The month of May marks Clerkenwell Design Week in the Design Industry.

A few days where over 100 showrooms in the area open their doors to display their wares to those of us keen to explore what’s new and trending right now. Coupled with that there are also pop-up brands dotted throughout the area showcasing textiles, furniture, office storage solutions, plants for a better working environment, flooring, tiles, and hospitality to name but a few.


It’s 3 days of pure indulgence. There are Conversations At Clerkenwell, a series of talks with creatives, commissioned Installations especially for the festival and scheduled workshops around the area.

But what enhances all of this is the history of the area. Did you know that Clerkenwell was well known for its Gin? During the early 18th century there were loads of gin shops in the area and it was even sold from wheelbarrows in the streets. There’s an interesting story around the gin distillers during that time, from the bootleg sellers who illegally diluted the gin, mothers ruined by their consumption, riots and even deaths caused by the concoctions.

As well as the showrooms to visit there were also buildings of historical interest that were opened to the public as part of the festival.


Clerkenwell, revolving around the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, is believed to have been named after a fresh water spring in the area where in the Middle Ages, sacred plays were performed by the parish clerks – Clerks Well.  Lost for many years the well was rediscovered during building in the area in 1924 and can now be seen in the the building, Well Court on Farmington Lane.


Another building is The House of Detention, a prison building that dates back to 1844. This prison was built on the site where two other previous prisons existed. Clerkenwell Bridewell, which closed in 1794 and the New Prison, rebuilt in 1818 and again in 1847 to become the House of Detention. Now only open to the public occasionally, we get to experience the space for the design week.


Spooky, dark and dank winding corridors where prisoners awaiting trial were kept, is a surprisingly great backdrop for the treasures that lay within for Clerkenwell Design Week, as it’s stark interior allowed the exhibits to shine. Numerous brands were installed in the small spaces, exhibiting anything from ceramics to office furniture.


And surprisingly, did you know that Finsbury Health Centre was once an innovative medical centre? The building dates back to 1938 – not the most attractive of buildings but was recognised for its modernist architectural features – where previously there was a maternity centre for the local area situated on the site along with shops and houses. The vision was for a centre bringing together a wealth of medical services to the poverty, disease ridden area. A magnificent building for its time on the premise that ‘Nothing is too good for the ordinary people.”


The Finsbury Health Centre

Providing clinics and a health club to combat issues such as rickets and lice infestation, it predated the National Health Service by 10 years and was seen as a model for the new public health care.


Other interesting areas are: Passing Alley, a small passageway between buildings, known as Pissing Alley in its day, as the dark discreet place allowed for a sneaky ‘wee’, for those on their way home after a night (or day) of drinking; St. John’s Gate, the south gate of St. John of Jerusalem; St James Church Garden; Smithfield Market, a meat market since 1846 and Jerusalem Passage, where Thomas Britton (known as ‘The Music Coalman’) created a tiny concert hall for informal concerts in the loft space of his coal shop.


St. James Church garden

There are so many interesting buildings and areas around Clerkenwell that I couldn’t do it justice in the time I was there.


Thomas Britton, ‘The Music Coalman’s’ concert hall in Jerusalem Passage

If you’re interested in learning more about the area, Lansdown London ( run tours throughout the year.

Collections from @the_monkeypuzzletree, @annahaymandesigns, @samuelheathofficial, @glas_design, @kei_tominaga, veronica_einloft, @samlander.maker, @studio9191, @christinahesford, @tropeldesigns, @lansdownlondon &

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Interview with Charlotte Raffo of The Monkey Puzzle Tree

Now I’m all about bringing you something different on my interiors journey. Recently I had the great pleasure of meeting the very talented Charlotte Raffo of fabric design company, The Monkey Puzzle Tree, that has hit the textile industry by storm in the last year. Interiors About Town shares our conversation and gives you an insight into this innovative textile artist.


Interiors About Town – How did The Monkey Puzzle Tree get started?

