Style

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.

Any good foodie will tell you, the number one destination in London for luxury food goods and gifts has to be Fortnum & Mason. In business for over 300 years, their hampers are iconic and rightly so.

Jam packed full of delicious, carefully selected food items, they make the perfect gift at Christmas. The fantastic baskets which they are delivered in, boldly printed with F&M, can also be used as storage at home for many years to come.

We were sent a lovely little hamper from Fortnum and Mason, full of delicious treats for a decadent afternoon: Chocolates, Champagne, three different tea blends and some delicious strawberry jam (pass the scones please!).

Putting my Fortnum & Mason hamper to good use, I decided to use it as storage in my new bathroom. It’s a small space so we’ve cut down on the amount of cupboards we have in order to help create a more spacious feel. Still we have items that need putting away so this little hamper was ideal.

Flannels, soap, sponges and bath oils now have a luxurious new home in the bathroom. They are neatly packed away and yet easily accessible at the same time. Perfect!

For more ideas and inspiration on how to use your Fortnum & Mason hamper check out my Pinterest board.

Thank you to Fortnum & Mason for our lovely little hamper. Look forward to celebrating Christmas with you again this year!

As you know I absolutely love old houses. The charm, character and details are something that you struggle to recreate in a newer property. Yet buying a period property can be a daunting process. Damp, damming building surveys and finding asbestos in your period property, can put a serious downer on buying the home you’ve fallen in love with.

When we first bought our house, an Edwardian property from around 1910, it was a condition of the mortgage offer that we have a building survey. Obviously this is something we would have wanted to undertake anyway, to rule out any serious potential problems that would cost a lot of money to fix later down the line.

Terrifying building surveys

When we received the results of the building survey we were shocked. I’m not actually joking when I say pretty much everything that could be wrong with a house was listed in the building report. It was a very, very long list dotted with terrifying words like… leaking, damp, woodworm, asbestos. Initially reading through the report made our hearts ache, how could we take on this sinking ship?

After a stiff drink we decided to calmly read the report again. It seemed that rather than clarifying that the house had all these issues, the company who carried out the survey had basically created a list of all the things that ‘could’ be wrong with a period property, to cover themselves. Sure the house could have rising damp (but it doesn’t), it could have a leaking roof (but it doesn’t) and it could have woodworm (again, it definitely doesn’t!).

There are plenty of issues that could have potentially been wrong with the house. But none of the problems flagged up were actual problems present in OUR house. All apart from asbestos.

Finding asbestos in your period property

We had heard of asbestos. It’s a type of insulation that was used in construction throughout the 20th century until it was eventually banned in 1999. It was discovered that inhalation of asbestos fibres could cause serious and potentially fatal health issues such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. For more information about asbestos and asbestos related illnesses please visit http://www.yourlegalfriend.com

It wasn’t something we were going to leave to chance. We’d heard of people removing the asbestos themselves, burying it in the garden and such stories. With small children it was just not something we were prepared to risk.

We got an expert asbestos removal company to come, before we moved in, and assess the house. They also identified a few places where asbestos was lurking. These were mainly in the outbuildings (like the garage roof), which is very common. We booked in a removal date and the team came and removed the asbestos, taking it with them to dispose of correctly.

We moved in about a month later, knowing that there were no nasty surprises waiting for us. Well apart from twenty layers of wallpaper and small spider armies!

This post was written in collaboration with My Legal Friend. Thank you for supporting Lish Concepts.

 

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