she's so sophie…

Knees shaking…dry throat…and the ever-present threat of two ill-behaved dogs on the verge of hysterical barking…

You guessed it! That was me dialing the phone to call my design idol–Sophie Conran–who kindly agreed to be interviewed. When I heard her cheerful, “Hello”, I was instantly at ease–she’s even more personable and interesting than I imagined.

Sophie’s accomplishments are vast in the world of design and good taste, including work as the entertaining editor for In Style, writing entertainment and recipe features for Living Etc., and writing for House Beautiful about what makes a house a home. Not to mention all of her cookbooks and designs in tableware, glassware and wallpaper.

Sophie also turned a 15th century manor into a retreat–Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting–for country weekends in the Cotswolds. It’s looks and sounds absolutely idyllic–I can just imagine how beautiful it would be for a wedding! (Mark…if you’re reading this…take it as a huge HINT for our 25th Wedding Anniversary…no point being subtle anymore!!!!!)

Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting

Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting

Before I go any further, may I offer my advice for the best way to read this interview? Make yourself a pot of tea, sit in a comfy chair, and drink out of one of Sophie’s irresistible cups. Or feel free to fill it with jelly beans and munch away, like I did during a photo shoot a few weeks ago!

photo by Janis Nicolay for Nicole Jane Home

Jennifer: Sophie, your tableware is wildly popular in Canada and the U.S. What was your inspiration for the beautiful organic shapes and colours?

Sophie: One source of inspiration came from my childhood. My family used to drive from England to our little house in France and stop off in Limoges on the way. My mom would visit the ceramic factories to buy seconds of their porcelain, which were always plain white and wobbly and each piece was individual. Another inspiration came from the Japanese, who have amazing potters. I really love the way they hand-make such delicate pieces. They have a saying that if something is perfect, then it’s not beautiful.

Jennifer: I’m most impressed by the fact that your tableware is strong and delicate at the same time. How were you able to achieve that balance?

Sophie: It has to do with the material it’s made with. It’s pure porcelain, which is fired at really high temperatures, making it incredibly hard and durable. All the pieces can go in the oven, dishwasher, and microwave. When we were making the samples, I kept on asking, “Can we make it thinner? Can we make it thinner?” because I wanted that delicacy. When you drink a cup of tea, and you have a very thin cup, somehow the tea tastes better.

Jennifer: Your cups are the ones I drink my coffee with every morning.

Sophie: That’s lovely. I’m delighted that my website has a picture of Mrs. Obama drinking out of one of my cups during a visit to England.

Jennifer: One of the best things about your tableware and glassware is that they are truly multi-purpose. I frequently reach for one of your teapots or glass jugs to hold bouquets of flowers. Do you have any suggestions for unique ways to use any of the other pieces?

Sophie: All of the pieces can be used in the oven, so I’ve made berry crumbles in little tea cups and everyone gets their own personal serving. I also use lots of tumblers filled with tea lights and flowers on my table during dinner parties.

Jennifer: You’re a member of a highly creative and accomplished family. How did your parents foster creativity and encourage you and your siblings in your creative pursuits?

(Sophie is the daughter of UK designer, Sir Terence Conran and cookbook author, Caroline Conran, and her brothers, Sebastian, Jasper and Tom are all renowned in their respective fields.)

Sophie: My parents were always showing us things, getting us involved, and asking us our opinions. The business very much revolved around our home with my dad’s design studios based there. We moved to an old school when I was little, and the old classroom blocks became the design studios and workshops. The carpenters who made all samples would come over for a drink and dinner and stay the night. It was our playground and we were all involved in the photo shoots for my father’s catalogues. It was a huge deal when a new design or new piece of furniture came in–very exciting.

Jennifer: Did you appreciate it when you were a child? That it was something very special?

Sophie: I don’t think so. I didn’t do well at school, but home was fun for me. My mom was always cooking and writing recipes for books and magazines. When we moved into the school, it was pretty derelict, so we lived in a “building site” for a pretty long time. There were old walled gardens, which had been a Christmas tree farm. They were all cleared out and we built a huge vegetable garden and remodeled all of the greenhouses. It was pretty amazing actually. There was always lots of creativity around us.

Jennifer: It sounds wonderful, but it also sounds like a lot of work.

Sophie: I really enjoy work. I’m happiest when I’m working.

Jennifer: As a mother and businesswoman, you are an inspiration to women all over the world. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in a career or building a business?

Sophie: I always put my kids first. Be patient, always be true to yourself and don’t be scared of making mistakes. And always work with great people—make sure that you interact with reputable companies, it’s very important.

Jennifer: Do you get to travel very much for your work?

Sophie: I don’t travel very often. I’m a bit of a homebody. I’m in my office right now, but it’s attached to my home.

Jennifer: Whenever I visit England, I’m always so impressed by the bold British design aesthetic—particularly the exquisite paint colours and wallpapers. In Canada and the U.S., we’re seeing a strong resurgence of wallpapers, and I’m excited to see your new collection. What inspired your designs?

