Archive for the ‘Ideas & Inspiration’ Category
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
We invited Katie Treggiden from the design blog “confessions of a design geek” to edit the blog this week, Katie is at the forefront of monitoring design and interior trends, her brilliant blog is a go-to for anyone looking for savvy design tips, we were pleased this week to see the launch of the confessions of a design geek bursary at Home, London. Katie is a keen advocate for the wonderful work by the UK cancer charity Maggie’s and their different design projects. Katie interviewed the garden designer Lily Jencks and discussed her work with Maggie’s for the Balcony Gardener blog….
…..Cancer charity Maggie’s provides “emotional, practical and social support for people with cancer and their families and friends.” They do this from striking Centres built within the grounds of specialist cancer hospitals, designed by architects like Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid. They are well known within architectural circles, but their gardens are arguably the unsung heroes. I spoke to Lily Jencks, landscape architect for the Stirling Prize nominated Gartnavel Centre and daughter of Maggie’s co-founders, Charles Jencks and the late Maggie Keswick Jencks.
Pictured above: the garden at Maggie’s Gartnavel
What was the inspiration behind the garden at Maggie’s Gartnavel?
The brief from Maggie’s, and an intuitive understanding of what Maggie’s needs from a garden, were my starting points, which led to an idea based around the sense of the relationship between the body and its environment relating to the relationship between a building and its landscape.
How did the relationship between architecture and landscape design work in this project?
I actually worked for the architect [Rem Koolhaas] on the building design before I was asked to design the garden. So, they are very intimately connected; with both the views into the landscape and the views into the building very considered and controlled.
Maggie’s Gartnavel is a circular glass building with a courtyard garden at its centre. Did the garden being such a central part of the design put you under more pressure than usual?
Yes, that, and the fact that I was designing in my mother’s memory, and that the architect is my hero. I was quite young to be working on a project with the person I respect most in architecture, so yes, there was a certain amount of pressure!
But we didn’t want to be too precious about the courtyard design. The building is wonderful in its openness with glass on both sides, so we wanted a landscape that felt as though it flowed through the building. We used the same planting inside the courtyard and surrounding the building, for example we planted birch in the courtyard and again in the surrounding landscape, but though using with varieties of birch there is a sense of the landscape changing but not being different.
Tell me a bit more about some of the specific plants and trees you chose.
White birch was one. The building is off-white concrete and we wanted to create a light, hopeful feeling around it. We also used Scots pine, which is very dark and evergreen and so the two play nicely off each other. The courtyard continues this mostly woodland planting but we included more delicate flowering perennials in planters, where we welcome the visitors to plant their own favourite species. We wanted to create a sense of demarcation so Centre visitors would feel comfortable getting involved in gardening in those planters – obviously they can plant wherever they like, but it helps having a designated space.
Why is it important for Maggie’s Centres to have gardens – what role do they play?
I think it comes back to this idea that the human body is affected by its environment – that idea is central to Maggie’s, that environment can help or hinder in healthcare. So in a metaphorical way, in the same way that Maggie’s wouldn’t consider a person in isolation, you can’t consider a building in isolation. Maggie’s always views a person in the context of their life, their friends and family, their groups… so we did the same with the building and the landscape surrounding it.
We also know that access to views and nature can be very healing; access to time, to the seasons changing, seeing the snowdrops come up, and daffodils bloom… when you’re ill, seeing the flows of nature can be quite calming.
What is your favourite feature of the garden?
The reflection courtyard; the mirror piece. It’s a wonderful meditative space. You can sit outside and have a moment of reflection and calmness. It’s quite a strange thing to see the sky reflected on the dark forest floor. People don’t always realise what they’re looking at to start with, so it takes them out of themselves, and into the moment. Being sick with cancer can so often be all consuming, so for a second to be delighted, to be surprised, to see the sky on the forest floor, can lift people. I heard about a ten-year-old girl who came and sat there for an hour while her parents were having a meeting at Maggie’s and she felt it was her place, somewhere she could just be and not think about being ill for a while.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to create a similar haven at home?
I like the orange seats we have in the courtyard – they add a bit of colour and brightness. And even though it’s artificial colour, the rusty red of the planters and the orange Corian of these seats adds a brightness all year round – in the winter it’s the strongest colour, and in the summer it’s surrounded by leaves and green, so it changes as the landscape changes around it. I think a bit of colour and brightness is really important, especially on dark grey days in Glasgow.
To find out more about Maggie’s, visit maggiescentres.org
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
People are often asking us if and where they can buy some of our lovely products in the States. We’re now very pleased to say that our beautiful wooden seed name sticks are now available online at Anthropologie US.
Anthropologie has always been one of our favourite US stores, we love the eclectic mix of clothing, homeware, gifts and accessories; their entire range always appears hand picked and personally selected. We were particularly delighted to link up with their British store in the run up to the Chelsea Flower Show last year.
If you would like to buy the seeds name sticks, you can purchase them here.