Charlotte Raffo – I’ve always loved colour and pattern, and as a child designed elaborate colour schemes and friezes for my bedroom. In the mid 90’s I read an article about the Timorous Beasties’ subversive textile designs as a teenager, and felt very inspired, but never actually thought I’d be able to create something myself. Later when House of Hackney first brought out their over-the-top-florals following years of minimalism I really admired their bravery.

At University I studied Colour Chemistry, but on graduating was very lucky to get a job designing and formulating finishes on leather in a Leeds based tannery (which is sadly now closed). Whilst there I was allowed lots of creative freedom, working on patterns and finishes for brands from Camper to Louis Vuitton. In my next role as a Textile buyer at Mamas and Papas I worked with designers and product buyers, finding best way to make a beautiful product that was still functional.

What I really wanted was to be able to have complete creative freedom without sales figures and forecasts having too much of an influence. I believe this is the best way to come up with unique designs – not just ‘me too’ products. And although we do need to make money to pay the bills, that’s not the driving force behind anyone involved in the business – the design comes first.

Throughout my life I’ve met quite a few talented artists, and I thought it was such a waste of talent that they were struggling to make a living from their work. It was the artist Sarah Thornton, who I met through my children, who really gave me the idea for The Monkey Puzzle Tree in 2016. She said that she’d love to make her art into fabric but had no idea how to do it, and I thought ‘I could do that’.


IAT – So The Monkey Puzzle Tree is a collaboration of talented artists?

CR – Yes, The Monkey Puzzle Tree makes the best use of everyone’s resources. It’s very hard to be creative whilst having to run all the other aspects of a business, and this way I take that side on, along with the product development which plays to my strengths, and also means that I can pull from an amazing pool of talent without having to think up all the new ideas myself. Paying the artists a royalty works well for everyone – it means that I don’t have to invest money in the design to start with, but also, as I pay the development and stock costs, it’s very low risk for the artists.

IAT – What is the best part of what you do?

CR – I really love the variety. The best bit is finding a new artist and then coming up with a new design, imagining what technique and fabric or wallpaper will work best. An unexpected benefit has been the interesting and amazing people I’ve met, from new artists and craftspeople, to the interior designers and others setting up their own small business.


IAT – What or who inspires you?

CR – The inspiration always comes from the art. A traditional design house might set a brief, and the designer would work towards that. The way we work is by visiting the artists, looking at their work and finding something that really sparks our imagination, then finding a way to turn it into a beautiful product.

In the case of ‘Rita does Jazz’ by Sarah Thornton, the original was a very small watercolour painting, loosely sketched out onto a piece of hotel notepaper. We worked together to enlarge this and create the repeat using a colour photocopier, scissors, sellotape and a ruler. It’s an important to us that the original piece of artwork isn’t designed digitally – not to say we’re luddites, we do use technology where necessary. But I think that replicating that original craft as closely as possible gives the final designs an authentic feel. If you look carefully at the leopards in Alexis Snell’s ‘How the Leopard got his Spots’ velvet, you’ll see that there are 18 slightly different leopards, as we’re chosen to keep the irregularity in her original lino printing technique.


IAT – What are The Monkey Puzzle Tree’s values?

CR – Unique, beautiful, authentic

IAT – Where does The Monkey Puzzle Tree work take place?

CR – In my studio at Unity Business Centre in Leeds. It’s not the most glamorous location or building, but it’s a big space with enough room to have room sets, a cutting and design table and my lovely vintage desk, as well as our considerable stock of wallpapers, fabrics and cushions. The building staff are really helpful and there’s a lovely feeling of community with the other businesses which is really important when you work as a small business. Sometimes we meet for lunch or talk over problems whilst doing the washing up.

IAT – At the beginning of the year, so many creatives that I’ve spoken to fund it hard, with the dark mornings and cold weather, to find their ‘mojo’. What keeps you going throughout the year?

CR – I’m very lucky in that the way The Monkey Puzzle Tree works means that I have a never-ending supply of inspiration from the different artists I work with. In future we’d also like to be able to take on more artists (there’s a couple I have my eyes on), so we have the opposite problem – so many designs waiting to be realised, and not enough time to use them all!


