Grey matters

Paul Henry, The fisherman’s cottage (1916-17)

Grey skies were a too common occurrence this summer in Ireland which is perhaps what inspired me to choose the colour grey for this post. The grey of those all too frequently seen clouds this summer brings Paul Henry’s paintings to mind. It impresses me the way he managed to render the beauty of clouds and natural light so typical of Irish landscape.
Grey is not a colour per se but a light value situated between white and black, both of which are also non-colours. By adding an equal amount of a complementary colour such as yellow or blue let’s say to white and black, grey can be made warmer or cooler. There are therefore countless greyish colours depending on the colour added.

A colour naturally associated with sadness, solitude and dullness in terms of emotions, grey is used to describe a situation that has no clear moral value or when the boundaries or rules are not quite clear: a ‘grey area’. Grey is the colour of ageing, although the only visible evidence of that is in hair colour gradually fading. The colour can also evoke a sense of emptiness and nothingness: when you think for example of the only thing left after a fire is grey ash that can cover everything… yet to see this is restful and gives a sense of serenity and quietude.  In 2002, Nigerian artist Olu Oguibe captures this idea in an art installation at the Scene Gallery in New York following 9/11.

Giovanni Girlamo Salvoldo, Mary Magdalene (1535-40)


Pebble grey, pearl grey, cement grey, French grey, platinum grey, alumimium grey, concrete grey, stone grey, signal grey, ash grey, dove grey, chrome, silver, moss grey,  glaucous grey.


Beige grey, olive grey, metallic grey, mouse grey, steel grey, iron grey, cadet grey, elephant grey.

Joan Eardley, Catterline in Winter (1963)


Davy’s Grey, charcoal, basalt grey, anthracite, umbra grey, graphite, pewter, slate grey.

In the world of interiors

Grey is quite a sophisticated colour and has become recently quite trendy due to the variety of its subtle tones. It gives a clean simple look to any room and is best exemplified by the Gustavian style. Swedish king Gustav III (1746-1792) introduced the neoclassical elegance of the French and Italian courts to his Scandinavian realm.  The local artisans integrated this new decorative style with their own Nordic traditions to produce pieces painted in muted, distressed neutral tones. The choice of stony and greenish greys or bluish white and buttery yellows were popular. The light tones may have been reminiscent of the Swedish landscape, and were certainly appealing to the Swedish temperament.  To create this Timeless and restrained style, Annie Sloan chalk paints, Paris grey and Paloma are ideal.

Out there now

  • The elephant grey tumbler from the linear stem collection by designer Orla Kiely.
  • The autumn/Winter 2012 collection by fashion designer Benan Sahin for Trussardi.
  • The silversmith and jeweller Stuart Cairns has an amazing collection of vessels first exhibited in Belfast in 2006. My favorite is the silver vessel pinned with thorns.

In the Natural World

Native to North America, Eurasia and North Africa, the grey wolf is the largest of its species. It is the sole ancestor of the domestic dog and is about the same size as a German shepherd. Its winter fur is long, bushy and molted grey but can also range from white to browns.

The African grey parrot can be found in western and central Africa. It is the largest and most popular parrot. Its feathers vary in colour from white to ash grey to charcoal with a contrasting scarlet red on its breast.

Elephants are the largest land animal on the planet and their skin is typically greyish in colour.


RoadArt: East from Mullingar

 I travel  some fair distances across Ireland for my interior design work. Over recent years, I have started noticing the art works that are spotted along the main roads. Some of these sculptures are pretty spectacular so I decided to keep a record of the pieces I like for their reference to Irish mythology, their shapes and for their colour.

My starting point is Mullingar in the Midlands and travelling east towards Dublin, I will describe a number of the pieces on the M4 and M6 with some detours to nearby towns. I am intrigued by the art works for their own beauty and particularly struck by the way Irish artists make connections to the history and topography of the Irish landscape.

 First a little about the roadside art itself: It is funded under the Percentage of Arts Scheme where one per cent of the budget is allocated to roadside art. Local authorities decide on a theme and they are responsible for commissioning the work, usually by open competition. This arts scheme was introduced in 1988 by the Department of Environment and launched in 1993 by Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D. Higgins, now president of Ireland

Passage by Brian O’ Loughlin (2006) at the Pass of  Kilbride, Milltownpass/Kinegad junction M4/M6.

