We Are Oi

The #wearoneshareone ethos of local clothing brand OutsideIn follows in the footsteps of other great business models like TOMS, with giving at the heart of their ideals. But look a little closer and you’ll notice a truly unique aspect to this business that takes the idea of sharing to a whole new level.


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A Belfast-based streetwear brand, known affectionately as Oi, OutsideIn are barely two years in the making and yet the strength of their reach speaks of an already mature, established enterprise. Their products, cool, unisex apparel ranging from beanie hats to sweatshirts, tick pretty much all the boxes in terms of what we look for in an ethical business; ethically sourced materials, a fair, living wage for makers and on top of that, local printing and embroidering with provision for work placements for the homeless men and women whom the sales of these very products support; a completely circular chain. The ‘Wear One, Share One’ approach means that for every product purchased you also receive a hat or blanket to give to someone in need - which is where the uniqueness comes in. Whilst the team are happy to pass on the extra product on your behalf, their aim is to encourage the customer towards making this step themselves, creating an opportunity to connect, listen and share, and bridge the gap between society and homelessness.

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To explain the theory behind this brand in my own words would simply not do it justice. So instead I have taken an extract directly from their mission statement, which makes their purpose crystal clear:

This ‘Wear One, Share One’ model encourages people like you to go way beyond meeting a mere physical need. We designed it with connection in mind. To create an opportunity for a relationship to form that can bring about real, lasting change. A chance to look people directly in the eye, instead of diverting your gaze. To spend your time, not just your money, rewriting the story of homelessness. To bring those from the outside of society, in. And to carry home with us, wherever we go.’


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Their website www.weareoi.com also cites a heartachingly vivid depiction of the real life experience of homelessness. Again, portrayed in such a poignant way, it’s a viewpoint that needs to be shared:

It’s often said that ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’. But what is a home? What does it mean to be home? What does ‘home’ mean to you? For some, it’s a place of warmth, love and family. But for others, it’s an experience of heartache, struggle and loneliness. No matter where you come from in the world - or your story - the idea of home holds a very fragile place in each our hearts and is so much more than something physical. “A House Is Not A Home”.

Homelessness is a vastly misunderstood issue because we confuse it with houselessness. Houselessness is a physical state. Homelessness is a heart condition. One that cannot be solved by physical things like houses, clothes, or food alone. Hopelessness and loneliness are the two biggest problems our modern world faces.’

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Their message, amidst the complexity of this global issue, is a shockingly simple one - that home or home-less, we are all human, deserving of dignity, with a voice that deserves to speak and to be heard. In our material world, clothing and fashion are perhaps the strongest indicators of how we identify ourselves. The idea then, of being willing to share and indeed wear the same item that a homeless person in need will also wear sends a big message - that I am identifying, not only in physical form with you, but also with your humanity, your humanness. The use of identity serving as a key to unlocking conversation and attempting to break down barriers.

Encouraging their customers to take the extra giving item and physically share it with someone on the street is eye-openingly progressive. Not oblivious to the responsibility required in order to make this first step, the team also provide giving guidance to their supporters, to help them approach the encounter sensibly and sensitively and help make it a positive one.

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Their business takes a brave, bold, and some may say idealistic approach, which will undoubtedly continue to invite questioning and even criticism. But can you imagine the impact if this taboo slowly began to crumble? If giving a person on the street a little of your time, the opportunity to make some human contact again, if this became the norm and no longer taboo? This shift in perspective has the potential to change the face of homelessness for good. So get behind these guys this Christmas, good people of Belfast and beyond, for their mission is a mighty one.

M x

 

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 This Christmas, you can find OutsideIn at the Belfast Christmas Market from 17 November - 22 December, online at www.weareoi.com and via Instagram @weare_oi

We will also have a mini range of their products available at our Salle pop up, 25 November and every weekend in December at Bullitt Hotel, Belfast  

The Alchemist

I am rarely rendered speechless or lost for words. Wait, I shall rephrase that; I am never lost for words. Because even when I am, I always spout some sort of nonsense to fill the gap: it's a dreadful affliction to be honest... but anyway. When I walked through the doors of this impressive, seafront beauty there was a definite silent pause. A ‘pinch yourself’ moment too, because I couldn't quite believe it was real. It's like when you see the Manhattan skyline for the first time - you knew it was there all along, but you didn't really believe it was. Well it was just like that.

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And even if that grey October day, when I made the trip to Bangor to meet Peggy, owner and curator of this outstanding abode, had slightly dampened my spirits, one step inside this place and I was immediately uplifted, transported to a world filled with joyous, exotic colour. Hailing originally from Belfast, I wanted to know more about the road that had lead the seasoned city-slicker and her crew to this seaside gem in the heart of Ballyholme. “I was in Bangor to view a completely different house and noticed this one was for sale - a Victorian mid-terrace overlooking the water. I had no idea what condition it was inside, but my gut said that this was the one for me. We arranged a viewing and when I stepped inside the hall and saw the period features: ceiling rose, cornicing and deep skirting, that was it.”

 

And as you wander through the myriad of perfectly proportioned rooms, it’s clear to see exactly what she means, as those period features sing out from amidst the daring decor, tying together the opulent, decadent colour palettes which permeate the house.

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Beyond the captivating entrance hall, chock full of ornate antique mirrors and gallery walls theatrically covered in colourful paintings and artwork, is the anchor of this home, a vast, north-facing kitchen, with the Irish Sea right in it’s sights. And with it’s deep bay window and moody, dark colour palette, this room caters for practically every need imaginable. Indeed, it is Peggy’s favourite room in the house. “Our long, narrow kitchen with it’s snug at the back and stove for fires on cold days is undoubtedly my favourite spot. The opposite end has a dining table in the bay window overlooking the water. It is a hardworking room - snug, kitchen, diner - but I painted everyrhing out in black so it is fairly seamless and therefore quite restful for such a practical space.”

