eco ways to light up your home this Christmas – interior design the sustainable way part 3…

There are many things which are synonymous at this time of year. Mulled wine, mince pies, turkey, crackers and trees. Oh, and enough lights to create a spaghetti network of landing strips through all of our streets.
A trip to any of the DIY sheds at this time of year will reveal a myriad of lighting options for your tree, inside your house, outside your house, on your house. Coloured, plain, static, flashing. Mains powered, battery powered, solar powered.
So, what would be our eco choice for lighting our gardens and interiors this season?
Well, lets start with outside of the house. We are not fans of the trotting reindeer and the like, so we opt for plain and simple lights, placed on our studio pyracantha in the garden.
Energy efficient garden lights are now very easy to find (look for the LED options when you are looking for lights) – add a solar panel and you are running your lights for free. We have a fantastic set of warm white (slightly yellow rather than blue white which is cold) LED fairy lights from the Solar Centre. They have a few fade or flash settings with a timer and are powered by the small, efficient and easily located solar panel.
If you are partial to a colour or two, you can also get solar versions of these in varying lengths, again from the Solar Centre – check them out here.
Next, inside. Solar panels are obviously out, but LEDs are in – using vastly less amounts of energy than the usual ‘bulb’ string types, along with the benefit of being very low temperature – so your vintage handknitted bauble from grannie will not go up in smoke.
LED lights used to be the exception in the DIY giants – now they are the norm, with most places stocking a variety of colours and lengths. Or you could check out these guys
Outside – done. Tree – done. Table? Yep – do not forget about the eco alternatives for your seasonal table or to compliment your seasonally crafted interior design.
Candles – you can opt for soy candles, or beeswax candles, or even organic candles such as these. Or you can have more LED lights like these. Or you can have, movable, solar powered lights such as these – charge ’em up outside, then bring ’em in, or use independant, rechargeable lights such as these.
For safety reasons, candles should always be placed in heatproof containers, and our favourite way to display them is to buy a set of plain cut glass or coloured glass mini goblets from charity shops. They will be very inexpensive and you can even give them back to the charity shop after Christmas if you are done with them. This little arrangement we put together for our studio was done for a tiny £5. Bargain.
There are so many eco options that we are now spoilt for choice, so whatever colour you choose, have a green, twinkling season!

turkey with all the trimmings…

Turkey.

I’m sure that most of you will be eating it this Christmas. It’s a tradition that most of us upkeep, along with chocolate at Easter and pumpkin at Hallowe’en.
Unfortunately, large scale traditions create large scale demand, and where there is large scale demand, some very unscrupulous people try to make large scale money, and our old chum the turkey can be in the thick of it.
Some commercially produced turkeys can grow to an immense 40kg in around 30 weeks. Staggering – which is exactly what they do when their joints just can’t keep up with their mass.
But choices are available.
Instead of having an intensively reared turkey that you have to sit on to get into the oven, that takes a day to cook, and that you have to eat for the remainder of the week as you did not realise exactly how much meat was on there, maybe you could spend your hard earned cash differently.
Get a smaller free range bird, or smaller organic bird for the same money (less need for the ‘200 ways with turkey’ book) Or have a free range, organic, local goose. How about a joint of venison (beautifully in season, and our favourite) as old Hugh had in his alternative Christmas feast a couple of years ago. Or a good bit of local pork?
Ring the changes, but whatever you do, try and have a responsible dinner…
For those of you in Brighton or Sussex – here is one organic supplier or alternatively look at the soil association website for suppliers across the UK.

how to crack the perfect cracker…

We love crackers.

We only have crackers at Christmas, and they are an essential part of the Christmas table. The major drawback is that they are usually full of crap (yes, even the expensive ones, which are just full of silver plated crap) and everything goes in the bin and cannot be recycled as it is usually embellished with metallic bits to make it ‘pretty’.

Fortunately, alternatives are now readily available however. Some we love this year are biodegradable and full of flower seeds, so will grow in the garden next year. And the internal crap is replaced with a nice little felt fairtrade keepsake and an eco tip. Nice. Find some here.

