Activities

I grew up in London and spent the nineties, my teenage years, mulling around different parts of the city soaking up each district’s unique vibe. On a Saturday you’d normally find me in Camden or Covent Garden rocking my favourite Stussy t-shirt checking out the cool boutiques and hitting up the skate shops for free stickers.

Fast forward 24 years and I live in a small town in rural England, which is a great place for family life and raising children, but sometimes lacking in design inspiration. As an Interior Designer it’s important to keep inspired and while there is a wealth of inspiration online, sometimes when I need to be immersed in amazing design, a trip to London is the only fix. The buzz of the city streets never tires for me and I love the energy and creative boost a trip to London gives me. Last week I took such a trip with my younger sister, a fellow design lover, to visit the best design shops, restaurants and hotels in Soho on behalf of Hotels.com

Found right in the heart of the West End in London, Soho is an eclectic mix of streets offering some great shops, vibrant restaurants, quirky food joints, nightlife and live entertainment. It’s home to the famous Carnaby Street, Liberty’s and Curzon cinema.

The area covers roughly one square mile (2.6 square kilometres), making it nice and easy to explore by foot. Whether it’s a brief day trip to London, or not, ‘I ain’t here for a long time, I’m here for a good time’ seems to suit the Soho vibe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only got a day or a few hours to enjoy it and take it all in – there is plenty of things to do and see.

On a sunny day it would be rude not to do as the Londener’s do and head to Soho Square to soak up some rays. Or if you fancy something a little more up market – there is always the rooftop bars where you can grab yourself a cocktail with a view. Don’t be down hearted if your Soho trip ends up in a London shower, the rain won’t dampen your day. Head to one of my favourite rainy day spots in Soho, the Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue where you can catch everything on the screen from the latest blockbusters, vintage classics and cult favourites.

The area is easily accessible by the London Underground, closest stations (of course depending on where it is you’re coming from) include Oxford Circus, Picadilly Circus an Tottenham Court Road, or alternatively the London Buses. Public transport is made super convenient now with the option to pay via Contactless Card on both the Tube and the Buses which I love as it means no faffing around queuing to buy tickets, hooray!

My favourite place to shop Interiors in Soho? Liberty’s, Anthropologie, H&M Home

Arriving late morning, we had time for a spot of shopping before lunch so headed to one of my all time favourite shops and an absolute must visit destination for design lovers and shopaholics in London – Liberty’s. Six floors of the finest designer clothes, jewellery, accessories, stationery and of course my favourite homewares. Always great for trend spotting, we loved the minimalist art, dried flowers, blue and white ceramics, mix and match patterns and colours and the eclectic seventies vibe.

The second stop had to be Anthropologie on Regent’s street. If my soul was a shop it would be Anthropologie. I adore their design aesthetic and use them as often as I can in my room designs with Lish Interior Design. I’m absolutely loving their range of accessories for styling.

A few doors up you’ll find a brand new H&M Home Concept store which has just opened this April. With over 7000 square foot of Interior goodies it’s an Interior Stylist heaven! I defy you to visit without leaving with something you didn’t know you needed. If you are a visitor from abroad, no worries, H&M are offering International delivery on all items bought in store. How cool is that?

My favourite places to eat in Soho? Sketch (okay just outside Soho but is a must for design lovers), ChottoMatte and Maitre Chou.

After a spot of shopping we needed to refuel. Luckily Soho is not short of fabulous places to eat whatever your mood. We were in the mood for a sophisticated lunch in a design atmosphere so we opted for Chotto Matte – a Nikkei (Japanese / Peruvian) restaurant with a cool Tokyo street style.  Day time diners included a mix of business people, tourists and ladies who lunch – us! Featuring a very cool graffiti wall and some super high tech black box toilets (it took me a while to figure out how to get in!). On a warm summers day the restaurant opens it’s window front so you can find the perfect spot for people watching. The lunchtime menu listed some amazing looking Bento boxes which seemed really popular. We decided to sample a few items from the menu; California rolls, Tempura prawns and vegetarian tacos with spicy miso and honey, ginger yoghurt. Yum!

