Blah blah baking, yes, we are all still enthralled - but not with the Village Hall aesthetic of Bake Off. It's summer and we're opting for a more elegant take on the bake. Neither twee nor retro, it's altogether something more beautiful. Colours bright and blush side by side. Seasonal fruits and edible flowers. Swirls of buttercream and dustings of icing sugar. Vintage platters and stylish cakestands. See Linda Lomelino and The Violet Bakery Cookbook for cues, Bitossi bake moulds for practicals and Chiviarini for lashings of jam.
We're all about fine, un-fussy living this spring/summer. A bit French country, a bit lovely. It's about getting domestic in the best possible way; no upstairs starch or downstairs drudge, just green and beautiful household cleaners from Commmon Good, Redecker brushes and utensils, vintage willow pattern platters, pudding moulds from Bitossi, Variopointe table linen, cushions and throws. It's simple, soft and (mainly!) easy. Yes pleasey.
Doing the rounds of the various shows over winter, Victoria and Lucy were feeling a bit of a French country vibe; a fine, un-fussy way of living, centered around the kitchen. Table linen and pudding moulds were taken care of, but then they came across Gien in Paris and the whole thing came together beautifully.
When it comes to fancy French china, Gien are the business. That said, the company was actually founded by an Englishman from Stoke-on-Trent called Thomas Hall. It was 1821 and Hall thought it was about time the French were introduced to fine English earthenware (they call it ‘faience’), so he set up shop in Gien, a small town on the banks of the River Loire.
Over the course of the 19th century, the company became best-known as the supplier of Europe’s finest bespoke dinner services. Thousands of aristocratic families across Europe ordered Gien sets adorned with family crests or monograms, and descendents continue to place orders today. While some of the processes have been brought up to speed, the company still manufactures 100% of its earthenware in Gien and honours traditional techniques such as paper printing and hand painting which gives slight variations between each piece.
Now we’re not so sure about fancy monogrammed china, but we do love a set of plates intricately decorated with curious French riddles. Especially when they come in orange, blue and pink, packaged beautifully in round wooden cheese boxes. We're stocking both dessert plate and biscuit plate sets, and the pink set is marriage themed (perfect gift alert!).
A lot changes here. Things come and go. All the time. But some stuff, we've loved for what feels like forever. Pearl and Duralex glassware. Fridge jugs and milk bottles. Weck jars and Falcon enamelware. All of it has a home on the shelves we call the main run, slotted between our latest loves and finds - which are arriving thick and fast right now.
To start, we're taking spring cleaning very seriously with a gorgeous new range of household products from Common Good: dish soap, laundry liquid, all purpose cleaner, scented candles and hand soap. All sweet smelling, clean, green and worthy as can be.
Stacked next to them we're airing crispy white table linen from Variopinte; table cloths in two sizes, table runners and sets of napkins, all finished with classic grey or blue stripes.
Glassware also gets a new addition in the neat little Americano tumbler, we've got new stock of our favourite vintage willow pattern platters, and we'll soon be making space for pudding moulds and printed china. Spring at The Hambledon is here.
Lucy is an uber fan of this lady. Hilary Robertson, major league interiors stylist, art director and all round oracle on the stuff we love. We've been pouring over her exquisite new book, The Stuff of Life, for several weeks now, so we were just a bit wowed to talk styling, buying and NYC life with the lady herself.
How did you get started as a stylist?
After university I interned on various magazines which helped me decide that I wanted to be an interiors stylist. Initially I had wanted to be in the fashion department but I discovered that the interiors/design world was more appealing to me.
There aren't that many jobs available on magazines but I was very determined! I found a magazine that was about to launch and wrote to the publisher before he had even hired an editor.
Who or what couldn't you work without?
Travel is really important to me as I am always looking for inspiration, new products and trends. I'm in Copenhagen at the moment which I always find refreshing aesthetically.
I lived here in my twenties and it definitely influenced my choice of career. Scandinavians have such a rich design history and they integrate design into their lives in a very natural, practical way.
What do you like most about what you do?
I like the immediacy of photography: you can make a picture very quickly. I take pictures myself all the time. Instagram is fantastic for amateurs. In fact, the iPhone has really helped me to be a better stylist; it makes communication easier and I can record a visual diary that I find incredibly useful in the process of creating a story.
Which project or achievement are you most proud of?
I'm always moving forward and learning so I don't really dwell on the past! I'm always convinced that the next thing I'm working on will be the best. I'm grateful to my publishers for backing my ideas!
Anyone you would absolutely love to work with in the future?
I'd love to work as a creative director for a brand. When I first arrived in NYC I worked on creating a new interiors brand, Canvas. I enjoyed that process as I was involved in everything from sourcing materials and products to art directing shoots.
