Check It Out: `We all love tea towels here' - designer ones, that is

Check out the minimalist display in Margaret Howell's new Brook Street basement, but don't, whatever you do, call it a home collection. It's not just that everyone else - from Ralph Lauren to Marks & Spencer - has now started one, but also that Margaret Howell sees her new range as more utilitarian than that. Expensive utilitarian maybe, but Household Goods nevertheless.

While some other fashion designers have started offering bank-breaking signature furniture, Margaret Howell is happy to make a virtue out of life's little domestic necessities. Linen scrim, laundry bags, aprons, bedlinen, pyjamas; candles, lavender water, absinthe bottles, dustpans and brushes, and rubber gardening shoes - all exquisitely understated in the very finest quality.

Indeed, one gets the feeling that, should one ever be invited to Margaret Howell's house for tea, these would be exactly the things you'd see there. "It's all very much her home and the things she uses," confirms Patsy Blair, who works with her on the collection.

It all started with the pyjamas Margaret Howell has been doing since she first began in fashion. Then, five years ago, she added a few household items - like beeswax candles - for Christmas. The progression to a larger household collection had long been planned, and when her menswear department recently vacated the Brook Street basement for its own premises, the next step was obvious.

She repainted the space, including the chairs, in two shades of white, left the long table with its limewashed top, and moved in the collection she'd been putting together for months.

"When we did the original brainstorming, we thought we would start with what we are known for - linen, cotton shirting and so on. So the bedroom and bathroom were the first areas we looked at," says Patsy Blair. The collection divides into four: kitchen/scullery, bedroom, bathroom, and linen cupboard. It is an eclectic mix of specially commissioned items, one-off discoveries hunted out from French markets, and the occasional bought-in product, such as the woven dustbin. Pressed-glass French jam jars and absinthe glasses, all original 19th-century, make up this season's glass collection.

Bought from French street markets, and ideal for posies of flowers, they will inevitably be hard to repeat. As will the antique-linen table cloths and napkins, plain with a red or blue occasional stripe; and the grain sacks, evocative of French peasant life, but more useful as modern-day laundry bags.

"We buy in one-of-a-kind pieces that we like," continues Blair, explaining how she uses the kitchen bags as a discreet place to house Sainsbury's bags for recycling. "We are not trying to be retro, but it's about having beautiful things in your house."

In a similar vein, the tea towels are French with the Margaret Howell name monogrammed into one corner ("We all love tea towels here"); while top-whack Irish linen is used for bedlinen.

Ceramics come from four hand-picked potters. Jacqui Roche, whom the design team met at the Crafts Fair, produces unglazed flower pots without her habitual motif: "They will look lovely when they get all mucky," suggests Blair. Daniel Smith, a friend of a friend, provides a nest of five bowls (pounds 98); Hilary Roberts, extended porcelain milk jugs in three sizes; and Victoria Bryan worked with Howell to come up with a large, unusually shaped bowl. Every detail is attended to; every piece is as tactile as the next.

Attention to detail is a big part of the collection. In stationery, to achieve the desired plainness, intense discussions took place over the exact shade of white for the paper; the alphabetic index is handblocked; and the leather "just had to be" that used on the Howell bags. The finished writing set is a pleasure to handle, although not cheap at around pounds 75. Less, as they say, is more. Everything, bar the occasional stripe, is in the neutral colour-palette for which Margaret Howell is so well known; even the packaging is a buff, if beautiful, cardboard.

If you love Margaret Howell and subscribe to her taste, you are bound to love her collection of little bits and pieces, and if you've got a few spare pounds, why not have some of them from Brook Street, rather than traipse round Paris searching. For those with a more limited budget however, you can always do what I'll do: browse round those markets yourself to find a few of your own antique linens.

The Margaret Howell Household Goods Collection is at 29 Beauchamp Place, London, W3, and at 24 Brook Street, London, W1. For enquiries, call 0171 495 4888

Karen Falconer

Sport
The Aviva Premiership trophy
rugby union All the latest from Twickenham
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood
footballDanny Higginbotham: Tim Sherwood must play game of two halves to cause major upset
News
Caber is trained to help child victims of serious crimes testify
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

    Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor