Easter gift idea – a membership to the Heritage Seed Library…

Before anyone says anything – we are huge fans of chocolate, especially the organic loveliness from Montezumas in Brighton, but we had a thought about what else we would love to give people as a gift this Easter break. With the front of the studio literally springing up before our eyes, the soil warming nicely and the seed packages mounting up, we will be giving the gift of heritage growing – with memberships to the Heritage Seed Library from Garden Organic.

We are very proud to be members, with our annual subs of £18 going towards conserving vegetable types which are not commercially available any more. Some are UK varieties, some from further afield, but the HSL ensures that these varieties are not being lost forever… Plus, as part of our membership – as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, we also get to pick six different varieties from the library each December to grow ourselves.

From purple carrots to purple beans and even long lost fruits such as the triffid like Achocha, we have had the joy (and sometimes despair) of growing over the past ten years or so. Plus, there is nothing quite like putting a variety into the summer village show that has not been seen for a few years, if at all.

So, if you have someone that is green fingered and not a huge fan of chocolate, perhaps a membership to the Heritage Seed Library could be in order?

(images via the HSL)

Growing food on waste coffee – the Espresso Mushroom company…

We are big supporters of creating new things from waste, especially as most waste – with a bit of thought – can be redirected into creating new products. This can come in many forms, from buildings that  can be created from waste materials (like the Waste House in Brighton) through to new consumer products (such as truck tarpaulin bags from Freitag). And we predict that this pattern will escalate over the coming years as we start to realise that raw materials are either too scarce or expensive to use. It is a huge opportunity for designers to think in the circular rather than linear. But it is not just products that can be created – what about our food? This is exactly what the Espresso Mushroom Company are doing…

Hot Pink Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Espresso Mushroom Company

Founded in Brighton, the Espresso Mushroom Company grow, and create kits allowing you to grow mushrooms from a substrate based on reclaimed coffee grounds which are gathered by bike from local cafes.

But one of the staggering elements of this project is the sheer scale of the waste coffee grounds that are produced daily – and usually get directed straight into landfill. For instance, the Espresso Mushroom Company puts it into perpective:

‘Less than 1% of the coffee cherry harvested from the coffee tree is in an espresso coffee and over 70 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK.’  That’s a lot of coffee – the grounds of which are currently wasted.

And the kits are simple – open, water, grow, harvest. (and we are planning on getting one for our new studio…)

So – fresh food created from waste. What’s not to love? Check out the main Espresso Mushroom Company website for full details of the kits available…

(images via the Espresso Mushroom Company website)

SPOTTED – picking our Christmas tree at Wilderness Wood…

We are suckers for a bit of tradition. Especially when it is a nice tradition – and really, we are heading full whack into one of the busiest times of year as far as tradition goes. We apologise in advance for using the C word in November, but hey. Christmas. Someone told me yesterday that there are only six weekends until Christmas. Six. Somehow that put the panic in a little bit, but we are safe in the knowledge that we have already bagged our tree. We went and reserved it at Wilderness Wood…wilderness wood 1

Some of you may know about our traditional trip up to the working wood, Wilderness Wood in Sussex – where every November (second weekend) we head up to get a tag, pay our £10 deposit and choose our tree in the Christmas tree plantation.

This year, was no different. We headed up on a sunny Sunday, boots at the ready, filled with excitement that was tinged with a little bit of apprehension. This was to be the first year that the wood was under new ownership after the Yarrow’s, who had founded the working wood in the 1970’s decided to retire. Would it be the same? Would the pots of tea be as huge, the cake so delicious and the atmosphere so friendly and welcoming?wilderness wood 2

Well, yes. We needn’t have worried. The barn was as packed as usual, the tea and the cake were both huge and delicious and the Christmas tree plantation was as we had expected.wilderness wood 3