Sophie Conran wallpaper collection

Sophie: I absolutely love nature. The wallpaper hanging in my office at the moment is based on a Japanese kimono book. It’s full of beautiful irises, which were inspired by the exquisite floral designs and embroidery on the kimonos.

Sophie Conran's "Fleur" wallpaper

The inspiration for another collection that I designed was from a childhood stay at a chateau in France. It was completely falling apart. Each of the rooms had incredible paintings, fabrics, and such fabulous fading wallpapers.

Sophie Conran's "Belle" wallpaper

Sophie Conran's "Juliette" wallpaper

Colour is also a really big inspiration for me. Contrasting colours always get my creative juices flowing.

Sophie's home featured in the April '08 edition of Australia Home Beautiful

Jennifer: [The interview with Sophie took place two weeks prior to the royal wedding] Will & Kate‘s wedding is just around the corner and we’re getting very excited about it in Canada. My 77-year-old mother is even planning to wake up at 1 a.m. to watch the ceremony on TV. How will you be celebrating the royal wedding?

Sophie: They’re such a sweet couple—always smiling. We’ll be attending a big party that a friend is throwing at his home in the Cotswolds. Lots of people are organizing street parties, and I think that 10 million visitors are expected to be in London for the wedding. People are baking and decorating—it’s really, really nice actually.

Jennifer: If you had a day all to yourself, what would you absolutely love to do?

Sophie: We have a home in the country, and I love to be down there with my family. I spend time gardening, and visiting the gardening centre–just doing nice stuff around the house with my kids and husband. I really enjoy cooking, and friends often come over with their children and we’ll have a big meal together.

Jennifer: Imagine that it’s Monday afternoon at 2:43 p.m., and you’ve been hard at work. Do you reach for one of your delectable Whoopie Pies and a piping hot cup of coffee?  Or is it an apple muffin and iced tea calling your name?

Sophie: I don’t really like a lot of sweet things. If I was busy, it might be a little piece of avocado on toast with a squeeze of lemon. Or it might be some humous and carrot sticks, or a smoothie.. I normally have something already prepared in the refrigerator, like lentil salad, so I might have a bit of that. Those are the kinds of snacky things I like to eat.

I’d like to thank Sophie for taking time to chat with me. She’s such a dynamic person, and I look forward to seeing many more amazing things from her in the future.

CONGRATULATIONS, Anita T: You won the Sophie Conran giveaway. You were lucky #9.

SOPHIE CONRAN GIVEAWAY!!!

I’m such a huge fan of Sophie’s products (we use her tableware every day in my home) and I want to celebrate her interview by hosting a GIVEAWAY. One lucky winner will receive one of her gorgeous white cake plates, a set of 4 white dessert plates, and a white teapot!!! Everything you need for tea time!

All you need to do is:

* Visit Nicole Jane Home and sign up for my newsletter (don’t worry, I NEVER send spam. If you’re already on my newsletter subscribers’ list, you’re automatically entered.

* Leave a comment below to let me know you signed up.

Here’s the small print: You need to be a resident of the U.S. or Canada (we’re not allowed to run contests for residents of Quebec), 18 years or older. Good luck everyone!

Draw Date: May 25, 2011

orange ya glad there's orange…

My mother the nurse used to say that we crave what we’re missing in our bodies, so I must be missing some Vitamin C in my decor, ’cause I’m craving the colour orange. This time last year, I did the same thing (see my Hooray for Orange post). I was fixated on orange and yet, there’s still not a speck of it in my home (except of course my hair…which is orange, not red. Why do we call orange hair, red?)…tsk, tsk, tsk.

Jonathan Adler has a wonderful way of combining seemingly disparate patterns and colours in such pleasing combinations. The blue, orange and coral really balance the intensity of the chocolate brown walls.

photograph by Jessica Antola via Style at Home magazine

I can’t help staring at the rug in this room. It’s so beautiful and just the right degree of orange. This room was done by Cristi Holcombe of Charm Home Design.

photo courtesy Cristi Holcombe

Here’s another vignette by Cristi. Just look at those beautiful drapes….sigh

photo courtesy Charm Home Designs

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I adore Designer’s Guild. I dream of having DG window coverings flowing in summer breezes throughout my mansion some day!

photo courtesy Designer's Guild

Quick…where does your eye go first? Uh huh…the orange pillow…whether you like it or not.

photo courtesy Designer's Guild

This could work. An orange phone would be the perfect little pop of orange in my kitchen. Love the vintage chic vibe too! Oldphones.com has lots of great phones.

photo via Habitually Chic

Enough about me. What’s your favourite colour? The one that your eye is always drawn to? The colour that just makes you feel good?

playhouse do-over…

Have you ever wanted a childhood do-over?

As a child, I spent much of my time dreaming in my playhouse, and I would love to recapture that feeling of pure freedom. Only this time, I’d do it up in GRAND style!!! (I shouldn’t complain ’cause my dad built me a really amazing playhouse on stilts with windows, a shake shingled roof, and a grand staircase leading to the front door.)

