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‘Hotel to Home’ by Sophie Bush: the story of how traditional industrial design has inspired cool, contemporary décor.

This lavishly illustrated book takes the armchair traveller on a global journey to peek inside the most original revamped buildings from Berlin to Cape Town, Chicago to London, Sydney to Singapore: destinations for design enthusiasts. Sophie Bush is the founder of Warehouse Home, a biannual magazine and interior design service,  specialising in the industrial aesthetic for bold, contemporary style. 

When I travel, I hope to be inspired. Wherever I go, I try to stay in hotels with authentic stories and exceptional interiors. I am always looking for new ideas.”

Sophie Bush

The recent evolution of hotel design is fascinating.  Finding American hotels too large, old fashioned and impersonal, compared to his travels in Europe, Bill Kimpton opened the first, so called, Boutique hotel in 1981, The Bedford, San Francisco.  Three years later, Ian Schrager followed suit, launching Morgans on Madison Avenue, NYC, the first of a worldwide collection. Their respective vision was all about creative design & local culture, cocktail bars and modern cuisine, in-house music with personal attention from haute couture dressed staff.  Distinctive, desirable places to eat, drink, socialise, sleep, dream.

If the buzz words today are conservation and sustainability, then the re-imagining of disused factories and warehouses to create unusual Boutique hotels and private residences is a brilliant solution to preserve urban architectural heritage.  

This book features forty unique hotels, their stunning industrial architecture creatively preserved where steel structures, wooden beams and concrete walls now offer exciting and atmospheric places to stay with bold style and vintage vibe.

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.’

Frank Gehry

The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool – a former rum factory

Formerly an old rum factory built in 1848, The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool overlooks Stanley Dock and is named after the legendary ship which was christened and set sail to New York from the city in 1912.  Now its exposed red bricked walls, iron columns and vaulted ceilings retain a sense of the its ‘spiritual’ history, juxtaposed with leather, tweed and wool furnishings.

A spacious suite in the Titanic Hotel

Soho House Chicago is a converted belt and leather tannery (1907). Now the vast concrete warehouse has been converted into a ‘Hip and happening’ private Club, full of impressive art work including by Damien Hirst.  The magnificent Drawing room has spacious soft velvet booths, chandeliers and polished parquet flooring.

Soho House, Chicago – the Drawing Room

The long forgotten 19th century Pearl Brewery is the charming, characterful setting for Hotel Emma, San Antonio, Texas, named after the heroic Prohibition era owner, which preserves the machinery, brickwork and distressed plasterwork with ‘timeless elegance.’ Furnished with Moroccan kilim rugs and leather armchairs, this is the place to chill out and sip a Texan craft beer.

Gorgeous George is an intimate, homely 32 bedroom, Boutique hotel in the inner city district of Cape Town, converted from two Art Deco and Edwardian buildings: wood panelling, brass and copper pipes with smart white tiles in the classic bathrooms.  As a cultural, arty, local hub, it’s described as “a living room for the neighbourhood.’

Gorgeous George – concrete, wood and leather materials decorate the bar and restaurant

The magnificent Zeitz Mocaa Museum, Cape Town showcasing African art, fashion and design, is located within a former grain Silo (1921) and its innovative restoration by the Heatherwick Studio, London, won a Global tourism award in 2019 from the British Guild of Travel Writers.  

The Silo Hotel entrance preserves the industrial heritage

On the top six floors above the Museum is the Silo Hotel with 18 foot windows for spectacular views over to Table Mountain and the Bay. The décor is a charming blend of Asian and European antiques, silk and velvet fabrics and African artwork. Stay in one of the 28 guestrooms including a Penthouse, all individually designed, and relax in the rooftop Bar.

The roof top bar at The Silo, overlooking Table Mountain

We created interiors to complement the stark industrial architecture with stylish, comfortable, decorative elements.”

Liz Biden, The Silo, Royal Portfolio Hotels.

A former United Artists Film Company office is now the address of the Ace Hotel Downtown, Los Angeles, a 1920s Gothic building partly inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Preserving the original structure, the décor focuses on Californian and Mexican culture and design – The Best Girl restaurant is named after the first movie screened at the UA theatre in 1927.

Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles

The range of former industrial buildings is richly eclectic such as a former Cheese-making factory converted into the Ace Hotel, Chicago. The design concept is Bauhaus with bold, clean lines, plywood panels and chrome tubing, with a black, white and grey palette. The Bar has scenic views over the city skyline.

Ace Hotel, Chicago – a dramatic shower room

Clerkenwell, London is a buzzing neighbourhood of pubs, restaurants and creative businesses where The Zetter. Reminiscent of the slender shape of the Flatiron, NYC, the eco-friendly conversion of this Victorian warehouse retained sash windows, sourced vintage furniture and created a light-filled atrium with a changing showcase of art and sculpture. Rooftop rooms and a split level, circular Suite with private terraces offer panoramic views.

The Zetter, Clerkenwell

This is just a selection of the iconic hotels in unusual places – a former sugar mill in China, a Swedish power station and an 18th century garment factory in Paris – each preserving distinctive architectural features complemented with period or modern furnishings and artistic décor.  

As the title of the book suggests, Hotel to Home focuses on the designs, fabrics, material and use of space – bedrooms, bathrooms – to inspire the reader to add a touch of industrial chic to their own environment.  During nearly two years of lockdown, many of us working from home, we have been keen to decorate and design rooms afresh.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris

Chapters on residential Real Homes, such as Manhattan loft apartments, illustrate how to blend painted brickwork and raw concrete walls, tiles and timber for the weird and wonderful warehouse aesthetic.  Read all about mixing and matching raw materials for texture and colour. Terrazzo (a blend of marble, glass and quartz chippings) looks so effective for snazzy kitchen worktops and bathroom floors.

Whether a hotel or a home, the clever juxtaposition of hard steel and wood materials softened by velvet draped sofas and a splash of bold primary colours creates a dazzling, dramatic look.  There are suggestions for paintings, prints and statement, photorealistic wallpapers to jazz up a room with street art, abstract rugs or ‘paint- splattered’ fabrics. Great ideas too on book shelves, office space, how to create a feature bed, bathrooms, kitchen layout and the most appropriate lights and lamps for each room. 

This is not a travel guide.

It is a design manual filled with ideas for achieving hotel chic industrial style at home.” 

Sophie Bush

Well, I would say this book is an inspirational collection of desirable, unusual places to stay with bold and beautiful bedrooms, sleek bathrooms, smart bars, velvet draped sofas and quirky artwork offering a fabulous, fashionable home away from home.

Since 1981, the Kimpton brand continues to revolutionise hotel living. As a travel writer, reviewing luxury hotels, I have stayed in the revamped, uber-cool and contemporary Kimpton Charlotte Square, Edinburgh which offers a leisurely, liveable, home environment (Edinburgh Hotel of the Year 2020). Also love the classy Kimpton Blythswood, Glasgow, named Luxury Brand hotel, 2020.

I recently visited the majestic Kimpton Clocktower, Manchester, which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK.  Formerly, the Refuge Assurance Company (1890), the hotel features Victorian red brickwork, ceramic tiles and stained glass as well as the fun and funky Refuge cocktail bar.  

And also in Manchester is the most exciting, new Moxy, Spinningfields, an “experiential,” nine storey hotel clad in weathered metal panels over the original façade retained from the former Hat factory. Bar Moxy and the social atrium space has a modern, industrial feel, with local-inspired artwork, curated Manchester illustrations and illuminated signs across the lobby. 

“There are two things that make a room timeless: a sense of history and a piece of the future.”

Charlotte Moss

You don’t need to live in a former factory or brewery to jazz up the atmosphere, ambience and style of your home whether it’s Victorian, Edwardian, 1930s or 60s et al. It’s all about architecture, function, comfort, décor and design to enhance original features and embrace your personal lifestyle.

‘Hotel to Home’ is an inspirational guide for interior design provides expert advice on finding salvaged materials, vintage curios, recycled furniture and artwork to create an individual sense of place, space and heritage.  A helpful comprehensive list of architects, designers and stockists is given at the end of the book.  

This is a timely, important story of renaissance, restoration and renewal of historic buildings, re-imagined with cool, contemporary design, practicality and purpose.

Hotel to Home: Industrial Interiors inspired by the world’s most original hotels

By Sophie Bush

Published by Warehouse Home, hardback £30.

