Navigating London Design Festival with a four month old baby on the blistering September city streets was no mean feat, but hell bent on getting my design fix during the design worlds version of fashion week, I was determined to make it work! Here are my highlights from the week’s festivities.

Newbie Taiwanese Studio IF ‘s striking chandeliers immediately caught my eye at Tent London with its simple and intuitive beauty. Delicate copper and glass combined to create ethereal clouds of bubbles which when used with a pulley system lit up in a whimsical sequence.

British designer Sue Pryke launched a covetable collection of hand-carved Oak chopping boards with leather details in collaboration with outdoorsy brand Wild and Wood, I love their stylish simplicity.  Prices start from £30.

SuePyke

Cute contemporary hand mirrors by Croatian brand Oaza.

Oaza

I wrote about being taken by illustrator Louise Wilkinson’s work last year when she had just launched her first collection, so it was lovely to rediscover her again at Tent. She exhibited a beautiful range of patterned textiles with a fun folksy feel which on closer inspection contained witty narratives hidden within!

Louise-Wilkinson
Continue Reading…

Pentland_Jug

I spend my life trawling beautifully designed sites packed with a plethora of covetable products – but sometimes the sheer volume of options is overwhelming. Once in a while I come across a store that captures my attention with its quiet confidence. I have been an admirer of Scottish homeware brand Sparrow and Co. for years – with a handful of original and beautifully made items to choose from – hand-painted tableware, simple but exquisitely patterned textiles and new Ash wood furniture – each one has the essence of a future heirloom.

I spoke to the brand founder Samuel Sparrow about running a small but perfectly formed business.

Sparrow-Co-11

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Samuel Sparrow, owner and creative director at Sparrow and Co. – a British homeware brand based in Scotland.
I live and work in Glasgow with my wife Laura and our two sons, Rowan (2 years old) and Elliot (3 months old).

What did you do before Sparrow and Co? Why did you decide to start the business? 

After graduating from the Glasgow School of Art I cut my teeth in London working for homeware companies Habitat and Ikea.

Working for Ikea taught me the importance of commerciality – a balance between functionality, aesthetics, availability and pricing.

However, I soon grew dissatisfied with the throw away culture synonymous with brands like Ikea. I was uneasy with the ‘out with the old – in with the new’ attitude and the notion that one would want to simply throw everything away and start again. Of course, I’m not opposed to newness or reinvention; I’m just more comfortable with the adage ‘things grow better with time’ – if given the opportunity.

With this in mind I decided to carve a path based on my own design principles – creating my own brand; one that I would be proud to put my name on.

Sparrow

What was your vision for Sparrow and Co?

Our vision at Sparrow and Co. is to design and source products that will stand the test of time, products that are not designed to fit a passing fashion. We are the antithesis of mass produced products and we are proud of it.

At Sparrow and Co. we celebrate the imperfect and inherent beauty that comes with functional, handmade products.
Our products need to have provenance – a story to tell and share.

Sparrow4

Tell us about your set up, what are the logistics of running an online store? Do you work out of your home?

As my wife will testify I am a perfectionist and work hard to ensure what we are doing is consistent and adheres to the values we believe in.

However, as the business has grown I have had to learn that there are certain jobs that require other peoples help.
While I understand that it is important to have a grasp of all the responsibilities associated with running a business – I simply would not have a business if my time was focused on every task.

Sparrow3

What is a typical day in your work life?

As anyone with young children will know, the day usually starts early! Once the boys are organised I will usually be found at my desk with a cup of coffee!

We are about to launch our new website. Therefore, a lot of my time is taken up tweaking the layout, photographing new products, updating the journal or finalising product descriptions.

My afternoons are usually spent packaging up orders for delivery. Today I will be replying to a press loan request and answering questions for this feature!

Evenings are spent on design and product development – often into the wee small hours.

Of course, Laura and the boys always provide a welcome distraction…

Pentland_Range

The visuals on your site are beautiful. Who shoots and styles these?