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Painting things out to suit her colour preferences is something this lady completes with relative ease. When asked about any DIY conquests that she’s particularly proud of, she references the extensive bar housed in that very same kitchen. “What is now the bar was originally cream kitchen shelving. I removed the shelves, added mirror to the back panel and installed glass shelves. Bottles and glasses that had been previously stored in cupboards were displayed and voilà! A home bar.” And her tipple of choice from said bar? ”I don't drink often enough to justify opening an full size bottle of wine (and Phil doesn't drink wine so I can't split a bottle) so I keep little quarter bottles of wine on the top shelf and treat myself to a nice Rioja the odd evening in front of the fire.”

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Stood in this snug little space, in what feels like the very centre of the whole house, you can envisage just how cosy an evening spent here would be. Any book recommendations to curl up with? “Don't get me started on books! I've recently finished reading everything by John Boyne. A must-read is his recent novel The Heart's Invisible Furies. I also love books exploring past lives and reincarnation. My favourite is Old Souls by Tom Shroder. I snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire in the kitchen, with the aforementioned Rioja. Total bliss.” And it certainly sounds it. So whilst with all this talk of Rioja and blankets I could have happily just nestled down in that very corner, a tour of the rest of the house was being offered; an offer I couldn’t refuse.

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Onwards and upwards, we travelled to the first floor to witness the most decadent bathroom I have ever seen with my own two eyes, complete with freestanding roll-top bath, original fireplace and a luscious, black velvet chaise longue. If you’re partial to a theatrical interior, this room has the power to make you go weak at the knees; I may even have drooled a little bit as I stood staring in amazement. The adjoining sitting room, with it’s enviable sea view - the pièce de résistance in this equally opulent space - is a hostess’ dream, and with oversized Chesterfield sofas and a thoroughly inviting ambiance, it feels like a cocktail or two here must be the order of the day,.

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With a deft hand for a layered scheme, it’s clear this lady knows exactly how to build depth and also where to show suitable restraint, when it comes to styling the maximal way. “Balance is key” she says. “There's a fine line between layers of curated items and junk shop!” So in maximalist decor, if more is more, how do you know when enough is enough? “I feel it in my gut. When styling, I build up layers of items with varying heights and textures, usually several little groups of three. My internal monologue as I go sounds like this: ‘Better...better...better...Ugh! Rewind!’ “

 

Perhaps one of the most interesting things to note at this point, is that Peggy has only in recent times begun to showcase her skills in dark decor, having always favoured a more minimal approach in her previous homes; hard to imagine when she could give even the experts a lesson in maximalist style. “I will never be minimalist ever again! My minimalist era was before I found my confidence, when it was safer to stick to a neutral palette and keep everything pared back. My maximalism came from having confidence in my own tastes, allowing myself to be heart-led and my personality to come to the fore.” Confidence in reflecting your own personality in your home; there’s a definite lesson in there...

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On up to the second floor, location of the master bedroom and children's rooms, each decorated to cater to the preferences of a child, whilst still maintaining the level of style achieved throughout the rest of the home. A feat in itself, since often people struggle to create stylish schemes in children’s bedrooms whilst still making these spaces a stimulating, child-friendly environment. The master suite houses another Victorian fireplace with an original marble surround that only be described as majestic. Along with several other nooks, rooms and crannies that we got a peek into along the way, this area of the main bedroom is still a work in progress - Peggy has recently found another perfect mirror for above the fireplace and her current project involves getting this painted and up onto the wall.

 

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A self-confessed pro at scouring Buy and Sell sites and Used Furniture shops, her penchant for collectible items doesn’t end at mirrors, “I always have my eyes peeled for blue and white ginger jars. They are neutral and go with everything.” A love of a home bargain is something I think all of us interior lovers appreciate, so the pre-loved approach in a home finished to this standard is refreshing to hear. But in her opinion, what's worth splurging on? “Something you absolutely love. There are some pieces that you just know you will always love, pieces that when you first see them, your heart rate speeds up, pieces that you are still thinking of a week later. Those are worth splurging on, because they will make you happy every single time you see them.”

 

To be inspired further, follow Peggy on Instagram @interior_alchemy

 

Alf & Roe

When she began collecting and customising vintage clothes that weren’t destined for personal use, Erin Rose Arthurs knew that something was brewing; she just hadn’t discovered what exactly that ‘something’ would look like. But the creator and owner of supremely stylish vintage clothing boutique Alf and Roe, made many sideways moves before making her way back to that gathered pile.

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Her original career path rooted in marketing, she had been feeling creatively unfulfilled for a while. “I was getting to a point where I knew I had more so much more to give to a job, but the opportunity to give it just wasn’t there.” Having studied PR at university in Leeds, Erin Rose was always inspired by the avant-garde approach to style that she’d seen there. “I always admired people who did fashion differently. I loved Edie Sedgewick for her daring style choices and the fact that she was never too far away from a bit of leopard print, as well as Fearne Cotton for her imaginative approach to style and how she almost creates a character through her clothing choices, whilst always supporting vintage. Then there’s Maria Bernard, a Spanish creative with an impeccable style and vision (her Instagram is a complete aesthetic dream). And of course, there’s my mama, an out-and-out style goddess, who can rock anything from vintage Fred Perry to full-on white-on-white outfit perfection, or some second hand Nike high-tops with a trouser suit, all the while looking like a 30 year-old - she is without doubt my number one style icon.”

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In her quest to seek out the fulfilment she craved, Erin headed off to Australia for two years, taking up a series of posts within different marketing and fashion agencies in both Perth and Brisbane. But with job security a struggle alongside visa constraints, two years later she made her way back to our shores to try things here again, the cogs already beginning to turn.

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“Having often talked about starting my own vintage clothing business, it felt like the time had finally come to bite the bullet. So many people around me were understandably worried about the risk I was taking, except my mum, who did nothing but encourage me. I’m so grateful for that. And my partner, Mickey, was also worried about the potential pitfalls. I’d talked about it for so long though, that he knew I needed to try. So while he was fearful that the timing wasn’t ideal, he told me he would support me. I had what I needed to make a go of it.”

