Coinciding with National Wallpaper Week (2nd - 8th October 2017) Helen Baker is launching her first wallpaper collection 'Garden Life' alongside fabrics in the same designs.
Using silhouette shapes found in her garden and nearby local green spaces, Helen works them into simple and bold designs perfect for modern stylish interiors.
Garden Life was created to reflect the shapes and forms that surround our everyday lives and to bring some of the outside in. "These aren't the showstoppers of the gardening world but rather the more humble aspects of garden life that merit championing too. Less 'stopping to smell the roses' and more 'stopping to appreciate everything’.
Living with her husband and two sons means that Helen understands the need for designs that work for the whole family. With each of her designs inspired by nature;, from seedlings growing on a kitchen windowsill to buttercups in a nearby field, they are accessible and recognisable to any age or gender and suitable for any room.
It was her boys and her surroundings that sparked this collection. "I love the way children really notice and engage with nature everyday. It seems to be a skill we often lose as adults." It's this emphasis on simplicity and the appreciating the natural world that Helen believes is a way to create happy homes, one of the missions for her designs.
The five designs are Buttercups, Primroses, Birds, Seedlings and Honeycomb and the colour palette plays on contrasts creating an effective scheme using soft greys and greens and bold blues and yellows, all found in the natural world. They are available as fabric by the metre and wallpaper (samples available too) and lampshades and cushions can be made to oder in any of these designs.
Four weeks also, before #reclaimyourcorner had even been conceived, I found myself wanting to renovate several rooms in our house that had been neglected since moving in two years ago.
September felt like a fresh start, a sort of mid-point new year, and with my own children back at school I decided to make a few changes around the home. Not having the time, budget or energy to tackle a whole room I realised I had to think on a smaller scale. I stood in the most neglected room and set about sorting and restyling some shelves, moving the sofa to a different wall and, voila! I had created a lovely space that was just how I wanted it without having to spend any money and just using a fraction of my time. I had reclaimed a corner of an otherwise unused space.
Wondering if any other people might be in a similar position I put #reclaimyourcorner out there on social media with an explanation as to what it was all about. A month later I can't quite believe that there have been over 350 posts! Like-minded people have been claiming back spaces everywhere, from offices, hallways, playrooms, converted garages, bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms to even sheds! It really has been truly inspiring to see so many different entries and I've loved reading about each and everyone of them. Thank you to everyone that got involved and I hope you're still enjoying them!
Above: a selection of spaces people have been claiming back.
Before and after shots of my second reclaimed corner after being inspired by so many others!
And breathe…the kids are back at school, normal service resumes and there’s a hint of Autumn in the air, a perfect time to claim back a space in your home just for you. A place where the toys/washing/life admin hasn't taken over but instead to create a corner or part of your home that you can enjoy. It could be somewhere to have a drink in peace, read a magazine or simply a place that's filled with the things you love. So find or create a space that's important to you and share it at #reclaimyourcorner to be in with a chance of winning a Helen Baker cushion.
Each Sunday for the next four weeks, a winner will be chosen from #reclaimyourcorner to receive a Helen Baker Home cushion, helping you maintain your happy home. Simply follow @helenbakerhome on Instagram, like Helen Baker Home Facebook page and share you pics with #reclaimyourcorner or simply email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!
The T & Cs...
· The winner of the cushion giveaway will be announced each Sunday for the next four weeks starting on 10th September 2017. All entries will be counted until a winner is announced each week.
· Competition entries can be made via Facebook or Instagram or email at email@example.com
· To enter you must LIKE Helen Baker Home Facebook page or follow @helenbakerhome on Instagram and post your photo with the hashtag #reclaimyourcorner
· Winner will be contacted privately via Facebook Message or Instagram direct message. The winner has 48 hours to respond if they fail to respond another winner will be picked.
- Helen Baker reserves the right to decline publication of any photograph which is uploaded or amend titles or descriptions when necessary.
- By submitting your image via email or tagging @helenbakerhome and/or #reclaimyourcorner on Instagram or Facebook, you give permission for Helen Baker to publish on their website, social media and any future marketing activity
· The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 years or over.
· By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
· No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
· This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform. The promoter is: Helen Baker (company no. 9523473) whose registered office is at 7 Clarence Parade, Cheltenham, GL50 3NY
It’s twenty years ago to the day since I travelled to Nepal to teach English in a tiny village school. I was 19 years old and wanted to explore some of the world before going to university and the idea of voluntary work overseas really appealed. My parents had travelled around Asia as students and said how friendly the people in Nepal were. Despite spending moths preparing for my trip it was a total culture shock for me on my arrival. I was a young girl from a Cornish fishing village navigating the hustle and bustle of Katmandu but the explosion of fabrics and colours really made a lasting impression.
