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Alison Satasi, moved back to London from Bermuda in 2006 after thirteen years working for the Bank of Bermuda. She found the island a beautiful place to live but the banking industry very sterile and was itching to do something that was creative and with some social value.

With an ever present love for textiles and an interest in the communities and makers behind them, Alison opened Luma, an ethical shop selling luxurious organic and fair trade textiles, wallpapers and homewares in Barnes, South West London and never looked back. 

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Why did you decide to start the business?

I’ve always loved textiles. Even as a teenager, I’d come home from travels with my suitcase bursting with handwoven blankets or beautiful embroidery. For me, part of the appeal of textiles is the people behind them; you can find cottage industries in remote locations doing wonderful work with skills handed down through generations. When traveling in Peru, I’d learned about organic cotton farming and the benefits it was bringing to farmers and their families, as well as to the environment.

What was your vision for Luma?

I had decided to launch a range of luxurious, high thread count bed linen made from organic, fairly traded cotton and accessorise it with blankets and cushions that supported the small, local producers that I’d always liked.. That was back in 2005 and my first collection was launched in 2006.

To say that I’ve diversified since then would be an understatement! My shop is now bursting with homewares from baskets, to ceramics, to recycled wood frames … you name it.   I’ve found suppliers who shared my ethos and also support small UK businesses and designer-makers.

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Tell us about your set up.

I started with just a website focused on my own-label textiles collection. About 18 months later I opened the shop in Barnes and now we also run the website from there.

Describe a day in your work life.

My days are incredibly varied. But, if I’m not away on a buying trip, I might start the day working at home, replying to supplier emails and placing orders. Later, I often walk to the shop across the common with my dog, Bob, and spend a couple of hours there, perhaps styling new stock, training staff or helping customers. We also offer a furniture sourcing service, so I will pick up details of new requests to research later. I spend a lot of time researching new products for the shop or for customers.

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Where do you find your stock? How do you plan your collections?

I’ve built up a wonderful group of suppliers now, including my original textile producers who make pieces just for me. And I’m always looking for new ideas, particularly things that are handcrafted. My challenge is always to rein myself in and create a collection that’s going to work well together in the small space of the shop.

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Tell us about some new finds?

We’re bringing in lots of indigo and white for Spring and Summer. Including some pretty handprinted linen cushions from India and pottery made here in the UK.

What can readers expect from a trip to Barnes where the store is located?

Barnes is a great place for a day out. The London Wetland Centre is a very short stroll from the shop, a wonderful oasis with lakes, ponds and gardens. Across the road from us is the Olympic Cinema, converted from a famous recording studio, with a popular restaurant where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. You can then explore some little shops and walk past the common, complete with pretty duck pond, upto the river. Finally, you can stop for afternoon tea in Orange Pekoe on White Hart Lane.

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NIPPRIG_Coathooks

Often, a trend or collection really makes you want to completely re-invent your home’s aesthetic and IKEA’s new NIPPRIG collection of summer pieces really makes me wish our home was more whitewashed floors and rustic charm rather than ‘modern classic’.

Designed and made in collaboration with local producers in Vietnam and Indonesia, NIPPRIG uses renewable materials like bamboo, rattan, seagrass and water hyacinth and works with their naturally durable qualities using traditional skills like hand-weaving.

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Typical of the brand, the pieces are achingly affordable and in my opinion totally worthy of being future classics – my barometer for this is whether they make me want to buy up a load and store for my future home (this feeling occurs more rarely than you may assume).

The beautifully crafted and generously sized chairs available in black, green and natural colours, weigh in at only £50 – and gracefully curved side tables at £40 and i’m definitely hoarding some of those beautiful three hooked coat hangers for just £6 [perhaps a few of those] – and ‘hello, mid-century style room divider at £39!’ Well played Ikea – again!

See the rest of the collection here and because its a limited edition – snap it up whilst you can!

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Rosa's Cookbook

I’ve had a love affair with Rosa’s [Rosa’s Thai Cafe] from the very first day I stepped into its happily crowded and steamy doors in the heart of Spitalfields on a winter evening five years ago.

I was meeting friends for a long overdue catchup after work but downtrodden with a cold, wasn’t feeling my best. As I shrugged off my coat and cast my gaze at the tables next to me dotted with fragrant delights and let the gentle hum of the busy room wash over me – transporting me to the comforting warmth of the East, I slowly began to feel revived.

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Since then that day if in the vicinity of a Rosa’s – I have picked it over any other venue – never tiring of its mouthwatering sweet, spicy and sour fare.