The food was delicious and we were very tempted to order more sushi or to move on to sample the dessert menu but we’d heard there was an amazing patisserie close by so headed off in search of Maitre Choux to try their famous choux pastry. We were certainly not disappointed. Oh wow, stuff . of . dreams. I could eat their Vanilla and pecan eclairs every day for as long as I live. Truly, truly scrumptious and not to be missed. Launched by award winning pastry chef, Joakim Prat, it’s contemporary, fun and totally delicious with really interesting flavour combinations. You can also sit in and have a spot of tea – if you can find a table!

Although it’s situated on the border between Soho and Mayfair, we knew we couldn’t visit Soho without paying a visit to Sketch, one of London’s most famous art and design restaurants. It’s one of the most instagrammed restaurants in London and it’s not hard to see why.  While the outside of the building blends in with the London architecture, the interior is a creative masterpiece / art gallery! Sketch feels bold, fun and imaginative, a wonderful experience in both dining and design and I highly recommend a visit if you are in London.

Conceived by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, it has attracted huge media attention for its food, drink and entertainment styles since it opened in December 2002. Sketch were kind enough to give us a tour of the restaurant and private dining rooms – wow! Each room of the restaurant has been designed by it’s own designer and has a unique menu and vibe. You can choose where you would like to sit based on the kind of atmosphere and dining you are likely to be doing. The Gallery is for afternoon tea and dinner, The Glade for breakfast, lunch and cocktails, The Parlour for all day dining and music & bar into the evening, The East bar – an intimate bar with DJ and The Lecture rooms and Library is available for private dining.

We couldn’t leave without soaking up the atmosphere a little bit longer so opted for tea and a cocktail in The Glade. What an experience! The room is described as an enchanted forest and honestly you do feel just like you are sitting in a magical glade. The lush decoupage forest walls soothe you with shades of teal and turquoise. Pops of purple and jewel tones in the furniture create a rich and inviting setting and the lighting brings the magic and sets the scene for the wonder to begin!

My favourite place to stay? Ham Yard Hotel

After our tour of Sketch it was time to catch our train and head back home, buzzing with the infectious energy a day in London gives. But if unlike us you’re lucky enough to be staying in Soho overnight, you’re in for a treat as Soho is home to some really amazing places to stay.

The height of luxury and exquisite design can be found at Ham Yard Hotel and the equally as fab Soho House, both part of the Firmdale Hotels group. The Ham Yard Hotel Interiors are designed by the award winning Interior Designer Kit Kemp. It’s an absolute feast for the eyes, the public spaces are beautiful, interesting and thronging with people enjoying the atmosphere and the food. It’s also home to a very cool rooftop terrace it’s a great place to experience Soho from another viewpoint.

Image credit: Firmdale Hotels

For more offer on hotels in Soho, check out Hotels.com

Disclaimer: The spending money for my trip to Soho was gifted by Hotels.com, but all opinions and observations are, as always, my own.

meri-meri-halloween-decorThis year for Halloween we’ve decided to throw a little party. With Halloween falling on a Monday, we have the whole weekend to spend doing ghoulishly fun things.

We’ve invited some friends over on Saturday, both little and grown up so we can throw our own mini Halloween party. As with all good parties no matter how big or small, we need food, decorations and fun!

pumpkins

I was kindly sent a £20 voucher from the fab team at TkMaxx so I headed out in search of party goodies. TkMaxx is my absolute favourite shop for party bits, seasonal decorations and all kinds of fab items for the home. We don’t have many brilliant shops where I live but we do have a TKMaxx and I love it. I visit at least once a week to check out what’s new through the doors and have to resist spending my hard-earned wages. With such a variety to choose from, there is always something I think I need!

