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Give a new build character

We live in a new build house (well it’s 10 years old – we’ve been there five). While we love the lack of building work and fighting with fittings, one of the biggest challenges of living in a new build home is to give the place some character and life.

We didn’t want to add architectural features that aren’t there – we wouldn’t feel comfortable about that – but there are simple ways to make the place look more established. The easiest place to start is with the floor and the walls.

We got rid of our standard issue new-build magnolia and gave our walls a classic clean, white and grey paint job. In the lounge we got rid of our fake fireplace and laid an oak floor stained black in our new build town-house and overlaid it with a traditional Persian rug.

Persan rug and dark floor Ella Johnston

You can give your bathrooms and kitchens a similar treatment. These blue Vecchio Floreale tiles are perfect for giving a modern home a vintage touch.

Walls and Floors have just launched their Vecchio Floreale Indigo Tiles. These durable ceramic tiles are suitable for use on both wall and floor spaces. They have a vintage pattern in blue and white tones, with an aged design, which is ideal for injecting personality into a bathroom, kitchen, hallway or living area. These tiles can be used to create a statement floor or feature wall.

The tiles measure 330 x 330 x 9.5mm and have a nice matt finish. They cost £29.95 per square metre. You can get hold of these and more vintage-style designs at the Walls and Floors website.

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Monday Moodboard: Seaside beach vibes

Monday Moodboard Beach vibes

Yeah, it’s Tuesday but I did this Monday Moodboard yesterday, then took an important commission and had a ton of work to do! This beach, seaside vibe theme is kinda apt as I think I need a holiday!

I was actually putting this board together as a good illustration of how you can take a theme and communicate it using your own style. I adore the deco-esque riveria vintage travel posters illustrations at the top left and right of the board but I really appreciate the simplicity of form that the two lower pieces provide using blues, peaches and whites.

To me this board not only conveys that breezy lightness and crispness of a perfect seaside holiday but it also shows the power of using creative drawing techniques to create convincing visual language.

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Monday Moodboard: Blue

Monday Moodboard Blue

After a frustrating weekend  (still trying to master videoing myself and tidying my ever messy photo studio) I needed something to give me joy so this week’s Monday Moodboard is all about BLUE! Yes, while my politics are anything but, blue makes me happy.

Of course, the colour is calming which is why I have it in our bedroom but that’s not the whole story. And far from finding it cold, which I’m told some do, I believe that if you find the right shade, blue can be intoxicatingly rich, and even cosy.

The image on top is from the artist Yves Klein’s Blue Epoch period. This exquisite ultramarine shade is known as International Klein Blue (IKB); a deep hue first mixed by the French artist. This blue is said to have its roots in art history using lapis lazuli as an influence. The finest and most expensive of pigments,  lapis has been used since antiquity due to its intense colour; it was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun and by Renaissance and Baroque artists for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings, especially the Virgin Mary.

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Monday Moodboard: Soft Shades

Monday Moodboard Soft shades

I’m loving this week’s moodboard of sweet, soft shades but you’re probably wondering how I got to it.

I’m on product development mode at the moment and consequently my desk is full of colour swatches, trend reports and tear sheets. Loads of the latter are from last year, which featured these particular shades a lot. I still adore the combinations of greens, blues, creams and pinks – I’m interested to see what new soft shade combinations will be in vogue for spring and summer this year.

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Drawing of the week: The Green-headed Tanager

Green Tanager Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I’m currently working on a birds from brazil illustration series to coincide with this years Olympics. While researching this topic I kept coming across images of the green-headed tanager.

The Green-headed Tanager (c) Ella Johnston

This small, colourful bird can be found in the Atlantic forest in south-eastern Brazil and far eastern Paraguay.

The Green-headed Tanager sketch (c) Ella Johnston

The creature measures an average of 13.5cm. Its preferred habitat is humid forests but there have been sightings in orchards and parks; apparently its flashy blue-green coloration camouflages well among the foliage.

Green Tanager Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

As this bird is so colourful and full of character it was tremendous fun to draw. It was great to break out the brighter colours in my watercolour box. Plus, I couldn’t resist creating lots of sketches to capture the quirky, playful nature of this vibrant little critter.
The Green-headed Tanager sketch (c) Ella Johnston
The Green-headed Tanager sketch (c) Ella Johnston

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Finished plant of the fortnight: Purple Sweetpea

Plant of the fortnight, watercolour purple sweet pea illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

As I mentioned in my last post I was looking forward to being a bit free and easy with my watercolour for this finished sweetpea illustration. And I was;  I applied lots of layers of watery purples, blues and pinks for this colour version so, much so I had to finish it in two sessions as there was no way the black pigment ink would sit on it until the piece was completely dry.

As we’re well into summer I think I’m going to continue with larey looking, brightly coloured blooms for my up-coming plant of the fortnights, so no matter what the actual weather we’ve got something to either amplify the heat or to warm us up.

