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Savvy small space solutions: creating a reading corner

As Dr B and I work from home in a small space we’ve had to be quite savvy when looking for storage and creative solutions. 
ReadingCorner_1As we both work from home, it’s important to me that work stays in the office rather than seep into every bit of the house. Although it’s a compact space, I was very keen to create a corner where one of us could step away from the desk and do a bit of reading and thinking while staying in the working environment.

As the room is small, I’ve stuck to a simple to a black and white colour-scheme with little pops of colour.
ReadingCorner 2The mini rocking chair is perfect for reading and is a great escape from an upright office seat. It’s also light and easy to move around so you never feel like it’s a big bit of immovable furniture taking up too much space.

The slim little table is from Habitat. It’s simple, stylish and didn’t cost much money but it’s tall enough to rest your coffee or book on, as well as this cool ceramic bowl also from Habitat.

I deliberately chose the table, chair and shelves (which you can see peeking in at the right) with long legs that you could see under, adding to the sense of space.

Multi-function objects are great for small rooms too; that A3 box isn’t just a brilliant way to store all my art stuff (it has improved my life immeasurably), it also makes a great little guitar stand for Dr B’s Epiphone Casino.
ReadingCorner 3A tall thin, floor lamp is ideal for a smaller room as it makes a real statement and gives out warm light without taking up too much space. I made my own with a Dannells Floor Lamp Making Kit and designed my own Memphis-inspired fabric especially for the lamp.

As with the other kits this was really easy to use and, what’s great about this is you can buy it with the lamp-fitting so there is no faffing. It provides fantastic light and a much needed splash of playful colour in an otherwise very restrained scheme.

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Drawing of the week: Leaves

Leaves watercolour illustration Ella Johnston
Leaves are my go-to shape for doodling and have been a constant subject for my drawing over the years. The variety, the curves, the veins, the lush texture all provide a rich resource for artists and illustrators.
Leaves illustration Ella Johnston

I recently visited the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. Among the various planting schemes and a lovely gaggle of ducks (I know that’s the collective noun for geese but you didn’t see these guys), the gardens also boasts an impressive glasshouse where plants from around the world are nurtured and displayed. The rainforest area is fabulous and I was struck by its enormous leaves that cover such large areas.

Leaves watercolour illustration Ella Johnston
The nearest things we get to this is our household plants. So I thought I’d get busy with some  watercolour illustrations and black and white sketches of Monstera, Aralia, Alocacia and Cycad.
Leaves illustration Ella Johnston Leaves illustration Ella JohnstonLeaves watercolour illustration Ella Johnston
Leaves illustration Ella Johnston Leaves illustration Ella Johnston

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Inspiration: Beth Chatto Garden Succulents

Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's Place

One of the best places to go for visual inspiration is the near-by Beth Chatto gardens. The succulent collection is a particular pull for me, especially as I go about my artistic work. Research is essential to my work and you’ll often find me with my phone or camera in hand, capturing images that interest and inspire me.

Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's PlaceThe gardens have is a wide variety of succulents.  The way the gardeners display the plants all together is really impressive. The visual impact of these packed-in plants in such a range of naturally attractive colours look like a patten design in themselves.

Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's Place Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's Place Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's Place Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's Place Beth Chatto Succulents Ella's Place

Check out my succulent print at > my Folksy shop
Find out more about Beth Chatto Gardens > here

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Cheap and Easy Decoration Tips: Colourful Amy Butler display

Neon frames: Ami Butler display

One of my favourite cheap and easy decoration tips is to create a colourful wall display. Here I’ve hung some Amy Butler prints in neon frames.

Bright and eclectic, Amy Butler’s designs are so joyous. Butler gets inspiration from a range of sources, using patterns and colour combinations inspired by her travels around the world.

Amy Butler decoupage
Image: Cliqq Photography

I’ve got loads of her fabrics and I was very excited when she released a book of her designs on paper, Amy Butler Decoupage. I’ve used the papers on many of my projects (including this one above for Homemaker Magazine). The book only costs around £11 and you get 80 colourful sheets making it fantastic value. I had a few sheets left and I’ve always felt a bit guilty about ripping them up for decoupage and wanted to show them off properly as a wall display.

Neon frames: Ami Butler display Luckily I have a collection of old frames gathered over the years and picked up at car boots (I think it’s another obsession of mine) and luckier still I’ve got a whole box full of spray paint in various colours (including some fab neons) to co-ordinate with the prints.  They really brighten up a dark corner and would look really fun as a grid with matching frames to fill a wall.


