No More Taupe!

…not that I think I’ve ever used it.

A whole heap of new books for the ever-expanding library at Jane Blanchard Design – all celebrating vibrant colours, a variety of textures and fabulous designs – from Jane Churchill, Manuel Canovas and GP and J Baker

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Perfect Paisleys

I was asked recently if we could make cushions using a beautiful old Paisley shawl that had sadly mostly disintegrated over the years.  At first I was uneasy letting scissors anywhere near it – but my client had made up her mind that it was better to rescue and provide enjoyment with what we could, rather than store the tatters in a suitcase in the attic.  Having been persuaded, I wanted to emphasise the fringe, so set the Paisley onto a wool ground.

Meanwhile, the curtains, too, needed replacement – a beautiful curved bay window with a stunning view, so we wanted warmth, but nothing overpowering.  Colefax and Fowler provided the perfect solution with their Cassius fabric, which subtly echoed the Paisley motif in soft colours on a herringbone linen….lined and interlined, they will be perfectly warming for chilly winter evenings when the view outside has disappeared into winter black.

And in the kitchen area, a rather lovely chair needed a new cover, and by pure chance Colefax and Fowler came up trumps again with another Paisley inspired design, this time bolder, and printed onto a luxurious velvet.

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Islands in the Sun (…Rain, Wind and Snow)

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my Blog over the last few months – far too busy having a lovely time island hopping for various projects…this year alone, on Islay, Mull, Seil and Shuna (of which there are at least two of the same name, and in the interests of client confidentiality I’m not revealing which one I’ve been on!) Travel has included CalMac ferries, landing crafts, the Bridge over the Atlantic, an Argo ATV, a rib and a small motor boat – Sadly, only one offers a full breakfast…but my two faithful assistants, Rogan and Josh (aka The Curry Boys) are with me on every trip…

Back home over The Bridge over The Atlantic







Early morning ferry to Islay








Taxi to Shuna








Getting the curtains and blinds to site








The Curry Boys - faithful assistants!








So (as they say on Radio4), I’ve just finished a two year project on one of the Shuna’s today and thought it might be time to share a few images.  The house needed total gutting, restoration and extending into a new Sun Room with a sedum roof (designed by Kearney Donald Architects), so the starting point was four bare stone walls and a roof. The windows, kitchen and most of the  bespoke joinery work were beautifully handcrafted by William MacKenzie and Taeko. In order to take advantage of the stunning views, as many of the windows as possible included window seats – some with storage accessed via hinged lids, and others including heaters.


Panelled reveals with window seat




V-lined reveals with storage in seat

Enclosed radiator

Electricity on the island is generated by windpower, so the wood-burning stoves are a valuable source of heat…this one in the snug needed a simple oak mantel to top the pretty tiles:

Finished Snug fireplace

Knowing that there would be a lot of windproof, waterproof and coldproof gear to accommodate, a suitable quantity of hooks with a bench seat for pulling on thick socks and wellington boots was required…



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Oran Na Mara Features Again!

Another feature for Oran Na Mara, this time in Scotland’s Luxury Homes magazine…yeeha! For the inside story behind the design, click on “Oran Na Mara – The Director’s Cut” under Categories

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Every Picture Tells a Story


I’ve loved using tartans and plaids in my interiors ever since I moved back home to the Highlands almost thirty years ago.

Not in the kitsch way you often see it in tourist establishments, plastered indiscriminately over walls, floors and furniture in rather garish colours, but rather as a reflection of the natural hues of our landscape, and a rooting of the Highland home within its cultural and historical context. My library of sample books is overflowing with these woolly checks, some in the traditionally muted hues of a Hunting or Weathered tartan and others in wonderfully bright 21st century colours, celebrating the autumn heathers, the sap greens of spring and the sparkling emeralds of the sea lochs in summer.

For the refurbishment of  Glengarry Castle’s library, it seemed appropriate to reflect some of the rich history of the area in the interior decoration – so where better to start than with the MacDonnell tartan…under the watchful eye of  Alasdair Ruadh MacDonell of Glengarry from his lofty position above the fireplace.

Even more appropriate, I found, when researching the various forms of the MacDonnell of Glengarry tartan, as according to Ivan Baillie of Abriachan, writing in 1768, the feileadh beg, or little kilt, had first been adapted for wear half a century earlier, around the year 1718. Thomas Rawlinson, the English owner of an ironworks located in Glengarry had invited a regimental tailor named Parkinson into his home to take shelter from a thunderstorm. Parkinson noticed one of the local men who worked in Rawlinson’s foundry standing by the fire in an effort to dry off the breacan feileadh that he was wearing. Inquiring as to why the man didn’t simply remove the garment to allow it to dry more efficiently, Parkinson was informed that it was a matter of decency, since no garments were worn under the kilt… :-)

