Browsing Tag

sophie conran


Sophie Conran Wallpaper Range for Arthouse

spectra pattern sophie conran for arthouse at B&Q

After making delicious pies and designing a popular dinnerware line, Sophie Conran created a line of wallpaper for Arthouse. Except for Spectra, which is part of a special line exclusively available from B&Q, all her patterns are traditional. Her main collection should be available through many retailers.

Main Collection

sophie conran for arthouse wallpaper collection

For her main collection, Sophie Conran was inspired by magic of fairytales and her childhood memory of summer where she stayed in a turreted chateau high atop a cliff in the Dordogne. Therefore, the patterns feel vintage and French.

Good news for UK readers, you can participate in a giveaway where five lucky Livingetc readers will win £160 worth of Sophie Conran wallpaper.

Styles from Other Designers

arthouse wallpapers:: the teal eco paper and the vintage radiance pattern

More great wallpapers are produced by Arthouse. The blue and silver Divine paper at the top is an eco-friendly wallpaper made from recycled paper and water-based inks in factories that have environmental improvement policies in place. The yellow paper is the Radiance pattern from the Vintage collection. They are both equally pleasing to the eye.

+ photos via Arthouse


My Latest Pasta Bowls by Sophie Conran

sage pasta bowls by sophie conran for portmeiron :: serving ware

I added sage pasta bowls to my dinnerware collection. You may recall that I departed of my formal entertaining set for a more casual look last year. I did it because I realized that I never used my formal dinnerware. I am so happy with that decision.

I want to replace my pasta bowls. I grow tired of the traditional Italian drawings inside the bowls. I spot at The Bay this afternoon that pasta bowls from Sophie Conran for Portmeiron. I selected sage, instead of white. Since it is an unusual color for dishes, I only bought 2 bowls. I am always worried that my meal will look less appetizing when placed inside colored plates and bowls. My grilled Italian sausages and vegetables dish looks tasty. As a precaution, I will cook a couple pasta dishes this week to be certain of my choice.

Before You Buy New Dinnerware

The first thing I checked when I like a model is to look at the extent of the serving ware collection. This is the main reason why I opted for Sophie Conran for Portmeiron. The product range is huge and it is always expanding.

I own the cereal/salad bowls, the rim soup bowls and now, the pasta bowls. I often used the rim soup bowls and the pasta bowls to serve my first course or my main course. Using the shallow bowls instead of plates adds an unexpected touch to your dish. You should always put a larger plate under your bowl.

I also bought this afternoon a large pitcher (3 pints – 1.7 l) that will be great for serving water, orange juice or ice tea. The medium oval plate, in white, is on my wish list. I think it will be great to serve grilled vegetables or braised beef.

If you are on the market for a new dinnerware, I invite you to read my Seven simple tips on buying a dinnerware set.

+ Portmeirion Sophie Conran Oval Platter 14.5″ Sage $28.99 USD
+ Sophie Conran by Portmeirion 3-Pint White Pitcher $35.75 USD


How to select a dinnerware set?

blue sophie conran for portmeiron dinnerwarwA reader, Tracy asked me a question about the Celadon dinnerware collection by Sophie Conran for Portmeiron. Can that lovely light blue clash or compete with the food?

My answer is yes and no. That is why I suggest you get some pieces in white and other in blue (celadon). Mixing two solid colors is quite fashionable and sophisticated as I explained in Swedish design tableware with Höganäs Keramik.

My own experience

For my job, I am trying dinnerware all the time. I usually buy 2 place settings and I use them daily for a while. I bought my Sophie Conran’s place setting all white plus some additional Celadon salad plates.

I used them mostly for dessert and under the soup/cereal bowl. As you can see from this picture, bowls look great with noodles inside. The color is wonderful for a breakfast meal. For serving soups, the blue highlights a carrot and ginger soup, a minestrone soup or a cauliflower cream. As I am writing this, I realized that I bought plates but I should have bought bowls also.

My next test would be the Biscuit dishes. If you wish to have a hint of modern country charms, the biscuit color provides it. I find it is strange that retailers in my area carry them less. I think they are missing out.