With number 232 on our tag, there were lots of families and members who had reserved their trees before us, but there was still loads of selection available. Unfortunately, not the Douglas Fir that we have grown to love for its soft, fragrant, limey green needles, but still lots in the fir and spruce categories. Like the children in the plantation, we scooted up and down the hill, trying to find ‘the one’. There were a few contenders, but we eventually settled on one – a lovely Nordmann Fir – an excellent needle keeper, even when cut. Wilderness Wood has good Blue Spruces this year too, so if you are looking for one of these, ethically produced, then it is a good possibility.wilderness wood 4

Now, many of you will question whether driving to choose, then harvest a tree is perhaps the most ‘eco’ way to get a Christmas tree – and even if a real tree is perhaps the best choice. But we believe that this is not only about the tree, but the tradition of picking one – safe in the knowledge that it has been cared for in the right way. It is as ethical as possible. Plus, as we will compost the tree after, the tree becomes a biological nutrient for our own studio garden.

So. Full of tea, cake and with our tree reserved, we headed home. And we will go back in about a month and cut him down, bring him to the studio for Christmas. Ironically, we have named him Doug.

(go to the Wilderness Wood website for full details of their pick your own Christmas trees. all photos by claire potter)

first eco open houses tour weekend a success…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)


Wednesday walls – espalier apples, alliums and box…

Today on Wednesday walls we are giving you a very brief peek at our new studio, which is finally taking shape and will be open very soon for the Brighton Eco Open Houses tours in the middle of this month. It is an old public toilet that we have converted into a new design studio (in keeping with our upcycling obsession), and as well as having a lovely interior space, we have a lovely exterior space too – which we are filling with fruit and herbs, including espalier apples, alliums and box. espalier apples alliums and box 1Now, you may be thinking where the wall aspect comes in today – well, with our south facing studio we have two walls which are perfect for fruit trees – and specifically, espalier trained apple trees.

The espalier trees not only benefit from the support of the wall (they will be tied into supports on the wall), the fruit will benefit from the heat that the bricks will store.

espalier apples alliums and box 2We have chosen two espalier apples for the front of the studio, which have now been underplanted with Purple Sensation Alliums, Box (which will be trained into spheres) and lavender, to aid pollination. The rest of the planters are now filled with more bulbs, grasses, herbs and fruit – plus there will be seasonal vegetables planted too over the coming months.

As well as the side walls, we have the front facade of the building, which will soon have a kiwi fruit scrambling up the front and a green wall planted above the cycle racks…

So – make the most of your walls for planting – and get fruity!

(photos by claire potter)


SPOTTED – the London Design Festival Design Districts…

We are a bit late posting today, mostly due to the fact that we are in the thick of building our new studio (more of that next week), and last night we were up with our pals at Sugru, with our Fixperts hat on, fixing things alongside the Restart Project at Sugru’s Love Your Stuff Party. We fixed loads of things for people on the spot, but again – more of that next week… But as we travelled to and from the day at the London Design Festival, it became very apparent just how huge the event has grown. Excellent for variety and interest, but a real dilemma when it comes to planning. Even we skipped to the V&A, then up to Islington, then across to Hackney. But, there is one way to start to organise your trip – look at the Design Districts…

Now, each of these Design Districts has a very distinct feel, character and style, so if there is a particular type of design you are craving, it could be best place to start. Within each of these districts is a curated collection of showrooms, events, talks, workshops, exhibitions and displays, fitting to the area.

Last year we were part of the Brompton Design District (at the Brompton Pitch, with Fixperts) which had a lovely hands on, demonstration feel, with the cultural London Design Festival of the V&A at its heart. This year, there are diverse events such as Global Design Forum and a ‘meet the makers’ event with Brompton Bikes – where you are also able to customise your own bike, see it made and ride it home.

So, if you are a bit stuck as to where to start, choose a district in the London Design Festival, pick up a guide (loads available throughout, but we got ours at the V&A), and get going. Plan in cake too – design is exhausting.