 

 

 


 

 

The quest to find the right spot began, and the right spot it definitely is. Unlike many vintage stores, Alf and Roe has a fresh feel - with an enviable collection of pieces from several iconic eras in fashion, this gal truly has an eye for a statement piece. And with jewellery and headwear to boot, it really is a fashionista’s Mecca. 

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So where does she find all this amazing apparel? “When it comes to sourcing stock, London is my go-to destination, but anytime I travel I’m always on the lookout and gathering gems for the store. In truth, as a trader in the vintage world, no-one wants to share their secrets, so you’ve gotta work hard to find the pots of gold. But I’ve made some strong connections in my almost two years of operating; maybe someday I’ll be the one with all the vintage clothing secrets and I’ll keep them in a big book, like the Hocus Pocus gals with their spells ‘BOOOOOOOKKKKK!’ ”

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Setting up premises just over two years ago, outside her hometown of Dungannon, Erin Rose hasn’t looked back. “As soon as I’d done it, I knew I’d made the right move. Naturally, just like everyone starting their own business, I still experience moments of doubt - it’s a huge responsibility. But for those moments, there are so many other joyous days, filled with fabulous customers, amazing clothing finds, styling shoots and merchandising, when I think there’s nothing else I’d want to be doing right now.”

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And sacrifices? Yes, there have been those. We both agreed that when it’s your ‘baby’ it’s hard to switch off the business-mode function in your brain, the constant thinking about moving things forward and pursuing new avenues. Also agreed on was how entrepreneurship can be a tough gig when so many questions can only be asked to and of yourself, especially when it’s your own personal vision that you’re striving towards - yours and yours alone.

We chatted highs and lows too; those borne out of social media - a godsend in many ways for us small indie businesses, but which can also take up an inordinate amount of time, often with no defined outcome to justify that time. Indeed, it’s a quandary that many start-ups and established businesses alike are encountering. 


But back to the business at hand... like, what’s your favourite era in fashion? “That is tough! I love them all for their own reasons, but I’ll toss it up between the 60s and 70s. I love the whole Woodstock cult and the Twiggy check and turtle neck trends. I love those eras too, because of the huge amount of versatility and quality in clothing that they brought with them - I mean, I still get pieces from the 60s that have completely stood the test of time and are in perfect condition.”

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Fast and slow fashion, buzzwords of our time, were also discussed. Not necessarily wanting to push an all-out vintage aesthetic, Erin Rose still sees the value in encouraging people to mix it up. “Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips, from food to fashion. And it needs to be. We need to be thinking about our purchases much more sensibly; can I wear this dress next season too, with tights for autumn? Will I wash these jeans one hundred times over and love them more every time? And can I give a new lease of life to this amazing 1970s dress and create an entirely unique outfit while I’m at it? Yes, I can. These are the kind of items we should be striving for in our wardrobes.”

And there you have it, folks. So next time you’re looking for something that little bit different, take a detour down Dungannon way. I have no doubt you’ll be spoilt for choice - and you’ll be doing your bit for our wee world too. It’s a win-win.


M x

All clothing and accessories by Alf and Roe.

Styling by Erin Rose Arthurs.

Photography by Filly Campbell.

 

 

 

 

Apartment Therapy

When I met Darcie for the first time, she and her husband Gary were on their way to paper the sitting room of their Carnlough caravan in wall-to-wall pink flamingos. I knew right there and then that we'd get along. Her work in the design and marketing industry infers a natural link to creativity, whilst Gary's job as a yoga, fitness and wellbeing coach brings the balance.

Said Flamingo wallpaper by Albany

Said Flamingo wallpaper by Albany

Theirs is a home which blends personality and style in such a joyous, exuberant way. And not the sort of forced, faux personality that we sometimes see in interiors; rather, a true ability to display objects which are meaningful to them in a quirky, stylish fashion. I stopped by their Belfast abode to talk lifestyle, city love and caravan living.

Dining set from Betty’s Lounge, Belfast

Dining set from Betty’s Lounge, Belfast


Your home is a total hidden gem. How did you discover it?

Chest of drawers by Betty’s Lounge, Belfast

Chest of drawers by Betty’s Lounge, Belfast

I’d lived in Belfast since going to university, but had then been away for a number of years living in Stockholm, Glasgow and New York - amazing experiences which also definitely prepared me for living lighter. When it came to laying roots here, I was looking for somewhere central, with a bit of character. I looked at loads of places and none were floating my boat. I’d probably just fallen for the character of the old tenements I’d lived in in Stockholm and Glasgow, or the walk-up I lived in, right in the madness of St Mark’s Place in New York.

And then this place came up. It was a one bedroom apartment, on the second floor of the building, without a lift or parking space. It had been sort of half-finished, which was weird for apartments in Belfast which are generally turn-key, perhaps bigger, with on-site parking, maybe some outdoor space and definitely a lift! BUT this place had gorgeous original brickwork, high ceilings, big windows, so much natural light and was right in the middle of everything, exactly where we wanted to be, so we snapped it up!

It was a bit of a project, but we absolutely love it - and now I basically have a one minute commute via the stairs to work, so the absence of a lift actually helps keep me fit!

Bertie tiles, available at Homebase

Bertie tiles, available at Homebase

The secret to apartment living is...

Clear-outs, clear-outs, clear-outs! A ‘one in, one out’ policy on non-sentimental things like hoodies and jeans and trackies and jammies!

 

Aelfie cushion, available at Salle

Aelfie cushion, available at Salle

Other than that, it’s probably storage. We got some full height shelving made when we moved in, which holds a surprising amount of the graphic design & fashion mags I accumulate, and the wrestling paraphernalia that Gary accumulates - sorry, collects! There are under-bed boxes of wrestling t-shirts and clutch bags, built-in shelves full of heels & Nike Air Max, and there’s a big communal storage room downstairs for the suitcases of summer clothes or winter coats, so we do ok. And if in doubt, more clear-outs!


 

 

 

 

 

 What's the most treasured object in your home?

