THE SHORES OF SKAGEN

Imagine a place where the shy can be completely cloudless and azure, where the air is clean and fresh, where it’s neither too hot nor too cold, and where the people are friendly, whether they be artists, fishermen or tourists. I am talking about a place where you can fly SAS from Heathrow to Gothenburg in Sweden; then a Stena Line ferry from Gothenburg to Frederikshavn. Then your destination is just a 25-minute drive away. This will bring you to Skagen at Denmark’s northernmost tip in Jutland.

Skagen has its own temperament and seems bathed in all-year-round contentment. Take a coffee and a plate with a Skagenhorn, a sugar-crisped pastry filled with soft marzipan while listening to crickets and bees and the sound of Danish women cycling past, in no particular hurry.

Skagen, pronounced ‘Skane’ if you’re Danish, has a history of artistry and art appreciation. Before then it was a simple backwoods farming and fishing community, but then the Danish equivalent of the English Bloomsbury Group turned Skagen into a fashionable holiday destination for wealthy Danes: A sort of  Scandinavian St Ives if you will. The beaches are white sand and the waters of the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas can batter this part of the coastline when the winds are up.

The landscape is very flat, as though the winds have levelled it over time, and covered with heathland comprised of spiky marsh grasses and yellow and purple flowers and bushes. Above you’ll see sparrow hawks and red kites.

Without getting to “arty” you do notice that there’s a very distinct and pleasing quality to the light. It’s probably down to the combination of surrounding water and flat land. It’s as though the light brings out more colours than possible elsewhere. The exposed position and flat land can mean that extremes of weather are experienced, rain, sun, heat, chills, winds and total calm…sometimes all in the same day or week!

The busy harbour is the bustling heart of Skagen. There are cruise liners and posh yachts rubbing shoulders with freighters and fishing boats. The dark copper-red wooden fish warehouses date from the start of the 20th century, but are now all converted to restaurants and cafés. However the fishing fleet still lands a catch every day, and wholesalers from across Northern Europe are drawn to bid for flounder, turbot and halibut, squid and eel, and gigantic Dublin Bay prawns that look like mini lobsters!

Unsurprisingly the restaurants major on fish, from humble, but delicious fish and chips to crispy calamari and through to mussels poached with tarragon in fish stock. If none of that takes your fancy then what about fish balls with a curry rémoulade and cranberry purée, served with delicious earth potatoes. That’s the trouble with Skagen, once you’ve visited it, you’ll not want to leave until you’ve tried every dish! It’s a place that will call you back again and again. But a lot of people don’t like spreading the word too much- they don’t want it to be swamped with tourists- which I think is a little selfish!

Product Highlights from Architectural Digest Home Design Show

My friend and I got complimentary tickets to attend the Architectural Digest Home Design Show. Have you heard of it?  Whether you’re an industry professional or a design enthusiast looking for inspiration, the annual Architectural Digest Home Design Show—a four-day event featuring the best in home design from more than 300 brands—has something for you. It’s a premier event that’s held in New York City and showcases the best in new designs for all rooms; bathrooms, master bedrooms, lounges etc and features furniture, lighting, kitchenware and bath products. It’s a lucrative and influential development of the magazine Architectural Digest. Let’s have a little of its history:

Architectural Digest is an American monthly magazine founded some time ago-in 1920. Its principal subject is interior design, despite the slightly misleading name of the magazine. The magazine is published by Condé Nast Publications, which also publishes eight international editions of Architectural Digest, including one in the UK.

The magazine has been said to have a rather affluent and style-conscious readership, and is subtitled “The International Design Authority”. But this swagger is merited as it certainly acts not only as a pointer to what’s “in” in the world of interior design, but is actually a trendsetter itself. The magazine also oversees the “AD100”, a list of top 100 architects and interior designers around the world.

Architectural Digest Magazine is a great way to see amazing interior design and beautiful rooms and homes each month.  But what better way to see designs than “in the flesh” at the annual show? The most recent show was a truly incredible “live” reflection of the magazine with no less than 300 furnishing companies displaying their wares in gorgeous vignettes at Pier 94 on the west side of Manhattan, New York City.

It’s not just interior designs that are featured in the magazine and in the shows. If you’re looking for high quality outdoor furniture and accessories, LandscaperOutlet.com has just about everything you could possible want.  This doesn’t just include outdoor garden furniture but also statues and fountains. From this company’s Bishan collection there is an impressive six piece “conversation area” including a glass coffee table that can convert to an ottoman for additional seating with a cushion. The furniture is constructed from synthetic wicker with an aluminium frame and self-draining mesh bottoms to allow quick drying after rain or washing.

One of the exhibits at the show brought gasps of admiration even from seasoned interior design commentators. It was Karkula’s 21 Series chandelier in the main entry hall of the show. Formed of a matte porcelain subtly and delicately folded and wrapped around a borosilicate glass trumpet formed light diffuser.  It would be absolutely amazing in any formal dining room and it’s likely that you’d be distracted from your food and keep gazing up at it!

Kids are not forgotten- there are traditional swings and also outdoor climbing frames that are not only fun for them to play on, but are also aesthetically pleasing as architectural design statements in their own right. A sort of adult/child gazebo conundrum. That’s what I like about the show and the magazine- you’re constantly surprised and delighted by the inventiveness of what you see!

Designing Your Master Bedroom

When it comes to redecorating you main bedroom, you should plan it carefully and not just throw a lick of paint at it. Consider this: It is the most private and intimate part of your home (you and your partner’s home possibly). You spend about a third of your time in your bedroom (work a third play a third, sleep a third) and it’s where you rest from the rigours (or the fun) of the day, and wake up to greet a new day. Closing your eyes to it- the last thing you’ll see before sleep, and the first thing you’ll see as you wake up, makes the bedroom unique. And it should be decorated in a unique and personal way. Comfort coherence functionality and even opulence should be the order of the day.

There are some key questions you should ask yourself (and your partner if you share your bedroom) that will help inform you master bedroom’s makeover:

Do you want your bedroom to be a private restful sanctuary?

Do you want it to be your fun ‘n games parlour?

If you’re sharing this space is there enough room for both of you to enjoy your own private moments? You may each want to have furniture that is different and yet matches. Perhaps armchairs in the same wood and material, but in different styles? Or the same style armchairs but in differing materials/colours?

Practically, as well as any ambient restful lighting, do you need strong directed lighting? How will you apply your make-up? Read a book? Dust and clean?

Are you planning to watch TV or DVDs in your bedroom? You’ll need to plan for where the screen goes, the set-top box/dvd player, the surround-sound speakers.

How much storage space do you need for your clothes, books, CDs, whatever?

Do you want to have an armchair/seating for relaxing and reading?

As for curtains, do you get much light in your master bedroom? If so, when? Morning, noon or evening? This will help you decide the heaviness of the drapes. Noon light is not an issue as you’ll rarely be in your bedroom at that time. But direct bright sunlight in the morning or evening may interrupt your sleep patterns and so will require heavy curtains to cut out the sunlight.

Because your bedroom is likely to have a number of different functions at different times (sleeping, reading, dressing, watching TV, listening to music, playing around…) you will have to make compromises. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have items, colours, or styles clashing with one another. It just means that you have to have things such as lighting that can be switched on and off as required.

One of the main things you will need to decide is the size and shape of the bed itself. You can have circular beds, semi-circular beds, king-size, queen-size, two single beds, and even an antique four poster bed. What you want will tell you how much room you have spare. There is no point having an over-large bed in a small room, as any extra furniture will make the room look cluttered and you’ll have an obstacle course each time you want to get in and out of bed!