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Are you over Ikat prints yet? If the big furniture retailers are anything to go by, far from it. Ikat-inspired patterns are still sprouting up everywhere – not least on some pretty stylish sofas.

I’m a fan of this sofa from Wisteria, made from one-of-a-kind bridal rugs.

Good old West Elm, of course, has its own version. The print that it actually calls Ikat is less inspiring, however, than this paisley one for the Essex sofa. It still has that ethnic appeal but is slightly more subtle.

Urban Outfitters has had Ikat chairs for a while, but they are obviously in high demand as it now has a bigger – and brighter – collection. I like this one in Indigo, but you should check out Watermelon, Sundown and Peacock for a mouth-watering selection of colors.

Maybe I should still find a spot for some Ikat somewhere…

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I’m always attracted by unusual and imaginative pieces of furniture. But how cool is this jewellery-inspired table? And I guess you could reconfigure the pieces how you like, as the mood takes you.

Spotted on Emma’s Design Blogg, it’s from Swedish furniture brand, the home company.

So inspiring…

I just love these unusual tables (if you can call them that) by Italian designer, Giancarlo Zema (found via here).

This innovative collection is called ‘Bright Woods’ because they’re lit from within by LED lights. That’s right, those white stripes are fabulous, glowing streams of light, set against the most gorgeously smooth and tactile, polished wood. They look like something straight off the set of Avatar. Here’s what they look like without the light.

I think they’re beautiful either way. While they probably wouldn’t work in my Edwardian house (!), I have to say that I find them irresistible. Perhaps that’s because they look like over-sized chocolate swirls! Or maybe I’m drawn to alien life-forms as furniture? Either way, they’re definitely unique.

It’s no secret that I love inlaid furniture. My ideal bedroom would probably be completely white except for a stand-out dresser in intricate inlay. As it is, I have to make do with my beloved mother-of-pearl inlay mirror… Anyway, I’m always looking for new sources for this type of product so was thrilled to hear from a young firm called Sang and Serena, which imports absolutely beautiful inlay furniture and accessories from Rajasthan.

The site is fun to browse even if you’re not in the market for furniture, in part because of the edgy product shots.

Prices range from $289 for a bone inlay tray to $2799 for a mother-of-pearl dresser. I happen to think it’s worth it because all the pieces display wonderful craftsmanship and would no doubt be future heirlooms.

Best of all, the collection has pieces in four enticingly-named colors: Opium (black), ember (gray), paneer (white) and lotus (pink). Yes, pink! If only I had space for a pink mother-of-pearl inlay dresser!

Of course the big downside of bone inlay furniture specifically is that it’s, well, bone. But this site only has products with bone from camels that have already died of natural causes. If you still don’t like the idea of it, the mother-of-pearl option might be more palatable. Personally, my preference is for mother-of-pearl anyway – I love its opalescence.

This is Sang and Serena’s first collection, so I’m excited to see what comes next. I’m wishing for benches and stools and maybe a range of products in sky blue…

If you appreciate hand-crafted textiles and furniture, then you’re in for a treat at Niki Jones. This British-based web site is a relative newcomer and has just launched its second collection. There are mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinets, Javanese cushions, Moroccan rugs and embroidered headboards in shades of gray, gold and pink. There are butterflies, pompoms and sequins. There’s sheesham wood, pale nubby linen, glossy fucshia lacquer and rose-colored silk. It’s a little bit Anthropologie, a little bit Graham and Green – and browsing the collection is a bit like being a kid in a candy store.

Oh, and it’s not part of the new collection, but have you ever seen a bed as stunning as this?

Likewise, also from the previous collection, are these spice pots. These would look great in my new all-white kitchen (the one I will have one day when I get around to it, that is).

Although a British company, it will ship overseas. I wouldn’t like to see the cost of shipping a bed or dresser, but a small beaten metal bowl might be worthwhile… Meanwhile, enjoy all the eye candy at the Niki Jones site.

I read some advice from interior designer Vicente Wolf in a magazine interview the other day. He said that a space should have ‘flow’. “Like water flowing down a river. There might be a little rock here or a little bit of rapids there, but the river never stops flowing”. I take this to mean that the eye should move effortlessly from one end of a room to another – and between rooms – without visual obstacles or interruptions. His words struck a chord. The fact is, when you’re exposed to hundreds of photos of gorgeous interiors every day, it’s easy to confuse interior design with the creation of a still life. Recently, I have found myself thinking about how a room would look in a photo, rather than how it would feel to be living in it. I’ve been thinking about the placement of furniture and the layering of textiles and finishes as a two-dimensional composition. It’s an easy trap to fall into when the world of design is influenced by heavily-styled and meticulously arranged images. But it doesn’t make for a truly successful interior scheme.

So I decided to take a closer look at what Wolf means by ‘flow’ and try to learn some lessons from this. First, he uses a lot of white to create continuity through an entire space. He does the same with color by picking up the same tones in fabrics here and there throughout a home.

So far, so obvious (although I’ll admit it requires considerable discipline to stick with the same palette throughout a home – most of us need to express another side of our design personality by experimenting with different looks in different rooms). Wolf also eschews pattern, preferring instead to keep his spaces clean. Oops, having just decorated three rooms with ‘feature walls’ using wallpaper or contrasting paint, I can see the appeal of a ‘clean’ background, as Wolf puts it, allowing the shapes of the furniture to speak for themselves.

Studying his work, it’s clear there’s more to this idea of ‘flow’ than color and pattern though. The way Wolf uses interior space is unusual in that he isn’t at all constrained by structure. He says he likes to avoid putting up boundaries in a scheme, but I think he goes beyond that to create living areas that seem to float within a room while the walls and ceilings seem to melt away, using reflective and transparent materials. Sometimes he achieves this just by the way he places the furniture, refusing to hug the walls or follow conventional layouts.

