Beyond the Pale


Behind the Scenes at Liberty: A Secret Tour

Today was an extra exciting jaunt to Liberty, as myself and a dear friend were treated to a whistle-stop tour of the lesser- spotted aspects of Liberty’s history.

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Meeting Anna, the in-house archivist for Liberty at the appointed hour in Customer Services, we were whisked downstairs and across the narrow street to the original frontage of the building (now owned by clothing brand COS), where Anna asked us to walk a little further on and raise our heads to the skies…

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Above, barely seen, are huge Oriental style columns and carvings, which marked Liberty’s original raison d’être as an Oriental Emporium; bringing luxury exotic goods to the (albeit well-heeled) masses.

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When Liberty opened its doors in 1875, built on a loan of £2,000 from Arthur Liberty’s future Father-in-law, and with just 3 staff, it was excellent timing. Liberty offered its clientele objets d’art, luxurious rugs and fabrics at the height of fashion with the public clamouring for desirable Eastern exoticism mixed with the comforting backbone of British tradition, and a sort of passionate longing for a romanticised Heritage which described the ideals of the Pre-Rapahelite movement.

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As we re-trace our steps and walk back to the entrance, Anna tells us to look up again at the strange little bridge between the original building and the newer part that Liberty now inhabits. This was specifically built to join the two sides together, but with the written stipulation that “…should one of the buildings be sold and used by another company, the bridge should immediately be pulled down. Which means, of course, that it shouldn’t still be standing,” Anna laughed, “though as it’s been listed, I think it’s pretty safe now.”

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The Tudor facade of the building we now think of as Liberty was actually built while the original building underwent refurbishments, so they could continue trading; and was chosen to stand for all that the ultra fashionable householder could desire – the entire building was meant to be a kind of Show Home Par Excellence. And indeed, for a price, you could walk in and have the exact carvings and “draped linen” effect wooden panels in your own home – built and furnished entirely by Liberty. Very nice, too. Put me down for one of everything, please!

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Climbing into one of the quirky wooden lifts, Anna remarks that people who work on Liberty occasionally like to gently poke fun at a certain kind of wide-eyed tourist, by loudly acclaiming the wonders of their “original Tudor lifts.” The thought of this amused me greatly, though as we guffawed, I couldn’t help noticing the slightly crestfallen face of the lady standing beside us, and hoped we hadn’t crushed her marvelling at the advanced technology of those Tudor types. Bless.

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The dark wooden beams and chunky Heraldic carvings in the 1920’s Tudor style building that so epitomises the Liberty aesthetic were actually taken from two massive ships, the HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The frontage of the building on Great Marlborough Street was supposedly constructed to be the same length and width as the Hindustan, though to Anna’s knowledge this has never been absolutely verified. It’s a pleasing thought, so let’s just imagine it’s true and leave it at that.

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There is definitely the salty tang of the sea about Liberty’s interior. Perhaps it’s all the creaking timbers and the way it’s laid out, but one can certainly imagine you are all aboard the Good Ship Liberty, a proud galleon of British idealism, all oak leaves and marigolds, in full sail, carrying exotic goods gathered from each corner of the Empire.

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Trotting through the store at a cracking pace, startling crowds and scattering tourists as we went, Anna got us to notice the way the wood is treated differently in certain areas – variously varnished, gilded, painted, and (horrifically, in my opinion) bleached with vagaries of fashion and reflecting the changes of what is seen as ‘good taste’ in different eras. “In the sixties they wanted everything modern and new, none of this old stuff, so the thought was that the woods was far too dark. So they either ripped bits of it out or had a go at bleaching it.”

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Some of the wood was re-stained, some left as it was, and this adds to that patchwork Make Do and Mend, higgledy-piggledy nature of the place. And this is the way it has always been, the building is constantly changing shape with use, and so it should. This is a living, breathing business, not a museum piece trapped in aspic.

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Luckily they didn’t destroy too much if the original carvings, but a great deal of the original plaster work was chiseled out. In a few places you can still see the moulded oak leaves and ornate ceilings that would have been everywhere, but most walls are plain these days.

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The tea rooms originally used to be in the basement, the clue to this being the tiled walls, though this now fits very well with the menswear section and traditional style barbershop that now lives here. In what is now used as the hat department, along one wall, is a huge and incredibly ornate safe with a massive lock. “This used to be the jewellery department, and they kept the most valuable pieces locked away.”

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Luxury leathers, now full of designer bags, once housed Liberty’s Goods In delivery area. “The street that runs alongside it was once a quiet little alleyway, so perfect for having their deliveries brought into; but when the street became more wealthy and successful, the store had to increase its frontage and entrance ways to entice the shoppers in, so the area became prime floor space instead.”

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Liberty has changed to meet the world around it, too, then, just as it has changed internally over the years. As we cautiously peered over the railings on the top floor, Anna bade us look right down to the ground below. It’s a rather dizzying sensation, I can tell you. Next, she showed us another section in which a floor had been inserted in the 1960’s, again to maximise floor space, which is understandable but rather regrettable, like much of the Sixties architectural choices, if you ask me. She said, sounding like Prince Charles. ;-p

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When I’m usually in Liberty, my eyes are darting from one one thing to the next, there is so much to see you quite literally don’t know where to look next. It’s quite wonderfully exhausting, just trying to take it all in; every surface laden with goodies.

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My favourite throughout the whole tour was the way Anna would suddenly pause and point out the things you normally miss amidst the sumptuous offerings. “Look, there’s one!” she exclaims, and we creep closer to the window she’s pointing at, peering at the tiny fragment of stained glass the window pane had been patched with.