Gary would definitely say it’s his signed Hulk Hogan figure (boxed, mint condition ;)), or his dartboard! For me, it’s all the little bits that are sentimental - the Summer Slam folding chairs from when we got married, the photos, the boxes of cards… not even pretty, but definitely treasure.

Gary’s treasured Summer Slam chairs, bought in New York, where they were married

Gary’s treasured Summer Slam chairs, bought in New York, where they were married

Perfect Sunday routine?

Now that we are caravan dwellers, we’re usually on the sunny/blustery/rainy but always gorgeous North coast on a Sunday. And as long as there’s some coffee, some pints, some chips and Netflix, in no particular order, then that’s a pretty good one in our book.

Strandmon wingback armchair, Ikea

Strandmon wingback armchair, Ikea

When it comes to homewares, are you happy with high street or inspired by indie?

A little post-wedding souvenir on this coffee table from Gumtree

A little post-wedding souvenir on this coffee table from Gumtree

If I’m honest, I can be a bit lazy about picking indie things up - especially when we were in the throes of renovating this place. We had loads of work going on and it just needed to get done. There are some great online places - BlueSunTree, MADE, CB2, Amazon, WallpaperDirect and Tile Fire. Then in real life, BHS for lights, ASDA Home for all sorts, House of Fraser where we got our sofa and bed. And then there were A LOT of IKEA trips. It’s probably not a very cool interiors thing to say, but I love IKEA - it gets a bad rap. We designed our whole kitchen there - Gary’s territory - complete with all the wee interior bits and bobs that I love. I think a it’s great place to shop!


 

 

 

When that all slowed down, and the major things were in place, it was great to choose some special little pieces - our bedside table from Oscar & Oscar and the chest of drawers and dining set from Betty’s Lounge; both great, Belfast-based, vintage furniture dealers. Some art from artist friends Lyndsey McDougall & Hannah Casey finished things off and, of course, the gorgeous, unique pieces from Salle Homeware - it’s like you’ve built the stock just for me; dangerous! 

This living area is filled with light, thanks to the apartment’s large windows and double doors

This living area is filled with light, thanks to the apartment’s large windows and double doors

Gary, did you get involved with the interior details or was it more of a one-woman show?

Superstylin’ courtesy of Ms. Graham

Superstylin’ courtesy of Ms. Graham

No way! I helped Darcie make all the decisions! In all honesty though, I love Darcie’s style. She was very organised from the get-go, but I was always there and felt my opinion was fully valued.

Financially, I perhaps acted as the yin to her yang, as I knew deep down that Darcie’s indulgence on gold radiators would need to be balanced by my passion for a bargain. And so, Gumtree for coffee tables at a tenner, and Betty’s Lounge for dining tables were very much my idea.



 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite city?

Stockholm - definitely Stockholm. Beautiful in spring when it hits the early 20s, and even more beautiful in winter in the sub 20s. The mix of offbeat people - including friends! - beautiful spaces and incredible vegan food means that we’ll undoubtedly return again and again, for many years to come.

Hallway papered in Parrots wallpaper by Albany

Hallway papered in Parrots wallpaper by Albany

You both work and live in the city. Do you enjoy being in the heart of the buzzing Cathedral Quarter, or do you sometimes feel the need to escape the busy-ness of city life?

Totally! During the week, Belfast city centre is filled with culture, business and smiling faces, and is exactly where we want to be. Gary’s business is built around the schedules of the city centre workforce, and my workplace is literally yards from our home. We’ve positioned ourselves so that both of our working lives can function without the added stress of a daily commute, and it’s absolutely perfect. And at weekends, we’re placed wonderfully for coffees, bars and brunches!

Hairpin leg bedside table from Oscar & Oscar, Belfast

Hairpin leg bedside table from Oscar & Oscar, Belfast

But sometimes, it’s nice to disappear from all of that, unwind and spend time together, which is why we invested in a little coastal get-away project - a caravan! I’ll be honest, Gary was the driver of this one. I was pretty cynical, despite having had great memories of them as a kid - I thought they were a bit ‘old people’! Anyhow - he’s proved me wrong, and like the apartment, after a pretty thorough rip out, paint job, and IKEA bonanza, it’s a total wee home from home. Chippy chips and pints at the seaside are hard to beat.

Original brickwork, exposed in all it’s glory

Original brickwork, exposed in all it’s glory

Paris, je t’aime

Belfast is my ‘hood. No diggity, no doubt. But if I had to live anywhere else in the world, then Paris it would be. On a recent calculation I worked out that I’d visited the city at least once every year for the last fifteen. And that’s not because I’m a global jet-setter. Rather, it’s because between getting there on the odd school trip, and my husband being to cheap Ryanair flights what a bloodhound is to it’s prey, the opportunity for an impromptu visit has arisen quite frequently. And no matter the season, it’s always the right season for Paris. It is equally beautiful come rain or shine. It’s also, perhaps, the only city I’d visit alone, as I have done many times - don’t let Liam Neeson’s unforgettable ‘Taken’ put you off. Several of my trips have been a one night stopover - ample time for me to recharge the batteries, get some headspace and a fresh dose of inspiration. So how do I spend une journée à Paris? Let me walk you through...

Merci, Paris

Merci, Paris

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

With an early morning start, I’d head just outside of the city, to the Palais de Versailles. In all my days, I have never witnessed a place as awe-inspiring; it is truly sublime. If you’re a fan of ostentatious, OTT, baroque beauty, this place will knock your socks off. And if, like me, you are entranced and intrigued by of the reign of Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette, you’ll find it all here; from their former boudoirs to the infamous Hall of Mirrors - which is, without question, the most beautiful salle in the world.

Back to the city and a walk along the river to Le Fumoir, right on the banks of the Seine, for lunch. With its chic interior, cracking cocktail menu and fab food, this place is the perfect go-to - it’s always buzzing and never disappoints. A wander then, through the pretty, cobbled streets of the Marais, a pit-stop at Maje (I love their clothes) on the way to Merci, AKA lifestyle store Mecca. Here you’ll find a round-up of the freshest, quirkiest home goods and clothing available, from both leading and emerging designers alike. Take a wee peek too, into it’s adjoining bookshop-come-coffee shop - it is pure joy. After a good browse here, I’d take the metro up to the 18th arrondissement, this time for an equally satisfying mooch around the textile district. Just a stone’s throw from the Sacré Coeur, the winding streets of upper Montmartre are home to some of the best fabric shops you’ll find anywhere in the world. You can literally get your mitts on every type of fabric, in every colour-way and pattern imaginable; I get goosebumps just thinking about it (that’s probably just me though).

