My pick of the best towels (and a bonus rant about why finding a nice towel is so hard)

Since the bathroom is getting closer to being done (here’s a sneak peak of our newly installed (almost) mirror) I’ve been trying to find some nice towels.photo

But  I haven’t even decided what colour I want, let alone how much I want to spend so when I was confronted by Egyptian cotton, percale, linen etc I get confused and wanted to know why on earth there is so much choice for body-drying implements. And also when towels became so expensive??

I’ve had a Cath Kidston towel for about five years now, and while the colours have kept the towel itself isn’t very fluffy at all any more and is definitely not soft (despite tumbledrying and fabric softener-ing) so I’m not holding out much hope for getting more expensive ones to last. But I’ve been searching for something that will look stylish in my bathroom, dry me properly, and that if we move in the future won’t need replacing immeadiately as it looks weird in somewhere different.

On a whim during a recent trip to John Lewis I bought these (which you can see in the picture above). I know I want some colour to counter the black and white, and I thought the grey background would help blend it in. Plus they felt nice and soft and they were relatively cheap (between £8 and £20), so I threw caution to the wind and bought them.

Then i put them in the bathroom and realised I am a fool. The pattern’s all wrong and despite our efforts to make the room light and airy, it’s still quite dark, which makes the grey in the towel look more brown. So I took them back and now I am stuck because I don’t like any towels, and I can’t pick a colour. But don’t let me stop you buying them if you like them. They are very nice, although I can’t comment on how well they wash or anything.

Now i am stuck, because we are both still using towels we’ve had since we went off to University, which frankly are a bit gross and I don’t want them anywhere near my new shiny bathroom.

But since i’ve spent so much time trawling the shops for towels, I thought i’d share my wisdom with you. So here’s the top towels on my list:

1.) Designer’s Guild Orcia Soft Aqua Towel – £5-£46

CaptureI’ve always thought linen towels look really chic, and minty blues are my favourite colours at the moment, making this my dream towel. I would have already bought a set but they cost all the money.

Now it doesn’t look much from the photo, but I’ve visited the towels regularly and in person the colour is lovely, and the linen so soft. Plus they have a whole host of other colours which would coordinate well together- the baby pink is also gorgeous.

(Speaking of linen towels, these ones from Ferm Living are gorgeous colours too!)

2.) John Lewis Supima Cotton Towel – £4-£32

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Now, I’ve seriously contemplated buying these towels as they are really soft and luxurious. It’s just again the price tag is too much. A bath towel (not a bath sheet) is £25. Which doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve bought an entire bathroom’s and want to go on holiday some time in the next decade it sounds ridiculous.

There isn’t a huge range of colours in this range, but this steel grey is gorgeous. It’s not flat like some greys are, and I really can’t tell you enough how soft this towel is. It’s the softest towel ever. If you’re thinking of getting some towels to last, then these are the ones you should get.

3.)  Hay large yellow towel by Scholten & Baijings – up to £27

CaptureNow, i have absolutely no idea what these towels feel like in person, but as soon as I saw them I fell in love. They’ve got a bit of pattern but not too much, and the yellow is amazing! These towels feel like something you’d find in a luxury design hotel, and would look amazing stacked on a bathroom shelf. They have them in red and blue too on the Hay site, and a set of two bath towels, a hand towel and a flannel would be about £55 + delivery.

These also fulfil my criteria of being fluffy for Mr Harriet, who hates the idea of linen towels, and stylish enough for my snazzy bathroom which might make me rethink my price barrier…

4.) John Lewis Copenhagen Capri Towels, Steel / Mint – £4-28Capture

Now, I should make it clear that I really liked these towels online, but not as much in person. The grey is more mottled in person, which didn’t make them less nice, just more patterned than I wanted. But they tick the boxes of being the ideal colours for my bathroom and they are quite flat, which means they’d still look lovely and chic in a bathroom, but fulfil the criteria of being a fluffy towel for anyone who enjoys that luxury.

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Bathroom renovation reveal

So I haven’t posted about my bathroom yet. The whole thing was a bit of a nightmare and frankly, it’s taken me this long to get over the stress and be able to write about it.

