The Christmas tree evokes memories of simple childhood pleasures and excitements. I am reminded of the moment the box of decorations was taken down from the attic: feeling joy reopening it and exploring its hidden treasures, pulling out the glittery garlands, the old fairy lights and the delicate glass baubles that picked up and reflected so many colours. Passed on from earlier generations, some of our family’s Christmas decorations were intricately woven paper and ribbon creations, or hand-painted snowmen, robins and elves: sturdy time travellers from Christmases long ago.
Making your own Christmas decorations means being in the moment while having fun stitching, painting or découpaging! The craft as well as the decorations passes from one generation to the next. Christmas is said to be ‘all about the children’ but the ‘Down Memory Lane’ tree pays tribute to the older generation.
When I first opened the shop my counter and till point was a late 1930s pitch pine kitchen cabinet. It has all its original features including a pull-out enamel work surface, hooks for cups above the top inside shelf and air vents on the top doors. I initially painted this cupboard in Annie Sloan duck egg blue adding some time later old violet and Scandinavian pink to give it a newer life.
Many customers have commented on this piece of furniture reminiscent of their childhood memories at their granny’s or remembering their mum preparing some food on the narrow counter. I have been asked many times if I would sell this retro piece of furniture but I have become attached to it and it is now back in my house. The shop counter is now a large chalk-painted Edwardian sideboard with beautiful carved details and a large top beveled mirror.
The splash of rich Autumn colours and ‘mellow-fruitfulness’ in Anna-Marie Leavy’s limited edition print “Blackberries” vividly conjures up for me memories of foraging for this beautiful sweet wild fruit as a child. Cycling along hedges in search of the blackest, ripest berries in mid-September, we’d leave our bikes on the side of the lane and by the end of our picking we’d have eaten almost as many berries as we’d collected in our little buckets. We’d walk along the bramble-laden hedgerows, our fingers sticky and stained a deep reddish purple colour while our tongues and lips were matching shades.
Blackberry jam is simple and satisfying to make and here’s an equally simple recipe for how to create a deep aubergine colour using Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan: Mix equal parts of Burgundy and Napoleonic Blue to produce a rich and strong colour purple. Add a bit of Graphite if you prefer it to be a deeper shade.
We live in an era where the art of writing appears to be fading away to be replaced by emails, texts or messages on various social media platforms. The joy of receiving a real card through a real letter box is all the greater for being so rare these days.
This paper and ink card can be displayed and even framed, meaning that you can cherish it for longer. It stays as a is a reminder of the care and love that came with the card in the first place !
The cards available at Handmade Design Studio are designed for any and every special occasion. They are made in small batches and some are one-off or commissioned. The card makers include artists Orla Barry, John Corrigan, Carole Fanon, Lorna Farrell, Gail Kelly and Fergus O’Neill.
I love this time of the year when the great variety of flowers are beginning to bloom. With their spectacular colours come some enchanting scents also. My favorites are lilac for its unmistakable scent, rose for its heady yet subtle fragrance and honeysuckle that offers a fresh and sweet hedgerow aromatic.
Bring all the magic of nature into your house by burning a Field Day Irish scented candle: the delicate Tea Rose fragrance is enriched by rose otto notes and has a hint of plum. Divine!
You can also enjoy the refreshing jasmine and lime soap from Baressential. This family-run business based in Co. Kildare only produces small batches of handmade soaps so these natural bars are the freshest possible bars of soap to be found. Baressentials’ unique recipes are made using sumptuous skin loving ingredients and luxurious evocative scent blends.
Not forgetting you can display your favourite cut flowers in a vintage-inspired handmade vase from Emer O’Sullivan. Emer is a Donegal native who makes a range of pretty ceramic pieces inscribed with flowers and impressed with lace.
I recently had a throwback to my student days when I received some new jewellery made from vinyl records by Dana Creations. As I was admiring the quirky earrings and necklaces, I began to wish I still had my vinyl collection and could immerse myself in the soundscapes of Pink Floyd or Horslips. I felt nostalgia for the times I’d have to turn the disk over to side B once the scratchy crackly sound of the record player meant side A was finished.
Tulips and daffodils are in full bloom; woods are covered in a soft purple carpet of blue bells; birds are gathering twigs and feathers to built their nests: Spring is well and truly here and there is a great sense of the world coming colourfully back to life. English Yellow and Antibes Green by Annie Sloan are cheerful Spring colours that will, without doubt, bring life back into any tired-looking piece of furniture.
Valentine’s day is a day for love, of course, and most importantly it is about expressing that through a carefully chosen gift for your loved one. It is the little things and moments that make Valentine’s day special and you can enjoy any number of these with a thoughtful gift. Let’s see, these could be …
The smell of freshly brewed coffee ready to be poured into your favorite mug. It could be the Irish Cob mug by Claire Molloy.
A walk along the beach (well maybe not in Mullingar!) or in the forest or across the beautiful midlands bogs all wrapped up in warm clothes. Nikki Collier‘s Swirl hat would be ideal.
Cosying up together for a chat, a laugh or a cuddle by the fire at home with some mellow music playing in the background.
Putting on a sparkly pair of earrings or wearing a stunning pendant before going out on the town. One of Forgotten China pendants are truly vintage.
Preparing some tasty food for a dinner en tête-á-tête. You will need one of Caulfield Country boards.
Greenery is the name of the fresh and vibrant new shade made by Pantone for this year. It is a truly Irish colour, symbolic of the undulating hills, the grazing land and dramatic landscapes of the Emerald Isle.
Foliage and botanical patterns are very much on trend at present and are reminiscent of William Morris’ textile and wallpaper patterns. Greenery shades are revitalising and make me yearn for nature’s imminent revival in springtime.
Being aware of the natural world, and being conscious of sustainability, another useful trend is the idea of ‘upcycling’. This is a great way to reuse materials and reduce our collective carbon footprint. Using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, did you know that here in Handmade Design Studio we can refresh and redesign any item of furniture for you?
We discuss the ideas for the style you like, the colour and finishing and you will be guaranteed to have a unique, individual hand-painted piece that breathes new life into your existing furniture and doesn’t ‘cost the Earth’ in every sense of that expression!