(image via London Design Festival)

wednesday walls – a cor-ten steel fence…

Ok. We are bending the rules just a touch today with this fantastic image. Not strictly a wall, today’s post is all about a fence. Constructed from cor-ten steel, the fence has a beautiful rusted appearance and allows it to blend rather beautifully with its location whilst still being a modern take on a fence.corten steel

Designed by Mikyoung Kim, the fence mimics the patternation of the oak leaves which are found on the site of this private residence in Massachusetts. The use of the cor-ten steel means that the structure is still fully stable even with the rusted appearance and does not require any coatings or paint. Even though using a weathering steel such as cor-ten is not the cheapest of options for a project, there is little ongoing maintenance required for the material which is protected by the outer ‘rusted’ layer, which cuts down on both cost and time implications.

It also gives a very lovely shifting colouration which is hard to get in metal but often found in wood, allowing it to feel as natural as possible. It is quite an acquired taste however, with some feeling that cor-ten steel just looks like rusted steel (which of course, it is), but we think that it is a highly versatile material.

And there is nothing wrong with a little rust eh?

(image via landezine.com)

SPOTTED – structures in Arundel Castle Gardens…

Last week we had a very rare day off to visit Arundel Castle for the medieval tournament (which was fantastic) but as well as watching the most magnificent jousting and sword fighting, we also had a very lovely tour of the gardens. We have already spoken about the inspired allium and lavender planting combination that we spotted in the cutting garden, but today we are looking at a few of the structure in the Arundel Castle Gardens

First up is this wonderful green oak arch / walkway that features in the Collector Earl’s Garden, which is beautifully simple, yet also a very accomplished piece of timber structuring.

arundel castle gardens 1

Framing views, the archway and dome provide both focal points and a touch of shade in the otherwise exposed Italianate styled garden. This is a key top tip for spaces of any size – if the eye sees everything at once then a space can feel uninteresting or even a great deal smaller than it actually is. By framing views and breaking up the expanse you create increased interest in any space, whilst also having the opportunity to direct a focus in any direction you choose, such as towards a sculpture or even the view beyond.

arundel castle gardens 4

The timber structures in the space continued with a quite incredible wooden folly, decorated with antlers.

arundel castle gardens 6

And also the fantastic Oberon’s Palace, which featured fountains and sculptures and was surrounded with large terracotta pots filled with cool coloured Agapanthus.

arundel castle gardens 5

But the structures continued into the cutting and edible gardens too, with the imposing green oak arched walkway being reflected in an apple archway, which not only provided a productive architectural element to the second part of the gardens but visually tied these very different spaces together.

arundel castle gardens 2

Covered with (we think) Ashmead’s Kernel, the apple archway also allowed framed views of the historical buildings of Arundel…

arundel castle gardens 3

The Arundel Castle Gardens are all accessible within the entry level ticket and, in our opinion, are one of the huge highlights. There is a stunning amount of variety, and at this time of the year, they are also abundant with flowers and fruits. Plus, the Head Gardener and team are out and about – and were very pleased to impart their knowledge of the space and the gardens to the visitors. We were even given a small bunch of sweet peas.

A wonderful gem of an attraction in Sussex – the Arundel Castle Gardens are beautiful, slightly bonkers and varied. Which in our book is quite a winning combination.

(photos by claire potter)


SPOTTED – alliums and lavender…

Lavender is one of those plants which we use a great deal in our landscape design schemes as it ticks multiple boxes. It is beautifully scented, has great all year round structure, is great for bees, is edible and is generally very hardy. What’s not to like really. Plus, you can get it in all sizes and in an increasing amount of shades of whites, blues and purples – even pinks, which are not so much our bag, but hey. Lavender is great.

Another thing that lavender is great for is for growing things through – we have underplanted lavender with dark Queen of the Night tulips before, which worked particularly well as they were not only given support whilst they grew, the colour contrast was amazing and the dying leaves of the tulips (which always look rather untidy) were concealed by the growing lavender. Win win.

alliums and lavender

So we are always looking for other examples of how lavender can be underplanted. Whilst at Arundel Castle this week for the Medieval Tournament we spotted this lovely example in the cutting garden, where dwarf lavender had been underplanted with alliums.