My volunteer partner, Julie, and I travelled for ten hours on the roof of a bus(!) to a village in the foothills of the Himalayas nestled within rice paddy fields. This was to be home for six months. and we were to be living with the headmaster of the local village school, his wife and their two teenage sons in their home made out of dried compacted mud. After a few days of getting to know the area the Headmaster’s wife ‘Amar’ (Nepali for mother as she liked us to call her) asked if we’d like to wear sarees. We both agreed without hesitation and were honoured to wear the traditional dress for women on a daily basis. Ever since our arrived in Nepal I had been admiring the colourful saree fabrics with their intricate embroidery details and bold colours displayed on stalls and worn by women everywhere. However, we needed a masterclass on how to wear the 5.5m length of fabric. Typically, one end is tucked into a long cotton petticoat and then its wrapped around it. The next section is gathered/folded and tucked into the front, finishing another wrap around the body with the end part folder/draped over one shoulder. It’s such a simple, practical and beautiful design that one length of fabric can fit any size or shape of body yet everyone looks different depending on the design, colour and accessories worn.
Shopping for sarees was a truly memorable experience. Amar took us to the market in the local town where we browsed amongst the most beautiful fabrics. We chose plain coloured sarees to teach in and more intricate and elobarate designs for other days and special occasions. It was also the first time I had ever had bespoke garments by a tailor but it is standard practise when you need the fitted blouse to wear under the saree. In today’s era of buying off-the-shelf and mass produced clothes it's easy to forget a time when most clothes were made to measure in most cultures.
Amar and the other women in the village were very patient and helpful in teaching us how to tie the sarees but washing them was a very different cultural experience indeed. We joined the women by the local river on washday and started washing our clothes with a bar of soap that that had been given to us. The women all looked at us. We were struggling. We weren’t used to washing clothes and fabric by hand and explained, bashful and embarrassed, that we had machines to do this for us so never needed to wash by hand. The women kindly showed us how to do it whilst taking care not to damage the fabrics, especially the ones with embroidery. The sarees were left to dry on the rice plants in the intense heat and then we'd would work together folding them into neat fabric stacks. Watching the women make a domestic chore into a social activity was quite eye-opening. We’d then carry piles and piles of clean colourful sarees back to the village full of satisfaction and pride (once we’d mastered the washing!).
This may have been two decades ago but I have such vivid memories of the colours, fabrics and of the amazing women who let us be part of their community and taught me so much.
It’s no surprise why so many people head to the coast for a holiday. The sea air, crashing waves, warm sand, sun, light…the list goes on. So when a holiday comes to an end and it’s back to reality, it’s very appealing to want to bring an essence of the coast home with you but coastal interiors can have a bit of a clichéd feel. I love the coast but don’t really want nautical knots or compass motifs in my home. I grew up on the north coast of Cornwall where the beaches are all about surfing, swimming and exploring rockpools, but where are these designs? This gap was the driving force behind my contemporary coastal collection titled ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall…’ that uses bold, graphic design inspired shapes and colours found in Cornwall. Here’s a little guide on how to create a coastal look that’s up to date without a nautical knot in sight.
A good starting point is to think about hotel decor in coastal locations (you can see photos on hotel websites and in magazines). They will often have a ‘nod’ to the coast but don’t go overboard but rather have a ‘less is more’ approach. If you see a style you particularly like, work out which elements you are drawn to and see if you can create a similar look.
Often coastal interiors use white or a pale neutral as a background colour. This works well as a light and bright starting point for adding other colours within soft furnishings and accessories. Blues and whites are classic sea side colours that work well together for a timeless look. Calming colours that area found in nature, such as sand and shells, create a natural shoreline feel too. Adding a bold splash of colour, such as red or yellow, brings a sense of warmth and lampshades and cushions are easy ways to do this.
Horizontal stripes, echoed in the horizon, waves, cliffs and clouds, are another way to add a contemporary coastal feel. Using stripes in bedding, curtains, blinds and throws are ways to achieve this. As I wanted to create an updated stripe design within my collection used a Breton stripe design (my husband is half French) and added an iconic cloud motif. This result is simple and stylish look that can work in any room and isn’t limited to a coastal theme either.
Remembering the golden rule of less is more, it’s advisable to keep accessories to a minimum. Of course, you’ll want some objects to help create the feel but don’t get too carried away. I like to start with objects that mean something to me, perhaps some pebbles or shells collected from a beach trip. Items that are personal to you will keep the look more genuine and less clichéd.