Tell us a bit about your move to New York, and from a buying perspective, how it differs to London?
The decorating business is very different here from London. US magazines are very focussed on showing homes that have been 'decorated' by
professional interior designers, quite different from our approach in the UK.
Finding independent retailers with their own identity is hard here as the US high street has become so homogenous; the same home brands are everywhere. I reacted against that by spending lots of time at flea markets where I can find things that help me put together a more individual look. I also love to discover crafts people who sell their work on Etsy or at fairs.
Who or what inspires you?
Visiting museums and art galleries is invaluable. I always spend any free time that I have looking at art and design or watching films with a strong aesthetic. Bergman's Fanny and Alexander is my favourite film.
Finally, if you could go back in time, when and where would you put yourself?
The Bloomsbury Group's interiors have always appealed to me. I like the Omega workshop's inventiveness and unconventional approach to creating rooms bursting with texture, color and pattern. I adore Cecil Beaton's interiors too and the sets in Jean Cocteau films. (Around 1912- 1930 might be about right).
Rustic jugs. Pretty posy vases. Sparkley decanters. All manner of fancy new glassware with unfancy price tags. So unfancy you can save the splurging for the flowers. Or go super decadent and decanter your washing up liquid like our Emma.
A set of very simple, long, white shelves has been the central focus of our homewares department since The Hambledon's very beginning. Stock comes and goes, but that set of shelves has been a constant. We fondly refer to them as 'the main run'. But now we have a new run, and it's quite a big deal in our world. This new set of shelves is solid and imposing, made of cast iron that's rusted and worn. It already feels perfectly at home, hosting out prettiest, pastilly wares; a huge delivery of pearl glassware, new ceramics from House Doctor, American milk glass, cookery books aplenty and our new range of Italian jam.
She's Australian design royalty, famed for her inimitable style, geometric designs and gorgeous use of colour. Her second book Home has just arrived in store - pages stuffed with inspiration, artwork, much-loved objects and fab projects - and we're now even more smitten. Welcome to Beci Orpin's wonderful world.
We should be party planners because this couldn't have been more perfectly staged. The most fun and colourful party range we've probably ever stocked, landing just as blue skies and sunshine return, daffs bloom and we're all in the mood for celebrating. It's all here. Garlands and cake flags. Party bags and cupcake cases. Napkins and paper plates. Covered in super colourful confetti and harlequin prints. An excuse in itself to get your party hats on people.
Charlotte Farmer's distinctive designs have been right at home in our homewares department for several years now, so we thought it was high time to catch up with the lovely lady behind our favourite mugs and tea-towels, to talk peas, pyjamas, screen-printing and being the boss.
Describe your typical working day?
I try and get up early and go running or swimming, just to make sure I leave the house at some point! Then I get back make coffee and draw things. I usually spend a bit of time removing my cat from my laptop as it's one of her favourite places to sleep. The alternative version of my day is getting up early to go to the studio in Bristol where I do my screen printing.
When and where are you most productive?
It's when I'm screen printing as there are not so many distractions. I only stop for coffee.
Who or what couldn't you live without?
Work wise, it's carbon paper and 0.3 pencils, Spike print studio in Bristol plus constant noise from the radio or music. I'm definitely not someone who can work in silence. Currently, I can't stop listening to the new Warpaint album.
What do you like most about what you do?
I like that every day is a bit different and that I'm the boss!
Who or what inspires you?
Music and thinking about the noises that things make (I know that sounds a bit weird but I was thinking about this earlier and I realised it's the starting point for so much of my work.) I also love the RCA etchings of Davis Hockney and the surface quality of a Cy Twombly painting…I also spend too much time looking at Pinterest.
Tell us something we're unlikely to know about Charlotte Farmer.
I don't like peas and I think that's why I can't use the colour green!
Which project, commission or achievement are you most proud of?
I loved doing my MA at Saint Martins and my favourite commission is some maps I did for Elle magazine last year. My favourite screen print I've ever made is one called Bananas, full of exotic animals.
What has been the most important lesson learnt?
Work hard. Try and leave the house at least once during the day and don't stay in your pyjamas (those two go hand in hand really - or you'll get funny looks from passers by).
What would you like to do in the future?
I'd like to do some illustrations for packaging and have an assistant to keep me organised.
Which 'naughty but nice' teatime treat would we find at Charlotte Farmer HQ?
I love dark chocolate digestives, and I have to admit to being a dunker. Also, if I'm pushing the biscuit boat out, then it's got to be chocolate covered gingers.
And finally, your top three Bath must see/dos.
1. Coffee at Colonna & Smalls - made by the award-winning barista
2. A browse in Mr B's book emporium
3. A boat ride along the canal - but only when it's sunny