Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

French Interior Style - from my LUSH getaway

My recent week in the South West of France was spent at the most immaculately decorated 17th Century Manor, a place that I hope will not only be an influence for decorating in my next home, but also in yours.  So I've picked up a few key ideas and flavours for us to look at in terms of getting ideas of what to look out for if you go to France or even if you are just buying off the internet.

Mirrors and walls ... to add depth and contrast in any room, mirrors will play a key role in arranging the light. Using them to bounce natural light around is something I always do and I also find that mirrors come in such a variety of frames that they can make the eye move around an area.  Place one near a window and have it central to some pictures or wall sconces as above gives a focal point to this grouping (on this fabulous rough plaster/painted wall in pale pinky peach colour).  Group them together, making the spacing just right, I am completely in love with these small mirrors placed around the larger one and hope I can find a place to do this in my next house.

Old magazines are a great thing to watch out for on your travels, either keep a pile on the coffee table or use them as wallpaper in a small area like the toilet. They are lightweight and non-breakable too so can be carried back in luggage so easily.

Using colours in a different way. I found this manor has some interesting choices of colour combinations, ones that I wouldn't have thought of but will make me explore more.  Using dark paint instead of white gloss on frames and window ledges to continue a colour theme in a room, like here where they have stuck to a black and white wallpaper in the cloakroom and carried it through to the printed pages of magazines in the toilet.

Lighting - I find this the hardest thing to find. You will need a good ceiling height for a French chandelier of this size, however the overhead light does need to be in proportion to the room dimensions, so avoid a small ceiling light in a big room or it will look ridiculous. If you don't have original features like this ceiling rose, these can easily be added. There are still plenty of shops around selling plaster roses and coving which set off the central pendant light just perfectly.

French lace curtains are unlike any others. Forget the nylon nets that your grandma had and hunt down the cotton crochet ones which can still be found in French markets and on ebay. They are often really long for those tall French windows and can work perfectly as door curtains or to soften a wall arch. The ones below aren't exactly like this but do have a lovely lace trim and are beautiful for diffusing the light.

French beds are to die for but not that easy to track down or to make work. It's often possible to find the bedhead and foot board which you will need to set around your own bed base. Often with embroidered tapestry or like here, with rattan. Simple embroidered bedspread can be either an original one or maybe use a large table cloth as a cover for a light fresh look.

Another use for an embroidered table cloth is to cover an old bed head, or make your own from doilies and sheets, then fit it over your existing head board. A simple cover can transform a room. 

Keep a look out for interesting items to collect, like these soda syphons in the prettiest colours. Arrange with dried flowers or simple branches.

 You may have seen our feature in Reclaim magazine about re-purposing inside furniture to the outside. I had to smile when I saw this old cast iron oven being used as an outside table, the patina and rust working so perfectly with the stone walls.

At the Brantome Manor, every room was decorated differently and I'm so happy with the one I was given. Kim must have know that with it's unusual colour combinations of pale yellow and green, with stencilling of white roses in a few places, this is just my kind of room. I also loved that the beams were painted white and the furniture was something to be coveted.

It also showed me that rugs can take on a different look depending how you use them. Taken in isolation I would not have picked this green rug, nor overlayed it with another smaller one, but on the old wood floors and the way they were teamed up with the walls and furniture, it works so well. I will definitely broaden my outlook to old rugs from now on. If you choose one with a lot of pattern though, make sure you keep the rest of the room plain as nothing shouts Granny more than too many patterns.

Here's the links for Lush Getaways and if you are in the USA for Mignonne Decor in San Francisco where you can find help to track down French inspired pieces, some vintage accents and designer chairs.

Happy antiquing x


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Lush Getaways to France part two

I hope you enjoyed my overview of the LUSH Getaways week in the French countryside, there's so much to say I've decided to break it down into several blog posts, so here is part two where I'm going to give you more information and links.

