tabletop

favourite shop: dille & kamille, brussels

When Mr. A and I visited Brussels recently we came across the loveliest shop. Dille & Kamille was just steps from our hotel and I was so happy to have found it.

Of course I knew immediately upon seeing the exterior that I had to go in. Love a black and white striped awning. At first I thought it was a garden or flower shop.

The displays of neatly arranged plants on either side of the entry created a warm welcome.

This cluster of heather and sedum was so simple yet so striking. Made a note to myself to get some heather when I got home. And I did.

Inside, we discovered Dille & Kamille is much more than a garden shop. It's kitchen, bath, gourmet, utility, linens, and books and so much more. All of the goods and displays have the aesthetic of simplicity and abundance, quality and utility. My favourite.

This mountain of gorgeous market baskets caught my eye first. I want to live in a world where all the food from the market is carried home in one or two of these on a bicycle, not in a tumble of black logo-emblazoned cotton totes shoved in the trunk...sigh.

There were more lovely plants inside and they made me fantasize for a moment that maybe I should really try to keep some alive at home once I got back. I am actually trying.

The wall o' brushes for everything you could ever want a brush for was also dreamy. Yes, I find a wall o' brushes dreamy. I swooned over just such a wall at the store Manufactum in Frankfurt last year and stocked up then, otherwise a few of these beauties would have def come home with me.

More amazing scrubbing things and oh my goodness look at the blocks of soap!

Any wooden cutting board or charcuterie board you could ever want. It's here.

Also, wall o' beautiful tea. Yum.

Wall o' cookbooks. Also -- some great apron action in the forground there.

Wall o' beautiful table linens. 

Turns out there are 25 locations of this fantastic home goods shop across Belgium and The Netherlands. If you will be in either of these regions and this is your thing, I highly recommend Dille & Kamille. It's just so truly lovely and a great spot to pickup gifts to bring home. Check them out at Dille & Kamille.

ambiente fair blues (the good ones)

Hi Friends! As most of you know I was recently lucky enough to travel to Frankfurt, Germany on the #BlogTourAmbiente trip. Some of you are wondering What the heck is Blog Tour? and What the heck is Ambiente? I have all the answers right here. But first, take a look at that skyline above. Old and new bathed in the blue of dusk. Not bad for an iPhone on a moving bus. You pretty Frankfurt.

photo: Chasen West

Blog Tour is the invention of the lovely and talented Veronika Miller (in the green scarf), principal of the web site Modenus. The site features design pros and suppliers and connects them via Blog Tours to key design trade destinations. Tour attendees are mostly design pros working big budget projects who are also bloggers and active on social media. Love of wine seems to be a qualifier too, but that’s another story (look closely at the pic above and you'll see most of us are clutching glasses of a spectacular German sparkling wine, and yes, that's the magnif Rhein river beyond). What’s my connection? Well, I love wine, but I guess my social media profile and blogging are factors. Oh yes, and thanks to my day job I’m usually reppin’ Old School print too :::insert gang signs::: (But this time I was not on official mag biz -- this was vacay for me!)

So one way or another I received an invitation to join this group. The invitation landed in my inbox right around when my world had turned upside down. My Dad had a heart attack followed by quadruple bypass surgery on Dec. 24. The next day (oh yes, that was Christmas) I was stricken with an intense bout of food poisoning that lasted a week. Once I recovered I went to stay with my Dad after he was sent home following surgery. It was crazy stressful times. Once things started to normalize it wasn’t too hard for me to say, “Yes please Veronika, take me away and please make sure there is wine…and beer!”. (Didn’t hurt that the trip was scheduled for my BDay - Happy BDay to me!)

The sole sponsor for this Blog Tour was the Ambiente Fair itself. Ambiente is a truly ginormous trade show for tabletop, home decor and giftware. Here are my two fave stats about the show: it features more than 4,800 exhibitors (more than double the size of the NYNOW Gift Show) and the city of Frankfurt has been hosting such trade events for, get this, 775 YEARS. That’s SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE!

OK, enough with the long preamble. On to some eye candy. I took more than 1,000 photos at the show, so needless to say I will be cooking up a few more posts. Since tabletop is one of the main aspects of the show, I thought I’d start with one of the clearest trend messages I spotted: blue-and-white dinnerware. Now, in the business of trendspotting I would say blue-and-white dishes are not the newsiest of news. They’ve been coming on strong for a number of seasons, but I offer this as evidence we may be at peak blue-and-white. 

When you think blue-and-white ceramics do you think of Portugal? Sure you do! And do you think of century-old hand-painted tile? Maybe. These dishes are made by Costa Nova of Portugal. The pattern, called Lisboa, recalls the look of ages old hand-painted tile. I’ve seen some of this company’s products for sale at Anthropologie and Hudson’s Bay stores, so keep your eyes peeled.

Dutch manufacturer Wegter makes these sweet striped mugs under its Dutch Rose brand. They have a preppy vibe and make me think of lingering over late-morning coffee at the cottage.

Richard Ginori is an Italian luxury brand that was recently bought out by Gucci. The Oro Di Docchia Turchese porcelain pattern hints at tradition but is expressed with a lightness of hand that feels modern.

And if blue-and-white isn’t the official national colour scheme of Greece it should be. This pretty pattern from Ionia is inspired by mosaic tile, natch!

But the company had a whole wall of blue-and-white patterns on offer.

And in the category of Best winter/Holiday pattern that isn’t one bit cheesy, the winner is clearly the German company Kahla. I just love the modern shape and subtle silhouetted tree pattern. It's actually called "Blue Hour" and I think of it as the forest equivalent of my photo of the Frankfurt skyline - same hour, same palette. These are so brand new they are schedded for release for Advent season 2015.

