Book Review: House of Plants

Another week, another lovely book to review - this time it's the turn of House of Plants, by Caro Langton and Rose Ray, with photographs by the brilliant Erika Rax. It's the most beautiful book, and one that I'd happily have on my coffee table to admire every day. Add to this the fact that it's full of super helpful and inspiring tips about caring for your succulent, air plant and cacti friends and you soon see that it's more than a pretty face. And since living with plant babies is growing ever more popular, this book has arrived at the perfect time. If you're anything like me you love the idea of having plants in every room of your house, but then find it much harder than expected to keep them happy and healthy. (Honestly, the number of plants I've killed is reaching epic proportions...) 

Book Review - House of Plants | Gathered Cheer blog

Now a fully fledged botanical styling duo - Caro and Rose's company Ro Co sells plants, holders and host workhops in their Tufnell Park shop, alongside their plant styling service. How awesome would it be to hire them to style up a wedding or party with all their botanical know-how? Knowing how far they've come, it was a treat to read more about how they began their journey, the story behind Ro Co and their philosophy that underpins it all. 

Book Review - House of Plants | Gathered Cheer blog / Photography © Erika Raxworthy

The book is a wonderful guide, filled with all the information you could need on caring for cacti, air plants, succulents and tropical plants - from pruning and watering to propagating and common ailments. All the guidance is clear but thorough, and I can see myself dipping in and out of the book as I learn more about the plants I have at home (and those I buy in the future). 

Alongside all the helpful hints and tips are stunning photographs taken by Erika Rax. These range from beautifully clear step-by-step shots (showing how to grow an avocado from its pit, for example), to beautiful images of plants around the home (a few of my favourites are featured in this post). As with any beautiful imagery, they really serve to bring the words to life and make all the advice so much clearer and easy to follow. I must also mention the illustrations by Alicia Galer. These are so lovely and add yet another dimension to the book.

Book Review - House of Plants | Gathered Cheer blog / Photography © Erika Raxworth

In addition to the no fuss advice that's on offer, the book also includes some simple but effective creative DIYs for readers to try. I quite fancy having a go at making my own coir and concrete plant pot, or perhaps a perfectly on trend macrame hanging planter. 

Book Review - House of Plants | Gathered Cheer blog / Photography © Erika Raxworth

A handy feature too, is the fairly long list of plant varieties that have their own information page. I immediately turned to the fiddle leaf fig page as we have our in our sitting room which seems happy enough, but I do constantly worry that I am over or under watering it. Reading clear advice on the best light, temperature, watering, feeding and repotting for it gave me some much needed reassurance. So far so good - maybe this plant is a keeper!

Book Review - House of Plants | Gathered Cheer blog / Photography © Erika Raxworth

A delight to read, this botanical book is as pretty as it is inspiring. Packed with advice on how to best encourage your plant friends to thrive, I know it'll help me as I tend to my own (ever growing) house of plants.


Copy and Photo credits //

Top photo is by Ruth for Gathered Cheer

House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray is published by Frances Lincoln (£20). All photography © Erika Raxworthy.

Book Review: Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring

Today, I'm delighted to share an extract from the gorgeous new book by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring - Decorate for a Party. The duo teamed up previously in their book Decorate with Flowers (read my review here), so it's wonderful to see them back together, styling up the most beautiful settings for parties. 

Book Review: Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Jacqui Small) - Gathered Cheer blog

The main thing that strikes me about the book is that is takes absolutely everything into account. I've sometimes heard it referred to as the 'texture' of an event. You know, the things that go beyond the more obvious elements of the event, things such as the all-important playlist and the lighting. The season you're holding your gathering in also may affect what theme, colour, centre-pieces, music and flowers you choose - and each of these and more are covered in the book. 

The sections will appeal to many different tastes and will also work across the year for a variety of different types of party - these range from 'New + Romantic' and 'Pure + Simple' to 'Warm + Cosy' and 'Playful + Sweet'. My hands down favourite section is 'Gather + Make' - a festive, monochrome affair full of geometrics, metallic accents and that all-important hygge feeling. I'm so excited to have a go at bringing together some of these elements at my next gathering. 