Hôtel Saint Marc, Paris

Hôtel Saint Marc, Paris

Plaza Athenée, Paris

Plaza Athenée, Paris

Plaza Athenée, Paris

Plaza Athenée, Paris

After a lengthy trawl and then a walk through the the always bustling Place du Tertre, pausing to admire the most amazing view of the whole city gained from right in front of the Basilica, I’d make my way back down towards the river. Dinner options are wide and varied, but if you want a good, authentic French brasserie, you can’t go past Chez Janou, footsteps away from the lovely Place des Vosges - also worth a stop. This typical French square with its gardens and fountain, is surrounded on all four sides by aristocratic French mansions, and is perfect for a stroll or some people-watching. The perfect Parisian day for me, invariably ends with a post-dinner tipple at the Plaza Athenée. And while the cost of a drink here is probably equivalent to the price paid for the cheap Ryanair flight, it’s entirely worth it to sit in these luxurious surroundings. If you’ve seen the final two episodes of Sex and the City... enough said. And it was in this very hotel that my beloved asked me for my hand in marriage (his defining romantic moment), so as well as enjoying it’s jaw-dropping opulence, it holds an extra-special place in my heart. As far as laying your head here for the night goes, let’s just say it’d need to be a pretty special occasion to justify the price of a night at the Plaza Athenée. But the good news is there are many other, equally aesthetically pleasing options as far as hotels go, without the hefty room rate. With a rise in independently-owned boutique hotels, the choice, in fact, is pretty vast. For a design enthusiast like me, there is no shortage of quirky little spots. Some of my recent favourites among the city’s newest additions include Hôtel Henriette in the 13th and Hôtel COQ, in the same neck of the woods; both très chic and reasonably priced. Alternatively, you’ll be impressed with the standard in Le Roch or indeed the Hôtel Saint Marc, slightly more upmarket and central, and therefore priced accordingly.

Hôtel Le Roch, Paris

Hôtel Le Roch, Paris

Lobby, Hôtel Henriette

Lobby, Hôtel Henriette

Now I realise that I’ve yet to mention a museum, or anything terribly cultural for that matter, but I’m not attempting to re-write the Time Out guide to Paris here. They’ve done that already. And so have I; I’ve done the tourist thing, many times. I mean, I totally recommend a trip to the Orsay, a quick gander at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, a picnic in the Tuileries gardens and a boat trip on the Seine. But I’m talking real talk here - once the tourist stuff is done - what I actually love doing. And actually, what I most love doing there, aside from hitting up all of the places I’ve mentioned, is walking. Walking around, soaking it all up. The architecture, the ambiance; it’s like nowhere else on Earth. And it never gets old, man, no matter how many times you go.

So do it. Book that cheap Ryanair flight. Because Paris, as they say, is always a good idea.

M x

Courtyard, Hôtel Henriette

Courtyard, Hôtel Henriette

Chez Dave & Charlotte

Ever walked past a great house and wondered what kind of spectacular interior style lay behind it’s doors? If the answer is yes, then you’ll be in your element here, as I’ve decided to use my blogging as a cover to get me inside some of these houses, and then kindly spill all the style secrets to you. First on the list is a beautiful Victorian townhouse in east Belfast, owned by Charlotte and Dave Hughes. Stylistas in their own right, their home oozes original charm alongside bold interior schemes, reflecting their eye for design and colour. I had a chat with them to find out a bit about what inspires their style and how they’ve managed to bring this beautiful period home very much back to life. 

 

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What attracted you both to this area of Belfast?

Charlotte: At the outset, I don’t think there was anything specific other than it ticked a number of boxes logistically, to be honest. Dave worked in town, so he wanted to be as close to the city centre as possible. I’m from Holywood, so east of the city made sense in terms of being close to family. As it turns out, we kind of lucked out, in that there’s a real feeling of rejuvenation around here at the moment with the amount of great new spots opening in the Newtownards Road area. And we love being close to the buzz of Ballyhack and Belmont, so that was a bonus. 

 

 

 

What is it that inspires your home style and how do you decide where to begin with a room?

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C: From the moment we walked into the house on our first viewing, it immediately felt like home. The atmosphere was so welcoming; the house itself had just been severely neglected!
In terms of home style I like to use the term ‘Modern Classic.’ By that I mean we love bold colours, patterns and fresh styles, but it was really important to us to balance this with the built-in character of the house.
I felt it was so important to consider the history of the house, why things are the way they are, and respect it, if that makes sense? There’s something about the character and atmosphere in an old house that makes you want to care for it - it’s almost 130 years old, which is pretty amazing in my book! Unfortunately, a lot of the original features had been removed, so it was really important to preserve the ones that were left and make them the stars of the show, as it were, which is where the classic came in.

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Choosing a starting point for your interior can sometimes be hard, but by taking an original feature and celebrating it, then working outwards from there, a starting point is naturally chosen — a type of constraint, but a good one, that helps you build a style around it. It also helps to think outside the box a little. Sometimes, when we decorate a room, we begin by thinking of paint and features for the walls themselves. But, by focusing on details such as the skirting or the cornice, you can change things entirely. That’s kind of how we worked in the living room - all of a sudden our ceiling became a real feature, borne out of our initial decision to highlight the cornice. 

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Your home celebrates an eclectic mix of objects and styles. Where do you go for inspiration, and is there anywhere you know you’re guaranteed to find things you love?

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C: I love interior design magazines such as Period Living and House Beautiful. I love reading about the challenges that other people have faced restoring period homes and how they have managed to overcome them. 

