The V&A Dundee - is it worth a visit?

If you’re at all into design, arts or crafts, no doubt the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is very much a favourite haunt. Or at the very least, on your list to visit.

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As a teenager I spent many a Saturday walking its galleries, camera in one hand, sketchbook in another. And I have lots of fond memories of having tea in the William Morris Cafe with my mum.

So needless to say I was pretty bloody excited when I heard, a few years ago, that the V&A was opening its only outpost outside of London, on my doorstep.

A few days after it opened, I made the short train journey from Edinburgh up to Dundee to see it for myself.

Scotland’s first design museum is the first thing you see when you step off the train at Dundee. It towers up from the shore front, ship-like.

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And although the exterior is concrete and austere, the inside is warm - every bit the "living room for the city" that Japanese architect Kengo Kuma said he wanted to create.

The cafe in the central atrium is the perfect spot to drink in the architecture, especially if you nab a table by the windows where you can see the River Tay lapping against the side of the building.

But what about the all-important exhibits?!

Well, the space is split between the permanent ‘Scottish Design Galleries’ and the exhibition space, which will host touring exhibitions as well as its own shows. It’s currently hosting an ‘Ocean Liners’ exhibition (which I didn’t visit.)

The Scottish Design Galleries were more than enough to occupy my attention though. The space is compact, but bursting with things to catch the eye.

It’s set out curiously. Everything rubs up shoulder to shoulder. In the same glance you can take in an antique fire-surround and a Christopher Kane gown. Or a spoon designed to be used for people with shaky hands, and a video game design.

While that might sound odd, I really enjoyed the eclecticism. Everywhere you look there’s something to claim your attention - and often something you didn’t think you had an interest in. It’s a really fitting tribute to, and celebration of, Scottish design.

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And the jewel in the crown is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room. Restored from the Ingram Street tearooms, it’s on display for the first time in 50 years. Which is especially poignant given the fate of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building.

So if you’re thinking of making a trip, and I highly recommend it, let me know what you think!

Admission to V&S Dundee is free. Some exhibitions carry a separate charge.

https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee/visit

7 tips on how to hunt for vintage treasures

When people ask “where did you get that?” about something in my home, the answer is often “it’s a vintage Gumtree find” or “from a flea market”.

This is probably highly annoying to others, and it’s definitely more time consuming than just doing a massive IKEA run, but it’s how I achieve my eclectic look and I definitely think it’s worth it!

Having sold at a flea market, and bought at an antiques fair recently, I thought I’d round up my tips of how to shop in this way.

 Sofa and rug from Gumtree. Foot stool and lamp shade from a charity shop.

Sofa and rug from Gumtree. Foot stool and lamp shade from a charity shop.

1.Do your prep

This is especially the case if you’re shopping for furniture rather than homeware/ accessories. Make a note of all the measurements you might need - the width and drop of curtains, the space you’re hoping to put a wardrobe or a sofa. You never know when you might stumble across a great find, so I keep all measurements in the ‘notes’ app on my phone, and that way I always have them to hand. I once found the perfect pair of heavy, silk-lined curtains in a charity shop. I wouldn’t have bought them if I hadn’t known for sure that they were going to fit.

2. Go in with an open mind

You’ll probably have a wish list of what you’re looking for - bedside tables, a rug or some pretty pottery. But be flexible. If you see the perfect vase at a great price, that you think you’ll treasure forever - go for it. Those tables might not crop up for months!

 Edinburgh Antiques Fair

Edinburgh Antiques Fair

3. Go early

If you’re serious about finding the good stuff - be it at a charity shop or a car boot sale - go early. I found this out when selling at a flea market recently. I made about a quarter of my sales before the market had even officially started, from people who turned up early and cherry-picked the best stuff.

4. Look for more than one

Be it green glass vases, or a set of enamelware jugs. Consider building up a collection of something. And when you get them home, don’t be tempted to scatter them about the place. Group them together. I’ve got a collection of twelve bird prints that look amazing hung together because of the sheer number of them - they’re definitely more than the sum of their parts.

5. Be prepared to walk away

If it’s a pricey item, or you’re not 100% attached to something, consider walking away to see how you feel. When we were shopping for my engagement ring in an antiques shop, I saw a ring I loved but I wasn’t sure straight away that it was right as an engagement ring. It was so unusual. So we walked on to the next shop, and then got a coffee. As we were ordering I has a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach - I absolutely couldn’t bear it if someone else bought that ring, So we sprinted back to get it.

6. Haggle

This will be more appropriate in some places than others - in a car boot sale or antiques market it will totally be expected. In a charity shop, definitely don’t try it! If you’ve seen something at the beginning of the day and it’s still there towards the end, make an offer. Chances are, the seller will be wiling to knock something off the price rather than lug it home again.