Originally when we bought the flat I said straight away I wanted to change the bathroom, it had a grey suite, hadn’t been cleaned in about 20 years and was full of mould and generally just gross. But then I didn’t see the flat for six months while we went through the buying hassle and I forgot quite how bad it was. As we looked at our finances and what we wanted to change in the flat, we slowly began to realise that we spend a lot more time in the kitchen and would be a lot happier if we changed that first.

Then we got the keys and the full horror of the bathroom was quickly brought back to us in full HD colour. So we decided to just do both and hope the money got us there somehow. Everything works out, right? (Thankfully for us it did but this is NOT an ok way to go into renovations…)

I had a really clear vision of what i wanted our bathroom to look like, and you can see it here: but I have never ever hired any sort of builder/plumber or electrician and really had no idea where to start. I’ll write a bit more about how we found our builders eventually another day, but for now, here’s the big bathroom transformation:

Before:

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(note that the toilet reaches out further than the door frame, and that of the two layers of tiles you can see the bottom layer is painted (the original colour is the same as the suite). I don’t think this photo gives you the full horror though.

After:

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What do you think? We still haven’t done the little bits like put up towel rails, a mirror or get a bathroom cabinet (as you can see since we haven’t even taken off all the frogtape from the ceiling!) At the moment we’re using this old sewing table which Mr Harriet found at the dump, but it’s a bit too big for the space…

I’ll post more photos when we’re at a more finished stage.

Happy humpday

On Saturday I met my friend for brunch at Caravan in Kings Cross, and when we left these two dogs were playing in the fountains in Granary Square. They were having so much fun, trying to bite the jets and chasing the water, that you couldn’t help but be cheered just watching them. So I’m spreading their cheer by sharing these little videos. Happy hump day everyone!


Thrifty finds – vintage bar cabinets

While the flat is taking its sweet time to be a nice, finished home I’ve found my excitement waning. With everything nearly finished the momentum of seeing huge changes take place has gone, and I’m starting to feel a bit disheartened as small jobs — that seemed irrelevant when faced with a whole renovation — stack up. While it’s much less of a building site, everything is still barely done and it still doesn’t feel quite like a home, let alone my home. To try and keep my excitement I decided to go shopping and see if I could find a few pieces of furniture to make the flat feel more like it’s ours.

One of the places I visited was The Antiques Emporium in Stroud. I’d never been before but i was staying with my aunt and she suggested a trip. You know how most times you go to antiques stores or market and most things sort of pass you by and you’re lucky if you find one awesome thing? Not here. Here i want every. Single. Thing. But, sadly, most of these things would not fit in our tiny flat. As I walked through the warehouse I fell in love with about 300 items, one in particular was a huge wooden desk, that would have been perfect for our office space, if only it had had two work spaces not one.

Normally my need to open every single cupboard just results in beady stares from shop owners, worried about doors getting scuffed and sticking locks but the nice thing about the Emporium is that you don’t feel discouraged from opening doors and drawers and investigating pieces of furniture you like. Which is how I discovered this little cupboard isn’t quite what it seems.

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I’ve always loved bar cabinets and on opening this seemingly innocuous cabinet I let out a yelp. This one has the original lemon squeezers, cocktail picks and tray still in place… After calling my mum and aunt back to look at it with me, they encouraged me to pull it out… where we discovered it had sliding glass doors at the back to let you get access to the bottles from either side.

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I’d already fallen in love by this point, but this is the cabinet that keeps on giving. Fiddling with the top, which had a groove down the middle, my mum discovered that it was actually two leaves that opened up, and the sides of the cabinet swing out – metamorphosing the small cupboard into a full size bar.

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That did it. The cabinet had to be mine. A couple of weeks later and the bar was delivered to the new flat by my aunt, and it fits perfectly into the back corner by the sofa, ready to be opened up for our house warming!

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I just need the bartender to go with it now…

 

Oh monochrome bathroom inspiration!

I’ve been posting lots about my kitchen recently but I’ve not written much about the bathroom. The bathroom in this flat is, frankly, disgusting.  I’ve lived for years in rented and shared student bathrooms but each one of them looks like an ensuite at the Ritz compared to the mould encrusted hole that is the bathroom in our new home.

Desperate to see this monstrosity destroyed one of the first things I did when we had the offer accepted was to start pulling together inspiration for my dream bathroom. Sadly, Mr Harriet is against pink flamingo wallpaper and we can’t afford a claw foot tub (which, when we mostly take showers, would be fairly pointless anyway).