Dave: I tend to find inspiration from lifestyle-based things. I follow lots of online brands and publications, such as Best Made Co, It’s Nice That, and Design Milk as well as magazines like Lagom. This tends to influence more practical objects in our home. I enjoy cooking so we built a pantry, and coffee, so we made a coffee shelf for all my coffee paraphernalia. 

C : When it comes to shopping for interiors, I often shop with nothing particular in mind, then when I see something I like, I'll find somewhere for it. I find charity shops are great for browsing too. I love unique objects and I think when you get something cheap you are less afraid to paint or up-cycle it; we've adapted a lot of accessories and furniture to make them fit in with our style.

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You've managed to create a coherent eclectic style. What’s your rule of thumb?

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C: We were lucky to have a complete blank canvas with the house, which allowed us to work on our style on a room-to-room basis. The deep pink armchair was the first piece of furniture we bought and it just summed up the feel that we were trying to achieve; classic style fused with a bold modern twist because of it’s colour. Everything else was built up from there. It takes time to gather a collection of pieces you love. So many objects in the house have meaning behind them, based on something that we love, and we wanted to incorporate all of them. So to keep things coherent we've kept a thread running through the colour palette which makes it all fit together... hopefully!

 

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You’ve created a different feel for each space and yet it all fits seamlessly together. Any themes that run through the house?

 

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C: We’ve tried to create some continuity throughout the house with the help of recurring themes or ideas. So in most rooms you’ll find a subtle shout-out to another area of the house. For example, in the middle of the parquet floor in the living room there’s a lovely diamond feature. We tried to build on that when it came to other flooring throughout the house and garden. Paving stones are laid in diamonds and our bathroom floor features a geometric diamond pattern. If we didn’t have the original floor as inspiration, we probably wouldn’t have gone there! Other original features of the house included the incredible arches over the front door and in the hallway. So again, when it came to renovation and restoration, where we could, we featured arches, like in the knock- through between the living and dining areas, and by echoing the arched silouhette with mirrors, too. 

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Has travel influenced how you’ve designed and styled your home?

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D: Definitely. Whether we’ve realised it or not, travelling just makes you look at things differently. I’ve been very fortunate to visit some pretty cool offices and buildings for work over the years - it’s always interesting seeing where people work. Because office space is so expensive in places like New York, there's quite a lot of co-working and collaborative spaces. The energy and mix of people in spots like those is really inspiring. I wanted my home office to feel like a co-working space. So, even though it's usually just me, there’s room for others if collaborative space is ever needed. Also, beyond work, travelling is all about food, for me! Restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, bars - I get inspired by those places as much as by anything else.

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We recently went to California for a wedding, hired a car and took in as much of the west coast as we could. After spending a few days in the desert we came home and bought the biggest cactus we could afford. So yes, travelling definitely influences our home style. Charlotte’s summer project is to re-do the bedroom with a Palm Springs vibe. Palm Springs is a pretty strange and interesting place...so I guess we'll see how that goes! 

Charlotte’s own sketch of a design for an upstairs snug that she’s currently in the process of creating

Charlotte’s own sketch of a design for an upstairs snug that she’s currently in the process of creating

Superstylin’

I'd say, in my approach to both interiors and clothing, I'm a maximalist. With minimalist edges, perhaps. When it comes to dressing up, I love a dramatic silouhette, with minimal accessorising. Other times, I feel more like keeping my get-up simple - a casual t-shirt and some snug-fitting denim. But those times I’ll let the add-ons bring the drama; a statement shoe in animal print or some super-bold colour. Disclaimer time - I'm no style expert, nor guru, and I don't claim to be. What I do have, however, at the ripe old age of thirty-eight, is a sense of my own personal style. I'm not the kind of girl who's always immaculately turned out - au contraire, I like my clothing lines to be a little blurred, imperfect and rough around the edges. My choices aren’t always fashion-focussed; instead I aim for a more intuitive approach, knowing what works for me, what makes me feel good and applying those rules to my wardrobe purchases. And then, pour moi, it comes down to the detail. What is it that makes an outfit pop? And having thought about my approach to styling an outfit, I decided to compile a list, for your eyes only (lucky old you, eh?!), of the five things I go to, to do just that. By seeking out these outfit quirks, that funky little feature becomes the focal point, whilst the top that you've worn the last five times you crossed the door becomes the background palette. Et voilà...

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Shoes by Moda in Pelle for House of Fraser

 

The shoe

The heel height matters little. In my humble opinion, a shoe easily adds the ultimate dash of personality to an outfit. And as we ladies know only too well, regardless of the kind of day you’re having body-wise, shoes never let you down. They never make your bum look big, don’t show all your lumps and bumps and, on a particularly good day, they have the power to stretch us another five inches so that everything feels that wee bit more in proportion. Don’t be afraid to impulse buy a pair of electric blue stilettos or a pair of animal print pumps that you don’t have an outfit in mind for, for these very shoes will be the saviour when you stand in front of the mirror thinking “this ensemble just needs something else”. And they’ll always be there to bring the pizazz - they never ‘don’t fit anymore’ - that’s why they’re always an investment.

 

The bra

Blush lace bralet by Toshop

Blush lace bralet by Toshop

Controversial, perhaps? Agreed; this one’s not for all of us. And I realise that I sound like a real tart with a heart with it, but gals, this is a thing. I love the simplicity of a white t-shirt, a white vest in summertime. But I also need my twist on it, my little personalisation, si tu veux. A nice undergarment can do that. Pick your favourite colour - a neon pink strap, a flash of blue or just plain black with a sexy hint of lace (I am not recommending all-out bedroom calibre here.) We see a little, we don't need to see a lot. But there's personality there; playful and fun. We like that in our wardrobe.


The accessory

This might be a fabulously dangly, spangly pair of earrings. It might be a cool pair of sunnies (more often worn on your head in Northern Ireland) that are very ‘you’. It might even be a signature ring that you wear, day into night, with every outfit. Adding a statement accessory that adds intrigue or captures attention, instantly makes an outfit more interesting. So you can mix it up and experiment with different high street ‘trend pieces’, or alternatively, find your own statement. Perhaps that means a well-made, stylish piece that’s your signature go-to item - something that identifies your taste and is synonymous with you. There’s something about having that kind of ownership of your style too - like saying “This is me; I know what I like.”