Adding different textures and materials such as wood, baskets, rope and stone will help to add a subtle coastal feel. Pieces of driftwood or anything weathered really adds to a washed up weathered atmosphere.
Hopefully, by following some of the above you can create your own little slice of coastal inspiration that you can enjoy wherever you may live.
Fabric by the metre, cushions and lampshades are all available though my online shop
I was very fortunate to receive some EU funded business support to help me business get off the ground. Here's the full article. https://www.businesswest.co.uk/case-studies/wiltshire-entrepreneur-fills-gap-niche-fabric-market
Organised Jo writes a blog where she interviews a wide range of working mums with the aim of 'trying to bring order to working mum chaos'! Running your own business alongside family life is a juggling act but I am always thankful to have work that I can fit around my children as I explain further in this interview.
In the same way we change our clothes with the seasons, I like to do the same with my home. Theses can often be very small changes that don't involve reaching for the paintbrush but rather by adding a new cushion or two or some well chosen accessories. Here are my top tips on styling your home for summer.
Summer conjures up a mix of bright sunny days and being outside in the natural world and your interiors should reflect this too. Choose natural materials and textures such as cotton fabrics, wool, wood and stone. These help bring the natural outdoor feeling inside your home. Also plants and flowers add to a natural feel so incorporate them where you can.
Stripes are a classic and timeless pattern choice for fabrics. They echo the horizontal lines found at the coast, both in the sea and sky and I added a graphic design inspired cloud motif to create an updated version of the seaside stripe (above) which I call Cornish Clouds. Here are samples from my contemporary coastal collection perfect for curtains, blinds and light upholstery projects. Available on my online shop at £48 per metre.
Many coastal inspired interiors use white or very light muted colours as a backdrop or wall colour. You can add warmth and a sense of energy through bold pops of colours, such as Lobster red, Saffron yellow and Atlantic blue found in my colour palette. Small items of homeware such as cushions and lampshades are a quick and easy way to inject colour and print into a room.
Here’s where you can have some fun and reflect your personality. Try junk and reclamation shops for old items that fit with your look. I bought this old blue wooden surfboard for under £5 as it really fits with the various blues within this room. A few themed accessories are fine but beware of the clichés and going over the top. Once you have changed a few items you’ll be able to sit back, relax and imagine you are on holiday, at home!
For more contemporary coastal interior inspiration have look on my Pinterest board.
In the summer shopping section of the German edition of Country Homes, it features the Pebble Stack (Pepple Stack in German) cushion with the text 'Cushion Cover "Pebble Stacks" made of cotton with a print, reminiscent of beach stones from Cornwall.'
West magazine featured me as their interview piece last weekend. This also involved a photo shoot with James Darling photography on the cliffs near St Agnes, very close to where I grew up, the perfect place show the area that inspired my contemporary collection 'You can take the girl out of Cornwall'.
24 fingers are a London content marketing agency who recently interviewed me for their blog. Emma, the company owner, asked me 24 questions ranging from what gets me up in the morning to what advice I'd give my younger self. So grab a drink, get comfortable and have a bit of a nose into my self-taught unconventional career path.
We are very lucky to be surrounded by objects and items in our homes that give us joy and happy memories, They say home is where you heart is but sometimes we stop noticing parts of our homes that we love. From photographs of friends and family to the objects that remind us of a time or place, it’s often only when they’re cleaned that we actually look at them. So here are three ways to change up parts of your home to make you see and appreciate what you have, without spending any money at all.
Shelving. Do you have bookshelves full of books that have been arranged in the same way for years? I was guilty of this but have recently started to view bookshelves more as display shelves that contain books amongst other things. You could try changing things around; stacking books horizontally as well as vertically, arranging them in spine colour, adding in photo frames and interesting objects. My new rule is that if something is on display, make it look good at the same time.
Change your surroundings. Have you ever tried hanging wall art/posters/photographs in a different place? It’s so easy to do and you might just find a new location that makes you fall in love with it again. The same is true for furniture. Measure out the different pieces and see if they can fit in a different space or room. These little changes can breathe new life into items and rooms that have been in the same place for a while. Also, just as life goes though different phases, the way we live does too. It’s worth thinking about how each room is used and if it's purpose or layout could be changed. I like to think of rooms as flexible spaces that can be altered according to our changing needs.
Bring the outside in. As with simply being in nature, being around plants improves concentration, memory and productivity. So it makes sense to bring some of the outside in to enjoy these benefits in our homes. It doesn’t have to be expensive bouquets of flowers, I actually get a lot more enjoyment from going into the garden and cutting a stem to go in a vase or bottle even if it’s just a branch or the odd flower. These tips all help to give a your home a little boost by using the things you love and already own.