Dotted throughout the book is a recurring feature '6 ways'. These pages are filled with tips on any given element of a party - such as goody bags, white balloons and name cards. Each of the six ways is varied and you're sure to find one that works for your own get together. To get a better flavour of this lovely feature of the book, take a look below at the extract from the book - '6 ways: Place Settings'. I literally want to replicate every single one of them at my next dinner party... 

6 ways: Place Settings

6 Ways: Place Settings - an excerpt from 'Decorate for a Party' by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Photo by Holly Becker) on Gathered Cheer blog
6 Ways: Place Settings - an excerpt from 'Decorate for a Party' by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Photo by Holly Becker) on Gathered Cheer blog

1. Lace trim was snipped to mark a place setting and simply laid on top of the tablecloth. A linen napkin is topped with a round cocktail napkin with sprigs of greens on top and a strip of paper with ‘Let Us Eat’ stamped on with dark brown ink. Small baking tins become tealight holders. Sprigs and blooms are scattered on the table to bring in colour and a touch of nature. A menu card is tucked beneath the napkin, with pattern peeking through that complements the subdued palette of the tabletop.

2. A plate holds some candles wrapped in greens – we just used wire and sprigs and made these simply by hand-forming little circles and placing candles in the middle. Ribbons dance down the centre of the table with petals from a daisy. A larger wreath was placed on a plate – in the centre a small candle has a tag that says ‘Make a wish’ (created on the computer, printed out and trimmed with scissors) pinned onto ribbon. Silverware was placed in a napkin tired with string.

6 Ways: Place Settings - an extract from 'Decorate for a Party' by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Photo by Holly Becker) on Gathered Cheer blog
6 Ways: Place Settings - an extract from 'Decorate for a Party' by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Photo by Holly Becker) on Gathered Cheer blog

3. Metal baking tins mimic the floral shape of the soup bowl. A pretty votive candle greets each guest with hello on a strip of paper (or write your guests’ first names) – just punch a little hole in the top of the paper, pull the wick through, bend beneath the candle and tape in place. A simple dahlia head continues the petal-shape theme. The linen runner in blush rose adds additional colour.

4. Mixing linens makes a table feel warm and natural. A napkin placed below a gorgeous handmade plate topped with tied silverware against nubby linen is simple but elegant. Use your computer and a favourite font to create a ‘Thankful for’ slip, placed near the dinner plate with a wooden pencil. This is such a wonderful way to connect people at a dinner. We’ve done this before and asked each guest to share their list during the evening and it always made the gathering more magical and intimate. A small sprig of green in a tiny vase is as simple as you can get but beautiful still. We used a paper bag from the grocery store and a circle punch to add some polka dots to the table. A wine glass is topped with a strip of lace trim and the name of the guest is placed on top. Small candles in tin holders work nicely with the colour of the napkin and patina of the vintage silverware.

6 Ways: Place Settings - an extract from 'Decorate for a Party' by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Photo by Holly Becker) on Gathered Cheer blog
6 Ways: Place Settings - an extract from 'Decorate for a Party' by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Photo by Holly Becker) on Gathered Cheer blog

5. Add a wreath to just one of your place settings for the birthday girl, bride-to-be or someone who is being honoured at a special gathering. You can even ask her to wear it in her hair or hang it later from the back of her chair, and definitely invite her to take it home. Use two runners on your table, placed along each side to use as placemats. A darker linen napkin in an eggplant tone adds contrast. Simple twine looped around silverware is easy but pretty. A tiny note on a small plate is a personal touch.

6. A little scroll can be for your menu or a sweet note to your guest. We found these adorable candle holders, which are also vases, and it was love at first sight! We mixed in some greenery and used the same greens to form a little wreath and tied on the guest name. A tiny bottle with sprigs of flowers acts as a sweet takeaway hostess gift.