Seven simple tips on buying a dinnerware set

  1. Examine first what you like to cook and how you dish your plate.
  2. Dinnerware available by the pieces is best because you can replace broken pieces or add place settings later on.
  3. For entertaining, the magical number is 12 place settings. Having 16 is the best number. For most of your dining parties, having 16 place settings will double your number of small plates (see point 4). If you are on a budget, start with 8 place settings, even for your everyday dishes.
  4. If you can, get twice as many salad/dessert plates as you always use at least two per dinner: one plate for the appetizer and the second plate for the dessert.
  5. If you serve a salad after the main dish, you could use a bowl for casual luxury entertaining. You can stock cheese plates. Otherwise, a simple trick is to start a dishwashing cycle (assuming you own a quiet dishwasher) after the first course. This way, your salad/dessert plate will be cleaned for the cheese course.
  6. Pattern dinnerware livens up your tabletop instantly. If the pattern runs to the center, the pattern may interfere with your food presentation. For that reason, solid color or pattern rimmed dinnerware are more practical. Last summer, I purchased a black & white baroque pattern with a large print running farther than the rim. White spaces dominate the plates with no print directly on the center so the food looks great.
  7. The color of your dining room should not be your primary concern. Simply check that there is some level of harmony. Harmonizing the tablecloth to your dinnerware is what will bring everything together.

I hope this help you Tracy on making your choice.

Top photo: February 2008 issue of Canadian House & Home – © photo by Mark Burstyn
Buy online: Sophie Conran by Portmeirion 6-Inch Cereal Bowls, Set of 4
Bottom photo: my own Bandana dinnerware set from Stokes – no more available


Ideas for Baking with Kids

The family kitchen book plus tips on baking with kids

The best way to teach children good eating habits is by teaching how to cook at a young age. And since kids like to imitate grownups, they are typically excited by this activity.

Cooking tools for kids

This idea is born while browsing through the catalogue of Sagaform for another post. If you wan tot develop the habit to cook with your kids, it is best to get gears designed for them.

From Sagaform, teach your kids good taste by giving them a cute hand painted Pastry Board with Rolling Pin made of birch. Sagaform To make cakes, get the Baking set completed with a Spatula, a whisk and cake tins.

A mother herself, Sophie Conran proposed a Mummy’s & Mine cooking set.  Part of the Sophie Conran for Portmeirion collection, it has everything young boys and girls need to start baking. This gift set contains a child’s hat and apron, two star cookie cutters, a porcelain mini-jug, a mini pouring bowl, plus a box paper cups.

Do not let the name distract you, it is for daddy too. Cooking with kids, when it is not done in the middle of the afternoon is a pleasing way to pass time together.

Recipes for cooking with kids

Specialized books target the family with kids. The Family Kitchen invites kids into the kitchen to help, teaching them kitchen skills, encouraging them to discover new flavors and bonding with them. Each breakfast, lunch and dinner recipe lists tasks that kids (even little ones) can enjoy doing.

Another favorite is Williams Sonoma Kids Baking. Reviewers commented that they cook with their kids of 3 to 6 age old with this book. Parents enjoy receiving gifts that involved their kids. I am adding family cooking books on my best list of unique hostess gifts.

Since you may not have time to go shopping for books, try out the Chocolate Pudding recipe from Martha Stewart. This week-end, go ahead and plan a baking session with your kids and their friends.

+ Pastry board with rolling pin by Sagaform – £22.95 at Forma
+ 4-piece Baking Set by Sagaform – £14.95 at Forma
+ Sophie Conran Mummy’s and Mine Set – $59.95 CAD at Linen Chest
Sophie Conran by Portmeirion Sets Mummy’s And My Cooking Set – $50 USD at Amazon
+ The Family Kitchen – $18.25 USD at Amazon
+ Williams Sonoma Kids Baking – $13.57 USD at Amazon


Did you know that an AGA cooker is a green option?

classic aga ranges and cookers

The Classic enameled Aga has an interesting story. First this is the invention of Swedish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gustaf Dalén for his wife.

In 1932, the classic Agas became all British. They are produced in the central English town of Coalbrookdale. For your information, British call our range a cooker.

