it has been so difficult and I don't quite know why as I have some lovely photos ............
This is why I think it has taken me so long

1. I am very fickle and keep changing my mind 
2. I have too many good houses to include, so am squashing too much in 
3. Minnie and Gabriel keep either drawing on, or eating, the proof pages 

To get some inspiration I have been looking through my collection of brochures (I have a HUGE stash, brochures are an obsession/affliction of mine). My favourites are Plain English (beautiful if slightly aloof ) Toast (I am at the door every morning at the moment waiting for my Autumn house and home collection!) and Daylesford (lovely brochures to match their shops). Baileys also had a great fun catalogue but it hasn't been updated for ages.

Anyway here are some of the ideas that have come and gone. I promise to let you know when I actually commit to print............if I ever get there!

I can't think of original ways to be fun, informal but informative and factual - the oak leaf will only work if I find  nice leaf to scan. Any other ideas?

This kitchen is a possibility for a front cover  - hope it's not too lifestyley?
I think I have discounted the milk bottle shot - I still like the green though
I LOVE the calligraphy I have commissioned so will certainly use it one way or another - I think it really illustrates the hand crafted nature of what we do
I have a bit of thing for orchards - hence the name Pearmain Cottage (an old apple variety) and so it would be nice to incorporate apples or blossom, as long as its not too random. What do you think?
And if anyone knows of any other lovely, gorgeous, inspirational shops, websites or brochures that may alleviate my design block I will be forever grateful!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

more photos

This weekend I went back to one of my favorite Border Oak houses to take some photos for Country Homes and Interiors Magazine. It's just down the road from our house and belongs to my old neighbours (they aren't old - but we moved to a new house, complicated I know because I have also taken photos of my current neighbours Border Oak farmhouse - blimey!) 

I can't quite explain why I love the cottage - it just has a nice atmosphere, probably because the people who live here are lovely.

It is due to appear in the February issue - which I guess will be on the news stand in January 

The oak stairs and grey flagstones are a classic pairing. Darwin , the tortoise, loves the underfloor heating!

The kitchen is a happy mix of painted units, oak, vintage furniture, auction finds and of course, some beautiful oak beams

If I could 'borrow' (i.e. keep FOREVER) something from their house it would be this blanket box. Yummy.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

my terrible garden

The trouble with building your own home is that invariably you are left with a waste land/barren scrub for a garden. To add insult to horticultural injury the last dribbles of budget have usually been spent many moons ago, on fripperies such as heating and electrics. 

We will have been here for nearly 4 years and yet still our garden lurks outside like a neglected cat (keen but desperate) Our half hearted attempts to 'do something' usually end up with us putting the kettle on instead. But just recently it has become an issue, not just because there are no flowers to pick, but because our little ones need somewhere fun and pretty to play.

These are the paltry offerings in my garden at the moment - not quite up to Sarah Ravens standards I admit. But what do you do when a teeny tiny patch of garden literally brings you out in terrified cold sweats? We can't afford a garden designer and don't know where to begin - which is why we don't! And whatever we do plant seems to die a slow and lingering death. Poor flora and fauna.

these are my favourite colour hydrangeas - greeny pink, pinky green. I keep killing them though

These are lovely (Japanese something I think......oh dear) but I don't have enough to cut

My purple sage is growing like a weed - do I fight it or let it go crazy? Nice colours, but we don't like the taste so I think I will experiment with it in a vase. Desperate times call for drastic measures.

A beautiful seed head, which never seems to seed........what am I doing wrong?

But I do have LOADS of this - is it Veronica? Oh well, better put the kettle on.

Monday, 17 August 2009

now for something a little different

I was rummaging through the Border Oak photo collection and came across these - taken a couple of years ago. It's a modern interpretation of an oak framed barn, designed by Thomas Croft, and built by Border Oak. It has a great blend of contemporary detail and craftsmanship, probably most clearly illustrated in the shiny, glossy kitchen (very grown up) with a modern ceiling frame. 

I'm always really interesting to see how other people put their stamp on a structure but especially when a modern architect or contemporary design uses essentially techniques and materials over half a millennium old. 

We seem to be doing more and more contemporary houses, or should I say 'modern fusion' (I'm sure thats what the fancy architects would call it!) so hopefully the future of oak framing will be just as rosy as its past.

I love the wall of glass (and the view of course)

Such a smart kitchen and a really interesting ceiling too

I am hopefully going back to this house to take some pictures in September, will be great to see how it has weathered

I love the mix of stone, brick, weatherboard , glass and oak - a good palette of colours and textures ( and a very sweet little girl too!)
An elevation of glass - I wonder if they have curtains or not?

Friday, 14 August 2009

oak and thatch - Border Oak with knobs on!

Do you think house is pretty? I do.

My dad has some terrible old jokes and some even older socks (all odd pairs of course, which is a compulsory good omen for safe travel according to him). He also has some very old designs (he has been designing oak framed houses for more than 30 years now - incredible really as he doesn't look old enough. He may read this so I am being super nice). Obviously (and thankfully) times have changed since the 1970's - families have changed, fashions have come and gone and Building Regs have certainly altered. And yet some of Border Oak's oldest house designs have survived - prospered even.