Or, why not do a cracker based secret Santa? We did this a few years ago, and it was great. Get a make your own cracker set (without metallic bits if you can to allow recycling), give each person a cracker and get them to fill it for their secret Santa for the set budget (we did £1 – challenging but did not break the bank).

And make a no crap rule. Get gran a nice vintage neckscarf from a charity shop, a nice bar of soap, a posh little chocolate, a lovely locally made brooch or make something yourself to add – the possibilities are endless…they just need to be small.

Plus the cracker can be personalised to each person, or easily coordinated to match your Christmas table – a lovely touch is to add some beautiful sprigs of scented rosemary, which is what we will be doing this year.

Have fun!

’twas the first day of christmas and my true love gave to me…

a partridge in a pear tree…’

Well, maybe not at the moment.

According to a recent report by BirdLife International, and quoted by The Independent, the poor little grey partridge has declined a staggering 79% over the last 25 years. Not anything to do with loves giving them in pear trees unfortunately, but more to do with massive scale agriculture, pesticides and monoculture. This has to change, and with the wonderful increase in organic farming, habitats are growing again, and with a bit of help, so will the partridge numbers.

So, if you want to give a partridge in a pear tree (both of which are wonderfully in season at the moment), I suggest you find a good and responsible game butcher local to yourselves and purchase a couple of these beautiful birds for the table – visit http://www.gametoeat.co.uk/ to find your local supplier, then quiz them about their suppliers. A good butcher knows the history of his/her stock and will be proud to tell you. And if you possibly can, try and make it an organic bird.

The pear? Well, bash up a quick pear chutney with this recipe and serve with the partridge. Then buy a pear tree anyway as they are a great British fruit and highly under-rated, and as we posted earlier in November, this is the best time to be planting a bare root tree. Our favourite varieties include ‘Doyenne du Comice’, the stunning ‘Black Worcester’ and the brilliantly stripy ‘Humbug’ – speak to specialist fruit tree suppliers to see which is the best variety for your location, garden size etc.

Maybe not as romantic as the original song, but still a great British meal. Lovely local food.

time to plant a bare root tree…

Autumn is the best time to plant a bare rooted tree as the soil is still quite warm and the tree is getting ready for it’s hibernation, so can settle in before it has to undertake the large task of sprouting in spring.

Plus, it is incredibly easy to do, and prices for bare rooted trees are very reasonable indeed.

So – what do you need to remember when planting a bare root tree?

The first, and most vital to remember is to ensure that the roots do not dry out, but you also do not want to drown the poor tree either, so a happy damp medium is the best place to be. Until you come to planting, the trees should be placed in a relatively cool place, out of the sun and wind, which will help to minimise water loss.

When you are ready to plant, place the roots into a bucket of water whilst you dig the tree it’s new home.

The hole is actually VERY important when you are planting bare root trees, as the right depth has to be observed or the tree will not survive very long at all. Of course, you want to plant it deep enough, but too deep and the bark which is used to being above ground can end up underground and rot before you know it.

So, look on the trunk of the tree for the root collar, which can be identified as a bulge/bump. You may also see the water mark on the trunk – a really good indicator of where the soil was before the tree was lifted. The rule of thumb is to ensure that the new soil level is NEVER higher than the root collar.

Lastly you need to firm the tree in – and this can be quite firmly done, as the soil needs to be in contact around all of the roots. Air pockets should not be around the roots, so gently but firmly, pack the soil around. Give the planted trees a drink and you are ready for a cuppa.

Bare root trees are available in a range of sizes and species to suit all schemes and budgets so there will always be something that takes your fancy, but as we are championing the reintroduction of local orchards, why not consider a fruit tree?

Beautiful blossom, increased biodiversity and tasty produce – what more could you want?

Check out these suppliers who have great selections of fruit and nut trees:

Fruit Tree Shop – the name says it all – everything fruit (and nut) and very friendly, helpful people too!

Ashridge Trees – for apples, pears, cherries, plums, gages, quinces and nuts too

The Victorian Nursery – a huge range of varieties of all fruits can be found here

Get planting!

wrap yourself in a woolly wonder – interior design the sustainable way, part 2…

Now the nights are getting decidedly chilly, there are few things better than snuggling up on the sofa with a big mug of tea and watching a lovely film, wrapped in a toasty blanket.

