Living in Bristol, I’m lucky enough to be within easy reach of Somerset, one of my favourite English counties. There’s so much to love about it: the vast horizons and bird-filled wetlands of the Levels, the pretty harbour towns and grand old piers of the coast, the rolling hills of the Quantocks and the Mendips… But no matter how many times I visit, there always seems to be somewhere new to explore.
My latest discovery is Kilver Court, a designer outlet village on the edge of Shepton Mallet, which I visited on my way down to At the Chapel a couple of weeks ago. I’d actually driven past it several times over the years, but I’d never stopped to have a proper look – I’d just assumed that it would be like any other outlet village: packed, chaotic and full of flashy brands that just don’t appeal to me. How wrong I was! It turns out Kilver Court is an outlet village with a difference – several of them, in fact.
A couple of weeks ago fellow Bristol-based blogger Kym Grimshaw and I hopped in the car and headed down to Somerset for a quick girls-only getaway. Our destination was Bruton – one of my go-to places when I need an escape from the city.
On the face of it, Bruton looks like any other English country town, with its honey-stone cottages, willow-lined river, ancient dovecote and twisting lanes. But underneath the surface, it’s buzzing with creativity. Over the last few years it’s attracted artists, musicians, film producers, designers and more, and it’s even home to a branch of international gallery group Hauser & Wirth. It’s also the location of one of my favourite lifestyle shops, Caro Somerset, and our base for the night: restaurant, hotel, bakery and wine store At The Chapel.
Today I’m sharing another discovery from the recent ‘Sunny Design Days’ tour, which was run by the Spanish Design Association (RED) to give a group of international bloggers a first-hand insight into Spain’s burgeoning design scene.
I have to confess that I didn’t know very much about Viccarbe before the trip, but I soon fell in love with its contemporary furniture, much of it designed by renowned names such as John Pawson, Patricia Urquiola and Naoto Fukasawa. The company is based in Valencia, which is bathed in sunshine for 300 days a year, and the warm Mediterranean light and relaxed way of life have a huge influence on its approach. Every piece shows an appreciation of comfort, colour and texture, and there’s a definite playfulness to much of its range.
I often share peeks inside beautiful homes and hotels around the world, and I’ve decided it’s time I start throwing a few restaurants into the mix, too – they’re fantastic sources of design inspiration, and it’s always useful to keep an eye on places to visit when travelling.
First up is Nærvær, a wine bar and restaurant in Copenhagen which opened its doors in June 2017. Set beside a canal in the city’s Christianshavn district, it’s the latest creation from Norm Architects, who’ve been responsible for many of the projects featured on These Four Walls before.
As anyone who reads my posts regularly will know, I’m a bit obsessed with scented candles (you can find a round-up of my favourites here). I light them almost every evening, and there’s something about their softly glowing light and subtle fragrance that instantly calms my mind after a busy day. One of my go-to brands is Copenhagen-based Skandinavisk, whose range celebrates different aspects of Scandinavian landscapes and lifestyles. So, I was excited to learn that it’s just launched a brand-new collection called ‘Escapes’.
This stunning abode near Copenhagen seemed like the ideal choice for my first post of August. Set in the seaside town of Vedbæk, it has a simple all-white interior with a breezy, beachy feel – perfect for a month when most of us have summer holidays firmly on the mind.
Once a fisherman’s cottage, the house has been transformed into a family home by the talented team at Norm Architects. They started by removing all internal walls on the ground floor except the chimney breast, opening up the space to suit modern living and placing the emphasis firmly on the unusual spiral staircase leading up to the first floor. They then designed several new sections of wall with window-like openings, creating neatly defined kitchen, sitting and dining areas without losing the connection between them. Roof windows were also added to flood the interior with natural light, and a glass floor panel installed to give easy access to the wine cellar below.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m not really a breakfast person during the week. Despite the old adage that it’s the most important meal of the day, I tend to grab a smoothie and go, rather than sitting down to eat anything like I should. But this recipe for overnight oats from Kym Grimshaw of Bristol-based food blog On the Plate might just persuade me to break my bad habits.
Firstly, it’s easy-peasy and takes no time at all – you just bung everything in a jar, leave it overnight, and it’s ready by morning. Secondly, it’s delicious AND healthy, with a lovely creamy texture and a big dollop of juicy summer fruit. Finally, it’s inspired by cherry Bakewells, and as I grew up near the Derbyshire town of Bakewell where the classic almond and jam dessert supposedly originated, it seems appropriate. Just don’t ask me the difference between a Bakewell pudding, a Bakewell tart and a cherry Bakewell, as I have absolutely no idea…
Today I’m sharing more from the ‘Sunny Design Days’ tour of Spain, organised by the Association of Spanish Design (RED) to give a group of international bloggers the chance to experience the best of Spanish design first-hand. As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent the week visiting all sorts of fascinating studios and brands, and one of my personal highlights was an evening at the Marset showroom in Barcelona.
Marset actually started life in the 1940s as a family-owned metal-casting business, but it has since evolved into an award-winning lighting company with a range of refined yet innovative designs, many of which have become contemporary classics.
A few months ago, a rather unexpected and very exciting email popped into my inbox. It came from the Association of Spanish Design (RED), a not-for-profit organisation that promotes Spanish design around the globe. Each summer it runs a week-long tour called ‘Sunny Design Days’, which gives a small group of international bloggers the chance to experience Spanish design first-hand, and I was one of the lucky ones invited to take part this year. Needless to say I replied ‘yes’ within seconds, and so it was that I found myself at Bristol Airport at 6am on a July morning, eagerly boarding a plane bound for Spain.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that it turned out to be a wonderful trip. We started in Barcelona (a city that I will always love, after spending a very happy time living there as a student), before moving on to Valencia, Murcia and finally Madrid – all the while accompanied by a heatwave that saw the temperature rise as high as 43°C. Along the way we visited studios and showrooms, met inspiring designers and innovative brands, and sampled some very stylish restaurants and hotels. I came back with a camera full of photos, a mind buzzing with ideas and a lovely new set of blogger friends – plus a minor case of sunburn, but I only have myself to blame for that.
I’ll share all my discoveries with you over the coming weeks, but I want to start with a look at the beautiful Hotel Alexandra, where we stayed during the Barcelona leg of the tour.
There’s been a huge growth in ‘smart’ home technology over the last couple of years – lighting which you can control via your phone, heating which you can turn on and off from outside the house, CCTV which you can access while you’re out and about… So when renowned German brand GROHE got in touch asking if I’d like to test out their latest ‘smart’ innovation, I was intrigued.
The exact details were kept under wraps until after the product’s official launch, so I had no idea what was going to arrive in the post. It turned out to be the GROHE ‘Sense’ – a clever little sensor which detects water leaks and alerts you to them before they can cause too much damage. In truth, it’s not the most glamorous product in the world – but the more I thought about it, the more I began to realise it’s a good idea. A really good idea, in fact.