The spicy Beef Salad with both its cooling and warming properties got me through my pregnancy cravings [see my ad-hoc Spicy and Sweet Thai Salad Dressing inspired by this from last year]. The soul-soothing Vegetarian Tom Yam soup sated me when I went off meat – and the Beef Mussaman curry with steamed sticky rice and hot gunpowder chillies [on request] filled me with goodness when I needed comfort food… not to mention the succulent summer rolls I could eat by the dozen when I am feeling healthy.

Started as a street-food stall in Brick Lane in 2008, the group was founded by husband and wife Saiphin and Alex, and now runs to six sites across London, including in Soho, Spitalfields, Chelsea, and Carnaby Street, serving plentiful bowls of home made Thai food with a modern twist.

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The librarian and Martha Stewart in me loves having a cookbook hanging around the house for comfort but there is rarely one that is well thumbed. I have been waiting since that day five years ago for this cookbook and just cannot wait to dig in and make it my own.

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Stunningly photographed so you can practically smell the basil and the chillies emanating from its pages, the book is as simple as it is stunning. Despite the complex flavours of Thai dishes the recipes and ingredients are to my relief surprisingly accessible with the most exotic ingredient the ‘taro root’. Everything else from the 14 ingredient exotic list like green peppercorns, pea aubergines and pandan leaves I am pretty sure you can find at your local Waitrose!

Rosas Prawn Soup

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Rosas Curry

You can pick up Rosa’s Thai Cafe: The Cookbook at any good bookstore and follow their great Blog [which includes cooking tutorials] and their mouthwatering Instagram here.

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FloraForager

These days if anyone asks me where I go to find inspiration for my work and really somewhere to find ideas that are on that exciting cusp of discovery  – I always say Instagram. You can get wonderfully lost in a trail of discovery from click through to click through and in this very way I stumbled across the magical account of Flora Forager.

Flora Forager aka Bridget Beth Collins – is a botanical artist from Seattle who has been peppering my feed with her playful and skilful arrangements of flowers and injecting it with a dose of permanent summer.

To my awe, Bridget’s story showed the true power of Instagram, as it turned out her business began only a few months ago and just by posting her addictive arrangements she has garnered more than 90.5K followers and grown her business a hundred-fold. I quizzed her about her very new business. Follow her on Instagram @flora.forager

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Credit: Jaimie Spiro

Tell me about Flora Forager.

Flora Forager began in the Fall of 2014 (only a few months ago) when I was contacted by the editor of the Chalkboard Mag to feature some of my floral mandalas.  I had made a few for my personal instagram.  She told me I ought to start an instagram with just my floral work, and that she knew of people who had made careers out of selling prints of their instagrams and collaborations.I laughed and thought it was a little bit silly, but made up Flora Forager off the top of my head late one night and started posting some pieces to it. I had no idea how much people were craving flowers in their lives.  It took like wildfire.
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What is your background?

I majored in Theatre at Seattle Pacific University. I have been painting professionally and been a full time mom to my three wily boys for the last eight years. I grew up in a sea town called Edmonds just north of Seattle and would practically live in the woods when I was a child. My mother is an avid gardener and my father is an adventurer and biology wiz so I grew up with a love and appreciation for nature.

 

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What is your business?

I collaborate with brands and sell prints of my work. My husband is the silent partner behind the website, orders, and shipping.  Flora Forager would only be an Instagram account without him! He’s the math and organisation guy and I’m the creative and social gal.  We are a great team.

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How would you describe your very unique aesthetic?

Creative, detailed arrangements of botanicals, showcasing the ordinary or unusual in surprising ways. To put it more lightly, I “paint” with flowers.

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What is your inspiration?

My inspiration is nature itself. Beautiful designs and patterns can be found in the leaves and petals themselves. I go on walks in my neighbourhood gardens, meadows, and forests and am continually enamoured and delighted. I’ll see feathers in petals or scales in succulents and wont rest until I’ve made them so.

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Where do you source your flowers from?I have a little garden in the city that never ceases to amaze me with its amount of flowers, and my mother has a huge rose garden with 70 different varieties of roses. The area I live has such an abundance of flowers and plants. I feel like practically anything can grow in the northwest, save for desert plants.

A walk through a green belt or a stroll down the street can give you a full bouquet of flowers. I love finding overgrown abandoned gardens with flowers trailing over the fence.  It doesn’t take much to create one of my pieces, just a few flowers usually. I’ll buy anything really rare or prized from the market, but everything else is foraged.