Monday, December 17th, 2012
This new cookbook from good friends Rosie French and Ellie Grace is a written celebration of their supper club Salad and Co and their Brixton Village restaurant. It’s a lovely looking book, everything is presented on oak tables with vintage bottles and cotton linens. It’s a real labour of love, all the recipes have been tried and tested at their restaurant, supper club or informal dinners at home with friends. In the introduction the girls make their plea for kitchen table cooking, they want the readers to use the cookery book for relaxed suppers and lazy lunches. The recipes are all designed to be easy to follow, and are suited for each season – as they write “we like to ‘cook’ in the cold months and ‘assemble’ when it’s hot,” makes sense to us!
Originally the girls created a blog for sharing recipes and then a month later they started their supper club “Salad Club” in Ellie’s flat above the buzzing market on Electric Avenue in Brixton, soon this grew in its frequency and size – it became a weekly event and they were having to combine running the supper club with their full time jobs. Much of the ingredients were sourced from downstairs in the market – in the book there are several homages to Middle Eastern and Caribbean cooking. Then last Summer they converted a butcher’s shop in Brixton Village into a 20-seater kitchen-restaurant, called French & Grace, and sought to keep intact the friendly, colourful approach to cooking and hosting that was so popular at the Salad Club.
Mascarpone cheesecake with nutmeg and maple syrup caramel
The recipes are delicious, beautifully photographed and easy to make. The book is divided into the four seasons, with many recipes created around fresh seasonal ingredients. Think Gin and Juniper Pork with Leek and Parmesan-Stuffed Squash for winter; Oeufs en Cocotte in Spring; Grilled Lamb Chops and Salad Club Mezze for Summer, Warm Barley, Almond and Pomegranate Tabbouleh and a Flourless Chocolate, Prune and Brandy Cake for an Autumn birthday.
Proscuitto, Melon and Spinach Salad
The book wonderfully captures the improvisational and friendly nature of the salad club and restaurant in its pages – there’s no pretension here. Everything is flavoursome and uses fresh ingredients, the photographs are beautiful records of the dishes. A great book for the foodie’s Christmas stocking.
All photography by Laura Edwards
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
As part of our guest blog series featuring creative experts, this week we are delighted to welcome Jane Means to our blog. She is the industry’s finest gift wrapper and has been professionally gift wrapping for prestigious stores, celebrities and royalty for over 12 years. The worldwide gift wrapping expert loves to transform mundane gifts in to creative masterpieces whatever the budget and regularily appears in glossy magazines and on national radio and television. Jane has also designed her own brand of ribbon and now sells online, wholesale and stocks Liberty and Fortnum and Mason to name a few. She launched ‘The Art of Gift Wrapping’ DVD last year and plans to write her first book next year.
Jane has very kindly put together a blog showing how to gift wrap our very own Balcony Gardener seeds packets – the results are beautiful and will look perfect underneath your Christmas tree.
Before you start, take a look at what you need:
Now you’re ready to get started:
1. Measure the wrapping 3 times the length of the gift with enough to go around (Imagine you’re making a large cracker)
2. Stick the paper around the gift and add a strip of ribbon half way across
3. Swing the long sides over and scrunch the centre over the ribbon Do both ends
4. Grab the 2 ends together and secure with ribbon. Finish with a bow.
Now all you need to do is place the present underneath the Christmas tree….
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Like most countries during the World Wars, Sweden suffered from severe food shortages. Families were allocated small plots of land to grow vegetables, and then many built small wooden structures in which to live. Often there was only one room with all family members sleeping inside, furniture was moved aside to make way for bed-time. The tradition of keeping allotments continues now in Sweden, and many train lines are bordered by well-kept allotments and small gardens.
I’ve had my name down for an allotment in North London for the past eighteen months, last time I checked the time on the waiting list was at 20 years – so sometime in 2032 I will be able to start planting my tomatoes. In Sweden there are over 42, 000 allotment gardens; in larger cities many people live in apartments so really cherish their small green space. Many Swedes would often grow fruit and vegetable in the Summer and Autumn, and store them for the long, cold Winter ahead. At points of national crisis, allotments were crucial for for production. Nowadays, most allotment gardeners tend to their allotments for pleasure and relaxation; however with the trend of grow-your-own more people are again using their allotment for growing fruits and vegetables.
The first allotment appeared in Malmo in 1895, and they soon spread to 1895 Stockholm in 1904. A society lady Anna Lindhagen was a pioneer for the gardens, she found them delightful to look at and encouraged authorities to increase the number of gardens. The land was and still is rented from the local authorities.
If you are visiting Sweden, the allotment gardens in Tanto, central Stockholm are well worth a visit (pictured above) – particularly at the end of August when the allotment gardeners hold a harvest festival. There are all types of gardens in Tanto: designer gardens, kitchen gardens, countryside gardens, vegetable gardens, and pay particular attention to the original cottages from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.