We work really hard to try and keep the same handwriting flowing through all our branding and photography – all of which is done in house. I would love to say we fly a team of stylists and photographers around the world to a hacienda in Mexico to shoot the collection. We are still small so photography and styling are usually done on our kitchen table; with a little help from our two year old son, Rowan!

Having said that, we do have some exciting photography collaborations planned for Winter 2014.

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

We plan our collection around three main season launches – Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter and Christmas – with each product designed or carefully sourced around our values; quality and sustainability.

We have had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most talented makers’ around the world – from countries including Morocco, India, Central America, England, Wales and of course Scotland.

Our collection is small – but perfectly formed.

S

Tell us about some new finds.

Native Stool – they’re sturdy and unashamedly utilitarian. Each one is made by hand in Wales from native ash.

Bandhini Cushion – Intricately made using India’s finest tie-dye technique; grains of rice are tied into the cloth to build up a pattern of dots and circles. The cloth is dyed, dried and then carefully pulled to release each thread and reveal the pattern.

How has Sparrow and Co evolved from launch till now?

Sparrow and Co. launched in November 2011 – the same month our son Rowan was born – with our own range of candles.
The response was good. A buyer from America noticed them and suddenly we were selling through the company that owns Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters; they bought the entire collection and stocked them in US garden/home store Terrain.

Our first year in business was spent around our kitchen table labelling, boxing and wrapping thousands of candles to be shipped across the Atlantic.

Keen to grow we expanded the business with a small, curated homeware range with products we had designed and sourced, including; hand knitted throws from Wales, tin lanterns from Morroco and rare breed sheepskin rugs from Scotland.

Recently we opened a Pop Up shop in Glasgow – it gave us the opportunity to meet our customers and share the story behind each product face to face – the shop was temporary, however, it made me realise that one day I would like to open a bricks and mortar SPARROW AND CO. store.

In 2013 The Sunday Times listed us in their Top 10 online home stores – a very proud moment and one that has driven us to continue building a brand we would be proud to pass on.

Sparrow

Tesco

As much as I love the buzz of a luxury splurge, who can say they don’t prefer the thrill of a bargain? Over the past few years we have been spoiled by national supermarkets launching their own homeware collections which have made food shopping for people like me a feverish pleasure.

Tesco2

With a new Head of Design and beautifully themed collections, affordable. My picks from the collection all come under £50 and honestly I could not tell the difference in quality between these products and a more high end brand – the ceramic glazes appear handcrafted, textiles are beautifully tactile and glassware thick and luxurious. I cannot wait to ‘splurge’ on more in the collection.

Above: Dip Dye Utensil Holder £6, Stoneware Fish Platter and bowl £7.50 each. Below: Tie Dye Cushions £10 each, Hurricane Glass Lanterns £10 and £12.

If you can’t wait till your next food shop, take a look at the catalogue online here

TescoCushions TescoLanterns

What is it about Spring and its charged tendrils which permeate sneakily under thresholds and curl through the cracks in windows to make us feel restless and impatient for the new. Is it a natural instinct of re-birth and renewal that resounds in our bones like in animals and plants?

A literal sweeping of cobwebs, I am all about the Spring update. It is the bane of my husband’s life that there is a constant flux of homeware products in our household – I am forever buying new glassware and tableware [luckily for me he breaks a lot of it] and if something hangs around for more than two years and is looking a bit knackered [cheap bedside tables i'm looking at you] out it goes.

I believe it’s not my fault and re-invention is in my blood. Every Spring since I was a child my grandmother in Calcutta has re-painted her entire home, re-upholstered her furniture and updated her soft furnishings including curtains for a new season – now that’s my kind of lady!

So in homage to a new season, here are five of my Spring essentials that will go a long way to make your home feel refreshed even if you can’t afford an entire image re-haul.

FermLivingPlanters

I have had my eye on Ferm Living’s mid-century style Plant Stands since their launch this Winter. I’ve always had an issue with plant pots cluttering up window sills, especially since we have a lot of blinds and this very retro and elegant way of displaying plants seems the perfect solution. The Plant Stands come in two heights priced from 30 Euros. The Brass Hexagon Pots are sold separately and priced from 36 Euros.

