Stress-free Window Shopping in London

Shopping for interiors trumps clothes buying for me any day - and one of my favourite places to browse is London's little known Marylebone High St.Full of design and interiors shops which I love to haunt in spring time, it's very different to the general shopping experience in a city as big as London.With its village feel - despite being a three-minute walk from noisy Oxford St - there's a surprising number of French eateries for all-important pit-stops.One is the dinky Orrery Epicerie serving coffee you could stand your spoon up in and which I find to be an effective mitigator of cranial dullness brought on by that extra thimble-full of wine the night before. It's also where I plan my retail attack before launching on The Conran Shop next door.

Conran has three floors of modern furnishings, one-off vintage pieces, and accessories. Where once it failed to impress me with its soulless collections of furniture trying too hard to be cool, a recent refurbishment has brought about an engaging transformation.Think luscious gem-coloured upholstery on elegant sofas and dining chairs, and the surprisingly chic combination of navy blue crockery and yellow water glasses. The stock is high end, no question - one of those navy blue side plates is £35 - but the ideas you can pick up here are free, plentiful, and inspiring.Across the street is Skandium, my home interiors mecca, where everything is a perfect balance of practicality and loveliness. Just one object like a teapot could keep my home interiors habit and wallet satisfied for a long time.Highlights are occasional furniture, lighting and general kitchenalia, but standout items include Arne Jacobsen 's coffee set which, like the stock in general, is pared-back simplicity. You get what you pay for here and the quality and design are excellent.Bookworms - pass Daunt Books at your literary peril. No red signs here screaming "3 for 2 offer" but elegant archways swept with a black sign-writers brush to read, "Through to books arranged by country", which are shelved along oak galleries under vaulted Edwardian glass ceilings and William Morris prints. Here you'll find a considered, if not curated, interiors section and another on design.Talks by well-known authors are also part of the Daunt culture: Just last Thursday it was Tracy Chevalier of Girl with a Pearl Earring fame chatting about her latest volume.For workaday household linens, The White Company is the epicentre of all things pale and interesting in towels, table textiles, and bed linen, and where it's impossible to resist fondling the cashmere throws and high thread count sheets.Although the shop is very white and minimal inside, there's something traditional about the products that suggests I should also add a picket fence round my house to match.Designers Guild, on the other hand, is just a few doors along and has the same type of product offering but is more a nerve centre of colour. Lovely duvet covers in on-trend florals and gemstone hues strike a balance between taste and bright colours.

Wholesome, organic skincare product makers, Neal's Yard, has branched into home fragrances based on natural essential oils. Most interiors shops on the street sell this type of thing but Neal's Yard's extensive range of oils has the edge.Admittedly, they're more expensive, not helped by a harsh exchange rate between the euro and sterling, but a little of this stuff goes a long way and doesn't have synthetic oil added that can set off a migraine or watery eyes.When lunch beckons, try the Natural Kitchen, a friendly, bustling delicatessen, café and take-away serving everything from soups and salads to complete hot meals.Mixing food fashion with wholesomeness means you can have a bowl of nourishing bone broth or, as I chose, a seductively aromatic Moroccan sweet potato and chickpea soup, accompanied by a nod from the server to help myself from the contents of an old enamel bread bin.This yielded two large chunks of excellent artisan quality crustiness which I sprinkled liberally with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar condiments which you'll find on each table.Marylebone High St is definitely not a tomato ketchup sachet type of place. Copmbing nourishment with style, Natural Kitchen is a delicious choice and also offers lovely home interior accessories on Marylebone High St.

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How Do You Organize a Cramped and Messy Kitchen?
Interior designer Rachelle Medina is also the editor-in-chief of Real Living magazine. Today, she advises readers on how to make the most out of a small condo unit and an even tinier kitchen, small makeovers you can make for your bedroom, and how to remove stains from floors.Nadia Bustamante writes: "My whole family is spending Christmas eve in my apartment. But I have a cramped and messy kitchen. How do I organize it in time for December 24 so that my mom and my aunts can all cook Noche Buena to their hearts' content?"Rachelle says: First things first: clear your countertops. Take out errant oven toasters, unused blenders, placemats and such for the meantime. Since there will be more than one person working in the kitchen, you'll need as much prep space as possible. Next, find a few spots and set up stations-a chopping and prep station, a station that has all the kitchen tools and gadgets, a plating station, etc. Make sure your ref is well-stocked and remind everyone to CLAGO ("Clean As You Go"). sasajaromillo writes: "What little touches can I put in our bedroom that will make it look fresher? I can afford to buy small items, just not big pieces of furniture."Rachelle says: Like in fashion, sometimes it's the accessories that complete the room. Save up for soft furnishings such as bed linen-they're not as expensive as a brand-new bed and night table, but since beddings are some of the biggest elements in the room, these can set your style. Get a striking duvet cover in your favorite color, and the designer trick here is to get pillowcases and sheets in coordinating-not matching-patterns and colors. For instance, deep blue, solid-colored duvet will look crisp and nautical with red-striped pillowcases and a white flat sheet. Add an affordable bedside lamp to finish off your look. [Also read: Creative storage ideas for your home.]jojok writes: "How do you take out stains from wooden floors?"Rachelle says: It really depends on what left the stain. If the stain is food or drink-based, use a low-ph or non-bleach cleaning solution, like a mixture of a bit of baking soda with distilled water. Spritz the cleaning solution onto the stain and wipe off. Go over the spot with a cloth to dry, then run a floor polisher over it. If the stain is chemical or paint-based, you have to gently scrape the paint off then sand the spot. If the color changes, you may have to refinish the affected area. customersuper writes: "I love throwing small dinner parties in my one-bedroom place, but so far, the parties I've given are actually more like friends hanging out. I'm planning an epic Christmas party this December. How can I decorate my unit without using up too much space?"Rachelle says: Concentrate on your ceilings and walls instead of adding stuff on the floor. Switch your neutral, everyday curtains to more festive striped, patterned, or boldly colored curtains for the occasion. Pepper your home with vases that carry brightly hued (but affordable) flowers-like fuchsia palo ng manok or pink carnations. If you're DIY-savvy, you can even create party buntings and hang these over your dinner table. And don't even think about renting extra seats and tables-these will take up a lot of space. Tell your guests that they're welcome to sit anywhere, even on the bed![Also read: Bed linen that look expensive (but are actually affordable)]Happy V writes: "Are table centerpieces really necessary for parties, even for informal get-togethers? Don't centerpieces make a party more formal than it already is?"Rachelle says: A centerpiece is a party time essential because it can definitely set the mood for the occasion, be it a sit-down dinner or a Friday night get-together with friends. But centerpieces don't necessarily have to be stuffy and expensive floral arrangements. They can be as casual as you want them to be. For an easy and festive centerpiece, place white pillar candles in a wide but shallow bowl. Here's another way to make a simple and affordable centerpiece: place single branches or leaf stalks from your garden in recycled glass bottles of different sizes and shapes. Other fun centerpieces that will last beyond your party: get three glass bowls and fill them with live goldfishes or long-lasting succulents.
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