IKEA and others: Scandinavian pioneers of family-focused design

In tribute to IKEA's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, who died yesterday aged 91, here's a look into some innovative Scandinavian brands who pioneeed family-centred design.

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Scandinavian design, famous for its functional, practical, affordable approach, boomed during the post war period towards more informal living. These values, central to family life, are shared by companies who are still in production today showing the need and appeal of family focused design. Here's a look into a few companies well known and loved by families all over the world.

IKEA, one of the best-known furniture retailers, was formed in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad. He observed that "most nicely designed products were very, very expensive" and sought to design well made, practical products that the majority could afford. The Swedish company's trademark functional approach was made affordable through the introduction of flat pack furniture customers assembled at home. In the 1970s, IKEA developed a more informal look using bright coloured fabrics alongside other textile designers to create homes with feelings of optimism and youthfulness.


The Tripp Trapp chair was designed by Peter Opsvik, a freelance furniture designer, in 1972 and manufactured by Stokke. His philosophy of "creating furniture to meet the needs of adults and children" is at the heart of family focused design. The chair that 'grows with the child' enables the child to join the family at the table whilst having the correct foot support is still as popular as ever with families today.


Lego was founded in 1932 in Denmark, meaning 'play well', a contraction of the two words 'leg godt'. Initially creating wooden bricks, they went on to be the first Danish company to invest in new technologies to manufacture injection-folded plastics in high volume. Lego ticks numerous family-friendly boxes; suitable for any gender, a range of ages, stimulating the imagination, improves fine motor skills and helps children understand the foundations of construction and design. 




What wait for a family holiday? 5 simple ways to make memories at home.

With January comes holiday adverts. Everyone is smiling, having fun in the sun and creating happy memories miles away from home. But what about now, during these bleak winter months at home? I believe we don’t have to wait for a holiday to spend quality time together, we can build it into everyday life. 

Here are some tips on how to make some simple changes at home. Just don’t forget to take photos to capture the memories, just as you would on holiday.

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Have a weekly family ritual
Whether it’s making a meal together, a games evening or watching a film together, doing something special every week helps create shared experiences and family memories. Rituals also help children feel loved and secure.

Good greetings
We all lead busy lives but taking the time to say hello or goodbye properly makes such a difference and makes people feel valued. It’s back-to-basics with politeness here but it’s often over looked with devices constantly demanding our attention.

Read to each other
Sharing a book is always beneficial, even at the end of a long day. It sets the tone for a relaxed time and it’s a great way to unwind and clear the mind away from any other distractions.

Spend more time in nature
Another way to free us from technology, getting outside is good for your health and happiness. Exploring new places, geocaching, cycling and walking are beneficial and fun things to do when you’re out and about.

Plan something together
Planning a day out, an activity or working on a project are all ways we to strengthen relationships and create memories. The most important thing to remember with any family time spent together is to enjoy it. 


National Bird day - the story behind my British Birds design

As it's National Bird Day today, I thought it was the perfect time to share the inspiration behind my British Birds design. As you might have realised by now, I love using silhouette shapes within my designs as everyone can identify with the forms found in nature. I believe Mother Nature is the ultimate designer maker as these shapes have evolved over time into the perfect fit for their needs whilst looking beautiful too.


I wanted to create a design that celebrated the common garden birds that we see in everyday life. Like many, I love watching birds from the comfort of our homes,  busy with their daily lives with their recognisable colourings and cheerful birdsong. After compiling a list of the most common small garden birds, the first bird I drew was the wren as it has particular significance in our family. My grandmother was a Wren in the Second World War (the Women's Royal Naval Service) and worked at Bletchley Park as a Bombe Machine operator. The wren bird is part of the logo of the WRNS and so, as a tribute to her, I wanted to include it in the design. I've also included a Blue Tit, Robin and Blackbird, all seen in my own back garden keeping me entertained as I do the washing up!

New collection Garden Life - Press release


 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.    

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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The #reclaimyourcorner effect

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.

 My first reclaimed corner

My first reclaimed corner

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!

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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!

#reclaimyourcorner - Helen Baker cushion giveaway in September

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 hello@helenbaker.com. Good luck!

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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 hello@helenbaker.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

West magazine interview

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 questions from 24 fingers

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.

Festival Fever from Bath Life

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. 

Collection review by These Four Walls blog

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.

My Demelza Poldark moment

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.

 Wheal Coates engine house with Chapel Porth beach beyond.

Wheal Coates engine house with Chapel Porth beach beyond.

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. 

My contemporary Cornish inspired collection of fabrics, cushions and lampshades are available on my website. 

 The view from inside Wheal Coates looking out.

The view from inside Wheal Coates looking out.