Italian Delights in St Albans

Have you ever wished you could find a fantastic Italian restaurant that wasn't part of a restaurant chain?  With fresh food and an enthusiastic chef?  Look no further as at Per Tutti in St Albans, Hertfordshire, the food is fresh and delicious, and, of course, the decor is top notch!

Just a short stroll down Holywell Hill, before St Albans Cathedral, Per Tutti is one of a kind.  I was lucky enough to be asked to design the restaurant, which used to be an Indian and needed a huge renovation.  

The unusual shape of the traditional building set a few challenges, but it also helped to create interesting spaces for creativity...

Design by Bright Space Design

A wine display blackboard has proved very popular, and a little nook creates a great place for a wine rack...

Love the panelling installation and the original brick walls which were discovered under many layers of false panels and decorating over many previous years...

Some unusual chairs were added (just about visible around the round table on the right)...

And some wire chairs at the table with the best view.  This beautiful light fitting (and another one installed which is not visible here) is made from recycled cardboard...

If you fancy dreaming of Italy while you eat, then this stunning wall mural of Venice will help you drift away...

 The zinc topped table was a great find...

Welcome to Per Tutti, St Albans, 30 Holywell Hill, St Albans, Hertfordshire...

It's not every day you find such a great place to dine.  If you visit Per Tutti, let us have some feedback in the comments box below - I'd love to hear your views.

Per Tutti, St Albans, street view

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Wabi-Sabi - a Perfect Imperfect Beauty

There is a melancholic, unpretentious beauty found in imperfection which is transient, impermanent and authentic.  This beauty embraces the effects of time and humanity - this is wabi-sabi - a Japanese concept illustrated in a tactile new book (released on 5 May 2016) -  Perfect Imperfect with text by design author, Karen McCarney, and images by photographer Sharyn Cairns and New York based stylist, Glen Proebstel.

Contributors to the book include interior designers, artists, a sculptor, an architect and a photographer who pool their creative fancies and embrace beauty in the offbeat, odd and misshapen; weathered items and nature, irregularity, the unfinished and incomplete, the effects of accident, tranquility, calmness, shadows and womb-like murky colours, contrasts and simplicity with Leonard Koren’s tenet that “Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness.”

Don’t expect much colour when you pick up this book, or pristine interiors shots which embrace expected design principles. You may even find some of the images messily disturbing if you are a neat, symmetrical kind of being: especially on page 035 showing the “assemblage of books” on Nectar Efkarpidis’ living room floor, acting as a coffee table. The book’s smooth, matt pages feature interiors settings and close-up shots depicting an unconventional, disquieting charm - and that is where the fascination lies.

The wabi-sabi Perfect Imperfect philosophy is like the antidote to ‘designed’ spaces: it is where art and design come from happy accidents, intuition and originality. It is a step further than originality, an embracing of the human aesthetic in us all.  

Images courtesy of Murdoch Books

Does The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Work?

As an interior designer, I have seen inside many homes - and it's not always pretty.  

Conversely, that's the reason I am called in to  help.  Most people have far too many possessions: clothes, books, ornaments, utensils, records, CDs, toys - "stuff" - and it's often not an easy task asking them to pare it down, or throw things out, so that the interior refurbishment can begin.  Adding more storage only exacerbates the problem - frequently it's not that we need more storage, it's that we just need less stuff.

Recently I've had the bright idea to recommend to my clients The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, an interesting book by tidying guru, Marie Kondo, who wants to organise the world and promises not just a tidy home but a transformation of your life!  Naturally, I've tried out the method myself first, to see if it actually works, and I have had clients who have tried it too.  

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo, Vermilion, London

So, will the Japanese sensation which has sold 1.5 million copies, work?  Does it actually change your life?
The KonMari method promises to transform your life

Kondo is methodical and asks you to work through your home, one category at a time.   Visualise your destination, ask your possessions if they "spark joy" and create a dialogue with yourself, she says.  Kondo teaches us how to fold using her own method, and lists the stages to follow clearly.  The book is easy and quick to read, with an infectious lightness and positivity.

However, be warned.  Kondo does not recommend you throw out one thing at a time, but insists that you discard items within each category all at once.  It's a great ideology but if you end up with a mountain of 73 tops on your bed - make sure you have time to complete the discarding process that day.  Time is definitely a crucial factor to ensure the KonMari method succeeds.

What a Rhombus!

Geometric, monochrome patterns are bold and striking.  Adding some geometric patterns to an interior design can give a room real punch, and can work beautifully teamed with colour too.

I love this heavenly soft jacquard, reversible knit throw by Ferm Living, made with 100% cotton, available from Cloudberry Living.

The visual statement this rhombus porcelain mosaic floor makes is quite something!  Mosaic sheets lodge together to form a stepped cube effect which has been used for centuries in period homes, but looks just as gorgeous in a contemporary scheme.  

Especially effective if you need a wow factor for a small space...

Detail of Fired Earth Rhombus Tiles

The Forest Breathes...

Dear Tree,
Let me tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
You purify the air we breathe, provide shelter, sustenance, wood, food and warmth.  There are many reasons why we should all love trees, not least for their amazing beauty and dignity.


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Poem by David Wagoner

Photography: Christopher Tait
These magnificent beech trees were planted over 200 years ago to impress visitors to Gracehill House,  Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, at that time home of the Stuart family.  Known as the Dark Hedges, it is one of the country's most photographed natural phenomena and made even more famous recently when featured in the Game of Thrones television series.

World-renowned photographer Jim Zuckerman comments:

"One of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen is this country lane in Northern Ireland. It's called Dark Hedges, and I include it in my photo tour to Ireland. All of the people in my groups get amazing pictures here. The serpentine trees form a tunnel that is spectacular at any time of the day, but I find it particularly intriguing and mysterious just before dark".

In Awe of Tree and Leaf

Art and nature are the passion of Spanish artist, Lorenzo Manuel Duran.

Look at these amazing leaf sculptures he has created...

Lorenzo has developed his own leaf cutting techniques through trial and error.

Lorenzo says he is "a man who is increasingly aware of his inside, his shadow, and who attempts to communicate with all of that using his personal tools in a creative field."  

Lorenzo created this with his wife, Dayli. "It comes from our continuous introspection, where our hidden side hides some answers, which are sometimes hard to assimilate."

My shadow stands before me, and sleeps when I am sleeping, but I seek to observe her, understand her and accept her every time sleep comes. (NB: Please excuse the Spanish to English translation - any corrections accepted in the comments box below!)