 This 10m Irish bogoak sculpture with bronze caps represents six figures travelling on their way to the Cat Stone of the nearby Hill of Uisneach: the meeting point of the ancient five provinces of Ireland. As they travel, they acumulate kowledge, wisdom and awareness. Each piece was  cut from a single bog oak trunk uncovered during the excavation works for the motorway. With “Passage”, the artist wanted to commemorate the journey that began with the mesolithic people, the first to settle in Ireland.

Enclosure by John O’Connor (2005), Cappagh Hill, Enfield, Co.Kildare

This art piece consists of two circles in steel located on either side of the motorway.  On one side, we can see a 6m stylized enclosed circle, while on the other, a solid smaller disc appears to have been cut from the centre of the larger disc.  It is easy to create the mental image of trying to fit one disc into another as we drive past between the two. The artist got his inspiration from the history and culture of the motted sites: enclosures and ring forts in the area. Ring forts are strongly associated with protection but also with circles or wheels, a shape prevalent in Irish Celtic art, symbolizing life cycles and no doubt journeys.

Axis by Austin Mc Quinn (1996), Courthouse Square, Maynooth, Co.Kildare.

The idea of the bronze sculptures emerged from discussions between the artist and the architect Denis Cogan regarding the dynamics in Maynooth as a space for learning, spirituality, economics and a sense of community. Seven bollards are situated along a curved line emerging from a central bronze disc set into the square paving. The bollards seem to be growing gradually out of the pavement and each one is at a different growing state.

St Colmcille’s Oak by Betty Newmann-Mc Guire (2006), Kells town centre, Co.Meath 

This bronze sculpture celebrates the vision and teaching of St Colmcille who established a religious settlement in Kells in the late 6th century on a sacred site, where he cherished an ancient oak tree. Most of the early Christian churches were founded on the site of druidic oak groves. Groves and individual trees had an important role in the lore of the Celts. Trees provided many of the materials essential to society and this is reflected in the importance attached to trees in the old laws of Gaelic Ireland. Every tree had its uses and everybody knew every tree. Oak trees symbolised force, wisdom and triumph as they come to leaf at the summer solstice in June.

King and Queen by Ronan Halpin (1992), Trim by-pass, Co. Meath

The artist drew from mythological sites such as the nearby Hill of Tara, the seat of the High Kings until the 6thcentury. The Hill of Tara was central to the political and pagan life of the Celts. Early medieval archeology with the 12th century Anglo-Norman castle overlooking the river Boyne was also an inspiration for Halpin. The bronze and steel slender sculptures sit neatly along the road and now with trees and other plants having grown up around them, the King and Queen are quite discreet royals.

Textile art collage

The “Westmeath Experience – Celebrating the best of Craft” began this week in Mullingar. The week consists of a programme of workshops and craft events in Mullingar with another week planned 17th to 22nd in Ballinahown, Athlone.

As part of the event I had the pleasure of running two textile workshops on Monday for children and adults. In one, we did a textile collage onto a series of different images. The children chose their designs and then selected the fabric to make up the collage. Here are some of their very impressive creations.

In the afternoon, with a group of adults and children, we tried out a patch work technique to produce a soft toy ball as a gift idea for newborn baby. Again I was very impressed with the care and attention they gave to the work. One of the participant’s at this workshop had never sewn in her life before and yet managed to get everything nicely assembled. It was a really enjoyable day and a great start to the week in the Made in Westmeath shop.

Hello Yellow

Yellow equals pretty much sunshine and happy feelings. It is a fresh stimulating and cheerful colour that we associate with summertime. Ah the lovely sensation we get from the warm golden glow of the sun shining! It can give us a sense of energy and optimism. The ancient Mayans associated the colour yellow with the direction south and it meant precious and ripe in their culture.

Hazard signs are often shown against a yellow background due to its high visibility.  In 1907, Harry N. Allen, a New York business man created a modern taxi driver company and used yellow for his new fleet when he realised that yellow was the most visible colour from a distance. Cowardice and treachery are the negative connotations of the colour yellow. During the Second World war in Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews were made to wear a yellow star of David on their chest and a yellow armband below their right-handside armpit as they were considered the enemies.