We left it a little late getting Halloween paraphernalia but luckily they still had a good display of spooky bits and I managed to pick up an awesome bowl for sweets. Isn’t it fab? Can’t wait to spook some kids with this on Halloween night.

halloween-bowl

We also got a funky banner, plates and napkins from the gorgeous Meri Meri which is a brand TkMaxx often stocks. I adore their party and seasonal products, they are literally the cutest! If you haven’t heard of Meri Meri take a look on their website, I promise it’s adorable. I also love their Christmas range which I’ll be buying in TKMaxx shortly, no doubt.

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Our party will be for grown ups and little people so we need a mixture of fun activities for all ages.  In typical mum fashion, I’ve been perusing Pinterest for some ideas and inspiration for activities. With so little free time I need ideas that aren’t going to take me ages to prepare or craft but with maximum fun factor. I’m thinking games like make mummy a mummy, spooky treasure hunt, quickest dangly donut eating competition and guess the monster!

If you need some last minute inspiration, check out my spooky pinterest board!

Happy Halloween everyone!

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happinesspinkcampfire-kidsThere is something so magical about Autumn. Ok we have to say goodbye to erm, beautiful summer days and long warm nights (I think I blinked and missed most of them!) but you can pull out your warm snuggly jumpers, grab your comfy boots and head out for a lovely country walk, while admiring the beautiful shades of Autumn leaves. As a family we try to find ways to still have fun outside despite the cooler weather.

firepit-autumn

One super fun idea that we all love is to make a campfire together outside and this time of year is perfect for it! Last weekend we all wrapped up warm, Littlelish and her friend, who was sleeping over, in fleece onsies, us in anything warm we could find and headed out into the garden when it got dark at around 7 o’clock. We’d been sent a fab package from http://www.certainlywood.co.uk the largest specialist producer of kiln dried firewood and kindling in the UK. All the firewood and kindling is made from sustainable British woodland within just 100 miles from Hereford.

The package contained everthing for lighting the perfect fire from kilk dried logs to natural wood wool flamers to help start the fire and a S’mores kit to make the perfect campfire treat. I don’t who was more excited, Littlelish at the thought of being outside in the dark or me at the thought of S’mores!

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S’mores are something we’ve heard lots about but never actually tried making ourselves. I think it’s because they are an American concept and we don’t have the equivalent of Grahams crackers over here. But the clever people at Certainly Wood had been doing their research and picked out some awesome biscuits made by chef Felice Tocchini of Fusion Brasserie that replace or dare I say improve upon the Grahams crackers as well as some luxury marshmellows from the Marshmellow Deli and belgium chocolate from Cocoa Amore. After a couple of minutes work sandwiching the chocolate and marshmellows between the biscuits, we wrapped them in aluminium foil and popped them on a plate ready for toasting.

We usually make a fire outside in our firepit, simply because I worry we have so very many trees in our garden that I would create a slightly larger fire than we’d bargained for! Having said that we did a similar thing last year at my friends house and she built her own fire out of bricks and stones in a circle she’d cut out of her lawn. Once she finished with the fire she just replaced the circle of lawn the next day and noone could even tell she’d had a fire!

Being outside at night time is always going to be exciting to 6 year olds and the campfire and s’mores was a real highlight of the weekends sleepover. They loved the magic of the fire and watching the sparks of fire fly up into the night sky, calling them fire fairies. Once the fire was roaring we added the S’mores onto the grate of the fire, within a minute (they are done quicker than you would think) they were ready to be devoured mmmm!

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The little ones stayed outside until it was bedtime and then it was the turn of me and my partner to enjoy the fire, with no little people to warn about getting too close! We snuggled up in front of the fire, with rosy faces from the heat and spent the rest of the evening chatting together. It was wonderfully relaxing and such a gorgeous way to spend an evening together, I can imagine the addition of a glass of red wine would have just topped it off but that will have to wait until baby boo arrives!

How about it giving S’mores and Autumn campfires a go? You could have a magical fire on Halloween and pretend to be witches or combine it with fireworks for your own bonfire nights party?For more ideas on how to light the perfect fire, campfires with kids and cooking on a campfire, take a look at the Certainly Wood website and blog which has some really great tips and inspiration.

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