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“There are simply loads of these scattered through the whole of Liberty’s,” Anna explained. They would buy up antiques and old windows in auctions and patch the glass whenever a bit got broken or damaged.

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Larger clues to the original look of the Liberty Ideal Home are found in the many fireplaces around the building, dating from various periods in Liberty’s history.

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Anna explained this informal way of displaying goods for sale was quite revolutionary. Instead of just relying on special cabinets and shop fittings, Liberty revelled in the backdrop of the building itself to best display their wares: rugs draped over wooden railings, fabrics arrayed over antique tables, baskets arranged in fireplaces – just as they are today.

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Fabrics must be what Liberty is most famous for selling, but in fact the rug department is the only original link to their true beginnings as an Oriental Emporium. The rugs are still draped nonchalantly over the wooden railings, as though awaiting the attentions of the maid and her brush.

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I love the cosy homeliness of Liberty – albeit on a grand scale. The fact that around every corner peeps a carved wooden figure, peeking through the Liberty Print shirts, mischievous little links to the past. Anna’s favourite is the Elephant “It has really odd, strangely human ears, don’t you think?” My favourite has to be the lion, as it looks really worried and a bit scared. A cowardly lion, perhaps? This playfulness only adds the charm and character of the place.

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At the moment, Liberty is festooned with elegantly naive Christmas decorations, the golden chains harking back to the crepe paper ones of childhood, and hug from the original carved beams, some of which are from the ships that never made it to sea, some from the specialised wood turners Liberty employed, who would also make them to commission for your house, if you had sufficient funds for the task.

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The awe inspiring chandeliers which drop almost the full height of the building are always there, though these obviously aren’t original. “They replaced them in the 1990’s as the weight of the previous ones were found to be pulling the ceiling down!” Anna chuckled. “These are far lighter, and were chosen for their airiness while retaining that same grandeur.”
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There are far older chandeliers in the building, like this one which dates back to the opening of the 1920’s section, and according to Anna “…was once the longest chandelier in Europe. Or maybe it still is, I must admit I don’t know for sure.”

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Whether or not it’s still the longest original chandelier of anywhere at all, it is quite a sight to behold, and must be a nightmare to change a bulb in!

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The glowing ice-crystal like droplets really are magnificent, and I like the fact they are obviously very modern but with a splendour that seems to belong to an earlier age. This very much fits Liberty’s clever balance of strikingly new designer ranges and the incredibly classic patterns and designs they built their name on.

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Now when I come to Liberty, as well as gazing in awe at the thousands of Wondrous Things to buy, as I always have, I shall definitely be looking at the building itself a lot more. “There’s always more to see, I find new things all the time that I’d never noticed before, even more patched windows!” Anna tells us. She is based over at the Wholesale building across the narrow alley (that runs under the infamous bridge), but is in the Tudor-esque bit very often, on one fact finding mission or another. “People write to me from all over the world, sending me scraps of material from their bridesmaid dresses and trying to trace the pattern’s name.”

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It was a pity the Heritage Suite was still being used at the end of our tour, Anna had hoped it would be empty by then so she could show it to us. “It used to be the Director’s dining room,” she explained, “but is now hired out for various functions, meetings or events. Ooh, and if you ever have a beauty treatment here, you must get them to show you the room off the makeup hall which is all gold panelled and was used to formally receive Queen Mary!”

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Although there are several department stores around the world that have become tourist attractions in their own right, there can surely be few where the actual building and interior is so vitally important to the ethos of the company and the very goods they sell. Liberty sell you pieces of the dream you’re standing in.

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Home is where the heart is, and I lost mine to Liberty years ago…

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Spoiled Rotten at Liberty

Everyone should get spoiled on their birthday, and while perhaps a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea in bed would have done at a pinch; this year I was absolutely spoiled rotten by the lovely people at Liberty London

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Imagine if you will the very moment I received the email telling me that I was the lucky winner of Liberty’s Facebook competition. I read it on my phone during a typically lacklustre lunch break at work. “You recently entered a competition on Liberty’s Facebook page..” it began. “Oh here we go, I bet it’s spam!” I thought cynically, until I read a bit further on and it finally dawned on me this was real. I had WON! I may have squealed quite a lot at this point.

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It was arranged that I could do the spa treatments, voucher, Champagne tea & hotel bit of the prize on the tenth of November – my birthday! – and the behind the scenes tour the following week, as the Liberty archivist wasn’t available on that day. Oh no, I’ll have to go back again. How AWFUL. ;p

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On a chilly, slightly drizzly grey Saturday, your humble author made her way to London, attempting to travel light and failing as usual, with her beloved fiancé carrying several items she couldn’t fit in her bag. As usual. On arriving at the wonderous W Hotel Leicester Square, the very kind chap at the check-in desk, on learning it was my birthday, gave us an upgrade to a seventh-floor luxury room with spectacular views.

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As birthday beginnings go, they don’t get much better than that.

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Obligatory explorations of hotel room over, we moved on to obligatory taking of pictures of hotel room, to show expectant friends and family members, before high-tailing it to Liberty and collecting my gift card.

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I remember my mother taking me to Liberty when I was a little girl, gazing wide-eyed at the gorgeous things all around me, strangely quiet for a precocious brat, subdued by magnificence. I really think Liberty retains this power to make you feel that excitement of a child in a veritable Wonderland. It’s quite amusing to stand back and watch the facial expressions of grown adults walking in, gasping and giggling as they pick up something, turn to their companions and say “LOOK!” as they exclaim their pleasure, practically bouncing up and down with glee.

