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.
Creating a nursery ready for a new arrival is an exciting time. It’s worth bearing in mind a few of these tips to ensure the room works for both you and your baby.
Colour A key way to create a sense of calm is through colour. Choose light wall colours and accessorise with pale hues to create an airy and soothing feel to the room. Save the bright and bold colours for toys and clothes for stimulation when they are awake! When choosing paints look for water based, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) which have a low odour, and egg-shell paints that are tough, durable and wipe clean.
Windows This is a key element of any nursery and getting it right helps in getting your little one to sleep. Lots of natural light during the day is lovely for a nursery but it’s worth thinking about blackout blinds or linings for window treatments to help keep the room as dark as possible for daytime naps and to prevent them waking with the dawn chorus.
Lighting Depending on whether it’s night or day you’ll probably need different types of lighting. A lamp with a low wattage bulb or a light on a dimmer switch will help keep lightning at a low level during night feeds and nappy changes, ideal for a good getting back to sleep routine.
Soft textures Where possible look for natural fibres and textures to create a soothing space. A lovely soft rug is lovely for babies to play on, for you underfoot and for keeping noise to minimum. Choose natural fabrics for bedding and sleepwear, good for delicate baby skin. Think about having an adult comfy chair for reading stories, cuddling and feeding. Comfort is key, especially in the middle of the night.
Organisation As with any room design, a nursery has to suit the needs of the people using it; babies for playing and sleeping and feeding, changing nappies, reading stories etc for parents. What furniture do you need - cot, changing mat, floor space to play, clothes storage space, toy and book storage, an adult chair? Don’t be afraid to pick and mix furniture for a nursery, it doesn’t all have to match and items that can be used beyond babyhood are a great investment.
The lampshade and fabric featured in the photographs are one of my designs and perfect for a baby’s nursery. The nature inspired ‘Cornish Clouds’ in soft grey and white gender neutral colours is a very gentle and calming and works well in any other room too. Cushions, lampshades and fabric by the metre are available on my website.
From before they are even born, babies and children accumulate so much 'stuff'. To be fair, it's not their fault. Parents, family and friends buy it and the mountain grows even faster than the kids. But there's just so much of it. There are the educational toys, musical toys, soft toys, plastic toys, wooden toys, foam toys, the list is never ending but most homes don't have endless storage space to keep it all. If my two children are anything to go by the toys still end up on the floor regardless of how many storage boxes I buy.
So, wanting to reclaim back some space in my house, here are my 5 tips on managing toy mess.
1. Keep toys in bedrooms (or playrooms). Rather than in living spaces, keep the majority of toys in their bedroom, or a playroom if you have one. Give the children boxes and let them work out what should be stored in each one. This way they are more likely to know where to find their toys and tidy them away.*
2. Let their bedrooms be their own spaces. Having a space that they can call their own with their belongings is good for them. Granted, their room will probably be messier with all the toys on hand but at least their not in shared living spaces of the house. We have found that for our boys to play in their rooms they have to clear a space to do this.**
3. Have regular toy clear outs when the children aren't there. No doubt they will suddenly remember that the toy they haven't played with for at least a year is their new favourite again when they see it, so I usually do this when they're not around. I sometimes keep these toys in a cupboard for a couple of months to see if they ask for them (they generally don't).
4. If they tidy up at school, they can tidy up at home. True in theory but more tricky in practice. I used to be a Foundation stage teacher and it still amazes me how it's easier to get 30 children to tidy a classroom than my own two children to tidy their bedrooms. But as they do it at school it's good to know they can do it at home too.***
5. Put a blanket or sheet down to play Lego on. A dad of five children once told me this great top tip. When it's time to tidy it away just lift up the four corners and tip back into the box. Pass this one on, it'll save your knees.
* wishful thinking
** by pushing everything under the bed
*** more wishful thinking
After I spoke at the launch of the "You can take the girl out of Cornwall..." collection, so many people said how lovely it was to hear the inspiration behind the patterns so here it is!
The collection is made up of 6 designs in a range of colours:
The first design I wanted to create was my take on a nautical stripe. Horizontal stripes can be seen everywhere by the coast in the sea, sky, beach and cliffs but I wanted to create an updated version. I decided to go with a narrow stripe, inspired by Breton stripes (a nod to my half French husband) and to incorporate graphic cloud motif within the stripes. I love simplicity and clean lines of this design.