What a beautiful and inspiring extract - I hope you'll agree! This is just one of the many gorgeous parts of the book, which is packed full of how-to's, styling hints and ideas for ways to make your party pack a punch. I know I'll be dipping in and out as and when I have a party or gathering to plan to dose up on inspiration. 


Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring (Jacqui Small Pub) is out now


Copy and Photo credits //

Top photo is by Ruth for Gathered Cheer

Extracted from Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring, published by Jacqui Small (£20). All images © Holly Becker

The Year in Books | May 2016

Oops. Sharing this post on May 23rd could be considered a little late - as it now gives me little more than a week to speed read my book for the month. But, never one to shy away from a challenge (and with a bank holiday ahead this weekend) I think I can get the job done! The task of reading a new (to me) book per month seemed so easy at first, but only now am I beginning to understand how intentional I need to be to make sure I make the time to read.

A typical freelance day looks like this - 

...wake, iPhone scrolling, breakfast, shower, iPhone scrolling, write to-do list, gym workout, blog jobs, tidy up, procrastinate, break for lunch, blog jobs, iPhone scrolling, think about dinner, make dinner, clean up after dinner, remember missed items on to-do list, rush around doing forgotten tasks, iPhone scrolling + netflix, brush teeth, wash face, in bed, iPhone scrolling, sleep...

On the few occasions this month that I've switched my bedtime routine around (whereby I put my phone down and picked my book up for a good thirty minute read before bed), I've fallen asleep much quicker and slept much better than other nights. So, I'm determined to continue with this routine shake up. (More to come on another blog post soon) That said, it could also be that in last month's book, The Year of the Hare - filled with farcical adventures and light-hearted warmth - made for the perfect pre-bed book. It was such a short book, and a joy to read from start to finish. 

The Year in Books - May 2016 | Gathered Cheer blog

The story follows journalist, Kaarlo Vatanen, as he embarks on an adventure across the Finnish wilderness with a hare he finds and cares for after his colleague hits it with his car. Leaving his life behind him - wife, job and all - Vatanen and the hare find themselves in bewildering and hilarious situations, one after another. Each new chapter brings with it a new darkly humous escapade involving different fascinating characters of varying degrees of morality and vagrancy. It was a light read, full of tall tales which kept the pace quick and the pages interesting. Reading it with a map of Finland beside me could have proved useful, to get a clearer sense of where their travels took them - right around the country and back again probably!

And so, with a few days to go I'm pleased to share my new book - The Fly Trap, by Fredrik Sjöberg. 

"Frederik Sjöberg finds happiness in the little things. Millions of them, in fact. This beguiling bestseller tells the story of his obbession with collecting hoverflies. It is also a unique meditation on life: living on a remote Swedish island, blissful long summer nights, lost love, unexpected treasures, art, nature, slowness and how freedom can come from the things we least expect."

Taking my Nordic reading challenge from Finland to Sweden; I'm excited to continue the focus on nature and the wild. I'll be back shortly to let you know how I got on! 


The year in books is a project initiated by the lovely Laura at Circle of Pine TreesClick here to find out more, or search #theyearinbooks on instagram or twitter.

Photo shot and styled by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer

Tea Master c/o JING tea | Bedspread c/o Soak & Sleep)

Book Review : Dream Decor by Will Taylor

It's a joy to share this book review with you, the eagerly-anticipated follow up book by Will Taylor (aka Bright Bazaar) - Dream Decor. Full of delicious interiors inspiration, this book is full of words and pictures (taken by Andrew Boyd) that will leave you dosed up on happy hues and ready to tackle your space, wherever you live.

Dream Decor by Will Taylor, Bright Bazaar | Gathered Cheer book review

"Styling a cool, creative and comfortable home, wherever you live"

Dream Decor by Will Taylor, Bright Bazaar | Gathered Cheer book review

Splitting the book into two sections - 'dream elements' and 'dream styles' - Will takes the readers through the process of working out how to bring their own dream decor into their space. It's inspiring stuff and all of the design principles are clearly explained with infectious enthusiasm. Will explains that the key to working with basic interior elements, much like a food recipe, is to prep your ingredients:  colour, pattern, texture, furniture and lighting, storage ideas and display. By incorporating some or all of these elements you will build a strong foundation for your space.