ISBN: 978-1-527226-51-7.

(Reviewers note: Hotel to Home is a coffee table book designed like a glossy magazine with superb illustrations. However, apart from a larger typeface for chapter summaries, the font size of the main text is miniscule, and to read the Contents page, one almost needs a magnifying glass. There is an alphabetical list of hotels at the end but no page numbers. )

Bedroom with claw foot bath in Gorgeous George, Cape Town

Experience PÄRLA PRO toothpaste tablets for the fresh, clean, ‘just been to the dentist’ feel and a brighter smile.

PÄRLA is a natural, high gloss whitening, ethically sourced, sustainably packaged range of British toothpaste tablets which are vegan, zero waste and plastic free and what’s more will help you ‘Get the Carrie Bradshaw gleaming white smile’. 

Did you know that over 3 billion plastic toothpaste tubes end up in landfill each year.?

PÄRLA (the Dutch for Pearl), is an eco-friendly solution to brushing our teeth –  toothpaste tablets as an effective alternative to toothpaste in a plastic tube.

Toothpaste should protect people’s smiles – without harming the environment.  Our plan is to radically transform what we use to clean our teeth. That’s why PÄRLA is different – a dehydrated toothpaste tablet in a reusable glass jar and completely plastic-free packaging’.

This was very much the basis of the 15 minute pitch given by two business partners on Dragon’s Den on 29th April 2021. 

The Dragons meet the Dentists to hear about PÄRLA toothpaste tablets

The popular BBC show which sees entrepreneurs and inventors present a unique business plan to a team of investors in a bid to secure financial support. In fact Dragon’s Den is back for the 19th series on BBC 1 this week from 6th January 2022.  

Dr Simon Chard and Dr. Rhona Eskaner on Dragon’s Den

In Episode 5 of Series 18, two dentists, Dr. Simon Chard and Dr. Rhona Eskaner put their idea for Pärla toothpaste tablets to the judges, asking for a £70,000 investment for 9%  equity. They claimed the tablets have the perfect dose of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

After intense questioning to find out more about the ingredients and proven effect, Tej Lalvani offered all the money but in return wanted more than three times the nine per cent equity requested.  Deborah Meaden made the same offer as Tej then Deborah and Tej followed up by combining their offers for all the money and 15% equity each. Simon and Rhona suggested 20% equity, meaning 10% from each of them. However, neither of the Dragons could go lower than 30% and the offer was not accepted, citing the percentage equity the Dragons were after as too much.

‘I sincerely hope you take over the world with that, and I will be switching’

Deborah Meaden.

But the good news is that this innovative team of Dentists went ahead to launch these naturally whitening, ethically sourced, sustainably packaged PÄRLA Original toothpaste tabs.  Promoted on ITV’s This Morning and in magazines, by the summer of 2021 the media reported that “One pot of these sustainable, teeth-whitening toothpaste tablets sells every minute.”

So who are these entrepreneurial dentists.? 

Dr Rhona Eskander has been described as the ‘woman who is working ‘To change the health and wellness industries in the UK’. She is the only female dentist to win Best Young Dentist at the Private Dentistry awards in three years; Dr Simon Chard is an award winning, cosmetic dentist, a co-owner of Rothley Lodge Dental Practice and is a director on the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Board; Dr Adarsh Thanki is the owner of the Ace Dental Group of highly-skilled multidisciplinary dental surgeons using the latest technology.  

Following the Original formula, the new improved PÄRLA PRO is supercharged with teeth whitening, sensitivity-reducing and immunity-boosting powers. The professional-grade toothpaste tab is specifically formulated with advanced ingredients at the forefront of dental innovation. It remains totally vegan and zero waste, as well as cruelty-free, palm oil-free and SLS-free.

The foaming agent of conventional toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate which, according to some dentists, isn’t the best thing for teeth.“SLS can cause irritation in the form of ulcers and derived from palm oil it’s a huge environmental problem,” Dr Eskander.

Just as Skincare was revolutionised with the use of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C for moisturising and anti-ageing effect, Pärla Pro has the addition of hydroxyapatite as part of the new formula. “This mineral is a building block of natural enamel. It works by blocking all the open pores and smoothing the surface of the tooth, which – in tandem with our four signature stain-removing ingredients – adds a high-gloss, whitening shine.”

Time to switch from my usual toothpaste and pop a pill instead.  It does take a few days to get used to the rather strange sensation of crunching this little white tablet for a second or two before brushing your teeth for two minutes in the normal manner.  Immediately, you notice there is no frothing foam covering your mouth which means that you don’t spit out half way. This retains all the ingredients to work their magic on your teeth. 

It is extraordinary the deep cleaning effect of the tablet.  I think we all assume that the foam of toothpaste has a cleaning action, but then you rinse and spit out the foam containing the active ingredients.  Chewing the tablet ensures that all the essential minerals and fluoride coat the teeth and are absorbed into the gums, bloodstream and body – like a dental Vitamin pill for the mouth.  

I have frequently suffered from plaque which needs to scrubbed and scraped off by my dentist or hygienist every six months. What I noticed very quickly was the lack of plaque building up, such as between my lower front teeth. It really does give the “just been to the dentist” fresh, clean feel with a light peppermint taste.

For a truly white Hollywood smile, I think it would require more than crunching a tablet to achieve the results of a professional intensive, bleaching method.  But perhaps in due course, the stain removal ingredients would achieve a whiter, brighter smile  – like a shiny, white fresh-water Pearl.!

Get the Carrie Bradshaw smile with PÄRLA PRO!

Coincidentally, Carrie Bradshaw and friends are back on screen just now in the new series, “And Just Like That,” a decade older from SATC days but still with her perfect healthy teeth.

The facts and figures PÄRLA PRO at a glance:

The first toothpaste to support a healthy immune systemeach tablet contains at least 50% daily RDA of vitamin E (an antioxidant), B12 & selenium.      

Adds a high-gloss, whitening shine through the mineral hydroxyapatite.

Fights tooth decay with key ingredient, fluoride. 

Fights sensitivity with potassium citrate.

The natural and gentle foaming agent is sourced from coconuts.

No artificial flavourings – peppermint essential oils are used instead for minty freshness.

Four signature ingredients include kaolin and calcium carbonate to remove coffee, tea and red wine stains.

Packaged in a reusable glass jar which reduces the millions of toothpaste tubes that end up in landfill.

The only sustainable tooth decay-busting product that protects your smile as much as it does the planet.

Reviews by happy customers: 

I previously tried another brand of toothpaste tabs but the Parla Pro is less chalky and leaves my teeth and mouth feeling very clean. I’m a convert!

This is the only toothpaste tablet I have found for sensitive teeth and it works well

We trialled a jar of these great toothpaste tablets and loved them so much, we’ve just reordered on a four-month subscription basis.

I totally agree with these comments and after using PÄRLA PRO toothpaste tabs for a month or so, I am probably convinced that these are extremely effective for dental hygiene and health. Time to sort out a regular delivery to kick off 2022 with professional dental care at home and a whiter smile.

PÄRLA PRO is available from & and costs £8.00 a month on subscription.

Experience a fun, cultural, foodie, city break in Manchester this Festive season

Having visiting Manchester a few years ago, I planned another trip recently to find out what’s on, where to go and what to see during the festive season.  Instead of a seasonal sleigh, I had a smooth, comfortable journey on a brand new Nova Tranpennine Express electric train from Edinburgh. There are five carriages, with 264 seats in standard class, 22 in first class, complimentary wifi and a power socket at every seat. Trolley service for refreshments and snacks, and storage for 4 bicycles. The Nova 2 trains run between Edinburgh and Manchester Airport so the ideal route if planning to jet off somewhere exotic.

The sleek new Nova 2 Transpennine Express train from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport

As I headed south to Manchester, meanwhile my sister, June, was speeding north from London Euston on an Aviva train: the itinerary for our Christmas shopping and cultural city break began with perfect synchronicity, the two trains arriving on time, just four minutes apart at 1.23pm and 1.27pm respectively.

Take the train from around the country to Manchester Piccadilly

Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre every year since 1998 to add a sparkle to the winter chill.  Staying at the Mercure hotel was a great central location on Portland Street, Piccadilly Gardens, which has been transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’. This is a pop up village of Christmas market stalls and log cabin bars such as Apres Ski & Off Piste where you can warm up with an Alpine Ale, mulled wine, prosecco, cider, Nordic Glogg, Hot toddy and a Bailey’s coffee.