 

Marbelization is another trend that is still going strong. These platters and bowls from LCHome are prime examples in the palette of the moment.

 

 

Paola Navone’s Taste Blue collection for Reichenbach is well known already (left), but I loved this new dipped collection with an interesting shape and overall more rustic casual mood. 

 

And our old friends at Royal Doulton are shrugging off a rep for  painted lady figurines thanks to several new collections and design collabs. This mix and match batch, called Pacific,  includes a few designs in another of Ambiente’s main trend motifs: splatter and brushstroke.

And speaking of brushstrokes, check out this awesomeness from Spal of Portugal. It’s called Random and it’s so cool. I’ve got half a mind to go buy some porcelain paint and get DIYing up some of these asap. Would never be the same though, of course.

Tognana is another Italian company that brings some modern pretty in the form of these simple stripped down florals. Sweet.

You’ve likely seen Tokyo Design Studio dishes and bowls at Anthro. These allover patterns borrow from traditional Japanese design but have a million uses beyond the dinner table. Ok, maybe not a million, but you get the point.

And finally, I was charmed by this booth Wonkiware from South Africa. The concept here is to mix up several different designs to create a set. The picnic check plate is definitely a fave.

So that’s it for instalment No. 1 from Ambiente. Come back for more!

downtonstagrams

Officially Season 4 of Downton hasn't started yet on PBS Masterpiece, but I must confess I've seen the whole darn thing already. I'm so excited for the Christmas special! Hopefully no deadly car crashed this year. And hopefully lots of fabulous outfits and sets and jewelry.

But what I'm really here to tell you about is that you should follow the official Downton Instagram feed here

There aren't too many posts up yet, but it's pretty yummy!

Like many I marvel at the dinner scenes, which obviously take quite a whiile to film. I just die for the stemware. How amazing to get a close-up peak at a table setting. 

...and of course the stunning teacups and saucers and spoons.

The caption doesn't say, but I wonder if this tea setting might be at Crawley House or the Dowager Countess's home, since the china pattern is different from above. I might have to rewatch to see if I can spot this set. #nerdalert.

It's full-on 1920s style in the costumes for Season 4 and the colours and beading are magnificent. I especially love how the beaded dresses catch the light. And Lady Mary dons a couple of stunning purple velvet frocks. It's fascinating to see how her wardrobe evolves as she comes out of her all-black morning. Keep an eye for it.

Another favourite part of Season 4 is how Lady Edith really blossoms. Watch for her in some truly stunning — and even sexy — ensembles. This olive green colour is so interesting and it looks fantastic on her. Love the hair ornament and her waves are perfection.

Here's another closeup vignette. No idea where this is but that painting is the bomb, as is the brass box!

And speaking of hair ornaments — hello incredible headband! And look at the mastery of her makeup: blushy cheeks and stained lips and those brows, and little else. Happy Birthday Michelle Dockery! She and her perfect eyebrows are celebrating a birthday today. In honour, I shall post my first gif -- look for the most subtle raise of the brow. Remember this: "I wouldn't want to push in."

And you can see a few more here.

And lastly, also speaking of that scene. Here's a screen cap of a wide shot:

Check out that pretty little piece of furniture, which I crushed on since first laying eyes on it. 

Mr. A just go this look-a-like in over at his shop. Check it out at the Vintage Fine Objects blog. 

how to make a london fog

The other day I was waxing on about the awesomeness of lattes from my Breville. I still love them, but I have a new love - the London Fog. Well, truthfully my love of a London Fog is not new. It has been my premium hot drink of choice for a few years now. The new love I have kindled is for my very own homemade version of the London Fog. I feel very proud to have mastered it, so I'm pleased to share the instructions with you. When I started out on this adventure I knew the basic ingredients - Earl Grey tea, simple syrup, warm milk, vanilla - but I had no idea the proportion of these or how to put them together for the desired result. Here's my recipe:

1. vanilla simple syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Do not boil. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat, pour into creamer and store in refrigerator for up to a week.

2. Make Earl Grey tea according to your favourite method. How to make tea could be a blog post all on its own. I wouldn't dream of dictating one way. Tea drinkers have their ways. My Dad, for instance, insists on a precise 5 minute steeping time and pouring from at least 8 inches above the cup. He is militaristic in his execution of this method. I am more of a put-the-bag-in-the-cup-and-pour-boiling-water-over-it method (don't tell Dad).

3. Steam the milk. While my Breville does have a steaming arm that provides it's own satisfying results, I actually prefer my Krups Milk Frother for the gentler task of making steamed milk for my London Fog. The Breville let's off a high-pitched screech, which is satisfying when making a coffee drink - like revving a car before pulling onto the highway. The Krups machine is a dedicated milk foamer, frother and steamer. It's low purr and simple, push-button operation are more suited to making a London Fog. Slow, steady and quiet. Of course, you don't need the Krups machine to steam milk. But if you are doing so without a dedicated machine, I implore you to do so over low heat on the stove rather than nuking the milk. Microwaved milk never retains the heat long enough.

4. Compose your London Fog by filling a tall heat-proof glass 2/3 full with tea, add 1/3 steamed milk and vanilla simple syrup to taste -- 2 teaspoons per glass is perfection to my palate.

Full disclosure: the Krups Milk Frother was a press gift given to me when I was in my previous job. It languished under my desk for weeks. Funny how a gem like that can get lost in the shuffle of overflowing days and an inbox to match. This is what PR companies are up against. I rediscovered my little Krups friend just recently while unpacking my office belongings. I knew it would be just perfect for making a London Fog, and I was right. I'm using it so much lately that I don't even bother removing it from the counter in between uses. 

Enjoy your weekend. Stay warm. Have a nap.