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Or, of course, actually bouncing up and down with glee, as with this (mostly) grown adult. 😉 I honestly kept thinking someone would wake me up any minute , but they didn’t and the lovely dream continued as I made my way to the Decleor spa rooms with Vicky, their expert therapist.

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How to describe the next two hours? I can only say it was pure bliss and leave you to imagine, as words will not do. Suffice to say, In have never felt so entirely relaxed in my life, as every ache and pain was massaged away. Although Liberty was absolutely rammed with people that day, you’d never know it in the peace and seclusion of those rooms.

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Thanks to Vicky’s Decleor Facial expertise, I walked out in PUBLIC with no other makeup than a hasty reapplication of lipstick, for the first time since I was about 14 (I jest you not), so healthy, plumped and glowing did I look. I simply cannot recommend her – or Decleor – highly enough. Go and see Vicky at Liberty!

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My fiancé had thoughtfully bagged us a table at Cafe Liberty, so I was able to swan past the queue and go straight in to join him for the next treat of a Perrier-Jouët Champagne Tea for Two. Teeny tiny little perfect sandwiches and mini pastries and fruit scones still warm from the oven and slathered with clotted cream and jam. Divine!

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This would be a perfect afternoon treat at any time, but it was definitely the sweet centre of this birthday gal’s day. I savoured every single crumb that passed my lips (and there were quite a few of those, it’s a generous tea!)

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Slightly bulgy, and very glad that I’d not opted to have the tea prior to my full-body massage (for the therapist’s sake, if not mine) it then fell to me to Make a Choice and use my gift card to buy myself a birthday present. The delicious agony of this was quite overwhelming, and imagine my fiancé’s pleasure as I wandered around and around and around again, clutching my gift card and sort of muttering like a mad woman: “What about this? OOOH but what about that?! Or that one? But maybe I should get this one instead?” I don’t think I would have bourne it with such beneficence, had I been in his shoes, dear readers. Bless him, he didn’t complain once. Outwardly.

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I decided that I should get something to do with Liberty’s heritage – a classic Liberty Type Thing – which I could treasure forever, rather than a bang-up- to-the-minute high fashion item. You are rather spoiled for both extremes at Liberty, though, as they really do have something for everyone, from the classic-lovers to the Ultra Trendy Fashionistas I tremble in the shadow of. I especially love the fact that Liberty really believe in supporting and encouraging new and emerging designers, as among these Bright Young Things will be the ‘classics’ of the future.

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Amidst the manifold temptations of the infamous Scarf Hall, my beady eye kept getting drawn back to the sumptuously rich Ianthe print wool and silk scarf, specifically in the purple colour way, as I felt this really highlighted the pattern and the lustre of the fabric.

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Spoilt for choice doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I’m thrilled with my pick, and delighted at the prospect of owning a Liberty print satchel when the Strawberry Thief print is back in store again.

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Oh, it’s just stunning, and something I know I’ll treasure forever. This is the sort of thing you can fling on with jeans and a jumper for a walk in the woods (or more likely, in my case, to the Gin Emporium); or worn draped around your shoulders at the most elegant of weddings or special occasions. What’s not to love?

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This is me in my Hera print Liberty shawl, which I wear a lot and had swaddled myself in against the biting chill of the day. I know I’ll love my Ianthe print one all the more for the special memories it holds. 🙂

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More scarves. WANT.

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Very tempted by the chandelier print scarf, too. Just everywhere you look, it’s gorgeousness abounding.

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I loved these quirky Victorian style illustrated letter tiles, and would like the entire alphabet but would settle for my initials. 😉

I did rather have my heart set on getting the Dr Marten’s limited edition Liberty Print large satchel in the Strawberry Thief pattern (indeed, I blogged about lusting after this very satchel not long after it came out, earlier this year), but sadly they are out of stock of it, as it’s so popular! Sad face.

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However, the lovely gentleman who served me at the till took my details and said he’d let me know if they got some in again, hopefully before Christmas.

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OH NO, another reason to HAVE to go back to Liberty. Again. What a personal disaster.

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Fab Christmas windows at Liberty. I was especially drawn to the crazy lobster window.

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Higgledy-piggledy decadence is their theme – opulent chaos. Adorable!

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Skipping out of Liberty, iconic purple bag in hand, I noticed that it had somehow suddenly got dark. Of course this hasn’t happened ‘suddenly’, but do you know, when you’re being pampered to within an inch of your life, the time veritably whizzes along.

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Thence it was back to the hotel to get ready for the W’s award winning Spice Market restaurant’s tasting menu, that my darling chap was so generously treating us to that evening. But first, there was one more surprise in store for me…

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On returning to our room, we discovered that the lovely check-in desk guy had arranged for a bottle of Champagne, selection of juicy raspberries and blackberries, massive slice of Red Velvet cake topped with strawberries with a candle and “Happy Birthday” written in glittery chocolate, and a card wishing me a very happy birthday and saying if I needed anything at all, to let him know.

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HOW darling is that? I actually cried I was so moved. It had been quite a horrible year thus far, in many ways and for various reasons, but this (forgive me) literally was the icing on the cake!

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We decided to save the cake for later on that evening, as we were still quite full from the afternoon tea (talk about First World problems, eh?) and lounged about drinking more Champagne and lazily getting ready for the meal.

When booking our table online, the chap and myself had ooh-ed and ah-ed over the menu for ages, practically drooling at the mere descriptions of the dishes on offer. As their website puts it:

“A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market will delight London with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s unique interpretations of the region’s cuisine served in an informal and sultry atmosphere.”

