As everyone starts knuckling down to work in the new year I thought that it would be worthwhile sharing the places in London, outside of my room, where I feel most productive. Sometime having a change of environment is all you need to get you going or spark some inspiration. The more time you spend freelancing or working at home the more important it is to have an outside space you can work in to separate your home and work life and keep you feeling inspired.

I can personally guarantee each and everyone of these is 100% better than sitting in Starbucks.

ACE HOTEL 

100 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JQ

The Ace Hotel is where I go when I want to feel a bit, well a lot, cooler than I actually am. Working in a hotel lobby might sound a bit strange or uncomfortable, but it’s surprisingly relaxed and you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by some stylish people. They have one long desk, which is where I normally like to work, with power points and lights that feels studious. But they also have a range of sofas and comfy seating, and you can move into the restaurant if you’re feeling a bit peckish. I can highly recommend their chips, I know it’s not a January diet friendly suggestion, but they are gosh darn tasty and they got me through a particularly tough new year hangover a couple of years ago.

BRITISH LIBRARY 

96 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, NW1 2DB

The British Library is one of my favourite places to spend in London full stop. As someone who like quiet and calm… and books, it’s probably not that surprising. It’s also a space that’s built for working. Their café is perfect for casual working or for working in a group – sometimes I even see people doing one-on-one lessons in there. Plus their food is from Peyton and Byrne so it’s pretty tasty. The next level up is their what I call their foyer area, just up the stairs from the main entrance, which is has a series of desks with power points which are free to use. Then there are the reading rooms, which are for quiet focused work. The ultimate space to channel the student you wish you had been, plus they have so many resources you can use. It’s free to become a member but you need to be planning on using their catalogues. Word to the wise, if you want to get one of the desks in the main foyer you’ll need to be quick because they get snapped up by students fast.   

GOOGLE CAMPUS 

4-5 Bonhill St, Shoreditch, EC2A 4BX

Purpose designed as a work space the google campus has a lot going for it. If you’re serious about using the campus you can rent a desk in the coworking area or space in their labs. But if just want to drop in their café is really nice, it’s quite a buzzy atmosphere so best if you like to be in the thick of it when you’re working. The coffee’s pretty good and all you have to do is sign up as a member (feels kind of exclusive but it’s free and online).

V&A NATIONAL ART LIBRARY 

Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL

Probably the most beautiful place on this list, the V&A Art Library is the place if you want your work to have a little bit of grandeur about it. This one makes me feel like I’m back in Oxford which always makes me feel a bit more productive. It’s the perfect space to feel inspired whether you’re drawing from the environment or their ample supply of arts books. As it’s in the V&A if you get bored or need a break you’re never going to be at a loss as to what to do. Because it’s a national library, like the British Library, you have to sign up be a reader to use the reading room but it’s free and you can do it online before you go.

TIMBERYARD 

4 Noel Street, W1F 8GB

7 Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9DL

Unit 27, Boxpark Shoreditch, 2-10 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6GY

The fact that “tea, coffee, work, and play” is Timberyard’s mantra should give you some kind of an idea about why it’s on this list. First off their menu is very good – the food selection is pretty important to me in a workspace – whether you want a full lunch or just a snack. Their coffee will keep you going. Being surrounded by other people working and collaborating always drives me to be more productive, and Timberyard has them in spades. Plus if you’re the kind of person who will need to you can rent event space with them. I’ve only been to one of their locations  but I’m planning on trying to visit the rest throughout the year.

I’ve not mentioned it as it’s a given for a workspace but all of these have free wifi and access to food not too far away.

Where do you like to work? Is there anywhere else in London I should try?

To keep my to my resolution of reading more books this year and inspired by the Lars Book Club and my new found love of Ariel Bissett, I thought I’d start a little bit of a book club. Every month I’m planning on writing a review of a book I’ve read this year, accompanied with a bit of design work, some food for thought, and further recommendations if you like what you’ve read.

I thought there was no better way to start than with the book I read at least once every year Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal. If asked I’m not sure I would say it’s my favourite book because I’m far to indecisive to commit to a favourite book, but it’s probably up there. At only 112 pages long it’s quick enough to finish in one sitting but complex enough to read over and over again.

Alternative book cover design for Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

My alternative cover for the novel inspired by the crushing weight of the paper press and the texture of ink on worn paper.

Set in Prague at a time of communist censorship, Too Loud a Solitude is the story of Hanta an old hermit of a man who has spent his life compacting wastepaper and books. Hanta tells his own story in first person throughout the novel, meandering through his youth and minutiae of his day to day life. There’s a mix of absurd comedy and literary musings, as well as a political subplot that seems unavoidable given the book’s setting.

Hrabal’s story pulls you in as a pair open arms. On the one side, you have a human interest piece all about an old man struggling to keep up with a changing world. On the other, there’s a celebration of literature, of Hanta’s defiance to keep the written word alive in the bales and in his mind. In short, it’s about the mortality of man and the immortality of literature, and their unbreakable bond. If that sounds a bit too pretentious, it is also just a story about a weird old man.

I think this little book has a lot of appeal for almost everyone but particularly those who have an interest in all things literary or anyone who wants to learn more about a lesser discussed bit of European history.

SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU READ…

  • Hanta repeats the refrain “for thirty-five years now I’ve been compacting wastepaper and books” throughout the book, what effect does that have on your reading experience?
  • Hrabal’s style has been described as one of digressions, how do the wanderings of Hrabal’s style reflect the wanderings of an old man’s mind?
  • Too Loud a Solitude is both personal and political, did one message resonate with you more than the other?
  • Hrabal’s writing is very much rooted in a certain time and place, do you think that Hanta’s story can transcend that setting? If so how?
  • After reading about Hanta’s love of books and fight to keep them whole, how do you reflect on your own access to books and interest in literature?