What makes an Aga so special?

Besides being always manufactured from recycled scrap iron, what distinguish the classic Aga is the fact that you never turn them off.

Nowadays, the latest Aga Intelligent Management System (AIMS) system performs exactly with your lifestyle. A handset programming control means that your Aga can be shut off when you sleep and you preset at what times during the day the range should be ready to operate at normal power.

You will be surprised to hear that there are no switches or dials either. Each component holds at a temperature specific to its task: roasting, baking, simmering, warming or boiling.

The cast iron construction and energy efficient heating offer a truly unique cooking experience. It is like having 10 appliances in one. With a high-end AGA stove, you can bake, fry, grill, toast, stew, steam, roast, simmer and stir-fry.

How a heavy Aga cooker can be friendly for the environment?

Like I said earlier, the Agas have always been manufactured from scrap iron. Today, old car engine parts, pipes, gutters and so on provide more sources for recycling materials.

This is a remarkable stove if you like the old-fashioned look and have a budget around $12000 CAD. The enameled finish is available in 14 colors to match any kitchen decor. The design is proven so you will probably keep it for a long time. A huge part of green living is not filling up the garbage site.

Several sources of energy

Their natural gas used to the cleanest and lower-cost heating energy source. Now with the introduction of their latest 13-amp electric model in July 2007, things may change.

From a green viewpoint, an electric stove is easier to install and will require less maintenance. Apparently the special design of the electrical Aga results in an electrical appliance that cooks reproduce closely the results of the gas unit. The AIMS reduce the energy consumption too.

Some models can accept bio-fuels once and if they become widely available. The company invests in research to find alternate energy sources for their appliances.

The taste test

From a taste point of view, once you learn the basics of cooking with an Aga, your food will probable taste better. The Aga cast-iron ovens use indirect radiant heat and cook food gently. Food does not dry out and thus, the food retains its natural goodness and flavor. They are lots of books and the Aga stores have a kitchen for you to test drive the stove.

To finish up this post, I really like the ad with Sophie Conran. The campaign was shot by the charming and relaxed Mary McCartney, the girl of the Beatles member Paul McCarthy.

2009.05.28 Update: Debate over the Green Credentials

I would like to get your attention to this article published on The Guardian that challenged the Aga’s affirmations of being green. Personally, I do not believe people buy an Aga stove because they are looking for a green alternative. You probably buy it for its cooking functions and if you like that old-fashioned  style. I like the color options. I imagine the Aga stove at a cottage or in an old-style house.

On the other end, is it more green to replace several times an appliance? The energy consumption studies do not take into account the resources needed to make, sell (manufactures, warehouses, retail spaces, transportation), install, remove and throw away the appliances. Sadly, we do not have these numbers for those.

UK site: Web site of Aga cookers
North American site: Web site of Aga ranges

+ Sophie Conran for Portmeirion dinnerware


Wedding gift ideas: Get inspired by Grand Designs 2007 awards

Kitchen scales, flatware and London Homes plates and mugs

Kitchen accessories are the typical wedding gifts. But why ones make the best wedding gifts?

Yesterday, I came across the 2007 design awards for the Best Cookware & Tableware Product compiled by Grand Designs magazine. I give you my top 3 choices.

Grand Design Awards 2007 winner

My first choice is the Balance scales designed by Hannes Mayer for Mayerunthiele. A Balance Kitchen Scale with porcelain bowl that rely only on gravity and a clever rocker to calculate the weight. The balance scale works without a battery or electrical power. Perfect if you attain a green wedding.

The kitchen scale is available in silver, graphite and gold. A high quality design red dot design award winner 2007, this kitchen scale is not an ordinary product. With a price tag of £129, the Mayerunthiele’s Balance scale is a beautifully designed practical gift. You can use the bowl for other cooking tasks and the balance can be wall mounted.

The finalists

My second wedding gift idea is a stylish flatware set. Maisy by Louise Jenkins for Habitat brings a unique look to any table. I really enjoy the beauty of the laser etched floral pattern onto 18/10 mirrored stainless steel cutlery. The design reflects on one the strongest current trends right now. A 16-piece cutlery set costs £139 at Habitat.