Chrome yellow was the first manufactured yellow that was produced at the beginning of the 19th century. Earlier yellows were muted and obtained from ochre and raw sienna. Orpiment, a rare and toxic mineral varies in colour from an orangy-brown to a canary yellow. It has been identified on ancient Egyptian objects and paintings. It was also used in Northern Europe during medieval times as exemplified in the Book of Kells and Durrow (C.800).  The early Christian monks illustrated the intricate lettering and stylised illuminated figures by grounding the orpiment and mixing the powder with water and egg white to bind the colour onto paper.


Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1957

Buff, old ivory, buttery yellow, buttercup yellow, cerium yellow, Jasmine yellow, Naples yellow, brimstone yellow,  vanilla yellow, mori yellow, primrose yellow, sunlight yellow, copper yellow


JH Fragonard, Young woman reading (1776)

Lemon yellow, mimosa yellow, nasturtium yellow, daffodil yellow, marigold yellow, rape yellow,golden rod, chrome yellow, Hansa yellow, sunflower yellow, canary yellow, saffron yellow, chamomille yellow


Amber yellow, Mars yellow, orpiment yellow, aurora yellow, mustard yellow, maize yellow, Indian yellow, Spanish yellow, tobacco yellow, Gamboge yellow, straw yellow, Mayan yellow, gold, topaz yellow, safflower yellow, turmeric, Venitian yellow

In the world of interiors

Yellow can be a difficult colour to choose for an interior as it may appear too bright and overpower the room visually. It is best to use it in moderation to brighten up a north-facing room or to give a room a sense of gentle warmth by selecting pale shades such as Devine Whip or Crystal by Colortrend.

Throughout the decades, from the Shakers who only used primary colours to the the Arts and Crafts artisans who got their colour inspiration from flowers and plants and the Art Deco designers, yellow has been extensively used. Yellow was one of the favorite colours of the pop art culture of the Sixties which favored bright bold colours. Try Cowslip or Camomile by Laura Ashley  for their boldness and intensity.

Rich golden yellows decorated the interiors of early 19th century homes after the discovery of frescoes in Pompeii during extensive excavations. This trend persisted later in the century with the influence of travellers bringing back artefacts from exotic countries such as Egypt, Morocco or India.  Try Babouche by Farrow and Ball.

Summertime by C.Boydell

Out there Now

  • Summertime and Rince (Dancing), ceramics in Irish terracotta by Cormac Boydell
  • The Ardea armchair designed by Carlo Mollino in 1944 available from Zanotta
  • The Dani natural raffia dress by John Rocha, Spring/Summer 2012 collection
  • The Simpsons: their creator Matt Groening chose yellow for his characters as it was different and bright.

In the Natural World

The number of plants, flowers, birds and butterflies showing a variation of the colour yellow is quite vast. One of the first flowers to announce the Spring season is the daffodil.  Canaries are one of the most common feathered pets and the sight of fluffy newly-hatched chicks is n uplifting experience. Sulphur is an abundant natural mineral whose well-know daily uses include matches and insecticides. It has the characteristic pungent smell of a rotten egg. Onion skins, rhubard and turmeric naturally produce different yellow dyes.

Rock and Stone

Dancing Shiva, 1992

I recently attended the unique retrospective exhibition of Eileen Mc Donagh ‘s work ‘Lithosphere’ at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow.  The numerous stone sculptures vary in scale from monumental to small, giving the viewer a feeling of respect. In fact I’d say I felt meditative when I encountered with such beautiful pieces.  The exhibition was unusual in the sense that large scale stone sculptures, usually displayed outdoors were here displayed indoors.

Ogham Stone I
Ogham Stone II (2011)

Stones are an intrinsic part of the environment and have been carved for centuries and commemorate aspects of humanity and ancient civilisations. Many stone sculptures from other eras can still be seen today and their craftmanship appreciated. In many regards, Eileen’s vast stone pieces create a link to this timeless quality of stones. In some ways, her stone art works made me think about what the Earth contains below its surface and what it is made of.