The Surfboard Scallop design is inspired by the surfing culture that is very prominent on the north coast of Cornwall. I grew up in St Agnes where you will always find surfers in the sea regardless of the weather so I wanted to create a pattern that reflected this. I took the top dimensions from a surfboard and repeated then in a scallop patten - this pattern works well either way up.
The Pebble Stack design echoes the pebbly beaches found all around Cornwall's coast. I love how their shapes are ever changing with the tide and how each pebble is unique. They also provide endless games for adults and children alike!
Until last summer I had never seen a starfish at the local beach to where I grew up, Trevaunance cove. However, when my sons and their cousins were rock pooling last year they found one! So I had to create a starfish design inspired by their rock pool find.
I wanted to include a seaweed design as I feel it's an often overlooked element of the coast. This pattern replicates the way seaweed moves in the sea with the tides.
Spoiler alert! Yes, it does some sometimes rain in Cornwall and as I wanted to create an honest reflection of Cornish life I had to include it. I have always thought raindrops have a very calming nature and this comes through in this design.
The colour palette consists of a mix of warm and soft colours (as shown in the fabric samples above):
Mizzle (soft grey)
Rockpool (soft green)
Salt (soft white)
Fabrics by the metre, lampshades and cushions are all available at www.helenbaker.com including 20cm x 20cm fabric samples.
After months of preparation, design and just a few late nights….I’m so pleased to announce the launch today of my fabric design business and my debut range ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall’. Here’s my press release with all the details. So pleased to share it with the world - I hope you like it!
Helen Baker launches debut fabric collection: ‘You can take the girl outof Cornwall’
New Bath-based designer takes a fresh look at contemporary, vibrant Cornwall
Bath, 2 May 2017: New designer Helen Baker today launches her first collection of modern Cornish-inspired, contemporary fabric designs. Called ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall’, the range draws on natural influences from Helen’s native county but aims to inject fresh life into Cornish design ideas.
As a mother of two young sons, Helen’s fabrics are gender neutral and family friendly - summed up by her strapline: ‘The fabric of modern family life’. Her debut range is designed and printed in the UK using eco-friendly pigments and natural fabrics. The outdoors-inspired collection, which includes colours such as Mizzle and Saffron and patterns such as Pebble Stacks and Surfboard Scallop, gives a contemporary representation of Britain’s most westerly county.
The idea for the collection came about when Helen moved from Cornwall to Wiltshire 18 months ago and, looking to bring some of her coastal influences into her new home, she started to search for furnishings. But she was disappointed to find time and again only tired, clichéd representations of Cornwall featuring wooden boats and small harbours. A world away from Helen’s own experience.
“I am proud of my Cornish roots and really wanted something in my new home to represent this. But I didn’t want nautical knots, quaint sailing boats or anchors; I wanted contemporary, bright, design-influenced Cornwall of today", Helen says. “After a long time searching and not finding what I wanted, I taught myself digital and surface pattern design (I was a complete novice) and a year later, the collection was complete.”
Always creative, Helen formally ran a home craft business, Sew Coastal, after taking the decision to stay at home full time when her second son was born. When her husband’s work prompted a move from Cornwall to Bradford-on-Avon, near Bath, Helen decided to develop and grown her design skill-set. She originally trained and worked as a primary school teacher.
An entirely self-taught designer, Helen’s ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall’ range reflects her keen eye and impeccable attention to detail - for example the Surfboard Scallop pattern uses the exact dimensions of a surfboard to ensure true authenticity.
“My debut collection 'You can take the girl out of Cornwall…’ is me in a nutshell.” Helen says. “I was brought up in Cornwall and lived there on and off for 25 years. On meeting new people and saying where we had moved from it amazed me that so many had connections to the county. Everyone spoke happily about spending time in Cornwall and I saw how memories of a place, particularly by the sea, evoked positive emotions.”
Helen adds: “I believe that rather than holding out to live the dream somewhere else, we should inject elements of what makes us happy into our present homes. Home is where you make it.”