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Drawing of the week: Blue Jay Bird

Blue Jay Watercolour Drawing Ella JohnstonMy drawing of the week, a blue jay bird, is inspired by nature and by a song. We have regular jays in our local woods and I’m always trying to spot them on my walks.
Blue Jay Black and White Blue Jay Drawing Ella Johnston

Anyway one revealed himself to me last week, where, weirdly I had the Beatles song Blue Jay Way in my head for the rest of the day. So I fancied doing a watercolour and ink illustration of the regular jay’s North American cousin.

Blue Jay Black and White Blue Jay Drawing Ella Johnston

In old African American folklore of the southern United States, the blue jay was held to be a servant of the Devil. I think my one is harbinger of joy.

The blue jay’s colouration is not derived from pigments but is the result of light interference due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a blue feather is crushed, the colour disappears, this is known as structural colouration.

Blue Jay Black and White Blue Jay Drawing Ella Johnston

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Monday Moodboard: Moody Botanicals Trend

Monday Moodboard Ella's Place

I’m very excited about the up-coming trend for moody botanicals.  The contrast of soft peach, pink, white and cream tones on shades of navy, purple and grey is so effective. The overall look feels so romantic and dreamy. While it celebrates beautiful botanics, the style also gives more than a little nod to art history, evoking Rococo and Dutch flower painting themes. This trend will be everywhere later in the year and in 2017. It’s certainly inspired me to take a trip to the Wallace Collection for a little bit of research. I’ve already started to create some pieces with this theme in mind, with varying degrees of success, once I’ve nailed it I’ll let you know.

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Bag a Freebie! Win a Gorgeous Thornback & Peel Tote

Thornback & Peel Bag Summer Essentials

Are you a freebie fan? Get your hands on a gorgeous Thornback & Peel tote bag. For your chance to win, simply tweet me  or leave a message on my Facebook wall with the #TandPTote hashtag telling me what you’d put in yours. I’ll be announcing the winner on 25th June.

I’m a big fan of Thornback & Peel – the celebration of fine illustration and choice of colour ways makes for elegant pieces without being overly stuffy or fussy. So I was very pleased when the company sent me this Mums & Roses tote, especially as it comes in blue and white; the colour-combo of the summer. For more designs check out the rest of the collection at the Thornback & Peel website > here.

Thornback & Peel Bag Summer Essentials

This tote is simply perfect for my alfresco watercolour painting jaunts over the summer.

At this time of year the light is so beautiful where I live, especially in the mornings.  I often spend the start of the day with my paper pad and paints at the ready to capture the Essex estuary landscapes and the flora and fauna therein.

Thornback & Peel Bag Summer Essentials

I’m filling my tote with my summer painting essentials. The bag is just the right size to fit two A3 pads comfortably with ample room for brushes and paints plus a bottle of mixing water, making it a practical as well as stylish choice.

Thornback & Peel Bag Summer Essentials

Whatever you’re doing over the summer, why not stash your seasonal essentials in a stylish tote?

Even if you’re not the lucky winner of my comp, you can get a 15% discount on one of these shoppers until 29th June 2016; just visit the Thornback & Peel website and quote ELLASPLACE at the checkout.

Thornback & Peel Bag Summer Essentials the comp via my >Twitter or >Facebook

Check out Thornback & Peels totes >here

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Home hack: Four Beautiful Flower Displays

Peony flower display Ella Johnston of the easiest and cheapest way to give your rooms a splash of quick colour is by adding some flowers to a table or mantelpiece. It’s amazing the instant impact that even the most simple of displays can produce.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston the past month I’ve made a record of my displays every week and now I’m sharing them with you. I’ve tried to keep my budget limited with a £40 maximum and £5 min.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston

My luxury purple and pink display costs around £40. The mixed peonies in light pink and deep plum were from Value Flora where you can get six stems delivered from £19.99. The vibrant, frilly carnations from my local florist were a snip at 70p each and the roses were £3 for three. I got the wilder bits of foliage from the garden.