Sunglasses by Lines and Current  |  Sheer bodysuit by Zara

Sunglasses by Lines and Current | Sheer bodysuit by Zara

Earrings by Warehouse

Earrings by Warehouse


The clutch

Clutch bag by Topshop

Clutch bag by Topshop

Go to town on this one. Like the shoes, it never lets you down. Go all-out with colour, texture, for this really has a lot of outfit pulling power. And for real flair, make it a contrast, in as many ways as you can, to your other outfit bits and bobs. Note - we all have our own way, but personally, I’m not into a matchy-matchy approach to dressing. I think, if anything, a good clash brings more to a look than trying to match your lip to your shoes. So don’t be afraid to clash things a little - it’s interesting.


The lip

Most of us enjoy the transformative effect of make-up. But for me personally, finding time to experiment with eye make-up is a luxury I just don’t have these days. I love to see a well made-up eye but I know I won’t be able, on most occasions, to replicate it. What I can always find time for though, is throwing on a lip. I revel in the possibilities too; so many options, pretty much fool-proof in terms of skill level required, and with the ability to instantly glamourise. No. Brainer.

Mac Matte lipstick in Heroine  |  YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in Black Red  |  Chanel Rouge lipstick in Passion

Mac Matte lipstick in Heroine | YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in Black Red | Chanel Rouge lipstick in Passion


The true joy in this list is that there's no major outlay. Buying a new lippy and a pair of earrings to transform an outfit you already own won't see the Visa burst into flames as you try to insert it into the card reader (well, unless you plan on doing it every day). But these magical little updates WILL transform “the outfit I wore last time I saw her” into the  “I am loving your look today” outfit. Promise.


M x

 

Botanical beauties

Greening up your gaff has become a real ‘thing’ of late. You’ll struggle to open an interiors magazine these days without noticing an abundance of cacti and other interesting plant life adorning it’s pages. And it makes total sense, when you think about it. Plants and greenery in the home bring the outside in and help connect us with nature when the limitations of our lifestyles (and climate!) see us spending so much time indoors. And a happy result of this recent decorating addition is the appearance of some dedicated botanical stores round about. Newry-based plant shop and floral stylist Inscape, responsible for the breathtaking, tropical greenery additions to Babel, Bullitt hotel’s beautiful rooftop bar, provides a perfect example. As well as supplying all manner of greenery and plant-life, her stunning floral creations are virtual works of art. Another self-confessed forager and botanical addict, Karen McCullough, decided to go back to her roots last year and has since created an inspiring space in Donaghadee from where she works her green magic. Wild Thing, a botanical and homewares store, opened it’s doors in November 2017 and is going from strength to strength. I recently visited the lovely lady to talk all things business and pleasure in her still relatively new chapter...


You made a fairly dramatic career change to get here, Karen. What made you decide to take the leap and set up Wild Thing?

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It was a ‘now or never’ time for me. Having worked in a profession which focused on therapeutic interventions for female prisoners for fifteen years, I was gradually becoming more aware of my need to slow down and embrace a more wholesome way of life. I love travelling and in recent years have been wowed by the lifestyle store scene across Europe, and the deadly way they manage to collate their customers who value wholesome living, offering the customer an opportunity to purchase locally and ethically sourced wares. Customers love to know the story behind their purchase.

The botanical aspect of my business goes back to my roots (literally) as I trained in floristry and horticulture twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve always been involved in this scene, styling weddings for family and friends.

I feel like it’s a ridiculously exciting time here in Ireland, as we are beginning to catch up with our European chums and bring the outside in. It’s amazing too, to watch our customers’ confidence grow with each botanical purchase and to provide them with knowledge around their own personal urban jungle.


What is your current favourite item in the store?

So difficult to pick just one, but I completely adore our cushions designed exclusively for Wild Thing by Amy Scott. The colours are rich and jewel-inspired and massively compliment our lush plants. The silk and velvet fabrics are to die for and the embroidered trimming and silk tassels are the ticket!

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From your Instagram we can see that you’re a huge music fan; what’s the soundtrack to your Saturday?

I love this question! Music has always been such a massive influence in my life. I know I’m winning at life during the music round at our local pub quiz! The soundtrack to my Saturday is any down-tempo, cool, laid-back groove. I’m a sucker for Moodymann and St Germain.

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Your branding is fabulous. Talk to me about it.

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I know, right?! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world when I met Studio Stereo. Jonny and Connie just got me and they are an absolute dreamboat to work alongside. They guided me every step of the way and there were chunky, ugly, delighted tears when they unveiled our brand. It’s got such a strong, yet understated flow and massive potential to evolve as the business develops. These guys are part of our Wild Thing tribe and we can’t recommend them enough. Hit them up!


 

 

 

 

What have been the highs for you so far?

It’s all been a high. Finding the perfect building was the first high. I am also so thankful for the community we have developed around Wild Thing. I love facilitating workshops, and love the craic we have getting to know our customers and participants on another level. You know you’re doing something right when you’ve a waiting list for future workshops to be released!

For us, building a business with integrity has been our core message and it’s this that we want people to feel - and I’m talking literally feel. From our store to our products, our staff to our workshops, we have an undercurrent of caring in our bones. It’s hanging outta us!

We have customers from Donegal, Dublin and Cork, all of whom have travelled across our wee Island to experience Wild Thing and purchase botanicals for their homes. Donaghadee too, is such a hip and happening little town with cool coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and b&bs. It’s perfect for us.

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Any challenges?

Gazillions! Sourcing the Irish wares brands that fit with our botanics is an ongoing challenge. We always want to know the story behind our products. As for our botanics, they’re sourced from Ireland, Portugal and the Netherlands. We are always conversing with suppliers to ensure we find the best grading botanicals for your home.