So, let's talk a bit about how to get there. The group who came to this week of French cuisine had flown from all over the world, mostly from the USA and myself from the UK. The cute little town of Brantome sits on the river and is postcard perfect with it's old buildings and isn't over-run with tourists and touristy shops, so you really can get a feel for true French life, it's slow pace of shopping for quality ingredients for meals is just one aspect of the French style.

some fun times and conversations were had under this porch of an evening.

Part of the reason it isn't spoilt is probably transport related as it's not right on top of an airport or main station. So for our little group we found that flying into Paris then catching the reliable and efficient train to Angouleme was the way to do it, with  LUSH transport picking us up from the station at Angouleme. If you fly in from the USA I would advise having a break in Paris to rest up and adjust to the time difference a few days before. You can catch the direct train from both Paris central and the airport at CDG.

While this region is not the easiest to reach on your own, with Lush providing transport it opens up the possibilities to investigate more interesting places, and unlike some 'escorted' trips, you don't feel herded around like a tourist sheep. This is important to note, because having done both types of holiday there are some really big differences here with LUSH. First it's personal, Kim and Johnelle are showing you what they love, what they have discovered and they invite you to share a slice of their life in this beautiful region.

Secondly, accommodation! I'm so bored with hotels, and having spent so much of my life making my home full of the things I love, I don't really want to spend a week in somewhere uninspiring and bland. When Kim discovered this mansion in her town, she managed to convince the owner to let us 'borrow' it for a few weeks, so in a nutshell, you can only stay there if you join with Lush, this isn't some homogenised version of a French Manor, it's the real deal.

The second you arrive at this stunning house you feel the stresses and strains of life wash away with your first cocktail in the garden. Hello, it's Apero time! There is a lovely welcome basket in your room with your Lush apron, snacks, soap and wine.

Brantome market

The itinerary for the week was planned to include flexible activities such as canoeing and yoga, with plenty of time to do your own thing. The manor is central to the town so it's easy to walk and mooch at your own pace and make your own discoveries, like the tea room with book shop and garden run by a lovely English gentleman. 

Our own personal yoga and massage guru Janet was on hand for classes and treatments every day which could be slotted in during the trips out to visit other towns and vineyards. This and cooking classes were held at the manor with your choice to join or do your own thing.

chopping techniques were covered as part of the classes

On Monday evening we headed to the town square of Bourdeilles for their regular knees up of live music and a bbq with the locals. The Cafe De La Halle is built up against the huge stone walls of the castle and we sat in it's presence while the full moon rose above us and the traditional music romanced us to the small hours. 

our beautiful garden at the manor

The following day we met local French chef (and accomplished painter) Christophe Dupuy, owner of the beautiful local hotel and restaurant 'Les Jardins  du Brantome' and he led our group, including Chefs Aby and Justin, around the market and shops before taking us to his kitchen for a demonstration in how to prepare our own starter with simple ingredients. We were able to explore his lovely herb garden, sniffing and touching our way through the greenery and flowers until we sat in the shade of the trees to be served several more courses for lunch. 

You may have seen my live feed in Instagram stories, as next day Justin showed us how to make the perfect omelette before we jumped in our Lush bus to explore some flea market shops and have a mooch around the prettiest town of Perigeux where I found a plant shop that had it's own bar, beer and plants, only in France !