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And they ain’t wrong. Delightful it was, every single mouthful. We had plumped (quite literally) for the tasting menu, as we just couldn’t settle on what to try. Little bits of everything seemed the best way forward, and so it proved, with waves of delicacies placed before us, and everything absolutely perfectly cooked and immaculately presented.

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The Spice Market is laid back but upmarket, exactly the kind of atmosphere to suit the cuisine, we were in a cosy booth on the corner, all the better for people watching (one of my favourite activities) and soaking in the ambience. We couldn’t fault a single thing about the meal, only asking for a break the better to digest and ready ourselves for the next lot of courses (there are nine in total) to begin. Hardly a complaint – “this is all TOO delicious, please cease a while!” You can stow the violins away quite safely, I think.

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After the meal we waddled to our room and laid on the bed in the hotel’s dressing gowns, in a sort of gourmet stupor and sipping wine tentatively while watching nonsense films and marvelling at the sheer bliss of the weekend. Somehow, we found room for the birthday cake slice, eaten while tucked up in our little nest of covers, shared out in mouthfuls, buttercream smearing our probably quite horrifically smug faces.

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Us: slightly squiffy, woozily blissful.

The next day we sauntered home in golden Autumnal sunshine, smiles wider than the Thames, walking alongside a Salvation Army band as they marched their way down Regent Street on Remembrance Sunday; so grateful for what we’d experienced and most of all, for having each other to share it with.

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I have never felt so truly pampered – it’s been a difficult year what with one thing and another, but this was like a break in the clouds. Perfectly timed, so needed, and VERY much appreciated. Thank you to Liberty, Decleor, W London, Spice Market and my darling fiancé for making me feel so thoroughly, wonderfully spoiled!

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Bargain du Jour: Bolongaro Trevor Lomasi Shift Dress 68% Off!

I am a huge fan of Bolongaro Trevor, no surprise, really, as they’re the designers who founded another of my favourite clothing brands – All Saints. As such, I am always keeping a watchful eye on their website, waiting to see the latest looks and – with squealing excitement – the last-minute bargains to be had in their amazing sales!

Bolongaro Trevor is created by British Designers Kait Bolongaro and Stuart Trevor – original founders and former designers behind the cult the retail store group All Saints. Original, unique and commercial, the new collection is comprised of contemporary handmade pieces inspired by vintage finds amassed over the past 20 years. The collections have a moody darkness reminiscent of Victorian London, making the brand a hit with the edgy East End crowd, British bands and models – Kate Moss, Agnes Deyene, Daisy Lowe, Pixie Geldof and Emma Watson. Collaborations include The Libertines – Carl Barat & Pete Doherty for their legendary comeback gigs in Reading and Leeds, The Who for their Feb 2010 Superbowl gig USA and uber-cool bands Kasabian and The Kings of Leon for the front cover of music bible NME. Recent collaborations have included Will.i.am and Danny O’Donoghue on BBC’s The Voice, The band behind Rebecca Ferguson and Pendulum.

I am thrilled with my latest purchase, so thought I’d share it with you: the Lomasi Shift Dress in deepest midnight blue cotton lace. I got it for £30 instead of £95, which is the sort of saving I like. 🙂

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I shall be wearing this with a little silk slip underneath and with leggings (as my legs are pale as bottles of milk and I don’t think the world is ready for them). In the colder weather I shall layer this over jeans, wear with thick tights and knee boots, or with warmer tops underneath.

There are still a few wonderful bargains left on the Bolongaro Trevor website, but my Top Tip of the day is to steer you toward their eBay outlet shop, where they sell the very last pieces of their biggest bargains! For example, there are now no Lomasi Shift Dresses on the website, but in their eBay shop you can still grab one – if you’re quick!



Stuff & Good Sense: Vintage Soiree

Stuff & Good Sense is a little treasure trove of a boutique, nestled away in that sacred heart of Tunbridge Wells: the picturesque Pantiles. This historic area of the town has always drawn tourists but previously became written-off as being perhaps a bit Cream Tea Twee (though I love a good ol’ cream tea, me).


In the last year it has definitely become apparent The Pantiles is quietly booming & actually quite a (whisper it) funky/alternative location for locals AND tourists to shop, eat, drink and generally parade themselves about.

A plethora of really interesting independent shops abound and I cannot overstate how refreshing it is to wander around an area free of big chains and the corporate big boys: a shopping experience that’s becomming distressingly rare these days, it seems.


I love supporting local, hand-made and independent shops, so when I received an invitation to attend a Vintage Soiree including PINK FIZZ, delicious food, retro furnishings, vintage designer gowns & all manner of fabulous nick-nackery… It would be rude not to go along and show one’s support, wouldn’t it? Quite.

Knowing full well that friend & colleague in crime, Sallie the Sausage Queen (see below), would be up for a bit of fizz sipping while shopping, we’d hot-footed it to the Soiree straight after work.


Stuff & Good Sense is tucked behind the inimitable Trevor Mottram’s – a veritable maze of a shop containing every cooking impliment known to man. And many unknown to man or, indeed, his dog. As we arrived the party was already in full swing, with the laughter and chatter bursting out of the open door to greet us.


Plunging forth, we made straight for the makeover area with the utterly charming makeup artist from Powder & Glow (I think it was Caroline herself, but do forgive me if I remember incorrectly!) giving good lip (I was complimented on my pillarbox red lipstick, which was pleasing) & Sallie’s pout was painted, too. Just before she applied herself to some refreshments.


The makeover area just happened to be right next to the table of alcohol and an extremely tasty selection of nibbles, kindly provided by The Bijou Bakery. Imagine: Sallie & I plonked next to a table of plonk. Oops, what a coincidence!