Peony flower display Ella Johnston these blooms aren’t especially structural I wanted the arrangement to be informal. So I opted for a fairly loose dome. I did this by following the same method I use when making a hand-tied posy.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston You do this by creating a layering the stems in a spiral formation, starting with one flower in the centre and simply circling blooms around this central one and continuing until you make a dome. Then I give it a bit of a shake before I put into the blooms the vase – I do this to loosen the posy up a bit so it doesn’t look so rigid. I used one of my favourite pieces of pottery to place these blooms in – I just wish I’d made a note of who made it as we’ve had this vase for 10 years and it brings us both joy everyday. The side table was a charity shop bargain; £5 from Cancer Research.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston

The display below was inspired by the paintings of Jan van Huysum and the recent Dutch Flowers exhibition in the National Gallery. I fancied creating something similarly atmospheric at home. Vintage floral display

Although this looks quite grand, this rather formal set up is so easy to recreate. I sprayed an old charity shop pub branded vase with bronze paint. Once dry I taped a small block of florists foam soaked in water onto the container. I then arranged the stems into the foam, making sure I walked around the vase and looked onto so that not a bit of the green soaky stuff was exposed. I kept the colours to a minimum for this one, using mainly white, cream and green tones with little splashes of red and pink. I placed the shells by the bottom of the vase to be arch.
Vintage floral display

I won’t lie, this one below is actually from my mum as the ‘rents came to see us this weekend. The yellow flowers from her and my dad’s garden smell divine; you get a whiff of a little puff of sherbet as you walk by. They look delightful with such vivid hues and open up into the most perfect shapes.


My mum puts me to shame when it comes to her eye. Three simple, but bright ,stems, one of a contrasting colour, placed at different heights into a vintage old glass bottle that they bought as a job lot at an auction (Mr and Mrs J go to a lot of auctions).
Yellow_2 Crucially my mum removed the foliage that was below the water line; not only does this look better but it eliminates the bacteria that would thrive on those leaves. It also keeps the water in the vase cleaner and adds to the shelf life of the blooms.

My final display was for a dinner party and consequently I didn’t want to spend loads of money on flowers as I’d already blown the budget on wine (#sorrynotsorry).
Flower display ideas table flowers to be low (people need to look at each-other over the table). I also wanted them to be fun as we were having a good time.

I’ve gathered quite a lot of swan vases from various charity shops over the years. None of them in their original state are particularly artful or beautiful so they’ve all been given the spray paint treatment on more than one occasion. I wanted them to twinkle amongst the candle-light on the table so I’ve painted them in a shiney metallic.
Flower display ideas Alstroemeria is ideal for when you want to create a floral statement but you haven’t got loads of money. A stem of alstroemeria has lots of blooms on it so you get a lot for your money and the flowers look very effective when grouped together in one colour. I teamed the red ones with little spray roses and some foliage from the garden, these were placed in water and arranged in the vase. I placed a block of florist foam in the white one, having two large lily heads as my main attraction while filling in the gaps with alstroemeria.
Flower display ideas

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Drawing of the week: Peony

Watercolour peony Ella Johnston
In honour of British Flower Week I thought it was only fitting that I drew a few peonies.
Black and white peony sketch Ella Johnston
Frilly, girly and full of glorious flounce, even a single bloom can make a tremendous impact – no wonder they are often a top choice for summer events and weddings.
Peony line drawing Ella Johnston

The flower is also very popular on the internet too, with Elle Decoration reporting that peonies are overtaking the avocado for the most tagged item on Instagram.
Peony line drawing Ella Johnston
The peony is among the longest-used flowers in Eastern culture. Along with the plum blossom, it is a traditional floral symbol of China and is depicted often in traditional Chinese art. They are also used in tattoos, inspired by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi‘s illustrations of Suikoden, a classical Chinese novel. Here the peony is associated with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.

I kind of understand this, the peonies I’ve got in the vase at the moment are so vibrant, full and abundant with glorious colour it’s hard to imagine that in a couple of days time they’ll be shrivelled up and like crumpled paper. But that’s their beauty. These pink watercolour illustrations and black and white line drawings are a stab at making the blooms immortal.

Peony pattern Ella Johnston

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Moodboard Monday: Blush

Moodboard Monday BlushAs an avid pinner I’ve been struck by just how many images I’ve seen this past year featuring photography, illustration and fashion pieces showcasing a range of blush pink shades.

The hues look great on their own and teamed with light colours. It also works incredibly well when contrasted with darker green or grey shades as well as more vibrant rosy pigments.

It’s been hugely inspiring for me in creating new stationery collections and prints. By replacing my usual white backdrop with soft, gentle blushes it has really warmed up some of my pink flamingo pinks and patterns (I’ll be showing you them soon). I’ve also used it as a background for my more dramatic drawings such as my raven couple piece that you can see on my moodboard.

I’m looking forward to playing with these shades a bit more, not only with my artistic work but also exploring options for adding depth to accent walls as well as seeing how I can incorporate a bit of blush with my home accessories.