Justin having a good rummage in the herb garden
The drive to the wine region gave us the chance to see the lovely countryside and before long we started to see more and more fields of grape vines, an indication that we were getting close to the vintners. First stop was the beautiful Chateaux which produces the wine Montbazillac, a quick look around, some lunch and then off to the second winery of Vignoble des Verdots. I can thoroughly recommend this small producer, particularly for their Merlot, it's a family business who make their wine with true love, and you can taste it in every glass, even their lowest price bottle is smooth as velvet and an exceptional price.

wine made with love and by hand when the moon is just right 

markets of produce and farm made ingredients

shutters and geraniums couldn't be more French

After this we headed to the town of Issigeac, one which I really want to go back to, a couple of hours from Brantome, oh my, it's so beautiful with some great shops. They were having an outdoor food festival in the evening so we stayed on and chose our own meal from one of the stalls which surrounded the square. French sausage, moules, grilled cheeses, and many more washed down with local beer or wine, although I opted for a Pernod, when in Rome! 

the back streets of Bourdeilles
Our week flew by, it was packed full of interesting things to do while managing to feel relaxed at the same time. A perfect retreat for couples and singles alike. One of my favourite things was to hear Abigail and Justin talk about how they had prepared our food. I've never met anyone who can speak about food so passionately as Abigail, she weaves her enthusiasm and draws you in to see how the sharing of food with good people is the spice of life. I didn't realise until I listened to our three chefs, that food could be so sexy. 

My favourite dishes, hard to choose, but I'm still dreaming of the risotto that disappeared far to quickly from my plate in a whirlwind of amazing courses. 

To sample the cooking of our chefs during the rest of the year you can find them here ; 

Christophe Dupuy - http://www.lesjardinsdebrantome.com/en/rooms/ for food and accommodation in Brantome. (Also check out his art exhibition).

Abigail Hitchcock - not far from Greenwich Village at https://www.camaje.com/visit/

Justin Wright will be working from a new venue soon, find him at The Almanac Beer Company in San Francisco.

Janet DeHart - Yoga and Bodywork http://www.dehartbodywork.com
San Francisco

To secure a place for next year hop over to https://www.lush-getaways.com

On my next post I will be looking at the Manor house interior as a template for creating the French look.


Monday, 11 September 2017

LUSH Getaways to France - part one

If you love food, and you love cooking and travel then I've found the getaway for you that's both relaxing and exciting, educational and naughty. Get your diary out now and book yourself in for next year before all the places get snapped up, hit this link and make sure you secure the boutique room that suits your personality just perfectly https://www.lush-getaways.com/bookings-1  every room has an en-suite bathroom which is also decorated in a unique way.

this was my room in the eaves, I slept like a log every night and a few afternoons  

the decorative wall finishes were one of the many  inspirational design features.
The mother and daughter partnership that have formed LUSH Getaways (Kim and Johnelle) have put together a package of events featuring all the things they love.  Firstly the venue, a gorgeous manor house in the prettiest little town of Brantome France, (where Kim also has her shop called The Bohemians). Surroundings are so important to me as a fan of all things interior, and this house is really gorgeous, a big old stone Manor with shutters, a salt water pool and three floors of great antique and vintage items decorating the individual rooms. It has gorgeous floors of tiles and wood, and many great ideas like the downstairs loo which is wallpapered in old magazine pages. 

Bring to this the culinary skills of several top chefs, like Abigail Hitchcock from New York restaurant Camaje (85 MacDougal Street) and Justin Wright from San Francisco (about to start work with a new eatery) with a little help from their friend and local hotelier/artist Christophe Dupuy (Les Jarden de Brantome).

so many decorating ideas here

the sun setting over the square as the musicians strike up

every Monday they meet in this square  in  Bordeilles for food, dancing and music

Christophe and Aby chatting at the local farmers market

evening music played live outside a cute cafe

Garnish with local trips to the wine region and wine makers, some canoeing down the river Dronne and some thrift shop rummaging, add a sprig of al fresco evening food with music and a drizzle of yoga and massage and you are coming somewhere close to imagining the wonders of a Lush Getaway.