And with so many lovely natural options available, why settle for a nasty acrylic one?

I have to confess, I have a bit of a thing for woolly blankets, and seem to convince myself that I need each one I come across. My hunting grounds are mostly charity shops and junk stores, where I have picked up a bundle of blankets from cream, blanket stitched examples to plaid, tassled lovelies and even a few Welsh tapestry style blankets – and rarely for more than a few quid.

These vintage blankets look great, usually have a few holes and marks from their lives and can work as well in a modern interior design as they can in a shabby chic interior. Ebay usually has a good range of vintage Welsh blankets which, as they have graphic style designs are particularly good to create statements in an interior – slung over a sofa or folded on a chair they look wonderful.

But, if you do not have the time to trawl through charity shops or fight with bidding to find your perfect cocoon, there are a few places where you can find some lovely, natural or recycled wool blankets with ease:

Hen and Hammock – these are lush, recycled wool blankets made in Wales, and are a bargain at £20 each.

Ella James also creates recycled wool blankets and they can be found here for a tasty £19.

For something a little different, TOAST produce this lovely waffle knit recycled wool blankets in Wales – a bit pricier than the two above at £49, but a real addition to your interior.

Welsh blankets are beautiful things, and again should be seen as an investment piece for you home, so expect higher prices, but they are usually one off’s too – the Great Outdoors has a good selection, like this one, but expect to be paying upwards on £200.

A happy medium is this blanket from the Wool Room, which is geometric, natural and woven in Scotland, for £110.

The cloth shop in London also has a great selection of both new and antique blankets, and is well worth a look if you live in London (they do not sell over the internet unfortunately). A beautiful store.

And want to really splash out on something stunning? This Morse code blanket by Holly Berry takes a lot of beating – at £350 it is definitely in the investment bracket, but each one has a secret Morse code message woven into the dots and dashes, spelling – LOVE. Cute, warm and a bit intellectual as well. Now that is a multitasking blanket.

So, whether you opt to buy, bid or hunt, find yourself a lovely woollen blanket and get cosied up for Winter.

(image via The Cloth Shop)

the designer seat with a twist

Stuck for a Christmas present for the designer that has everything?

How about this quirky Munken Cube paper and oak stool by Juno Hamburg for E15?

They would never be without a scrap of paper to jot down that sudden genius idea again as the seat is made from a generous 2200 sheets – now that is a lot of sketches.

Want one? Stump up 680 sheets and wait 5 weeks and it’s yours – order it at the brilliant Viaduct.

(image via Viaduct)

rubber clad interior design…

Floors quite often get overlooked in interior design schemes with people opting for laminate, timber or vinyl, but given that it is the very texture you will be feeling through your shoes or socks there are a great deal of options which can completely put a new spin on a space.

We are big fans of trying to reuse as much as we can when in comes to a new scheme, but sometimes this is not an option, and we look at new, exciting surfaces for our clients.

We are currently designing a new space and we are really keen to get the flooring away from the standards and into something stunning, and of course as eco as possible.

So, we are suggesting a rubber floor. Yep – rubber. And no, we have not gone a bit daft.

It can come as tiles, or on a roll to fit a room just like a carpet, in a variety of colours and even textures. Plus it feels lovely and soft, and can be made from naturally harvested sustainable rubber or recycled rubber. We love it.

And, natural rubber flooring uses 3 times less CO2 to produce than pvc vinyl flooring, and a whopping 17 times less CO2 to produce than linoleum. That’s a lot of CO2.

One of our favourite suppliers is Dalsouple, who have a palette of 80 or so colours, the majority of which can be made in their natural DalNaturel range – they are one of the pioneers in the real, natural rubber floors and have loads of information on the surface on their website.

So, next time you are looking at a new floor for your interior, why not consider a lovely, green rubber floor?

 

like a sack of potatoes…

we have got a bit of a love for old style fabrics and textiles, especially the utility and industrial styled ones.

so, just think how happy we were when we found these beautiful printed cushions by RE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With either a ‘white rose’ or ‘liberty’ print, they are hand printed in the UK, and we think they are very nice indeed.

a lovely addition to the sofa, at a nice £45 a piece – find them here.