Spring is finally here. Abigail and Rachel talk about all things renewal. Journey with us through Rachel’s recent trips abroad and Abigail’s garden design revelations as we explore making old things new again.

Listener questions!!!

We’ve gone INTERACTIVE! Abigail is extremely excited to have our first listener question. This is off the back of our last episode on kitchen design. Michele Olivier asks how do you keep your beautifully designed kitchen tidy and clean. Abigail proses the (patent pending) Sticker Solution.

Rachel likens this to her front hall table conundrum which Ikea has solved for her with this nifty mirrors/ shelf / hook combo.

This month I:

Rachel has been to Cannes for business, and the United States for pleasure. While the highlight was clearly her Grandpa’s 90th birthday – her eye has been caught by The Developer magazine, a new publication from Christine Murray – looking at how places are created.

Abigail has become obsessed with the work of Khadambi Asalache – a Kenyan artist who has bequeathed his house in South London to the National Trust. He turned his house into an absolute monument of fretwork and you can now visit.

Good Design / Bad Design:

Abigail has been waiting for her garden to be perfect before using it properly. But she’s realised the error of her ways that done is better than perfect.

She has created a space that she loves that is fit for her gorgeous sculpture.

abi garden sculpture

In her travels to the US Rachel was thinking about the role of walkability in urban design. In Oak Park, the late 19th century suburb of Chicago which was home (and playground) to architect extraordinaire Frank Lloyd Wright. This was an amazing example of a truly walkable neighbourhood – where you could access the cinema, bookstore, library, parks, cafes and importantly public transport. Rachel was deeply tempted to move to Chicago just live here!

Hesston Kansas, on the other hand, is a town designed for cars – the main street is clearly losing footfall – and the town is not walkable. There are many beautiful things going for it – like the arboretum – but sadly it didn’t feel like there was a ‘centre’.

downtown hesston

Walkability is increasingly important to people looking to buy or rent properties. Walkscore in the US is actually using this as a way of marketing apartments.


The cherry blossoms are out – and Abigail ponders the ethics of snipping some off for her kitchen…

Rachel has – very unusually – been to the spa, and was fully renewed by a facial and massage. At the scale of a personal renewal. But also having maintenance undertaken for her house.

First things first, get your maintenance right before branching out and getting a new aesthetic. That said, Abigail is mildly obsessed with the new metallic wallpapers from Farrow and Ball.

Damp is a recurring issue in England – Abigail has been struggling with this, and has been moving her dehumidifier from room to room. Which put Rachel in mind of her amazing Calm app – and in particular the rather thrilling French Whisperer.

Back to renewal of your home – the key phrase is – Function First Aesthetic After!!!

That said, Abigail is obsessed with Wallpaper Direct – who she has on speed dial – and who have provided exceptional customer service.
She’s also very keen on the K-West Hotel who are her neighbours and have been incredibly helpful access her garden sculpture by Paul Vanstone. Rachel’s garden sculpture is more personal…

Rachel Garden Art

But people and cities are not the only things that can be renewed – cities are also constantly undergoing renewal and regeneration.

Importantly this is not about doing things TO people and places, but with people and places. Can you plan for good places? Rachel was struck by David Rudlin’s recent piece in The Guardian which was sent to her by all her planning friends. In it he argues that it is the planning system that keeps us from getting the places and spaces we want. Rachel’s not so sure…

So many cities have rebuilt themselves after fires – London, Chicago, and now with the recent disaster at Notre Dame Cathedral. Rachel questions whether the outpourings of grief from the international community have gone too far. Abigail questions how structural damage has been done, and has read the Dr Catherine Oaks’ article talking about the material use and history in historic buildings. They are both a little over excited about the potential for the architectural competition that has been announced. Should we go modern, or should we go reproduction?

Next month I will…

We are going to visit Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, the country home of Rachel’s favourite architect Sir John Soane.

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