Californian Kim now lives in Brantome and during visits from her beautiful and stylish daughter, Johnelle, they cooked up this recipe for a beautiful gourmet retreat in the prettiest region of South West France. Ok, excuse all the culinary references but I can't resist it as I'm in chef mode!

every evening Brian prepared us the most mouth watering cocktails, he really came up with some great concoctions

fresh herbs picked from the garden of Christophe

Christophe guides Justin around his garden before cooking us a  delicious lunch  at his garden  restaurant and hotel.
At the 17th century Lush Manor we started the day with melt-in-the-mouth pastries from the local bakers and an individual dish prepared by Justin. I didn't know you could have such variety for breakfast, we tried pancakes, waffles, eggs and fruit, based (like every meal) on the choice of produce found in the local market. 

We shopped in town at the local butchers, market stalls and supermarket, took in the beautiful architecture, stopped for coffee and a snack while being guided around to see the local specialities.

I loved this butchers shop with its gingham bags of cured meat hanging from the ceiling. 

our relaxing lounge back at the manor

Merlot grapes ready to be picked
decorating ideas at the Manor

Every evening Johnelle's husband Brian mixed up some cocktails, every one a new masterpiece in it's own right. We often had canapes while we socialised in the lovely garden before going in to the dining room.  The talented team of designers from Johnelle's store (Mignonne Decor in San Francisco) had added pretty touches of greenery in cut glass and candles, the attention to detail was beyond exceptional and just the kind of thing that makes a holiday perfect. 

Next week I will run you through a rough diary of events on the Lush Getaways holiday for food lovers. Until then ... Bon Apetite


Friday, 25 August 2017

Hand Made with Love

Many years ago I had a stall at Camden Market where I sold things that I made by hand (glass products), and since that time I've tried my hardest to support anyone who is creating marvellous useable items on their kitchen table, just as I did back then.

Over the last few years some great hand made items have made their way into my home, via social media mostly. I have found some amazing and talented ladies who are producing small batches of high quality items which I can thoroughly recommend. But while I can tell you about them here, this is really just a message to say, do your best to support the small companies, the 'one man band's' who are following their hearts and making what they love, your support is essential and I guarantee you will get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

One of my all time favourites, and a name I support over and over again with purchases, is The Botanical Candle Company.  Set up by Amalia, I am watching her dream grow gradually and steadily, due to the high quality of the product, once you have tried you will be a regular customer.  Amalia, produces candles, hand poured in soy wax, from tea lights to much larger containers and has a range where she uses old reclaimed pots, jars and enamel tins, every one unique.

On the 1st September, The Botanical Candle Company will be launching their winter scents, so I snapped up my usual favourite 'Greenhouse' before they change to a new range.  I expect there will be some lovely warm seasonal spicey aromas to perfume your home.

Recently I've been trying out some hand made goats milk soap from Salt and Spoon, who after their trial run, hope to selling small batches by the end of the year.  I spoke to Suki about her new lifestyle and why she has started to make her own soap, and she explained about how they have bought a small-holding in West Wales and will be doing their best to be self sufficient in many ways.

In the search for natural soap which is kind to sensitive skin, Suki decided to try goats milk cold pressed soap using just basic natural ingredients like locally sourced rapeseed oil instead of olive oil. Whilst her own goats aren't yet old enough to produce the milk, Suki is using the milk taken from her friends goats and by adding the ancient ingredient of Lye, in a very expert manner, she has found a formula which, when set and cured, is a creamy foamy kind and gently soap.  Keep a look out on the Salt and Spoon facebook and Instagram feeds for details of the first batches of her soap. 

This summer my skin has been saved (in many ways) by A.S Apothecary's 'First Aid Kit' number 10. If you check the website at http://www.asapoth.com  there is a beautiful story of 'seed to serum'. You can shop online or visit their flagship store in Lewes, where the process of smelling and touching their range will help you find the right product for your needs, first hand. 

Cheers to the ladies who are experimenting on their table, taking over the house with ingredients and producing carefully made, lovingly packaged, little treats for us, I salute you.

While I'm here, also just a reminder that if you would like to vote for this blog please do so at this link ; http://www.interiorblogawards.com/vote/janice-issitt-life-style/

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