My third choice is the 1930s Modernist London Homes Plates and Mugs designed by Hannah Dipper and Robin Farquhar for People Will Always Need Plates. I prefer the new brighter colors to the original soft palette. This is a limited edition.

The collection includes six English bone china plates and six mugs illustrating the minimal beauty of white-rendered pre-war modern masterpieces across London. The mugs cost £10 each while the plates are £25 each. The store Eden and Eden in San Francisco carries the line.

Two dinnerware sets

Beautiful every day dinnerware are always appreciate by the happy couple. You sais that you cannot eat in higher quality dinnerware daily. You can consider Sophie Conran for Portmeirion. Since I bought a few pieces for myself, it is clear that I am a fan of Sophie Conran’s tableware.

The Denby China collection is crisp, simple and yet satisfyingly gorgeous. This collection will please couples that look for simple classic elegance on their table. A 16-piecedinner ware set costs £147 on regular price. You can also buy them by place setting.

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion and Denby China collection

About Grand Designs TV series and magazines

I am a huge fan of Kevin McCloud the British designer, writer and television presenter. He is interesting, charming and knowledgeable. Since 1998, Kevin works on Grand Designs, an amazing architecture and design show that chronicles the making of a house in one episode.

In Canada, we only were able to watch Grand Design Abroad, a spin off chronicles of properties outside the UK. Delightful to watch; I even convinced my husband to watch every episode with me. If a Canadian or American TV channel finally broadcasts this remarkable TV series, you will be hooked on Grand Designs too.

Learn more: Balance scales designed by Hannes Mayer for Mayerunthiele
Shop for: Maisy by Louise Jenkins for Habitat
Learn more: London Homes by Hannah Dipper and Robin Farquhar for People Will Always Need Plates
Shop for: 1930s Modernist London Homes Plates and Mugs at Eden and Eden in San Francisco
Learn more: Sophie Conran for Portmeirion
Buy online: China by The Denby Pottery Co
Via: Grand Designs Magazine 2007 Awards


Sophie Conran’s Table and Serving ware collection gets bigger

As stated in the January edition of the Gifts and Table wares Magazine, the casual luxury trend is growing even more. These days, people like to buy things / collections that could be dressed up or down. This is what casual luxury is all about.

People want more luxury in their everyday life. In the kitchen, people want better qualify tools, dishes and serving ware. When you spend more on everyday dinnerware and wine glasses, you can use them when you entertain. By changing how you accessorize or set your table, you can create a full range of looks with the same tableware. This is what makes casual luxury so appealing to the masses.

I, for one, is an adept of this philosophy. The casual luxury movement shifts the style toward more modern patterns and shapes. Your best bets are solid, pale neutral colors because the food looks better on them.

I was therefore happy to learn that Portmeirion is extending its line by Sophie Conran. If you do not know her, Sophie Conran is a British cook and the daughter of the style icon Sir Terence Conran. Being raised by a father that is famous as a furniture designer, retailer and restaurateur, Sophie was around good design on the kitchen all her life.

The Sophie Conran’s collection is modern with a touch of old country charm. Delicate to the touch, this porcelain collection is highly durable and can withstand pretty much anything modern life can throw at it. Fully tried and tested in a house with two small children, from the dishwasher to the microwave, the freezer to the oven, the Sophie Conran’s collection captures convenience on top of casual luxury.

With the new addition of baking and roasting dishes, all sizes of platters, teapot, sugar and creamer, a wooden chopping board, rolling pin, utensil set and silver salad servers, the Sophie Conran for Portmeirion is quite complete. The collection is available in three colors: white, biscuit and celadon.

I started my collection last fall with a large white porcelain salad bowl. I love it. Since all pieces are sold individually, I can buy the pieces I want over a period of time. You can find Sophie Conran for Portmeirion at Zone home accents stores in Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City.

+ The Rise of Casual Luxury, an article from the Gifts and Table wares Magazine
+ to see the entire Sophie Conran for Portmeirion collection
+ Web site of Sophie Conran
+ for the addresses of Zone stores