We were particularly fond of the Sticky Sausages (indeed, I imagine there are very few times either Sallie or I would willingly turn down a sticky sausage). We could quite easily have polished off the whole plate, and very nearly did.

A few glasses of PINK FIZZ saw us glowing rosily (well, Sallie had just the one, as she was driving, so I drank her share. It seemed the right and proper thing to do).

No vintage event seems complete without a pretty stand of cupcakes, but the ones here were truly, gobsmackingly gorgeous.


Look at them. LOOK at them!

We looked at them for several minutes before deciding that no, they weren’t ‘too good to eat’ and cramming them into our mouths. They were meltingly light and the frosting wasn’t too sweet – the downfall of many a cupcake, in my opinion. Some look nice but you find you’re left with a mouthful of what is basically pure sugar, with your eyes spinning in their sockets and the onset of diabetes. These were simply cupcake perfection, and you, too, may experience their delights at Vintage Rose Cupcakes. HIGHLY recommended!

The Stuff & Good Sense soiree was such fun, a really friendly atmosphere of celebration and larking about. It was really quite uplifting to the spirits, seeing the lovely laydeeees of Tunbridge Wells all quaffing, laughing, scoffing and browsing.

Shop owner, Gaynor, has amassed a fantastic collection of desirable goods, from mid-century furniture to Liberty patterned dog collars – with pure, handmade soaps, & cosmetics, retro crockery, quirky jewellery, art and all manner of Perfect Gift type pieces in between.

I really liked a lot of the prints they had hanging in the shop – but am always drawn to things like this, being a bit of a font nerd of old.

Knowing a good thing thing when they see it, the fabulous frock purveyors Gently Worn Vintagewww.gentlywornvintage.co.uk now have a tempting closet of gorgeous vintage clothes & accessories within Stuff & Good Sense.

We all spent quite a long time cooing over various glamourous hats bedecked with pearls or overlaid with peacock feathers.

So glamourous! People should wear hats more often, I think.

Sallie tried virtually all of them on while I sipped another glass of pink fizz, so that she didn’t have to. I’m SO NICE like that. Here’s Sallie hiding in a corner while Cath (independent tour guide who runs Discover Southeast England & is a general font of local knowledge) looks slightly alarmed.

The conversation ranged from hidden wells (not a euphemism, get your mind out of the gutter, dear), and the history of various local buildings; to mad aunts, fur-lined gloves (also not a euphemism) and a Fashion Tour that Cath’s hoping to arrange in the near future. Also, lots of dressing up (them) and drinking fizz (mostly me). It was all rather marvellous.

My eye was taken with a stunning brocade evening coat, while Sallie fell head-over-heels for this perfect condition patent leather vanity case/handbag complete with original contents. Lined in watered pink silk and with dinky little bottles & pots for ones lotions & potions to be decanted into, it was pure Mad Men! Sallie put it by in order to purchase for her birthday. I think many of us are quite green with envy. 😉

For those of you who didn’t make this special event (or weren’t important enough to be invited. JOKE! ;p) you will be very glad to hear that future soirees are planned – in fact, one is happening this very week, on Wednesday 26th of October, 7-10pm.

Cocktails, decadent treats and music from a bygone era are promised along with the chance to learn the secrets of the art of couture. Which can’t be bad.

Against the fabulous retro backdrop of the shop, guests will be transformed with a personal makeup consultation and given a face chart to take home (estimated value of this service is £75, so worth the ticket price alone!) and a professional photographer will be present to capture the new look. In addition, guests will also be given an exciting goody bag, with a specially selected vintage gift in each one.

My goody bag from the soiree was full to brimming with exciting stuff, and I loved my vintage jade green silk scarf and twinkling hair clip – so cute!

Tickets for this event are £30: If the forthcoming soirée is even half as much fun as the one we attended, then it’s worth twice as much as that! Hopefully some are still available if you’re interested; contact Carole on 07827 960389 to reserve a place, or pop in to Stuff & Good Sense itself.

Stuff & Good Sense
29 The Pantiles,
Tunbridge Wells,
Kent
TN2 5TD

Thank you so much to the lovely Gaynor, all the hard work that everyone put into the event and to all the lovely ladies we met that night. It was a huge success and created a real buzz – and that wasn’t just the alcohol! I’m just sorry it took me so long to finally upload this post – a perfect storm of work pressures, illness and NO TIME AT ALL for ANYTHING (the usual) kept me from getting it up as soon as I’d have liked. Oooh, Matron.

I do hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures at the vintage soiree. You must go and visit Stuff & Good Sense yourself, it’s a real gem and we’re lucky to have such quirkily interesting shops as this on our doorstep.

 



Bed of Roses Shoe Sale – hot news for Irregular Choice & Poetic Licence fans!

Fresh from the stable of Irregular Choice & Poetic Licence is the Bed of Roses range of shoes. Well, fresh to me, anyway, as I’d not previously come across their designs.

Bed Of Roses Women's Coup De Theatre Wedge Heel - WAS: £79.99 NOW: £26.71 Cutely retro, very Mad Men worn with a little pencil skirt & a silk blouse.

Fans of Irregular Choice and their sister range, Poetic Licence, will no doubt love this range, but perhaps you haven’t previously been aware of any of these brands? I really like unusual, quirky, shoes, but am perhaps not brave enough to try the more outrageous of Irregular Choice’s offerings.

Bed Of Roses Women's Conjuring Quick Bootie Heel - WAS: £79.99 NOW: £31.86 (LOVE these! They look as though they should be peeping from beneath a breathtaking gown in an 18th Century portrait. Typically, none in my size).