The Alpine ski-themed Winter Gardens, Piccadilly Square

The markets are also located across St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens which will entice the skaters to the ice rink. A central stage with a series of live music events will entertain the crowds.  Sip Gluhwein and sample apple strudel around the traditional German stalls, and, of course, Bratwurst – perhaps best to share the half a metre sausage!   

The half metre Bratwurst German sausage

Dine around the world from  Little Spain – paella, chorizo rolls, patatas bravas and hot sangria to Mexico Joes Ltd – Chicken flatbread, falafel, and halloumi fries. Eat Greek – halloumi fries, pitta bread, Elsie Mays for warm brownies and milkshakes. French, Sicilian and Dutch dishes too.  An American feast at Triple B -Pastrami Burger and a huge Turkey Reuben bagel.

The best of British at Porkys of Yarm serving Hot roast pork rolls, Hydes beers, local cider, English wines  and Clowbecks for Cumberland sausage, bubble & squeak, tatties, mulled wine and lager.  Porky Pig  Yorkshire puddings wraps. Battered pigs in blankets. For vegetarians and vegans, Panc is a plant-based stall offers meat free sausages, burgers, fried chick’n and more.

And of course, the Markets are the place to buy innovative gifts galore – from chocolates and cheese, to toys and games, arts and crafts, soaps, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, leather bags and wallets, jewellery.

The Markets are open until Wednesday December 22, 10am to 9pm daily with some stalls continuing around the Winter and Cathedral Gardens into the New Year.

A night at the theatre to see the musical, Waitress at the Opera House, originally The New Theatre, which opened on Boxing Day, 1912, then renamed the Opera House in 1920. It was a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before launched as a theatre again in 1984, renowned for touring musicals such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.  Waitress is a comedy drama set in an American diner and after the ten day run in Manchester, it’s now on tour around the country so do catch this heart-warming, feminist, feel good show if you can.  

The pantomime at the Opera House this year is Aladdin, starring Alexandra Burke, with flying carpets, a genie, an evil sorcerer, magical effects, song and dance.  

Warmly recommended for a pre-post theatre lunch or supper is Bill’s Spinningfields which is perfectly located a two minute walk away from the Opera House.

‘Our passion for great food, cooked with care in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Whether with friends, family or an intimate dinner for two, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.’ 

Bill’s started 20 years ago, when Bill Collison opened his Greengrocer’s shop in Lewes, East Sussex and soon added a café, a concept for seasonal local food which has gradually grown into a collection of restaurants across the UK.  

The modern, stylish menu changes seasonally – quality, gastropub, homely food with generous portions and is very vegetarian-vegan friendly.  I selected crispy calamari, perfect finger food, dipping the rings into the creamy aioli.  Then a veggie burger, Halloumi, avocado and roasted peppers, with sweet potato fries.  My sister nibbled a few olives to start and then enjoyed a real, juicy meat burger, cooked to her liking, with rosemary fries (we declined the bun to reduce the calories). With our meal we sipped one of the house wines, the South African, Journey’s End Chardonnay – deliciously crisp and dry.

This Christmas season, with the witty Wizard of Oz theme, There’s No Place Like Bill’s, you will be tempted by the enticing seasonal food and cocktail menu such as Pigs-in-blankets,  Christmas Truffle Cheese Fondue Burger,  Boxing Day curry, Truffalo sprouts and for dessert,  sugar-sprinkled Snow Nuts or Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, a red berry cheesecake with chocolate tree, stars and baubles.

Time for party cocktails: Gin-gle Bells (Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, Chambord, fresh pineapple), Passion Fruit Spritz and the Strawberry Margarita.

After the theatre, it was back to the Mercure hotel for a nightcap at the Level 3 Lounge Bar overlooking the bright lights of the Christmas market.  The ‘seasonal’ cocktail list includes a Summer Mojito (not quite right for a chilly winter night!), and, disappointing that there was no Campari in stock for the Negroni. I chose a classic Gin Martini (but no olive garnish available), while June sipped a Nojito, a minty, fruity tipple without the rum.

Gin Martini and Nojito at Level 3 Bar, Mercure Hotel with city views

Art lovers should visit the Contemporary 6 Gallery, 37 Princess Street, owned by Alex Reuben who selects a series of inspiring shows of paintings, modern prints, (Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse), ceramics and sculpture. Throughout November is the eclectic artwork of Jim Moir (as seen on Sky TV, Celebrity Portrait and Landscape Artist), ranging from a flight of birds to quirky portraits.

For a marvellous day out for all ages, take a trip to the Trafford Centre, five miles from the city centre, and easy to get there by metrolink tram. This is very much like This is very much like an American shopping mall with designer and high street stores, not least a large branch of Selfridges, as well as a cinema, bowling alley, Game arena and Legoland.  After browsing the shops or seeing a movie, time for refreshments, but signage needs improved as where to eat and drink is difficult to find. The Orient is designed around the replica of a pool deck on a classic ocean liner featuring numerous bars and bistros from All Bar One to Zizzi. A huge marble staircase modelled on the Titanic leads to the Great Hall and features the largest chandelier in the world.

The marble Titanic staircase at the Great Hall,Trafford Centre

Drink, eat and stay at the Kimpton Clocktower which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the cool, quirky Kimpton brand focuses on art, wellness, modern cuisine and playful style while reflecting the heritage of each destination. 

The landmark clocktower above the Kimpton Hotel, Manchester

The majestic Victorian red brick and terracotta building was initially the The Refuge Assurance Company (1890), which opened as the hotel on 1st October 2020. In the lobby, a bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens illustrates the turning circle for the former Hansom cabs and carriages; original features include ceramic tiles, stained glass and wooden staircases juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings.

The lobby at the Kimpton with horse sculpture

Bold colourfully designed bedrooms and suites are draped in velvet with bespoke decor and artwork by Scottish company Timorous Beasties, while vinyl records of Manchester’s famous bands from the Stone Roses to Oasis can be played on a turntable. Guests can take use of the in room yoga mat, the complimentary tuck box and many bathrooms boast a classic roll top bathtub.

Signature suite at the Kimpton Clocktower, designed by Timorous Beasties

Relax over a drink or Afternoon tea in The Winter Garden, an interior glasshouse blossoming with plants and trees and wine and dine at The Refuge by Volta. The Refuge Bar and Dining Room is a vast but elegant space of interconnecting salons where on a Friday night the lounge area was buzzing with happy drinkers and around the corner, the fabulous Restaurant with well designed, comfy banquette seating and half moon booths.  

Refuge by Volta – stylish, soul food for sharing

An innovative menu of Soul Food for sharing is neatly divided into Meat, Seafood, On the Side and Vegetables, inspired around the global travels by the DJ -Restaurateurs, Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey.   

First of all it’s time for finely crafted cocktails – the Drinks list is most enticing with a celebration of gin and modern twists on the classics. Like a revamped French 75, is ‘Glamour of Manchester’:– Malfy rose gin, lemon, hibiscus syrup, Champagne.  There’s an innovative selection of spirits especially speciality gins for the perfect serve such as Aviation, Gin Mare, Malfy Rosa, Monkey 47 and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin.

The pure, smooth taste of Ramsbury Single Estate Gin (Wiltshire) for the perfect Martini

My Gin Martini was a masterclass of the art which hit the spot with lip smacking delight. Across the table, June selected The Queen’s Peach – Spiced rum, peach, lime, mint with a splash of prosecco – for a refreshing taste of the Caribbean.   

Masterly curated Cocktails at Refuge by Volta

Advised to select four to five dishes for two, we chose the ras-el-hanout scented chicken, salt cod croquettes with tartare aioli, tenderstem broccoli, chargrilled cauliflower and chickpea daal, for an eclectic Middle Eastern, Asia and Spanish culinary journey.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked almost al dente and the creamy daal in coconut milk was mixed with apricots and dates. For dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was the perfect finale to a superlative meal. Hospitality by Jake and James was exemplary.  

As well as sipping a delicious Sartori Pinot Grigio, the wine list tours the world to France, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Lebanon.  With DJs in charge of the ambience, you can expect a lively vibe with a soothing, sassy mix of jazz, swing, funk, soul and house.

Superlative, modern cuisine at the Refuge by Volta: soul food for sharing

Experience the magic of Manchester this Christmas at the Kimpton Clocktower. Treat yourself to a stay in one of the gorgeously styled rooms or suites and enjoy a three course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz and festive snacks in The Refuge, breakfast each day is included and chill out for a leisurely 3pm checkout on departure.  