ToastStonewarePlate

Tableware is my Achilles’ heel and frankly I don’t have enough of it to my liking. The Eve collection at Toast is constantly evolving in seasonal hues and although pricey at £28 for a Dinner Plate, these large plates look great as serving dishes. With a juicy matt pink top glaze and partially glazed underside it’s just the right amount of pretty to brighten up a buffet table at a gathering.

PBTeen

As much as I like things, the frequent rotation of items [by this I mean the inexpensive fun stuff, textiles, crockery and decor] at home means we never feel cluttered – because we live in a flat, I work really hard to make sure that we do not have more of what we can use. Bedding is one of those things – I buy one set of bedding that I really love and wash, dry immediately and use it to death. Bedding, thrifty and fun from Ikea or a splurge from John Lewis is the perfect Spring rejuvenator. Nothing better than sliding into clean new sheets. On my wishlist is this beautiful Metallic Stripe and Dots Set from £22 at Pottery Barn Teen [who ship to the UK]. Part of a collection inspired by whimsical vintage Americana by US stylists Emily Current & Meritt Elliot I love the simple graphic layering of the ever popular dots and stripes in a subtle metallic finish.

 

Version Retocada

I usually have very pared back taste but often an update deserves something crazy to add to the mix. I love a new water pitcher for the warm months, it just makes my day seeing something pretty and eccentric dotted in the middle of a sophisticated spread. This pretty and playful Leaf Jug is 29.99 at Zara Home made of luminous green glass with raised leaf details it makes me want to clap my hands in glee! I must have it! Great value as usual at Zara Home for such an original piece.

Anthropologie

Finally, there is a strong division of camps that think wind-chimes are either super beautiful or super creepy. I am of the opinion that they evoke memories of lazy summer days in English gardens with a tinkling sound carried down through the thick summer air from a neighbouring garden – or beachside bars on exotic holidays as the sun sets and the evening air passes through the trees - essentially all things good. Anthropologie have an array of beautiful chimes in store this season from stoneware and jute Teaflower Chimes priced from £18, to exotic Manali Charm Bells from £14 in varying metal shapes.

Plain English New Paint

I read a lot of historical fiction, especially atmospheric books set in 18th and 19th century England. Tales of lonely Gothic Manors in the English countryside and their curious inhabitants, or imposing London townhouses with their cast of secretive bustling characters. For me, it’s always the descriptions of the interior of the homes that fascinate me, more so the basic and utilitarian downstairs rooms, the sculleries and pantries and staff quarters – be they cosy or dismal.

Resonating with my gothic obsessions is British kitchen company Plain English’s new imagery of their ‘Spitalfields’ kitchen painted in a new paint collection developed in collaboration with Interior Decorator Adam Bray. With names like ‘Rice Pudding’, ‘Dripping Tap’,  ‘Boiled Dishcloth’, ‘Pretty Pickle’, ‘Draughty Passage’, ‘Inky Nib’, ‘Scullery Latch’ and their new colours Buy Tramadol [seen here] ‘Tea Break’. ‘Airing Line’, ‘Time for Tea’ and ‘Wash Day’, they conjure up narratives just as delicious as any one of my books [especially Scullery Latch!]. The image below is of their new colour chart in the brand’s Marylebone showroom.

Plain_English_Adam_Bray_05

The brand’s Spitalfield’s kitchen has always been my favourite because it was inspired by 18th century middle class merchant houses of Spitalfields in East London located very near to my home. I love the styling of the rooms – practical but oh so pretty – with washing lines of utilitarian garments strung up in indigo and linen hues – vintage crockery that populates the beautifully bare cornflour blue dressers and industrial fixtures that quietly gleam on the walls and ceilings. Perfect kitchens for daydreaming of the past.

Plain English New Paint Plain English New Paint Plain English New Paint

{ Search }

{ Recent Articles }

Inspiring Business: Sparrow and Co.

A Must Visit: The New Craftsmen

{ Currently Reading }

The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters

{ Sponsors }

{ As Seen In }

{ Follow me on Instagram... }