There’s also the fact that years of jobs in which I have to stand on my feet all day have left me with wider, larger feet than I began with, and that are riddled with shredded tendons, heel (bone) spurs and bunions (it’s the glamour I’m in it for, darlings!), so I have to be careful about heel heights, etc. Bed of Roses still has that unusual vibe, but with a greater emphasis on everyday practicality, I feel.

Bed Of Roses Women's Vanilla Ribbon Mary Janes - WAS: £86.67 NOW: £26.67

Rather fortuitously for us, Amazon seem to have a number of Bed of Roses styles on sale, with huge savings depending on the luck of the draw of your size/colour option and the availability.

Bed Of Roses Women's Succotash Ballet - WAS: £59.99 NOW: £17.99 I'm not usually a mad keen fan of leopard/animal prints, but somehow I really like the fushcia suede embellishments on this pair.

I waver between a UK 6, 6.5 & 7, which seem very popular sizes, and most of the styles I had my eye on were still available in at least one of those, so cross your fingers and see if yours is! Really loving these retro vintage looks, which look cute without being too little girl off to a party, if you know what I mean.

Bed Of Roses Women's Button Me Ballet - WAS: £59.99 NOW: £17.99 Utterly darling and very crafty 'make do and mend' looking. In a good way.

WHY are there so many things at fabulous prices this month, when I’m flat broke and to have to save my pennies? This always happens and I believe it’s the Fashions Gods having fun with us mere mortals. Ah well, I’ll have to hope they still have my size(s) when I get paid!

Until next time, dearhearts…

Miss Nightingale

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Love Is Boutique: Vogue Fashion’s Night Out

You certainly didn’t have to be shaking your tail [or wing] feathers in that there London last night for Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, ho no!  

Love Is Boutique threw open their doors and welcomed local bloggers, along with actual members of the public, with the promise of free-flowing bubbly and that golden glow that only designer and vintage BARGAINS can bring.

Featured recently in Vogue magazine [oooh, get them!] who described them as “…a treasure trove” and in The Guardian [show offs!] time spent browsing the rails here was recommended as “a perfectly indulgent day out”, so even without the lure of discounts and alcohol, the temptations to nestle at the bosom of Love is Boutique are manifold.

After what I can only describe as a somewhat testing week (involving falling over, nearly dislocating my elbow on a kitchen cupboard, everyone – including myself – in utterly foul moods, discovering a leak in the bathroom & pouring boiling soup over myself) an indulgent evening out was exactly what the fashion doctor ordered.

Housed in a beautifully restored building that dates from 1862 and used to be the Old Romary Biscuit Factory; Love Is Boutique draws visitors on heritage trails as well as the fashionista bargain-hungry crowds. Last night the two worlds collided as a large crowd of enthralled tourists & history-loving locals were entertained outside the building, as we guzzled delicious treats and glasses of bubbly inside.

I can’t go much longer without mentioning the cake truffles by Little Treats Bakery, actually. Stacked on vintage cake tiers, my colleague & dear friend, Sallie, were only more than happy to sample them, um, a few times. Just to make sure, you know. We are very professional about such things. I know you’re proud.

Cake Truffle (and photo) by Little Treats Bakery

Anyway, the cake truffles are ruddy lovely and you should all go and treat yourselves to some, they make such a nice change from run-of-the-mill chocolates. What a perfect idea for table favours at a wedding or at a vintage tea party. Also, because they just melt in the mouth and are so light, you feel a bit virtuous for not having a whole slice of cake. Practically diet food!  

If you have never been to Love Is, I shall attempt to describe it for you – a pretty little building with a bay window and a huge wreath on the door, once you enter you realise what a tardis of fashion it is – every time you think you’ve seen it all, another area opens up begging to be explored, each nook and cranny sheltering a wealth of designer names and vintage goodies.

There really is something for everyone, with a large range of sizes, styles and prices. Pieces range from just a few pounds to several hundred for the Big Name Whoppers as I rather unglamorously call them – the big fish that you have to be quick to snag before some other complete cow reels in her line and claims it as hers before you do!

A really good tip for beating those utter cows (I mean this in a flattering way, obviously) to the prize pieces is to add Love Is Boutique on Facebook and/or Twitter, as the gorgeous Paula and Lynne often give their followers a head-start by announcing the plum picks they are adding to the shop or their ASOS online boutique selection. That way you are more likely to be holding your Manolos high or swinging your Chanel bag and shouting “In your face, biatch!” than crying over your laptop’s keyboard and very possibly causing an electrical problem. The choice is yours, dearie.

Sallie was looking for a drop-dead cocktail dress for her husband’s incredibly swanky work do. Not that she exactly needed a new dress, but she’d had a bit of a poo week, too, and how dull life would be if we only purchased what we needed!

Firstly, Sallie was rather taken by a quirky little vintage bag with chunks of semi-precious gems set into the front, which you can see her modelling rather wonderfully, below.. However, once she had stroked the silk of the lace-hemmed (and brand new) Laundry dress she’s spied for £BARAGIN pricetag, she completely lost her heart and the dress won the day.

Of course I completely failed to get a picture of it as I’m rubbish, but take my word for it – it was amazing. We also managed to hunt out a vintage Venetian glass flapper necklace, and lo, the classy cocktail outfit was complete.

This is a similar necklace on top of a jaw-droppingly gorgeous dress and sweetest little velvet jacket we also loved. The colours really doesn’t come out well on my phone’s photos, but it was soft, luxurious and wonderful. You really are spoilt for choice when searching for a special occasion dress, here.

Photo of my top taken in semi-gloom of night on a phone, as I'm brilliant at this.