    IF YOU WANT SOME FURTHER READING TRY…

    IF YOU WANT MORE BOOKS A BIT LIKE THIS THEN HAVE A LOOK AT…

If you’re planning on reading Too Loud a Solitude and need something to mark your place, you can download and print the bookmark above for free here.

Inspired by a friend from uni (the inimitable Tucker Cholvin), this year I decided to put together a poster of my new year’s resolutions to hang above my desk to remind me to stay on track. I think the 5 aims I’ve picked for this year are doable, and things I actually enjoy, but are challenging, and if I get them done will leave me in a better position this time next year.

new year's resolutions poster 2017

This year…

I WILL run to Edinburgh

This might not seem like very far to a lot of people, but I’ve had a love hate relationship with running for a very long time – I love the idea of it but I hate doing it. But I’m giving it another go, I was pretty committed to the gym towards the end of 2015, but being in a sweaty box going nowhere has started to lose its appeal. So I’m starting from the bottom, using the NHS’s ‘Couch to 5K’ podcast and I’m hoping it will take me to being able to do 2 5k runs a week. Plus, I’m thinking if I complete the challenge I might treat myself to a weekend away in the glorious city that is Edinburgh as a little well done.

I WILL get up without hitting snooze

I’m always on a quest to be more of a morning person, but this year I’m going to keep it simple and just aim to make one (admittedly very difficult) change – not hitting snooze. I am terrible for turning off my alarm, even if I have to get out of bed to do it, and then getting back into bed. But this year that’s going to change.

I WILL read 20 novels for fun

I’ve really gotten back into reading recently, which I am so happy about. Oxford kind of dampened my drive for reading for pleasure, so I’m committing to reading 20 novels just because I can this year. At the minute The Girls by Emma Cline is on the top of my list.

I WILL take 1 picture a week

This was on my resolutions list last year and I’m really sad I didn’t do it, there are so many things that I wish I could look back on through pictures. I’m going to turn that disappointment into productivity this year. I even got some more polaroid film this year for Christmas so there are no excuses.

I WILL set up a weekly digest

A couple of years ago I sent one of my friends a picture of a dog every day for the year, and I loved doing it. I mean, I love dogs, but it also meant that I had a reason to get in touch with him every day. I kind of missed doing it this year, so I thought I would start up something similar, but a little different. I’m going to send out a weekly collection of fun things I’ve read/seen, and maybes a couple of dog pictures, to some of the people I love the most. I’m hoping it will be a mailing list they don’t want to unsubscribe from, and it doesn’t meant that I repeat myself too much in letters.

Those are my resolutions for the year, I do have some bigger more personal goals for the year, but these are the ones going up on my wall. How are your resolutions going? Do you have any tips for sticking to them?

The last of my advent posts had to be a thank you card, not just because your mum is probably going to make you write a load of them on boxing day, and you really should. I wanted to post a thank you note today, to say thank you to you, anyone who has read my blog over the last few months. It’s been so much fun to see a silly idea I had to keep myself busy is now something people actually read. I’m going to take a little break over Christmas and New Year but I will be back at the start of January – I’m already stockpiling ideas

 

The card is here, sorry if you were just interested in the printable and not the ramble!

Still stuck on those last few Christmas gifts? Feeling uninspired, or running low on cash? I’ve got you covered, with my top 5 DIY gifts. I’m not going to lie, these aren’t as easy as just buying someone a box of chocolates but they are a lot more thoughtful.

TERRARIUM

Everyone loves some greenery in their life, and it’s been scientifically proven that having plants in your home is good for you. But, not everyone is the best at keeping plants alive (hi!). That’s where the terrarium comes in, not only are they really lovely to look at they’re also really hard to mess up. Apartment Therapy has some really great instructions and tips for putting one together. Added bonus, they’re much less spiky to carry than a cactus.

COOKIE MIX IN A JAR

Still got that box of chocolates on your mind? This one should satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. It’s the perfect antidote to the loss of Bake Off and any new year’s diets. All you need to do is measure and add the dry ingredients for cookies into a jar, then add a label with instructions for adding the wet ingredients. For all in one instructions, The Very Best Baking has everything you need. If you’re looking for a different cookie recipe, these are some of my favourites:

For healthier sorts, Lee Hersh’s Cherry Pistachio Energy Balls

Or for slightly more indulgence, go with these brownies from the ever wonderful Oh Lady Cake

My favourite choice chip cookies from Tanya Burr, you’ll probably need to scale down this recipe to fit it in a jar.

Keep the festive season going with some gingerbread, don’t forget to gift a little person cutter with your jar for this one.

SOAP

I found out this year that homemade soap is surprisingly easy to pull together, so I’ve added it to this list. There are so many variations that can make the humble bar of soap something really special and it’s easy to bulk make if you have a lot of gifts to put together. A Beautiful Mess has so many you can peruse, from colour block soaps to spiced latte soap, to soap on a rope, and loads more beside those. If you’re feeling fancy you can even make a little popsicle tray/sled to deliver your soap on. 

JUMPER MITTENS

If you can’t knit but still want to give the gift of toastiness to your loved one, this is for you. A Beautiful Mess (again, can you tell I love their DIYs) has all of the instructions you need to turn an old jumper or any knitted item really (where are my Helgas at?) into a lovely pair of homemade mittens. If you want to make them extra special have a go at putting some embroidery, maybes some initials. 

MARBLE EFFECT COASTERS

Still don’t think that DIT gifts can be modern and stylish? Think again, these marble effect coasters from Homey Oh My will please even the most discerning of customers. They’re also really fun and easy to make – always a bonus. If you’ve got any friends who have recently moved or just love homeware this is the DIY for you.