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Where do you work? My attic studio or my kitchen table.
 
How does Instagram play a part your business? Instagram IS my business! It’s where I post all of my photos, collaborations, and advertise my prints.  My website is kind of an extension of it.

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Skinflint

Frequently gracing the pages of the industry’s most beautiful interior magazines, Cornwall based company Skinflint are fast making a name for themselves as a key player in the restoration game with their characterful salvaged and rare vintage light fixtures.

I’m always inspired by the progress of small businesses especially a husband and wife team – because working together can be hard! Chris and Sophie Miller relocated to Cornwall from London in 2006 – Chris with a background as a lighting and product designer and Sophie’s in fine art and as an Art Director and stylist.

With a flourishing retail business, great interior clients and a consultancy that started it all – today we find out more about the inspiring business that is Skinflint.

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What did you do before Skinflint? Why did you decide to start the business? Skinflint was born of our mutual passion for the environment and our love of beautiful objects. We have both always loved trawling salvage yards, sneaking off to auction houses in the middle of nowhere and hunting out those unexpected finds.

We decided to start the business because we wanted to find something to satisfy our desire to use our shared knowledge and experience, to make an environmental difference (we are effectively re-cycling and all our processes for restoration are as environmentally friendly as is possible, its’ not something we shout about because it’s part of our fabric- an it’s how every business should be) to tell stories (we research the histories of our products and try wherever we can to link the narrative to the light) and to work with fantastic design- all our lights were manufactured in a time before ‘planned obsolescence’ they are beautiful pieces of design.

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Why the name Skinfint? A Skinflint refers to a person, who is overly careful with her or his chattels, a person so careful they will even use the shavings of a flint. We believe in reducing and reusing as much as possible, our products are expensive compared to some but that reflects the craft and effort that has gone into their restoration. We are Skinflints because we don’t like waste and nor do our clients. We believe in doing something once and doing it right.

What was your vision for Skinflint? For the future, we intend to continue doing what we love: sourcing and restoring beautiful and unexpected finds from the UK and Europe, contributing to the local economy by keeping all the restoration work within a 5 mile radius of our studios and researching and documenting the histories of our lights.

Tell us about your set up, what are the logistics of running a sourcing and restoration business like yours? We have several warehouses where our products are stored, a large open studio, photography areas and meeting rooms; these spaces are where the day-to-day running of our business happens.

Our restoration and refurbishment works all happen within a 5 mile radius of the main studios where our subcontractors, who also work within the local maritime and industry, each undertake specific tasks depending on the requirements of that product. From polishing to powder-coating, angle-grinding, soda blasting and rewiring, each and every product has different needs and its path from arrival to finished state is painstakingly planned. As directors Chris and I also have any days away from the studios meeting new suppliers and exploring new lines.

Describe a day in your work life. There is no average day at Skinflint. A day here can be anything from travelling round a country in Eastern Europe and finding some incredible lighting in a disused factory, to a day in the van meeting with subcontractors and discussing the finer details of restoration, or even simply a quiet day planning in the studio.

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Where do you find your stock? Our stock is predominantly sourced from the UK and Eastern Europe: Our enamel shades frequently come from the now derelict, cavernous factories that once filled the industrial heartlands of England. The lights we source from Eastern Europe were often produced behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ and were standard communist issue in their factories and streets.

Tell us about some new finds? Our Spring Summer collection is released this week; a really lovely collection of work lights and some of the most fascinating products we have in it are the Horstmann Map Reading lights, of which we have three.

Although not immediately the most obvious of lights they are interesting pieces of history (and beautiful early counterbalance lights) we have managed to retain the original 1940’s paintwork of all three and two still have their map- enlarging lens. It’s a privilege to work with such lovely pieces of history, not only are they fascinating objects with a real story to tell but they are also pieces of our classic design heritage, these particular ones being the precursors to the more recognizable and classic Anglepoise and counterbalance lights of the 60’s

How has Skinflint evolved from launch till now? 

Skinflint was initially launched as a lighting design consultancy with the retail side of the business taking a back seat; however as time has gone on the business has evolved into our retail side becoming more important to the extent that we no longer operate as a consultancy (although we are still of course happy to draw on our experience and expertise and to advise our clients)

What is does living in Cornwall bring to your business?

Balance. I look out of my studio window and I can see boats, at the end of the day I can walk the dog on the beach. I have the space to think and it helps to keep work and life in perspective.

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