The second section of the book, dream styles, is absolutely bursting with ideas and tips for so many different room styles - from coastal retreats to industrial lofts. Each home embodies each given style, but Will stresses that they are all perfect for mixing and matching, in order to create a decor that suits you and your home. In a slightly predictable move, my eye was caught by the beautifully Scandi chic home, but I was equally enamoured the renovated Pittsburgh schoolhouse, which truly captures the spirit of cool country decor. Each home section is then summed up with simple tips on ways to inject the style into your own home - I don't know about you, but I love a numbered tip list! It makes tackling a room refresh feel all the more achievable. 

The book rounds up with a list of dream decor sources and credits which will come in very handy for those of us who have home projects planned. *Puts hands up* With my brother moving out this weekend we have a whole lot of room shuffling to take place as we move bedrooms, switch our guest room into our current bedroom and generally begin refreshing each room - one by one. Oh, and our garden is also on my hit list. My problem with interior changes is that I have a tendency to want to do everything. All. At. Once. And often I attempt to achieve it all super fast, at the expense of doing a good quality job. But with a budget that is on the small side these house changes are going to have to be done slowly, prioritising the important projects first. I'll be sure to keep you posted on here how our renovations go! In the meantime, I'll be pouring over Will's gorgeous book, to top up my dream decor ideas and inspiration! 

Dream Decor by Will Taylor, Bright Bazaar | Gathered Cheer book review

Dream Decor: Styling A Cool, Creative and Comfortable Home, Wherever You Live by Will Taylor with photography by Andrew Boyd is out now - published by Jacqui Small. More information on the book can be found here.


I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Photos all shot and styled by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer.

The Year in Books | April 2016

Another month, another book to dive into, and I couldn't be happier about it. Last month's book, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, was a much quicker read, so much so that I finished it in just a few sittings. It was an enjoyable book, darkly humorous in places, raw and emotional in others. Written by an American, Vendela Vida, the story centres on Clarissa, a New Yorker who on the day of her father's funeral discovers he wasn't her father at all. The family had been abandoned by her mother when Clarissa was 14-years-old, and now grown up and engaged she leaves everything behind and goes in search of the truth - with her quest taking her over to Helsinki and up into Finnish Lapland; the the land of the Sami indigenous tribe. 

Vida's prose is sparse, yet full of meaning and it echoes the cold, dark setting of Lapland perfectly. I found myself carried along as Clarissa traveled further, met more characters and uncovered more about her past. The main premise of the book is a discussion on the past and its implications on the present and future. Clarissa is so named inspired by Samuel Richardson's heroine, "with the hope you'd rewrite history". Vida too acknowledges the inspiration she drew from Galen Strawson's essay, Against Narrativity saying that it made her "curious about the kind of person who would see their past as unconnected to their present".

In short, this was a quick and easy read, that placed me right in the heart of the Sami land, following along as Clarissa fumbles around trying to uncover the truth of her past. The wider themes of the past, present and how we can rewrite history, stayed with me as I mulled on the story days after I'd finished reading. 

The Year in Books - April 2016 | Gathered Cheer blog

And so onto the new book for April, The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna. I've only just started, but the main idea behind this fable set in the Finnish wilderness is a compelling one...

A journalist and a photographer set out on an assignment on lovely sunny evening. As they drive through the country they hit a young hare. Vatanen, the journalist, leaves the car and goes in search of the injured creature. The grateful animal adopts Vatanen and together the two scamper through farcical adventures and political scandal.

I'll be back next month to let you know how I got on.Are you reading anything good right now? Can you recommened any Nordic authors I need to add to my list? Please just leave a little comment below - thank you!


Photo credit - Shot and styled by Ruth Garner for Gathered Cheer