This house is based on a very early Border Oak design - we call it Almeley Cottage - and is similar, but much larger, to our offices in Kingsland. It is a quintessential example of what traditional green oak framing can create when handled softly and will undoubtedly blend into the site seamlessly thanks to the thatch and the natural weathering of the oak.

Although it is quite expensive to build (due in part to the amount of oak, the complicated profile and intricate frame devices) and it's certainly not at the cutting edge of oak frame design, it is a faultless illustration of vernacular detail. 

The Almeley is a timeless classic - much imitated (quite badly) by competitors and ever popular with selfbuilders. Well done Daddy, you are a very clever - and handsome - man (like I said, he may be reading)

Have a lovely weekend. Next week I will post some contemporary designs to show that Border Oak can work from both spectrums!!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

the view from my window

A Herefordshire farmhouse

I see this house every day - it belongs to my neighbours - so I am lucky that it is a very handsome house. You can see it from the village road, but not many people will every get to see how lovely it is inside. Here are some pics taken last autumn. 

One of the best bits about my job is styling some of the Border Oak photos  - not only do I get to see lots  of beautiful oak framed houses but I also get to catch up with the owners and hear all about the ups and downs of their 'selfbuild' journey. The downside is leaving with a serious case of 'house envy' and then trying to persuade (without success) the quiet one that we need to build another house............

p.s house envy is a passing affliction but with no known cure

Fortunately my 'styling' job was made so much easier because the owners had lovely bits of furniture to work with, such as this table (made by their brother many moons ago)

And it was a simple case of borrowing  my own kitchen chairs from across the garden to bring out the best of the handmade kitchen - Jeremy Phillips the photographer has really captured the atmosphere and light of this house - which is tricky with me nagging you all the time!

I love the way the oak frame doesn't overwhelm the interior, and so the owners personality can still be felt.

The oak stairs feature unusual splats, we have them at the Border Oak office too. I think they work well against the solidity of the exposed  green oak frame and give a light hearted air to the interior.

This is the view from my front lawn. A good Herefordshire combination of exposed green oak framing over handmade bricks, and the gorgeous Border Oak porch of course.

Another house next week - a barn style oak frame perhaps? Off to search the archives.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

even more

The last of my Acton Scott pics - try and visit if you can!

the new border oak cartshed - with real carts inside!
I love this lime/chartreuse colour

a beautiful broken gate and shropshire landscape 

the 'new barn' designed and built by Border Oak

I have a bit of a fixation with pretty gates........this was a fab shade of greeny, grey, blue

are you bored of these photos yet?

More pics from Acton Scott.

Minerva in pink - with the obligatory tiara (stylist's own)

Part of the new visitor barn Border Oak have built  - with old machinery and wildflowers

Considering it is managed by the council, I was so impressed by all the little details - lovely handmade wooden signs and good graphic design too. 

I really, really want a little chicken house like this - just to play in! Lovely brick threshing barn behind.
Slightly tatty bits are still kept -  the light handed approach is very charming - but not at all contrived.

Acton Scott - a brilliant place just got better

the end gable of the Border Oak cartshed - as seen through the cottage garden

the preserved, but functioning farm yard

I promise that I didn't style this arrangement! 

A potting shed made by Border Oak, but built by volunteers, using bricks made at Acton Scott

The entrance to the farm  - through the spanking new green oak barn, designed and built by Border Oak 

ACTON SCOTT - Shropshire

I know the weather is just awful at the moment, but this weekend we decided to brave the rain and visit Acton Scott farm museum (aka The Victorian Farm from the BBC series) which is just up the road from us (well about 40 minutes away, but around here that is still considered local!)

And, as anyone who knows me will confirm, mud, animals and farms are NOT on my list of top ten favorite things to do, so I confess - there was an ulterior motive. And guess what?  They have some lovely new oak frame buildings at Acton Scott designed and built by............Border Oak!

The new buildings look fabulous and really are beautifully finished. I was so proud to see the finished project, because as a little girl we would visit Acton Scott often, and it is such  a unique place. But even if there had been no oak at all we would still have had a great time! It's so atmospheric - relaxed, yet interesting without being overbearing or overtly educational. And the most amazing part is how well they have managed to break free from the ridiculous 'health and safety' nonsense that often spoils things like this. There were no warning signs, tarmac ramps, safety cordons, height restrictions or signs saying 'no bombing' or 'no heavy petting'. 

Every little detail was so good looking without being contrived or too  'try hard' - rustic shabby chic at its finest! Lovely cobbled yards, gravel paths, hand made gates, and fab vernacular details everywhere you looked. Not to mention the happy, but completely unfazed, animals that happily wander around as if life was as good as it gets.

My favorite moment had to be Minnie looking strangely confused at the people dressed in Victorian costume whilst they stared back equally bemused at her shocking pink ensemble complete with plastic silver tiara. Worth getting wet for!