After months of trying to work out something we’ll both like, we’ve realised white subway tiles are a winner in any location, and no one has ever been offended by monochrome. Here’s a few of the bathrooms that will be inspiring our bathroom renovation:

BATHROOM INSPO

1,2,3,4

I’m especially loving the mirror ball in the final image, and the black edging tiles.

Barbara Kruger Exhibition at the Oxford MOMA

20140712-205309-75189029.jpgBarbara Kruger has a new-ish exhibition on at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art.

I’d walked past the gallery many times before but never popped in until today. I’d got the train into Oxford just for something to do, but shopping for anything non-essential-for-the-house leaves me panicked, and the hot muggy day meant battling hoards of tourists just for a wander wouldn’t be much fun. So when I passed the museum I thought I might as well pop in.

I hadn’t heard of Kruger before, but I was wow-ed on entering the first studio. Her oversized site-specific work involves floor-to-ceiling text and slogans critiquing mass media. This is exactly the sort of art I’ve always enjoyed, I thought — graphic, large pieces of work where you become part of it.

 It reminded me of Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at the Hayward gallery a few years ago, where she transformed the studios by wrapping them in red and white polka dot paper and mirrors to match her sculptures.

On leaving this studio, the vast impressive scale of the first room was removed, and I was faced by a room filled with small, similar looking black and white images Kruger had emblazoned with her own slogans. The art in this room felt dated, and so did the next, where projected images of bedazzled handbags and old flip-style mobile phones were interspersed with thoughts on consumerism. The old fashioned objects meant the work felt irrelevant, and I was surprised to see Kruger made it in 2008. (Although I’m sure there are lessons to be learned when the fashions of a consumerist art work look dated just six years later…)

The exhibition continued to underwhelm me but I was glad I’d visited for the first, impressive piece and even more glad that I hadn’t had to pay for the privilege. I’d definitely suggest popping in for a short visit if you pass it. And the cafe looked good too!

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Day of the Triffids inspired me to start reading again

The Alium in my mum's garden which reminded me of a Triffid.

An avid reader as a child, I’ve realised that (despite commuting) I rarely pick up books. It might be that such a large part of my job (as a writer and press officer) involves reading, so I want to give my brain time off from words, or it might be that I’ve got lazy. Either way, I wanted to rectify this. So a few months ago I started a book club.

We meet monthly in the Cornerstone, a local arts centre (so nobody is burdened with tidying or snack buying), we have about 10 members and we each take turns choosing the books. The first month we read Room by Emma Donaghue, and chatted about the book for about twenty minutes before the chat turned to gossip. But last month we read Day of the Triffids.

I’ve never been that much into sci-fi novels, but I’ve also never been that fussy about what I’m reading, as long as it’s engaging. Day of the Triffids is mentioned so often in pop culture that I was quite excited to read it and find out what all the fuss is about!

The book isn’t too long so it’s not that intimidating and I settled in to read it on my morning train journey. Like most end-of-world plots it starts in a hospital, where the main character is trapped after an eye operation, and I immediately drew links to The Walking Dead which we’ve recently been making our way through all four seasons of.

Drawing links to recent shows/films and other books was something I did regularly as I continued to read – it’s amazing how many apocalypse movies and books must draw on Wyndham’s  plot. I know I’ll be that annoying person now watching TV and shouting ‘he stole that from Day of the Triffids!’

I surprised myself in how much I enjoyed this book, and how hard I found it to put down, but it scarred me for life that watching an asteroid shower could blind you as I know I would have been the first one on hearing about a huge meteor shower to rush to the garden, eyes to the sky.

Although a lot of our book club members neglected to read this one, the few of us that did had an engaging discussion for over an hour that drew on all our political, historical and cultural opinions as we talked about the underlying themes of genetic modification and the Cold War which are all still so relevant to today’s society, particularly with the recent disputes between Russia and Ukraine.

More than any of the books I’ve read recently, Triffids really inspired me to start reading again, and has made me rethink what types of story I actually enjoy. I definitely won’t shy away from sci-fi books anymore as it turns out I quite like them, and I’m looking forward to trying other genres I haven’t read in a while.

Have any books inspired you to start reading again? Which books have your book club loved?