There would be some serious whitewashing and it would be completely over-the-top frilly and girlie–a sight to behold, let me tell ya! My guest roster would extremely selective…only friends bearing lavish gifts and bottles of wine! Gossip would not only be encouraged, but expected!

photo courtesy Rachel Swan Design blog

photo courtesy Restyled Home

photo courtesy Jeanette Van Wicklen

photo courtesy Country House via Hooray

Above: This is a garage that was converted into an outdoor room (featured on Hooray Design). Below: The interior

photo coutesy Country House via Hooray

photo courtesy Moth Design

Above: The inspiration for this blog post. An outdoor room by Moth Design. Below: The interior

photo courtesy Moth Design

interior design show west…

I visited the Interior Design Show West in Vancouver’s new Convention Centre on Friday. There were lots of fabulous products on hand and I spent the whole time saying to myself, “Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to redo the living room, no wait, the kitchen…er…the bathroom…nope…the front door has to go!”

Who doesn’t love IKEA? This was their show-stopping display with over-sized daisy light fixtures. Fantastic!

Barker Manufacturing from Victoria produces the most amazing solid wood interior/exterior doors. Many of the surfaces are chiseled with an adz for a stunning effect. My photos just don’t do them justice.

Bloom Furniture Studio carries this sexy little number. It would look perfect in a front entrance or home office!

This little piece of Italian-designed heaven called to me from across the crowded showroom floor. I am in looooove. Apparently Calligaris Vancouver carries them in bar stools as well. If you check out the Calligaris website, you’ll see all their colors and styles (it’s available in orange too).

This is another Calligaris chair.


Liberty’s rockstar bar cart was stunning. So sexy, so sophistimicated, so should be mine!!!!!

vintage love letters…

My girlfriend, Ann, has a wonderful collection of vintage love letters she framed and hung in her home. When I saw her collection, it took my breath away, because it was such a beautiful idea. Ann asked her mother if she had any old letters from family members, and her mother came up with a collection of love letters and letters of support from her extended Danish family.

Each of the letters is handwritten and some are in Danish. It’s a wonderful tribute to good old fashioned letter writing, but most importantly, it’s  a tribute to love. I’m going to call my mom and see if she has a collection of family letters, but my theme will be gossip!!!!

market sneak peak…

The NYIGF (New York International Gift Fair) is probably the largest gift show anywhere in the world. It’s a massive accumulation of home accessory/gifts/decor suppliers all under one roof (actually three huge roofs).

Mark and I travelled to NYC last week (in case you hadn’t heard a million times already) to see the show. It was really interesting, but I have to say, that there were only a handful of suppliers that really stood out to me. To be fair, though, I was focused on specific types of products and really didn’t pay attention to all the others.

I did, however, pay attention to trends and colors, and I’m happy to report that silver still appears to be the strongest design color/finish. Blue and amethyst are both quite popular and gold is certainly showing up more and more.

Here are some of the standout things I spotted:


You might recognize these little pretties from the survey I blogged about some time ago. They’re lovely, but their price point is too high, in my (and yours if you filled out the survey) opinion.

These were absolutely gorgeous flatware sets. They’re heavy, good quality and the patterns were fabulous. I still don’t know the price point, but I suspect they aren’t INEXPENSIVE. Check out the giraffe print below–it was gorgeous in real life (PLEASE EXCUSE THE CRUMMY PHOTOGRAPHY–if you read my blog faithfully–you better be–you know that I’m one heck of a lousy photographer).

I saw lots of balls. All sorts of decor balls–wicker, branches, porcelain, etc. These ones stood out for me.

Here’s a look at some of the silver accessories I spotted.

That’s all for today. I’m saving some more tidbits for another post later this week. That’s some powerful cliffhanger, eh? It’s like waiting for the next episode of Mad Men!!!! Stay tuned.

The Pioneer Woman

Plowing through Life in the Country...One Calf Nut at a Time

sachensucherin

looking for the pretty things in life

grillfusion

a creative blend of gardening, grilling, photography & design

The Amazing Grace Project

A G Portraits By Donna Jones

MY FRENCH HEAVEN

Food, Photography & Joie de Vivre

Where's my backpack?

Romancing the planet; a love affair with travel.

Dormouse Tidings

My travel blog

ICI & LA NATURE PICTURES

Walk and Bike in France and Europe www.walk-bike-camino.com

BluChickenNinja

- a creative lifestyle blog -

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

Colored Brush

adventures in contemporary art

lth0ms0n

The paranoid ramblings of a neurotic twenty-something

True Tiger Recordings

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

Rob Moses Photography

This Camera Life

Pretty Forum

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

Clickin Moms blog: Helping you take better pictures one day at a time

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

whiskeytangofoxtrot4

wtf4?~ it's all about a girl and her camera and that golden light

Shutterbean

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

Love that Shot™

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

A small insight

Sharing my life with you x

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

The Design Pages

the caffeine-induced musings of Jennifer Findlay

Hazy Shades of Me

Mere moments of clarity are all I can promise...

%d bloggers like this: