Friday, 22 February 2013

Project 333 February

Project 333 February
As promised, here is the core of my February Project 333 wardrobe.  There are a couple of extra items that I haven't included, such as my huge puffa coat which has been worn almost constantly as it has been so cold!  The wrap dress in the top corner is the closest approximation of the actual dress I've been wearing - mine is blue, black and red.  I have worn each of the items pictured here, at least once, and most more than once.  I think it actually looks pretty good set out here like this! 
Here is the full list of things I've included (most of them are from previous seasons so unfortunately I can't add links to where to buy them.  The best approximations I could find are in the Polyvore set).
  1. Blue LK Bennett fitted blue jersey dress
  2. Monsoon blue and red tunic dress
  3. Valentine Gaulthier Navy blue midi dress
  4. LK Bennett Black pencil skirt
  5. Whistles pink pencil skirt (mine is longer than the one pictured)
  6. French connection grey sweater dress - mine has a full skirt than pictured
  7. Jigsaw navy silk round neck blouse
  8. Zara polka dot blouse
  9. French connection black chiffon shirt
  10. Black long sleeved t-shirt - relatively fitted and stretchy, more of a base layer
  11. Black high heeled shoe boots
  12. Black biker/riding boots
  13. Leopard print belt
  14. Blue patent belt
  15. All Saints black skinny jeans
  16. Current Elliott boyfriend jeans (the ones I have are the ones in the picture in this case)
  17. Orange and navy whistles scarf
  18. Uniqlo navy pea coat
  19. J Crew orange cashmere sweater
  20. French connection parka
  21. Zara 60's style black wool coat
  22. White company dark grey merino wool tunic top (not pictured)
  23. J Crew grey cashmere sweater
  24. Ash ankle boots
  25. Marks and Spencer heeled knee high boots
  26. Jigsaw black and tan striped long sleeve t-shirt
  27. Clarks navy blue shoe boots
  28. Monsoon puffa coat
  29. Next leopard print fake fur jacket
  30. J Brand combats (as pictured)
As mentioned before, although the list above is only 30 items (amazing how much it looks!), I have 'cheated' a little by not including jewellery - it would annoy me too much not being able to wear the right necklace for the outfit.
Would love to hear what you think. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Project 333 - and a bit

Following on from my thoughts below about the 10 item wardrobe,  I’ve recently been reading a fascinating blog called Project 333 ( – fabulously sub-titled ‘Simple is the new black’.
The basic premise is that each 3 months, you select 33 items of clothing, and wear these and only these in rotation.  Unlike the 10 item wardrobe, the 33 includes accessories, coats, shoes, jewellery.  Excluded are jewellery items worn all the time, underwear, workout gear etc.   For full ‘rules’ and details I’d recommend reading the Project 333 website as I’m bound to get something wrong here!
I am somehow drawn to this concept of simplicity, and am current in the middle of an experiment to see if it can work for me.  There is one big difference however.  Courtney, who started the blog, is clearly not into clothes or fashion, and her overall lifestyle aim is very different to mine.  She is clearly a minimalist, wanting to strip everything down as far as possible.  I’m not in that space and I don’t think I ever will be. 
I love my clothes and I love playing with the message they give.  To me, even actively choosing not to pay too much attention to your look is sending a clear statement about who you are and what you believe.  Like it or not, we are generally superficial creatures, and we do make assumptions based on the way we look.   And why not actively try and positively influence this with our clothes and overall look?
So here is my take on Project 333 – definitely a cheat’s version, but a version nonetheless
·         Given the unpredictable nature of the London weather, I’ve decided to take this one month at a time.  33 items for January, 33 for February etc. 
·         There can be overlap between the items each month – and indeed there has been significant overlap from January to February.
·         I only select 30 items at the beginning of the month – giving myself a bit of wiggle room for unexpected nights out/freak weather/boredom.
·         I do include accessories, but I’m not strict on sticking to this, and I don’t include jewellery. 
My main aim and objective from this is to try and gain a bit more insight into my wardrobe, and what I naturally gravitate towards when pushed.  Overall, if something doesn’t make it into the 33 item wardrobe at all, unless it’s a unique item or something for special occasions, I will strongly question whether it really belongs there. 

I may love it, but unless I really want to wear it, and wear it repeatedly, perhaps it’s not the right thing for me.  I’ve already identified about 20 items that were just taking up space in the wardrobe that I would just not wear.  And that’s after a significant amount of de-cluttering over the last year.
I’m also trying to restrict shopping – but that’s a subject for another blog.
In my next post, I’ll give some detail as to what I’ve included in my 33 item wardrobe.
Is this something you think could work for you?  What would be your core items? 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Minimalist or maximalist?

Am I a minimalist or a maximalist?  I’ve been asking myself recently.
On the minimalist side, when reading blogs, I’m often drawn to those where people are writing about de-cluttering and simplifying.  The idea and concept of a good tidy out is something that makes me very, very happy indeed.   I find nothing more therapeutic than sorting through, arranging, and optimising my wardrobe, drawers, bookshelves and storage cupboards.  I find sorting through piles of things stressful, whether it be piles of paper on my desk at work, or the stock of DVDs in the cupboard that have yet again got in a mess.  And the piles of paper that my husband leaves in various locations around the house drive me absolutely crazy. 
Mental clutter is also draining to me.  I have to write tasks down, rather than carrying them around in my head.  And I have to get them done.  If something is never going to be done, I delete it from both the list and my head.  Otherwise it weighs me down.
But, and this is a very big but...I often find myself vehemently disagreeing with the ideas in some of the more extreme minimalist blogs.  The idea of a kitchen with nothing on the surfaces, no indication that you may get fed, no signs of life is absolute anathema to me.  The very expensive ‘perfect’ modern sleek kitchens in the showrooms along Wigmore Street in London (such as this Poggenpohl example), bring me out in a rash and make me want to run in there and get out all my baking kit and throw flour around.

Likewise with my clothes, I do understand that some people have the ability to live with a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of t-shirts.  But I don’t, and forcing myself to do that feels as if I would be trying to be something I’m not.  I’ve thought about this a lot, and I genuinely don’t believe that I use clothes to compensate for some other failing, or to hide behind.  I just love them.  Ever since I was a tiny girl I’ve loved going shopping, and thinking about dresses and clothes.  At the age of 8 or 9 I wrote a story in which I described what the twin heroines were wearing in the greatest detail!
Decor-wise, I could not live in this (how depressing!):

And I absolutely love this kitchen from Real Living magazine with its open shelves and 'unnecessary' objects on display:

So – too much is too much, but not much is definitely not enough.   I suppose at heart I’m an organised maximalist.  I love things, I love houses that have evidence of life, I love surfaces that are decorated, and walls that are hung with paintings.  I love clothes, jewellery and shoes, and playing with these.  I love kitchens that are full of life.  To me, objects and things have a life of their own, and deserve to be treasured, used and displayed.
But like all things with life, when they are lost as part of a crowd, when they are subsumed into an amorphous mass and can’t be engaged with, they lose what makes them special.  So a surface with artfully arranged vases and items, however full, can be special.  A surface covered with unopened post, keys, discarded items, will never be.  A wardrobe full of beautiful clothes, arranged and properly hung, where each item is visible and fits into a coherent whole, where each item fits and suits, is wonderful, no matter how extensive.  Even a small pile of tattered, unloved clothes is depressing. 
So go ahead and analyse your possessions.  Keep only what you love, or know to be useful.  For some of you it may be more, for some, less.  Your kitchen may only have a few items in it, if you’re not a keen cook.  Others may have a kitchen like mine, which is full of equipment, but with all of it loved and used. 
Get rid of those piles of clutter, the unopened bills, the mental clutter of the never done items on the to do list.  Tidy the DVDs and get rid of the ones that aren’t watched.   And slowly you may reach your optimum stuff/space balance.
I’m not there yet, but I am working on it.  My next post will be about some work I’m doing on my wardrobe.   I’d be really interested to hear what you think. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Blogger envy

I don't think that blogger lifestyle envy has ever hit me quite so hard as when I started reading this utterly gorgeous blog this afternoon.

Stunning photography, amazing recipes, and a lifestyle in the French countryside that when I'm sitting in my air-conditioned City office, contemplating yet another report, leaves me feeling almost hollow with envy.  Oh to be natural, glamorous and fabulous, popping out on my bicyclette to buy a baguette or two, before whipping up some delicious dish, and taking the most amazingly atmospheric photos.

Mimi - your blog is utterly fabulous, and I hope you don't mind me sharing some images and links here:

la-tarte-au-chocolat/  - I am so going to try this.

And these little tartlets look amazing too. 

 Vegetable tartlets.

Other lovely blogs for dreaming hazily of a completely different life:

Rosy Little Things - a homely life in Oregon

And for indulging my food and New York living fantasies all together

Smitten Kitchen

Hope you all enjoy as much as I have!  Do you have any other suggestions for those dreamy lifestyle blogs?  Please let me know x

Monday, 4 February 2013

Abigail Ahern Design School

Last week I spent the most amazing day at the Abigail Ahern design school.  I’ve always loved decorating, but not necessarily being the most creative or daring soul, I’ve always felt that my house lacked a little something.  Certainly it isn’t as considered or interesting as my clothes/wardrobe which is where my creative energies usually get spent.  And although we are slightly limited by the existence of an energetic 2 year old, and her profusion of toys, there is always something you can do to stamp your personality on a space.
The group of girls in the class was the best – and they had travelled from such a long way away, including Belfast!  Just shows what high renown Abigail is held in within design circles.  And she is so friendly, welcoming and unpretentious – as is her husband, Graham, who kept the teas and coffees coming all day.  Having a group invading your home for the best part of a Saturday can’t be easy, and yet we were welcomed with open arms, and almost given free run of this amazing house, from the top floor (the classroom!) down to the amazing kitchen/family room in the basement.
There were so many ideas buzzing round my head when I left, it has taken me more than a week to let it all percolate through my brain.   The lingering impression was of the use of dark colours far more than I’d ever seen before – on walls, on skirtings and cornicing, and on ceilings.  Right from the outset, and the exterior of the house, dark colours are used in places where you would normally expect white and paler colours.  The overall effect is dramatic, and as Abigail points out, really makes objects and furniture ‘pop’.  It can also be slightly disorientating and adds to the slightly fantastical and unreal feel of the house.
My favourite room was the kitchen, where dark painted cupboards, dark walls and dark ceilings made it homely and as ‘unkitcheny’ a room as I have seen.   Here is a little vignette of the island unit, from Abigail’s blog.
When it comes to kitchens I think the course may have paid for itself in avoiding design fees and the purchase of an expensive mistake.  I have already decided that my new kitchen will have dark cupboards, and I love the approach of using painted MDF in slightly oversized cupboard doors - although I may have to try the dark walls and ceiling approach in the downstairs loo first before deciding whether its for me.  Abigail was constantly encouraging us to be brave, but I’m obviously a decorating wuss!
Lighting was another key element of the course – the kitchen shows Abigail’s unexpected use of table lamps in all settings – I will definitely be trying this one as well.    Abigail suggested always adding more lighting that you ‘need’, and whilst I am already familiar with the 3 types of lighting (overhead, task, decorative), her encouragement to add more, and consider it as decoration and not just treat it as a practicality was very well received.   I am married to a lighting designer/electrician and he was fascinated with the ideas I came back with (and suspected that he is going to be installing more lighting sockets in future!).
Abigail also encouraged us to break the rules – move furniture away from the walls, break up spaces, use items that are either too big or too small.  Now this I can do – a bit of rebel decorating!   Ideas included propping pictures up on a mantelpiece rather than hanging them, or using piles of books with vases or other objects on them to provide height and interest.
Playing with texture was another key point.  Throughout Abigail’s home things are combined together, shiny with scruffy, highly textured with smooth.  I love the effect of this room (not Abigail’s) with the traditional furniture combined with the leather and glass – sums up the feel for me.
All in all a fabulous day with some great food for thought.  Abigail’s home is interesting as it is obviously so designed – there is little evidence of normal life there (we never found out where she keeps her clothes!), but it still feels homely and loved rather than being a showhouse.
For me, the main thing is that things don’t have to be perfect, and mis-matching and randomness creates a specific feel which is most welcome.  I’ve already started strewing books around the place in piles – and have big plans for my kitchen with a pot of dark paint!
For further details on the workshops, see (no - she isn't paying me!)

Her blog, which often has some great pictures of her house, and other great rooms, is here:

All pictures other than the kitchen vignette are from - another great source of inspiration!