As a stone-carver, Eileen Mc Donagh prefers to interfere as little as possible with the blocks of stone she finds in various locations in Ireland and abroad; the minimalist shapes of her art pieces show this approach.  She is fascinated with geometry and the way it governs the universe. Her fascination is best exemplified in her star pieces based on the complex shape of the icosahedron. Not something I had ever heard of but when viewing these shapes, I was awed both by the complex mathematics and by the sheer craftmanship and beauty of their perfection.

Test Bed, 2009

Granite seems to be Eileen’s favorite stone to work with. This stone is found in the continental plates of the Earth crust in between two to fifty kilometres below the surface.  It is a hard and tough stone with some irregularities in texture ranging from medium to coarse; its colour varies from pink to grey; These natural characterisctics give the stone its beauty and individuality. The art pieces display a variety of textures ranging from rough to smooth and polished. It cannot be easy to work with such monumental pieces of rock yet Eileen works makes it look effortless.

The impressive installation ‘Cathedral’ features a forest of eight metre high trees that are  based on directly from Eileen’s stainless steel sculpture ‘Medusa Tree’. I felt a sense of peace and serenity when I entered the space and walked around these gigantic trees. The branches are like hands trying to reach to the sky.

Cathedral, 2011

Each tree is in fact made not from stone but styrofoam and papier mache all dyed in pale bluish grey that mimick the apperance of stone. The white marble sculpture entitled ‘ Petrified forest’ continues the theme in a different way and we are reminded again of Eileen’s relationship with natural materials.

Forty shades of green

Green is the colour that is the most visible to the human eye. We are indeed surrounded by it wherever we go in the shape of fields, meadows, grass, trees, bushes and leaves.  For that reason, it represents Nature and its attributes such as rebirth, regeneration, fertility, freshness and life. Green is therefore a colour mainly associated with ecology and peace. Since medieval times, green has also an association with calamity or misfortune and is the colour that symbolizes envy and jealousy. Green is people’s second favorite colour after blue. It usually brings a sense of safety and harmony and has the same calming attributes of the colour blue.  It can be mentally and physically soothing as a colour. As a matter of fact, in the entertainment world, the green room is the room where performers and guests go to relax before and after appearances.

Philip Wilson Steer, Beach at Etaples (1887)


Almond green, light green, pistachio green, artemisia green, mist green, celadon , sage green, verdigris, ocean green, apple green, grape green, fern green, laurel green, opal green, tea green, chartreuse, sea-green, eau de nil.


Marc Chagall, the poet reclining (1915)

Grassy green, Scheele’s green, emerald green, avocado green, cabbage green, Cyprus green, teal green, Persian green, malachite green, olive green, sap green, asparagus green, jungle green, mantis green, harlequin green, jade, Kelly green.


Army green, bottle green, Pine green, Hooker’s green, Moss green, cypress green, forest green, spinach green, hunter green, myrtle green, holly green, Brunswick Green.

In the world of interiors

Green is easy on the eye and soothing therefore it is an ideal colour in bedrooms,  living-rooms and offices. Various shades of green harmonize beautifully as in they do in Nature. The neo-classical interiors of the mid 18th century favoured pale olive green and pale apple green. Check Devine Fescue and Devine blade by Colortrend. Strong colours were used in early Georgian architecture such as pea green or grass green in south-facing parlours. Deeply influenced by nature, the art nouveau colour schemes were quite muted.  Eau de nil and sage green were popular then. Try croscombe and pluckley by Albany, Traditions. Lime and pistachio green were the favorite greens in the 1950s. Check quince, a light lemonish-green by Kevin McCloud  for Fired Earth.

Out there now

  • Berry tree wallpaper by Scion, Melinki Collection                          
  • Brushed lime throw by Cushendale Wollen Mills, Co.Kilkenny.
  • ‘Apple Vase’ by Ingeborg Lundin, 1957
  • Selene chair by Vico Magistretti, creator of the first monobloc chair, 1969
  • The ‘green wall’ by the landscape designer and botanist Patrick Blanc on part of the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.
  •  My favourite muppet, the one and only , Kermit the frog

In the Natural world

The verdigris agaric is a medium-size slimy mushroom found in grassy woodlands  from  Spring to Autumn. Its colour becomes yellow–ochre as it matures and it grows in Britain, Europe and Iran.