Festival season is here, especially with last weeks heat wave and Glastonbury (watched from the comfort of my sofa, I must be getting old...) but I do love the colourful outdoor living lifestyle that comes with these summer months. How lovely then to have my starfish cushion featured in Bath Life's shopping guide to all things bright and bold.
I'm very happy to have joined the writing team of the online design and interiors magazine The Idealist. My first article is about a makeover for my nine year old son's bedroom and how we chose the colours and furniture suitable for an older boy's needs.
You will also see the labrador fabric I designed for a roman blind and cushion in his room in the same grey, orange and white colour scheme, perfect for growing boys.
Meet Smiley Bob, drawn by my 7 year old son on a scrap of paper. I loved the picture but wasn't going to keep it stuck on the fridge forever, I wanted to have something to that would last and look good too. So I turned it into repeating pattern on the computer, had it printed and framed it for his bedroom. But here's a competition run by Elobina for you to turn your child's artwork into a cushion simply by sending them your child's artwork, no computer necessary!
Follow link below for details on how to enter.
I first met Abi who writes These Four Walls Blog at my launch event last month. I could tell she was passionate about interiors, design and travel, including Cornwall where she was going on her upcoming honeymoon, As you can see from her gorgeous website and Instagram feed, she has a beautiful minimal style and is inspired by Scandinavian relaxed living. Abi chose a Cornish Clouds cushion in soft grey Mizzle which looks very much at home with her love of grey interiors (she says herself that she has an obsession with grey!). It was lovely to meet Abi and you can read her post on my collection and an interview here.
I was recently asked by a magazine editor to come to Cornwall for a photo shoot. The photos were to accompany a forthcoming feature on myself and the inspiration behind my debut collection ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall’. I happily agreed to travel from Wiltshire to Cornwall as I could spend time with my family who live there and also to enjoy being by the sea for a few days. Who doesn't love a trip to Cornwall?! I was asked to suggest a location that meant something to me for the photo shoot and Wheal Coates was the obvious choice. It's an old mining engine house on the north coast, a stone's throw from St Agnes, the village where I grew up.
The view from Wheal Coates is postcard perfection and on a clear day you can see for miles. The area around Wheal Coates was used for filming part of the popular BBC series Poldark, with the engine house and surrounding mines representing the family estate known as Nampara Valley. Winston Graham, the author of the Poldark novels first published in 1945, wrote them while living in Perranporth, a neighbouring village of St Agnes. This whole area is steeped in mining history with many engine houses still visible today. It is said that the character of Demelza was partly based on Graham's wife, Jean, who would offer details for his characters being a very observant woman herself.
This stretch of the coast also has significance for the Cornish legend of Saint Agnes, who the village is named after. When I was around 10 years old I played the part of local heroine Saint Agnes in the first ever community re-enactment of the story, now an annual event known as Bolster Day. I had to save the village (of clay houses made by local school children) from Giant Bolster, a giant puppet who rolled large stones down the cliff to demolish the houses. The procession and performance takes place on the cliffs between Wheal Coates and Chapel Porth beach where, according to the legend, Saint Agnes tricked Giant Bolster into bleeding to his death.
So, it was on a blustery morning on this same coastline that I thought of the fictional characters Demelza and Saint Agnes, both strong and determined women who were dependent on this local area to save their livelihoods. As a fabric designer I find myself looking at the details found in nature for my designs so it’s no wonder that I too was inspired by the Cornish coast having grown up with these stories and scenic views on my doorstep. That’s proper local inspiration right there, even for me who’s now living ‘up country’, as the locals say.
Ever since I set up my own business I've enjoyed reading the interviews with inspiring women on the Social Butterflies website. It features successful women business owners and who also happen to be mums. This involves serious multitasking and something that I find myself doing on a daily basis but I'm in good company with these entrepreneurs. So I was very honoured to be interviewed by Amy for the website. You can read the interview here where I talk about my change in career and give tips on how to style your home office.
The last month after launching Helen Baker Home has flown by and I'm thrilled to share some of the positive feedback and features I've had.
The online interiors magazine The Idealist featured me as one of their Modern Heroes which is such an honour. You can read the interview here and find out what inspires me including who are my design heroes too.
Charlotte from the brilliantly titled 'Go to your room' blog that finds the best in children's interiors has written a lovely review on my collection. Have a read here.
Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely has written a lovely post on how my fabrics fit into her family life.