At Rawlinson’s suggestion, Parkinson took it upon himself to figure out a means of adapting the native form of dress worn by the Scottish Highlanders to make it more practical and efficient. He came up with the idea of separating the lower portion of the breacan feileadh and making from it a tailored  garment having its pleats sewn in place, while the upper portion of the plaid could be worn or removed independently as necessity dictated, and thus produced what several corroborating sources attested to being the first known instance of the feileadh beg or “little kilt.” This new form of the kilt soon gained enormous popularity owing to it being adopted by Ian MacDonnell of Glengarry, the business partner of Thomas Rawlinson and chief of the Clan MacDonell, who began wearing it on a regular basis!  Well, well, well…



Having looked at the various forms of the tartan, I settled on the Weathered, which reflected the colours of the garden, the loch and the surrounding hills…then layered tweeds, paisleys, velvets and leather to give added warmth and texture. I hope the end result meets with the approval of Alasdair Ruadh, as he doesn’t look like a chap to hold back…


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As Featured on TV!

Well, how exciting…Oran Na Mara was featured recently in the Channel 4 series, “Homes By The Sea” – and to celebrate, here’s a rather nice picture of the presenter!

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New collection!

Very happy to announce that JBD is now a stockist of the lovely Charlotte Gaisford fabrics – fresh colours and contemporary designs, but with a timeless feel…can’t wait to use them!

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How lovely…Oran Na Mara is such HOT NEWS in the press, it’s been featured on TWO front covers!  First of all, a 10 page feature in Coast magazine…

…swiftly followed by a feature article in The Sunday Times

…my answer to the Question: “Is this Harris home Scotland’s most beautiful beach retreat?” is “YES!”..but, then, I might be a little biased!

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Behind The Scenes at Oran Na Mara

To say that the last few months at Oran Na Mara were all-consuming would be an understatement – it was certainly a good way to lose weight, as the deadline loomed and new challenges constantly reared up out of nowhere – unforeseen issues with the curves, deliveries being delayed, goods arriving damaged or just plain wrong – and all compounded by the remoteness of the project.  It soon became clear that there was nothing for it, but to work, eat and sleep on the job…so I moved in…my en suite being the Ladies Cloakroom in the golf club across the road, my kitchen being the kettle and microwave in the Welfare Unit, my bed being a blow up (until it got a nail puncture) affair kindly donated by my client, my boudoir being wherever we could clear enough space on the floor, my plaster-dust-impregnated laundry being taken care of by a very kind neighbour and my 6-day a week (no work allowed on Sundays) attire being a less than fashionable boiler suit.  Working between 12 and 18 hour days for weeks on end, it wasn’t long before gallows humour set in – with the whole team – but far from being a miserable time, those months were some of the most fulfilling of my career to date…certainly the maddest!









Necessity became the Mother of Invention…the site lights made perfect early morning toast (if you’re from HandS, please close your eyes)…

…the microwave and a mug of water made the perfect poached egg to go on top…








…a stack of floor glue tins made a serviceable desk (with a pretty good view)…







and when Paul and Helen (my rather bewildered, but totally game, clients) came to join in the fun, door hinges became drying racks…and J Cloths stylish headscarves….


When it wasn’t too wet, cold or howling a constant gale, work was transported outside – scrubbing, drilling and varnishing the shells for the hall pendant light






…and “sewing” the shells onto the hall table lamp with thin craft wire.

The sea glass light had been in production at home since October, so that was brought to site for finishing in the evenings, a very fragile passenger suspended from a pole…every bump in the road – and there are more than a few on the trip to Harris – caused the glass to tinkle and my nerves to jangle, but it arrived mercifully unscathed.

However, I hadn’t bargained for the sheer weight of it when it was finished, and within seconds of it being hung, the chain loops started to creak and open up alarmingly – so it was rather swiftly taken down again until a replacement reinforced chain could be sourced and painted to match!

There were many times when I was cursed – never aloud, but I often imagined incandescent thought bubbles – and at no time with more justification than the day poor Iain had to hand cut the wooden flooring painstakingly around the pebble floor flowing out of the bathroom…but what a fantastic job he made of it…and I think once he’d recovered he was as proud as Punch of the end result.  This would be one of very many times I narrowly escaped being buried at the bottom of the rubbish tip hole, an oft repeated threat from his Uncle Neil on the digger.

We also used the pebbles as a border around the bath, removing random stones and replacing with shells from the neighbouring beaches.  Only happy thought bubbles from Taff, who morphed from tiler to creative artist, totally in his element – I think he even whistled a jaunty wee tune as we contemplated the next beautiful shell and how it should be placed. 

Another challenge, again for Iain, was the construction of the internal glazed wall between the utility room and hallway.  Because the hall was rather long and had no windows, we ordered three rectangles of textured glass – representing land, sea and sky – which then had to be housed within the wall, with curved plaster reveals formed on both sides.  This took DAYS of fiddly work by Iain to get each one absolutely smooth, without a single kink or bump.