IAT – Ok, give us an insight into what you think will be the next big thing in the industry

CR – We try to avoid being too trend led. For me it’s important that in the same way that a piece of good art is timeless, your interior should also be something that you love and that continues to inspire you for years to come.

This doesn’t necessarily have to mean buying into plain or ‘classic’. Personally I like to reference the design and era of the building, and be sympathetic to that rather than slavishly following a trend. People tend to think that the past was dull, but in my first house, a 1950’s semi, I discovered many of the rooms had the original wallpaper preserved under layers of Anaglypta. The toilet ceiling had been covered in a bold red paper dotted with black and white stars, with the walls in a large scale pink floral. It must have been stunning after the drabness of the 1940’s.

Using really unique designs, something completely different can mean that a look can’t be pinpointed to a specific time and therefore doesn’t date. In that sense we would like people to follow Vivienne Westwood when she said “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”


IAT – What has been your greatest achievements?

CR – When you have your head down and are working, it can be hard to realise what you’ve achieved because you’re busy trying to fix the things that aren’t right yet. But if I think about it I’m so pleased and proud of our designs, they are like my children, I love them all as much as each other but each in completely different ways!

IAT – What’s coming next for The Monkey Puzzle Tree?

CR – This year we’re very excited to be showing at both Clerkenwell Design week and Decorex. We will be launching two new artists at Decorex, and creating a completely new look with innovative new wallpapers and fabrics.


If you like designs that are daring, innovative and certainly packs a punch, then keep a eye out for what this talented lady does next.

You can find Charlotte’s fabrics and wallpapers at

All photos courtesy of The Monkey Puzzle Tree.




London Design Festival 2018

Each year in the design world, September marks “Show Time!”

It is one of the busiest months in the London Interiors social calendar and my favourite time of the working year.
The Fashion Industry has London Fashion Week but we have London Design Festival where we get to indulge in a mix of luxury products, textiles, interior design sets to die for, talks by the industry celebs and all the Prosecco you can muster.
2LGStudio Tilda Sofa at Dream Houzz 2018

2LGStudio Tilda Sofa at Dream Houzz

But here’s the thing…’s a series of gems mainly for the trade.
Some of the shows do have public days so it’s well worth taking advantage of these if you’re not in the trade as you won’t be disappointed.
London Design Festival is made up of a series of events and shows within some of London’s trendiest areas, demonstrating  the best in the industry, whether you are looking for furniture to style your latest penthouse projects or luxurious fabrics for those crucial finishing touches. But it’s not all about styling to impress. You will be privy to the latest technology as well as insights into the current trends, be it colours, patterns or functionality.
Now, the main shows are concentrated within a period of one week but there are lots of individual participants offering sneak previews of their new collections, extending the period for a few more days.

So who are the main contenders?

House of Hackney pop up Focus 2018

House of Hackney


One of the largest shows in the UK, Decorex embodies the most luxurious products in the interiors market and attracts many visitors from all over the world. Many design houses premier their latest products here as the reach is massive.
Porta Romana Focus 2018

Porta Romana


Guest speakers, demonstrations, workshops you name it. Showrooms teasing us with design inspiration and new collections. Gorgeous fabrics for curtains, upholstery and soft furnishings, bespoke furniture, beds, carpets, lighting, home technology, tiles, bathrooms and kitchen options. It’s all there, under the glorious domes that are the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour.

100% Design

Great source for new design features and discovering new brands. A must for emerging talent.

London Design Fair 

Located in East London, London Design Fair had around 550 exhibitors from around the world putting on exhibitions and more.
Leolux at Beaufort Collection Focus 2018

Leolux at Beaufort Collection


Showcasing some of the worlds iconic design brands.

This years smaller shows and individual contenders:

London Interiors Show

Interior fabrics, trimmings and window fixtures such as poles and tracks for all your soft furnishings needs.