The plumage of most of the Amazon parrots is of a bright green. These birds are native  to Mexico, South America and the Carribean.

Emerald, jade, malachite and tourmaline are naturally green stones ranging from pale to deep hues.

Be Natural

Cleaning detergents and products very often contain an array of chemicals, which can be harmful to the environment and to you. They take longer to biodegrade and are therefore quite toxic. The healthy and safe alternative is to use traditional, ‘grandmother’ recipies based on products that can be easily found around the house. These include: vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate of sodium, salt, milk, black soap or lavender, essential oils and even incense.

 White vinegar mixed with water makes a great natural cleaner for windows, mirrors and glasses. Buff them with crumpled newspaper for a sparkling finish and give them a final wipe with a dry cotton cloth. Vinegar will also get rid of tough greasy marks on your cooker or oven. It is a good descaling agent for shower nozzles: Leave the nozzle in a basin full of vinegary hot water and after a while the limescale deposit will dissolve. If you spill coffee on a rug or carpet, put a tissue on the stain to absorb it. Then dab the stain with an equal mix of cold water and white vinegar. Rinse finally with cold water only.

Still life with lemons by Auguste Renoir

Lemon juice will help to get rid of fruit stains on clothes,  tablecloths and napkins. It cleans silver jewellery pretty efficiently also. Rub the flesh of half a lemon over the limescale deposits on taps and then rinse with water to get a shining finish.

Sodium bicarbonate or bread soda is a natural deodoriser: sprinkle some on rugs and carpets before hoovering.  If your kitchen sink, your teapot or mugs are tea-stained, cover the stain with a mix of two or three teaspoonful of bread soda per litre of water and leave to soak for a couple of hours, the stain will be removed without difficulty. If the bottom of your pots and pans are burnt, again cover it with a mix of bread soda and water and leave to soak. You might need to repeat the process until the burnt patches disappear.

Rock salt will revive the colours on a rug. Sprinkle it on the rug and hoover after an hour. Again if soot or ashes have accidentaly dropped onto a carpet or rug, cover the area with rock salt and leave it for a couple of hours then hoover it up. Leaving a bowl of rock salt in a quite humid room will absorb the humidity.

The milkmaid by Vermeer

Boiling milk will efficiently get rid of wine or fruit stains, even old ones, on material.  Warm milk is a good natural cleaner on wooden furniture. Prior to applying the milk, rub the piece of furniture with a cork , taken from a wine bottle- going with the grain of the wood. Once the milk has dried out, buff the piece of furniture with a beeswax polish.

Black soap is an olive oil-based liquid soap that has a great texture and is brilliant for cleaning tough greasy stains. It will restore shine to tiled floors.

A.M Ruggeri-Pano

Lavender sachets left in wardrobes and drawers are great deterrents against mites and will gently perfume linens and clothes. Essential oils such as lavender and tea tree have natural antibacterial and disinfectant properties.  Incense is a pleasant alternative to chemical spray.

A constant flow of cool fresh air is essential in all the rooms so that they are always fresh. Open the windows every day for ten to twenty minutes to renew the air. Houseplants will also improve the quality of the air in the rooms as they release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide during the day. They are also natural humidifiers, especially in a dry atmosphere.

For commercial eco-friendly detergents, I would recommend Lilly’s Ecoclean products:  the all-purpose citrus spray cleaner can be used to clean your mirror and window panes, the inside of your fridge, oven and microwave. It cleans perfectly well all surfaces including tiles, granite and stainless steel. The vinegar and tea-tree oil-based toilet cleaner is an effective product and is not harmful to septic tanks.

Ecover has promoted the use of eco-friendly products since 1980. This Belgian company pioneered and produced a laundry powder containing no phosphates before anyone realized how harmful they were. Their household products don’t have phosphates, enzymes or bleach, making them absolutely safe to use around the house. The camomille and marigold washing-up liquid cleans and degreases all tableware very efficiently. The dishwasher tablets and rinse aid work perfectly while the bio washing powder has a gentle smell and works brilliantly on whites and colourfast clothes. The floor soap has a linseed oil base and caters well for all type of flooring.

If you have any grandmothers’ cleaning recipies or tips on uses of natural products around the house, please leave a comment.