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Botanical installs for interior architects are also on the rise here in Ireland. It can be a challenge fitting these larger projects in, alongside the day-to-day running of the store, but they’re a real delight to complete. It’s so satisfying to have an opportunity to breathe life into these spaces.

Building customers’ confidence in their ability to care for and nurture their plants is something that’s also truly important to us, and so is an ongoing priority. We know our shit, we’re not just here to plant push.

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Northern Ireland’s business and creative scene is buzzing at the moment. Any advice for budding business owners?

It’s about bloomin’ time, ain’t it!? I’m loving it. Advice, no - I’m no business genius. What I have experienced in business though, is find your tribe and support each other. I’ve yet to meet two businesses that are the same. Each business is diverse with its own values, morals, knowledge and goals. Retail and design can be ridiculously rewarding, but tough too.

It’s sad times when people who are also creative and like-minded, see themselves as a creative island. I’m all about collaboration - collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Invariably, it equals immense growth. And for me, coming from a counselling background I’m all about the feels too. Spread the love - that’s my motto.

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You are still at the early stages of a wonderful adventure with your business. What does the future hold?

I’m very much a ‘here and now’ kinda gal. I don’t like to plan too far ahead but rather feel present and live in the moment. I say as I do, slow-loving and embracing a wholesome way of life. We have more workshops planned, some more collaborations with other Irish makers are on the cards over the next few months too. And building the wares side of our business with a traceable ethical background is also a priority, building links across our wee island.

We’re meeting with a Cork design team next week to discuss plans for a new hotel - hugely exciting! And increasing our staff too, so watch this space. It’s sometimes easy to forget we are only seven months in business, as it’s been such a whirlwind. But we are loving life.

 

 

 

 

Café couture

I could happily spend my life in coffee shops. Really nice coffee shops, that is. And with the current surge of design-led, independent cafés opening across our wee city and beyond, there are plenty to choose from. I am not, however, a coffee drinker. A nice cup of tea, made in my very own kitchen, is about as far as my caffeine expectations reach. So, why do I bother to seek out these dedicated purveyors of the dark stuff, you may wonder? Tout simple. I love spending time in their spaces. Surrounded by inspiring interiors, cool colour palettes, and the buzz of people socialising and networking, the experience is energising.

 

People-watching, whiling away a Sunday afternoon, the original French café-culture, which has now reached our shores in full-effect definitely has something. Any one of several fab coffee shops to have graced the Belfast scene in the last five years, sees itself buzzing and busy from Saturday morning ‘til Sunday evening, and on through the working week. From this delectable array of coffee outlets, I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite. The truth is, they all bring something unique to the table and so, depending on the occasion or mood, there’s always one that fits the bill. Root and Branch’s beautiful roastery in Jameson Street houses the cosiest coffee nook imaginable within the three walls and corrugated roof of it’s end terrace lean-to. And with the imminent arrival (this very Tuesday!) of it’s modern-meets-classic expansion, the ante has most definite been upped. Curated Kitchen in Donegall Street boasts spectacular views of Belfast Cathedral and an ever-changing weekly menu, curated via dishes seen online, on TV and in cookbooks. Portview Kitchen is another relative newcomer, having also recently expanded their east-side premises in Portview Trade Centre. I love it’s sparse, industrial styling interspersed with greenery, but their lunchtime pasta dishes deserve a post all of their own... All of this, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s on offer here in Belfast.


And spending time working in these spots, I find I’m much more focussed. I’m more effective, efficient, productive. Maybe it’s all in my head. Perhaps it’s really just the free wi-fi, or the fact that I’m actively trying to avoid having to brush up the symphony of peas and sweetcorn still dotted all over the kitchen floor from last night’s dinner. Je ne crois pas. Instead, I think that, whilst the proprietors of these cafés set out to provide high quality coffee and sundries, their aim is to provide an inspiring environment and an ambiance that matches their produce. Design is at the heart of their business, right up there with their product. That’s what makes spending time in these chic spots the experience that it is. And it’s that very experience that keeps us coming back for more. And a nice bit of grub, well that’s always a bonus...

 

M x


My top ten chic coffee spots in Belfast and beyond:


Root and Branch, Ormeau  1B Jameson Street BT7 2GU

- oozing style, character and Co Couture brownies

 


Bullitt Espresso Bar  40a Church Lane BT1 4QN

- a sophisticated interior, and a buzz to match, day and night

 

 

Tribe Coffee  68 Main Street, Saintfield BT24 7AB

- sweet, quirky and housed in a newly-converted horse box, this spot is packed full of homemade fair trade goodness

 


Guilt trip Coffee  4 Orangefield Lane BT5 6BW

- all thrills, no spills and donuts to die for

 


The National, Grand Café  62 High Street BT1 2BE

- a nid to network in, it’s industrial chic vibes are right up my street

 


Piccolo  307 Upper Newtownards Road BT4 3JH

- delicious food made with the freshest ingredients, whilst the beaut little outside toilet and yard take me back to the wee terrace house I was born in

 


Established Coffee  54 Hill St BT1 2LB

- the original Belfast trailblazer, still blazing

 


Curated Kitchen  60 Donegall St BT1 2GT

- enviable views, and hot chocolate that’s hard to beat

 


Haptik  29 Frances St, Newtownards BT23 7DW

- a super-stylish artisan coffee bar and contemporary art gallery, all rolled into one

 


Portview Kitchen  310 Newtownards Rd BT4 1AJ

- housed within an old linen mill, this beautiful, light-filled space ticks all the boxes

 

 

Established Coffee, Hill Street

Established Coffee, Hill Street

Root and Branch, Jameson Street

Root and Branch, Jameson Street

The National, Grand Café, High Street

The National, Grand Café, High Street

Tribe Coffee, Saintfield

Tribe Coffee, Saintfield

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...

What is it about New York? It’s lure is unquestionable, but what is it, precisely, that draws us to this restless city and it’s non-stop noise? It’s different for each of us and if you’ve been before then it will undoubtedly have taken your heart a little bit (I defy anyone to say they’ve visited and not loved it.)