I found a darling little heather silk top by Belgravia-based designer Sybil Stanislaus with jet beading embellishment on one side of the hem, dangling jauntily over one hip and also quite reminiscent of a flapper-style outfit.

Closer look at jet beading (also taken in semi-gloom on a phone).

Perfect for dressing up a boring old skirt for a night out, or wearing with jeans and a leather jacket to spice it up a bit.

After making sure we had seen and touched every item in the shop at least twice, we joined the queue to pay for our treasures, all the while guzzling those cake truffles and gossiping with the lovely Love Is gals. We decided it should be against the law to own Chanel bags (or anything lovely) and not use them regularly. AGAINST THE LAW! We’re tough but fair.

As we left, clutching our purchases, we had goody bags forced upon us, if you can imagine such cruelty. Inside, we were treated to the most fabulous smelling array of Nature’s Finest Cosmetics.

French Twist soap by Nature's Finest Cosmetics

Mine included an amazing French Twist soap with soothing oils of lavender and invigorating coriander, and bath bombs that looked good enough to guzzle.

Bath Melt by Nature's Finest Cosmetics

I am not always the biggest fan of bath bombs, as some lesser companies seemingly make them of chalk scented grit, but these Bath Melts feel soft and waxy to the touch and are packed with moisturising shea and cocoa butters and natural oils. Simply divine, and the best way to end a stressful week I can think of. Bliss!

Thank you so much to everyone involved for all your hard work – it was much appreciated by everyone who attended.



Favouritism

Being an eclectic magpie by nature, one of the features I most like about Etsy‘s website is the ‘Add to Favourites‘ heart button. It basically serves as an “OOOOH! SHINY THING!” bookmark. Once you’ve registered, you can set about quickly building up a list of stuff you , with time to go back later and peruse at your leisure.

Recently, I took the [protoype] Taste Test and found a whole new batch of tasty morsels to smack my lips over.  I found the most successful way (after taking it a few times) was to keep hitting the option to “show different items” until I found something I loved, rather than just liked. It’s not fail safe, but I think it’s a fun way to browse and was really impressed with the choices it threw at me. I made a Treasury (curated selection) of some of my absolute favourites, and shall explain what drew me to them, below…

You Are My Favorite mini print in red, by Fifi du Vie: $9.00 (£5.77)

I often tell DT (the fiance) that he’s my favourite. And you know what? He really is. I think this would splendid over his desk, and would be something for him to look at, smile and feel grateful for every day. By the way, Fifi du Vie‘s shop has loads of great prints. I especially like the “Darling, let’s be adventurers” one.

Dalia jacket by Laura Galic: $120 (£89.71)

Just exquisite tailoring, very feminine shape but with a nod to masculine style – I was obviously going to love the Victorian inspired shape, but I also really like how they’ve styled it here. I posted a comment on Twitter that I wanted one of everything in Laura Galic‘s shop – and I do! Totally my cup of tea.

Ampersand Wedding Decor by Old New Again: $32 (£20.50)

Not only would this be cute at as a top table wedding decoration (in between the bride & groom) but this wooden ampersand could be put anywhere in the house for that shabby-chic style statement ‘not trying too hard’ look. On a shelf, in a window, hanging from a plate rack – I really like having letters/typography characters around. They have a certain geeky charm.

Juliet shoes by Palmy: $74 (£48.06)

These Juliet shoes by Palmy are sturdy but sexy. I love the retro look to them – quite 1940’s-ish I think – and the fact that they look comfortable. This is the major factor for me buying shoes these days, I’m afraid, dear hearts. Having been in retail for the last 15 years, and spent more hours than I can count on my feet, the ol’ tootsies aren’t at their best. Most of the styles at Palmy are made with heel and arch supports. Magic words to those of us who stand all day, I tells ya! Palmy is a talented graduate of the Footwear Diploma of London College of Fashion course, and I have added lots of their items to my favourites!

Hand Stitched Shawl by Crochetelle: $135 (£86.16)

This hand-stitched shawl is something of an heirloom for the future, though I would certainly wear it over a maxi dress or just slung over jeans and a camisole to add some instant elegance. Crochetelle learned to crochet when she was a little girl, then picked up the hobby again.

“I recently was living in a very stressful, dirty city and felt the need to create something beautiful and I picked up crocheting again. Basically, it’s like learning to ride a bike – you never forget it! And after searching around on the internet and seeing all the beautiful, modern patterns that are available now I plunged right into it again and have been going non-stop.”

The shop really has some really beautiful designs and Crochetelle also welcomes custom orders.

Vanitas print by Kate O'Brien Creative: $75 (£47.87)

Look closely at the above picture. It’s obviously inspired by Old Master’s still lives, but if you can believe it, it’s actually not a painting at all – it’s a photograph! I love everything about this photo – the lighting and the layout of the props just perfectly capture the mood of those old paintings. Kate O’Brien explains how the picture came to be:

“I got to thinking about the works of the Dutch masters and the kinds of fruit they used in their paintings. I live in a tropical climate, but for obvious reasons, they weren’t painting a whole lot of Mangoes and pineapples back in the middle ages. So I set off to my local fruit and veg store in search of some more “classical” choices. This image is the result of that trip!”

Kate is a professional photographer and stylist from Australia, and looking through the rest of her shop, I’m really impressed by Kate’s work, the way she uses colours and plays with historical imagery. Definitely a new favourite!