Meanwhile Taff – who was by now just having the time of his life – got going on the hall entrance floor.  If you remember (from an earlier post) the stones had been hauled up from a nearby beach, the size of the harvest depending on whether or not a recent storm had swept away enough sand to reveal the treasure.






We echoed the shapes of these stones for the hearth in the snug – rough basalt slabs jigsawed together with a screed of cement – and to finish, Iain (by now convinced that I was totally insane) brushed washed sand into it while it was setting.

A wonderful discovery during the project was that each of the nearby beaches has its own personality and distinctive style of jewelry – by now I knew where to go for the largest and shiniest mussel shells, the most distinguished markings on the Cross Barred Venus, the twirliest Horse Conch, the longest Razors…and for the bedside tables in the Shoreline bedroom a rainbow mix of the prettiest Periwinkles, Nutmegs, Moon Snails, Wentletraps, Pecten Raveneli, Coquina, Sunrise Tellin, Rose Petal Tellin, Sunray Venus, Calico Clam, Van Hyning’s Cockle, Zig Zag Scallop….


For all the bedrooms we got simple £44 bedside tables from I**A, painted them, changed the handles and framed the tops, turning them into Natural History display cabinets.  The Machair bedroom had pressed Devil’s Bit Scabius and Harebells…



and the Chaipaval Bedroom, pressed ferns







The Bathroom was kept as a final surprise – my completely trusting clients knew the bath was curved, but it was just too tempting to make it into a full-blown Swallows and Amazons sailing dinghy, rope tender handy for towels, and shower screen its billowing sail.

 The Beach Hut shutters solved the problem of the bathroom window overlooking the front seating area, at the same time allowing access to the view of the ocean beyond, and the border of Oyster Catchers was painted (very late into the night!) with a pencil dipped in paint.








There was a funny little lump of wood left over from making the bogwood table base, and it had been rattling around in the bottom of my odds and sods box waiting for inspiration– it needed a lot of  brushing and waxing, but completely transformed this £9.99 lamp from A***s!

Other lamp bases weren’t quite so simple…having collected some likely looking pieces of driftwood, I then had to drag them onto the wee ferry over to Lismore, thumb a lift with one of the friendly islanders – wood tied down on the roof of his Land Rover – then hop onto Sarah’s Argocat to get them to her studio.  Here, her husband, Yorrick, kindly agreed to create the lampbases for Sarah Campbell’s stunning shades, each a unique commission according to its destination.

Sarah’s work needs special mention.  It’s just so rewarding to plant a seed and watch it develop into something truly unique and wonderful – and beautifully made.  Sarah came into the project with boundless enthusiasm and immediately grasped the feel of what we were looking for – from the colours, to the style, to the interpretation of my squiggly sketches.

I wish I had a picture of all the Alpha Males on site drooling over the ‘tractor’ cushion destined for the Abandoned Croft Study!

The last two weeks were a total blur – suffice to say, we couldn’t have got through without the help of just about everyone within a 10 mile radius!  Neighbours, friends, and relations of the endless McKay family cleaned floors, polished windows, cleared rubbish, made cakes, delivered vats of soup and soothed furrowed brows…it was a gargantuan effort, but we got there – just! –  in the end.  To celebrate, there was a ceilidh…with a magnificent feast prepared by Rosie, our clients’ daughter, who just happens to be the owner of Honeywell Bakes

Some of the sunsets were truly magnificent – at the end of a day without a single glimpse of the sun, the horizon would suddenly crack open, as if seared through with a blow torch, and the sky would burst into flame. 

But much more than these, it was the new friendships forged and the challenges faced and conquered together on this AMAZING project that made leaving the island for the last time totally heart-breaking – THANK YOU to the Honeywells for being such wonderful clients, to everyone I worked with for putting up with me, to Sarah Mogwaii Design and Scot, Liz and Caroline of Phoenix Soft Furnishings for your beautiful work, and to all who rallied to the cause to make this project such a team success.

For lots of beautiful photographs of the finished product – and even, maybe, to book your dream holiday! – go to Oran Na Mara


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A Celebration of Homegrown Talent

I’ve long been a fan of Fi Douglas’s designs – way back when she created beautiful fabrics in singing colours for Voyage Decoration, and now with her well established and vibrant company bluebellgray.  Even better, love that she went  to Lochaber High School in Fort William, which has been a nest of fledgeling creativity over the years.  Fi’s brother, Calum, has recently graduated from the Glasgow School of Art and has been producing some painterly designs for Fi (a gallery in Rome has taken one of his degree show photos for an exhibition and he is heading to New Mexico USA in May for his next photography project idea).  By the by, also from Lochaber High School, check out Judy Clark‘s award winning fashion designs and her twin sister Christine Clark‘s highly acclaimed art…

Anyway, back to Fi and here is one of her fabrics made up into curtains for a house in Fort William – together with a wool rug designed by JBD and custom made to order.

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