Farrow and Ball Colour Stories in Shoreditch’s Village Underground

Colour curator Joa Studholme took us through the inspiration for her latest paint colours within  titivating areas arranged to surprise and intrigue,  demonstrating the use of colour within the home.

Dream Houzz Pop Up 

 Room displays exhibiting furniture and items that can be purchased via Houzz.  Featuring the Luca bed and Tilda sofa from one of my favourite designers,  2LG Studios,  in collaboration with Love Your Home UK.

Made Talent Lab

Open house during the Festival offering an exclusive look at the TalentLab  collections and workshops.

Tom Dixon. 

Tom Dixon flagship store in Kings Cross hosted Electroanalogue. A series of digital innovations through events.
Turnstyle Designs Focus 2018

Turnstyle Designs

V&A – Official Design Festival hub

Celebrating 10 years as the official London Design Festival hub and for the first time this year, access to the Members room designed by architects Carmody Groarke.

West Elm

A beautiful store selling everything for the home such as furniture, crockery, bedding, accessories you name it. For the Festival they held a series of live artwork, in store.
This list does not do the Festival justice. There were so many places and contributors to visit, it was just not possible to do them all in a week.
Design Centre Chelsea Harbour Focus 2018

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

My tip for making the most of your time exploring what’s on offer, pick out a couple of the essential ‘must sees’ for you, then a few of the smaller shows and try to keep them within easy travel distance from one another so you can possibly fit your choices into 3-4 days.
Roll on London Design Festival 2019, I’m just about ready for you….

Enjoying the View Both Inside and Out

Are you neglecting your windows? 

IMG_4613Well, there was a time when the luxury of letting light into our homes would cost us money. During the 18th and 19th centuries in England, Wales, Scotland and France, there was what was known as a window tax which was banded like our council tax is today. The more windows in the property, the more you paid. This tax caused people to brick up some of their windows and new properties were deliberately built with fewer windows to avoid a higher tax rate.

There were many against this tax, not only because of the costs, which of cause hit the less fortunate the hardest, but also there seemed to be many health issues associated with the lack of light to some dwellings.  The window tax was eventually repealed in 1851 and there are still some buildings today that are evident of that period. IMG_4610

Now no longer a restriction, we can celebrate the humble window and luxuriate in the amount of light we let into our properties.

That said, there are many challenges in how we make the most of them, not just in our living environment but also in our work spaces too.

Luckily there are a variety of window dressings available to accommodate not only windows of the more traditional buildings we’ve come to know and love throughout the years, e.g 1930s semi detached houses, Georgian grand buildings such as those in Bath and elegant Victorian terrace houses but also the inventive new flats/apartments and houses that we are now seeing built all over the UK. IMG_4616 (2)

Some of these ‘new builds’ have amazing vistas, so the windows are constructed to take in the fantastic views, though they are often challenging to dress due to their unusual shapes.  Some, for example, are triangular in design offering limited space above for traditional window ironmongery, provide limited or no wall space for curtain stack back or they flood the space with blinding natural light that needs controlling in some way.  However, to obscure them would ruin the overall look and wow factor.

The options are varied but enough to satisfy all tastes and budgets, whether you are after curtains, discreet blinds, sun screening and privacy, blackout, insulation, shutters or simply something decorative. The choices are endless, often leaving us overwhelmed.

But, it is well worth giving some thought to what you are trying to achieve before you make that final decision as this can save you from unnecessary mistakes and money further down the line.

There are fundamentally 5 main reasons why we make our choice:

  1. Privacy
  2. Decorative
  3. Sun screening
  4. Insulation/Warmth
  5. Budget


What is the most important reason for choosing your window dressing? 

IMG_4617 (1)


Think of your windows like works of art. With the right choices in your treatment, they can frame a room, become the focal point, add that much needed splash of colour or create warmth in what might appear to be a cold space.

For whatever reason you have chosen how to dress your windows it is worth investing in the best that you can afford, as for most of us, we need them to last for many years to come.