Enjoy a fine feast of Brunch at Refuge by Volta

Hope this all whets your appetite to plan a magical, cultural and shopping trip to Manchester soon.

Links to help you research your visit.

Figurative: the human form captured up close and personal by ten contrasting artists at the Heriot Gallery, Edinburgh

The definition of Figurative Art generally reflects the shape of things, objects, places and perceptions; creating a likeness, a realistic representation but can also embrace abstraction and distorted images. This wide- ranging showcase at the Heriot Gallery covers portraiture and figurative studies inspired by varied artistic styles from classical Baroque to modernist Photorealism.

Soon after graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone, Saul Robertson was voted Young Artist of the Year by the Royal College of Art and in 2005 he won second prize at the B.P Portrait award. His painting ‘Journeys’ has recently been selected for the Scottish Portrait Fine Art Awards, 2021.

The Rainbow comes and goes, Saul Robertson

Solitary figures in a city or rural environment is very much the theme of his work here. The meticulous detail in The Rainbow Comes and Goes requires careful observation; this figurative landscape appears to be a break for a picnic on a road trip by vintage VW campervan, with sandy soil and dry grass of a remote, hot, desert landscape. Although we cannot see the face of the woman in the yellow dress, she seems to be looking wistfully out to sea. Robertson has captured a most meditative and melancholic scene like a Kodak snapshot moment, a memory of a distant time and place.

While Madame Pommery was the entrepreneurial 19th century brand leader of the champagne house, Rory Macdonald introduces us to Madame de Chardonnay in her lavish blue-ribboned white crinoline gown. This is such a theatrical, witty portrait – despite the fact that she holds an oversized, decorative glass of chardonnay, her expression is far from cheerful. Rather like Mona Lisa, she has a serious, thoughtfully perceptive gaze.

Madame de Chardonnay, Rory Macdonald

After studying Art History at St Andrews, Rory’s innovative approach is inspired by Renaissance and Baroque traditions (Velazquez, van Dyck, Giordano) to create a contemporary, often comical narrative. Also enjoying a tipple or two, Old Soak is a classic portrait of a bearded gentleman, proudly dressed in a ruff and red silk gown, standing incongruously in a tumbler of wine. The quality of light glinting on glass and rich fabrics illustrate his perfectionist style as a young ‘Old Master’.

Old Soak, Rory Macdonald

In contrast, Peter Hallam captures a manner and mood of his subjects with a surrealist style. Here is a colourful line up of smart young men – racing driver, songwriter, androgynous fashionista and, very timely due to Bond mania, a Secret Agent. In his brown velvet jacket, tie, neat hair and piercing blue eyes (a la Daniel Craig), he appears suave and sophisticated.  

The Secret Agent, Peter Hallam

Apparently, Hallam’s portraits are often based on real people, transformed into quirky fictional caricatures yet balanced with a lively sense of humanity and charming humour.

Cherylene Dyer also has an artistic narrative through characters, choosing actors and dancers as her models, in order to express emotion and a dramatic ambience.  Her series, The World changed while I was sleeping’ are playful images of a girl wearing a tall crown made out of newspaper, but there’s a hidden message about disorientation as if lost in a fantasy dream world.

Duality, Cherylene Dyer

In Duality, we see a double image of a woman, one with eyes closed in a summer frock, the other is a back view, half undressed but the shadows of two figures perhaps reflect her dual, public and private faces. This is a poignant illustration of Dyer’s fascination with how we deal with social media, selfie images and the daily exposure of our identity.

In similar vein, Jane Gardiner has made a close study of the Venice Carnival where guests embrace the art of masquerade to hide one’s true self. Through period costumes, wigs and jewellery, people can adopt, and hide behind, a different glamorous personality. Titles such as The Bruised Heart, which suggests the end of an affair, shows an elegant woman, all dressed up for a party.

Light as Air, Jane Gardiner

Light as Air is another evocative portrait to depict the Carnival atmosphere through this attractive lady, beautifully made up, rouged cheeks, a lace eye mask and glittering ear-rings. She clearly wants to make an entrance and catch the eye of a secret admirer.

Steven Higginson is renowned for portraits painted in a hyper-realist style, selected for the SPA each year from 2017 to 2121.  He likes to experiment with the use of light and shade in a domestic environment such as the quiet study of a woman in The Last Light, with such delicate detail of sun-dappled skin, hair and wool sweater.   On display too is a stunning self-portrait, The Awakening  (BP Portrait Awards, 2019), with exquisite, photographic accuracy. You can detect the strong sunlight in his watery eyes and the brilliantly composed pattern of lines created by the window blind across his face, echoed in the shadow behind.

Awakening, Steven Higginson

Like Rory Macdonald, Higginson too is inspired by the meticulous artwork of the Old Masters, transferring the traditional representation of a likeness to modern day life and society.

Angela Reilly won third prize at the BP Portrait Award for a self-portrait in 2006, and her work was also selected for the prestigious Ruth Borchard Prize, 2021.  In the summer exhibition at the Heriot Gallery, she presented several exemplary paintings of the female nude to expose bare skin, flesh and bodily imperfections in intimate detail.

Wrap, Angela Reilly

Here, in Wrap, Reilly’s artistic lens captures a close up of a woman’s thigh and long, slender legs, the left wrapped around the right to reveal the sole of her foot. The blank background, painted in a shade of soft buttermilk, gives the effect of the figure floating in mid air. There is extraordinary photographic quality in the texture and tone of smooth skin, blue veins, toes and nails.

The focus of Homage with a girl perched on a stool, shows the naturalistic posture of bent legs, knees touching and clutching her arm around her waist, as if giving herself a warm, comforting hug.

As a modern master of portraiture, the profile study of a Boy depicts the fine facial features, his eyes slightly dazzled in sunlight and shimmering shadow with such clarity. 

Boy, Angela Reilly

This Figurative exhibition also features colourful illustrations of forgotten heroes by Stuart Moir who is inspired by classical Flemish art, Gill Walton, whose Pandemic-themed figures reflect religious icons and Ruaridh Crighton, who distorts portraits with bold abstract vision.


8 October to 6 November, 2021

Heriot Gallery, 20a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm. Sat, 10am-4pm.

For more information on the artists and view images see the website:

Portrait 1, Ruaridh Crighton

The bold, beautiful art and design by Julia Krone is composed with decorative, lyrical vision.

Woman Seated, Joan Miro

“I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music. .. a picture must dazzle like the beauty of a woman or a poem. It must have radiance; What I am seeking is a motionless movement, the eloquence of silence.

Joan Miro

After such a strange and surreal year, we all need a dazzling dash of colour in our lives to lift the spirits and Julia Krone exudes free-flowing energy and spontaneity in her vibrant artwork with a delightful, decorative aesthetic.

Originally from South Africa she enjoyed a showbiz lifestyle performing as a jazz singer before moving to the UK in 2007. She studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and has now developed a successful career specialising in painting, print-making, textile design and collage at her Georgian home-studio-gallery in the New Town.

Julia Krone’s ‘Dream Catcher’ collection was selected to be shown at the B gallery, Paris in December 2020, to offer a sense of hope after lockdown, and described as comparable to the iconic Waterlily paintings by Monet.

This evocative image was also used to promote Nelson Mandela Freedom Day by the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg last year.

Art from this series includes Dream Catcher 1, a finely crafted, kaleidoscopic pattern, combining pointillism dots, zigzag lines and meandering rows of flagstones, like taking a walk through a garden of trees and flowers.  An ethereal view through a window suggesting a welcome escape from the harsh realities of life.

Dreamcatcher I, Julia Krone

This iconic painting is available as a signed Fine Art Print, beautifully framed in an elegant white display box (25 x 25 cm) with a perspex front, a limited edition of 400 prints. Also as a Limited Edition Fine Art Print on German Etch Paper, in various sizes available from the online shop.

By definition, a “dream catcher” is a protective talisman that is used to protect people from nightmares, with a charm traditionally hung above children’s beds. 

Julia Krone surrounded by her colourful artwork in her studio gallery, Edinburgh

Around the walls of Julia Krone’s gallery is a distinctive range of original mixed media paintings and canvas prints in a bold choice of colour and design as well as a fabulous display of artistic fabrics and home interiors.