The latest Scandinavian concept to have found its way into current lifestyle trends is ‘lagom’, meaning not too much not too little, just the right amount. Our Nordic friends seem to lead the way when it comes to quality of life, along with ‘hygge’ (loose translation of ‘cosy’) and ‘fika’ (sharing coffee and cake each day with those around you). The latter two concepts are all about creating moments in time to focus on the simple pleasures, whereas lagom is more of a way of life.
In the world of interiors we are all familiar with the the 'Scandi chic’ style but living the lagom way goes one step further, rejecting the ‘chic' part altogether. This means getting rid of all the things that are no longer useful or needed until you have just what you need. Practical minimalism and pared back living are the new rules here.
Furniture should be considered in terms of its sustainability and provenance. Many companies have adopted a democratic pricing scheme and are making progress to reducing their environmental impact by lowering their footprint and using sustainable materials. Ikea were pioneers for these principles in their ‘Live Lagom’ campaign in 2014. From furniture to food and everything in between, consumers are more conscious and informed than they have ever been and rightly so.
Lagom principles can also be applied to architecture and how rooms are used. Rather than rooms as having a single use or purpose, they are now seen as multifunctional spaces and this, coupled with Through thinking about spaces for multifunctional living rather than single use rooms and energy consumption the end result is creating efficient homes in many different ways.
It’s also about the small things, living in a balanced way within the world around us; switching to energy saving lightbulbs, reducing energy consumption, growing your own vegetables, creating less waste etc.
When it comes to my fabric designs and their manufacturing, I have made conscious decisions in line with lagom principles before l even learned of this term. My inspirations come from the natural world around me, I am drawn to simplicity and efficient design, my designs are printed in the UK using eco friendly pigments and I embrace multifunctional family living.
My family have always joked that with our blue eyes and fair hair we must have a Scandinavian heritage. Maybe it’s worth looking into as I do seem to have an affinity with Scandinavian culture...
One of the most common requests from clients to interior designers is the need for living spaces to be family friendly. Gone are the days of having separate seldom used ‘grown-up only’ rooms, today’s families often live in open plan and multifunctional areas where the demand on the room is high. Family living rooms need to be places to socialise, relax, entertain, whist also being play areas for children. Whilst we want to include the young within our living spaces we also don’t want it to look like some sort of primary coloured nursery. We want a happy medium, a well designed space that is aesthetically pleasing and meets the needs of all its occupants.
So here's how to achieve family friendly living spaces:
- Invest in well made furniture. If my two boys are anything to go by every piece of furniture has the potential to be a den/castle/spy cave. Sofas and chairs have to withstand a fair amount of battering so try to buy well made pieces that will last. Go for hardwearing upholstery fabrics that can hide a stain or two.
- Pattern fabrics are also good at camouflaging stains and fingerprints. The use of patterned fabrics on cushions, window fabrics and lampshades allows you to inject a sense of interest and personality at various points around the room whilst also being easy to change. Clean simple designs work well with any age and gender and this is huge consideration within my design making process. Fabric designs should work for everyone within the home which is why I use silhouettes found in the natural world that everyone can connect with.
- Use an outdoor rug indoors. They are much more hard wearing than natural fibre indoor rugs meaning they can withstand spills and all the mess that kids make (not to mention wine spillages). Hard floors are also much easier to clean and hide the dirt better than carpets.
- Create playing space. Children love to play with their toys on the floor so keep this in mind when planning your living area. We recently moved a large coffee out of our living room as it was taking up so much space and we are now finding that the room is being used far more than it ever was. There is more space for everyone now, not just for the kids to play in.
- Flexible furniture. I am a big fan of stools and pouffes in family friendly living spaces. Children love them, they can provide crucial extra seating for guests and can be footstools. and are super easy to tidy away or move to another room if needed. I also think it’s worth investing in a good quality sofa bed if. like us, you are short on spare bedrooms. Side tables are so handy too, for drinks, a place to colour and draw for children etc and easy to clear away.
- Decor. Don’t compromise and wait until the children are leaving home to decorate a room, everyone benefits from a well designed space that reflects the family. Choose eggshell paint that has a wipeable finish and can be touched up easily for walls. Keep any breakables out of reach and hang any art securely and you’ll still be able to have your treasures around you that you love. Sort through the children’s artwork, choose some extra special pieces that can popped in a frame. They’ll feel like an artist!