Wolf mixes up styles and eras fearlessly, which helps create a more organic, relaxed vibe. Thinking again about that idea of flow, if you look at the way these contrasting pieces of furniture are arranged, you’ll see that they’re meant to be appreciated by someone sitting at the table or on the sofa – not just by an outsider looking at the room through a lens.

That’s not to say you won’t find great styling in his spaces though. Throughout Wolf’s interiors you see antiques and artifacts from his store, VW Home, arranged in pairs or multiples. These must be the ‘rapids’ he talks about: they certainly inject energy into a space.

It’s tempting to conceive a room scheme in the same way you’d frame a beautiful photograph, but it helps to remember that an interior must look and feel cohesive from every angle.

Credits: All images except the first one are from Vicente Wolf Associates‘ web site. The first image is from House Beautiful.

Where do you think this little chinoiserie gem is from?

Chinese cabinet

Well, it’s not from a dealer of Chinese Antiques. Nor is it from a little Asian furniture boutique in San Francisco. Nor did I pick it up on some exotic travels. It’s from British department store, John Lewis, and it costs $211.

We used to buy our school uniforms from John Lewis! Now this chain of stores is known for great furnishings. But I really like the vintage look of this piece. It also comes in cream and red and a couple of different shapes and sizes. If only I still lived in London…

We’ve had a LACK side table from IKEA in our living room for the past seven years. It has served us well but I’m beginning to think about swapping it for something a little more exciting. Looking around, it occurs to me that a side table is a fantastic, low-cost, low-commitment way to make a bold design statement in your room. Just checking out the major chain stores and online retailers, I’ve found some really unique tables that are totally affordable.

Top of the list has to be these Hexagonal yellow tables from West Elm. They pretty much stopped me in my tracks. Right now, they cost just $229 for a set of two.

West Elm side table

West Elm also has this lovely hammered metal tray and medina stand for just $139.

West Elm medina stand

Over at Anthropologie, I liked this copper table with an embossed brass top. It’s quite a bit more expensive though, at $398.

Anthropologie side table

Brocade Home, a favorite source of mine, delivers yet again with these two turned leg tables. This one with a dramatic glossy black finish is $199.

Brocade Home side table

The silver metal version is $299. This would look great next to a boxy white sofa (like the IKEA one we have…)

Brocade Home side table

Now this one’s really different. The ESSEY Illusion side table from Design Public is only $275. Being perspex, it would work really well in a smaller space.

Perspex side table

I would love, repeat ‘love’, an Eames walnut stool like this. But at the thick end of $900 it’s out of the question. But this Totem Stool from Room and Board is a similar look for just $399. It’s very tactile – would look fabulous in a room with lots of neutral colors and natural textures.

Room and Board side table

These little tables wouldn’t look out of place in a Paris apartment. They’re the Jules tables from Crate & Barrel and are made of iron with an antiqued mirror top. The smallest is $199. Top them with bonbon dishes, vintage books, overblown pink roses and you have the ultimate in Parisian vintage chic.

Crate and Barrel side table

I’m also rather partial to ceramic garden stools. They’re so versatile: you can use them indoors or out, as seating or tables, or just to satisfy a desire to buy something in luscious cherry red. These are from Pottery Barn and are $159 each. Wisteria also has them in white, pale green, pale blue, silver or gold at $129 each. I fancy silver since I’m still in a sparkly mood.

Pottery Barn garden stool

Ahhhh, speaking of sparkly, now we come to the Michael Aram ‘Enchanted Forest’ side table. Ok, so this is not exactly ‘affordable’. It’s $570. But it certainly lives up to its name – this is one enchanting table. It’s made of polished aluminum and looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale.

Aram enchanted forest side table

So, there’s my round-up of show-stopping side tables. Even the most inhibited interiors should be able to step out of the shadows with one of these…

My toddler is now old enough (and more than big enough) to move out of his crib into a bed. I’ve been hunting around for a modern white toddler bed that isn’t too expensive. From what I gather, you can never tell whether your child will actually stay in the bed you choose (even though he says he’s into the idea). And even once they are happy to sleep through the night in it, they’ve graduated to a twin bed before you know it. So there is absolutely no point in spending over $500 for this gorgeous Oeuf bed.

oeuf-toddler-bed1

So what’s a good alternative? Well, here’s my short list.

First, the Da Vinci Modena bed. I found one for $210. It’s very simple and has the clean lines of the Oeuf bed, although not the cool curved edges. The best thing about it, though, is that it has a drawer underneath. We need that extra storage space.

da-vinci-modena-toddler-bed

The bed below is the Little Colorado Scalloped Star bed. Allchildrensfurniture.com is selling it for $150. I like the star motif but the scalloped edges are a bit twee for my liking. And there’s no drawer. Cute though.

little-colorado-sc-alloped-star-toddler-bed

This bed, the KidKraft modern toddler bed, was recommended on Apartment Therapy. I admit it is pretty cool – and only about $190. But it’s natural wood and I am rather set on white.

kid-kraft-modern-toddler-bed

And so to my favorite option. Rather unimaginatively, it’s the IKEA choice. It’s called Kritter (so cute) and is only $89. No drawer, but look at the little sheep cut outs on the headboard. Provided the quality looks ok, I think this is the one. Sweet dreams…

ikea-kritter-toddler-bed

For more inspiration, I like Apartment Therapy’s Ohdeedo blog and Remodelista which has some cool ideas for children’s rooms.

I’ll show pictures of my son’s room once the bed’s in place. Next stop, though, cute toddler bedding. $350 for a designer bedding set anyone?

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.
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