Purple Haze, Julia Krone

Another series is Purple Haze which is like a glorious burst of fireworks, sparklers and Catherine wheels in bright pink, coral, turquoise and kiwi green – a joyful expression with a real sense of humour.

Clarity VII, Julia Krone (Acrylic on board)

In cool contrast, Clarity VII focusses on the simplicity of shape – the yellow and icy blue pebbles on a backdrop of purple creates a pure, cool abstract pattern, reminiscent of the masterly artwork of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and William Scott.

Likewise, Town & Country XIII is a mesmerising, meditative design in rainbow colours with a mishmash of half moons, circles, stripes, spirals and blocks with vivacious movement.

Town & Country, XIII Julia Krone (Mixed media on canvas)

Julia often depicts the world of nature in varying abstracted forms such as the translucent fluidity of water and the attractive floral pattern in Sea Garden, with an imaginative flurry and flourish of pink and coral petals.

Sea Garden I, Julia Krone (Mixed media on board)

Sea Garden I is also available as a Fine Art Print on canvas. There is also a tangible sense of the ebb and flow of water and waves across the tapestry of gestural marks in Squaring the Circle, which creates a light and lyrical expression of movement where bubbles of air appear to float off the canvas.

Squaring the Circle I, Julia Krone (Silk Screen Print with collage on paper)

These paintings capture an underlying narrative as if to depict memories of land and seascapes, akin to the abstract Action paintings by American artist, Joan Mitchell, who said:

My paintings repeat a feeling about Lake Michigan, or water, or fields… It’s more like a poem… and that’s what I want to paint.” Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

The collection of work entitled Nice was inspired by a visit to the Matisse Museum in the South of France, features a block of overlaid strips in pastel shades like a finely crafted 3D collage.

Nice II, Julia Krone

Nice II above is a signed Fine Art Print on German Etch paper, available in various sizes. These stunning designs in particular would be fabulous as a versatile fabric for clothing and home interior furnishings.

The iconic Bloomsbury decorative arts created by Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at the Omega Workshop blurred the border between art, design, ceramics, home furnishings and fashion.

The painterly, interior design of Charleston Farmhouse with eclectic Bloomsbury vision

Their Bohemian style is still preserved at Charleston Farmhouse and a recurring influence on interior design today. Virginia Woolf once described her sister Vanessa as “A Poet in Colour.”

Julia Krone shares a similar but entirely original and contemporary aesthetic as an artist and textile designer, creating fabrics for art cushions and lampshades –  many of her bold patterns would be ideal too for pottery, silk scarves and accessories. 

Art Cushion with VV Rouleaux Tassels, Julia Krone

This is just a short overview of Julia’s exciting, fresh and imaginative art and design which radiates such energy through colour and dancing shapes as well as quiet, peaceful reflection.

Akin to Miro’s philosophy, the underlying poetic message depicts human emotion, spirituality and a zest for life.

For more information, to view the range of artwork and arrange a visit to the studio gallery:

Following a successful exhibition during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 2021, Julia Krone’s Gallery will continue to be open on Thursdays from 13:00-18:00 – just ring the doorbell, use Track & Trace and wear a mask.

A diverse range of original Paintings, as well as Fine Art Prints on canvas or on paper, decorative art cushions and lampshades. Fine Art Prints, free delivery in the UK.

Julia has had her work shown at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, featured in many private international art collections, and regularly promoted in Interior Design Magazines.

Dazzling, decorative artwork and interior designs for the home by Julia Krone

‘To the Water’ – the cool, cultural heritage of swimming from pool to beach, captured on camera by Soo Burnell

‘To the Water’, an exhibition of photographs at Saorsa Gallery

With childhood memories of fun times being taken to the Victorian swimming pools in Edinburgh, Soo Burnell is now fascinated by the ‘high ceilings, glass roofs, symmetry, old signage, tiling – all reflected in the still water. There is also a lot of nostalgia surrounding them.’

In July 2018, ‘Poolside’ at Saorsa Gallery was a most evocative showcase of Burnell’s photographs of favourite local pools viewed as palaces of architectural heritage, stylised with vintage glamour.

This was the springboard to venture further afield to a diverse range of indoor and outdoor swimming pools around Scotland, UK and Paris, where she observed each iconic place with a film-maker’s eye and imaginative artistic vision.

Deep End, Soo Burnell

The British artist, David Hockney was dazzled by the sunshine and laid back Californian lifestyle when he first visited Los Angeles in the early sixties, especially the fact that everyone had a swimming pool. Between 1964 and 1971 he made numerous paintings of pools, attempting the challenge to represent the constantly changing surface of water.

A Bigger Splash (1967), David Hockney

Hockney’s series of ‘splash’ paintings are empty of human presence yet imply the presence of a diver. “A Bigger Splash” (1967) took three weeks to complete using various sizes of brushes to perfect the spray of water.

‘When you photograph a splash, you’re freezing a moment and it becomes something else. I realise that a splash could never be seen this way in real life, it happens too quickly. I was amused by this, so I painted it in a very, very slow way.’

David Hockney

Swimming in the Sun, Soo Burnell

Illustrating her own passion for a splash in a pool, Soo Burnell has just published a large format, beautifully illustrated book “To the Water,” launched to coincide with an exhibition at Saorsa Gallery (17 – 24 July, 2021). This is another stunning collection of photographs of leisurely life by the pool and on the beach. 

Here are a few of the much loved Victorian pools around Edinburgh – Glenogle in Stockbridge, Leith Victoria and Drumsheugh Baths.  The architectural design is extraordinary with cathedral-high ceilings and dome of girders like a railway station, the sunlight streaming in from tall windows and roof top cupula.

Leith Victoria pool, Soo Burnell

The setting is calm and quiet, witnessed after the shrieking children and racing swimmers have gone home. These are empty pools to reflect the tranquility of the light-filled spaces but look more closely. Relaxing, standing at the side, or preparing to dive are a few solitary figures adding perspective and touch of theatricality.  

The wide panoramic view of each pool focusses on the decorative design with the neat rows of changing rooms all around and centre stage, the shimmering, fluid luminosity of the azur tile-tinted water.

Girl on the Rings, Drumsheugh baths, Soo Burnell

The Drumsheugh Baths is a private swimming club in Edinburgh, founded in 1884 and hardly changed since then with the acrobatic rings and trapeze, large stone hot pool and Victorian showers. But they did add a Bar.!

Here too is a quirky aerial shot of a girl sitting on the step at the Western Baths, Glasgow. Come on in, the water’s lovely.!

Alone at Western Baths, Soo Burnell

When the Tarlair outdoor swimming pool opened in 1932, it was said Macduff would become a French Riviera-style resort on the north east coast of Banffshire. The bright white modern block architecture is in stark contrast to the craggy, black rocky cliff above and with its natural tidal pool too and Pavilion this was a popular visitor attraction.

No the South of France! – Tarlair Swimming Pool, Macduff 1936

Families, sunbathers and swimmers flocked to the open air Lidos around British seaside towns in the days before package holidays.  After years of dilapidation and few outdoor swimmers, Tarlair closed in 1996, preserved as an A listed historic site.

Girl at Tarlair, Soo Burnell

Dramatising these poolsides with a small cast of characters, Soo Burnell uses the lens of her camera like a photojournalist with each image telling a hidden narrative – ghostly figures and happy memories from over a century of watersport and sunbathing.

This is particularly well illustrated at the legendary palace of a pool, Piscine Molitar in Paris. Built in 1929, the Art Deco Lido regularly hosted fashion shows, galas, theatrical performances, and used as a dazzling backdrop for film shoots.

Piscine Molitar, Paris (1929)

The Piscine Molitor is described most reverently in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a fantasy adventure novel centred around “the pool the gods would have delighted to swim in.”

The protagonist is Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian Tamil boy from Pondicherry.

‘One day, Mamaji said to my father, that of all the pools in the world, the most beautiful was a public pool in Paris. That the water there was so clear, you could make your morning coffee with it. That a single swim there changed his life. I never understood why my father took this so much to heart, but he did, and I was named ‘Piscine Molitor Patel’.”

From ‘Life of Pi’, Yann Martel (2001)

In languid, elegant pose at the Parisian piscine, these two slender models in pale blue swimsuits and white bathing caps perfect the 1930s vintage look akin to a Chanel fashion shoot.  