Both the alliums and lavender had gone past their best, but we thought it was a fantastic example of a planting pair. The alliums, which are notoriously top heavy were supported like footballs on top of the lavender and allowed them to remain as interesting structural seed heads in the bed.

Even when the lavender is cut back at the end of the season, the alliums can remain through the autumn to provide continued variation in the flower bed.

A really, really lovely example of pairing planting – we think this could also be used with rosemary, which has a similar growth habit to lavender and is also evergreen. Just keep the rosemary short and neat so the alliums can punch through the green.

(photo by claire potter)

wednesday walls – a perforated façade…

Today on Wednesday Walls we are looking at an external façade, which not only is decorative, it is functional too. As the literal ‘faces’ of buildings, the external skins are an essential tool to communicate to the surrounding world what they are and how they fit within their environments. Building façades are full of subtle messages which tell us far more than we perhaps initially realise. For instance the perforated façade of this building by Alonso Balaguer Y Arquitectos Asociados sits within a technology and cultural park in Spain…


The clean whiteness and regimented façade panels of the building instantly give a very technological feel, with the perforations adding to the digital appearance. This type of façade operates as a decorative rainscreen for the building plus possibly a shading element for within, with the circle cut outs also giving visual interest with the variety in size and density.

We are big fans of these types of multi functioning façades as they help to create an interesting architectural landscape which talks about the role of the building, rather than being surrounded by a mass of blank, faceless glass structures.

If we can grow something up them, all the better…

(image via Architizer)

weekend colour inspiration – a bright red deck…

Last week we featured the new exterior deck design by Studio Weave for the London College of Fashion, which featured multicoloured sections of deck reminiscent of woven fabric, at different levels which created a very interesting effect indeed. As that post was so popular (hey – maybe everyone is enjoying the outside at the moment), we thought that we would include this project this week, which is also deck based…

Lovely red deck

As well as the mountains in the background, we really like this exterior treatment of the deck and picnic bench furniture. Situated in the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl skiing area, the Audi Quattro hut has undergone huge transformations into an interesting combination of both the rustic and traditional and the new and angular – which takes direct references from the landscape that surrounds the building. 

Audi Quattro Festkogl Alm by Designliga Obergurgl Hochgurgl Austria 14 Audi Quattro Festkogl Alm hut by Designliga, Obergurgl Hochgurgl   Austria

The red is a bold choice, but by limiting it to these distinct areas, it actually helps to demarcate the seating area from the rest of the deck. This is a great idea to employ, even in a small area, as it concentrates the areas focus.

A weekend task perhaps?

(images via retail design blog)

wednesday walls – another type of green wall…

We are rather obsessed with planted, or green walls here in the studio. We think they are a brilliant way of utilising an otherwise abandoned surface for stuff that helps clean the air, is productive, encourages biodiversity or at the very least, looks great and reminds us of the natural world and our passing seasons. So, as we continue to be obsessed with the green wall, here is another, quite stunning example that we spotted over on Pinterest…

La Leroteca / Lacaja Arquitectos, green wall, garden in wall, flowers on facade, wood exterior wall, kindergarten

Situated in Colombia, this kindergarten by Lacaja Arquitectos has a beautifully deep facade which is planted with a variety of flowering plants and herbs. Now, this is a detail that works very well if a projecting planter could be an issue – ie, on a walkway that people could hit their head on, or if a slick detail is required.

The stones provide drainage, and it is likely that the water is allowed to drain from the top planted trough to the bottom.

If you are planning a new, cladded facade and wanted a green wall, then this could be the detail for you…

(image by Rodrigo Davila, via archdaily)

weekend colour inspiration – multicoloured decking…

Today on weekend colour inspiration we are looking at one of the latest projects from Studio Weave – the new roof terrace to the London College of Fashion, which features multicoloured decking laid in a herringbone pattern, more often seen in interior projects.

Studio Weave's coloured decking timber is laid in a herringbone pattern, a nod to London-based Studio Weave's name and London College of Fashion (LCF)'s roots.