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11 Indigo Inspired Buys

11 Indigo Inspired Buys
While I often plump for hot shades and vibrant hues come summer, sometimes I yearn for clean lines, cooling colours and simplicity.

A beautiful indigo inspired palette fits the bill perfectly. This colour scheme can be used to create a Tuscan, Moroccan  or even Japanese art style vibe. It’s a look that incorporates artisan craft, intricate illustration plus both geometric and ornate pattern so you indulge in it whatever your tastes. I’ve used the look in my dining room with shibori coasters and my bedroom using my blue and white thistle fabric to make bedside lanterns. The deep blues, crisp whites and dark accents give everything a fresh, light feel that you can carry on into very early autumn.

The high street agrees with me – in fact it’s all about the indigo for SS16 so, here’s my top 11 blue for you buys…

Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Moroccan Blue Dinnerware from Sainsbury’s
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Octopus Indigo Linen Cushion from Cream Cornwall
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Tom Dixon Bowl at Amara
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Welsh Knot Throw from Eclect Design
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Geometric Pillar Candles from Mia Fleur
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Sinilintu Rug and Cushions from Vallila Interior
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Vase from  Debenhams
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Lene Bjerre Camelia Tea Jar From Houseology
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Rug from Very
Play the blues interior picks ellasplace.couk
Hand Painted Moroccan Cups from St Barts
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Completed Plant of the Fortnight: Thistle

Thistles, Watercolour and Ink, (c) Ella Johnston

After whipping up a set of black and white thistles earlier this week I got carried away and did two final watercolour illustrations and a fabric pattern using this gorgeous flower as my motif.

Thistle, Watercolour and Ink (c) Ella Johnston
I love a thistle and used them a lot when I style photo shoots – I admire their structural quality and blue, green, two-tone colours. I particularly like drawing them though, you can be really expressive with both the watercolour and the pen work as you can probably tell. They also work incredibly well as an indigo and white pattern – I’ve ordered some fabric in this pattern from my  Spoonflower shop so I can make some nice stylish textile bits and pieces.

Thistle Pattern indigo and white (c) Ella Johnston

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Plant of the Fortnight: Thistle

Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
I have very good associations with the thistle, that’s why I picked them as this fortnight’s plant. They may be prickly but I think they are a great alternative to ‘girly’ flowers and I love the look of them either cut or as beautiful structural blooms in the garden. I enjoyed sketching these quick black and white drawings.

Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I also like thistles because they remind me of a very special friendship. Many years ago we had some new mates over to ours for dinner and it turned in a very boozy affair. One particular guest left her handbag at ours when she left in the earlier hours of the morning. The following day she turned up to pick the bag up with a full bouquet of white daisies and blue, green thistles and we ended up talking over strong cups of tea (and many crisps and biscuits) way into the evening. A bond was formed and we have been buddies ever since.

Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukThistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Thistle illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

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Make a Mindfulness Gift Box

Little box of mindfulness (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Is there someone in your life that would benefit from practicing a little mindfulness? This box of tricks could be the perfect gift for them.

The concept of ‘mindfulness’ is everywhere now and has been for a while. For anyone who’s feeling a bit cynical about the term, I can understand, but I think it’s worth exploring.
Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Being mindful works for me. After years and years of throwing myself into my work and very little else, stepping back and becoming more aware of being in the present moment and enjoying the here and now has transformed who I am and how I am. It’s also freed me up to be more creative and be better to myself and the people around me.

Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
As someone who loves to work and thrives on being busy I really had to learn to be mindful. I mean really learn. At the start I needed it to be ‘project mindfulness’ (I know). So I made myself a mindfulness kit: candles to light in the evening or while I was having a bath to change the mood and unwind; a (personalised) notebook to write thoughts and observations in (and for doodles and sketches); soothing, properly nice hot beverages that I would enjoy sitting down to drink but wouldn’t be full of caffeine (I love tea pigs chamomile tea); colour therapy pages so I could absorb myself into making something pretty that wasn’t my work.
Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
In those early days I really appreciated this ‘mindfulness kit’ but, regardless of whether you subscribe to the concept or not, it also makes a great gift in itself. I put together a personalised gift box for new mums, friends who are working hard with an all-consuming project or a busy period at work and mates who simply need someone to tell them “I’m rooting for you.” I’ll sometimes swap the tea for hot chocolate for sweet-toothed friends and change the message on the notebook for something a little more rude for certain mates of mine who share my love of curse words (have I not told you that yet?). I’ve also been known to slip in a favourite book to read, which may not totally embody the mindfulness thing but is nice to have nonetheless. The box itself is just a shoe box covered in my scandi leaf paper. I’ve designed the colour therapy/colouring in sheets myself which you can download next week so watch this space. You can find out how to pimp up your candle votives here