Pool Girls, Piscine Molitor, Paris, Soo Burnell

With great perspective, we can study the geometric structure and decorative design of the balcony, porthole windows, lines of pool tiles and shadows of the loungers.  The Lido was inspired by the grand ocean liners of the era.

I do want to be beside the seaside. The golden sandy beach at Tyninghame on the East Lothian coastline is the perfect filmic location to observe stylish swimmers on the seashore. Here are intimate soloists and chorus lines ‘snapped’ with choreographic precision in a colour palette of blue, white and gold.

Day Dreaming at the Beach, Soo Burnell

These atmospheric seascapes are beautifully composed to emphasise the shapely curve of lapping waves on the sand and the fine line between sea and sky on the horizon. Above all, you can sense the fresh salt-sea breeze in the air.  

After Swimming, Tyninghame, Soo Burnell

No wonder that the joyful fresh air freedom of wild swimming became so popular when city pools closed during lockdown for people to experience an envigorating dip in the sea. 

To accompany this exhibition is a lavishly illustrated Coffee Table book, “To the Water” by Soo Burnell which gives the full pictorial story of these and other heritage swimming pools.   

To the Water, by Soo Burnell – a pictorial journey around swimming pools and beaches

Edinburgh is basking in glorious summer sun this week so why not take a day trip to Soarsa Gallery to see this refreshingly cool collection of photographs which recreate our timeless love of relaxing beside the water.

Just look for the beach chair and towel outside and a red neon Deep End sign in the window.

Saorsa Gallery, 8 Deanhaugh St, Stockbridge Edinburgh, EH4 1LY

‘To the Water’, 17 – 24 July, 2021. 12 noon to 5pm daily.

For more information on Soo Burnell, ‘To the Water’ view and purchase images and the book:

On the Diving Board, Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh, Soo Burnell

Nina Hamnett (1890-1956): the legendary, but long lost, Queen of Bohemia in London and Paris, remembered by Alicia Foster.

The vivacious, often outrageous, Nina Hamnett was a romantic rebel with a cause: one of the most respected artists of the Modernist movement through the Camden Town Group, Omega Workshop and School of Paris, her work was shown widely, including at the Royal Academy and the Salon d’Automne.

This attractive, pocket sized book by the art historian, Dr Alicia Foster, who is also the curator of a current retrospective of Nina Hamnett at Charleston Farmhouse, Firle Sussex, 19th May to 30th August.

After a strict Victorian, military childhood, Nina refused to train as an office Clerk at her father’s suggestion, and her grandmother kindly paid for the fees at Pelham School of Art.  Achieving a place to study at the London School of Art 1907 – 1910, Nina knew her vocation, “Here at last was paradise”.

Her tutor, William Nicholson encouraged her aptitude for still life – moving away from colourful studies of fruit and flowers as depicted by Cezanne, Matisse and Manet, to focus on the simplicity of kitchen pots, pans and jugs. 

As seen in several Still Life paintings from 1917 and 1919, here are soft muted colours, a delicate touch of light and shade and often with a staged inclusion of avant-garde magazines and books.

Self Portrait 1913 shows her short, bobbed hair style, artist’s smock, hand on hip with a confident stance and gaze, as if to say, “Look at me and judge my work seriously”.

Self Portrait, 1913, Nina Hamnett (London Library)

It was this year when Nina joined the Omega Workshops, a Bloomsbury co-operative led by Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell to develop modernist decorative and applied arts.  Hamnett was encouraged to experiment with figurative and abstract designs for fabric, furniture, carpets and murals. She and Fry later had a close professional and personal relationship after posing for intimate life drawings.

Introduced to the world of the French Post-Impressionists at London exhibitions, she first visited Paris in 1912, returning regularly to immerse herself in the intellectual literary and artistic social circle around Montparnasse. 

In Spring 1914, sitting alone for dinner at La Rotonde, she met a dashing young man, the struggling artist, Amadeo Modigliani, trying to sell his drawings.

Portrait of Nina Hamnett by Amadeo Modigliani

She encouraged his work, posing as a model – this fabulous iconic portrait of Nina by Modigliani was painted in 1914 – while he introduced her to Picasso, Diaghilev and Cocteau et al. Here, at the heart of this inspirational community, Nina began to sketch café and street scenes with a quirky caricature style akin to Toulouse Lautrec.

Paris Cafe, 1921, Nina Hamnett (Bridgeman Images)

Back in London, she was commissioned to paint the Sitwells, the trio of siblings who had formed their own literary and artistic clique, capturing Osbert and Edith’s theatrical eccentricity.

As Foster comments, their brother Sacheverell thought Nina’s artistry was “magnificent” while Hamnett described these as “psychological portraits that shall accurately represent the spirt of the age.”

Formal fashionable spirit of the age is captured in Gentleman with a Top Hat c 1919 or 1921, described as “one of Hamnett’s most dazzling portraits” but a shame that the sitter is not identified in this book.   This is George Manuel Unwin, a Chilean opera singer who paraded around Paris in his spats, wearing a monocle, hat and carrying a cane, and Nina adds ther studio accessories of a Moroccan rug and a guitar as a backdrop.  

Gentleman with a Top Hat, (1919/ 1921), Nina Hamnett (Bridgeman Images)

Another renowned portrait is of the ballet dancer, Rupert Doone, 1923, whom she also met in Paris; his classically handsome good looks accentuated with pink blush along the cheekbones, pink gloss on cupid lips, and given a rather morose, moody expression. 

Rupert Doone, 1923, Nina Hamnett (Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery)

In her vivacious and vital role as an unofficial cultural ambassador she embraced British and French high society through art, literature and music. Her friends and mentors included Augustus John, Roger Fry, Gaudier-Brzeska, Sickert, Modigliani, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Brancusi, Zadkine, Satie and Stravinksy.

 ‘Nina Hamnett’ does not claim to be a comprehensive biography and at under 50 pages, it’s a speedy scamper through her career with more of a thematic study of her work than covering personal and professional relationships.

There’s not a clear chronology through the narrative which concentrates on a selection of key portraits, sketches and life drawings, with limited detail of her promiscuous, bisexual behaviour and bohemian lifestyle.  Standing out from the crowd, she was a serious drinker, danced on bar tables and wore bold red, yellow or checkerboard stockings and children’s sandals with flamboyant flair. 

A meeting with Gertrude Stein in 1912, which sounds like a fascinating encounter, is a passing remark within parenthesis. Nina’s life drawing, ‘Standing Nude’ 1920 is interestingly the same title as an earlier limestone sculpture by Modigliani. This could be a tribute to the artist who had died that year but the fact that they were lovers is not mentioned.

Standing Nude, 1920, Nina Hamnett (Leeds University Library)

This tasty amuse bouche into Nina’s extraordinary tragic short life will certainly entice readers to seek out her two volumes of memoirs, ‘Laughing Torso’ (1932) and ‘Is She a Lady’ (1955). These provide all the colourful (truthful or exaggerated?), anecdotes of her travels, brief encounters and seductive liaisons dangereuses, flitting between London and Paris. Apparently, she introduced James Joyce to Rudolph Valentino.! 

“Laughing Torso” is a neglected and misunderstood Modernist masterpiece.” Dr Jane Goldman

A photograph of Nina from 1920 in her studio depicts her individual personality: a masculine stance in wide-legged trousers, open toe sandals, cigarette in hand with a sense of rebellious freedom.  The title is quite simply and enigmatically, ‘Myself.’

Myself, 1920, Photograph of Nina Hamnett (London Library)

Walter Sickert was a great admirer, who wrote the preface for the catalogue of her exhibition at the Edlar Gallery, London in June 1918: “Nina Hamnett draws like a born sculptor and paints like a born painter.”

This book and the retrospective exhibition at Charleston this summer shines a timely light on this talented born artist who became the best known British artist in Paris in her prime, slowly fading from the limelight until her tragic death aged sixty six.  Nina Hamnett was never afraid to do things differently, embracing the Bohemian spirit of her time with free spirited passion and pioneering creativity.

Nina Hamnett by Alicia Foster, Eiderdown Books RRP £10.99:

Modern Women Artists series:

Nina Hamnett Retrospective: 19 May – 30 August, 2021

The Modern Women Artists Series
The Modern Women Artists series of collectable books reveals an alternative history of art, telling the story of important female artists whose art might otherwise be overlooked, overshadowed or forgotten in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Student, 1917, Nina Hamnett (Ferens Art Gallery, Bridgeman Images)

Quedubon – (just good things) by Michael G. Clark @ Doubtfire Gallery: a bon vivant tour from Paris to Provence

Doubtfire Gallery, NW Circus Place

Doubtfire Gallery was established in 2010 by design partnership Frame Creative and it’s most exciting that it has recently moved to the bustling heart of Stockbridge.  With light flooding in the front window, this is a contemporary, accessible and spacious venue with high white walls and polished wood floor.