Waiting for You Necklace by Garden of Sypria: $24 (£15.32)

There’s something quite plaintive about the little bird waiting on a wire – you can put any picture you like in this circular glass locket, but I’d be quite tempted just to keep this one in it, it’s very sweet but sort of heartbreaking. There, that shatters my ice-queen image once and for all. Not that I had an ice queen image – I can be turned into a blubbering wreck at the drop of a hat and am really quite awfully sentimental. Hard to believe, I know.

Anyway, yes, this necklace by Garden of Sypria is very much my sort of thing and I like the battered looking silver frame, it looks like it has survived a few things. Maybe the bird has, too.

Heading Home print by Philippe Fernandez, philippesarts: $18 (£11.49)

I was immediately drawn to the style of Philippe Fernandez‘ work, it has that fairytale quality of being darkly foreboding yet simultaneously comforting – a soft-edged air that is often found in children’s story books, as, indeed, this picture shall be.

I painted this painting for a very special children’s book that I plan to be published late this year. This specific painting is when Ponteia found her dear Mr. Kats very weak. Ponteia knew something was wrong. “My goodness!” she exclaimed. Ponteia was outraged that anyone might of hurt him. “Who did this to you, dear Mr. Katz?” With great care she scooped the cat up. Very gently, she raced home with him snuggled softly in her arms.

Wicked Witch Bookmark by Ianscafe: $5.75 (£3.67)

This is one of those really simple ideas, beautifully executed, and it works so well. What an absolutely perfect little gift for a fan of the Oz or Wicked books, too. Your book becomes Dorothy’s house, and those iconic black & white striped legs and ruby shoes stick out helplessly, beneath. “Things just haven’t been the same since that HOUSE fell on my SISTER!”

Hyphae Ring 3D-printed nylon, by Nervous System: $28 (£17.87)

3d-printing is one of those jaw-dropping we’re-living-in-the-future technologies, don’t you think? I love that artists and designers are exploring the use of this technology beyond that of engineering, for which it was originally designed.

Nervous System is a design studio that works at the intersection of science, art, and technology. We create using a novel process that employs computer simulation to generate designs and digital fabrication to realize products. Drawing inspiration from natural phenomena, we write computer programs mimicking processes and patterns found in nature and use those programs to create unique and affordable art, jewelry, and housewares.

The studio consists of Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz who met as undergraduates at MIT where he studied math + computer science and she studied architecture + biology. They live together in a house by a stream in a forest in Western Massachusetts.

These pieces of jewelery by Nervous System are at once strikingly modern and very organic in design – like pieces of coral or the model of a cardiovascular system. The story of how the designers met and what they studied totally makes sense when you see these wearable pieces of art. It’s the symbiotic relationship of nature and modern technology. Gorgeous, I love them all. P.S: I’d just like to add how very well done their photography is, and how beautiful the model is! I want to look like her. 😦

Losing My Way skirt by The Simpson: $48 (£30.63)

There are so many designs of clothes I would like to own in this shop – they look so cool and comfortable, and all of them look to be partly inspired by historical designs, which I like very much, as you can imagine. These are simple, clean-cut pieces to wear and love every day, and this red maxi skirt is particularly appealing. I’d wear it just with a little silk chemise top and beaded sandals for the summer, and with Victorian style boots and velvet jacket in the winter. Something which is both very ‘now’ and yet trans-seasonal.

Vintage Eagle Industrial Lamp at Earth Sea Warrior: $120 (£76.58)

Now you might find this odd, but I am very drawn to rusty things. Slightly decayed looking salvaged items that look as though they have been pulled from a ship wreck. When these items are placed in the context of a modern setting, together with the comfort and clutter of everyday objects around them, they take on a certain beauty – like museum pieces placed on a breakfast table, but in reverse, if that makes sense? Their ugliness is made beautiful by the oddity of their surroundings. That applies to two pieces in my selection of new favourites – the industrial lamp (above), which I love because it looks like something from Bioshock; and the old wooden/metal drawer, below.

Vintage Wooden Metal Drawer at Glass Panic: $28 (£17.87)

This drawer is pleasing both for its battered exterior with mysterious wording “half surface” stenciled on the front, and the fact that it can still be jolly useful. I see this in a kitchen, enjoying its later years in the comfort of a home, used to store balls of twine, kitchen scissors, favourite cookery books or pots of fragrant herbs.

Ember necklace by Therapy: $55 (£35.10)

Now, this little necklace probably isn’t going to cut the mustard as a perfect bridemaid’s gift (depending on your choice of bridesmaid, of course) or something to hang on the Christmas tree for your future Mother in Law; but I happen to adore these pieces made from reproductions of old brothel tokens that would have been given to their best customers. Certainly a talking point at dinner parties, I think we can agree. 🙂

Vintage Printers Blocks at Salvage Nation: $87.50 (£55.84)

Again, my liking for these old printers blocks stems from my love of typography and to be surrounded by words and letters – appreciating them as works of art in and of themselves, not just the means to an end. These would definitely have pride of place on the mantelpiece, or on a shelf along with my favourite books.

Art Deco Inspired necklace by C Henry: $130 (£82.97)

This necklace by Caroline Henry is just breathtakingly beautiful – I gasped when I saw it as a suggestion in the results of my Taste Test – it’s just so perfectly balanced, simple, elegant yet with a real dramatic presence. I would certainly wear this on my wedding day – it is very Deco in design, but timeless, too. Totally lust-worthy, as are so many of the pieces in this talented designer’s shop.

Well, I do hope you have enjoyed this amble through my latest favourites – perhaps in exploring their shops, you may find some to add to yours, too…

If you want to see all the items grouped together in my Treasury selection for Etsy, please click on the pictures below to be whisked to that page.

Until next time, dearies,

Miss Nightingale

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