What we love about this project is both the pattern and the colours – so often decking is laid straight and one colour, so if your planting scheme is going to be more muted, why not take the opportunity to bring in colour with the floor treatment instead? Personally, we would have put in a few more plants to soften the space a bit and mimic a few of the colours used in the decking, but hey.

Also, levels and layers are incredibly important in landscaping projects to give not only visual interest but also an interesting space to inhabit. With a variety of places to sit, the terrace becomes more flexible and exciting than a flat area of decking.

These sorts of ideas can easily be replicated in a smaller area, so why not add a few levels and a bit of colour to your own deck? Our favourite stains come from Auro – their 160 woodstain is not only environmentally friendly, it comes in a large variety of colours…

(image via Dezeen)

SPOTTED – a few lovely public landscaping details in Berlin…

Ok – we are still talking about our recent trip to Berlin, but hey – there was loads of great stuff to report about. Rest assured, we will be finishing our Berlin series this week… But, before we do, we are dedicating today’s post to a few fantastic little bits of public landscaping that we spotted while we were there.

bikini berlin landscaping 1

As we reported yesterday, the whole area of Bikini Berlin, which encompasses both the new concept mall and the 25hrs hotel has undergone a serious amount of regeneration of late. The new concept mall is on three levels, with the top level stores opening out onto the public roof terrace – overlooking the monkey enclosures of the zoological garden again.

What was lovely about this space was, firstly, it was publically accessible – too often the lovely pieces of landscaping that surround buildings, or sit above buildings are closed off to the general public. Not so here – there was plenty of space to sit and take in the views of the tiergarten or the city either on one of the cafe areas or on the public seating, which hooray, there was also an abundance of.

bikini berlin landscaping 2

These large bench seats, which were colour matched to the soft green of the metalwork inside the mall were also fitted with a very simple and very clever back rest adjustment system, so you can decide which way to face. Very nice.

The detailing on the terrace was also rather nice – the geometric wave set into the railings that looked over the zoological garden mirroring the angular rooflights that floods the mall below with light.

bikini berlin landscaping 3

Also, the front of the hotel entrance carried on this angular public landscaping, with stepped planters rising out of the flat paved areas – creating both visual interest and a planting depth to allow larger specimens without the planter being blocky. It was also – as I discovered – rather good to sit against.

A very lovely example of cool, contemporary, angular landscaping – and not just for the private office and workspace users of the area – for the public.

Long may it continue.

(photos by claire potter)

join us on our Chelsea Fringe edible city foraging walk this saturday…

Hello everyone. Apologies for the few posts that have disappeared over the past few days, we have been experiencing a bit of a tech melt down… but, we are still here (actually, we are in Berlin at present with Fixperts, but more of that next week) and we will also be getting ready for our Chelsea Fringe event this coming Saturday!

Chelsea Fringe 2014 Flyer merged

Last year, we ran a very popular guided foraging walk in Brighton, so we have decided to keep to the theme and are running another three – this time in the centre of Brighton, starting in the landscape behind Brighthelm on North Road. This will be a bit of an intro to what you can find in the city which can be easily foraged.

We will be starting at 11, with each walk taking about an hour, including a free foraged cordial drink at the end and a free copy of our very special and very new map of Brighton which you can customise yourself with the icon stickers…

Spaces on the walk are FREE but VERY limited, so please get in touch to reserve a space on one of the following time slots:

11.00 am walk / 1.00 walk / 3.00 walk – email us on hello@clairepotterdesign.com to reserve a space, or use the booking form on the right of this page…

In between times, we will be at our little stand in Brighthelm selling copies of our Edible City pack (map and stickers), plus copies of our limited edition A-Z of British Apples prints, so please do pop by and say hello! If there are any spaces left on the day you will be welcome to join one of the walks but we cannot guarantee that there will be any left!

Oh – if you have previously got in touch about reserving a space on the walks, please get in touch again – we have lost a lot of emails in our recent tech fail…

We look forward to seeing you!