The new freshly designed, spacious gallery in Stockbridge

To launch the new gallery, the summer exhibition is Quedubon by Michael G. Clark. The title roughly translates as “just good things” to reflect the French sense of  joie de vivre and observe the pursuit of pleasure and leisure in their daily routine.

Clark visited Paris for the first time in 1980 while studying at he Edinburgh College of Art: the city of light, culture and romance, must have been an exciting, enriching experience for a young artist.  Café society, the timeless French art of living, is captured with cool, charismatic style.

There is a certain je ne sais quoi about the inimitable ankle-grazing apron, style and stature of the traditional waiter, as seen standing here on duty with military precision.

Parisian Waiter, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

This is more than a simple sketch but a charming, impressionistic Lowry-esque figurative study.  Through the window, it seems there is a shadowy glimpse of a couple sitting inside the café, all part of a hidden narrative like a paused frame in an animation movie.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  From A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (memoir)

Drinking wine is the decorative theme in several artworks to take you on a virtual journey around the vineyards of the Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire and Champagne regions.

Mostly Bordeaux, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

Mostly Bordeaux  – the half full (or half empty) glass of wine is a bright and bold Pop Art image set against a splash of Cabernet Sauvingon/Merlot red.

From oil paintings to unframed works, here are champagne flutes, clinking glasses and a fine array of bottles of all shapes and sizes.  White Wine is a most pleasing compostion like a Still life, with corkscrew, grapes and bottles within an abstract fertile green landscape of the vineyard.

White Wine, Michaell G. Clark, PAI, RSW

With an imaginative use of media, Wine Bibbing, is sketched in ink and a splosh of red wine, with a jolly, jaunty angle of the glasses.  Santé !

Wine Bibbing, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

As well as fine wines and cuisine, France is also renowned for haute couture.  Michael G. Clark has the expert eye of a leading fashion designer, specialising with such skill in drawing the most fabulous frocks and the ever fashionable LBD, of Coco Chanel fame.  This unframed illustration is delicately crafted in Conté crayon and oil on a gesso panel.

LBD, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

The Dressmaker depicts an elegant cocktail gown – perhaps cream chiffon – and a soft pink sundress, with such subtle shading to denote a light linen texture.

The Dressmaker, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

Paris in the Rain, reflects the damp chill in the air, the girl in her cloche hat hunched under her parapluie, trying to keep dry and warm.

Paris in the Rain, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

Here are many other quirky, quintessential snapshots of traditional French life and times – shopping in the market, a game of Petanque in the park, taking the dog for a walk, and the iconic, close embrace of two lovers in a city street.

Together, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

Again, like an animation movie, these are delightful, romantic vignettes, ‘caricature’ figures but with a depth of painterly expression to evoke a real sense of place and atmosphere – the use of light, leafy shade and dappled sunlight is most effective.

Early Evening Provence, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW

The beauty of the natural landscape too, such as Sunflowers, (see image below), with thick brush strokes and smudges of golden yellow oil paint like a slick of mustard: one blooming flower stands tall and erect to face the sun.

Quedubon – Just Good Things by Michael G Clark is the perfect exhibition to bring sunshine into our lives this summer.  Do visit the new Doubtfire Gallery soon.

Quedubon – Just Good Things, by Michael G Clark PAI, RSW

 Doubtfire Gallery, 20th June to 1st August, 2020

 28 North West Circus Place,, Edinburgh EH3 6TP     email:

Sunflowers, Michael G. Clark, PAI, RSW


Visit the new sassy, sophisticated Cocktail and Champagne Bars at Le Monde, Edinburgh – cheers!

Le Monde, George Street

The World came to Edinburgh thirteen years ago ..

Well to be more accurate, the quirky, cool and ultra contemporary boutique hotel, Le Monde opened on George Street.

This was a really exciting concept when it launched, offering guests the choice of eighteen superior bedrooms and suites each inspired by the world’s most cultural and cosmopolitan cities, from Barcelona to Rio, Berlin to Reykjavik, Casablanca to Sydney.  In 2006, my partner  Ken and I stayed for a review visit, jetting off (as it were) to Los Angeles, a Junior Suite, in the process.

Los Angeles, Le Monde – a suite set amongst the Hollywood Stars

This really oozes Hollywood glamour, featuring dozens of portraits of famous movie stars, stunning white leather sofas, bedroom, bathroom with a round tub designed for two.

Le Monde was named Scottish Design Hotel at the Scottish Hotel Awards in that first year of of opening, as well as a runner up for its Paris Bar and as a Boutique Hotel.  Its international themed décor and design lead all the way around from bedrooms to the Bars, Brasserie and Shanghai nightclub.

Fast forward to September 2019

Le Monde welcomes drinkers and diners to experience the revamped, restyled Bars and Restaurant following a major £1 million, four month renovation project.  The original, traveller’s tale around Le Monde has been enhanced with great imagination to take you on a culinary and cultural journey.

Just beyond the entrance hall is the ab fab Champagne Bar with velvet draped booth seating and high backed claret-coloured stools around the half moon Bar.

Just the place to stay awhile and sip a glass or two of Laurent-Perrier, the House Champagne, served by flute, bottle and magnum, as well as other sparkling wines and champagne.

It’s not the wizard’s yellow brick, but follow the colourful zig zag, marble road through to the Cocktail Bar with an amazing Island Bar in the centre, where you can sit on tan leather stools all around. Smart and spacious, it’s rather like a First Class Airline Club Lounge and ideal choice of seating for either couples or a party of friends.

The Cocktail Bar, Le Monde

Let’s have a taste of what’s on offer …

At a sneak preview, Ken and I had an inspiring tour around to sample a few innovative cocktails and tasty tapas.  Generation X & Millennials might think cocktails were invented in the 20th century, but 2019 is celebrating the centenary of the Negroni invented in 1919 Florence, named after a Count who concocted the tipple.

Count Negroni and his own now legendary Gin & Campari cocktail

A book entitled “Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them” of 1896 features a recipe for Martini, which resembles very much the classic we love to this day. The decades from World War 1 to the 1930s was the era of the cocktail, as Cole Porter would sing about in 1924 with his perfect talent for rhyming:

"Too many parties and too many beaus
They have found that the fountain of youth
Is a mixture of gin and vermouth .."

Cocktails at Le Monde, inspired from global cities

It’s departure Time at Le Monde Cocktail Bar – remember it’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world so time for a drink.  Browse the enticing menu of fancy drinks inspired by classics and cities around the world: “Saintoge Sidecar”, the classic was invented at the Ritz Paris – the version here is a blend of Tequila, VS Cognanc, Cointreau and fresh lime juice with a dash of  champagne.

Cocktails inspired from cities around the world, jazzed up with a modern twist

“S’Bigliato” is a famous drink in Milan and means The Mistake. The story goes that a barman was trying to make a Negroni with Martini rosato, Aperol,  Campari and Prosecco, rose vermouth and bitters, creating a rather different pink drink.

Also try the “ Gin Gin Cosmo” a celebration of hip New York cocktails, the Cosmopolitan, Clover Club and Gin Mule, with Gordons Pink Gin, Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur with fresh lime and cranberry juice.  I think Carrie & the gals would love it.!

Cocktails for the Sex and the City girls

Imaginative re-mixes and shake ups of cocktails too from Casablanca, Rio, Havana and Berlin as well as Cocktail pitchers for a group. And of course, fine wines, champagnes, Prosecco, spirits, draught and bottled beers.

The Brasserie, Le Monde for casual dining day and night.

Around the corner from the Bar, there are comfortable banquette seats for dining.  The new food menu is ideal for a romantic dinner a deux, or a night out with friends, sharing a few Tapas such as Chorizo & Cheese Croquettes,  Aubergine Bruschetta,  Roast Pepper and olive salad, Battered Haddock bites (like posh fish fingers), Serrano ham with broccoli, Sweet potato fries.  Also a range of steak, burgers, vegetarian and vegan dishes, sides and desserts.