Spring forward

Spring is the time of year when we tend to think of freshening up the house and rationalizing interior spaces. Renewal comes to mind too especially as one sees the first daffodils opening up, the lambs frolicking in the green meadows and the days getting longer. It is time to bring back energy into the house after the winter months by way of de-cluttering and Spring cleaning.

Fergal Costello, Tree Chair

David Hockney, the arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, 2011

Spring cleaning can be quite daunting and therefore one room should be tackled   at a time, preferably in the morning for one hour, two maximum, otherwise it will feel more like a chore.

HALLWAY: This space can become cluttered very quickly with sport equipment, shoes, coats, bags, buggies and even bikes. All of these would need to be stored away or organised differently so that the clutter won’t be visible once you open the front door.  A console table, a small table with drawers or a chest of drawers will accommodate small items such as keys, post, bags, scarves and hats when a wall unit with hooks and shelves will take care of coats, jackets and umbrellas. A bench with a lift-up top or a simple bench with lidded baskets stored underneath will be ideal for shoes and sport gear. Under the stairs can be used efficiently for storage by having a purpose built shelves system on runners so that everything can be accessed easily.

Recommendations: IKEA, Hemnes storage bench & shoe cabinet; The Kildare-based company Bneathstairs

KITCHEN: This is the heart of the home and the place where we cook, eat and often entertain family and friends. Storage, organisation and cleanliness here are key considerations when it comes to the allocation of all items used to prepare and cook food and to make sure it is a safe environment.

Any chipped, damaged crockery, ustensils, glasses, pots and pans should be discarded. Unused small appliances can be given away to someone who would make good use of it.

Check your store cupboard for food items that may be out of date. They would need to be thrown out. A general rule of thumb for food stored in the fridge is as follows:

  •    Cooked leftovers: 4 days maximum
  •  Raw meat or fresh fish: one or two days
  •  Bacon: up to 7 days
  •  Deli and vacuum-packed products: 3 to 5 days once open

As for the commercially frozen food in your freezer:

  •   Fruit and vegetables: 12 to 18 months
  •   Raw meat,  meat products and poultry: 2 to 12 months; two months only for bacon and 12 months max for poultry.
  •   Fish and shellfish: from 4 to 10 months; four months for oily fish and clams and 10 months max for flat fish.
  •   Ice-cream: 6 months

Organize your recycling with the use of sort-out bins or stackable recycling containers, depending on the space you have. If you have a garden, you might consider investing in a compost container. Your cleaning products are usually stored at hand-reach under the sink.

Reference: Food safety Authority of Ireland –

Recommendations: Lid-touch or pedal bin from Branbatia,   “flower” trio recycling bin by Curver. Argos* have also a great selection of kitchen and recycling bins.

BATHROOM: As it tends to the smallest room in the house, the bathroom space can sometimes become cluttered with too many beauty products, shower gels, towels, toilet rolls and so on. Mirrored wall cabinets, storage trolleys, hooks and well placed baskets are ideal to store small items to make the bathroom clutter-free and visually spacious. Ladder radiators for towels are very neat, efficient and practical. Glass shelves above the toilet cistern or at the end of the bath can hold toiletries, towels or even bath toys. Chrome baskets fixed with suckers will keep your shampoo bottles close to hand.

Beauty products also have a shelf-life.  You will find a logo on all cream pots, tubes and make-up. It is in the form of an open-lidded pot with a number and the letter ‘m’. This indicates how long a product can be used for after opening. For example, 12m = 12 months. After a year the product will lose its quality, texture or colour and may even result in an allergy on the skin. Beauty products are best kept in a dry environment and away from the light.  Pencil eye-liner should be sharpened regularly and hair brushes need to be washed every two to three months with a mild detergent. If your medicines are kept in the bathroom cabinet, check on their expiry date too and discard any that are past it of no longer needed.

Towels and bath mats tend to loose their softness and should be replaced gradually. Wooden items such as soap dispensers or bath racks may have blackened due to the high level of humidity. The same items in ceramic or bamboo are more suitable.

Recommendations: Muji bathroom accessories and storage.