 Vintage clothing heaven

Vintage clothing heaven

7. Buy what you love

I know next to nothing about antiques, or the actual value of most pieces I own. I just buy what I love, at a price that feels worth it to me. And that way I can never feel disappointed. I always go with my gut, and suggest you do the same.

5 thing I love about our new flat

So we moved flat in July, and I'm conscious I've not yet shared any photos of our new place here yet... That's because (surprise surprise), everything is still in mayhem. Five weeks on from moving day, there are still boxes everywhere, suitcases spilling with clothes, and piles of junk for the tip. 

But instead of focusing on what's not done, I thought I'd share some of the things I love about this flat - because it's a really beautiful flat, we're so lucky to call it home. 

(Some of these photos are estate agent photos from when the property was on the market. I can assure you that's not how it looks here right now!).

1. The fireplaces

There's a beautiful fireplace in most rooms - and all somewhat different. In the living room, we've got this simple but stylish marble surround. The pale marble against the black tiles and exposed brick is a winning combo. In the bedroom, it's black marble, while in another bedroom, there's a tiny, sweet Victorian cast iron number. I love them all, and I can't wait to style each room to match the beauty of these fireplaces.

 Living room fireplace

Living room fireplace

2. The Light

The light in Edinburgh is always pretty special. It's one of the things I love about living here. We might have cooler weather than down south, but even during the frostiest of winters we can have the most amazing bright days. And all the big windows make the most of the light, letting it flood in.

3. The blank canvas

There is a LOT of white in this flat. It was a rental property (and according to our neighbours, was also an AirBnB), so the decor was all kept incredibly neutral. Now if my style is anything, it's definitely not pale and minimalist. But starting from a neutral base makes it easier for me to project my own style onto the place - which I definitely will be!

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4. The OTT Edinburgh features

When it comes to period features, Edinburgh properties can have an embarrassment of riches. We live in a Victorian tenement, and there are loads of lovely old features. From the intricate cornices, to the Edinburgh presses (shallow, shelved cupboards) - there's something lovely to look at in every room.

 Crazy cornicing

Crazy cornicing

5. The views

We first came to view the flat on a really sunny day, and these views stopped us in our tracks. We didn't really stand a chance after that.  Our third-floor living room view takes in the Edinburgh Castle, the New Town, and the moody ever-changing Pentland Hills. I could sit here with a cup of tea, stare for a very long time, and be content.

 Living room view

Living room view

 

 

 

 

Liberty of London lands in Edinburgh

I once did a job I hated. I hated the long hours and the London commute, I felt queasy about the clients, I was always out of my depth. But when I left (to move to Edinburgh in fact!), they gave me a Liberty-print scarf. Pure silk, with prancing peacocks in rich royal blues and burnt orange. It's one of my most treasured possessions - and almost beautiful enough to make three years of being miserable at work worth it! Almost.

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Because to anyone with an interest in fashion and textiles, Liberty is a by-word for the most beautiful prints, on the most exquisitely designed fashions.

A part of the British landscape since 1895, Liberty was founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, who declared that he was "determined not to follow existing fashion but to create new ones.”

And that's exactly what comes across in this small but perfectly formed exhibition. It may only be two rooms, but they're each packed with perfectly chosen examples of Liberty fashion and fabric through the past 140 years.

I love how the exhibition moves through the ages, from the earliest, Oriental-inspired silk, through the delicate printed florals of the 1930s, the psychedelic seventies right up until the present day.

Long known for its collaborations with artists and designers, the exhibition highlights the big names that Liberty has collaborated with over the years - from Mary Quant to Yves Saint Laurent to Vivienne Westwood.

There's also a Scottish angle, with a profile of the work of Marion Donaldson, a Scottish designer who brought Liberty-print fabrics to Scotland in the sixties.

 1930s tea dress

1930s tea dress

 1970s minidress

1970s minidress

And one of the true tests of style - as opposed to merely fashion - is that all the clothes still felt wearable. Lovely as my Liberty-print scarf is, I'm still daydreaming about a dress one day!

LIBERTY Art Fabrics and Fashion is on at the until 12th January 2019. If you love fashion and pattern, it won't disappoint!


If you are planning to visit during August and the Edinburgh Art Festival book your tickets HERE and for September onward then tickets are available HERE.

We've moved!

Apologies for the lull between blog posts - we've been busy moving flat! And it really is as stressful as everyone says it is.

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I won't bore you with the full details, but in short our paperwork wasn't completed until late afternoon on the day we moved. Which technically means that neither the deal on the sale of our flat nor the purchase of our new flat had actually happened... or in other words, it could all still have fallen through at the last minute! Meanwhile, all our stuff was loaded into a removals van with three very (understandably) grumpy men who had to wait until we got the go ahead to pick our keys.

I won't reveal our new place quite yet (though you might have already had a sneak peek over on my Instagram). Instead, here a few final photos of our Comely Bank Street - empty. It was very sad saying goodbye, but the new chapter is too exciting to dwell on that for long. Pics soon, I promise!