Appetising lite bites and seriously good food for the modern traveller – breakfast, brunch, lunch and supper.

Sharing plates, tapas and bites – fresh local, seasonal seafood, meat and veggie food

Travel the World

Thirteen years since it first opened, this major design facelift has transformed Le Monde into a glamorous getaway in the city, perfect for any occasion.  The refurbishment was created by RYE Design, an Architecture and Interior Design Studio. The original classic Georgian features are juxtaposed beside the new cool, contemporary plush, luxe décor.

And of course you can stay overnight.  Each styled bedroom and suite, whatever the standard, has a 42” plasma TV screen, air conditioning, minibar, bathrooms with rainfall showers, Scottish toiletries, bathrobe & slippers, a safe, refreshment facilities and complimentary WiFi.  Select your favourite city to enjoy a themed experience with well selected photography, art, fabrics, books, lighting and cultural style.

New York, Le Monde

Marrakesh, Le Monde

The Dirty Martini, upstairs is a Bar and Salon for private parties, festive celebrations and corporate receptions, and downstairs, is the popular Shanghai Night Club.  Le Monde certainly is an all singing, all dancing international venue for drinking, eating, sleeping, leisure and lifestyle

Commenting on the re-opening, Darren Scott, the General Manager, said:

‘Le Monde has been a favourite venue in the heart of Edinburgh for many years now, and we’ve taken that wonderful idea of a trip to glamorous and exciting places and reinvented it.  The newly refurbished bar and restaurant exude the warm cosmopolitan glamour and relaxed luxury that make you want to while away the day or evening.

Our food and drink menus delve into the culture, customs and cocktails of cities around the world to create a very special selection.  Every dish and drink has been devised, blending global inspiration with ingredients in Scotland.

Celebrate a new era of Le Monde with us.’

Darren Scott, General Manaager, Le Monde

Reviews from happy drinkers and diners who have visited in September 2019 :

A girls’ weekend in Edinburgh and came here for cocktails – so good we came back a second night! Highly recommended.

Luxurious setting. Love the idea of small plates allowing to try many dishes. Not a vegan but the decorative beetroot dish was to die for. Cocktails from around the world were fab.

The new cocktail menu is impressive, themed on different cities around the world. Looking forward to trying out the new champagne bar!  Ching ching.

Take a trip to Le Monde soon to discover a world of possibilities in its new era with a sassy new look,  classy, classic cocktails, delicious dining and luxurious interior – a place to eat, drink, sleep and party the night away.

Le Monde – Bar, Brasserie, Hotel, Nightclub

16 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PF  –

Le Monde for cool cocktails, champagne and drinks galore

Escape the city life for rejuvenating, relaxing Me Time at the Spa – Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Principal, Charlotte Square

The Principal Edinburgh, Charlotte Square – formerly the Roxburghe Hotel and first opened in 1848 –  has had a multi-million-pound refurbishment, now transformed into a smart contemporary Boutique hotel within its seven grand townhouses, overlooking Charlotte Square Garden.  With vintage travel ephemera and quirky, colourful design across bedrooms, bars, bistros and lounges, it was named the Edinburgh Style Hotel of the Year 2018.

Junior Suite, Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Spa has also had a makeover to create a relaxing retreat in the centre of the city for pampering treatments and leisure time around the pool, sauna and steam room. Located on the lower ground floor, the cool, quiet, interior space has a calming ambience which envelops you from the moment you arrive at the Spa Reception.

The Apothocary themed Spa

The thematic decor is all about reflecting the fragrant scent and traditional medicinal properties of herbs, plants and dried flowers which fill the large vintage bottles to represent a 19th century Apothocary.

Herbal Art display at the Spa

This follows through into the ingredients of the Signature Spa products – OSKIA is a specialist skin care formula created for luxury facial treatments to enhance a healthy complexion.

Oskia, multi award winning beauty products

The other skincare range is ishga, developed from natural, organic seaweed on the Isle of Lewis. In order to experience both of these Spa products, I selected the OSKIA Glow Facial while my partner Ken would be trying the ishga Face and Body Sensation.

We were shown to the Locker Rooms downstairs– very spacious and well laid out, where we changed into towelling bathrobes and slippers. From here, there is a direct access to  the swimming pool and thermal suite.  We then sat for a few minutes in the Relaxation room until our Therapists came to collect us for our respective beautifying treatments.

Tranquil Treatment Rooms

The rooms are small but decorated with soft, subtle shades of cappucino and taupe to enhance the sense of calm. Sitting on a hard wooden stool (?!), I was asked to select my preferred scented oil for either energy or relaxation. Lying on the massage bed, I was wrapped up under a duvet and towels, while a CD of Mood music provided a soothing soundtrack.

The OSKIA facial was extremely comprehensive covering the face, neck and décolletage with a flowing series of various creams and a mask to exfoliate, cleanse, tone and moisturise.  I always love the contrasting sensation of cold lotions followed by a hot towel to refresh and open the pores.  The application of a warm oil, drizzled over my face, was like basting a chicken – but I was not going to be roasted!  A gentle massage in circular movements works to penetrate and plump up the layers of skin.

Georgie Cleeve

OSKIA was created in 2009 by Georgie Cleeve after she damaged her knee in a skiing accident.  Understanding that race horses are given BSM, a natural sulphur supplement, she used this on her knee which helped to repair the tissue and cartilage joint. This was the springboard to create a therapeutic skincare range – the name is derived from ancient Greek meaning beauty and nutrition – which promotes collagen production and has anti-inflammatory elements for a brighter, younger-looking complexion.

Meanwhile Ken was next door for a Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage with ishga seaweed body oils to nourish the skin, pummelling the muscles to release knots and alleviate tension.  Other ingredients in the products include lavender, lemongrass and juniper which sound like the botanicals in a perfectly curated Gin!  This was followed by a rejuvenating Facial which showed amazing results.

Hebridean Island seaweed

Ishga marine skincare – named after the Gaelic for water – was founded by Malcolm, a Scientist, Joanna his wife, a beauty therapist, and Martin a seaweed expert.   Based in Lewis, the Outer Hebrides,  they source seaweed harvested from the sandy beaches combined with local salt water, the purest in the world as is the fresh water taken from mountain springs.

Ishga skincare – inspired by the seashore on the Isle of Lewis,

Seaweed has been used for centuries for its healing properties, and its vitamins, minerals and amino acid are ideal for people who suffer from acne or dry and itchy skin conditions.   Cucumber extract, Macadamia, Jojoba Oil, Thistle Oil, Hebridean Sea Salt and Aloe Vera are other natural ingredients as well as anti-oxidants to maintain a healthy and youthful skin.  As Ken noticed afterwards, his face was moisturised, toned and tightened for a brighter, smoother appearance of the skin.

This was a marvellous escape for the afternoon at the Principal Spa – around an hour and a half of recuperative, calming, Chill Out – Me Time followed by a rest in the Relaxation room.  The Leisure club is a myriad of corridors, rooms and staircases – the changing room (with the loos) are a bit of a trek and directions are needed to find your way back here.

Afterwards we went upstairs to The Garden – the indoor Greenhouse Conservatory Bar and Café –  for a refreshing Cocktail, a Rhubarb and Ginger Sling for him and an Elderflower Collins for me, all very fruity and healthy.

Cool Cocktails in the Garden

With sunlight streaming in from the glass roof and surrounded by flowers, it was like sitting outside – perfect for  ‘al fresco’ coffee,  tea, snacks, bar drinks, lunch or supper, whatever the weather.

The Garden – for all day drinks and good food.

The Spa offers a diverse menu of massages, facials, manicures and beauty treatments.  For a special treat, book an indulgent Spa Day such as Champagne, Deluxe and Signature Lunch or Twilight Tea packages.

While you may visit the Spa as a non-resident as we did,  why not plan to stay here for a mini city break.  Hotel guests in a Standard bedroom can enjoy the leisure facilities free of charge from 7-9am and again from 6-9pm. Those staying in all other Superior rooms are free to go at any time.  As well as the Pool, keep fit in the gym with Intenza Fitness cardio machines and equipment for stretching and strength training.  Studio classes offer yoga, zumba, spinning and bootcamp sessions.

Spa Facts:

Opening hours, Monday to Friday, 6.30am – 10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 7am – 8pm

Address: The Principal Charlotte Square, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4HQ.


Telephone +44 (0)131 240 5500


A Hamper ..and a Haven  ..of health and beauty at the Principal Spa