LIVING-ROOM: The many things that people use the living room for, such as reading, listening  to music, watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing with the children and entertaining our family and friends, means that it needs to be comfortable. In the living room you need to cater for everything from books, magazines, newspapers, photos to CDs, DVDs and games.  Again, storage is the key element to have easy access to all these items.  A coffee table with drawers for magazines and small items including the remote controls,  floor to ceiling built-in units, baskets or window seats with storage underneath the seat could be handy. Flexible and multi-purpose furniture should be considered if the living-room doubles up as an office, a play-room or a guest-bedroom.

You might want to go through your  books, CDs and DVDs and remove the ones you no longer want to keep and take them to the charity shop.  Any torn soft furnishings, damaged lighting, chipped ornaments should be discarded if they are beyond repair or of no sentimental value.

Recommendations: Seca and Melo Sofa, Volani storage system and Fermo media unit, all by Bo Concept.

BEDROOM: Unclutter your wardrobe to create more space: go through all items of clothing including the shoes, belts and bags. Select the ones you haven’t worn in at least one year, the ones that don’t fit anymore, the ones you no longer like for whatever reason. You have the options of taking them to the charity shop, selling them at a car boot sale or organising a swap party with your friends. Now you might want to re-organize your clothes.  Items that need to be folded like jumpers, tee-shirts and pyjamas can be stored in a chest of drawers or tall boy while shirts, trousers, dresses and skirts should be hung up.  Store any out-of-season clothes in a blanket box or wicker trunk. Shoes can be stored in their original boxes at the bottom of your wardrobe. If you still have a lot of shoes you might find time to take photos and attach the the boxes and find them easily without upending the whole collection!

Bedlinen and blankets are quite bulky items and can be stored in your wardrobe if you have the space. Otherwise, the wardrobe in your spare room or the hot press are ideal for this purpose.  Store blankets and quilts on the top shelf as they are not needed as often as sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases.

Recommendations: Adams bed, Hana freestanding mirror with shelves, Radius wardrobe and Mews chest of drawers, all by Habitat. Selection of baskets and storage boxes from Laura Ashley

OFFICE:  This space may be a whole room, a corner in the living-room or kitchen, the area under the stairs. Household paperwork and documents need to be filed away and organized for future access. Clear files annually but keep important documents such as guarantees, insurances renewal and health records. You can contact your bank and mobile phone provider to register for e-statements and bills, reducing the amount of paper you get in the post and you can access the information online whenever you need to. Use boxes or a mini drawer unit to store pens, paperclips and receipts.

Recommendations: Utensilo wall organiser by Dorothee Becker for Ingo Maurer, 1969

CHILDREN’S ROOM: Keep their favorite books and toys handy and store the rest away in colourful baskets or stackable boxes for future use.  Broken toys and games  or puzzles with pieces missing should be discarded and the ones the child or children have outgrown can be given away. The same applies to clothes and shoes because, as every parent knows, toddlers and children grow out of them very quickly.


NB: If you want to give away any items such as furniture, toys, tools,  clothes etc, you can register with , the recycling site whoe motto is “Someone, somewhere wants it.”

Orange you trendy

Orange was first recorded as a colour in English in 1512. It is named after the fruit and is the most under-valued and rejected colour on the colour chart. Some people find orange superficial if not overbearing.

Andy Goldworthy

Like many people, I’m sure, I personally associate orange with Autumn and the gradual changing of leaves from amber to burnt orange, reddish purple and russet brown, marking the end of the summer. There is nothing more inviting and mesmerizing than this recurring colourful spectacle come September. Another natural association is the sun setting when the sky turns into dramatic and beautiful shades of golden oranges and copper reds. Finally, the soothing and comforting glow of embers and flickering flames of a fire in the middle of winter.
Orange is one of my favorite colours as I find it uplifting and warm both as a colour to wear and as a colour to live with.

Pale: Buff, almond, peach, apricot, salmon, melon, pastel orange

Art reference: Alphonse Mucha, F. Chamenois, France 1898; Pablo Picasso, Les demoiselles d’Avignon*, 1906.

Moderate: Amber, tangerine, carrot orange, coral, saffron, fawn, pumpkin, ginger, tan, Bronze, cinnamon

Art reference: Edward Hopper, Pennsylvania coal town, 1947.

Dark: Rust, mahogany, burnt sienna, sinopia, burnt orange, ochre, Persian orange, copper, terracotta

Georgia O’Keefe, Canna, red and orange, 1922

In the world of interiors

The Victorian palette was dominated by warm strong colours such as terracotta and ochre. Three-part colour schemes were favored for wall treatment: the colour from the floor to the dado rail could be fawn, then from the dado rail to the picture rail, ochre and from the picture rail to the coving, buff. This popular treatment would add richness and drama to the room.

During the 1960s vibrant colours were much in vogue and particularly orange, which was seen as a fun colour.The Finnish furniture maker and designer Eero Aarnio exemplified the style of that era the best with his Ball armchair *(1963).

Recommended paint shades: ‘Charlotte’s Locks’ by Farrow & Ball for a daring orange and ‘Ballet Shoe’ by Earthborn for a gentle shade.

Out there now

• Scottish fashion designer Jonathan Saunders’ spring 2011 and 2012 collection• Irish candle maker Larry Kinsella’s crakle glaze and glow-globe candles
• The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, an art deco building painted in international orange.

In the natural world

The following plants contain natural dyes that will give various shades of orange:
Henna: the leaves of this small tree which grows in hot and dry areas of the Middle East and North Africa have been used as a dye substance for centuries. Madder: A plant native to Asia and Eastern Mediterranean countries which can produce colours ranging from apricot to dark red. Onion skins as well as sycamore seeds will give rusty shades and subtle skin colour.

The earth pigment ochre is the oldest known natural pigment. It can be found in the Provencal village of Roussillon in the South of France. It comes in about 25 shades ranging from delicate yellow to bright orange and deep red and has been used as a paint or dye material since prehistoric times. The Romans produced pottery glazes with ochre. Ochre can also be found elsewhere: The Aborigines as well as the Maori use it for their artwork, body decoration and mixed with oil it can be used as a sealant for wooden boats.

A type of Polynesian fish iihi, close to the red mullet is of a luminous orange shade.

Wolly London

On a recent visit to London I had a chance to spend some time discovering a fabulous wool shop in Islington called ‘Loop’. A small boutique full of absolutely amazing natural yarns.  All hand dyed and sold only in skeins the wools are sourced from small independent wool manufacturers from around the world. The most extensive collection of books to do with wool, knitting, spinning can be found upstairs as well as more colourful and delicate yarns. For a similar boutique in Dublin ‘This is Knit’ is the place to go.

The yarns I got come from Peru, Canada and Uruguay and they are made of alpaca, Merino wool and cashmere.  The alpaca is extremely light, soft to the touch, silky and warm. It is a fine, durable and hypoallergenic fibre, which is also naturally water-repellent. This yarn is naturally silvery rose.  The Alpacas originate from South America and their fleece comes in twenty-two natural shades!

One of the merino wool yarns is hand-dyed in bright shades of greens , yellowy-orange and hazelnut tones. Another one is kettle-dyed and varies in tone from rusty oranges to reddish pinks and lime green.  One other hand-dyed yarn is a fine mix of merino wool and cashmere with shades of blues, purples, greens, yellows and pinks.

Merino wool comes mainly from Australia and New Zeland. It is a fine fibre that retains heat and absorbs moisture, so it is ideal for hats and scarves that you can wear outdoors when the weather is not the best.

Cashmere is a strong, warm, light and soft fibre which is extremely fine in texture. A cashmere goat can produce an average 150gr of wool per year. Cashmere occurs naturally in greys, browns and whites. Mongolia is the second largest producer of Cashmere wool after China.

Another great encounter over the weekend was with textile designer Claire-Anne O’Brien who was kind enough to meet me at her studio. I was eager to see one of her wool stools again, having first seen it briefly at the Future Makers stand at the Interior Design and Art Fair in Dublin in May 2011. I was utterly blown away by her quirky use of wool. Her pieces are works of art. I particularly like the simple yet intricate patterns she uses to create unusual organic furniture items. My favorite piece is a cream round stool, with doughnut-shapes across the seat linked together in their centre by a thick wooly string.  Claire-Anne hand or machine knits all her pieces and has a team of knitters in the UK. She is keen to have some knitters in Ireland and will soon source her wool from here also. Work by Claire-Anne is available exclusively at Makers and Brothers in Dublin.